While our lawns haven’t actively grown yet, it’s time to start planning your strategy for an attractive, healthy lawn this summer.
Since lawns are mostly dormant or semi-dormant due to the mild winter, they certainly don’t look particularly good.
However, much of the damage you might see in your lawn last year came from issues like insects or disease or heavy traffic, not current issues.
Chinch bugs are not currently active but could have damaged your lawn last summer in hot, dry weather from June to September. These insects generally kill the grass instantly and may be responsible for the bald areas you see now.
In late April or May, evaluate your lawn and decide what repairs need to be done. Bare stains can be fixed at this point by planting new grass to cover the stains (laying sward is the best way).
WEED CONTROL: Keep beds mulched to a depth of 2 to 3 inches to control weeds in beds during the cooler season. Use leaves, pine straw or other …
If your lawn has receded, identify the causes and think about how to bring things into spring. There are several common causes of lawn deterioration, including insect, weed, and disease problems, heavy traffic, poor soil fertility, excess straw, and too much shade.
SHADOW: In courtyards where the trees have grown, shade is a common cause of grass decline. All of our lawn grasses, including Bermuda, Zoysia, Millipede, and St. Augustine, need sun for most of the day to function well (St. Augustine can handle the most shade).
As the trees get bigger and more shade over the years, areas where grass used to be good may not get enough light. In areas too shady for grass to grow, plant ground cover or cover the area with mulch.
MAINTENANCE: Bad maintenance, such as B. improper mowing can weaken the lawn. The most common mistakes are mowing too short or not mowing too often when the grass is growing fast. Watering the lawn too often or not at all can lead to increased disease problems.
ILLNESS: A fungal disease called the Brown Patch (or Large Patch) is active at this time of year. This winter has been so mild that St. Augustine’s lawns are only semi-dormant – they are not actively growing, but they have remained mostly green. Combine the mild temperatures with abundant rainfall and you have the perfect conditions for an outbreak of brown spots. As a result, brown spot disease is common in lawns these days.
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There is an excellent chance that you will see rounded dead areas in your lawn. If the spots are evenly tanned and not enlarging, the damage is old (the brown spot has been active since last November). When the damage is old and the fungus is no longer attacking the grass, the disease has taken its course and treatment with a fungicide isn’t really necessary. If the spots are currently enlarging, the infection is active and treatment is recommended. Make two applications of a lawn fungicide according to the directions on the label.
The good news is that the grass usually survives the infection and heals from brown spots. Areas that are brown now should turn green in the spring. If they are not green by May, remove the dead grass and lay new turf to repair the damage.
Weed: Many people are concerned about the lush growth of weeds in the cool season that are now growing in yards. There are two basic types of cool season weeds – annual weeds and perennial weeds.
- Annual weeds like henbit, chickweed, wild geranium, and annual bluegrass will die on their own when the weather warms up in late April and May. Using a lawn weed killer on these weeds is optional. In general, if you mow only occasionally over the next few months to prevent them from setting and dropping seeds, you will reduce their numbers significantly over the next winter.
- Perennial weeds include dollarweed, oxalis, white clover, dichondra, dandelion, and Indian strawberry. These are more persistent and harmful to the lawn. Apply a lawn weed killer to your lawn now if perennial weeds are a major concern. You should also consider using a weed killer now if you have had sticker weed issues in the past. Now kill it before it makes the stickers.
If you choose to treat with a lawn weed killer, do not use a weed and feed product (combination fertilizer and herbicide). It’s too early to fertilize your lawn. Wait until the end of March to fertilize. Weed control and lawn fertilization are two separate lawn maintenance activities that are often performed at different times.
- To combat the annual weeds in summer, apply a lawn weed repeller (herbicide before emergence) at the end of February or at the latest in the first week of March. This is to control weed seeds that germinate in spring and cause problems in summer.
PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC: Lawns damaged by wear and tear by dogs, children, and other pedestrian traffic can be treated with extra care.
Use a garden fork in early April to loosen the compacted soil in the bare areas or have the lawn professionally aerated. Then fertilize the lawn and water the damaged area in dry weather to encourage growth.
Keep traffic to a minimum until the lawn has recovered. If the area is large, you can lay a new sward after loosening the soil for faster coverage. Remember that if the wear and tear continues as before, the grass will go away again.
Again, don’t expect your lawn to look its best now. However, it’s not too early to evaluate your lawn and start making plans for a great lawn this summer. The LSU AgCenter provides comprehensive information on lawn care, including fertilizing, watering, mowing, coring and pest control. It has excellent online publication. Do an Internet search of LSU AgCenter Louisiana Lawns Best Management Practices and click the link.
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Dan Gill is a retired horticultural specialist at LSU AgCenter. He organizes the garden show on WWL-AM-Saturday at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to [email protected]