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Controlling Weeds in Westchase

Broadleaf weeds, weed grasses, and sedges are a major problem in our Florida lawns.

Because the products we use to control these weeds are limited to the variety of turf grass we are growing, we must make absolutely sure we are using the correct products to kill the weeds we are trying to eliminate. The key here is to identify the type of grass in your lawn and then the weed you are trying to kill. Broadleaf weeds, weed grasses, and sedges all require specific herbicides.

Broadleaf weeds are weeds that look like weeds. They normally have a broad or wide leaf and a flower. An example of this would be a dandelion. Weed grasses are weeds that look like your grass, but sprout no flowers. An example of a grassy weed would be Wild Bermuda (very common in St. Augustine grass) or Carpet grass. Sedges are weeds that also look like grass but have a triangular stem and produce either a single nut or a group of nuts at the top. If you cannot identify either the type of lawn you have or the weed you are treating, then you should take a sample of both to your local Cooperative Extension Agent or nursery for proper identification and control.

When treating weeds, I prefer liquid herbicides because I can place the product where the weeds are, thus saving money and reducing unnecessary run-off. Granular herbicides are effective, but the use of them tends to increase your chances of burning or killing your lawn.

For broadleaf weeds in St. Augustine lawns, you will need to use the active ingredient Atrazine or Celsius. Celsius may be harder to find, but offers much better results than Atrazine. You can find both of these products at most garden centers. Unfortunately, weed grasses like wild Bermuda or Carpet grass have no control. If you had experienced a freeze or heavy frost last winter, you may have noticed large brown areas in your lawn. These areas are where the carpet grasses and wild Bermuda grass browned out. As our warm weather returns, so will these invasive grasses –  with a vengeance. The only ways to control these grassy weeds is to kill them off with Round-Up and dig them out. Afterwards, you can re-sod the areas with new grass. If you simply plug or resod the area, the grassy weeds will come right back.  

Lawns that are watered frequently are plagued by sedges. For control of sedges in St. Augustine, Bahia, or Zoysia grasses, you only need one product called Sedgehammer. Sedgehammer is an herbicide used to control primarily sedges, although it may offer some broadleaf weed control benefits. Mix sedgehammer with water to kill Yellow or Purple Nut grass and Green Kylinga. You will need to add a Non-Ionic surfactant to the mixture to get the best results. Please, read the entire label on all products used for proper mixing and application information. Do not over apply these products. Invest in a measuring device that you can use for your garden needs only. A baker’s measuring spoon set will suffice.

For broadleaf weed control in Bahia, Bermuda, or Zoysia grasses I recommend Trimec Classic. Trimec is a liquid herbicide that will control most of your broadleaf weeds within seven to ten days after application. The addition of a surfactant is not necessary. The active ingredient in this product is 2-4 D and Dicamba. Several products that contain this active ingredient are available at most garden centers, so you do not have to find the brand name.

When applying herbicides, keep in mind a few things. The taller the weeds are, the faster the products you apply will work. If you treat your weeds just after the grass is cut or if you mow your grass following the application, the product’s effectiveness will diminish. The same holds true if it rains or you irrigate your lawn directly after you apply an herbicide. The length of time it takes for herbicides to work may vary, but don’t be discouraged. Wait at least 15-20 days, before making additional spot applications.

Sometimes, new weeds will grow in areas you have already treated, but this is normal. Be patient. Over time you will reduce the number of weeds. Weeds can be especially heavy in lawns that are sparse or under fertilized. Try to be vigilante and you will get them under control. If you have a particular weed that just will not die, then you must have it identified and seek additional control measures.

Keeping your lawn free of weeds can be a lot of work, and some people may think that even a few weeds are too many. Keep in mind, however, weed control means killing 80-90 percent of the weeds in your lawn. If you think you can kill all the weeds in your lawn, then good luck! There will always be weeds in every lawn so do not be discouraged by a few. Simply treat them according to the directions above. And do not be afraid to seek out help from others in identifying weeds with which you are having problems.

Have fun in the garden and remember, without plants, we would not be here!

By Mark Govan

Mark T. Govan is president of ABC Pest Control Inc. and host of Florida Gardening on NewsRadio 970 WFLA-AM. To learn more, visit http://www.abc-pestcontrol.com<./p>

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What to Tackle This Spring

With so many things going on in the garden this month, what should be your focus?

To start, work on feeding your lawns and ornamental plants and pruning back your roses and crepe myrtles. Following some easy instructions will help produce a great-looking yard.

The lawns and ornamental plants around your home are starting to emerge from winter dormancy. During the winter months, lawns and plants slow down or appear to stop all growth. Plant roots, however, continue to take up nutrients and store these elements until the plants can utilize them in the spring. Winter fertilizers contain high amounts of potassium (the last number on a bag of fertilizer) to help the roots grow and fight off diseases. In contrast spring fertilizers contain higher amounts of nitrogen (the first number on a bag of fertilizer) to promote leaf growth. Lawns need to be fertilized at the beginning of the month with a fifty percent slow-released fertilizer with an analysis of 14-0-10. In order to determine how much fertilizer your lawn needs will involve a little math.

Most southern lawns require four to six pounds of nitrogen per year. In order to figure out how much fertilizer your lawn requires, you will need to know the square footage of your lawn and the analysis of the product you will be using. If you are using a 14-0-10 fertilizer, then you will need to take the first number, which represents nitrogen, and divide that number into one hundred. One hundred divided by fourteen equal 7.14. This means that you will need to apply 7.14 pounds of this fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet. If you have a lawn that is 4,000 square feet, you will need to apply 28.5 pounds. You will need to do this four to six times per year to get the recommended amount of fertilizer stated above.

Lawn fertilizers should be applied with a cyclone spreader. Walk in straight lines as you fertilize and try to overlap the previous pass by fifty percent. By overlapping each pass, you will be able to eliminate streaking of the lawn. Sweep excess product off all walkways to keep fertilizer from running off the targeted areas during rain or irrigation. If you live on a pond or conservation area, maintain at least a 10-foot unfertilized barrier along its perimeter. This will limit the runoff of the fertilizer into our ponds, wetlands and bay.

Keep in mind, ornamental plants and shrubs require a different fertilizer than lawns. Flowering or fruiting plants require fertilizers that contain phosphorous, the middle number on a bag of fertilizer. For these types of plants I recommend an 8-10-10 fertilizer. Apply one-half pound of fertilizer around the drip-line of these plants for each one-inch of trunk diameter. A four-inch fruiting tree will require two pounds of fertilizer. For all other non-fruiting or non-flowering shrubs purchase an 8-0-10 fertilizer. Apply three to four pounds of this fertilizer for every 100 square feet of bed space. Do not apply fertilizers around the stems of your plants as the feeder roots that need the nutrients extend beyond the drip line. Water all areas after applying fertilizers.

Spring is also the time to start pruning your plants. Roses need pruning to develop quality stems and reduce disease. Any discolored or dead stems should be removed. All remaining 1-year old wood should be pruned by one-third just above a dormant bud. Lateral branches should be cut back to six or seven inches with only two or three per branch. Remember, cutting too much from your plant will make it thin and weak. Some people like to cut back some stems hard and others lightly to encourage a longer bloom time. This is up to you. Always remove suckers which originate below the graft or on the roots. Bush roses can be cut back by at least one-third and thinned out to reduce disease. Spray all parts of the plant with a fungicide after pruning.

Crepe Myrtles should be pruned, not butchered. Remove all branches smaller than the thickness of your thumb. Limit your trees to just three or four main stems. Any new branches forming at the base of the plant should be removed. All pruning cuts should be made with sharp pruning shears, and your cuts should be made to eliminate any inward pointing, dead, or diseased growth. Next, you need to remove any stems that rub against each other or look weak. Always prune into wood that looks healthy. Lightly fertilize after pruning.

Lawns and ornamental plants need nitrogen fertilizer now to help them grow. Yet pay close attention to the amounts you need to apply. With proper feeding and pruning, your landscape will flourish. Have fun in the garden and remember, without plants, we would not be here!

By Mark Govan

Mark T. Govan is president of ABC Pest Control Inc. and host of Florida Gardening on NewsRadio 970 WFLA-AM. To learn more, visit http://www.abc-pestcontrol.com<./p>

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Replacing Your Westchase Lawn

I was visiting a garden center this past week when a gentleman stopped me and asked about the different varieties of plugs to repair his lawn.

Unfortunately, he did not know what type of grass he had, and he seemed a little distressed at my prolonged answers. In this introductory column, I’ll therefore start with the basics.

One of the first questions you should ask before replacing or plugging your lawn is why the lawn died in the first place. Maybe the lawn died because of a broken sprinkler head or system. You may have an insect problem or fungus. In some cases, shade could have caused the lawn to decline over time. All of these problems, singly or in combination, can kill a lawn.

If you purchase new sod at a considerable cost without first figuring out the cause of your lawn’s decline, the grass may just die again.

In order to select the right type of grass, you will also need to do a little work. Walk around your home around midday and see if your grass receives at least six hours of full sun per day. If you have a lot of trees or large ornamental plants shading your property, you might consider using something other than turf grass – if permitted – to fill those areas. Keep in mind, however, that at least 40 percent of Westchase front yards must by St. Augustine sod. In side or back yards, owners have greater flexibility.

Lawns that receive only six hours of full sun per day will limit your choices of grass to shade-tolerant varieties of St. Augustine or Zoysia grass. Shade tolerant St. Augustine cultivars include Bitter Blue, Seville, Delta Shade, Captiva, and Delmar. For shade tolerant Zoysia grass choose De Anza, Diamond, El Toro, and Zorro. If you have less than six hours of full sun per day, you will not be able to grow any of these shade-tolerant cultivars, however. Over time, they will all die off.

Choices are better for areas receiving full-sun areas or more than six hours of direct light per day. Bahia grass can be used in these areas. Bahia can dry out almost completely but will return after a rain or good soaking. In contrast, St. Augustine grass and Zoysia grass will die without irrigation. As long as you have irrigation, then the St. Augustine cultivars you can plant in the full sun are Floratam (my number one choice), Floralawn, Palmetto and Classic. Full-sun Zoysia cultivars for properties with irrigation are Emerald, Empire (I like this one too), and PristineFlora. 

The next thing you will need to know is how to install your new grass. 

Small areas of turf can be plugged relatively easily by St. Augustine, if permitted by the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office (In the case of a deed restriction violation notice, they may require full sodding). St. Augustine grass is the only grass you should propagate by plugs. I never suggest mixing grasses (such as plugging a Bahia lawn with St. Augustine plugs). This will only cause problems down the road. Your garden center may have several varieties of St. Augustine sold as plugs, so be cautious. If you do not know the St. Augustine you cultivar currently growing, you may need to take a sample of your turf to the Cooperative Extension office for identification.

The results of comingling St. Augustine cultivars often aren’t pretty. Co-mingled lawns produce different colors of grass with different growth rates, creating an unkempt appearance. If you cannot identify the St. Augustine cultivar you currently are growing, simply cut out some of the fast-expanding, good grass near your plant beds and use these as plugs. This will save you money, keep your beds looking good, and keep your lawn the same cultivar. This process will not work if you are replacing your entire lawn.

When you replace an entire lawn, you will need to kill off the existing growth and weeds with Round-up. Round-up will eliminate most of the weed grasses you probably have growing and any sedge grass currently still alive. Only keep good-looking areas that are at least 300-400 square feet in size but be cautious about mixing cultivars.

Round-up takes about three weeks to work, and you should wait until all areas are dead before you put down the new sod. If green areas are still visible after this time, then spot treat with Round-up again. Never ever place new sod over the top of old sod, however. While not having the old sod scraped up is a money saver, you will be leaving weed seeds, grasses and diseases in place. Your lawn will also look uneven when you are finished. If you hire a responsible sod company to replace your lawn, they will always clear the old grass first.

Once the grass is scraped up, you may notice grubs or other insects, which may have killed the old turf. You should apply an insecticide and a starter fertilizer over the dirt to control the insects and to give the grass a boost. I would apply Dylox granules for the grubs or other insects and a 6-0-10 fertilizer to give the new grass a good start. Be sure to water these products in lightly to kill the insects before the new sod is installed.

Once the new sod has been delivered to your home, inspect the new turf for color and root mass. If the sod does not look good when they deliver it, it will not perform to your expectations. Look for green open blades and a dark, thick, moist root system that has not dried out. Refuse any portion of the load that does not meet these requirements. Most sod companies warranty the new grass for 30 days. Make sure this is in writing.

Any sod that dies or does not root down by 30 days should be replaced by the sod company. Keep in mind, hiring a pest management company before your warranty is up from the sod company will nullify your sod guarantee. However, after their warranty expires, I strongly recommend you hire a company to spray your turf and feed it regularly. If you are using Bahia or St. Augustine grass, then your lawn will need to be treated every seven weeks. Those of you that have chosen Zoysia grass will need a monthly service to control diseases and insects. 

Also remember that you get what you pay for. When selecting a sod company, shop around. If you make any of the common mistakes illustrated above, your lawn will cost you more money down the road.

Before making any exterior change to your home or yard, also remember you must first seek approval from the WCA’s Modifications Committee. 

Good luck, and remember, without plants, we would not be here!  

By Mark Govan

Mark T. Govan is president of ABC Pest Control Inc. and host of Florida Gardening on NewsRadio 970 WFLA-AM. To learn more, visit http://www.abc-pestcontrol.com<./p>

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