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2014 LAWNS
& LANDSCAPES

By Harold Jones
Southern Horticultural Consultants
 

This is a neutral year as far as El Nino/La Nina are concerned. That typically means it is a lot harder to predict our winter weather conditions. Most of the 90 day forecasts have been predicting above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. That sure hasn’t been the case through the month of January. Temperatures have generally been below normal and rainfall above normal.

Look for dry weather in April, May and early June. This is typically the time of year when our lawns need watering the most.

Why should we worry about dry weather when we have irrigation systems? The answer is simple. Rainfall is delivered at 100 percent efficiency (meaning everything gets the same amount of water when it rains. An irrigation system works at about 60 per cent efficiency (at best). That means water is not distributed evenly over the lawn and landscape and drought stress can occur, particularly when the temperatures are in the upper 90’s or over 100.

When a St. Augustine grass lawn is under drought stress it is more susceptible to chinch bug attack. Landscape plants may wilt and die; trees suffer and can die also. Watering is critical during drought. Irrigation systems should be adjusted to apply more water than normal and should be checked to be sure all the heads and zones are working properly.

Another adjustment during drought is height of cut. Many people mow their lawn too short. St. Augustine lawns should be mowed at 3.5 to 4 inches high. There is a direct relationship between the height of cut and depth of the root system. The shorter the grass is cut, the shorter the root system will be. If you cut your own lawn, raise the height of cut to help the grass survive the drought.

We may see more chinch bug activity, especially if the weather turns dry. Chinch bugs are again our most serious lawn pest and since we have lost older chemicals that were very effective against them, they are harder to control.

The last two years we have had more issues with lawn caterpillars (sod webworms and army worms). Remember, although they may make a lawn look bad for a short time, they will not kill your grass unless it is newly planted sod. They are relatively easy to control when they occur which is generally from August through October.

Our heavy rains periods over the last two years have weakened some landscape plants. Junipers and some of the other dry soil plants are weak and may die if not managed properly. If the dry soil plants die, consider replacing them with plants that are more tolerant of wet soil conditions.

An important thing to remember is that we have had about 25 years of generally warmer winter weather. As a result, a number of tender plants have been planted in northeast Florida that are not usually found up here. Queen palms and pigmy date palms are examples of tender plants that have moved into our area. They may be damaged with the cold weather we have gotten this year. When choosing plants be sure they are cold hardy for our growing area.

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skinnie vinnie lawncare logo fernandina beach
drygrass
newsletter
late winter / spring 2014

Dry conditions are expected to impact north
Florida lawns
in April, May and early June 2014.

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