Fall Lawncare

2012-05-25 12.04.38
Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

There are a lot of activities for us to do in the fall in our lawns to help our plants make it through winter and to improve their growth for next year. I wanted to take time to cover some of those items on your fall lawncare “to do” list.

It is now time to reseed or overseed your lawns for the fall. This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between late August and the end of September. The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks. If you reseed after September 15 you could still be successful, but you increase your risk of dieback on newly emerged young seedlings in the event of an early frost. If you are a homeowner who wants to sod an area of your lawn, you can do that until they can no longer cut it from the fields.

Overseed with the same type of lawn that is already existing or a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. When starting a new lawn, either of these would be good choices. Avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky Bluegrass. Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and No noxious weed seeds. If you prefer, you could also plant Buffalograss in your lawn, but this should be done in June and July.

sprinkler-pixabay
Lawn Sprinkler Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons License

When establishing new turf, use frequent, light watering practices to get the seed to germinate. Don’t let the seed dry out and don’t let it get too soggy either. As the grass grows, decrease the frequency of watering, but increase the amount of water applied. Don’t drastically change watering practices from newly seeded to established turf watering practices. Don’t apply any herbicides to newly seeded turf until after mowing 3 times on the new turf.

As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn. However, fall fertilization recommendations have changed over the past couple of years. For a lawn, a Labor Day to mid-September application of slow release fertilizer is still recommended. Apply a granule with 50% slow release nitrogen or less. If additional nitrogen fertilizer is required later in the fall, use a product with a quick release nitrogen before mid-to late October. We used to recommend Halloween or later for the second fertilizer application and we thought two applications were necessary. New research is showing us that a second application of nitrogen fertilizer may not even be necessary, but if it is, we should move the timing up to more like Columbus Day rather than the typical Halloween time frame. This information is from Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension Specialist from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Mowing is always on our minds this time of year as well. Continue mowing through the fall as long as the grass is growing and needs to be mowed. You don’t want to leave long grass blades through the winter as this can smother the grass and lead to snow mold. Also, be sure to rake up leaves that fall on the lawn through the fall as this can also lead to snow mold. You can mow over the leaves with a mulching blade rather than rake them if you prefer.

 

Yard and Garden: April 6, 2018

Y&G Blog Photo, 2018

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 6, 2018. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 3, 2018. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Hosts: Jonathan Larson, Douglas/Sarpy County Extension Educator in Entomology and Jody Green, Lancaster County Extension Educator in Entomology

1.The first caller of the show has little blue flowers in her lawn. How can she get rid of them?

A. This is likely speedwell, it is a winter annual plant so it blooms very early in the spring then dies with warmer weather. At this point, since it is already blooming, just leave it as it will die soon and the seed is already set for next year. Spray it with a 2,4-D product late next fall after it has germinated or use a pre-emergent herbicide in the earlier fall before it germinates.

2. What is the correct mowing height?

A. 2.5-3.5 inches is the recommended mowing height for cool season turf in Nebraska. Too low will lead to more weed pressure and insect and disease issues because the turf cannot compete with these pests when it is too short. Make sure you mow enough to mow off only 1/3 of the turf blade each time you mow to avoid scalping the turf.

3. A caller asked if the treatments for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) were killing the trees?

A. The most effective treatment methods for EAB are trunk injections, which can harm the tree. However, the tree can take about 10 treatments before stressing the tree to the point of death. If you are using Emamectin benzoate as the trunk injection chemical, the tree will only need to be treated every 2-3 years, giving it 20-30 years of injections before harm occurs. For the first few years of treatments, you may be able to use a soil drench rather than a trunk injection, again adding more time with your tree. A soil drench will work, but once the tree grows to 15-20 Diameter, the soil drench is not as effective. In the 20-30 years of treatments, you can get a very good start on a new tree nearby the ash tree to have a well-established tree growing in it’s place for when the ash tree needs to be removed.

Termites
Termites, Photo from the University of Nebraska Department of Entomology

4. Does wood mulch attract termites?

A. If the wood mulch is piled up so high to where the mulch is touching wood siding, it can be a pathway for the termites to enter the home. However, mulch is recommended to only be 2-3 inches deep and most concrete foundations will go higher than that. Also, if you have had termites in the past, you should be working with a pest control company for termite control and the chemicals will manage the termites from the mulch. You will not get termites from mulch, the mulch is cut up too small and termites will dry out in that condition, so that cannot happen.

5. This caller is replanting a windbreak. They have begun with an outside row of cedars and would like to know what to plant on the interior rows?

A. An interior row with multiple types of trees is best. Diversity will help your windbreak survive better if another disease or insect problem comes in to kill evergreen trees like pine wilt has. Good evergreen choices include blue spruce, black hills spruce, concolor fir, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, white pine, and Norway spruce. You can even add in deciduous trees like oaks or maples to fill in as well.

6. A caller wants to know how to control poison hemlock on the edge of his field?

A. 2,4-D and Dicamba in a mix. This mixture is found in the product called Trimec as well as others. It is best to treat the poison hemlock while it is in the rosette stage, so early spring or fall. Do not allow cattle access to the dry matter after this has been sprayed.

7. This caller wants to know if fertilizer is needed to trees as they plant a new windbreak?

A. Fertilizer is not necessary for trees planted in Nebraska. Our soils typically have plenty of nutrients available for use by the trees. It wouldn’t hurt to add fertilizer at planting, but it isn’t necessary.

8. The final caller of the day wants to know how to plant a new asparagus patch?

A. Asparagus is a great plant for a home garden. Many people want to get plant starts from a neighbor to start their patch, but it is best to just purchase a new set of crowns. When planting asparagus crowns, dig a trench 8-12 inches deep and bury the crowns only under 2 inches of soil. As the plants poke up through the soil, add more soil until the soil is level. Avoid harvesting asparagus until the third season of growth to allow the crowns enough time for root production. For weed control, mulch is best, such as wood chips or grass clippings. Preen that is labeled for use around asparagus can be used in the spring to prevent annual weeds from germinating. In late May to early June, when finished harvesting asparagus for the year, you can break all the spears off below ground, leaving no green growth above ground, and spray glyphosate or Roundup over the bed to reduce weeds. After this, allow the plants to grow back up and produce ferns which will produce seed and help your patch grow. You can cut it back in the fall or in the spring before new growth begins.

Spring Lawncare

Spring Lawncare, blog post

April is finally here, which means spring should be bringing in warmer weather. April is a good time to get out and start working in the lawn and garden to prepare our yards. To help ensure that you have the best lawn on the block, here are few tips to improve your lawn this spring.

April is a great time to overseed your lawn. If you had some spots that were flooded out last spring, now is a great time to get some new seed planted. The beginning part of April is best for seeding lawns, but it can be done until the end of the month. Frequent, light irrigation is necessary to keep newly seeded lawns moist. It may be necessary to water twice a day to keep it from drying out and dying. Straw mulch can be applied to keep the seedbed moist, but it is not necessary and can bring problems with weed seed that is often a contaminant of straw. Do not apply any pesticides to newly seeded lawn until you have completed 2-3 mowings. Also, do not try to overseed right before or right after applying crabgrass preventer as this chemical will prevent the germination of your desired grasses as well.

We often face difficulties with weeds in our lawns. The key to weed management is to keep your lawn healthy to avoid weed infestations and to identify the weed before chemical controls are used. Many of our herbicides are specific to either a grass weed or a broadleaf weed and won’t work on the other weed type. Also, you need to know the weed to know the lifecycle for when the best time is to manage that weed with a chemical. As I stated in my previous news column, henbit is a winter annual and should only be chemically controlled in the lawn in the fall, the spring is too late.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood
Crabgrass Photo By: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied before crabgrass germinates, which is when the soil temperature is 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically occurs toward the end of April. Applying this chemical too soon may cause the chemical to stop working earlier in the season when crabgrass may still be germinating. In this case an additional application may be necessary later in the spring, so it is best to wait until the correct time to only have to apply this one time per season. Broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, and ground ivy should be controlled in the fall for best control but can be managed in the spring with 2,4-D products.

Fertilizing turf can be done up to 4 times per growing season. Apply fertilizers at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for each application. A good trick for remembering when to apply fertilizers is to fertilize with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween.

Mower Collage

We are now getting to the time of year when we will have to start mowing our lawns. Prepare your lawn mower for the season before you start mowing. Start by sharpening the blades. Dull mowing blades can cause tearing to occur on the grass blades rather than a smooth cut. These tears can lead to more insect and disease problems. Change the oil in your lawn mower, if you didn’t do that in the fall. Check your spark plugs and tire pressure. Finally, make sure you clean under the deck for any grass that may still be stuck under there from last season. You can start mowing as soon as the grass starts growing. Remember to mow at a height of 2.5-3.5 inches and only cut off 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow.

Fall Yard and Garden Issues

Fall will be here before we know it. Take the time to read this to help you through all of your horticulture and insect issues during the fall months.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.
Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

For fall lawncare, September is a good month for overseeding, fertilizing, and aerating your lawn. If you have bare spots from the floods or have a thin lawn, you can overseed in the month of September, before the 15th will have better establishment before winter, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are the best choices for seed in Nebraska. Remember to fertilize with the holidays, and Labor Day and Halloween are coming up for our final two applications for this year. If your lawn has a deep thatch layer, over 1 inch, you may need to aerate your lawn, fall is a good time for aeration as well.

Weeds in a lawn

Weed control is better in the fall. Many of our perennial weeds and winter annuals will get much better control if they are treated in the fall. This year has been a great growing season for many of our lawn weeds, especially clover. Perennial weeds such as Dandelions, creeping Charlie or ground ivy, and clover, are best controlled in the fall with either 2,4-D or Triclopyr products. Remember to apply these chemicals on days when the temperatures are predicted to be at or below 80 degrees for 72 hours. This is the time of the year when these weeds are taking their nutrients back into their roots for next season’s growth, so they will take the herbicide with them to get a better kill. The winter annuals such as Henbit are just beginning their growth in the fall so it is best to treat them now rather than in the spring when they are almost done with their growing season.

It is finally getting close to the time of the year when we can begin cutting back our perennial plants. Once these plants die back in the fall, when their leaves turn brown, we can cut them back for the year. Peonies and Iris are two plants that should be cut back in the fall to avoid diseases spreading from this season to next since these plants tend to get leaf spot diseases annually. When you go to remove the spent leaves, you can also divide these plants and transplant them if you need them in a different location. Avoid pruning roses and butterfly bushes until the early spring to avoid problems with moisture getting into the hollow stems of these plants. If you have a shrub that blooms early in the spring, such as lilac, forsythia, weigela, some spireas, and some hydrangeas, wait to cut those back until after bloom next spring to avoid removing flower buds that are already on the shrub for next year.

Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension
Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension

Watch for fall invading insects in your home in the fall. This is the time of year when many insects will begin to invade our homes. As it begins to get cooler outside, insects move into our homes to stay warm. Many of the insects we see in the fall inside our homes include boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, stinkbugs, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, and ants. These insects are mostly just a nuisance to us when they come into our homes. The best control for these would be to seal up all cracks where they can enter our homes and to use the insect barrier sprays around the home, especially around doors and windows.

Spring Lawncare

2011-10-27 10.05.27Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.

Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.

When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:

  • Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
  • No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species

The best seed choices are either:

  • 100% of turf-type tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass

Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season.  Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.

Mower Collage

As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.

Fertilizer Spreader, Photo from Acreage.unl.edu