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

Category Archives: Yard Maintenance

Sprinkler Setup Throughout the Difference Seasons

Watering the Plants

Let’s imagine you just had a new underground irrigation system installed on your property and the technician sets up your watering schedule. Now all you need to do is sit back and enjoy that nice green lawn all year long. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy!

Having one watering schedule set for your whole lawn throughout the different seasons will not provide the desired results. What does that mean? The amount of water your turf needs is based on multiple environmental conditions.  Some questions to ask are, do you have areas that stay wet or retain water? Do you have areas that are shaded and do not need as much water? Do parts of your lawn stay in full sun? All these areas will need different watering times and frequencies. Another important factor is the weather. If it rained recently, there may be no need to water if the rainfall provided adequate soil moisture. Finally, watering requirements change from season to season. Below we will describe setting up your sprinklers throughout the different seasons.

When to Start

In the central New Jersey area, you will more than likely need to start irrigating around late spring, depending on the temperatures and rainfall received. Some years we receive a lot of rainfall in the spring, while other years become hot and dry before the summer months. It’s important to start watering before the lawn looks stressed so if temperatures start to warm up quickly, you should turn your irrigation on earlier than normal.

How Often Should You Water

Once your sprinkler system has been turned on, the next step is to determine how frequently the system should be run. This is dependent on the weather and environmental conditions on your property, but we will try to provide some general guidelines to start.  A good rule of thumb is to water deep and infrequently. We want the water to get down deep into the soil, to the plant’s root zone. Roots can reach lengths of 6-8 inches in depth. To accomplish this with an irrigation system a good place to start would be 45-60 minutes per zone once a week from 12am-6am. Watering every day, or every other day is not needed! In fact, watering too often will have adverse effects on the health of your grass. Additionally, if you have areas of your property that hold water, or remain wet for too long, you can cut the running time back to 30 or 45 minutes per zone in those sections.

If you don’t have an irrigation system, that’s ok! You can still water your lawn at the proper time. I know you probably saw the 12am to 6am and thought I hope this guy doesn’t think I’m getting up all night just to water my lawn! Don’t worry you don’t need to. There are automated timers that you can purchase from home improvement stores. I recommend running a hose-end sprinkler for at least 2 hours per area to start and 1 hour in sections that remain wet or hold water. For both sprinkler systems and hose end sprinklers, you need to walk the property after irrigating and adjust, as necessary. In areas that are still very dry, you can add time in 30-minute increments. In sections that are very wet and holding water, cut your watering time.

As temperatures start to increase and rainfall tends to be less frequent, you will need to add another day to the watering schedule. It is important to space out the watering days as much as possible so the surface of the soil can dry out in between watering cycles. Watering too frequently will create issues with the turf such as disease. At the hottest parts of the summer, you will need to water every third or fourth day to keep your turf green. If you are watering every fourth day and it still looks like your lawn is drought stressed, add more time to each watering cycle. It’s better to add more time on the days you are watering than to add more days on your schedule, especially in the summer when disease is prevalent.  Finally, if you’re not sure if your lawn is drought stressed or has disease, call your lawn care company to diagnose the issue. You do not want to add more water to a diseased lawn, this will help the disease thrive and spread!

When watering in the summer, we recommend continuing to water between 12am and 6am like we suggested in the springtime. For more information as to why this is the best time to water your lawn, check out our blog.

As we get into the fall and temperatures start to cool, we recommend you continue to water; however, it is important to be aware of how much rainfall we are receiving. Some years irrigation will need to continue twice a week, while other years with more rainfall you could go down to once a week. It is all dependent on the current conditions. Once the temperatures have cooled down, this typically is around the end of October, you should be able to have your irrigation systems winterized for the remainder of the year.

Below is a seasonal chart to help you with the initial set up of your underground irrigation system.  Please remember, this is a general guideline and your specific property could vary greatly depending on the layout, environmental conditions, and the weather.

Conclusion

Whether you just had an irrigation system installed on your property, or it has been there for years, at the beginning of each season it is important not to “set it and forget it.”  We recommend setting your irrigation schedule accordingly based on your property’s needs and the weather.  If you have questions about your watering schedule, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888, or request a free estimate online.

Benefits of Annual Mulching

It always seems like the list of things we need to do around the house keeps on growing, especially when it comes to maintaining the lawn and landscape. One of the items on the list should be mulching, it not only makes your landscape look great, but it also provides other benefits that can save you some time in the long run.

Increased property appeal

One of the obvious benefits to mulching has to do with property value. We have all heard that a nice landscape adds curb appeal and potentially increase the value of your property. One key step to having a nice landscape is putting down mulch in your landscape beds. When done correctly, it can make a big difference with the overall look of your property.

Temperature control

Your landscape plants will also benefit from mulch, assuming it is done correctly (more on this later). Mulch can help moderate temperatures, keeping the soil warm in the winter and cool in the summer. During the winter, it can also help reduce freeze damage on shallow rooted plants. In the summer, it retains moisture in the soil for plants by reducing evaporation. As time goes on, the mulch will decompose and replenish nutrients into the soil that will become available to your landscape plants.

Minimizing weed growth

Now we know that mulching can make our property look good and provide a lot of benefits to our landscape plants, let’s discuss how it can save you time. If you have ever looked at a landscape bed that was not mulched, I am sure you noticed a plethora of weeds. Trying to keep up with weeding a landscape bed that lacks mulch can become almost impossible unless you plan on spending countless hours each week. Having a properly mulched landscape bed will minimize the amount of weed growth and save you a lot of time from having to pull or treat them. I am going to repeat that part: it will minimize weed growth, not eliminate it! You will always have to pull or treat some weeds, but there will be a lot more if you skip mulching your landscape beds regularly.

When to mulch

Now that we understand the benefits, let’s talk about timing. Spring is one of the best times to apply your new mulch, especially since a lot of weeds become active after the snow melts and soil temperatures rise. Spring is also a great time to refresh the mulch color, so it looks clean, crisp, and polished for the rest of the season. If you already have a lot of weeds in your landscape beds, just be sure to remove the weeds before putting the new mulch down. If you are too busy in the spring and cannot get it done, that is ok, you can still mulch later in the year.

Should you remove what is there?

Should I remove the old mulch first or just put new mulch on top of the old mulch? That is a great question and there are two schools of thought on that. You want to keep the mulch level at about 2-3 inches. Mulch that is too thick will decrease water and air circulation to the roots thereby suffocating the plants; however, if your mulch layer is thin, adding mulch will help increase the depth of the broken-down mulch and improve the landscape.

If your old mulch is broken down but adding new fresh mulch will put you over the 2-3-inch-thick mark, then we recommend removing the old mulch and replacing it. Also, if you’ve continued to add mulch over the past four or five years, we recommend removing the old mulch and starting over.

Avoid piling mulch up around the trunk of woody plants creating a “mulch volcano.” A mulch volcano piled up against the tree trunk will cause the bark to stay wet and create disease issues which will lead to decay. It is important to remember “mulch volcanos” can happen to landscape plants with low branches too, like boxwoods and laurels. When mulching around these plants, make sure you pull out the existing mulch from around the base of the plant prior to adding new mulch so you do not pile mulch on the side branches.

This picture demonstrates what a tree looks like with too much mulch.

When mulching around larger plants you should leave the root flares exposed by leaving a few inches of space between the bark of the plant and the mulch. This will help improve the plant’s ability to exchange gas. For more on proper mulching and photos of what to avoid, please click here to see our previous mulching blog.

Conclusion

Mulching can add value to your home and when done properly, can be beneficial to your plants. If you have any questions about mulching and are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Mower Traffic Stress

I have walked countless properties with homeowners during service visits to their lawns, and one of the questions I’m asked frequently is, “If your company is taking care of my lawn, where are these bare spots coming from?” The question is often posed after we have strolled past several seemingly random bald patches of lawn here and there. “Is this disease? Do I have grubs? Is it because the technician is dripping chemicals from his spray gun?” While these lawn issues in question have the potential to cause damage to the grass, none of them cause the grass to disappear suddenly.

So how have small areas of the lawn disappeared? The answer is often far simpler than you would think. The good news is that there’s no additional treatments needed to combat this particular lawn pest. The bad news is that the monster gobbling up portions of your lawn may in fact be you!

 

It’s Common Sense

When you see a bed of flowers or shrubs, is your first impulse to drive over them? Of course not! You could potentially damage them. Yet, one of the most basic practices employed by every homeowner since the dawn of suburbia involves driving a mower (or at the very least pushing a heavy, wheeled implement) on top of the thousands of plants that comprise our lawns. However, we expect these plants to hold up without consequence to the regular mower traffic, when the machines weigh several hundred pounds.

Don’t worry I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t mow the lawn, or that you should expect the quality of the lawn to suffer a great deal after every cut. What I am telling you though is not to expect the relatively fragile living ecosystem that is your lawn to hold up to mower traffic indefinitely.

 

Wear and Tear

The damage typically caused by mower traffic is two-fold; there is the wear caused by the frequent traffic over the same areas over and over, and the tear caused by the mower wheels physically tugging at the plants.

Have you ever noticed the depressions that develop in the road where car tires ride over it day after day? This same depression effect occurs as a result of mower traffic in the lawn, and soil compaction issues develop. In central New Jersey we have clay soil, and while it doesn’t mean you can simply pick up a handful of it and start sculpting, it does mean that when it is wet it’s softer and more easily compacted. Once it dries, as you would expect clay to, it hardens in its compacted state. This process repeated over and over causes the already microscopic pore spaces between the soil particles to become non-existent. Once the pore spaces are gone the soil becomes impenetrable to water and oxygen, which is a bad thing for the grass plants. The longer this process goes unchecked, the more compacted the soil becomes, and the more the lawn suffers. Like the road, the lawn becomes worn out very gradually, so immediate damage is not evident for years.

The effects of long-term mower stress can be seen in the lower portion of this image where the lawn has been worn away in two parallel spots by the continuous mower traffic through the same path.

You can, however, sometimes see short term effects from compaction. If plants are already suffering under extremely hot or cold weather conditions, you can see streaks develop along mower tracks in the lawn due to the additional compression stress. While the lawn generally recovers from this, it helps to highlight the fact that there are consequences to mower traffic.

The image above shows temporary stress from machine traffic that occurred following frost.

The second type of mower stress is the tear caused by traction of the tires. As the mower makes turns, the tires pull on the plants and can sever their stems or uproot them altogether. If the lawn is mowed following heavy irrigation or rainfall, the soil is easily torn up by the tire traction and can cause ruts. This type of stress is certainly more evident, and something that most homeowners try to keep from happening. However, this too can be very subtle. Minor ruts in the lawn that happen every now and again can add up over time. It isn’t until several small injuries accumulate that the homeowner takes notice.

 

The images above show damage to the lawn that has been caused by mower tear. However, the diagnosis is hard to make given the vantage from which it is being viewed and the time that has lapsed since the most recent cut.

 

So, What’s the Solution?

To avoid damage that may develop from compaction caused by mower traffic, it is imperative that the lawn be core aerated on a regular basis. For most residential lawns, core aerating every-other-year should be often enough to keep the soil compaction from becoming an issue. Also, if there are areas that stay wet due to poor drainage, they should be addressed professionally by a landscaper to resolve this problem. Areas such as these become damaged exponentially faster than well-drained areas and core aeration will most likely not provide ample correction on its own.

Also, avoid mowing the lawn when it is saturated or following a heavy storm. Homeowners with in-ground irrigation should also consider their watering schedule and set irrigation to run as far from the mowing schedule as possible. For example, if the lawn is typically mowed on Mondays, irrigation should be run on Tuesday or Wednesday so that the maximum amount of time lapse occurs between heavy watering and mower traffic.

Though it may sound obvious, seed the damaged areas. It is a great practice to go through the lawn at the end of each summer and spot seed the lawn as necessary. This keeps small damaged spots from being able to accumulate over time.

Finally, try to avoid creating narrow sections of turf in your landscape designs. Mowers are forced to traffic the lawn in the same pattern regularly through these bottle-neck areas, causing the grass to wear away quickly. If you must have narrow passages between landscape beds, these should have some other alternate ground cover in place such as gravel, stone paths, or low-lying shrubs. Long-term turf growth should only be expected to occur with reasonable maintenance in well drained areas of the property that are fully exposed to the sun.

 

Conclusion

There is wear and tear that occurs as a result of nearly every regular practice developed by human beings. Just like brushing your teeth or jogging each morning, with mowing the benefit outweighs the consequences that may come as a result. Your lawn care specialist may point out to you that mowing the lawn has contributed to some turf loss in your lawn. Luckily, there are some simple best practices that can help reduce mowing stress to the turf.

If you are in our service area and have questions about possible mowing damage or mowing best practices, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888, or request an estimate.

Summer Lawn Care Mistakes

Maintaining a lawn can be difficult through the varying environmental and cultural factors we see here in New Jersey. For example, common mistakes with mowing and watering can greatly impact the health and appearance of your lawn. Below we have outlined some common mistakes homeowners make throughout the summer months and what can be done to correct them.

  1. Watering incorrectly

What are good watering practices? Well, it is often dependent on what type of summer we are experiencing. The past two years have been record breaking in the amount of rainfall received. This year our summer has started out pretty dry!  If your lawn is experiencing drought stress, setting up sprinklers correctly is very important. The best time to water your lawn is between 12 am to 6 am – yes, when you are sleeping.  This minimizes water loss from evaporation and allows the moisture to penetrate deeper into the soil.  It also reduces the risk of getting disease because we are watering when the grass blades are already wet from dew formation.  You can learn more about lawn disease by clicking this link. (Insert link to disease blog please not sure if it’s posted)

When watering with an underground irrigation system, 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 2 hours, twice per week. These run times are a great starting point, but you will need to make adjustments based on the layout of your property (full sun vs shade) and more importantly, the weather.  For example, this year the weather has been very hot and dry so run times should be increased to minimize stress and keep plants healthy.

Check out more information about a lawn watering schedule here.

  1. Mowing the grass too short

In the spring and summer months, healthy grass grows fast! It might seem tempting to mow your grass short to decrease mowing frequency; however, mowing the grass too short can have an impact on the health and appearance of your lawn. The best mowing height in our service area is about 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. When mowing the lawn, only cut 1/3 of the grass plant at a time. Removing too much of the grass blade at one time can weaken the plant and reduce its ability to withstand other environmental issues such as disease and insects.

  1. Mowing the grass with dull blades

Mowing damage from dull blades is common and easily avoidable. Have the mower blades sharpened regularly to avoid frayed grass blades. Dull blades can tear, shred, and bruise the ends of the grass plants, this weakens the plant and makes an excellent spot for disease to start.

  1. Not treating disease with fungicides

There are many types of turf diseases, some are only cosmetic while others can rapidly kill the turf in a short period of time. If there is disease present on your lawn, it’s critical to identify it first so you can understand the potential issues as well as treatment options. For diseases that cause significant damage, like brown patch and leaf spot, applying a fungicide when the disease first emerges can save the health of the rest of your turf. Applying fungicides after the disease is present stops the disease from spreading. By skipping the fungicide, disease can spread through your whole lawn causing large areas of dead turf. For people with disease issues year after year, a preventative fungicide application may be recommended. Speak to a lawn care professional if this is the case.

  1. Skipping grub control

Grubs cause substantial damage to lawns in our area annually. Beetles lay their eggs in the soil and eventually the eggs hatch into grubs, which survive by eating plant roots. Over time, as the larvae continue to feed, areas of the lawn turn brown and feel sponge like as you walk over them. When examining your lawn, if grubs are present, the grass will pull up like a carpet and often you will see the grubs underneath the surface. To avoid grub damage, there is a preventative treatment you can apply to the lawn in the summer.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! The treatment for controlling larger grubs is much more expensive and because the grubs are more mature, it’s not as effective either. In addition, most areas damaged by grubs will need to be reseeded to establish new turf. If you’re thinking about skipping the grub control application to save money, you may want to reconsider!

Conclusion

These common lawn care mistakes can be rectified and in turn help the overall health and appearance of your lawn! If you are in our service area, and have any questions about the information provided above, please give our office a call to discuss.

Undesirable Turf Species

A weed is defined as a plant growing where it is not desired; this includes different turf varieties that are undesirable to a maintained lawn. Unfortunately, these “grassy weeds” are extremely difficult to control because most lawn care treatments can’t effectively target just one species of grass. In this blog we are going to discuss two of the more common grassy weeds in our area of New Jersey.

Poa Trivialis and Creeping Bentgrass

Poa Trivialis, commonly known as Roughstalk bluegrass, and Creeping Bentgrass are two problem grass species that are very common in New Jersey. Both species are shallow rooted and spread through stolons along the surface of the soil. When conditions are ideal, they can start to crowd out desirable turf species and take over parts of your lawn in large patches.

Why is this plant an issue? One reason this grass type is undesirable is because poa trivialis is not tolerant of high heat and drought conditions. In New Jersey, these turf varieties will start to go dormant and struggle in the summer, potentially leaving large sections of your lawn looking brown until the weather cools down in the fall.

This grassy weed would be less of a problem if the summer heat killed the plant, then we could reseed with a better grass variety and our problem would be solved. Unfortunately, both species are extremely resilient and can continue to grow from stolons for many years.

When temperatures start to cool down, you will notice new growth developing, even in sections where the plants looked completely dead during summer. Once the plants recover from the summer heat, they will continue to spread and potentially take over larger areas of desirable turf. The more they spread, the harder they become to control.

How did this plant get in my lawn?

Roughstalk bluegrass seed looks very similar to Kentucky bluegrass seed, so one of the ways it can get into your lawn is through contaminated seed. When purchasing seed for your lawn, make sure you get certified seed from a quality source. As previously mentioned, the plants are extremely resilient and if any stolons or seeds are present in the soil (your existing soil or soil purchased from a store), they can begin to grow and spread when the environmental conditions are right.

Favorable Conditions

What are the right conditions for these grass types? Both grass varieties prefer areas that are frequently watered and also do well in shaded regions of your lawn. In the past two years, our region has experienced higher than normal rainfall which made it ideal for these species to thrive.

Watering Practices

Although we can’t control the weather, we can control our irrigation settings. Even though it seems to be a very common practice, there are numerous reasons why you should not set your irrigation to turn on every day (or every other day) for 30 minutes per zone. If you are currently watering this way, you are improving your chances of getting disease in the summer and making the perfect environment for roughstalk bluegrass and creeping bentgrass to thrive in the spring and fall.

Set your sprinklers to water infrequently but for a longer period of time. This will allow the soil to dry and make the environment less ideal for these problem grass varieties. Depending on the layout of your property, a good starting point for irrigation is twice a week and 1 hour per zone, depending on the type of irrigation heads you have installed. To learn more about setting up your irrigation schedule, check out our blog.

Mowing Practices

Following proper mowing practices is important for the health of all turf varieties and can also help you deal with these problem grasses. We recommend leaving your grass at least 3” tall and never mowing off more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Both of these problem grass varieties prefer lower mowing heights, closer to 2” is ideal. By leaving the grass taller, you’re creating an environment that promotes the health of desirable turf, making it more difficult for poa trivilias and creeping bentgrass to spread.

Reduce Soil Compaction

Finally, we recommend reducing soil compaction in areas where these plants are a problem. Roughstalk bluegrass does very well in compacted soils. For home lawns, we typically recommend core aerating every two years, however if you have areas where these grass varieties persist, you may want to aerate on an annual basis.

To summarize the cultural practices, you want to water infrequently but for a long time, keep your mowing height at least 3” tall, and reduce soil compaction by aerating. Even if you don’t have problems with grassy weeds, these are excellent cultural practices to follow for desirable turf species. If you’re following all these cultural practices and the problem continues to get worse, there are chemical control options.

Chemical Control

When cultural practices are not able to control these undesirable grass varieties, the most practical option is to apply a non-selective herbicide and kill those areas. Afterwards, those areas need to be reseeded in September. Even if the plants look like they are already dead from summer stress, it is important to still treat those sections with a non-selective herbicide.

These plants are resilient and can regrow from a small section of stolon above or below the surface, therefore treatment is a crucial step. Wait approximately two weeks after you treat the area and then seed with the right variety of grass for that area of your lawn. For our region of New Jersey, seeding results are best if you do the seeding sometime in late August through the entire month of September.

Importance of Good Drainage

If these plants are thriving in an area that typically stays wet for extended periods of time, be sure to address the drainage and grading issues with your landscaper before reseeding. These areas will continue to be a problem until the drainage issue is solved. Even if you follow the right cultural practices, use chemical control, and reseed, the constantly wet environmental conditions are ideal for these grass varieties and they will re-establish in those areas.  First solve the drainage issues and then tackle the problem turf varieties.

Conclusion

If you choose to reseed your lawn, some of the unwanted grass varieties will somehow find their way back. It is very difficult to completely remove these species with 100% control without doing some type of very large and expensive renovation project. But with the right cultural practices, you won’t have to worry about the plants rapidly spreading and taking over. It’s also much easier to control them with a non-selective herbicide when they are in small numbers and just start to show up.

Grassy weeds are some of the most difficult plants to control in a home lawn. That being said, following proper cultural practices as described in this blog can make the environment extremely difficult for them to thrive. If you still have issues, chemical control and reseeding will help eliminate these undesirable turf species in the short term. Long term monitoring will be necessary to stop these unwanted plants from taking over again. If you live in our service area and have any questions, feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888.

Benefits to Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

A healthy lawn is a key component to residential landscapes across our country. Beyond the pleasant appearance, a healthy lawn has other great benefits. Read below as we dive deeper into the benefits of maintaining a healthy lawn.

Increases property value and curb appeal

As you may have guessed, one of the largest benefits to a well-maintained lawn is that it creates great curb appeal and therefore increases property value up to fifteen percent. When and if you go to sell your home, curb appeal and increased property value are always a benefit!

Helps reduce noise

A thick lawn helps reduce everyday noises around your property. Say you live near a heavily trafficked road; a thick lawn and various planted trees and shrubs creates a sound barrier between that road and your house. A thick lawn has a muffling effect for noise, whereas bare ground or pavers tend to bounce sounds from their surface.

Improves air quality

Like most living plants, turf absorbs carbon dioxide and converts it into oxygen. A normal sized lawn provides enough oxygen for a family of four! Not only does a thick lawn produce oxygen, it also does a great job at trapping dust, smoke, and other pollutants.

Prevents soil erosion

A thick lawn with deep roots is a natural barrier that prevents soil erosion from wind and rain.With the clay-based soil we have in our service area, we recommend core aeration to reduce soil compaction. While alleviating soil compaction, the core aeration will help reduce runoff and promotes deep healthy roots for your turf.

A thick well-maintained lawn also protects the foundation of your home. The lawn captures moisture from the rain that would overtime would compromise a foundation.

Cool place for family and pets

During the hot months in New Jersey, the turf acts as a great recreational surface that is a reprieve from the heat given off by pavement and bricks. A healthy lawn can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil, making the lawn a perfect recreational surface during the summer heat for family and pets alike.

Calming effect

A well-maintained lawn creates a calming effect for homeowners. So, relax, sit back and enjoy the beautiful property you’ve created.

In conclusion

Whether you enjoy a well-maintained lawn because it is calming to look at, or for a cool space for your family to play in the summer months, the benefits of maintaining a healthy lawn go far beyond its appearance. If you are in our service area and have questions about your lawn, request a free estimate online or give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

What To Expect The First Season With Lawn Care

Integrated Pest Management home and green lawn

Millions of homeowners dream of having the perfect lawn and becoming the envy of their entire neighborhood. After a few years of lawn maintenance consisting of regular mowing, some people make the decision to invest a bit more and sign up with a reputable lawn care treatment company.

The sales associate explains the benefits of a regular maintenance program, the homeowner signs up for service and can hardly wait to have the lush, weed-free sea of deep green they’ve always dreamed about. Like every other thing in life however, it’s just not quite as simple as all of that. This blog will help homeowners anticipate some of the differences in managing a treated lawn, so that this largely beneficial choice isn’t overshadowed by a few surprises.

Start your Engines

The homeowner often underestimates the accelerated growth of the turf following lawn fertilization. Typically for a lawn that has not been fertilized, the homeowner can have it mowed every 7-10 days, sometimes closer to 14 days with little consequence. Once the lawn starts receiving regular fertilization, mowing must occur once each week through spring and early fall in some cases closer to every 5 days to keep it at a reasonable 3” height.

The extra cutting means added wear on the mower, which leads to the need for regular mower servicing. We recommend sharpening the mower blades 2-4 times per season and servicing the motor to insure it continues running properly. If there is a regular landscape service responsible for mowing, they will need to schedule cutting more often than before. Consult with your landscaper as there may be an additional cost associated with more frequent visits to the property.

Not all that is Green is Grass

One of the biggest misconceptions amongst homeowners is that all weeds are like dandelions; large, broadleaf, and have a huge flower. Once all the weeds are gone, the lawn is certainly going to look a whole lot nicer; however, there are plenty of weeds on the lawn that are low-lying, green and may develop a flower for just a short time. Broadleaf weeds such as ground ivy, clover, and wild violet that are eventually controlled by herbicides, may have actually contributed to the green ground cover observed from afar as part of the lawn prior to service.

As much of a difference as broadleaf weed control makes, the absence of crabgrass in the summer is probably the biggest difference homeowners aren’t prepared for. Without crabgrass prevention done each spring, a large percentage of any residential lawn becomes overrun with this weed by July each summer. Crabgrass is a low-lying, grass-like summer annual which means it actively grows in the heat. Without treatment, lawns that consist of a large amount of crabgrass are very low maintenance. They stay green with very little water and can be mowed down to 2” or less without consequence.

Once your lawn care provider preventatively controls for crabgrass, all that remains on the lawn in summer is the desirable grasses, which do not tolerate the heat nearly as well, and will not stay green unless they are properly watered. Does this mean the lawn will have to be irrigated through the summer each year? No. It’s just that the expectation is the lawn will look better with treatment, that might not be the case in the summer unless the homeowner is able to properly irrigate. It is better for the overall health of the turf to keep the crabgrass out, it just may be frustrating for the homeowner to see surrounding lawns of crabgrass (that will appear as nice, green lawns from afar) not requiring any water to maintain color.

Once crabgrass and weeds are controlled, the lawn may eventually start to appear thinner. This is because the amount of desirable grass present at the start of treatment may not have been significant enough to provide dense ground cover in the first place. Once this happens, the lawn technician servicing the property may recommend over seeding to improve the density of the lawn.

Again, this is contrary to what most homeowners expect. After all, they already purchased an annual treatment package to make the lawn look nice, shouldn’t the fertilizer be enough to make the lawn thicker? Fertilizer will make the grass already present on the lawn look thicker and greener, but it will not cause new grass to spring up out of the bare areas previously occupied by weeds. Once the weeds are controlled, homeowners shouldn’t be surprised to hear that seeding may be necessary to establish a thicker, higher quality lawn.

What is Core Aeration?

A lawn mostly comprised of grass needs more maintenance than a lawn filled with weeds. Desirable grass species considered desirable prefer well-drained, oxygenated soil. This means addressing the soil compaction regularly and controlling the thatch layer. The thatch is a layer of living grass stems and decomposing organic matter that accumulates at the base of the plants just above the soil surface. The growth of these stems is stimulated by fertilization, so the thatch layer will accumulate much faster with treatment. Overly thick thatch will block oxygen and moisture from reaching the soil, as well as provide a favorable environment for harmful insects and disease.

Additionally, central New Jersey has soil with high clay content that compacts easily. Compaction happens even more quickly as the mowing frequency increases due to fertilization.

To prevent excessive thatch accumulation and address the soil compaction, the lawn technician will start recommending core aeration. Core aeration is the process by which soil and grass plugs are mechanically brought to the surface of the turf and then allowed to resettle into the lawn. This will need to be done at least every other fall as a maintenance practice to counter the thatch growth and soil compaction. Lawns that have severely compacted soil or that are made up of certain turf species that inherently produce excessive thatch, may require annual core aeration.

Soil pH

Most fertilizers applied to residential lawns are broken down by soil microbes in order to release the nutrients to the plants. This process occurs very efficiently within the soil provided that the pH remains within a range of 6.0-7.0, depending on the grass variety. In order to get the most from fertilization, lawn care companies test the pH regularly as part of regular maintenance. When the soil becomes more acidic the technician will recommend that lime be applied to help bring it back up into the optimum range.

It Never had Disease Before

Almost everyone knows that mushrooms are fungi, and most everyone has observed mushrooms growing in the grass or near trees in beds at one time or another. However, it is not common knowledge that there are also millions of microscopic fungi living in the soil that can attack grass plants causing what we refer to commonly as turf diseases. These pathogenic fungi do not significantly impact broadleaf weeds or crabgrass, so prior to the lawn becoming a grass exclusive property through treatment, disease is of no concern.

Like diseases that affect humans, lawn diseases can range in severity from relatively harmless to damaging. All lawn diseases though have some sort of negative impact on the look of the turf. Lawn technicians will diagnose disease issues and make recommendations for treatment. Control recommendations are usually adjustments to water or mowing but can also include the use of fungicides. Fungicides, like medicine, are additional treatments done to chemically control disease symptoms. The cost of fungicide is not something typically built into any normal maintenance program, so they can present an additional cost which can be a shock to the homeowner receiving treatments for the first time.

Don’t Be Too Concerned

At the end of the day, the lawn will look far better with treatment than it did without. Also, not all the circumstances outlined in this blog are going to present themselves all at once, but each one will likely be something referenced by your lawn specialist at some point. The difference now is that you have been equipped with the knowledge of what to expect, so it should come as no surprise.

Spring Lawn Care Mistakes

Seeding in the Spring

Seeding during the spring often leads to undesirable results for the homeowner. What factors in the spring hinder your seeding results? Some important things to remember is there are a lot of active weeds to compete with the new seed in the spring and weed control cannot be applied to the areas you seeded. Also, the most stressful time of year for your cool season turf is right around the corner: summer heat! Let’s discuss more.

A lot of broadleaf weeds are actively growing during the spring, any new grass seed you put down will be directly competing with the broadleaf weeds for space to germinate. The areas you would seed in your lawn are typically small patches where you can see the soil. Due to the lack of plant competition in the bald areas, this creates the perfect environment for weed growth. Additionally, weed control can potentially harm new seed and immature plants, so the weeds can’t be treated until the new grass plants mature.

The summer temperatures in New Jersey can greatly affect the new grass seed. We can experience heat influxes as early as May, and if there is a heat wave with temperatures over eighty degrees for a week, this can be enough stress to cause damage to the young plants. The summer is very stressful on grass plants, especially young grass plants that have not developed an extensive root system like the other areas of established turf.

 

Misapplying Fertilizer

When applying fertilizer to your lawn, it is important to apply the right amount; both not enough and too much can have consequences to the appearance of your lawn. Be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer label you purchase and apply accordingly. Before you begin, it is important to have a general understanding to the size of your lawn. If you don’t know the size of your property, we recommend measuring first so that you apply fertilizer at the correct rate.

In the spring, it is very important to remember that soil temperature is what brings the turf out of dormancy, not applying fertilizer. Be careful not to over fertilize in an attempt to bring the turf out of dormancy, this will only happen when soil temperatures rise.

 

Not Servicing Your Mower

Mowing damage is common and easily avoidable. We recommend having your entire mower serviced at the start of the growing season. Servicing your mower will have the blades sharpened, engine checked, rotary looked at and oil changed. Sharp mower blades provide a clean cut off the top of plant. Dull blades can tear, shred, and bruise the ends of the grass plants which weakens the plant. This type of injury can also be a spot for disease to enter the plant. Having the engine and rotary checked is also critical to protecting your lawn. If the rotary runs too slow, this will lead to leaf injury when mowing.

Mowing Too Short

In the spring and summer months, healthy grass grows fast! It might seem tempting to mow your grass short so the frequency in which you have to mow is decreased; however, mowing the grass too short can have an impact on the health and appearance of your lawn. The best grass mowing height in our service area is about 3 – 3 ½ inches in length and when mowing the lawn, mow off only 1/3 of the grass plant at a time. 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.

Not Applying Crabgrass Pre-Emergent

Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that is a problem in most home lawns in our service area and around the country. This weed typically grows in stressed areas of the turf; including thin or bare areas and can become a headache to treat after it becomes established in your lawn.

When it comes to treating this undesirable plant, prevention has more success than post emergence control. Turf experts recommend applying two rounds of crabgrass pre-emergent in the spring; one between the months of March or April, and the second round four to eight weeks after the first. The crabgrass pre-emergent applications create a barrier in the soil that controls the plants once germination starts.

Applying Weed Control Too Early

When purchasing a fertilizer from a home improvement store, it is normally going to come with a broadleaf weed control competent to it as well. We recommend waiting to apply this broadleaf weed control until after the weeds become active in your lawn. Applying the fertilizer and weed control mix before the weeds are present on your lawn provides no control of future broadleaf weeds. Broadleaf weed control for common weeds like dandelions only work after the weed has emerged.

Conclusion

We certainly all make mistakes, let us help you avoid some common lawn care mistakes so that you can achieve a healthy and great looking lawn. If you have any questions regarding spring lawn care, and are in our service area, give our office a call or request a free estimate online.

Controlling Weeds in Pavers, Patios, and Driveways

Just as you control the weeds in your lawn and landscape beds, other parts of your outdoor living space may need weed control; such as pavers, patios, and driveways. This blog explains in detail the various ways to control weeds in pavers, patios, and driveways that either a homeowner or professional can do.

 

Apply a Pre-emergent

Just like applying crabgrass pre-emergent to the lawn in the spring to prevent crabgrass, a pre-emergent weed control applied to pavers, patios, and stone driveways help suppress broadleaf weeds throughout the year.

Timing of this application is critical; it is important to apply it early in the spring before weeds start to germinate. The pre-emergent weed control acts as a barrier at the surface of all the joints and cracks in between paver stones, or driveway cracks. A pre-emergent works by appling the product before weeds germinate so when they do, that barrier controls the weed prior to breaking through the surface of the crack or joint.

Applying a pre-emergent is a great tool to largely reduce the weed population throughout the spring and summer months. So, what can be done for the weeds that sneak through the cracks and emerge on your patio and driveway? Keep reading, and we can answer that question for you!

Non-Selective Herbicide

For the weeds that were not controlled with the pre-emergent application, we recommend applying a non-selective herbicide (i.e. Finale) to spot treat weeds as they emerge. It is important to recognize when using a non-selective herbicide, it will negatively impact any plant you get the material on. Be careful not to spray any grass or ornamental plants that could be near your patio, pavers, and driveway.

Paver Locking Sand

In addition to applying various weed controls, upkeeping paver stones can help control the weed populations from year to year. When landscapers install pavers as a patio, walkway, or driveway, they finish the installation with putting down a polymeric sand or paver locking sand. This sand has small amounts of cement in it that help lock the stones in place. Over time this does erode and should be replaced to keep stones from moving and prevent cracks for weeds to come through.

This product is available at landscape supply stores, which is different than a general home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot. It is also important to note that this sand, like grout, comes in different colors, so make sure you pick accordingly.

So how does this help with weeds? The polymeric sand acts as a hard barrier between the paver stones that locks everything in place, this also is a tougher barrier for weeds to break through. If the polymeric sand is put down correctly, it certainly helps reduce weed growth as there are little to no cracks between the pavers.

For information on how to apply the polymeric sand to your pavers, be sure to read the label on the product for instructions.

Conclusion

Weeds in pavers, patios and driveways can be controlled throughout the year with the help of pre-emergent weed control, post emergent nonselective weed control and re-applying paver locking sand when needed. With these three measures, weed growth should be very minimum between pavers and on stone driveways. If you are in our service area and would like an estimate for treating your driveway, patio, or walkways, please give us a call at 908-281-7888 or request a free estimate online.

Property Aging, Soil Compaction and Erosion

It is believed that 35 million years ago the Colorado River flowed over what was then nothing more than a vast plain.  However, after hundreds of millennia the river carved a giant trench into the earth’s surface more than 5000 feet deep and 277 miles long. This great trench we now call The Grand Canyon was shaped by two of the most powerful forces known to man; erosion and time. Over time, use and forces of Nature shape all land areas including the lawn and landscape.

It’s Just Common Sense

That bit in the opening about the Grand Canyon was something we probably all learned in grade school and haven’t thought much about erosion since then.  Just because we haven’t thought about erosion in the last decade or so doesn’t make it any less true. We haven’t thought about the periodic table in just as long, but the elements still exist. Erosion is every bit as real as copper, gold, and silver, and no surface on this earth is immune to its influence.

Aging on the other hand is something we can all appreciate. As time passes, everything from our cars to our cell phones, to our own bodies start to wear out. Our properties are not any different. In fact, if you think about it, it’s remarkable that they last as long as they do. Cars have garages, cell phones have cases, and we have clothes and homes. What does the property have to shield itself from the elements? Now you may not live on the same parcel of land for as many millennia as it takes to see a canyon form, but it is reasonable to understand that wear and tear happens, even to our properties.

Soil Compaction

The quality of the soil and the long-term health of the lawn go hand in hand. In central New Jersey there is predominantly clay soil, so one of the main concerns is soil compaction. Clay soil holds water and remains soft for extended periods following irrigation or rain fall. While in this state the soil can easily compress, especially within the top inch or two. Over time, the soil becomes compacted and it makes it very difficult for oxygen and water to reach the root zone where it is needed. If soil compaction goes unaddressed for too long, plants suffer due to lack of oxygen. As a result, the grass cannot recover from even moderate stress, and eventually ground cover is lost as plants slowly die off.

Soil compaction becomes an issue more quickly in areas that receive higher amounts of traffic. Areas in and around children’s swing sets, near gates, portions of the lawn near the perimeters of beds where mowers make turns, areas in front of entrance/exit to decks or porches, corners of driveway/walkway that are cut across on foot, are all areas where soil compaction stress is accelerated. The grass recovery cannot outpace the stress that occurs, and these areas thin out more quickly than open sections of the property that receive less traffic.

Trees

We have established that lack of oxygen in the soil can lead to the decline in grass health as a result of soil compaction and that the clay soil has a tendency to hold moisture. In open areas the direct sunlight evaporates moisture from the soil surface. This allows oxygen to enter microscopic pore spaces between the soil’s particles so that the roots can “breathe”. The health of the grass depends on this influx of oxygen between irrigation and rainfall.

Without being able to take in the oxygen, the grass suffocates and under-performs. Within the shade of tree canopies, the moisture remains inside the micro-pores of the soil for too long, and the roots don’t receive enough oxygen. The clay soil also remains softer for longer, which accelerates compaction. As time passes, trees become larger and more mature, their canopies shade more surface area, and the amount of lawn affected becomes more extensive.

The lack of direct sunlight also interferes with the ability of the grass to photosynthesize. Plants use the sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to produce carbohydrates in order to live. The sunlight filtered through the leaves of the trees is not enough to support the grass beneath, and so it suffers.

Moreover, the tree roots also compete with the grass for beneficial soil nutrients. As the trees mature, their nutrient requirements increase, and their roots reach further across the property to support the demand. As a result, the same tree can impact a much larger area than it had previously.

Erosion

A lot of people may forget that the relationship between the soil and the grass is symbiotic. Most everyone understands that the grass depends on the soil as a medium in which to set its roots and grow. The soil’s ability to hold moisture and nutrients is essential for the plants. However, the soil also relies on the plant roots to give it stability as well as absorb excess moisture. Without established ground cover, soil becomes very unstable and as rainfall or irrigation occurs, the soil washes away a little at a time.

Properties are designed to shed water away from buildings, so there is always water movement over the soil surface following rain or irrigation. We do our best with landscaping to minimize the effects of erosion, but over time this process can take a significant toll on the property.  In wetter regions such as ours that receive higher amounts of annual rainfall, the effects of erosion can be very substantial from one year to the next.

What to do

To minimize the negative effects of soil compaction, the lawn should be core aerated at least every other fall. This process of removing plugs from the soil and allowing them to resettle alleviates the compacted clay. As a result, the grass plants receive ample oxygen to support dense, healthy root growth. The fibrous root growth in turn helps maintain the integrity of the soil structure and discourage soil loss from erosion.

What better way to reverse the aging process than bringing in new life! Seed whenever necessary to re-establish ground cover. Do not allow thin areas to become bare areas and incorporate higher quality newer turf blends whenever possible. Newer grass varieties have better resistance to drought stress and disease which will provide more durable long-lasting ground cover.

Also, work with a landscaper to minimize erosion by directing water shed through areas least vulnerable to soil loss. For example, you can run downspouts into underground drainpipes or into gravel areas so that water doesn’t flow over the soil surface or settle in low points of the lawn. As trees mature and roots become exposed install more durable ground cover to keep it from getting worse. Any combination of mulch, stone, and low-lying shrubs can be used to create long-lasting, functional, and attractive features to the landscape that will prevent erosion.

Irrigate the lawn deeply and infrequently to promote root growth. Most lawns with clay soil should be watered heavily every fourth day. Frequent watering can cause disease and shallow rooting if done lightly and can promote erosion and serious oxygen deprivation when done heavily. Irrigation cycles should be spread out to allow the moisture enough time to move deeply into the soil. Depending on the weather and how well your property drains, irrigation may only need to be run once every 7-10 days.

Additionally, we recommend promoting dense turf growth through fertilization. Keeping the grass well fed will give it the capability to recover from stress. Without vigorous turf growth, stress from traffic, disease, drought, and insects can cause significantly more permanent damage and loss of ground-cover.

Conclusion

Despite your best efforts, at times deterioration can occur. Most of the time this isn’t because you’re doing anything particularly wrong, or your landscaper doesn’t know what they’re doing. These things happen because your lawn is exposed to a myriad of different types of stress in an ever-evolving environment, and sometimes it just can’t keep up even with your help. The best that you can do is institute sound cultural practices and accept that like any other living thing, the lawn will require additional care as it ages.

If you are in our service area and would like more advice about your lawn and landscape, request a free estimate online, 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 Fairway Green Inc.