Ask Adam! The importance of leaf cleanup!

As the air cools and summer fades, piles of colored leaves start to fall from trees. Your lawn beckons attention before the snow covers it with a blanket of white.  Some lawn projects can be simple like raking on a regular basis or mowing with a vacuum bag style tractor system.  Raking, or specifically a lack of leaves allows your lawn to capture more sunlight as the deciduous trees lose their green canopy.  Increased sunlight can really help shaded and weak areas capture additional energy to help prepare for the winter.  In some cases, this vital time period could be a month or more of growing before slowing to the point of near dormancy with the onset of freezing weather.  Any leaves left on the lawn can cause a mulching action by inhibiting sunlight from reaching the leaf blades below.  Don’t allow piles of leaves to sit for weeks on end, or the grass underneath will suffer the consequences possibly even leading to damage.  Keeping your lawn clean in the fall can really improve the chances of winter survival and minimize damage.

Turf that is left covered with leaves or lots of pine needles face a lack of air, light, and often succumb to ice damage in a weakened state.  As simple as raking or leaf removal is, it is very important to all lawns as they approach winter.

Autumn is also a great time harden your lawn off for winter.  A wonderful mowing height during the growing season is 3″ as a standard.  Your mowing height can be lowered as October fades into November.  Drop your mowing deck a half-inch a week starting in late October with the final cut in mid to late November.  The slow drop in mowing height helps harden your lawn off and slows growth in addition to falling temperatures.

Plan ahead now and rest easy this winter knowing you did all you could to help your lawn make it into a new year!

Ask Adam! Armyworm Damage…

Did you have thinned out dead spots in your lawn last month?  Did you know it was probably from armyworms?  Armyworms are stout-bodied, hairless, striped caterpillars that chew the foliage of grasses.  The name army applies very well as they move across the ground like a feeding army in the hundreds of thousands.  They seem to appear overnight and can basically chew turf grasses down to the crown.

The life cycle of the armyworm is near over, but now is the time to repair any dead patches in your lawn.  If you still have these critters eating at your lawn, an application of a quality insecticide such as liquid Seven or Talstar will do the trick.  The armyworm may have eaten the turf down to the crowns of the grass, and the turf may come back or may not, depending on the amount of damage.  One thing is for sure, you probably have spurge, nutsedge or other weeds growing in this thinned out or bare areas and now is the time to repair these areas by re-seeding.  Simple tilling, sowing good quality grass seed and applying straw will repair the area.  Tilling and installing new sod will also be a instant fix.  Frequent watering is a must to keep the newly planted seed or sod moist.  Also, lawn aeration and overseeding will help as well.  Whichever process you use, repair the bare spots as soon as possible to prevent further weed growth in these areas and to keep your lawn looking its best.

Ask Adam! Allow your lawn to breathe!!!

Aeration is beneficial and should be performed annually. Heavily used lawns, or those growing on heavy clay or subsoils may need more than one aeration each year. Again, turf responds best when tine spacing is closer and penetration is deeper. Core aeration can help make your lawn healthier and reduce its maintenance requirements through the following means:

  • Improved air exchange between the soil and atmosphere.
  • Improved fertilizer uptake and use.
  • Reduced water runoff and puddling.
  • Stronger turfgrass roots.
  • Reduced soil compaction.
  • Enhanced heat and drought stress tolerance.
  • Enhanced thatch breakdown.

Immediately after aeration, simply broadcast a good quality grass seed at the rate of 3-5lbs/1000 sq. ft. of turf over your lawn. This will help thicken up any thinned out or dead spots as well as fill in any bare areas. Having a good, thick stand of turf is always the best way to eliminate weeds in your lawn.

 

Ask Adam! Got Nutsedge?

Nutsedge is a common weed found in lawns and in most areas where grass can grow. It thrives in a variety of conditions and its presence often means that turf is stressed and less competitive due to poor drainage, too much irrigation, extreme heat and or an abundance of rain.

Although grass-like in appearance, nutsedge can easily be identified by its triangular stem. You can roll the stem with your fingers and feel the distinctive triangular edge.  The nutsedge will protrude above the canopy of your lawn because of rapid growth and the yellowish-green leaves contrast with the uniformity of color. Ever wondered which 4” tall weed that was only 2 days later after cutting your lawn….NUTSEDGE!

Nutsedge is difficult to control and can reproduce by seeds.  Most of its rapid growth is vegetative, through the production of rhizomes (underground stems from which plants can sprout.  While the above ground shoots/leaves might be removed or appear to die off, the underground rhizomes and tubers may still survive and give rise to more plants. This is why mowing or pulling nutsedge is often ineffective. The rhizomes spread underground laterally and can quickly invade other areas. You might try to control an area of nutsedge only to find it “pop up” in an adjacent area.

Products such as Sedgehammer, Image, or Dismiss effectively control nutsedge because it is translocated through the plant’s vascular system to reach the rhizomes.  It is important that the nutsedge be actively growing when you make an application as a stressed plant will not efficiently translocate the herbicide within the sedge.  Several liquid treatments may be required to get this weed under control and to keep your lawn looking its best.

 

 

For Immediate Press Release…EAB found in the St. Louis Area.

 

For Immediate Release 

Contact : Hank Stelzer

Associate Professor of Forestry

University of Missouri Extension

Phone: 573-882-4444

Email: stelzerh@missouri.edu

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 

Emerald ash borer found in St. Charles County 

COLUMBIA, Mo.– The emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found in St. Charles County, marking the destructive insect’s first known infestation in the St. Louis area.

EAB was first found in Missouri in the summer of 2008 south of Greenville at a campground on Lake Wappapello, says Hank Stelzer, University of Missouri Extension state forestry specialist. Since then, EAB has been found in 11 Missouri counties, most notably in the Kansas City area.

Left unchecked, EAB is fatal for all three of the state’s native ash trees—blue, green and white ash. Pumpkin ash, a popular ornamental tree, is also susceptible. While mountain ash and prickly ash have “ash” in their name, they are not true ash trees and are not at risk.

“Over the years, ash trees were a species of choice to replace the American elms that were lost to the Dutch elm disease,” says Stelzer. “Plus, they hold up well in urban environments.” Until now.

The infestation in St. Charles County was discovered by an employee at an industrial park on Highway N, a few miles south of Interstate 64. He noticed a declining ash tree in the parking lot. He looked closer and found the distinctive D-shaped exit holes. He then called the urban forester from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The forester, along with entomologists from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, collected a good adult specimen. USDA personnel in Brighton, Michigan, confirmed it was EAB.

The crown of a tree with EAB will be mostly dead within two years of showing symptoms. This could be a problem if the tree is providing summer shade for a home or playground.

What are homeowners and communities to do?

“The first thing a homeowner can do right now is take an inventory. Communities too,” says Stelzer. “Do they have ash trees? If so, how many? And what is their general condition?”

Stelzer says another important question to ask is, “Am I willing to invest the time and money to protect my ash tree?”

Available treatments only protect the tree from attack. Once you stop treating a tree, it will once again be vulnerable. “If that tree is providing shade to your home, then I think the cost of losing that shade in terms of an increased energy bill justifies the expense of protecting the tree,” says Stelzer.

For communities, weighing the costs versus the benefits might seem more abstract, he says. However, the USDA Forest Service has developed a software tool called i-Tree that helps communities of all sizes strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy by quantifying the environmental services that trees provide.

The Kansas City urban forester did just that and was able to get the city government to reallocate $1 million dollars to protect their ash trees,” Stelzer said.

Once you have determined you have an ash tree worth saving, the next thing to do is to take action if you are within 15 miles of a known infestation, he said. There are two options for protecting an ash tree with insecticides: “A homeowner can apply an over-the-counter product each spring, or a professional arborist can apply a registered insecticide providing protection for up to two years.”

If you have decided that a particular ash tree is not worth the long-term investment of protection, then consider replacement. Stelzer has two pieces of advice when it comes to replanting.

First, make sure it is the right tree for the right place. “The replacement tree should be a native species that is adapted to growing in the St. Louis area, and it should be planted in a place where, as it grows, it will not interfere with utility lines or building foundations.”

Second, if you are replacing more than one ash tree, vary your tree selections. “Just like diversifying your stock portfolio, planting a variety of species will help minimize future losses when the next invasive insect or disease shows up,” Stelzer said.

For more information about EAB, go to http://extension.missouri.edu/treepests/. “This is an ever-changing situation,” Stelzer said. “The best way to stay informed is to check out our website on a regular basis.”

Photos available for this release: Link: http://extension.missouri.edu/NewsAdmin/Photos/2008/cw023a.jpg Cutline: An emerald ash borer Credit: David Cappaert, Michigan State University Link: http://extension.missouri.edu/NewsAdmin/Photos/stock/bugs/eab_exit_hole_7-26-12.jpg Cutline: Small, D-shaped exit holes in ash tree trunks and limbs indicate an emerald ash borer

infestation. Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

For 100 years, MU Extension has engaged Missourians in relevant programs based on University of Missouri research. The year 2014 marks the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which formalized the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a national network whose purpose is to extend university-based knowledge beyond the campus.

MU Extension news: extension.missouri.edu/news | News feed: extension.missouri.edu/news/feed

Ask Adam! Mosquito Control!

There are really only two reasons to control mosquitoes; to avoid nuisance biting, and to preclude the spread of mosquito-borne disease.  Everyone recognizes that mosquitoes can be a real nuisance, but most people do not realize the magnitude of the health threat that they represent.  Some of the world’s most dreaded diseases are known to be carried and transmitted by mosquitoes.  Many countries around the world are ravaged yearly by malaria, yellow fever, and mosquito- borne diseases, but dengue has recently crossed the Mexican border into Texas and is now seen as a serious public health threat.

Mosquito-borne encephalitis in the U.S. is prevalent in several forms and is geographically wide spread.  In Florida, the Eastern Equine and St. Louis viral strains were the most common before the invasion of West Nile Virus in 2002.

Did you know that the mosquito can transmit the parasite that causes heartworm in dogs?  By having an effective Mosquito control plan, you can help reduce the amount of these pesky insects in your area.

One of the easiest things to do is to eliminate standing water.  This is a mosquito’s breeding ground!  Even things like kids sandboxes hold water.  Try drilling some tiny holes in the bottom of the sandbox so the water drains through.  Turn over tarps that hold water that might be covering up firewood piles as well!  Fill in any low spots in your lawn that hold water after a rain.  Lastly, have your lawn aerated yearly!  By having tiny holes punched in your lawn, it allows absorption of water and other beneficial nutrients to enter the soil.

Lastly, call a specialist and have your lawn, trees and shrubs treated.  There are many options available on the market that will kill mosquitos.  There are also organic options as well, although they are a bit more pricy.  One good thing about insecticides is most will not only kill mosquitos, but also kill fleas, ticks, ants and spiders too!

Ask Adam! Winter Burn…

Winter burn is the discoloration of evergreen leaves or foliage, most noticeably in boxwood and holly shrubs.  It is caused when the leaves or needles of evergreens dry out.  It has been very noticeable this spring due to our record-breaking winter weather.

During the cold months, evergreens continue to lose water vapor through their leaves (or needles, which are modified leaves). The leaves must replace the water by pulling it up from the roots. But when the ground is frozen, the plants’ roots cannot absorb water to supply it to the leaves. If the weather turns warm and sunny while the ground still is frozen, evaporation from the leaves increases and the water cannot be replaced. Discolored or “burned” foliage may start to appear.

This type of winter damage may be misdiagnosed as a disease or as damage from excessively cold temperatures. In fact, winter burn symptoms typically develop during warm weather in late winter and early spring.

The brown or yellowed foliage generally is on the side of the plant facing the sun and/or the side exposed to the wind, where the evaporation from the needles or leaves is greatest.

If you see winter-burned foliage in spring, you may simply trim it out.

Lastly, It is still very important to continue to water your evergreen shrubs in the winter.  Since they maintain their green leaves throughout the winter, they still need moisture to survive.  Snowmelt alone is not enough to water your evergreens thoroughly.  It is also recommended to water on a day when temperatures are above freezing for several days, so the moisture can actually soak into the ground.

Ask Adam! Spring Cleaning…

Now’s the time of year to start prepping your outdoor landscape for Spring.  Simple tasks like cutting back dead growth on plants, cutting down ornamental grasses, clearing the lawn of leaves and gumballs and applying a layer of mulch will make your property look cleaner and help with curb appeal.

As a green industry professional, I highly recommend regularly performing a Spring cleanup of your property.  Using a sharp pair of pruners or hedge trimmers, cut back all unwanted growth on ornamental trees, shrubs, and grasses.  Also, dead or brown debris from perennials like daylilies, can simply be pulled out of the ground and disposed of.  You will start noticing green growth coming up from the plant base, which is an indication that Spring is almost here!

Raking the lawn of leaves, gumballs, sticks and other debris is also a simple and beneficial way to prep your lawn for the Spring, as well as protecting the cutting blades on your lawn mower.  If leaves are left on the lawn and they are too thick, it could prevent sunlight, air and moisture to get to the turf, resulting in turf damage.

Lastly, apply a 2” layer of bark mulch on all existing mulch beds.  If you have been doing this already, year after year, and there is a significant built up, simply cultivate what you have.  This will enhance moisture intake into the beds and give the existing mulch a new look.  Don’t forget to apply a bed pre-emergent herbicide, such as Preen, BEFORE mulching, to help suppress any new weeds from emerging.

Lastly, check all your roof gutters to be sure they are clean and clear of any leaves or other debris.  Spring rains will be here soon!  Any clogged gutters can cause problems of your downspouts and could then overflow, causing water to collect at the base of your home foundation.

Ask Adam! Winter Seeding Your Lawn!

A common misconception is that grass seed needs to be planted in the Spring or Fall. While this is probably the most ideal time, Winter seeding your lawn is also a great way to help thicken it up for the next growing season.
In late December, January or early February, go out and remove any fallen leaves and twigs from the areas to be reseeded. Apply grass seed to your lawn or any bare spots at a rate of 4-5lbs per 1000 sq. ft. and go back inside and watch TV! Freezing and thawing occurs naturally in our region, causing the seed to have a natural seed bed in the ground. Fescue grass seed will germinate in Spring when the soil warms to the proper germination temperature, hence growing new seedlings and ultimately thickening up your lawn!
What about the freezing temperatures and snow? Well, believe it or not, a snow cover will actually insulate the seed in the ground and also water it into the ground when it melts!

Ask Adam! Garden Gold!

Whatever method of leaf clean-up you choose, don’t push the leaves to the curb for pick-up. Think of fall leaves as garden gold. Leaf mold, or rotting leaves, is high in nutrients and adds organic matter to your soil. You can create leaf mold very easily by simply piling all your leaves and letting them sit for a year or so. The bottom of the pile will begin decomposing first and can be used as a soil amendment or mulch.
Shredded leaves can also be used as mulch. The leaves must be dry to shred, but moisten them immediately after mulching or the wind will carry them all back onto your lawn. Do not use un-shredded leave as they will mat together and form a dense layer that won’t allow water to pass through. This in return will not allow Mother Nature to irrigate your lawn or garden where the leaves are located and promote water runoff.
Both shredded and un-shredded leaves can be used as the ‘brown’ component in your active compost pile. As I mentioned above, dry leaves piled alone will eventually decompose into leaf mold which is a great type of compost. But combining dry leaves with green garden waste will result in an actively decomposing pile and will speed the process of the breakdown.
Some people pay big bucks for this type of compost but with a little bit of effort, you too can create your own lawn or garden compost.