SUMMER LAWN AND LANDSCAPE CARE

 

Summer brings outdoor barbecues and backyard play for children of all ages.  As many people spend more time outdoors during the summer months than any other time, follow these tips for a healthy, entertainment-worthy yard.

  • Water, correctly.  Many people think the summer months mean water frequently – but the way you water is more important than the frequency with which you water.  Grass and plants are resilient and have mechanisms that help them deal with summer heat.  For instance, grass may go dormant and look brown during time of drought, but if it is well cared for, it may return to normal when there is adequate moisture.  Efficient tips for watering include:
    • Water your plants less often, but deeply.
    • Water in the early morning or evening hours so the sun and heat don’t steal moisture from your plants.  Ideally, grass should get at least one inch of water per week.
    • Use drip irrigation instead of sprinklers and hoses.  Drip irrigation waters plants slowly so the water doesn’t run off or evaporate.
  • Ensure the health of your grass.
    • Have your lawn aerated to improve oxygen flow and check the soil pH balance to ensure the healthiest grass.
    • It’s not too late to start a fertilizer program.  It is important that your grass has adequate fertilizer, which provides the nutrients necessary for good health.
    • Remove weeds from grass as they steal nutrients.
  • Mow correctly.  Many homeowners are tempted to mow their grass short to minimize the frequency of mowing, however proper mowing techniques will help promote the good health of your lawn.
  • Give your attention to the plants on your deck and patio.  Many people add potted flowers and herbs to their outdoor living spaces in the summer months.  If doing so, protect your investment and enjoy them fully by watering potted plants regularly, add mulch to pots to help retain moisture and place them in spots where they will get shade during the day.

 

*Adapted from A Seasonal Guide: Summer Lawn and Landscape Care published on  LoveYourLandscape.org

5 Common Pests That Like To Call Your Lawn Home

Insects love your lawn almost as much as you do, and if you aren’t careful they can really do a lot of damage that is expensive to repair.  Unless you are an entomologist – a trained bug scientist – insects may not be your thing.  However, it is important to know a little about them so you understand what steps you should consider to keep them at bay.

Insects that feed on lawn can be broken down into two majors groups based on where they feed:  surface feeing insects feed on the surface of the lawn and are visible to the naked eye; sub-surface insects feed upon the roots of the lawn making detection and control more difficult.

Chinch Bugs

Chief among the surface feeders is the chinch bug.  The adult stage of this insect is about the size of a pencil tip, is black with an hourglass-shaped design on its back and can be seen scurrying about in large numbers during the heat of the summer.  Chinch bugs damage grass by removing its sap and from the saliva they inject into the grass plants during feeding.  The lawn pests can cause widespread damage if not controlled.

Sod Webworms

Sod webworms are tiny wheat-colored moths that are most obvious when you are mowing your lawn.  If you see small moths around your lawn mower flying in a zig-zag pattern, those are sod webworms.  With these bugs, unlike many insects, adults are not the problem-causers; in the larval stage, the sod webworms come out to feed at night but their damage is often masked by new grass growth.  It is often not until lawns go dormant, either due to drought or heat stresses, that severe infestations are first detected.

Cutworms and Armyworms

  

Cutworms and armyworms are both big fleshy caterpillars that love to feed upon grass leaves.  A major pest of crops, these pests are not normally problematic in lawns other than instances when their populations explode.  When their numbers reach plaque-like status, incredible number of caterpillars move en mass across lawns leaving no green tissue untouched; in fact the name armyworm comes from their behavior of marching across a lawn leaving a trail of devastation.

Billbugs

Billbugs are weevils that spend their winters hiding in leaf litter along the edge of lawns.  In the spring, they return to the lawn to lay their eggs in the sheaths of grass plants.  The emerging larvae, termed a grub, are white with a copper colored head and legless.  These newly hatched grubs feast upon the growing point of the grass plants, which kills grass.  Diagnosing billbugs in a lawn is especially difficult as the grubs are very small and are located deep within the thatch layer of the lawn.

White Grubs

White grubs are the larvae of several scarab beetle pests.  Most of these species have a one-year life cycle, meaning that they lay eggs during the summer months and then hatching larvae feed upon grass roots for the remainder of the fall.  When temperatures begin to drop as winter approaches, the grubs descend into the soil to avoid being frozen.  As the frost recedes in the spring, the grubs return to feed upon the grass roots once again.  This emphasizes the importance of being vigilant every year for new infestations.

White grubs cause damage by severing the root system in grass plants, making it impossible for the plants to draw enough water from the soil.  This severing of the roots makes it possible to detect grubs in the soil, however.  Initially, affected areas appear brown and when pulled upon will roll back like a carpet from a floor revealing the grubs in the soil.

Treatment and Control

Lawns can successfully support a number of insects feeding upon them without any signs or symptoms becoming apparent because the lawn is growing faster than the insects can damage it.  However, there comes a point where that threshold is passed and the damage is quite obvious.  There are certainly ways to control problems once detected and even preventative measures that can be taken if your yard or neighborhood has a history of certain pests, like grubs.  Contact The Turf Pros to learn more about protecting your yard from destructive pests.

 

*Adapted from LoveYourLandscape.org

Water, Water, Everywhere

Here are some simple suggestions on irrigating your lawn.  Using these tips will help to keep your lawn healthy and happy, and help to reduce the amount of water your using.

Water only when your grass needs it. Water conservation isn’t the only reason to limit the amount of water you give your lawn.  Overwatering is also bad for your lawn’s health and can contribute to the development of fungus and disease.  Some types of grass require more water than others, and environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and wind can dramatically affect how frequently you need to water your lawn.  Fortunately, the most accurate way to determine whether your lawn needs water is also the easiest  – just look at the grass:

  • When grass needs water, it will begin to take on a blue-gray tint and the older leaf blades on the plant will begin to curl up or wilt
  • Footprints will remain on the grass for longer than usual, as the grass won’t “bounce back”.  When 30-50% of your lawn shows these symptoms, it’s time to water.

Water deeply to encourage deep root growth.   Frequent shallow waterings encourage weed germination and they also cause the grass plants’ roots to grow shallow, leaving the plant more susceptible to drought and to certain diseases.  Watering only when your grass really needs it encourages the roots to grow deeper, but only if you apply enough water each time to penetrate to the root zone.

  • The most accurate way to determine the depth of the root zone is to dig a small hole and measure how far the roots go down.
  • Alternatively, you can follow these general approximations: if you have a bluegrass lawn, each watering should moisten the soil to 6-8 inches while for most other grasses, the water should penetrate 8-12 inches.  You can determine how long to leave the sprinkler system on by using one of the following methods:
    • Turn on your sprinkler for 15 minutes.  After 18 to 24 hours, find out how deep the water soaked in by digging a small hole in the watered area or using a probe (a probe will push easily through damp ground).  You can also push a shovel into the ground and use it as a lever to spread the soil apart enough so you can see several inches below the surface.  Once you see how deep the water went in 15 minutes, you can calculate how long you need to leave your sprinkler on.
      • For example, if the soil is damp to 4 inches below the surface and your goal is to moisten the soil to a depth of 8 inches, you’ll need to leave the sprinkler on for 30 minutes (2×15 minutes) each time you water.

Water early in the morning.  When you use sprinklers, some water evaporates before it hits the ground.  On a hot, windy day the amount of water that never reaches your grass can be substantial.  To reduce loss to evaporation, water sometime between 4am and 9am, when the air is still cool and the wind is usually at its calmest.

Avoid watering your lawn with hot water.  On hot days, the water inside your hose can become very hot from solar energy – hot enough to scald!  It’s better to just skip watering that day, and water early the next morning.  Run your hose after the sun has gone down, to empty out any hot water.

Let the rain do your work for you.  Nothing looks more wasteful than running your sprinklers while it’s raining.  If your sprinkler system is on a timer, get and install a rain sensor that automatically turns the water off when it rains.  If possible, also avoid watering if rain is expected later in the day or during the next day. Your grass should be fine, even if it looks stressed.

  • Use a rain gauge to determine how much rain you received and then water a bit more only if needed.
  • If you’re expecting rain, and your soil is dry, run the sprinkler to moisten it so that the soil absorbs the rain more easily.

Water problem areas by hand. Many lawns have or or two spots that require more water than the rest of the lawn.  A south-facing slope or an unshaded area in an otherwise shady lawn are two common examples of these “problem areas”.  If you water your entire lawn every time you to water these hot spots, you’ll overwater everyplace but these spots.  Instead, water them by hand or use a separate sprinkler that’s not attached to rest of your irrigation system.