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Georgia Clipping: Catch some of that “spring fever!”

By EDDIE SEAGLE

“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” W. Earl Hall. “Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” Virgil A. Kraft.
It’s mid-March and the weather is awesome – a great time to be outside! Easter is just around the corner and will be celebrated on March 27th. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox which happens on March 20th this year, the first day of spring. We will experience some cool temperatures as Easter weekend approaches which will impact our landscape planting activities. March is the month that transitions our weather from winter to spring. Let’s catch some of that “spring fever” and get outside into the great outdoors and make a difference!
The flowering of the saucer magnolias and flowering cherries, then the Bradford (Callery) pears and eventually the bud-breaking of the pecan trees are very good indicators that spring is in the air. Thus, it’s time to think lawns and their seasonal needs through the basic cultural practices of mowing, irrigation, and fertilization as winter transitions into spring.
Mowing: Mowing is a very critical cultural practice that helps determine the health of the lawn. Be sure to set the mower at the appropriate height and keep it serviced and stored properly for a longer life. Lawns in this area consist of either centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, zoysia, or bermudagrass as favorites. However, some yards have evolved offering simply a green color with a conglomerate of existing stands of bahiagrass, carpetgrass, and common bermudagrass sharing the same space with a dab of centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass or zoysia (survival of the fittest in action). This latter choice is least appreciated with minimal curb appeal but does offer some degree of greenery and erosion protection.
Mow centipedegrass at 1.5 to 2.5 inches, St. Augustinegrass at 3.0 to 4.0 inches, zoysia at 1.0 to 2.0 inches and bermudagrass at 0.75 to 1.5 inches depending on the cultivar. The yard conglomerate can be mowed at 2.0 to 4.0 inches. The main problem with mowing is that many people mow their lawns too close, thus scalping. And when you scalp your lawn, it is weakened or killed and weeds move in real fast.
The best mower to use on centipedegrass is a rotary mower and a reel mower will be needed for St. Augustinegrass, zoysia and bermudagrass. Also, a rotary can be used on the yard conglomerate. Mowers are designed to be used in the forward direction while mowing. The more frequently you mow, the more often the mower pattern should be changed to prevent tracking, compaction and grain (horizontal growth of the grass). Mow centipedegrass every 7 to 10 days, St. Augustinegrass every 7 days, and zoysia and bermudagrass every 3 to 5 days. Mow your yard conglomerate every week. The bahiagrass and carpetgrass in these stands will send up a seedhead within 24 to 48 hours after mowing which is unsightly and decreases curb appeal.
It is recommended to collect your clippings through bagging and properly dispose through composting or natural wastes dump sites. This approach improves curb appeal and also helps minimize weed populations by removing their seeds from the lawn area during the mowing process. Or, use a dethatching blade on your mower to return the clipping vegetation back into the lawn area.
Irrigation: Another critical cultural practice is irrigation or the application of water to our plants for their good health. Irrigate your lawn with approximately one-inch of water each week on the average. Centipedegrass may require less while zoysia, St. Augustinegrass, and bermudagrass may require a bit more. Keep your irrigation systems calibrated and serviced for best results to minimize overspray, wrongful spray, puddling and runoff. Do not water driveways, sidewalks, streets, and the walls of houses. We know this but improper irrigation head placement, size, calibration, or service can waste water in such ways.
Properly irrigate your trees, shrubs and flowers. These plants will need between 1 and 2 inches of water each week depending on the particular plant. Hopefully, your irrigation system has been designed so that these plants are watered separately from the turfgrasses. Otherwise, you will always have problematic areas either in the lawn or beds depending on which area you focus your application rates. However, if you have used xeriscaping approaches and sustainable strategies then you should have minimum problematic issues and areas.
Fertilization: The third critical cultural practice is fertilization or the application of nutrients for our plants survival. Seek out the proper answers to your specific plant materials as to specific fertilizers, timing and rates. Always conduct a soil test to determine what’s already there so that you do not create toxic conditions, environmental hazards, or waste.
Continue to think in terms of native and sustainable plants in the landscape since these will be more environmental-friendly and easier to maintain.
Remember to feed and water the songbirds. Give your pets the care they need. Do not leave them unattended in a cold/hot car or tied to a tree all day long. Do not leave them out at night in inclement weather. Also, be on lookout for children playing and bicyclists riding along the streets and roadways throughout our communities. Don’t drive distracted or impaired, and don’t text while driving. Help the homeless every chance you get. Let’s keep everyone safe!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Seagle is a Sustainability Associate, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International), Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Associate Editor of The Golf Course (International Journal of Golf Science), and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to eddie@csiseagle.com.