Suburban Hills Lawn and Garden Tips
By Glenn Conatser
(Glenn is deceased)
We have had some great rains during the past few days and it is wonderful what water does for our lawns. This ample supply of water along with relatively cool weather means that those cool season grasses look great. But just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow you can bet that as soon as the temperature goes up past 80 again with this moisture you can look for Brown Patch and other fungus diseases to show their ugly face. A fungus called Rhizoctonia solani causes Brown Patch and it is one of the most prevalent diseases in warm, humid areas attacking all turf grasses. Lush tender growth in lawns that are well fertilized and cared for are the first ones it will attack. Brown Patch is circular patches of dead grass a few inches to a few feet in diameter in the lawn during periods of high humidity and hot weather. Dark purplish smoky rings sometimes surround Brown Patch. Filmy white tufts cover blades of grass in the early morning before the dew dries and after 2 to 3 weeks the center brown grass may recover and turn green giving brown areas a doughnut shape. It has been my experience that the grass does not recover and reseeding is necessary in the fall. There are several Fungicides that are very effective against Brown Patch. The best ones are systemic fungicides and they are also expensive. They are better because they do not have to be reapplied as often as those that are merely surface acting. A systemic fungicide actually is absorbed by the plant and gives protection throughout the whole plant. Some of these good systemic types are only available to professional lawn care services. This is one area that may warrant the use of a professional because they can do the job quickly and it is a good bit of trouble for a homeowner to accurately apply these materials. However, if you are like me and enjoy the challenge of doing your own thing here is some advise. I use a product called Daconil Ultrex that I purchase at the Knox Farmerís Co-op. It is not a systemic fungicide and it has to be reapplied every 7 to 10 days if you have conditions that warrant the development of brown patch. It comes in a 5-pound bag and costs $44.50 plus tax. This contains enough material to treat my whole lawn two times at the highest rate suggested by the manufacturer. The active ingredient is chlorothalonil. You only have to use 1.8 to 7.3 oz. per 1000 sq. ft. Daconil is a powder that is soluble in water. I make slurry and put it in my garden hose applicator and spray the lawn. You need to carefully calculate the amount needed for the area you have to spray and just continue to spray until you use up that amount. First thing to do is to calculate the area of your lawn by measuring the square feet. My lawn is relatively small and has approximately 12,000 square feet. Remember one acre is 43,560 square feet. Daconil is recommended to use at the rate of 10 pounds per acre. Since I have 12,000 square feet that means I need to use 2.7 pounds of daconil. (12,000 divided by 43,560 equals .275 times 10 equal 2.7 pounds) Another product you can use is Scotts Lawn Fungus Control. One bag is enough to do 7400 square feet of lawn and you can apply it with your fertilizer spreader. Again be sure to follow the manufacturers directions and if the hot wet weather should continue you will have to make several applications before summer is over. Good Luck!! One other thing, if you apply before the brown patch appears you can apply at the lower rate and you will not have to use so much material and that will greatly reduce the cost.
If your lawn needs to be completely renovated or just rejuvenated this fall, now is the time to start getting ready to do that job. If you have a heavy infestation of weeds and very little grass you need to think about complete renovation. If you have pretty good grass with some bare spots then you can probably get by with what I call rejuvenation. Lets talk about complete renovation first. To do the job right you will need to completely kill all of the plants in your lawn. Weeds and fescue are easy to kill but Bermuda grass is very hard to kill. Use Roundup about the first of August if you only have weeds and fescue type grasses to kill. Start earlier if you are replacing Bermuda grass. You will need a 2% solution of Roundup to kill Bermuda grass. You can accomplish this by adding 2 ĺ ounces of Roundup Ultra (41% active ingredients) per gallon of water. Remember that 2 Tablespoons equal one fluid ounce. Even more important is to follow the manufacturers directions. You can dramatically increase the effectiveness of Roundup on Bermuda grass by adding 1 to 2% of Ammonium Sulfate to the water and thoroughly mixing it before you add the Roundup. Ammonium Sulfate is a fertilizer you can purchase at Lowes or Home Depot in small plastic bags. Here again, be sure to follow the directions that come with the Roundup. The earlier you start the better chance of getting all of it killed. Be sure and use Roundup Ultra which is 41% active ingredient, otherwise you are wasting your money. Enough Roundup to completely kill all the plants in an average lawn in Suburban Hills will cost from $100 to $200. If Bermuda grass, then maybe a little more. If I had Bermuda to kill I would start with the first spray in Mid-July then if a second spray were necessary you have plenty of time to apply it before planting time, which is August 15 thru September 15. Ideal time to plant is the first of September but no later than September 15. After the plants are completely dead you will need to prepare a seed-bed by either using a tiller to till up the top 2 or 3 inches of soil or using a slicer-seeder that you can rent at the rental places. Whichever method you chose you will want to go over the yard several times in both directions to insure good tillage. I would highly recommend doing a soil test before starting any of this to see if you need lime to adjust the pH and apply it before you do the tilling or slicing. Fertilizer should be applied before the last tilling to mix it into the soil. One other tool that you might want to use is an aerator after the grass is killed. By going over the lawn several times with an aerator and then using the slicer you can pretty well prepare an excellent seedbed. Remember the seed must be covered with soil in order to germinate and stay moist enough to come up and develop a root system. Whatever you do donít let anyone sow grass seed over your lawn without covering it up with soil because none of it will germinate and you have wasted your money. If you use the slicer-seeder I would recommend that you simply use it to slice the soil and go ahead and spread the seed with a regular seeder in order to more accurately get the seed distributed. Then after you seed the grass run the slicer over it in two directions to cover the seed. This usually will give good results. After the grass is seeded be sure to cover with a thin layer of straw and turn on the water. The straw is not needed if your lot is perfectly level, but it will prevent washing away your seed if your lawn is sloped. Be sure to apply water every day to wet the top inch of soil until the grass is up. After it comes up then water less often (once a week) but water it thoroughly and deeply. If you are unwilling to spend the money to water your newly seeded lawn my advice is not to renovate it at all because it will be a failure.
The lawn grasses that do well here are the fescues. Bluegrass does not do well in Knoxville because of our hot, dry summers, however if you want to try it you can mix a little of it with the fescue and give it a try. I would recommend the Rebel fescues for Suburban Hills. In the University of Tennessee studies the Rebel II variety looks better than most of the others. When I planted my lawn I couldnít find Rebel II so I planted Rebel III and it has worked out pretty good. However if I were you I would still plant Rebel II if I could find it because it has continued to do better in the UT trials across the state. I would not plant Kentucky 31 simply because it is not as good a lawn grass. It has a habit of clumping and it has a coarse leaf. You will need 5 to 8 pounds of fescue seed per 1000 square feet of lawn. Seed is relatively inexpensive so be sure to use enough.
As I mentioned earlier your lawn might need just to be rejuvenated if you have a pretty good amount of grass and several bare spots or quite a few weeds. To rejuvenate you do not need to apply Roundup because you want to keep the grass that you have and just add seed to increase the density of your turf. First thing to do (about the last week of August) is to rent a dethatching machine and dethatch the lawn. Set the depth of the machine to completely penetrate the thatch layer and loosen the thatch, dead grass and weeds, while leaving shallow grooves or slits in the soil surface. Rake the thatch off if it is heavy but leave it on if there is not much of it. Next get an aerator at the rental place and aerate the lawn going over it several times in different directions. The aerator will dig small round holes in the soil and leave these plugs of soil on the surface. It is important for the soil to be moist when you aerate so either do it after a rain or water it before hand. If the soil is hard and dry the aerator will not penetrate deep enough to do much good. If you have ever used an aerator you know it is a man-sized job especially if your lawn is sloping. If you do have a steep sloping lawn you can decrease the pain a little by going straight up the slope and straight down and avoid going across the slope. With a little practice it is actually pretty easy to use. After aeration take the slicer-seeder and go over the lawn several times to beat up the plugs left by the aerator and to slice into the soil an inch or so. This is a very important step in preparing a seedbed. The slicer-seeder has a seeder box on it for you to put the seed in. The problem with most of them is that they are not real accurate in terms of the amount of seed they distribute. For that reason I like to use a regular seeder to put the seed out. I think if you set the seeder on the slicer-seeder at a low level and go over the lawn several times it would probably do a good job of seed distribution. Just remember to run the slicer-seeder over the lawn a couple of times after you put the last seed on the lawn. This will insure the seed is covered. Remember that seed that sets on top of the ground will not germinate unless you get lots of rain over the next several days. Most of the time seed on top of the ground does not germinate and if it does it will die the first time it dries out. One tip on using the rental equipment is to get a couple of neighbors to go along with you and do two or three lawns over one weekend. You can pick up the equipment on Friday afternoon and use it until Monday morning and only have to pay one dayís rental. You will need a dethaching machine, an aerator and a slicer-seeder to do the job right. Let me mention again that if your lawn is thin, you may not need the dethaching machine. You may or may not need to straw the lawn after rejuvination depending on how much grass you have in the lawn and the slope of your lawn. It would be better not to use straw unless you really need it for erosion control. If you will keep the newly seeded lawn moist every day and donít have a steep slope donít use the straw. Most straw available locally is loaded with weed seeds and simply creates a weed problem for you. If you are unable to water your lawn every day then straw will conserve the moisture and prevent it from drying out so quickly. Good Luck!
One of the things that make a lawn look its best is to clean the curb and cut nice distinctive boarders between the lawn and the curb and the lawn and flowerbeds. I used to do this by hand by using a hatchet to cut the edge and then digging it out by hand with a mattock. I have since purchased a mechanical edger and it does a much better job and it is much easier. Some people use a weed-eater and that seems to work fine. Just be sure to keep the weed-eater away from small trees and shrubbery because it is real easy to weed-eat bruises in the bark of these plants and that lets disease enter the plant and causes the plant all kinds of problems. This is especially critical with dogwood trees it seems. If you hire your lawn mowed be sure to tell the people who mow to stay away from you trees and shrubbery with the weed-eater!
Here are some other things to do this time of year. Separate your iris bulbs and replant them if they have gotten too thick. Fertilize your azaleas with an acid forming fertilizer like Miracid and also your rhododendron and other acid-loving plants. If you have azaleas that need trimming the best time to do that is right after they get through blooming.
This is also still a great time to spray for all those nasty weeds that still invade our lawns. Spray while they are growing vigorously and you should get an excellent kill. Refer to the spring issue for the proper herbicides to use.
Here are some web sites that you may find helpful for information concerning lawn care.
http://ohld.ag.utk.edu/ (UT's ornamental horticulture and landscape design dept.)
Http://www.utextension.utk.edu/pubs.htm (UT's Agricultural Extension Publications site.)
( The Scotts Company Homepage)
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Hills Homeowners Association