Monthly Archives: June 2017
Nutsedge has become one of the most problematic weeds in home lawns and landscape beds throughout New Jersey, but there are ways to help you get rid of nutsedge on your property.
What is Nutsedge?
Nutsedge, or sometimes called “Nutgrass”, is a perennial weed from the “sedge” family. A “sedge” is a plant that looks like grass but is not a grass at all. A nutsedge plant spreads underground through rhizomes and tubers. Nutsedge survives from one season to the next by producing nutlets, which are small underground bulb-like seeds.The roots and rhizomes can produce several hundred of these nutlets during the active growing months. A nutsedge plant also produces seeds above the soil surface, which can aid in spreading nutsedge even further. Once the region gets its first frost of the season, it dies off on its own; however, the nutlets under the soil survives over the winter and regrow the next year. They have the ability to live under the soil for multiple years at a time. Getting rid of nutgrass or nutsedge may be difficult, but there are ways to help control the weed.
What does Nutsedge look like?
A surefire sign your lawn has nutsedge is that the rapidly growing plant grows faster than the rest of the lawn. During the summer when your lawn is not growing as fast, the taller upright green plant that looks like grass is probably nutsedge. The blades of nutsedge are yellow or light green in color and have a narrow linear folded midrib and the blades have a slick, shiny or waxy appearance. The blades are arranged in groups of three which also distinguishes itself from regular grass types. Nutsedge has a triangle shaped stem that can be felt when rolled between your fingertips. When nutsedge gets tall enough it forms a cluster of seed heads that radiate out from the top of the flower’s stalk.
Nutsedge mostly grows in areas of high moisture, which normally include low lying areas of the lawn, poor drainage areas or next to a broken/leaky sprinkler head. Once it is established, it can tolerate normal levels of moisture and thrive throughout the hot dry summer months.
This most common and effective approach to getting rid of nutsedge is with a chemical application; however, there is no preventative treatment available for nutsedge. It can only be controlled by a post-emergent herbicide. The key to controlling nutsedge is to kill off the nutlet with a herbicide product, most control products take about 10-14 days to completely kill off the plant. It is difficult to get rid of nutsedge and it may require multiple treatments.
The main cause of nutsedge is poor soil that holds water for extended periods of time. If the lawn has drainage problems a professional may need to be called in to regrade the property with fresh soil and add drain pipes to redirect the water that sits for long periods of time. Core aeration is also recommended annually to help reduce the soil compaction. Once the compaction is reduced the water is able to infiltrate the soill more effectively.
Cultural controls are a good defense against nutsedge. A thick dense lawn helps to out compete nutsedge and weeds; therefore to encourage a thick lawn, fertilize regularly to promote growth.
Hand weeding is not an option, because pulling out the plants individually leaves part of the root, rhizomes, and nutlets in the ground only to regrow in a few weeks.
The final cultural practice that helps your fight against nutsedge is proper watering. Most irrigation systems are set up 20 minutes per zone every day and this only makes the nutsedge problem worse. Nutsedge loves to be in very moist soil. Watering every day in short spurts keeps your soil moist for longer periods of time causing the nutsedge plants to thrive. Proper watering for underground irrigation is 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone twice per week and for hose-end sprinklers it is 4 hours per zone once per week. Watering for longer periods of time but infrequently helps the water trickle down through the soil and promotes deep root growth.
If you have nutsedge and are located in our service area, give us a call at 908-281-7888 for a free estimate, and we can help you plan the best course of action to get rid of nutsedge in your lawn.
Prior to the summer heat setting in, deciding whether or not to spend the time during the season on watering your lawn is an important decision to be made. A lawn’s self-defense against summer drought is to go dormant, similar to what a lawn does over the winter. The lawn stops top growth, turns brown and as a result, puts all its energy to keeping the roots alive. If you decide that spending the time and money on keeping your lawn green and growing during the summer months, watering your lawn on a regular basis and before the summer heat hits is imperative. Once a lawn goes under drought stress and turns brown (its dormant state) it takes a longer time to “green” back up. Also, it is recommended that you do not rotate between watering and not watering. We recommend to choose one and stick with it. By rotating, the grass plant is actually using up a lot of its food reserves and weakens the turf even further.
There are many methods for maintaining a watered lawn; Mother Nature, hose-end sprinklers, and a lot of people also have underground irrigation systems that do all of the work for them. All that needs to be done is to assure that the timer is set to the appropriate day and interval. The image below demonstrates the difference between correctly watering a lawn and one that does not receive water during the hot summer months.
Your irrigation company is hired to check the functioning of the system and does some basic scheduling; however, the schedule they set up may not be what is best for your lawn. Some irrigation companies still go by the outdated recommendation of watering your lawn for 20 minutes every-other day. This scheduling produces inadequate water and promotes shallow root systems, all of which are not good for your lawn. Watering too frequently promotes disease issues as well.
To start, all lawns in our area should receive at least 1 inch of water per week. Our starting recommendation for underground irrigation systems is to run each zone for 1 hour, twice per week. Hose-end sprinklers should run for 4 hours per zone, once per week. It is important to remember that each sprinkler system is different and has varying water pressures; therefore our recommendations are a good starting point, but each system may need adjustments. Additionally, as the temperatures get higher and when/if the color of the lawn is starting to diminish, add more time by half hour increments to the watering schedule; do not add more days.
Early evening watering, between 6 pm to midnight, keeps the lawn wet for a longer period of time. This creates disease issues that can be widespread on the lawn and can cause permanent damage to the turf. The optimal time to water your lawn is between midnight and 6am. Watering your lawn during this time ensures the lawn is not wet for longer than it needs to be and by drying out early enough reduces the spread of disease and evaporation from direct sunlight.
Watering your lawn in the early morning presents a challenge for those who do not have underground irrigation and use hose-end sprinklers. Fortunately, now you can purchase battery operated timers from any home improvement store or co-op. These timers hook up directly to the spigot and turn on and off the flow of water after setting the desired times into this helpful piece of equipment.
Further, when watering your lawn be sure to check on the spray pattern no matter what type of irrigation system is used. It’s very important to make sure that the sprinkler heads are adjusted and working properly to have even coverage and that enough water is being applied to the lawn. Make sure the spray patterns are overlapping and not missing any spots. There are tests that can be performed for the amount of water that is being put out from the sprinkler heads. You can take a coffee can, any flat sided container or rain gauge, and set it out while the irrigation system runs. After the cycle is complete, see if the amount of water equals a ½ inch, and then make appropriate adjustments. To learn more about adjusting sprinkler heads for an accurate spray pattern, check out our blog. Further, modern control panels with irrigation systems have built in rain gauges and soil moisture sensors to help you water appropriately for your lawn.
Finally, if rain is expected there is no need to water your lawn in addition, but make sure to keep track of the amount of rainfall. It’s not necessary to apply more water to the lawn than is needed because too much water is also not good for the lawn. Disease issues and ponding are two common problems created by over watering your lawn. If the lawn collects too much water in poorly drained areas the water is not able to filter it down into the soil causing the grass a loss of oxygen that suffocates and kills the turf.
Consequently, watering your lawn has more components than most may imagine, but with some helpful tips provided above, we have confidence that everyone can achieve a green lawn through the summer months.
If you are in our service area and want more information about watering your lawn, please feel free to contact Fairway Green Inc. at 908-281-7888.
What is a weed?
A weed is defined as any plant growing in locations that are not desired, like in a lawn or landscape.
Why do weeds grow?
Weeds are considered opportunistic and grow when conditions are favorable, such as specific temperatures, lawn moisture levels, bare or thin turf areas, and can even grow in cracks in the roads, sidewalks or driveways. Weeds have the ability to grow anywhere there’s room. Weed seeds come in abundance and from many sources while also having the ability to lay dormant in the soil for years before germinating. When actively growing, weeds produce thousands of seeds per plant and disperse them throughout the season. Some weeds like dandelions are spread with a little help from the wind. Other sources of weeds include poor quality grass seed purchased from the store and soils brought in for new plantings.
Types of weeds
There are three different types of weeds in every lawn and landscape bed. All can be controlled; however, some are easier than others.
- Annual Weeds. These types of weeds spread by setting seed, germinating and growing for one season then dying off on their own at the end of their life cycle. These would include hairy bittercress, oxalis, groundsel and chickweed.
- Biennial Weeds. Biennial weeds have a two-year life cycle. In the first year a seed germinates and produces a leafy plant. The following year, the plant flowers to produce seeds that then restart the new life cycle of the plant seed. These would include clover, wild carrot and prickly lettuce.
- Perennial Weeds. These types of weeds grow for multiple seasons and spread by both setting seed and/or through their root system. These include dandelion, thistle and ground ivy.
How to kill weeds in the lawn
There are many ways to control or reduce weeds in a lawn. One option is to apply a preventative pre-emergent control; however, there is currently no single product that covers the entire spectrum of broadleaf weeds. Most commonly used are post-emergent herbicides when controlling weeds in a lawn or landscape.
Selective herbicides are another way to get rid of weeds in a lawn. The most widely used selective herbicides work by disrupting chemical processes happening inside the weeds. The herbicide mimics a natural plant chemical that stimulates uncontrollable growth. The weeds’ growth happens quicker than the plant can handle and dies.
Other selective herbicides target photosynthesis; the process in which plants produce energy/food from the sunlight it receives. By blocking the photosynthesis process, the weed basically starves to death.
There are also non-selective herbicides that target enzymes in the plant’s cells. The herbicide disrupts the sequence of chemical reactions and produces toxic compounds within the plant causing it to die off. A type of non-selective herbicide is the chemical called glyphosate, commonly known as “Round-Up.” A non-selective herbicide kills off any foliage that was sprayed. This type of product should be used with caution to reduce damaging desirable turf species and ornamental plants and grasses.
The natural way to get rid of weeds in your lawn is to hand pick them out. On smaller size lawns and mulch beds this is an effective way to control a small number of weeds. If you can pick the annual weeds before they flower and produce seed, you can aid in reducing the number of weeds that regrow. Keep in mind, weeds have roots that grow underground, hand pulling tears off the top foliage but the plant’s roots are left behind which can then regrow the plant. You need to remove all the roots to be successful and this is a difficult way to achieve it.
Cultural practices also play a key role in creating a more weed free lawn. Following these simple steps helps your lawn to be the healthiest it can be.
- Keep your lawn dense. By having a thick, full lawn you essentially help “crowd out” the weeds. Weeds grow when there is space for them and a thick lawn reduces available space for the weeds to grow in. Any bare or thin areas at the end of the season should be seeded in the early fall (September) of each year to thicken up the turf density.
- Fertilize regularly. Proper fertilization helps feed the lawn and keep it growing and healthy throughout the year.
- Mow regularly and keep the grass blades high. It is recommended that the grass be kept at 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. Remove the top 1/3 of the grass blade at a time per mowing. This helps shade the soil underneath the grass canopy, which in turn helps reduce weed growth. Mow when the lawn needs to be mowed. Do not mow just because the lawn gets cut every Wednesday. Also, avoid scalping of the lawn by driveways, walkways, patios etc. with a weed wacker or trimmer. If the edges get cut too short they die off, causing the grass to thin back creating bare soil and an opportunity for the weeds to grow in that area.
- Water properly. It is recommended a lawn with underground irrigation be watered 1- 1 ½ hours per zone twice per week. Hose-end sprinklers should be run for 4 hours per zone once per week both resulting in 1 inch of water on the lawn per week. Frequent and short watering causes a shallow root system that weakens the plants. Watering properly helps create a deeper, stronger root system in the lawn, which in turn creates a healthier lawn. To learn more about watering your lawn correctly, check out our watering blog.
- Core aerate every year. Core Aeration is a great process that can be done; however, it is a costly process, which is why we recommend at least every other year. Core aeration helps improve the root system of the grass plant which creates a stronger plant overall. It also helps reduce the thatch layer and keep it at an optimal level which aids in better air circulation, water and nutrient infiltration to the root zone. For more benefits on core aeration, see our core aeration blog post.
- Apply lime when the pH of the soil is low. Keeping the pH within the proper range (6.3 – 6.5) improves the availability of the nutrients in the soil making them more readily available to the grass plants. Here’s a great article on the benefits of applying lime to your lawn and having optimal pH levels.
Weeds are extremely opportunistic plants that can enter your lawn from a variety of different sources. The best way to reduce weeds is to have a healthy and dense lawn. That being said, not everyone has the perfect lawn and herbicides may be necessary to get rid of your weeds. Herbicides are a cost effective and not very labor-intensive way to keep your lawn and landscape weed free. If you are in our service area and have any questions about controlling weeds, please give our office a call.