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K-State turfgrass specialist urges mid-summer checkup on lawns

Many Kansas landscapes include warm-season grasses, which require a little care in order to stay healthy during the hot summer months.

Hoyle says warm-season grasses may need fertilizer to remain healthy

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State University Associate Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Dr. Jared Hoyle says homeowners ought to be thinking about a mid-summer checkup on their lawns, which likely includes applying fertilizer and weed killer.

Many Kansas summer landscapes include warm-season grasses, namely bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and buffalograss. Each of those requires a little care in order to stay healthy through the hot weeks ahead.

“Those three grasses are not all created equal and some grow faster than others, which means we need to feed them a little bit different,” said Hoyle, an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources.

For bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, Hoyle suggests applying a total of 1-3 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet during a typical growing season, which is the beginning of May through the middle of August.

“You can split that up into multiple applications of a quick release fertilizer, or you could do fewer applications of a slower release,” he said. “But the main goal is 1-3 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet regardless of what number or percentage product you’re using.”

Buffalograss does not require as much nitrogen. Studies at Kansas State University indicate that “about 1 pound of nitrogen per year for 1000 square feet is good,” according to Hoyle.

“It’s hard to split up a pound over multiple applications, so that’s one where you might want to look at a slow release to put that pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet throughout the year,” he said. “You can do that right now and that will get you through the rest of the year with a slow release fertilizer.”

In addition to fertilizing warm-season grasses, Hoyle said homeowners should be looking at ways to control thatch and weeds in the lawn.

“We really like to preach that if you are going to do something with the lawn — whether it is fertilizing or watering — do it when it’s actively growing,” Hoyle said. “Right now, with warm-season grasses, if you have a thatch problem, you can tear that area up (with a verti-cutter or slicer), fertilize the lawn, and it will grow right back in. If you try to do that during the fall or spring months, there will be periods of time when the lawn isn’t growing, or delayed growth, and it could lead to more problems.”

Among weeds, crabgrass and yellow nutsedge are two of the most troublesome this time of year.

““I’m seeing a lot of crabgrass and yellow nutsedge and I blame it on the weather,” Hoyle said. “Yellow nutsedge loves flooded, compacted soils and because of periodic flooding around the state, I have seen a lot of areas that typically never have yellow nutsedge. It’s a weed to keep an eye out with the weather conditions as they have been.”

To control yellow nutsedge, look for products with the active ingredients halosulfuron or sulfrentrazone, he said.

Crabgrass that has already emerged can be treated with products that include the active ingredient quinclorac.

Hoyle noted that homeowners should be patient when applying herbicides to yellow nutsedge and crabgrass; it might take more than one application to control those weeds.

K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources publishes a weekly horticulture newsletter with updated information on lawn care and other turfgrass issues. Residents may also contact their local extension agent.

Turfgrass Care for Homeowners (K-State Radio Network) – April Broadcast

(By Jared Hoyle, KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

About a week ago I was invited back again to speak with Eric Atkinson, host of Agriculture Today a daily program distributed to radio stations throughout the state. It features K-State agricultural specialists and other experts examining agricultural issues facing Kansas and the nation.

This week we covered the following;

  • fertilization of cool-season lawns
  • fertilization of warm-season lawns
  • weed control
  • preemergent herbicide control
  • spring mowing heights

Check out the radio program below!

Always remember to READ THE LABEL for the correct rate, turfgrass tolerance, and specific instructions before application!!!

***Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for identification purposes and does not imply recommendation or endorsement, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned by Kansas State University.***

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @KSUTurf.

Also, visit our facebook page www.facebook.com/KSUTurf

Time to Think About Managing Your Warm-season Home Lawn

Time to Fertilize Warm-Season Grasses    

    June is the time to fertilize warm-season lawn grasses such as bermudagrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass. These species all thrive in warmer summer weather, so this is the time they respond best to fertilization. The most important nutrient is nitrogen (N), and these three species need it in varying amounts.

buffalograss fairway

    Bermudagrass requires the most nitrogen.  High-quality bermuda stands need about 4 lbs. nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season (low maintenance areas can get by on 2 lbs.). Apply this as four separate applications, about 4 weeks apart, of 1 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. starting in early May. It is already too late for the May application, but the June application is just around the corner. The nitrogen can come from either a quick- or slow-release source. So any lawn fertilizer will work.  Plan the last application for no later than August 15. This helps ensure the bermudagrass is not overstimulated, making it susceptible to winter-kill.

    Zoysiagrass grows more slowly than bermudagrass and is prone to develop thatch.   Consequently, it does not need as much nitrogen. In fact, too much is worse than too little. One and one-half to 2 pounds N per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season is sufficient. Split the total in two and apply once in early June and again around mid-July. Slow-release nitrogen is preferable but quick-release is acceptable.  Slow-release nitrogen is sometimes listed as “slowly available” or “water insoluble.”

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    Buffalograss requires the least nitrogen of all lawn species commonly grown in Kansas. It will survive and persist with no supplemental nitrogen, but giving it 1 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. will improve color and density. This application should be made in early June. For a little darker color, fertilize it as described for zoysiagrass in the previous paragraph, but do not apply more than a total of 2 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. in one season. Buffalograss tends to get weedy when given too much nitrogen. As with zoysia, slow-release nitrogen is preferable, but fast-release is also OK. As for all turfgrasses, phosphorus and potassium are best applied according to soil test results because many soils already have adequate amounts of these nutrients for turfgrass growth. If you need to apply phosphorus or potassium, it is best to core aerate beforehand to ensure the nutrients reach the roots. 

Thatch Control in Warm-Season Lawns      

    Thatch control for cool-season lawn grasses such as bluegrass and tall fescue is usually done in the fall but now is the time we should perform this operation for warm-season turfgrasses such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass. Because these operations thin the lawn, they should be performed when the lawn is in the best position to recover.  For warm-season grasses that time is June through July. Buffalograss, our other common warm-season grass, normally does not need to be dethatched.

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    When thatch is less than one-half inch thick, there is little cause for concern; on the contrary, it may provide some protection to the crown (growing point) of the turfgrass. However, when thatch exceeds one-half inch in thickness, the lawn may start to deteriorate. Thatch is best kept in check by power-raking and/or core-aerating. If thatch is more than 3/4 inch thick, the lawn should be power-raked. Set the blades just deep enough to pull out the thatch. The lawn can be severely damaged by power-raking too deeply. In some cases, it may be easier to use a sod cutter to remove the existing sod and start over with seed, sprigs or plugs.  If thatch is between one-half and a 3/4- inch, thick, core-aeration is a better choice.

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    The soil-moisture level is important to do a good job of core-aerating. It should be neither too wet nor too dry, and the soil should crumble fairly easily when worked between your fingers. Go over the lawn enough times so that the aeration holes are about 2 inches apart. Excessive thatch accumulation can be prevented by not overfertilizing with nitrogen. Frequent, light watering also encourages thatch. Water only when needed, and attempt to wet the entire root zone of the turf with each irrigation.

    Finally, where thatch is excessive, control should be viewed as a long-term, integrated process (i.e., to include proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing) rather than a one-shot cure. One power-raking or core-aeration will seldom solve the problem.