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

Author Archives: Bob Windish

Leafminer in Boxwoods

Whether you’re a do it yourselfer or have a landscaper do the work, a well-maintained landscape can improve your property’s value and add curb appeal. Unfortunately, there are many external factors that can impact the overall health of your plants and turn your beautiful landscape into an eyesore. In this blog we are going to focus on an insect that likes to feed on a very popular landscape plant.

Boxwood leafminers are insects that feed between the upper and lower leaf layers of the plant. They are commonly found on boxwoods, which are popular plants in our area because they are marketed as being deer resistant (more on this in a later blog). Although deer may not find boxwoods all that appetizing, leafminer larvae sure do, and they can cause serious long-term damage if left untreated.

How do Leafminers damage boxwoods?

Boxwood leafminer adults lay eggs inside the leaf tissue during the spring. The eggs can hatch into larvae in as little as two weeks. Most of the damage to the foliage is caused by the larval stage as they feed in between the upper and lower leaf layers. The larvae leave serpentine trails as they continue to tunnel through the leaves and feed on tissue. These mines can look snake-like and widen as the insect grows.

If you have boxwoods in your landscape and start to notice blisters or irregularly shaped blotches on the leaves, there’s a good chance you have leafminers. The leaves will turn yellow and appear to be smaller in size. With a heavy infestation, the leaves will have a completely unhealthy appearance and may prematurely drop as a result. In the summer, you can rip open the blistered leaves and often times find the larvae or rass left behind.

Boxwood leafminers over winter as a larva inside the mines on a leaf. When the temperatures warm up the following spring, the larvae become active again and eventually molt into a pupa. In April or May, depending on the weather, they emerge as an orange-red colored adult fly. The adult females live for about a 24-hour period, they mate and then pierce the underside of the leaf and insert her eggs. Then the cycle repeats for the next generation of leafminer larvae.

Notice the yellowing of the boxwood plants caused by leafminers

Boxwood Leafminer Treatment

There’s no way to reverse the foliage damage that leafminers cause to boxwoods. The focus should be on protecting new foliage that the plant will produce. To help reduce boxwood leafminers, there are a few cultural controls you can try. When planting boxwoods in your landscape, select resistant varieties for your property, this will be helpful to fight against leafminer populations. We also recommend the application of fertilizer and soil conditioner to help maintain healthy plant vigor. Another way to help is to prune back the boxwood plant before the adults emerge or right after egg laying.

Pesticides are commonly used to control boxwood leafminer populations. Insect control sprays must be timed perfectly for when the adults have emerged and are laying eggs. This is difficult because the emergence of adults is weather dependent and there is also a very small window of time to apply the product. The best treatment is a systemic soil injection that can be done in the spring. This would control any of the leafminer insects that are present inside the leaves and then give season long control of the boxwood plants. The product lasts one year and would need to be applied annually for continual control.

If you previously had boxwood leafminer damage and get a systemic soil injection, it’s important to touch on pruning. With the soil injection, you are protecting the new growth of the plant, the old damaged leaves will remain unsightly until they eventually fall off. When pruning, pay close attention and avoid cutting off the majority of the new growth, otherwise you’ll be left with all of the damaged and unsightly foliage exposed on the outside again. If possible, wait until the following year before pruning again so you have plenty of new, healthy looking foliage left over.

Conclusion

Boxwood plants are common in New Jersey and protecting them from leafminers can be a difficult task, even with all the available options. If you live in our service area and think you have problems with boxwood leafminer in your plants, feel free to give us a call at 908-281-7888 for a free estimate.

 

Spotted Lanternfly

a spotted lanternfly on a tree trunk

Photo provided by Dr. Richard J. Buckley, Director of Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, Rutgers.

Look out Emerald Ash Borer, there’s a new invasive species taking over the headlines. The Spotted Lanternfly was first discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014 and slowly spread into surrounding areas. Unfortunately for New Jersey residents, the spotted lanternfly was confirmed in Warren County during the summer of 2018 and also confirmed in other counties later that same year.

About the Spotted Lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly is native to Asia and it’s believed to have landed in Pennsylvania on a shipment of stone that contained an egg mass. They lay eggs in masses on any type of flat surface; this includes tree trunks, rocks, furniture and equipment left outside. The egg masses look very similar to dried up mud making them very easy to overlook. Fortunately, they only have one generation per year and adults will typically lay eggs between August and December. The nymphs hatch in the spring and are black with white spots in the beginning stages. As the nymphs get to the fourth and final instar stage, they will get red coloration on their body before maturing into adults. You can find the spotted lanternfly adults between July and December.

two spotted lanternflies on a tree trunk

Photo provided by Dr. Richard J. Buckley, Director of Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, Rutgers.

What does the Spotted Lanternfly Affect?

Unlike the Emerald Ash Borer that targets ash trees, the spotted lanternfly has a large range of plants that can be used as suitable hosts. The preferred host in our area is the Tree of Heaven, but the biggest concern is the potential impact on fruit trees and crops. The spotted lanternfly can feed in large numbers, impacting the overall health of the plant resulting in lower yields. The insect has been found on apple and peach trees in Pennsylvania and is a major concern for vineyards. Vineyards have already noticed lower yields on their grapes due to damage from spotted lanternflies. They have also been observed feeding on hops, walnuts and hardwood trees.

The spotted lanternfly doesn’t feed directly on the fruit or leaves, but rather it pierces through the bark or trunk of trees and feeds on the phloem. Because they can feed in such large numbers, this weakens and impacts the long-term health of the plant. As the insects feed on the phloem, they excrete a large quantity of honey dew which drips down the trunk of the tree, onto leaves, and potentially onto fruit. Any areas of the plant that have honeydew built up will start to get dark in color; this is because honeydew is an excellent food source for sooty mold fungus. Sooty mold fungus on leaves hinders photosynthesis and weakens the plant. For winemakers, most vineyards do not use the grapes once they are covered in a certain amount of sooty mold fungus.

 

Spotted Lanternfly Control

So what can be done? For most harmful insects, natural predators play a key role in keeping everything in balance. Unfortunately, with this invasive species, their natural predators are not here to help us control the population, so we need to find other control methods. First step is to make sure we are not actively transporting and spreading the insect. If you have traveled to areas that have known spotted lanternfly populations (Southeast Pennsylvania, Warren, Mercer or Hunterdon Counties in New Jersey), check your vehicle to make sure they are not on your car. The insects are known to be excellent hitchhikers. In the fall, check your vehicles for egg masses, it is very easy to confuse them for mud so take a closer look just to be sure. If you have any of their preferred host plants in your landscape, primarily the Tree of Heaven, see if you can locate any egg masses and scrape them off the tree, killing the eggs. Another option is removing any Tree of Heaven plants you have in your landscape completely.  If you’ve gone through the steps and still have adult spotted lanternflies on your property, chemical control is another option. Using a product that has a good residual activity is preferred in case more adults visit the site after the initial treatment.

 

Conclusion

If you live in our service area and think you have spotted lanternflies on your property, please give us a call or report it to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.  You can email pictures of suspect insects to SLF-plantindustry@ag.nj.gov or call the New Jersey Spotted Lanternfly Hotline at 1-833-223-2840 (BAD-BUG-0) and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.

 

 

Preventative Weed Control

As spring approaches, we begin to think about getting out of the house and spending time outdoors. Whether it is in the garden, planting flowers or sitting back on the patio or deck relaxing, the one thing we do not look forward to is pulling weeds.

A good way to free up your valuable time and keep weeds at bay is to apply a preventative weed control in your landscape beds before weeds begin to grow. A pre-emergent broadleaf weed control or a preventative weed control is a material applied to mulch and/or landscape stone to suppress weed growth. Applications are best when done in the spring before weed seeds in the soil germinate and start to grow. Properly timed treatments will save you countless hours of pulling weeds or a great deal of money by not having to pay your landscaper to do it.

Preventative weed control works by creating a barrier on your mulch, stone, soil, etc., and when weeds germinate and grow roots, the roots then come in contact with the barrier. The preventative weed control then stops the growth of the weed. These materials are not perfect and don’t prevent every type of weed, but they will make a significant difference in your landscape when applied correctly.

There are a wide variety of preventative weed controls available at your local garden center or box store. Preen is a popular granular material that is easily spread in your landscape beds. When purchasing a pre-emergent weed control, it is recommended to check the product label and use a material that does not prevent the growth of perennial plants like tulips, daffodils, and day lilies. Also, when reading the product label, ensure that the product is designed for use in landscape beds and does not adversely affect your ornamental trees and/or shrubs.

Where to apply preventative weed control

Pre-emergent weed control for landscape beds can go on mulch, wood chips, shredded rubber mulch, rocks, stone type areas and soil. However, the effectiveness of the application varies greatly depending on what is treated. The level of control is significantly better on mulch or a small landscape stone than on bare soil. The treatment of pre-emergent weed control on bare soil provides short-term control and might require several applications a year. Therefore, it is recommended to mulch bare soil prior to applying your pre-emergent broad leaf weed control treatments.

Pre-emergent weed control in a shrub bed

The above images show the pre-emergent weed control applied in a shrub bed. Compared to a nickle, you can see just how small the product actually is.

 

Shrub bed with pre-emergent weed control applied

The above image is the same shrub bed with the pre-emergent weed control applied, from a distance.

 

Weed growth on driveways, sidewalks and patios is best controlled with liquid post emergent weed controls, as granular preventative weed control products normally produce poor results in these locations. In part, this is due to these locations having high foot traffic. High traffic areas alter the breakdown of the material and the soil structure, if there is soil present in these areas. Another factor is that most granular materials are not fine enough to make its way down to the soils surface through the small space between your landscaper pavers and/or cracks in the sidewalk. In these cases, it is best to control weeds with a post emergent weed control.

Cultural practices

Beyond applying a pre-emergent broadleaf weed control on a yearly basis there are other things you can do to minimize weed growth in your landscape beds. Install breathable landscape fabric when new beds are created prior to applying your mulch or stone. Additionally, maintain a layer of approximately three inches of mulch in your landscape beds. We recommend using a quality mulch product, preferably shredded hardwood mulch. These types of mulch help suppress weed growth as well as regulate moisture and temperature levels in your landscape beds. Further, be cautious not to over mulch as too much mulch can be detrimental to the health of your landscape. Most importantly, do not hand pull weeds, as it is extremely difficult to remove the plant in its entirety. In most cases a portion of the plant or its root system will be left in the soil and simply regrow. It is best to treat weeds that breakthrough your barrier with a non-systemic post emergent liquid herbicide.

Conclusion

Instead of spending the season pulling those annoying weeds from your shrub beds, you may be interested in investing in preventative weed control for your shrub beds this springtime. If you are in our service area and have questions regarding pre-emergent weed control, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888 or request an estimate.

How to Keep Deer Away

In New Jersey, it’s almost certain that you will see deer on your property throughout the year. With large deer populations, damage to plants is significant and sometimes unavoidable for many homeowners in our area. Many homeowners strive to keep deer away from their landscapes, and we will go over some of the best ways to accomplish that.

Most deer follow a similar movement pattern, meaning they travel from wherever they bed down for the night, to a food source and then back to their bedding area. Depending on their location and the time of year, common food sources may include acorns, farm crops, or your favorite landscape plants. Some common landscape plants they like to feed on are arborvitae, hollies and azalea to name a few. When times get tough for deer and food sources are limited, such as during the winter, even plants advertised as “deer resistant” may still have damage from feeding deer.

Deer feeding may cause permanent damage on some plants, ultimately causing death, however, most times the damage just looks unsightly. Some signs that deer are visiting your property include clipped leaves and hoof prints in the soil around the plants. Deer damage on an arborvitae for instance is very noticeable, as the plant will have a healthy looking top while the bottom areas that deer can reach will be completely bare. Azalea plants produce beautiful flowers each spring if left undamaged during the winter months. Unfortunately, deer like to feed on the foliage and flower buds during the winter, leaving the home owner with fewer flowers and a lot less foliage. A holly plant, like the arborvitae, will look bare on the bottom and fuller on the top. When a plant is damaged, its ability to take up nutrients and distribute them becomes hindered. This type of damage may take years to recover and only if something is done to deter the deer from feeding on the same plant.

arborvite that have been eaten by deer

This photo shows arborvite that have been eaten by deer

Deer damage can also affect the value of your landscape. If you are not willing to wait years for your plants to recover, after using effective deer deterrents, the only option is to remove and replace. That can be costly, therefore our advice is to prevent deer damage immediately after you install landscape plants. Below, we will go over the best practices to keep deer away from landscapes.

Cultural practices to keep deer away

There are deer deterrent products on the market that can help keep deer away. Motion activated sprinklers are one available option that can help deter deer. When deer, or other animals walk by the sensor, it activates the sprinkler and sprays water in the direction of the movement. The sprinklers work best during warm months and cannot be used when temperatures are below freezing. There also sound and light deterrents that are activated with motion sensors as well.

Physical barriers will also help keep deer away. During the winter, consider wrapping susceptible plants in burlap to help minimize damage. Chicken wire can also be an effective way to protect plants from hungry deer. Finally, deer fencing is also an option but needs to be tall enough to keep deer from jumping over.

Another cultural option is to use deer resistant plants. That being said, if the deer are hungry enough, especially during tough winter months, they will feed on them as well.

Deer Repellent Sprays

There are many sprays available on the market such as Bobbex, Liquid Fence, and Repels All. Most of these sprays are all natural and can be made of many different things that can deter deer (typically eggs, pepper, garlic). These sprays go right onto the foliage of the plants. Most sprays only last a week or two and require multiple treatments. Rain and sunlight will also break down these sprays faster.

We use a product called Deer Off in our repellent program to keep deer away from landscapes. The main ingredients are Putrescent Whole Egg Solids (rotten eggs), Capsaicin and related Capsaicinoids (hot pepper extract), garlic and other ingredients. This product is reminiscent to the smell and look of hot sauce. The Deer Off product will last about a month on the plant material which is why our deer repellent program offers monthly treatments to help minimize damage.

All these methods are just tools in your arsenal they are meant to help reduce feeding and to help keep deer away from your valuable landscape. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the above practices will eliminate the deer from feeding on your landscape plants, but they will certainly help reduce the damage.

Conclusion

New Jersey has a lot of deer, especially in our area. Protecting your plants can be a difficult task, even with all of the available options. If you live in our service area and have problems keeping deer away from your plants, feel free to give us a call at 908-281-7888 for a free estimate.

Comparing Lawn Care Companies and Prices

All lawn care companies are not created equal. When comparing lawn care companies, it is important to take a deep dive at what you are paying for because various companies do not provide the same services. Below we outline important aspects of a lawn program, hopefully making it a bit easier for what to look for when hiring a new company.

House with impeccable lawn care

 

Lawn care prices

An important piece to the puzzle; prices! The first thing a company should do is measure your property, and it is important to remember that large price discrepancies in lawn care prices can be caused by mismeasurement of the property. Also, we recommend looking at the different treatments within each application, differences in treatments may cause price discrepancies. Another reason lawn care prices may differ is quality and quantity of the product being used. Whatever the reason you should always take a close look at what you are getting in each program when comparing lawn care companies, not just the number of times a company visits your property.

Sometimes lawn care prices are the main selling point for people, and that is okay. If you are on a budget, a good lawn care company can help customize their programs to meet your specific lawn care and budget needs. However, you may lose out on some of the benefits of being a full program customer.

 

Services included in program

Taking a closer look at services provided in each company’s program is essential when comparing lawn care companies. While the programs may look similar, the services within those programs can differ greatly. Starting from the beginning, most companies offer six to seven applications within a program with treatments six to eight weeks apart. In the next few sections we will breakdown the main differences between services throughout the year.

 

Spring Applications

There are usually two spring applications; an early spring and late spring. One company’s early spring application may include fertilizer, weed control and crabgrass pre-emergent. Another company may only offer fertilizer and weed control in the spring and consider the crabgrass pre-emergent an additional service or a separate application all together. Therefore, it is important to understand what each application includes when comparing lawn care companies.

While discussing the spring applications, crabgrass pre-emergent is important to talk about. It can be applied one time in the spring or split into two applications. Studies have shown that splitting the pre-emergent applications have better results because the second application helps to extend the effectiveness of the crabgrass preventer in the soil for the season.

When comparing lawn care companies, every company offers weed control; however, sometimes the weed control is included in the program while other programs consider it an additional charge service.

 

Summer Applications

In the summer, the most common treatments are fertilizer, grub control and surface feeding insecticide. When comparing lawn care companies, a lot of differences between programs typically occurs in the summer applications. Does the summer application have grub control or is that something that is purchased a la carte? Grubs cause substantial damage to lawns in our area annually and it is much cheaper to prevent them than repair damage caused by them.

In addition, the summer is when numerous surface feeding insects like chinch bugs, bill bugs, and sod webworms cause damage to lawns. A program that includes surface feeding insecticides is beneficial to your lawn to prevent damage. For more information about these common summer time insects, check out our blog.

In our New Jersey area, nutsedge is problematic weed during the summer. Make sure you ask your lawn care provider if nutsedge treatment is included in your program. Otherwise, you may have to pay extra to get it under control, or potentially hire a different company if it’s not an available option with your company.

 

Fall Applications

Early fall is another time of year where fertilizer and weed control is important.  Some companies separate these two components into two applications, while others perform them as one.

The late fall fertilization is one of the most important applications of the season because it helps with root development over the winter and aids with green up of your lawn in the spring. If you are comparing lawn care companies, it is important to notice if winterizing fertilizer is included in the program because some companies offer lime instead of the fertilizer for the last application.

 

What we offer

We can now look at the Gold Lawn Care program from Fairway Green Inc and discuss what is included in each application. In addition to the applications below, all Gold program customers receive free nutsedge control and service calls if problems arise throughout the season.

 

  1. Early Spring – This application includes a fertilizer and crabgrass preventer for the lawn. As necessary, we apply broadleaf weed control.
  2. Late Spring – This application includes a fertilizer and a second crabgrass preventer depending on site, weather conditions and products used. As necessary, we also treat for surface feeding insects and broadleaf weeds.
    • Any customer that receives the early spring and late spring applications get a crabgrass guarantee for the entire season.  If any crabgrass does emerge in your turf, we come and treat it at no charge.
  3. Grub Control – This is a preventative treatment for grubs, which are the sub-surface feeding stage of beetles. They cause substantial damage to lawns in our area annually.  With this treatment, you receive a guarantee against grubs for the season.
  4. Summer – This application includes fertilizer for the lawn and, as necessary, treat for surface insects and broadleaf weeds.
  5. Early Fall – This application includes fertilizer for the lawn and, as necessary, treat for surface feeding insects and broadleaf weeds.
  6. Late Fall – Our last fertilizing application for the lawn promotes winter hardiness and spring green-up.

For more information about our lawn care programs, check out our frequently asked questions.

Conclusion

Now you have the tools to help find your way out of the maze that is comparing lawn care companies. We urge that everyone takes a closer look at the various estimates you may receive to understand what you are paying for. If you are interested in learning more about Fairway Greens lawn programs, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888, or request a free estimate and complimentary lawn evaluation.

2018 Lawn Care Summary

It seems every year in this age of “climate change” there is some notable shift in the weather. Along with each of these changes comes new challenges to the lawn care provider. The challenge this year came in the form of precipitation. From the very snowy March to the tremendously wet late summer, this year was anything but conventional for turf managers.

Spring Broadleaf Weeds

Snow cover in March delayed the start of the active growth of the turf. This means that broadleaf weeds, and undesirable grass species that thrive in wet/cold soil conditions have an opportunity to grow without much competition. Once the snow melts away there are often very thin to bare areas where grass plants have shrunk in the overly saturated, cold conditions, and yet weeds such as hairy bittercress, chickweed and wild onion have persisted. While these are not difficult weeds to control, they remain on the lawn until there is enough snow melt for the initial treatment to be applied. Anytime the weather promotes weed growth, and prohibits lawn applications…it’s a problem. Often, full-service programs can create the illusion that broadleaf weeds are prevented, but the truth is that we are only able to control what is actively growing on the lawn when we are present. So, if you feel as though you saw more weeds at the start of the season than normal, that may have been true depending on the timing of your first treatment.

Hairy bittercress

Hairy bittercress is a common early spring broadleaf weed.

The extended wetter/cooler period also promoted the growth of rough bluegrass (poa trivialis) and annual bluegrass (poa annua). These two grass species thrive under wet/cool conditions. They both have a much lighter green color which makes them stand out among the other turf types. While this attribute is bothersome enough for most homeowners, both species also stop producing growth once the weather becomes warmer and drier causing dead patches to appear. To top it all off, neither grass is controllable with any normal treatment program offered by lawn care services. While these grasses may sound horrific, keep in mind they aren’t generally a noticeable issue (in the absence of a drainage issue or improper watering) unless we are experiencing very cool/wet weather for extensive periods.

Annual blue grass and rough blue grass

Image on the left shows annual blue grass or poa annua. Image on the right shows rough blue grass or poa trivialis.

Disease and Rainfall

Snow lasting well into March is never good, but its occurrence is not that uncommon for the northeast; however, the amount of rain that fell at the start of September this year was without precedent, and the ensuing disease outbreak it triggered was epic.

Generally, in September the active disease period subsides, and lawns start to recover from the stressful summer. The warm days and cool nights during this time are perfect conditions for promoting grass growth and discouraging any sort of major disease activity. This year, what the weather brought instead was frequent, heavy rainfall with very humid nights. This overly saturated, moist-air environment is absolutely perfect for promoting fungal activity. Pythium blight and grey leaf spot in particular were incredibly prominent. Lawns observed in the morning dew (which lasted until almost noon some days) were covered with mycelium that resembled cobwebs to cotton-ball like or both. Seeing the physical presence of these fungi evident on a handful of lawns for the year is not uncommon. Seeing lawns covered in this type of growth on nearly every lawn, every morning, of every day… just doesn’t happen. The cure for such disease activity is to allow the lawn time to dry out, and to core aerate. The presence of oxygen in the soil pores keeps the disease from being able to actively spread. Usually allowing enough time for water movement between irrigation cycles and further oxygenating the soil through core aeration, is more than enough to promote turf growth and reduce disease activity. The problem was that the rain was so frequent, and the air was so humid, that the lawns were never able to dry out. With conditions remaining favorable for so long, lawn disease activity was rampant, and damage to the turf was wide-spread.

lawn with grey leaf spot and lawn with pythium blight 

Image on the left shows a lawn with grey leaf spot. Image on the right shows a lawn with pythium blight.

What about treatment?

Shouldn’t a “full service” program include applications that prevent such things from happening? The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, there is treatment for disease that exists in the form of fungicides. Applications of fungicides can be done periodically before disease outbreaks occur to prevent them from happening, or to help suppress activity once your lawn is already affected. No, they are not included in full service programs automatically. Why not? The answer is simple, cost. Fungicides are expensive, and on top of that they are only effective for a few weeks at a time, so applications need to be done frequently to prevent disease.

Preventative disease programs are offered by lawn care service providers but are usually only recommended to customers facing the same disease issue year after year. The benefit of a fungicide application is only realized if the disease is treated prior to it laying waste to the large areas. Asking someone to spend additional money on an application that won’t make the lawn look any better just isn’t practical. The best recommendation in this scenario was to spend the money on dealing with the disease culturally through core aeration, seeding, or a combination of the two. After all, a fungicide will only address the disease activity. Core aeration not only helps quell the fungus activity, but also promotes turf recovery, so its benefit is two-fold.

Prevention

So how does one keep this from happening ever again? In truth, there is no way to fully prevent this kind of outbreak from occurring. The best way to stay proactive is with good cultural practices. Core aerate the lawn at least every other year, avoid watering the lawn too frequently (no more than twice each week), and seed the lawn with newer disease resistant varieties. At the end of the day though, it is important to realize that lawns are a lot like us. No matter how healthy they are, they can still become sick.

Summer Weeds

In addition to disease, the excess moisture in the soil also meant a lot more weed growth than normal. Warm-season weed growth is usually kept in check by lower soil moisture, exploded at summer’s end with the arrival of all the rain. Crabgrass and Nutsedge growth were both noticeably worse.

Crabgrass prevention is part of any basic service program and gets put down in the spring prior to its emergence in early summer. These preventative applications form a barrier that controls crabgrass plants as they attempt to breach the soil surface. The barrier typically lasts long enough to keep crabgrass under control into July. When August arrives the control has worn off, but by then it is so dry that any new growth is very minimal. This year however, there was more than enough soil moisture to promote the crabgrass growth once the barrier wore off.

Nutsedge is a warm-season perennial that is always an issue for lawn care providers each summer. Like crabgrass, it starts becoming noticeable sometime in June, but the difference is that there is no preventative treatment for this nuisance. Plants can only be controlled as they appear in the lawn. Nutsedge is a marsh-grass by nature and prefers areas that stay consistently moist, and so typically it is only a larger problem on irrigated properties or properties with poor drainage. However, with the rain this year, every lawn was consistently saturated. Homeowners that don’t usually have to worry about controlling this weed saw growth of nutsedge soar out of control on their properties. And while a few companies include treatment of this weed on full-service programs, most only offer control at an additional charge due to the high cost of nutsedge control products.

Weed nutsedge grass compared to preferred grass varieties

This picture shows the color and height difference between the weed nutsedge and preferred grass varieties.

Closing Thoughts

While some maintenance programs may have underperformed this year in the eyes of a lot of homeowners, it is important to keep in perspective just how out of the ordinary this year was. If the lawn treatment program in place has been successful in years prior to this, then making adjustments to the annual regimen to allow for this type of weather pattern would be foolish. The best lawn care providers enact programs that are designed to function at a high level within the climate and rainfall that is typical. And when these programs underperform due to changes in the weather, the good companies know the best thing they can do is take the time to communicate to their clients’ what adjustments in the service plan may be needed for that year.

If you have any questions regarding your lawn care service, or would like to receive a free estimate, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

The Benefit to Mulching Leaves

Put those rakes away, it’s time to mulch your leaves! In the fall there are many things around your property to get done before winter, raking and bagging leaves for hours on end should not be one of them.

As the days get shorter, trees go through many chemical changes which signal the completion of another complex growth cycle. The most obvious is the change in leaf color where most attractive colors are on deciduous trees, which shed their leaves annually. After the leaves fall, they make an important contribution as fertilizer to the forest and organisms in the soil. In the landscape, leaves and debris are removed for aesthetic purposes.

fall leaves on a lawn

Is Mulching Leaves Good for the Lawn?

Mulching leaves has many benefits, not just for your lawn but for the environment.  Mulching leaves reduces landfill space, helps to reduce leaves from clogging up sewers and away from surface water where the broken-down nutrients from the dead leaves can cause algae blooms.

The leaves that collect on your lawn cover the grass, reducing air flow and sunlight that would have otherwise reached the grass blades. This accumulation of leaves can cause the grass underneath to suffocate and die off.

Leaves that are left in piles on your lawn can also be used by small animals like a vole, which avoids detection from predators by making tunnels underneath leaf piles and snow cover. To understand what type of damage voles can do to your yard, check out our blog.

How to Mulch your Leaves

Almost every lawn mower can mulch leaves.  Most mowers come with an attachment to aid in the mulching process, however if you do not have a mulching attachment you can still use your mower without it.  Simply elevate your mower deck to its highest setting, remove the grass catcher and go over the leaves that are laying on top of the lawn multiple times with your mower shredding them into small pieces.  Mower mulching works best when the leaves are dry.

These smaller pieces will filter down between the grass blades to the soil surface, eventually micro-organisms and worms will aide in breaking down the leaves. This process will not add to the thatch layer of the lawn and the decomposition of leaves will provide nutrients back into the soil.

When to Mulch Leaves

You should mulch the leaves weekly; weekly mulching will help make the mulching process quicker and this gives you more time with your family and friends and all the while, your lawn benefits from the nutrients it’s receiving from the leaves you simply mowed.

Mulching Leaves: Conclusion

This fall, we recommend retiring your leaf rake, and try mulching the leaves that have fallen on your lawn. Mulching is a great fall clean up option that eliminates large leaf piles and provides nutrients back to your soil. If you are in our service area and are interested in more information about mulching leaves, please request and estimate or give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Benefits of Core Aeration and Over Seeding

Between the summer stresses of drought and disease, and every day activities that lead to soil compaction; your lawn may not be looking its best by time the fall rolls around. To help combat these stresses and maintain a lawn, often a core aeration is recommended for its many benefits for the lawn. For those that may not know, core aeration is the process of mechanically removing plugs of soil and depositing them on the surface.

 

Soil Compaction

Over time your lawn can become compacted with every day activities; dogs running around, children playing, parties with large groups of people on your lawn and even mowing the lawn with heavy equipment. The first benefit of core aeration is that it helps reduce soil compaction. Soil compaction is the compression of soil particles which reduces pore space. Pore space is the area between the soil particles where water, nutrients and air travel through to get to the roots. If the pore space in the soil is compacted, the nutrients, water and oxygen are not able to reach the roots.

Thatch Layer

Another benefit of core aeration is to reduce the thatch layer. Thatch, the organic layer of roots, living and dead shoots and stems that develop between the grass and the soil surface. When the thatch layer is too thick it impedes the infiltration of water, oxygen and nutrients. Also, disease and insects harbor in this area and can be detrimental to a lawn.

During a core aeration, microorganisms from down inside the soil are pulled up to the surface inside of the soil plug. These microorganisms help to breakdown that thatch layer as they look to go back to where they came from.

Strong Roots

Core aeration also helps to enhance rooting or root growth into the surrounding soil. When spaces in the soil are created by the core aeration process, the grass roots grow into the blank spots creating a stronger, fuller root system.  Also food, water and air will have easier access to the roots where they can be used.

Seeding

Over seeding after a core aeration has many benefits as well. The first benefit is that the soil is prepared to receive seed; meaning the seed will contact the loose soil, which is very important for seed germination.  The holes created by the core aeration will provide a seed bed for the grass seeds that fall into them after they are spread over the lawn.

The next benefit to over seeding is that it will help to reduce weeds and crabgrass. Weeds and crabgrass are opportunist, they will grow in any bare or thin areas that they can. By improving the turf density in these bare or thin areas with new grass, you are effectively reducing space for weeds and crabgrass to grow and take over.

By over seeding after core aeration you are incorporating newer grass varieties. Each year new grass varieties come out onto the market that are superior to the older ones. Some of the benefits to these newer grasses would be more drought, insect and disease resistant and tolerant.

Core aeration and over seeding is meant to “spruce up” your lawns appearance. This process improves the appearance of a lawn with small bare or thinned areas. This type of seeding is not recommended for lawns that have zero grass like new construction, a complete renovation from scratch, or large areas of lawn that are completely bare.

When to seed

The best time of year for seeding is early fall, specifically from the middle of August through September.  Seedings are more successful in September because crabgrass preventers that have been applied in the spring will be broken down and gone by then and crabgrass preventers and weed controls can interfere with seed germination. Also, by September any crabgrass plants that have germinated throughout the season are at the end of their life cycle and are dying off, thus creating less competition with the newly germinated grass seeds.

Another reason the fall is a great time for both core aeration and over seeding is because the environmental conditions are great. The heat of the summer has subsided, and we have cooler days and nights that helps the lawn recover from a core aeration. Soil temperatures are moderate and are conducive to seed germination and soil moisture can be maintained adequately from regular watering and rain, during this time of year.

Conclusion

If you have any questions or if you are interested in core aeration and over seeding your lawn, please contact Fairway Green Inc. If you are in our service area, we would be happy to provide you with a free quote to help get your lawn looking great this fall.

 

Lawn Watering Schedule

Summer is in full swing and the warm weather makes it perfect to enjoy your outdoor living space. Unfortunately, the same warm weather and lack of rain can really stress your lawn. Maintaining a lawn and landscape takes a lot of work and effort, but there are few cultural practices that are important to keep your lawn looking great throughout the summer.

In addition to following our mowing best practices, another summer cultural practice that will greatly improve the look of your lawn is to implement a lawn watering schedule. When executing a lawn watering schedule, we highly stress sticking to a schedule. Rotating between watering and not watering can weaken the glass plant. Additionally, these recommendations are for the soil types with a considerable amount of clay in them. For sandy soil, the watering recommendation will be completely different.

properly watered lawn next to dormant lawn

This image captures the difference between a lawn properly watered and a dormant lawn.

Lawn Watering Schedule

The best time to water your lawn is between the hours of 12 am and 6 am. This helps minimize water loss to evaporation because this time of the day is often cooler and more humid. This also allows the water to penetrate deeper into the soil and minimizes the length of time the grass blades remain wet, since the blades will already be covered in dew. This helps reduce the susceptibility for turf diseases.

Frequency of Watering

We recommend watering your lawn like a heavy rainstorm; putting a lot of water down at once! It is important to water in a way that will reach the depth of the turf’s root system. A good starting point in our area is to provide 1 inch of water per week. For underground irrigation systems, you want to have your system set to run 1 – 1 ½ hours twice a week.

If you have hose-end sprinklers, we recommend purchasing a valve timer and setting your sprinkler to run for 4 hours, once per week.  These run times are approximations to get you to 1 inch of water per week, the timing may vary slightly depending on the type of sprinklers installed.

If your following the watering schedule and your soil is still drying out and you notice browning, try adding an extra half hour of run time to each zone. Always start by adding time to the current watering schedule, rather than adding another day.

Frequent and short watering (15 minutes per zone everyday) is not a good lawn watering schedule. It will promote a shallow root system which can weaken the grass plant and encourages disease. Unfortunately, this is something we come across quite often. Deep, infrequent watering is recommended and will help create a deeper root system, resulting in a stronger grass plant.

Conclusion

Once a lawn goes dormant, it will take a few weeks of good watering for the grass to exit dormancy.  Therefore, it is important to start watering early in the year and not stop. If you keep up with the watering schedule, your turf will have plenty of moisture over the entire summer.

Summer is a great time to spend outside but can be very stressful on your lawn. Following a few cultural best practices can really make a difference when it comes to having a healthy lawn all summer long.  If you have any questions about summer cultural practices or want more information about a lawn watering schedule, please request an online estimate or give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

What is the Right Grass Mowing Height?

Here in New Jersey, summer time has arrived; and now is the time to enjoy your outdoor living space. There are many ways to make your outdoor property look great this summer, including your lawn. Maintaining a lawn and landscape takes a lot of work and effort, but there are few cultural practices that are important to keep your lawn looking great throughout the summer.

To start, here in New Jersey we deal primarily with northern turf grass species. This includes Rye grass, Blue grass, Tall Fescue, Fine Fescues and Chewing Fescue turf varieties. Our below recommendations to follow are averages that can be used by a homeowner to cover norther turf grass species.

One of the very first cultural practices is proper mowing. It may seem like an easy task, just take your mower out of the shed, and go to town on your lawn. There’s a little bit more to it than that, like knowing the right grass mowing height. Below we will go through several mowing best practices.

Grass Mowing Height

Proper grass mowing height and proper frequency is essential to the health of your lawn. The best grass mowing height in our area is about 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. When mowing the lawn, mow off only 1/3 of the grass plant at a time. We recommend frequency of mowing should depend on how tall the grass is, and not necessarily following a calendar schedule. For example, if a lawn is being kept at 3 inches in height, it should be mowed when the grass reaches 4 ½ inches, not every other Wednesday. By removing too much of the grass blade at one time, it can weaken the plant which in turn will reduce its ability to withstand other environmental issues such as disease, surface feeding insects and even invasion of broadleaf weeds.

Also, be very careful not to cut the lawn too short or weedwack the edges too close. This is commonly referred to as scalping. Scalping is when too much of the grass blade is mowed off at one time and the stem and crown of the plants are left exposed. Scalping a lawn whether it is from mowing too short or uneven ground can cause injury to the plant. Raising the mower blades higher will help reduce this problem and watering properly helps aid in recovery of scalped areas. Sometimes seeding is needed to repair permanently damaged scalped areas.

When finding the best grass mowing height, it is best to keep the grass tall. Keeping it tall will help shade the soil under the turf canopy and keep the soil cooler. This will help to reduce the number of weeds that grow.

Frayed blades of grass

This picture displays frayed grass blades from a dull mower blade.

Mowing Blades

You may have already been mowing this season but, make sure that you have the mower blades sharpened regularly and you also perform regular maintenance on your mower like changing the oil and spark plugs regularly. Dull mower blades can tear, bruise and shred the grass blade causing injury to the turf. It can weaken the grass plant, and an open wound on grass blades are excellent spots for disease.

Other Best Practices

We also recommend not mowing your lawn when the grass is wet. Dew or any type of excessive moisture on the grass blades is an excellent way to spread lawn diseases. Also, avoid mowing midday in the full heat of the day because it can place extra stress on the plant. Mow in the cool of the morning after the dew has evaporated, or in the evening.

When mowing the lawn also try to change up the direction you typically mow. Mowing the lawn in same direction every time will cause the grass to lean that way. Mowing in different directions each time you cut the lawn will help the grass grow more upright.

Do not bag your grass clippings because leaving the clippings behind is beneficial for the lawn. This is a process called “grass-cycling”. The benefits of this process are that it puts moisture and nutrients back into the lawn. Contrary to popular belief it does not contribute to thatch build up. Sometimes bagging or removing clippings is unavoidable. If the clippings are too plentiful or too long and clump up, those should be removed. If left in clumps the grass underneath can suffocate and die off.

Conclusion

By following our best practices, like proper grass mowing height, you can reduce various problems in your lawn. Maintaining a lawn and landscape can take a lot of effort and a great amount of knowledge. If you have any questions regarding best mowing practices, please request an estimate or give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

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