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Lawns can rebound from summer with proper care

Staff writer

Record-high temperatures put Marion County lawns under extraordinary stress this summer, causing many homeowners concern over possible long-term damage.

Helping those lawns recover, however, may not take anything extraordinary at all. Standard recommendations for fall lawn care should do the trick for the county’s predominantly fescue lawns.

“As we head into fall, now that it’s cooled down some, that grass is going to feel like going again,” Marion County Extension Service Agent Rickey Roberts said.

In an area of the country considered by most experts to be the most challenging for raising grass, fescue and fescue blends are proven performers when balancing hardiness with the amount of care necessary to maintain them.

It is natural for fescue lawns to become less vibrant and show signs of stress in summer.

“Fescue is a cool season grass,” Roberts pointed out, “and it can’t take the oppressive heat.” He noted heat, more than drought, is the primary factor negatively affecting fescue.

Fall and spring are the best times for fescue to thrive, and for homeowners who may have given up on their lawns this summer, Roberts suggested a place to start recovery efforts.

“Now is the time to start up another watering program,” he emphasized. “Now that the weather has cooled, I expect things to rebound.”

As fescue begins to green again, this is a good time to assess the overall health of lawns. Areas that spring back slowly, or not at all, can be clues to underlying soil issues such as buried concrete or rocks, overly-compacted soil, or localized chemical imbalances.

“Those spots may be magnified, and that’s where we may see some die out,” Roberts said. He noted this is the right time to fix dead patches of grass by re-seeding or overseeding.

September is the month experts recommend a fall application of fertilizer for cool-season grasses like fescue.

“As we head from fall into winter, it gives it enough energy to get through the winter,” Roberts explained.

Ward Upham, a horticulture extension associate with the Kansas State University Extension Service, provided additional advice for fertilizing.

“A major portion of the fertilizer should be fast-release, so the plant can take it up and recover,” Upham said.

Upham recommended a second application of fertilizer for fescue in early November, on days when the temperature is over 50 degrees. Herbicide to combat weeds can also be applied at that time.

Optimal lawn growth requires soil with the most suitable pH balance for the variety of grass being used.

City residents watering lawns with treated water from municipal systems may alter the ground’s chemistry over time.

“The properties of the water can affect soil chemistry and soil pH levels,” Roberts said.

Roberts emphasized increased watering this summer would not likely have had a major immediate impact, but would have contributed to potential changes over several seasons.

“It’s always a good idea to have soil tested at least every two to three years,” he recommended.

Individuals can obtain an inexpensive soil test through the county extension office in the Marion County Courthouse Annex. Contact the extension office at (620) 382-2325 for instruction on how to collect a soil sample, and for pricing information.

Last modified Sept. 8, 2011

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