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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
rust in lawns

Early Dry Weather Effects on Grass and Potential for Lawn Rust

Posted by John Fulton -

I refer to it as "buckhorn days." With the early period of combined heat and lower rainfall (unless you were under one of the passing rain clouds which dumped moisture), we are seeing conditions typical of late July or August. The main things actively growing in many lawns at this time are called weeds. One of the traditional weeds during dry periods is plantain. There are two common types of plantain in our area. Buckhorn plantain has narrow leaves and a spiked seed head (hence my term of buckhorn days). Broadleaf plantain has the same type of seed head, but as the name suggests, it has broad leaves. As the only green areas in some lawns, control with 2,4-D may be beneficial. That's assuming you don't want the weeds and the unsightly green spots. Of course, the shaded areas tend to be greener, and the pasture type grasses are faring better than the ones we planted for our lawns as well.

New grass put out this spring is probably suffering the most. We can add moisture, but not take away the heat. The heat is one of the major factors in recommending spring seedings be completed around April 1 to allow for establishment of the root system.

We are probably poised for a bout of lawn rust as well. Stress conditions, such as the weather just experienced, followed by cooler weather with dew are ideal for rust. The use of fungicides on lawns isn't generally recommended, and the rust will disappear as growing conditions improve. Also, conditions which allow the grass to dry quicker will help prevent it. These would include trimming low-hanging tree and shrub branches, and watering in the morning to allow for drying during the daytime.

If you're in an area that hasn't received moisture for about a month or more, you might want to consider watering with a quarter of an inch or so to keep existing grass roots and crowns alive. This should be done on a weekly basis. This won't green up the grass, but will allow it to green up when it does start raining. Most areas have caught a bit of moisture, but it is hard for any plants to take up enough moisture to supply the above ground parts with the type of weather we just went through.

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