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We are winding down our fall turf fertilization for our LawnAmerica customers, and transitioning into our fall weed-control. Warm-season turf such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass are slowing down their growth with the cooler fall temperatures. They actually begin to prepare for winter dormancy at this time of year, slowing down their topgrowth and sending food down into the root system for storage over the winter. So we intentionally back down on nitrogen fertilization in fall, so that we are not pushing the turf to be super green and grow too much. Applying too much nitrogen and applying it late in the season is detrimental to the turf for many reasons.

  1. Excessive nitrogen fertilization in mid to late fall will weaken the root system, which is bad for turf preparing to over-winter.
  2. Winterkill of bermudagrass is more likely to occur on turf that has had excessive nitrogen applied in the fall.
  3. Excessive nitrogen at this time of year can lead to higher rates of Spring Dead Spot Disease next spring.
  4. Excessive nitrogen at this time of year is just wasteful and not good for the environment, as warm-season turf does not need it or utilize it fully.

So we don’t want a super green bermudagrass or zoysiagrass as we head into late September and October. Don’t judge a lawn service at this time of the year as to how green they can make a lawn. If I wanted to make a lawn green, I could do it, by applying a lot of nitrogen and having you water like crazy. But this is NOT the right thing to do. What we want is a moderate green color, and to go a little lean on the nitrogen into the late fall. And I’m sure you are tired of watering and mowing your lawn by now also!

Now Fescue is totally different, being a cool-season grass. The most important fertilization of the season for fescue is in mid to late fall. So instead of applying fall pre-emergent, we apply a heavy dose of granular fertilizer to our fescue lawns in fall. We don’t apply a pre-emergent to fescue in fall either, as this will negate any fescue seeding that needs to be done in the fall.

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It’s been a mild summer with some good rains, for which the lawns in Tulsa and we are all thankful for. However, we knew it would not last forever, as it’s turned hot now with little rain in the forecast. So I know we said you could turn your sprinklers off, but times have changed.

Go ahead and irrigate 2-3 times per week now, which is normal for summer in Tulsa. The good news is that with the deep soaking rains in summer, most turfgrass has a deep root system now, picking up that deep soil moisture. So I suspect that it will need to get very hot and dry before we see brown areas from moisture stress in the turf. Much of that depends upon your soil type.

Sandy soils will dry out quicker, so you’ll need to water more frequently. And as always, water in the early morning if at all possible.

Do continue to keep an eye out for Armyworms in Tulsa. If you see just a few, that’s no big deal. But if you see more than say 4 per square foot, and you can see your lawn literally moving as they march across the turf, then it’s time to apply insecticide or call LawnAmerica ASAP.

And if you’ve not done so yet, raise your mowing height on notch on your bermudagrass or zoysiagrass, as we like to see it a little higher in the fall. This helps to stimulate your root system to grow deeper, which is a great thing for turf.

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Just four weeks ago on August 1st, lawns in Tulsa were green and lush. What a difference in just four week with no rainfall and sudden hot temperatures. ithout irrigation, many lawns in Tulsa and NE Oklahoma are turning brown. Earlier this week I diagnosed Grubworm damage in what was a nice Zoysiagrass lawn in south Tulsa. After digging down a little into the soil, I found about 8 fairly large Grubworms in a small area, with the turf turning brown due to the worms eating the turf roots. But the really big problem now is a possible major outbreak of Armyworms in Tulsa.

The last major outbreak of Fall Armyworms was 14 years ago, and I remember it well. Most of Tulsa was covered with Armyworms, which quickly devoured many lawns in Tulsa almost overnight. Whether we are in for another major outbreak now, or just in certain lawns, we really don't know yet. We are seeing more and more Armyworms in most areas of Tulsa, and are recieving many calls. I suspect that with some rain in the forecast, we could see an explosion of worms in lawns after that. But then again, we may not. We just don't know when dealing with Mother Nature.

Armyworms are easy to kill with many common insecticides. Just read the label, and apply with a hose end sprayer. Granular insecticides are easier to apply, but may not be as effective as sprays. If I had a Fescue lawn, I would be most concerned, as Armyworms can chew it down to the ground and it probably will not recover. So, you'll need to reseed your Fescue lawn this fall. Bermudagrass is tough, so even if Armyworms chew the turf down to the ground, it will recover. However, it will look very bad for several weeks. From my experience, they don't like Zoysiagrass, but you never know. We are encouraging customers to really look at their lawn and scout it daily for Armyworms. Don't spray or have us spray just because you have a brown lawn, as it could be drought also, or even Grubworms (unlikely though). If you see worms, and if you don't want any damage, then treat ASAP or contact LawnAmerica ASAP for an insecticide treatment.

We will know alot more within a few days as to the extint of the Armyworm problem. It may just be some lawns affected for whatever reason. Or……it could be lawn care Armageddon, with millions or Armyworms chewing down turf in a span of just a few days. We are ready, and will do the best we can with being responsive to the problem. If you want to make sure to control them quickly, and we are unable to get to your home quickly, try spraying yourself or just get a bag of granular insecticide, apply, and water it in.

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On August 1st of this year, I warned homeowners in the Tulsa area through a blog to be on the lookout for Armyworms in their lawn, as the conditions this year with all the rain and lush growth are very similar to the last big invasion about 14 years ago. It appears that we could be in for at least some damage in areas, if not all over Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma. Today (August 24th) I saw one lawn in south Tulsa devastated by Armyworms, and other lawns in the area had small worms down in the thatch. Then later in the day, as I was watering my blueberry patch out in the country, I looked down and saw Armyworms in my Bermudagrass. How dare they!

The Fall Armyworm is the larva stage of a small gray moth, which migrates up from Mexico and Texas during the summer. Remember learning about complete metamorphosis in Science class years ago? Well, it starts when the female moth flies in and lays up to 2000 eggs in grass, shrubs, fences, tree, etc. at night, with hatching occurring a few days later into tiny larvae. They are very small and hidden down in the thatch layers of the turf. You won’t see them unless you get down on your hands and knees and look carefully into the turf. They are pretty harmless at this point as they are so small. But over a week or so, as they eat more and more grass foliage, they become much larger, over an inch long; mainly green, with brown stripes down the side. About 80% of the damage caused by Armyworms occurs during the final two days of their feeding, before they burrow into the ground to change to the pupa stage. Then a weak or so later, the pupa hatches into, you guessed it, the adult moth, and the process starts all over again. Several generations occur from August up until frost in late October or November.

These devastating insect pests can destroy turf almost overnight, as they typically invade the lawns as an army marching over the turf. In 2000 with the last big invasion, I remember actually seeing the lawns move as thousands of caterpillars moved across the turf eating grass blades down to the dirt. You could actually hear the chomping of the insects eating the turf, at least I could back then when my hearing was better. So the key to controlling Armyworms is to treat them with an insecticide when they are smaller and before they do damage to the turf.

Fescue turf is the main concern, because if they eat Fescue down to the dirt, it will probably just die, especially when it is hot. We never recommend scalping Fescue, and an Armyworm invasion is like a super scalp job. If your Fescue dies, then you’ll be re-seeding your lawn this fall, which is much more expensive than an insecticide treatment (same cost as your regular lawn treatment). They also love to feed on Bermudagrass, and can take it down to the stems and dirt. However, Bermudagrass is pretty tough, and it will recover in most cases with good irrigation and fertilization. Your lawn will look awful though for several weeks before it recovers. If you have a Zoysiagrass lawn, you’re in luck, as typically they won’t touch it.

There are several common liquid insecticides that control Armyworm larvae, but that needs to happen soon before they get much larger. Scout your lawn, and if you see them, we recommend contacting LawnAmerica promptly, or just treat it yourself. It’s actually a fairly easy treatment for the homeowner if they can buy a hose end sprayer and drench the lawn with the insecticide. Sevin and Permethrin are two common products you’ll find, but just read the label to make sure Armyworms are on it. Granular insecticides are OK, but don’t work as well as a liquid drench for Armyworm control. If we experience a major invasion of Armyworms in Tulsa, we’ll be hard pressed to be able to treat everyone who calls that day. We’ll be ready and do the best we can. But they can explode almost overnight, so I would recommend scouting your lawn and treating when they are small. It will be first come—first served when people call or contact us on our website, so I’d get with us sooner than later.