Stupid Effing Neighbors

They’re everywhere!

Isn’t it disgusting how many folks whine about wanting a good lawn, yet they go out and scalp it week after week after week? EVERYBODY says mow high–EVERYBODY! Local newspapers, suburban mailings, all the idiots on the airwaves, and yes, even national magazines!

I think these dumb butts don’t realize that their lawn mowers actually have adjustable wheels! I’m serious. I have to drive by this dolt once or twice a day. I try not to look, but I just can’t help it. It’s like a doctor tellin’ you not to pop your pimples.

I know these folks want a good lawn–they apply fertilizers a few times a year. They clean the leaves up in the fall. They water in droughts. In addition to scalping their lawn the other huge mistake they make is using a very popular, heavily advertised, nationally well known retail product–that contains the weakest of all crabgrass herbicides–pendimethalin. I saw the bag sitting on the driveway this past spring when Mr. Idiot was applying it. “Pendy,” as it’s affectionately known in the industry, must be used twice in the spring to get a half-way decent level of crabgrass control. For more information on crabgrass herbicides, go read my older blog You Shouldn’t Have Crabgrass!

It was a WET and WARM spring and summer, which put extra pressure on the crappy herbicides. Scalping the lawn exacerbates the problem, because is supports constant weed germination. There’s a HUGE difference in shade between even a 2 inch mowing height and a 3 inch mowing height. Shaded soil will suppress weed growth much better than sunny soil. Cooler soils (high mowing) will suppress weed seed germination much better than hot soils (scalped lawns).

Here’s another nit-wit. It’s hilarious that these folks are actually WATERING THEIR WEEDS! I’ve labeled the crabgrass seed heads and yellow nutsedge seed heads as a teaching tool.

Scalped lawn weeds.jpg

And finally, I can’t resist taking another swipe at a crappy lawn care company. This lawn has a south facing blend of cool season grass–mostly bluegrass with some turf-type fescue. It’s not mowed as low as the first dolt, but this guy hires a guy with a professional walk behind mower. Because it’s a south facing slope this lawn should be mowed at 4 inches, not the 2.5 inches. This poor guy has a crappy lawncare company and a moron for a mower.

Trugreen

It’s not hard to have a great lawn, folks! Hire a local chain, not the big national ones. Better yet, just do it yourself! Sure, hire someone to mow your lawn it but make sure you read my blog, so that they mow right and edge right!

 

NOW (SEPTEMBER) IS THE TIME FOR TURF REPAIR!

In the world of turf, September is for winners!

It’s really annoying how we’ve been trained by the big manufacturers and retailers that our first springtime application of crabgrass preemergent is STEP 1.

STEP 1 should be in sync with the growth cycle of our cool season turf, which would be our first fall application of nitrogen.

NOW is the time to prepare for turfgrass renovation. Print this document off. Read it twice.

If you’re going to RENOVATE, which is starting from scratch, late August and September is the time to do it, because you need to kill off your existing lawn and weeds with Roundup®.  It’s best if you start early enough to make two applications of Roundup, 3 to 4 weeks apart. If you’re going to OVERSEED, you want to be done by mid-October.  Basically, you overseed decent turf, and you renovate crappy turf.

Typically, we start re-seeding in early to mid-September, because grass seed will germinate rapidly with warm soils. Cool nights help keep the soil uniformly moist. The fall weather will have a profound influence on success. You want to take advantage cool weather (85F day / <60F night) and moisture. But if it gets hot and humid after the turf germinates, apply propiconazole fungicide to protect those tender seedlings. You will need to irrigate lightly and often for the first 3 weeks, so don’t plan a vacation after you do this.

Why RENOVATE?  If your lawn “sucks”, then it’s better to kill it off and start over. If you can see the soil on over 40% of the surface, your lawn sucks. Time to do something drastic. If your yard is mostly weeds…your lawn sucks. Kill it and start over. Or, at least spray Roundup on the weedy patches. Solid patches of turf that have survived need not be destroyed! That’s tough turf!

Why OVERSEED?  Adding new and improved varieties into an existing turf sward will allow you to improve your turf, more slowly than renovation, but it’s less destructive. Coupled with core aeration, renovation can enhance quality tremendously. Core aeration literally pokes hundreds of thousands of holes in your soil. Those holes increase the oxygen supply to the roots, which is critical because of our heavy clay soils. In addition, the cores that are left on the soil surface actually dissolve down on top of “thatch.” That soil is loaded with a microbial population that is hungry for thatch. AND, the soil cores will actually crumble/smash down atop the seed that you’re spreading, helping that seed emerge faster. Covered seed comes up much faster than exposed seed.

Can you use a “dethatching machine”?  You can use a “dethatcher” to work your lawn over. This is an old-fashioned machine that basically just beats the hell out of the turf. You need to set the spinning metal tines so that the only cut 1/8” deep groves in the soil. It works best if you scalp the grass first. CAUTION! Don’t scalp your turf in one pass—mow it successively shorter 2 to 3 days in a row. If you can set your mower at 1.5 inches, that’s scalping!  Especially if you’ve been cutting at 3.0 to 3.5 inches all summer. Clean up the mess before you spread grass seed. Rake it and get rid of all that organic trash.

WARNING:  this method is labor intensive (but usually worth it). Zoysiagrass swards benefit from this every 3 to 4 years or so but DO NOT AERATE OR DETHATCH ZOYSIA AFTER AUGUST! That’s best done in June or July. I recommend that you core aerate, versus using the dethatcher.  Read on.

 

COMPLETE RENOVATION TIPS (For crappy lawns!):

1)Kill the lawn section with Roundup ASAP. Don’t mow before spraying! Roundup will work better with all the fresh, succulent tissues to absorb and translocate more herbicide to the roots. Don’t be a tight wad with the Roundup. Buy the concentrate and use 5 oz/gallon. Be sure you buy “plain” Roundup.  Don’t use the “extended” control, “fast-acting” or poison ivy variants! Use a hose-end sprayer and be careful that you don’t create a lot of mist, which will float to your favorite ornamentals. Or your neighbor’s lawn—they’ll be pissed.

2)After four to seven days scalp the lawn with a mower. Call 811. It’s free and they want 3 days advance notice. You really want to cut the cable lines, especially your neighbors’ cable. Mark your own hazards, too, like irrigation heads and underground doggie-shock lines. Dog lines are usually deep enough to avoid damage, but that damn cable company usually only buries their cable one inch deep. If by chance your machinery cuts a cable line, don’t let them bully you into paying for repairs. They are supposed to put their cables ~6 inches deep…RIGHT!

3)     WHAT TYPE OF GRASS SHOULD YOU USE?  For non-irrigated, sunny swards, turf-type fescue is the best type of seed to use.  About 35% of the swards in the transition zone will do best with this type of seed, especially for new subdivisions, lacking large shade trees. It is by far the best of the cool season species for full sun without irrigation. But, the best turf for deep shade is a blend of three very shade tolerant, fine-bladed fescues:  meadow fescue, sheep’s fescue and creeping red fescue. If you haven’t had much luck growing turf-type fescue in non-irrigated shade, try a 3-way fine fescue mix. Another great blend of seed is a blend of turf-type fescue and a medium-green colored bluegrass. Bluegrass spreads laterally by rhizomes, thus it will help fill in the divots and holes caused by disease and moles. A pure bluegrass sward is a thing of beauty…but bluegrass is pretty tough to grow for most folks. If you don’t have an irrigation system, don’t even try it. Bluegrass doesn’t like FULL sun, and it doesn’t like deep shade, either. If you’ve got a yard that has 20 to 40 year old shade trees that provide up to 6 hours of shade in each “ecosystem,” you can probably grow bluegrass. The newer varieties are a hellofa lot tougher than they were just 15 years ago. If you’re not sure, go with Winning Colors Plus blend…turf-type PLUS bluegrass. The bluegrass will grow where it’s happy, and the turf-type fescue varieties will grow where they’re happiest.  Talk about a win-win!

5) Get a soil test if you’re having problems growing grass in the shade! The proper pH (soil acidity), phosphorous and potassium levels may help you out…and most shady soils have acidic soil and low fertility. Those tree roots are competing for more than sun and water. Tree roots will scavenge all the P and K in the topsoil, causing low fertility.

6) After you scalp the lawn look and see how many new weeds have emerged within a week. More than likely you’re going to see how inept you were on your first pass at nuking the lawn – retreat with Roundup. If you see tiny weeds sprouting and green tissue all around, retreat the entire area. Trust me, it’s worth the extra time, energy and money spent to start with a weed free area.

7)Five days after the second application of Roundup, rent a “verti-slicer” or “slicer-seeder”. This machine cuts a grove into the soil, and then drops seed into the grove. Having good seed-to-soil contact will dramatically enhance germination and establishment. There is no need to set the blades any deeper than 1/8th inch deep!

8)If you can tend to all these tasks, and have the seed in the ground by mid-September, you will be rewarded with a fabulous lawn. It will be green and thin this fall, but lush and full by next May –- a real “award winning” situation. Try to be DONE by October 1st. You’ve get a 95% chance of success if you’re complete by this date.  After October 15ththe odds of success diminish, depending upon the growing conditions in November. If turf can get established to the point that you have to mow weekly in November, you’re in great shape.

9) For OVERSEEDING use 4-5 lbs of turf-type fescue per 1,000 sq ft, 5 lbs of shade fescue blend, and 1.0 to 1.5 lbs/M of bluegrass.

 

OVERSEEDING TIPS (WHAT MOST OF YOU NEED TO DO):

1)New turf varieties are more disease and heat tolerant than older varieties. That’s why you should overseed every couple of years.

2)Cut your lawn successively lower from 3.5 inches down to 2 inches. Don’t do it all it once folks, because the resultant hay will interfere with your seeding.  If you can bag, we recommend that you cut it every day, lowering the deck on the mower over 2 to 3 cuttings.

3)Rent a core aerator, which pulls a plug of soil, approximately ½” wide by 2 to 3” deep.

4)Get your BROADCAST SPREADER out of the garage (if you’re still using that rusted-out, nasty-ass old drop spreader, get rid of it), set the opening around ½ to 5/8th inches for turf type fescue, ¼ inch for bluegrass. Spread 25% of your total seed on the turf BEFORE you make your first pass with the aerator. You read that right—BEFORE your first pass. You want the cores to cover the seed more than you want the seed to drop into the holes. Concentrate on the really barren areas with the first pass of seed.

5)Make 1-2 passes with the aerator.

6)Spread another 25% of your seed.

7)Make another two passes with the aerator, perpendicular or diagonally to the first pass. All the plugs that you pull out of the ground are valuable!  They’re covering up seed, in addition to providing more air to the grass roots.

8)Spread the last 50% of your seed.  If you followed directions, you made at least two passes in good turf, and as many as 4 to 5 passes in your problem areas.  All the seed that falls into the bored holes, and all the seed that ends up under a “melted” core, will germinate rapidly.

10)Leave the soil cores where they are – the microbes in the soil help break down the thatch. The bored holes enhance water penetration into your soil.

11) This method is the BEST, but if you’re short on time and labor, just aerate the crap out of the yard (as many times as you can), and follow it up with no less than 4 lbs/M of turf-type fescue seed.  This method is perfectly suitable, and will save you a lot of time.

12) Crucial to your success is seeding at the right rate. For NEW SEEDING or RENOVATION with turf-type fescue and shade fescue use 10 lbs of seed per 1,000 sq ft, and 3 lbs bluegrass.

 

FERTILIZATION:  If you know your ACTUAL SWARD SIZE, and you have a decent spreader, you can safely apply “regular” fertilizer, at a maximum of 1.0 lb of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft. It need NOT be “starter fertilizer.” Starter formulations have lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous. Most of us have HIGH soil phosphorous anyway, thus any nitrogen is OK. If you can’t start till late September I recommend you still apply nitrogen to the lawn in late August to early September.

BAD SPOTS ALONG PAVED SURFACES:  Seed won’t grow well if it’s just scattered atop the soil.  For the really bad spots, we suggest you cover the seed with either PennMulch® or bagged topsoil. Avoid straw except for very large areas. Straw introduces a lot of weeds.

WATERING TIPS:  Use frequent irrigation to get the seed up. The first couple of days after seeding you can water with your normal irrigation cycles. As soon as the seed comes up, though, you’ve got to sprinkle the turf babies with frequent, shallow irrigation. It’s critical that the top ½ inch of soil NOT dry out extensively. If you own an irrigation system, just run it 3X day with about 2 to 3 minutes per station. I can’t tell you exactly what to do for your own yard! You need to be observant. Don’t water so much that you turn the yard into a swamp, either. As the new grass gets taller, you go back to watering more deeply and less frequently. Within 3 weeks after the turf is up, you should be able to water every other day.

MOWING:  Stay off the new grass while it is short and fuzzy. But when it gets to be about 2.5 inches tall, run the mower over it, cutting it around 2.0 to 2.5 inches. The turf can handle the foot traffic, but don’t rip it out of the soil with your mower tires. Slow and steady!

DON’T LET LEAVES PILE UP:  Don’t let falling leaves cover up your newly seeded areas. While established turf can handle a once-per-week mowing, new turf should be leaf free most of the time. This is where a blower works wonders.

FUNGICIDE:  When the new seedlings are one inch tall, apply propiconazole fungicide to provide a “health boost”. It will protect the seedlings from the key diseases that harm turf, especially if it’s hot and humid.

 

 

August is all about the Z-Grass!

Zoysiagrass needs TLC in August

In direct contrast with cool season lawns, which shouldn’t be fertilized with high nitrogen in the sultry months of July and August, zoysiagrass, and it’s hooiser cousin, bermudagrass, LOVE nitrogen and heat! Zoysiagrass and bermudagrass are WARM season grass species. For those of you that vacation in the south, they have additional varieties like paspalum, St. Augustine and centipedegrass, all of which have broad leaf blades. The latter three species can’t handle the cold weather. Zoysiagrass is more cold tolerant than bermudagrass.

A great program for zoysiagrass in the transition zone follows:

  1. A thick and healthy zoysiagrass lawn may not even require a preemergence application for crabgrass! If you have a weaker lawn, or one you’re trying to establish, apply a crabgrass preventer in mid-April on a fertilizer with at least 18% nitrogen. Apply the crabgrass product as late as possible, when the soil temps approach 50 F. You really don’t want to put this down on dormant zoysiagrass. Our local meteorologists on Fox 2 in STL give soil temperatures in the early spring, so pay attention to their forecasts!
  2. Systemic Insect Control on a High Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in mid-June. Zoysiagrass has more problems with billbugs than grubs, and the systemic products control both. Professional bags are 50 lbs and will treat 12,500 sq ft to 14,400 sq ft. This bag will last 2 years no problem. If you can’t find a professional supplier you can purchase a systemic insecticide at Home Depot or Valley Park Elevator. Your z-grass needs 0.75 to 1.0 lb of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft. To calculate how much nitrogen is in the bag, multiple the weight of the bag times the % nitrogen (first number) in the bag. For example, a 36 lb bag of 24-8-12 has 8.6 lbs of nitrogen (36 X 0.24). Round down to either 8 or up to 9 without worry.
  3. One last shot of nitrogen between July 24 and August 15. Again, 0.75 to 1.0 lb of actual nitrogen.
  4. NO MORE NITROGEN THE REST OF THE FALL!

MOWING RECOMMENDATION:  Zoysia does better when it’s mowed low. As low as freakin’ possible! If you mow it high, it won’t spread very aggressively. When you mow it low, it’ll spread very nicely for you. Z-grass has a tough leaf blade so keep the blade razor sharp. Don’t mow more than 8 times without sharpening or changing your blade for best results. A lawn mower engine won’t last as long mowing Z-grass as it does a cool season species. If you’ve got a small lot in the city, get one of those new, lightweight “reel-type” mowers. Those are kick-ass for zoysia because the cutting action is “scissors-like”.

WATERING RECOMMENDATION:  Z-grass really only needs an inch a week to grow well, because it is adapted to hot weather. We have to water the crap out of our bluegrass and fescue lawns to keep them from going dormant! Stop watering zoysiagrass after September! Let it start to go dormant in October.

AERATION AND DETHATCHING:  You should NOT aerate or dethatch zoysiagrass unless it’s 100% green and growing. Do this in early June when the temps are tolerable for you to clean up the mess. Water and fertilize when you’re done. Mow low and watch that sward develop!

Many of the lawns in St. Louis are blends of both cool season lawns and zoysiagrass lawns. Bermudagrass is a weedy invader via bird poop, but zoysiagrass doesn’t become established the same way. If you don’t want the warm season grass to expand, then be sure to AVOID passing through these areas when you aerate, because you’ll “spread the sprigs” in the cores! If you desire more zoysiagrass in your cool season sward, then aerate around mid-August. Be sure to water to allow the small pieces of stolons and rhizomes to become established.

FUNGICIDE IS OCCASIONALLY BENEFICIAL:  Zoysiagrass in St. Louis was plagued with a disease called zoysia patch during the summers of 2013 to 2016. It was devastating to many lawns, especially for those of you that followed the cultural recommendations for cool season lawns. Factors that exacerbate zoysia patch are aerating/dethatching before June or after September, watering all fall and fertilizing after September.

The pathogen that causes zoysia patch is Rhizoctonia solani, but a slightly different sub-species than the one that causes brown patch in cool season turf! Fungicide applications are really only useful when daytime temps are near 70 F. Apply Headway G fungicide in the fall and again in the spring. If you can’t find Headway G combine the two products you can buy at Home Depot–azoxystrobin and propiconazole. It is very important to time the application to 70 degrees! This is because of the infection cycle for the pathogen.

Here are a few shots of zoysiagrass, mowed at three inches, which is very common in St. Louis. The photo on the left is all zoysiagrass, while the photo on the right is the interface between zoysiagrass and the cool season species.

A new variety of zoysiagrass has a slightly darker green color than ‘Meyer’, the long-dominant variety in our area–called ‘Zenith’.  Emerald View Sod Farms in Columbia IL and O’Fallon MO carry this variety. Call them and ask if you can get it here in town. Or, just go there.