Gardening with Chuck
October Lawn Calendar

Overview

October, along with September, is a very critical month for lawns.  Cool season grasses are still actively growing and much can be done to thicken your lawn at this time to make it more resistant to invasive weeds.  Continued strong growth at this time means that the grass plants are developing larger crowns with more leaf blades, deeper root systems and an all around healthier plants

Warm season grasses are really shutting down and other than maybe one final mowing, not much needs to be done with them other than weed control.

Cool Season Grasses (Tall Fescue & Kentucky Bluegrass)
Mowing - Continue to mow these at the full height of  3 1/2 inches for fescue, 3 inches for bluegrass.  This keeps the leaf blades longer to maximize food production.  The longer leaf blades will also shade more surface area and reduce the number of weeds that may try to germinate and start growing.

Weed Control - Most of the spring flowering weeds (dandelion, henbit, speedwell, & chickweed) germinate in September and early October.  At this time they are small and very easy to control.  The broadleaf control products are very effective at this time, BUT they must be applied to actively growing weeds.  If they are applied too early, before most of the weeds have germinated, they will have no effect on the later germinating plants and you will still have a lawn full of weeds.  In most years, germination will be pretty well done by mid October.  Focus weed control on the last two weeks of October and the first week of November.  Liquid or granular products containing active ingredients such as 2,4-D, dicamba, MCPP, mecoprop and carfentrazone can be used at this time with equal effectiveness.  Be sure to read and follow the label directions.  Most "failures" of weed killers are not the fault of the product but in how they were used.  Late summer weeds such as spurge, puncturevine (Mexican sandbur), sandburs and crabgrass will die with colder weather and must be dealt with in the early spring time frame.

Fertilization -  An application of fertilizer in October may very well be the most important single fertilizer application of the entire growing season for cool season grasses.  This fertilization should be primarily nitrogen unless soil tests indicate other nutrients are also needed.  This can be a "weed and feed" type product.  At no time should you apply more than one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.  If you are using an agricultural grade granular fertilizer, that doesn't have a fertilizer spreader setting on the bag, make sure you don't apply too much fertilizer.  If you aren't sure how to calculate how much nitrogen you are applying, call Chuck at the Geary County Extension Office, 785-238-4161!

Irrigation -  Water usage by the lawn will be dropping off markedly in October because of the shorter days and cooler temperatures.  One irrigation applying no more than one inch per week should be all that is needed and by late month you should be turning off and draining underground systems unless we are in an uncommonly warm and dry period.  Be sure to read the label of any granular herbicide product as a pre or post application irrigation may be required for optimum control.

Warm Season Grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia, & Buffalograss)
With the cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths, these grasses will be heading into winter dormancy.  Mow only as needed to control height of any summer annual weedy grasses (crabgrass, foxtail, etc.).  Do not mow off extremely low - maintain the same summer mowing height.  Mowing the turf short one last time exposes the turf to possible winter injury from low temperatures or dessication.  Do not fertilize these grasses at this time.  If you need to control broadleaf weeds avoid the weed and feed products and focus on using a liquid product OR a granular product that does not contain fertilizer.  Fertilizing the dormant turf will only encourage invasion by weeds or cool season grasses.  Buffalograss can be sensitive to some broadleaf weed herbicides.  Make sure the product you are using is labeled for Buffalograss.

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Text and all photos copyrighted by Chuck Otte.
October 2008