Adjust Your Sprinkler Timing Throughout the Season

SprinklerTimingHomespotHQcom

As I mentioned last week, it is time to fire up your sprinkler system. Once you have done that, you are all set for the season….right? 

Your Lawn’s Needs Will Change

The amount of water that grass needs is definitely not always the same. After all, plants are more likely to experience transpiration (losing water from their leaves) and the soil becomes drier the hotter it gets. You won’t need to water much during the spring, but you will need to start watering a bit more during the summer. If you do not ever adjust your sprinkler timing, the grass may get thirsty and develop problems.

However, you do not ever need to water your lawn daily. This can actually be detrimental since it encourages the roots to form and stay near the surface instead of burrowing their way farther down into the soil. As water becomes scarce, it is harder for the roots to find water and the grass suffers. Instead, plan on watering less frequently but for a longer period. This will train the roots to grow downward and your lawn will be healthier.

How much will you need? Cornell University advises that most lawns will need about an inch of water added per week. Take into account any rain that you receive and adjust your sprinklers to make up the difference. You do need to test how fast your soil can drain so you can choose a rate that doesn’t leave puddles. This is called the infiltration rate and Cornell’s article talks about using coffee cans to measure your rates. You can also call us if you want help in determining the proper number.

Account for Rain and Other Weather

I cringe a little inside when I see sprinklers going during a rainstorm. It is so wasteful and potentially even harmful to the lawn if it receives too much water. When a rainstorm is expected, consider turning off your sprinklers if they are on a timer. You can also buy rain sensors that will stop or delay sprinklers if it starts raining.

Remember – don’t just set them and leave it the same all spring, summer and fall. Changing your sprinkler settings as needed will help keep your lawn healthy. The grass will thank you!

Image Courtesy of Homespot HQ via Flickr

How Do I Control Crabgrass?

ControllingCrabgrassFlickrMattLavin

As part of your lawn care schedule, you may need to take steps to control crabgrass in your yard. It can take several years to manage the problem since seeds can stay dormant for several years before germination, so the best time to start the battle is now.

Begin With Hand Removal

If you only see a few crabgrass plants, you can try to remove each one by hand. Aim to do this before the seed heads form and make the problem worse. Larger crabgrass populations may need a chemical control.

Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide

One of the best ways to control crabgrass is to use a pre-emergent herbicide twice in the growing season. These compounds are able to kill any seeds that have recently sprouted , so the crabgrass never gets a chance to take hold. This is important because each plant produces thousands of seeds

Begin with a round in spring to catch as many of the seeds as possible. Follow up with another session right before summer to catch any that have started growing since the last treatment.

If you find some persistent plants that have still managed to grow, you can use a post-emergent herbicide that specifically mentions crabgrass on the label. Some herbicides affect all grassy plants, so your lawn grass can be affected as well. You want to especially avoid compounds like glyphosate (Roundup) since they are designed to kill any kind of plant present.

A word of warning: Do NOT use a pre-emergent herbicide at the same time that you plant grass seeds. Since it is tied to germination, your desired lawn will not sprout either. Plan these events to be several months apart so the grass will grow, but you still stop the crabgrass as much as possible.

Keep Your Lawn Happy and Healthy

If your lawn is lush and growing well, it is less likely that crabgrass will be able to compete and become established. Make sure you are doing your yearly maintenance tasks like aeration, fertilization and any reseeding needed.

Image by Matt Lavin under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

What Is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is a very common weed in gardensPerhaps you have looked at your lawn and noticed that some of the grass looks a bit different. Maybe plants have sprung up in the cracks of your walkway. There’s a good chance that what you’re noticing is a weed called crabgrass.

What Is Crabgrass?

There are over 300 pesky species of crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) found throughout the world. It is so named because it tends to sprawl out sideways from its base. Like many weeds, it is quite persistent since can spread itself in more than one way and may not be easy to control. If you are not diligent about early detection and treatment, it may produce seed heads. These will scatter thousands of seeds throughout your lawn that are able to germinate for several years. Some species also clone themselves by sending out side shoots called tillers.

Crabgrass Is Drought Tolerant

One reason that this weed is able to thrive in lawns is because it can handle summer conditions when it’s hot and dry. This ability to grow even if not much water is present explains how it can survive in strange places like spaces between paver bricks, concrete, rocks and other inhospitable places. Make sure your grass gets enough deep watering to allow it to be healthy and send down roots, making it harder for new crabgrass plants to grow.

How Is It Controlled?

A future post will go into depth about dealing with crabgrass, but in general, control is best achieved through the use of pre-emergent herbicides (which stop the seeds from sprouting), setting your mower blades higher, and keeping your lawn properly fertilized and watered. If the lawn is healthy, it is less likely for the crabgrass to creep in and spread since it cannot compete with your grass.

Have problems with crabgrass? Give us a call!

What Is Your Lawn Care Program?

Lawn care programs include mowing

There are several different tasks that should be included in your lawn care program to keep your grass happy and healthy.

Aeration

Every year at the end of the growing season, get your lawn aerated. This process removes small plugs at intervals throughout the grass. Aeration helps alleviate problems with a built-up thatch layer and improves the health of your grass, since water, air and nutrients have an easier time reaching the roots.

Fertilizing

Another task that you should do in the fall is a round of fertilizer, ideally right after you have performed aeration. This will prompt the roots to grow and anchor themselves farther into the soil. They will also add the nutrients to their storage in preparation for the coming harsh winter. If it are properly fed, grass will have an easier time and will grow better the next year.

Mowing

As we’ve mentioned before, you will need to adjust your mower blades up 25-50% as the temperature rises to protect your grass. Leave at least 2/3 of the blade there. If you cut off too much, the grass has a harder time performing photosynthesis (since there is less area available) in addition to dealing with the stress of hotter conditions.

Pest, Disease and Weed Control

Unfortunately, there are many different pests, diseases and weeds that can pop up in your lawn. Applying pesticides and herbicides at the start of the growing season can help keep them at bay.

Raking

This should be done throughout the season to clean up your lawn areas. If the layers are thick, they can prevent sunlight from reaching the leaf blades. Piles of wet leaves can also make the lawn more prone to diseases like those caused by fungi.

Watering

You will need to adjust your sprinklers throughout the growing season. You do not need to water daily; in fact, this can cause problems for the lawn since the roots will develop near the top and dry out easier. You want to water every few days for a long period to help encourage the roots to dive deeper in the soil. In times of drought, they will then have a better chance of finding water.

You also need to water at the correct time of day. If you water between the hours of 10 am- 6pm, it is quite likely to evaporate in warmer weather and never reach the roots. Watering at night can encourage diseases. Set your sprinklers to go off during early morning.

If you need help with your lawn care program for this coming growing season, give us a call!

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

Raking Out Your Lawn

RakingOutGrassFlickrnociveglia

Raking only needs to be done in the fall to remove leaves, right? Actually, you should plan on raking out your lawn at the start of every spring to give your grass the best possible start for the new growing season. This will help combat the effects of thatch and snow mold, which can both be problematic in the yard.

Thatch, Thatch Everywhere

As grass goes through its growing cycle, a layer of living and dead material called thatch forms above the top of the soil. It does not break down readily and can thicken over time. This can be a problem because it stops air, water and nutrients from easily reaching the roots. It can also harbor pests and diseases.

In addition to lawn aeration, the practice of raking out your lawn can cut down on the level of thatch present and allow for optimal grass growth. There is a special dethatching rake available that is designed for this purpose, but you can also use a regular garden rake. Make sure you get the tines down into the thatch as you rake so you can pull it up.

Snow Mold Can Cause Matted Grass

Did you know that there are some fungi out there that thrive in frosty conditions? Pink and gray snow molds can attack your grass even under a snowy layer, especially when there is a thick layer of thatch present. The lawn will begin to have clumps of matted grass that turn brown. Raking your lawn helps get rid of the snow mold spores and allows the grass to start repairing itself. Get rid of the raked grass so the spores do not have a chance to come back.

Give your grass a fresh start every spring by raking out your lawn. It will help you have the best conditions to produce grass that is lush and green.

Image by Nociveglia via a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Late Fall Fertilizer

Yes, it’s getting chilly out there and YES It is time to apply your final application of fertilizer to your lawn!  If you think it’s too cold to fertilize your lawn….think again.

Fall Fertilizer

Here are the many benefits to a late fall, early winter fertilizer:

  1. The grass plants will have better color going into the winter months
  2. And, the grass plants will green up earlier in the spring
  3. The grass plant foliage will be much denser going into the winter
  4. The grass plants roots will grow deeper and denser
  5. and the grass plants energy reserve will be increased going into the winter.

So break out the spreader and break open a bag of fertilizer and spread away!

 

Fall Color in the Landscape

Fall is here…

Lawn furniture is getting put away (slowly), snow blowers are being pulled out from the sheds and sent away for a quick tune up.  People ask me, “Joe…what can you possibly be landscaping in the fall?”

Truth be told, we are busy planting lawns, installing colorful hardy mums and getting our Spring bulbs into inventory for November/December planting.

Yes…Fall Color / Spring Color.

Hardy mums offer great curb appeal to a home.  They are bright, cheerful and continue to flower right through the first frost.  Unknown-17They accent halloween decorations, they are the centerpiece of Thanksgiving decorations….simply said they are just beautiful!!!

And what am I doing with bulbs you ask? Well, we install bulbs in November/December…they get cooled off and roots out during the winter months, and sure enough they welcome the spring season with a beautiful array of spring color……

Tulips...Spring Color

Tulips…Spring Color

You know ……Tulips, Daffodils,  Hyacinth, etc..

So just because the summer season has come to an end doesn’t mean your flowers and seasonal color has to also.  Spruce up your landscape with hardy fall mums and a display of spring blooming bulbs.  Trust me….you won’t regret it!

 

 

Aeration and Seeding

This is the BEST TIME to give your lawn a chance to thicken up!!!!

You’ve heard me ranting about Fall Lawn Care for years….so here it comes again.  Following a summer of heat, mowing and foot traffic, lawn soils may become compacted and end up in desperate need of help during the fall.  Aeration can provide just the pick me up that your lawn needs.  

Core Aeration Machine

Core Aeration Machine

Your lawn should be aerated regularly – as often as once every year.  Ideally, your soil should be made up of 50% solids, 25% water and 25% air.  When it becomes compacted, there is little room for the air or water.  So if you know you have a dense heavy soil like clay, or you  can see water pooling up or running off the lawn, chances are that you need aeration.

Aeration also reduces the amount of thatch buildup on your lawn by helping it to decompose more quickly.  Thatch is the dead material that builds up between the blades of grass on your lawn and the soil.  When thatch accumulates to more than 1/2″, it causes problems.  

The best time to aerate is when the grass is actively growing.  Fall is best for cool season grasses because turf roots grow more in the fall than any other time of year.  

Right after aeration is an idea time to overseed your lawn.   With the soil opened up the seed can make good soil contact which is critical for seeding success.  With still-warm soil and cooler fall weather, new seedlings can germinate and get established during this root-building period of the year.  Starter fertilizer and plenty of water (when it doesn’t rain) will speed up establishment for a much thicker lawn next season.

Aeration works with fall fertilization and watering to thicken the lawn and build up good food reserves in the roots through the fall months.  So plan on aeration for a healthier lawn this fall and thicker, greener turf next year!

Can Your Lawn Take the Heat?

Summer will be here soon, and it can be brutal on your lawn. But summer hardiness can be improved this year and in the years ahead. Here are some things to think about throughout the rest of the growing season:

Mowing: As temperatures increase, you should gradually raise your mowing height by 25% to 50%. Also, you should remove no more than 1⁄3 of the grass blade at a time. This will keep the soil shaded and encourage deeper roots. When summer heat starts to subside, you can gradually lower the mowing height again.

Watering: Water your lawn deeply and infrequently, since light, frequent waterings encourage shallow roots that can’t sustain grass plants. Your lawn needs from 1″ to 1.5″ lawn-hostasof water per week from rainfall or sprinkling, and you should soak the soil to a depth of 6″ each time. Early morning is the best time to water.

Core Aeration and Fertilization in the Fall: Core aeration opens up the soil, breaks
 up thatch and improves the flow of air, water and nutrients to the roots. By having your lawn fertilized after aeration, your turf will be less susceptible to disease while exhibiting improved recovery from the stresses of summer heat and drought. Fall fertilization will also lead to fewer summer weed problems and better fall-to-spring color.

Mulch- More Than Just “Pretty”

Much more to mulch then what meets the eye

images-11Mulch- most of us think of it as something there to make the ground look good.  And a clean edging job and fresh mulch does just that. The consistent color and texture do improve the looks of your shrubs and flowers. In fact, dark colored mulches even widen the pupil of the eye, making bright plants stand out even more. Mulching also cuts down a lot on the amount of time and effort it will take to keep your beds and your whole property looking better throughout the entire season. Here are some of the advantages of spring mulching.

Some of the things you can count on mulch to do for you:

  • Prevent many weeds and grasses from sprouting by blocking sunlight from the soil
  • Keep up to 21% more moisture in the soil around the root zone
  • Help soil stay up to 10 degrees cooler in summer, which reduces stress on the plants

mulching-794901What is the best mulch to use? There is a huge variety of mulch materials available and you can have “bulk” or bagged mulches. Your choice will probably depend on what’s available and your personal preference for color and texture.

Whatever type of mulch you prefer, it’s best to get an early start for the most benefits. So mulch now for an easier season later on.