Fall Fertilization: Success Through Testing and Goals
As the growing season draws to a close and turfgrass growth slows, fall becomes an essential time for fertilization. To fertilize properly in the fall, we want to know a few things:
- What’s going on with your soil, water, and available nutrients
- Your goals
Soil, Water, and Available Nutrients Testing
Fertilizing properly in the fall starts with understanding the distinct situation that exists on your property. Testing in advance of a fertilizer application is your best bet to achieve this understanding. When you test, you are tackling a problem directly, instead of making decisions from an assumption. Test your soil, water, and available nutrients.
The significant components to focus on in a soil test are pH, CEC (cation exchange capacity), Ec (electrical conductivity), and organic matter. These components can indicate a soil that is too acidic or too alkaline, one with nutrient deficiencies or a soil that has an abundance of nutrients.
Ignoring water testing is a mistake you do not want to commit. The water on your property can affect what’s happening in the soil. In fact, reviewing soil tests and water tests at the same time can be very beneficial.
“Looking at your soil results compared to your water results can be very revealing,” John Gruneisen, EnP Midwest Territory Sales Manager, says. “Usually, issues within your water are mirrored within your soil tests. Remember, in situations of drought/heavy watering, the soil has been receiving the composition of that water source without much of a ‘flushing’ remedy from Mother Nature’s rain. It’s important to understand what those watering practices can do to affect the soil.”
Disregarding saturated paste soil testing would also be a mistake. Saturated paste soil tests look at the soil’s water solution and tell us which nutrients are immediately and easily available in it (how many and which nutrients will make their way into the plant).
One side note on saturated paste soil tests from Gruneisen: “Do any saturated paste (available nutrient) soil tests with your irrigation water instead of water from the lab. After all, you aren’t watering with water from the lab!”
Not sure where to get a test? Foliar-Pak’s Soil Solver is a great tool and detailed report that will assist with identifying CEC, pH, EC, and OM, as well as the available and total nutrients in the soil. This information is recorded, graphed, and comes on one single sheet, which makes it easy to read.
All fall input remedies should be based on testing, regardless of what end-goal solutions you’re looking to accomplish.
Here are two goals, and a few solutions, that you might find yourself needing to tackle after testing, according to Gruneisen and the Foliar-Pak Territory manager and Lead for Foliar-Pak Product Development, Curt Geron.
- Increasing cell strength
- Building carbohydrates or roots
Increasing Cell Strength
Strong cell walls are the initial line of defense against infection, disease, and winter damage. Turfgrass plants tolerate traffic and changing weather conditions more successfully with strong cell walls, also. So, strong cell walls are important. What should you be on the lookout for in your test results that could indicate a possibly weakened cell wall? Geron says a few indicators could be inadequate levels of calcium, potassium, and silicon.
“Not having enough calcium, potassium, and silicon can cause problems with cell strength,” Geron says. “Calcium strengthens cell walls and cell membranes, and potassium plays a role in osmotic cell strength. Silicon works together with calcium to strengthen cell walls and thicken cuticles.”
Building Carbohydrates or Roots
So, you’re looking to build carbohydrates or roots after receiving your soil test results. One possible way to tackle building carbs is to build and boost chlorophyll. Geron says adding in foundation amino acids will help.
“Foundation amino acids help build chlorophyll,” Geron says, “by providing Glutamic acid, the building block for constructing the chlorophyll molecule.”
Another possible solution for building carbohydrates, according to Geron, is increasing iron and manganese. Iron and manganese maximize photosynthetic processes as temperatures, daylight length, and light intensity decrease, increasing plant carbohydrate production.
To build roots, Gruneisen encourages looking at phosphorous.
“Phosphorous can assist in building proteins and developing new tissue,” Gruneisen says. “It’s also a primary component in ATP, the main energy source of plants. Both of these help with building new roots and repairing damaged ones.”