Fall Is an Excellent Time to Work on Lawn Quality

Work on lawn quality in the fall

Many of us think of spring as the prime time for rejuvenating our yards and landscapes, but did you know that fall is also a great time to work on fixing your lawn quality and make your landscape shine next year? Take a walk around your landscape and see what improvements you may want to work on in the coming weeks.

Why Is Fall a Good Season for Lawn Repair and Renovation?

Spring is, of course, a time when plants begin to awaken and rapidly grow. However, this new growth can be stressed when the hot and dry summer season arrives. As the weather starts to cool down in fall, new growth can occur and then the grass will prepare to go dormant for the winter. This will help protect the improved lawn and make it stronger for the following growing season.

Less Weed Problems

Another benefit to working on improving your lawn in fall is that many of the weeds have stopped actively producing seeds or otherwise producing new plants as they prepare to die or go dormant for the winter. If you strike right now, you have a better chance of lessening or removing the problem entirely.

Timing is Important

You do need to make sure that you are working on these projects more from early to mid fall instead of later. If it is too close to winter and the time that frosts set in, the new growth may be damaged and the repair or renovation will fail.

What will you do to improve your lawn quality this fall?

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Dealing With Bentgrass in Your Lawn

Bentgrass is one weed that can invade your lawnBentgrass is not necessarily always a weed. In fact, it is often used to create lawns and golf course greens in some areas. The problem comes when it pops up in lawns and competes with the type of grass that you did intend to plant.

How Does Bentgrass Invade Your Lawn?

Seeds can arrive in your landscape by being blown in. They may also be brought in if you use a lawn mowing service. The plant starts to grow and can spread itself through stems called stolons. These allow the grass to put down roots in other areas and become firmly entrenched. 

How Do You Get Rid of Bentgrass?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to remove just the bentgrass from your lawn, especially once it has had the chance to spread. If you are lucky and catch it when it first arrives, you may be able to manually remove the plants. It may take some time and diligence to make sure that it is truly gone.

You will need to use a nonspecific herbicide like glyphosate (one common version is Roundup®) on the areas around and including the bentgrass. This will kill any plants in the area so be careful when spraying. Follow the instructions on the bottle and protect your other plants outside the target area. 

It is safe to reseed your lawn a few days after the grass has died. You want to make sure that the herbicide has had a chance to become inactive before planting any new grass seeds. Make sure that it stays watered properly so that germination can occur.

How have you gotten rid of bentgrass?

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It’s Time to Start Thinking About Lawn Renovation

You may need to do a lawn renovation at the end of the growing season

Your grass can really get a workout over the years as it is subjected to foot traffic, weather, pests and diseases, among other factors. Patches may start to appear and the lawn doesn’t look as healthy as it once did. As we approach fall, it is a great time to consider doing a lawn renovation as needed.

What Is a Lawn Renovation?

There are basically two different kinds of lawn renovations that your landscape may need. If the damage is not too extensive, you may be able to simply overseed and fill in the bare spots. You could also use this opportunity to add in different kinds of grasses to improve the quality of your lawn.

However, there are times where you may need to remove some or all of the existing lawn and start over. This is more work, of course, but can ultimately mean that your landscape will be whole again. This process is known as a lawn renovation.

Basic Overview of Doing Lawn Renovations

As with many garden planting projects, a good first step is to have a soil test done. You want to make sure that the proper pH and nutrient levels are present or your new grass will struggle also. You can get tests at a garden center or home improvement store. More extensive testing can be obtained by sending samples to a soil laboratory.

Once you know the state of your soil, you can start working on the removal of your existing lawn. You want to get a general herbicide like glyphosate that targets all plants. Be very careful if you are only doing part of your lawn since this could kill the grass that you want to keep. It will take a few days for the herbicide to work through the plant and kill it.

Next would be removing thatch, especially if thick, and tilling up the yard. Thick thatch layers do not allow nutrients and water to reach grass roots and would make it more difficult for the new grass to thrive. You may also want to add soil to help even out the ground, especially if some areas are sunken or raised.

Once your area is cleaned and prepared, you are ready to add your new grass. You can use seed, sod or plugs depending on your budget and type of grass that you would like to grow. Early fall is an optimal time to install new grass since the cooler temperatures mean less stress and there are usually less problems with weeds.

If you are thinking about doing a lawn renovation, we are here to help. We can help you decide the best course of action to bring your lawn back into tip-top shape.

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How Is the Lawn Soil pH in Your Landscape?

Soil samples are taken to figure out the pH and nutrient levels in your landscape

As autumn approaches, it is a good time to start thinking about your lawn soil pH so that you can add amendments if needed. Fall is a period of growth for grass as it prepares to go dormant for the winter and ensuring that the pH levels are optimal will help it stay healthy.

Test Your Soil First

You definitely do not want to just assume that your soil needs some sort of amendment. Plants grow best in a certain pH range and if you change the soil to be higher or lower than needed, your grass will struggle or possibly die.

A quick way to test is to buy one of the soil pH kits at a home improvement store or garden center. However, these are very simplistic and may not give you precise results. There are also soil pH probes available for sale in retail locations. These suffer the same flaws as home pH kits.

Your best option is to send off a sample to a soil laboratory. In addition to pH levels, they can also determine the type of soil present and the levels of important nutrients and micronutrients that are currently present in the soil. This information will help you get the right amendments and fertilizers for your grass. Here in New York you can send it off to the soil laboratory at Cornell University.

Steps for Preparing a Soil Sample

A proper soil sample requires that you dig in a few different spots throughout your lawn. You need to go down 3″ in your grass to make sure that you are reaching the levels where the roots will be growing. Take out a shovel of soil at the bottom of the hole and replace the grass.

Put all of your samples together in one container and mix it around. This will allow the laboratory to have an accurate representation of the levels present throughout your lawn. If you are sending it off to Cornell, they would like three cups of soil from this mixture to perform their tests. More information for ordering a sample can be found here.

Do You Need to Add Lime?

If tests show that your pH levels are on the low side (under 7.0 is considered acidic), you may need to add some lime to your soil to help raise the pH. The amount that you need will depend on what kind of soil is present and your current pH number. Refer to this chart from Cornell to see how many pounds per 1000 square feet that you should add.

If you would like help with these tasks, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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Core Aeration is Great as Part of Fall Lawn Maintenance

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If you have walked by a lawn and seen little cylinders of grass and dirt, you may have wondered what was going on. Why would anyone want to punch holes in their grass?

This process is called core aeration and it can be very beneficial as far as keeping your lawn healthy. As grass grows, it builds up a layer of matter that is called thatch. If it becomes too thick, it can cause your lawn to not be able to receive air and water properly, stunting its growth.

Sometimes raking alone is enough to keep thatch in check, but you will likely need to aerate your lawn too. This procedure involves using a specialized machine to take out cylinders from the grass at evenly spaced intervals. Aeration opens up holes in the layer of thatch that allows water and oxygen to reach the roots easier.

Why would you want to aerate your lawn in the fall specifically? That season sees a lot of growth as plants get ready to go dormant for the winter. Performing core aeration in autumn allows the roots to spread and grow. It also allows the plants to get the nutrients that they need at this important time. Taking this step will help ensure that your next growing season goes more smoothly.

Fall is just around the corner, so please give us a call if you are ready to schedule a session of aeration for your lawn this fall.

 

Photo: AIREADORA 04” by GuipozjimOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Are There Aphids in Your Landscape?

AphidsViaMoi

If you have ever seen clusters of pear-shaped insects on the stems of your plants, you may have an infestation of aphids. I see them on rose bushes, especially, but they may be found throughout the different areas of your landscape. They come in colors like green, pink and black.

What Problems Do Aphids Cause?

Aphids are very fond of cutting into stems and sucking out the juice from plants. This can stunt the growth of the plant. The aphids also may pick up bacteria, viruses or fungi and transfer them to other plants, spreading disease.

In the case of grass, this action can cause your grass blades to turn yellow and orange before dying. Other plants may show problems like yellowing, curling and wilting of leaves and possibly death.

They also can be problematic because of a sticky substance they expel, called honeydew. It can get onto surfaces and cause damage. When it is left on plants, the wet sugary conditions can encourage a fungal problem called sooty mold. While it is overall not too harmful in many situations, it will cause discoloration of your plants.

Why Are Aphids Difficult to Destroy Completely?

These insects can reproduce very rapidly, producing a new generation at intervals of approximately two weeks. They do not even need males to reproduce since they employ a process called parthenogenesis. In fact, aphids are born pregnant! As you can imagine, it can be hard to keep up with the pest population since even one surviving aphid can repopulate an area.

What Are Some Ways to Get Rid of Aphids?

On your smaller plants and shrubs, you can try spraying them with water to knock them off. You want to do this early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry out and avoid diseases. Insecticidal soaps may also be beneficial, as well as encouraging insects like ladybugs that feed on aphids.  If the problem is severe, lawn care companies can spray with pesticides, though this will also kill off the good insects.

You may have noticed that there are ants living near the aphids. They are protective of the aphids since they like to harvest the sweet honeydew. Controlling ants will make the aphids more vulnerable as you take measures to get rid of them.

What do you do to control aphids in your landscape?

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How to Keep Your Plants Healthy This Summer

Keep your plants healthy this summer with appropriate care.

Are you wondering how to keep your plants healthy during the warmest time of the year? Plants can naturally become stressed during summer, so you will need to watch over them carefully. Here are three ways to make sure your garden is in tip-top shape.

Scout Around for Insects, Pests and Other Problems

You definitely want to stay on top of problems so that you can treat them before they become too serious whenever possible. Some signs you may notice, among others, include:

  • Wilting
  • Rotting
  • Cankers
  • Spots on leaves
  • Leaves that turn yellow or brown
  • Holes in leaves, branches or trunk
  • Webbing
  • Galls
  • This one seems obvious, but insects themselves are seen

Once you notice a problem, you can do research to see what is causing it and how it can be treated. There may be several different methods including mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical controls.

Keep Your Watering on a Consistent Schedule

As I have mentioned before, it is usually better to water your plants just a few times a week, making sure that it is for a long enough period that they can get the amount that they need. If you do notice a plant that seems extra wilted, go ahead and give it a drink. However, do make sure that it needs water as overwatering can, strangely enough, cause wilting also.

Consider Moving Potted Plants to Shade

Container plants can have problems sometimes since their soil area is smaller than plants in bedding areas. The roots do not have the chance to fully spread out and can struggle when the soil dries out.

One way to help slow down this problem is to move the pots to an area that is a bit cooler. This can be under an umbrella or close to your house. You could also consider bringing them indoors as needed if it is really hot.

There are some factors to think about when deciding to move potted plants. Make sure that the specific plant is able to handle partial shade, since many need full sun. Your nursery should know if it can or you can search on the Internet by using the plant’s name.

If you bring them inside, you would need to harden them off when you do set them back outside. The environments are quite different between your house and your garden (with the latter usually being harsher,) so the plant can go into shock if it is just set outside. When you harden off, you take them out for a short period on the first day and gradually lengthen it over the course of about a week.

How are your plants doing this summer?

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Are There Foxtail Weeds in Your Grass?

Foxtail weeds can appear in your lawn

If you have noticed that some areas of your lawn look a bit different and there are spikes of seedheads shooting up, you may have foxtail weeds in your grass.

There are three different species that you commonly see throughout the United States. They are:

  • Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberi)
  • Green Foxtail (Setaria viridis)
  • Yellow Foxtail (Setaria glauca)

 Why Are Foxtails a Problem?

They form in clumps and tend to remain upright, breaking up the uniform appearance of your lawn. They send up seedheads that are full of seeds, producing new plants. These seeds are also able to cling to animals and clothing, causing potential pain and problems.

These species can act as a host for nematodes, which can then affect your lawn. Foxtails also produce chemicals that can actively harm other plants in the area to reduce competition through a process called allelopathy.

Controlling Foxtail Weeds

One way to help control these species is to apply preemergent herbicides. Since these plants reproduce by seeds, stopping them before they can really get growing is helpful. However, if seeds were dropped in that location before or are blown in, they can germinate after the herbicide has worn off. Applying more than once a summer can be helpful in this case to control foxtails and other weeds with similar tendencies.

As with all weeds, keeping your lawn grass in a healthy state helps keep undesired plants from taking over. Properly growing grass forms a good root structure that can grab the nutrients it needs and the plants can shade out seedlings.

How do you control foxtails?

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Can You Overwater a Lawn in Summer?

Overwatering A Lawn is Possible

As the weather heats up, you might think that your lawn needs as much water as possible to survive the summer and grow properly. Can you overwater a lawn in summer?

Water Longer and Less Often

It may seem counterproductive, but you only need to water once or perhaps twice a week in many situations. If you try to set your sprinklers so that they water a little daily, the roots get lazy and stay near the surface so that they can grab the water there. If the weather is especially hot and you do not water, the grass is now prone to scorch and other problems.

When you water longer and less often, it trains the roots to go deeper into the ground. In times of drought, there is a greater chance of your grass being able to find some moisture since the roots are longer and more widespread.

Plants Can Drown Too

If your lawn is continually wet, your grass might drown. Plants actually do take up oxygen from the soil as part of their respiration. If the roots sit in water for a long time, they cannot get the oxygen that they need and can end up effectively drowning.

Too much water surrounding the roots for an extended time can also lead to problems like root rots and other fungal diseases. Fungi are especially drawn to moist areas and thrive there.

How Much SHOULD You Water, Then?

Cornell University here in New York suggests that all you need on average is an inch of water per week. You can experiment with your sprinklers to see how long you need to water to achieve that goal using a device like a rain gauge or simply collecting water in a can. You also need to examine how your soil absorbs the water to make sure it’s not being applied too fast.

How is your grass holding up this summer?

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Watch Out for Puncturevine in Your Garden

Spikes cover the puncturevine fruit

I have had the very unpleasant experience of stepping on the fruit of the puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris).  This weed produces an abundance of seed pods that are covered with very sharp spikes. They are so sharp, in fact, that they have the ability to embed themselves into your clothes, shoes or the tires of your vehicle.

Other names for this species include puncture vine, caltrop, goatheaddevil’s eyelashes, tackweed, cat’s head, bullhead, devil’s weed and devil’s thorn. Some people say that it offers benefits for improving fertility.

What Makes It a Weed?

As I have mentioned before, the simplest definition of a weed is a plant that has started growing where you do not want it. You definitely would not want to come across this species in your garden by accident! Weeds are often very prolific in their seed production and the puncturevine is no slacker; each plant can produce up to 5000 of these seeds in just one growing season. They harden as they age and are quite painful when you accidentally step on them or otherwise come into contact.

Each plant can quickly spread a few yards away from its base. It acts like a groundcover since it forms into a low mat.

How Can I Get Rid of Puncturevine?

You generally do not need to apply chemicals to control this plant in your garden unless it has been allowed to spread profusely. It reproduces by seeds, so you want to remove the plant when it is young and before it has a chance to start fruit production. This plant has one tap root (one long root that goes down) and you can kill the plant just by removing it. You also want to carefully remove any seed pods that are present on the ground.

Have you come across puncturevine in your garden? How did you get rid of it?

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