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.

 

 

 

Mid-June is Grub Control Time

Apply Insecticides Now to Kill Baby Grubs

Mid-June in the Transition Zone is the right time to kill the newest batch of grubs that feed on grass roots. There at nearly a dozen different species, but the dominant beetles that make grubs in STL are the chafers and the Japanese beetles. The B-52 sized June bug is less common, but when you come across a June bug grub, it’s freaky huge! You’ll scream like a sissy. If you’re unsure what a grub worm looks like, just Google it. [Are you shittin’ me? Don’t know what one looks like? Oh wait, I forgot that most millennials spent all their time in the basement playing video games!]

Eggs hatch and the larvae will eat the roots of turf. Egg hatch in STL is usually complete for all the species in early to mid-August. Grubworms go through a series of instar stages (molts) getting larger with each molt. Insecticides applied right now do a better job of killing the little babies while they’re small. We apply our systemic insecticides in mid-June so that the turfgrass has plenty of time to absorb and translocate the insecticide throughout the plant. Grub bites root—grub gets upset tummy—grub dies! Contact insecticides area applied in mid-August—because they don’t need to be taken up by the turf roots. Mr. Grub just digs and eats—insecticide washes over the poor baby—grub baby dies!

I will tell you now that the systemic products are more effective than the contact products for killing grubs. In dry years when the grubs are deeper in the soil, the contact products can be diluted in soil profile, and thus, less effective overall. They work great when the grubs are closer to the soil surface. On the other hand, contact products also kill fleas, ticks, spiders, crane flies, crickets, and a host of other bugs.

Grub damage tends to be patchy. Even when grubs are heavy in area, there will be individual clumps of surviving fescue plants—think “hair plugs for men!” This picture below captures the essence of a fescue lawn with grub damage. Note the relatively large patch of mostly dead grass. But note that there are several hundred individual clumps of grass (mostly fescue) that have survived! Some grasses contain an “endophyte” fungus that lives in the roots of infected plants. Grubs don’t like the alkaloids (natural insecticide) that the endophyte produces. Therefore we get this type of response–very clumpy. Kinda like “hair plugs for men!” Grubs don’t destroy 100% of the turf in the patches they infest.

Grub Damage

Healthy, irrigated turf in STL can usually handle 10 or so grubs per sq ft, but crappy turf can’t. Weak turf might only tolerate 3 to 5 grubs/sq ft. When grub populations are extreme you can literally pick up turf like a throw carpet! I’ve seen this only once in my career, and the grubs were massive June bug grubs!

Below are photos of the 4 most dominant products sold for grub control. Be careful to use the right dose for grubs! While the bag may state, “Treats up to 12,500 sq ft” that’s for the surface-feeding insects. I’ll discuss their active ingredients, pros and cons, and cost  from my local Home Depot (Lowe’s sucks, by the way).

Spectracide Triazicide Insect Killer:  Contact Insecticide (cyhalothrin). Apply early to mid-August for grubs, but anytime for fleas and ticks. A 20 lb bag costs $13 and treats 16,600 sq ft. $0.78 per 1,000 sq ft.

Roundup Bug Destroyer: Systemic Insecticide plus Contact Insecticide (chlorantraniliprole plus bifenthrin). Apply early to mid-June. A 10 lb bag costs $17 and treats 2,500 sq ft. $6.80 per 1,000 sq ft.

Scott’s Grub Ex: Systemic Insecticide (chlorantraniliprole). Apply early to mid-June. A 14.5 lb bag costs $21 and treats 5,000 sq ft. $4.20 per 1,000 sq ft.

Bio Advanced Grub Killer Plus:  Contact Insecticide (trichlorfon). Apply to mid-August. A 10 lb bag costs $19 and treats 5,000 sq ft. $3.80 per 1,00 sq ft.

Ortho Bug Be Gone:  picture not shown. Bifenthrin contact insecticide. Special sale–10 lb bag for only $7.00. Treats 2,500 sq ft. $2.80 per 1,000 sq ft.

Professional Blends on Fertilizer Granules:  Many professional LCO’s use non-nitrogen fertilizers with systemic insecticides (typically imidacloprid or acelepryn) at the recommended application time

If I were hosting a garden party, I’d purchase Triazicide and apply it a week ahead of time, to cleanse the area of surface pests. But for grubs, I recommend the systemic insecticides.

No get off your arse and apply your insecticide now!

Trav

 

 

 

Brown Patch: the big nasty turf spoiler

Rhizoctonia solani…

Brown patch is caused by the ubiquitous pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, and it infects virtually every species of turf in the US. Tall fescue and turf-type fescue is far more susceptible than Kentucky bluegrass, but the latter gets it, too. In zoysiagrass this same organism causes zoysia patch disease. For you golfers, blame those ugly summer greens on brown patch! Seedling turf is extremely susceptible to brown patch, which is why most experts discourage spring seeding.

The fungi lives on decaying organic matter in our lawns, at the interface of organic matter and the soil surface. It rears its pathogenic side during prolonged periods of hot and humid weather, especially during dry spells. You can bet your bum that when the dew points and the night time lows are in the 70’s, we’ll have an outbreak. For photos, just Google “brown patch in fescue turf” for more pics than you can handle. I’ll tell you right now that 95% of disease in Midwestern transition zone turf is brown patch.

There are numerous cultural practices that you should employ in an attempt to minimize the impact of brown patch on your lawn, but to really control this disease, you’ll need the help of fungicides. First, let’s talk about those things you can manage from a cultural perspective.

  1. Keep the blade sharp:  No, I’m not talking about the 7 habits bull crap. Literally. Keep. The. Blade. Sharp. (My daughters tell me this infers extreme emphasis…does it?) Come mid-May, you should be sure to have a brand-new sharpening job on that blade. Buy an extra and always have a sharp one handy.  Don’t go more than 3 months without sharpening your blade (average homeowner).
  2. Keep the deck high:  Mow cool season turf in full sun at maximum height on your mower. 4 inches is better than 3 inches! For cool season turf in good shade, you can mow lower, say 2.5 inches, because you don’t want turf to stay wet from dew, irrigation or rainfall excessively long. If you’re serious about being the beast of turf in your neighborhood, you should have a reasonably new mower, capably of 3.5 or 4 inch mowing heights.
  3. Water in the morning:  All diseases need moisture for the spores to germinate and grow. Watering at night keeps the grass covered in a film of moisture all night long. Thus, more disease.
  4. Bag your clippings in the dog days of summer:  Bagging the diseased-laden grass when the outbreak is bad has been shown to reduce the spread of the disease. When you’re miserable outside so is your turf. I like to tell folks when the heat index is above 90F, your turf isn’t happy. When the heat index is above 100F, your turf is pissed at you…for watering it, fertilizing it, and doing all those things to keep it from going dormant.
  5. Avoid excessive nitrogen in June, July and August:  Points 1 to 4 are important, but my experience shows that 90% of you with terrible brown patch used the wrong fertilizer at the wrong time. Anybody putting traditional, synthetic fertilizer formulations down after mid-May is begging for the disease. You don’t want soft and succulent turf around when the conditions are right. The biggest national brand sells stuff so high in nitrogen it should only be used on zoysiagrass in the summer. Weed-and-Feed formulations are terribly high in nitrogen. They suck! Both for killing weeds and too much N…I’ll save this rant for later this summer. Seriously, cool season turf in St. Louis and the rest of the transition zone should get 75% of its nitrogen in the fall, to support the plant’s natural growth cycle. Using high nitrogen fertilizers in the early spring isn’t a death knell, but your crabgrass product is best with 12% or less nitrogen. Retail stuff sucks, with 24% or more nitrogen in the bag. And retail stuff has a crappy herbicide, too. Your grass will green up wonderfully in the spring if you do most of your fertilizing in the fall. The astute reader is now asking herself, “Well then, what the hell SHOULD I use in the summer?” I love organic nitrogen in the summer, but ONLY for irrigated lawns. I especially like Milorganite (and the knock offs) for irrigated turf, because it has low nitrogen content, all slow release, and a lot of iron. If you’re not irrigating, don’t fertilize after your crabgrass product goes down. Reread that–if you’re NOT irrigating in the summer–DO NOT fertilize in the summer!

Fungicides

It’s important to use the right product for control of brown patch, which is azoxystrobin (I pronounce it “a-ZOX-e-stroh-bin”, but I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed!). A disease program MUST contain this active ingredient, proven by universities to be the best single fungicide for brown patch. However, it should not be used alone! The best companion product is propiconazole (pro-PEE-con-a-zole).

Fungicides aren’t cheap. Actually, they are very expensive, especially considering you need to apply them every 3 to 4 weeks during the dog days. No matter the product you use, read the label and follow the coverage recommendation for brown patch. If you stretch it too far you’re wasting your time and money. Just burn those bills on the BBQ…or better yet, send them to me!

There’s a commercial product available at professional turf outlets called Headway G.  A 30 lb bag covers 10,000 sq ft on a preventative basis, but only 5,000 sq ft on a curative basis. If you’re just now reading this (mid-June-2018), your first application is in the CURATIVE dose rate. When I was in the business we’d instruct our Sward Masters to make their first preventative application a full week ahead of the prolonged 90 F degree weather forecast.  If we get a wonderful clearing cold front that drops our temps and humidity, stretch it to the 4 week interval.

The photos below show the Scott’s product containing azoxystrobin (DiseaseEX) and the Bayer product with propiconazole. I’d recommend you buy both for your first shot. Apply them both, individually of course, if your lawn is suffering terribly. Each bag covers 5,000 sq ft. Used alone, the manufacturers suggest applying every 2 weeks in miserable weather, every 4 weeks otherwise. But that’s used alone.

After application water well, in the AM. Then in 3 weeks apply azoxystrobin again. Three weeks later apply propiconazole. Repeat until the cool weather arrives (crap, that’ll be October!). And oh, by the way, don’t count on 100% control! Ain’t gonna happen. Be happy with 80% control.

Let me know if you give these products a go!

Stay Cool!

Trav

 

THIS STUFF WORKS!

Bayer 3 wayI grew tired of watching some of my landscape ornamentals get hit with powdery mildew every summer. A buddy of mine with a lot of pathology experience (pun intended) suggested I try the fungicide tebuconazole as a preventative root drench.

So, I found this product on the shelf, Bayer Advanced All in One Rose and Flower Care.  In addition to fungicide it has a systemic insecticide (imidacloprid) and some fertilizer (9–14-9). I was also sick of black spot on my roses, which this controls. The insecticide controls feeding adult Japanese beetles, a huge plus, aphids, scales, leaf miners and a host of other pests.

So I bought it and put it to the test. The general directions are 2 fluid ounces per plant, or 2 fluid ounces per 12 sq ft of general mass plantings, as a drench in 1 qt to 1 gal of water.

Back in early May I treated my roses, a 16 ft tall native flowering dogwood, ‘Mrs Moon’ lungwort, two peonies,garden phlox, woodland phlox and a mass planting of Monarda (beebalm). Interesting that every beebalm in my bed was advertised as resistant to powdery mildew! Total crap in St. Louis! I’m impressed! Especially with the lack of mildew in my Monarda bed! Directions say treat every 6 weeks, which I intend to do, because we’ve got another two months of mildew enhancing weather!

Stay tuned!

Trav

How Large is Your Sward?

Hey folks, when it comes to taking care of the yard, aka “the sward”, the absolute very first thing a do-it-yourself (DIY) lawn tender MUST know is how many thousand square feet of actual TURF one has. Back to the sward comment…a crappy yard is not a sward! Only a beautiful yard, one that creates envy, can be called a sward!

This is a serious matter, because success or failure in your lawn care practice is based upon the PROPER DOSE. It’s important for fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and especially fertilizers. Think about it for a second. If you apply a bag of insecticide designed for 5,000 sq ft over your 12,000 sq ft lawn, do you think it’ll work properly? Hell no! And when you apply a 50 lb bag of fertilizer with a 24-8-12 formulation over a 5,000 sq ft lawn, would you expect success? The aforementioned bag of fertilizer has 12 lbs of actual nitrogen in it (50 lbs x 0.24 = 12), and thus would cover 12,000 sq ft of turf in the fall. Put that much nitrogen on a tiny yard and you’ll have a dead lawn after about a month of summer heat.

Back in 2012 when  I was with THE Turf Plan, I penned a nice blog about this. Rather than regurgitate it, I’ll recycle it! Go to this link on THE Turf Plan website and read up:  How Large is Your Sward.

You needed get carried away but get within 10% accuracy. Don’t be a dumb ass! Figure it out.

Success will follow!

Trav

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme More Sunshine!

competitionSpring has been reluctant for us St. Louisans, but I’m not complaining! I’d rather have a slow start than a quick warm up and a disastrous freeze!

That said, many of you are already thinking about creating new beds, renovating beds or just expanding them. The picture above may be a little dark, but it tells a great story. Zoom in to see that little sucker on the far right. About 4 years ago my neighbor planted 4 new hostas (‘Francee’, nothing special), all purchased from a big box store and approximately the same size. She planted them 3 feet apart in a decently ammended clay loam soil.

I took this photo last June, because it really shows how competition for sunlight, water and nutrients affects plants. The hosta on the far right is really about 1/4th the size of the hosta on the far left. There’s a very linear reduction in plant size from left to right. Because this neighbor tended to overwater I don’t need to go out on a limb and say that the size gradation is the result of competition for sunlight.

Keep this in mind when you’re planning and planting. Few plants enjoy being directly underneath a thick canopy. Even the shade tolerant hosta shows a preference for being out from under that canopy of this ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud. If you want to plant underneath an established canopy, be sure to limb up the branches ahead of time, and consider thinning their crowns, to allow more sun to hit the soil beneath.

 

You Shouldn’t Have Crabgrass!

It’s mid-March so the lawn care operators (LCOs) are applying their Round 1 product, consisting of fertilizer plus crabgrass preemergent herbicide. LCOs start early because it’s better to be early than late! However, any company applying a crabgrass product now MUST also apply a SECOND SHOT of crabgrass preemergent (late April to mid-May). The exception to this rule is for superb lawns, where the healthy sward is so thick and lush that crabgrass seeds have no chance to contact the soil surface. BTW, for the do-it-yourselfer it’s too early. You can wait until at least April 1st.

Nothing chaps my ass like seeing these application notifications where the company made an application over a crap ton of leaves and debris! This is usually where the damn crabgrass is going to be bad! Your lawn care company should have given you a heads up a few weeks in advance, saying something to the tune of, “Dear Customer, we’ll be applying your first round of fertilizer and crabgrass product in mid-March. Please do your best to get the leaves and organic litter cleaned up, so that our product can do its job!” This is why THE Turf Plan is so successful, because they send you timely emails–educational and informative (check out www.theturfplan.com). Your local LCOs will do a far superior job than the national chains.
If you have crabgrass in your lawn, FIRE your LCO! Right now! Crabgrass preemergent herbicides are extremely effective, so there is zero excuse for crabgrass in your lawn! This is especially true if you’ve given your LCO more than one season of business. To further reinforce this point there are new products that can be used postemergent (after the weed comes up), meaning your LCO can clean up any mistakes in mid-May.

There 3 common preemergent crabgrass herbicides that are combined with fertilizer products. The absolute best is dithiopyr (Dimension®), the second best is prodiamine (Barricade®), and the really sucky one is pendimethalin (Pendulum®, favored by that national brand!). I rank Dimension as #1 because it will actually kill small (1/2 inch or less) emerged crabgrass. If you’re a week or so late with your first shot, Dimension can kill those early emerging crabgrass plants. Look the bag over carefully and avoid pendimethalin–unless you’re sure you’ll apply that second shot. But be warned, products with pendimethalin usually have WAY TOO MUCH nitrogen (anything over 18%). You don’t want to apply a lot of nitrogen in the spring.

Crabgrass will emerge when soil surface temps reach 55F for about 3 nights in a row. If you live near agricultural areas, when the farmers start planting corn, you need to apply your first shot of crabgrass preventer. Suburbanites can use a phenological indicator, the forsythia bloom, as a guide. However, it’s not the BEGINNING of the forsythia bloom, it’s towards the END of the forsythia bloom that is more accurate (wait for that third week of yellow).

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