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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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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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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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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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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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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