For renovations that are needed due to an abundance of weeds, apply non-selective chemicals such as glyphosatein advance of planting to control existing vegetation.
When possible, completely till the soil to a four- to six-inch depth prior to seeding.
If soil tests indicate lime or other nutrients are needed, apply them prior to tilling in order to incorporate the material into the profile.
Apply a starter fertilizer emphasizing phosphorus (P) levels as compared to nitrogen (N). These products will have typical nutrient ratios of N-P-K (potassium) of 1:2:1 or 1:2:2. It is equally important to provide some degree of soil preparation even for inter-seeding situations into existing turf.
A few passes with a coring machine (aerifier), a power rake, or a vertical mower (dethatcher) can be used to prep the soil prior to planting to encourage seed-to-soil contact.
Simply applying seed over the top of an existing turf without any soil preparation usually does nothing more than feed birds and other wildlife.
Good soil to seed contact is very important but do not want to bury the seed. Lightly rake or drag the seed in to maximize seedling establishment.
Some tillage also is required for the successful establishment of sod (either warm- or cool-season grasses), sprigs (shredded sod), or plugs.
Feeding Your Lawn - Best Practices
Fall is the most ideal time to fertilize a cool season lawn.
Cool season lawns prefer to receive 2/3rds of their annual nitrogen requirements during the cool fall months.
A light application consisting of .5lb of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, preferably with a slow-release fertilizer, is applied in March to help initiate spring growth. This is often done with a combination product that contains a pre-emergent herbicide aka. crabgrass preventer.
Summer applications of organic fertilizers can be made to help maintain optimal color without risk of burning the lawn.
Starter fertilizers that are high in phosphorus are only applied at time of seeding or sod establishment unless otherwise noted by soil test results.
Apply other supplemental nutrients (for instance, phosphorus or potassium) and lime according to soil-test results.
Do not apply fertilizers to frozen ground.
After planting the seed, irrigate lightly and frequently until seed germination is complete.
Avoid excessive amounts of water because this could wash away or drown the seed. As establishment progresses, gradually cut back on the amount of water applied in order to start promoting a deep root system.
The irrigation philosophy is similar for sod establishment, but larger amounts of water can be applied to sod less frequently because these plant materials have soil and some root mass intact.
Depending on conditions the yard will require watering throughout the summer.Â
To maintain a lush, perfect lawn throughout the heat of summer watering beyond that provided by Mother Nature will be required.
When growing, supplement rainfall as needed so that the lawn receives 1 inch of water a week.
A bluish-gray appearance or wilted, folded, or curled leaves may indicate that it is time to water.
It is best to water your lawn in the early hours of the day, anywhere from 4 AM to 12 PM. The cooler night and morning temperatures reduce evaporative loss and reduce the amount of water needed.Â Â
Additionally, following this schedule reduces the fungus pressure on your lawn by allowing the turf to dry in the afternoon.Â
Even though in winter you won't have to water much, make sure the soil doesn't get powder dry.
The primary cool-season species include: Fescue, Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass.
Mixed species stands or mixed cultivars of the same species tend to have greater disease resistance etc.
Choose the grass type based on climate, the lawn site (slope/grade, drainage, soil texture) and the level of maintenance you desire.Â
A lawn is something you expect to have indefinitely, so a commitment to choosing the best possible grass will contribute to your lawn's long-term success.
Late-summer through mid/late fall is the optimum time to plant cool-season grasses.
Soil temperatures are suitable for planting in spring as well, but the turf is less likely to mature satisfactorily to ensure summer survival if a spring planting date is chosen.
Cool season grass such as fescue, germinate best when the soil temperatures are between 50Â° andÂ 65Â° degrees F.Â
Mowing - "Rules of the Road"
Mow turf when it needs to be clipped according to its recommended cutting height and follow the one-third mowing rule that says you should never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at any mowing event.
For example, if the current height of a Zoysiagrass lawn is one and one-half inches, mow the turf no lower than one inch.
Regular mowing at the low end of the recommended range for the respective grasses encourages lateral growth.
Be sure your mower blade is sharp, properly balanced, and that your soil surface is sufficiently firm so you do not cause ruts or footprints on the surface.
There are three PRIMARY Best Practices for Lawn Maintenance
Proper mowing heights and maintaining sharp mower blades,
Watering an inch a week on established lawns and always in the early morning hours; and most importantly,
Core aeration - commonly called "plugging"
The typical type of cultivation done on home lawns to relieve soil compaction.
Aeration on cool-season grasses is most commonly done in the late summer/early fall at the time of over-seeding.
It can be done anytime from mid-spring through mid-summer as long as the soil is sufficiently moist to allow for tine penetration.
Core aeration is very disruptive to surface smoothness, but it is the best way to relieve the physical limitations of soil compaction and improve soil oxygen levels.
Spring cultivation can disrupt weed control if you applied a pre-emergent herbicide.
If possible, avoid aerating until four to six weeks after the herbicide application to keep from breaking the desired chemical barrier in the soil.
Other Key Lawn Maintenance Considerations
Cool Season lawns rarely require de-thatching.
Leaf clippings are not a significant component of thatch.
Clippings can supply up to 25% of the lawn's annual nitrogen requirement.
So return clippings to the turf rather than bagging them.
Pre-emergent Weed Control in Established Turf
Summer annual grasses (crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail, etc.) are the most common targets for pre-emergent herbicide treatment in the spring.
But many other grass and broadleaf weeds also germinate as soil temperatures warm and days grow longer.
The rapid growth potential of these summer annual weeds warrants the use of pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weed germination and the subsequent reduction in turfgrass quality.
The key to the effectiveness of pre-emergent herbicides is timing the applications to before the weeds emerge.
Mother Nature provides reminders for proper pre-emergent herbicide treatment timing in the form of the following ornamental plants: daffodils, forsythia, and dogwoods.
Forsythia and daffodils bloom early in this window of application, and dogwoods bloom at the end of the recommended application period.
It is necessary for all pre-emergent herbicides to be watered in soon after application to the turf surface.
Tenacity herbicide can be applied just before or at seeding of fescue for crabgrass control. After seedling emergence, post-emergent herbicides such as the aforementioned Tenacity Herbicide can be applied after the newly planted turfgrass has been mowed 3-4 times and is well established.
You must follow label directions very carefully in order to maximize crabgrass control without damaging or killing turf seedlings.
Post-emergent Crabgrass Control in Late Spring and Summer
Quinclorac is an early post-emergent crabgrass herbicide with excellent efficacy on summer annual grassy weeds.
As a post-emergent herbicide, Quinclorac requires an adjuvant such as crop-oil concentrate or methylated seed oil to maximize effectiveness.
Spring and Summer Broadleaf Weed Control
In mature turf, applications of broadleaf herbicides can usually be made as soon as temperatures warm such that the weed is actively growing.
Controlling weeds before they flower in the early spring is an excellent way to prevent them from completing their life cycle and producing seed.
As temperatures warm, the use of many broadleaf herbicides require extra caution because of the potential for damage to the turf and other desirable landscape and garden plants.
Pay careful attention to environmental conditions such as wind and relative humidity in the summer because of the potential for off-site movement onto desirable plants.
Spot treating of winter weeds can be done throughout the late fall and winter on occasional days that rise near 50-60 degrees.
Control of Sedges
Sedges can be distinguished from grasses by their distinctive triangular stem.
Sedges are highly competitive in poorly drained soils, but they can be a problem anywhere in the landscape.
There are both annual and perennial sedges, but the primary sedge of importance is the perennial yellow nutsedge.
To prevent brown patch, avoid high nitrogen application rates during the summer.
The nitrogen stimulates lush growth that is more susceptible to brown patch.
Avoid watering practices that keep the turf wet for more than 6 hours.
Irrigate in the early morning so that the leaf blades dry quickly.
Also, aerify and de-thatch to keep thatch to less than 0.5 inch.
Plant or over-seed with resistant cultivars.
Begin fungicide treatments when symptoms first appear. Rescue or curative treatments often fail, so you must monitor your sites for early diagnosis. If you manage your turf properly, it can recover quickly from brown patch.
Summer patch is one of the most destructive diseases of Kentucky bluegrass.
The causal agent of summer patch, the soil-borne fungus, Magnaporthe poae, infects the plant roots. Therefore, early diagnosis can be difficult.
Begin monitoring early in the season as soil temperatures reach the low 60s.
Look for scattered plants or patches of bluish-green, wilted plants.
Summer patch damages the roots and causes the plants to succumb to drought stresses.
Because the fungus is underground, it often goes undetected until the plants begin to die.
Monitor sites prone to heat stress.
Southerly-exposed slopes or turf near concrete driveways will be the first to exhibit moisture stress.
Look for 6- to 20-inch circular, semi-circular or serpentine patches. They will give the area a pockmarked or doughnut appearance.
Look for matted light-tan, dead turf. Also, look for a tuft of green grass in the center (the "frog-eye" pattern).
The leading edge of an affected area usually shows the most characteristic "frog-eye" symptoms.
Plants at the edge of the patches will appear unhealthy. Dig up some roots. If you see roots that are dark and partially rotted, the plant is infected.
Factors Favoring Summer Patch
Look for summer patch from mid-June through September.
You may not see symptoms during cool periods when moisture stress is not exhibited, but the symptoms will reappear when hot weather returns. You usually will see summer patch break out during hot, dry weather after a wet period.
The fungus is most active in irrigated turf or when frequent rains occur.
Other factors that favor summer patch include heavy thatch, low mowing, unbalanced fertility, improper irrigation, and compaction, sites exposed to heat, steep slopes and poorly adapted grass varieties.
Managing Summer Patch
Eliminate plant stress during the summer. It may be the most important factor affecting symptom development.
Avoid management practices that promote rapid top growth at the expense of root development.
Integrate good cultural practices with fungicide.
Dollar spot, caused by Sclerotinia is another disease that is common in Kentucky bluegrass, bentgrass, fescue and ryegrass turf.
If you properly maintain your turf, it will usually recover from dollar-spot injury.
Poorly maintained Kentucky bluegrass may be severely injured, and it may not recover even if you make fungicide treatments.
The name dollar spot comes from the silver-dollar-sized, light-tan or grayish spots that occur on bentgrass putting greens.
However, in taller turfgrass, look for 4- to 6-inch patches of mottled, straw-colored turf.
Affected areas may merge and become large as the disease spreads. Dollar spot can be severe when nitrogen fertilization is less than optimum.
In residential lawns, look for symptoms that resemble melting-out disease, grubs or drought.
Fortunately, you can easily distinguish dollar spot by the characteristic lesion on the leaf blades.
Look for lesions that are first chlorotic (yellow), then water-soaked and finally bleached-out or light tan. They may be up to an inch in length, and they usually span the width of the blade. You will typically see reddish-brown bands on either side of the lesions.
Factors Favoring Dollar Spot
You will begin to see dollar spot during periods of warm days and cool nights that produce dew and high humidity in the turf canopy.
Look for cobweb-like mycelium growing on the grass blades.
Grass clippings, mowers and foot traffic will easily spread dollar spot. Be aware of these potential sources of infection.
Managing dollar spot
To prevent dollar spot with minimal fungicide applications properly fertilize to ensure vigorous growth.
Also, irrigate during morning hours only.
Aerify to control thatch and to reduce compaction.
To hasten recovery, implement practices that promote vigorous, but not lush, growth and reduce plant stress.
If necessary, make fungicide applications when symptoms first appear.
Leaf Spot and Melting Out
Twenty-five years ago, leaf spot and melting out were the most serious diseases of Kentucky bluegrass turfs.
Researchers have developed resistant, improved cultivars, and these diseases are no longer as important as they once were.
The leaf spot pathogen, Bipolaris sorokiniana, attacks bluegrass, bentgrass, ryegrass and fescue.
Melting out, caused by Drechslera poae, is mainly a disease of Kentucky bluegrass. However, it also occurs on ryegrasses and fescues.
You will see two phases of leaf-spot symptom development.
They correspond with changing temperatures during the growing season.
Look for the leaf-spot stage when temperatures are between 70° and 85°F.
When temperatures are above 85°F, look for necrosis of the entire leaf blade and the resulting leaf blight.
On Kentucky bluegrass and fine and tall fescues, you will first see small, dark-purple to black spots on the leaf blade.
As the black spots age, you will see them as round to oval spots that have buff-colored centers.
These lesions are surrounded by a dark-brown to dark-purple margin, and they may merge and girdle the leaf blade.
You will see the blade turn yellow or reddish-brown and die back from the tip.
When leaf blighting progresses, the turf will fade to a brownish color.
During hot, humid weather, leaf sheaths, crowns and roots become infected.
This causes thin, open areas in the turf.
Plants with severe crown and root rot usually die from drought stress.
The leaf spot symptoms of melting out (D. poae) on Kentucky bluegrass are nearly identical to those of leaf spot caused by B. sorokiniana.
You will first see the symptoms appear on the leaf blades as small dark lesions that develop into oval spots with buff centers and dark purplish-black margins.
Once the fungus colonizes the leaf sheath, you will see the leaf turn yellow and then tan.
Eventually the leaf drops from the plant.
This stage is known as melting out.
As with the leaf-spot disease, you will notice the symptoms progress from leaf spotting through melting out.
Eventually, the crowns and roots rot. Ultimately, you will see the affected areas become brown and thin.
Factors Favoring Leaf Spot and Melting
Out Look for both diseases during dry periods following prolonged cloudy, wet weather.
Leaf spot is most active when temperatures are between 70° and 85°F.
The optimum temperatures for melting out are 65° to 75°F.
Managing leaf spot and melting out
Use a combination of improved cultivars, good turfgrass management practices and fungicide applications for the most effective control.
Use improved, disease-resistant cultivars when establishing or renovating turf.
Assess your fertilization program, and incorporate a program that does not stimulate lush growth.
Manage your thatch and irrigate in the morning.
Adjust mowing frequency to correspond with the growth of the grass.
When necessary, apply a fungicide in April followed by two or three additional applications spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart or as label directions dictate.
Powdery mildew is caused by the fungus Erysiphe graminis.
You will see it on a variety of cultivated cool-season turfgrasses.
You will most commonly notice it in Kentucky bluegrass and fine-leaf fescues growing in shade.
It is a highly specialized plant pathogen that primarily lives on the outer surface of the host plant.
Powdery mildews have a high demand for nutrients and obtain them from their hosts.
Although powdery mildew rarely kills a plant, infections reduce plant vigor and lower aesthetic value.
Powdery mildew is named for the grayish-white to light-tan, powdery mat that forms on the leaf blade.
What you see is both mycelium and masses of spores.
Look for plants that appear to have been dusted with lime.
Reaction of grass plants to powdery mildew varies considerably.
Age of host tissue at the time of infection, susceptibility of the cultivar, rate of plant growth and environmental and cultural conditions all determine the extent of symptoms and injury.
Factors Favoring Powdery Mildew
During cloudy, humid periods, look for this disease when the days are warm and nights are cool.
Unlike most foliar blights or leaf-spot diseases, powdery mildew does not require wet foliage.
However, high humidity is important for infection.
Managing Powdery Mildew
Selectively prune shade trees to increase light penetration and improve air movement.
This will lower humidity in the grass canopy.
In shade areas, use resistant cultivars of Kentucky bluegrass and fine-leaved fescue.
Use fungicides to treat severe outbreaks or turf that has persistent mildew problems.
Make one or two applications in spring, late summer or autumn or as label directions state.
Insect Control - Grubs
Grub worms can cause significant damage if their numbers are high enough and the turf is under stress.
Proper identification of the insect and an understanding of where the pest is feeding (above ground or below ground) are necessary to maximize control.
Assessing the Extent of the Problem
If you suspect an insect is feeding on your turf, a soap flush is an excellent way to identify aboveground pests. Simply remove both ends of a large coffee can and drive the cylinder into the soil at least an inch deep.
Fill the can half way with a soapy-water solution and watch for the pests to float to the surface.
The most significant insect pest most often is the white grub. When disturbed in the soil, the grub will curl into a "C" shape and lay motionless for a brief period.
White grubs are the larval stages of several different beetles, and they come in many different sizes ranging from less than one-quarter inch in length for grubs of the Black Turfgrass Aetinius to over one inch in length for the grubs of the Green June beetle.
Grubs feed on turfgrass roots with chewing mouthparts. Because of the damage to the roots, the most noticeable symptom is wilting turf during dry periods.
Overwintering grubs burrow several inches in the soil to survive the cold and then begin to migrate to the surface as the soil temperatures warm in the spring, all the while feeding on plant roots.
By late spring they will reach their maximum size as worms before they go through their final metamorphosis from grub to beetle.
Due to their size, chemical control is very difficult at this time.
As the adults emerge, they are going to emphasize mating in order to set the stage for next season's grubs, and a few of the beetles can be a major problem on other landscape plants.
From a turfgrass perspective, this is still not the appropriate time to chemically treat the beetles.
This should be done in mid-June through mid-August after the recently laid eggs have hatched and the immature grubs are very small and near the soil surface.
Based on the location of feeding, chemicals must be watered into the soil according to label directions in order to be effective.
Any insecticide application should be carefully considered before treatment because of the potential for killing non-target, beneficial insects.
In particular, it is not always necessary to treat for grubs.
If only a few are present, their damage to turf is negligible.
Scout the turf using a shovel to lift the sod in a one-square foot area if you suspect grubs might be causing damage.
Numbers of six to ten grubs per square foot justify treatment for most species.
However, just because you see a few grubs when digging in the lawn and garden in the spring does not mean that you should apply chemicals.
Grub damage will be associated with moisture-stressed (i.e. wilted) turf that simply does not respond quickly to irrigation or rainfall events because its root system has been attacked.
Another likely sign that you have a grub problem is if you observe lawn damage by burrowing animals (especially skunks) that feed on grubs.
As mentioned above, be sure to scout the soil to identify the problem before you make a broad-spectrum chemical application.
Insect Control - Chinch Bugs
Chinch bugs feed on above ground stems with piercing and sucking mouthparts.
They are gold and black in color and are typically one-quarter inch in length.
Damage can be significant when 15 to 20 insects per square foot are observed from a soapy-water flush.
Both immature and adult chinch bugs feed on grasses, usually feeding on the stems under the protection of the leaf sheaths. Since chinch bugs feed above ground, foliar applications of insecticides are recommended.
Irrigation or rainfall event immediately after the application is undesirable.
Benefits of Cool Season Grass - OverView
Besides providing a foundation for some of our favorite activities, turfgrass plays an important role in our environment.
The healthier the turf, the better it can protect the environment.
Healthy turfgrass reduces run-off, minimizes erosion, cleans the air, neutralizes pollutants and absorbs rainwater.
Prevents Soil Erosion and Stabilizes Dust
Turfgrass protects the soil from wind and water erosion.
Healthy turf stabilizes the soil with its roots.
The roots "knit the soil together preventing the movement of soil.
Dense turfgrass also reduces dust because the soil particles are not able to move with the wind.
This ground cover provides a place for airborne dust to settle. Lawns trap as much as 12 million tons of dust a year.
Turfgrass helps reduce runoff and prevents soil erosion, capturing and filtering rainwater to recharge our groundwater supplies.
Grass leaves and stems cover the soil and intercept raindrops as they fall and interfere with runoff flow.
Water run-off from lawns is rare because the average 10,000 square-foot lawn can absorb more than 6,000 gallons of water from a rainfall event.
Reduces Glare and Noise
Since turf is a non-reflective surface, it acts as a screen to soften glare from the sun.
Lawns, trees, and shrubs also have the ability to absorb sound, while hard surfaces like streets will reflect sound.
Turf and other green plants can reduce noise levels by 20 - 30%.
Natural Air Cleaner
Turf takes in carbon dioxide and breaks it down into oxygen and carbon.
The lawn outside of your home can provide most of the oxygen you breathe.
A 50-feet by 50-foot area will provide enough oxygen for a family of four, day after day.
Turf also takes in other gases.
An acre ofÂ turfgrass will absorb hundreds of pounds of sulfur dioxide per year.
The haze created by these pollutants can reduce the sunlight by as much as 15%.
Cools the Environment
Turf provides a substantial cooling effect to the environment.
Eight average sized lawns will have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning compared to the average 4-ton home air conditioner.
Summer air temperatures above turfgrass will be up to 30° cooler than above a paved area.
Improves and Restores the Soil
Turfgrass is a perennial plant, which means part of the root structure dies off during the winter and grows back the following spring.
The dead roots of the plant break down providing organic matter to the soil.
The breakdown of clippings from regular mowing also adds organic matter.
Organic matter improves the quality of the soil making itÂ more fertile and better able to filter air and water.