Campbell Vaughn: Time to prune, dig up weeds and fertilize

Now that the Masters Tournament is another year behind us and the threat of cold weather is in the distance, it is time to start our spring landscape task list.

 

We are going to also assume the days of frost are behind us. With the increase in daily temperatures, so is the increased risk for insects and disease. So now is a good time to get in there and start whacking. Avoid using electric trimmers and choose sharp loppers. The cleaner the cut, the less likely there will be a wound for insects and disease to infest.

It is time to prune the azaleas back. Azaleas set their blooms by July, so you have a couple of months to prune, but the sooner you trim them after they bloom the better. Azaleas like good air flow, so cut some branches out deep in the shrub. If you have indica azaleas, you might need to take them back a good bit because they can get huge if you let them. You can prune them back as far as 18 inches, but I would avoid that drastic of a trimming. My rule of thumb is to prune them to two-thirds of the intended size and allow them to flush out. Help the azalea’s overall health by getting deep in the shrub bed and get the weeds out the best you can.

Dig those cherry laurels, oak seedlings, Virginia creeper and cane briars out from the root. Cutting these weeds off at the base is a temporary fix. Trimming the weeds helps establish root systems and allows these unwanted plants to flush. Get them now, because next year they will be much more difficult to remove. Add an ornamental preemergence like Preen or Amaze. Fertilize with a good general purpose fertilizer like 13-13-13 and water in with a sprinkler.

As for your turf, grasses have greened up enough to fertilize. Don’t use the high nitrogen fertilizers yet. These high nitrogen Weed and Feed products have been in the stores for months and I have seen some serious long-term damage from using them too early.

Fertilizing turf on May 1 is a good rule of thumb. 16-4-8 is a good first dose treatment for our warm season grasses. For bermuda and zoysia grasses, use about 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet; St. Augustine use 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet; and centipede will be about 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Centipede is supposed to be Granny Smith apple green and high doses of nitrogen will make it real green but too much fertilizer can be detrimental. Make sure to water the fertilizer in well after applying.

Fertilizers can burn if it sits on the leaf too long. Consider core aerating bermuda and zoysia in May as well. Plant roots need to breath just like we do and this is a great way to get their roots growing deep. I don’t recommend core aeration for centipede and St. Augustine grasses because of the damage it does to their above-ground runners.

I have also been seeing signs of large patch fungus (also called brown patch) in centipede and St Augustine grasses. These spots of fungus are round areas of dying grass that slowly creep outward. If you see this happening, stop watering and don’t apply any nitrogen. Treat with a general purpose fungicide like Immunox with myclobutanil or Scott’s Lawn Fungus Control product with thiophanate methyl. This will help stunt the fungus and get your grass back on track. Hopefully the grass will fill back in just in time for chinch bugs …

Reach Campbell Vaughn, the agriculture and natural resources cooperative extension agent for Richmond County, by emailing augusta@uga.edu.

 

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