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Cure fescue's summer blues with a little work

Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2005 - 5:09 pm


By Durant Ashmore
GUEST COLUMNIST
durantashmore@aol.com



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Your fescue lawn looks worse now than it has all year. You have brown circular patches of dead grass and you have a light green grassy looking weed starting to proliferate. Such is the life of fescue in August.

Don't despair; all is not lost. The perfect time for fescue rejuvenation is a month away. For now, you can only muddle through and make minor attempts to slow down the damage.

If you have brown circular patches, don't water more to keep the grass alive. Water is a major contributor to what killed your grass in the first place. What killed your grass is brown patch fungus. Brown patch fungus loves August. It loves hot weather. It loves water. Hot weather and water create humidity. Humidity is manna to brown patch fungus.

There are effective fungicides that control brown patch fungus. For years I have used Bayleton and it has been very effective. Other products out there are effective as well. I am getting set in my ways in my old age and when I find something that works, I seldom change.

To eliminate brown patch fungus, use Bayleton at the rate of six pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. To control brown patch fungus next year, use three pounds per 1,000 square feet in April and again in June.

The grassy weed you have in your lawn at this time of year is crabgrass. This is an annual weed that germinates from seed every summer. If you have an acre lot, you can consider yourself fortunate to be the proud owner of about a million crabgrass seeds.

If you want to kill your crabgrass now, you should use a product containing MSMA. If the crabgrass doesn't bother you too much you can just wait until the first frost kills it around Oct. 30.

To prevent crabgrass seeds from germinating next year you should use preemergent herbicides in March and June. If you fertilize your lawn next March with a product referred to as Weed and Feed you will be using a product that includes both fertilizer and preemergent herbicide.

The good news about fescue lawns is that September is the prime time to bring your lawn back into its glory. Every year you should plan to aerate, fertilize, lime and reseed your lawn. Aeration is really no big deal. You can rent an aerator from a rental store, or you can hire it out. It is fairly inexpensive.

Seed and fertilizer should be applied at the rate of three pounds per 1,000 square feet for a decently established yard. Some fertilizer rates may vary; read the package. The amount of lime necessary can only be determined by a soil test. The Clemson Extension Agency at Greenville County Square can perform this test for you for a slight fee.

If you do this work in September, by November your yard will be the pride of the neighborhood. You can enjoy your yard all winter long. Next spring apply Weed and Feed and Bayleton. Use Bayleton and preemergents again the first of June. This is the recipe for successful fescue establishment.

Oh yeah, water. Water is a key ingredient for fescue. Water is also a key ingredient for brown patch fungus, so you have to be careful. It is important that you only water your lawn in the early morning. This is the time when the dew is on the ground anyway. Let the afternoon sun dry the lawn out and reduce conditions for fungus development. Apply 1 inch of water per week in the morning to your lawn and your fescue will be able to tolerate the summer conditions. Be content that your lawn will look gorgeous during next fall, winter and spring.

You folks with warm season lawns shouldn't gloat about the problems fescue owners are now experiencing. You Bermuda people are up to your ears pulling and spraying Bermuda grass out of your flower beds. You zoysia people are just now getting over the shock of paying about a $1,000 to buy a fancy self-propelled reel mower that is a must if you have an emerald zoysia lawn. You centipede people have the coming winter kill threat to deal with, and all of you will be envious this winter as you gaze across your dormant, brown lawns at your neighbor's nice green fescue. It's enough to make you want to do away with lawns altogether, isn't it?

Please file this column under the heading "Food for Thought."

Editor's note: Columnist Durant Ashmore, MLA, of Fountain Inn, is certified by the South Carolina Nursery Association. He can be reached at 243-3446 or durantashmore@aol.com.

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