Ask Adam! Brown Patch…

Brown Patch is a turf type disease that is running rampant in lawns throughout Southern Illinois this year.  What appears to be circular, or even irregular shaped, browning spots in your lawn is probably really a fungus that has developed in your turf.  It is caused from over-saturation of turf areas and high night-time temperatures and humidity.  The 5 days of constant rain from tropical storm “Bill” this mid June, gave lawns the ugly look of these browning spots.

Products such as fungicides can be applied and help to stop the spreading of the fungus, but often time it is too late.  The fungus can literally start and thrive over night and is hard to control unless you are applying a fungicide as a preventative.  Re-application of the fungicide should be applied at a 7-28 day interval, but it is important to always read the product label and follow the instructions as every product is different.

Items to remember and to help prevent this outbreak are to water only early in the morning and keep your turf cut a reasonable height.  It may take weeks for the damaged turf to recover.  Greening of new or existing turf to fill back in the dead looking spots may take time.  Many of lawns will need to be core aerated and overseeded in the Fall to help thicken the turf back up.

 

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! Hiring a Lawn Care or Landscape Professional

While some of my readers are a do-it-yourself type person, some like to sit back and leave the chore of lawn care, landscape maintenance or gardening to a professional.  This month, I’d like to talk about what to look for when hiring a true green industry professional.

First and foremost, hire a lawn care or landscape provider that is properly insured.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 200,000 people are injured each year because of lawn mowers.  Operating a lawn mower or lawn tractor on your property, can be very dangerous.  Mower blades can spin as fast as 16,000 feet per min!  Hitting a rock with a spinning blade can easily break out a window or even worse, hit someone in the eye and cause permanent loss of sight.  I know of several individuals that have had lawn mowers flip over on themselves which has caused several years of rehabilitation from their injuries, or even death.  Please, always ask for a copy of your provider’s certificate of insurance and make sure they are also covered under workers compensation.  This will help alleviate any claims against you or possibly a claim under your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Secondly, consider hiring a professional that has a website.  Do your research and see how long the company has been in business.  Companies that have been in business for 5 plus years are probably doing something right, otherwise they would have folded or went out of business by then.  Is your provider reachable?  Can you call their phone number and get a response immediately?  I am amazed at how it sometimes takes days for a company to return a phone call. Use a provider that is reachable, reliable and ready.

Third, ask your provider if they have any accreditations or awards.  Many established businesses are members of civic organizations like a Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, etc.  This should tell you, the consumer, if the company is truly invested in his or her business and community and is a wise choice or not.  For accreditations, the National Associations of Landscape Professionals is the voice in the green industry for all lawn care or landscape professionals.  A simple search on their website can tell you if your provider is involved and is a member.  This association also provides the opportunity to apply for safety awards, which make the company nationally accredited.

Lastly, does your service provider have the proper licenses?  To apply fertilizer and weed killer, ALL lawn care companies MUST be licensed by the Department of Agriculture.  The applicator undergoes a 2-day class and must pass a written exam to become licensed.  Herbicides and pesticides must be applied properly to be safe.

 

Ask Adam! Spring Cleanup 2015!

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! 10 most common lawn care myths!

Next month is National Lawn Care Month, and the time of year when homeowners turn to the care and upkeep of their lawns with the goal of seeing their yard and landscape flourish. It’s also the time of year when lawn and landscape professionals must address some common misperceptions about when and how to tend to the lawn for maximum success.

My job as a green industry professional is to help advise and emphasize ways to save time and money on lawn care.  As a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the association provides me with a great deal of information and knowledge that I would like to share with my readers.  The following information was taken from the associations website and provided below.  With that being said, here are the 10 most common myths about lawn care.

 

  1. Myth: The best time to replace the lawn is in the spring, as plants get ready to bloom. 

Reality: Sowing seed in the spring sets one up for potential problems, as heat sets in during the summer months and weeds compete for space. The best time to sow seed is in the fall when the temperatures are more consistent and highly competitive weeds, like crabgrass, have gone dormant.

  1. Myth: Water new plants every day to prevent them from drying out.

Reality: Overwatering kills as many plants as lack of water. It is better to make sure you are wetting the entire root system of your new plant and then allow the soil to dry to the point that it is only moist.

 

  1. Myth: To have a healthy lawn, dethatch in the spring.

Reality: Thatch is a layer of living and dead plant material, including the crown, roots and stems of the turfgrass plant. The brown on the surface at the beginning of the spring will slowly recede into the background all by itself as new leaves emerge. While dethatching is a common and sometimes necessary practice, it should be done only when thatch is excessive.

 

  1. Myth: It’s a good idea to remove clippings after mowing.

Reality: There is a misconception that grass clippings contribute significantly to thatch. Grass clippings are mostly water and decompose rapidly, returning significant amounts of fertilizer to the lawn. Research shows that up to one-third of applied fertilizer can be recycled by simply returning clippings.

 

  1. Myth: Golf courses cut their grass short, so it’s a good idea to do the same.

Reality: Golf courses use incredibly sophisticated and expensive mowers to achieve a short height of cut. Check the appropriate mowing height for your species of grass, but in general, never cut more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time.

 

  1. Myth: Lawns are not “organic.”

Reality: Sometimes, lawns are thought of as areas that don’t provide environmental benefits. However, they are actually highly complex and dynamic organic systems that not only contain turfgrasses, but also earthworms, fungi, soil microbes and other life forms that coexist and make possible the lawns we all enjoy for recreation, sports and aesthetics.

 

  1. Myth: The best time to fertilize your lawn is in early spring.

Reality: Different varieties of grass like nutrients at different times of the year. You need to use the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. Cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, are usually given nutrients in fall and early spring when it is cooler. Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass, usually like nutrients in late spring and early fall when it is warmer.

 

  1. Myth: The products lawn care companies use are dangerous and more powerful than what a homeowner can use.

Reality: Most of the products professionals use can be purchased at the garden center, but the difference is that professionals are regulated and, by law, have to use the proper amounts, apply them correctly and dispose of them properly.

 

  1. Myth: While digging in my lawn, I saw a grub worm. I should apply a grub control application every year. 

Reality: Most of the time, grubs don’t attack fescue lawns because of their deeper root zone. Grubs in small numbers are not harmful to a lawn; in fact, they are beneficial, as they aerate the soil. It’s having too many that can be harmful. Call a professional to evaluate your lawn.

 

  1. Myth:Watering the lawn with the garden hose saves more money than installing an irrigation system. 

Reality: Consider installing an irrigation system that uses smart controllers which have sensors that only allow for watering when conditions require it. Smart irrigation can offer a cost savings of approximately 15–20 percent on water bills. Convert irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles which spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace which makes them more targeted and effective.

Source: National Assocation of Landscape Professionals

Ask Adam! Tulip Time!

Fall is for planting tulip bulbs, which come in many different colors.  Tulips do best in areas with dry summers and cold winters.  The brightly colored, upright flowers may be single or doubled stemmed, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms.  They are excellent in beds and borders to highlight any landscape.  They are perennial, although many gardeners and landscapers treat them as annuals.

A few tips on planting tulip bulbs are as followed.

-       Plant the bulbs right away after purchase and in the fall.  6-8 weeks before a hard frost.

-       Plant in a site that has full or afternoon sun.  Also, tulips dislike excessive moisture so plant in a well drained soil site.

-       When planting, space at least 4-6” apart and at least 8” deep in the ground.

-       Fertilizing the tulips with a well balanced liquid fertilizer weekly for 3 or 4 weeks right before and during flowering.  This will establish a healthy flower!

For as little as $50, tulip bulbs can be purchased by the hundreds so if you’re looking for a display of flashy color in the spring, don’t forget the tulip as an option!

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.