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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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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Start Deadheading Your Flowers

DeadheadingFlickrcreating in the dark

Many of the early blooming plants are done or winding down on their flowering, leaving you with dry flowerheads that are usually not as appealing. Unless it’s a plant where you are wanting the fruit to develop, you can deadhead and make your garden look better overall.

Deadheading is the process where you use a standard set of pruning shears (also called pruners, secateurs or clippers) to remove part of the stem under flowers once their life is over. This term is very commonly used in conjunction with roses, but it can be used for many of your other plants.

Some plants like the Knock Out® roses are self-cleaning, meaning that the old flowers naturally fall off and you do not need to do this process. You would also not want to do this on a fruit tree, of course, since you would be removing your entire crop.

One benefit of this practice is that you can sometimes get the plant to start flowering more. Since the flower’s job is to ultimately produce seeds and the next generation, the plant may “panic” and send out more flowers if you remove the dead blossoms and halt the reproductive process.

For roses, I suggest following the stem underneath the hip (the fruit) to the next node (joint where the leaf joins the stem) underneath and clipping it at a 45 degree angle just above this node. This will keep the plant’s appearance neater since you don’t have a bare stem sticking up. You can also have problems with insects and diseases if you simply cut it right below the hip and leave the branch. If there are a cluster of roses, choose the node underneath them all. Most other flowers can be deadheaded in a similar fashion.

Have you deadheaded your plants before? Did they bloom again?

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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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It’s Time to Start Scouting and Identifying Pests as Part of Your IPM Strategy

These leaves show signs of a Japanese beetle invasion.

The extensive damage to these leaves is a sign of a Japanese beetle invasion.

As I mentioned last week, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a method used to control pests in the garden by choosing the least invasive methods possible first and working up the ladder as needed. Before you can manage the problem, however, you have to know that there is one and what it is. Proper scouting and identification of garden pests can help head off serious problems and keep your plants in the best shape possible.

Scouting

Every week that your plants are growing, you should take a few minutes to stroll through your garden and look at the plants for signs of pests. These can include:

  • Holes in the leaves
  • Leaves are dropping
  • Spots or other markings
  • Wilting
  • Yellowing/browning
  • Webs
  • Eggs/Larvae
  • The pest itself is visible on the plant or on a trap

Identification

Once you know there is a problem, you need to make sure you know what it is so that you can take appropriate measures. If you just figure any pesticide will do and start spraying, you could harm any beneficial insects in your garden and fail to get rid of the ones you were trying to control. You may likely not need any pesticides at all depending on how soon you can catch it and what species has come to visit.

Start by noting all of the symptoms present on the plant and others around it. Take a clear picture with as much detail as possible if you want to get assistance in the identification of your pest. You can try doing an Internet search as a start. There are many groups online that are meant to help people diagnose their problems.

If you are not sure, you can call your local extension office and speak with a trained volunteer. You can also take in or mail a sample of your plant or the pest itself if you like. The extension office is a part of the state university system and benefits from the research performed there, so they are a valuable asset. Finally, we would be happy to come by and look at what you have discovered if needed.

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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!

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It’s Time to Fire Up Your Sprinkler System!

SprinklerSystemFlickrmikemol

The days are warming up and it is time to fire up your sprinkler system for the growing season. You need to be careful, though, so you don’t cause damage to your system.

Locate Your Sprinkler Shut Off Valves

At the end of fall every year, you should be winterizing your sprinkler system. This process clears the plumbing of all water and prepares it for freezing temperatures so that they don’t break. Now that spring is here, you are safe to turn it all back on. Find the sprinkler shut off valves and follow the process listed here to properly get your sprinklers back online. One key to this process is to not rush it all or the pipes may burst.

Once they have been started up, you need to put in your initial sprinkler settings. I will go into more detail next week, but it is important that you monitor and adjust your settings throughout the spring and summer since your lawn’s water needs will change over time. You will not need to water much at first in the spring unless it has not been raining much.

When Should You Water?

It is also essential that you set your sprinklers so that they go off between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m, according to the Cornell University Extension Service. If you water during the day, for example, most of the water will simply evaporate due to the heat. If you water at night, the grass will stay wet for longer and encourage diseases to develop. Early morning watering allows the best chances for water to reach the roots.

If you would prefer to have us get your sprinklers going again, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

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Adding Annuals to Your Garden

AnnualsFlickrdaryl_mitchell

 

If you are looking to revitalize your garden, try adding some annuals.  They only last one growing season, so if you decide you don’t like how they look, you can just try different plants next year. You can include plants like tropical species that might otherwise not be able to survive the winter in your area by treating them as annuals.

Color Combinations

These types of plants usually come in brilliant colors that will instantly improve your yard. As Cornell University states, “There is no right or wrong when it comes to color in the garden.  Color choices are a matter of personal taste.” One way to choose plants is to pick annuals with complementary colors to the plants that are already in your garden. You can also try choosing all warm or cool colors.

Design Considerations

Think about your current plants when you are shopping for annuals. Check for the mature height so you do not accidentally plant a taller annual in front of a shorter one. Look at the growing facts like sun and water requirements, spacing and flowering time. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year to help extend the color show.

Suggestions to Get You Started

Not sure which annuals are the best for your landscape? There are some that will fit into almost any garden. Pansies, marigolds and snapdragons are very cheery species that are available in a wide variety of shades. Petunias add beauty and fragrance. Impatiens and coleus work well in your shadier spots.

If you would like help choosing or planting some annuals in your garden this year, call us today for an appointment!

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Spring Color Displays Are Popping Up!

Crocuses are a great addition for a spring color display

Crocuses in the snow

One of the best days of the year is when I see flowers blooming for the first time after a long dreary winter. I love the reminder that the world is coming alive again! Spring color displays are showing up everywhere. The following plants can be used in your garden to provide that effect.

Annuals

One of the easiest ways to add color to your garden each year is to plant annuals like coleus, impatiens and pansies. These species can be started from seed or you can buy plants at your local nursery. They will flower during the growing season and then die off. Next week I will go into more detail about planning and designing with annuals in mind.

Bulbs

If you’re looking for flowers that bloom even when the ground is snowy, try one of the bulbs that bloom early in the year. I am partial to crocuses, personally. You can also plant species like snowdrops and glory-of-the-snow. If you want to add these to your garden, though, you will have to wait until autumn. Bulbs meant to be planted in spring will bloom for you in summer, which can be a good way to keep colors going in your garden.

Forsythia

The cheery yellow blossoms of the forsythia are a sure sign that spring is right around the corner. This is one of the first shrubs to come alive each year. It is generally unremarkable for the rest of the growing season, however.

Fruit Trees

In addition to gorgeous flower shows in the spring, fruit trees will reward you with a bounteous feast later in the year. Make sure you get cultivars that are known to grow in your area. It is especially necessary to choose one that matches the amount of chill hours (how much time they spend at colder temperatures) or you may have blossom and fruiting problems.

Redbud

One of the lovelies little trees around is the redbud. It is so eager to bloom in spring that the pink flowers burst open even before the leaves do. I recommend the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar, which has rich purple leaves in contrast to the rosy blossoms.

What is popping up in your garden these days?

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