Early Fall Is Lawn Thickening Time

If you’re a lawnowner, the days from late August through November are the one time of year when all the odds are stacked in your favor. Days are growing shorter and night’s cooler. Soil temperatures begin to moderate and dews become heavier. And the pattern of rainfall starts to mirror more closely the needs of your lawn. In short…everything is ideal for grass to thrive.

The days from late August through September are not only the perfect time to heal the scars of summer’s lawn damage, they are also the easiest time of the year to make your grass grow thicker. This can be done by encouraging a natural process that makes grass plants actually multiply themselves.

Agronomists call it rhizoming. It’s a natural process in which grass plants develop underground shoots, called rhizomes, which spread out beneath the soil surface and send up new plants.

In this way a single "parent" plant can actually multiply itself many times, developing a living network that knits together into thick, vigorous turf.

Although it’s the length of the day and the weather that trigger the rhizoming process in fall, how well the grass plants can take advantage of this once-a-year opportunity depends on the availability of important nutrients to the grass roots. That’s because the rhizoming process uses up a great deal of energy.

This is why fertilizing in the early fall pays such big dividends. A good feeding any time between late August and late September gives grass plants the nourishment they need to produce a bumper crop of rhizomes. This, in turn, means lots of new grass plants, for a thick green lawn.

Rhizoming isn’t the only important process that goes on underground in fall. The same weather conditions that trigger rhizoming also stimulate development of feeder roots from each grass plant.

Although each feeder root is tiny in size, collectively they can develop into a vigorous root system, capable of supporting an attractive lawn even during periods of stress, such as drought.

Rhizoming and root development doesn’t occur overnight. They go on for weeks, throughout the fall season. For this reason it’s important to use a controlled-release fertilizer that will keep on feeding for an extended period of time.

Many fertilizers release their nutrients so quickly that they create a feast-or-famine condition in the lawn. Right after feeding, the grass grows furiously for a few days, which causes extra mowing and extra clippings. Soon thereafter, important nutrients have been depleted and the hungry grass is unable to produce many rhizomes.

Scotts fertilizers, on the other hand, provide a sustained feeding by releasing their nutrients gradually, over a long period of time. This is exactly the kind of feeding needed to help grass plants create an abundance of roots and rhizomes.

If your lawn is marred by bare spots or thin areas, don’t fret. Early fall is also the best time of year to take care of them. If the spots are small (2" to 4" across) they will fill in themselves by rhizoming after you fertilize the lawn. Larger areas, however, will require seeding.