Fall Lawn Fertilization

FertilizerBostonLibraryMany people think that spring is the optimal time to fertilize your lawn. It makes sense, right? The plants are just waking up and need a burst of nutrients to get them off to a good start. However, what you really need to focus on is fall lawn fertilization to keep your grass at its best. Choosing this time means that your grass roots will grow and strengthen themselves, improving the overall system. Fertilizing in spring (especially if that is the only time that you do it) is not as good since it encourages blade growth more, resulting in more mowing and potential problems.

The first step you should perform before any fertilization is to do a soil test. You would run into trouble if your soil already happened to have had good (or a bit overabundant) levels of the main nutrients (N-nitrogen, P-Phosphorus, K-Potassium) and you added more unknowingly. This also helps you check the levels of other nutrients and make sure that you get the correct blend. Here in NY, you can contact the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory or the local Extension Service for testing.

Once you know that you should indeed add a round of fertilization, wait for the right window. If you maintain your lawn frequently, Cornell University advises that you should do a round of fertilization at a rate of one pound for every 1000 square feet in your yard around Labor Day and another in November before Thanksgiving. If your yard is a bit more low key, only the November feeding is necessary.

Know your first freeze dates and watch the weather. If you try to fertilize when it is warm in late fall, a cold snap that is likely around the corner will negate your efforts and even raise the potential of damage from freezing temperatures.

 

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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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How Is Your Turf Looking?

Unfortunately there are some weeds throughout this lawn.

Unfortunately there are some weeds           throughout this lawn.

Have the hot summer temperatures taken a toll on your turf? Now is the time to be extra watchful for two problems that can crop up and harm your lawn right when it is naturally stressed.

Brown Grass?

Many lawns are made up of cool season grasses. These will green up before warm season grasses, but can struggle when things start getting hot and dry and may go dormant. You can help prevent this with syringe cycles on the warmest days. Water early in the morning so that the most moisture can travel down to the roots. The grass should perk up again as long as it is getting regular water.

Brown grass can also be a sign of insect problems like grubs. When you are assessing a lawn where some has turned brown, see if other symptoms are present. With grubs, for example, the grass can be peeled back easily since the roots have been cut.

Weeds?

In sports, they say that the best defense is a good offence. The same is true for your lawn; the best way to keep weeds at bay is to make sure that your grass is hearty and healthy. Water it regularly and don’t mow it too short. Plan on adding weed and feed in the fall when they are most vulnerable. This will help set a good stage for the following years. If there are just a few weeds, remove them by hand.

Monitoring these two situations in summer helps you keep your lawn going strong. Call us if you need help getting rid of weeds or brown spots.

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Help Your Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants Recover From Summer

Stressed out plants

These plants have begun to wilt.

Summer can be a rough time for your landscape. The combination of heat, longer days and lack of rain can make it hard for your plants to grow and maintain themselves properly. They may start to droop and die. How can you help your plants recover from summer?

The first step is to recognize that your plants are indeed having problems. Signs of summer stress from drought and heat include:

  • Wilting
  • Yellowing
  • Scorched leaves that are brown and dry
  • Leaf loss (defoliation)
  • Slower growth
  • Insects or diseases (stressed trees are less able to fend off these problems)

Do keep in mind that these can also be signs of other problems like nutrient deficiencies, insects, pests and other problems. Scout around your garden to make sure you are not missing any clues.

Try to Prevent Problems Before They Start

One of the best ways to help your plants have the best growth is to choose ones that are well suited to the conditions in your landscape. Native plants originally come from a region and can handle the weather better. Drought tolerant plants in general will adjust to lower water levels.

Watering the Right Way

When you water, ensure that it is actually reaching the plant. Do not water during the hottest parts of the day unless you see plants that are wilting. If you do water them, do so from the base so less is lost to evaporation. Consider installing drip irrigation since emitters are placed right by the plants. As a rule, water for longer periods so the moisture goes down farther into the soil and the roots will follow. It may take some time for plants to recover if they have been stressed for a while.

Should You Fertilize?

You might think it would be a good idea to add some fertilizer to give the plants a boost. This can be detrimental, though. The uptake of the nutrients will stress the system and make it harder for the plant to repair itself as needed. For some plants, you can add some fertilizer in the fall. However, other plants may be harmed if they put out new growth just before a frost.

Have you seen signs of stress in your garden? Did they recover right away?

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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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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.

Try Native Plants in Your Landscape

Eastern redbud in bloom

The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is native to New York.

If you want to try something different in your garden, consider adding some native plants. These are ones that originate from your area and can offer some potential benefits not shared by ornamental plants from outside the region.

Preserve Diversity

Gardens can be repetitive and boring if everyone uses the same standard favorites. When you use plants that come from your area, you are helping to ensure the continuation of that species. This is especially important as invasive species have been introduced over the years that can take over and choke out everything around them.

Less Water Needed

When you try to bring in plants from other areas, they may be used to more water than often found in your area. If you pick natives, you will usually be able to irrigate less, conserving water.

Attract Beneficial Insects and Animals

Many plants have evolved to form a positive relationship with insects and animals found in their area. For example, planting the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis – pictured above) will entice visitors like butterflies and bees.

Less Maintenance Overall

Since the plants are adjusted to the growing conditions in the area, they will most likely require less care than other plants. This could include amending the soil to make it more acidic or alkaline, fertilization or pruning.

If you are interested in adding some to your garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has prepared a list of New York native plants that you may be able to find at your local nursery or garden center. A link to a local supplier list is also included on that page. You can call the local Extension office for additional recommendations.

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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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