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The grass can be greener on your side of the fence

Many gardeners cut back on the amount of grass in their landscape because of the drought. But lawn is still a staple in most landscapes, and the rain has caused a tremendous growth spurt.

Mowing once a week isn't enough. Though the grass is growing faster than we can keep up with, it is not necessarily in good condition. Some of that green growth might be weeds.

If you find the rate of growth is quick enough but the grass isn't green enough, don't add more nitrogen (which is what people usually do), add iron. Iron is a micronutrient that is important in chlorophyll (which makes the green color) synthesis. An iron deficiency causes yellowing between the veins with eventual loss of most chlorophyll. It's easy to confuse with nitrogen deficiency but appears first on younger leaves.

The quickest and easiest way to apply iron is with a liquid formula. Mix according to package directions and spray on the lawn. A greener lawn will be apparent in just a few days, but without an unneeded and unwanted explosion of growth.

The lack of potassium, also known as potash because the traditional source was wood ashes, is obvious if the grass leaves have yellow streaks with the tips and the margins becoming brown.

Potassium plays a role in winter survival, drought tolerance and disease resistance. In other words, to have a hardy grass, you need potassium. You can buy bags of potash and spread this on your lawn, following required application rates. If you are adding a complete fertilizer with nitrogen and phosphorus, make sure the potassium number is higher than the nitrogen number. Most commercial fertilizer mixes give an approximate number of square feet that a bag will cover. This number tends to add a little more fertilizer than necessary, so it's okay to go a little light. Too much is a waste of fertilizer and can actually "burn" your lawn. Also, an application that's too heavy increases the amount of fertilizer runoff from your yard and can add to water pollution and a host of other concerns.

Look carefully at the type of nitrogen listed and make sure at least part of it is a slow release type. Slow-release nitrogen leads to a larger lasting greening of your turf.

Other problems you may have noticed in your yard are brown, dead spots. Your first impulse may be to blame it on the drought. But we have had enough rain lately that brown spots from drought damage should have filled in by now. There may be another cause: insects. The drought stressed grass and made it more susceptible to insect damage.

A time-honored method of checking for insects in turf is to take both ends out of a metal two-pound coffee can and insert one end of this into the soil and fill with water. Insects such as chinch bugs that are otherwise hidden will float to the surface in a few minutes. Place the can along the edge of the damaged lawn area because most insects tend to do their damage from a center point and extend outward.

Mole crickets are another lawn pest. The best way to find them is to wander around your lawn at night, walking close to driveways and sidewalks. You will usually see mole crickets on the move. The above can method will also detect mole crickets.

Carefully apply insecticides following label directions. Using more than recommended can cause turf damage and have a negative impact on the environment. It may not be necessary to treat your entire yard. Treat those areas damaged and about one foot out from the damaged area. This limits the amount of chemicals used, saving both money and the impact on the environment.

Understanding fertilizers, and identifying and limiting damage- causing insects in your lawn will help you grow a green, lush grass that will set your house and the rest of the landscape apart from your neighbor's.

The grass can be greener on your side of the fence 07/31/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 2, 2008 7:32am]

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