It’s the Fall Season ! It’s never too late to think about adding features to your landscape. Consider perhaps adding a Fire Pit this fall. And gosh, while you’re at it, don’t forget to Fertilize your lawn. Fall is the PERFECT time to fertilize !!
It’s time to think about Lawn Quality
Many of us think of spring as the prime time for rejuvenating our yards and landscapes, but did you know that FALL is really the best time to work on improving your lawn quality. Why…you ask?? In this part of the country, we grow cool weather grasses. These varieties of grass typically take 3 weeks to germinate from seed. When planting grass seed in the fall (Late August, beginning of September), they will begin to germinate and actively grow during the end of September, all of October, November and even some in December…..that’s approximately 12 weeks of growth. The new grass plants go dormant for the winter and then begin to grow the middle of March, April, May and June (now 22 +/- week old plants) before getting stressed out with the Summer heat and humidity.
Compared to seeding in the Spring and putting new grass plants (10 +/- weeks old) through the summer stresses, the older fall grass plants will stand a better chance of surviving. The moral of the story? Always, always, seed in the FALL !!!
So what should you do this fall?
Start by Aerating your lawn. Aeration is the process of producing holes in your lawn (that look like plugs). Aerating your lawn will allow oxygen and water to get down to the root zones of your grass plants. This is a great preventative maintenance service for your lawn. And yes….leave the plugs alone. They will eventually break down and go away.
Next, apply lime to your lawn. I like pellatized lime…..it takes a little longer to break down but it’s basically un-noticeable when applied to your turf. Lime is an essential mineral for lawns. Lime will sweeten up the pH of your lawn, thus allowing the grass plants to more efficiently process the nutrients of the lawn application (fertilizers) that are made each year.
Seed into your existing lawn…..A slit-slicing machine will drop a pre-calibrated amount of seed in front of vertical slicing blades (which plant the seed in the soil). The benefit of slit/slicing your lawn with grass seed is that it will introduce new varieites of grass into your lawn and in time will help thicken up your lawn. And once you are done introducing new grass seed into your lawn…be sure to water. In fact, if it’s warm, you may have to water 2-3 times per day. It is imperative to keep the seed bed (the soil) moist during seed germination.
If you have a bare spot in your lawn….scratch the spot out, add a light layer (1/8″-1/4″ of compost) and plant some grass seed in the spot. Make sure the seed is in contact with the compost…..seed needs to make contact with soil to germinate. Cover lightly with some straw and water away !!!
Fertilize your lawn. Did you know that you should be applying 4 pounds of nitrogen (fertilizer) per 1,000 sq.ft of grass per growing season to keep your lawn healthy and green. Many of us take supplements to keep our bodies strong….why deprive your lawn? The spring (May), Fall (September) and late fall (October/November) are the BEST times to fertilize. So this September apply a nice application of slow release fertilizer to your lawn.
Work on weed removal during September and October….that right, get rid of the weeds !!!! The “nasty” looking crab grass plants can manually be removed. And some of the more tender broadleaf weeds can be removed with the use of “selective herbicides”. A selective herbicide application can help remove the weed from your lawn while not effecting the surrounding grass. So go ahead and remove those weeds.
In summary…..after the residual effects of a six week stretch of high temperatures, high humidity and intermittent rainfalls we are seeing declines in lawn quality, outbreaks of weeds, and yes a lot of fungus. It’s been a tough summer on lawns. There is a lot of wet, hot soil out in our yards creating havoc on your lawn. Start making your plan NOW for a thorough lawn rejuvenation.
If you have any questions about any of the above information, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 914-377-9039.
IPM – Start Scouting for Problems in the Landscape
Keeping a sharp eye on your landscape is a key part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). By quickly noticing changes that could indicate problems such as invasive plants, unwanted pests, poor soil quality, inadequate drainage or other issues, you can more quickly take steps to solve those problems with the least invasive method necessary.
How to Scout Your Landscape
Scouting your landscape means you need to be in intimate touch with the changes in your yard, whether it is the growth and health of turf, the bloom and blossom cycle of flowers, growth patterns of evergreen plants or life cycles of insects. All landscapes have natural life cycles and seasonal changes, and you need to be aware of their usual changes in order to spot something different that may indicate a problem. When watching your yard, take careful note of…
Foliage color, shape and condition
- Budding and growth patterns
- Turf density, growth and color
- Bloom density, size and quality
- Fruiting cycles and produce sizes
- Water issues, including standing water or drainage
- Wilting plants
- Plant damage or injuries
- Insect populations and their life cycles
Not all changes are necessarily problems, and the more aware you are of seasonal changes, the more easily you will be able to spot unwelcome issues. It can be helpful to keep records about your landscaping, noting dates of typical blooms or garden progress and other seasonal changes. In time, you will become very aware of the natural cycle of your landscaping, and you will quickly note unusual changes.
When You See a Problem
Seeing a problem is the first step in correcting it, and if you’ve scouted your landscape regularly, you are more likely to notice problems when the solutions may still be simple and easy. When something unwanted happens in your landscape…
- Identify the Issue
To treat a problem effectively, you have to know exactly what that problem is. If you see a new weed or unwanted bug appearing in your yard, for example, identifying the exact pest will help you plan how to control it with the fewest chemicals or least effort so the rest of your landscape is not affected.
- Define Your Tolerance
IPM is all about tolerating a natural landscape, and that occasionally means some pests are allowed in your landscape when they don’t adversely affect the entire yard or garden. A single bug or weed may not be a problem at all, and if it doesn’t take over the landscape, the best action may be to leave it alone. Learn about the potential problem, and decide if it is worth reacting to before taking any action. This could mean scouting the landscape more regularly to note the pest’s progress rather than reacting right away.
- Research Multiple Solutions
There are many ways to react to different landscape problems. Some unwanted bugs, for example, could be hand-picked off your plants, or they may vacate your landscape by themselves if you plant different vegetation. Adjusting your watering schedule may make the landscape less inviting, or you may need to try a selective pesticide. Study all the solutions to each problem to understand your options, and how each of those options may affect other parts of the landscape. Will changing your watering cause other plants to wilt? Could a pesticide take away more beneficial bugs? You need to know the answers.
- Implement the Solution
Once you understand your options, it is time to take the appropriate steps to keep your landscape in top condition. In some cases, this may mean doing nothing at all if the pest is not a big problem, or else you will need to implement the appropriate solution. Be patient with the results, as it can take some time before the problem is corrected. Keeping records of the changes in your yard can help you see whether your first solution is effective or more aggressive steps may be necessary.
Never Stop Looking
The most important part of scouting your landscape as part of IPM is to never stop looking. Your landscape will change on a daily basis, and you need to be aware of which changes are normal and which may be early indications of problems. Weekly monitoring may be adequate for a healthy, robust landscape, or you may need to carefully check your landscape 2-3 times each week during stressful periods, such as during a drought, after a severe storm or when many plants are young or transplanted. The more aware you are of your landscape, the more easily scouting will help you spot any problems that need care, and the more easily you will be able to keep your landscape healthy and vibrant.
If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 914-377-9039.
Joe Yedowitz, CLT
If you want a healthy, robust lawn, fertilizing and weed control should not be once-a-year chores. Instead, several seasonal treatments can be adjusted to meet your turf’s changing nutritional needs throughout the year. Late spring is the ideal time for post-emergent weed control and fertilizer to nourish vigorous growth as the growing season really gets underway.
About Post-Emergent Weed Control
Weeds can germinate at any time, and a good post-emergent herbicide will help deter weeds even after they have sprouted. These herbicides work on actively growing weeds, and may be absorbed through the plant’s foliage, root system or both, depending on the formula and weed type. Post-emergents are most commonly used to control various broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, ragweed, chickweed, plantain and chicory.
Because these herbicides are most effective when weeds are actively growing, they are best used on young weeds in late spring, after pre-emergent formulas have already minimized how many weeds are popping up in the lawn. Post-emergents are ideal for spot treatments of individual weeds, but can also be used across your entire turf to kill any weeds that are just making their appearance. Older, more mature weeds may take several herbicide applications to completely kill.
Because post-emergent herbicides are available in both selective – kills only specific plants – and non-selective – kills all plants – formulas, it is critical to choose the right type. A non-selective formula will kill all the weeds, but will also kill your grass, shrubs, flowers, garden and anything else that may be growing. Selective formulas are safer for lawn use, but be sure that the specific formula you choose will be effective on the weeds you want to eliminate.
Both types of post-emergents are available as either liquid sprays or granular products, but whichever one you choose, read the application directions carefully and follow them meticulously to avoid any overuse that can harm your turf. Apply the chemicals at the proper time of day, and allow adequate drying time if needed. Some formulas may need watering-in, which can be done naturally if there is rainfall expected, or you may need to use sprinklers or manual watering to ensure effectiveness.
Controlling weeds in spring is of little use if your turf is thin and weak, because new weed seeds will simply take over after every herbicide treatment. It may seem counterintuitive, but you want to avoid heavily fertilizing your lawn in early spring – this is the period when roots are growing most actively, and most fertilizers are designed to “green up” your lawn and foster shoot growth instead. Improperly applied, spring fertilizers will instead take away from your root system and create a lawn that, while it looks healthy at first, has a weaker root system and will not withstand summer stresses.
In late spring, however, fertilizing can be very beneficial for your lawn. In mid- to late May or early June, your lawn will crave more nitrogen as its stored supplies are exhausted. Weed-and-feed combinations that include post-emergent herbicides as well as late spring fertilizing formulas are ideal. These blends will not only help combat unwanted weeds, but will give your lawn adequate nutrition for building up its strength against the heat, drought and heavy use that summer brings.
Everything is growing in spring, including the lawn you want and the weeds you don’t. With a post-emergent weed control application and appropriate late spring fertilization, you can keep weeds away and let your lawn thrive.
And hey…..if you just don’t have the time to drag out that old wobbly spreader out of your shed to perform your Round 2 application, then give us a call. We would be more than happy to treat your lawn for you.
We tend to pamper our gardens, lavish care on flowerbeds, closely supervise containers and even be scrupulous with lawn care, but one of the most prominent parts of our landscape is often overlooked. Trees and shrubs of all sizes, shapes and cultivars also need proper feeding to stay strong and healthy. Spring is the ideal time to feed them a nourishing meal just as they need more energy and nutrients to grow lush buds, blossoms and foliage.
Why Trees and Shrubs Matter
Trees, shrubs and bushes are an important part of any landscape. They help define borders, create different levels of growth and form a living backdrop for more dramatic plants and flowers. Trees and shrubs also help serve as windbreaks and provide shade in the yard, creating microclimates for other plants to thrive. They are also important shelter for wildlife, including birds. These plants can be long-lived with very little maintenance, but proper feeding is essential to help them resist insects and diseases. Well-fed trees and shrubs will more easily reach their full growth potential, showing all their beauty for years of landscaping enhancement and enjoyment.
To Feed Your Trees and Shrubs
Different trees and shrubs – evergreens, conifers, flowering, fruit, berry, etc. – all have different nutritional needs. For the best feeding, it is important to meet those specific needs, or else excess nutrients and minerals will go to waste. To feed your trees and shrubs properly…
- Learn Your Plants
Properly identify any trees or shrubs in your yard that you may not be sure about, and study their nutritional needs so you can provide the best food. Many plants have similar needs but may have specific requirements for better blossoming, larger fruits or broader leaves, and you can adjust the nutrition the plant receives to help it grow just as you want to see it.
- Get a Soil Test
You won’t know what nutrients your soil is already providing if you don’t have it tested. Trees and shrubs need adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and other minerals for strong growth, and a reputable test can help determine what your soil already has to offer your plants. When nutrients are noticeably missing, you can choose the right fertilizer and feeding regiment to replenish the soil.
- Check Your Plant Growth
Mature, well-established trees and shrubs may not need feeding every year if the soil is still richly nutritious. Check how much plants are growing, including how large and lush leaves, buds and blooms are. When growth seems much too slow or may be lacking altogether, it is time to give your trees and shrubs a good meal. Also note the conditions of your plants’ growth – very stressful years, such as after a hard winter or during a drought period, may require better feeding.
- Determine the Best Food Type
Not only should you choose a fertilizer that will meet the nutritional needs of your trees and shrubs with its chemical additives, but you want to choose a fertilizer that meets your needs as well. Even though some fertilizers may have the same nutrient composition, there are different formulas to choose from – quick- or slow-release fertilizers, liquid compounds, feeding spikes, pellets and more. Read usage instructions for each one and choose a fertilizer you feel confident applying correctly.
- Apply the Fertilizer Properly
Your trees and shrubs won’t eat well if you don’t feed them properly. Follow the fertilizer’s instructions meticulously in terms of when it should be applied, whether watering is necessary, amounts to spread on different ground sizes, etc. The best way to feed your trees and shrubs will vary depending on the plants’ size, age and general health, as well as your local climate and moisture levels. Make adjustments as necessary to help the fertilizer do its best work.
After the Meal
Just feeding your trees and shrubs isn’t quite enough to be sure they are as healthy and thriving as possible. Continue giving them the best possible care with appropriate pruning, a proper watering schedule, staking young saplings against strong winds and mulching plants to preserve water and discourage weeds. Along with the right nutrition, these steps will make sure every tree, shrub and bush in your landscape looks its very best.
Weeds can quickly take over a yard and before you know it, your formerly lush lawn is filled with dandelions, clover, crabgrass, foxtails, thistles, sheep’s sorrel, ragwort and other unwelcome intruders. With proper management, however, you can keep weeds away with ease.
Know Thy Enemy – Identifying Weeds
To properly control weeds, you need to know what you’re trying to control. There are hundreds of different types of weeds, from weedy grasses to broadleaf weeds to invasive plants. In fact, any plant – even a lovely flower, bulb or tree sprout – can be considered a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it.
Because many weeds look similar to popular grasses and groundcovers, you need to identify them carefully in order to choose the most effective control methods. Look at unwanted weeds carefully, noting the leaf, stem, bloom or blade shape and size, as well as the plant’s overall size, color, texture and growth habit. Compare your observations to gardening books or websites for weed identification. If you aren’t sure, take several photos of the plant and consult with a gardening center or landscaping expert for proper identification.
Your Lawn Is Your Best Defense
A rich, healthy turf has no room for weeds, and a well-managed lawn is your best weapon against weeds. When your lawn is stressed, it will become thin and poor, leaving much more room for weeds to flourish. To keep your lawn at its very best.
- Choose the proper type of grass for your climate and soil condition. This includes considering season lengths, high and low temperatures, moisture levels, drainage and soil pH so grass can grow well.
- Use the proper watering schedule for your lawn, giving it a deep, thorough drink at longer intervals rather than shallow sips too frequently. Deeper, less frequent watering encourages stronger, deeper roots so the turf can resist weeds.
- Feed your lawn as needed with appropriate fertilizer, adjusting nutrient levels and application densities to be appropriate to the time of year. This will help the lawn grow thicker, minimizing space for weeds.
- Patch bare spots in the lawn as quickly as possible. You can opt for patch mixtures, sod patches or grass seed, but don’t give weeds a chance to take root. If the entire lawn is thin, overseeding may be necessary.
- Remove excessive thatch and aerate the lawn to help the grass grow more productively. Too much thatch or compact soil will nurture weeds with its dense base, while preventing grass from growing effectively.
- Set your mower height for the optimum length for your grass type. If the grass is longer, it will shade and cool any weed seeds, decreasing their germination and minimizing how many weeds can take root in the yard.
Controlling With Chemicals
Even a lush, healthy lawn can occasionally see a weed or two, and careful chemical use can manage those weeds before they get out of control. There are two general types of weed control chemicals…
- Pre-emergent: These herbicides are applied to the lawn before weeds appear to stop germination and keep weeds from getting started. These herbicides are often available in weed-and-feed combinations that include fertilizer that will nurture the lawn at the same time weeds are discouraged. Pre-emergents are first applied in early spring, and there may be several applications throughout the summer to catch new generations of weed seeds.
- Post-emergent: These herbicides are used after weeds appear and will slow their growth and eventually kill them. Both liquid and granular varieties are available, depending on how applications will be made. Selective herbicides kill only the weeds they are formulated to attack, while non-selective chemicals will kill all plants, including grass, flowers or gardens. Never confuse the two types, or you may have a bigger problem than just a few weeds!
Weed-killing chemicals should always be used carefully. Read all instructions before use, and follow them meticulously or else you may do your yard more harm than good. Ideally, use chemicals as sparingly as possible to avoid possible overuse or environmental contamination, and dispose of any unused or unwanted chemicals responsibly.
A little elbow grease can also help you manage the weeds in your yard. When just one or two weeds may be appearing, it can be quick and easy to remove them by hand. Weeds will pull out easier if the soil is damp, and it is critical to remove the entire root if possible. If the root breaks off and some is left behind, new weeds can sprout from the old root. Because of that difficulty, it may be best to only pull roots by hand from very loose soil, such as in a garden, flowerbed or mulched area where they will pull out easily.
It’s not impossible to manage the weeds in your lawn, and if you take care of your turf from the roots to the tips, you’ll soon be weed-free.
April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with plentiful spring rain on schedule. Now is the time to be sure your sprinkler system is ready to take up the slack.
Restarting Your Sprinklers
Before you actually start needing your sprinklers, you should take the proper steps to be sure your irrigation system is functioning properly and efficiently.
- Check that the ground is not still frozen.The deeper parts of the soil are the last areas to feel the warm kiss of spring, and before you begin work on your sprinkler system, you want to be sure your buried pipes aren’t still in frozen ground. Use a spade or shovel to check that the soil is fully defrosted at least 12 inches below the surface, otherwise you may damage your sprinklers and pipes when you start them up. If the soil is still frozen, wait another 5-7 days before checking again, and do not start your sprinklers until defrosting is complete.
Adjust your automatic controller as needed.
The times and durations of watering cycles you used last fall are not likely to be the same that you will want to use this spring. Furthermore, your timer may not be set to the correct time depending on Daylight Saving or power adjustments, so now is the time to double check that your controller is properly adjusted and timed for spring use. Reread instructions if necessary to refamiliarize yourself with how to change the settings appropriately.
Recharge the sprinkler lines slowly and carefully.
When you open the main line to your irrigation system, do so very slowly and carefully, staying alert to possible leaks or problems. It is crucial to allow the line to fill slowly, otherwise the air pressure and water pressure surge could damage pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, leading to costly repairs and landscaping damage. Once the main line is recharged, do the same for each individual sprinkler zone, but keep the pace slow and gentle. It may take up to 30 minutes to recharge each zone, but use that time to watch for leaks or other indications of damage, particularly at valves or sprinkler heads where even slow leaks can add up to hefty water bills.
Run each zone briefly and adjust coverage if necessary.
Once your system is fully charged and ready to be operated, run each zone for a few minutes to check the efficiency and coverage of individual sprinkler heads. Frost heaving, snowblower incidents and even inadvertent kicks from pets or children can all misalign sprinkler heads, leading to more water on sidewalks or driveways than on the lawn. This is also the time to remove any dirt or debris that has built up on the sprinkler heads, and check that the overall coverage is adequate for each watering area.
If you find damage in your sprinkler system, you can make the proper repairs on your own or hire our company to repair and inspect the system thoroughly. You may also want to consider upgrading to better or more water-wise sprinkler heads in the spring, which can save you money all through the watering season.
Is It Time to Start Watering?
Just because you’ve fired up your sprinkler system, that doesn’t mean it’s time to set the automatic timer and let the sprinklers take care of themselves. The actual time you will start using your sprinklers will vary based on your lawn’s condition, local climate, recent precipitation and your fertilization schedule. While you will want to get your sprinklers ready to go 2-4 weeks before regular watering begins in case there are repairs to be made, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t start watering your lawn until the grass starts to grow naturally. At that point, more water will be needed to nourish a healthy root system and keep the grass lush so weeds do not take over. You will want to schedule your sprinklers to provide two inchs of water to the lawn each week, using 1-2 watering cycles to reach that total. When Mother Nature does oblige with a good spring shower, you can use your sprinklers less.
It is officially spring now and that means blooming roses are just around the corner if they haven’t started already! In order to get them ready for the coming growing season, start pruning roses now so they have time to produce new growth.
What Kind of Pruning Cut Should You Make?
When you make your cuts, do them on a 45 degree angle. If you do a steeper angle, more of the stem is exposed and it’s possible that diseases or insects could strike. Make your cuts right next to the node, which is a section where the leaves are connected to the stem. Buds are produced at these junctures. If you cut higher and leave more of the stem, it can also be a source of pests and other problems.
Making your pruning cuts near the leaf node also keeps the appearance tidier. This method can also be used later when you remove dead flowers (deadheading) as the blooming season progresses. This cleans up the rose bush and can possibly prompt it to blossom again.
How Much Do I Prune?
As a general rule, it is a good idea to prune up to one-third of a shrub at a time. Some kinds of roses like the hybrid teas can take more drastic pruning; in fact, you may want to prune out a lot on that type especially to help encourage the plant to produce fresh new stems that are long and good for putting in a vase, for example.
Study the plant before you start chopping away. Look for any parts that have died, become damaged, or are diseased. You always want to remove them for safety and the health of the plant. Once those have been taken out, look for the strongest canes (branches) on your rose bush. Use these as your foundation. Think of where they are located and make sure that you do not leave large gaps.
When do you prune your roses?
Image by words under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
When I think of a garden, I typically imagine plants first. However, there are a number of different non-living objects that you can add to your landscape to improve it. These are collectively known as hardscape.
Seating can be very appreciated in your landscape, especially if it is large. This will allow people to sit and admire the beauty or otherwise rest as needed.
We traditionally think of sidewalks when it comes to curbs, but it can also be used in the landscape to help create specific areas like flower beds.
Fire Pits, Pizza Ovens and Chimeneas
If you like the idea of cooking outdoors or sitting around a fire as part of entertaining, one of these structures may be just the ticket. They create a safer space for you to
Patios and Decks
Want to hold a gathering but not worry about your guests getting dirty from standing in the grass? Patios and decks allow you to have a solid surface that is perfect for patio tables, barbecues and more.
Pergolas, Arbors, Trellises and Other Structures
If you want to add shade to parts of your garden, these structures can be very lovely indeed. Vines like wisteria and trumpet vine can be trained to cover them, adding additional color to the landscape.
If you have a big enough lot,. consider adding a shed to have easy access to all of your gardening tools and equipment without having to take up space in your garage.
Steps and Walkways
These are very useful for keeping the rest of your garden from trampling and allowing people to move around the spaces freely. Potential materials are concrete, wood and stone.
Ponds, waterfalls, pools and fountains are some of my favorite types of hardscape features. Water can create a feeling of peace and tranquility in your garden. Do consider the ages of your children and their safety when thinking about adding one of these to your yard.
If you are interested in improving your garden with some hardscape, give us a call and we can help you make your landscape shine.
What hardscape features do you have in your landscape?
Image by Field Outdoor Spaces under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License