Master Gardener: Lawncare, plant watering and bag worms are hot topics this summer

Chris Himmelwright
Pratt Tribune

Is My Lawn Still Alive?

Summer time heat brings concerns about when and how much to water lawns, and good mowing plans.

Normally, a healthy lawn can stay dormant for a good five weeks and still recover. After the five weeks are up, it is important to keep the crown hydrated because if the crown dies, the plant dies. The recommendations differ for a lawn that was overwatered or received so much rain this spring so that it produced a limited root system. Such a lawn may die unless allowed to slowly enter dormancy. This is done by shutting off the water gradually. For example, instead of watering several times a week, wait a week before irrigating. Then don’t water again for two weeks. Thereafter, water every two weeks as described below. Apply about 1/4 inch of water every two weeks to hydrate the crown. This will be enough to hydrate the crown but not enough to encourage weed germination and growth. If you are wondering if the turf is still alive, pull up an individual plant and separate the leaves from the crown. The crown is the area between the leaves and the roots. If it is still hard and not papery and dry, the plant is still alive. When rains and cooler weather arrive, the turf should come out of dormancy. However, we will probably have to deal with weeds that germinate before the turfgrass grows enough to canopy over and provide enough shade to keep weed seeds from sprouting.

Watering Fruit Plants in Hot Summers

When temperatures exceed 90 degrees F, fruit plants lose water quickly. When this happens, moisture is withdrawn from the fruit to supply the tree. Stress from high temperatures, along with a moisture deficit in the root environment, may cause fruit to drop or fail to increase in size. The stress may also reduce the development of fruit buds for next year's fruit crop. If you have fruit plants such as trees, vines, canes, and such, check soil moisture at the roots. Insert a spade or shovel or a pointed metal or wood probe -- a long screwdriver works well for this. Shove these into the soil about 8 to 12 inches. If the soil is hard, dry, and difficult to penetrate, the moisture level is very low, and plants should be irrigated to prevent drooping and promote fruit enlargement. Water can be added to the soil using sprinklers, soaker hose, drip irrigation, or even a small trickle of water running from the hose for a few hours. The amount of time you irrigate should depend upon the size of plants and the volume of water you are applying. Add enough moisture so you can easily penetrate the soil in the root area of the plant with a metal rod, wooden dowel or other probe. When hot, dry weather continues, continue to check soil moisture at least once a week.

Strawberries have a shallow root system and may need to be watered more often – maybe twice a week during extreme weather. Also, newly planted fruit trees sited on sandy soils may also need water twice a week.

Look for Bagworms Now

Damage from bagworms usually appears in late July or Early August. Bagworms are difficult to control when they are that large. They are much easier to kill while small. Bagworms overwinter as eggs inside the dead female’s bag. Young larvae normally hatch and emerge during mid to late May in Kansas. Now would be a good time to use control measures if you haven’t already sprayed. However, make sure the bagworms are present by looking for a miniature version of the mature bagworm. Also, check to be sure the bagworms are alive before spraying. Predators and parasites can sometimes naturally control this pest. Insecticides commonly used for controlling bagworms include acephate (Orthene), permethrin (numerous trade names), cyfluthrin (Bayer Vegetable and Garden Insect spray), bifenthrin (Bug Blaster II, Bug-B-Gon Max Lawn and Garden Insect Killer), lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Triazicide, Bonide Caterpillar Killer) and spinosad (Conserve; Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer and Tent Caterpillar Spray; and Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew). Spinosad is an organic control that is very effective on this pest. Thorough spray coverage of foliage is essential for good control with any of these products.

*Adapted from the Kansas State Horticulture Newsletter