Warm weather is rapidly approaching, and with that comes a need for lawn care. As the snowfall of Winter transitions to rainfall of Spring, your lawn and turf will again, become a focal point for you and your family. There are a number of things to check off that Spring cleaning/maintenance list to make sure your lawn is ready to roll—in.
Keep Your Lawn Healthy this Spring
Soon, conditions will be right for the onset of Brown Patch disease (Rhizoctonia sp.), the most serious disease for Tall Fescue. Virginia Green monitors weather conditions and our technicians have a trained eye to spot the earliest signs of any fungal outbreak you might encounter. When evening temperatures exceed 60 degrees F and with humidity readings surpassing 75% during the day for extended periods of time Brown Patch can become prevalent.
For our customers on the Estate Lawn Care Program, we will soon begin the first of three fungicide applications designed to prevent disease damage to the lawn. Those customers on our Premium Lawn Care Program who wish to switch to the Estate Lawn Care Program for this protection should contact our office for more information and pricing.
About Brown Patch (Rhizoctonia sp.)
Virginia Summers are ripe for the development of the Brown Patch (BP) pathogen. The pathogen that triggers BP exists in the soil full time so all it needs is a host (good stand of turf) and the proper conditions (heat and humidity) for its development. Infections become easily identifiable as small, smoky rings that can range in size from three inches to as large as three feet. Many times, these rings will coalesce causing the lawn to take on its namesake—brown patches.
The fungus can infect grass either through wounds in the leaves, such as those that result from mowing or through its pores. Lawns in full sun with poor drainage, pH issues, and/or heavy clay soils that retain water are most susceptible since these conditions tend to stress the turf the most.
Cultural Practices to Help Prevent the Spread of Rhizoctonia
Much like a ourselves, the better we take care of ourselves the better our disease resistance. That doesn’t mean we won’t get something but certainly improves our chances. With that being said there are a number of cultural practices that can mitigate the risk of disease propagation.
The taller you can maintain your turf the healthier the root system, the sturdier the plant, and it becomes much more likely to withstand disease pressures.
Mow your lawn after the grass is dry and with good, sharp blades. This can help prevent the spread of the disease via mower. A sharp blade provides a nice, clean cut as opposed to a ragged, chewed up grass blades. A ragged cut increases the likelihood of infection significantly (think going to the doctors and having a surgical procedure done with a dull scalpel).
Water your lawn in the early morning and use deep, infrequent watering cycles. Watering too often and/or during overnight hours prevents the turf canopy from drying out which increases disease pressure (see watering section).
In our climate, even a lawn that is properly mowed and watered will likely experience some disease activity but again, it’s about reducing the risks where possible. If you have done all of the above and still notice spreading brown patches on your lawn, you will need to take additional measures. Fungicide treatments will be necessary to prevent the disease from spreading further.
Spring Lawn Maintenance Tips
Lawn care begins anew with the turning of the seasons, so here are some tips to make sure it’s beautiful and healthy throughout the spring months.
Soil Testing and PH Treatment
Virginia soils tend to be acidic so remediation may be necessary. Lime is intended to correct any pH imbalance in your lawn. Knowing how much you need is often a question answered by conducting a soil analysis which is something we can help with that. We can not only have your soil analyzed but we can also provide any supplemental lime needed to help bring your lawn within that range for optimum growth and color.
Don’t even think about it. Let us clean up your existing weed population with post-emergent weed control applications throughout the course of the growing season and then we will be working to prevent new ones. With some weeds being tougher than others, prevention may be the best solution. Our timely pre-emergent applications will target these summer annual weeds before they germinate.
Seeding is best done in the fall when you don’t have to contend with invasive weeds and possible soaring temperatures that make a Spring seeding a challenge.
If you do have areas in the lawn that require some attention, we recommend sodding. Sod consists of mature turf plants with a root system that, once tacked, can withstand the stressors that we encounter here in the Spring/Summer of Virginia.
Now is the time to begin watering if you are not already doing so. Our recommendations on watering are based upon the phrase ‘deep and infrequent’. Just like every living plant, turf grass requires a certain amount of water to thrive and achieve optimum growth and color. While we recognize every lawn is different, getting 1.5 inches of water to your lawn per week is the ideal target. Infrequently simply means watering 2-3 times per week to the tune of .75 inches per session and/or .5 inches per session to achieve that 1.5-inch grand total for the week. By watering infrequently, you force grass roots to run deep as they search for every drop of water within the soil. This becomes especially important when the heat turns on and Mother Nature decides to turn off the water. Remember…the deeper the root structure, the hardier the plant.
Watering between 4:00 and 7:00 am is ideal because you lose very little moisture to evaporation meaning the water you are putting down is making it to the root zone of your turf. Conversely, watering at night can be a recipe for disaster. If turf canopy (what you see) is allowed to stay damp during those overnight hours you are now opening yourself up to a bevy of fungal issues that can claim large sections of the lawn within a few days. Watering during the day can also be problematic due to the rate of evaporation. Watering during the day simply makes it difficult for all of the water to matriculate to the root zone.
Lawn Mower Maintenance/Mowing
Now is also a good time for a little mower maintenance. Make sure you have a good, sharp blade, balanced mowing decks, and be sure to raise the deck to the highest setting. The taller you can leave the turf following a mowing the more effective it is at shading and choking out competing weeds. Additionally, a tall stand of turf helps to shade that pre-emergent barrier we’ll be putting down thus increasing the longevity of that barrier. Lastly, “the taller the shoot, the deeper the root”. Leaving 3.5-4 inches of turf above the ground ensures that you have optimum root growth below ground to help it through periods of heat and drought stress.
Avoid mowing during periods of high heat/drought. This only increases the possibility of seeing stressed turf and increasing the risk of possible damage. Be careful!
When mowing, plan to cut off less than 1/3 of the plant at a time. This helps to insure you are not adding additional stress to the turf and prevents stunting of roots. Avoid bagging the clippings unless it is absolutely necessary. Allowing the clippings to remain on the lawn allows you to recycle the nutrients that are stored within those individual grass blades while adding minute amounts of organic material to your soil profile.
Just like your car, don’t forget to change the oil, lubricate the moving parts, and a thorough cleaning will help keep your mower at peak performance.
At this point we’d like to think leaves have stopped falling and they are no longer an issue on our lawns but occasionally those leaves like to hang on a little longer. If leaves remain an issue remove them asap. Anything that prevents sunlight from reaching your turf has the potential to cause damage. This is not limited to leaves. We love to see that your kids or four legged friends are playing on the lawn but keep in mind, if toys are left in one place for too long, damage can occur.
Additional Lawn Care Measures
In some cases, your lawn may need additional treatment. Virginia Green can assist you with these aspects of lawn care.
A great way to make sure your lawn is taken care of for the Spring is to join one of our lawn care programs. You can choose between the Premium or Estate Lawn Care Programs. Click below to compare the two programs to see which program fits your lawn care needs.
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