The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 1, 2013

"Ask A Master Gardener"

Calvin Adkins

TARBORO — John W. (Tarboro) Asks: A neighbor posed this question to pass along. They did nothing to winterize their yard and, as a result, have all of the winter-type weeds that survive everything. They wanted to know if there is anything they can do now to kill off the weeds and what and when do they start to try and green up their yard and kill back weeds as we head out of winter.

Answer: The site for all turfgrass questions is  You can select from the list of turf varieties, but, here is the maintenance calendar for tall fescue:  


• Mowing — Remove lawn debris (rocks, sticks, and leaves). Mow lawn at 3 inches and remove clipping debris at spring greenup. Mow before grass gets taller than 5 inches. Remember grasscycling

and leave clippings on the lawn.

• Fertilization Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per

1,000 square feet in February. To determine the amount of product

required to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, divide 100 by the first number an the fertilizer bag.

(Example 1: A 16-4-8 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 16 = 6.25

(100/16 = 6.25) pounds of product applied per 1,000 square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.)

(Example 2: A 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 10 = 10

(100/10 = 10) pounds of product to be applied per 1,000 square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

• In absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K)

turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio.

• Irrigation Water, if needed, to prevent excessive drying. About 1

inch of water per application each week is adequate.

• Weed Control Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control

of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds. Pre-emergent weed control is

recommended in September and December for winter annual weeds and in February and May for summer annual weeds, using a root inhibitor, Pendumethulum. Pre-emergents last in the soil for 2 to 6 months. Remember to apply before you see the culprits.

• Aerification — Delay coring until fall.

• Thatch Removal — It is not necessary to remove thatch.

March through May:

• Mowing — Mow lawn to 3 inches in height. Mow at least once a week. Mow before grass gets above 5 inches tall. Then practice

grasscycling. Grasscycling is simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn's fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don't bag them! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.

• Fertilization — DO NOT fertilize tall fescue after March 15.

• Irrigation — Tall fescue needs 1 to 1 1/4 inches of water every

week, ideally NOT all at once. A dark bluish-gray color, footprinting, and wilted, folded, or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Water until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Use a screwdriver or similar implement to check. Sandy soils require more frequent watering (about 1/2 inch of water every third day). Because clay soils accept water slowly, irrigate just until runoff occurs, wait until the water has been absorbed, and begin watering again. Continue until the desired depth or amount is applied. Proper irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer. Watering between 2 and 8 a.m. decreases the incidence of certain diseases.

• Weed Control — Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply by the time the dogwoods are in bloom. Check with your local garden center for specific herbicides for these weeds.

• Insect Control — Check for and control white grubs in April and

May. (Go to this website for details:  HYPERLINK ""

• Aeration — Delay aeration until fall.

• Thatch —  It is generally not necessary to remove thatch.

Reminder, the answers provided here are based on the turf variety, tall fescue.  If your lawn is of another variety, this information is provided for all turfs at

"Ask A Master Gardener" is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management. Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  

Submit your questions by email to or call the local Extension Center at 641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to "Ask A Master

Gardener", c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, 27886.