Seeing green turf is pleasant for the eyes and our cherished landscape in this area. Fall is a time to enjoy the outdoors with lower humidity and lower temperature. Much like Spring, let’s take this time to help turf improve our environment.
Naturally, lawns purify and improve the air. Once grass blades capture the impurities, dew and water drops move them into the root systems, and the soil microbes break them down. So yes, turf grasses trap and store carbon that might otherwise contribute to global warming. Managed turf in the US captures about 5% of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Yet, just 2,500 sq ft. of lawns produce enough daily oxygen needs for four people. So your turf has greater value than you may have realized.
In Cherokee County, several types of grass could be beneath our feet. Turf type will depend on temperature, shade, water, soil type, and activity use. Just as we maintain our shrubs and flowers, we spend time planning for green and healthy turf. Your options for Georgia turfgrass are fescue, bermudagrass, zoysia grass, centipede, Bahia grass. Less than six hours of sunlight restricts healthy turf. If insufficient sunlight is in our yard, other landscape plans should be made. Trees and large shrubs will limit the sunlight, and green light coming through trees does not produce adequate chlorophyl for healthy turf. Before the trees and shrubs lose their leaves in the fall, carefully take an assessment of the shade. Limb removal may increase the sunlight or consider removal of the large shrub or tree thoroughly. Simply raising the canopy is a temporary fix, but turf will grow if sunlight hits the ground.
Since there are several turfgrass options, you will find fall programs for your consideration.
A. Fescue: Prepare the soil first by removing weeds and or bermudagrass from the area or spray with glyphosate one to two weeks before seeding. This provides for healthy fescue growth without competition. After three days, the ground can be lightly tilled and smooth for seeding between September 15 — October 15 at 7-8 pounds of fescue per 1,000 square feet. Use a 3-way blend of three different fescues. Do not apply fescue with ryegrass blends. During or just before seeding, apply a fertilizer such as 10-10-10, 18-24-12, 9-23-30, or similar at 4-5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Evenly spread fertilizer at this rate will not hinder the germination of fescue. It is preferred to lightly drag or rake the seed to ensure contact with the soil for best germination. If straw (not hay) is used to hold the moisture, carefully spread a very light coat across the seed. Water lightly twice a day for 5-7 days unless you receive rain. After 10 days, you will have a nice green surface of healthy fescue.
If you are “overseeding” your fescue lawn, seed at a rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Again, apply the same fertilizer at the same rate as listed above at seeding time. Lightly watering twice a day, unless it rains, for 5-7 days.
Properly establishing fescue provides green, healthy turf for 8-9 months. Then, planning to reseed the following year at the same schedule as outlined above.
B. Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass: Between September 1-20, apply preemergent herbicides (prodiamine, pendimethalin, or dithiopyr) on available fertilizer such as 8-0-20, 0-0-20, 10-5-10, or such other fall fertilizers available at the retailer. The herbicide will control Poa Annua (green grassy weed in the winter) and many broadleaf weeds. Timing is critical to control Poa annua. If broadleaf weeds are currently growing in the bermudagrass, make an application of a 3-way herbicide containing dicamba, MCPP, and 2,4-D. Read the label for the rate. After dormancy, mow the grass 1-2 inches for the winter months.
C. Centipede: Apply a preemergent herbicide as listed above but do not add phosphate fertilizer to this turf. Fertilizer herbicide combination must have potassium-based fertilizer such as 0-0-20 or select a fertilizer formulation labeled for centipede. Do not use any 2,4-D on centipede grass.
There are approximately 225,000 acres of cultivated and managed turf in the metro Atlanta area for our enjoyment, employing thousands and offering pleasure for the DIY segment.