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A sprinkler watering a lawn.

Remember to water your lawn even though the summer gardening season is over.

Winterizing your lawn

By Bob Mugaas

From eNews, September 2005

Early September marks the beginning of our fall lawn care season--a time to encourage healthy growth and prepare our lawns for winter and next spring. Two important lawn care practices during this time are providing adequate nutrition and watering.

In Minnesota, the vast majority of our lawns consist of cool-season grasses. That is, they grow most actively during the cooler spring and fall periods. However, the type of growth occurring in fall is quite different from spring. In spring, much of the plant's energy is devoted to growing flower stalks. In the fall, the grasses are producing non-flowering shoots, as well as tillers and rhizomes, to recover from summer stresses and damage.

Here are some tips for helping your lawn with nutrition and watering.

Nutrition Cool-season lawn grasses readily respond to the growth stimulus of nitrogen fertilizer. In fact, they may respond too much and create the need for frequent mowing or excessive clipping. So, avoid excessive application. In southern Minnesota, apply the fertilizer during the first couple of weeks in September and again around Halloween. Each application should be about 75 to 1.0 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Look for products that contain about 35 to 50 percent of their total nitrogen in a slow-release form.

Watering While you can water your lawn less frequently due to the shorter days and cooler temperatures, it's still important to maintain the moisture level in the soil. For the most part, that means applying about an inch of water every 14 to 21 days with shorter intervals during periods of higher temperatures and dry conditions. By about mid-October in the Twin Cities area, water only to ensure that the ground is moist as it begins to freeze. Keeping the grass too wet late in the season can encourage snow mold.

Bob Mugaas is a horticulturist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Regional Center, Farmington.

For more information about home lawn care, see U of M Extension publications.

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