commlawnbkgd2

DROUGHT DAMAGE
to Lawns and Landscapes
By Harold Jones
Southern Horticultural Consultants

This is a La Nina year which typically means warmer than normal temperatures and dryer than normal weather.

This has certainly been somewhat typical of that weather model. Although our winter was wetter than normal in January and February, it turned dry after that and except for a couple of weeks in late June and early July, it has been very hot and dry. We’ve even had temperatures above 100 degrees and that is not normal for North East Florida.

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chinchbugdamage
newsletter
summer 2011

Damage to St. Augustine Lawn caused by chinch bugs.

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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 at same amount of water when it rains. An irrigation system works at about 60 percent 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 can also suffer from browning of leaves, loss of leaves and can even die due to the extreme weather .

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.

Northeast Florida is natural habitat for subterranean termites. They are found throughout our area and can damage homes. During drought they will be looking for moisture and can infest homes. Homes in our area are protected with termite pretreatments when they are built. There are several different management programs that are successful if handled properly. Chemical applications to the soil under the concrete slab and around the foundation are effective, but will need to be done again on a periodic basis. Bait stations are also approved for termite management and can be effective. For the bait stations to be effective, the stations should be placed every 8 to 10 feet around the entire home. Placing them on one side or portion of the house is not recommended.

All of these programs can fail at times, but if managed properly the failures are found during inspections. Be sure you read your termite contract. Some contracts only require the company to retreat the infestation and they are not responsible for repairing the damage.

Read your contract to see if yours covers damage repair or only retreating. Repair contract are more expensive, but can be worth the investment in Florida.

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off-island Fernandina Beach
and surrounding communities.

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