Winter seems a long way off, but it’s coming and autumn is the season to prepare your lawn for its hibernation over the cold months. Now is the time to start thinking about overseeding, fertilizing, and (sorry to mention anything distasteful) grub control.
Some of the more popular types of grass in Central Texas are:
St. Augustine Grass: a medium to dark green, coarse-textured grass with broad, flat blades. It spreads by aboveground stolons (often called “runners”). It has dense growth that helps to crowd out weeds. It is a warm season grass that can grow in almost all soil types and is tolerant of shade, heat and mild drought.
Bermuda Grass: an aggressively-growing warm season grass with fine blades. Like St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass spreads by producing stolons and rhizomes (also called “rootstalk” or “creeping rootstalk”). Bermuda grass is tolerant of heat, drought, and traffic.
Buffalo Grass: a hardy, fine-textured grass that forms a dense light green turf. Buffalo grass is heat and drought tolerant and needs only moderate sun (4 to 6 hours per day). It is a slow-growing grass requiring less water than other types; it has been shown to flourish with only natural rainfall and is also very competitive against weeds.
Centipede grass: is light green in color with coarse leaves. It grows well in full sun to partial shade but is not among the faster-growing varieties. It also does not have a high tolerance for drought or traffic.
Bent grass: used most often for golf courses, bent grass is a dense grass that is thin-bladed and low-growing. The top of the blade is soft and the bottom is rigid, making a strong and comfortable lawn.
Each type has its own features and advantages. Here are some tips for fall maintenance to keep your lawn beautiful.
Overseeding the lawn in September will give you a denser lawn, particularly if you have an older lawn with bare spots. The mild temperatures gives the seed time to germinate and establish roots before the winter cold sets in.
To prepare the lawn for overseeding, cut the grass but be sure to leave at least 1-1/2 to 2 inches. This is important so that the seeds do not get stuck on tall blades of grass.
Rake the lawn to remove the grass cuttings and any debris or thatch from the lawn. Raking will also help to loosen and aerate the soil. It takes a certain amount of time to do that, but it is a necessary step to makes sure the seed has a chance to take root.
If you are overseeding the entire lawn, use a spreader to get even coverage (small patches can probably be done by hand).
Fall fertilizing will help to strengthen the roots and provide greater nitrogen storage for better spring recovery from the winter. Fertilizing should be done 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost with a low nitrogen, high potassium fertilizer at the rate of no more than ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
Grubs, sometimes called grub worms, are the larval stage of various species of beetles. Some of these beetles have very fancy names such as Phyllophaga crinite and Cyclocephala lurida, but we call them Junebugs and southern masked chafer. Junebug and southern masked chafer grubs feed on grass roots and are especially fond of the warm season grasses like Bermuda grass, St Augustine grass, buffalograss and zoysia grass. The cool season grasses such as bluegrass and ryegrass more frequently fall victim to the Phyllophaga congrua (the May beetle). It’s easy to see the areas where these pests are feeding – areas of dead or dying grass that’s easily pulled up by hand is a sure sign that grubs are making a smorgasbord of your grass roots. Less severely damaged areas may lack vigor and be more susceptible to weed invasion.
The good news is that grubs are not immortal.
There are a number of commercially available chemical grub control formulations that have varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on the stage of life the grub has attained. Be warned, though, that some of the chemical pesticides can be toxic to people, pets, and the environment. If you are going the chemical route of grub control, be sure to read the product label very carefully.
A popular non-chemical, non-toxic method of grub control is the use of beneficial nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are, in fact, so non-toxic that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has exempted nematodes from registration because they are naturally occurring and do not require any genetic modification.
Nematodes are often referred to as roundworms, although they are not actually worms. Nematodes are multicellular insects that have smooth, non-segmented bodies. Beneficial nematodes are of the Steinernema and Heterorhabditis families and are the types generally available at garden supply stores. These little fellows attack soil-inhabiting insects such as white grubs by attaching themselves to the grubs and feeding off them parasitically until the grub dies, usually within 48 hours. Bad news for the grubs, but good news for the lawn.
As a bonus, nematodes are very versatile as a natural insecticide. Because they do not rely on specific host nutrients, they can feed off of numerous types of lawn and garden damaging insect larvae such as strawberry root weevil, peach tree borer, dogwood borer and others as well as grubs.
The nematodes come in a powder. Because the nematodes are so tiny, a package can contain millions of them. Read the package to determine the density of the nematode population in the package and the recommended application rate per square foot. To apply, simply mix the powder in water and apply to the lawn with a hose end sprayer. Sunlight can kill nematodes, so try to apply them in the evening. That way, they have a chance to work their way into the soil before sunup.
One of the most critical parts of lawn care is proper irrigation. Too little or too much water, or watering at the wrong time can create a welcoming environment for weeds and pestilent insects. Keep your lawn healthy and flourishing with a correctly maintained irrigation system. Call South Austin Irrigation today at (512) 534-7449 for service, repair and annual checks of your irrigation system.