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

Category Archives: Lawn Care Programs

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.

Mulching Your Landscape

To mulch or not to mulch: that is the question.  Simply put, mulching your landscape is a good thing.  But…having too much of a good thing (mulch) can be bad.

Mulching Recommendations

There are a few common reasons we mulch our landscape beds, it makes our yard look great, it helps reduce weeds, and proper mulching can benefit landscape plants.  Regardless of the reason, you want to follow a few recommendations to avoid negative impacts on your landscape plants.  In general, mulch should be maintained at a depth of 3 inches.  If you already exceed 3 inches and are planning to add another layer this year, we recommend removing some of the existing mulch before adding another layer to help maintain the 3-inch depth level.  Avoid piling mulch high on plant trunks and stems, keep the mulch away from the bases and be sure the root flare is visible.  Piling mulch too high on plants is a very common mistake that has serious consequences to the health of your plants.  We discuss this in more detail later in the blog.

Types of Mulch

There are two types of mulch for landscapes.  Organic and inorganic.  Organic mulch is what we are all probably used to seeing landscape professionals apply to the landscape beds.  You know, the brown, black, and sometimes red stuff.  These types of mulch are basically ground up trees and shrubs and other organic matter. Some people may elect to use chopped up leaves or grass from the lawn mower, and others may use wood chips. The inorganic mulch would be plastic or rubber mulch, stones and rocks, etc.

Benefits of Mulching your Landscape Beds

There are many benefits to having organic mulch applied to your landscape.  One benefit is keeping the weeds in the beds to a minimum.  However, the key here is to be sure that the areas being mulched are free of weeds before applying, otherwise they will keep growing until they poke through.  You may have a nicely mulched landscape today, and if the weeds were not taken care of prior to the installation, next week you will have beds dotted with weeds.  The weeds will likely be more noticeable coming up through the new mulch so you may feel like you wasted your money.  To help reduce weeds, you can apply a pre-emergent control to your landscape beds, learn more by following this link to our landscape bed pre-emergent blog.

Another benefit is mulch helps retain moisture.  This is especially helpful if you do not have irrigation in your landscape beds.  If the beds were bare and it rained, the water would penetrate the ground very quickly or run off before the ground can take it in.  Mulch absorbs that moisture and slowly seeps into the soil, allowing the plants to take it in.  It acts kind of like a sponge.  In addition, to retaining moisture, mulch also helps regulate temperature in the summer and winter.

One more benefit to mulching your landscape is that when the mulch breaks down, it is putting nutrient-rich organic matter back into the soil.  This is especially true if you elect to use chopped up leaves for mulch.  Leaves contain natural nitrogen and other beneficial nutrients that can be recycled back into the soil.

Finally, a freshly mulched landscape is very appealing to look at.  It is like laying down new carpeting or a floor.  If you’re looking to sell your home, it might not be a bad idea to put down a fresh layer of mulch.  Same thing if you’re having a graduation party, wedding, or a big birthday party.

Problems with Over-Mulching

Now, let’s talk about what NOT to do when mulching your landscape beds.  The first would be what the industry calls ‘volcano mulching’.  This is when mulch is piled so high and tight up against a tree that it looks like a volcano.  Literally.  This is very bad for the tree!

 

Trees exchange oxygen at the base, and if the mulch is piled too high, the tree will suffocate.  You may not see results from that suffocation early, but over the years the tree will slowly decline.  At that point, the damage is done.  Trees have a natural flare at the bottom, almost resembling a bell-bottom.  This is that area that needs to be exposed.  If your tree looks like a telephone pole sticking out of the ground, you have too much mulch (see photo above).  In addition to the lack of oxygen exchanged, mulch piled high on tree bark can also promote disease and cause the bark to rot.  For more information on the potential harms of over-mulching, here is a link to an article by Rutgers University titled Problems with Over-Mulching Trees and Shrubs.

The same rule of thumb applies to woody shrubs, such as hollies, boxwoods, rhododendrons, and laurels.  Woody plants have a single stem that comes out of the ground and then it branches out to its form.  That stem needs to be visible.  In other words, if you cannot see the stem or if some of the lower branches are covered, you might have too much mulch.  Not only will it likely suffocate the plants, but the continued moisture that is on the bark will cause it to rot, and possibly girdle it and die.

Conclusion

Mulch is a beautiful thing when applied correctly but can also kill your plants when done the wrong way.  If you have any questions about mulching your landscape, please feel free to contact us if you live in our service area.

Integrated Pest Management

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is defined as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of sound cultural practices and judicious pesticide use.  For turf grass management, pest prevention is accomplished by focusing on optimal cultural practices to promote a healthy lawn which can tolerate a higher degree of pest pressure.  The techniques used to control pests in an IPM program include seeding with improved pest resistant turf varieties; cultural techniques such as proper mowing, watering, fertilization, aeration; and the judicious use of pesticides when needed. An integrated pest management program does not exclude the use of pesticides, instead, the use of a variety of cultural controls help reduce the need for pesticide products.

What is a pest?

The word pest is often associated with turf damaging insects, however a pest refers to any organism that interferes with our desired plants.  This could be an insect, but also includes weeds, rodents, fungus, bacteria and other living organisms.

How does an Integrated Pest Management program work?

Set Threshold levels
The first step is to set a threshold level, which is a customer determined point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate action should be taken.  For example, two people may have very different threshold levels for the amount of dandelions they will tolerate in their lawn.  Seeing a single pest does not always mean control is required.  It is important to understand pest levels that can potential become a threat to your turf and cause damage.  Setting proper threshold levels for pests that can harm your lawn should be carefully determined if you want to avoid damage.

Prevention
A healthy lawn is the best defense!  As a first line of pest control, Integrated Pest Management programs work to minimize pest populations before they become a threat to the lawn.  This can be accomplished by seeding with pest-resistant varieties of grass types along with other appropriate cultural practices such as proper watering, mowing, fertilizing, applying lime and aerating to promote healthy turf.  These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient.

Scouting
Not all insects and weeds require control. Many organisms are beneficial. Integrated Pest Management programs work to monitor for pests and identify them, so that appropriate control measures can be made in conjunction with threshold levels. The scouting process will determine if and when pesticides should be applied.

Control
If threshold levels are surpassed, even with proper preventive methods, then pesticides could be required.  IPM programs evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk.  Effective pest controls are chosen, which includes traditional chemicals applied as a targeted spray (spot treatment) or blanket (whole lawn treatment).

What are the pros and cons of an Integrated Pest Management Program?

Let’s start with the pros.

  1. Your property will be carefully monitored by a professional lawn care provider.
  2. Less pesticides will be used on your property.
  3. IPM encourages healthy cultural practices that benefit your lawn and the environment.
  4. You’ll be provided with proper watering techniques and mowing practices.
  5. A soil analysis provides great information and helps design a plan specific to your lawn’s needs.

Now the cons.

  1. Your property will have some weeds, even with spot treatments.
  2. Your property will have some insects that can damage your turf.
  3. You may have disease and disease damage.
  4. Seeding may be required to repair insect and disease damage.

Conclusion

Integrated pest management utilizes multiple techniques to help prevent pests and promote healthy turf.  Environmental factors are outside of our control and as they change from year to year, IPM techniques will need to adapt as well.  A soil analysis is a great starting point so that corrective treatments for pH levels and nutrient imbalances can be made as soon as possible.  In addition to regular fertilization, there are a number of other practices and applications that help promote lawn health:

  • Core Aeration
  • Seeding – pest resistant varieties
  • Lime Applications
  • Proper Mowing
  • Correct Watering – both frequency and duration

If an integrated pest management program is something you are interested in trying, feel free to call us at 908-281-7888 if you are in our service area.  We will work together to optimize cultural practices and set threshold levels that work for you!  For more information, here is a link to our Integrated Pest Management website page.

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