Landscape problems may take year-round care

Allen D. Owings, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J.  |  10/16/2008 6:15:50 PM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 10/16/08

The LSU AgCenter has been promoting research-based best management practices in the home landscape for several years to educate residents on how to manage their lawns, gardens and landscapes to minimize nonpoint pollution, insects, weeds and diseases.

Home landscape problems that need to be dealt with on a regular basis include insect identification and control, problems with general lawn maintenance, turf and ornamental diseases, warm- and cool-season weed control in home lawns and weed control in landscape beds.

Being familiar with common insect problems and knowing how to properly identify insect problems when necessary is important. Major insect pests in Louisiana include scale on camellia, holly and magnolia; lacebugs on azaleas and lantanas; chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass; aphids; whiteflies and many more.

Formosan subterranean termites are doing serious damage to ornamental trees in some areas of Louisiana. It’s usually necessary to identify insect pests properly to apply the proper control measures. The LSU AgCenter is a great resource in proper identification of insects and other pests.

General lawn maintenance includes everything from species selection to irrigation and fertilization. A well-maintained lawn provides many environmental benefits. Fall is the time of year when many folks think about applying “winterizer” fertilizer to their lawns. Beware of winterizers, especially if the first number (representing nitrogen) is higher than 5. Too much nitrogen in the late summer to early fall can cause increased growth that can predispose your lawn to winter injury with the next cold front.

Proper mowing height is important, so learn and use the proper mowing height for the type of grass you have. Also, consider your soil pH. Centipede grass does well on acid soil while St. Augustine grass needs neutral to slightly alkaline soil.

We have numerous lawn and ornamental diseases in Louisiana. Examples include Entomosporium and Cercospora leaf spot on many popular shrubs, brown patch and melting out on turfgrass and black spot on roses. Powdery mildew and leaf spot are common problems on crape myrtles. Many of these diseases can be destructive if not corrected or avoided, although few are fatal, except for root rots, which commonly are. Variety selection and proper cultural practices will aid in preventing diseases.

In Louisiana, weeds are ever present in our lawns. Maintain healthy turf to achieve control over this year-round battle. Lawns with a history of annual weed issues will benefit from a preemergent herbicide applied in the early fall to control cool-season weeds and a preemergent herbicide applied in the late winter/early spring to control warm season weeds.

Controlling sedges and broadleaf weeds in landscape beds is difficult. Nutsedge and broadleaf weeds are a major problem, but they can be controlled better than most people believe by mulching, especially with pine straw. Hand-pulling is another method that will have no negative environmental impact and will get the gardener outside and familiar with different weeds.

Chemical control is another option, but follow the directions very closely. Preemergence herbicides, such as Preen and Amaze, work well if applied properly. Sedgehammer, a postemergence herbicide, works well on sedges, but don’t apply it to desirable plants.

You can aid the performance of your landscape plants, especially some of the lawn grass issues identified here, by following best management practices recommended by the LSU AgCenter.

More information on home landscaping from the LSU AgCenter and details on horticulture work at LaHouse can be found at www.lsuagcenter.com and www.louisianahouse.org. LaHouse is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the new LSU baseball stadium.

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Contacts:
Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu
Allen D. Owings at (985) 543-4125 or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu
John Young at (225) 578-2415 or 578-2222 or JoYoung@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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