Give grass waterways some help |

Give grass waterways some help

Richard Snell
Barton County Extension Agent

Is your grassed waterway ready to handle a large volume of water during a heavy storm this spring or summer? To guarantee top waterway performance day in and day out, buy some cheap insurance – in the form of early spring fertilization.

Most of our more rolling land is terraced with brome grass waterways to carry the run-off water. Early spring fertilization of brome grass can be a big plus for several reasons.

First, late winter-early spring applications (February and March) of fertilizer will assure you a vigorous fast-growing stand of grass that provides a tough sod. A tough sod helps your flow-way stand up to about any torrential rain without eroding. Secondly, K-State research is showing that fertilization at this time also provides bonuses that include seed yields up to 700-800 pounds per acre, hay yields of 2-4 tons per acre, and a potential for high protein grass when grazing livestock in the fall.

Although, we usually recommend fertilizing cool season lawns primarily in the fall, we don’t want excessive top growth on lawn like we do on waterways. Brome can be fertilized in fall but spring is best.

Waterways sometimes need phosphorus, potassium, and lime. However, the big need is for nitrogen – up to 300 pounds of soil nitrogen per acre in a moist year. Much of this is supplied from soil organic material, so only 60-80 pounds of actual nitrogen is needed from applied fertilizer in our part of the state.

If your waterway has lost some of its vigor, have your soil tested. Your county extension office can handle the test samples, and if results call for a mixed fertilizer, you local fertilizer dealer can supply you with the proper blend.

Don’t ignore that waterway – it’s too valuable. We have about 250,000 acres of grassed waterways in this state and it is shameful that sometimes they go without regular maintenance. Fertilize it soon if you can, although, even an April application will help. It’s not only a great conservation resource with tough erosion resistance but also can provide hay, forage, and seed that can give you a handsome return on investment.