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Fall Lawn Fertilization

According to turfgrass scientists, the best time to fertilize lawns in Maryland is the fall. This is the time of the year when the grass recovers from summer heat and drought stress. Fertilizer applied from late August through early October promotes increased density of the turf without promoting excess shoot growth. Late fall fertilization from mid-October through early December promotes increased root growth.  It also increases carbohydrate storage for the grass to survive the winter and prepare for the following spring’s new growth.

Here are some University of Maryland guidelines for fertilizer applications.

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If you are not presently on a lawn fertilizer program, now is a great time to get started. A lawn professional has the expertise to apply fertilizer in a proper manner using the recommend rates. They are also aware of the environmental impacts of misapplied fertilizer. A professional has properly calibrated equipment, knows to blow granules off of sidewalks, driveways and patios and back onto the turf. Properly applied lawn fertilizer does not runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. Properly fertilized lawns actually protect the Bay because a well-fertilized lawn provides dense vegetation which stops sediment loss which in turn carries nutrients from storm water into Bay tributaries and ultimately into the Bay.

 

 

 

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Summer Watering Tips.

Now that summer weather has arrived, many of our customers start asking us about watering the lawn – what is the best time of day to water; how often; how long, etc. Our answers to those questions have changed over the years because of our concern about water conservation practices.

The turfgrasses grown in lawns in Maryland, including Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, fine fescues and zoysia all have fairly good drought tolerance. Their natural reaction to hot, dry conditions is to going into dormancy until cooler weather and soil moisture returns. However, if you want to keep your grass green during the summer, here is the best advice:

iStock_000003021437XSmallTurfgrasses in Maryland need about an inch of water per week. If your lawn is fairly flat, try heavy, more infrequent watering. Usually an hour or so in each sprinkler location two or three times per week is sufficient. If your lawn is sloped, you will need to do more frequent, lighter watering to avoid the water running off of the slope.

The best time of day to water is very early in the morning if possible. Mid-day and afternoon watering is very inefficient because the some water evaporates before it has a chance to get down into the root system. Evening or night watering is more efficient and is acceptable as long as your lawn is not susceptible to fungus diseases, which high humidity and free moisture promote.

You will find if the weather is sunny and hot for an extended period of time, you are going to have a difficult time seeing the effectiveness of your watering because of high evapotranspiration rates. It makes sense to wait until any heat wave breaks and we have a few cloudy days to help make your watering more effective.

 

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Heat stress and drought can affect your lawn quickly.

 

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Early Fall Seeding

If you are having difficulty with your lawn growing or are frustrated with a thin and thatchy lawn, you should strongly consider late-season lawn seeding. Late summer is the ideal time to decide if your lawn needs new grass turf or lawn seeding work for the upcoming year. Careful advanced planning and follow-up of lawn seeding can make the difference in your lawn growing and determine the success or failure of your lawn seeds. We have a limited time window to do proper seeding.  Current customers, contact Pro-Lawn Plus NOW to ensure we can schedule you this year. If you’re not yet a customer, now is a great time to start service and prepare your lawn for next year.

Lawn Conditions That Require Lawn Seeding

Thin Lawns: Can you see the soil or thatch layer when you look down at your grass? Lawn thinness permits weeds to easily grow in the lawn and causes the grass to dry out much faster. Thin lawns need lawn seeding to grow and be healthy.
Heavy Thatch: The thatch layer can become so heavy that the primary root system is growing more in the thatch than in the soil below. Shallow, thatch-rooted lawns are much more susceptible to drought damage.
Poor Turf Variety: Do you want to develop a more disease-,insect-, or drought-tolerant lawn? Pro Lawn Plus’s lawn seeding experts can help. There are grass varieties that bugs, diseases, and hot weather don’t bother as much as others.

Other conditions that require new grass turf or lawn seeding work include repairing lawn drainage problems and fixing worn or rutted areas.

 

When Lawn Seeding Works Best

Many of our customers don’t understand why late summer and fall are usually the best times for lawn seeding. The following are explanations why the lawn growing process works best at this time of year:

• Grass seed planted late in the season has two good growing periods (fall and spring) to “harden off” before going through the drought and heat stress often associated with summer weather.
• In the fall, most fast-growing weeds like crabgrass weeds won’t be sprouting and choking out the new grass turf’s slower-growing permanent grass.
• Soil temperatures are higher in the late summer, making it ideal for lawn growing. The increased soil warmth results in faster germination of the lawn seeds.
• Late-summer lawn seeding need not disturb the proper timing of weed control as spring seeding almost always does.
Note: New grass shouldn’t be treated for broadleaf weeds until after the fourth or fifth mowing.

Planting Successful Grass Seed

There are many lawn seeding methods and specific lawn conditions that call for each. Below is an overview of how to properly plant seed for optimum lawn growing:

• Overseeding: the lawn seed is broadcast evenly over the lawn and is washed into the soil where it lodges and sprouts. This lawn growing technique is simple and economical.
• Aeration plus Overseeding: The big advantage of this lawn seeding method is that aeration opens the soil and provides a better germinating area for the new turf by improving seed-to-soil contact.
• Slice-Seeding (also known as Verti-Cut Seeding): For badly damaged or very thin and thatchy lawns, this lawn growing technique is an excellent way to get your lawn back on the road to health and beauty. This lawn seeding method actually plants the grass seed into the soil while helping to destroy thatch. This is accomplished with slicing blades that cut through thatch and create furrows in the soil. Small tubes drop the lawn seed into these soil furrows, and rollers close the soil back over the seed.

After Lawn Seed is Planted

Within the first year of lawn growing, the care given to your grass turf is crucial. The following lawn seeding pointers will ensure that your grass grows healthy and remains durable:

Water, water, water! Frequent and light watering is ideal until the lawn seed sprouts. After this occurs, you may give your grass longer soakings.
• It is okay to mow when the grass reaches a reasonable height.
• Avoid weed controls and be sure that the new grass turf has a steady supply of lawn fertilizer to speed up establishment
Points to Remember About Late-Season Lawn Seeding
• Use high-quality, certified lawn seed to avoid planting weeds.
• Plant lawn seeds early enough to take advantage of the higher soil temperatures that encourage germination.
• Water and fertilize grass seeds to promote rapid grass establishment. Ideally, the new grass turf should be mowed three to five times during the fall in which it’s seeded.
• Avoid weed controls of any kind until the new turf has been mowed about five times. Some weeds will appear, but they can easily be controlled later.
It takes a few years to fully establish a healthy lawn. Give your new lawn seeding extra care throughout the whole first season.

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Poison Ivy

We spend a lot of the summer outdoors, hiking, camping, gardening etc. But quiet time in the garden or a  nature walk can quickly turn into an itchy adventure if you don’t watch your step. Poison Ivy grows mostly in non-cultivated areas, along stream banks, roadways, and woodlands. It can also make its way to your ornamental shrub or perennial borders. Pro-Lawn Plus has the knowledge and experience to identify and remove the unwanted plant if it creeps too close to your house/yard. Knowing how to identify and control Poison Ivy are the best defenses against accidental contact.  The fact sheet on Poison Ivy below has some great detailed information.

Identification

The best way to identify poison ivy (Rhus radicans) is by its characteristic compound leaf consisting of three leaflets. The leaflets are two to four inches long, dull or glossy green with pointed tips. The middle leaflet is generally larger than the two laterals. The margins of the leaflets are variable, appearing irregularly toothed, lobed, or smooth. The leaves are positioned alternately on the stems. In contrast, Virginia Creeper, a non-poisonous vine often mistaken for poison ivy, has five leaflets radiating from one point of attachment.

iStock_poisonivy

Poison ivy can be found in one of three forms; as an erect woody shrub, a trailing shrub running along the ground, or a woody vine. The vine is usually seen growing on trees or other objects for support. It has aerial roots along the stem that give it the appearance of a “fuzzy rope.”

Control

There are three methods that can be effective in eradicating poison ivy in ornamental beds. They include hand pulling or grubbing; severing the vine and then treating the regrowth with an herbicide; or applying an herbicide to individual leaflets.

 

Things to Know

The blistering rash caused by poison ivy is the direct result of contact with the oily toxicant, known as “urushiol.” Urushiol is found in resin ducts within the plant’s phloem. These ducts are found throughout the plant, including the roots, stems, bark, leaflets and certain flower parts. The plant has to be crushed, broken, or in some way injured to release the resin. The injury may be something as little as an insect chewing on the plant.

Once urushiol is released, it can find its way to your skin by direct contact with the plant and then spread by touching other parts of the body. Because the sticky, oily substance is easily transmitted, there are indirect ways to contact it, for instance, from the fur of the family pet, garden tools, garden gloves, clothing, golf balls or other objects that have come in contact with an injured plant. Contrary to popular belief, the rash from poison ivy cannot be transmitted from touching the oozing blisters.

If you know you have contacted poison ivy, wash the area as soon as possible with soap and cool water. Warm water may cause the resin to penetrate the skin faster. Because urushiol can penetrate in a matter of minutes, you may still get a rash, but at least you have contained the infected area. A visible reaction, redness and swelling may be apparent within 12 to 24 hours. Contact your family physician or pharmacist for recommendations for effective non-prescription medication.

One additional caution is that people can contract a rash by exposure to smoke of burning poison ivy; be careful not to burn wood with the poison ivy vine attached to it. Take extreme caution to avoid inhaling smoke or contact of smoke with skin and clothing.

Welyczkowsky, Cindy, and Jane C. Martin. “Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet.”Ohioline.osu.edu/. Ohio State University Extension, 2001. Web. 

 

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Summer Crabgrass Control

An early spring application of pre-emergent is the best time and method for controlling summer annual grasses like crabgrass and foxtail. Once crabgrass and foxtail germinate and get established, they are extremely difficult to control.  High temperatures in July and August slow down the growth of your lawn but actually accelerates crabgrass growth. If you failed to apply a pre-emergent in the Spring, chances are your lawn may be overrun by crabgrass by now. In years where there is either a lack of rainfall (creating drought stress) or a year like this year when there is an overabundance of rainfall (when the pre-emergent material applied in the spring is washed out), we see larger amounts of crabgrass germination and breakthrough, especially as the summer wears on.

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Here is what crabgrass may look like
during this mid-summer period

We can apply a post-emergent to control crabgrass and foxtail during the summer, which we do in our Summer Lawn Treatment. In bad years however, you will see a second flush of  germination in the late summer. At that point, there is really no reason to spray it because as an annual grass, it dies out by itself in late September and early October. In most cases, the lawn will fill in where the crabgrass dies out. A late fall fertilization helps that process. In worse cases however, overseeding of the lawn might be required.

In our next blog post we will be talking about fall aeration and the various methods of seeding your lawn.

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Difficult-To-Control Summer Weeds

Weeds that appear in hot summer weather are some of the toughest to control. They germinate when your lawn is under stress from heat, humidity and drought and thrive under these conditions. Some summer weeds are grass like and are not susceptible to ‘normal’ weed control measures.  Here are some of the weeds you will be seeing during these hot summer months. 

Nutsedge

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Nutsedge
Click to enlarge.

If a bright, yellow-green, grass-like weed is detracting from your lawn’s beauty, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with nutsedge.  Nutsedge is a yellow-green warm season perennial. It has upright, grass-like leaves with a glossy upper surface and dull lower surface that emerge from the base of the plant. The leaves are 1/8 to 1/2 inch wide, up to 3 feet long, and have parallel veins with a prominent midvein.  Its flat topped, burr-like flowers occur July to September and are affixed to the end of a stout triangular stem. It grows in all soil types, especially moist ones, but does not tolerate shade.

Nutsedge is a perennial weed that is hard to eliminate, mainly because it reproduces itself from tubers beneath the soil. If you hand-pull nutsedge, the tuber is usually left behind and will regerminate. Nutsedge grows quickly in low, wet soil. Left unchecked, it will grow as tall as 2-3 feet! Pro-Lawn-Plus’s 5 Treatment program includes a summer weed spray, that helps control  nutsedge.  But in lawns with an abundance of nutsedge, it is usually necessary to add one or two supplemental treatments.

Click for more information on Nutsedge.

Dallisgrass

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Dallasgrass
Click to enlarge.

Dallisgrass is a light green warm season perennial. It spreads upright forming clumps with leaves that are about 1/2 inch wide. It germinates in 60 to 65 degree soils, and although it thrives in the hot and humid south, it can be found all the way up to Maryland. The best way to remove this plant is by pulling out the clumps with your hands or a small garden tool since no herbicide is currently labeled to selectively control it.

Click for more information on Dallisgrass.

Spotted Spurge

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Spotted Spurge
Click to enlarge.

Spotted Spurge is a summer annual that produces seeds in 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. From a central taproot, it grows a flat, extensively-branched mat up to 2 feet in diameter. The stems leak a milky sap when broken. Its leaves are small, oval and up to 3/5 inch long. They can be purple spotted and hairy. Flowers occur June to October and are small and cup shaped. It is found in thin, drought-stressed soil in hot climates and closely mowed grass. This weed is resistant to many weed control products. To minimize Spotted Spurge, water deeply, aerate your lawn, fertilize in autumn and avoid close mowing.

Click for more information on Spotted Spurge.

 

For information about these and other weeds, visit the Difficult to control weeds section of our website .

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Japanese Beetles and Grubs

We are seeing high numbers of Japanese Beetle adults emerging now. They are flying around, feeding on trees, shrubs and certain perennials; mating then laying eggs in the lawn. Those eggs can turn into grubs if there is adequate soil moisture. In the summer of 2013, soil moisture is certainly abundant. So we expect a large grub population later this summer and into early fall.

The adult beetles can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. See this link  from University of Maryland Extension for control strategies. We do NOT recommend those yellow beetle traps because they tend to bring more beetles to your property. Insecticide sprays can help but generally rain will wash it off so in a year like 2013, multiple sprays would be necessary.

If you are on a lawn care program and you are not on the grub prevention option, you might want to consider it for 2013. The worst case scenario is that we have continue to have a wet July (so the grubs hatch and survive) then the turf dries out in August. At that time the turf has drought stress in combination with a reduced root system from the feeding of the grubs. That combination can cause damage that looks like this.

Grubs in the soil.
Grub damage in lawn.

Grub damage in lawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To reiterate, if you have beetles you can expect to start seeing the grubs starting in late July and damage occurring from early August through early October. To prevent this type of damage to your property, we strongly recommend that you consider a grub preventive application as soon as possible.

 

 

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