Crabgrass…in Early Spring?!

Every spring, our Weed Man franchises throughout the US field a fair amount of calls regarding possible Crabgrass infestations in home lawns.

To most homeowners, the thick-bladed grass that they’re noticing in their lawn must be Crabgrass. But since Crabgrass is an annual weed, what they are actually seeing (especially this early on in spring) is not, in fact, Crabgrass. However, in very rare cases, if there was no cold weather in the very southern states, the existing Crabgrass may not have died off.

In most cases, homeowners are misidentifying a weedy grass, such as Tall Fescue or Quackgrass. Both grasses are thick-bladed and look a lot like Crabgrass, so it’s not surprising that they presume that’s what they are seeing grow in their lawn.

Above: Crabgrass in August;                     Above: Quackgrass in April

 

Because Crabgrass is an annual, there are things that we can apply in the spring, such as pre-emergent weed control, that will help prevent it from germinating. There are also products that will help control it after it has germinated, although this method is a bit tougher to accomplish. Unfortunately, this is not the case for those weedy grasses like Tall Fescue and Quackgrass. Because these grasses are biologically similar to desired grasses, there really is no way to get rid of them other than digging them out or using a non-selective herbicide and re-sodding the area.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the germination of Crabgrass can vary, often starting in a sunny location, a full month ahead of other parts of the lawn that may be more shaded. A good way to know when Crabgrass is about to germinate is to use an indicator plant, such as the Forsythia Bush.  Keep an eye out for when the Forsythia Bush starts to flower, as this is a good indication that Crabgrass could be starting to germinate. However, in my opinion, the best way to tell is once you see the farmers in the fields planting their corn crops. This means the soil temperatures are just right and you can bet that the Crabgrass is going to be germinating as well.

If you have any questions about your lawn? Weed Man would be happy to help you. Find your local Weed Man using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

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A Cool Spring: A Cause for Concern

This spring season has certainly been more winter than spring. I’ve even heard it described as it being January 74th today. One thing is for sure though…all of this cold weather is a cause for concern for our poor home lawns.

First and foremost, those states where southern turfgrasses are grown are the ones that concern me the most, as damage is likely to happen later this spring or summer. Thanks to the warmer weather those states experienced in February,  the turf came out of dormancy and started to green up and could have even been mowed a few times. But since then, with the colder weather making its return, lawns have entered back into dormancy or at the least, a semi-dormant state.

Morning park grass covered with water drops

When this occurs, the sugars and carbohydrates don’t totally convert into the more cold-tolerant starches, like what typically happens in the fall just before the winter dormancy period. This can be quite stressful for southern grasses, such as Bermudagrass and St. Augustine, and can lead to damage later on, or at minimum, a thinning of the turf.

Centipedegrass may also experience issues this spring, and just like St. Augustine grass, it may take a lot of time to recover since neither of them have below-ground rhizomes. They both grow above the ground through stolons, or runners. This makes recovery and regrowth of these species more difficult.

Other issues, such as cold and drier-than-normal air, increase the risk of damage, specifically in southern turfgrasses, drying the crowns of the plant out completely. Also, possible damage may occur from standing water. In certain cases, there was rain right before the cold weather hit and all that stagnant water froze in and around the crown of the plants, causing damage or weakening the plant.

When it comes to the more northern states, on the other hand, there is some concern for damage with the Tall Fescue and Bluegrass species; but typically, the damage isn’t near as bad as it is with southern turf. If the temperatures warm up enough to allow the water to thaw between the plant’s cells, then the cells will re-hydrate and if it gets cold again, and a hard frost occurs, Freeze Damage can occur.

Freeze Damage looks a lot like random white streaks or bleached out areas. These discolored areas happen when young, tender new growth freezes after a cold snap. This will usually last for only a short period of time before it recovers and grows out.

So, what can you do to help the grass in the meantime?  Be aware that excess foot and vehicle traffic may worsen the effects of cold damage, so stay off damaged turf until the soil and plants have completely thawed. The healthier the turf, the more stress it can handle, so last year’s applications will help.

If you have any questions about your lawn? Weed Man would be happy to help you. Find your local Weed Man using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

How to Spot Some of the Most Common Early Summer Turfgrass Diseases

During the early summer when the warmer weather hits, we typically see a number of common turfgrass diseases. Here are a few tips on how to spot these troublesome diseases.

In the early part of summer, we typically start to see a noticeable shift in weather patterns. Those cooler spring days start to become consistently warmer – and we start to see warmer nights, too. This major change can trigger several common turfgrass diseases, ultimately leading to an increase in calls to our local offices from customers requesting a visit from one of our turf care experts.

Leaf Blight.jpg

Leaf blight

On northern bluegrass lawns, leaf blight is one of the most difficult early summer diseases to manage, mainly because it can happen so quickly and affect large areas that resemble a chemical burn. Oftentimes leaf blight may impact one person’s lawn and not the lawn right next door, simply because of isolated cultural conditions (e.g. a dull mower blade) which can influence the spread of the disease or the severity of it from one lawn to another.

Leaf blight disease generally enters the grass plants after evening mowing followed by excessive night watering. In heavily infested patches, the fungus damages the lawn in circular patches that often form large bleached areas. Closer inspection of the plant reveals individual leaves dying from the tips down.

Lawns react much like a house plant when they get a leaf disease: the first reaction of the plant is to drop the diseased leaf before the disease can enter the main part of the plant. Turf is similar in that it will shed the infected leaf by thinning the lawn out. When conditions improve, the lawn will regrow the leaf and start to fill back in. Sometimes this can take weeks and other times it can take longer depending on the weather patterns present.

The second disease we usually see at this time of year — although mainly further south where tall fescue and more southern grasses like St. Augustines are grown — is brown patch. The causal agent of brown patch is the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, and symptoms of the disease include patches of dead and dying grass. The turf in these patches often appears “sunken.” The center of diseased patches may appear less affected, and it may show the frog-eye symptoms commonly associated with summer patch. However, look for the characteristic brown-patch leaf spot on individual blades. It will help distinguish brown patch from summer patch. Also, brown-patch-affected turf appears less matted.

Brown Patch.png

So what is the best treatment available to prevent these two diseases from developing? The most important thing is to ensure you have a sharp mower blade, as this will help the grass heal quickly before the disease has a chance to enter the leaf blade and infect the turfgrass.

The second thing is avoid overwatering the lawn at this time of year. Some customers with irrigation systems will have them on and watering when it isn’t required. Too much water is a major issue that contributes to the formation of these diseases. Remember: water in the morning and avoid evening watering or mowing when the lawn is wet.

Lastly, a healthy, well-maintained lawn is the best defense against harmful disease. It is important to keep the lawn fertilized regularly. Although out of your control, improved weather conditions will also greatly assist in the lawn recovering from leaf disease. Once we get into the real heat of summer, these diseases will disappear on their own…although that just means others more suited for the heat may appear.

If you have any questions about your lawn? Weed Man would be happy to help you. Find your local Weed Man using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

 

Early-Blooming Dandelions

Something that I expected, and we are already experiencing, is Dandelions blooming extremely early this season. This can be explained pretty easily, but what can be done about them is a bit more complex.

To fully understand why we are witnessing so many dandelions blooming so early this spring, it’s as simple as looking back at last fall’s weather conditions. In many places, last fall we experienced fairly warm weather compared to the last few we’ve had. On Christmas day, I was actually able to get pictures of some dandelions blooming, which was the first dandelionstime I’d ever seen this. I jokingly mentioned to my wife that we might actually receive some calls from customers wanting us to treat their lawns. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t complaining about the nice weather (it did extend the golf season), but I knew seeing all of those weeds so late in the year would spell some headaches this spring.

Due to the warm fall weather last year, those pesky dandelions were able to germinate late in October and early November and grew pretty big, even blooming in late December as I mentioned above. Typically in the fall, dandelions will germinate and start growing prior to the winter season and will then enter a state of dormancy once the temperatures drop. Typically they are small in the spring and some will germinate once the soil warms up. They are usually the first weed that you notice on the lawn due to their yellow flower.

A lot of people, once they see dandelions flowering, want to get out there and treat them immediately. However, treating them when the nights are still cool and the soil temperatures are as well can mean slower results. I have seen early applications take more than a month for the weeds to die. Also, treating dandelions too early on can lead to having to treat the lawn a number of times rather than just once. Keep in mind, herbicides used to control broadleaved weeds do not prevent them from germinating, they only get rid of the weeds that are up and growing. So if you’re too early, you will miss a lot of those late-germinating plants such as plantain or knotweed (to name just a few), therefore resulting in having to re-treat your turf each time a new set of weeds germinates throughout the season. Those who wait to treat their lawn will experience better results, with less amount of time and product required, saving you some cost.

What if the dandelion flowers and turns to seed? Not to worry! It will anyways once the herbicide is applied; and regardless, if it does or doesn’t, there are thousands of seeds lying dormant in the soil already, so adding more really won’t make much of a difference. The best defense against weeds is a healthy, thick lawn that will help prevent those seeds from germinating. A lush and nutrient-filled turf will also keep them from getting the sunlight they require in order to germinate.

Questions about your lawn? Weed Man would be happy to help you. Find your local Weed Man using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

Have You Aerated Your Lawn Yet?

Have you scheduled your annual aeration? If not, now is the perfect time. The cooler air and moist soil of fall allow for optimum results. 

Lawns depend on regular cultivation to help enhance soil conditions, and to build a greater resistance against disease, insects, weeds and drought. Home lawns generally see an increase in foot traffic throughout the summer months, which can place stress on grass plants. By the beginning of the fall season, soil is often hard and compacted, making it uncomfortable to walk on. This isn’t the only downfall – a compacted soil indicates that air, moisture and nutrients don’t have a healthy pathway to the lawn’s root zone.

The Answer? Core Aeration

aeration (2)

Core aeration is the removal of small cores of soil and thatch (the layer of living and decomposing organic debris between the soil surface and green vegetation) from your lawn with specially designed equipment. A series of hollow coring tines are rolled over the lawn, puncturing its surface and systematically removing small plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn. The removal of these plugs allows air, water and nutrients to reach the root system of grass plants much more effectively. In turn, both fertilizer and water use become more efficient. This contributes to a healthier, deeper root system that enables the grass plants to better overcome stress caused by weeds, insects and disease.

aeration

Additional Benefits:

  • “Plugs” of soil left on the lawn following aeration contain organically-rich micro-organisms that will help break down thatch
  • Enhanced root growth
  • Improved fertilizer and water uptake
  • Less compaction
  • Better thatch breakdown
  • Reduced water runoff

Don’t skip your annual aeration. Doing so can lead to slower green-up come springtime and a thinner, sparser lawn during growing season. Contact your local Weed Man for more information.


If you have any questions about your lawn, Weed Man would be happy to help. Find your local office using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

2015 Could Be A Bad Year for Ticks!

After a cold winter, you would think that most ticks would have died off. Unfortunately, with all that snow cover acting like a blanket, especially in the Northeast, you can almost certainly expect more ticks than usual this year. 

For those who live in areas where ticks are prevalent during the summer season, there is a real concern that this season may be a bad one when it comes to these dangerous pests. Even though February was one of the coldest months on record – which could have led to a higher mortality rate for ticks –  the large amount of snow that also occurred likely acted as a blanket to keep their populations warm.

If you enjoy keeping active outdoors by participating in activities like camping or taking hikes through the woods, then you should always take a few precautionary measures to prevent being bitten. Wearing tighter clothing and using repellents can help, and regular tick checks on yourself, your children and your pets are highly recommended. Last fall I was cutting wood in some tall grass and did not take the proper precautions. No surprise – the next day I found that I had a tick burrowed into my skin. I was not happy, to say the least. Upon discovery, I removed the tick promptly and properly and went to see my doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic just in case (to prevent Lyme disease and a long list of other illnesses that ticks can carry and pass along to humans).

Tick (2)

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 27,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease and 9,000 probable cases in the U.S. in 2013. The greatest risk of infection was seen in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest states. The CDC recommends daily tick checks after being outdoors (even in your own yard), using repellents, showering soon after being outdoors, and calling a doctor if you get a fever or rash. To some of you it may come as a shock that you should check for ticks even after being in your own yard. The reality is that even in an urban environment there is a good chance that you may come in contact with ticks. Not only should you take precautions as mentioned earlier, but you should also consider hiring a company like Weed Man to perform regular applications of flea and tick control to your lawn and landscape. Contact your local Weed Man for a custom flea & tick control quote. As Benjamin Franklin so famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you have any questions about your lawn, Weed Man would be happy to help. Find your local office using our locator map HERE. Keep those lawns and your families healthy, Chris

New Year, New Lawn Care Routine

Healthy grass is an amazing gift that many of us take for granted. There’s nothing quite like spending time with your family, friends, and pets on a soft, lush lawn. In fact, home lawns provide a convenient avenue for enjoying nature’s gifts without ever having to leave your property.

While you are encouraged to take advantage of your lawn’s many benefits, it is also important that you remember to give back to your grass so that it remains healthy and vibrant. With a new season of lawn care on the horizon, now is the time to start thinking about ways to upgrade your lawn care routine. Starting early with a little education and planning has been the key to success for so many of our customers – and we want to share a few tips of the trade with you.

The health of your lawn – and your ability to enjoy it – depends on good cultural practices.  Consider giving your yard the gift of a professional lawn care treatment this spring, or, at the very least, modifying your current mowing and watering practices to enhance your turf.  Weed Man can help you create a lawn care and maintenance plan that will help give you the lawn you’ve always envisioned.

1. Aeration

Your lawn can’t be at its greenest and healthiest without healthy soil. Soil is the foundation of all plant health and plays an important role in how nutrients become available to the turf.  On many lawns – especially in cases where there is heavy foot traffic – soil often becomes hard and compacted, severely limiting the recommended 12 inches of soil. As a result, your grass may suffer from a nutrient deficiency and become thin and weed infested in a very short period of time.

Aeration can help. Unfortunately, many homeowners skip their recommended annual aeration, thinking that it is an inessential “add-on” service. This is not the case! Aeration is a critical cultural practice that helps alleviate soil compaction by pulling cores of soil out of the turf, improving air, water, and nutrient penetration into the lawn. As an added benefit, core aeration optimizes root development and reduces thatch, allowing for better drainage and greater resistance to disease. If you’re wondering how you can take your lawn care routine to the next level in 2015, consider speaking to your local Weed Man about aeration. You’ll be happy you did!

2. Overseeding

Your lawn may also benefit from an overseeding treatment. Overseeding refers to the process of planting grass seed on pre-existing turf. It may be recommended for lawns that have large, bare areas, particularly when insect and/or drought damage are at play. Far too often we see homeowners hoping for re-growth in bare areas that badly need care and advanced nutrition. Don’t wait for those grass-less areas of your lawn to fix themselves – take action and give your lawn the boost it needs.

3. Mowing

Some homeowners mistakenly believe that mowing merely provides aesthetic benefits, when, in fact, it is an important cultural practice that greatly impacts the health of a lawn. Do not take more than 1/3 of the leaf blade off in one cutting. The longer the leaf, the deeper the rooting system and the more easily your grass can absorb nutrients and water. Additionally, be sure to mow with a sharp blade. This will allow the cut tip of the leaf blade to heal quickly, preventing disease pathogens from entering the grass. As you think ahead to the coming months and your lawn care routine, consider having your mower blade sharpened by a professional. It may also be a good idea to examine the height of your mower deck to ensure you are cutting your lawn at the appropriate height for your turfgrass species (click HERE for a mowing height guide). Taking early steps now will help you start lawn care season on the right foot.

4. Watering

Watering is another essential cultural practice that affects lawn health. Like mowing, watering contributes to the development of deep roots when performed properly. Lawns require about 1 inch of water per week to remain healthy, and this should be delivered in one deep, heavy watering as opposed to several light sprinklings. Now is a great time to shop around for a high-quality sprinkler (if you do not have an underground irrigation system). Look for a model that promises even distribution of water and that will not rust quickly. Remember: read online reviews of various products and take your time. The right sprinkler will aid in lawn health and help you save water along the way.

If you give your lawn the care that it needs, it will surely reciprocate. Think ahead to the coming spring months and visualize the various ways you can give back to the yard that gives you so much enjoyment throughout the warmer seasons.

Keep those lawns healthy.

-Chris

Chris Lemcke Weed Man Blog

Fall Fertilization is a Must for Turfgrass Before a Long, Hard Winter

The fall season providWeed Man Lawn Carees a great opportunity to give your lawn some TLC after the stresses of summer.

Technically summer is over, but in most areas of the North East it still feels like summer outside. We all know that won’t last long and the cooler weather of fall will be here before we know it. That’s ok, though – your lawn will be looking forward to it, as this is a crucial time for bluegrass, perennial rye, fescue and hybrid tall fescue turf to follow the squirrel’s example and start bulking up and storing food for the long winter ahead.

In the fall, northern turfgrasses experience a peak in growth as temperatures start to cool down during the day and especially at night. This is the perfect time to give your lawn a good feeding and help tackle those ugly bare patches that may be covering your yard.

Fall fertilizer contains two key ingredients: nitrogen and potassium. Both wWeed Man Fall Fertilizerill help stimulate and repair your grass. Look for fertilizer that has a high amount of available nitrogen in a slow release form, so that it feeds the lawn slowly and as the plant needs it. Be sure to read all packaging labels and apply fertilizer at the right rate to ensure you don’t overfeed and burn the lawn.

Potassium (potash) is equally important in the fall, so look for a fertilizer with a high percentage of it in the bag. Potassium plays a vital role in healthy turfgrass development and is second only to nitrogen in the amount required for lawn growth. Potassium enacts a protective mechanism in grass plants, hardening off cell walls to fight back against damaging factors. Turfgrasses that are deficient in potassium are more prone to injury during the winter months.

Keep in mind that fall is also a great time to seed the lawn, as ground temperatures are still warm and benefit from plenty of dew at night (this will help keep the seed moist). You should have an easier time getting the seed to germinate at this time of year, which will reinvigorate any bare spots that need repair. For larger areas, an aeration combined with an overseeding will really help that neglected lawn come in green and hardy next spring.

If you have any questions about your lawn, Weed Man would be happy to help. Find your local office using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

Be on the Lookout for Chinch Bug Damage

ChinchIt’s hard to believe that such a small insect like the chinch bug can create so much damage on a lawn in such a short period of time. However, year after year homeowners request that we come out and inspect their lawns, which have turned brown and won’t green back up again. More often than not, this rapid transformation is the result of chinch bug damage.

The secret to chinch bugs’ somewhat sneaky success is that they are so small and often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Combine this with the fact that chinch-damaged turf looks just like drought, which is pretty typical at this time of year, and chinch bugs become one of the biggest threats for Bluegrass (north) and St. Augustine (south) lawns.

Weed Man can help prevent and stop chinch damage for those full program customers that signed up in the spring. Weed Man’s technicians are trained to look for chinch bugs and know how to detect their presence early, before major damage can occur. For those lawn care do-it-yourselfers out there: if you miss diagnosing a chinch bug infestation, you may end up with large areas of thinned out turf that will eventually require extensive repair. This means major money, time and effort.

Here are a few hints on how to make sure you diagnose chinch bugs early enough to prevent significant damage:

  1. If you have brown spots forming on your lawn, check sun-drenched areas for insects. Chinch bugs are particularly prone to sunny hillsides.
  2. Be sure to inspect the boundaries of where the brown patches meet the green areas. Damage usually starts off in a small pocket, growing outwards and coalescing with other brown patches.
  3. Examine the base of the plant in the thatch region or where the turf meets the soil. Chinch bugs tend to feed on the crown of grass plants. You may need a bit of patience when seeking them, as they are quite small.
  4. Inspect several areas on the lawn for both nymphs and adults. Nymphs are tiny and red, while adults gradually turn black and have a small white cross mark on their backs.
  5. If all else fails, try Weed Man’s time-tested trick: grab a soup can and cut off both the bottom and top. Place the cylinder on the lawn and pour water into it. Then check to see if any chinch bugs float to the top.
Chinch bugs

Chinch bug damage

Remember: the best defense against chinch bugs is a healthy lawn. The thicker your lawn, the better able it will be to recover from chinch bugs and other surface feeding insects.

Watch our new chinch bug video HERE

If you have any questions about Chinch Bugs, Weed Man would be happy to help. Find your local office using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris