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Dry springtime draws out brown patch, fire ants and fleas

Grass with brown patch

A lack of rainfall and irrigation this year is causing dying areas.  

Some years we know through rainfall where our lawns are getting too much water and we need to work on our drainage. This year it is so dry and windy, we can learn a lot about our irrigation systems and how well they are covering our landscape.

Charleston usually averages 48 inches of rainfall, so irrigations systems aren’t usually required to provide all the water, just supplement it. Since we are way behind on rainfall this year, we are seeing a lot of dying areas due to a lack of water. Many of these places have irrigation; however, due to the wind and lack of good coverage, they are still experiencing dry spots. 

You might need to put an irrigation head into the corners of your property or adjust the heads that are already there to spray into the dry areas. If it turns out that lack of irrigation is causing the brown patches, you could hand water these areas if you don’t feel like going through the expense of adding an irrigation head. 

Since the grass is so stressed from a lack of water, the smallest bit of rain is enough to generate a brown patch outbreak. I also saw some grey leaf spot on St. Augustine grass. Brown patch sits and waits for the moisture, temperature and for a susceptible host plant -your grass- to get lined up and it attacks.

Dry weather also helps hide fire ants. With plenty of moisture, fire ants usually have a visible mound. As dry as it has been, fire ants are still out there foraging even though they do not have a distinct mound. Be careful, they are harder to see and they will still bite the fool out of you.

The dry weather has also brought the nasty rascal, the chinch bug, out on St. Augustine grass earlier than usual. I actually saw chinch bugs back in April. In the old days, it didn’t seem like we worried about the nasty rascal until July 4th. However, anytime there is a dry spring, they will be out early.

Fleas have come out in full force this spring. They were bad last year, and it appears they will be bad again this year. Nylar growth regulator will help control these guys inside and out. Also, include an adulticide with this growth regulator. When treating fleas, using a product with a growth regulator will help you break up their life cycle and make managing them will be a lot easier.

Water, water, water! A lot of grass and trees are severely stressed from the lack of rain. Adding organic matter to your yard or a wetting agent will help improve water retention. Many people will see a 30-60% reduction in their water bill from applying these products to their lawn. Trees don’t show stress as obviously as your grass does but trees are very important to the landscape and are expensive to take down and replace. Trees that are under drought stress usually die from borers or some other secondary insect, when all they really need is a little water.

As humans need to drink a lot this time of year, so does your grass. Water, water, water. The nighttime temperatures are finally warming up to the point where grass should grow and start filling in bare areas.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply, 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600). Fax your questions to 406-2700 or e-mail them to your newspaper’s editors. You can also call in your questions to the Garden Clinic, Saturdays 10:00-Noon, on News Radio 94.3 FM (721-TALK).