Blackwelder column: Hot weather allows crabgrass to thrive

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Intermittent rainfall and humidity over the past few weeks, coupled with excessive heat this summer, provided crabgrass and other weeds ample opportunity to flourish. Homeowners are pondering lawn renovations, which are just around the corner.
August is the month to prepare for fertilization and reseeding in the September. September is the opportune month to fertilize and reseed fescue and other cool season lawns in Rowan County.
Now is the time to have your soils tested. This procedure eliminates the guesswork and ultimately saves money in determining the amount of lime and other nutrients needed for maximum turf growth.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture provides this as a free service to residents of North Carolina. The sample kits are available from the Cooperative Extension Office. Don’t bring your soil to the Extension Office — send it via mail or UPS to Raleigh for analysis.
Weeds seem to be the No. 1 problem in a fescue lawn. In some instances, if the lawn is mostly weeds, it’s best to kill the entire lawn and start over. Herbicides containing glyphosate (Roundup) kill unwanted grasses and weeds to the root. Applying this now gives you a chance to reapply to areas missed by the first spray. Lawns that are completely killed are easy to till, making a better seedbed for emerging grass seed.
Killing entire sections in blocks often works best for determining fertilizer and seed.
Grass seed will germinate on areas that are shallowly raked with a garden rake; however, germination is best when a tiller is used to turn the soil at least 3- to 5-inches deep.
The loose seedbed allows better penetration of roots during the growing season.
Rake the soil smooth and remove any large clods or rocks as you till. The fluffed soil is difficult to seed and fertilize at times as your feet often sink into the soft, newly tilled soil, leaving deep tracks or wheel ruts. You can rent a roller and firm the soil after seeding to make it smooth, but, in a few weeks after the seeds germinate, sunken tracks and ruts will disappear.
Those with thin lawn areas or not enough to warrant a tiller may want to employ a core-aerator. These machines pull out plugs of soil allowing seed and fertilizer the opportunity to work their way in below the soil surface.
Darrell Blackwelder, county extension director, Rowan County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension; 704-216-8970