A Year-Round Lawn Care Program
The turf grasses that grow in our area are varied. A lawn-specific program is best, meaning apply a specific agronomic program for each of the grass species. Use a combination of liquid and dry products. The liquid provides superior weed control, and the dry provides better controlled-release fertilizer. By using a combination, you will enjoy a higher-quality, healthier lawn.
Below are recommended lawn care programs:
FAQ’s on Drought & Watering Bans
As 2007 comes to a close, and 2008 is beginning, we face new challenges due to the drought and ensuing water restrictions. These events have made it necessary to modify water usage by homeowners, growers, nurseries and many other commercial businesses. Given the uncertainty of the availability of water and when the drought will come to an end, there are a number of questions as to the benefits of using lawn care products, aeration and seeding, and the installation of landscape plants. Listed below are some frequently asked questions?
1. Am I permitted to water in my lawn applications?
Most municipalities will allow you to water your lawn the day of Or after a professionally applied treatment between the hours of midnight and ten AM. Be sure to retain your invoice as proof of treatment. Some cities and counties may not allow this so be sure to check with your local water authority, it is a good idea to retain the invoice should the local utilities question you.
2. What if I cannot water in an application?
Use products that don’t need to be watered in to be safe. If you cannot water in a treatment, that application will either be fine on its own (as with the liquid applications) or will sit quietly on your lawn until water – through dew, rain or irrigation – becomes available.
3. While we are in drought conditions, should we still be treating the lawn?
Remember: just because a lawn is thirsty, doesn’t mean it is not hungry! During times of drought stress, adjust your program and products to safely keep your lawn as healthy as possible. Lawns not treated will fare badly, not having the nutrients to survive. Without regular weed control weeds and crabgrass, which can survive droughts better than grass, will proliferate and rob your turf of water and nutrients.
4. Without water, will my lawn burn from using fertilizers during the hot summer months?
Use a dry, sulphur-coated fertilizer, which breaks down over a period of time, and will not burn your lawn. When these fertilizers come into contact with water, the process of releasing these products into your lawn begins. Fescue lawns receive iron, which is an alternative to nitrogen-based fertilizers, and will keep this grass from burning.
5. I did not aerate and seed my fescue lawn this fall because of the drought. Should I do that this spring?
Spring aeration and seeding of fescue is strongly discouraged. While it will germinate, the new grass will not have sufficient time to develop a root system that can survive the summer heat so most, if not all, of the new grass will die off when the temperatures rise. Additionally, you will not be able to apply pre-emergent weed controls in the early spring, as it will not allow the fescue to germinate.
6. My fescue lawn was aerated and seeded but the recovery has been slow. Will my lawn fill in?
This is a fairly common question even during years of adequate rainfall. With consistent fertilization during the cooler months (fescue is a “cool season” grass); you should see a surge in growth as the temperatures begin to rise. This highlights the importance of aeration and seeding your lawn each fail. While the past year was not optimal for plants and turf, all things grow better with care.
Invasive grasses, weeds, insects, and diseases
Fescue (as a weed)
Fescue is not commonly thought of as a weed. But if you see a clump of Fescue coming up in the middle of your Bermuda or Zoysia turf, you probably would not see it as anything except a weed. Even though you may have had new sod laid recently, Fescue seeds, as well as many other weed seeds, are blowing in the wind. One of your neighbors may have a Fescue lawn.
Although having grass in your grass is not a major disaster, it can certainly become a nuisance. Preventing Fescue from gaining a foothold is the best plan of action. Any small problems should be dug out immediately, taking care to remove all roots.
For larger problems, herbicides may be the only solution. However, when dealing with a grassy weed, herbicides will also affect your resident turf. If you feel herbicides are needed, call us to schedule a consultation with your turf specialist. The key for any grassy weed is prevention.
Crabgrass is a “warm-season” annual, grassy weed. Annual weeds grow from a seed, become a plant and die in one season (these are the easiest to control). Crabgrass is tufted in appearance with hairy leaves. A seed head will form. It normally germinates in April. It emerges in late summer due to the pre-emergent wearing off. Because overseeding usually takes place in September and October, the perfect application of pre-emergent wears off in August to allow for reseeding in September.
The best means of controlling Crabgrass is by applying two applications of pre-emergent herbicide. A pre-emergent won’t kill the Crabgrass that has already sprouted; it only keeps the Crabgrass seeds from germinating. Spring seeding is discouraged because, if you seed in the spring, a pre-emergent cannot be applied to help aid in the control of Crabgrass.
Dallis Grass is a clumpy, grassy weed common in the Southeast. This is the problem grass you see “pop up” the day after mowing. This grassy weed is sometimes confused with Crabgrass. Crabgrass is an annual and can be controlled with the use of a pre-emergent herbicide, whereas Dallis Grass is a perennial and cannot be controlled with a pre-emergent. Dallis Grass reproduces through seeds and rhizomes (underground creeping stems), so controlling this weed by mowing will not stop further invasion in your lawn.
Dallis Grass can “overtake” your lawn if left unchecked. The best solution for a small problem is to dig it out, taking care to get all of the root.
Also, spot spraying with Round-up™ is an option, but care must be taken to minimize damage on Bermuda from Round-up™ overspray. The Bermuda will creep back and cover up the area that was sprayed with Round-up™.
Purple or Yellow Nutsedge
Purple Nutsedge is the most “common” member of the Nutsedge family in the Southeast. Yellow Nutsedge and Green Kyllinga are two other Nutsedges found in the South, though not as frequently. Nutsedge is a very difficult weed to control. This is a perennial, grassy weed that spreads aggressively through its seeds, rhizomes (under-creeping stems), or nuts (tubers). The underground “nuts” can lie dormant for several years, requiring an active vigil over previously treated areas.
Small “invasions” can be effectively combatted by digging out the offending Nutsedge. There is also a product available called “Manage” that can suppress Nutsedge in situations with large populations. This product, applied in late spring or early summer, will selectively control the Nutsedge after it has emerged from dormancy. In bad infestations, a follow-up treatment of “Manage” may be needed later in summer for controlling potential regrowth.
As you can see, this product works to suppress nutsedge activity during the growing seasons and is not a one-time, complete-kill product.
Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass)
Poa Annua, also called Annual Bluegrass, is an annual, clumpy, grassy weed common to the Southeast. The leaf blade is smooth on both surfaces, and the tip is boat-shaped. A light-green to whitish seed head appears in April.
Annual Bluegrass reproduces by seed, which germinates in September and October, but is not usually noticed as a problem until February or March.
The main control is pre-emergent herbicide, which is applied to all “warm-season” grasses such as Bermuda or Zoysia in September and October. Pre-emergents keep seeds from germinating. If your lawn did not receive the September-October application, this is the reason you’re seeing it. The best suggestion is to live with the problem through the spring, as it will die out in the hot weather. Control the problem for next spring by treating your lawn this fall.
Chickweed is a winter annual weed and a familiar sight to Georgians. It is recognizable by its white flowers in small clusters at the ends of its stems. The good news is that Chickweed can be controlled by a spraying program.
Chickweed is mat-forming with numerous branched stems. The leaves are opposite, smooth, and oval to broadly elliptical in shape. Chickweed’s upper leaves are sparsely hairy with long petioles. The stems have vertical lines of hairs. Flowers appear in small clusters at the ends of stems (they’re white with five deeply notched petals). This plant reproduces by seed. The best way to control this weed is with a routine spraying program provided by a professional lawn care service.
Wild Garlic and Wild Onions
(Although Wild Onions are not mentioned in the text below, the same set of problems and solutions would apply.)
Wild Garlic is a “cool-season” perennial weed common in the Southeast. Although it’s a close relative to the types cultivated in your garden, Wild Garlic is very undesirable when it starts appearing in your turf. Wild Garlic has slender, hollow, tubular leaves and will produce small, greenish-white flowers. You will recognize Wild Garlic by the distinctive garlic aroma when you crush a bulb. Wild Garlic reproduces by seeds, aerial bulbils and through its underground, tuberous root system.
This perennial will appear in the early spring and late fall, and it’s hard to completely eradicate unless you dig it all out. For small problems, this is the best solution. You must take care to remove all of the roots and bulbs.
For larger infestations, there are herbicides available. However, because Wild Garlic has a tough outer casing on its leaves, herbicides have a difficult time sticking to them. Herbicides will damage, control and reduce Wild Garlic, but will not eradicate. Wild Garlic should be dug out whenever possible, and if caught at first appearance will not become a major problem.
Moss and Algae
Moss or algae are found in turf areas because conditions are not good for growing dense, healthy turf. Mosses are small plants that have a mass of fine stems. Algae are thread-like green plants that form a thin, dense, green scum over the soil surface. Neither moss nor algae are thought to be parasitic to turfgrasses. The green scum formed by algae is relatively impermeable, and once it dries out, it forms a tough, black crust.
Algae will appear more in wet or humid full-sun locations and compacted, water-logged fertile soils with thin, weak turf. Moss tends to take hold in wet or humid shady conditions; acidic, infertile, poorly drained, water-logged soils; or areas with excessive thatch and thin, weak turf.
If you have an abundance of either moss or algae in an area, you have two choices. First, don’t try to grow grass in these areas, because the conditions are probably not right for it – and you’ll end up with a constant struggle for healthy grass. Second, if you really want turf in a mossy area, you must change the conditions. The changes necessary may include the following:
- Have the soil tested to determine proper lime and fertilizer needed for best soil fertility.
- Improve drainage – either by creating a contour in the soil or by using tile.
- Increase light penetration and air circulation – trim low branches on trees and shrubs. In some cases, removal of the least-desirable trees may be justified. Using a shade-tolerant grass will help.
- Cultivate compacted soils – aerification with a machine that removes plugs of soil will help to reduce compaction.
- Avoid excessive irrigation – keeping the surface moist will only increase problems.
Product control of moss and algae is temporary, and the problem will recur unless growing conditions are improved. Once you improve the conditions, sodding or seeding are the recommended means of establishing turf under heavily shaded conditions.
Wild violets are an extremely attractive “weed.” Because wild violets are so attractive, they’re seldom classified as a weed. They have a broad, heart-shaped leaf and produce deep-blue or purple flowers. Wild violets reproduce from seeds or rhizomes (underground creeping stems). They are beautiful when they’re kept in the garden, but can become a problem if they escape into your turf.
Wild violets are a warm-weather weed, and you will most likely see them first appear in late spring or early summer. For small problems, the best solution is to dig the violets out. Applying herbicides will burn the tops off, but the heartiness of the underground tubers will allow for regeneration.
Large-scale invasion of wild violets is a difficult or impossible problem. Violets are not as susceptible to herbicides as most other broadleaf weeds, and in most cases, will need to be dug out. Remember, eradication is the watchword with wild violets.
Virginia Buttonweed is a spreading, perennial herb common in the Southeast. Though technically an herb and not a weed, it’s still an undesirable in your turf. Leaves are elliptical (oval) to lance-shaped and produce white, tubular flowers. Virginia Buttonweed reproduces by seeds, roots or stem fragments.
Virginia Buttonweed will “overtake” your lawn if left unchecked. Mowing will not retard the spreading of Virginia Buttonweed because of reproduction by the root system. In fact, mowing may aid in the spread by reproduction of the stem fragments. For small problems, the most effective solution is to dig it out. Take care to remove all of the roots.
For large-scale invasions, use of herbicides may be necessary. Using herbicides may cause temporary burn spots on your resident turf in the affected areas. After two to three applications you will see marked progress in controlling Virginia Buttonweed. Patience is the key to controlling this weed.
Grubs are the larvae of a variety of beetles. In the Southeast, the most common is the Japanese beetle. They are C-shaped worms, typically cream-colored, white or grayish-white with an orange-brown head, and they inhabit your turf in the root zone below the soil surface. Grubs feed on the root system of your turf and will cause the most problems in the months of August, September and October. There are several noticeable signs of a grub infestation in your turf:
- A drought-like wilting of your turf, even during periods of rain. Left unchecked, it will result in dead, brown patches of turf in rapidly increasing areas.
- Turf is easy to pull up with your hands. It will come up in sheets, as if you have just installed new sod.
- If you are digging in your garden and come across one or two grubs in one square foot of dirt, there’s probably no reason for concern. However, if you come across four or five in the same space, you have a population that needs controlling.
- A flock of birds (especially starlings) or small mammals tearing up your turf to feed on the grubs is a sure indication of infestation.
Because grubs attack the root system of your turf, they will ultimately destroy it if left unchecked.
Grubs can be controlled through applications of insecticides. However, for the insecticides to be effective, they must soak through the entire soil profile to work against the grubs at root level. Watering your turf thoroughly after insecticide application is essential to controlling grubs. The key to controlling any insect is understanding its life cycle.
Drought and Heat Stress
Drought and heat stress are caused by high heat and lack of rainfall. This can particularly be a problem in the Atlanta area because of hot, dry summers. Watering consistently is one of the most important maintenance practices in taking care of your lawn. 80% of a grass plant is comprised of water. Without adequate water, grass soon turns brown and becomes dormant. An early clue to dryness is when grassy areas show a dark bluish-green cast. Begin applying water when the soil starts to dry out and before the grass wilts and has a chance to become brown. Water 1″ to 1 ½” per week (1″ of water should re-wet the soil about 6″ deep). To determine how much water has been applied, set a straight-sided can under the sprinkler.
A word of caution about watering: A single watering during a drought period is likely to do more harm than good. If the grass cannot be kept actively growing with sufficient water, it’s best to let the grass go dormant. Inconsistent or “light” watering during extended dry periods will slow the rate of recovery when adequate rainfall does occur. Some things you can do when water is short or expensive are:
- Water only that part of the lawn where improvement is most important.
- Water only in the early morning.
- Aerate the lawn to increase water penetration.
- Mow regularly until growth slows, but at a higher, rather than lower, cutting height.
- Make each watering consistent and one that wets the soil to a depth of 6″.
Spring Dead Spot
In late April and early May during the greening-up period for Bermuda lawns, you may notice large, circular or irregularly shaped dormant spots in your lawn. These “dead” spots are actually a disease, which is the result of a toxin produced by the fungus Leptoshaeria korrae.
The onset of this disease usually occurs three to five years after the lawn is established, primarily in the northern regions of the Bermuda range (which includes Atlanta and North Georgia). Cold winters, excessive accumulation of thatch and lush, late-season growth can make this disease worse. However, these factors aren’t the cause, since the fungus creates a toxin that is unfavorable for Bermuda growth. As a result, the grass is slow to take over the affected areas.
Where complete control of this disease remains elusive, it is recommended that the following steps be taken to aid in recovery:
- Raking the affected area and adding small amounts of topsoil.
- Aeration of the lawn.
A more extreme measure is to remove the grass and soil 6″ deep in the affected areas, and replacing with new topsoil and sprigs or pieces of Bermuda sod. Fungicides are not a reliable solution to control this disease and are not recommended.
Spring Dead Spot may be present in the lawn for several years, yet will often resolve itself. If you see this problem in your Bermuda lawn, please contact a professional lawn care service to help resolve the problem.
Whenever the humidity level and the temperature combine to total 150 or more, the conditions are right for the development of fungus pathogens. Brown Patch is one of these and can be recognized by leaf blades first appearing water-soaked and dark. Leaf blades then wilt and become light brown as tissue dies. A leaf lesion may appear irregular in shape, tan in the center and dark-brown around the borders. Symptoms on high-cut turf may resemble a ring with centrally located tufts of healthy grass within the patch. Fescue grass is most susceptible to this disease.
Over-fertilization tends to increase the intensity of this disease. A summer application on Fescue should be a controlled-release, light application. Preventative applications are usually not economical in residential lawns. If you notice Brown Patch in your lawn, you can help control it with supplemental applications of fungicide. The supplemental applications are usually good for two to three weeks. A minimum of two applications is recommended, two to three weeks apart, to control this disease; but more if necessary. Rotate the products you use on your lawn to keep a resistance from building up to any one product.
Something you can do to help prevent this disease from taking hold is to mow your lawn frequently with a sharp blade. Also, avoid evening watering and trim trees and shrubs to allow for better air movement and light penetration.
Whenever the humidity level and the temperature combine to total 150 or more, the conditions are right for the development of fungus pathogens. Dollar Spot is one of these and can be recognized by the 2″ diameter or smaller tan spot in your lawn. If left unchecked, the spots may grow together to produce large, irregular brown areas. Infected leaf blades have light-tan lesions with reddish-brown borders. These lesions take on an hourglass shape. You may also notice cobweb-like mycelium when your grass is wet with dew. Susceptible grasses include Bermuda and Zoysia.
Dollar Spot is more aggressive when your turf is underfertilized. Call your lawn specialist to make an appointment to determine if the problem can be resolved with the proper application of fertilizer.
Preventative applications are not economical. These spots in your lawn can be controlled with supplemental applications of fungicide. The supplemental applications are usually good for two to three weeks. A minimum of two applications is recommended, two to three weeks apart, to control this disease; but more may be necessary. Rotate the products you use on your lawn to keep a resistance from building up to any one product.
Georgia Turf grass Association (GTA)
Professional Association providing education, leadership and representation for the Georgia turf grass industry.
Professional Landcare Network (PLANET)
PLANET develops education and safety programs, defines industry standards, and serves as the voice of the lawn care industry.
Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association (MALTA)
Professional Association involved in promoting professionalism, providing information, increasing public awareness of the value of the professional landscape industry, and advancing the quality of membership.
University of Georgia Extension Service
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides valuable information on landscaping and turf grass, as well as many other associated subjects.
Tips on gardening in Georgia, updates on pest control, and much more.
Gardening in Georgia
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides valuable information on landscaping and turf grass, as well as many other associated subjects.