It's Christmas time in Central Florida! For most, its one of the busiest times of the year. Getting the house decorated, preparing for family and friends and searching for that perfect gift.
But what is happening to your landscape? The cooler nights and drier weather signals the time for your grass and other landscape plants to conserve their energy. The decreased soil temperature is Mother Nature's alarm clock.
Although warm season grass' growth slows to a crawl, they do not actually go dormant. Mowing is now only required every 14-17 days, unlike the necessary 5-7 days during Spring and Summer. This slow in growth, however, does not mean that your grass plants do not require extra care until Spring. It's actually the best time to make sure your lawn stays at it's peak, so that you do not run into major issues when Spring comes.
Ensuring that nutrient levels can sustain root development, without forcing shoot growth can be a challenge, but is not impossible. Knowing how much to cut back on irrigation is a little tricky, but very doable.
Preparing your lawn for Winter months is best done before Winter actually arrives. Applying a fertilizer high in potassium in September-October(October is the latest), will give your grass the time it needs to take up the nutrients and for them to do what they are supposed to do. Fertilizing in December-January will give your lawn the jump start it needs in Spring. Nitrogen fertilizers containing a microbial release facilitator or mechanism will be what you are looking for. You want to apply a pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet. This type of fertilizer takes a while to break down and will be ready when the soil temps start warming up. With the weather patterns becoming stranger and stranger over the past 5 or 6 years, this is becoming a more used practice. It helps ensure that you don't miss the timing when the weather breaks earlier than normal, or with we have a short window that it gets warm. In February to May, you can now add Nitrogen with a 50% slow release at a rate of one pound per thousand square feet. It sounds more complicated than it is, but hey, you are here. That means you are on the right path. You can always reach out to me and I can explain it more in detail.
Aside from the actual health of the grass plants, keeping invaders out of the lawn that are looking to ruin your day is important. Winter annuals in turf don't knock on the door until its too late. By applying a pre-emergent in October, you will likely be home free until Spring. This comes with some hitches though. If we get excessive rainfall after the application, you may need to re apply six to nine weeks later. Also, if you were planning on overseeding your lawn, you won't once the application is down. If you overseed with an annual Rye, germination usually occurs between seven and ten days. I'd wait two to three weeks before applying the pre-emergent.
The irrigation adjustment is the easiest part. Depending on your area, you may only need to have your zones turn on once every week and a half or so. If you are not fertilizing your lawn, less than that is even okay, maybe every two to three weeks.
No one said it was easy, but I hope that this will help make it less hard. Greater Groves Gardens is always here to educate and help guide you to the best cultural and ecological practices to maintain your lawn and plant health. Keep reading our weekly blogs and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.