Summer Recovery Without Excess Fertilization
Late summer and early fall can be a difficult time of year to properly dial in fertilization applications. Often in this timeframe, we are trying to recover from summer stresses, prepare for aeration, or recover after aeration. Proper fertilization timing and application are vital to recovery and preparing the turf for the arrival of winter. Over-fertilization can be just as detrimental to turf recovery as under-fertilization. You can utilize a few simple steps to keep your fertility programs balanced.
Soil and Tissue Tests
Take the time to pull soil and/or tissue samples for testing. Knowing what is in the soil and available is a prudent first step in ensuring that your application is necessary and at the proper amounts. If you notice large nutrient deficits, keep your application rates lower and more frequent until you achieve proper levels. Refrain from applying large amounts of fertility all at once. Don’t ignore soil pH. Lime and gypsum applications are often recommended but get skipped due to time constraints or bulk quantity of product requirements. Don’t forget that pH impacts nutrient availability. Pay attention to your micro-nutrients going into fall as well. Be sure these are on target to optimize the macro-nutrients you will most likely apply. Analysis matters. Be sure to apply the proper N-P-K ratios at the proper time. In late summer and early fall, try to keep the nitrogen-to-potassium ratio 1:1. Save the higher phosphorus analysis for later in the fall.
Pay Attention to Clipping Yield
We usually pay closer attention to clipping yield in the summer months than in the fall, especially before and after aeration. Don’t over-accelerate top growth to heal up during aeration at the expense of long-term plant health going into winter. Moderate nitrogen applications and focus on root health and photosynthetic nutrients (magnesium, manganese, iron).
Adjust Your PGR Rates
Monitoring your clipping yield can also correlate directly to your PGR rates and intervals. Don’t abandon your PGR programs too early, especially relating to aeration. Adjust your rates but don’t arbitrarily stop applications just because you are aerating. In most instances, the increased lateral growth from the PGR will push aeration holes closed faster and improve root production. Pay attention to soil temperatures and frost. PGRs are synthesized slower in cooler temperatures, so adjust your rates accordingly. Monitor long-term forecasts and frost predictions to avoid overlap in frost and your application timing.
Soil Fungicide Applications
Don’t skimp on your fall soil fungicide applications. Monitor root health often and consistently. Don’t assume that you are all set for winter and next spring because the turf looks healthy on top. Soil-borne pathogens seem to be more prevalent and harder to control in recent years. Keep in mind that the damage is usually done long before you ever see symptoms with these pathogens. Be diligent.
Most of these recommendations sound like common sense, but often, we get blinded by the need to recover quickly from summer stress or heal from aeration. Don’t compromise your turf’s long-term health for short-term playability or aesthetic repairs. Keep your fertility programs consistent.