A good lawn maintenance program includes proper mowing, watering, and pest control. With our water restrictions, be sure that your sprinkling system is calibrated to deliver ¾ inch of water each time you water (How to Calibrate Your Sprinkler System: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH026 or call your UF/IFAS County Extension office). Your grass should be mowed at the proper height for the variety to encourage deep roots that increase drought tolerance. Mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the leaf surface is removed. A sharp-bladed mower is a necessity to insure a clean cut which avoids leaf blade damage by tearing the grass tips.
If you choose to fertilize your St. Augustine lawn this month, please note that University of Florida research shows that repeatedly using large amounts of water soluble nitrogen fertilizer can ignite a population explosion of Southern chinch bugs. Chinch bugs are the No. 1 insect pest of St. Augustine grass, the state's most popular lawn grass.
University of Florida turfgrass experts advise homeowners to use no more than 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
If large infestations of chinch bugs are found (20 to 25 chinch bugs per square foot), treat the infested area with an insecticide containing Bifenthrin, Cyfluthrin, Lambda-cyhalothrin, Permethrin or Neem oil. Neem oil is a biorational treatment that has been shown to be effective.
Rotate pesticide active ingredients at each treatment to reduce pesticide resistance. Always follow label directions carefully. Catching and treating an infestation early leads to greater success in controlling this pest. Remember to follow the label directions carefully. If the insecticide you use needs to be watered in, remember to apply it just prior to your scheduled watering day. And, it is best not to apply before rain is expected. Heavy rain could wash the product away and also add to the pollution in stormwater running off your property.
Source: Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. Learn more at askextension.org or pinellascountyextension.org.