Is your grass turning brown in no particular pattern almost like the lawn is dry, yet you have been getting rainfall? This could be an insect problem. One clue to look for with insects is the presence of lawn moths when you mow. The moths do not damage your grass, however they lay eggs for sod webworm, cutworm and other lawn damaging insects. Chinchbug damage also shows up this time of year, especially in sunny areas. St. Augustinegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass lawns are especially susceptible to lawn insect damage.
The good news is you can protect your lawn with Turf Builder SummerGuard. Just one application will take care of lawn-damaging insects as well as ticks and fleas. And, it gives your lawn a special summer feeding. If your lawn does not need feeding right now, you can kill lawn insects with Ortho Bug B Gon MAX. Water your lawn after spreading these products. After your lawn dries it is ok for your pets and kids to play in your grass.
When our daughter Ashley Van Cise and her husband pay us a visit it always turns into a “food fest”. She is a Registered Dietitian, who is also a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute. Her husband Michael is also a “foodie” who knows his way around the kitchen. Ashley and Michael live a short 45 minutes away in midtown Atlanta so the visits are frequent. Since our fresh veggies are only steps away from our kitchen it is easy to see how she uses her training to give us Garden to Table goodness. You can imagine the pleasure around our dinner table as we enjoy some over the top cooking! I guess you could say I am a very lucky guy!
When a lawn has more than a half inch of thatch; water, air and nutrients may not be getting down to the roots. The tell-tale sign to look for is if your lawn does not really turn a healthy green after feeding. You can check your thatch layer thickness by removing a plug of grass, soil and all, and measuring the thatch layer between the green growth and soil layer. If thatch is greater than a half inch, consider aeration or dethatching.
I recommend lawn aeration using a machine that removes cores from your lawn in cases where you want to improve your existing lawn without tearing it up. A dethatching machine may be a better choice if you are trying to remove dead thatch to expose soil so new grass seeds have a better chance of getting started.
Since fall is a great time to aerate cool-season grasses, this is a very timely topic for those with bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue and bentgrass. The best time to aerate warm-season grasses is early summer, however if you have a severe thatch problem in your Bermuda, Zoysia or St. Augustinegrass you can aerate anytime your lawn is actively growing.
Another reason to aerate a lawn is if the soil is compacted. You can tell if your soil is compacted if it is difficult to stick a screwdriver into your soil even when it is wet. When a lawn gets a lot of use (like you get with athletic fields or golf courses) the soil can get packed down and compacted, restricting the flow of water and nutrients. There are some tell-tale signs that your lawn may be compacted. Poor drainage is one. If water pools up on your lawn or runs off instead of soaking in, it could be because the soil is compacted. Lawns that look worn-out are often because of compacted soil.
Aerate your lawn by making individual holes around three quarters of an inch in diameter, three inches deep, and no more than 3 inches apart. This is best done with an aerating machine that removes plugs of soil, not the kind that just punches spike holes in the lawn. Follow up the aeration with a good feeding of Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Natural Lawn Food.
You can rent an aeration machine, however since they are quite heavy, you may find it best to hire a professional such as Scotts Lawn Care Service (for more info, give them a call at 1-888-736-3478). If you decide to hire a service, you should schedule this ASAP as they get booked up pretty fast this time of year.
Ortho has a great way to kill tough lawn weeds like Nutsedge, Wild Onion, Wild Violet, Ground Ivy, and about 50 others including Dandelion and Clover without harming your good grass. Ortho Nutsedge Killer for Lawns can be used on most any kind of lawn (This product is available for sale in all states except New York.)
Ortho Nutsedge Killer for Lawns comes in two kinds of sprays. If you only have a small patch of weeds you are trying to kill, there is a ready to spray squeeze trigger bottle (click here to check it out). If you have a big area with lots of lawn weeds it comes in a spray bottle that attaches to the end of your hose (click here to check it out).
It is best to spray weeds when they are actively growing. You may need to spray hard to kill weeds twice. If your lawn is stressed from drought and weeds are not growing very much, wait to spray when your lawn is getting regular rain or irrigation.
This time of year I again suggest the lawn renovation steps to convert old hopeless northern lawns to the newer stronger grasses that are available today.
This “kill and replace” strategy is for lawns troubled by the kind of grassy weeds you can’t kill without killing your good grass and for lawns you are fighting a constant battle with lawn diseases. We are approaching the best time of year to renovate cool-season grass lawns (Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fescue). Starting over allows you to use today’s top-of-the-line seed blends that do a better job of tolerating drought and attacks by insects or disease. Starting over may be the best way to get rid of perennial grassy weeds such as Nimblewill, Bentgrass, Orchardgrass, Tall Fescue clumps, or Quackgrass that you can’t kill without killing your good grass.
These are the steps to renovate a lawn by killing the existing grass and establishing a new lawn:
- Mid-August, spray the bad lawn area with Roundup. Be sure to use regular Roundup and not one of the special Roundup products that provide longer term weed prevention.
- About a week later do a repeat spray of Roundup on any areas you missed.
- A week later mow your dead grass as short as possible removing the clippings as you mow. Rent a Dethatcher (also known as a Power Rake) and run it over the dead lawn in two directions. Set the machine low enough so that the blades are touching the soil. Rake up the dead grass and add Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Soil to any low spots. If you now have mostly bare soil with the top inch or so broken up you could skip the next Slit-Seeder step and broadcast your seed using a Scotts Spreader.
- If you have more dead grass than bare soil, rent a Slit-Seeder to seed your lawn with Scotts best seed blend for your situation. For our best grass seed, go with one of the Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed blends rated for Sun, Sun/Shade, Dense Shade, High Traffic, or Heat-Tolerance. I am a big fan of Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Heat-Tolerant Blue Mix.
- Spread Scotts Starter Food for New Grass the same day you seed.
- Water a couple of times a day for several weeks.
- Mow your new lawn when it is tall enough to cut with the height set at around 2-1/2 inches.
- About a month after seeding, feed your new lawn with Scotts Turf Builder.
Regular followers of my blog postings will remember these two photos of Sugar Snap Peas climbing our copper garden sculpture on my June 5 blog “We Grew Our Sugar Snap Peas on a Garden Sculpture”.
We planted Pole Beans after our Sugar Snaps were finished and now are enjoying our harvest. Check out the photo below. One neat thing about vegetable gardening is “succession planting”, which means that now you would be planning to fill in blank spaces in your garden with fall veggies. Check out your late summer planting options by doing an internet search using key words like “fall vegetable gardens (insert your state)”. For example, click here to see a source of info I found when I searched “fall vegetable gardens Georgia”.
Fall Webworms show up this time of year on many kinds of trees. Fall Webworms make their web nests on the ends of branches. Folks sometimes confuse them with Tent Caterpillars because of the way the nests appear. Tent Caterpillar nests are typically located in the “crotch” where tree branches come together and show up earlier in the year.
Larger trees will typically survive a Fall Webworm infestation, however if there are lots of insects and your tree is small, weak or you find the infestation unsightly, you could consider getting rid of them.
If the nest is small, you can prune the branch where the nest is located and place in a garbage bag. An easy alternative for large or hard to reach nests is to spray the surrounding foliage with Ortho Bug B Gon Insect Killer. The Ortho Dial N Spray Hose End Sprayer is a handy way to spray this product as it attaches to the end of your hose and features various nozzle spray patterns.