Common issues and remedies for Tulsa lawns — especially when pets are involved
Here in Green Country, we Tulsans take pride in our lawns. We essentially have two kinds of turf in our yards: warm-weather grass and cool-weather grass. Here are some tips for keeping both thick and green.
Warm-weather grass, comprised mainly of Bermuda or Zoysia, is green in the spring, summer and fall, then goes dormant and turns brown in winter.
Bermuda seed should be sown in May and June as it needs warm soil and two to three months of growing time before fall dormancy. Less growing time results in winter kill due to cold soil temperatures. Bermuda lawns should receive 4-5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, spread out in monthly applications from late April to August.
Zoysia requires the same timeframe, but does better if laid as sod and requires about half of the nitrogen as Bermuda.
Cool-weather grass, comprised mainly of Fescue (or Rye), is green year-round. Although it struggles in summer’s heat, it is beautiful in cold months when Bermuda is brown.
If you’re an over-achiever and want green grass year-round, Fescue seed actually can be spread over Bermuda (called “over seeding”) between mid-
September and mid-October using 3-4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.
The ideal time to reseed Fescue is in the fall, as this gives it several months for root development, resulting in an improved survival rate. Although the seed will readily germinate and grow in the spring, it does not have enough time to develop a deep root system adequate to tolerate Tulsa’s hot summers. Be sure to use a blend of more than one type of tall Fescue seed, preferably mixed with some Kentucky Bluegrass.
Fescue needs only one fertilizer application in the spring, typically in March. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen (immediate or extended-release type) per 1,000 square feet of lawn, unless a soil test suggests other needs. Repeat the nitrogen application in September and again in November.
Studies have shown fertilizing Fescue in late spring or summer is the likely cause of turf disease called “brown patch,” which is the chief cause of summer Fescue death in our area.
There is one caution to the above. If you have applied a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn, reseeding will not be a success. The herbicide will prevent germination of the seed, sometimes by as much as six months. Post-emergent herbicides for broadleaf weed control may be used in newly seeded turf after the third mowing.
Pets vs. turf
Then, there’s the issue of pets. Although pets are fun to have around, they can do damage to beautiful lawns, flower beds and gardens.
Lawns are not as threatened by cats, but flower beds and gardens can be traumatized by felines using it as their own little litter box. For deterring cats from flower beds, there are many folk remedies. One suggestion is to use spiked cottonwood tree balls mixed with coffee grounds and citrus fruit rinds scattered in the beds; they hate it.
If you have a dog, then chances are you also have brown spots on your lawn. This happens because dogs are carnivores and eat a high level of protein in their diet, thus causing their urine to be nitrogen rich. The result is a killing of the grass from an overload of nitrogen — the same kind of burn caused by putting a concentrated handful of fertilizer in one spot.
There are a few things you can do to reduce or eliminate this problem:
- Fertilize your lawn less (or not at all) in areas where your dog urinates.
- Spray water on areas where your dog urinates.
- Encourage your dog to drink more water.
- Replant affected areas with a more urine-resistant grass (Fescue or Rye).
- Feed your dog a dietary supplement.
- Train your dog to urinate in one area.
- Apply a lawn repair treatment. Here are a few options:
- Simple Solution Pee Post: Infused with pheromones to encourage your pet to urinate on or near them.
- Nutri-Vet Grass Guard Max Chewable Tablets for Dogs: Contains a unique blend of probiotics, digestive enzymes and amino acids to help prevent lawn burn.
Understanding the characteristics of your grass and knowing ways to deter your pets’ natural actions are necessary for having successful lawns, flower beds and gardens. This knowledge will allow your turf and your pets to co-exist in their shared environment and be healthy and happy together.
Thank you to Tulsa County Master Gardeners for their expertise in this subject matter. Allen Robinson has been a Master Gardener since 2010.
Fall gardening education events from Tulsa County Master Gardeners
Oct. 24 — Fall trees and shrubs
Oct. 31 — Winterizing houseplants
Nov. 7 — Composting 101
Nov. 14 — Planting bulbs and fall gardening tips
12:10-12:50 p.m. Central Library, 400 Civic Center. Free. Visit tulsamastergardeners.org.