Summer Insects that Can Harm Your Lawn

Weed Man wants to remind you that NOW is the time to be on the lookout for these two turf damaging summer insects.

Chinch Bugs

It’s hard to believe that such a small insect like the chinch bug can cause so much damage to a lawn in such a short period of time. However, year after year people ask us to come and inspect their lawns because they’ve turned brown and won’t green back up on their own. More often than not, their lawns are suffering from major chinch bug damage.

Chinch

The secret to chinch bugs’ success is the fact that they are so small and often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Combined with the fact that chinch-damaged turf looks just like drought, which is typical at this time of year, makes these bugs one of the most serious pests to Bluegrass lawns in the north and St. Augustine lawns in the south.

Right now, Weed Man technicians are on the lookout for chinch bug activity.  We try to catch them early before any major damage occurs. For those of you who are do-it-yourselfers, keep in mind that if you happen to miss the signs of chinch bug damage, you will eventually be left with large areas that will be thinned out and require repair, which can take a lot of money, time and effort.

Diagnosing Chinch Bug Damage

Here are some hints on how to detect the presence of chinch bugs early enough to prevent or eliminate any damage:

  • Chinch bugs typically like any sunny exposed areas, so this is a great place to start looking for any activity, especially if you have brown spots appearing on your lawn.
  • Check the boundaries of where the brown areas on your lawn meet the green areas. The damage typically starts off in a small area then grows outward. As the damage increases, it coalesces with other areas, creating larger brown patches on the lawn.
  • Look at the base of the plant in the thatch area or where the grass meets the soil, as chinch bugs feed on the crowns of grass plants. A bit of patience may be required to get a glimpse of them. The nymphs are very small and red, while the adults gradually turn black and feature a small white cross mark on their backs.
  • An old trick is to grab a soup can and cut both the bottom and the top off. Then pour water into it and see if any of the chinch bugs float to the top. You can definitely try this, but if you follow the steps above you won’t need the soup can trick at all.

Tropical Sod Webworm

Another turf insect pest that is causing extensive damage this summer is the tropical sod webworm. This pest, found primarily along the gulf states, comes in two different forms – moths (adults) and worms (larvae).

sod webworm moth

sod webworm larvae

Tropical sod webworm larvae feed primarily at night and prefer areas in lawns that are hot and dry during daylight hours. Any areas that are difficult to water are predominantly subject to larval damage, while shaded areas are seldom attacked by the larvae. Damage to the turf occurs as the larvae chew off grass blades and retreat into their protective silken tunnels to consume the grass blade. Injury first appears as small brown patches of closely clipped grass.

Lawns are particularly susceptible to larval damage when the temperatures are hot and lawns are not growing vigorously. Again, our Weed Man technicians are on the lookout for tropical sod webworms, and we try and catch them early before any major damage can occur. Larger lawn areas may be damaged rapidly if control products are not applied, so be on the lookout for this summer lawn invader.

If you have any questions about chinch bugs or tropical sod webworms, Weed Man would be happy to help. Find your local office using our locator map HERE.

Keep those lawns healthy,

Chris

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Summer Drought & Your Lawn

The summer drought conditions this year have been pretty severe in a number of areas and we’re only into the early part of July. With it being so dry in May and June, it can’t help but have an effect on your lawn now and into the fall.

In March I wrote a blog that started with “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.” So far, that is exactly what is happening in a lot of areas in the U.S. The past few years (at least in the eastern parts of the U.S.) we have been pretty lucky in that we had fairly regular rainfall and cooler summers. So it may come as no surprise that we were due for some drier, warmer weather with some severe drought. So what can you do to help the lawn through this hotter and drier weather?

As I mentioned in my March blog, one of the things you could have done to prepare for the hot and dry summer was getting your lawn as healthy as possible in the spring prior to having to experience the summer heat and drought. “You definitely don’t want to skip any fertilizer applications this spring or early this summer as the lawn 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 help it stay healthy when its under stress.”

That being said if you are watering your lawn through the summer and keeping it green, the lawn will still need to be fertilized as it will utilize those nutrients to maintain its healthy state. If you decide not to water it and therefore let it turn brown, the amount of nutrients it requires will be a lot less and fertilizing it may be unnecessary. However, if you use a slow-release fertilizer, not to worry, those nutrients should stay there for the plant to utilize when you do get rain, which will encourage the grass to grow again.

Watering will have a big impact on a lawn’s appearance and 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 the lawn did not recover. The end result? Most of it had to be re-sodded that fall.

Remember that there are a lot of ways not to water your lawn and it isummer-drought-stresss the most misunderstood practice for homeowners. The biggest mistake occurs when homeowners irrigate their lawn every day for 20 minutes (simply because that is the way most irrigation systems are set up), without realizing that this type of light watering can lead to shallow rooting and disease. Shallow rooting creates a weaker plant that is prone to environmental stresses, which can result in an increase in lawn diseases. Also, not allowing the lawn to dry out for a period of time can also increase the chance of disease. This ultimately leads to discoloration of the lawn and poor visual quality. Watering at night is often the biggest reason for the presence of disease on the lawn.

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 the lawn requires it will give your turf the opportunity to dry out and prevent lawn diseases in the process.

Mowing can also influence the health of the turf, so when it’s hot and dry out, it’s a great idea to mow your lawn as high as you can. The longer the turf is maintained, mowing-heightthe healthier it will be, as it will have a much deeper rooting system. This deeper root system will better utilize underground water supply and find its own water and remain healthier overall.

Click HERE to view the NOAA National Precipitation Map for June by %, to see how your area is doing for Rainfall.

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

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

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