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Fertilize cool season fescue lawns now

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Fescue lawns are beginning to grow. Some people have already mowed, signaling the beginning of the spring lawn care season.
The uncertainty of the weather is often a gamble as homeowners must determine how to manage weak and weedy lawns.
Cool season fescue lawns must have proper nutrition to survive the heat and droughts that often plague us during the summer. Homeowners need to continue recommended fertilization that will strengthen lawns, enabling the turf better chances of survival.
Now is the time to fertilize cool season fescue lawns. Turf specialists recommend one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for cool season fescue and fescue blends. Special blended lawn fertilizers with slow release fertilizers are pre-measured, taking the guesswork out of applying the correct amount of nutrients. Cool season turf fertilizers are usually premeasured in 5,000- or 10,000-square-foot bags. Slow release fertilizers work best in the spring, providing quick greenup and avoiding excessive growth.
Over-seeding fescue in the spring often results in poor stands due to extremes in heat and droughts in July and August. Also, bare or thin areas seeded in the fall may still be germinating. However, those with new construction or those with bare lawns have no choice but to reseed now.
Survivability of fescue seedlings depends on correct seed bed preparation. Those with weak or thin lawns should prepare by lightly tilling bare areas, incorporating fertilizers before seeding. Core aeration in the spring is generally not recommended, but when lawns are excessively thin or bare, there’s really nothing to lose by implementing a core aerator at this time. Seeds falling into the holes germinate quicker and have much better chance of survival than seed on top of bare, clay soil.
Straw mulch over seeded areas ensures germination. Research has proven that a thin layer of clean wheat straw helps maintain moisture, encouraging quick germination of seed.
Now is also time to control winter weeds such as chickweed, henbit and wild garlic. Winter weeds strongly compete with both established and newly emerging seedlings. Premixed weed killers designed as hose-on applicators are very successful. These require no mixing and are very easy to use, even for the novice lawn care person. Wait a few weeks after grass seedlings emerge before applying post-emergence weed killers.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at www.rowanextension.com
www.rowanmastergardener.com
rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
www.rowanextension.com

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