Lawns and Japanese maples suffering from hot, dry weather

Lawns and Japanese maples suffering from hot, dry weather
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Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at

I have a 7-year-old Japanese maple that has done well in the past and leafed out nicely this spring with burgundy foliage. But now it really does not look healthy to me. Do you have any idea why the leaves look brown on the edges and scorched, and what I can do about it? Frank

Japanese maples generally do fairly well in southeast Louisiana, but they are at their limit in the Gulf Coastal South and generally perform better overall farther north. The intense heat of our summers always stresses them, and it is not unusual to see some leaf scorching take place in the late summer as a result. Although they often look somewhat stressed by the end of summer, they recover and grow out beautifully the next spring.

But this summer has been unusually hot with no relief. I’ve gotten several questions from gardeners asking why their Japanese maples are looking so bad, so you are not alone. If the weather in your area is dry, water deeply once a week to make sure it has adequate water (don’t be excessive in watering, however, as Japanese maples are prone to root rot if kept too wet in summer).

There is nothing we can do about the heat, and your tree will continue to look unhappy through the rest of the summer. Your tree is well-established and should pull through despite the stress, although you may see some dieback. In spring, prune off any branches that do not leaf out.

Chinch bug damage tends to be irregular and typically occurs during hot, dry weather.

My lawn between the sidewalk and the street is dying, and it is spreading into the main lawn now. It looks like the grass is dying from lack of water, but I’ve been watering generously since I noticed it and it hasn’t done any good. Tell me what is going on and what to do. It looks like I’m losing my lawn. Roy

This really sounds like chinch bug damage. There appears to be an unusually high population of chinch bugs this summer as I’ve gotten numerous reports of their activity. This is not surprising given how they thrive in hot, dry weather.

Chinch bugs feed by sucking the sap out of the grass, and initially it makes the grass look drought stressed. As the grass dies and turns brown, the grass blades roll up lengthwise causing the tan grass to have a strawlike appearance. The dead areas are irregular but can rapidly spread, eventually affecting large areas of the lawn.

Chinch bugs often show up first near concrete surfaces like sidewalks and driveways. They commonly attack the grass between the sidewalk and the street. Watering grass infested with chinch bugs does not stop the problem.

You need to control them as soon as possible to stop additional damage. Spray your entire front yard with an insecticide labeled for use on lawns. Bifenthrin (Talstar and other brands) is often recommended, but you can use any lawn insecticide. Make two applications following label directions, about a week apart.

Unfortunately, chinch bugs kill the grass. Brown patches will not recover. After you control the chinch bugs the damage will stop getting any worse, but the damage that is done is done. Wait a few weeks and see how things look. Areas that remain tan should be repaired by removing the dead grass and laying new sod.

Are the caterpillars eating my fennel monarch caterpillars? Andrea McCarthy

No, those are parsley worms. They grow up to be the beautiful Eastern black swallowtail butterfly. The parsley worm caterpillars feed on parsley, dill, fennel and cilantro. Let them feed. We will all appreciate the beautiful butterflies they turn into, and your fennel will recover. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed (Asclepias) or closely related plants.

Garden tips

A LITTLE SUPPORT: Some of the taller gingers, such as hedychium, alpinia and costus, may get top heavy when they bloom and lean or fall over. A little graceful leaning is generally not an issue, but you should consider supporting the shoots if they fall over too much or lay over onto nearby plants. Also, each shoot only blooms once. After a shoot blooms, cut it back down to the ground to help manage the plant.

PRUNE BLACKBERRIES: Blackberry canes that produced fruit this year should be pruned back to the ground. The vigorous new canes that grow this summer will produce next year’s crop. They should not be heavily pruned, although they may be tip pruned to control their length.

LOW AND SLOW: Water deeply and thoroughly as needed during long, late-summer dry spells. Soaker hoses are an excellent way to water flower beds and vegetable gardens. Keeping the foliage dry helps keep fungal diseases from attacking.

SCROLLING THE WEBS: Fine, silvery webbing appearing on the bark of area trees and large shrubs is completely harmless. The webbing is produced by tiny scavenging insects called bark lice or psocids. There is no need to apply insecticides. If the webbing bothers you, sweep it off with a broom or remove it with a strong spray of water.

HARMLESS BUT ICKY: With rainier weather slime molds will begin to show up on area lawns. Look for bluish gray to black patches a few inches to a foot or more in diameter growing on the grass blades. Although it looks alarming, it is completely harmless and will not hurt the grass.


About Mary Weyand 12323 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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