Watering tips for the lawn

It’s summer and if you want to keep the grass green, you need to water it. If you do not water your lawn, it will discolor and go dormant (this is a method the turf uses to survive drought & heat as well as winter as nutrients are pulled into the root structure).  At this point, you need to make a decision: you can water the lawn to keep it hydrated on a regular basis or you can let it go dormant – but you can’t water a couple of times a month and then let it go dormant to only water again two weeks later, that will promote a shallow root system.

If you let your lawn go dormant, count on it discoloring and thinning out. Although it looks like the turf is taking a beating, it should bounce back once favorable conditions come back into the area. If we go for 3-4 weeks with less than 1″ of moisture, then you can give your lawn a drink to help the root system stay hydrated.

There are many factors that play into how much water a lawn needs: shade, turf type, soil type, temperature, etc. Today we will talk about soil types.

Different soil types require different watering techniques.

Before we get into watering techniques, lets talk about how much water is ‘needed’. On average, your lawn will require 1 – 1.5″ of moisture a week to stay green and actively growing. Area precipitation should be noted as you do not want to or need to water if nature is doing it for you. Use a screw driver after a test run of the irrigation to see how deeply the moisture level in the soil goes, it should be between 6-8 inches (determined by how easily the screw driver can be pushed into the soil).

Ideal time frame: 7:00 am – 10:00 am (under ‘normal’ weather conditions)

Soil Type (under ideal conditions)

• Clay: Because clay is so dense, it is recommended to water every other or every third day for two 10-20 minute intervals (water for 10-20 minutes, allow the water to soak into the soil and water again for 10-20 minutes). Clay will hold more moisture, though run off might occur with one long watering cycle.
• Loam: Water every other or every third day. One run of 20-30 minutes.
• Sand: Leaching occurs in sandy soils, it is recommended to water every day or every other day for 20-30 minutes per watering or in intervals of two cycles a day (like clay) with a short break in-between. Sandy soils leach or run water through quickly, so the small break in between will help replenish moisture at the root zone if leaching is occurring.

Extreme temperatures
When the temperatures exceeds 85 degrees for a few consecutive days or more, you can relieve heat stress from the lawn (usually only needed in full sun areas) by watering in the middle or hottest part of the day. Most of the water will evaporate before penetrating the soil and it is important to note that the mid-day watering goal is to relieve stress, not hydrate the lawn. Watering for 10 minutes will help relive heat stress from the lawn.

Important notes about watering & trees:
Most conifers/pine trees prefer dry soil. Be careful not to over water the pines.
Maple trees are surface feeding trees. If you have a maple and we are in the midst of drought-like conditions, give that area additional water as the maple tree will compete with the turf for moisture.

Dollar Spot turf disease

Lots of rain followed by warm, humid weather is an ideal environment for some disease activity to start in the lawn, today we are going to highlight Dollar Spot:

Dollar Spot on Kentucky bluegrass: Image by: Kevin Mathias

Dollar Spot

Some varieties of perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass & creeping bentgrass are highly susceptible to this disease which starts as light tan lesions with darker brown borders on the leaf of the grass. As the disease continues the lesions grow, eventually spreading over the leaf turning the infected turf blades light tan or even white from the tip down. The fungus spreads to neighboring turf blades eventually creating silver dollar size patches of infected turf which discolors (this tell tale sign is where the disease name has it’s origins: dollar spot). As the disease progresses, multiple patches may eventually form so close together that a large portion of the lawn is showing signs of dollar spot.

What you can do:

  • If your lawn tends to get dollar spot every year, you may opt for a preventative fungicide. Usually the target date of this product would be after a long period of rain in late spring, right before our weather turns warm and humid.
  • Add additional nitrogen to promote leaf growth. If you are one of our customers give us a call to see how we can help your lawn.
  • Water later in the morning and do not water daily (unless you have newly seeded areas or the temperatures warrant it).
  • Mow the lawn on a regular basis and try to only take 1/3 of the blade off at a time. This will help reduce stress to the lawn so it may better recover on it’s own.
  • When the temperatures reach over 85 for a consistent number of days, you may opt to water in the middle of the day briefly. This will not hydrate your lawn but rather help to reduce heat stress. Usually this method only needs done on the full sun areas.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Lawn Care Questions This Week

Common Questions of the Week:

THATCH

This is our second week on the field, thanks to the snow, but we are moving along swimmingly. Our phones have been busy and our techs smiling, glad they are finally able to work outside again. Here’s a couple of the frequently asked questions from this week:

Do you de-thatch?
No, we do not. We can aerate a lawn, which will help – though if you have thick thatch (about 1″), you should consider a true de-thatching for the lawn.

When is the best time to de-thatch the lawn?
When temperatures are cool and moist. De-Thatching is the process of pulling a power rake or other machine through the yard the cuts, slices and pulls at the layer of thatch. This process can cause a lot of stress to a lawn, but a deep layer of thatch can suffocate the yard as well. We would recommend de-thatching be done in late summer/early fall. A follow up over seeding is also a good idea during later summer/early fall as well. This allows the lawn time to recuperate.

Is this a good time to seed my lawn?
Spring is the second best time to seed your lawn; though the BEST time is late summer/early fall. Here are the reasons:

  • Cooler temperatures heading into fall: your new seedlings run a low risk of heat stress
  • Usually moist fall weather: you new seedlings run a low risk of drought stress
  • No pre-emergent crabgrass control in fall (unless you’re targeting annual blue grass): pre-emergent is typically done in spring and is designed to halt the germination process of seedlings – the target is crabgrass, though your turf grass will be affected as well.

If you plan on seeding in spring:
Since the crabgrass prevention herbicide will halt the germination process of your turf grass seed as well; you may ask to not have it applied (though you won’t receive the protective layer it offers), or you may add top soil AFTER the pre-emergent has been applied and then seed on top of the top soil (a good idea for small areas). The layer of top soil will create a barrier between the seed and the herbicide so your turf seedlings can germinate.

When will my first application be completed?
Our technicians are currently running through their routes, we are about 3 weeks behind our normal calendar start date; but the soil is too. Our goal is to have the crabgrass prevention put down before soils reach a consistent 55 degrees.

Vole Activity In Lawns

It has been one long winter and the signs of spring are starting to come through! Today a customer sent some images to us:

vole3 vole2

*Images by: Ruby S.

The images show vole surface and some vole subsurface tunneling. These mammals are herbivorous and are active year-round, including during the winter months. Visually, they resemble mice with short tails – and for how small they are, their damage can appear to be big.

The good news:
The turf will usually bounce back on it’s own, you may rake the areas to help this process along, though voles usually will not damage turf roots. Rake and let it grow and correct itself.

The bad news:
Voles gnaw at the bark and stem of many landscape plants and can cause damage, including die back. If you inspect the landscape areas or ornamental plants around the tunneling you may note chew marks, missing bark or damaged plant bases.

How to protect your landscape plants:
Trees and shrubs may be wrapped with a mesh or other protective barrier to help keep voles from chewing on them.

Lawns:
Rake the turf that has been trampled down or chewed off,  it should bounce back.

Once the season warms up:
You should note less activity as their food supply becomes more abundant. Also, voles may go through population booms every few years; so you may notice it one year, though not in others.

Too many voles, what can be done?
You may leave them be, if you want. They will still scurry about and it’s recommended that you wrap your trees or shrubs around the base and truck to protect the bark, trunks and stems.

You may also opt to trap these critters if they are causing damage to your landscape plants:
A cheap mouse trap with oatmeal, peanut butter & a small amount of coco powder will attract the vole. Place the trap near your landscaped plants that are being gnawed at.

It is important to note that there are other animals which may create tunnel systems in the lawn and they will not be attracted to the oatmeal / peanut butter mix: moles & shrews.

For more information about wrapping your plants: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=vpc14

What’s your soil?

Whether you are an avid gardener, in the industry or you are just looking for more detailed information about your lawn, understanding your soil profile is important.  Some plants perform better in clay while others are happier in sand – this is a subject we will get more in depth with in a later blog post.

The Web Soil Survey website is a great resource when trying to find general information about an areas soil type, it is maintained by the USDA and offers up lots of great tools that a free to use. I’ll walk you through a very quick tutorial about how to utilize this site. You may find it here: http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/WebSoilSurvey.aspx

web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot

On the left you will see an option for “Quick Navigation/Address”.  Type in the area of the soil you wish to look up. Keep in mind, your area of interest has to be relatively small plots, you can’t pull a whole county. We put our shop address in.


 

web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot

There is a tool that allows us to draw which area of our visual we wish to survey (AOI, we selected the rectangle tool).


 

web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot

And here’s our plot. The green rectangle and diagonal lines indication our Area Of Interest (AOI).


 

web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot

Next, click “Shopping Cart (Free)” near the top and “Check Out”.  A .pdf report will be generated for download and it contains useful information that will be helpful in determining the soil profile of the AOI. (my browser actually blocks the pop up for this download, if nothing happens after clicking “Check Out”, look into your pop-up blocker).


 

web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot
web soil survey screen shot

 

Lawn care: getting ready for the snow to melt and spring to come

This has been one heck of a brutal winter; from prolonged freezing temperatures to more snow than we know what to do with, it’s been long and cold! Spring is just around the corner though; in fact I saw some birds in the yard over the weekend that made me think we have 2 weeks left until melt-off. Very excited as 40 degrees sounds like an extreme warm up at the moment.

Snow mold
Image By: William M. Brown Jr., Bugwood.org

I digress, this article is focused on what we may expect to see on our lawns once the snow does melt off. If you recall (for the Greater Toledo Area) we had 6 or 8 inches of snow fall in mid/late December of 2013, followed by rain/slight thaw and then more snow on top of that. Since then, it’s been VERY COLD! Snow mold may likely  be spotted on some lawns as the snow melts away, I’m only saying this because I believe the conditions are going to be right for it in some areas. If you spot snow mold, do not panic. Once the lawn has snow mold, there is not a fungicide that will ‘cure’ it – and most lawns will likely recover anyway. Here are a couple of tips if you do spot snow mold:

  • During the last cut of the season: Mow low (about 1.5 – 2.5 inches, as low as you can go without scalping the lawn). This will help keep the blades of the grass from matting down under snow cover.
  • During the first cut of the season: Again, you want to mow low. This will help promote heat and air circulation to the plant.
  • Snow mold almost looks like the lawn sneezed on itself upon close inspection. If you notice that, rake the areas of matted down turf so you are promoting air circulation.
  • Late application of fertilizer for the season (late fall/early winter) should not contain too much nitrogen so there is little chance of surge growth.

The area should recover. If your lawn tends to be prone to snow molds in certain areas, try overseeding in late summer with a disease resistant turf type like some varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass and fescues.

Fertilization & Pet Safety

It looks like we have one more major snow storm heading our way and then we are hoping for easy riding after that. Anyway, this article is not about the snow storm but instead about fertilizer & pet safety. A frequent questions I get from customers is ‘what about my dog?’, and it’s a question I take very seriously. When it comes to pets, there are precautions that should be taken:

Granular fertilizer taste like a salt lick!

If your dog, cat or other animal tends to be a grass eater, the chances of them munching on the fertilizer is probably high.  Nitrogen is salty and your pet may go in search of it once they figure that out – If your pet eats too much nitrogen, they will get an upset stomach. There are a couple of things that we can do if you are concerned your pet may try to eat the fertilizer:

  • Place a “contact ahead” note on your account. This can be in the form of a call ahead, text ahead, or email ahead; that way you know when we are coming out.
  • You can water the lawn (in the areas your pet may be active) for a brief period after we have been out. This will start the break up process of the granular fertilizer and start moving it through the soil line.
  • Request not to have granular fertilizer in specific areas or on specific days.

If your pet eats too much fertilizer:

They may get an upset stomach, become lethargic, vomit or have diarrhea. Promote your pet to eat some pet food and drink water. This will help move the fertilizer through the system.

I have worked at Grounds Services, Inc. for nearly 10 years and have not had a customer call with the most extreme case of a pet vomiting or having diarrhea from consuming too much fertilizer – so I imagine it is a rare occurrence; however it is possible.