Bermuda grass affected by lack of sun

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For the first few weeks in June, when we started getting all that rain, it was a blessing for our lawns. But something changed in the past few weeks – they aren’t as green anymore. What happened?

Warm-season grasses need sunshine to do well, some more than others. As you know, sunshine has been in short supply lately. When it hasn’t been raining, it has been cloudy and overcast most days.

The grass most affected by the lack of sun is Bermuda. Most Bermuda lawns have developed an off-green color that we are not used to seeing. Couple that with the fact that fit has been hard to mow the grass because it is too soggy. Therefore, we don’t mow it as often.

When you do mow, you cut off most, if not all, of the grass blades, leaving only brown stems. Last weekend I saw a freshly cut Bermuda lawn that was 100 percent brown. It looked like it was either winter time or armyworms had eaten the lawn.

In some cases, the grass is not growing as quickly, either – Bermuda, in particular. In a recent e-mail, a woman told me she was catching fewer clippings in her mower bag compared to last year.

There are some other factors in play when it comes to the off color. Many lawns are being unintentionally scalped. If the mower wheels sink in the ground because of soil saturation, that is like lowering your cutting height one or two notches.

You might need to raise your mower one notch above where you normally cut it. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a finely manicured Emerald zoysia lawn that looked as though a big truck had driven across the yard because the riding lawn mower tires sunk so deeply in the ground.

Because of so much rain, all the nitrogen has leached out of the soil so the grass is starving for nutrition. Depending on how long it has been since you fertilized, you might apply some more. But I say this with caution when it comes to St. Augustine.

If you have the disease gray leaf spot because of the rain, I would hold off because the nitrogen in the fertilizer might make it worse.

Things have definitely changed for some of us in the area. As of this writing, I have not had any measurable accumulation of rain since July 15. It has rained all around the area, just not near my house.

Cicada killers

Cicada killers are big “bees” about 1½ to 2 inches long, with black and yellow bands on the abdomen. They are solitary, and they go into the ground with the cicadas (locust) they have killed, thus their name. The cicadas are food for the cicada killer larvae after they hatch. I have a cicada killer that has a nest in my front yard at the edge of an azalea bed. I watched her carry the cicada into the hole a few weeks ago.

Cicada killers are solitary wasps, unlike hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasps, which all live in social groups. Cicada killers live in solitary units where each female digs her own burrow, 6 to 10 inches deep and as much as 6 inches horizontally, to lay her eggs. The nest entrance is usually left open. They prefer to burrow in well-drained or sandy soils. Each burrow can have as many as 20 eggs, each in an individual cell, and each egg can have as many as three cicadas to feed on in its cell.

Cicada killer wasps are seen in the landscape in July or August for about a month. By September, adult cicada killers will have mated, provisioned their burrows with cicadas for the larvae, laid their eggs and died.

Though virtually harmless, cicada killers can in­vade landscape and make a mess with their dirt piles.

If you think control is necessary, locate their nests during daylight hours and treat after dark when female wasps are in their nests. Any over-the-counter insecticide will kill them.

Before you decide to do away with these insects, remember their name. They are predators on cicadas, so they provide good biological control of these pests of ornamental trees and shrubs. Actually, the best overall control is prevention.

Because cicada killers nest in open areas without vegetation, healthy, thick lawns without bare spots will not be attacked.

REACH SID MULLIS, THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA EXTENSION SERVICE OFFICE FOR RICHMOND COUNTY, AT (706) 821-2349 OR SMULLIS@UGA.EDU.

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