I’d like to start this article by sharing the common characteristics and needs of all turf grasses for this time of year, in the southeast.
In the absence of rainfall, your lawn should get about one inch of water per week. However, you won’t know how long it takes for you to deliver that amount of water until you test this for yourself. Get out some tuna cans, etc. to see how long it takes to fill the cans (this is an inch). Be sure to place several cans around, as irrigation systems are often inconsistent from one zone to the next. Assuming no runoff, irrigate your lawn ideally once per week for the amount of time determined above. Deep watering, less frequently (i.e. one inch, once per week), encourages deep root growth and better drought tolerance.
When mowing your lawn, never remove more than one third of the grass blade if possible. This helps reduce the risk of disease and pest damage, as well as thatch build-up. Don’t be afraid to grass-cycle. That is, mulching your clippings directly back into your lawn, rather than bagging them. You’ll be returning up to one third of the needed nitrogen of your turf, thereby reducing the amount of additional fertilizer required. You also won’t be increasing the risk of thatch, if you are cutting one third, or less of the grass blade, each time you mow. Just be sure that you are not leaving behind visible clumps of grass clippings, as this will potentially damage your lawn. In this event, a second pass with the mower, should eliminate any turf residue. Consider changing the pattern of your cuts each time. If you cut north and south one time, try cutting east and west the next. Continuous cutting in the same direction can eventually result in unnecessary soil compaction, due to the weight of the mower over repeated mowings.
Many of us have already, and will continue to battle turf diseases in our lawns this summer. Brown Patch, the most common turf disease to Georgia lawns, will certainly be prominent this season. It’s identified by circular patterns of brownish grass, ranging in size from several inches to several feet. The conditions for Brown Patch to emerge are warm temperatures (above 70 degrees) and high humidity. Excessive nitrogen fertilization in spring also tends to increase the occurrence and magnitude of the problem. Treat this and other fungal turf diseases with a fungicide application at the suggested rate on the product label. A granular or liquid spray treatment can be effective in controlling the existing problem. However, throughout the hotter months, you may have to apply multiple treatments (every two to three weeks) to keep the problem in control, and to prevent it from spreading.
There are many varieties of weeds that begin appearing as the temperatures heat up, and to many, the biggest thug of lawn weeds in the summer is Crabgrass. A spring application of pre-emergent works well in treating this, and other summer annuals weeds. However, if you missed that spring treatment, you can still treat Crabgrass and other weeds with a post-emergent weed control. These products are targeted to kill weeds after they germinate. However, be sure to read the label. Some weed killers are effective on broadleaf weeds only (like Spotted Spurge, and Dichondra). Others treat grassy weeds only (such as Crabgrass and Goosegrass) so know what you’re buying, and what you’re trying to control. Also, be careful when you apply these products. Some will burn your turf if applied when temperatures are too high. Again, reading the label entirely will save a lot of potential aggravation!
Fescue lawns should not be fertilized after May, and not again until fall. However, warm season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine) should receive a June and August application according to your soil test report. You did do one in the spring, didn’t you? Bermuda and St. Augustine can also receive a July fertilization. Centipede lawns should get their only summer application in July. The only other time to fertilize Centipede is May, hence the nickname, lazy man’s grass.
Sodding, Sprigging, and Aerating
The best time of year to sod, sprig, or aerate a lawn, is in the season of active growth. For warm season grasses, that would be now! For Fescue, the cool season grass, spring or fall is the ideal time to aerate or lay sod.