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Know your lawn, how to fight mole crickets
Grass is greener...
Don Gardner is an ag and natural-resources agent for the University of Georgias Glynn County Extension.

The yard to-do list is growing now that it is spring.

If azaleas need to be pruned, now is the time to do it. They will start setting buds in July, so they only have from the time they are pruned until bud set to produce new growth on which to set those buds. The longer the plants have to produce new growth, the more flower buds will be set.

All other things being equal, azaleas pruned immediately after blooming will have more blooms next year than those pruned later in the spring. Of course, pruning after bud set in July will just cut next year’s blooms right off the plant. As with most things in the garden, doing the right thing at the right time is just as important as doing the right thing at all.

It appears Scotty has been very effective in getting people to “Feed your lawn … Feed it.” More than half the lawns in my own subdivision have over-fertilized centipede lawns. Some are growing dead spots and some will likely be growing more dead spots later. Some have gotten the weed-and-feed treatment and have turned orange to brown. All are great examples of doing too much too soon.

The lawns in good shape all seem to have two things in common: functional irrigation systems and full sun. For many centipede lawns, that is all the lawn needs. It is better to put no fertilizer on centipede than to apply too much. If your centipede lawn has not been fertilized this year, now is a good time to do it. In the absence of a soil test, apply 3 1/3 pounds of 15-0-15 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Yes, I know that is a very small amount, but that is the optimal rate for most centipede lawns.

The next thing assailing you by the lawn-product marketers will be grub and mole cricket control. Of all the insects plaguing coastal Georgia lawns, the mole cricket is the worst. It attacks all lawn grasses. Chinch bug is the worst insect pest on St. Augustine lawns, but they are a problem only on St. Augustine and usually not until July. The mole cricket is an equal-opportunity destroyer. It hits all lawns, which is why the mole cricket is the No. 1 insect pest on our lawns.

Way back in the Pleistocene Epoch, when I was in college, there were those at the university level who professed that as long as one did not use insecticides ever on a lawn, the lawn would adjust into equilibrium among pests and natural predators. That may have been true if the grass was a native grass and all the pests were native to the area. Zoysia turf comes from Japan. Centipede turf was imported from China. Bermuda turf came here from Africa. St. Augustine turf is native to West Africa, the West Indies, the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Honduras. The native mole cricket is not a problem for us, but the two species imported by accident through the Port of Brunswick just love our array of exotic turfs.

For the insecticide-free scenario to work, we would have to eradicate the foreign mole crickets, no matter how naturalized they may seem, and grow buffalo grass for our lawns. Maybe tether a bison or two out in the lawn to keep it mowed. No, sorry — ain’ no sucha thing as a natural lawn. If you want a lawn in coastal Georgia, you will have to be on the lookout for mole crickets and treat your lawn if you find them. A late-June application of a granular insecticide labeled for mole crickets, applied with a rotary spreader in the evening and then immediately watered in, is the most effective control. The insecticide will have bifenthrin in it as the active ingredient (several manufacturers) or imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced lawn products). Either will work as long as the label directions are followed. The reason for the late-June application is to make sure all the eggs have hatched and all the newly hatched mole crickets are out there feeding to get hit with the insecticide. The insecticide will not harm unhatched eggs. If one puts the treatment out too early, one will miss half the hatch. Missing some of the hatch will likely necessitate a late-summer or early autumn application of mole-cricket bait to catch these late bloomers.  

For now, get ready for the late-June mole-cricket application. A bonus with this timing is it will also control grubs at the same time. With proper timing, one can get a twofer. With bad timing, one is just wasting time and money.

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