While most of the country has been experiencing some of the worst early winter weather on record, we have been blessed with some of the best weather I can remember for December–especially for our  lawns!   It is not that often that we only receive a couple frosts and then the temperature pops back up into the high 70’s, low 80’s.  

Generally we will receive a cold snap till February and it will cause your ryegrass to start to get that yellow tint to it because the soil temperature is too cold to utilize granular fertilizers that do not have dark pellets that keep the heat in the grass.  This season we have been lucky and the night time lows have stayed warm enough the soil can still get some reaction to fertilizer. 

Get out there as soon as you can and put down a dark pelletized granular fertilizer such as Soil Burst 5-15-10 or 5-3-5.  Your other option is to use a quick release fertilizer such as calcium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, or a balanced fertilizer such as a 15-15-15.  You will want to stay away from the slow release fertilizers like Turf Royale 21-7-14 because inevitably we are going to get a cold snap soon and that fertilizer is going to lay inactive in the soil. 

If your lawn has already turned yellow and you live in a colder part of town you can switch to the foliar applied fertilizers till spring.  Most golf courses use a combination of calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, iron (ferrous sulfate), and seasonal boosters.  If you buy a water dispersible granular such as calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate they can be mix in a 5 gallon bucket to achieve a foliar spray application.  The products should be applied at the label rate and mixed with about 5 gallons of water, then stirred till they are well mixed together.  I am going to list some popular rates and emulsions that I have seen work well during the winter months for optimal color and growth.  Keep in mind that these are not perfect for every situation and your soil profile is going to play a big role in reactivity.

K-Power (potassium nitrate 13.75-0-46) at 3-5 pounds per 1000 SF mixed with .5 pounds of Ferrous Sulfate per 1000 SF.

Soil Burst 5-15-10 (excellent starter and maintenance fertilizer) provides a dark, pelletized granule with balanced nutrition (available through West Coast Turf/Western Sod)

Soil Burst 5-3-5 is a great source of iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc and manganese.  Dark pelletized granule for heat absorption.  (available through West Coast Turf/Western Sod)

Ferrous Sulfate .5 pounds per 1000 SF plus ammonium nitrate 2 pounds per 1000 SF

Seasonal Booster 7-7-7 mixed with Ferrous Sulfate or Ironite

Soil Burst 16-0-4 applied at 1 pint per 1000 SF (available through West Coast Turf/Western Sod) This is a great source of calcium, magnesium, and iron which promote strong color

Soil Burst 4-0-6 applied at 1 pint per 1000 SF (available through West Coast Turf/Western Sod) This is a great source of calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and iron to promote deep dark color

Ironite plus calcium nitrate or ammonium nitrate

These are just some of the formulations that I have used successfully during the winter months and often times you can find these products in a convenient package that will just hook up to your hose to spray on your lawn.  For the mixed granules you will have to buy a 2-3 gallon hand held sprayer and apply the material.  Remember that IRON STAINS everything it touches so be very careful around driveways, curbing, and anything you do not want to get a rust color.  The Soil Burst products have iron in them but are in a non staining formulation.   This is the secret that most golf courses use during the winter months to keep their ryegrass bright green and the excess iron allows the grass to hold the heat in.  Remember a few weeks back when I told you that calcium and magnesium are the kick starters for your lawn?  It is especially true at this time of the year so use products that will encourage color and growth.

Dormant Turf

If you have decided to let your lawn go dormant for the winter months you can rest easy knowing that you don’t have to do much to it during the winter to get it to come back in the spring.  At this time of the year I suggest 1-2 waterings per month for about 60 total minutes of water.  If we receive significant rainfall during the winter months you can with hold watering all together until the lawn has gone a few weeks without water.  You will gradually increase your watering to 1x per week in early March or if the temperature dictates it earlier. 

No fertilizer is necessary during the winter months but you can spot spray weeds with a Trimec or confront as they appear.  When your grass is completely dormant and there is zero growth you can spot spray a ¼ rate of round up on weeds that pop up through your lawn but don’t over spray it.  It is important to follow the label and not double up on the rate of any herbicide or you will cause damage to the grass.

As we get closer to the spring you can apply the soil burst products or a calcium and magnesium product to help jump start the growth.  Until the temperatures start to really warm up, give yourself a break and enjoy the dormant turf. 

Tucson Marathon

 It was a great weekend for me to run my first road marathon and man was it different than a trail ultra marathon.  As a trail runner I would have to say that I am not a big fan of running on the roads, but the Tucson Marathon made me think that I should incorporate some road running into my routine.  I went into the race a little naïve about how different it was going to be to run 26.2 miles on the road versus my usual 30-45 miles on the trail.  I think the best way to compare the two is college sports to the pro game and how fast one is to the other. 

While the trail runs are much more difficult from a terrain aspect, you are not going full speed for 26.2 miles like you are in a marathon.  I didn’t have high hopes going into this race for myself because of my lack of road training but I was pleasantly surprised at my outcome.  The first 16 miles couldn’t have been any better for me and I was well ahead of time necessary to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The thought of just maintaining my pace plus a little time for the last 8 miles kept going through my head and that is when I felt some of the worst pain I have ever felt in my short running career.  My ankles felt swollen and my legs became extremely heavy killing my pace.  I watched as the 3:15 pace group buzzed by me, then runner after runner it seemed like till I was able to motivate myself to get going.  I struggled through mile 21 with a 9:50 mile killing any hopes I had of running a 3:10. 

As the end drew closer and I could hear and see the finish line my legs seem to get that second wind and I was able to finish the race strong and with a 3:28:01.  I have to say I was extremely happy to run under 3:30 in my first marathon but I would have liked to finish a little faster.  I guess everyone says that about their races and some days the starts line up for a perfect race and most days our bodies tell us it’s just not going to be our day.

I had a great day out there running with my wife and friends in Tucson, and I also got to meet one of my readers Norm Crawford who ran the relay race with his family.  Norm is an excellent marathon runner who recently completed the Mt. Lemmon marathon up 6000 feet in elevation.  Congrats to Norm on a great race and I look forward to meeting more people at my next race.  I’ll  be back in the Aravaipai running DRT series at Coldwater in Estrella Mountain.  It is a 50K (31 Miles) of rugged terrain.  Hopefully I can turn out a good time and get back on top of the ultra standings.  There are three races left in the ultra series and then it is time to prepare for two 50 mile races and then the 100 miler in South Dakota in August.  Now that I have put it in print, I have to sign up and do it.

Please let me know if you have any questions and enjoy this great winter weather!