Lawn Renovations and Enhancements

Laying down sod in a yard

Sod can be used in lawn renovation

Fall is a great time to take a good look at your grass and assess its condition. If wear and tear is minor, you may be able to just overseed. However, if it has taken a beating over the previous months, consider doing some lawn renovations and enhancements. This is a way to improve large sections of your yard without completely starting over.

You start by testing your soil to make sure there are not any underlying problems that would also affect the new seedlings. Dig down a few inches in several locations throughout the lawn and combine it into one sample. Send it off to a soil laboratory (like that available from the cooperative extension service) for analysis. They will tell you if any nutrients are lacking and can give recommendations on what to use.

Next you need rid of the existing lawn in the areas that you want to improve. You need it to be completely bare, so spray it with an herbicide that kills both grass and weeds. You don’t want a kind that will be long lasting, since that would just affect any grass seeds you sow. You also want to make sure that you do not get any on the lawn that you do want to keep.

Assess the condition of the thatch layer. You may likely need to remove some of it, as this is a common cause of problems in your yard. Loosen up the soil and apply any recommended fertilizers and amendments.

Once these steps are taking, you are ready to add the new grass. by the first part of fall lest early winter frosts cause damage. You want to do this Possible choices include seeds, sod and plugs. You can add the same type of grass or add another kind that works well for the planting site conditions. Keep it moist for the first few weeks to help nurture the plants and prevent them from drying out.

Have you renovated your lawn? How long did the process take?

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Are You Ready to Overseed Your Lawn?

Reseeding a lawn

Newly germinated grass seed in an existing lawn

Over time, bare spots may start appearing in your lawn. These can be due to insects, diseases, summer stress or thick thatch. Once you have successfully treated the underlying problem, you can work on repairing your grass. If the damage is not extensive, an inexpensive way to do this is to sow new seeds over the existing lawn.

The perfect time to do this is coming up, as your new grass plants will do best if planted at the end of August or beginning of September. The worst of summer (heat, drought, weeds) is over and fall rainstorms will help keep your seedlings watered. You do not want to perform this task later than this, though, as you run the risk of frosts harming the new plants.

Mowing

The first step is mowing your lawn. The University of Nebraska Extension Service mentions that it should be about 1.5″ high at this time. This will allow the seeds to be able to hit the ground. It also means that more sunlight and water will reach your seedlings.

Thatch

Next, you need to determine if you have a problem with thatch. If it is not too thick, you can simply run a rake over the lawn to help loosen up the soil a bit. Otherwise, you will need to remove the thatch layer so your new grass will not have problems growing. UNES suggests either using a power rake, a sod cutter or a core aerator.

Seeding

Once the thatch is gone, you can start seeding. Call Cornell University’s Extension Service to see what varieties they are currently recommending for our area. As Healthy Lawns, Clean Water advises, “Overseeding rates should be 4-6 lbs for perennial ryegrass, 6-8 lbs for tall fescue, 2-4 lbs for fine fescue and1-2 lbs for Kentucky bluegrass per 1,000 square feet.” Run a rake over the lawn again to help get the seeds into the top layer of the ground.

Watering

Check often to make sure that the soil does not dry out as the seeds are germinating and while the seedlings are young. Use light syringe cycles as needed, but do not overwater. Following these steps will rejuvenate your lawn and keep your yard looking great.

Do you overseed your lawn every year?

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What Is a Syringe Cycle for Lawns?

SyringeCycleFlickrThatRamenQueen

You usually do not need to water your lawn more than a couple of times a week for proper growth. Sometimes, however, it can be beneficial to do a short syringe cycle in the hottest part of the year, to combat patch disease, and when starting or renovating your lawn.

As a general rule, the ideal time to irrigate your yard is in the early morning hours. If you try to do it in the middle of the night, the water stays on the blades longer and leaves them susceptible to fungal diseases. If you were to water in the middle of the day, the hot sun will evaporate much of the moisture before it really has a chance to reach the roots.

It’s Getting Hot, Hot Hot

When it is really hot and your lawn is showing signs of stress (i.e. turning brown, though you will need to rule out other causes like insects), it can be helpful to do a short irrigation period called a syringe cycle. You do not need to worry about the fact that it is not going to reach the roots as its purpose is to protect the blades from the worst of the heat.

Fighting Against Patch Disease

If you are battling a disease like summer patch, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach advises that performing syringe cycles to reduce stress in your yard can help defeat this problem.

Keeping New Grass Alive

When you first add seeds or sod to your yard, perform extra syringe cycles each day so that they do not dry out. This is essential since the plants have not had a chance to properly put down roots and can die off quickly. Once the roots have become established, you can create a standard watering schedule.

How often do you syringe your lawn?

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Do You Have Yellow Nutsedge in Your Lawn?

Yellow nutsedge in a lawn

 

If you notice tall plants with yellow tops popping up in your lawn, you may have an invasion of yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). At first glance it looks like it might be part of the Poaceae (grass) family, but it is really in the Cyperaceae (sedge) family.

While in essence a weed is a plant growing where you do not want it (i.e. useful plants like blackberries grow rampantly in the Pacific Northwest), there are some plants that are regarded as harmful by all and truly earn the label of weed. Yellow nutsedge certainly falls under this category. It can grow faster and taller than your grass will, becoming a competitor for water and nutrients in the soil. It is also not as dark as your grass, so will stand out and destroy the uniform look of your lawn. The tubers they produce can last for years and can resprout several times.

This relative of the papyrus plant is very difficult to completely remove from your lawn. It forms many tubers under the ground that can sprout after you have removed the original plant. It can also produce new plants through rhizomes. 

You will need to try and stay on top of the problem and remove any new plants as soon as you can after they sprout. This will help lessen the productions of tubers over time. It will also slowly starve the present tubers as they will use up energy each time they produce a new plant.

You can also improve soil drainage as much as possible since this plant does very well in wet conditions and has a harder time becoming established in drier circumstances.

Unfortunately, yellow nutsedge does not always respond well to herbicides, though they can help Only some of the chemicals that are deemed effective are available for consumers, so contact us and we can help you spray this weed at the proper time for best results.

Have you had a problem with yellow nutsedge in your lawn? How did you finally get rid of it?

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Treating Grubs in the Lawn

White grub in soil

There are several reasons why brown spots start to develop in your yard. One of the most common problems found is the grub. These baby beetles can wreak havoc if there are many of them, so it is important that you start treating the grubs in your lawn once you determine the problem is severe enough.

Grubs are the larval stage of scarab beetles. The adults lay their eggs in the soil. The grubs grow under the surface of your soil and chomp away at the grass roots. If they are present, you will be able to peel away the grass as if it were a carpet. Grubs curled up into a C-shape will be visible. Count how many are present to determine the extent of the problem. As the PennState College of Agricultural Sciences mentions, you should treat for grubs in the lawn if you have 5-10 or more grubs per square foot.

If you are willing to let your grass go dormant for a bit in the middle of summer, this may kill the beetle eggs and stop the infestation. However, many people do not want to have an unattractive brown yard, so treatment is required. Pesticides like imidacloprid are applied in the later months of summer to kill off the larvae. Other treatments like predatory nematodes and milky spore may also be effective in controlling the grub population.

If you think that you may have problems with grubs in your lawn, give us a call. We can assess the situation and rule out any other problems. We can also apply the proper treatments to help banish those pesky grubs.

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The Importance of Deep Watering for Lawns

Make sure that you only water as much as needed, when needed.

Make sure that you are watering when needed, not on a daily schedule.

Summer is in full swing now and the weather is getting hot. Your lawn must be getting thirsty and will need to be watered daily, right?

If you did water your lawn a little bit each day, that is actually likely to stress your grass out more over time. Frequent but shallow irrigation prompts the root system to form closer to the surface. If a spell of drought and/or hot weather hits, the soil is likely to dry out and the grass could start to show signs of stress and even die if the problem lasts long enough.

Deep Watering Is Best

Deep watering your lawn as needed will cause the moisture to move down further into the soil. The roots will follow and reach down into the ground where there is not as much evaporation. If the weather is dry, there is now an extensive root system that will allow your grass to have a better chance of finding water and surviving.

You do not want to just crank up your sprinklers and let them go all day, however. Your ground will have a certain infiltration rate (how much it can absorb at a time) based on your type of soil (clay retains water very well and too much will not be taken up, for example), level of thatch present and other factors. Cornell University suggests that you can figure out what the rate is in your yard with the help of a coffee can that has had both ends removed. You would observe how long it takes for 1″ of water to drain, then note the length of time needed to fill it 1″ where the sprinklers hit.

You can use your infiltration rate to determine how long your sprinklers will need to be going. On average, lawns in New York need to replace 1″ of water a week, says Cornell University. If it rains one week, you may not need to do any watering at all.

Give your lawn a better foothold by using deep watering instead of shallow daily irrigation. Give us a call if you need help to figure out your infiltration rate or adjust your sprinklers.

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Three Common Lawn Fungus Problems

A fairy ring is present in this lawn

A fairy ring is present in this lawn

If you are trying to diagnose problems in your grass, a lawn fungus may be the culprit. Three possibilities are mushrooms, fairy rings and snow molds.

Mushrooms

The most common fungi you will notice in the lawn are the capped mushrooms that are familiar to us. They especially like moist locations. Many of them are not harmful to your lawn; in fact, they can be quite helpful since they break down organic matter which can enrich your soil.

They can be problematic, though, if you are aiming for a uniformly green lawn. You can remove the visible mushrooms, but this will not remove the parts underground (called mycelium) and they may appear again, sometimes years later. Take care that you do not water your lawn too much as this can encourage mushrooms and other fungi to take hold.

Fairy Rings

Sometimes you come across circles or half circles of taller grass in your lawn. There may also be mushrooms growing in that circular pattern, and the grass inside may be turning brown. This phenomenon is known as a fairy ring, so named because some believed they marked the dancing spots enjoyed by these mythical creatures.

As the UC Davis IPM Program notes, you can usually improve the look of your lawn by fertilizing and irrigating the grass outside the rings more. The reason that the rings grow taller is from nutrients released from the mycelium that forms in a mat under the surface. Try aerating your soil to make it easier for water to reach the roots of the grass.

You may find that you need to remove any dead grass that is present (along with the fungal mycelium mat as much as possible) and reseed or lay sod.

Snow Mold

As the snow melts away in spring, white or pink patches may appear in your lawn. These are snow molds that have grown during the winter when the soil was wet. One way to help control this problem is to not fertilize at the end of fall since, as Cornell University mentions, this causes new growth that could fall prey to snow molds. If you have had a problem with them frequently, a preventative fungicide may be helpful in curbing the population.

Common Insects in the Lawn

White grubs can kill lawns

White grubs can kill lawns

Have you noticed dying or dead patches in your lawn? An insect may be the culprit behind this problem. While you are scouting for your IPM program, examine the clues and see if you have insects in your lawn.

 

Chinch Bugs

If you have yellow or reddish-brown patches of grass, chinch bugs may be to blame. As Texas A&M Agrilife Extension explains, you can test for them by removing the ends of a large tin can and push it down into the area that is affected. Once you fill the can with water, chinch bugs will float to the surface if they are present.

Grubs

Some garden pests like Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) start out as grubs (larvae) in the soil. They love to feast on grass roots, so it is no surprise that they can cause your lawn to die. One sign is that you have brown patches of grass that can be pulled up in a sheet. You may also try digging in the ground under these spots to see if you have C-shaped grubs present.

Nematodes

While many nematodes are an integral part of good soil health, some of these tiny roundworms like to feed on the roots of grasses, creating brown patches over time. This one may be a bit harder to diagnose and you may need to send a soil sample to a laboratory for analysis.

Red Imported Fire Ants

One dreaded denizen of lawns is the red imported fire ant. In addition to contending with the destruction of your grass when they build their mounds, you also face the potential of being the recipient of painful stings if you are unfortunate enough to cross their path.

Sod Webworms

If there seems to be a lot of moths hanging out by your problem spot, you may be facing the sod webworm. This larva likes to chomp on the leaves. It may not be too problematic at first if not many are present and there is only a little bit of foliage thinning, but as more come, brown patches may form.

If you need help in identifying the particular pest in your lawn, give us a call. This is an important step to make sure you use the right treatments and resolve the problem successfully.

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Round 2: Fertilizing Your Lawn in Spring

FertilizerBostonLibrary

As soil temperatures rise, grass starts growing again for the year. You can help it get off to a good start by fertilizing your lawn in spring, especially if you did not add any during the previous fall. There are some precautions that you need to be aware of before you start feeding your yard, though.

Test Nutrient Levels

Before you apply any fertilizer, it is a good idea to verify that it is needed. Send a sample of your soil to a testing facility to be analyzed. They can help you see which nutrients, if any, are lacking so you can pick the right fertilizer. In most cases, you will be adding at least some nitrogen (N) to your lawn.

When to Apply

You might be tempted to apply it early in the year on a nice warm day, thinking it will help the grass grow well. However, Mother Nature usually likes to throw out a few last gasps of freezing weather before it finally really warms up. When that happens, it can damage your new tender growth and hurt your lawn. Memorial Day weekend is a good average time that is usually warm enough.

Spread Carefully

As Cornell University advises, “A drop spreader may take a little longer, but it puts the fertilizer exactly where you want it. Use care when loading spreaders.” You want to make sure that you only use what is needed and that none gets in the street, etc to curb pollution. They also suggest doing a fall application if you only fertilize yearly.

Water After Fertilizing

You want to make sure that the nutrients reach the soil so they can be taken up by the roots. Water your lawn after you fertilize so that it can dissolve and go down into the ground.

Call us if you would like to have your lawn fertilized this spring.

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Weed Maintenance in Lawns

Weeds growing in a lawn

Over the growing season, you will need to perform some weed maintenance in your lawn so that the appearance is more uniform and the grass is healthier since there is less competition for nutrients and water.

Use a Pre-Emergent

In the spring, especially if you are trying to revitalize a lawn that has been left untended for a while, start by using a pre-emergent. This is especially necessary for stubborn weeds like crabgrass that can cast out thousands of seeds every year. A pre-emergent works by killing plants that are newly germinated. You will likely need to do it at least twice to catch any weed seeds that escaped the last time.

Practice Proper Lawn Care

As the season progresses, manage your lawn so that it is in tip top shape to help keep the weeds away. When your grass is doing well, it is much harder for weeds to become established. Water less frequently for longer lengths so the roots become firmly entrenched and can access water easier if needed. Don’t “scalp” your lawn by cutting it too close to the ground, which can stress your grass out. Fertilize as needed.

If there are not many weeds, try to remove them by hand with a tool such as a dandelion digger. Non-grass weeds (known as broadleaf weeds) can be controlled using a herbicide formulated specifically for them, since they metabolize differently than grass plants. Read the label to make sure you are using one that will not harm your lawn itself.

Fall Weed Removal Is Possible

You can also treat weeds in the fall. They are getting ready for the coming harsh winter and focus more on storing food in their roots. There is a better chance that they will take up chemicals like pre-emergents. This will help you keep your lawn weed free in the coming years.

Is your lawn troubled by weeds? We can help you get rid of them. Contact us today!