lawn care

Fescue in the off season!

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All turf grasses have an offseason.  A season when they are not at their prime.  For warm season grasses, it is the winter.  No one expects their bermuda lawn to be green and actively growing in January.  Everyone understands that it is dormant.

What about a cool season turf?  When is fescue’s off season?  

Fescue is at its best in the spring and fall, often has greenish-brown freeze burnt leaves in the dead of winter but goes through an off season during July and August when temperatures average 90 plus.

One of the advantages of fescue, when best practices are followed, is it will keep good color during its off season, unlike bermuda.  Bermuda will always have more color than fescue in July and August, but March through early June and September into December, you can’t beat the greens of a fescue lawn.  

Bermuda is the dominate turf in our region, but it doesn’t grow in shade.  Fescue is the preferred turf for shady areas.  Gracefully aging neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City area are full of mature trees and lawns that have transitioned from bermuda to fescue.  Every homeowner eventually must face the need for fescue in their landscape. 

How do you keep a fescue lawn looking its best in the summer heat? 

Let’s run through a list of best and worst practices for fescue during its off season.

Best practices for keeping fescue looking good during July and August:

  • Mow fescue at 3” – 3 ½”.  The more leaf space the better color and the more draught tolerant the lawn will be.

  • Water deep.  Water infrequent.  Water in the early morning.  Fescue lawns that are receiving 1 ½” of moisture per week, on an every other day schedule, only in the early morning, look the best in the heat of summer. 

  • Fescue lawns that receive at least some dappled sunlight look the best during the summer heat.

 
Fescue lawn with dappled sunshine.

Fescue lawn with dappled sunshine.

 
  • Fescue lawns that are aerated in the fall have stronger root systems and can better withstand hot, dry days.

 
Fescue when watered and mowed properly in full sun in the heat of the summer.

Fescue when watered and mowed properly in full sun in the heat of the summer.

 

Worst practices for fescue during the summer heat:

  • Fescue cut too short.  Remember leaf blades store moisture the plant needs to withstand the summer heat.

  • Stop watering twice per day, morning and evening, every day.  Short and frequent watering does far more harm than good.  It is a myth that fescue needs to be kept wet during the summer heat.  When temperatures are hot and fescue stays consistently wet for more than 6 hours at a time, brown patch will damage the turf.  When brown patch starts spreading in a fescue lawn it looks like the lawn needs more water.  The natural response is to water more which makes the problem worse.  On most site visits I made in the past two weeks where customers were concerned about their fescue, I discovered brown patch was the problem.  In each case the homeowner had increased watering to two times per day, morning and evening, every day.

 
Brown patch in fescue.

Brown patch in fescue.

Fescue with a mild case of brown patch.

Fescue with a mild case of brown patch.

 
  • Heavy shade and low air circulation.  Fescue performs best if it receives some light every day.  Fescue will tolerate more sun than most realize and does well in full sun when it is watered and mowed properly.  Air circulation plays the important role of drying the leaf blades between watering cycles.  Small backyards, with wood fences, and heavy shade are the hardest on fescue in July and August.

 
Drought stressed fescue.

Drought stressed fescue.

 
  • Tight clay soil that has never been aerated result in shallow rooted fescue that will struggle in the heat.

 
Fescue seeded over Bermuda in full sun in the heat of the year.

Fescue seeded over Bermuda in full sun in the heat of the year.

Fescue in full to dappled sun in July.

Fescue in full to dappled sun in July.

 

During fescue’s offseason take a stroll around your lawn and start planning for the fall.  The cooler days of September will be here soon.

Do you need to make some changes to how you are mowing and watering your fescue?

Are you trying to grow fescue in full shade, in a location where there is little wind movement?  If so, can you improve the conditions, or should you consider transitioning to a shade tolerant ground cover?

If your fescue didn’t perform well due to the excessive moisture and high humidity of the early summer, or if it has struggled with brown patch in the heat, start making plans to overseed this fall. 

Do you have areas of the lawn that are becoming too shady for bermuda?  Bermuda starts to thin anywhere it does not get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.   Is this the fall to start establishing fescue in those areas?

Whether you have a full fescue lawn or just some fescue in shady areas, don’t fret, fescue’s best season is just a few weeks away!

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape

(405)367-3873

   

What can your lawn do for you?

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In the race to reduce carbon output and conserve water, many have forgotten the long list of benefits of a healthy lawn.  Concerns over water supplies, herbicides, pollutants, and your carbon footprint have caused some to race toward a more minimalist approach to landscapes and lawns. 

Over the past few years the media joined the war against the landscape with articles such as “The Life and Death of the American Lawn.  Grasses – green, neatly trimmed, symbols of civic virtue – shaped the national landscape. They have now outlived their purpose.” 

One of the hottest trends is the replacement of natural grass with landscape gravel or artificial turf.  Both have their place, but not at the expense of a healthy landscape of plants, trees, and turf.   

Is it good for the environment when living plants are replaced with artificial materials? Yes, water will be saved.  Yes, there will be less fertilizer used.  But, is there more to consider?

Can replacing a living plants with artificial materials really be a net positive for the environment?  

When it comes to the benefits of turf grass most people don’t give it much thought.  The environmental benefits of a healthy lawn are seldom considered. Most would have a hard time answering the question, “What is your lawn doing for you?” 

Let’s explore a few reasons why a healthy landscape is important to our environment:

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Turfgrass captures carbon.

Healthy lawns absorb carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen.

The average, managed lawn, captures more carbon than a lawnmower produces. The average lawn captures 300 lbs. of carbon per year and has a net positive impact on our environment. 


A 2,500 sq. ft lawn, half the size of the average lawn, provides enough oxygen for a family of four. 


What is a managed lawn?  A lawn that receives regular mowing, and some fertilizer and weed control applications.  Maintaining a healthy turfgrass environment provides us with a critical component of a healthy world – less carbon.  An Ohio State study found lawns that received only an occasional mowing and no fertilizer or weed control captured far less carbon.   

Maintenance habits have a big influence on whether turfgrass helps or hurts the environment. Lawns cut too short typically create a negative carbon exchange.  Weedy lawns, nutrient deficient lawns, and drought stress lawns result in thin lawns that have a negative impact on the environment.    

 

Actively growing and healthy landscapes can provide benefits of heat reduction.

Trees, shrubs, and lawn areas around homes can reduce air temperatures on the average 15 degrees compared to concrete, asphalt or gravel.

Studies estimate that improved planting and maintenance of lawns and landscapes could reduce total US air conditioning requires by 25%.  Grass cools the air by absorbing solar radiation and through evapotranspiration.

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A healthy turf slows water runoff reducing erosion and therefore reducing sediment build up and improves the quality of streams, ponds, and lakes.

Less runoff increases infiltration of water into the groundwater supply.  A dense root system traps and removes pollutants moving through the soil and into the water supply.  The natural filtration system of healthy turfgrass improves water quality.

Turfgrass is more effective at stopping erosion than any other plant.  Grass naturally slows runoff and allows more water to be absorbed.  Also, grass is a natural water purifier.

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Lawns are a major component of higher home values.

Smart Money reported consumers value a home with a well maintained lawn and landscape on the average 11.3% over the base value. 

Healthy lawns improve air quality by trapping dust and allergens.   

Dense turf reduces the blowing of soil particles.  Also, it only takes 25 sq. ft. of turfgrass to provide enough oxygen for one adult for one day.

Great lawns benefit the community and human health.

Green areas enhance community pride, provide places for people to come together and promotes outdoor activity.  Research shows the result is improved physical and mental health and reduced stress.

The belief that well maintained lawns are an environmental liability are short-sighted.  Water concerns are legitimate.  Overwatering lawns and excessive use of fertilizers and herbicides drive much of the concern.  Education on proper watering, maintenance, fertilizer, and herbicide use is important.

A scientific study “The Role of Turfgrasses in Environmental Protection and Their Benefits to Humans” concluded that there is no valid scientific basis for water restrictions of turfgrass.  The report stated, “the main cause for excessive landscape water use in most situations is the human factor.”

James Beard, Professor Emeritus of Texas A&M, said, “The environmental benefits of turfgrass are the most sensible and economically feasible approach to counter the greenhouse effect.”

So, what has your lawn done for you lately?  “More than you can imagine!”

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn & Landscape

June Lawn & Landscape Tips

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Late May into early June is typically the turning point for your summer loving landscapes.  By the first of June, warm season turfs are looking great, shrubs and trees are full of foliage, and summer annual color plantings are bursting with brilliant color. With all the excess moisture in May, in Oklahoma this June should be great for our landscapes!

June is the month all your lawn and landscape activities finally settle into a predictable routine. Here are a few things to be thinking about:

Mowing –  For the best summer turf get into a routine of mowing often enough that you only remove a third of the leaf blade with each mowing.  For bermuda and zoyia, both warm season turf grasses, this may require mowing every 4 to 5 days.  If you can mow this often, don’t bag your clippings.  The top third of the grass leaf is 90% moisture and nutrients.  The best summer height for warm season turf is 1.5 – 2.5”.  Fescue, cool season turf grass, will continue to grow rapidly during early June but once we consistently have temperatures in the upper 90’s it will begin to slow down.  The best height for cool season turf in the summer is 2.5 – 3.5”.  Both warm season and cool season turfs, don’t respond well to being cut below their recommended height. Cutting the lawn too short discourages root development and having deep roots going into the summer heat is important for both warm and cool season turf.

Mowing – For the best summer turf get into a routine of mowing often enough that you only remove a third of the leaf blade with each mowing.  For bermuda and zoyia, both warm season turf grasses, this may require mowing every 4 to 5 days.  If you can mow this often, don’t bag your clippings.  The top third of the grass leaf is 90% moisture and nutrients.  The best summer height for warm season turf is 1.5 – 2.5”.  Fescue, cool season turf grass, will continue to grow rapidly during early June but once we consistently have temperatures in the upper 90’s it will begin to slow down.  The best height for cool season turf in the summer is 2.5 – 3.5”.  Both warm season and cool season turfs, don’t respond well to being cut below their recommended height. Cutting the lawn too short discourages root development and having deep roots going into the summer heat is important for both warm and cool season turf.

Fertilizer – Bermuda lawns should be fertilized this month with a higher nitrogen, slow release fertilizer.  The goal in June is to create a healthy bermuda lawn that will thrive in the summer heat.  Fescue lawns should only receive low nitrogen, organic, root stimulating fertilizer during June to prepare them for the summer.

Weed Control –  If you subscribe to  Hall | Stewart’s Lawn Care Programs  and have not skipped any applications this year, you have received two spring pre-emergent applications.  This has given you a good barrier to prevent summer annual grassy weeds.  But, if not, you may have some grassy weeds, most commonly, crabgrass, showing up in your lawn.  June is a good month to control grassy weeds while they are still young plants.  Once they mature, stronger products will need to be used which can cause turf damage.  If nutsedge is making an appearance in your lawn, it is best  not  to pull it.  When you pull nutsedge and do not remove the nut below the surface, the plant becomes stressed and multiplies. 

Weed Control – If you subscribe to Hall | Stewart’s Lawn Care Programs and have not skipped any applications this year, you have received two spring pre-emergent applications.  This has given you a good barrier to prevent summer annual grassy weeds.  But, if not, you may have some grassy weeds, most commonly, crabgrass, showing up in your lawn.  June is a good month to control grassy weeds while they are still young plants.  Once they mature, stronger products will need to be used which can cause turf damage.  If nutsedge is making an appearance in your lawn, it is best not to pull it.  When you pull nutsedge and do not remove the nut below the surface, the plant becomes stressed and multiplies. 

Tree & Shrub Care –  Start watching for spider mites.  If you notice pale and specked foliage, shake the leaves over a white sheet of paper.  If you see tiny specks that start to move, you have spider mites and should schedule a treatment.  Also, be on the watch for bagworms on needle evergreens. With all insect and disease issues, we subscribe to an integrated pest management approach.  With our Tree & Shrub Program, we inspect for these issues with each visit.  Most problems are easier to control the earlier you notice them.  If you notice any issues with your plants, please let us know.

Tree & Shrub Care – Start watching for spider mites.  If you notice pale and specked foliage, shake the leaves over a white sheet of paper.  If you see tiny specks that start to move, you have spider mites and should schedule a treatment.  Also, be on the watch for bagworms on needle evergreens. With all insect and disease issues, we subscribe to an integrated pest management approach.  With our Tree & Shrub Program, we inspect for these issues with each visit.  Most problems are easier to control the earlier you notice them.  If you notice any issues with your plants, please let us know.

Watering –  This may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of landscape management.  May was very wet…too wet.  Currently, soil moisture is enough for mature lawns, shrubs, and trees. If you have new plantings, or annual color, you may need to water.  Develop the practice of watering based only on need.  Anytime we go a week without receiving a 1” of rainfall, start watering.  When you walk on the lawn, if grass doesn’t spring back up, start watering.  Remember, deep soakings are always better than short, frequent watering.  Shallow, frequent watering results in lawns with less roots and more dependent on water.   

Watering – This may be one of the most misunderstood aspects of landscape management.  May was very wet…too wet.  Currently, soil moisture is enough for mature lawns, shrubs, and trees. If you have new plantings, or annual color, you may need to water.  Develop the practice of watering based only on need.  Anytime we go a week without receiving a 1” of rainfall, start watering.  When you walk on the lawn, if grass doesn’t spring back up, start watering.  Remember, deep soakings are always better than short, frequent watering.  Shallow, frequent watering results in lawns with less roots and more dependent on water.   

Mulch  – Add mulch to your landscape plantings this month.  A 2” layer of mulch will retain moisture, cool the soil, and reduce weed germination.  We prefer premium shredded all bark cedar mulch because it doesn’t float as much and aesthetically looks great.  For acid loving plants such as hydrangeas and azaleas, pecan hulls or pine bark mulch is a great choice. 

Mulch – Add mulch to your landscape plantings this month.  A 2” layer of mulch will retain moisture, cool the soil, and reduce weed germination.  We prefer premium shredded all bark cedar mulch because it doesn’t float as much and aesthetically looks great.  For acid loving plants such as hydrangeas and azaleas, pecan hulls or pine bark mulch is a great choice. 

Brown Patch – Be on the look out for brown patch in your fescue lawn.  Anytime nighttime temperatures are 70 plus and the turf remains damp for over 6 hours at a time, brown patch will develop. Areas where there is little air movement and/or heavy shade are more prone because the turf stays wet longer.  Brown patch will make the lawn appear it needs more water, but watering will just make it worse.  So, before you water more, think about the site, the amount of shade, the air movement in the area, and the amount of moisture the area has received.  The best thing you can do if this problem occurs is to stop watering.

Aeration – Mechanical aeration is a “best” practice for any lawn.  Aeration reduces soil compaction, promotes root development, and thickens the turf.  May and June are the best months to aerate bermuda.  This one practice will make a big difference in the quality of your turf.  The stronger the turf, the less weed problems you will experience.

Insects  – Regularly scheduled treatments for fleas & ticks, mosquitos, and perimeter insect control around your house should continue during the summer.  The goal is to make outdoor living for your family, friends, and pets the best possible.

Insects – Regularly scheduled treatments for fleas & ticks, mosquitos, and perimeter insect control around your house should continue during the summer.  The goal is to make outdoor living for your family, friends, and pets the best possible.

Tree Trim – Early summer is a good time to do minor tree trimming.  If you have tree branches that are hanging a little lower now that they are full of foliage, go ahead and remove them this month. 

 Get outside and enjoy your landscape this month! 

We look forward to every opportunity to visit your lawn and landscape! If you have any questions, please send us an email or call (405)367-3873.

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape