What Is a Syringe Cycle for Lawns?

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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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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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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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Should You Spray for Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are a bane to many in summer

Mosquitoes are a bane to many in summer

Around this time of year, I start hearing the dreaded whine of mosquitoes. I cringe because they seem especially drawn to me instead of others and I end up with many welts during the course of summer. If you are facing the same problem, should you spray for mosquitoes in your yard?

The itchiness of mosquito bites are not the only problem associated with those pests. When these insects suck on a person or animal’s blood, they can receive or transfer diseases like West Nile virus. Control is important to stop the spread of these problems.

The very first thing you need to do is assess whether you are unknowingly providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They lay their eggs in still water, so scout around to look for stagnant pools like birdbaths and flowerpot saucers. Make sure your sprinklers are working properly and only shooting onto your lawn and plants. Install bubblers and other devices to agitate the water so that they will reproduce elsewhere.

You can also include plants that deter mosquitoes like lemongrass, basil and citronella. Many of these are herbs and have additional benefits like culinary uses.

When you do decide to spray for mosquitoes, read the directions carefully if doing it yourself and use as little as possible. Consider hiring a licensed professional who is experienced in proper application. Some insecticides kill any insect it comes in contact with and good bugs like bees and butterflies may die too. Clear objects from your yard. You will also want to keep your children and pets away from these areas for at least a few hours to help shield them from the pesticide.

You don’t have to just suffer through a summer full of mosquitoes. Call us if you are interested in a spray for mosquitoes.
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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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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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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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Setting up a sprinkler system holding tank

This system requires 30psi of air pressure gets charges into the holding tank before adding water from the well