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

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

National Lawn Care Month

 

lawn care month

The green industry has recognized April as National Lawn Care Month. This is a great way to get people excited about working in the great outdoors, specifically on their lawns and landscapes. Here are some interesting facts about your lawn you maybe had no idea about!

Did you know that there are over 9000 different species of grass? Grass specifically, is a term for the plant family Gramineae. Some grasses are even edible. For example, Wheatgrass, which contains most of the vitamins and minerals needed for human health. Lawns have been around for centuries and they most likely evolved from rich European Aristocrats who would clear the trees around their castles in order to allow for better sight lines in case of attacks. Once the trees were cleared the grass would naturally grow in and they would use sheep and other grazing animals that would help keep the grass in a low cut state. The word lawn actually comes from the Middle English word launde, which meant a “glade or opening in the woods”.

Only a few grass species are acceptable for the home lawn and depending on where you live this will typically dictate the type of turfgrass you will have on your lawn. The reason turfgrass makes such a great lawn is the fact that grass leaves begin to grow from the stem apex, located at the base of the plant, which is called the crown. This is the main reason why grasses can be mowed without sustaining serious injury as growth continues from the base of the leaf after a portion of the leaf blade is mowed off.

Speaking of mowing, the first lawn mower was invented by Edwin Budding in 1830 in England. Budding’s mower was designed primarily to cut the grass on sports grounds and extensive gardens, as a superior alternative to the scythe, and was granted a British patent on August 31, 1830.

Did you know? Grass is the earth’s living skin. It essentially protects what’s underneath it by acting as a filter. Pretty neat! A single grass plant can have more than 300 miles worth of roots and a typical lawn has about six grass plants per square inch, which means the average lawn could house millions of grass plants!

Grass is incredible for so many other reasons though! It converts Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen. In fact, an acre area of grass is better at producing oxygen than an acre of rainforest. Grass also reduces temperatures, erosion, acts as a carbon sink and traps dust and dirt (just to mention a few of the great things it does).

This April, let’s get out there and get working on our lawns and landscapes, plant a garden or rake your lawn. After all, there is plenty of research that proves that homeowners find stress relief and healing when interacting with nature. Not to mention, staying active – period – will help you live longer.

At Weed Man, we celebrate #LawnCareMonth. Join us!

For more information about National Lawn Care Month, visit the National Association of Landscape Professionals!

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

Weed Man: Podcast Episode 01 – Spring Lawn Care

Tune in to Episode 01 of Weed Man’s newest podcast series. Chris Lemcke talks slow release fertilizers, pre-emergent crabgrass control, and why proper watering and mowing play such a significant role in the health of your lawn. 

Text Version of Podcast:

Welcome to Episode 1 of On the Lawn with Weed Man – Weed Man USA’s newest podcast series covering a wide range of helpful lawn care tips and advice. It’s our goal to help you achieve a lush, green lawn without breaking the bank.

I’m Erica Knapp and today I’m joined by Chris Lemcke, Weed Man’s in-house turf expert. Welcome, Chris!

Chris: Thanks, I’m happy to be here.

Erica: Today we’ll be tackling spring lawn care and addressing some of the most frequently asked questions from homeowners across the country. We’ll also be touching on what you can be doing to ensure that your lawn stays healthy and free of weeds throughout the spring and summer seasons. Now that the warmer weather has arrived, creating an attractive, functional outdoor space is more important than ever. Chris, we’re currently getting a number of calls about fertilizer. It’s already late April, and many homeowners are wondering if it’s too late to fertilize their lawns at this point in the season.

Chris: Not at all…this time of year is the perfect time. After a harsh winter when the lawns are starting to green up, it’s a great time to get some fertilizer down on the lawn to help it out and get it growing again. One of the things I often talk about to homeowners or to people who are asking questions about what type of fertilizer they should use…the biggest thing they should look at is slow release. Anything that they can put on the lawn that will feed the lawn slowly. Slow release will help ensure there’s no burning, and it’ll help ensure that all the nitrogen is being used efficiently, and that’ll definitely help the plant out this spring, especially after the long, hard winter.

Erica: Ok, good to know that it’s not too late and that there’s plenty of time to still fertilize. We’ve also had many customers ask us when they should be putting a pre-emergent on the lawn for crabgrass control. What would you suggest when it comes to pre-emergents?

Chris: When it comes to pre-emergents, there’s two different types. One you have to get down before the crabgrass germinates, and that’s prodiamine – that’s the active ingredient. You want to make sure that’s down well before the crabgrass starts to grow. Typically, ways to look at when crabgrass is going to start germinating is by looking at the forsythia bush. When that starts to bloom that usually means that soil temperatures are warm enough and crabgrass will start germinating. For me, I typically look at when the farmers are in the fields starting to plant corn. When corn starts to germinate and starts to grow, and farmers are in the field seeding it, that’s often a good indication that soil temperatures are right and that you’re going to start seeing crabgrass germinating. The other type of pre-emergent is dithiopyr. That one you can put down later. You still want to get it down before the crabgrass germinates, but in case there are any spots where you get crabgrass germinating early, like in sunny areas, it will take out some of the smaller growth – up to the 3rd or 4th tiller stage – of the crabgrass plant. So that’s a good one because if you are late getting it down, you’ll still get some of those plants that have already started to germinate. But it’s all based on soil temperatures. Getting it down early is better than getting it down late.

Erica: We mentioned that the winter’s been really harsh, and that’s true for many, many parts of the country. So how long until lawns really start recovering? It seems like they’re already a bit behind this year.

Chris: Depending on where you are in the country, things in the east especially are definitely a little bit behind. But lawns are going to take time to green up until the soil temperatures warm up a little bit more. We’re seeing it slowly start to come around. The warmer it gets, the better the grass will start to grow…and it’ll grow out some of that winter damage. But it’s just one of those years where it’s going to take a little bit longer before the grass really starts to take off and grow. Before long we’ll be in summer, so it doesn’t take long and it will happen.

Erica: So homeowners don’t need to be worried about the state of their lawns right now?

Chris: Not right now. I mean, it’s a good opportunity. If it’s too quick of a spring, then a lot of people don’t have time to give the lawn a good raking and things like that. So you’ve got time to go out and work on your lawn a little bit, rake out those straw-like areas, maybe check on if there’s winter damage or not – those types of things. It gives you a little bit of time, that’s the one thing about it.

Erica: On a similar topic, we’ve seen a lot of lawns with heavy damage from snow plows or debris that had been left on the lawn all winter. What’s the best way to handle these bare spots – and some of these spots are turning into large patches…how can homeowners tackle these?

Chris: Sometimes you have to wait and see if it is actually winter damage or not, because sometimes it will recover, and it will grow back out. But if it’s definitely an area with snow plow damage or an area that has a poor root system – so if you pull on the grass and it just kind of desiccates, there’s not much rooting structure – then likely that area is dead. The easiest method is to wait until you get some sod at the local home hardware store – they’ll sell it by the roll – and it’s best to patch the sod pieces into the lawn as opposed to seeding it. Seeding it takes a lot of effort and you have to keep the seed moist for at least 30 days. Then you also have weeds that will grow in those spots. So the best thing to do would be sod it. For small areas, if you want to seed it just be aware that you can’t seed if you’re going to do a pre-emergent like we talked about earlier, as it won’t let the seeds germinate.

Erica: Good advice. Now to address the question that everyone’s been asking. What can homeowners do themselves to achieve the best lawns this year?

Chris: Well there’s a few things that they can do. A lot of people put time and effort into fertilizing and taking care of their weeds, and yet they are never happy with the way that the lawn looks. Sometimes that’s because of the things they’re doing culturally. The first important thing that they need to do properly and to follow as best as possible is watering. All too often people will set an irrigation system up or they’ll water too shallow and every other day as opposed to when the lawn needs it. So the first suggestion I have is to water when the lawn needs it, water deeply (as opposed to shallow), and water at the right time. Don’t water at night – water early in the morning. Watering early in the morning is better because you don’t encourage diseases. You want to make sure that the lawn is getting watered deeply. That keeps the roots growing deep as opposed to being up shallow if you shallow water.

The second thing that homeowners often do improperly is mowing. They want to make the lawn look like a golf course, so often times they’re cutting the lawn very, very short. This encourages weeds and weedy grasses to grow in the lawn. If you keep the lawn nice and long – usually I recommend 3 to 3.5 inches, especially as you get into summertime – the lawn is going to be a darker green, the rooting system is going to be a lot longer (so it will find its own water deeper in the ground), and it’s just going to look better overall. The last thing that’s really important is to keep a sharp mower blade. If the mower blade’s dull, it’s going to encourage diseases, which is not going to give you a very good color to the lawn. Also, if you’re ripping the blade, the lawn’s going to have a whitish tinge to it, which will take away from the color of the lawn. So just to recap, watering is really important in how the lawn looks, so water properly. Second: mowing. Mow high and have a sharp mower blade.

Erica: And is sharpening the blade something that should be done every year or a couple times a year?

Chris: A couple of times a year is best. I mean , even once a year – depending on the size of your lawn – will probably be fine, but I like to recommend at least twice a year. You can always check it. Look under your mower deck and see if there are any nicks off the blade or if it looks dull. If so, you’ll need to sharpen it.

Erica: Thanks for the great advice, Chris! I think this is really going to come in handy as the weather continues to get warmer and people start spending time outside on their lawns.

Thank you to everybody for tuning in to the first episode of On the Lawn with Weed Man. Be sure to visit us online at www.weedmanusa.com.

 

Lawn Care New Year

Spring lawn care

Happy 2014! With the new year upon us and spring right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about your lawn. Even if your yard is currently covered in a foot of snow, it is important to remember that the action you take over the next several weeks will help give you a healthy lawn when it really counts.

Weed Man recommends taking the following pre-emptive measures to prepare your lawn for the upcoming warmer seasons:

1. Book your lawn care program early. Many homeowners book their lawn care programs well into the spring season. I recommend signing up during the winter months. This will allow your local Weed Man to treat your lawn at the best possible time, and, in turn, provide you with optimum results. With our handy online Customer Portal, you can add services to your account at any time of the day or night.  

2. Repair and prepare lawn care tools. While it may seem like overkill to tune up your edger or get your mower’s blades sharpened in January or February, this is actually a very smart move. Repair shops get slammed as soon as the spring season arrives, often resulting in long waiting times. You’ll save yourself time and money by acting now.

3. Inspect your lawn. As soon as the snow starts to melt, give your lawn a close inspection. Many homeowners do not put their lawns “to bed” properly in the fall, which can lead to early spring turf diseases such as snow mold. Heavy ice and wet leaf coverage are usually to blame, but you can help by clearing your turf’s surface of any unwanted debris. Again, taking early action will only benefit you in the long run.

Don’t let the bitter cold steer you into winter hibernation mode. Stay on point by preparing for lawn care season early – your turf will thank you.  

Until next time,

Chris