Post-storm dead spots in lawns require replanting

Allen D. Owings, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J.  |  10/2/2009 6:18:05 PM

Sustainable Landscape News From LaHouse Distributed 10/02/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Who knows when we will get another bad storm blowing through Louisiana? We may get just a nasty wind from some front or tornado-like activity. In any case, there will be fallen limbs and branches to deal with.

Sure signs of a recent bad storm are dead areas in the lawn. Most of these are located near the curbside where yard debris is piled up for many days. If urine burns are called “dog spots,” these debris areas can be called “hurricane spots,” as our fellow horticulturist Tom Koske dubbed them.

Grass requires sunlight and air. Depriving the lawn of these elements soon will lead to dead grass – grass that won’t revive.

What will come back are weeds and other grasses from seed. Some aggressive turf species may run back in from the edges of the dead spots, but this is not dependable way of rejuvenating large, dead areas.

If the piles are small, you might push them to the left or right about every four days hoping to get the mildly declining spot to recover. Most homeowners, however, will not or cannot go to this trouble. If debris remains in a pile a couple weeks before it’s picked up, expect a hurricane spot. The area will have to be reestablished.

Reestablishment in the fall is more limited than planting in the spring because seeding is not an option. Seeding warm-season grasses this late will produce juvenile turf that will go dormant with very little chance of surviving winter freezes unless it’s quite close to the warm locations near the Gulf.

Research shows that even fast-establishing, seeded Bermuda grasses will most likely fail to overwinter well in central or north Louisiana after an August seeding. It’s best to postpone seeding until late next spring. At that time, kill off the weed vegetation, prepare a seed bed and seed it.

For reestablishment during fall, grass planting is the surest route. Solid sod is a great choice, but plugs or sprigs also are options if you can stand the wait.

When you are planting sod, plugs or sprigs, you need a good seedbed free of weeds. Press the sod or plugs to where their stolons (creeping “branches”) are about level with the soil surface. This avoids a future lumpy lawn. Vigorous sprigs with roots also can be stuck into the ground to root. With sprigs and plugs, the closer you space them, the faster the coverage. Mow the plugs and sprigs regularly at the higher-recommended cut for that species.

If you are not covering the area completely with sod, watch for weeds this fall and next spring. A pre-emergence herbicide appropriate for your grass can keep weeds at bay or keep the spot clean all winter. Otherwise, be prepared for a post-emergence cleanup in mid- to late spring.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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