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Fall lawn care

By John Fulton

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[August 18, 2009]  The time of year has arrived to put that final push on to prepare your lawn for the upcoming winter months. What you do now will have a big impact on how your lawn will look next spring.

Grub problems have traditionally been found first along walks, driveways or patios. The current list of products includes imidacloprid and trichlorfon as the active chemical ingredients. Sevin may also be used, but it is specific for Japanese beetle grubs. Sevin also will have an effect on earthworms, which is good and bad. It is good if you have mole problems and bad if you don't. If label directions are followed, these products should provide adequate control of grubs. The insecticide must get to where the grubs are, so make sure to water the liquid formulations in as soon as they are applied.

Seeding of grass should be accomplished by Sept. 10. This is a tried-and-true date, but the end of the world won't come about if you are a week later. The goal is to give the seed enough time to germinate and become established before bad weather arrives. Seed at the rate of 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet on bare spots, or half that rate on overseedings.


If you have a compacted yard or a deep thatch layer, now is also an ideal time to dethatch or aerate. Thatch layers should not be over one-half-inch deep for optimum growing conditions. When aerating, make sure you use a core-type aerator.

Fall fertilization is also a good practice. If you haven't fertilized in the last month, consider applying a fertilizer treatment now. Use about 8 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Try to avoid the high nitrogen fertilizers this late in the year. It's hard enough to keep up with the mowing as it is, and nitrogen promotes top growth. The even analysis fertilizers will also promote root growth, which is what we want going into the late fall and winter.

Crabgrass and other annual grass weeds can be seen about everywhere. They will die with the first frost, so treatment is not available or recommended in the fall. Make a note of where these grasses are, and an overseeding to thicken up the grasses you want there may help crowd out the annuals.

Last, but not least, is broadleaf weed control. Fall is a particularly good time to treat problem perennial weeds since they are sending food down to the roots to overwinter. A spray about the third or fourth week of September (making sure to use the appropriate product) can do a world of good on the perennial weeds. Remember to be very careful with herbicides around perennial plants since they are also getting ready to overwinter.

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Biting insects

They're back, and almost a month earlier than last year. During the late summer, small insects known as insidious flower bugs and minute pirate bugs become real pests by producing painful bites on people. The bugs are about one-fifth of an inch long with black and white markings on the back. They are beneficial insects most of the time while feeding on small insects and their eggs.

They are present all summer in area fields, flower beds and other landscape areas. Most of the summer the insects are beneficial, but then they become quite the nuisance when their regular food source runs out. Their painful bite is caused by their beak breaking your skin. These insects don't suck blood or inject venom like mosquitoes.

People differ in their response to the bites. Some people react to the bites like mosquito bites, with swelling and itching. Other people have no reaction at all.

Control of insidious flower bugs and minute pirate bugs is not practical. They are mobile, and the populations change greatly. Wearing dark clothing on may help, as the insects seem to be attracted to light colors. Repellents are sometimes effective but not enough to make a recommendation. Try the repellents for yourself and see if they work for you.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]


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