Ag News Column
By: Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Winterizing the Home Lawn
Many homeowners work hard to maintain and manage their lawns to add aesthetic value to their property. A well-kept lawn adds to the satisfaction of their property. Lawn maintenance, for some, can be a year round project. There are several things the home owner can do to prepare their lawns for winter.
First, raise your mower height to a higher level to reduce stress on grasses as they enter the dormant period. Mower heights vary among the various grass species. Common Bermuda grass should be left at 2 to 2.5 inches. Hybrid Bermuda grasses should be left at 1 to 1.5 inches. St. Augustine grass in the sun should be left at 3 to 3.5 inches. St. Augustine grass in the shade should be left at 3.5 to 4 inches. Centipede and Zoysia grasses should be left at 1.5 to 2 inches. Buffalo grass should be left at 2 to 3 inches.
Second, apply your last fertilizer applications for the year at least 30 days prior to the first frost date in your area. Fertilizer applications need only be applied to grasses that are actively growing. Homeowners should soil test and fertilize according to the soil test recommendations. A spring fertilizer application should also be made at least 30 days after the last frost date in your area to help these warm season grasses as well.
Some people over-seed each year with a cool season grass variety to keep a green, pretty lawn year round. If you over-seed with a cool season grass then you will need to fertilize this winter. A late fall and winter application will be required. During the fall and winter, an application of 75% of the total nitrogen requirements for the grass species should be sufficient.
Third, be sure to keep an eye out for diseases and other pest problems. Apply irrigation on an as needed basis. Even though many warm season grasses have gone dormant, these grasses are still alive and will require water to survive. Adequate amounts of rainfall should be sufficient. If we have a dry winter, irrigation even during winter months, can help keep lawns alive. Too much or too little water can cause problems such as turf grass diseases.
There are two main diseases that cause many problems for most home lawns. These diseases are Brown Patch and Take-All Root Rot. Brown patch is a fungus that attacks many lawns, especially St. Augustine, Centipede, and Zoysia grasses. This fungus is usually seen when night time temperatures fall below 70 degrees F and excess water or rainfall is prevalent.
Take-All Root Rot is a soil borne fungi that attacks the root system of the grass, especially when the temperatures are in the 60 to 65 degree F range. All grasses are capable of being attacked by take-all, but St. Augustine is the most effected grasses in home lawns. Symptoms of take-all include thin, yellow patches of St. Augustine or large patches of totally dead grass. White grub damage can also be diagnosed as take-all root rot, but with white grubs the roots will be completely eaten off. The fungus produces hyphopodia, small lobed structures that allow the fungus to penetrate the roots and stolons. Once inside the roots and stolons the fungus proceeds to grow into the vascular tissue causing plugging which reduces the ability of the roots and stolons to provide water to the leaves.
Winterizing the home lawn can help prepare the roots and grass species to over winter and to assist in transition come spring time. Follow the soil test recommendations when applying fertilizer to your soil.
On another note, for anyone needing a Private Applicator License to purchase and spray state-limited use or restricted-use products on their farm or ranch, a training and testing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 16. The course will take place at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service meeting room, 1517 West Front Street in the Cotton Belt Building, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Study materials are available for purchase in advance of the training for $40 which includes the two manuals plus a list of study questions. An additional $10 training fee will be charged the day of the training. The Texas Department of Agriculture inspector will be on hand at the conclusion of the training to administer the exam. You may use a calculator on the exam. Be sure to bring current color photo identification to the exam. Attendance at the training for Private Applicators is required in order to take the exam. For more details or to sign up for this course, call (903) 590-2980.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.