By Harold Jones
Southern Horticultural Consultants

What an unusual year we have had so far in 2017!

We had milder winter weather than is normal. We had 90 degree temperatures in mid-May.

The predicted dry weather in April and May came about and we wound up in the moderate drought range. This is typically the time of year when our lawns need watering the most and sure enough we did. The temperatures were higher than normal and rainfall totals were well below normal.

Just when it seemed we would never get rain again, along came El Nino and the rains came in very late May. And they came and they came. On June 12th I got 4.25 inches of rain at my house in two.hours and rainfall totaled over 7 inches that week.

When a St. Augustine grass lawn is under drought stress it is more susceptible to chinch bug attack and chinch bugs were very active in northeast Florida. When the rains came the chinch bug damage became less of a problem since they like hot dry weather. Does that mean chinch bugs are no longer a threat to our lawns? Absolutely not! They will still damage lawns but not like they do in hot dry weather.

With all the heavy rains, our problems have changed primarily to disease issues. Plant roots (grass, trees and shrubs) need oxygen in the soil to function properly. If the soil is saturated with water and no air is present, the roots cannot absorb water or nutrients. Usually this is a short-term problem with our sandy soil, but continued heavy rainfall can cause substantial damage to our landscapes.

As the plant roots rot because of too much water, diseases such as Pythiurn and Take-All root rot can become serious issues. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for Take-All root rot. The severity can be reduced by managing the symptoms over several years and even then, it may be necessary to replace the damaged sod. Pythium can be controlled with fungicide applications, but if the wet weather continues it may take several applications and time to stop the damage.

Adjusting the height of cut is important for healthy turf. Many people mow their lawn too short. St. Augustine lawns should be mowed at 3.5 to 4 inches high, if not higher. 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 weather issues.

lawn and landscape care

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Adjusting the height of cut is important for healthy turf. Many people mow their lawn too short

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