Fairway Green, Inc
9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 281-7888
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Fairway Green's Lawn Care Blog

Japanese Beetles

Unfortunately for New Jersey residents, the Japanese beetle causes damage on lawns and plants everywhere. Japanese beetles have been found to feed on over 275 species of plants. This little beetle feeds on the leaves, fruits, and flowers of many plants, including the lindon, Japanese maple, cherry, plum and crabapple trees. Additionally, rose plants are some of their favorite plants to feed on in many landscapes. Luckily, there are plants they do not like to feed on as well; this includes arborvitae, lilac, euonymus, holly and rhododendron. Serious defoliation may occur in heavily infested areas. Not only can beetles defoliate many plants in a short amount of time but their young (grubs) can destroy turf grass as well.

Where did it come from?

The Japanese beetle was found in New Jersey in a nursery in 1916, and prior to this time the pest was only found in Japan where it did not cause substantial damage to plants and turf. New Jersey proved to provide favorable climate with vast amounts of open land and hundreds of plant varieties, making for the perfect location to survive and flourish. Unfortunately for New Jersey, there are no natural predators that would help control the Japanese Beetle population here in the United States, explaining the devastating effects the insect has on our turf and plants.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle

The identification of Japanese beetles is simple. They are ½ inch long, with a metallic green body and brown wing covers with white tufts of hairs on the edges of the wings. Japanese beetles overwinter as a grub in the soil and in the spring, the grubs move up towards the soil surface and feed on grass roots. At this time, the grubs go through their metamorphosis and change into adult beetles. The adult beetles begin to emerge in late June and are active until late September. Most beetles live between three to four weeks and female Japanese beetles lay 40 to 60 eggs over their lifespan.

Treatment for Japanese Beetles

One option for treating Japanese Beetles is a contact pesticide spray. Pesticide treatments applied while adult beetles are active gives only partial control, even if weekly treatments are applied. These types of treatments are mainly used to stop the vast majority of the beetles present on your plant material from devouring your landscape, but unfortunately provide little residual control when new populations of beetles move in to feed. Foliar spray treatments for Japanese beetles work well for beetles that are actively feeding during the time of treatment, but please be advised that beetles may return and can continue to do further damage to your landscape plants.

The best defense against these pests are preventative treatments for your plants with a systemic soil injection of an insect control product. This application goes into the soil around the root system of the particular plants that beetles like to feed on. The material is then taken up by the plant through its vascular system and then dispersed into the leaves. Beetles must feed on the foliage of the plant to ingest the product before being affected. Therefore, some feeding damage may be present on the plant, but very minimal compared to no control. Treating the beetles during their grub stage is also a good idea for control. Applying a grub preventative to your lawn between June and the end of July helps suppress the grubs and reduce damage to the lawn. If high levels of grubs are present in a small area of lawn, the turf turns brown and peels back like a carpet, exposing the grubs underneath, causing permanent damage to the lawn. You may also find damage to the lawn done by birds, skunks and other vertebrate mammals digging up the ground to find and eat the grubs.

We also recommend that you DO NOT put Japanese beetle traps in the lawn or landscaped areas. Beetle traps often prove to be counterproductive because they attract beetles to your property which increases the amount of feeding damage that can occur. If you have already purchased these bags, we recommend returning them if you can. The damage to your plants could be worse with these traps present than if you had done nothing at all. The less beetles coming onto your property the better off you and your landscape will be.

Conclusion

Japanese beetles can become a major problem if left untreated. If you suspect that you may have a Japanese beetle problem in your landscape and are located within our service area, please feel free to contact Fairway Green Inc. with any questions or for a free evaluation and estimate.

Brown Patch Lawn Disease

There are several different lawn diseases that plague nearly all the desirable turf species in our area. One of the most frustrating and damaging of these is caused by the dreaded pathogen rhizoctonia solani, or what we commonly refer to as brown patch. This microscopic menace can survive embedded in plant tissue or on the surface of the soil. Found nearly everywhere, the pathogen can lie in wait for extensive periods of time, even in the absence of a suitable host, just waiting for the conditions to become favorable.

When is brown patch active?

You can expect this uninvited guest anytime during the summer months. Brown patch activity begins as soon as the weather becomes hot and humid, and especially when such conditions persist through the night. The speed with which this disease starts to matriculate into residential lawns is what frustrates homeowners and lawncare operators most. Brown patch can severely blight large portions of turfgrass inside of a 6 to 8-hour period when conditions are favorable. This means you can literally wake up one morning to see large patches of discolored, wilted turf!

Turf Symptoms

In researching symptoms of this disease on the internet, this conjures a lot of images of how brown patch appears on the golf course. On low cut turf, maintained at the highest levels of fertility, halos of dark gray “smoke rings” appear on the turf making the diagnosis a no brainer. On residential lawns however, the turf kept at a 2”-3” height under moderate levels of fertility, the damage is far subtler.

The thread-like mycelium of brown patch is present in the morning dew and look very much like cob webs. These cob web structures disappear however, once the surface moisture evaporates. The damage to the turf appears as more or less circular shaped areas of tan to brown colored grass. The plants become wilted, giving the patches a sunken look to them, almost as though they have been pressed into the lawn by a strange, oversized stamp. These damaged patches can coalesce into larger areas of discolored turf as the disease continues to spread, and eventually cause thinning of the turf that requires seeding at the end of summer to repair. If there is any additional stress on the property from drought, machine traffic, insects, etc., the damage can be more extensive.

A close up look at brown patch mycelium

Cultural Practices in Minimizing Brown Patch

Since conditions that allow for extensive periods of leaf moisture promote this disease, especially in the overnight hours, it is critical that homeowners not create such conditions with improper irrigation. Whether using hose-end sprinklers or an in-ground irrigation system to water the lawn, the goal is always the same. Ideally, water the lawn heavily between 12am-6am so that the water penetrates the soil while the sun is not out, and any excess evaporates from the surface immediately following.

Also, give the lawn enough time in between watering, usually about 3 to 4 days, for the moisture to make its way down into the root zone before adding more water. This allows the soil surface to dry out so that oxygen can enter the pore spaces. If you water the lawn in the evening the surface remains wet from then until dawn, or you water too frequently, and the roots never can take in oxygen, this creates conditions that are perfect for brown patch. Deep, infrequent watering is the best way to prevent severe brown patch outbreak.

Low oxygen soil in general promotes brown patch activity, therefore allowing the soil to become overly compacted can also be a catalyst. Maintaining porous soil, that is as oxygenated as possible, is the best long-term cultural deterrent against brown patch. The best way to achieve this type of soil structure is with regular core aeration. Soil such as ours here in New Jersey, that is high in clay, needs to be core aerated at least every other year to maintain good structure. Annual core aeration would especially be advisable on properties with a history of frequent disease.

Brown Patch Fungicide Treatments

If brown patch outbreak does occur quickly, you should call your lawn care provider to schedule a fungicide treatment as soon as possible. If outbreaks are left unchecked, brown patch can damage the turf to the point where re-seeding becomes necessary. A timely fungicide application completed when symptoms start to appear can render the disease inactive for a few weeks. This gives the homeowner time to promote new growth through proper irrigation, so that infected portions of the grass can grow out and mowed off. It is important to point out that fungicides are not a “cure”, they are more like medicine we use when we get sick. They control the symptoms so that the patient (in this case the lawn) can fight the infection by taking care of themselves.

When we get a cold, it is bed rest and fluids that cure us from the illness, not the cough syrup. In the case of the lawn, it is making sure it has adequate soil moisture and oxygen.

Conclusion

In the end, as with almost all diseases, the better cultural care you provide for your lawn, the less likely any serious brown patch activity can arise. The more you water the lawn properly and core aerate regularly, the more equipped the turf is to fend off the barrage of fungi activity out there. Should your lawn quality start to suffer at the hands of this disease despite your best efforts, there are fungicides that can be utilized to relieve the symptoms so that the grass can be nursed back to health.

If you are located in our service area, and have questions regarding disease activity on your lawn, please give our office a call or request and estimate.

Scale Insects on Landscape Plants

Scale insects hiding on plants in New Jersey can cause substantial damage to a homeowner’s landscape. Of the most common insects, scale is a small insect that feeds on sap from many plants. Below we discuss the two main categories of scale insects, the damage they cause, their life cycle and the ways to control the insect.

There are many varieties of scale insects, however all are sap feeding insects and feed on most types of shade trees, fruit trees, and ornamental shrubs. Scale differs from other insects because they feed on trees and shrubs through a mouth piece that pierces the tissue of the plant, similar to a straw. Most notability, these insects get their name from the scale-like covering that conceals their body.

The two types of Scale

The scale species can largely be broken up into two categories: soft scales and armored scales. Soft scales produce a smooth, cotton-like or waxy surface over themselves and is inseparable from the insect’s body. A distinguishing trait for the soft scale insects is that it produces honeydew from excess sap. This honeydew makes leaves and stems appear shiny or wet and attracts ants, flies, bees, wasps, and other similar insects. Armored scales, based on their name, have a hard-flattened shield-like covering that is not actually attached to the body of the insects.

                                   

Damage to plants

A large scale infestation on a plant can cause and lead to several problems for the plant. The leaves of the plant can start to wilt and turn yellow in color, the plants could appear weak, unhealthy, and in some plants, it may also cause death of the plant. Scale damage can also lead to overall weakening of the plant. A weakened plant becomes more susceptible to injury from drought, severe winters we often experience in New Jersey, attacks from other insects and disease. Unfortunately, many types of scale insects are hard to see due to their small size and populations of scale build up over years until plant damage is noticeable. This makes noticing scale insects before it is a larger problem very difficult for the average person.

Scale Life Cycle

The scale life cycle is rather simple, the adult females remain in a fixed location and lay eggs under their shield-like scale. As the eggs hatch, the tiny nymphs equipped with legs, eyes and an antenna allows them to walk away from the maternal cover in search for a new feeding site. This life stage of the scale is often referred to as “crawlers” due to their ability to walk or crawl to a new feeding site. From there, when they have found a suitable location to feed, they insert their feeding mouthpart into the plant and begin feeding on the plant’s sap. The shield like covering the scale insect starts to develop after feeding begins. Separately, adult males resemble tiny flying gnats that fly around to find new females for mating. In a given year, scales can go through one or more generations.

Natural Scale Insect Control

Managing the control of these tiny insects can be difficult because their outer covering creates a barrier to traditional insecticides. Although it may sound hard to manage these pets, an integrated approach can provide substantial control to minimize damage to your plants. First there are the biological controls, which includes introducing natural predators and parasitoids to the infested plants that can attack and significantly reduce scale populations. There is also mechanical control, this is only practical on small infestations and on small trees and shrubs. Trying to mechanically remove large infestations on plants may be very difficult.

Chemical Control

Finally, there is chemical control, which is often the most common and effective way to reduce and control scale insects. There are three chemical control strategies that have been effective when used together treating infested plants. First, a dormant oil spray applied to the plant prior to budding in the spring. If you plan on applying your own dormant oil spray, we recommend carefully reading the product’s label because some plants are sensitive to the oil and cannot be sprayed.

Next, is a traditional contact insecticide spray that should be applied when the “crawler” nymph stage of the scale is active. The insecticide is effective for the nymph stage of the insect because they do not yet have an outer protective barrier.

Lastly, a systemic soil injection is an insecticide that circulates through the plant and controls for both crawlers and adult scales. It is important to note that we recommend the use of all three chemical control options when dealing with a scale infestation because they effect the scales at different phases of their life cycle.

Conclusion

Although the scale insect can be difficult to control, a program that address the pest at all aspects of the life-cycle should provide significant results for most scales on the trees and shrubs in landscapes. If you are in our service area and think your landscape is being affected by scale, Fairway Green Inc,’s Tree and Shrub specialists can perform all three applications at the appropriate time of year. If you are interested in receiving a free estimate, please let us know.

Planting Best Practices

Adding new plants to your landscape is a great way to make your property pop. Below we discuss where and how to properly plant your landscape to keep it healthy and give it the best chance to survive for years to come. While these are best practices and recommendations, please note that each property is different, and the general recommendation may not hold true in every instance.

We understand that not everyone’s favorite activity is tending to their outdoor landscapes, and if that is the case we recommend working with a reputable landscaper that provides accurate recommendations and maintenance. If you prefer to do it yourself, the following can help you plant and maintain your landscape.

House with impeccable lawn care

Planning your landscape

Survey your land and plan where you would like the landscape beds to be. Most beds are around the foundation of the house and areas around a patio, edges of driveways and possibly in the lawn as well. Check to see if water sits in the areas you want to build your landscape beds or add your plants to existing beds. If it does, most plants do not do well in waterlogged soil because they need good drainage to thrive.

Check the soil. Is it clay or shale based? Hard and/or compact? If the answers are yes, then we recommend taking out about 12 to 18 inches of the hard/compact, clay/shale soil and adding fresh organic-rich soil.

If you are making a raised landscape bed with hard stone or Belgian Block, build the landscape bed and then fill it in with 12 to 18 inches of fresh organic-rich soil. Make sure to slope beds away from the house so water doesn’t sit around the plants and suffocate them or run backwards onto the foundation of the house. If water is going to be an issue you may have to install a sub-surface drain pipe. This should be done by a professional.

Selecting Landscape Plants

When purchasing plants you want to install in your landscape, we recommend using a reputable nursery. Most plants are sold either in pots, out of pots with the root ball wrapped in burlap, or bare-rooted. If the plants are not going into the ground right away, make sure they remain in the shade and watered until they are planted. Make your plant selections based on the location that you want to plant them in. Certain plants do well in full sun and certain plants do well in shade and installing plants in the wrong spots affects their long-term health.

Research the plants you want to install before the installation, because once installed into the soil most plants go through “transplant shock”. Transplant shock refers to the stress a plant undergoes when transplanted to a new location. Failure to thrive can come from lack of water or failure for the plant to root well. This can lead to further injury of the plant from external factors like insects, disease, and weather. When multiple stresses happen simultaneously, the plant may no longer be able to function properly. The goal is to transplant the plant with as little stress as possible and digging them back up after they have been planted adds more stress to an already stressed plant.

Installing the new plants

When planting, make sure the holes are big enough to accommodate the roots and/or root ball. The hole should be twice as wide as the root ball and make sure to dig the hole so that the root ball comes close or 1 to 2 inches above the soil surface. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap, remove any wires, cord or string and peel back the top 1/3 of the burlap off the root ball. This helps the roots spread and grow unimpeded by the burlap. Once the plant is in the soil, wet down the roots and then fill soil in around them. Each plant should be carefully researched to ensure proper planting depth, spacing and how tolerant they are to full sun, full shade, both or neither.

You may need to stake trees less than 4 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 1 inch or less. Place a guide wire around the trunk and then secured to a wooden stake on either side. This helps hold the tree upright as the roots develop and secure into the soil. Be sure not to leave the wire on too long as the tree eventually grows, and the wire/wrap grows into the tree choking it off and blocking the nutrient flow inside. If the wire/wrap must stay on for a longer stretch of time, it is best to move the wire in different locations up and down the trunk every six months or so.

You may need to wrap the trunk of the tree for transport from the nursery to its destination. This helps protect the trunk from injury and should be removed prior to being installed or right after installation. Wraps do not need to stay on the trunk once planted.

Once all the plantings are done, adding mulch annually to the landscape beds is a good idea. Mulch not only helps hold in moisture but also to reduce weed growth. As the mulch breaks down over time it converts to healthy nutrients that go back into the soil for the trees and shrubs to use.

Watering is very important for the newly planted trees and shrubs. Water new plants immediately after they are installed. This helps settle the soil and aide in removing air pockets, so the roots do not dry out. The roots should be kept moist but not too moist as that can cause suffocation and rot. The amount of water and frequency should be based on the type of plants, soil and site conditions. For hose watering, lay the hose down by the trunks and let the water trickle out. Some people install a “drip system” and have it tied to their already established irrigation systems or attach it to a spigot that’s on your house.

Popular New Jersey Plants

What plants are popular for our area and thrive under the various factors like soil type, and temperature? If you are adding plants to your landscape and need some ideas, check out some popular landscape plants that might be suitable for your new landscape.

Conclusion

Once the plants are installed and have a chance to develop firm roots, it is a good idea to fertilize. Fairway Green Inc. offers a tree and shrub fertilizing program as well as a soil conditioner. This helps to establish and aide in root growth for the new plantings. If you are looking to install new plants in your landscape and have any questions, please give our office a call and we would be happy to help. If you are in our service area, request a free estimate for our Tree and Shrub services.

Popular plants in New Jersey

There certainly is a reason New Jersey is called the Garden State, as the state is covered in beautiful native trees and shrubs. Below we discuss some of the most popular trees and shrubs in New Jersey and information about each one that is helpful for homeowners to understand and best choose what landscape plants they wish to have on their property.

Popular Trees

Flowering Dogwood a common ornamental tree that grows between 20 to 40 feet in height with white, pink and most recently scarlet fire (the first red dogwood). Its fruits are small red clusters that ripen early in the fall. These are usually food for deer, wild turkeys and squirrels. Also, there is a Kousa Dogwood that has become popular as well. This type of tree is very similar to the Flowering Dogwood in size, shape, color and differs with its fruit. A Kousa Dogwood grows red marble-sized berries instead of the red clusters.

Weeping Cherry grows between 20 to 30 feet tall and spread out to about 15 to 25 feet. They bloom beautifully in the spring time that produces wonderful pink to white colored blossoms. The bark has distinctive circular rings along the trunk of the tree.

Plum trees produce beautiful pink and white blossoms in the spring and then maintain a vibrant deep purple color throughout the year. A plum grows to 25 feet and at peak maturity reach 25 feet wide. These trees are excellent for full sun and can tolerate moderate heat stress.

Japanese Maples are one of the most common trees planted in a landscape. Japanese Maples have been cultivated for over 300 years. This tree reaches 15 to 25 feet in height. The leaves are about 2-5 inches and turn from a green color to a maroon. Some varieties can yield yellow, bronze, purple or red leaves in the fall.

Japanese Maple tree Close up of Japanese Maple tree leaves

Saucer Magnolias are large in size and have pearly white to pink or purplish bell-shaped flowers. The petals fall off very early in the spring due to a frost or particularly cold night. There are other types of magnolias in our area such as the Star Magnolia and the Southern Magnolia that are popular to our area.

Red Buds often reach 20 to 30 feet in height and spread to 25 to 35 feet. With its broad heart-shape leaves and rosy pink with a purplish tinge flowers makes this tree a great addition to any landscape.

Pears were originally introduced as a fruit tree and quickly became popular as an ornamental tree in landscapes and street trees. The flowers are described as “clouds of white blossoms.” One downside of pear trees is they tend to split at the crotches of weak branches during windy weather or when they have heavy loads of snow upon them.

Douglas Fir known to be the most popular evergreen for Christmas trees. They are used in home landscapes where they can grow to be up to 300 feet tall. These trees should not be planted close to houses because of how tall they can get.

Hemlocks grow 70 to 100 feet and have soft slender branches that produce small ½ – 1 inch cones and referred to as one of New Jersey’s most “graceful” trees.

Hemlock tree

Norway Spruces have been one of the most widely cultivated species for its use in landscapes and reforestation in New Jersey and also used as a windbreak for farmland. Norway spruces are mostly recognized for the large cones that hang from the branches. These cones can grow over 2 inches in length.Norway spruce tree

Blue Spruces or otherwise known as a Colorado Spruce, are Colorado and Utah’s state tree and are native to the Rocky Mountains. Known for their dull green or bluish to silvery white colored needles, they typically grow between 30 to 60 feet tall in landscapes and can reach 100 feet in the wild.

Blue Spruce tree

White Pines are the only pine that have 5 needles per bunch. These trees were once used for timber and usually grow between 50 to 80 feet tall in a landscape setting and can grow over 200 feet tall in the wild. White pines are very recognizable from a distance and used in reforestation and as buffer trees, like seen in the image below.

white pine trees close up of white pine tree

Arborvitae are another of the most common trees planted in a New Jersey landscape. Typically this plant acts as a privacy buffer for home lawns and are easy to maintain. The name arborvitae translates to “tree of life.” This tree is long lived and has a high amount of vitamin C in the leaves.

 

Popular Shrubs

Azalea come in both fragrant and non-fragrant varieties. This plant’s colors vary from perfect pink to white funnel-shaped flowers that are at their peak by mid-May. They are chosen for their size and beauty. Azaleas in our area can grow 3 to 4 tall and wide.

Holly mostly known as mistletoe. These plants should be planted in pairs of 2 or more so they can cross pollinate to produce the beautiful red berries they are known to have. They grow between 15 to 18 feet in height. They were said to be a favorite of George Washington and some of the hollies he planted are still around to this very day.

Inkberry Holly related to the holly species and most notably identified in the winter time when its leathery, notches, green looking leaves and black fruits are present. Relatively free of insect pests and diseases, the Inkberry Holly make a great shrub to have in a landscape.

Rhododendron which means “rose tree,” produces beautiful rose to white colored flowers that are spotted on the inside with yellow or orange. The leaves can be large with thick, oblong and an evergreen color. These flowers are considered “nectar rich” which attracts butterflies, bees and moths. This shrub grow between 4 to 15 feet in height with the flowers blooming in late June through late July. Rhododendron are related to azaleas and prefers areas that are shaded but still get some sun.

Juniper a global type shrub that exists everywhere. It does not exceed six feet in height and serves as a nesting place for small mammals and birds. The blue to black colored berries, which reach ripening in October, are primarily used as the main flavoring of Gin. In the picture below, notice the two varieties of Juniper; the low to the ground variety and the larger shrub.

Juniper shrub

Boxwoods are the most common landscape shrub in our area today. Almost every landscape has boxwoods present. This is due to its adaptability to any soil type. A boxwood’s small, simple rounded leaves are easily sheared for pruning and last year-round. They are ideal for every landscape because they contain a toxic alkaloid that makes the plant unpalatable to deer and other wildlife.

boxwood shrub close up of boxwood shrub

Golden Threaded Cypress or a “golden mop” used frequently in landscapes due to their vibrant golden or yellow color. Also, this conifer is small in stature and grows slowly reaching about 3 feet tall. The leaves resemble a mop or threads.

Golden Threaded Cypress close up of a Golden Threaded Cypress bush

Burning Bush or a “winged euonymus”. This shrub grows to about 10 to 15 feet tall and identified by its “corky-winged” branches. Most of the year the leaves are green and in fall they turn a bright deep red color before dropping all its leaves off for the winter.

winged euonymus bush close up of winged euonymus

Barberry a small 2 to 6-foot plant. This shrub has green leaves that turn to a red, orange or purple in the fall. It develops bright red berries and has small spurs or thorns on its stems which makes it undesirable to deer or other mammals.

barberry shrub

Spirea also known as the “bridal wreath” can grow up to about 6 feet in height. They have stunning- clusters of white, yellow, pink or purple flowers. People plant spirea in landscapes for their ability to act as a shrub border, ground cover or hedge.

Spirea plant

Forsythia often associated with the coming of spring and are known for light or deep yellow colored flowers.

Laurels are a very versatile shrub. They’re a popular evergreen with green broad glossy leaves because they can thrive in shade or sunny areas. They produce small white flowers in the spring. They are commonly used as a border or boundary and privacy due to their dense-like nature. They usually grow to a height of 10 to 12 feet.

laurel shrub row of laurel shrubs bordering a house

Pieris or often called “Andromeda”, foliage changes color throughout the season and has long dangling multicolored buds that open to creamy-white blossoms in the spring. This shrub reaches 6 to 8 feet in height and be a focal point or integrated with other shrubs in your landscape. Additionally, Pieris tend to grow very slowly and are beautiful.

Where to plant?

For many homeowners, deciding where to place landscape plants can be a tedious process. In order to make that process easier, we put together the most important factors to deciding to plant the right plants in the right place. Feel free to give our office a call with any questions, our tree and shrub experts are happy to help in any way they can.

Conclusion

These are just some of the trees and shrubs that are popular in New Jersey.  There are many other types of plants that we see. If you have any of these plants and want information on caring for them, check out our tree and shrub program. If you have any questions or if you are in our area and would like a free estimate, please call or click here.

 

Seed Heads

Annual Bluegrass seed heads

This picture shows what Annual Bluegrass seed heads look like.

One of the most common lawn care questions we receive each year is about a strange wheat like weed growing in lawns. Good news, it’s not a weed, but rather a seed head! A seed head is a normal part of the grass life cycle that occurs each spring in our area. All grasses produce seed heads at some point throughout the growing season, it’s the plants way to reproduce and ensure survival.

Seed heads can be different in shape and size depending on the grass species. The timing of seed head production in the grass life cycle varies from plant to plant. Some grass species produce seed heads very early in spring, such as Annual Bluegrass and Rough Stalk Bluegrass; while others may produce seed heads later in the season such as annual rye grass. Seed heads are attached to a stalk that stems from the center of the grass plant and resemble miniature wheat plants. How many seed heads are visible on the lawn at any given time depends on the grass varieties and time interval between mowing. Seed head production normally lasts for a period of 2-4 weeks. As mentioned previously, many homeowners commonly mistake seed heads for weeds but no need to worry, they’re just a part of the grass life cycle. If you want more information on weeds, click here for our blog about weeds and ways to control them.

Seed head production requires energy from the grass plant, potentially causing a temporary lightening in color. The turf looks stemmy due to seed stalks, and short-term thinning of the turf stand. All these temporary issues eventually correct themselves as the plants grow and enter the next step in the grass life cycle. The best way to ensure a speedy recovery is by enhancing growth through regular watering and fertilization.

Seed heads are a necessary step in the life cycle of grass and ensures the specie’s survival, therefore stressed areas of the lawn may generate a greater density of seed heads. Dry soil is a tell-tale sign of seed heads. Check the soil moisture in the turf and compare areas with and without seed heads. The drier sections yield more seed heads. Cool shaded areas where the water evaporation rate is much less may have less seed heads. Watering the lawn properly with an adequate amount of water each week is important to the turf’s appearance and health.

There is no way of controlling or preventing seed heads from occurring chemically in a lawn because it is part of the natural grass life cycle; however, there are ways to improve the appearance of the lawn while seed heads are growing.

Ways to manage seed heads in turf:

  1. Seed headsThe best way to combat seed heads is to mow the lawn often and make sure the mower blades are sharp. We recommend mowing once a week at a height of 3-3 ½ inches and not bagging the clippings.
  2. We do not recommend lowering the mowing height of the mower to help control seed heads. Lowering the mowing height puts additional stress on the lawn and may also cause damage to vital structures of the plant, such as the crown.
  3. Proper fertilization is key. Properly fertilized lawns grow out of the seed stage of the grass life cycle faster. The grass becomes easier to mow and have a much neater lawn.
  4. Make sure the lawn is receiving the proper amount of water each week. The lawn should receive 1-1 ½ inches of water per week. The best time to water is between the hours of 12 am – 6 am. This keeps the turf growing at a good rate to help grow out the seed heads on the turf. We have great tips for a successful watering schedule on our website.

Conclusion

If you see plants that look like wheat in your lawn, no need to worry this is a normal part of the grass life cycle. The timing and amount of seed heads produced depends on grass varieties and environmental conditions. Proper watering and fertilization help improve the appearance of the turf while it’s producing seed heads and promote quicker recovery. If you are in our service area and have any questions about seed heads or your lawn in general, feel free to give us a call at 908-281-7888.

Right Plant, Right Place

Landscape plants are a great investment to a property and often easily maintained, but sometimes our plants suddenly stop thriving or die off. Why is that? There are many factors that can cause a decline in plants, whether it’s from disease, insects, a problem in the roots, something internal, structurally or the plant can just be in the wrong location. That’s why it is vital to pick the healthiest plants from a reputable nursery to start with and to know the attributes of the plants you want in your landscape. This is particularly important because landscapes are often planted for aesthetics and not with the overall health of the plant in mind.

Determining Soil Type

First, to match your plant material to the planting site you must determine the soil type. Most of the soil in New Jersey is clay and shale based. This type of soil may be good for some plants and not for others because it is often compacted. Compacted soil can lead to water not reaching the roots of the plants and can cause a drainage issue. It is best to survey the site beforehand and know where the water sits and drains. This is particularly important because some plants like moist soil and some do not. For example, White Pines do not like wet soil, they decline very rapidly in wet waterlogged areas. You wouldn’t want to plant White Pines in a detention basin because of how wet it stays all the time. Organic-rich soil may be added to the planting areas to improve the drainage and soil conditions. You may need a professional to help with site drainage before moving on.

A soil test from a laboratory is also beneficial as it informs you about the nutrients that are either lacking or in abundance in your soil. It also informs you what the pH of the soil is. Certain plants thrive in more acidic soil, while other plants like more alkaline soil. Knowing the pH helps you select the right plants for your soil type. You wouldn’t want to pick two different plants that like different soil pH’s and plant them next to each other, one would do very well and the other might suffer.

Device to measure soil ph levels and ensure trees are planted in proper location

Designating enough space

Another factor when planting landscape plants to address is how much root space and overall space in general there is at the site. If this landscape is next to a house or building, you shouldn’t pick a tree that grows too large or wide for the area you have available. For example, someone plants a blue spruce next to the front corner of their house. It was small and looked great when it was planted but, fast forward 15 to 20 years later and that same tree is now taller than the house and growing into the siding. Not only did it outlive the space, but the roots can also cause damage to sidewalks, driveways, utilities above or below ground and even the foundation of a house. Think about the trees in New York City planted in soil in the middle of a sidewalk; with no space for the roots to grow, eventually the trees die off. Too often we see on the news after a particularly bad thunderstorm, a tree or tree branch that has fallen onto a house or car. It’s best to pick plants that have space to grow but not get too large as they often can overtake the entire space and/or be a danger to life and property.

Sunlight vs. Shade

Next, we recommend determining the amount of sunlight each area of your landscape receives. Based on shade and sunlight availability, picking a suitable plant for that area is highly encouraged. Check the tags of the plants when purchasing them to determine the amount of sunlight each species of plant requires. The tags on the plants contain vital information relating to best watering practices and how much sunlight the plant requires. Some plants require partial shade, or full sun all day. Different problems can arise in a plant being in too much sunlight if it requires more shade or vice versa. A plant such as an azalea can have more lacebug problems in full sun than in partial shade. That’s not to say that the azalea in partial shade never has a lacebug problem, but it being in the proper place helps reduce the issue if the plant is in the right location.

Spring and fall are the traditional times for planting, but modern methods and tools have made it so that you can plant all year long if the soil has not yet frozen. The plants you or your landscaper pick should be installed at a time of year that is ideal for that plant and other environmental stresses are low. The point being, picking the best time of year for the specific plants, with limited stress, is the best option for your new plants.

Mulching

Almost all landscapes contain either mulch or stones/rocks. Mulch is very beneficial to the landscape, as the mulch decomposes it adds vital nutrients back into the soil. The plants use those nutrients for growth. It is best to use only 1- 3 inches of mulch and keep the root flares of the plants exposed. Trees produce oxygen from the roots, if the mulch is piled too high it basically suffocates the tree or shrub. It can also trap moisture against the bark, causing it to rot. This causes damage and decline of the tree or shrub over time. Mulch also helps reduce weed growth throughout the season. For more information on proper mulching techniques, click here for our mulching blog.

bases of two trees, demonstrating an overly mulched tree and a properly mulched one

The picture on the left shows a tree planted with too much mulch. The picture on the right demonstrates a newly planted tree correctly mulched.

Conclusion

There are many factors that go into choosing and planting a landscape for a homeowner. Whether you plan on doing it yourself, or you hire a landscaper, consider the various factors that can greatly impact the health of your new landscape. Soil type, sunlight, watering practices, root space all greatly affect the livelihood of a plant. If you are in our service area and are planning on installing new landscape plants and have questions, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Spring Flowers

Spring has arrived! With the warmer temperatures, flowers are starting to bloom bringing pops of color to landscapes. If you are interested in adding flowers to your landscape this spring, below we go through the most popular spring flowers seen in our area, how to plant them and the best suited locations for them.

Crocus

Crocus’s are the first to grow and can even grow through a late season snow. Crocus’s have cup-shaped petals and bloom in the colors of yellow, white, purple and lavender, or a combination of colors. These flowers should be planted in the fall before the ground freezes in full sun to partial shade and they prefer well drained areas. These plants grow from a “corm” which is like a bulb. A new corm will grow on top of the old corm each year and regrow the plant. The central corm has tiny corms called “cormels” around its base. Each one of these corms can grow an additional one to five plants. They should be planted two to three inches deep with the wide side down and any foliage towards the top. This plant will continuously grow each season unless conditions are unfavorable.

Daffodils

Daffodils are currently blooming all over the New Jersey area. It is said that there are over 13,000 hybrids of daffodil which range in color from yellow, white, orange, lime green and pink. Daffodils are a perennial that have a trumpet-shaped center (called the corona) set against a six-petal star-shaped background (called the perianth). Sometimes the corona and the perianth are different colors. The bulbs should be planted in the fall, two to four weeks prior to the ground freezing at a depth of six inches or about 3 times as deep as the bulbs are wide. This time frame will give the bulb time to grow out its roots in a cooler climate. These plants are very versatile and can be planted in sun, partial shade and like well-drained soil. Fun fact about Daffodils is that deer do not like them! This makes a great flower to add to your property that you don’t have to worry about the deer eating.

daffodils

Tulips

Tulips are another early annual plant that grows in the spring. Tulips have been cultivated for thousands of years and are native to Turkey. The have a cup-shaped appearance with three petals and come in a variety of different colors; such as yellow, white, red, orange, pink, purple, green and multicolored and the tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall. Tulips require full sun or partial sun and prefer well drained sandy soils. We recommend planting the bulbs six inches deep with the pointed end towards the surface of the soil and a few inches in between plantings.

 

Hyacinths

Hyacinths are a beautiful plant named after the Greek God. This plant grows from a bulb that we recommend you plant six inches deep with three-inch spacing between plants, at a minimum of one month before the ground freezes. This will give the roots enough time to develop prior to the winter. This type of plant comes in a wide variety of colors; such as white, pale pink and salmon pink, pale blue to blue and yellow. It usually grows to about seven inches tall with single or double flowers about an inch long. Usually a “spike” has about 100 flowers on it.  Fun fact about this plant, it’s not just for show in a garden, it is also cultivated for its scent for making perfumes.

Hyacinths

Primrose

Primrose is another beautiful plant that blooms in the spring. They typically grow about 12 inches long in well drained, soft, moist fertile soil. They have oval-shaped petals and grow in clumps. Primroses do well in partial shade; however, they do not flourish during the high heat of the summer. Make sure to cut the heads of the flowers off after bloom and water throughout the hot summer months. They come in a very wide variety of colors; such as cream, white, yellow, orange, purple, pink, blue and red. Often the center eye of the flower is a different color than the petals.

Lilac

Lilac is a beautiful, fragrant plant that blooms in the spring. Lilac ranges in height from 6 to 20 feet, while most commonly plants are in the 8 to 12-foot range. The petals are spade-shaped and grow in clusters.  Their most common color is purple but can come in white, pink, magenta, yellow and blue. They produce a wonder fragrance that is attractive to bees and butterflies. Lilac should be planted in the fall or in the early spring and require about six hours of full sunlight a day. They should be planted a minimum of six feet apart in soil rich in organic matter. Light pruning (if needed) is recommended as heavy pruning and removal of wood will reduce spring bloom.

Conclusion

There is a wide variety of flowers that bloom in the spring that can brighten up your landscape. While planting spring bulbs largely is a task that falls under fall landscaping, there is still time to think about vibrant additions to shrub beds around your property. If you are in our service area and have questions about planting spring bulbs, please give our office a call, 908-281-7888.

Pruning Rose Bushes

Roses produce a great pop of color in a home landscape. With a little pruning knowledge, you can make sure they don’t get overgrown and provide beautiful blooms for you to enjoy year after year. This blog aims to provide some basic information on pruning rose bushes that you have in your home landscape. There are many different types of roses on the market today that may require different pruning techniques, fertilizing and specialized care.

5 Items you will need to prune your roses?

  1. Protective eye wear: Safety first!
  2. Heavy long sleeve shirt and a pair of heavy jeans: The right clothing will help protect you from the thorns when pruning rose bushes.
  3. Good gloves:We recommend gauntlet-style gloves for extra protection up your forearm. If you do not have them, a good pair of leather work gloves will do.
  4. Pruning shears: We recommend Bypass blades, they overlap and make a clean cut like a pair of scissors.
  5. Pruning saw or loppers: If your roses have not been pruned in years, you may need a pruning saw or loppers to remove the larger branches.

When is the best time to prune roses?

Spring is the best time to prune rose bushes. Most of your pruning should be completed in the spring, when the leaves and buds start to come out. Pruning rose bushes is easy, cut out any old or dead wood and then trim the whole plant back by about half its height. In the summer you can “Dead-Head” the spent flowers. Deadheading refers to pruning the old blooms off before they produce seed hips. This will encourage more blooms and keeps your roses looking neat and tidy. Also, you can prune any branches or stems that have died or look diseased or broken. Late fall is the second best time to prune rose bushes. In New Jersey specifically, November is a good time to prune plants. Prune to keep your rose bush from being too top heavy during the winter’s heavy snow weight. All crossing and rubbing branches should also be pruned on your roses. This is a basic pruning strategy for all plants once late fall rolls in. Remove any dead or diseased branches and foliage. We recommend cleaning your cutting tools frequently during pruning with a 10% bleach solution to prevent transferring potential disease issues between plants.

 

Let’s start pruning your roses!

But first, before we start, don’t be afraid to prune off a branch. Roses grow aggressively, so taking off a wrong branch will not kill your rose bush, in time it grows back. The purpose of pruning rose bushes is to encourage new growth, remove dead and broken wood, and shape the plant.

  • A basic pruning cut: Prune by cutting 1/4” to 1/2” above an outward-facing bud/eye. New stems will grow in the direction of the bud, the goal is to encourage them to grow outward, not inward. Make all cuts at a 45-degree angle sloping away from the bud, allowing water to run off.
pruning tool being used to cut a rose bush

Notice the pruning tool is angled to make a 45-degree cut above a new bud.

  • Start by removing broken branches and dead wood: Remove all broken branches first, then the dead wood. How do you know its dead? The color will be little off, appearing dark brown or even black, it may also look shriveled. Also, you can make a small cut into the plant to see just inside the thin layer of bark, if its brown it’s dead. You should remove all dead wood when pruning rose bushes.
Removing dead branches from rose bush

Remove dead branches when pruning rose bushes.

  • Next open-up the center of the plant: When pruning rose bushes, start at the base of the plant take out all crossing branches, which can rub against each other causing damage and promote disease. The goal is to have upward reaching branches with an open structure. Think about the roses you buy in your local garden store, there is only a few large upward branches, this is the look you want. Remove any thin and weak looking branches, the basic rule of thumb is to remove anything thinner than a pencil.
  • Pruning height: Prune to the height you want your rose bush to be, while keeping a consistent height throughout your landscape. If it is in the back of a border or plantings, leave them a little taller. For the rose bushes in the front of other plantings, prune lower. For hybrid tea roses, the lower you prune, the bigger the flower and longer the stem. These are good for cutting and placing in a vase in your home to show off all your hard work. Leave them a little taller and you will tend to get more smaller blooms on shorter stems.
Crossing branches of a rose bush

This picture shows what a crossing branch looks like.

  • Clean up all the debris: After pruning rose bushes, clean up all the clippings, and any old plant parts including old leaves that are in the surrounding area underneath the plant. Leaves and clippings can harbor insects and diseases, so they should be disposed of away from the rest of your landscape.

Rose bush cleared of all debris

  • Feed your roses: Roses love fertilizer and proper nutrition is very important, so we recommend feeding them with a high-quality slow release balanced fertilizer. Look for a fertilizer intended for roses. Start in the spring when the new growth is about 4 to 6 inches in length, and then every 6 to 8 weeks until the end of August. Roses need time to wind down for the year and go dormant so make sure to stop fertilizing in August.

 

Some other information about roses

  • Knock Out Roses

Many landscapers use Knock Out Roses to add variety and color to your landscape and require less maintenance. Generally, pruning is not needed until their second or third season, after reaching a mature height of 3 to 4 feet. Prune knock out roses at the same time as other roses. Knock Outs bloom on new growth so they should be pruned back by about 1/3 of their height.  Keeping in mind the overall finished shape you are looking for. Knock Outs tend to grow in spurts, they bloom, then rest, then another bloom. If a mid-season trim is needed, it is best done following a bloom, while in the resting phase. Deadheading will also help to stimulate new blooms. Knock Outs tend to produce a lot of rose hips that will inhibit flowering and triggering dormancy, so trimming them will keep your Knock Outs blooming all year long.

  • What are Rose Hips?

Rose hip or rosehip is the fruit of the rose plant. It is typically red to orange but may be darker in color on some species. Rose hips begin to form after flowering, then ripen in late summer through fall. Leave rose hips on through the fall and winter, they tell the rose it is time for winter dormancy.

 

Conclusion

Pruning rose bushes is vital to the health of the plant, it helps prevent disease by removing areas that may harbor infestations and encourages flowering. Your roses may look stark after a good pruning, but roses grow very aggressively and will fill in quickly. It’s almost impossible to kill a rose bush by over-pruning. By following these few simple steps will help ensure your roses are happy, healthy, and will provide you with a season of beautiful blossoms.

If you have any questions regarding pruning rose bushes and are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888 or request an estimate.

Common Tree and Shrub Diseases

Most of us look forward to Spring, especially after the long, cold winters we receive in New Jersey.  Gone away are the drab and cold. Here to stay are rejuvenation, flowers, and warmth. Buds turn into leaves, flowers pop out of the ground, replacing the gray of winter with a splash of color. Lawns begin to green up and people are spending more time outdoors. Unfortunately, while all this is happening, disease pathogens are attaching to certain plants. This usually happens during cooler, rainy weather, which is another staple of Spring.

Common plant diseases are usually separated into two categories: cosmetic and non-cosmetic. Cosmetic plant diseases generally do not cause permanent damage to plants. However, if the plant were to get the same cosmetic plant disease year after year causing premature leaf drop, the plant can weaken to the point where it cannot fight off other pests. While, non-cosmetic diseases can kill the plants if left untreated.

Most plant disease symptoms do not show up until early summer, or even early fall; however, during the cool, wet weather in the spring disease spores are formed and attach to host plants. These spores need certain weather conditions to progress into a full-blown disease epidemic. The most common tree and shrub diseases we see in the landscape are apple scab and rust on crabapples, anthracnose on dogwoods, Volutella on pachysandra, and rust on pear trees. Bellow we will go further into each common tree and shrub disease.

Apple Scab and Rust

Let’s start with the crabapple trees and the common tree diseases. These trees produce beautiful, vibrant flowers in the spring, but can become an eyesore and create a mess of leaves in the summer.  When this happens, apple scab and rust are usually the culprit. In the beginning of the plant disease cycle, leaves will have orange spots on the upper part of the leaf, and a spiky appearance below those spots on the bottom of the leaf.  The leaves then begin to turn yellow and the result is premature defoliation. Oftentimes, people think the tree is dying. The good news is that these two plant diseases are foliar and will not kill the tree; however, as stated earlier, if the tree gets these diseases year after year, it can weaken the tree to a point where it cannot fight off other pests. The other good news is that the symptoms of these two common tree diseases can be significantly reduced with a sound disease control program. Treatment will need to commence at bud break and another treatment should be applied two to three weeks after initial treatment. The objective of the treatment is to inoculate the leaves to stave off disease spores that create apple scab and rust. Pear rust is very similar to crabapple rust and treatment is the same.

Leaves showing effects of Apple Scab and Rus

Anthracnose

The second most common tree and shrub disease we run into is anthracnose on Dogwoods, although anthracnose can also be found on a wide array of plants. Symptoms include tan spots on the leaves that can morph into black, crumpled appearances. In severe cases, the shrub disease can reach the twig portion of the tree and cause twig dieback. This results in epicormic growth, or ‘sucker growth’, where the growth shoots form on twigs. With sound cultural practices, the symptoms of this disease can be kept to a minimum. Dogwoods prefer a partly shaded location, so try to avoid planting them in the full sun because sunny locations can stress dogwoods, potentially causing other pests to invade the tree. Be sure to water them during hot and dry periods. Foliar plant disease sprays can be applied in the early spring to help provide another layer of protection. Treatments should begin at bud break and another treatment should be applied two to three weeks after the initial treatment.

Volutella

Finally, this brings us to pachysandra. Pachysandra is a great groundcover that provides beauty in an area where grass usually cannot.  It can take several years from planting to a nicely filled pachysandra bed. While a very hardy plant, they do have a nemesis: Volutella. Unlike apple scab and rust which are cosmetic, this shrub disease can and will take out a whole patch if not addressed properly. The symptom of Volutella is the classic ‘frogeye’ lesion on leaves. The outer part of the lesion is lighter brown in color, while the center of the lesion is a darker brown, almost black in color. Volutella can spread very quickly if not addressed. Pachysandra in more sun than shade is usually more prone to this disease, so if you plan to plant pachysandra, make sure the location is ideal. If you have a pachysandra patch that has been hit with Volutella, it can be rejuvenated with these steps:

  1. Mow down the patch. Yes, you read that correctly, mow it down.
  2. Once mowed, be sure to remove all the clippings and place them in a sealed, plastic garbage bag. The lesions are on the leaves of the plants, and these lesions are what causes the disease to spread.
  3. Fertilize with a granular fertilizer to stimulate growth.
  4. Water the patch to activate the fertilizer.
  5. Once the new patch grows, pursue a sound disease control program. This should consist of three foliar fungicide applications yearly to help keep the Volutella disease at bay.

Leaves showing the effects of Volutella

If you are interested in learning about common lawn diseases that are separate from plant diseases that affect your trees and shrubs, check out our blog posts.

In Conclusion

When dealing with common tree and shrub diseases, it is important to understand if the disease is cosmetic or non-cosmetic and if it requires treatment to save the life of the plant. Fairway Green, Inc., can help you identify and control these diseases. If you are in our service area and have any questions or if you would like an estimate for a foliar fungicide program, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 908-281-7888.

 

 

9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14, Hillsborough, NJ 08844 United States | (908) 281-7888
Phone: (908) 281-7888