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Take Some Time Off From Lawn Care

Many  areas in Northwest Florida have experienced some cooler weather and some have  even seen a frost.  This means that warm  season lawn grasses are going dormant for the winter. December and January are  months to take a break from lawn care unless you have overseeded with ryegrass.

Centipede,  St. Augustine, zoysia, bahia and Bermuda grass are called warm season grasses  because they grow during the warmth of summer but go dormant during the cool of  winter.  When grasses slow down and go  dormant, they should be allowed to rest until environmental conditions exist to  stimulate their growth.

During  the winter, nitrogen fertilization should not be applied on home lawns unless  they are overseeded with ryegrass. Nitrogen fertilizer on dormant turfgrasses  can lead to increased chance of winterkill and fungal diseases such as large  patch. Nitrogen applications during this time also have a greater potential for  movement into groundwater.

Homeowners  who overseeded their lawns in October and November should follow  recommendations on ryegrass fertilization.   The University of Florida/IFAS recommends the  first fertilization should follow the second mowing. Apply a lawn fertilizer at  a rate of no more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft of turfgrass. For  more information on fertilizing, please refer to Figuring Out Fertilizer for  the Home Lawn (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep221).  A second fertilizer application can be made approximately 60 days later. Always  follow best management practices when fertilizing to reduce any potential  nonpoint source pollution from the misapplication of fertilizer.

Large  patch disease can come and go throughout the winter if the weather is mild.  This is common on St. Augustine lawns along the coastal areas in Northwest  Florida where the lawns go into partial dormancy only. Damage from large patch  will slow spring green-up, and affected areas will remain unsightly until  warmer spring weather conditions allow for turfgrass recovery.

To  reduce the damaging effects of fungal diseases, be sure adjust your irrigation for  dormant conditions. From  the time the grass growth significantly slows in the fall until the time it  begins to grow in the spring, approximately mid-November until the end of  February, be sure that the grass is irrigated every ten to 14 days, absent sufficient  rainfall.

Although  many home lawns do not require regular mowing now, be sure to keep the leaf  litter off the turfgrass.  Leaves capture  moisture between themselves and the turf that may create insect and disease  problems. Once raked up, you can always use the leaves or needles as mulch in  the shrub or flower beds. Two to three inches of mulch over the plant’s roots  will also help prepare your plants for cold weather.

Wait  until spring to establish any permanent, warm season turfgrass from seed. Sod  can be laid during winter if absolutely necessary, but remember to keep it  moist to prevent it from drying out and dying. Establishment is best left until  midspring, well after spring green-up.

Warm-season  turfgrasses may show signs of green-up in by early to mid-March in some areas.  Do not push turfgrass growth with fertilizer. Fertilizer applied too early will  feed the winter weeds, and fertilizer applied too heavily will result in lush  growth that is more susceptible to injury from late frosts or large patch  disease.

Let  the grass green up gradually, and do not fertilize until after two or three  mowings in early spring.

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Contact Information

Theresa Friday is the Environmental Horticulture Agent in Santa Rosa County.  She can be reached by calling 850-623-3868 or email at tlfriday@ufl.edu.

The use of trade names, if used in this article, is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product name(s) and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of others.

For more information or if you have a question, call The University of Florida/IFAS-Santa Rosa County Extension, at 850-623-3868, between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm weekdays.  Hearing-impaired individuals may call Santa Rosa County Emergency Management Service at 983-5373 (TDD).

Extension Service programs are open to all people without regard to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.  The use of trade names in this article is solely for the purpose of providing specific information.  It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product name(s) and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of others.

Permanent link to this article: http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/blog/2011/12/16/take-some-time-off-from-lawn-care/