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Now that we are out of the long-term drought in Oklahoma, some areas have been inundated with up to 11” of rain over the past 11 days. Most lawn treatments we provide at LawnAmerica consist of a pre-emergent herbicide and/or a fertilizer, usually granular. These need to be watered into the soil within a few days with about ½” of moisture in order to be effective, so rainfall after a treatment is usually a good thing. However, when it’s this much rainfall, with almost daily rain events, turf and the products applied can be affected. We are basically farmers, growing healthy turf as our crop, and we’re subject to the whims of Mother Nature just as farmers are. We can’t control the weather, but we do some things at LawnAmerica which help lessen the impact that things such as excessive rainfall can have on the turf.

We use Barricade pre-emergent in early spring, which has the lowest water solubility of any product on the market. This means that once it’s watered in, it binds to the soil particles, and really does not leach through the soil profile much at all. We apply it at the high end of the label rate with one solid application, unlike many competitors who break it up into two light treatments. For our full program 6 and 7-step customers, we then apply a booster half rate of Barricade, which is one of the herbicides in our Round 3 Echelon Treatment during May and early June. Barricade, like all pre-emergents, will break down in the soil with time, as they are not designed to last forever, which is great from an environmental standpoint. When the soil is constantly saturated due to constant rainfall or excessive irrigation, it will break down and degrade faster, leading to weed germination later in the summer. All we can do is have the highest possible rate of product in the soil, which we do, and if Mother Nature throws too much rainfall at us, we’ll just treat the crabgrass and other weeds with a post-emergent later in the season.

Fertilizers also need watering into the soil before the soil nutrients can be taken up by the turfgrass roots. Nitrogen, the main ingredient in lawn fertilizers, can be either water soluble (quick-release) or water insoluble (slow-release). At LawnAmerica, we apply a high quality 50%-70% slow-release Nitrogen (N) fertilizer with our Round 2 treatment. So while there is plenty of N to green-up the turf quickly, there is also plenty to stay in the soil, even under excessive rainfall, and provide N for continued release up to about 11 weeks. One reason we use this fertilizer with much more slow-release N than our competitors is we want it to stand up to spring rains, and not leach all out of the topsoil. Quick-release soluble N sources such as Urea are good, and will green-up the turf within a week of treatment. But the Urea is either utilized or dissipates after a few weeks, especially with excessive rainfall or irrigation. So think of the slow-release N component of our fertilizer as being “backup” for the quick-release N.

Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are other nutrients found in turf fertilizers. We use very little P, as it is usually abundant in soils, unless a soil test shows a deficiency. It is very insoluble in soil and tends to stay put. Potassium is important for the root system, with an average of about 22% of our fertilizer nutrients being K (most is N). Potassium is not as water soluble as N, so it does tend to stay in the soil longer. We also apply much of our K in early fall, when the chances for excessive rainfall are much less.

Organic Nitrogen sources are also water insoluble, and will hold up to excessive rainfall and don’t really leach through the soil. At LawnAmerica, most of our fertilizer blends also contain a small amount of organic content, especially when we treat fescue turf in the summer. And, we do have an all organic option for customers, if they prefer a fertilization program with all organic-based fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are much more expensive and are slower to work. Your lawn will not be as green, but organic nitrogen and soil amendments do help soil biology, and lead to a stronger root system and turf.

In summary, yes, weather events such as excessive rainfall can affect what we do and the performance of some of our products and the turf. All we can do is use the very best products, which we do, such as slow-release fertilizers and Barricade pre-emergent. We apply them properly at the proper times. Sometimes in spite of that, the control of weeds and performance of fertilizers will not be perfect. We always ask that if it does rain excessively or too soon after a lawn treatment, give it some time to see how the turf responds and if the existing weeds are controlled. It can take from 1 to 2 weeks generally to make that determination. We can’t just assume that rainfall “washed away” the treatment, because in reality it probably had minimal effect on it. And if we came out and just applied the same treatment again, it could do more harm than good.

Contact us then at that point if things just don’t look good, if too many weeds are present, if the turf does not green-up well, etc. and we’ll come out again promptly at that point for a free service call and do whatever needs to be done to make things right.

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With the rains and saturated soils, the weeds have come into lawns and landscapes in full force. Yes, the turf loves the rainfall, but so do many weeds, such as nutgrass and summer annual weeds. Generally, a thick and healthy turf will help prevent many weeds from germinating, but not all. Pre-emergent herbicides also help with crabgrass and grassy weeds, but are not as good with broadleaf weeds.

So expect to have more weeds than normal on into early summer. Our 6 and 7-step customers are currently receiving our Echelon weed treatment with their Round 3, which does a great job of knocking out nutgrass and other early summer weeds. It also provides a booster application of Barricade pre-emergent, which is important this season with all the rain. Pre-emergents do break down sooner when the soil is constantly saturated, so let’s hope it dries out soon. And, this booster treatment will help to replace any pre-emergent that has broken down, extending good control of weeds on into summer.

Service calls for weeds are free for full-program customers, as long as it’s been less than 30 days from a previous lawn treatment. So never hesitate to contact us by phone or on our website if you are in need of a free service call.

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After a week of what seems like constant rain, it’s so nice to see a clean radar in Oklahoma finally. I had over 8” of rain at our farm southeast of Tulsa this past week, so the lawn is soggy, the pond overflowing, yet things are so green and lush. I do believe we are officially out of the long-term drought we’ve experienced for the past many years, which is good news. But with excess rainfall comes other issues to deal with also.

So how do I mow the lawn with the grass being so high now? We always recommend to never cut off more than 1/3 rd of the leaf blade with each mowing. That’s tough when the grass may be 4-5” high by the time it’s dry enough to mow. So I’d recommend to raise your mowing height to about 4” or so, probably about the highest setting you have, and mow it once. Then the following day or so, take the height down to the normal setting, which may be 2.5” let’s say, and mow it again. I know it’s a lot of work, but by mowing high grass and taking off half or even more of the leaf blade, you’ll be dumping a lot of clippings on the turf at once, which is bad for the turf. And taking off that much at once is bad for the root system also.

Turf disease such as brown patch and large patch will be prevalent this May it looks like. Wet and humid conditions, along with mild to warm temperatures are perfect conditions for turf disease. Look for sudden brown or yellow patches, sometimes circular, appearing in fescue, zoysia, and even bermudagrass at times. Turn your irrigation system off and just let things dry out a lot before resuming watering your lawn. That may not be needed until June if we continue to get spring rains. A turf fungicide may need to be applied, so call us if you suspect turf disease. You see your lawn every day, while we only see it once every 5-7 weeks, so we need your help with letting us know when things don’t look right.

Weeds in the lawn will also be more of an issue later into summer. Even the best of pre-emergent herbicides will break down quicker in the soil when the soil conditions are constantly wet as they are now. We need things to dry out a little. And summer weeds, such as nutgrass, just love all this wet soil on the surface to germinate in and grow. Our 6 and 7-step customers do receive a booster application of Barricade pre-emergent and post-emergent weed-control with their Round 3 treatment, which we are applying now through May and into early June, so this will help.

So as the song says, rain is a good thang, unless it just keeps coming and coming as it has this past week. However we’ll dry out soon, and will probably be praying for rain again later this summer, so enjoy it while it is here.

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The rains are nice, but with the mild temperatures, conditions are very favorable or turf disease, such as Large Patch, or Zoysiapatch as it is sometimes called. This disease mainly occurs in zoysiagrass, but under certain conditions, some varieties of bermudagrass can also get this disease. Wet and rainy weather, with mild temperatures are prime conditions for this, and that’s what we’ve been experiencing. Symptoms appear as large yellow to brown areas, often circular shaped, which can be up to several feet in diameter. A light orange ring is often found around the very outer edge next to the healthy turf, where the spot is spreading out. Spring Dead Spot in bermudagrass is similar, but the spots are smaller.

Dr. Dennis Martin, head of the Oklahoma State University turfgrass department, was out with one of our managers yesterday, and told him that after more than 25 years at O.S.U., he’s never seen the turf disease problem this bad. Maybe it’s been so dry these past few years that fungus disease spores are just waiting for the conditions to wreck their havoc, who knows?

Large Patch typically can be a problem from about mid-April through early May, and again during mid-fall. Hot conditions as we have in summer will dry things out, and the disease goes away. But again in fall, with mild temperatures and high rainfall, it can come back again. Zoysiagrass is so slow to recover from damage that we recommend a spring and a fall fungicide treatment to turf to help prevent this from occurring. If it’s present now, we highly recommend treating turf, as it can quickly spread, damage, and even kill turf.

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Most homeowners in the Oklahoma area have bermudagrass lawns, which by now have come out of winter dormancy, greened-up, and are well on their way to growing so that mowing is necessary every week or so. You don’t need to “feed” your grass however to have it looking great, as most homeowners believe. Grass, like all green plants, are unique in that they can make their own “food” from the basic elements of soil minerals, sunliqht, water, and air. As long as these are present, and the environmental conditions are right, then beautiful, green and growing grass appears in your lawn.

If you do your own fertilizing, you may buy a bag of fertilizer that says “Turf Food” on it. It’s not food at all! It’s usually a combination of naturally occurring mineral elements, synthetic organic elements, and maybe even some natural organic elements. Most urban soils do not have all the necessary nutrients required for good plant growth. In an urban situation, that usually means having the greenest lawn on the block! Just keep in mind though two important points:

  • The greenest lawn, while it is beautiful, may not be the healthiest lawn.
  • There is much more than just fertilizer necessary for a green, healthy lawn.

Warm-season turf, such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, require fertilization from 2-5 times per growing season (April—September) to perform their best. How many times per season a homeowner should fertilize depends upon soil type, irrigation, grass type, fertilizer rates and types, and most of all—homeowner expectations. Bermudagrass especially loves nitrogen, the most important element in found in turf fertilizers. Nitrogen is the element mainly responsible for the nice green color of turf, and for the growth of turf. Nitrogen is constantly being used up, lost, and changed due to many complicated processes you only need to know if you are in college, or if you are in the lawncare business like me. (If your lawncare provider doesn’t know, maybe you should switch!) The bottom line is this: if you want a green lawn, you need to apply nitrogen fertilizer to your turf several times per season. If you don’t, it’s not that your grass will die, but it will be thin, weed-infested, and just will not look good, as your neighbors may have already informed you.

When you go to the local garden center, or the big box store, the choices, brands, and all those numbers on the bag may be confusing. There are three primary nutrients that most turfgrasses need and may be deficient in the soil—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen, the most important one, is the first number listed. Phosphorus and potassium are listed second and third. Therefore, when you buy a 50 pound bag of a fertilizer labeled 29-3-10 for example, you have 14.5 pounds of actual nitrogen, 1.5 pounds of phosphorus, and 5 pounds of potassium in that 50 pound bag. It’s good to have some slow-release nitrogen as part of the nitrogen source. This allows you to apply more fertilizer each time without burning the turf, and extends the nitrogen release so that your grass will stay green a little longer in between fertilizations. Slow-release nitrogen is more efficient, with more of the nitrogen being used by the turf and on a more consistent basis. Less is lost due to leaching or runoff. Using slow-release nitrogen will add to the cost of the fertilizer however, which is why most of our competitors don’t use it, or use very little of it. Our Round 2 blend is a 36-1-3, with from 50% to 70% slow-release nitrogen in several different forms. This unique blend applied at a heavy rate provides enough nitrogen to get the grass green and growing, while slowly releasing more nitrogen over about an 11 week period. With this product, it allows us to then apply Echelon in our Round 3 for weed-control, since there is still adequate nitrogen in the soil being utilized from the Round 2 treatment, before we again go back to granular fertilizer with Round 4.

Oklahoma State University (go Pokes!) recommends that 1 pound of actual nitrogen be applied per 1000 sq. ft of warm-season turf per growing month. In other words, about 5 to almost 6 pounds of actual nitrogen/1000’ per season should be applied from late spring to early fall, and our 7-step LawnAmerica Program does just that. The last fertilization of the season should be in August or September. With that final early fall fertilizer, it’s good to decrease the amount of nitrogen, and increase the potassium (the last number). It’s not healthy or wise to apply excess nitrogen in late summer and early fall, as the turf is preparing to go into winter dormancy. Potassium will help the turf develop a stronger root system and help with disease resistance.

Phosphorus, the middle number, is usually found in great abundance in Oklahoma soils. Therefore, we really don’t apply very much during the season. The only time a high-phosphorus fertilizer such as 10-20-10 should be applied is during the seeding process. New fescue seedlings for example will benefit phosphorus applied during the fall seeding process.

A common mistake for homeowners is to fertilize Cool-season turf such as fescue in the same manner as bermudagrass. Fescue does not need as much nitrogen as warm-season turf to perform well. In fact, if fescue is over-fertilized during summer, burning and/or turf disease can occur. Apply lighter rates of fertilizer to fescue. Fescue needs fertilizer earlier in the season, since it is a cool-season grass. Late fall is the most important time to fertilize fescue, since it will help the turf come out stronger and greener the following spring. At LawnAmerica, we use a custom blended organic soil amendment named Soil Builder with a very low amount of slow-release nitrogen on . fescue during summer, which totally eliminates the possibility of over-fertilizing with nitrogen.

All granular fertilizers need to be watered into the soil so that the nutrients can move down into the root zone to be absorbed by the plant. Turf fertilization, while very important for the color, density, and health of the lawn, is not the only ingredient for lawn success. If overdone, it can be just as detrimental as not enough. There are many other cultural practices, such as proper mowing, irrigation, and weed-control necessary for a healthy turf.