This Week at the Plant Clinic

October 26, 2015

The dominant component of most urban landscapes is a vast green lawn. At this point in the year we are becoming tired of the weekly mowing and glad to see some rain to decrease the need to irrigate. But, before you forget about the lawn until next spring there are a few things that can be done to ensure you have a beautiful lawn next year. These include fertilization, pest control, disease control and weed control.
The last fertilization of the year should occur now. Choose a slow-release formulation that is high in nitrogen and follow the application rate shown on the bag. These fall fertilizers may be labeled as “winterizer” formulations, but no need to go buy this specific formulation as long as the lawn fertilizer you have in the garage is slow-release. These added nutrients now will help your lawn go dormant in good condition and pop up lush and green in the spring.
The next thing you should consider is pest control. Due to our dry conditions this summer there seems to be a lot of damaged lawns. One gentleman brought in chinch bugs from his lawn and billbugs have also been found in the area. First, get an accurate identification of these bugs, before treating. We don’t want to apply expensive and unnecessary pesticides if they are not needed. Bring a fresh grass and root sample taken from an area that is half damaged and half green to the Extension office for identification.  We will be looking for a small bug the size of an ant (chinch bug) or a white grub (billbug) in the root portion of the grass.  Liquid and pellet treatments are available locally for these pests.
Lawn virus and disease is uncommon in our area, since most of these thrive in humid moist conditions. The only time diseases like blight, dollar spot and powdery mildew are an issue is in areas where the sprinkler system has overwatered.  When you have your sprinklers “blown-out” for the winter is a great time to have individual sprinklers, timers and zones adjusted to solve issues. 
Finally, last but not least, is perennial weed control. Fall applications of herbicides can actually be the key to killing established lawn invaders such as dandelion, common mallow and thistle. You’ll want to do this before a hard frost, so time is of the essence. For broadleaf weeds in turf the general recommendation is to use 2, 4-D or dicamba. Always follow the label directions closely.
So, before you settle in for a long winters nap, do some lawn care tasks that will make you excited for spring. 

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