Glenn Hardebeck, Turfgrass Research Agronomist, Agronomy Department, Purdue University
Summer stress or heat stress is a problem throughout most of our landscape
during prolonged hot summer spells. Plants weakened by other factors such as
compaction, low mowing height, improper watering and poor fertility management
are especially prone to summer stress related problems. The picture below is
indicative of summer decline of turfgrass that was predisposed to heat stress
problems. Many times the culprit is actually a combination of problems that
conspire to kill the turf. In this case, the surrounding fence and pavement
act to increase the radiant heat on the narrow strip of turfgrass. The area
was fertilized spring only with low and irregular mowing. The final straw came
as an early summer broadleaf weed application followed by summer heat.
Though most of us are no longer thinking of summer, now is the time to be proactive with our lawns with a late fall fertilizer application on cool season turf such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. A late fall fertilization strengthens the turf through winter, spring and most importantly next summer. This fertilizer application is especially good at improving root density, carbohydrate storage, fall color retention and spring greenup. While heavy spring fertilizer applications will improve greenup, they can reduce carbohydrate storage going into the summer. In effect the grass plants can run out of energy during prolonged hot stressful periods.
So, if you have had dead patches of grass in previous summers, now is the time to improve your lawn’s health and stamina for next summer. More information on fertility scheduling can be found in AY-22: Fertilizing Established Lawns http://www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/publicat.htm and in the following Turf Tip http://www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/tips/2003/laten1029.htm.
Click on the small image to view a larger image.
Photo courtesy of Zac Reicher,
Dept. of Agronomy, Purdue University
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