From the Magazine – November, 2006

The dormant season for our lawns is upon us. Clarifying some common misconceptions associated with cooler seasons will help you minimize potential setbacks with your lawn the spring.

Allowing leaves to remain on the lawn will protect it from freezing.
Do not allow tree leaves to accumulate on the turf for an extended period of time. Over time, the leaves build up, become wet and pack together to make a layer that can suffocate the grass. Mulch the leaves by chopping them up with the lawnmower and returning the clippings, or rake and place them in your compost pile. Keeping the leaves in check allows the lawn to breathe and acclimate to cooler temperatures. St. Augustinegrass is a tropical grass and does not know to go dormant – it needs to adjust to the cooler temperatures on its own. Bermudagrass will naturally go into dormancy, but is prone to suffocation, just like St. Augustinegrass, if leaves are allowed to accumulate. Keeping a blanket of leaves on the lawn gives a false sense of security.

Weed control this time of year is not necessary.
Broadleaf weeds get started in the lawn this time of year, and since they don’t have competition from actively growing turf, they will continue to develop if not addressed. Treat them now at a young stage when they can be controlled more easily than in spring. Spot-treat on a calm, sunny day when temperatures are above 55 F using a broadleaf weed control containing 2, 4-d.

It’s the dormant season, so watering is not necessary.

On the contrary, prolonged dry periods in winter can cause lawn dieback. Monitor the moisture level of the soil, and if the top inch of soil is dry and rain is not in the forecast, irrigate the lawn. Check the moisture of the soil every 10 to 14 days. Because the landscape plants are not actively growing, they do not always require weekly watering in the winter during droughts. About the author: Mike Sutton is a horticulture graduate of Purdue University and has more than 20 years’ experience with turfgrasses in Texas.

For Mike’s full story, see the November/December issue of Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine. Click here to subscribe. Back issues are also available.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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