It’s Turf Time | Lifestyles

Your turf may be in need of a little TLC and this is the exact time of year to help your grass get ready for spring. Cool season turfgrasses like tall fescue can be helped quite a bit during August and September.

The most desirable turfgrass for Kentucky is tall fescue. The reason being that it is extremely tough (handles traffic, drought, and heat) and it stays green all winter.

We also grow bermudagrass well although it is a warm season grass. Many of us consider it an awful weed. Others embrace it since it does so well in the heat and drought of our Kentucky summers. However, it goes dormant during the winter and turns brown. That fact alone is one of the main reasons why people don’t use it for their turf – it’s only green about 7 months of the year.

So, for those of you wanting to grow tall fescue, here are some details about fall lawn management. To get quickest and most permanent lawn grass recovery fall is almost always the best time, even if it is late into the fall or early winter before certain maintenance chores can be accomplished.



Following a good, soaking rainfall an application of nitrogen is critical to jump start the healing process. Sometimes portions of the lawn may look dead, but there will always be some recovery of Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue. Available nitrogen will force growth of newly developing tillers and recovery of dormant tillers will often be much more prevalent than tillers from planted seed.

The normal rate of nitrogen for fall applications is 1 to 1.5 lbs of actual nitrogen per 1000 sq ft. A readily available nitrogen source is preferred because you need immediate results. Ag fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate (3400) or urea (4600) work great and because the temperature is cooler in the fall, there is little chance of getting burn. Most garden center fertilizers work well also, especially if they contain 25% or less of slow release (WIN) nitrogen. To get 1 lbs. nitrogen per 1000 sq ft., it requires 3# ammonium nitrate, 3.3# urea, 10# 101010, or 5# 20510.

If recovery is occurring, repeat applications of nitrogen can be made every 4 to 6 weeks until late December or early January. This is most necessary if seeding new grass and or controlling a thick weed cover. Complete fertilizers like 101010, that also supply phosphorus and potassium, are seldom necessary on older lawns but the only way to know for sure it to get a soil test.

Residual crabgrass should not cause a problem with turfgrass recovery because it will completely die with the first heavy frost. Thick stands of broadleaf weeds like chickweed, henbit and clover will compete with new grass tillers and broadleaf weed control will be necessary. October and early November are the best time of year to apply these broadleaf weed sprays.



It is important to note that new seeding is still an excellent option to get tall fescue established. Certainly it is better accomplished before October 1 or so. UK publications will list October 15 as the last day to seed tall fescue but by waiting til the later date, you have more of a chance of the new seedlings taking a hit from a frost. However, unless you can frequently irrigate, it will likely be important to wait until you get a soaking rainfall before attempting to seed.

The question we often get is “can I just broadcast the seed or must I incorporate (power seed)?” When choosing the method to seed, consider the following:

Power/Slit Seeding (seed incorporation) Necessary If:

Timing other than late summer, fall or very early spring

Soil is heavy clay and hard, i.e. the seed will only stay in place if the soil surface is grooved, punched or otherwise disturbed

Moisture is frequently lacking, i.e. rainfall or irrigation is inconsistent or not available

Live cover (turf and/or weeds) greater than 50%

Broadcast Seeding (without slits) Possible if:

Soil is loose and friable

Live cover (grass and weeds) is less than 50% and will not overly compete with germinating seedlings

The presence of matteddown grass on the surface is disturbed with a rake or chain drag to expose the soil surface for good soilseed contact.

Or, one can broadcast the seed and force the seed to the soil surface by directing high pressure water from a garden hose onto the surface.

A thick turf and/or weed cover is killed with glyphosate a few days before seeding

Irrigation can be applied frequently to keep the surface moist for about two weeks

Germinating weeds like chickweed can be selectively controlled

If appropriate seed timing, i.e. late summer, early fall or early spring

Seeded species germinates in a 5-7 days; best= tall fescue. Kentucky bluegrass seldom successfully established without conventional seedbed preparation.

No allelopathic species present in seedbed. Surviving (live) perennial ryegrass may emit root exudates that prevent germination of tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.

Establishment success will greatly improve if area is aerified to disturb about 25 to 50% of the surface soil or area is verticut (dethatched) to groove the surface soil, thus creating a seedbed.

For more information, call the Pulaski County Cooperative Extension office at 679-6361 and request our turf publications. They can also be found online at

Learn about timely events or things to do in your home gardens by becoming a fan of Pulaski County Horticulture on Facebook, or following @hortagentbeth on Twitter, kyplants on Instagram, and Pulaski County Horticulture YouTube channel.

The Pulaski Co Extension office is open regular office hours 8am to 4:30pm.

A new load of pine straw is available now! Courtesy of the Lake Cumberland Master Gardeners. Pine straw is available to purchase on Tuesdays from 9am to 3pm at the Pulaski County Extension office.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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