Other areas of the United States have been experiencing record-breaking cold with heavy snow, ice, and winds. But so far, our weather has been rather mild. The worst we have seen is foggy, damp days and frequent showers, but we have enjoyed a good number of mild, sunny days. So far, our winter has been pleasant enough that we can still brag to family and friends who just happen to be living in the north.
But things can change very quickly. There is little doubt that we will experience some winter weather during the next two months. Historically, January and February are the months during which we normally get our snow and ice storms.
Because of the large number of phone calls my agents and I receive throughout the year let me share some information with you about a couple of tasks that you should consider completing during the next few weeks.
Most people do not think much about their lawns until the grass begins to green up in the spring. Because most well-managed lawns in this area are centipede this will begin happening around mid-March, and it will be late April before they become fully green.
As centipede lawns begin to green up, winter weeds become much more obvious. Some of our winter weed problems, such as dandelions, are perennials, which means that they grow year-round. However, most of the weeds that cause problems in the early spring are generally winter annual weeds. They sprout from seeds in the late fall, grow very slowly until the weather starts warming up in the spring, and then grow vigorously for the next four to six weeks. During this later phase of their growth, most of them will produce flowers — although some of the flowers will be so small they are hardly noticeable. Then seeds are produced from these flowers. After completing seed production, the plants will die, usually by early June.
So although they are not very noticeable at this time of the year, most winter weeds we will be fussing at later this spring are already growing in our lawn. This is the time of year that we should be trying to get rid of them for several reasons. Weeds are much easier to control when they are young and tender. Don't wait until they get almost fully grown to try to kill them with weed killers.
Once weeds flower and produce seeds, it is too late to try to control them. They have already produced the seed that is necessary for new plants to grow in your lawn next year. Once they reach this stage of growth, they will die in a few weeks anyway.
Centipede grass is very sensitive to herbicides during the time it is trying to green up, and this is the time that weeds are especially noticeable. If you delay herbicide treatments until the weeds become very noticeable, you will most likely harm your centipede grass.
There are several herbicides that do a very good job of killing both winter annual weeds and perennial weeds in centipede lawns. But these herbicides should be applied when the temperatures are above 60 degrees. So this is a task you should consider completing on one of these beautiful Saturdays during January and February, well before centipede starts greening up.
A word of caution: The weed and feed fertilizers that are so readily available at most garden centers during early spring are not recommended for centipede grass. Centipede does not need any fertilizer at all until late May or early June, so applying fertilizer too early will harm your centipede lawn. In addition, as I mentioned, centipede is very sensitive to herbicides during the time it is greening up. Applying these fertilizers containing herbicides during March or April will seriously weaken your centipede lawn.
Another task that should be completed during January and February is pruning fruit trees, grapevines and non-flowering ornamental shrubs. Because these plants are dormant during this time of the year, this is an ideal time to prune in order to properly shape the plants and to increase fruit and berry production.
Although most ornamental plants are pruned simply for appearance, it is critical that fruit trees and grapevines be pruned properly to increase the amount of fruit they produce. Proper pruning will ensure that these trees can withstand the load of fruit they will bear during the summer. In addition, plants such as grapes will produce fruit only on certain stems, so they must be pruned properly for greater production.
For more information about weed control in lawns and pruning, please call your Cooperative Extension Center at 671-3276.
— Everett Davis is the director of the Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service. The Cooperative Extension home page is: http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.