Lawn lovers awake, for it is now or never with the greenswards outside your front door.
If your lawn is a wreck and the thought of pouring concrete has crossed your mind of late, don't do anything on impulse. Now is when you take the bull by the horns and give your lawn your best shot. By early October, total strangers will knock on your door to ask who cares for your lawn. When they hear that you do, share with them the source of your turfgrass management program.
On the other hand, if your lawn is someplace between perfection and mediocrity, the challenge isn't all that awesome, which means the lawn will attain stardom that much sooner. However, time is a-wasting, so let us launch our fall renovation program.
Two programs exist. The disaster lawn program covers lawns with 70 percent or more weeds. For the imperfect lawn with considerable good grass, but also weeds constituting anywhere from 5 percent to 60 percent of the lawn, there is the 60-40 lawn program.
Perfect lawn: If you have not applied a soil insecticide to the sunny lawn in the past two weeks, do so as soon as it's convenient, using either granular Diazinon, Dursban, Dylox or Spectracide. Adjust your lawn spreader for the setting suggested on the bag, then apply to the entire sunny lawn. If the lawn needs cutting, cut first and then apply the insecticide. If it rains after the application, so much the better. Should there be grubworms on the lawn, this puts them in limbo.
Disaster lawns: A week ago or perhaps earlier this week, you were to have fertilized your lawn, the idea being to infuse energy into the weeds, which were languishing at the time. By now the weeds should be actively growing.
This weekend or first thing next week, cut your disaster lawn fairly low, two or three rungs from the lowest setting on the lawn mower. Mount the grass-catcher and bag the clippings as you mow the lawn. The weeds will continue to prosper over the next week, just in time for your one-and-only application of a non-selective weed killer to the lawn.
In preparation for next weekend's work, stop at the garden shop and buy your supplies. If your lawn is 1,000 square feet or less, buy a quart container of Ortho's liquid concentrate Kleenup. If your lawn is larger than 1,000 square feet, buy a quart of Roundup L&G liquid concentrate instead.
60-40 lawns: Weather permitting, you should start renovating your lawn today. Over the past week, you were to have stocked up on your supplies. If there are no trees on the lawn, you should use either 33 Plus or 3-Way Lawn Weed Killer. If there are trees on the lawn, buy a quart of Ortho liquid concentrate Weed-B-Gon. (Don't buy immense containers of these products because we will be recommending a new weed control product next year that destroys weeds, yet is safe to use around and under the dripline of trees.)
As we begin, the lawn should not have been cut since Wednesday to allow the weeds to grow. Healthy weeds are easy to control.
Let us detail the formulas for treating the lawn today. If there is more than a 20 percent chance of rain, postpone the treatment.
For lawns without trees, the application rate of 33 Plus or 3-Way Lawn Weed Killer is one ounce to one gallon of water for each 250 square feet. Let's assume you are treating a 1,000-square-foot lawn. Into the jar of the hose-end sprayer, add four ounces of the product, add water to the four-gallon mark, then attach the jar to the sprayer, move the deflector in place and spray the weedy lawn. Stay off the lawn for 24 hours after the treatment, pets included.
For lawns with trees, the application rate for Weed-B-Gon is four teaspoons per gallon to treat 200 square feet. Assuming you are treating a 1,000-square-foot lawn, add 20 teaspoons (this works out to 3 1/3 ounces) of Weed-B-Gon to the jar of the sprayer, add water to the five-gallon mark, then spray the contents over the weedy lawn. Stay off the lawn for 24 hours after the treatment, pets included.
No matter what product you use, spraying weeds requires planning and caution. Do not spray in the morning or afternoon, but only in the evening hours. Remember that absorption of herbicides by weeds only occurs while the leaf stays wet, therefore maximum absorption happens after nightfall when leaves stay wet for the longest period of time. At sunrise, leaves dry, but the herbicide remains on the leaf until nightfall, when humidity re-wets the leaf and absorption resumes.
If you apply a sticker-spreader to 33 Plus, 3-Way Lawn Weed Killer or Weed-B-Gon when you spray, there is little doubt about achieving excellent weed control.
Hose-end weed control calls for logistical planning, too. Use enough garden hose so you're able to start at the most distant point of the lawn. Make sure the air is calm before spraying. Wear old pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect skin. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves too.
Move the deflector in place at the end of the nozzle, then start spraying. Spray from left to right, then back again. The swath is seldom more then eight feet wide. Gripping the hose in one hand and the sprayer in the other, back up a few steps and continue spraying from left to right and back again, covering an eight-foot swath. Executed this way, your spray will provide maximum control of all weeds. Whenever you treat weeds in the future, use this procedure.
Assuming you treat your lawn this weekend, you're on vacation for the next few days. Meanwhile, examine your lawn closely to determine if there is crabgrass there, or goosegrass, yellow nutsedge, foxtail, barnyardgrass, orchardgrass, etc.; look specifically for grass-type weeds, even if you can't identify them. If you find them, add a quart of Rockland Super Crabgrass Killer to your shopping list now. For renovated lawns in Tidewater, Richmond, Charlottesville and the southern Shenandoah Valley, check the garden shop for Drexel's DSMA crabgrass killer if it is available in small packaging.
On Wednesday or Thursday, haul out the mower, adjust the wheel height to the third-lowest setting, then install the grass-catcher and cut the 60-40 lawn. Dispose of the clippings in plastic trash can liners.
Treat the crabgrass, etc., the same day, but not with the hose-end sprayer. Move a large trash can to the lawn. Add 12 gallons of water to the container, then the herbicide.
If the temperature is less than 90 degrees at the time of application, add one ounce of Super Crabgrass Killer to the trash can, then dip a two-gallon sprinkling can into the solution and start sprinkling over 1,000 square feet of the lawn. If the temperature is 90 or above, use a half-ounce of the crabgrass killer. All 12 gallons will go on the lawn. If you're unsure of 1,000 square feet, mark off the area first with lime, then apply all 12 gallons within the border.
Use a memo pad to keep a record of your lawn renovation. Jot down the date of this crabgrass treatment because you will make a second application of Super Crabgrass Killer one week later.
Next week's column will update both lawn renovation programs. Other reminders for the weekend:
Check hollies for evidence of leafminer damage, usually showing as gray-white serpentine trails in the leaves. There are two invasions a year, in May and July, so what you see is the extent of damage for 1990. Pick off any damaged leaves, adding them to the trash can. Inspect mulch also for fallen leaves harboring the larvae. Holly leafminer is a two-year cycle in foliage, so it pays to remove leaves soon after detection.
Beware of unwelcome blight in the bedding garden, most likely on marigold first, then spreading to sweet pea and zinnia. Flowers turn brown, then black, as disease spores overtake the plant. Check flowers a few times each week for discoloring of petals; if so, prune the flower and stalk immediately, almost to the ground, in an effort to confine the disease. Beware of petals falling to the ground because they help perpetuate the disease.
Time to move African violets from north-facing windows into southern rooms with brighter light; keep plants away from direct sunlight, however, and continue biweekly feedings with Peters' African Violet Special plant food. Jack Eden is the host of "Over the Garden Fence" Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTOP Radio (1500 AM).