Caring for Your Lawn and the Environment

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Spring is almost upon us and grass will soon begin to green up and break dormancy. The sound of lawn mowers, weed eaters, and backpack blowers will soon be our alarm clocks early on Saturday mornings, awakening us from what we expected to be our day to sleep in. Instead of pulling the pillow over our heads and trying to drown out these sounds, we may as well go ahead and join our neighbors and lawn care providers in mowing and maintaining our lawns and landscapes. Besides, no one wants to have the worst looking yard in the neighborhood. The best approach to having a great looking lawn is determined by what type of grass you have. Different grasses require different management techniques to maintain a dark green and lush appearance. Remember, the best and most efficient way to prevent weeds, pests, and disease from harming your lawn is to have a healthy and vigorous growing lawn. The following management practices will help you care for your lawn throughout the year, however location, terrain, soil type, condition, age, previous care, and other factors affect lawn performance, so adjust these management practices and dates to suit your particular lawn.

Bermudagrass should be mowed when the lawn first turns green in March or April. Set your mower blades to a recommended mowing height of 1”. If scalping of the grass occurs at 1”, adjust the height of the mower deck or blades enough to prevent scalping. Leave your grass clippings on the lawn; they decompose quickly and provide up to 25% of the lawns required fertilizer. Apply fertilizer to Bermudagrass at a rate of ½ to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in May, June, July, and August. In August you should apply 1 pound of potassium per 1,000 square feet using a product such as 0-0-60, 0-0-50, or 0-0-22. For weed control, apply a pre-emergent herbicide from February through March. Apply a post-emergent herbicide in May as needed to control summer annual and perennial broadleaf weeds. A two or three way herbicide controls weeds more effectively, but make sure you read the label and follow all rates and recommendations.

Centipedegrass should be mowed to a recommended mowing height of 1”. Don’t let grass get higher than 1.5” high, and never burn off centipede to remove excess debris. An early yellow appearance in centipede may indicate an iron deficiency. Apply iron (ferrous) sulfate or a chelated iron source as needed. Follow label directions and grass will green up within a few days. Wait to fertilize centipede until June and then only apply ½ pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. When dogwoods are in full bloom apply pre-emergent herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply post-emergent herbicides three weeks after greenup if you have summer annual broadleaf weeds. Centipede is sensitive to certain herbicides, so follow label instructions and make sure the herbicide is labeled for use on centipedegrass. As always, follow all labeling instructions.

Zoysiagrass should be mowed to a recommended mowing height of 1”. Begin mowing in the spring at greenup before it reaches a height of 2”. Apply ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet 3 weeks after greenup. Use a complete fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio such as 12-4-8 or 16-4-8. Do not apply more than 2 pounds of nitrogen per year. To determine how much fertilizer you need to buy, divide 50 by the first number on the fertilizer bag. For example, if you need 12-4-8 fertilizer, divide 50 by 12 and you get 4.2. This means you need to buy 4.2 pounds of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. For weed control apply pre-emergent herbicides in mid-March. Apply post-emergent herbicides in May, or when weeds are present, to control summer annual broadleaf weeds. As with Bermudagrass, a two or three way broadleaf herbicide is more effective in controlling broadleafs. Be sure the herbicide is labeled for use on zoysiagrass.

Insects of concern in lawns are white grubs and ground pearls. White grubs are the larvae of Japanese Beetles, and they burrow through the lawn eating roots and destroying large patches of grass. An easy way to check for white grubs is to look for mole activity in your lawn. Moles feed on white grubs and are active where there are large numbers of white grubs. A more scientific way to check for grubs is to examine your yard in April by cutting a 1 foot square flap of sod and rolling it back. Examine several areas of your yard using this method. If you discover 5 or more grubs per square foot, a pesticide application is justified. According to the 2016 NC Agricultural Chemical Manual, homeowners should use pesticides with an active ingredient such as Carbaryl or Imidacloprid to control white grubs.

Ground pearls are scale insects that attach to the roots of grass and extract juices until the plants die. They cause circular dead areas in lawns which spread at a rate of approximately 1 foot per year. Unfortunately, there is no method for controlling ground pearls at this time, and the best recommendations to control ground pearls is to maintain a healthy and vigorous lawn.

Always use best management practices to ensure there are no environmental issues when working with lawns. Excess nutrients can pollute surface and groundwater, so only apply the amounts recommended by soil testing or general recommendations. Apply pesticides at labeled rates, and calibrate your spraying equipment so that you know your sprayer’s output. Read the labels of all pesticides and choose the ones that will control your pest problems, while being less toxic to pollinators and aquatics.

For further information about lawn care or environmental concerns, contact the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service located at 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton, (910)592-7161,

The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.

Brad Hardison is an Agricultural Extension Agent specializing in horticulture. Contact Brad by calling the Extension Center at calling  (910) 592-7161 or  by emailing at