May 3, 2006

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Under severe infestation, Take-all causes the roots of St. Augustine lawns to rot. (Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Dr. Karl Steddom)

  Treat St. Augustine lawns for Take-all root rot now or wait until fall

By Robert Burns
Texas Agricultural Extension

Take-all root rot — a disease affecting St. Augustine lawns in particular — can be controlled, though it's an expensive proposition, said an expert with Texas Cooperative Extension. "But if they (homeowners) have it now, they have to treat it now — right now — or wait until this fall," said Dr. Karl Steddom, Extension plant pathologist.

With severe infestations, take-all symptoms include large areas of yellowing and dying leaves, dead roots and the loss of a large percentage of the stolons, or runners. Take-all is also known as bermudagrass decline. During certain times of the year, the disease may be confused with the symptoms of chinch bug infestations or brown patch, another plant disease.

But brown patch only kills the leaves — not the roots and stolons — and chinch bugs don't become active until hot weather, Steddom said. "So if homeowners have large yellowing or bare spots in their St. Augustine lawns now (late April), the chances are very good that it's take-all."

"Pull up some of the (yellowing) grass, and if the roots are dying, it's probably take-all," Steddom said. Dead grass roots will be dark brown or black. Heathy roots will be white.

The fungus that causes take-all is as ubiquitous as the virus that causes the common cold, Steddom said. As with the common cold, the symptoms aren't manifested unless the host — a warm-season grass in the case of the fungus — is put under stress. Take-all can infest other warm-season grasses, but it is most common in St. Augustine lawns.

"Stress in St. Augustine lawns usually comes from over-management; either applying too much lime at once, over-irrigating or applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring," he said. "St. Augustine is very sensitive to herbicides. If the label does not specifically mention St. Augustine, it's probably not safe to use it."

Steddom warned, treating now is going to be expensive and difficult. In the fall, it's much easier to treat with off-the-shelf products.

First, when treating this spring, forget using the prepackaged treatments for take-all found in home improvement stores and gardening centers. Only two of these "boxed" treatments are labeled for take-all and both contain the active ingredient myclobutanil, he said. If applied when temperatures are above 80 F, the chemical can stunt lawns.

"Once the temperatures have dropped below 80 F (in the fall) these products can be used safely," Steddom said.

It is possible to buy effective treatments for late spring applications from agricultural chemical distributors. Neither product requires a pesticide applicator's license to purchase or use. One product is Heritage; the other, Bayleton.

Because they are packaged for professional applicators, it won't be possible to buy a small amount of either, he said. Cost of the products will range from about $100 to nearly $400. The cheaper product will treat a couple of average-size lawns. The higher-priced one will treat a considerably larger area, and is cheaper per square foot to apply, Steddom said. One package of either product will be sufficient to treat several home lawns, so the cost could be split with a neighbor.

"The products need to get to the roots to work, so they should be applied with enough water to penetrate the soil 1 to 2 inches," Steddom said. "A garden hose sprayer or a small pump-up tank are not going to work." This is because of the difficulty of accurately mixing extremely small amounts of chemical with large volumes of water.

Because of the difficulty in properly mixing and using expensive products, homeowners might want to hire a professional lawn care service, Steddom suggested.

If homeowners wish to verify with 100 percent certainty that they do have take-all, Steddom recommended sending a plant sample to the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, part of Texas A&M University's Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Extension offices in all Texas counties will have the proper forms and be able to assist collecting, packaging and mailing the sample, he said. The lab fee for routine testing is $30.

"Carefully follow label directions to a 'T' with all lawn-care products," Steddom said. Overapplying the amount of lime called for by soil tests or improper applications of pre-emergent herbicides is just asking for the disease to get out of control again.

"A fungicide treatment is not a silver bullet," he said. "It won't prevent take-all from coming back if the lawn is mismanaged."

Even with a spring application of fungicide, homeowners will see further damage as temperatures rise, he said. This is because the damage to the plant's root system has already occurred, and the plant can't take up water, even though the soil is wet.

"But a treatment will help lessen the damage," Steddom said.

More information on take-all root rot in St. Augustine lawns can be found at

  Free Grow Green guide gives gardeners the goods on weeds

By Paul Schattenberg
Texas Agricultural Extension

There's a new gardening guide in Austin, and it's sprouting with information on weeds, said a Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

"The Grow Green program, which is a joint program of Extension and the City of Austin Watershed Protection Development Review, has produced a free guide on weeds that's available to anyone with an interest in gardening," said Skip Richter, Extension horticulturist for Travis County and contributing editor of Texas Gardener. "It's a nice, full-color publication with lots of useful information for home gardeners."

Grow Green's "Earth-wise Guide to Weeds," is available at more than 40 locations in the Austin area, including retail nurseries and the Extension office at 1600-B Smith Road in Austin. It also will be available on the Grow Green Web site at

"The guide was developed to give people a concise resource for identifying the most common weeds in home landscapes and choosing the most effective and least toxic weed-control option," Richter said.

The publication contains a three-page foldout chart on annual and perennial, cool- and warm-season and broadleaf and grassy weeds. It also includes information on how to choose the right type of herbicide and weeding tools for home gardens, plus a herbicide toxicity comparison.

To receive a copy of the guide from the Extension office for Travis County, call (512) 854-9600.

Picking pumpkins isn't child's play. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)


  Holiday Pumpkins

By Chris S. Corby
Texas Gardener Editor and Publisher

Perhaps you have been encouraged by your kids, grandkids or just the kid in you to try your hand at raising holiday pumpkinseither for Halloween or Thanksgivingin your garden but were afraid to try. Don't despair. Growing those holiday pumpkins is much easier than you may think. The two primary requirements are appropriate timing and a lot of space.

When to Plant
The most important thing about growing the great pumpkin is timing since your goal is to have your crop mature at the proper time. Most pumpkin varieties need about 90 to 120 days to reach maturity. So, that means that you need to plant sometime between June 1 and July 1 in order for your pumpkins to mature by Halloween (October 31). Pumpkins keep well after they have been harvested, but there is no way to rush the ripening process if you plant too late. We started our pumpkin patch last year on July 1 and had tons of pumpkins of all different sizes for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.

To read the rest of the article: Holiday Pumpkins, continued.

  Landscaping recommendations

Choosing what to plant when landscaping your home can be a challenge for any Texas gardener. PLANTanswers, an archive of information assembled by Dr. Jerry Parsons and provided as a service by Texas Cooperative Extension, includes lists of recommended plants for each area of Texas. If you're seeking suggestions or information about plants appropriate for your region of Texas, try the links below.

North Central Texas

Northeast Texas

Rio Grande Valley

South Central Texas

Southeast Texas

Texas Coast

West Texas

  Upcoming Garden Events

Enjoy a weekend of garden visiting at seven private gardens in El Paso May 6 and 7, through America’s only national garden-visiting program. Begin the self-guided tour at the garden of Darren & Maria Woody, 817 Forest Willow Circle, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to each garden is $5, no reservations required, rain or shine. For more information, visit

A seminar designed for those new to country life is slated for May 13, 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., at the Somervell County Expo Center at 202 Bo Gibbs Blvd. in Glen Rose. 'Living the Country Life' is a one-day seminar hosted by Extension offices in Hood and Somervell counties. The program has been designed for new landowners as well as those who grew up in the country and have recently moved back to the farm to escape the big-city hustle. Program topics, presented by Extension specialists, will include grazing management, brush control, wildlife and agricultural tax exemptions, wildlife management, and services offered to rural landowners by governmental agencies. Registration for the seminar includes lunch and educational materials, is $10 and due by May 5. After May 5, registration will be $25 without guarantee of lunch or a copy of the proceedings. To register or for more information contact the Extension office in Hood County at (817) 579-3280,, or at the Extension office in Somervell County, (254) 897-2809,

Stephen F. Austin Pineywoods Native Plant Center will host the third Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference, May 24 through 28, Nacogdoches. Enjoy lectures from the state’s finest native plant experts, tour amazing East Texas sites, and participate in one of SFA’s wonderful plant sales featuring Texas natives, heat tolerant color and Texas Gardener columnist Greg Grant’s newest introductions including Pam’s Pink Turk’s cap. For more information, call Elyce Rodewald at (936) 468-1832.

The Hunt County Master Gardeners will host a Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 3, in Greenville. The tour will feature unique and outstanding local area landscapes. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, call (903) 455-9885.

The San Antonio Daylily Society will hold a plant sale and show from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., June 3, at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels.

  The New Book Of Salvias features 15 new species

Fifteen new species have been added to the revised edition of Betsy Clebsch's time-honored guide that covers more than 100 species of salvias in one colorful book. Blooming cycles, cultural practices and companion plants are listed. This is a great gift for those wishing to add low-maintenance plants to the landscape.

$31.97 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of May and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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