We believe is important for our customers to understand how to care for their lawn and landscaping.
Professional lawn care
Professional lawn care providers have developed special formulations unavailable to the general public that use both methods. In other words, don’t make a selection of a lawn care provider based on whether or not they use the granular or the liquid methods of applying fertilizers to your lawn.
St. Augustine grass is responsive to nitrogen fertilizer in terms of color and growth rate. On sandy soils St. Augustine grass requires about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per month during the growing season to maintain satisfactory color and density. At rates above 1 pound per 1,000 square feet, St. Augustine grass produces lush growth that is highly susceptible to insects and diseases. On heavier textured soils ° pound of nitrogen every month is adequate to maintain good color and growth. Thatch accumulation is also a problem when nitrogen fertilization exceeds the required rate.
Late fall fertilization of St. Augustine grass helps maintain color and density of the lawn into the winter and promotes early recovery of the grass in the spring. Thus, to extend the length of time a St. Augustine lawn is attractive, the lawn should receive about 1 pound of nitrogen every 30 to 60 days from early spring through late fall.
St. Augustine grass is sensitive to iron deficiency and readily develops chlorotic symptoms in alkaline or iron deficient soils. This deficiency can be corrected with foliar applications or iron sulfate or iron chelate. Soil applications of iron sources are less effective than foliar application in alkaline soils.
PROS: Liquid fertilizer applied to the grass blade and absorbed into the plants system takes effect quickly. Liquid fertilizer transfers from the grass blade to the grass roots where it is stored for future use. Some liquid fertilizer is applied to the soil surface where it gradually percolates into the topsoil layer over a period of time.
CONS: If heavy rain or watering occurs before the fertilizer has had time to be absorbed, some benefits of the application, may be dissipated. Liquid fertilizers are short lived compared to time-released granular applications.
PROS: Feeds grass plants the natural way, through the root system. Time release properties of the granular pellets provides long term benefits to the health of the grass plant.
CONS: Takes a long time for fertilizer to soak in. If heavy rains occur any time during the lifetime of the granular pellets, important nutrients may be washed away and thus becomes ineffective.
By far the best approach to a proper fertilization program is to soil test, but if a soil test is not available these guidelines can be used for a general turf grass fertilization program. All plants require certain chemical elements for proper growth and appearance.
The number one problem I constantly encounter in landscapes is overwatering.
Once established in the landscape, palms, trees and bushes do not need much irrigation. Their roots tend to grow deep into the soil where there is adequate moisture available. Soils in the landscape are slow to dry out and in many areas, a hole dug down just a few feet will hit the water table.
Turf grass lawns do need irrigation to keep them looking their best. Turf grass is shallow rooted and the top few inches of soil in the yard can dry out if there is a lack of rain or irrigation.
Excessive irrigation will wash away important nutrients needed to maintain plant health. Excessively wet soils can suffocate plant roots creating plant stress and lead to root rot diseases.
One problem I see on a regular basis is turf irrigation zones will also water trees and landscape beds. If an irrigation zone waters turf and landscape beds at the same time then smaller heads should be used in the landscape beds to apply less water or the heads can be capped off.
We usually receive frequent rains in the summertime and no extra irrigation is needed. If we go a week without rain in the summer then it might be time to turn the irrigation back on until it does rain again. Under normal conditions, irrigating twice a week should be adequate during warm weather.
Landscape plants slow down their growth during cool weather and they do not need much irrigation. This is especially true on most palm trees. Twice a week watering during cool weather and short days can result in serious plant and turf problems. Once a week should be good for most turf situations and once every two weeks is adequate for most landscape beds if it has not rained recently.
Landscapes can get too dry during the months of April, May and early June. This is when temperatures are getting high and we are still in the dry season with little rain and few clouds. October can also be dry if the rains quit and temperatures stay hot. These are times we really need extra irrigation.
Nutritional & Bug Problems
- St. Augustine Grass
- Bernuda Grass
- Zoysia Grass
The most damaging insect pest of St. Augustine grass, the southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis), does not cause significant economic damage to other warm-season turf grasses. Symptoms of feeding include patches of yellowish to brownish turf. Since these symptoms are synonymous with other lawn problems such as water stress, disease incidence, etc., it is wise (as always), before spraying, to inspect for signs of the insects in areas which are adjacent to the damaged areas. Examine the soil line and leaf tissues for crawling chinch bugs.
Many grass species are grown as lawns or used in golf courses and other recreational settings in Florida. Turf grasses in Florida are especially susceptible to numerous species of pest insects, and annually millions of dollars are spent to prevent or eliminate infestations. The Tuttle mealybug,Brevennia rehi (Lindinger), is a pest of many grass species and occurs nearly worldwide, especially where rice and sugarcane are grown. Tuttle mealybug has been collected only rarely in Florida, and primarily from southern Florida. Recently, it was collected in Orange County in 2011 and 2012 in association with damage to zoysia grass (Zoysia sp.). This species is also known as the rice mealybug. Rice is an important member of the grass family (Poaceae). Tuttle mealybug was described in the United States as Heterococcus tuttlei Miller and McKenzie (1970) from specimens collected in Arizona and California, but it was subsequently determined to be identical with Brevennia rehi, which occurs throughout the Old World and Oriental region (Williams 1970). The first Florida record (Pompano Beach) of this species was reported by Miller (1975), in which the taxonomic status ofHeterococcus tuttlei was amended to junior synonym of Brevennia rehi (Lindinger 1943).
The tuttle mealybug is typically small (less than 2mm) and pink, and because they hide between the grass blade and the stem they can be difficult to see. Other grass-infesting species, or potentially grass-infesting species, look similar and are difficult to distinguish in the field. Trionymus winnemucae McKenzie (Winnemuca grass mealybug), which is infrequently collected in northern Florida counties, occurs on similar host plants and also lives within the sheath, but may also be found below the crown at the crown-soil interface. Saccharicoccus sacchari (Comstock) (pink sugarcane mealybug) is also an elongated pinkish mealybug that will occasionally infest ornamental grasses, but is more frequently associated in Florida with sugarcane. Both Trionymus winnemucae andSaccharicoccus sacchari are slightly larger, with a more elongate body form.
Several small studies of sporadic, but destructive, infestations in South Asia (e.g., India, Bangladesh) have been published, but generally little is known about the biology of this pest. The authors of one study noted a correlation between drought stress and degree of infestation, possibly due to an increase in the availability of amino acids in the vascular fluid (Dale 1994). This species first came to attention to agriculturists and entomologists in the United States in the late 1960s when it was discovered infesting bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.) seed production crops in Arizona to such an extent that the sticky exudates produced by the mealybugs fouled the harvesting equipment (Miller and McKenzie 1970). Tuttle mealybug is a recorded host of the parasitoids Rhopus nigroclavatusAshmead and Apoleptomastix bicoloricornis Girault (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) (Noyes 2012).Rhopus nigroclavatus does not occur in Florida, but is recorded from several other states, and A. bicoloricornis is not recorded from the United States.
- Army Worm
- Grub Worm
- Cut Worm
- Mole Cricket
- Tuttle Mealbug
- Tuttle Mealbug
- Brown Patch Fungus
- Take-All Fungus
Hot Spots and Dead Spots
My job is easy – with knowledge and the right tools. Keeping the fertility medium, the bugs dead and the weeds discouraged can easily be done every 8 weeks. What is not easy is to control all the other variables that cause hot spots or weak areas to appear in the middle of the lawn. Variables like mowing, I can plead my case to the owner to mow as high as the mower can go. Irrigation is restricted by law and maintaining and operating the irrigation system is solely the responsibility of the home owner. All I can do is coach and encourage you to maintain the irrigation system in good condition and water as often as law permits.
So, why are there Hot Spots?
One reason is your lawn grows in a soil that is not uniform. The soil can vary in physical, biological and chemical composition. And each variation can be of any size and depth causing just about every variation in the St Augustine lawn.. For Example soils can vary because of: • Old Tree Stumps • Construction debris • Tree Roots • Organic Matter • Insects – small and large • Soil Temperature • Compaction • Slopes • Depressions • Shade/No shade • Irrigation coverage • Pool Overflow/Runoff
Is it Possible to have a Uniform St Augustine Lawn?
St Augustine growing in the average “front yard” soil will grow uniformly despite these variations in the soil – most of the time. The exception is during high water stress – i.e. lack of rain for several weeks. Good soil will look good in stress times and poor soil will look poor in stress times. It is the nature of the beast. Poor soil requires more water. Therefore as water stress increases the poor soil areas decline from water stress –hot spots.
Irrigation is a not Rain
Irrigation is a poor substitute for regular rainfall. After weeks no rainfall and the daily drying and weekly irrigating, the soil goes through a lot of physical, chemical and biological changes. The result is the St Augustine will display every poor soil area in your yard as weak area or hot spot.
Back in the good old days, the solution was to just add more water – I mean after all the solution to water stress is to add water. Yet our once week watering restriction will barely keep St Augustine alive in good soil and St Augustine in poor soil will be stressed and will decline.
Some Suggestions and Solutions
lawnFirst of all you need a great irrigation system to provide quantity and uniform coverage during a drought. Just turning on the irrigation system is not enough – you must be covering the entire lawn – evenly – and putting out enough to wet the soil. An irrigation sprinkler that is clogged, blocked or damaged is not covering the lawn – it may be running but not covering. Water runs downhill (as in down in the soil) – regardless of the quantity – it does not run uphill and does not run sideways. I have seen a hot spot that was 12” wide and 15’ long caused by a palm tree trunk blocking an irrigation sprinkler. When it doesn’t rain for weeks, the minutest lack of water will cause a hot spot .
Some areas need more water than other areas – slopes, areas next to driveways/roads and sunny areas need more water than shady areas. You need to water to the highest need – one setting for the backyard may not be enough for the front yard. Also edges along drives and other concrete surfaces dry out faster than the middle of the lawn. Overspray onto masonry surfaces cools down the concrete and ensures good coverage on the edges. Hand water the stress areas when needed. I have many lawns where trees were removed and the stumps were ground and the debris left in place. What you have is a very porous, poor soil made of “sawdust and a little sand”. These areas always need more water. Please obey the laws and regulations of your governing body for irrigation. But understand there is no water shortage – every drop of water that was here at creation still exists today. Contact your authorities and ask them why water is being rationed when there is no water shortage.
Insects – chinch bug, web worms, grubs
Diseases – take-all root rot, grey leaf spot
Nutrient deficiencies – manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron
Other – dry spots, overwatering, cutting too low
Insects – various caterpillars, grubs
Diseases – brown patch, take-all root rot, Curvularia patch
Nutrient deficiencies – potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron
Other – nematodes, dry spots, poor cultural practices
Insects – various caterpillars, grubs
Diseases- brown patch, Curvularia patch
Nutritional deficiencies – potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium
CASHMERE ZOYSIA GRASS
Mower- Reel Mower Only
Insect- Yes (3-6 applications per year)
Fungus- Yes (3-6 applications per year)
Thatch- Yes (fertilization is key)
Verticut- 2 – 3 in summer
Aerification- 2 in summer
Top-dress- 2 heavy 2 light
HOC- ¼” – 1”
Shade tolerance- turf will need 4 hours sunlight at 1”, 8 hours at ¼
Traffic- Poor in Shade
Weed Control- Yes both post and pre-emergent needed
EMPIRE ZOYSIA GRASS
Mower- Reel or Rotary Mower
Insect- Yes (3-4 applications per year)
Fungus- Yes (6-8 apps. Per year)- highly susceptible to Brown Patch.
Thatch- Yes moderate if clippings are bagged
Verticut- 2 in summer
Aerification- 1heavy ¾” tines
Top-dress- 2 heavy
HOC- 1” – 1.5”
Shade- 6 hours at 1” 4 hour at 1½”
Traffic- Poor in Shade
Weed Control- Yes both post and pre-emergent
NOTE The above recommendations are to produce very high quality turf!
Cashmere will provide a superior “Golf Course” look if kept on a high maintenance program than Empire due to its fine texture and low growth habit. When properly mowed Cashmere will rarely grow beyond 1.5 inches where as Empire will afford a “Kentucky Blue Grass” northern lawn look. Both Turf Types will take a commitment of maintenance outlined above.
This process starts with proper sub-grading, a high performance irrigation system, USGA Spec planting mix, and an excellent drainage system especially in shaded areas. Retaining or hiring a knowledgeable pest control company and sports field maintenance/construction companies to be involved from the beginning is imperative for success.
Weeds In Your Grass
Grassy-type Lawn Weeds
Grassy weeds are usually more difficult to identify than broadleaf weeds. Grassy weeds are true grasses or monocots. A grass seed germinates and emerges as one single leaf. It develops hollow, rounded stems and nodes (joints) that are closed and hard. The leaf blades alternate on each side of the stem, are much longer than they are wide and have parallel veins.
A weed’s life cycle has great impact on the selection and success of a given control procedure, so it is important to learn the life cycle characteristics of a weed when you first learn its identity.
Controlling Annual Grassy Weeds in Turf
Many recently introduced turfgrasses are vastly superior to older types, especially in their tolerance to wide ranges of cultural and environmental conditions. Unfortunately, even superior turfgrass cultivars have limits to what they can tolerate. In most cases, when cultural or environmental conditions surpass minimum turfgrass tolerance levels, problems arise. For example, the presence of annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, fall panicum, and yellow foxtail indicates problem growing conditions that allow these weeds to be more competitive than the desirable turf.
Management practices that discourage annual grassy weed growth of turf include:
• fertilizing according to soil test recommendations, making sure adequate nutrients are available during periods of active turf growth;
• watering deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil surface to dry be•ween watering;
• mowing at the proper height (2 to 21⁄2 inches for most cool season tur•grasses); and
• core cultivating, dethatching, or power raking during the fall when the turf is actively growing and weed seeds are less likely to germinate. Proper turf management is primary to a weed control program.
In some situations, turf is grown in environments that favor weed growth and development. Many annual grassy weeds are more tolerant of wet or compacted soils or shade than are turfgrasses. Altering the growing environment to favor the turfgrass can shift the competitive edge away from weeds.
The bottom line is that turfgrass breeding, selection, and evaluation has greatly improved turfgrasses. However, even new and improved turf selections are incapable of competing with weeds when mismanaged or planted into unfavorable environments. If producing high-quality turf is important, cultural practices and environmental alterations that enhance turf growth relative to weed growth are the basis of a sound weed management program.
Chemical Control of Annual Grassy Weeds
Maintaining a dense, vigorous turf is the best weed control. Occasionally, herbicide applications are mandated to reduce weed populations to tolerable levels. When annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyardgrass, fall panicum, or yellow foxtail become a problem, preventive preemergence herbicides are often used for control. A number of preemergence herbicides are recommended by the University of Illinois Extension. When using any pesticide, read, understand, and follow the label directions for the safest, most efficient pest control.
Several general recommendations can be made when using these products.
• For annual grass control, apply preemergence herbicides prior to germination. The soil temperatures necessary for weed seed germination vary by species. For example, crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures are greater than 55 to 60 F for 7 to 10 consecutive days and continues to germinate in soil temperatures to 95 F. Goosegrass begins germinating when soil temperatures are above 65 F for several weeks, and yellow foxtail germinates at soil temperature of 68 to 92 F. Barnyardgrass germinates at soil temperatures between 72 and 90 F. The optimum soil temperature for fall panicum germination is 80 F. Monitor soil temperature, and apply a preemergence herbicide prior to reaching the weed germination temperature. This insures that the herbicide will be in place before weeds begin to germinate.
• Conduct any cultivation practices, such as core aerification or de•hatching prior or to herbicide application.
• Water following application according to the herbicide label direction.
• To lengthen the period of weed control, make a second application of the herbicide at a later date. Follow the specific label directions for rates and timing.
• Consult individual preemergence herbicide labels for the specific waiting period between herbicide application and overseeding or reestablishment. Spring seeding can produce stands of quality turf, provided weeds are controlled and adequate moisture is available for summer survival. Only one preemergence herbicide, siduron (Tupersan), is labeled for application to newly seeded areas for annual grass control. All other labeled preemergence herbicides have waiting periods between applications and seeding. Avoid applying a preemergence herbicide immediately before installing sod.
Grass-like weeds at first glance look like a grass, but are relatively easy to distinguish from grasses. Upon close inspection, the stems are triangular in shape.
Common grass-like weeds include:
- Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus L.) also known by the name yellow nutgrass, nutsedge is a common perennial sedge found in many lawns. It reproduces by seeding, rhizomes and small tubers or nutlets (the nut).
- Wild Garlic/Onion (A. validum or A. canadense) is a bulbous herb of the Amaryllis family and is a close relative of cultivated onion (Allium cepa L.). It has a distinct onion odor. It has slender grass-like leaves and reaches about 2 feet in height when flowers appear in late summer. Leaves are narrow, long, and with parallel edges arising from the small underground bulb.
- Star of Bethlehem – A bulbous perennial with leaves that resemble wild garlic and have small, white, star-shaped flowers. Star-of-Bethlehem is similar to Wild Garlic (Allium vineale), however Star-of-Bethlehem lacks the characteristic garlic smell and also has distinctive white midveins along the leaves unlike wild garlic.
Broadleaf weeds are generally the easiest to identify of all the weeds. They have leaves that are broad, and are generally produced in pairs or multiples, have wide, flat leaves situated on a stem. Broadleaf weeds are distinctive from and are botanically not closely related to grasses and sedges. Broadleaf leaves may be simple (having one leaflet, like dandelion) or compound (having more than one leaflet, like clover). Veins within the leaf give a netted appearance in most cases.
Broadleaf weed control
A dense, healthy stand of grass is the best way to reduce broadleaf weeds in home lawns. To achieve a healthy lawn, plant the best-adapted turfgrass species and use accepted turf management practices. Even with proper management, however, the best-cared-for lawns can still be invaded by troublesome broadleaf weeds. These may require the careful and selective use of broadleaf weed control herbicides.
Common broadleaf weeds:
- Broadleaf dock / curly dock has a bright, shiny green, lance-shaped leaves that appear in the spring. In the summer and fall, the wavy puckered edges of the leaves are tinted a reddish purple. Small greenish flowers appear on a tall, narrow spike that arises from the center of the plant.
- Broadleaf Plantain is a common broadleaf weed in lawns. It is a cool-season perennial weed found practically in any habitat. The leaves are arranged in a rosette and have prominent veins.
- Buckhorn Plantain forms a spreading or upright basal rosette of narrowly oval leaves that grow above a long, sturdy taproot with lateral branches. Leaves of buckhorn plantains are sometimes twisted and curled, narrowly oval, dark green, and up to 1 1/2 inches wide and 8 inch long.
- Carolina Geranium – The plant produces a deep taproot. Flowers have five pink tolavender petals. Seeds have a conspicuous cranesbill beak about 1/2″ long.
- Carpetweed is a summer annual with a short tapwroot. Seeds lie dormant over the winter and sprouts slowly in the spring. Once it sprouts it grows rapidly in the summer heat.
- Chickweed is a prolific spring weed as it thrives under cool, wet conditions. It rarely tolerates hot, dry conditions that occur in late spring or early summer. Other common names for chickweed include starweed, winterweed, satin flower and tongue grass.
- Curly dock has a bright, shiny green, lance-shaped leaves that appear in the spring. In the summer and fall, the wavy puckered edges of the leaves are tinted a reddish purple. Small greenish flowers appear on a tall, narrow spike that arises from the center of the plant.
- Dandelions are a persistent weed problem. Each seed head of a mature plant produces thousands of weed seeds that float easily in the breeze. So if anyone in your immediate vacinity has dandelions, you can count on you having them too.
- Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) also known as Creeping Charlie, is an aggressive, low-growing, perennial invader of lawns, vegetable gardens, and flower beds. It thrives in moist, shady areas, as well as sunny locations. The scalloped leaves are round or kidney-shaped and are attached by petioles to square stems. Ground ivy roots at each joint whenever it touches the soil, thus making it difficult to hand pull.
- Henbit is responsible for painting many lawns with a pinkish purple cast in the early spring. It emerges in the fall and has square stems, the upper leaves of which appear to encircle the entire stem. It grows in an upright position, seldom reaching heights greater than 12 inches. The flowers range from pink to purple
- Lambsquarter is usually found in low-maintenance turf situations. Proper mowing will usually control lambsquarter due to its upright growth habit. It establishes easier in spring-seeded cool-season turf that enters the summer in a thin state.
- Violets (Viola species) include several cool-season annuals and perennials with low-growing habits. These species are very shade tolerant and prefer lawns located on moist, fertile soils. Violets tend to be most visible during cool weather of spring and fall.
- White clover is a perennial broadleaf weed. It is commonly found in the northern half of the United States.
- Wild Strawberry – A particular nuisant weed that looks very similar to the leaves of a strawberry plant.
- Yellow Wood Sorrel – Common wood sorrel is a plant from the Oxalis genus. It flowers for a few months during the spring, with small white flowers with pink streaks. Red/violet flowers occur, but rarely. The binomial name is Oxalis acetosella, because of its sour taste.
Pre-Emergent Weed Controls
Annual grass weeds are weeds that germinate from seed, grow throughout the season, produce seed and die within 12 months. A number of annual grass weeds include crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail, barnyardgrass, fall panicum and annual bluegrass.
Crabgrasses are the most common annual grass weeds in most lawns. Both the smooth and hairy types of crabgrass are classified as summer annual weeds. These grass weeds are considered undesirable in quality lawns because of incompatibility with desirable turfgrasses.
These annual grass weeds are usually lighter green in color, have wider leaf blades and possess more spreading growth habits than the cultured turfgrasses.
To ensure crabgrass and other annual grass weeds do not get established in your lawn, preventive and control programs must be implemented. The invasion of crabgrass and other annual grass weeds can be prevented to a large degree by maintaining a dense, healthy lawn.
A quality lawn will develop a thick canopy which shades the soil and discourage germination and establishment of seedling annual grass weeds. Most annual grass weed seeds germinate in the top 1/2″ of the soil.
For homeowners who cannot control of annual grass weeds in a preventive manner with just cultural controls, the best way to stop these weeds from developing is through the use of pre emergent herbicides.
Pre emergent herbicides are chemicals that prevent the germinating weeds from establishing in the lawn. These herbicides control annual grass weeds by inhibiting cell division in the young root system. The failure of the root system to develop results in the death of the young seedling weed shortly after germination.
Lawns with thin stands of grass that do not provide 100 percent cover may require yearly applications of a pre emergent herbicide to prevent the invasion of crabgrass and other annual grass weeds. Dense, high-quality lawns may not need yearly applications since crabgrass only occasionally establishes in lawns with good density.
Pre emergent herbicides are generally only effective if applied before the annual grass weeds emerge. Therefore, early spring applications are essential if satisfactory weed control is to be achieved. Herbicide applications should be completed and the herbicide watered-in at least 7 days prior to the initial germination date to allow time for the herbicide barrier to be established in the soil.
Pre-emergent herbicide applications for annual bluegrass control should be made in late summer or early fall.
If you have a pre emergent herbicide applied to your lawn in the spring, you cannot reseed easily until the fall. Should the occasion arise where it is absolutely necessary to apply seed after a pre emergent herbicide has been applied, rake the area thoroughly to help break the chemical shield in place. Apply some peat moss and rake in, then reseed.
Heavy rains during the spring may degrade the chemical shield and thus weakening its effectiveness.
Pre-emergent weed control for newly seeded lawns