Tis the season for questions…and answers

Published 10:55 am Monday, March 25, 2024

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When the weather is good, there are usually lots of questions that come in because folks have been itching to get outside. We want to get out there to get things cleaned up and looking good. Several folks were out mowing the grass this week.

The first question I want to touch on is about turf. Common practice on Bermudagrass is to clean it up mid-winter using glyphosate (active in gradient in Round-up and other products). Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that is used to kill multiple weeds (and those flowers your wife doesn’t want you to kill) from broad leaves to grasses. It is cheap, effective, and fairly easy to use. Most stores even carry REU (ready-to-use) packaging that is already mixed at the correct rate. A word of caution here, don’t spray what you don’t want to kill. That being said glyphosate will not kill Bermudagrass when it is in dormancy. However, Bermudagrass in our area was not dormant for very long this year. If you sprayed after mid-January, there is most likely going to be some damage that could delay green-up in your lawn. If you apply now, there could be some extensive damage and your grass may not be green until well into June.

The next question was regarding what to grow in your lawn. One of the most recent trends is to add micro-clover to your cool season lawn. This is a great practice and can help save money in the long run. Clover is a type of legume. Legumes pull nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil. The nitrogen can later be taken up by other plants. This is why we use legumes for our cover crops in the garden. However, in our area, we can’t grow cool-season grasses on a perennial basis. Cool season grasses are not recommended for use east of I-95. This being said, the all-clover or micro-clover/fescue lawns won’t work here. This leads to the next question, “How can I get the grass that is green all year long?”

The short answer is, these are cool-season grasses like fescue and Kentucky 31. They can grow here on a short-term basis but not as a perennial lawn. The reason is that they die during our hot, humid summer days. To maintain a cool season lawn in our area you would need a cooler microclimate such as would be found on a north-facing slope near the water. In this scenario, it is possible, but it would still require annual overseeding and other cultural practices. My go-to slogan is “Right Plant, Right Place,” cool season grasses are not the right plant for our area. To save time and money, my advice is to not try to take on Mother Nature.

There have been lots of weed management questions too from turf to ornamentals. I went on a reconnaissance mission the other day to a few local stores to see what was on the shelves. One of our most recommended products finally is in short supply. The EPA changed the label of products containing the active ingredient atrazine a few years ago. When this happens, we are usually still able to use that product until the label actually changes and inventories are exhausted.

This was our go-to product for centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. The alternative products are those containing the active ingredients simazine or mesotrione. Guess what, they were not on the shelves either! So now what do we do as homeowners? Look for products that are easy on centipedegrass and St. Augunstinegrass. Most notably, these are going to be 3 or 4-way products meaning they have several active ingredients. Try to stay away from those having quinclorac and/or 2, 4-D.

While these are great chemicals and work really well on other grasses, centipede and St. Aug. are sensitive to them at best. The active ingredient 2,4-D can be very detrimental to St. Augustinegrass. Make certain to do your homework and read all of the label before you spray anything. Above all, do not use weed and feed products on your warm-season grasses. While pre-emergent herbicides can and should be used in some cases, they are not good on every turf type. This is also the absolute wrong time of year to fertilize warm-season grass. Wait until we are through with green-up, sometime in early to mid-May.

If you are having trouble with growing in your home landscape, call the Extension office at (252)946-0111 or email me at gene_fox@ncsu.edu. Keep an eye on our website or the Beaufort County Master Gardener Facebook page for upcoming classes and events. I am having a Beginning Vegetable Class in Martin County Monday 3/25 from 9:00-11:00. I believe there is still space in that class. You can still register at https://go.ncsu.edu/lenmg7i. Mark your calendars for our Totally Tomatoes class coming up at the Beaufort County Center on April 13 (register – https://go.ncsu.edu/totallytomato – only 12 tickets left) and our Extension Master Gardener Plant Sale on April 20th. We will have over 1,000 vegetable seedlings for sale from 9:00-11:00 or until supplies last! Until then, Happy Gardening!