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How to ID Lawn Insect and Lawn Fungus Problems

How do you know if the brown spots in your lawn are caused by the heat (that you can’t do anything about) or something else (that you can do something about)?

Are the brown grass blades mixed in with the green grass blades in no particular pattern almost like the lawn is dry, yet you have been getting rainfall?  This could be an insect problem or your lawn could be starving if it has been more than a few months since the last feeding.  One clue to look for with insects is the presence of lawn moths when you mow.  The moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for sod webworm, cutworm and other lawn damaging insects.  Chinchbug damage also looks like the grass in this photo.  Solution:  Feed and protect your lawn with an application of Turf Builder with SummerGuard.  Be sure to water after spreading.  If your lawn does not need feeding, apply Ortho Bug B Gon MAX.

Are the brown grass blades mixed in with the green grass blades in no particular pattern almost like the lawn is dry, yet you have been getting rainfall? This could be an insect problem or your lawn could be starving if it has been more than a few months since the last feeding. One clue to look for with insects is the presence of lawn moths when you mow. The moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for sod webworm, cutworm and other lawn damaging insects. Chinchbug damage also looks like the grass in this photo. Solution: Feed and protect your lawn with an application of Turf Builder with SummerGuard. Be sure to water after spreading. If your lawn does not need feeding, apply Ortho Bug B Gon MAX. 

Are the brown spots following a particular pattern such as a circle?  Within the circle the problem may start with some of the grass blades turning brown with spots on them.  There are a range of lawn fungus problems like dollar spot, brown patch, red thread and summer patch that show up as circular patches in your lawn.  These problems can crop up when you are getting higher temps during day and night and more rain and humidity.  Solution:  Treat your lawn with Scotts Lawn Fungus Control.

Are the brown spots following a particular pattern such as a circle? Within the circle the problem may start with some of the grass blades turning brown with spots on them. There are a range of lawn fungus problems like dollar spot, brown patch, red thread and summer patch that show up as circular patches in your lawn. These problems can crop up when you are getting higher temps during day and night and more rain and humidity. Solution: Treat your lawn with Scotts Lawn Fungus Control.

Do some areas of your lawn always seem to turn brown first?  Probe the brown spot with a screwdriver and compare this with the healthy lawn areas.  I have found that the typical brown, tan-colored “dry spot” can show up because of a pocket of poor soil, a buried rock that is just below the soil surface, or an area where lawn sprinklers don’t provide complete coverage making it tougher for the screwdriver to penetrate.  So you think your lawn is getting adequate water, however this dry spot is the first area to go brown.  Solution:  Short term:  Give extra water to this area until you are able to improve the soil in this spot, dig up buried rock or adjust sprinklers.

Do some areas of your lawn always seem to turn brown first? Probe the brown spot with a screwdriver and compare this with the healthy lawn areas. I have found that the typical brown, tan-colored “dry spot” can show up because of a pocket of poor soil, a buried rock that is just below the soil surface, or an area where lawn sprinklers don’t provide complete coverage making it tougher for the screwdriver to penetrate. So you think your lawn is getting adequate water, however this dry spot is the first area to go brown. Solution: Give extra water to this area until you are able to improve the soil in this spot, dig up buried rock or adjust sprinklers.

Summer Crabgrass Control

Crabgrass is an “annual” weed, which means it germinates in spring, then in summer the plants produce seed and then it dies in fall with the first frost.  Spring applied crabgrass preventers will stop most of the seeds from growing, however generally not every one.  Just when your lawn is thinned from fungus disease or insects, a stray crabgrass seed germinates in the weakened areas.  The crabgrass then hunkers down flat where your lawnmower can’t reach and spreads to choke out your remaining good grass.  Each plant produces seeds… lots of seeds!  These seeds then germinate next spring so even more crabgrass plants can threaten to win the battle for your lawn.

If you decide to wait till fall to let the frost kill your crabgrass, you will miss the chance to kill it before it produces all those seeds.  Spray crabgrass now with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Control.  You can use this spray on any lawn type except St. Augustine, Centipede and Bahia.  This spray works best when you go after younger crabgrass plants.  For larger crabgrass plants you may need to repeat your spray in 2 to 3 weeks.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem.  It is easier to kill before it gets big.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem. It is easier to kill before it gets big.

This is a crabgrass seed head in summer when seeds are being spread over your lawn.  Notice the three fingers.

This is a crabgrass seed head in summer when seeds are being spread over your lawn. Notice the three fingers.

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago.  The caption:  “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew.  Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

This photo of a mature crabgrass plant appeared in a Scotts publication about 20 years ago. The caption: “A single seed produced this monster crabgrass plant, which crowded out good grass as it grew. Each plant is capable of producing tens of thousands of seeds for an even bigger problem next year.”

 

Listen-in To Garden Radio July 26

This Saturday morning around 8:00 am EDT, I will be a guest on my friend Tom MacCubbin’s Florida “Better Lawns and Garden” Radio Show. (Click here to open his radio show website where you will be able to listen in.)

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

 

 

Gardening Idea for Kids

I learned a great deal about gardening from my parents and likely gained my passion at a very young age.  I am very glad I had all those experiences.  I gained confidence as I learned how to garden and before I knew it I caught the gardening fever.

As I admired the Sunflowers in our garden this morning I thought that Sunflowers provide so many lessons for kids!

Sunflower seeds are large enough for kids to handle.  They can be planted after the danger of frost in late spring.

Sunflower seeds are large enough for kids to handle. They can be planted after the danger of frost in late spring.

Sunflowers make a big impact in a matter of just a few months.

Sunflowers make a big impact in a matter of just a few months. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Not only will Sunflowers be loaded with bees and other pollinators, but as the season draws to an end birds will flock to them to eat the seeds.

Not only will Sunflowers be loaded with bees and other pollinators, but as the season draws to an end birds will flock to them to eat the seeds.  (Click photo to enlarge.)

If you do an internet search with the key words “kids gardening programs” you will get over 18 million hits.  Add your location to narrow your choices and you will find some neat programs for kids of all ages.  For example, click this link to connect to the Junior Master Gardener site.  These folks are an extension of the Master Gardening program and can be a great resource for teachers.

Kids Gardening Program

Kids Gardening Program

I hope I have gotten your brain wheels turning to help get your kids or grandkids excited about growing things.

 

Mid Summer Lawn Checklist

Some kinds of grasses thrive during the dog days of summer, while others tend to suffer.  My Mid-Summer Lawn Checklist is much like my June Lawn Checklist with a few shifts that are related to how your lawn handles these dog days.

Northern lawns (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) prefer cooler temperatures and tend to suffer if the nighttime temps and humidity don’t drop much from the 90’s during the day.  However, cool night temps that drop back into the 60’s can do wonders to help these kinds of lawns stay healthy in summer.  Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Centipede and Bahia) thrive this time of year, even if the night temperatures are not that much different from hot day temperatures.

Some lawns need feeding.  Some Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia) love to be fed at two month intervals from spring to fall for a total of about 4 feedings a year.  Centipede only likes two or three feedings a year from late spring to late summer. Scotts GreenMAX Lawn Food, Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Natural Lawn Food are good choices for this time of year.   If you have already fed your Northern lawn (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) twice this year you can skip feeding until later in summer.  However, if your Northern lawn has not been fed in a while and you live in an area where night time temps drop, you can give your lawn a feeding.

Keep your lawn from thinning and turning brown.  Tiny insects can attack your lawn during summer.  One indication that they may show up is when you see moths fly from your lawn when you mow or walk on your grass during early evening hours.  These moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for insects like sod webworms and cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown.  Other insects, like chinch bugs can show up about the same time.  You can protect your lawn while feeding it with a special summer lawn food called Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard.  This product also takes care of other insects like fleas, ticks and ants.  If your lawn does not need feeding, you can spread Ortho Bug B Gon MAX on your lawn to take care of any insect problems.  Oh by the way, it is ok if you still see some moths after treating, since they do no damage.  You have protected your lawn from the damage caused by their hatching eggs for about 6 weeks or so.

Lawn that needs feeding and has insect damage next to healthy lawn that is well fed and protected from insects

Lawn that needs feeding and has insect damage next to healthy lawn that is well fed and protected from insects

Kill lawn weeds if they are growing.  Weeds are harder to kill if they are not actively growing.  Most weed controls are designed to work if your temperatures are between 60 and 90 degrees, so check the label for suggestions to get best results.  Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer takes care of most weeds.  Do not use on Floratam (a variety of St. Augustinegrass), Centipede or Bahiagrass lawns.  Ortho Nutsedge Killer and Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed & Clover Killer are also options depending on where you live and your lawn type.

You think you are getting rid of Nutsedge (also called Nutgrass) because it is easy to pull. However, it quickly grows back from the bulb-like roots that are left behind in your soil.

You think you are getting rid of Nutsedge (also called Nutgrass) because it is easy to pull. However, it quickly grows back from the bulb-like roots that are left behind in your soil.

Treat lawn fungus problems if needed.  Circular patches of browning grass or individual grass blades with spots on them are an indication of lawn fungus problems.  Some of these problems will go away with shifting weather, however if they persist or if you have certain areas of your lawn that are prone to fungus problems each summer, you can treat with Scotts Lawn Fungus Control.

Brown Patch on Tall Fescue - Circular patches of dead grass are a symptom of several lawn fungus problems such as Brown Patch and Summer Patch show up during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

Brown Patch on Tall Fescue – Circular patches of dead grass are a symptom of several lawn fungus problems such as Brown Patch and Summer Patch show up during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

Mow your grass taller. Taller grass blades mean deeper roots to match the leaf growth. So adjust your mower to leave your grass height after you mow at around 2-1/2 inches for Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fine Fescue; 3 inches for Tall Fescue and Buffalograss; 3 to 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass; and 1-1/2 to 2 inches for Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass and Zoysia.

Water Sensibly.  If you are able to water without restrictions and you want to keep your grass from going dormant, a half inch twice a week is better than a small amount every day. This helps to encourage deeper roots. Place a tall straight sided/flat bottomed glass or a rain gauge on your lawn while your sprinklers are running then measure the depth of water that accumulates in the glass to help calculate how long to run your sprinklers to put down a half inch. You would only need to do this once to help figure out your sprinkler system.  If you can, water in early morning when there is less wind and evaporation.

Extend Your Tomato Season

If you love fresh tomatoes as much as us, you can plant now for a second harvest you will be picking right up until frost.  Many garden centers have plants available now.  Pick a location where tomatoes have not been grown for the past several years (this helps prevent fungus problems) or plant them in a container. If you are planting in your native soil, mix a couple of inches of fresh compost into your existing soil prior to planting.  I like to do this every time I plant.  If you do not have your own compost, I suggest Miracle Gro Organic Choice Garden Soil (click here for info).   If you are planting in a container I suggest using Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix (click here for info).  And don’t forget to feed your plants.  I like Miracle Gro Organic Choice Plant Food in my garden (click here for info), or Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Plant Food for my containers (click here for info).

If your tomatoes have ever suffered from blossom-end rot, which is a condition that causes the bottom of the tomato to turn black, you should feed with Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed for Tomatoes as this special food has extra calcium to help with this problem (click here for info).

Our Better Boy Tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water!

Our Better Boy Tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water!

Is it Crabgrass OR Dallisgrass?

I have gotten a couple of questions this week about weeds that sometimes are confused with crabgrass.  One weed that gets confused with Crabgrass this time of year is Dallisgrass.  Folks see Dallisgrass in their lawn and the first thought is that their Crabgrass preventer did not work.   Dallisgrass is a perennial grass that is common in the south and surrounding states to the north.  Since it is a perennial grass, it comes back every year from roots so a spring applied preventer to take care of annual grasses like crabgrass that grow from seed each year does not work.  Often the only choice is to kill this grass with a weed killer like Roundup.  The downside is that Roundup will kill all vegetation in the area that you spray, however you can seed that area a week later.  You may still have Dallisgrass next year because the plants produced seed all summer.  The seed heads provide the best way to identify Crabgrass and Dallisgrass.

On the other hand, if you have crabgrass, you can spray with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer.   This spray is most effective on young crabgrass.  Click here for product info.

Dallisgrass seed head on left and Crabgrass seed head on right

Dallisgrass seed head on left and Crabgrass seed head on right (Click on photo to enlarge)

Dallisgrass can be confused with Crabgrass

Dallisgrass can be confused with Crabgrass (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Crabgrass

Crabgrass (Click on photo to enlarge)

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