The need-to-know info for making the most of your October lawn: from seeding and plant recommendations, to disease and insect control tips.
Even though fall is the ideal time to seed for cold-season lawns, there are still common post-seeding challenges to be aware of.
Throughout September and October, rainfall has been scarce in North Carolina. Dry conditions are unfavorable for fescue seed germination, as it requires consistent soil moisture. Until adequate moisture levels are met, seed will not germinate.
During this dry spell, light irrigation 3-4 times a day may be necessary for germination to begin. In-ground irrigation can produce slightly better results than above-ground sprinklers, but results still may vary. We recommend using small baggies of seed in areas of your lawn where no seed is present—not on top of the present, ungerminated seed.
Cold-season turf like fescue uses more energy than it can store in the summer, which leads to its decline starting around August. It began to lessen and lose root mass once ground temperatures reached 80 degrees and dry air temperatures passed 80+ degrees. Proper irrigation can help, but only so much.
Pre-emergent weed control applications in late winter/spring have broken down by now, which allows crabgrass and broadleaf weeds (like chamberbitter) to germinate and develop. While your first instinct may be to return to pre-emergent weed control applications, these will prevent seed germination and development.
Have you ever heard of NC being in the transitional zone? Essentially, because NC weather transitions from cool winters to hot summers, neither warm- nor cool-season grasses are an exact fit for our state. For this reason, even with a versatile grass like cool-season fescue, successful seeding is heavily dependent on it happening in the fall. This is due to the potential for heat/dry periods, excess shade, disease damage and more that can occur in the spring. You can learn more from our blog.
Fairway Green’s hand-selected fescue seed mix, Southern Perfection, contains three turf-type tall fescues (and 0% weed and 0% other crop contamination). These varieties were specifically chosen because they have the highest heat and drought tolerance/recovery, disease resistance and color and texture quality. That’s why Southern Perfection is WaterStar® qualified through the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA). We offer this custom seed mixture to customers and non-customers alike, either in 1-gallon or 50-pound bags, and can seed it ourselves via core aeration seeding.
Core aeration seeding is a common practice for seeding fescue in the fall, which Fairway Green is happy to offer. This process involves creating small holes in your soil (done by removing thatch and soil), which reduces compaction and helps prepare the seeding bed. This ensures the best seed-to-soil contact, which is crucial for good germination and lawn establishment.
Core aeration will also:
PLEASE NOTE: Due to factors beyond our control (watering, soil and climate conditions, adverse weather conditions, etc.), we cannot guarantee a stand of turf after seeding. We can guarantee, however, that Fairway Green will do the seeding job properly and use the best seed available on the market. If you have any concerns about services performed by us, you MUST contact us within three business days of when they were done.
Otherwise, success is in your hands! Watering is the key, but if you cannot water, just be patient. The seed will still germinate but it will take much longer.
Large patch fungus is a harmful disease for zoysia, bermuda, centipede and st. augustine turfs in the fall. It’s similar to brown patch fungus on fescue, and Fairway Green is seeing more cases of it every year in our area. Damage occurs before you can even be aware of it and will not be visible until green-up in the spring. Controlling large patch fungus requires two applications of preventative fungicide in the spring and fall, or when ground temperatures are between 50 and 70 degrees.
Planting ornamentals in the fall allows them to establish with less stress from heat and drought conditions. Here are some key tips to help them thrive:
Fairway Green wants to remind everyone that we still have an armyworm threat this month, as their life cycle continues all the way through November (it is believed that they do not survive winter months in North Carolina). We have seen several cases recently of fall armyworms laying eggs on structures like homes, trees and shrubs. Eggs hatch as larva, drop to the ground and start feeding heavily on healthy actively growing turf for about two-to-three weeks. For more information on them and how they can best be managed, read our blog.
We are now in the midst of the fall grub cycle—when white grubs can cause major damage if not caught early.
White grubs are the larvae of Scarab beetles. There are several beetles that produce the grubs we see while digging in our lawns and natural areas, including Southern and Northern Chafer, Japanese, Asiatic, Green June and May beetles. Grubs are identifiable by their off-white colored bodies and off-brown hinds and heads. Grubs have six legs and measure from ¼ to 1½ inches. They are often seen in their C-shaped position in the soil.
White grubs create damage in turf by eating through root systems. This damage is usually observed in the fall as an off-color, wilting appearance to one’s lawn. While the effects can look similar to disease or heat stress, you can confirm you’re dealing with white grub damage by:
To determine the extent of your grub activity and the need for control, you will need to use a spade to remove the upper 3 inches of soil in a 12” x 12” area. Then, cut back the turf sample to count the number of grubs and inspect root damage. If you see nine or more grubs, take immediate action utilizing proper products. We can also be of assistance in developing a custom plan of action.