East Texas Ag News: Lawn care late in the year

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 12:25 PM CST
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - The recent warm spell has resulted in questions about lawn management much later than normal. When should a homeowner last fertilize, what about disease control, and when do you quit watering your lawn?

First, let us understand that the time has passed for any “winter-izer” fertilizer. Though a very beneficial practice, your last application should have been two months ago. Generally, research recommends the absolute latest fall fertilizer application should be made at least six weeks before the location’s historic first-frost date. Our historic first frost is mid-November and six weeks before that was Oct. 1.

Fertilizing now would be like someone preparing your supper at bedtime! Your lawn is preparing for winter dormancy and a late feeding would be more disruptive than helpful.

This is a good time to add lime… if you need it. Lime helps to neutralize the pH in our commonly low pH soils. Lime isn’t really a fertilizer although it does contain Calcium, a secondary nutrient for plants. Lime’s purpose is to raise the pH (reduce acidity) and provide a better environment for the plants to grow. Having a more neutral pH allows nutrients to be more available for plants to utilize.

You will know if you need to add lime by conducting a soil test. Look for soil test forms online from Texas A&M or Stephen F. Austin State University. You can also contact your local county extension office and they will send you the correct form with instructions on how to submit your sample.

I’ve had several folks ask if they should water during the winter months. While it is true that your lawn and other perennials need moisture year-round, our climate typically provides enough moisture in our winter not to water. As we progress through the winter, monitor your soil moisture to see if you can completely turn off your sprinkler system.

When to turn the irrigation system back on? April is usually a good time. The grass will likely have started growing at that time, and warm, drier weather may be starting.

Many diseases are at their worst in the fall. Most fungal problems in lawns get their start in the spring, take a hiatus in the hot, dry summer, and then really get roaring in the mild fall months. Not suprisingly, the most pampered yards are the ones that will have the most disease problems.

Too much pampering in the form of excessive watering and fertilizer may give you the greenest and lushest lawn in the neighborhood. Yet, those excesses also set up a lawn for fungus problems.

Do treat for weeds with a pre-emergent to help stop the early spring weeds. Products may not be clearly marked as “pre-emergent” but may instead have language on them such as “weed preventer.” So, being familiar with some of the active ingredients can be helpful.

Common active ingredients used for pre-emergence control include prodiamine, dithiopyr, pendimethalin, isoxaben and others. I have long recommended Atrazine. There are lots of products on the shelves at lots of stores that contain this active ingredient. As always, read the label carefully and follow all instructions.


Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.