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Time to start thinking about getting your lawn ready for fall

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

SALISBURY — Even though it’s so hot all I can think about is finding shade and a cold drink, now is a great time to take a soil sample for your lawn.

In Rowan County we are in a transition zone for turf grass. This means we can grow warm and cool season grasses. The vast majority of homeowners grow tall fescue, which is a cool season grass. Cool season sounds like exactly what it is, these grasses grow better in the cooler months of the year, when day time temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime at 50 or cooler.

To get a great stand of fescue grass established, you need to make sure you seed at least six weeks before a killing frost. Our frost date is Oct. 31, but usually it’s a little later in November.   This means the window for seeding your lawn in tall fescue is Sept. 1-30.   Any later and you are gambling as to whether there will be enough time between seeding and a killing frost/freeze.

But it’s only the beginning of August, what’s the rush? Well, in order to ensure a great lawn, good soil prep is paramount. The first step is a soil test. Lucky for us in North Carolina, your tax dollars pay for an excellent soil analysis laboratory in Raleigh as part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Division.

From April to December it is free to send your soil test kits (well, you still have to pay postage, or drive it to Raleigh). The soil test is the key to having a great lawn or garden. To take a soil test for a lawn, you need to randomly sample the area you plan to plant, making sure to dig down 4-6 inches in the soil.

Mix your samples together in a plastic bucket and then fill your soil test kit box to the line designated on the box. Fill out the paperwork that goes with the kit and send it off to the lab in Raleigh. Right now, the turnaround time for soil samples is two weeks. When you get your results, you can start to prep your soil.

North Carolina State University turf specialists recommend you completely overhaul your lawn if your weed population is over 50 percent. The first step would be to kill all the existing plants with an herbicide, wait a week to make sure you have a good kill and then start working up the soil.

Now is the time to apply the recommended lime and fertilizer and rototill it into the ground. Make sure the tiller is getting between 4-6 inches deep as this is where the turfgrass roots will be.

Phosphorus is the element that many of our soils are lacking, and like lime, it moves very slowly through the soil profile. Tilling in your lime and phosphorous will make it more available to the plant roots where it is needed.

Next you can seed your lawn. Make sure the seed you buy is certified and a turf-type fescue.

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