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

Advertisements

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

Annual Bluegrass can be a major eye sore on your lawn.

“What is that awful looking wheat grass on my lawn?” is a question I get a lot when dealing with customers who have concerns over Annual Bluegrass.

On most home lawns there is a very common occurrence that takes place in the later part of the spring and earlier part of the summer, which is the Annual Bluegrass going to seed. This yearly occurrence can create some unsightly looking lawns not just because of all of the seed heads that shoot up but also because after the plant seeds set, the grass will turn yellow, discoloring the turf.

Annual BluegrassIn a perfect world, Kentucky Bluegrass would make up the majority of the grass on a lawn,
as it has a deep blue color and is relatively drought-tolerant. Annual Bluegrass on the other hand, is really a weedy grass that is a winter annual or weak perennial and often dies during summer heat and drought, resulting in a lack-luster lawn. Almost every lawn will have some Annual Bluegrass in it, some may be taken over by it, and others will show signs of it but just in scattered areas or in unsightly patches.

The big question I get from homeowners after identifying the Annual Bluegrass and Annual Bluegrass - Closeupdetermining we can’t control it with our broadleaf weed control, is “how did I get this and how can I get rid of it?” Believe it or not, the lawns that have the biggest problem with Annual Bluegrass are typically belong to homeowners that are over-managing their yards.

One of the biggest contributors to Annual Bluegrass in the home lawn is mowing height. A lot of homeowners will want that golf course look to their lawn and they will end up cutting it way too short. Annual Bluegrass is very adaptive and can survive very low mowing heights. This is a huge issue for golf course superintendents, because it can even survive in low-mowed golf greens, creating an uneven putting surface (especially when it goes to seed).

In the home lawn however, when you cut the grass at a height of 2 inches or less, you will discourage the Kentucky Bluegrass that was sodded or seeded when the house was built. I always recommend cutting at a height of 3.5 inches, especially in the summer months, even considering it can tolerate a lower mowing height of 2.5 inches. However keeping it cut higher will keep it healthier, with deeper roots and thus discourage the Annual Bluegrass from germinating, as well as out-competing it.

Another possible factor of the growth of Annual Bluegrass is overwatering. I see a lot of homeowners that have irrigation systems programmed to go on every day for 20 minutes. Again, watering is important for your Kentucky Bluegrass, but it prefers deep watering around 1 inch to 1.5 inches per week. This may mean once or twice a week depending on the time of year and how much rainfall has occurred. Remember, early morning watering is best to discourage any disease as it allows the lawn to dry during the day.

The reality is, almost every lawn will have some Annual Bluegrass but what you do culturally will have a real effect on how much you’ll have to deal with. If you’re at that point where your lawn has the problem, then the best thing you can do is to bag your grass clippings. This will help prevent the seeds from going back into the soil. Although this may only have a small impact, as there are likely thousands of Annual Bluegrass seeds sitting dormant waiting for the right opportunity to germinate. Lastly, once the seeds are set, the turf will look a bit yellow. Saying this, keeping the turf as healthy as possible will help minimize the yellowing that will occur for a few weeks afterwards.

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

Looking Ahead to This Year’s Lawn Care

As we all know, the weather plays a huge part in how your lawn will look from year to year. The past couple of years we have been pretty lucky, except those on the west coast, with fairly regular rainfall and cooler summers.

If the weather predictions come to fruition this year, due to the strong El Niño, it looks like we will have a drier and warmer-than-normal summer in 2016. Here are some simple tips that will help you keep the best looking lawn on your street this year, despite the drier weather conditions.

One of the first things that you can do to help with the look of your lawn is to help it thrive, returning it to a healthy state. You definitely don’t want to skip any fertilizer applications this spring or early this summer for that matter, as your turf will need it. Fertilizer is going to be very important in setting up the lawn to withstand the stress of a hot summer by giving it the key nutrients it needs to stay healthy when its experiencing stress.

Weed Man’s exclusive blend fertilizer is a granular 65% slow release fertilizer that helps feed the lawn for periods of 8-10 weeks. It feeds the roots of the turf and allows the plant to slowly absorb of all the beneficial nutrients, over that 8 to 10-week period, therefore maximizing the return on investment.

Watering can also have a big impact on a lawn’s appearance, especially if you are expecting a very hot and dry summer. Proper watering is a must if you are going to keep the turf healthy until more regular rainfall occurs. Almost all grasses can withstand a certain amount of drought. For example, Bluegrass can withstand drought for up to 6 weeks before injury. As you see in the picture below, this lawn had not been watered for quite a while and it didn’t recover well, resulting in most of the lawn having to be re-sodded that fall.

Poor Watering

Watering is one of the most misunderstood practices when it comes to caring for your turf. The biggest mistake homeowners can make is irrigating too much – every day for 20 minutes (which is quite common). This is not suggested, although most irrigation systems are set up that way; however, this type of light watering can lead to shallow rooting and disease development. Shallow rooting creates a weaker plant that is more prone to environmental stresses, which can result in an increase in lawn diseases. Also, it is important to allow your lawn to dry out from time to time. Keeping it constantly saturated with water can increase the chance of disease, ultimately leading to discoloration and poor visual quality.

When it comes to watering your lawn and helping it look its best, water only when the lawn needs it and be sure to water deeply. Watering deeply in the morning, when your lawn requires it most, will give your turf the opportunity to dry out and therefore prevent lawn diseases in the process.

MowingMowing can promote a healthy turf, so when it’s hot and dry out this summer, it’s a great idea to mow your lawn as high as you can. The longer the turf is maintained, the healthier it will be, as it will have a much deeper rooting system. This deeper root system will be able to better utilize underground water supply and find its own water, as well as help is remain healthy and thriving.

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

After Another Long Winter, You Can Almost Count on Winter Damage!

With many northern locations still experiencing cold weather and, in some cases, battling snow on the ground, it’s difficult to get into the outdoor season spirit just yet.

For those that live in the north and northeastern parts of the United States, I probably don’t need to reiterate just how long and cold this past winter was. We can certainly expect that lawns will have suffered and that there will likely be some winter damage. Turf damage can come in a number of different forms, including ice damage, snow mold, and damage from moles that like to burrow in under the snow, leaving unsightly tracks all over the lawn. When the weather does eventually warm up and that lawn care/gardening spirit does kick in, here is what you need to know:

Ice Damage: Can occur after the soil has frozen and there has been a thaw or rain that refreezes directly on the turf before it has had the chance to run off or seep back into the ground. As the snow melts and refreezes, it can create ice sheets over the lawn, typically in poorly drained areas. As the ice sheets melt away, damaged areas of turf may be evident.

Ice damage on the lawn is only a major concern following extended coverage. Unfortunately, when it does occur, it is considered the most severe form of winter damage, often requiring costly turf renovation.

Snow Mold Damage: This turf disease can come in two different forms – pink snow mold and gray snow mold. Pink snow mold can occur with or without snow coverage, whereas gray snow mold usually requires prolonged snow coverage. Expect to see both this spring as the snow melts away. For obvious reasons, pink snow mold gets its name from the coral pink hue that it expresses, while gray snow mold may look like someone peppered your lawn thanks to the black sclerotia associated with the mold. Although neither form of the disease will kill your grass plants, weakening of the lawn’s structure can occur. Your best option is to try and rake it out. Warmer weather and fertilizer will eventually help the turf fully recover.

gray snow mold 2


Mole Damage:
Mole damage often appears in the form of mounds of soil in the spring or fall, resulting from moles’ underground tunneling. This type of damage is often superficial in nature, and the lawn will heal once it has been thoroughly raked up and fertilized. A good way to discourage moles from invading your lawn over the winter months is to lower your grass cutting height just before winter hits (during the last few mowings). This lower mowing height will not provide the moles with much protection under the snow, and they will ultimately move off to other areas.

mole damage 1

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