Tune Up Your Sprinkler System for Fall

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Your grass may have needed extra water throughout the summer to help it combat heat and drought. As fall approaches, though, it is time to adjust your sprinkler system for the last few months of the growing season.

In autumn, the temperatures start falling. Rainstorms start happening more frequently. With these changes in the weather, it makes sense that you will need to irrigate less. You especially want to make sure that you do not stimulate excessive new growth as it may be damaged from early frosts. You do not want to completely stop watering yet, though. Your plants are busy storing up reserves before they go dormant and need a moderate amount of irrigation.

Consider installing a rain sensor in your sprinkler system as this is designed to override your scheduled sessions should it start to rain. This will save your lawn from being over-watered (keeping it healthier and saving you money) and conserve in the landscape to boot. These days they range from simple electric devices to high tech systems with Wi-Fi capability.

Near the end of autumn, you also want to start winterizing your system so that the pipes will not burst. This is a process where you remove all liquids from the system before the frosts get into full swing. After water is drained out, an air compressor is used to blow out any remaining moisture. Call us to get help in making sure that your system is properly winterized and avoid costly damage.

When do you start winterizing your sprinkler system?
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Lawn Renovations and Enhancements

Laying down sod in a yard

Sod can be used in lawn renovation

Fall is a great time to take a good look at your grass and assess its condition. If wear and tear is minor, you may be able to just overseed. However, if it has taken a beating over the previous months, consider doing some lawn renovations and enhancements. This is a way to improve large sections of your yard without completely starting over.

You start by testing your soil to make sure there are not any underlying problems that would also affect the new seedlings. Dig down a few inches in several locations throughout the lawn and combine it into one sample. Send it off to a soil laboratory (like that available from the cooperative extension service) for analysis. They will tell you if any nutrients are lacking and can give recommendations on what to use.

Next you need rid of the existing lawn in the areas that you want to improve. You need it to be completely bare, so spray it with an herbicide that kills both grass and weeds. You don’t want a kind that will be long lasting, since that would just affect any grass seeds you sow. You also want to make sure that you do not get any on the lawn that you do want to keep.

Assess the condition of the thatch layer. You may likely need to remove some of it, as this is a common cause of problems in your yard. Loosen up the soil and apply any recommended fertilizers and amendments.

Once these steps are taking, you are ready to add the new grass. by the first part of fall lest early winter frosts cause damage. You want to do this Possible choices include seeds, sod and plugs. You can add the same type of grass or add another kind that works well for the planting site conditions. Keep it moist for the first few weeks to help nurture the plants and prevent them from drying out.

Have you renovated your lawn? How long did the process take?

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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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What Is a Syringe Cycle for Lawns?

SyringeCycleFlickrThatRamenQueen

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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