IF YOU HAVE ST. AUGUSTINE OR ZOYSIA GRASS, RIGHT NOW IS AN OPPORTUNE TIME TO CUT BACK ON YOUR WATERING.
The Fall Equinox is fast approaching on September 23, 2018. On this date the physiological characteristics of grass changes and it stops actively growing. When the turf is not actively growing, it needs much less water than it did in the summer. This is where some homeowners create self inflicted wounds to their grass due to overwatering, especially those with St. Augustine or Zoysia grass.
Right now is a great time to cut back on your watering not only because we’ve gotten so much rain lately but also because St. Augustine and Zoysia are susceptible to the dreaded Rhizoctonia Solani, AKA Brown Patch.
Brown Patch pictured above.
Brown Patch is a fungal disease that thrives in moist cool environments. Once infected, excess water exasperates the issue and it continues to spread. While Brown Patch is not something that will kill the turf, it does set the grass back in the spring when it is trying to come out of dormancy. Lawns that were affected by Brown Patch in the fall will be at least 2 weeks slower to green up in the spring than non affected turf.
Lets get ahead of the curve this fall and try and outsmart this pesky disease!
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING?
1. Cut back watering to once a week per the watering guide. If there has been significant rainfall, turn the system off until 1 week passes with no significant moisture.
2. If you start to notice signs of brown patch in your yard, first call us and next turn your system off for 2 weeks or until further notice.
It’s no surprise that it’s hot.. in Texas.. in July. With all of this heat comes stress on your turf and landscape so some of you may be noticing some browning in the grass and plants. Is it lack of water or could it be something else? Let’s dig in and see!
Am I Watering Enough?
As a homeowner, watering adequately while being on our program is single handedly your most important role in our business partnership. If the plants or grass is not getting enough water, this not only compromises the uptake of our application but can put the turf in a weakened state, which can make it more vulnerable to diseases and pathogens. If you’re noticing some stress on your turf at this time of the year it is a good idea to take a look at the amount of time you’re watering and at what rate. A good rule of thumb is to physically check the soil to see if it’s wet or not. Cracks in the soil are also an indication of dehydration.
Our watering guide is a great resource for lawn novices. With the temps this summer it is best to increase your watering amount by 30%-50% at each watering interval.
Be aware of local watering restrictions. Most DFW cities have designated days to water so be sure that you’re in line with city code. If you’re curious about DFW watering restrictions, go here to see if your area is operating under any restrictions.
Even Sprinkler Coverage
While you may have ruled out the amount of water as an issue, there still could be the even water coverage factor. Sometimes when you turn your sprinklers on it appears that water is getting everywhere but, there could be a tiny particle of sand or dirt restricting adequate water flow to a specific area. This 1/16 of an inch could make or break the turf in these scorching weather conditions. Irrigation audits from a licensed irrigator are highly recommended if you have an inkling that even coverage is not being distributed.
Common Summertime Pathogens
Chinch bugs and grubs are the most common pathogens at this time of the year. While Chinch bugs like mostly St. Augustine, grubs don’t discriminate.
Chinch bugs are classified as piercing sucking insects and they LOVE the heat. Most common places to see chinch bug damage is near concreted areas. The way that they cause damage is by injecting a toxin into the plant to remove the nutrients. This fluid is toxic to the grass which in turn causes the grass to yellow, turn reddish brown, and eventually die. This damage can occur extremely rapidly if left untreated. Consulting a plant health professional is highly recommended if there is speculation of chinch bugs.
Chinch bugs can be seen by pulling the turf back to expose the soil. They usually scurry quickly once they are exposed so check in several different places on the outer edges of the damaged area.
Grubs have a very particular time of the year that they cause damage that is based on their life cycle. In North Texas it is Late July- August. Our culture has been trained to think that all grubs are bad but in truth, they aren’t. Grubs are very common to see when you’re digging around in the flower beds or in the yard because they play an important role in the soil food web. There are 12 species of grubs in North Texas and only 2 of those are root feeders. So, there are 2 species that could potentially cause damage to your turf and only do so in very large infestations.
This year, their life cycle has been delayed and we have just now seen the June Bugs emerge. Some of you may have thought the June Bugs had already come up but there happen to be other beetles that impersonate the common June Bug.
Once they emerge, they have a mating period of about two weeks and then the females descend back to the soil to deposit the eggs. After about 3 weeks the grub larvae hatch and begin to feed. So, grub damage should not be occurring until mid-late August this year.
A tell-tale sign of grub damage is the lack of effort it takes to pull up the dead turf. If it pulls up easily or rolls up like carpet, grubs could be the culprit. Also, seeing at least 6-10 grubs per sq ft of area is also a good indication they are causing the damage.
Whether it’s a lack of water coverage or a possible disease, seeking help by a professional is going to be your best option. While turf can come back from moderate dehydration, chinch bug or grub damage is classified as “what’s done is done.” The turf that has been damaged will not come back and depending on how large the area is that was infected, it may need resodding.
For years St. Augustine has been a highly suggested turf variety by professionals in our industry. It is known for its shade tolerance and if healthy, its ability to choke out invasive weeds. When St. Augustine is planted via plugs and in the right growing conditions, it can fill in to near completion in just one growing season. Its leaf blades range from deep to lighter green and its appearance is thick and lush. It seems like there is a lot to love about this turf variety so, is it really all it’s cracked up to be or are we living in the past?
The evolution of St. Augustine in Texas
While St. Augustine is not native to Texas, we have been propagating and planting it here since the 1920’s starting with the Texas Common variety. In the early 1970’s, Florida Texas A&M designed a St. Augustine variety called Floratam that was supposedly SAD (St. Augustine Decline) and chinch bug resistant. This was very appealing because SAD and chinch bugs can cause rapid devastation in lawns and as you may know, replacing your lawn is not cheap and is quite troublesome. In the 1980’s, Floratam was brought to Texas and was planted in mass amounts in the up and coming North Dallas area.
Landscapers and turf businesses soon realized that planting Floratam here was disastrous.This variety was somewhat suitable for the coastal parts of Texas due to its milder climate but was not well suited for North Texas because of it’s lack of cold tolerance. Also considering that Floratam required 2 + more hours of sunlight than the Texas Common variety, it soon became apparent that it was not working as well in shaded areas.
Fast forward 30 years. Since Floratam has been out of the picture, Raleigh and Palmetto St. Augustine grass are on the main stage in North Texas. Raleigh is not known to be chinch bug resistant nor is it as cold tolerant as Palmetto. Therefore, Palmetto is the most recommended here in North Texas. Another attribute of Palmetto is its deep setting root system. Once established, this is beneficial in times of drought and water restrictions.
So what is really SO bad about St. Augustine?
Since the mid 2000’s we have been seeing a steady decline in St. Augustine's performance. We believe that the adaption of insects and diseases to pesticides has played a key role in the decline in St. Augustine along with the 2nd worse fungal issue in our industry- Take All Root Rot (TARR).
TARR before and after Soils Alive treatments
TARR is absolutely devastating to St. Augustine lawns. While it can affect other turfgrasses, St. Augustine is hit the hardest, by and large. Since TARR cannot be eradicated from the soil, it has to be controlled. Industry wide it is recommended to apply pete moss in conjunction with a fungicide to combat this disease. We have found that approach to be ineffective and over the years we have perfected a completely organic “kitchen sink” protocol to control TARR.
While TARR is the most prevalent disease affecting St. Augustine now, there are many others: Chinch bugs, Rhizoctonia aka Brown Patch, SAD, and Grey Leaf spot to name a few.
Damaged turf caused by Chinch Bugs
What turf variety do we recommend?
Zoysia! Zoysia! Zoysia!
Zoysia has many great qualities. One being its unlikeliness to be affected by most pest and diseases. Please know that it can contract diseases although it is not nearly as susceptible as St. Augustine. There are quite a few different varieties of Zoysia and on average it requires about 5 hours of direct sunlight. If looking to plant Zoysia in shade, we recommend one of the thicker bladed varieties like Palisade.
While Zoysia is pretty slow growing, it has a vigorous root system that comes in handy in times of drought. A plus to it being slow growing is that you don’t have to mow as often. All my guys out there say “HEY!”
Lush Zoysia Turf!
Your opinion matters!
As a friendly reminder, this is just our opinion. Some of you may think that St. Augustine is the 8th wonder of the world and if so, stick with it! Everyone has an opinion and preference when it comes to their landscape. Do what makes you happy! And don’t forget … there is no turf that will thrive in dense shade. If you are looking to grow turf in an area that gets little to no sunlight, it is recommended to modify your landscape to accommodate that environment. Otherwise you are fighting a very expensive losing battle.