Posted by & filed under Choosing a lawn care company, fertiliation, Fescue, Lawn Care, post-emergent, pre-emergent, Weed-control.

weed-n-feedWeed-control sprayPre-emergent

 

Where do I start?

I was at one of the big box stores recently, and noticed the big display of do-it-yourself lawn care weed-control products and fertilizers on display. So I checked them out to compare these to what we use at LawnAmerica, along with the pricing of their products. Even with 30 years of lawn care experience, I was confused as to which products to use, what was the active ingredients in each, and how to apply.

So here’s the breakdown if a homeowner wanted to duplicate our Early Spring Weed-Control Treatment in Carolina.  If I was a homeowner, I’d have to spend $65 to buy a 40 lb bag of this Scott’s Halt, which is fertilizer plus pre-emergent. This is enough for a 15,000’ lawn, but my lawn is 7,000’. So I either put out half of the bag, and have to store the rest to use in another year, or just apply the whole bag. Most homeowners would do the latter. Now in applying this, I’m also applying Nitrogen fertilizer, which would benefit fescue turf. Dormant bermudagrass does not need fertilizer now, so this is a waste of money, and not good for the environment with the nitrogen just leaching through the soil and not utilized by the plants.  And then, what about the weeds I have in my lawn? Those would need to be sprayed with a liquid post-emergent for best results, or I could apply another weed-n-feed with a granular broadleaf herbicide in it. These granular products just don’t work well at all, since it’s hard for the granules to actually stick to the weeds.  So I then have to sort through the various spray bottles of herbicide, and buy what I think may work, for another $18 for a bottle of this.

Then there is the little plastic fertilizer spreader in the garage, which I assume is not rusted and still works, so we’ll not even count the cost of that now. I’m still sitting at $83 just in products, plus the value of my time on the weekend. I’d rather be watching North Carolina in the NCAA basketball tournament, fishing, or just hanging out with my family, but what the heck? I”ll just call this exercise, and go with that. I had to pick up some other stuff at the box store, so I won’t even count that time and gas expense in this equation. I’m still looking at $83 in hard costs for doing my own lawncare, compared to $68.30 if I’d paid LawnAmerica to do it for me. And, work by professionals such as LawnAmerica is guaranteed, so if things don’t perform well, we’ll return to do whatever may be needed to do the job. Try taking back your empty fertilizer bag and spray bottle to the box store, telling them your lawn does not look good, and see what they say!

So the choice is clear, using professionals such as LawnAmerica is the best way to have a healthy, green, more weed-free lawn. More and more homeowners it seems are discovering this, which is why it looked to me like their stuff was not exactly flying off the shelves, and the lawn care display at the box store looked pretty full and it’s almost the middle of March.

Posted by & filed under landscaping, Tree & shrub.

Ornatmental GrassMarch is a great time to remove dead foliage from ornamental grasses in the landscape, before they begin to green up soon. Ornamental grasses can be  great additions to home and business landscapes, and are becoming very popular. They are very well-adapted to Carolina weather and soil conditions, very low maintenance, and provide a beautiful contrast to other parts of the landscape and lawns. Some local favorite varieties are Fountain Grass, Pampas Grass, Maiden Grass, Mexican Feather Grass, Zebra Grass, and Japanese Blood Grass. Some stay moderate in size, while some such as Pampas Grass can become quite large, so care must be made in deciding where to plant these. Some ornamental grasses such as Liriope, Feather Reed Grass, and Northern Sea Oats are more shade tolerant than certain turfgrasses such as Fescue, so these may be a good alternative for extremely shady conditions.

In late winter and very early spring, it’s important to cut back brown dormant vegetation to make room for the flush of new spring growth from the base of the plant. Sharp shears or a strong weed-eater will work in some cases, but larger more mature grasses can become large and difficult to prune back. If you live in the country as we do and the ornamental grass is away from your home, you can actually burn back the dead vegetation with fire, but do be careful with that. Right now, it’s pretty dry, so don’t try this unless things improve.  And if you live within city limits, that’s not legal nor smart to do. You’ll have to cut back the vegetation in this case.

Either way you do it, cutting back and eliminating the brown, dead leaves and stems from last year’s growth will help the plant look better, while springing  back to life better later this spring and develop a better shape without all of the brown stems from last year.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Choosing a lawn care company, Lawn Care, pre-emergent, spring weed control, Weed-control.

 

Pre-emergent performanceWith the early spring we are enjoying here in Carolina, it’s more important than ever to have a timely pre-emergent herbicide applied to stop crabgrass and other summer annual weeds. Germination usually begins in late March to early April here in Carolina and on into April, May, and June. So as long as the pre-emergent is applied before then and watered into the soil, crabgrass should not germinate. Unless the weather turns cooler soon though, we’ll have early germination it appears.

There are differences in pre-emergent products, and there can be big differences in how and when those products are applied, that will greatly effect the results. At LawnAmerica we use the very best product available, prodiamine or Barricade, which is the trade name. We apply this between late January and late-March for our existing customers, at the rate of 28 oz. per acre, which will provide about 6-7 months of good crabgrass control according to the chart in this article. IF you have a fescue lawn, the Round 1 pre-emergent should last all season long, and break down by the time fescue seeding is done in fall.

Other lawn care companies in Carolina may apply a lesser rate of products, and apply them in what is called a “split application”, with some applied in their step 1, and the rest of it with their step 2 a few weeks later. Their customers are paying twice for what LawnAmerica does in ONE treatment! As long as Barricade is applied at the proper time, with the proper rates, by an experienced and good technician, one treatment is all you need.

All pre-emergents need to be watered into the soil to be be activated, so we’ll need help either from Mother Nature or from an irrigation system, which could be you with a water hose! The newer pre-emergents such as Barricade do not break down in the soil or leach out of the soil nearly as fast as older products, so that’s good. The biggest factor is still how and when they are applied as to why one lawn looks great, and another may have a crabgrass problem.

Posted by & filed under landscaping, Tree & shrub.

Photenia

Photenia before pruning

Photenia after

Photenia after pruning.

Homeowners are eager to get out and do something in the landscape this time of year, especially with the early spring weather here in North Carolina. One landscape chore that should be taken care of now is pruning certain shrubs. Not all shrubs need to be pruned, such as Crape Myrtle, which we advise not to prune as most do. We call it Crape murder, when landscapers and homeowners cut back these plants every winter to produce stubs. We recommend in most cases to just allow them to grow.

Shrubs are pruned to maintain or reduce size, rejuvenate growth, or to remove diseased, dead or damaged branches. Deciduous shrubs are those that lose their leaves each winter, and some of these are ones that can be pruned now, along with certain evergreens such as Photenia. I have a group of Photenias at my home which had grown to be over 10’ tall, which they will if not pruned. So this past weekend I pruned them down to about 6’ so that I could keep it from taking over this area, and so I could treat it for Leaf Spot Disease this year, which had gotten out of hand last year.

Pruning during the late winter and early spring will allow wounds to heal quickly without threat from insects or disease. Pruning also helps to stimulate new growth this spring, and there is no need to treat pruning cuts with paints or sealers.

There are two main methods used in pruning shrubs: thinning and heading back. Thinning is used to help thin out branches from a shrub that is too dense. To do this, remove most of the inward growing twigs by either cutting them back to a larger branch or cutting them back to just above an outward- facing bud. On multi-stemmed shrubs, the oldest stems may be completely removed. Heading back is done by removing the end of a branch by cutting it back to a bud and is used for either reducing height or keeping a shrub compact, such as with my Phonenias.

Shrubs that flower in the spring, such as Azaleas, should not be pruned until after flowering in mid-Spring.  Pruning now will not harm the health of the plant, but it will greatly affect the flowering display by the removal of many flower buds.

Posted by & filed under Fescue, Lawn Care, pre-emergent, Uncategorized.

BermudagrassIt’s February 21st, and it still should be winter here in Carolina. Most homeowners do have fescue turf in the Carolina’s, but some do have bermudagrass growing in the sun. This is a picture of dormant bermudagrass, but with little green leaves sticking up through the turf. It is normal to see a little green bermudagrass in areas that warm up sooner, such as along south-facing walls or along street edges in February. But this picture was taken in the middle of a lawn, where the turf should still be totally dormant now. And as you can see, green leaves are showing as the turf is starting to come out of dormancy.

Is this another sign of climate change, or just another of these warm winters we’ve experienced in Carolina? Who knows. It does seem to me that spring is coming on way to early again. So how does this affect your lawn?

If the soil temperatures continue to heat up, it’s more critical to have a pre-emergent herbicide applied and watered into the soil to prevent crabgrass germination. At LawnAmerica, we typically have all of our existing customers Round 1 Weed-Control Treatment serviced by mid-March, which should be plenty of time to beat crabgrass germinating. I’ve never seen crabgrass germinate in Carolina, even along edges or in “hot spots” in the turf, earlier than mid-March. If these winters keep being so mild here though, who knows.

The other concern is the bermudagrass greening up too soon in March, only to have one of those late spring hard freezes strike in early April. This can cause serious setback to bermudgrass, even killing the new tender green growth, and delaying then the complete green-up of bermudagrass. So we discourage pushing the greening up of bermudagrass too soon in March. We can’t control the weather and soil temperatures however. We do recommend to hold off on scalping bermudagrass in March though until mid-April, when risk of a hard freeze is gone. By scalping too soon, one exposes the soil to the sunlight, further warming the soil, and stimulating bermudagrass to produce new green shoot and leaf growth. And then if a hard freeze hits, it can do damage to the turf.  With fescue, you’re fine, as warm temperatures actually help get it green and growing sooner.

Posted by & filed under Lawn Care, post-emergent, spring weed control, Weed-control.

HenbitCall it another sign of global warming I guess, but I’ve never seen the annual weed Henbit out by mid-February in North Carolina. Henbit it is a common winter annual weed that germinates during fall, but is very small until the warmth of spring causes it to grow and produce those bright purple flowers. Henbit can be so plentiful that untreated lawns can be taken over by purple flowers in March…..not February though. This is a pic of Henbit out already in a lawn in Charlotte…..but not a LawnAmerica lawn!

Our Late Fall Weed-Control Application will do agreat job of controlling winter annual weeds like Henbit, Chickweed, Annual Bluegrass and others. There may be some breakthrough in places, but typically we don’t see many weeds on our lawns in February and March. Not so on untreated or thin lawns, as these weeds can take over in spring.  And this spring appears to be coming on strong, so expect to see more weeds sooner as we get into the season. And spring won’t officially be here until March 20th!

Once Henbit goes to flower, it’s very difficult to erradicate. We spray it with Trimec, a post-emergent herbicide, but it can take weeks for it to completely die. It really helps to mow down the dying weeds about 5 days after we spray, as this stimulates the weeds to attempt to grow back, which helps the herbicide in the plant to work faster. Also, removing the dying vegetation helps the lawn look better. Contrary to some popular opinion, the weeds don’t just magically disappear after spraying!.  They have to decompose, and that can take wees to take place.

Posted by & filed under irrigation, Lawn Care, pre-emergent.

WateringIt still may be officially winter, and turning your sprinkler system on or dragging the hose out is not high on your priority list. However, if you have had a pre-emergent treatment to your lawn recently, it does need to be watered into the soil within about 4-5 days for best results. We are actually in somewhat of a drought in Carolina still, going back to our dry fall. So even without the need to water in your pre-emergent, your trees, shrubs, and even the lawn would benefit from some irrigation.

All pre-emergent herbicides need to be watered into the soil to be activated and do their job in preventing weeds. Barricade, or Prodiamine, is our choice of products, and is the very best on the market. Once waterered in, Baricade will adhere to soil particles close to the surface, and will kill grassy weed seedlings as they try to germinate. Barricade does not last forever by design though, just long enough to last through the crabgrass weed germinating season of spring and into summer.

There are factors that will cause the pre-emergent to break down sooner than it should or to negate the effectiveness of the product. One of them is sunlight, which breaks down the product with longer exposure than just a few days. Some of the Barricade when sprayed on the lawn adheres to grass blades, stems, and the very top layer of the soil. So this needs to be watered into the topsoil, where it is protected from the degrading sunlight. If Barricade just sits on the turf or top surface for a week or more without any significant rainfall or watering, some of the product will just dissipate.

Only about 1/4″ of watering is fine to move the pre-emergent into the soil and activate it. So It does not take much watering to wash the product off the turf and into the soil. We normally don’t recommend light hand watering, but this is better than nothing. And too much water can also be a factor in degrading the pre-emergent sooner than normal. If the soil stays saturated for weeks at a time, such as can sometimes happen during a rainy spring, or with over-irrigation, this will also cause the pre-emergent to break down sooner than normal.

And we can’t forget our old friend the mole. Disruption of the soil surface, such as mole activity, digging, or even aeration, can also break the pre-emergent barrier in the soil, leading to increased crabgrass and weed problems later in the season. So many things can affect the success of a pre-emergent. Watering in the treatment within a few days of application is one that homeowners can control, so please do water to help enjoy a more weed-free and crabgrass-free lawn this season.

Posted by & filed under Environmental, Lawn Care, Weed-control.

RoundupThis past Friday as I got home my wife told me I need to watch the CBS news, as there was going to be a news report on a weed herbicide. I really like Scott Pelley, and he was trying to give a fair report on the fact that a judge in California had ruled that Roundup, a common herbicide used in agriculture and lawns for over 40 years, can add a “Cancer warning” on the label.  An international health organization from France had last year submitted a report that stated the chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, “probably causes cancer.” This, in spite of the fact that glyphosate has the approval from over 800 health and safety studies over more than 40 years, including our own E.P.A, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and the European Food Safety Agency to name a few. This latest ruling from a California judge has caused much confusion, as it flies in the face of every other scientific study on Roundup.

Roundup is the most common herbicide used in agriculture in helping to grow crops. This article is not intended to justify the use of Roundup by agriculture. But suffice it to say, that without it, feeding the world becomes even more challenging and expensive. One would need to plan on spending more at the local grocery store, as farmers would lose an important tool which many use. In fact, most of the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the U.S. are genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup, allowing these crops to be sprayed with the product to effectively control weeds without harming the crops.

Roundup is also used some in home lawns, parks, sports fields, and other urban turf areas, but on a much smaller scale. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, affects only plant enzymes, and is very effective in killing green unwanted plants. So unless you’re a plant, you’re good. And once it is absorbed and utilized, it has a very short half-life, on average of 32 days, and is bound to soil particles before being broken down by soil microbes. At LawnAmerica, the main application we have for Roundup is during winter and very early spring. When the bermudagrass is dormant at that time, we spot-treat fescue clumps to kill them, since the dormant bermudagrass turf will not absorb the product. We also use Roundup on a spot-treatment basis to carefully treat weeds in shrub beds. I personally like to use Roundup to treat along borders to kill a small band of bermudagrass or zoysiagrass, so that I don’t have to use the weed-eater (saving trees and less emissions from an engine). And I’ll use it to kill weeds in non-turf areas such as cracks in driveways. I’ll use it in mulched areas and even around my blueberry patch and in gardens, as long as it’s not sprayed on desirable plants. So in reality, we use a very small amount of this product and only in spot-treatment cases in the lawn care industry.

My concern is the confusion and fear reports like this can cause to the public. Even my wife was alarmed when she heard the headline about cancer, before I set her straight. The facts are that the toxicity of glyphosate, or the LD50, comes in at 5,600 with scientific studies. This means that it’s slightly toxic. Then as I put salt on my potato tonight, with an LD50 of 3,000, eat biscuits made from baking soda (LD50 of 4,200), take acteminophin from the headache I got over this article (LD50 of 1,944), and then drink my cup of coffee the next morning (LD50of 192), I’m putting stuff into my body with lower LD50’s and are more toxic then the Roundup that I spot-spray on a lawn every now and then!

Truth is that it’s the dose that makes the poison, and how something is used which determines if it’s a valuable tool, or something that can harm you. For example, most medicines can be for good if used properly, but can kill if not. For some good information on this Roundup issue, relative toxicities, and what “probably causes cancer” actually means, visit here for a link to a website from gmoanswers.  And for more information on Roundup specifically, with links to various information, visit here.

Rest assured, that after 32 years of caring for lawns, we’ll never use a product that is not fully tested and proven to be effective and safe. If anyone should be concerned it’s the people handling the products and applying them daily. Both of my adult sons are now working for LawnAmerica, and applying many of the same products I’ve applied for 32 years. I believe in their safety if used properly, and we do. Now I’ll go have a glass of wine this evening (which could kill me or others if used improperly), and enjoy a good night of sleep before I wake up and drink that caffeine-loaded cup of coffee in the morning, even knowing that it’s rated as very toxic. It’s still very good!

 

 

Posted by & filed under Choosing a lawn care company, fertiliation, Lawn Care, spring weed control, Weed-control.

Spring is HereA sure sign that spring is coming are seeing all the various lawncare trucks hitting the Carolina neighborhoods. There’s the big corporate guys Trugreen, various regional companies, small companies, and mowers without even a logo or number on their trucks (which is illegal). It’s become a very competitive business over my 32 years in caring for lawns. And they can all sound alike in some ways, with the customer perception that they all do the same thing.

Well…..not exactly.

While all lawncare companies try to control weeds, build healthy turf with proper fertilization,and combat various insect and disease problems in turf at times, the product used, the people applying those products, and the timing and level of service provided can vary greatly from company to company. 

 

So how does a homeowner determine who to use in 2017 for their lawncare needs? For more help and information on choosing the best company to help you, CLICK HERE for an online and printable version on How to Choose a Lawn Care Company.

Posted by & filed under Environmental, fertiliation, Lawn Care, Weed-control.

Are beautiful, healthy lawns only cosmetic in purpose? Should pesticides be avoided at all costs? What about weeds…..aren’t they not all that bad? And does fertilizer just make lawns green with no other positive benefits?

There are some misperceptions and myths about lawns and lawncare and the beneifits that healthy lawns provide. The tools that are used by lawncare professionals, such as fertilizers and herbicides, are sometimes given a bad rap. However the professional lawncare industry which LawnAmerica is proud to be part of, has proven to be a valuable part of our urban environment and community.

Lawns and landscapes in the Carolina region are much more than just for aesthetics, but also provide environmental, safety, and economic benefits to us all. Those healthy lawns and landscapes don’t just magically appear either, as it takes good tools such as fertilizers and herbicides, applied professionally, to help do the job.

For more information on dispelling some of the myths of caring for lawns, Click Here to read more.