Lawn Mowing

Many people who want a handsome lawn do not realize just how important the job of mowing really is. There are five dimensions of mowing to be considered. (a) Cutting height (b) Mowing Frequency (c) Mowing pattern (d) Mower operation and (e) Disposal of clippings.

Cutting height of different varieties of grass is mentioned below. Lowering the cutting height can be disastrous. Removal of a large portion of the leaf results in reduced carbohydrate production, because the leaves are largely responsible for photosynthesis.

Mowing frequency has a general rule not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf at one time. Time of year will vary depending on rate of leaf growth.

Mowing pattern is far less critical but should be considered. A side-by-side mowing pattern is acceptable if the 360° turns can be made on sidewalks or roadways. If the turf is thinning due to about face turns, try a circular cut. Mowing operations should be operated at the speed specified by the manufacturer. Rapid, spinning turns, can cause bruising and tearing of the turf.

Do not remove clippings. Short clippings decay quite rapidly and do not contribute to thatch formation. The only two situations when clippings should be removed (a) When excessive clippings may smother the lawn. (b) When surface clippings give the lawn an objectionable appearance.

The two most common errors of mowing are: Lawn isn’t mowed often enough. Lawn is mowed too short. The proper heights are: Bluegrass (Common Kentucky) 2″ to 2 1/2″, Bluegrass (Improved Varieties) 1 1/2″ to 2″, Fescues – 2″ to 3″, Zoysia grass – 3/4″ to 1 1/2″, Bermuda grass – 3/4″ to 1 1/2″, Hybrid Bermuda grass – 1/2″ to 1″.

© Perfco

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Proper Watering

The most Common Error committed by people is light irrigation. Too little water too often encourages a multitude of problems such as shallow root system. The need for watering depends mainly on your soil and of course, the weather.

Rainfall is no guarantee. Light showers merely wet the surface. Short down pours do the same. Most of the water is lost in runoff before it can soak in.

How much water is needed? A lawn will use as much as two inches per week in hot, dry weather – a fraction of that when it is cooler. If you decide your lawn needs water, you should put on enough to wet the entire root zone as shown on the other side.

When is the best time? If you can, avoid late afternoon or evening irrigation. Grass that stays wet for a long time favors development of diseases. However, do not avoid watering at these times if this is the only time you can water. The important thing is water. Avoiding late afternoons is secondary to providing the needed water. In heavy clay soils prevent watering to the full amount at one time, frequent watering is then necessary.

© Perfco

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Organic Fertilizer

More people are asking for information regarding organic lawn care. Many people want to decrease or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in their home lawns. There is concern some products may be harmful to humans, beneficial insects, wildlife, and pets. This is not necessarily true however. With proper use and common sense precautions, lawn care products are quite safe. That being said, organic lawn care does have some benefits over traditional lawn care.

The term conventional or traditional lawn care as used here, implies the use of inorganic fertilizers, or more correctly, soluble fertilizers. Most traditional lawn fertilizers are soluble fertilizers. They provide macro- and micro-nutrients to the lawn as soon as the fertilizers get wet and soak into the soil.

Organic fertilizers are not soluble—in other words, adding water to organic fertilizers doesn’t change them or make them readily available for plants to use. They must first be processed by microbes before the nutrients are in a form useable by plants. Inorganic fertilizers are in such a form that this intermediate microbe step is not required. As soon as soluble fertilizers become wet, they are ready for use by the plant.

The plant can’t tell the difference between a soluble fertilizer and an organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers take longer before they become available for plant use. Soluble fertilizers become available much faster, which could be a problem. However, today, fertilizer producers have incorporated a time-release aspect to their fertilizer. This slows down the nutrient release time-table to a controlled release.

One of the main advantages of organic lawn care is that the homeowner is more involved in the health of their landscape and ecosystem. This is an important difference. It represents a commitment to the environment. This commitment benefits not only your lawn or landscape, but also the local wildlife including beneficial insects and microbes living in the soil.

The soil is the real beneficiary of organic lawn care. Part of an organic program is the addition of organic matter such as compost or lawn clippings to the soil. Over time, this additional organic matter greatly improves the health of the soil.

Improved soil contributes to healthy plants that will be less susceptible to damage from pests or environmental stress. Fertilizer may be applied less frequently than in conventional lawn care but timing of application becomes especially important. Weeds, insects, and diseases are managed by cultural practices that are oriented toward prevention. Natural organic methods also emphasize the recycling of organic wastes.
Limited scientific research has been done on exclusively natural organic lawn care programs. However, well-documented research has been done on many practices that are an integral part of organic lawn care such as core aeration, mowing height, and top-dressing with compost. Recommendations for a completely natural organic approach are therefore based on years of collective experience.

Being aware of the options involved in organic lawn care will make you a better informed gardener and a more responsible landowner.

©2005 – 2006 All Rights Reserved


Lawn Aeration

Aeration is one of the most important maintenance practices we can employ to help the lawn remain healthy and help ward off problems. It is estimated that over two-thirds (2/3) of residential lawns are growing on compacted soils. Many times, there is no evidence of insect or disease activity, but the lawn seems to be off-color, thinning, and shows signs of stress in high temperatures. In general, the lawn seems lethargic. Chances are good that the lawn hasn’t been aerated in the past few years… if ever.

Compaction is a physical process that slowly reduces the amount of oxygen contained in the soil and nutrient movement to the roots… the critical part of a healthy grass plant. Roots of the plant need oxygen, and as a product of their growth process, give off carbon dioxide. As compaction increases, less and less oxygen can enter the soil and less carbon dioxide can escape. The net result is a gradually thinning lawn until, ultimately, the soil can no longer support any turf growth.

Aerification will prevent or help a number of problems, including compaction and thatch build-up. It opens passageways in the soil, allowing better air, water, and nutrient movement. During drought conditions, aeration helps water reach thirsty roots. When rain is heavy, it allows air to penetrate and help dry up excess moisture. Each is a stress condition for your grass.

Fall and spring are the best times to aerate… and also for overseeding and renovating with improved varieties of cool-season lawngrasses. Mid-spring to early summer are best for warm-season grasses like bermuda or zoysia. When the existing lawn is in fairly good condition and overseeding is being used to thicken the lawn, one or two passes with a core aerator may be the only soil preparation required. Weak existing grass, with a greater need for seed, may require additional passes with the aerator to open the soil properly.

For the best overseeding results with core aeration, rake the cores to the point where the holes are filled one-half to three-quarters with soil before applying the seed blend or mixture. Next spread a starter-type fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) than nitrogen (N). Then rake the remaining cores back into the soil. With this procedure, the seed should be covered enough to allow germination.

If you decide to pickup the cores, spread a light topdressing to partially pre-fill the aeration holes before seeding. Then lightly cover the seed and fertilizer with additional topdressing.

Proper watering is the major key to success. Like establishment of a new lawn, renovated or over seeded lawns need to be kept moist, but not soaked, until the new seeds begin to develop and grow a new root system. In 4 to 6 weeks, a normal watering program can be resumed.

With more than 50% of the lawns in North America more than 10 years old, most could benefit from aerification and the planting of new lawn seed varieties to produce a healthier, denser lawn.

© Lawn & Landscape digest.

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Thatch is the layer of living and dead stems, roots, and crowns that forms a type of blanket over the soil of your lawn. A small amount of thatch (one-half inch or less) is acceptable and even good for the lawn. But when thatch accumulates to over one-half inch, it can become one of a lawn’s most serious enemies.

KEEPS OUT THE GOOD & PROTECTS THE BAD – Like an old-time thatched roof, the thatch on your lawn creates a barrier which prevents the free movement of water, air, fertilizer, and insect controls into the soil. Since thatch is an ideal breeding ground for many diseases and turf-destroying insects, a heavy thatch layer can quickly become a serious problem.

GRASS CLIPPINGS NOT TO BLAME – Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings are not the prime cause of thatch build-up. Clippings are almost all water. Once dried, clippings add very little bulk to the thatch layer. Thatch is mainly made up of the heavier crowns, stems and roots. Clippings of moderate length can be left on the lawn without fear of quickly increasing the thatch layer.

REDUCES LAWN CARE EFFECTIVENESS – Heavy thatch prevents fertilizer and water from reaching the grass roots. This can result in a lawn that is thin, off-color, and prone to disease, insect, and drought problems.

You have two choices. – You can ignore the thatch, and hope it will decay before it does any harm. However, a thatch problem will almost always get worse with time, not better.

The second alternative – the option we most often recommend – is core aeration because it offers the least amount of disturbance to the healthy plants.

CORE AERATION – Simply put, core aeration is the mechanical removal of a small core of soil and thatch.

Core aeration benefits your lawn in three important ways: (1) it breaks through dense thatch and opens up the soil to permit free movement of water, fertilizer and air, (2) by extracting cores from every square foot of your lawn, core aeration relieves soil compaction and gives grass roots room to grow; (3) the soil cores break down and integrate into the thatch to speed up its decomposition.

Just one good core aeration can actually shrink your lawn’s water bill by as much as 50%. The reason is simple. With a heavy thatch build-up, most of the water sprinkled on the grass rims off your lawn, and down the street. Once we’ve core aerated, though, you’ll find that water run-off is all but eliminated – a lot less water will go a long way.

Another benefit is a stronger stand of grass. Roots will dig deeper into the soil and spread farther. This will help your lawn survive stress times of drought, high temperatures and normal foot traffic.

But of course the most important result of core aeration is a healthier, more beautiful, more lasting lawn.

Core aerate at least once a year. Bringing up cores is one of the most important forms of preventive maintenance you can give your lawn, and should be done at least once a year. Some lawns need to have this done twice a year. Talk to us – we’ll recommend the schedule that will help to relieve your thatch and compaction problems.

The plugs will disappear. Once core aerated, your lawn will be dotted with the little plugs we’ve pulled from the soil. These plugs will break apart and disappear into the lawn within a week or two.

© 1991 Focal Point Communications
© Ryan Turf-Care Equipment.

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Crabgrass is an annual weed. This means it dies completely every year and sprouts new from seed produced the year before. A healthy crabgrass plant produces up to 4,000 seeds during its short one-season life.

WHY IT’S SUCH A PROBLEM – Crabgrass is a very fast-growing plant. It has to be because it only has one season to live. Since it grows so fast, it can choke out slower-growing permanent grasses in your lawn. Once crabgrass gets a foothold, a cycle of summer crabgrass followed by winter weeds begins, leaving patches of bare dirt in the seasons in between.

STOPPING THE INVASION – To get crabgrass under control, a thick stand of desirable grass has to be established. To do this in one season, the best approach is to concentrate on eliminating the crabgrass through the spring and summer. Use of pre-emergents (to stop the seed from sprouting) or post-emergents (to eliminate the plants once they germinate), or a combination of both is the best way to do this. Plan your seeding for late summer or early fall, and try to establish the new grass soon enough to mow it two to five times during the fall. Then an application of pre-emergent the following spring will be effective against any crabgrass, without harming your new turf.

© 1991 Focal Point Communications

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Summer Weeds

The weeds that appear in hot weather are some of the toughest to control. They show up when the lawn is under stress from heat and dryness. These summer weeds have some very good defenses that are hard to crack.

TINY LEAVES WITH VERY THICK SKINS – Summer weeds usually have very small leaves with a thick, waxy coating. These features help the weeds survive during hot, dry weather by conserving water in the plant. But the same things that help the weeds thrive while your lawn is wilting make them a harder target to hit with weed control materials. When the weather gets very hot, these weeds dose the “pores” on their leaves almost completely making good weed control difficult, if not impossible.

TIMING IS THE KEY – To get control of difficult summer weeds, it’s important that the weeds are actively growing so they can absorb the weed control application. A treatment in late spring or early summer may eliminate many weeds before they become a nuisance. Waiting until the weather cools in the fall is also a good alternative.

If weed control must be applied during the heat of summer, make sure the lawn has been heavily watered for several days before the treatment to “wake up” the weeds and get them actively growing.

© 1991 Focal Point Communications

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Snow Mold

Winter weather conditions are very conducive to snow mold! When the snow disappears from your lawn, there may be areas of weak or dead turf. Often this damage is caused by a disease known as Snow Mold.

What Is Snow Mold? – There are two types of snow mold, Gray Snow Mold (Typhula spp) and Pink Snow Mold (Fusarium Nivale). Both types of snow mold develop under snow covers or prolonged periods of cool, wet weather. The optimum temperatures are in the 32 to 45 degree F range for both, however, the pink snow mold can cause significant damage at temperatures of 65 degrees. Both snow molds develop most rapidly when snow has fallen on unfrozen ground.

How To Identify Gray Snow Mold – Where snow mold has been active, the turf commonly develops rough circular spots of matted, silver-gray turf. Often these spots are so numerous that an entire area may be disfigured. The trouble is most likely to be seen on the shaded side of a building, in the shade of trees and shrubs, or similar areas where moisture remains for a long time in late winter.

How To Identify Pink Snow Mold – As pink snow mold develops, the initial infections are irregular patches of pale yellow grass, ranging from two inches to over one foot in diameter. As the disease develops further, the individual blades will take on a bleached appearance and the patches become whitish-gray. For this reason, pink snow mold is often confused with gray snow mold.

Both snow molds develop mycelium (which resemble cob-webs) that form a white mat under prolonged moist conditions. However, there is normally more mycelium with gray snow mold.

How To Control – Once snow mold damage has occurred, the only possible procedure is to loosen the discolored, matted grass with a leaf rake (without digging into the soil), fertilize the entire lawn and see what will develop once good growing weather is at hand. Often the snow mold fungus kills only the tops of the plants and they recover with a few weeks of good growing weather. In more serious instances entire areas of turf, roots and all, will be destroyed and the spots will not recover. After a few weeks of good growing weather, it is reasonable to assume that any turf that has not recovered, will not do so. Then it is the time to do any necessary patching by loosening the soil and planting more seed. The delay to see what may develop is usually well worthwhile. Often the most devastating attacks of snow mold will recover without any reseeding.

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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, landscaping, and integrated pest management. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

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White Grubs

Symptoms: Grub injury causes the turf to turn brown in large irregular patches that can be pulled up and rolled back like a carpet, usually exposing the grubs.

What causes damage: Grubs are the larvae or immature stages of several species of scarab beetles. The most important in our state are the Japanese beetle, the Asiatic garden beetle, the oriental beetle and the European chafer. The grubs of these beetles are all similar in form; they have a whitish body with a brown head and, they usually lie in a C – shaped or curled position in the soil. Adults emerge from the ground in late spring to early summer, mate and lay eggs in lawns. Grubs soon hatch from these eggs. In mild weather they live one to three inches below the surface of the lawn and feed on grass roots. In the winter they move deeper as the soil surface freezes. In the early spring they move up, as the soil warms to feed and to complete their development.

What we can do: A Granular insecticide (Dylox) should be applied and watered into the lawn as soon as grubs appear. If damage is extensive it is possible damaged areas of turf will have to be repaired.

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Chinch Bugs

Symptoms: Damage appears as irregular yellow patches of turf.  These areas turn reddish brown and eventually die, while the chinch bugs move outward into healthy turf. A yellow halo around the damaged area is typical of a chinch bug infestation. Damage from chinch bugs shows up first in sunny areas with heat or drought stressed grass which is often areas near pavement or sidewalks. Although damaging infestations commonly occur from June into September, weather conditions may prolong this period.

What causes damage: Adult chinch bugs are black with white wings and are 3.0-3.6 mm long. Chinch bug development is temperature dependant, and eggs may require as little as one week to hatch during the summer but may require more than a month during the spring. Nymphal development typically requires four to six weeks during the summer. Chinch bugs damage turf by inserting their piercing sucking mouthparts into the crowns, stems and stolons of grass plants to remove sap. During this process they inject a toxin that causes the grass to turn yellow.

What we can do: Early detection is the key to optimizing chinch bug control because damage symptoms continue to appear for one or two weeks after an insecticide application has stopped chinch bug feeding. Turf exhibiting drought or heat stress symptoms should be visually inspected by spreading the canopy or by using the flotation technique.  Affected areas of the lawn should be treated with a granular insecticide.

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Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

Symptoms: In heavy infestations the feeding damage results in rapid desiccation and discoloration of the foliage. A heavily infested tree may die within four years.

What causes damage: The adelgids over winter as adults. In March and April they begin to lay brownish orange eggs underneath the body of the female which is covered with woolly white wax. The crawlers or immature adelgids are reddish brown and are present throughout the summer. The crawler is the dispersal stage and is spread primarily on the wind. Upon finding a suitable place to feed, the crawlers settle, generally on branch terminals at the bases of needles. As the young adelgids grow, they cover themselves with a white woolly wax. The adelgids are tiny-aphid like insect. It is found primarily on the young branches of hemlock at the bases of the needles. It sucks the sap from the branches and may inject a toxin into the tree during feeding.

What we can do: The hemlock woolly adelgid can be successfully controlled by thorough spraying with a registered insecticide. A dormant rate of horticultural oil may be applied in early March before egg laying begins to kill adult females. The key to control is thorough spray coverage of the tree. Research has shown that excess nitrogen may enhance adelgid populations on hemlock. So it is advisable not to fertilize hemlocks that are infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid.

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Boxwood Leaf Miner

Symptoms: The larvae of this fly feed on the tissue between the outer surfaces of the leaves. This feeding results in blotch shaped mines in the boxwood leaves. The infested leaves appear blistered from late summer through the following spring. New leaves do not show signs of mining until late summer when the larvae are larger. By, fall, or in early spring, premature leaf-drop may result from heavy infestation.

What causes damage: Adult leaf miners emerge in late April or early May, depending on the weather. The adults are small (3mm), orange, mosquito like flies. The adult flies emerge over a period over a period of 10-14 days but each fly only lives about 24 hours. After mating each female inserts about 30 eggs in the surface of new boxwood leaves. The larvae hatch in about 3 weeks, and feed within the leaves from June through early fall. They spend the winter in the leaves, and pupate the following April. There is one generation each year.

What we can do: To control leaf miners, apply a soil drench of imidacloprid in May which will give season-long systemic control.  Alternatively, acephate can be applied in June to kill the larvae in the mines.

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