The KPRC Radio Gardenline Tip By Randy Lemmon For 03-30-06 Printer-Friendly Version
FAQs on Turf Issues
As a reminder, go here < http://kprcradio.com/pages/events-randy.html > to see where Randy will be for the next two weekends. Bring your plants, bugs, and diseases for identification purpose.
Considering how many email questions (along with radio show phone calls) are centered along turf issues at this time of the year, I figured a fun little FAQ sheet might be the order of the day. I went through the hundreds of emails in just the past week alone and found these to be the most often asked questions, just for this time of the year. While I may be preaching to the proverbial choir in this tip sheet, there are many new subscribes to this weekly GardenLine email tip, and I think this just may help. Or maybe you can help your neighbor or friend that is struggling with their lawn care. Why not forward them a copy of this email tip sheet, and let's see if we can get them on the same page with us by getting them subscribed to this free service. If this kind of FAQ sheet goes over well, you can expect more on them in the future. It may even be a good basis for another book: 1001 Garden Questions for Lemmon-Aid...
Q: Randy, most fertilizer spreaders don't seem to have rates applicable to the regionalized fertilizers, so what do you recommend for spreader settings?
A: If using the fertilization schedule, for fertilizers it's usually a notch or two above the half-way mark. And for fungicides/herbicides/insecticides, it's usually a notch or two above the ¼ mark. Ex: On a 20-setting spreader, fertilizers would need to be on 11-12, and pre-emergent herbicides on 6-7. This does not apply to hand-held spreaders.
Q: I have a brand new house, with a newly installed lawn; do I start your fertilization schedule right away?
A: If the sod looks healthy upon installation, you can assume that most turf farms fertilize their grass quite often, so that means you need to wait 30-45 days before applying any new fertilizers per the schedule. If the grass does not look very healthy once it is installed, pick up the schedule at that point immediately. By the way, here's the schedule if you've never tried it before:
< http://www.950kprc.com/pages/gardenline-lawn.html >
Q: Any other tips, for a new sod installation, besides keeping it well-watered for the first few weeks?
A: Since you are watering a lot, you will leach out the iron rather quickly, and a new sod responds rapidly to an iron supplement, which greens it back up rather quickly. It's one of those hidden tricks for people with new lawns, in an area with nothing but new lawns. You can almost always tell who was smart enough to add some iron. Plus, a bi-weekly application of some kind of Soil Activator like Medina will help break down the mud in which the grass came. This allows the roots to establish quicker to the dirt below. I suggest a bi-weekly application for two to three months of soil activator.
Q: I'm just now starting your fertilization schedule on a home I just moved into. But it's covered up in weeds. What's your favorite weed killer?
A: For the plethora of broadleaf weeds that are predominant in early spring, it's not about which broad-leaf weed killer works best, it's about adding a surfactant to the mix. Our waters our so hard in SE Texas that many of the herbicides simply bead up and roll right off the leaf surface of the weed we are trying to kill. The surfactant helps break that surface tension, soften the water a bit and create a sheen on the leaf surface of the offending weed in question. You can access this old tip sheet all about Surfactants, if you need more information:
< http://kprcradio.com/pages/listenernewsletter/GardenTalk_01-22-04.htm >
But, these are three of the best on the market and readily available in the Gulf Coast:
Fertilome Weed Out, Bonide Weed Beater for Southern Lawns and GreenLight Wipeout.
Q: I used a broadleaf weed killer I got from a mass-merchandiser, but after the application I noticed my grass was turning distinctly yellow. Then I read the label and it said "not to use on St. Augustine lawns." Wow! Why would a local nursery sell such a product, in an area dominated by just such turf?
A: Obviously, not all broadleaf weed killers are made for southern turf grasses. First, it proves why it's so vitally important to read the label before application. Second, it buttresses my argument for years about the problem of big box stores selling gardening products. They get whatever all the other stores get for the rest of the U.S. and many weed killers like Ortho's Weed-B-Gone, actually say not to use on Floratam St. Augustine grass. It's also important on national label type products, such as the Ortho example to read the label more closely, because they do indeed have a formula designed for southern turf grasses. It's unfortunate that it's not specifically ordered by regionalized stores. See the Bonide Weed Beater example above? The local distributor knows only to carry the version designed "For Southern Lawns" for this region.
Q: I've followed your schedule for a year, and I don't see any significant improvement. It still looks like it did when I started. What can I do now?
A: Like I wrote in the turf chapter in my new book, there is one assumption we make when raving about the successes of my fertilization schedule - we assume you have decent soil to start with. If your soil profile stinks, nothing in the world will help. So, you also have to aerate, add compost or fill dirt and bring that soil profile to a normal level. The products on the schedule work best in amongst a healthy root system within a healthy soil profile. If it's clay and/or compacted, where exactly are the nutrients supposed to go, other than being washed down the sewer?
Q: I know you mention the importance of aeration, but how often can it or should it be done?
A: If it's never been done, then try it at least once if not twice a year for a couple of years. On healthier soil profiles it can be done every two to three years. The best months for core aeration are April and May for the spring aeration and September and October for the autumn aeration.
Q: I have runners of my St. Augustine grass growing on the top. Can anything be done other than yanking them up?
A: Yes, but before I get to the subsequent cure, you actually should start ripping up the obvious runners first. Simply step on the anchored end and yank the loose end tell it snaps at your foot. But to cure the problem, you need to perform a core aeration.
Q: I had chinch bugs last year, what can I do to prevent them this year?
A: Everyone seems to think that throwing a bunch of granular insecticide down will prevent chinch bugs. While that may seem logical on the surface, the real way to prevent having chinch bug damage again is to invest in a good irrigation system. Without fail, almost every yard I have ever seen ravaged by chinch bugs did not have an irrigation system, or if they did it was broken or not calibrated correctly. Chinch bugs hate well-maintained, well-irrigated yards. And granular insecticides never solve the inherent egg cycle with a "total-coverage" the way a liquid insecticide does. To learn the ins-and-outs of chinch bug control check out this tips sheet:
< http://www.950kprc.com/pages/gardenline-chinchbugs.html >
Q: I realize you don't like national lawn fertilization companies, but what if I don't have the time to do the work myself?
A: First, let me make this very clear: If it ain't broke, don't fix it! If you're using a service, and you're happy with the results, keep on keepin' on. But if you are unhappy with the results after all the money you've forked over, then try my schedule, and see if you can see an immediate difference. Plus, you will save a bunch of money. If you look at the basics of the schedule, all I'm asking you to do is one application of something per month. There's actually only 7 "ABSOLUTES" on that schedule and twice you can do two on the same day (Winterizer & Pre emergent; Spring 15-5-10 & Pre Emergent). So, all I'm asking is you give me 5 guaranteed visits to your yard with the product and spreader. Is that asking for too much of your time? Plus, any service that only uses liquid fertilizers on each visit is not a good idea, since we are trying to get the nutrients down to the roots and the soil. Liquid applications only on the surface don't ever get to the root of the problem - pardon the pun. A liquid fertilizer once a year is okay, but liquid versions should not be the basis of each and every fertilization for southern turfgrasses.
And you can still purchase a copy of my new book Gulf Coast Gardening with Randy Lemmon here...
< http://www.lulu.com/content/142186 >
If you are a garden retailer interested in stocking this book, please call the Nitro Phos Warehouse for wholesale ordering information. 713-228-1868.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.