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Homeowners Lawn Care Water Quality Almanac

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September     Shape Up

Get your turf in shape for next year

Bare, exposed soil can affect water quality by increasing runoff of water and materials applied, leaching, and erosion. If your lawn survived summer stress, begin with a Labor Day application of fertilizer. If your lawn has deteriorated beyond help from fertilizer and patching, you may choose to renovate by seeding or sodding.  The first half of the month is the ideal time because temperatures cool, moisture is adequate, and weeds are less competitive.

Lawn Renovation
Minimize the amount of time when soil is bare so as to reduce 
risk of soil particle movement into water bodies

Follow these steps:


  1. If renovating, use a nonselective herbicide to kill the existing vegetation or physically dig up and remove it.
  2. Remove thatch and dead turfgrass by raking 
    or using a sod cutter.
  3. Grade or regrade areas to correct low-lying wet spots.
  4. Add soil amendments (lime, fertilizer, compost) based on soil test results and incorporate into the soil.
  5. Rake to smooth out the area.
  6. Add a light topdressing of a preplant fertilizer.



  1. Seed area at recommended seeding rates 
    and rake lightly.
  2. Roll lightly to ensure good seed to soil 
    contact and mulch lightly if desired with straw, hay, or pelletized mulch. 
  3. Water regularly, lightly, and gently so that surface does not dry. Water frequently for at least three weeks after planting and fertilize again three weeks after emergence.


  1. Roll out sod and stagger it like bricks. 
  2. Roll lightly to ensure good sod to soil contact.
  3. Water installed area. Be sure the soil below the sod is moist but not saturated.

September is a good time for

  • Mowing: Keep blades sharp to avoid dull mower injury. Mow newly established or renovated areas when 60 percent of the seedlings are 2.5 inches tall.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilize on Labor Day. Apply 1 lb. N per 1,000 ft.2
  • Scouting: Continue to sample for grubs. The orange on your lawn might be rust, a common turfgrass disease. Despite the color, it is not dangerous to 
    humans and can be managed through proper fertilization.
  • Controlling weeds: September is still the best time for postemergence broadleaf weed control. Avoid applications when temperatures are below 50 F 
    or before an expected rainfall.

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This page last updated on
November 05, 2000

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