April 2, 2013

April Landscaping and Lawn Tips, plus controlling bermuda weeds

Finally . . . spring is here! But the weather is still fickle.

TURF: Cool-season grasses such as tall fescue may still look a bit weak, but please refrain from fertilizing—unless you totally missed the three fall applications. The forsythia is already blooming, so it might be a tad late for pre-emergent for crabgrass. But get it down soon and you might be OK. But do not put it down where you need to re-seed any bare spots in your turf.

Warm-season grasses (Bermuda and zoysia) should get a dose of fertilizer now, with another application in May and June.

Then get busy controlling those weeds:
Bermuda weeds remain viable in the soil for 2 years, so you might have a two year fight on your hands. Bermuda can invade our fescue lawns and even our shrub beds during the spring through fall growing season. I am not a fan of lawn chemicals, so my best advice to choke it out Bermuda is to mow higher, allowing your fescue to grow taller—3 1/2 to 4 inches tall is great.

The key is to take action every few weeks throughout the Bermuda grass growing season (that begins NOW) so that you don’t have to do a major “kill and replant” of your tall fescue turf in the fall. The "scorched earth" post-Roundup look in the fall is less than attractive.Roundup is a suspected chemical in the increase of autism and other health challenges.

I really hate to recommend chemicals, but  . . . Early spring is the best time to apply a grass-selective herbicide if you have a lot of bermuda.  Look for herbicides with the active ingredients sethoxydim (Grass Getter) or fluazifop (Ornamec, and Grass-B-Gon). One approach that seems promising is a solution of 50% Ornamec & 50% Turflon Ester (usually at Ace Hardware) mixed according to the label. Some local homeowners have also reported success using Bayer Advanced Bermudagrass Control for Lawns. This attaches to your garden hose. As with all herbicides please read and follow the label directions 

Make the first application in spring when new bermuda growth is less than 6 inches in length, then re-apply the herbicide before the regrowth reaches 6 inches again. Sometimes that is two weeks later. You will get the best results when the bermuda grass has lots of leaf surface and is not drought stressed, dusty, or damaged by insects.

Many folks complain about golf course Bermuda invading their lawns. That's an "urban legend" UNLESS your lawn is adjacent to a golf course and the grass rhizomes spread directly into your yard. Golf course Bermuda is a hybrid sports grass that does not generate seeds. The Bermuda in most of our yards comes from weed seeds.

Landscaping:  It is usually safe to plant shrubs and perennials now, but frost can still occur. Hold off on those annuals for a few more weeks.

Do not cut the foliage off  faded daffodils until they turn brown because the bulbs need that food for next year. Put a marker near any crowded clumps of daffodils now. Then you can divide them and replant in July.

Some herbicides can be used safely around most, but not all, ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers. The product labels include lists of ornamental plants that can be injured by these herbicides. Do not use these herbicides near ornamental grasses and be especially wary around junipers.

As always, read and follow all directions for chemical applications.

For more info, click here for more April tips from 
Newport News Master Gardeners.