It is this time of year when the sun shines longer and many of the plants around us wake up from their hibernation. The cherries and Japanese magnolias have bloomed and now the azaleas are starting their show.
Soon your lawn will be greener, and for many homeowners, this is the beginning of the annual rite of trying to create that perfect lawn. At the beginning of spring, the days are beautiful and it’s great to be outside.
But then May to September come when it’s hot as flames. This is the time when you can barely keep up with the growth of the grass and plants that you don’t want – aka weeds – are growing at lightning speed. Fortunately, your local UF / IFAS expansion office is here to help you all the way.
Now with the planning and prep work done in mid-August, you can enjoy a cool iced tea overlooking a beautiful, green lawn.
Let’s face it, there is no such thing as a perfect lawn. Just like humans, no lawn is perfect and everyone has their flaws. However, with the right planning and care, we can create conditions that favor a really beautiful lawn with few flaws.
Typically, people view the presence of weeds, the death of areas caused by various insects or fungi, and poor lawn cover and / or density as imperfections in their lawn. It’s important to remember that the presence of some of these deficiencies at any point during the growing season is fine when the lawn is healthy and overall looking good to the homeowner.
To counteract the weeds that are driving you crazy from May to August, preventive weed control should be done at this time of year when the azaleas are in bloom. Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied as granules and watered in or as a liquid form to create a weed control barrier for the annual weeds that emerge from seeds each year.
Common pre-emergence herbicide products available to homeowners include those that contain the active ingredients (and a common brand name) Atrazine (many brands), Benefin + Trifluralin (Team Pro), Dithiopyr (Dimension), Isoxaben (Gallery), and Pendimethalin ( contain) contain pendulum) and prodiamine (barricade) among others. These products target various weeds such as: B. grass or leaves. Proper identification is therefore important. The UF / IFAS expansion office loves visits and emails for weed identification!
With weeds being eliminated early, remaining tasks to keep the lawn as faultless as possible include proper feeding, mowing, and watering. Annual lawn fertilization isn’t a bad idea, but it may not be what is holding it back.
You can use a soil test, available from your local UF / IFAS expansion office, to check for any defects. Many lawns, such as B. Millipede lawns can look great without annual fertilization, especially when mulching mowers are used and mowed at the correct height. If fertilization is required, do it at the right time and don’t overdo it.
Poorly timed fertilizer application can lead to unnecessary expense, while excessive fertilization can result in poor quality lawns that are prone to insect and disease pressures. Incorrect timing and speed can also have a negative impact on the environment. Always feed after the grass is fully greened, usually in mid-March in Northern Florida.
In terms of rate, using a general slow release lawn fertilizer such as. For example, a 16-0-8 available at many local garden centers only requires six pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.
Once these tasks are done – herbicide before emergence in February, fertilization in mid-March – it’s all about mowing and watering properly throughout the growing season.
If you do both of these things right, the chances of weeds will decrease and the lawn will look healthier. Incorrect cutting height is probably one of the most common mistakes that can put a heavy strain on a weed plant. Centipede and Zoysia lawns prefer an abbreviation (about two inches), while St. Augustine and Bahia grass like it on the longer side (about three and a half inches).
If the lawn is a little shady, increase the height for all of the lawns another half an inch to an inch to get more time in the sunlight.
Too much water is another common stress factor. Ideally, you only water the lawn as needed. Too often homeowners douse the lawn, creating favorable conditions for fungus. Healthy St. Augustine grass, which generally requires more water than our other common turf grasses, can do without an irrigation event of at least half an inch every five days during the summer months.
In spring and autumn it goes up to about every 10 days. Florida’s rainfall patterns are far from evenly distributed. Therefore it is necessary to adjust the irrigation accordingly in order to provide only the water that the plant needs.
The pursuit of the perfect lawn has frustrated many homeowners. Remember that perfection is impossible and that your home should be a stress free zone. Like a line from a good self-help book, think of these imperfections as features that make your lawn more unique.
Some homeowners forego the common maintenance of a lawn and aim for more planting beds, mulch areas, wild landscapes and / or fruit and vegetable plantations. Others see the diversity of plants in a weed-infested lawn as a support for the functions of the urban ecosystem.
In any case, the UF / IFAS extension will help you achieve your goal with scientifically based recommendations. For more information on lawn care, please contact UF / IFAS Extension online at Your Florida Lawn website at hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.
The UF / IFAS Expansion Office in Leon County is hosting a half-day session on February 29, 9:30 am to 12:00 pm to prepare your lawn and garden for spring
Mark Tancig is the commercial / residential horticultural agent for UF / IFAS Extension Leon County, an equal opportunity institution. If you have any questions about gardening, send an email to the extension office at [email protected].
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