Bermuda grass is great for golf courses, sports fields, or other high foot traffic areas with a lot of sun. It is actually a great easy to maintain grass for your home if you don't have a lot of trees. It spreads quickly, is hardy and low maintenance. Although most people, for one reason or another, just do not seem to like it at their home. Dealing with Bermuda grass as a weed can be a real pain if you don't know how to manage it. There are also different approaches based on your type of grass. We will focus on the two main types of grasses people have in South Louisiana besides Bermuda grass: Centipede and St. Augustine.
Bermuda Grass Prevention
The best method is prevention. Once Bermuda is in your yard, it is usually and ongoing struggle for what feels like the rest of your life.
Centipede and Bermuda
If you have Centipede grass you are in luck. Use a selective herbicide with the active ingredient Sethoxydim to treat areas of your yard to kill Bermuda grass in your Centipede. Unfortunately this product will kill St. Augustine grass, so do not use it if you have St. Augustine grass.
Words of advice when using Sethoxydim.:
St. Augustine and Bermuda
If you have St. Augustine grass, you will have a more difficult time controlling Bermuda grass Allow your grass to be cut at four inches will help provide shade to slow down or possibly kill the Bermuda. Large patches of Bermuda grass should be sprayed with herbicides containing Glyphosate (ie Roundup) and then fill in the bare area with sod. Applying Glyphosate and using sod is expensive and should only be done in areas that have been completely taken over with Bermuda grass If you are dedicated to getting rid of the Bermuda while keeping your St. Augustine, you can always suspend mesh landscape fabric or netting over the area for a few days to a week. St. Augustine is very tolerant of shade while Bermuda is not.
Surrendering to Bermuda
Some people give up struggling to keep their preferred grass and decide to let Bermuda overrun their yard. If this is your situation here's a few tips. Bermuda loves nitrogen and water in full sun. This will let it spread like the weed it is. Keep your Bermuda cut short, about 0.5 inches to 1 inch, preferably with a reel mower. There is a herbicide called Celsius that works great for taking care of most weeds in Bermuda.
With the recent scare of the West Nile Virus making its way into the news again, you may be more worried about keeping mosquitoes away from your family. There are some easy ways you can reduce the overall number of mosquitoes being born around you. There are also some new ways to kill mosquitoes and keep them out of your yard.
Mosquitoes lay about 250 eggs each and all they need is some still water and two weeks for them to hatch. While only the females bite humans, they are responsible for around 5 bites a day each.
Remove Anything with an Open Top
Anything that allows water to accumulate and stand still is a safe harbor for mosquito eggs. This includes buckets, children's toys, old soda cans, tops of lawn equipment with equipment holders, etc.
Level Out Low Spots in your Yard
Areas in your yard that hold water for more than two weeks should be leveled out for other reasons as well, but one more to add to that list is to keep mosquitoes from laying more eggs.
Keep Gutters Clear
Gutters with debris can cause standing water, allowing more mosquitoes.
Install Insect Screens
Installing an insect screen around your favorite areas outside is a great way to keep mosquitoes and other insects out.
Undoubtedly, no matter the steps you take to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard, it is likely they will still show up. This could be due to them flying in from neighbors yards or vacant lots. So here are some of the best control methods out.
Mosquito Misting Systems
This is a device set up at your home that will spray fine mist containing permethrin.
Mosquito repellents are a great choice to keep mosquitoes at bay. Mosquito repellents should contain either DEET, Picaridian or oil of lemon eucalyptus to be effective. Be sure to reapply according to the package. Also, you must reapply after sweating or getting wet.
These are usually tablets labeled to be placed in standing water to kill mosquito larvae. If you have an area that retains water and you cannot regularly dump it, this is a great option.
These devices imitate human breathing, which is what attracts mosquitoes. Unfortunately this also attracts about 10 times as many mosquitoes to your yard as you would normally have. When the mosquito gets close enough, it is trapped in a net and dies. While this does work, you will still attract mosquitoes when you are outside breathing as well. These products run off of propane and will have to be restocked regularly.
These are products that mess with the mosquito's sensory system and makes it hard for them to find you. This may be smoke or an oil such as cedar oil. While these do have work, they should be used in conjunction with another control method for the best results.
What Does Not Work on Mosquitoes?
These may kill a small number of mosquitoes, but they really just attract and kill other insects that wouldn't bother you. Your money would be better spent on something else.
These are supposed to keep mosquitoes away with sound. They do not work well, if at all.
What are the classifications of trees?
We will be discussing three different types:
Basically trees which drop all of their leaves in winter. Examples would be maple, ash, elm.
Trees which hold onto their leaves and stay green all year. Examples would be southern magnolia or Douglas Fir.
Think of these as trees or plants that have to be cut back or die if the temperature drops to freezing for more than a few days. Examples would be palm tree, banana tree.
When is Tree Planting Season?
This is the best time to plant a deciduous tree. Between mid August to mid-October is the best time for a tree's root development. Planting a tree at this time will allow for the tree to adjust and come back strong the following spring.
When a tree is dormant, as in the leaves have all dropped, is the best time to transplant a tree. There is the least chance of the tree dying due to the stress of being transplanted. Be sure to water your plant if there is an absence of rain. Even though the tree has lost it's leaves, water is still needed to sustain it.
Spring is a great time to plant a tree, especially evergreen trees. The temperature is still generally mild for a long period of time and there is plenty of precipitation. There is a danger of root rot and fungus in areas having excessive rainfall.
New tree plantings should be avoided during this time of year. You should wait until the average temperature drops below 90 degrees. An exception to this would be tropical trees, such as bananas, and tropical plants in general, as summer is an excellent time to plant tropicals.
What is core aeration?
Core aeration is the removal and replacement of small plugs soil and thatch from your lawn. This allows air, among other things, to travel easier through your soil.
Reduce Soil Compaction
This one is a given. By removing cores of soil from the ground, you have allowed more room for the top soil in your yard to spread out. It is still the same amount of soil, only looser. This by itself may not seem all that important, but it is for the reasons explained below. It is also easier on your joints.
Improve Water and Fertilizer Absorption
After aerating your yard, you should notice less water run off when irrigating your yard. Since the soil is less compact, it will now allow water, fertilizer, beneficial bacteria and air to move more freely.
Improve Overall Plant Health
The plants will be healthier since beneficial elements, such as water, fertilizer, etc., are more readily available for the roots to uptake. Additionally, since the soil is looser, the root system will be able to develop more easily thus making your plant more able to compete for water in times of drought from weeds.
Beneficial bacteria will be able to move more freely in the soil and decompose thatch buildup. Thatch is simply a buildup of dead plant material between the soil and grass. A thin layer of thatch, less than 1/2" is beneficial and should not be seen as an issue. Thatch does not hold water or nutrition that is easily attainable for grass, thus making your turf have to extend its roots further to reach the soil. This leads to the grass not being able to extend its roots deep into the soil where there will be more access to water during times of drought. Thatch is also a staging point for many yard damaging fungus and a breeding ground for insects. By reducing the thatch, you reduce the chance of both fungus and insect damage.
What type of aerator to use?
Hollow Tine Aerator
A hollow tine aerator is my only recommendation for aeration. The ideal aerator to use should have a 3/4" diameter tine, 4" deep with the spacing between tines 6" apart. If you are a DIY person, you can rent a motorized one for small areas or one to drag behind a tractor for larger areas. My experience with renting a motorized one was back pain for a week. The rentals rarely have an adjustable height and shake you like a jackhammer. Be sure you have some pain reliever and a hot bath ready.
This only leads to additional soil compaction. This will make the problem worse, so please do not do it.
When to aerate?
The best two times to aerate are just after the first mowing in spring and in fall before your grass goes dormant. Be sure to make three to four passes with the aerator in the spring and only one or two passes with it in the fall. Do not aerate when the grass is dormant since you will only make it a more inviting place for weeds. There are exceptions to this. If there is a high traffic area, feel free to aerate monthly in the growing season.
How to aerate?
First, move anything that can be broken out of the way. Anything that can't be moved, irrigation heads, landscape lighting, drain covers, etc., should be flagged so you don't accidentally break them. If you have an irrigation system, let it run through a lite cycle while you flag the head. The aerator will work better if the soil is a little wet. Next, use the aerator like you would mow your yard, basically. The difference is a mechanical aerator will drag you around, but it is designed to do so. There should also be two handles, one to engage the tines and one to lift the tines. Be sure to have them disengaged and lifted when going over concrete or tile or when generally moving the machine. Now just make your desired number of passes and your done. Your yard may look like a large herd of dogs went through it at the moment, but once the soil dries and it gets some water, it will go back to looking normal again.
What else should do you with aeration?
Top dressing your soil with sand or additional top soil is a great idea immediately following core aeration. The new topdressing will help fill in the holes and refresh your soil, improving pH and drainage.
If you are in an area when with highly alkaline soil like most of Baton Rouge, you will need to increase the acidity of your soil. Soil dwelling bacteria break down sulfur over time and lower pH, but they are not very quick. Applying sulfur based products after aeration gives more access to the bacteria causing a lower pH in less time.
Apply Barrier Products After
You should not apply any pre-emergent herbicides or long term insecticides to your yard until a few days after aerating. Usually these products create a thin barrier that prevents their target pest from affecting your yard. If you aerate your yard after you apply one of these, there will punch holes throughout your barrier and will have wasted your time and money putting them out in the first place.
Every year, during both fall and spring, I must get asked the same question a hundred times, "Why are patches of my yard dying?" When the conditions are right, it is most likely turf fungus that is damaging your yard.
How do I know if it is turf fungus?
First off, turf fungus only does well during the following conditions:
Usually turf fungus will form a more circular or rounded damaged area, there are exceptions to this. There will be an inch border where the grass is yellowing and the center is brown, as if there was a fire that started in the middle and is burning outward. The turf should feel rotten, almost squishy, like old produce. Sometimes people mistake insect damage for fungus damage. Usually insect damage will have bite marks on either the leaves or the roots of the grass. A lot of time you can actually pull up on the yellowing grass and it will come up as if it is not attached to the root. Also insect damage will follow more of a trail and be more sporadic.
how do I fix it turf fungus?
The best practice is to have good cultural controls. Water your turf for longer periods and more infrequently throughout the year. Be sure your yard does not have areas of standing water. Do not cut your grass when it is wet. It will stress your grass and make more entryways for fungus. Use a core aerator twice a year to reduce thatch. Absolutely do not apply any nitrogen rich fertilizer late summer through early spring. To ensure a healthy lawn, apply a preventative fungicide just before the temperatures begin to drop.
If you are in a new home, you should look for areas of your yard that have a heavy weed infestation. Usually this is an area where there has either been heavy insect damage, fungus damage or sitting water. Once the turf has died, weeds are quicker growers and will naturally take over.
If you can see the damage, unfortunately you are too late to treat what has already been damaged. Your choices for the dead turf are to let it grow back in or to cut out the dead area and lay down some sod. I would recommend using sod since it is quicker and will not leave a barren area for weeds to infest. You can treat the area to prevent it from spreading further with a fungicide. Be sure to reevaluate your yard for cultural controls as well.
Which fungicide should I use?
There should be a good selection at your local hardware store. Be sure to pick one that is labeled for turf and the type of fungus you are targeting. Some fungicides can get pretty expensive, so pick the most cost effective one that targets your problem fungi for the longest period of time. Also, some fungicide are labeled to work only before the fungus has emerged, some are labeled for after the fungus has emerged and some for both. Be sure to read the label and choose correctly.
I have found propiconazole, myclobutanil and triflozstrobin to all work very well in treating brown patch and take-all patch. I seem to see these two pop up more often than anything else.
Soon your lush green yard will become an off yellow, tan color as the temperature cools and grass goes dormant for the winter. The trade off for the dull looking grass is it rarely needs any maintenance until spring. Well with the right type of rye grass you can get a very vibrant green yard and still not have to cut it during the winter. Sounds great right? Well here's what you need to know.
Pick the right rye grass seed
There are hundreds of different types of rye grass seed that fall into two main categories: annual and perennial. Luckily there will be between two to six choices at your local hardware store, making the decision easier on you. Annual rye grass will have to be replanted every year while perennial rye grass will reseed itself and come back on its own. Annual rye grass does perform better in warmer temperatures. Perennial has better shade tolerance than annual. In my experience, it takes around three years of seeding perennial to see it look consistent on its own. My opinion is to choose a low growing annual rye grass.
Spread it out at the right time
Rye seed needs to go out either in late September or early October depending on weather. The temperature should regularly be between 68 degrees to 77 degrees. Heat kills rye grass, so be sure to not put it out too early. Rye grass also dies in very cold weather, but that shouldn't be a problem in southern Louisiana. Be sure to not put out a weed preventative herbicide before your grass has started to grow. Also, try to rid your yard of weeds before applying seed. Not only will it look better, but the grass will have less competition for soil nutrition and sunlight.
How to put the seed out
Usually the bag of seed you purchased will tell you what setting to put your wheel based spreader to for optimum coverage. It is best to use a standard wheel based spreader so you get even coverage across your yard. Also, it is very important to keep a consistent speed when pushing the spreader or there will be patch results. You don't want part of your yard to look great while patches look like they were missed completely.
Most spreaders throw seed forward and to one side. Have the seed thrown away from both landscape beds and cracks in your concrete. Wherever the seed lands, you will have grass growing in the winter. Water your yard when finished.
Rye grass care
You will need to keep your yard watered, every other day, for a little over a week to allow the rye grass to germinate properly. Be sure to do this in the morning so your yard has time to dry out. Rye grass does not need much water beside rain after the germination period. In fact, excess watering will cause your rye grass to rot and can also promote fungus growth.
While the temperatures are great for germinating rye grass, they are also perfect for fungus as well. Applying a preventative fungicide used when applying the seed will do wonders for your yard. Not only will it protect your rye grass, but also your warm season turf.
If you choose a rye grass that grows tall, you will want to keep it below 2 inches to avoid turf disease throughout winter. I would recommend choosing one that doesn't grow that tall. It will just be so much easier to maintain. Now all that is left is to enjoy having the nicest looking grass in the neighborhood all winter long.
HIGH PROBABILITY OF TERMITES
There are two types of homes in southern Louisiana: homes with previous termite damage and homes that will have termite damage. The average termite colony can eat about 2.3 linear feet of wood per year.and sometimes go years without detection. In the worst case scenario, if it is an average sized Formosa termite colony, it could eat that much in a week.
The unfortunate reality is termite infestations are inevitable without treatment. If you do not currently have a termite contract on your home, even if you have never had termites before, you should make it a priority to secure one.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Following the advise below can reduce your exposure to termite infestation in your home.
WHAT TO DO IF I FIND TERMITES?
Unfortunately, home treatment is not really a viable option. There are just too many areas that an untrained home owner may miss. This would leave your home open to more damage. If you are under contract with a pest control company, you should call them immediately. If you are not under a termite contract, you will need to call a pest control company in your area as soon as possible.