FALL AND WINTER LAWN CARE Q & A, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Q:  Should I apply a “winterizer” fertilizer to my lawn?

A:  The time to fertilize our warm-season grasses is during the growing season, not during fall and winter. Many so-called winterizer fertilizers available in our area can cause more damage than good because they contain too much nitrogen and too little potassium. High nitrogen fertilizers can cause new tender growth at the wrong time of year, possible resulting in cold injury to the lawn with the first frost or freeze.

Q:  What should I do about winter annual weeds in my lawn?

A:  If your lawn has had a history of winter annual weeds such as henbit, wild geranium, annual bluegrass, chickweed, etc., you can apply a pre-emergence herbicide during October. Timing is important when using pre-emergence herbicides. The herbicide is applied just before annual weed seeds start to emerge. After seedlings are visible, it’s too late to apply the herbicide. Overuse of some pre-emergence herbicides can result in lawn roots becoming stunted and weak.

Q:  Should I overseed my lawn with annual ryegrass?

A:  Overseeding a lawn with ryegrass to create a green lawn during winter is mostly done for cosmetic reasons, Personally, I don’t overseed because I’m ready to take a break from routine lawn care. I take a break, my mower take a break and my lawn takes a break. If you wish to have a winter lawn,, the optimal time to broadcast ryegrass seed is mid October through mid November.

Q:  What lawn pests should I watch for during fall and winter?

A:  Sod webworms and armyworms may continue to be active during fall until the lawn is dormant. Your lawn will look like it has been mowed very close when these caterpillars are active. Closer examination of leaf blades will reveal notched leaf edges where caterpillars have chewed.

Large patch fungus (Rhizoctonia) is common  during the cooler weather of fall, winter and spring. This disease usually results in circular brown areas in the lawn. These circular areas slowly expand, sometimes becoming several feet or larger in diameter. Grass in the center of the circular patches may be green, giving a donut pattern.

Adult mole crickets may be active during fall. Watch for tunneling and areas that feel somewhat spongy as you walk in the lawn.

Fire ants can continue to be active during fall, particularly if it is moist.

For specific recommendations on maintaining a Florida lawn, contact your UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn

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