Posted by & filed under drought, irrigation, Lawn Care, Organic lawn care.

Brown Fescue Fescue lawn going brown and dormant

So has your beautiful green fescue lawn suddenly changed to a pale green if not brown color, and you’re wondering what’s up? If you’re a LawnAmerica customer, you’ve had plenty of good fertilizer, so that’s not the issue. The problem is the hot, dry weather and lack of adequate rainfall in Carolina. We experienced a dry summer last year, and 2016 looks to be the same.

Water is one of the most basic requirements for turfgrass, and with all other plants and animals for that matter.  And when there is a lack of water, turfgrass, like all other living things, has defense responses which help protect it from dying. In the case of grass, it can go dormant with the leaves turning a pale gray color first and then brown, basically shutting down the plant until soil conditions return to normal. Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass especially can very seldom die due to drought, but it is possible. They just turn brown, stop growing, and maintain what water and nutrients they can in the crown and root system of the plant. Fescue, being a cool-season grass, is much more likely to die during extended periods of heat and lack of soil moisture.

If you choose to not irrigate during times of drought and allow your lawn to turn brown and dormant, once good soaking rains come back, or irrigation is started, the lawn should spring back and recover with growth and green color. In Carolina however, those cool soaking rains may not come until early September, and that’s a long time to wait if your lawn is brown in late June already.

Our recommendation for irrigation is to supply about 1.5” of water per week in order to maintain a green, healthy turf. We recommend to water at least some during drought, and not to neglect turf fertilization. We switch to a more organic-based fertilizer with a humic acid  soil amendment when lawns are brown in summer, which will help the turf come back stronger once soil moisture is good again. And Fescue lawns are treated with our custom Soilbuilder organic soil amendment, which helps your lawn perform better during summer heat with a stronger root system. If we go more than two weeks without any rainfall at all, we encourage you to at least wet the top 1/4″ of soil to hydrate the crown of the plant, which is from where new grass growth originates between the roots and the stems. Without a live crown, you’ll have a dead grass plant.

We also like to see a deep, extensive root system on turf during the summer, to reach that deeper soil moisture that is available. One way to do this is to raise your mowing height, as the higher the mowing height, the deeper the roots will grow.

So whether you have a green lawn, brown lawn, or something in between is more a matter now of Mother Nature cooperating, along with some help from you with good irrigation and watering.

Posted by & filed under irrigation, Lawn Care, Turf Disease.

SprinklerSummer began this week, and it sure feels like it made an early entrance this year in Carolina. It’s been way too hot for mid-June here, and it’s getting pretty dry all of a sudden. I’m afraid that we may be in for a long, hot, and dry summer in Charlotte and Asheville, as we experienced several times over the past few years. So now is the time to start irrigation of your lawn in order to keep it looking green and healthy.

I’ve found that many people with irrigation systems do not use them correctly. Just last week I was visiting with a good customer about his lawn drying out, and he told me his system was coming on every day for about 10 minutes or so per cycle. However, the soil was very dry when I was there in the afternoon. Why? Well, only a few minutes per cycle is jsut enough water to wet just the very top layer of soil. And with temperatures in the upper 90’s and sunshine all day, it does not take long for that soil moisture to just evaporate. So no water has a chance to really get down into the deeper soil layers, where the grass roots are located.

The key to proper watering is deep, but infrequent irrigation. 

Water long enough so that you’ll be wetting the soil wet to a depth of 6″. Most people will be surprised as to how long this takes most irrigation systems to provide. Having each cycle run for at least 30 minutes and even more, running through the cycles twice, may be needed. Supply about 1/2″ of water to all areas of the turf with each time you irrigate. By getting the water deep, the root system of the turf will grow deep and be able to absorb that water. Let the top 2 or 3 inches of soil dry out…..that’s OK. Just keep the deeper soil levels moist, and that takes longer irrigation times.

Water about 3 times per week, and not every day.

If you water 3 times weekly, supplying 1/2″ of water each time, that comes to 1.5″ per week, which generally should keep turf green and healthy. And if Mother Nature helps out any at all, then you can even cut back some on that watering schedule. However if it becomes very hot and dry into July and August with drought conditions, then you’ll need to water up to 2″ per week on fescue turf especially in order to keep it healthy and green.

Water only early in the mornings.

Don’t  set your sprinkler to come on or irrigate in the evenings, as this keeps the turf damp all night and could lead to turf disease, especially with brown patch on fescue. Don’t water in the middle of the afternoon, as with the heat and sun, much of it will simply evaporate and be lost. Set your system to come on early in the morning, so that more of the water can soak into the soil, and as the sun comes up it will dry out the grass. Plus, our LawnAmerica guy won’t be in the middle of treating your lawn only to have the sprinklers come on!

For more information on watering your lawn properly, go to your website and  Visit Here.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Mowing height Mowing height way too short for fescue

Summer is here in Carolina, and it appears we may be in for a hot summer.  And, rainfall is scarce all of a sudden. So expect our cool season turf such as Tall Fescue to start looking rather stressed very soon.

From looking at a fescue lawn yesterday that was not looking good, there were many issues going on.  Dry soil, some dog damage, evidence of brown patch disease earlier in spring when we were wet and humid, and one huge problem was the short mowing height of the fescue turf. It was being mowed at the same height of the bermudagrass in other sunny parts of the lawn, a little over 1” it looked like. While bermudagrass can do well with shorter mowing heights such as 1” or 1.5”, fescue should never be mowed shorter than 2”, especially as we enter into the hot summertime. Preferred mowing height for fescue is 2.5” and even more.  So if you have some fescue and some bermudagrass or zoysiagrass, you’ll need to mow each at different heights. I know it can be a lot easier to just mow all at the same height, but it’s not the right thing to do.

Having a good sharp blade is also important. Dull blades can tear up the fescue grass blade, causing a brown irregular edge at the cut, giving the turf a brown appearance. This also increases disease issues in turf, making it easier for a fungus to enter the plant.

So raise your mowing height now on fescue turf to 3”. There is an inverse relationship between mowing height and root depth, so the higher you mow, the deeper the roots will grow. And with a hot, dry summer, we want a deep, extensive root system in order to do a good job of absorbing that deep soil moisture. Our Soilbuilder organic soil amendment we use on fescue during the summer also helps with the development of a stronger root system for summer survival of fescue.

For more information on proper mowing, visit here: PROPER MOWING

 

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

DallisgrassDallisgrass can be one of the most troubling and challenging weeds in the Carolinas. It’s a perennial grassy weed, often growing in clumps, with big broad leaves. If allowed to grow and  produce seedheads due to poor mowing, it produces tall gangly looking seedheads with spiklets shooting out at the ends. Dallisgrass has a pale green color, and really stands out as a weed in bermudgrass or fescue lawn.

Dallisgrass is a perennial, so it comes back year after year once established. Therefore, pre-emergent herbicides to not help. It can reproduce by seeds, causing even more plants to invade healthy turf. In severe cases, there can be more Dallisgrass plants then the desirable turf. If a homeowner mows properly and the turf is cared for, Dallisgrass is more often in isolated clumps dispersed throughout the turf.

Until a few years ago, MSMA herbicide was used to control it as a post-emergent spray. It was still tough then, and would take repeated treatments, but it did work. However, as is the case with several other good products, it’s been taken off the market, and the products that we have available now for controlling Dallisgrass just do not work well at all. They will stunt it, but it seems to just come back.

For the last few years, we’ve used a new product named Tribute, from Bayer. Upon their recommendations and from university research, we add special surfactants and some fertilizer to this mix and apply it in the early fall, just as the weed plant is shutting down for the season. We then follow-up with another treatment a few weeks later, and even a third after that later in fall.  We are seeing some reduction in the Dallisgrass population with this program, but it’s not 100%. It may take several years of these special treatments, or even just treating with Roundup or Glyphosate in early spring, in order to completely eradicate the weed. And since it is a perennial, once it’s gone, unless more seeds blow in, it won’t be back.

Our 6 and 7-step customers at LawnAmerica are serviced with this plan to control Dallisgrass, with their regular round 6 and 7, and with a free service call in between these regular treatments. Other customer who subscribe only to 4 or 5 treatments per year should upgrade to a complete program in order to control Dallisgrass.  Most of our competitors don’t even try to control it, or they charge extra for it. But with LawnAmerica, as long as you are on our best 6 or 7-Step program, we’ve got you covered.  Just be patient, as it may take several years to completely take care of it.

Here is information from Bayer on the Tribute herbicide we are using:

https://www.backedbybayer.com/~/media/BackedByBayer/Resource%20Library/White%20Paper/Bayer%20Solutions%20-%20Dallisgrass%20-%20Warm%20Season%20Turf.ashx

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

DeadheadingDeadheading sounds like something related to our presidential election choices we have these days or something, but is actually an important process of caring for annual and perennial flowers in Carolina landscapes. Deadheading is the removal of spent flowers that have finished putting on their color display so that more flowers can then be produced. It refreshes a plant’s appearance, controls seed dispersal, and directs energy from seed production to vegetative growth and flowering. The goal of annual plans, and for that matter weeds, is to grow, set seeds, and die. So by removing the spent flowers and stopping the seed process, many plants will then produce more flowers, providing your landscape with a continued display of color into the summer months.

Some common Types of flowers in Charlotte and Asheville which are good for deadheading are:

Phlox, Petunias, Begonias, Sage, Veronica, Daisy, Marigold, Zinnia, Geraniums, Coreopsis, Snapdragon, Salvia, and Roses to name a few. In most cases, one can take a pair of sharp scissors or shears and cut off the spent flower at the stem, just above a leaf or another stem. In some flowers, such as Day Lillys, one can cut off the flower stalk more at the base of the plant, and a new stalk will generate from the base. On some flowers such as Marigolds, the spent flowers can simply pinched off, and if you don’t want the seeds to germinate and produce more flowers, dispose of the seeds.

The following chart shows perennial flowering plants that do well with deadheading.  Most annuals do fine also. Photo courtesy of Bob LaPointe.

deadheading2

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

Round upRound up is the trade name for Glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world.  Glyphosate was introduced into the marketplace in 1974, after a Monsanto scinetist discovering it in 1970. It is a broad spectrum herbicide that when sprayed and absorbed by the foliage, is transported to the roots systemically for complete kill.  While Glyphosate is the chemical name, most people know it as Round up.

Glyphosate is the second most used herbicide for home and landscape use, and the most widely used herbicide in the world in the agriculture market. In agriculture, many crops such as soybeans and corn, have been developed for Round up resistance.  So farmers can spray their field with Round up and control all weeds in a cost-effective way without harming the crop. At LawnAmerica, we mainly use Glyphosate in special situations, and we don’t really use it that much. When bermudagrass is dormant, we’ll spot-treat green perennial weeds such as fescue clumps and winter grassy weeds.  Since they are green, it will control them, but not harm the dormant  bermudagrass.  We only do this during the winter months.  If we are going to seed fescue in the fall, we may use Glyphosate to kill all of the existing vegetation, so we can come back and seed a pure stand of fescue a few weeks after that. I use Round up to spray grass along edges, around trees, and in non-turf areas to control weeds. In fact, spraying Glyphosate around tree trunks not only saves time, it also prevents weed-eaters from killing your trees with the constant damage caused by them around the base of the tree.

So Round up is a great product, which helps homeowners and businesses with their landscapes, helps feed the world in agriculture settings, and has a proven track record of almost 50 years. In spite of that, certain anti-pesticide advocates have tried to claim that Glyphosate was a carcinogen and needs to be be taken off the market. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) along with the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week issued a research report which clears Glyphosate, saying it’s “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”  And that’s for people who ingest food that was treated in an agriculture setting. Exposure from a lawn or landscape treatment is almost nill for a homeowner.

So as with all of the products we use at LawnAmerica, rest assured that they are safe if used properly, and pose no unreasonable risk to people, pets, or the environment. If anyone should be concerned, it’s us, the people who use and are exposed to these products every day. For more information on the report from FAO/WHO, go to the following link at: http://blog.landscapeprofessionals.org/who-report-clears-glyphosate/

 

 

Posted by & filed under Lawn Care.

azalea

Walking across a lawn recently, I noticed these small burned looking or brown areas in the turf, surrounded by a darker green halo. Many may think this is some type of turf disease. Or some may think that fertilizer or something was spilled into that spot.

It is actually a burn caused by excess urine from a dog on the turf doing its business, often in the same spot time after time. Female dogs especially are notorious for this, urinating in the same marked spot every time. Males can do the same, but tend to hike their leg on a fence, tree, or if you’re not looking even your pants leg!

Dog urine does contain a fair amount of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, along with salts. Now this can be fertilizer for turf if it’s spread out over a large area and watered into the soil. But when it’s concentrated in one small area by a dog urinating, it’s too much nitrogen and salt for the grass to handle, and it burns. It’s just as if one spilled excess fertilizer into the turf and it burns. Many times there will be a darker green halo border around it. This is because the nitrogen was dispersed out and not as concentrated, acting as a fertilizer in this case. Now you may think, wouldn’t that be nice if your whole lawn was that green! Well, there’s a better way to fertilize your lawn, nor do I think you could train your dog to go out and disperse her stuff more evenly throughout the lawn!

To minimize damage from your furry friend, try to train them to go in one area only in your lawn in a less visible place. Maybe install pea gravel or mulch, and train them to go there only. You could take them for more walks, just don’t let them go then in your neighbor’s lawn or you’ll be asking for trouble. You can water in the areas well with water after they go to dilute the urine and leach the salts out of the soil. Most dietary solutions don’t work very well, nor do products that repel the dog from desirable turf.

Dogs are great, but they can make it more difficult to grow great grass. To repair damage on bermudagrass or zoysiagrass lawns, just water well, and eventually the spots will fill in with healthy grass from the sides. These are both tough grasses, and will recover with time. Fescue turf will have to be re-seeded in the fall, or a small piece of sod be placed into the burned area.

Posted by & filed under Insect Control, Tree & shrub.

BagwormsNow that summer is here, it’s time get ready to deal with that “infamous” insect pest known as the bagworm. Bagworms will eventually be out-and-about feeding on trees and shrubs in Carolina, both broadleaf and evergreen. So, how can you alleviate the damage caused by bagworm caterpillars this year? You can initially start by “hand-picking” any bags formed last year, before the overwintering eggs hatch, and place them into a container of soapy water or destroy them. This is very therapeutic and, if feasible, will quickly remove large populations before they cause significant plant damage. For those less interested in the pleasures of “hand-picking,” there are a number of insecticides labeled or registered for the control/suppression of bagworm populations including Orthene, Tempo, Dylox, and others.
The key to managing bagworms with insecticides is to make applications early and frequently enough in order to kill the highly susceptible young caterpillars that are feeding aggressively on plant foliage. Older caterpillars that develop later in the season, in the bags, may be 3/4-inches long, and are typically more difficult to kill. In addition, females tend to feed less as they prepare for reproduction, which reduces their susceptibility to spray applications and any residues. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki is active on young caterpillars; however, the active ingredient must be consumed to be effective, so thorough coverage of all plant parts and frequent applications will be required to avoid having to deal with later stages. This compound is sensitive to ultra-violet light degradation and rainfall, which reduces any residual activity.

Spinosad, which is the active ingredient in a number of homeowner products (including Borer, Bagworm, Tent Caterpillar & Leafminer Spray; Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew; and Monterey Garden Insect Spray) works by contact and ingestion (stomach poison); however, it is most effective when ingested and it may be used against older or larger bagworm caterpillars. The reason why multiple applications will be needed when bagworms are first detected is because bagworms may “blow in” (called ‘ballooning’) from neighboring plants. If left unchecked, bagworms can cause significant damage, thus ruining the aesthetic quality of plants. In addition, they may actually kill plants, especially evergreens since they don’t usually produce another flush of growth, and newly transplanted small plants.

Our Early Summer Tree & Shrub Treatment from LawnAmerica has an insecticide included which does a great job of bagworm control. We try to time this treatment to be applied just before the anticipated onset of bagworms, and other early summer insect pests.

Posted by & filed under Tree & shrub.

azalea

Azaleas are a beautiful evergreen shrub which provide our Carolina gardens with a short but intense burst of color in the spring. A key to having success with Azaleas especially is to plant them properly and in the right soil. Azaleas prefer a more acidic soil pH, with a good amount of peat moss and pine mulch worked into the soil. They’ll grow best in straight peat moss in fact, which provides low pH levels and good drainage.

After the blooms are done, which is typically late May to early June, a good time for two important practices to help them to remain healthy.

  • Pruning. Especially on older plants, prune a few weeks after the blooms are gone. Don’t wait until late in the summer, as the buds for next year will have been set, and you’ll be removing those, leading to poor flowering next spring. Use good, sharp hand shears to prune off individual stems that are too long, or running into other plants. Some azaleas can become quite large, so major pruning may be needed on these if they become too large. They’ll recover just fine.
  • Fertilization. Again, after the blooms are done, it’s time to apply fertilizer. We use a custom 18-10-10 at LawnAmerica, which has mainly slow-release nitrogen, some extra sulfur to help lower pH, organic content, phosphorus and potassium, and some sytstemic insecticide mixed in to help prevent lacebug damage during the summer. Don’t overapply fertilizer, and water in well, following label instructions. And don’t fertilize after August 1st… the earlier the better.

Don’t neglect irrigation during hot summers also. I like to apply a fresh layer of pecan shell mulch each spring also to the beds, or pine mulch, which helps conserve soil moisture and helps keep soil pH levels low. As these decompose, it adds some good organic matter to the shrub bed also.

Need help with your azaleas? Sign up for our Azalea Care Program!

Posted by & filed under Tree & shrub.

powdery mildewMy peas have Powdery Mildew

With the rainy, humid, and cool weather we’ve been experiencing this May in Charlotte aqnd Asheville, fungus diseases both in turf and ornamentals are out in full force. Powdery Mildew is one disease that is host-specific to trees, shrubs, and some flowers and vegetables in the garden. Common susceptible plants are, euonymous, sprirea, crepe myrtle, oak, rose, azalea, crabapple and certain flowers and vegetables. I have a good case of Powdery Mildew in my little pea patch at home, but since we’ve just harvested them, it’s not an issue now. And yes, they were very yummy!

Powdery Mildew shows signs of a white, powdery substance forming over the surface of leaves. The powdery fungal growth can usually be found on the upper surface of the leaves, and often tends to begin on lower leaves. As the disease progresses, leaves can become dwarfed, curled and somewhat distorted. In severe cases, leaves can turn yellow and even dried and brown. As powdery mildew fungi grow over the surface of the plant, they develop structures that are inserted into plant cells and extract nutrients necessary for growth and spore production. This results in a general decline in plant growth and vigor of the plant, as well as the common visible symptoms.

Powdery Milder thrives in moderate temperatures and high humidities, which is exactly what we have now. As it becomes hotter and things dry out some, the disease pressure tends to go away. In the meantime, consider pruning to allow better air circulation and allow more sun exposure to dry things out. If you don’t want to use fungicides, application of a horticulture oil may help. Control can be provided with timely applications of fungicides such as propiconazole (Banner), myclobutanil (Eagle), and thiophante-methyl (Danonil). Eagle would probably be your best bet for good control. Spraying at the first onset of symptoms is best, and as always, follow label instructions.

If Powdery Milder occurs in fescue turf, it’s really not a concern. Just remove clippings if so, and as the weather becomes hotter and drier, the problem tends to go away.