Monday, June 29, 2009

Battling Grubs in Southern Turf

By Kent Higgins

June may be bride's month to many people, but to the busy southern gardener, it is "groom" month. Lawns - Watering, fertilizing and mowing make up the grooming operations for the lawn this month. The effect of nitrogen fertilizer applied in April will have about worn off by now and a light feeding is necessary.

Few gardeners realize that an average grass plant in one season may make as much as two or three feet of vegetative growth. This plus the fact that over 300 grass plants are on each square foot of lawn area make it easy to realize why regular feedings are necessary to maintain beautiful lawns. Regular applications to the lawn area will maintain good color. Irrigate your lawn, do not sprinkle. Thorough soaking once per week should be sufficient. Mow frequently and to the proper height. The average height of cut for Bermuda grass lawns should be 1 1/2 to two inches. Most people mow much lower and are not aware of it.

Put the mower on a flat surface and measure the distance to the cutting edge of the bed knife (stationary horizontal blade) to determine the height of cut. By doublecutting it is easy to prevent swath patterns in the lawn. If rotary mowers are used make sure the blades are sharp. Dull blades will rip off the tips of the grass, leaving them void of chlorophyll (green coloring matter) and in a few hours white streaks appear on the lawn.

Lawn Pests

One of the worst insect pests in lawns is the beetle grub. This pest is active during early June. It is the larvae stage of several beetles and the most injurious ones come from the beetles whose life cycle is one year (the Asiatic beetle group). The larvae of the so called June mealy bug also causes damage, although not so extensive. The larvae are commonly called "grubs." The grubs feed on the tender roots of grass just below the surface of the soil.

The first indication is wilting of the grass due to the water supply being cut off, then yellowing and in some cases death of the grass. Many times the grass actually can be lifted or kicked free of the location. By digging into the soil a large number of white grubs can be found. Luckily these pests can be controlled rather easily, check with your local county agent for the best control chemicals for your area. Killing the grubs does not repair any damage already done, so careful feeding and watering is necessary to re-establish the lawn.

The only other insect problem on the lawn this month is the army worm. These hairy caterpillars attack in spotty locations and strip off all the foliage. Control is the same as for grubs.

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