Q: My lawn looked good this summer and I want to keep it that way. What can I do to keep it healthy?

A: September is the time to begin preparing for next year’s healthy lawn. Living on the Gulf Coast in plant zone 8, our lawn needs differ from lawns in other zones. This means you will need to consider whether or not national advertising and even regional or Southern “advice” is right for us.

Our climate causes our grass to actively grow much longer and our lawns “green up” earlier than in other areas, so the advertised time you need certain lawn maintenance tasks will vary accordingly. Use the following schedule of fall and winter lawn maintenance rather than relying on retail package advertising.

September: “Winterize” (fertilize) weak turf with 5-5-25 @ 4 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft. or 0-0-64 @ 2 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. or equivalent. This is optional. Since your lawn is healthy, skip this and save your money. Also, don’t use a winterizer if you fertilized after June with a fertilizer that contains potassium (the last number in the analysis).

Treat for fire ants if needed with baits (preferred), but if you have them in an area where they present a danger to children, pets, or you, use a fire ant killer for faster results, following label instructions.

If you have centipede grass watch for common brown patch to appear, as circular yellowing, then browning, patches. Treat with fungicide by label directions. (See www.aces.edu, publication IMP 1292, for recommendations.)

October: Apply pre-emergent herbicide if you have problems with weeds, but skip unless winter weeds are usually a problem. Read the label and use what targets the weeds you have and is safe for the type of grass you have. Follow label instructions carefully.

Note that most pre-emergent herbicides are to be applied when grass is dormant, so don’t apply when the grass is still actively growing. If you overseed with winter (rye) grass, skip all fall pre-emergent herbicides. Note: Overseeding is not a recommended practice.

November: Get a soil test. Soil test kits are available at the Alabama Cooperative Extension office at 1070 Schillinger Road N. in Mobile, or at 302A Byrne St. in Bay Minette. The kit is free but there is a small fee for the analysis by Auburn University, which will be returned to you.

December: Lime according to soil test result.

February: Apply pre-emergent herbicide if you have problem annual weeds each year. Note that most pre-emergent herbicides are to be applied when grass is dormant, so be sure to do this before grass begins to green up to avoid grass damage. There are spring ephemeral weeds, which have a very brief life and do too little harm to justify using herbicides. Reserve herbicides for tough weeds that take over.

Each year we get questions about using weed-and-feed products. None of these products is effective for Mobile. Fertilizers are needed to boost grass entering or in its active season. Pre-emergent herbicides are needed when grass is NOT active.

The timing factor means a single product that delivers both in one application is ineffective. These need to be separate applications as shown in the above schedule.

UPCOMING: (Free and open to the public)
What: Monthly Master Gardener meeting
When: Thursday, Sept. 1, 10-11:30 a.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N. (Mobile)

Topic: “Permaculture” by Clint Burdette
What: Lunch and Learn
When: Monday, Sept. 19, noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center,
1070 Schillinger Road N. (Mobile)

Topic: “Learn Where to Snip”
by Beverly Davis-Ikibana
What: Monthly Master Gardener meeting
When: Thursday, Oct. 6, 10-11:30 a.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N. (Mobile)

Topic: “The Fungus Among Us — Mushrooms in Your Garden” by Juan Mata, USA Biology
What: Herb Day 2016 presented by Gulf Coast Herb Society and Mobile Botanical Gardens
When: Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m. to noon
Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens
Cost: $30, includes lunch, info packet, door prizes

To pre-register, email herbday2014@yahoo.com.

MASTER GARDENER HELPLINE: Call 1-877-252-4769 or send your gardening questions to coastalalabamagardening@gmail.com.