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Care of your lawn in the fall is as important as in spring and summer. Regular care is the key to an attractive and healthy lawn through the fall and winter months. Here are few things you can do to help your lawn survive the winter and recover vigorously in the spring.

Fertilization: Fall fertilization is the key to prolonging fall color and promoting early spring recovery of the lawn. It helps produce a dense turf that resists winter weeds. Fertilizer used in the fall should be higher in nitrogen and potassium and lower in phosphorus. Grasses fertilized this way have shown greater survival during winter months than those fertilized with high phosphorous.

Watering: When your lawn goes dormant during winter months, it is important to remember the grass is living and needs moisture for survival. During the winter, if it doesn't rain for several weeks, then the lawn should be irrigated. Irrigation before a hard freeze is helpful in reducing freeze injury to the grass. It takes much colder air temperatures to lower the temperature of a moist soil than that of a dry soil.

Javier Vargas, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


Not many people think of winter in the heat of September, but fall is the time to prepare your lawn for the cold ahead and, at the same time, get rid of unwanted weeds.

Fall fertilization, which is the most important fertilization of the year, is the first step for a healthier lawn next year, and September is the time to do it. Use a 3-1-2 ratio formula or buy a "winterize" product of your choice, allowing for good coverage. The "slow release" will feed through early November, and with continued regular watering, produce a hardy" root stock to survive the winter.

This is also the time to put out the pre-emergent chemicals to control unwanted weeds and grasses. First, identify the type of weed you need to control. For cool season grassy weeds such as rye or blue-grass, use products such as Balan, Amaze, or Team; for broadleaf weeds like henbit, use Gallery. Check with your nurseryman for his recommendation.

Fungal diseases love cool weather and are most prevalent in the fall. Monitor the condition of your lawn carefully. If you suspect a problem such as brown patch, gray leaf spot, or take-all, contact the Extension Service or your local supplier for recommended treatment.

Paul Ferguson, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


Late September and early October is the time to strengthen and prepare your lawn for strong root growth this winter and next spring. After our beautiful recent rains, your lawn is going to be ready for attention and work in the following three areas: fall diseases, pre-emergence weed control, and feeding.

Fall Diseases - Brown Patch and Take-All Root Rot are two fairly common fungal diseases that affect St Augustine grasses. With our recent rains and high humidity, both could become active once the severe, intense stress your lawn has endured due to the terrible summer heat gives way to milder, wetter weather.

Pre-emergent Herbicide - Fall and winter weeds such as henbit, chickweed, or bluegrass may best be controlled now with a compound such as benefin (Balan), bensulide (Betasan) or isoxaben (Gallery). Read label directions for weeds controlled and rates.

Feeding - In order to "over-winter" lawns/grasses, an even application of a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer now will give a strong "boost" to your spring growth. However, do not overdo! Lush, thick growth is more susceptible to fungal problems now and frost later. Since most fertilizers are "salts", be sure you water in thoroughly.

Other fall lawn tips:

  • Water during the winter - 1/2 inch/week if rainfall is lacking.
  • Aerify new sod - water, food and air must get through that gumbo base!
  • Don't "scalp" your lawn in the fall - mow grass and leave at least 2 inches high.
  • Get a soil test, available from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and apply fertilizer and/or lime as indicated by the report.

Bill Kelldorf, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

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