I listened to a webcast in late 2015 that featured two prominent turfgrass industry educators / experts. Nevermind that one of the men is a graduate of my alma mater and the other one taught the owner here at SB Turf, Inc.... Dr. Patrick McCullough (currently a professor at University of Georgia) and Dr. Bert McCarty (currently a professor at Clemson University) are hands-down two of the most respected and knowledgeable men in our area when it comes to everything turf / turfgrass / sod in the southeast.

I want to take a blog post here and re-cap (as best I can) some of their valuable insights regarding the growing season at the end of 2015, looking forward to 2016. Here are some takeaways I got out of listening to the webcast:

Mild Summer / Fall 2015: The end of summer & last months of 2015 were considered to be "mild" and has affected turf along the eastern seaboard in this way: warm season grasses in our area may be a little weaker because of these milder temperatures. That means that our lawns probably won't be as vigorous when Spring 2016 arrives. (November 2015 was one of the wettest and warmest on record, with rainfall that was inches above normal and temperatures around 5 degrees above average.) The milder temperatures don't allow the grass to "harden off" as much as they need to before winter arrives.

Early Winter Weed Germination: The wet and mild temps mean that winter annual weeds germinated earlier this year than normal. So, we've got MORE weeds coming EARLIER. This means that the window of treatment of the winter annual weeds was shortened, since treatment is more effective BEFORE they emerge. McCarty said that even though the weeds were still small, he was beginning to see winter weeds earlier than usual. Homeowners and landscapers who applied pre-emergent herbicides may have done so too late, missing the optimum time for the chemicals to have done much good killing the weeds.

Pro Tip: Pre-emergent herbicides should be used to treat lawns (roughly) TWO WEEKS BEFORE winter weeds germinate.

"Right now is the time to get after them, before the weeds have a chance to get big or mature," says McCarty. "Because when plants start to develop their reproductive structures, they become a lot less susceptible to herbicides." So, in a nutshell, McCarty said that even if you didn't get the pre-emergent put down during the most opportune time, putting it down before the weeds mature will still have some desired affects on them. McCullough recommends using the active ingredient "atrazine," especially in centipede lawns. He also said that getting the herbicides put out before the hard winter temperatures move in will still allow the weeds time absorb the herbicide. Between December - February, McCarty said that herbicides with the acive ingredient "simazine" should be effective for winter weeds that did pop up (aka: postemergent).

More Brown Patch: The milder temps and excess water will make for the perfect environment for brown patch to grow. Even though you won't see the effects until the Spring, NOW would be the time to treat for brown patch because the disease could be taking hold now. (Think: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.) Other tips given to help decrease the chances of brown patch were to keep your mowing height tall and to keep fall leaves blown off your lawn.

Potassium is Important: The experts also stated during their webcast that a "good shot" of potassium during the Fall is the best defense turfgrass has against winter weather. Why? It encourages deeper rooting, especially in shady areas. (Disclaimer: We recommend getting a soil test to see if your lawn needs the extra potassium.)

Hopefully you will find this post a good recap of relevant topics from some turfgrass professionals. Do what I did, and take some of the information and commit it to memory.


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