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

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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.