As the weather gets hotter, homeowners want to maintain their yard without spending hours roasting in the sun. Focusing in on the most likely problems can save some sweat. It is too hot for most herbicides so let the weeds slide and deal with: 1. Summer bugs, 2. Drought and 3. Fungus.
When summer comes to Northwest Florida, so do the bugs. The Sod Webworm and Armyworm moths have made it into the area and the Chinch bugs are at peak reproductions. If your St. Augustinegrass has brown patches with missing blades or looks like someone took a flamethrower to areas, it’s time to look closer. The “worms” (actually caterpillars) can be found curled up on the soil surface. To check for chinch bugs, a battery-operated hand vacuum will enable you to pull them out from the base of the blades. Lacking ownership of such a tool, the best option is submerging a shovelful of declining turf in a five gallon bucket half full of water and gathering the floaters for identification. Weekly inspections will enable you to stay on top of the potential problems.
With heat factors in the 100’s and rain in a feast or famine state, lots of turfgrass has folded up and wilted, especially St. Augustine and Zoysia. While both are labeled “drought tolerant,” what most people don’t’ understand is the way grasses “tolerate” the lack of water. These two grass species are biologically capable of shutting down to conserve water. They do this by turning brown. Sounds odd, but the grasses that recover the best from extended drought are the ones that look like they are dying as soon as they are dry. Expect it to happen and know they will green up again. However, there are cultural practices that can be used on any grass type that will improve their ability to resist experiencing this ugly stage. Increasing mowing height and decreasing irrigation frequency are just two of them.
Along with the heat comes the humidity, moisture in the air. Plant disease causing organisms, known as fungus, love moisture. The more of it and the longer it lasts on the leaves, the easier it is to spread its spores. That means grey leaf spot and summer brown patch diseases can reproduce rapidly. Over the summer, the lawn area frequently experiences spot on the grass blades and patches of “rotting” grass. Any efforts that can be utilized to reduce the length of time the yard stays wet can help reduce the occurrence. While we can’t stop the afternoon rain showers, you can avoid watering just before sundown. Early sunrise is a much more efficient watering time.
For more information on these and other tips to help you deal with your yard go to: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/materials/FYN_Handbook_2015_web.pdf