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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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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What Is IPM?

Ladybugs are a biological component of IPM

Perhaps you have been searching for help with a garden pest and run across the acronym IPM. This strategy should be a key part of your garden maintenance, but what is it?

IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. It is a system of controlling pests using a variety of methods based on which will be least harmful to the environment. The five different components are biological, organic, mechanical, cultural and chemical

Biological control utilizes beneficial insects to battle pests. For example, ladybugs are efficient at attacking aphids on plants like roses. You could buy some to release in your garden and help control your infestation.

Organic control aims to use non-synthetic substances. Aphids can be controlled by applications of insecticidal soap.

Mechanical control is the use of physical means to block and remove the problem. With aphids, simply spraying them with a hose to knock them off the plant might be enough.

Cultural control is preparing the enviroment so that it helps curb the problem. You could make ladybug food or grow plants that attract ladybugs, like cilantro.

Chemical controls are sometimes needed if other methods fail or are not efficient enough to use. If the aphid infestation is severe enough, for example, you may need to apply some imidacloprid.

You may find that a combination of methods will yield the best results. Start with the least invasive methods and move up to stronger ones only if needed. This will lessen your impact on the environment and keep your garden healthier at the same time. 

If you need help in determining which methods are best for your situation, give us a call. We will be happy to help!

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The Importance of Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs

Trees in lawns usually need less, if any, fertilization.

When we think of fertilizer in our gardens, lawns and vegetable plants spring to our minds quickly. However, making a plan for fertilizing trees and shrubs is essential for their long term health.

Fertilizer Helps Your Trees and Shrubs Eat

When you add fertilizer to the soil around your trees and shrubs, you are investing in a lifetime of growth. When plants perform the process of photosynthesis to create food, they use different chemical elements found in the soil, namely minerals and nutrients. If these are not present in sufficient amounts, the process is not able to run as efficiently (or at all!) and the plant will start to suffer. Fertilization replenishes these elements and allows your plant to continue making its own food.

It is important that you do not assume that every tree and shrub needs to be fertilized on a schedule, though. They will generally need more in their early years when they are setting down roots and becoming established. If it is located in your lawn, it will already get nutrients and minerals when you fertilize your grass.

Species metabolize at different rates and too much fertilizer can actually be harmful to a plant. The salts contained in these mixtures can cause the plant to dehydrate and wither, ending up with a disorder called fertilizer burn. This problem can also occur if you are careless in your application and get some on the plant. Read the instructions for amounts and application methods carefully.

Should I Be Fertilizing My Trees and Shrubs Now?

How do you know if you should be fertilizing trees and shrubs in your garden at this time? The best way is to take a sample of soil from around your tree or shrub at the start of the season (or later, if you suspect a problem) and send it to a soil testing facility. They are usually run by the state Cooperative Extension Service and will analyze the contents of your ground for a nominal fee. In New York, Cornell University provides soil health testing. They have specific instructions on their preferred methods of taking the sample and sending it to them.

You can also watch for problems that develop and analyze the symptoms for the possibility of a nutrient deficiency. The extension service can also help you with this or you can give us a call. We will be happy to help you assess the health of your trees and shrubs to determine if fertilization is wise.

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