Late Summer and early Fall are great seasons to schedule fertilization, preparing your lawn for spring when the grass emerges out of winter dormancy. St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is the predominant warm season grass of choice for home yards and appropriate for our region. The species is preferred for lawns because it forms a dense cover, spreading vegetatively with above-ground stems (stolons) and rooting readily at nodes along these prostrate stolons. It can manage light traffic, competes well with most weeds and is one of the few turf grasses that is shade tolerant, a blessing for landscaping under majestic trees that provide moderate to heavy shade. Several St. Augustine varieties that are on the market and appropriate for Brazoria County are Texas Common, Raleigh, Seville, Palmetto and Floratam.
In an article written for AgriLife Today online (October 14, 2019), Dr. Becky Grubbs, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Turfgrass Specialist in College Station, explains that action we take to schedule fertilizer applications supplements the lawn with sufficient nutrients to prepare for winter dormancy and spring emergence. “There is research to indicate turfgrass utilizes nutrient reserves from the previous year for early season growth, but that does not mean homeowners should be putting heavy nitrogen applications on their lawns throughout the fall.” Dr. Grubbs recommends applying fertilizer product containing both potassium for turfgrass stress tolerance, and nitrogen for plant growth and vigor. Fall applications should be made six weeks prior to our regions estimated first-frost date. For Brazoria County and surrounding areas, this means one Fall application up until early October.
If you have not committed the following, now is always better than later to complete a soil test. Fertilizer application ratios are dependent on soil nutrient availability, and soil tests determine potential nutrient deficiencies and provide a foundation or guide-map for future action. For a small fee, urban soil tests are administered from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station. Forms and fees can be found online: soiltesting.tamu.edu. You will receive a report with recommended application rates, and you always contact me for further consultation if you need assistance deciphering the report. The general formula for annual fertilizer application is one pound of the percentage of nitrogen in the product per 1,000 square feet. Example: a bag of fertilizer has a 10-0-14 ratio (10 percent nitrogen, 0 percent phosphorous and 14 percent potassium). Divide 1-pound by 10-percent to apply 10 pounds of product per 1,000 square feet. Remember to measure the square footage of your lawn to put advice into action, and always follow the recommended product ratio from your soil report. My last bit of advice is to avoid products containing a combination of herbicide and fertilizer, commonly referred to as weed and feed. Pre-emergent herbicides and fertilizer should be applied individually and specific to a research-based deficiency or need rather than as a preventative in the home landscape.
Brazoria County Horticulture is growing strong with free online programs. Keep us in mind for timely presentations to keep your landscape growing, and I look forward to seeing you in the gardens.