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Warm season fertilizing
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Lately, I have been getting questions concerning weed control in home lawns. The best solution for weed control is to have a thick, healthy lawn that will not allow the weeds to take hold in the first place. One way to do this is to keep your lawn healthy by fertilizing it at the correct time. I thought that I would share a piece by Ward Upham, K-State Research and Extension Horticulture specialist about fertilizing recommendations in warm season lawns. This is a good column to help you know how much to use and when for the three warm-season grasses adapted for Kansas.
June is the time to fertilize warm-season lawn grasses such as bermudagrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass. These species all thrive in warmer summer weather, so this is the time they respond best to fertilization. The most important nutrient is nitrogen (N), and these three species need it in varying amounts.
Bermudagrass requires the most nitrogen. High-quality bermuda stands need about 4 lbs. N per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season (low maintenance areas can get by on 2 lbs.). Apply this as four separate applications, about 4 weeks apart, of 1 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. starting in early May. It is already too late for the May application, but the June application is just around the corner. The nitrogen can come from either a quick- or slow-release source. Plan the last application for no later than August 15. This helps ensure the bermudagrass is not overstimulated, making it susceptible to winter-kill.
Zoysiagrass grows more slowly than bermudagrass and is prone to develop thatch. Consequently, it does not need as much nitrogen. In fact, too much is worse than too little. One and one-half to 2 pounds N per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season is sufficient. Split the total in two and apply once in early June and again around mid-July. Slow-release N is preferable but quick-release is acceptable.
Buffalograss requires the least nitrogen of all lawn species commonly grown in Kansas. It will survive and persist with no supplemental nitrogen, but giving it 1 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. will improve color and density. This application should be made in early June. For a little darker color, fertilize it as described for zoysiagrass in the previous paragraph, but do not apply more than a total of 2 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. in one season. Buffalograss tends to get weedy when given too much nitrogen. As with zoysia, slow-release N is preferable, but fast-release is also OK. As for all turfgrasses, phosphorus and potassium are best applied according to soil test results because many soils already have adequate amounts of these nutrients for turfgrass growth. If you need to apply phosphorus or potassium, it is best to core aerate beforehand to insure the nutrients reach the roots.
Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-State Research and Extension. You can contact her by e-mail at or calling 620-793-1910