Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gardening Thursday - Successful Lawn Maintenance 2

Last week, we discussed lawn activities for the very important fall season and this week we’ll discuss spring and summer for growing Fescue here in my area.  The following assumes we did the appropriate things in the fall such as fertilizing and planting new grass.

The first thing I do in the spring is apply a fertilizer containing a pre-emergent herbicide to stop germination of any cool weather weeds that may be seeding now and the crabgrass that will be along shortly.  If the proper fertilizer was applied in the fall, all that is required now is nitrogen although a nitrogen heavy blend is generally used.  This first application should be made around March 15 or just as the Forsythias are beginning to bloom.

While they are actively growing, I like to deal with any broadleaf weeds that managed to dodge the fall application of pre-emergent.  Ideally, using a product that contains fertilizer, pre-emergent for the weed seeds, and contact herbicide for the current weeds would be perfect and they may exist, but I’ve not seen one.  So you can generally find only one herbicide mixed with the fertilizer – either the pre-emergent or a weed killer, such as weed and feed, and have to decide which to apply separately.  After the fertilizer containing pre-emergent gets watered in, I deal with the existing weeds using a liquid application of 2-4-D either as a spot treatment or total yard spraying depending upon the amount of weeds.  2-4-D is the active ingredient in most contact weed killers.

Check back to last week for mowing and watering requirements.  Generally in the spring, I mow shorter (about 3 inches) and rarely have to provide supplemental water, but I have a good rain gauge to let me know when I do.

The UTExtension publication recommends a second fertilizer application in mid-April, but I usually wait until early May to carry me farther into the summer.

One of the major issues facing Fescue lawns in the warm months is a variety of fungi that love the warm moist conditions of the lawn.  They are first noticed when some of the leaves within a grass clump begin to brown and the normal reaction is to water the lawn, which is the worst thing that can be done.  When grass is suffering from drought stress, the entire plant will have the leaves develop a bluish hue and begin to curl some and it looks very different than an attack by fungus.

The fungi are more of an issue in lawns that get watered regularly and can be dealt with using regular applications of contact fungicides, similar to veggie plants, using chemicals recommended for turf grass, or by using systemic fungicides.  The systemic fungicides, such as Bayleton, are applied before the fungi appear, are taken up into the plant, and protect it from the inside for about 3 months – so two applications are generally required.  They are pricey but offer the best opportunity to have a fungus free lawn with the least work.

When we moved into our new home about 18 years ago, I wanted to have a lawn and landscaping worthy of the “Southern Living” cover and for a few years my lawn would have been close.  Since my lawn is surrounded by woods on two sides and a cow pasture on the other, both with an unbelievably large collection of weed bearing plants, I found it to be very expensive and time consuming to maintain, especially when coupled with the annual fungus attack.

One of the weeds is Bermuda grass, which I thought I had eliminated from my lawn, but it is incredibly tenacious and kept coming back.  I finally decided that rather than fight the one grass that wants to grow here, I’d just let it take over my lawn.  Here’s a shot of the progress so far and notice the non-existence of fungus or weeds in the Bermuda part  (back) verses the Fescue (front). 

I'm not proposing you switch to Bermuda as it is very invasive and requires regular edging with Round-up to keep it in check and I may regret it someday, but so far I like what it’s doing and I think tan is a nice color for winter – Bev strongly disagrees.

Here are the two UT Extension Publications dealing with turf grass diseases -

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.



  1. Larry, You sure do a great job on your yard, flowers, and garden!

  2. I have a friend in Maryville who told his wife that Bermuda Grass is the manly grass, and he's sticking with it. None of that sissy fescue for him. Then he laughs because he isn't spending vast amounts of time with the weed killers. I think we have to enjoy whatever nature lets grow well around us, especially when surrounded by weeds!

  3. Larry, Our lawn is just plain ugly this summer! Fungus patches are taking over...except for where the nut grass is growing faster than the little bit of 'real' lawn that we have left! Such is life... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  4. Hi There, Thanks for all of the great info... I appreciate it. Some people up here have some kind of grass which is pretty during the summer but then turns yellow the rest of the year. I wouldn't have that at all--even though I don't know what it is!!!

  5. Our neighbor has Dallas grass, like bermuda. Therefore, we are starting to get Dallas grass since we share a lawn crew.


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