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Mole and Voles in your Landscape

Moles and voles remind me that not all lawn problems are directly related to weed, disease, or insect issues. Moles and voles can be real lawn nuisances and I have not really addressed these varmints in the past. Moles and voles are very different critters and an ounce of prevention can help keep your landscape free of both of these pests.

 

Field Vole

A common vole

 

 
Moles are carnivorous animals that primarily eat earth worms, adult insects, and a variety of grubs in the soil. Voles by contrast are rodents and look much like a mouse. Voles seek to eat grass blades, bulbs, bark, roots, and succulent vegetation on trees and shrubs in and around your home. One is a meat eater and the other is a vegetarian and both cause an eye sore with their tunneling and feeding activities in lawns and beds. Mole and vole activity peak between September and April. Moles aggressively forage for insects in your home landscape.

 

Common Mole

A common mole.

 

 
Neither moles nor voles hibernate, so they can cause damage year round. Moles have two kinds of tunnels, a surface feeding tunnel with the characteristic mound of soil pushed up, as well as a lower “interstate highway” for long distance travel to say the woods or a mulch bed. Voles’ tunnels are similar to the mole surface feeding tunnel, less the mound of dirt. You may have moles or voles but neither has any direct correlation to the other in terms of sharing tunnels or food source. Both varmints make a mess and their tunneling can drive home owners into frenzy much like the groundskeeper in the movie Caddyshack.

 
Now that we have outlined key differences between a mole and vole, what can be done? Regular mowing is very helpful toward discouraging a resident mole or vole but is not the only preventative action available.

 
To discourage voles, keeping clean gardens, landscape beds, and mulch depth to less than 2”removes potential nesting sites. Overgrown plants, excessive leaf litter, and deep mulch in your gardens or landscape are ideal habitats for voles. Be sure to clean out all the fall leaf litter around your foundation to remove vole nesting sites before winter. Cutting your lawn short to 1.5” in November will help reduce a surface food source under the snow. Since voles are rodents, you can also use mouse traps placed around ornamental shrubs like you would in your home.

 
Moles meaty food source of worms, grubs, and insects ironically often means you have healthy soil under your lawn. While grub reduction can be helpful, it is not the moles’ main food or only food source. Since moles don’t like a lot of traffic or sound, I have seen sonic devices do a nice job on making a hostile habitat; creating a rock concert atmosphere if you will. I have mole baits which used as a last resort will take out your resident mole(s).

 
When it comes to controlling moles and voles, a tidy landscape is a healthy landscape. Weekly walks around your lawn and garden beds can help spot a mole or vole infestation before it becomes a big problem. Placing mouse traps for voles is a simple, yet effective means to protecting your valuable landscape.

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4 Quick lawn tips for Spring

Here are four, quick audio tips for your lawn this spring now playing on the radio.  Enjoy!

 

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Spring Lawns After a Harsh Winter

Unusually large amounts of snow and a late winter thaw can spell trouble for home lawns in VT and NH.  Massive piles of snow and ancient icy banks are determined to persist well into late April.  Slow melting ice and snow is anything but good news for grass buried deep beneath the arctic wasteland we call home as temperatures remain far below average in the last days of March.  The real damage from the copious use of rock salt will become apparent as the snow recedes, exposing brown and yellow patches along walkways and driveways.  Pieces of turf now flipped upside down lie like fish out of water from plow damage after each successive storm in what has been called a “real winter”.  Cue the spotlight on snow mold as the cold temperatures, with just the right amount of humidity, are ideal for this disease to thrive.  Pink and gray snow mold may be widespread and hamper the ability of your lawn to recover successfully from the trauma dealt by Mother Nature.  If I had a batman lamp, I would surely turn it on and point it into the night sky; our lawns need help.

Help our lawns
Fear not, Mr. Grass is here and although not a super hero, I am well versed in the green art of lawn care and helping the innocent lawns which have been beaten down from a harsh winter.  You can help your lawn immediately by breaking up piles of ice and snow, scattering the chunks onto warmer surfaces to melt; a driveway or patio perhaps.  The faster the snow goes, the quicker the soil will warm and awaken your dormant lawn into recovery mode.  If there are excessive leaves, debris, branches and other objects, try and remove them before the lawn begins growing to prevent mulching and unnecessary damage.  This is especially true of gravel and rocks that may have been pushed up and onto lawn surfaces from winter plowing.  Rake and remove any gravel and sand from your lawn.  If you do have visible turf chunks, help them by flipping the root surface over and put it back on the ground so when growth occurs, some root regeneration can occur.  Leaving chunks of lawn in pieces lying on each other will also damage the healthy lawn below; acting as mulch.  This phenomenon is especially true as things really warm up and the grass begins to grow again.

Big pile of snow
Additional winter recovery can be obtained by firing up the friendly soil micro-organisms with compost tea, a high quality lime, or fertilizers.  I do not recommend heavy dethatching because the damage inflicted may well thin out or even kill portions of your lawn under such stress.  I do recommend lightly raking out any matted snow mold and ice damage which will speed up the drying process, warm the soil, and promote new root and shoot growth.  Your lawn will need extra help this spring so plan on doing your part.  As your lawn recovers, using crabgrass or other broadleaf weed controls become more practical as tools to protect future infestations.  Good luck and may the temperature rise in your neighborhood creating more green and less white!

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