IPM (Integrated Pest Management)….Watching for problems

IPM – Start Scouting for Problems in the Landscape 

Keeping a sharp eye on your landscape is a key part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). By quickly noticing changes that could indicate problems such as invasive plants, unwanted pests, poor soil quality, inadequate drainage or other issues, you can more quickly take steps to solve those problems with the least invasive method necessary.

How to Scout Your Landscape

Scouting your landscape means you need to be in intimate touch with the changes in your yard, whether it is the growth and health of turf, the bloom and blossom cycle of flowers, growth patterns of evergreen plants or life cycles of insects. All landscapes have natural life cycles and seasonal changes, and you need to be aware of their usual changes in order to spot something different that may indicate a problem. When watching your yard, take careful note of…

Foliage color, shape and condition

  • Budding and growth patterns
  • Turf density, growth and color
  • Bloom density, size and quality
  • Fruiting cycles and produce sizes
  • Water issues, including standing water or drainage
  • Wilting plants
  • Plant damage or injuries
  • Insect populations and their life cycles

Not all changes are necessarily problems, and the more aware you are of seasonal changes, the more easily you will be able to spot unwelcome issues. It can be helpful to keep records about your landscaping, noting dates of typical blooms or garden progress and other seasonal changes. In time, you will become very aware of the natural cycle of your landscaping, and you will quickly note unusual changes.

When You See a Problem

Seeing a problem is the first step in correcting it, and if you’ve scouted your landscape regularly, you are more likely to notice problems when the solutions may still be simple and easy. When something unwanted happens in your landscape…

  1. Identify the Issue
    To treat a problem effectively, you have to know exactly what that problem is. If you see a new weed or unwanted bug appearing in your yard, for example, identifying the exact pest will help you plan how to control it with the fewest chemicals or least effort so the rest of your landscape is not affected.  You may need to do a lawn renovation at the end of the growing season
  2. Define Your Tolerance
    IPM is all about tolerating a natural landscape, and that occasionally means some pests are allowed in your landscape when they don’t adversely affect the entire yard or garden. A single bug or weed may not be a problem at all, and if it doesn’t take over the landscape, the best action may be to leave it alone. Learn about the potential problem, and decide if it is worth reacting to before taking any action. This could mean scouting the landscape more regularly to note the pest’s progress rather than reacting right away.
  3. Research Multiple Solutions
    There are many ways to react to different landscape problems. Some unwanted bugs, for example, could be hand-picked off your plants, or they may vacate your landscape by themselves if you plant different vegetation. Adjusting your watering schedule may make the landscape less inviting, or you may need to try a selective pesticide. Study all the solutions to each problem to understand your options, and how each of those options may affect other parts of the landscape. Will changing your watering cause other plants to wilt? Could a pesticide take away more beneficial bugs? You need to know the answers.
  4. Implement the Solution
    Once you understand your options, it is time to take the appropriate steps to keep your landscape in top condition. In some cases, this may mean doing nothing at all if the pest is not a big problem, or else you will need to implement the appropriate solution. Be patient with the results, as it can take some time before the problem is corrected. Keeping records of the changes in your yard can help you see whether your first solution is effective or more aggressive steps may be necessary.

Never Stop Looking

The most important part of scouting your landscape as part of IPM is to never stop looking. Your landscape will change on a daily basis, and you need to be aware of which changes are normal and which may be early indications of problems. Weekly monitoring may be adequate for a healthy, robust landscape, or you may need to carefully check your landscape 2-3 times each week during stressful periods, such as during a drought, after a severe storm or when many plants are young or transplanted. The more aware you are of your landscape, the more easily scouting will help you spot any problems that need care, and the more easily you will be able to keep your landscape healthy and vibrant.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 914-377-9039.

Joe Yedowitz, CLT

Ready to Fertilize? Round 2 – Post-Emergent Control and Fertilizer

If you want a healthy, robust lawn, fertilizing and weed control should not be once-a-year chores. Instead, several seasonal treatments can be adjusted to meet your turf’s changing nutritional needs throughout the year. Late spring is the ideal time for post-emergent weed control and fertilizer to nourish vigorous growth as the growing season really gets underway.

About Post-Emergent Weed Control

Weeds can germinate at any time, and a good post-emergent herbicide will help deter weeds even after they have sprouted. These herbicides work on actively growing weeds, and may be absorbed through the plant’s foliage, root system or both, depending on the formula and weed type. Post-emergents are most commonly used to control various broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, ragweed, chickweed, plantain and chicory.

Because these herbicides are most effective when weeds are actively growing, they are best used on young weeds in late spring, after pre-emergent formulas have already minimized how many weeds are popping up in the lawn. Post-emergents are ideal for spot treatments of individual weeds, but can also be used across your entire turf to kill any weeds that are just making their appearance. Older, more mature weeds may take several herbicide applications to completely kill.

Because post-emergent herbicides are available in both selective – kills only specific plants – and non-selective – kills all plants – formulas, it is critical to choose the right type. A non-selective formula will kill all the weeds, but will also kill your grass, shrubs, flowers, garden and anything else that may be growing. Selective formulas are safer for lawn use, but be sure that the specific formula you choose will be effective on the weeds you want to eliminate.

Both types of post-emergents are available as either liquid sprays or granular products, but whichever one you choose, read the application directions carefully and follow them meticulously to avoid any overuse that can harm your turf. Apply the chemicals at the proper time of day, and allow adequate drying time if needed. Some formulas may need watering-in, which can be done naturally if there is rainfall expected, or you may need to use sprinklers or manual watering to ensure effectiveness.

Spring Fertilizing

Controlling weeds in spring is of little use if your turf is thin and weak, because new weed seeds will simply take over after every herbicide treatment. It may seem counterintuitive, but you want to avoid heavily fertilizing your lawn in early spring – this is the period when roots are growing most actively, and most fertilizers are designed to “green up” your lawn and foster shoot growth instead. Improperly applied, spring fertilizers will instead take away from your root system and create a lawn that, while it looks healthy at first, has a weaker root system and will not withstand summer stresses.

In late spring, however, fertilizing can be very beneficial for your lawn. In mid- to late May or early June, your lawn will crave more nitrogen as its stored supplies are exhausted. Weed-and-feed combinations that include post-emergent herbicides as well as late spring fertilizing formulas are ideal. These blends will not only help combat unwanted weeds, but will give your lawn adequate nutrition for building up its strength against the heat, drought and heavy use that summer brings.

Everything is growing in spring, including the lawn you want and the weeds you don’t. With a post-emergent weed control application and appropriate late spring fertilization, you can keep weeds away and let your lawn thrive.

And hey…..if you just don’t have the time to drag out that old wobbly spreader out of your shed to perform your Round 2 application, then give us a call.  We would be more than happy to treat your lawn for you.

Time to Think About Firing Up the Sprinkler System

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with plentiful spring rain on schedule. Now is the time to be sure your sprinkler system is ready to take up the slack.

Restarting Your Sprinklers

Before you actually start needing your sprinklers, you should take the proper steps to be sure your irrigation system is functioning properly and efficiently.

  1. Check that the ground is not still frozen.The deeper parts of the soil are the last areas to feel the warm kiss of spring, and before you begin work on your sprinkler system, you want to be sure your buried pipes aren’t still in frozen ground. Use a spade or shovel to check that the soil is fully defrosted at least 12 inches below the surface, otherwise you may damage your sprinklers and pipes when you start them up. If the soil is still frozen, wait another 5-7 days before checking again, and do not start your sprinklers until defrosting is complete.
  2. Adjust your automatic controller as needed.

    The times and durations of watering cycles you used last fall are not likely to be the same that you will want to use this spring. Furthermore, your timer may not be set to the correct time depending on Daylight Saving or power adjustments, so now is the time to double check that your controller is properly adjusted and timed for spring use. Reread instructions if necessary to refamiliarize yourself with how to change the settings appropriately.

  3. Recharge the sprinkler lines slowly and carefully.

    When you open the main line to your irrigation system, do so very slowly and carefully, staying alert to possible leaks or problems. It is crucial to allow the line to fill slowly, otherwise the air pressure and water pressure surge could damage pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, leading to costly repairs and landscaping damage. Once the main line is recharged, do the same for each individual sprinkler zone, but keep the pace slow and gentle. It may take up to 30 minutes to recharge each zone, but use that time to watch for leaks or other indications of damage, particularly at valves or sprinkler heads where even slow leaks can add up to hefty water bills.

  4. Run each zone briefly and adjust coverage if necessary.

    Once your system is fully charged and ready to be operated, run each zone for a few minutes to check the efficiency and coverage of individual sprinkler heads. Frost heaving, snowblower incidents and even inadvertent kicks from pets or children can all misalign sprinkler heads, leading to more water on sidewalks or driveways than on the lawn. This is also the time to remove any dirt or debris that has built up on the sprinkler heads, and check that the overall coverage is adequate for each watering area.

If you find damage in your sprinkler system, you can make the proper repairs on your own or hire our company to repair and inspect the system thoroughly. You may also want to consider upgrading to better or more water-wise sprinkler heads in the spring, which can save you money all through the watering season.

Is It Time to Start Watering?

Just because you’ve fired up your sprinkler system, that doesn’t mean it’s time to set the automatic timer and let the sprinklers take care of themselves. The actual time you will start using your sprinklers will vary based on your lawn’s condition, local climate, recent precipitation and your fertilization schedule. While you will want to get your sprinklers ready to go 2-4 weeks before regular watering begins in case there are repairs to be made, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t start watering your lawn until the grass starts to grow naturally. At that point, more water will be needed to nourish a healthy root system and keep the grass lush so weeds do not take over. You will want to schedule your sprinklers to provide two inchs of water to the lawn each week, using 1-2 watering cycles to reach that total. When Mother Nature does oblige with a good spring shower, you can use your sprinklers less.

Winterize Your Sprinkler System as Part of Your Fall Garden Task List

Use your sprinkler shut off valve when you winterize your sprinkler system

Now that the temperatures are starting to drop and your supplemental watering needs are dropping, it is time to winterize your sprinkler system. This is an essential step to keep it in good working condition for years to come.

Why Should You Winterize Your Sprinkler System?

Every year during fall, you need to empty all of the water out of your sprinkler pipes before freezing weather hits. If there is still liquid present during a cold spell, it can turn into ice, expanding in the process. When it thaws, it will contract and reduce in size. This phenomenon can result in the pipes bursting from the stress, especially if they are made from PVC. This would be a very unwelcome surprise when you turn it back on in the spring as you would need to take time and money to find the leaks and repair the system.

How Do You Winterize Your Sprinkler System?

Note: Since this procedure can involve a lot of water at high pressures, you need to follow safety procedures like wearing goggles and staying a safe distance away. We would also be happy to help you complete this process if you like.

Winterizing your sprinkler system can sometimes be as simple as manually letting the water drain out if your garden has been designed for it, but in many cases, you will need to blow out the system to ensure that all of the water is out. An air compressor is used and you keep the control valves open so that you do not break the pipes.  You can see details on the procedure in this article from Rainbird. Be very careful when doing this process to keep yourself safe and the system undamaged.

Have you winterized your sprinkler system yet?
Image by quinn.anya under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Continue to Water Your Lawn in Autumn

You need to still water your lawn even in fall

As the temperatures cool down and rainstorms start appearing, you may think that you can just turn off the sprinklers and not worry about your grass any more. However, you should indeed keep them on and water your lawn as needed in autumn.

Why Water Your Lawn in Fall?

Autumn is a great time for growth in your garden. Many grasses that are used for lawns are cool season (for example, Kentucky bluegrass and fescue,) so they enjoy the milder temperatures present at this time. Plants will produce some new growth and roots as they prepare for winter. It is important that your grass receives adequate nutrients and water during this time.

While the rains that start to fall more frequently during this season will help take care of your plant’s needs, it is important to make sure that they are consistently watered every week. If you depend solely on precipitation, there may be weeks with little or no rain and your lawn will be left thirsty during this important period of growth.

How Much Should I Water?

This will depend, of course, on how rainy this fall proves to be. During summer the general rule is about an inch per week, but the grass will start to need less in the weeks before winter arrives.  Watch the weather forecasts to get an idea of what the coming days may bring. Keep a rain gauge in your landscape so that you can see how much is actually falling on your lawn.

Adjust your sprinklers as needed so that you do not accidentally overwater your grass. You may, in the end, not need to water much or at all, but it is better to be prepared for the possibility and help your lawn stay as healthy as possible.

Image by fabola under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Do a Fall Sprinkler System Check

 When doing a fall sprinkler check, make sure the sidewalks aren't getting watered too.

As you contemplate the tasks needed to keep your lawn in the best shape this season, include a fall sprinkler system check to assess the current condition and make sure that it is in proper working order before you turn it off for winter.

Check for Broken Sprinkler Heads

It is natural that some of your sprinkler heads may be broken by the end of the growing season. Sometimes a lawn mower can catch on them. People walking across a lawn can accidentally kick them and sometimes even deliberately break them. Use your fall sprinkler system check to replace any that are damaged and make sure it is in the best shape before you shut it down for the season.

Adjust Sprinkler Head Directions

Sometimes sprinkler heads can be turned around by lawn mowers and kids, among other things. You may find that you are watering the sidewalk instead of your grass. This, of course, just serves to waste water, create slip hazards and take away the moisture that your grass needs.

Take a day and note exactly where the sprinklers are hitting while they are on. Depending on your sprinklers, a little may still fall outside of our lawn, but it should not be widespread. You can use these observations to make any adjustments needed to get your system back on track.

Evaluate Your Watering Times

Your grass will not need the same amount of watering throughout every season. Summer is naturally when you will need the most water since the weather is hotter and drier than other times in the year. In spring and fall, rain is more likely to fall and lessen the need for any additional water from sprinklers. Adjust your settings accordingly to water less frequently, ultimately turning them off at the end of the season.

What do you do as part of your fall sprinkler system check?

Image by where to here under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Can You Overwater a Lawn in Summer?

Overwatering A Lawn is Possible

As the weather heats up, you might think that your lawn needs as much water as possible to survive the summer and grow properly. Can you overwater a lawn in summer?

Water Longer and Less Often

It may seem counterproductive, but you only need to water once or perhaps twice a week in many situations. If you try to set your sprinklers so that they water a little daily, the roots get lazy and stay near the surface so that they can grab the water there. If the weather is especially hot and you do not water, the grass is now prone to scorch and other problems.

When you water longer and less often, it trains the roots to go deeper into the ground. In times of drought, there is a greater chance of your grass being able to find some moisture since the roots are longer and more widespread.

Plants Can Drown Too

If your lawn is continually wet, your grass might drown. Plants actually do take up oxygen from the soil as part of their respiration. If the roots sit in water for a long time, they cannot get the oxygen that they need and can end up effectively drowning.

Too much water surrounding the roots for an extended time can also lead to problems like root rots and other fungal diseases. Fungi are especially drawn to moist areas and thrive there.

How Much SHOULD You Water, Then?

Cornell University here in New York suggests that all you need on average is an inch of water per week. You can experiment with your sprinklers to see how long you need to water to achieve that goal using a device like a rain gauge or simply collecting water in a can. You also need to examine how your soil absorbs the water to make sure it’s not being applied too fast.

How is your grass holding up this summer?

Image by fabola under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Try Drip Irrigation for Your Trees, Shrubs, Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds

Drip irrigation can help you save water in your garden and keep your plants healthier.

These lettuces are being watered using drip irrigation

For the past few weeks, my mother and I have been working on our plots at the community garden. I have been in charge of setting up the drip irrigation system. I love how you can deliver water straight to the plant instead of using a general spray.

Why Should You Try Drip Irrigation?

Since lawns continuously cover a large area, sprinklers that shoot over a wide area work well. However, it can sometimes be problematic if you try to water other plants in the same way.

  • Diseases can set in if parts of the plant like the leaves and trunk stay wet for a long period of time.
  • Since the sprinklers are set to cover a general area, specific plants may not receive enough water. They may also be overwatered.
  • You use more water than is needed in this case. Drip irrigation is designed to deliver water to the roots of each specific plant.

Types of Drip Irrigation

There are several different types of drip irrigation that can be utilized in your garden. Some lay on top of the ground, while others can be buried. In the example of my vegetable garden, we have some hoses that have drip emitters embedded into the hose every 18″. You can just plant your seeds or starts near these holes so their roots can get watered.

Elsewhere, I have hoses where I have punched holes as needed to attach smaller hoses that are outfitted with a drip emitter at the end. These allow more flexibility in getting water to your plants, especially if you are trying to add this to an established garden.

Finally, I will be setting up some soaker hoses this week for our rows of corn since they are placed closer than 18″. These are made out of recycled tires and have small holes punched throughout the hose to slowly ooze out water along its length.

They also sell small sprayers and bubblers that you can place in the vicinity of your plants, as well as garden hoses with holes punched along the line.

How Do You Plan Out Your Drip Irrigation?

I would suggest creating a map that is to scale of the current layout of your garden that includes each of the current plants, as well as any future plants that you are considering. Head out to a sprinkler supply store or home improvement store. Associates there should be able to help you pick out the right parts for your situation. We can also definitely help you figure this out!

Do you use drip irrigation in your landscape? What has worked well for you?

Get Your Irrigation System Ready for the Growing Season

Tune up your sprinkler system this springSpring is here in all its glory. Plants are coming alive again and the temperatures are creeping up. There are still days here and there that are colder, but it’s definitely on the upswing. For much of spring, rain is enough to take care of all of your landscape’s watering needs. However, you should work on getting your landscape ready now for the rest of the growing season.

Can You Turn It On Yet?

Even if the air temperatures are above freezing, the ground can still be frozen for a little while more. Find a spot where you can easily try to dig down and see if the soil has thawed yet. You want to be able to reach at least one foot down.

Get Your Irrigation System Back Up to Speed

You properly winterized your sprinklers last fall and shut them down, so they should be ready to go, right? The freezing temperatures in winter can be harsh, possibly dealing damage to your watering lines. There could also have been damage from snow plows or other garden equipment. Sprinkler parts also fall apart over time from normal wear and tear.

Before you turn it on, walk around your yard and physically inspect sprinkler heads, valves and other parts of your system to see if they show signs of problems. Make sure that the water pressure is not too high. According to Rainbird, a sprinklers manufacturer, this range should be within 40-65 PSI (pounds per square inch). We can help you measure this if needed and otherwise check over your system.

Turn It On Carefully

As Hunter Industries mentions, you should start turning things back on slowly. If you switch the valves on full blast, the surges can damage the pipes and cause problems. Make sure the timer settings are appropriate for the time of year; you need less water in spring than in summer, so start out lower. Once you have turned everything on, walk around again and see how the various sprinkler heads are doing. Note if there are areas that are especially wet, since this can be a sign of a leak.

Has your ground thawed out? Give us a call if you want to get your irrigation system ready to go.

  Image by Phu Son under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Drainage Problems in Lawns

Sometimes lawns have drainage problemsYou may notice spots in your lawn that are especially wet after the sprinklers have gone off or a rainstorm passed through. This can be normal at first since it takes time for water to travel down into the soil. If it seems to take especially long, though, it could be a problem with how your lawn drains.

Why Should You Worry About Poorly Draining Lawns?

Did you know that too much water can drown roots? It seems strange since they are built to take up liquids. However, they also need to have access to air. If there is constantly water present, the roots won’t be able to process the air and die.

Too much water can also cause the roots and other parts to catch fungal disease or rot, since both are more likely to occur in wet situations.

It is also a safety issue since someone could slip and fall when they are walking across your yard.

What Causes Drainage Problems in Lawns and How Can They Be Fixed?

There are several reasons why water is having a hard time draining into the soil. Investigate around your landscape to see if you can find signs of the following:

  • A common problem is thatch since the thick layer can make it hard for liquids to move down. Aerate your lawn to help alleviate this problem.
  • You could have clay soil. The particles in this type are closer together and it is notorious for not letting water through in a reasonable timeframe. Add organic matter like lawn clippings over time and the soil composition will change.
  • One of your sprinkler pipes may be broken. You can test out the system to see if that is the case and work on repairs.
  • The ground may have sunk down and created a depression. Depending on how deep it is, you can either add a top dressing or use a shovel to dig up the sunken area, fill, and add the grass back on top.

There are other problems that would be harder to alleviate, like if the natural level of the groundwater is high or your yard is underneath a slope. 

We would be happy to come out and assess why you have drainage problems in your yard, so give us a call.

Image by erix! under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License