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

Lawn disease can affect any lawn at any time; regardless of having a professional lawn care company or, if you are a do-it-yourself, lawn diseases can and will happen. A disease in a lawn can occur when a host (grass), a pathogen (fungi) and ideal environmental conditions are present. These conditions include but are not limited to day time and night time air temperatures, moisture, rain, sunlight, lack of sunlight, and improper watering and mowing. Once these factors, although different for each disease, are met the disease can start up. If the environmental conditions remain favorable a disease can persist for extended periods of time. The longer a disease remains active the more damage it can potentially do to the turf.  Fungi can remain dormant in the soil for years until the correct environmental conditions that favor a specific disease before an outbreak occurs.  Lawn diseases can be distributed by wind, rain, foot traffic, lawn mowing equipment, etc. Common for the late spring, ascochyta leaf blight can greatly impact the look of the lawn.

What is Ascochyta Leaf Blight

Ascochyta leaf blight is a common foliar disease that occurs in the late spring to early summer.  This disease is more common during hot, dry periods and followed by cool and rainy conditions.  The symptoms of ascochyta leaf blight appear as large irregular patches of turf that rapidly turn a straw-color and appear to be dead.  From a distance the straw-colored areas resemble drought stress.  The infected leaf blades appear to be sucked in from the tip down.  While this disease looks very serious when outbreaks are widespread, it is actually quite harmless.  This disease will not cause any permanent injury to the lawn.  This disease will spread very fast by foot traffic, rain, and lawn mowing. Often times, mowing machines pick up the fungus and spreads the disease throughout the lawn, creating a stripe like pattern of the disease in the lawn. Cultural practices are the only way to help get rid of the disease.

lawn affected by Ascochyta Leaf Blight

This picture illustrates how ascochyta leaf blight can be spread from a mower.

What kind of grass does it effect?

Kentucky bluegrass is the most susceptible to ascochyta leaf blight; however tall fescue and perennial ryegrass types are also vulnerable to the lawn disease.

Cultural management

Watering properly is key to controlling ascochyta leaf blight.  Avoid light, frequent irrigation in the early morning while surface moisture is present.  Deep, infrequent watering that occurs between 12 am – 6 am and we recommend to water 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone every third or fourth day is best. For more information about watering your lawn, check out our blog.

Proper mowing also helps.  Do not mow in the morning when the lawn is wet from the dew or last night’s scheduled watering.  This will spread the disease further.  Mow the lawn in the afternoon when the surface moisture has evaporated.  Keep the lawn height at 3 – 3 ½ inches in length.  Mow off 1/3 off the grass plant at a time.

Fertilize regularly to help stimulate growth of the grass. The faster the grass is growing the faster the disease will get grown out of the lawn on its own.

Core Aerate the lawn regularly in the early fall to help reduce thatch (where disease harbors) soil compaction.  This will also help to create a stronger root system and grass plants.

Unfortunately, fungicide treatments are not available for this particular disease.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that ascochyta blight will not kill your lawn.  It simply needs to grow out on its own with a little help from you, the homeowner.  If the conditions remain favorable this type of disease can persist for weeks.  After all cultural practices have been done, the only other thing you can do is be patient.  Give it time, your lawn will be okay.

If you have any questions about ascochyta leaf blight and you are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888 or request an estimate.

Red Thread Lawn Disease

A closeup of red thread lawn disease.

Lawn diseases are frustrating for every homeowner that desires to maintain the picture-perfect lawn and landscape. Unfortunately, the warmer temperatures of the spring-time that we all love; along with frequent rainy periods, creates the perfect storm of environmental conditions to be just right for fungus to grow in the lawn. A frequent spring-time lawn disease observed in many lawns is Red Thread Disease.

What is Red Thread Disease?

Red Thread Disease is caused by the fungus Laetisaria fuciformis, and is most notable during the early spring months. The first observable symptoms of red thread lawn disease are tan-to-red thread like growths called sclerotia, often seen in patches of 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Two environmental conditions that are key components to the fungus growing are high levels of humidity and temperatures between 60 to 75; making the spring time optimal for the disease to spread. The sclerotia strands can protrude upward from the blade tip of the grass, making them noticeable among other patches of disease free, green grass.

What kind of grass does it effect?

Although all varieties of turf grass are susceptible to red thread lawn disease; perennial ryegrass has been found to be the most susceptible, and fine fescues are also especially susceptible.

Cultural Management

Although the disease is unsightly, red thread lawn disease does not cause permanent injury to the grass. The key to controlling red thread lawn disease culturally is to promote turf growth. Maintaining adequate nitrogen and good soil moisture are the two most important factors when dealing with a red thread outbreak.  This will not only help to grow out the disease but, also creates a stronger healthier lawn overall. As the new growth occurs, the disease portions are cut away, leaving the healthy turf underneath exposed.

When red thread lawn disease has been a persistent issue, checking the soil pH level and maintaining a reading between 6.3 and 6.7 may help in reducing the issue. Also, the sclerotia survives in the thatch layer of the lawn. Heavy thatch build up and soil compaction can be reduced by core aeration, and we recommend this procedure is performed biennially in the late summer or early fall.

Additionally, it is important to practice watering techniques that will not overwater your lawn since the disease thrives under moist conditions. We recommend watering between midnight to 6 am and for those that have underground irrigation systems, run each zone for 1 hour twice a week. For traditional hose end sprinklers, run the sprinkler for 4 hours per area of coverage twice a week. For more information about watering your lawn, check out our blog.

If optimal weather conditions persist for this fungus, it will continue to spread more rapidly than the grass can grow it off.  In this case, it may take several weeks to over a month for complete recovery of the turf.

Treatment for Red Thread lawn disease

While this fungus will not kill the lawn, it can be frustrating for homeowners to deal with this eye sore for weeks while it grows out.  If red thread lawn disease is severe, a fungicide treatment can be applied to the lawn.  Post application, the disease will not be able to actively spread for three to four weeks.  This allows the lawn time to grow out the infected grass blades more quickly than the disease can spread, and the fungus is gradually cut away with regular mowing.

Conclusion

Red thread lawn disease is common; luckily it does not cause permanent damage on your lawn. Most red thread outbreaks can be kept under control through sound cultural practice, and the lawn can soon return to the green state it was prior. For especially bad cases, fungicide treatment is available to control the red thread lawn disease. If you have any questions about treating red thread lawn disease and you are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888 or request an estimate.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

About Tent Caterpillars

The eastern tent caterpillar moth is a native North American pest, that can regularly be found throughout New Jersey. Tent caterpillar nests are a common sight on cherry, apple and crabapple trees in the late spring and early summer months. These unsightly silken webs are built in the crotches of the tree limbs and can become quite large based on the number of caterpillars on the tree. During the day you may see these nests filled with hundreds of caterpillars. Eastern tent caterpillar moth populations fluctuate from year to year with large outbreaks occurring every eight to ten years. During years with high populations the eastern tent caterpillar moth can also be found on plum, pear, maple and hawthorn trees.

The eastern tent caterpillar moth overwinters on the tree as an egg, usually in a mass of 150-400 eggs. These egg masses are covered with a shiny black material the helps protect the eggs during the winter months. Once spring arrives the larvae hatch, this is normally around the same time cherry tree buds open and the trees begin to produce leaves. As the larvae crawl, they produce a silken string which is the beginning of their nest.

What Tent Caterpillars Feed On

The caterpillars feed for 4 to 6 weeks on the foliage of the host tree and grow to approximately 2 to 2 ½ inches in length. Feeding generally occurs during the day time if temperatures allow. Most feeding will occur within 3 feet of each tent caterpillar nest, so it is common to see multiple nests per host tree. During the night, or in the rain the caterpillars will stay inside the nest for protection from the elements. As they grow so will the size of the nest. The eastern tent caterpillar moth can defoliate a tree when populations are high, and some tree species may be killed if the tree does not have enough time to grow a new set of leaves for food production and storage prior to the winter. Any level of feeding and leaf loss weakens the host tree. In home landscapes the nests can become an eyesore, especially as defoliation occurs and they become more visible.

Mature eastern tent caterpillar moths will leave the host tree and search for a suitable, protected location to spin their cocoon and pupate. It is during this wandering phase that they become a nuisance and can be a mess when found on driveways, patios and walkways. The caterpillars are no longer feeding at this time, so no further damage will be caused to surrounding trees. Once a favorable location has been found the caterpillar will spin a white or yellowish cocoon. Once inside the cocoon the caterpillar transforms into a pupa and remains in the cocoon for approximately 3 weeks. Once fully mature, the eastern tent caterpillar moth emerges from the cocoon. Adult eastern tent caterpillar moths are reddish-brown in color and have a wingspan of about one inch. Male and female eastern tent caterpillar moths mate and the female will begin to lay eggs on small branches. These eggs will hatch in the spring of the following year. We see one generation of eastern tent caterpillar moths in New Jersey per year.

If you have experienced tent caterpillar moth damage on your trees, we recommend learning more about Deep Root Fertilization to promote tree recovery.

Treatment

There are a wide range of treatment options for eastern tent caterpillar moths that range from removal to chemical control. Beneficial insects, birds and toads feed on the eastern tent caterpillar moth. Beneficial wasps parasitize eggs, larvae and pupae reducing that year’s eastern tent caterpillar moth population. Early control is essential in minimizing damage to the host tree. Pruning of small twigs and branches that contain egg masses can be done in the winter prior to the eggs hatching in the spring. Small tent caterpillar nests may be removed and destroyed in the spring. Tent caterpillar removal is best when the nest is small, prior to feeding damage. The tent caterpillar nest should be destroyed or disposed of offsite. Removing the nest from the host tree and leaving it on site will allow the caterpillars to migrate to another host tree.

The application of registered insecticides by a licensed company is also a tent caterpillar treatment option. Tent caterpillar treatments must be applied to the host tree once the tent caterpillar nests are visible. They are protected while inside the nest, so it is important the tent caterpillar treatment be applied to the branches and leaves of the host tree as well as the tent caterpillar nest. As the tent caterpillars venture outside of the nest to feed they ingest the tent caterpillar treatment and are controlled. It is important to only use a licensed pesticide applicator for the treatment of eastern tent caterpillar moths. The timing for tent caterpillar treatment is critical as the application is only effective up until the wandering phase.

Conclusion

If you have a history of eastern tent caterpillar moth activity on your property contact your tree care company to discuss tent caterpillar treatment options and timing for your area. If you are in our service area and have any questions about this pest, feel free to contact our office at 908-281-7888 or request an estimate.

When will my lawn green up?

This picture illustrates how a Fine Fescue grass (right) greens up differently than a Blue/Rye grass mix (left).

In the spring, many lawns are brown and still in their winter dormancy state.  They will eventually green up, but timing depends on some external factors.  Your lawn’s green up in the spring is dictated by the temperatures of the soil as well as grass type.  The temperature of the soil needs to reach 50 to 65 degrees to actively start the growing and green-up process for northern grasses in our area including rye, blue and fescues.  To further complicate things, different species of grasses green up at different soil temperatures.  Thicker lawns can take a little longer to green up because the sunlight is not directly getting to the soil, hence taking more time for the soil to reach the desired green-up temperatures.  Also, if you have a lot of tree cover or other shade issues, the soil may take a little longer to warm up, delaying your lawn’s green up. You can’t control the external factors but there are a few things you can do to help your lawn green up a little quicker next spring.

What can be done to help the green up process in the spring?

The most important thing you can do to help your lawn green up in the spring is starting to think about it in the fall.  Specifically, a winterizing fertilizer applied late in the fall season will improve the green up process the following spring.  The winterizing fertilizer is one of the most important applications for your lawn.  It will provide nutrients that help promote root growth and get stored as reserves over the winter. The stored nutrients will be used for new growth and aid with your lawn greening up during the spring.

Once your lawn greens up in the spring you are going to want to keep it that way for the rest of the season.  Here are some helpful tips to keep your lawn green all season long especially during the hot and stressful summer months.

  1. Water the lawn regularly. Your lawn should receive roughly 1 inch of water per week. It is recommended to start running underground sprinklers for 1 to 1 ½ hours per zone, twice a week.  As for hose-end sprinklers start at around 4 hours per zone, once a week.  If the lawn loses color add more time to your watering schedule not more days.  Bump up your watering schedule by half-hour increments weekly until the color is adequate.  Watering should occur between midnight and 6 a.m.  Watering your lawn at night while you are sleeping will help to minimize the length of time the lawn is wet which will reduce disease activity.  It will also help save you money.  At night there is no sun to evaporate the water and you will use a lot less water to achieve your watering goals.  For hose-end sprinklers, you can go to any home improvement store and purchase battery operated timers and splitters for the hoses to set up in your lawn for overnight watering. Once the hot summer months roll around, the lawn will be under a tremendous amount of stress.  If the lawn does not get enough water it will turn brown and go into summer dormancy. Once the lawn turns brown from summer stress it will take heavy watering for to green back up.  The secret to having a green lawn all summer long is to water on a regular schedule and keep to that schedule.
  1. Mow the lawn correctly. The taller grass blades will shade the soil underneath keeping the soil moist longer. Mow the lawn when it needs to be mowed (not because you mow every Wednesday).  Mow off 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. Keep the height of cut to 3 – 3 ½ inches in length, and change the direction of the mowing pattern with each mowing.  This will help to reduce bending of the grass blade in the same direction and reduce ruts by the tires of the mower.  Keep the mower blades sharp to avoid shredding the leaf tips, which can cause infection of disease and the weakening of the grass plants in general.
  2. Core aerate your lawn annually in the fall. Core aeration is the mechanical process of removing plugs of soil creating small holes in the lawn which allows air, water and nutrients to get down to the grass root zone. This process also helps the grass roots grow deeper and produce a stronger, more vigorously growing lawn. To watch a video and learn more information about core aeration, check out our blog.
  3. Apply lime. Lime will help to regulate the pH of the soil. When the pH of the soil is low the nutrients in the soil are not completely available for use by the grass plants.  If the pH is in the optimum range (between 6.3 – 6.5 for grasses in our area) the lawn can utilize the nutrients to its full capacity which will help create a healthy and stronger lawn. For more information about soil pH and lime, check out our blog.
  4. Fertilize your lawn regularly throughout the season. By maintaining a good fertilizer program, you are supplying your turf with vital nutrients (like Nitrogen which helps maintain the color of the grass plants) it requires for optimum health, growth and color.

Conclusion

Bottom line, be patient, there is nothing wrong if your lawn greens up later than your neighbor’s.  It will green up over time, but keeping it green throughout the season, now that’s the real trick to a beautiful colorful lawn. If you have any questions about lawn services that can help the lawn green up throughout the year, check out our platinum lawn program.

If you are in our service areas and have questions, please feel free to give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Early Spring Weeds

The season of new life in our lawns and landscapes has finally arrived! Early in the spring, trees and shrubs produce beautiful flowers that bring vibrant colors to the landscapes, but unfortunately this time of year also brings unwanted plants; also known as weeds. Below we will go through the most common early spring weeds and the best treatment methods.

Dandelion

Dandelions are easily the most infamous of the early spring weeds that are very easy to identify.  We’ve all driven by a beautiful green landscape freckled with dandelions, disrupting the look of a lawn that recently greened up from winter dormancy. Dandelions are a perennial plant with leaves between 3-10 inches in length, stemming from a singular taproot. The yellow flower will transform into the white “puff ball” that we all used to pick up and blow on when we were kids. This part of the flowering weed is the seed head. Often, the seeds are carried by wind to a new destination and germinates to form a new dandelion plant the following year.

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy bittercress is another common early spring weed that sticks out like a sore thumb in the lawn. This early spring weed is an annual plant that starts to grow in early winter and matures through the very early part of the spring season. It produces a white flower, that is easily identifiable among the rest of the green plant. Many homeowners observe the presence of this weed despite having a lawn treatment service because this weed develops during the winter and most lawn companies have stopped treating weeds for the season.  Unfortunately, its presence in the lawn is almost unavoidable.

Wild Onion/Garlic

Wild onion and wild garlic are perennial plants that grow from bulbs in the soil. These are the tallest of the early spring weeds that are sure to stand out on any home lawn. Both plants have thin green waxy leaves; however wild garlic are round and hollow leaves, while wild onion leaves are flat and solid. The bulbs of the wild onion and garlic plan can remain dormant in the soil for several years, making the control for these weeds sometimes difficult. They look very similar to scallions you purchase in the store, except smaller.   Additionally, deer will not eat these weeds, and your dogs and cats should stay away from these plants as these early spring weeds are poisonous to them.

Common & Mouse-ear Chickweed

An early spring annual plant, chickweed typically will grow along edges of beds, sidewalks and curbs as seen in the image below. Chickweed grows in low lying patches as it roots itself from nodes along its stems.  It can develop a white flower if soil temperatures become warm enough before the lawn is being mowed regularly. The difference between the mouse-ear variety and common chickweed is that the leaves of mouse-ear chickweed are hair covered and appear fuzzy upon close inspection.

Henbit

This early spring weed is an annual plant with circular to heart shaped leaves and square stems that have a green to purple color to them. The flower of henbit grows in whorls around the stem and are a pink to purple in color.  Henbit usually resides in the harshest of environments near foundations, in stone, and very compacted soil.

Treatment

Although there are numerous types of early spring weeds, controlling them is not very difficult with the right product.  A treatment with the appropriate broadleaf weed control should kill most of the visible weeds this year.  Unfortunately, broadleaf weed control does not act as a preventative, so you will need to apply follow up treatments as more weeds emerge.  When selecting weed control, make sure you read the label to confirm the product will control the type of weeds growing in your lawn.  In addition, be sure to follow all instructions for proper use and rates to avoid any adverse effects.  Please make sure you do not apply a non-selective herbicide to your turf, such as Round Up containing Glyphosate, this will not only kill the spring weeds but also any grass plants that it contacts as well.

For information on cultural practices that can help prepare your lawn and landscape ready for outdoor parties and get togethers this spring, check out our spring maintenance blog.

Conclusion

Although it’s practically impossible to avoid having these weeds enter your lawn, these common early spring weeds are easy to control. If you have a lawn care company already, control of these early spring weeds should be included as part of your basic program. If you’re a do it yourselfer, getting rid of these early spring weeds can be accomplished using over the counter herbicides. Just be sure to read and follow all label instructions.

To be ready for the common summer broadleaf weeds, check out our blog. If you have any questions and are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-625-9891.

Before You Plant Grass in the Spring

Among a host of other long-awaited chores, many homeowners are eager to get out onto their lawns once the snow has melted and plant grass in the spring. While it may be difficult to contain the urge to rush out to the local home improvement store and spend hundreds of dollars in a state of euphoria brought on by the smell of fresh cut grass, there are a few things to consider first before planting grass in the spring.

How to decide?

The first thing to consider before planting grass in the spring is whether or not the lawn needs to be seeded at all. In the early months of spring the soil is often super saturated from the snow melt. A lot of the plants are overly succulent with no rigidity and the color is poor because a lot of plants are still dormant. Keep in mind that the lawn has just started to wake up and isn’t looking its best. I mean, would you want anyone making any decisions regarding what to do about your overall appeal right after you rolled out of bed? Just try not to be overly disappointed with the lawn’s appearance at first sight and know that it looks as bad as it is going to early in spring before the soil temperatures become warm enough to trigger spring growth before you decide to plant grass in the spring.

How should one determine if you should plant grass in the spring? Spring seeding should be planned if there any obvious areas of exposed soil. These areas can represent a large percentage of the property, or be as small as a baseball or basketball.  Even small areas of exposed soil where there is little to no grass present can be an eyesore, and establishing new grass in these areas before they become worse through erosion is important.

When to plant grass in the spring

Once the decision is made to plant grass in the spring, the work should be done as early as the weather permits. The best time to plant grass in the spring is when the snow has melted and it appears that there will be no future snow accumulation. This is usually between late March and early April. The timing is important because it is essential that the new seed has as many weeks as possible to establish before the summer arrives. One of the biggest disadvantages to seeding any areas in the spring is that a large percentage of the new plants do not develop a root system mature enough to survive the stress of summer. Therefore, it is best only to address the sections of the lawn that absolutely need it in spring.

unseeded lawn and seeded lawn

The above pictures show a portion of a lawn that needs to be seeded, and what it looks like post seeding.

 

After you seed

After the seeding has taken place it is important to feed the young plants. If you have a lawn care service in place they should be notified. Explain to them when and where on the property you have planted grass in the spring. The service provider can then be sure to avoid the application of any herbicides to the areas, and to bring out starter fertilizer with the next scheduled treatment to apply on the new grass. Keeping new grass properly fed with starter fertilizer high in phosphorus is critical in trying to ensure that the young plants establish in time for summer. Skipping the Early Spring application of fertilizer for fear that it may damage the turf in some way is a huge mistake often made by homeowners. Like any other newborn, young seedlings need to feed immediately to grow, and like infants they require a special diet different than that of mature adults.

With the new seed planted and fertilized, it becomes about monitoring the seedlings as they come in. The areas need to be kept moist always. One of the advantages of planting grass in the spring is that there is frequent rainfall, so keeping seeded areas moist is not very difficult. Light, frequent watering is best. New plants do not have roots, so deep watering does not serve much of a purpose. Traffic of the areas should be kept to a bare minimum. Use stakes and some string or caution tape to keep anyone from entering the area unnecessarily. The areas will need to be mowed eventually, but that should not happen until the new plants reach a height of about 4” or so.

If these instructions are followed to the letter, the new grass will have been given the best chance to germinate and establish. However, there are additional issues that come with planting grass in the spring that may adversely affect the result despite the best efforts of the homeowner.

Summer Heat

First, as mentioned already the trick with planting grass in the spring is to get it to establish before the summer arrives. Sometimes though, summer arrives earlier than expected. It is not unheard of for there to be heat waves as early as May, and it won’t take much to damage the young plants. Just a single week of temperatures more than eighty degrees may be enough to cause injury from which the new grass will not be able to recover.

Broadleaf Weeds

Second, the race for the new grass to establish is not just against the heat, but also the broadleaf weed growth. In areas of the lawn where there is less grass established there is more soil exposed to direct sunlight. The temperature increase in the soil, along with the lack of plant competition, creates the perfect environment for excessive broadleaf weed growth. If broadleaf weeds establish in these areas before the new grass does, then the results may be less than desirable.

Crabgrass

The last factor to consider before deciding to plant grass in the spring is crabgrass. The most effective way to control crabgrass is preventatively with treatments that are applied in the early spring. Any areas seeded cannot be receive this treatment because it prevents the new grass from being able to establish. What this means is that any areas seeded will most likely have to contend with a good deal of crabgrass growth. And because crabgrass growth doesn’t really occur until June, even new seed that looks amazing to that point can suddenly become lackluster once the crabgrass populates the area. The crabgrass can be treated at that point, but then the homeowner is left with an area filled with dead crabgrass plants until the lawn can be reseeded at summer’s end.

Conclusion

While spring is the time for new growth, all the factors mentioned should be carefully considered before planting grass in the spring. In general, smaller touch up seeding is a non-issue and should be taken care of without much thought. However, before doing any extensive plantings of grass in the spring, it may be best to contact a lawn care professional and weigh the options carefully.

For more information about preparing your lawn and landscape for spring, check out our blog that takes an in-depth look into preparing your property for the spring. If you are in our service area and have any questions about planting grass in the spring, please don’t hesitate to call us at 908-281-7888.

Snow Mold Disease

After a snow storm your yard looks pretty and picturesque, like a Bob Ross landscape painting!  But underneath this serene scene there is a lot going on with your grass; including dreaded diseases!  Snow mold is a fungal disease that can become active on turf under the cover of snow in the early spring. There are two types of snow molds common in New Jersey; pink snow mold and gray snow mold.

examples of snow mold disease

Above are two examples of what snow mold can look like on your lawn.

Pink Snow Mold

Once the snow starts to melt, pink snow mold disease becomes evident.  Pink snow mold gets its name from the pink fungal spores that collect on the grass leaf.  These spots will start out straw colored and the accumulation of spores on the grass leaf can become so numerous it starts to produce pink circular spots in the lawn that have a matted down appearance.  The spots can grow to five inches in diameter and have a bronze border.  When there are multiple spots, they can coalesce into larger irregular areas in the lawn.

Pink snow mold disease can continue during wet weather if the temperatures are between 35° F and 65° F, with an optimal temperature at 45° F. Pink snow mold does not only occur under heavy snow, the activity also occurs in light rains, heavy dew, overcast skies, fog and most importantly, extended leaf wetness.  It can take from forty-eight hours up to seventy-two hours for this disease to start to form.

Gray Snow Mold

Gray snow mold disease is similar to pink snow mold discussed above, but with a few different distinctions.  First being the color of the disease.  The patches will start out as a straw-colored spot then turn gray or silver in color.  The patches can range from several inches to large swaths of turf.  This disease can live in the thatch layer, the crown and/or the leaves of the grass plant over the summer time.   Secondly, gray snow mold only occurs under snow cover, while pink snow mold can occur with or without snow cover.  In most cases this disease kills the blade of the grass and not the crowns or roots.

Gray snow mold occurs between 35° F to 50° F with an optimal temperature of 35° F.  Heavy thatch can also play a key role in the formation of gray snow mold disease.  Other factors that can contribute to this disease are light rains, heavy dew on the turf, overcast skies, fog and extended leaf wetness.

Cultural Practices

Pink and gray are the most common of the snow molds and with both types of snow molds, the key factor that starts these diseases, is that snow covers the ground before the soil freezes.

Both diseases can be managed successfully at home with simple cultural practices.

  1. Maintain adequate fertility levels in the lawn. A soil test can be done to see which nutrients levels need to be adjusted in the soil.
  2. During the season, water your lawn correctly. Try to avoid moisture stress (drought) and water at the optimal times of day.  We recommend watering for 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone twice per week between midnight to 6 A.M.
  3. Mow into the late fall (as long as the grass is currently growing) at proper mowing heights by keeping the grass blades at 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. If the grass is too tall going into dormancy, the matted down grass can encourage snow mold disease.
  4. Core aerate the lawn in the fall. This process not only reduces the thatch layer, where these diseases can harbor, but is also beneficial to the lawn in so many other ways (see our core aeration blog for more information).
  5. After a snowfall try to not pile up too much snow in one area. The longer the grass is under the snow the more time it receives zero sunlight and oxygen.
  6. After the snow is melted and you can see the matted down spots, use a light plastic leaf rake to break the crusty matted down grass and gently “fluff” up the areas with the rake. This will improve air flow and growth.

Conclusion

Winter is a harsh time of year and lawns that are infected with either type of snow mold disease are generally late to green up.  The damage caused by snow mold is not usually serious.  Applying fungicides in the spring after the symptoms of snow mold appear is of no value and will not help.  But patience and a little bit of TLC goes a long way. If you are in our service area and have any questions about topics of snow mold disease, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

How to Prepare your Lawn and Landscape for Spring

Spring is the time of year we think of warmer temperatures, longer days, plants budding and nice flowers.  Before you start planning the outdoor barbecues and family get togethers, you may have some clean up to do after the winter weather took a toll on your landscape.  Below are a few helpful tips on how to prepare your lawn for spring and spring landscape maintenance tips that will get your property ready before the outdoor parties and get togethers.

Assess Your Lawn and Landscape

The first step to prepare your lawn for spring is to assess the current status.  Take a walk around your property to look for fallen branches, debris, and any damage that might have been done over the winter and recent storms.  Create a prioritized list of items that need to be done to help stay on task and organized.

Tune Up Your Landscape Equipment

After your property check, it’s a great time to assess your landscaping equipment to make sure everything is in working order.  It will be difficult to prepare your lawn for spring if your equipment is not working properly.  Check your lawn mower, leaf blower, weedwacker and anything else that has a small engine for leaks of any fluids or other obvious signs of damage.  If you didn’t clean your equipment at the end of last year’s season, doing so now will make inspecting for damage a lot easier.  Check the spark plugs on all your gas-powered equipment and change them as necessary.  Once your inspections are done, it’s time to do some routine preventative maintenance.  For your operating equipment, change the engine oil, grease bearings, inflate tires on equipment if applicable, and lubricate moving parts.  Sharpen your mower blades before the season starts and on a quarterly basis going forward.  It’s also a great time to spool your weedwhacker with some new line.

Get Out There

When it comes to preparing your lawn for spring and spring landscape maintenance, cleaning is pretty much on everyone’s list!  Clean out your landscape beds and the borders around the edges of the property from debris that collected over the winter.

Prepare the lawn by raking leftover leaves and debris from the fall.  This will also help if there are any winter lawn diseases present, such as pink or grey snow mold.  By lightly fluffing up the matted down turf with a leaf rake, it will help increase oxygen flow and aid in growing out the disease.  This type of disease will not cause any permanent damage and addressing it early is a great way to prepare your lawn for spring.

The grass may still be brown despite the warmer temperatures.  Don’t worry, the grass will green up.    The thing to understand is that air temperatures do not green up a lawn; it’s the soil temperatures.  As the spring days get longer, the sun has more time to warm up the soil.  Once the soil reaches the ideal temperature for your type of grass, you will notice significant green up.

damaged mower blades

Dull and damaged mower blades like the one in this photo need to be sharpened to avoid shredding grass plants.

Mow Your Lawn

The first mow of the lawn at the beginning of the year will set the tone for the season.  Keep the grass at a height of 3 – 3 ½ inches in length all year long.  Only take off 1/3 of the grass plant at a time.  If you’re going through the steps to prepare your lawn for spring, don’t forget about your lawn mower blades!  Keep your blades sharp to get a clean cut and avoid shredding the grass blade.  A shredded grass blade not only makes the lawn look bad and gives it a whiteish tint, but it also weakens the plant, making it more susceptible to drought, disease and insect damage.

Seed Only if You Must

Although September is the optimal time to seed your lawn, sometimes you just have to seed in the spring.  Large areas that are bare, very thin, or have a lot of old, dead crabgrass plants in the area should be seeded.  You can prepare your lawn for spring seeding by loosening the soil in those areas to about 1 – 1 ½ inches or add 1 – 1 ½ inches of top soil.  Then, mix in your grass seed and lightly rake it into the loose soil.  Grass seed germination rates are higher with better seed to soil contact.  Now water, water, water!  Watering is very important for new seed.  Water every day for 20 minutes per area in the morning to keep your soil and seed moist.  Seeding is the only time we recommend watering at high frequency and short duration.  For tips on how to water your lawn correctly, please visit our blog.  Keep in mind that any areas seeded in the spring will not be able to receive crabgrass or weed controls which in turn will make those areas have issues with weeds and crabgrass all year long.

Check Your Irrigation System

Have your irrigation company come by to check the system and turn it on for the season.  Have any heads or pipes that were damaged from the cold repaired.  Set your watering schedule to start out at one hour per zone twice per week.  You want to get one inch of water on your lawn per week.  As the temperatures get hotter, increase your watering time by half hour increments.  Do not add more days, instead add more time to your watering schedule.  Starting to water early in the season may sound crazy, but if you water early enough and get a good start, it will be healthy going into the harsh summer months and less susceptible to drought, disease and insects.

Prune Trees & Shrubs and Mulch Your Landscape

So far, we’ve focused mainly on how to prepare your lawn for spring, but what about your landscape plants!  Now is the time to start spring landscape maintenance by pruning your trees and shrubs of any broken or dead branches.  For flowering shrubs, wait until flowers bloom so you don’t cut off limbs that will be producing flowers or fruits.  You should assess whether you can remove the branches yourself or if you should hire a company to do so.  A general rule of thumb is if you have to get on a ladder to cut down limbs or branches, you probably should hire someone to do it.  Depending on the nature of what needs to be removed, be sure to pick the right person for the job.  Also, be sure that any tree company that you use is properly insured and licensed.

Plant your annual flowers.  This is a good time to spruce up your landscape with flowers.  Flowers can really add a lot of ‘pop’ to an otherwise mundane landscape.  Like shrubs, it is important to try and determine where to plant which flowers.  For example, if there is a dry, sunny location that you want to bring color to, wave petunias may be an option.  Or, if there is a lot of shade and moisture in a particular location, impatiens might work for you.  Do you want to plant different flowers every year? If so, annual flowers are what you are looking for.  Do you want to plant just once and have them come up in the same location every year? If yes, then perennials are the way to go.  The choices of what flowers to use in your landscape is limitless.  When purchasing new flowers or shrubs, be sure to read the tag to determine the proper planting location.  For example, if you have an area that is mostly shaded, look for plants that prefer shade or minimal sun to give it the best chance of thriving in your landscape.

Replacing dead or dying shrubs is another key step to preparing your landscape for the spring.  If the shrub is dead, see if you can determine why it died.  Is it the right plant for the location? Are the soil conditions ideal for the plant?  It is a good idea to determine these factors before replacing the dead shrubs with the same, or similar, plant.  If it is deemed that the location is not ideal for the plant you want, you will be replacing that plant year after year.  If you are unsure how to determine this, just give us a call and we will be happy to help you.

Maintain 2 – 3 inches of fresh mulch on your landscape.  This will help regulate the soil temperatures and help hold soil moisture for the trees and shrubs, reduce weed growth and give your landscape that nice clean maintained look.  Please note that mulch should not be piled high on the trunk of trees or covering the shrubs. This will lead to decay and damage in the future.  For more information on mulching and the risks of having too much mulch, please see our blog on mulching your landscape.

Repair Damages to Your Home or Property

We’ve gone through ways to prepare your lawn for the spring and tips for spring landscape maintenance, but don’t forget about the house!  Now is the time to make repairs to the outside of your house as well, here are a few common issues:

  • Repair and clean clogged gutters
  • Fix shingles that were damaged during the winter
  • Mend fence posts or panels that are loose or broken
  • Sweep gravel back into your stone or brick walkways
  • Seal your driveway if necessary
  • It’s also a great time to repair damages or reseal your deck
  • Fix landscape lighting that may have stopped working over the winter

Conclusion

When it comes to preparing your lawn for spring and starting your spring landscape maintenance, it seems like the to do list keeps on growing!  That being said, there are perks to owning a home.  It’s your sanctuary and taking pride in our properties adds benefits to our lives, communities and our environment.  If you are in our service area and have any questions about topics covered in this blog, such as proper mowing, watering, seeding, etc. please don’t hesitate to call us at 908-281-7888.

Getting Rid of Voles

The picture above shows what runways from voles look like in a lawn. Learn more about getting rid of voles below.

What is a Vole?

Have you ever heard of a vole? Don’t worry, although this rodent is common, many people have never heard of them. Often referred to as meadow or field mice, these small rodents are generally dark brown or gray in color and only around five to eight inches in length, while their body is frequently more robust than a mouse.

Voles construct runways at the lawn surface with numerous burrow openings that typically stem from shrub beds or wood lines. In some cases, the network of runways can be extensive, covering a significant area of a property. While these trails can be found any time of the year, they are most often discovered as snow begins to melt in the early spring. Under snow cover and hidden from predators, voles will venture further into open areas foraging for food. Following a winter with persistent snow coverage for long periods, damage tends to be worse.

Distinguishing a Vole from a Mouse

Prior to protecting your property and getting rid of voles, it is important to be able to identify the mouse-like rodent as it differs from other rodents like moles, mice and rats. Voles are almost always mistaken for mice and one of the best ways to differentiate the rodents is by tail length. Mice have long tails that are equal to about half of their body length while voles’ tails are shorter. Their tail has thin hair and is darker on the upper side than the lower side.  Another distinguishing characteristic includes their round head shape and blunt snout. The voles’ eyes are very small and black, and their ears are covered by fur.

There are several species of voles that are native to our area and eat a wide variety of plants, most frequently grasses and glasslike plants. In the late summer and fall they store seeds, tubers, bulbs, and rhizomes. They primarily eat bark in the fall and winter, and will also eat grain crops, especially when populations are high. Occasionally food items include snails, insects and animal remains. Voles are active day and night year-round, with peak activity being from dawn to dusk. Their home range is usually a quarter of an acre or less, but this range varies with season, population density, habitat and food supply.

Most importantly, voles need ground cover to survive and therefore avoid open ground areas. Cleared spaces as narrow as 10 inches inhibit their movements.

Although voles breed throughout the year, breeding is most common during spring and summer months. Generally, they have one to five litters per year and litter sizes range from one to 11 young and the gestation period is about 21 days. Further, the young are weaned by the time they are 21 days old, and females are sexually active in 35 to 40 days. Voles have short life spans that generally range from two to 16 months.

Getting Rid of Voles

Unfortunately, the eradication of voles is not easy for homeowners, nor is it completely necessary. However, if getting rid of voles is a priority, repellents or chemical lures can be effective in some cases but cannot provide one hundred percent control. Additionally, these chemical repellants should be used with caution due to subsequent effects on certain birds and other small mammals like chipmunks and squirrels.

Traditional mmousetraps(a ‘snap trap’) baited with food items and placed near the runways can also be effective in catching some voles. Nevertheless, this method does not reduce the vole population numbers significantly.

Protecting plants from voles in shrub beds can be done with a fence buried three to six inches below the soil surface and bent outward into an L shape. Above ground, the fence should be from four to 12 inches tall. Use non-rusting, one quarter inch mesh. Hardware cloth works well for this purpose.

Removing weeds, mulch and other crop litter around gardens will help protect plants. Create a bare border space around your garden or dig a trench twelve inches in depth and wide enough to step over easily to discourage voles. To learn more about weed control in mulch beds, check out helpful tips about applying pre-emergent weed control.

While getting rid of voles may be difficult, the damaged grass and plants can grow back! Once the grass begins actively growing, vole trails become less obvious. Spring fertilization helps speed the lawn’s recovery; however, minor touch up seeding may be necessary to further correct the issue.

Conclusion

One key takeaway about voles is that they prefer a location with cover. Expect to have less vole damage during mild winters with short periods of snow cover. If you are in our service area and have any questions about getting rid of voles, please feel free to call our office at 908-281-7888.

Winter Damage on your Landscape Plants

When we think of snow, we’re reminded of slippery roadways, shoveling, salting our driveways and walkways, sitting in front of a warm fireplace and often forget about the plants outside in the landscape.  Not all plants will have winter damage.  Sometimes the snow will act like an insulator and protect your plants against the cold temperatures and winds.  However, there are many other factors that can cause winter damage to plants that you may not have thought about.

What kind of winter damage can occur?

winter and snow damage to plantsIn general, the winter brings cold day time temperatures, less sunlight and moisture, potentially heavy winds and freezing nights.  Some plants are hardy enough to survive the cold winter months.  However, a plant weakened by summer stress may be more susceptible to winter and snow damage.

The first kind of winter damage to plants is called desiccation.  Desiccation occurs when the ground is frozen and plants cannot take up water, causing the leaves to dry out.   Water loss is greatest during windy, sunny and milder weather.  The leaves of broadleaf evergreens will curl inward and hang down when there is not enough moisture in the leaves.  You will notice the leaves start to burn around the edges and slowly work inward.  After turning brown and drying up, the leaves may fall off the branches.

The next type of winter damage to plants is “bark splitting” or “frost cracking”.  Heating and freezing on a daily basis, along with wind and bright sunny skies will cause the dehydrated bark to split open or crack.  The water inside the tree will freeze and expand causing the splitting.  This can cause injury or death to the tree.  Most of the smaller ornamental plants will recover from this by growing the bark back together again, but bigger trees may not able to recover.

winter and snow damage to plantsOne often overlooked form of winter damage to plants and trees is caused by salt.  Wind-driven salt sprays from road trucks can travel up to 150 feet. The salt can cause extreme damage to pine, spruce and fir trees.  Salt damage to evergreen plants causes the needles to brown from the tip to the base.  Trees that lose their leaves each year may be damaged as well, but the damage will not be noticeable until the spring of the following year when the plants do not leaf out or bud properly because of bud damage.  If rain or snow melt does not dilute salt placed on sidewalks or driveways, the soil becomes very salty and can easily damage plants.  Follow this link to our salt damage blog for more information.

Finally, there is ice and snow damage.  This can happen when there is excessive snow on landscape plants.  Snow can accumulate on plants naturally from a snowstorm, or it can be piled up on plants as we remove snow from our sidewalks and driveways.  Oftentimes we don’t have anywhere to put the snow and we throw it onto our landscape plants without realizing it.  This will put a significant amount of weight on the branches of your plants causing them to bend or break and impede the flow of nutrients and moisture in the vascular system of the plant.  This type of snow damage is difficult to identify and will not likely show up for several months into the growing season.

What can I do to help reduce winter damage to plants?

  1. Pick trees and shrubs that are hardy and good for the specific area you live in.
  2. We recommend an anti-desiccant application for all broadleaf evergreens on your property to help stop desiccation. An anti-desiccant spray will coat the foliage of the evergreen plants with a thin layer of an organic “sealant” to help them resist the drying power of winter winds and conserve the moisture vital to their health.
  3. Wrap your landscape plants with burlap or create a “screen” or “windbreak” around the plants that are susceptible to winter damage. This will help reduce the constant cold wind directly hitting the landscape plants and protect them from snow, frost and ice.
  4. Protect the trunks of the smaller trees from “frost crack” or “bark splitting” with a commercial tree wrap such as a polyurethane spiral wrap or paper wrap. The wrap should be applied in the fall, and should be removed prior to the spring.
  5. Fertilize your plants. The lack of proper nutrition can make your landscape plants more susceptible to winter damage. You should have your plants fertilized regularly in the fall to provide the necessary nutrients the plants will need for the winter.
  6. Water your newly planted trees and shrubs until the ground freezes and apply 3-5 inches of mulch to help insulate the ground around the roots of the trees and shrubs.
  7. Wait until the plants are dormant before pruning. Pruning while the plant is actively growing can cause the tree to grow more and put out new growth. This new growth will not survive the cold winter and can lead to disease or rot causing decline and permanent damage.
  8. After a snowstorm we recommend you brush off the snow from the branches of your trees and shrubs to protect from snow damage. Lightly knock off the snow with a broom. This will reduce the weight on the individual branches which will help reduce bending or breaking.   However, do not try and remove ice from your trees and shrubs after an ice storm.  This will most likely cause more harm than good to your plants.  Also, when shoveling or snow blowing the driveway and walkways, try not to throw the snow onto the landscape plants.  Put the snow onto areas that can handle heavy, wet snow.
  9. Finally, try to minimize your salt usage on your sidewalks and driveways as much as possible. Runoff can cause the salt that has not dissolved to run into your landscape beds, roads and sewers.

Conclusion

There are many ways your trees and shrubs can be damaged during the winter season.  The good news is there are options available to help minimize stress and winter damage to plants.  If you are in our service area and have any questions about protecting your plants this winter, please feel free to call our office at 908-281-7888.

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