Posts Tagged ‘brown lawns’

Your brown lawn may have more than a color problem

High heat and lack of rainfall has NH & VT lawns turning brown

 

The summer of 2012 is shaping up to be one of record heat, sun, warmth, and drought in many areas across the USA.  While this is fabulous vacation weather for the beach and outdoor activities, your lawn may have gone brown months ago depending upon your location.  In New England, we are experiencing dry weather not felt since the 1950’s.  I don’t imagine Elvis would be pleased to have a brown lawn upon his return home from touring.

At any rate, severe lack of moisture can create other problems beside the straw colored grass you see below your feet.  Extended dry periods cause the soil temperature to dramatically rise, which in turn causes crabgrass and other noxious annual weeds to germinate in earnest.  While your cool weather-loving turf is asleep trying to just survive, weeds can pop up and seemingly grow inches a day.  This is especially true of crabgrass, even with a preventative treatment applied in the spring since the product’s life span only lasts into late July or early August in NH or VT.  Super heated soil creates an ideal growing environment for crabgrass, even in the best cared for lawns.  A light touch is the best course of action until September arrives and restoration efforts can begin.

A more serious side to drought is the fact it attracts all kinds of heat- loving insects like Japanese beetles, chinch bugs and sod webworm to name just a few.  Damage can be occurring right under your feet without a hint of the battle raging in the soil or on the hot brown surface of your beloved lawn.  Left unchecked, fall rainfall comes and your lawn never recovers, which might be attributed to small grubs feeding from late summer right into fall.

Even those grassy areas lucky enough to have irrigation or some shade are not immune to the heat and humidity.  I have seen plenty of brown patch disease rising up overnight due to humidity and wet grass, with the resulting damage visible the next morning.  Mowing grass already in drought conditions or during the heat of the day is like pushing a friend over a cliff with the flu, just plain mean.  The best advice in a hot summer with a significant lack of rainfall is to stay off the lawn if possible, watch and treat for insects as necessary based upon population levels, and irrigate if possible in the morning – even if only for a short period of time.  Even a little water is better than nothing when it comes to keeping the dormant growing point of your grass alive.  Like an IV in a sick patient in the hospital, any moisture applied is better than none in an absence of rainfall.

Any fertilizer used should be at a low rate, slow release, and generally granular in nature.  With autumn only a month away, we are at the top of the roller coaster and things should slowly begin to improve as August fades into September.  If your lawn has taken a hit like many have, plan now to have restoration services lined up in order to take advantage of the best growing time of year for grass – fall!  Services like core aeration, overseeding, lime, compost tea, and organic or natural fertilizers can bring a lawn back to life in preparation for 2013.

Enjoy the heat now because your lawn sure hates it, at least in New England.

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Milky Spore Lore & White Grubs in your lawn

According to a 2008 University of New Hampshire publication on Milky Spore disease, there are more reasons NOT to use this product than to use it in your home lawn.  Milky spore has been around for decades and was the first biological control means for Japanese beetle grubs.  Milky Spore comes in a powder and consists of a bacteria.  The first reason not to use milky spore was the design, it was manufactured to control ONLY Japanese beetle grubs- unfortunately there are many more!  Other turf damaging grubs in NH & VT include Asiatic beetles, European and masked chafers, June and May beetles and armyworms.  So now you understand that even if milky spore could work, you would be controlling one grub out of many, not good odds.

The second major issue not to use milky spore is you must have Japanese beetles in your lawn in sufficient numbers to promote the bacterial population enough to expand and spread out in the soil.  Therefore, if you do not have a large japanese beetle population, one where you would likely see damage- why bother?  The third reason not to use milky spore in NH and VT is the fact that soil temperature must be between 60 and 70 degrees for 3 months.  The high soil temperature necessary does not occur in our region and the bacteria can take over 4 to 5 years to build up, under ideal conditions, with a high population of Japanese beetles!  Wow!  You might want to go buy that lottery ticket today versus buying milky spore.

The Fourth reason not to use milky spore relates to how Japanese beetle grubs must ingest or eat the milky spore in the soil, not come into contact with, but eat it.  To summarize, even under ideal conditions, purchasing and using milky spore disease is a serious waste of money and time especially since there are more effective organic/biological methods like Nematodes. 

Nematodes are microscopic worms that are applied to the soil in a water spray.  The nematodes then swim and attack the grubs while swimming in water between the soil particles.  Nematodes will attack and destroy all of the grubs found in NH and VT listed above.  They will also attack sod webworms!  Since there is no “golden bullet”, Nematodes must be watered into the lawn or they will perish so that usually means applying them in the rain.  The soil must have sufficient moisture content and you must target the grubs at the right life cycle stage.  Having a professional apply Nematodes is the only true logistical option at this time, and our company does provide this service in our market area.

There are also a large range of new products on the market, some that do not even require a signal word because they are so applicator and environmentally friendly.  In some states like Vermont- you must have a pesticide license even if you are applying organic products since it is considered a pesticide even if it is organic.  Please keep in mind some organic products are just as dangerous or more so than some newer manufactured products.  There are several key points to remember before using any “pesticide”, the first being is a treatment required and why?  Secondly, what are the best material(s) to use for the job with the least impact to the environment and applicator.  Do we need to treat the entire lawn or just a portion of it?  Can we live with a small amount of damage and renovate later, only treating that one area or should we treat a larger area with a different product at a different time?  These are all questions best left to the professional because without knowing insect or disease life cycles, product components, mode of action, and application method- things can go wrong real quick.  This does not take into account the potential waste of material and use of a pesticide that should not have been used, regardless of composition.  Doing the right thing, at the right time is harder to do than you may think.

I do hope you have learned something new today or perhaps confirmed something you already believed in regarding grub control.  In any event, as fall fades into winter- be sure you are ready next spring because if you do have grubs- they will be waiting and you should have a game plan lined up this winter to address that very issue.  Thanks for visiting my humble blog!

Be sure to the visit this UNH video link  http://extension.unh.edu/agric/turf/media/lifecycl.htm

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Excessive grub activity is going undetected in NH lawns

If your lawn is brown, don’t assume it is merely drought damage or continued drought given the dry weather pattern in NH.  Many lawns are being eaten right now by white grubs of all kinds.  White grubs are in bountiful numbers given the past dry, hot weather in NH & VT.  Unfortunately, many homeowners and commercial locations are not aware of this damage which will continue well into early November.  Many landscapers do not have the education or proper state certification and licensing to diagnose and treat complex lawn problems.  Left unchecked, grub damage can destroy sections if not entire lawn areas within weeks to months if left untreated.  The news gets worse!  These grubs will hide and wait until next spring, then the feeding will start again!  Many brown turf areas can be infested with grubs because many will assume the area was caused by drought and high heat.  While this may be true for some, other lawns will continue the downward spiral without appropriate action this fall or at best next spring.

Look for animals digging like crows, ravens, or skunks at night.  The turf will be easily uprooted since the root system is being attacked and cannot grow fast enough to anchor the grass to the surface.  Focus on sunny areas, along driveways or walkways.  Hot, or sunny areas are prime locations for beetles to lay their eggs for the next generation.  Your grass may be brown mixed in with green but when exposed, the trained eye can find grubs of varying sizes and types.  There are many products which can be used to control grubs including chemicals and nematodes.  Each claims success under various conditions and instructions to the home owner.  Don’t assume that picking up a bag at Lowes or the Home Depot will insure results.  Unfortunately, there are many products aimed at specific periods in the life cycle of grubs so a bag of “Grub X or Milky Spore” applied in the fall does not mean it will work.  You must read the label or call a professional to determine if your $30 investment will actually work or just make you feel good.  If in doubt ask- don’t simply apply materials to your lawn without understanding the ramifications, that would not be environmentally responsible.  While grass is important, what you do to the environment is more important.  This is why professionals like myself must train, take written plus verbal exams by state agencies, and work in the field to gain “real world” experience.

Don’t let brown areas go unchecked, go call or e-mail a reputable lawn care company like mine.  Speak with a local professional with appropriate licensing and experience to give you the real answer.  Your lawn need not be damaged with proper information to back up appropriate action!

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