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You know it's finally turning springtime in Tulsa, as some lawns and turf areas are turning blue or light green. It's not because the bermudagrass is greening up or changing colors, but rather a dye or paint that some lawncare companies in Tulsa use as a marker. There is no agronomic benefit to the blue or green color, it just shows the applicator where they have been, so as not to over or under-apply weed-control products. That's fine for someone who may be inexperienced, or not trained very well, since they can just be told to go out and paint the lawn blue. But in this particular case, as you can see, the appicator missed areas, and overapplied other areas, leading to inconsistent pre-emergent weed-control.

At LawnAmerica, we don't use the blue dye, as our Technicians are well-trained, experienced, and know what they are doing. As long as the proper techniques are used in spraying, there is no need for the dye. We'd rather invest our money into products that actually help control weeds, with quality pre-emergent herbicides and post-emergent weed-controls. Plus, the dyes are messy, with homeowners tracking the dye into the home, blue dogs, blue fences and buildings, etc.

The blue dyes will eventually fade out with time. The important part of the mix are the products in it to help control weeds. We use Barricade pre-emergent, the best on the market, applied at a strong rate. It does need to be watered into the soil within a few days in order to activate the product. It's very dry in Tulsa, so your lawn will benefit from irriation also. Once in the soil, it stays there for up to 7-8 months, before degridation by soil microbes. For our 6 and 7-step customers, we apply another booster application of Barricade in about 3 months, along with nutgrass and broadleaf weed-control.

Even the best pre-emergent products, if not applied correctly and at the proper time, will not be effective in providing great weed-control. But you don't have to have a blue lawn to get there….you just need the right company and the best technicians applying the products.

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The 2014 Tulsa HBA Home & Garden Show starts next Thursday at the fairgrounds. This will be my 25th Tulsa homeshow to work at, along with many other smaller ones. This one is a great show, with most of the professionals dealing with just about anything relating to caring for your home on display. We'll be there with Big Jake, our 9' LawnAmerica guy, and our new puppet show, featuring Robbie as he does battle with weeds in the lawn. Stop by and say Hi this next weekend and we'll give you a gift if you are a current customer. If not, you can sign up for a free estimate, and have a chance to win one of 5 family vactions valued at $2,000 in our Spring Vacation Giveaway.

Today is the last day of February, and while we are recieving a light rain now, it's been the driest first two months of the year ever in Tulsa. We've been encouraging our customers to water their lawns and landscapes, as even during the winter months soil moisture is important for the health of turf, trees, and shrubs. Young and newly planted shrubs and trees especially since their root systems are not developed, need good irrigation.

Winterkill of bermudagrass will probably be an issue, if not a big problem this spring. Keeping your soil moist so that the crown and root system of your turf is not surrounded by dry soil will help prevent winterkill. A dry soil becomes much colder than one which is moist, as water is a heat moderator. Dry land heats up, and cools down, faster than water. Rembember learning that in your old science class? At least I taught it back in the day I was a science teacher. If there is any good news with the cold start to early spring, it's that there is still plenty of time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide in order to stop crabgrass from germinating. With the cold soil temperatures, it will likely be early to mid-April before we see the first flush of germination.

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The winter of 2013/2014 in Oklahoma is turning out to be one of the coldest in recent memory. And now comes the snow, which makes our job in applying early spring pre-emergent a lot tougher. At least crabgrass will not be germinating anytime soon in Tulsa, as the soil temperatures are way down there.

winter home

But that is also becoming a concern. Winterkill of bermudagrass is also something we’ve not seen a lot of in ulsa over the past 20 years or so. Sure, we’ve had some minor and spotty winterkill during a few winters, but nothing major like the winter and spring of 1991. About 50% of the bermudagrass in Tulsa actually died that winter, leaving homeowners and turfgrass managers to patiently wait for the turf to recover and re-sod in many cases. Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass, and we are in the transition zone here in Tulsa, on the northern edge of where bermudagrass can grow. So when extreme winter weather happens, turf will be affected.

While we’ve not experienced extreme sub-zero cold, which will damage bermudagrass, the longevity of these cold temperatures is what concerns me. This week looks to be below freezing all week. We’ve had very few of those nice, warm January days which heat up the soil. So unless we have a shift in our weather patterns, I’m betting on at least some damage to turf in Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma.

The snow cover we have now will help some, as that insulates the crown and root system of the turf somewhat. The snow will also help provide some much needed soil moisture, if it ever melts that is! It is very dry, so later in February, I recommend watering your lawn and landscape. I know I have kicked on my irrigation system manually this winter about four times now. This will help prevent possible damage to turf and landscape plants.

Crape Myrtles are one plant susceptible to cold winter temperatures. They also can be pruned in the late winter, as they are dormant. I would caution that however, as many of these plants are over-pruned in Tulsa. They can be leaf un-pruned, and allowed to grow 20’ high if you like. If the area they are growing in allows that, this would be my recommendation. Other trees and dormant shrubs can be pruned now in winter, by taking out dead limbs and shaping the tree to allow for future growth this spring and summer.

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Many homeowners do not realize that even during the winter, a lawn and landscape stills needs good soil moisture. So far in 2014, we've not had much rain or snow at all, with nothing but dry, cold weather in the forecast. It's causing wildfires to pop up in Oklahoma. And the dry weather could pose a problem for trees and shrubs unless they are irrigated some soon.

While turfgrass is not experiencing much topgrowth during winter, and bermudagass is brown and dormant, the root system of the plant is still alive and growing somewhat. Fescue is green, but when it is cold and dry, turns off color somewhat to a brownish green. One big concern is that winterkill of bermudagrass can be much more severe when turf is grown under dry soil conditions. Some soil moisture will moderate the cold soil temperatures, and prevent winter damage in many situations, compared to turf grown in dry soils. It's been a very cold winter, especially compared to previous winters in Tulsa. And it's not over yet, so we could still experience some severe arctic blasts before springtime.

Frozen Bush

Wait for a warm day to irrigate!Just kick you irrigation system on manually and let it run for 20 minutes or so per cycle. It won't take much to get some moisture into the soil. If you don't have an automatic system, pick one of those nice days in between the cold ones, and set your hose and sprinkler out to deliver about 1/4" of moisture at least, which is not much really. Trees and shrubs, especially ones planted last year, will need some soil moisture in and around the root system.

We have started our R1 Weed-Control Treatment at LawnAmerica, so the pre-emergent herbicide needs to be watered into the soil within a few days also. So watering during the winter is sometimes needed in Oklahoma. I know it's a hassle, but if you've ever experinced winterkill of bermudagrass, it's not pretty. A little prevention now could prevent major problems on down the road this spring.

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That's a good question. It's been a very cold winter so far, and our heating bills are a reflection of that. In fact, 2013 was the 6th coldest year on record in Tulsa, after several of the hottest years on record. We experienced a very cool spring, mild summer, and a cool and even cold fall. When will we ever experience that "normal" year?

The last time we had significant winterkill of bermudagrass was 1990 I believe, and that was a bad one. Bermudagrass, since it is a warm-season turf, can sometimes be damaged by extreme cold temperatures, especially in the northern finge of it's habitat here in Tulsa. If you drive just 100 miles to the north, you won't see much bermudagrass, as it is too cold. We had some winterkill two years ago, but it was nothing like 1990. That year, we had a sudden drop in temperatues in early December, down to about -5, before the turf was really in full dormancy. That caused large areas of bermudagrass to die, with more brown grass than green in May as the turf should be greening up. That was the year that I lost alot of my remaining hair I believe. I was amazed, that so many customers thought we were to blame for their half dead lawn!

Mother Nature will do what she wants to do, and sometimes that will affect living things, such as turf. The good news is that with this early January deep-freeze, the bermudagrass was well into dormancy. We've also had some decent fall and winter moisture, so that helps. Dry soil is more prone to turf damage. The temperatures got really low up in Bartlesville, but with 5" of snow cover, that helps insulate and protect the turf roots. Another factor is the longevity of cold temperatures. If the temperature stays very cold for many days, the chances of winterkill will increase.

There are so many factors, such as turf variety, soil type, moisture, mowing height, and overall turf health. One's chances are better with properly fertilized turf, mowed high, with good soil moisture, and with good soil. We really won't know how our bermudagrass has fared until late April and early May, as it comes out of winter dormancy. And, we have alot of winter left also.

I received a good e-mail from the University of Arkansas Turf Dept. yesterday, which has good infomation on the possibility of winterkill. I've provided that with a link to more inforamtion here:

University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture

Turfgrass Science Program (

It’s cold folks. We haven’t had winter temperatures this low for a few years, and so it’s been a while since we’ve had to think much about winterkill on our warm-season grasses. Back in 2010, Drs. Richardson and Patton put together a very nice, comprehensive, four-part Turf Tip on winterkill:

Part I: Predicting the damage: What causes winterkill and how can we estimate our losses?

Part II: Preparation and recovery: What should you do or not do this spring to help your turf?

Part III: Planning and planting improved cultivars for a better future.

Part IV: Practices to enhance winter survival.

Those tips will are still relevant today and I encourage you to check them out at: Let’s hope things warm up soon and that our warm-season grasses come through okay. However if they don’t, these tips will help you deal with the consequences of this severe winter weather.

Here’s to warmer weather!

Doug Karcher