Lawn Care for Eastern NC

By Michael Stanley

As the first warm days of spring arrive, some of the first questions in the garden center seem to be focused on what to do for the lawn.  Questions range from what type of grass to plant to why is my grass dying?  Growing a lawn in eastern North Carolina can be a bit challenging so let’s cover some of the basics.

When planting a new lawn you first want to choose the type of grass best suited for your situation.  Most of the time, for a permanent lawn, you should choose a warm season grass such as Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine, or Zoysia.  These grasses are green during the summer and are dormant during the winter months.  Cool season grasses such as fescues and ryegrass have their uses but are not good choices for lawns in our area.

Lawn maintenance is where most where most people kill their lawns with kindness.  It is very important to follow some guidelines if you want to have nice trouble free lawn.  The most common mistake in lawn care is fertilizing too early in the spring.  Fertilizer should not be applied until the lawn has fully greened up and is actively growing.  Bermuda and St. Augustine can be fertilized once a month from May-August.  Remember the more fertilizer you apply the more you will have to mow.  If you would rather be fishing than mowing I would suggest only one or two fertilizer applications during the summer.  It is recommended that you fertilize Zoysia in April, June and August.  Centipede unlike other warm season grasses doesn’t like a lot of fertilizer.  Many people who have trouble with Centipede lawns can trace it back to over fertilizing.  It is recommended to give Centipede one application of fertilizer in June.  I recommend using a slow release lawn food with no more than 15 percent nitrogen.  No more nitrogen should be applied to the lawn after August.  A final application of potassium (0-0-60) in August or September will help strengthen the roots and promote winter heartiness.  Remember over fertilizing especially Centipede can lead to disease problems.  The pH of your soil will affect your lawns ability to absorb nutrients.  I recommend a soil test every 2-3 years to determine if your lawn needs lime or other pH adjusting materials.

Some common insects found in turf grass are chinch bugs, mole crickets, grubs, spittle bugs, sod web worms, and army worms.  The lawn should be monitored for these pests March-September and treated as necessary.  Insect damage will usually appear as irregular yellowing followed by dead spots in the lawn.  If you have areas where grass will not grow, it is possible you have an insect called ground pearl.  There is no control for this insect at this time.  If your lawn has areas diagnosed with ground pearl you may consider planting a tree or flower bed in that area.

If you have problems with disease such as large patch or brown patch a preventive fungicide treatment should be done in the fall and early spring.  Irrigating at night, mowing to short, thatch build up, and over fertilizing are the main contributors to diseases in lawns.  Proper lawn management is the best way of preventing disease in your lawn.

Weed control can be done most anytime.  Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied in September and February to prevent a lot of your annual weeds such as bluegrass, clover, crabgrass, and dandelion.  Once weeds are up and growing post-emergent herbicides can be used.  Be sure to check the label on any herbicide to make sure it is safe for your particular grass and that that it will kill the weeds you are targeting.  Always read and follow the directions on all pesticide labels.

Irrigation is another aspect of a healthy lawn.  The lawn needs about an inch per week of water.  Overwatering can also lead to disease problems.  A good deep watering once a week will encourage deep root growth and build drought tolerance.

Now that you know the basics you are now ready to whip those lawns into shape.