We have noticed elevated chinch bug activity in NH this summer, especially in the New London area. Any unusual browning surrounded by healthy green grass is suspect and may have chinch bugs. Brown spots may appear as small pockets or larger patches and they will slowly grow in size. If your lawn has unusual browning that just does not look right, please give us a call or e-mail for a free consultation.
Posts Tagged ‘brown spots’
Midsummer weather can put even a great looking lawn into a slow dive of despair without careful attention. As the heat kicks into high gear, soil temperatures reach their smoking point and crabgrass seeds begin germinating in earnest, popping like corn in a microwave. Limey green crabgrass plants appear virtually overnight exposing vulnerable areas along driveways, patios, walkways, mailboxes among others. Where did they come from? How can they grow so fast? Ah, the games have just begun!
If you have not watered and your lawn is cut short, now is when your thin lawn becomes choked out with crabgrass plants the size of small cars. During hot, humid weather, cool season grasses will stop growing, sitting idle while crabgrass seemingly grows an inch an hour, basking in the searing July heat. A weak or thin lawn, or those lacking a pre-emergent crabgrass barrier, are now at high risk for a crabgrass invasion that will only cease when school reopens. While post-emergent sprays do exist, spraying at this stage is like using a garden hose on a house fire: it’s best just to let nature take its course. Measures should be taken in the fall such as aeration, overseeding, lime, and turf thickening fertilizers to help prepare the lawn for the following spring. A healthy lawn resists this invasion, and although areas may see some crabgrass, it will not be to the point where one could harvest the greenery for salads.
A casual glance toward the interior of your lawn may reveal disturbing patches and blotches of varying sizes and colors ranging from brown to white. How can this be? What went wrong? Like a good CSI episode, it is time for the facts to speak and rule out the guessing. These issues generally fall under environmental stress such as heat, sun scald, or some other non-pathogenic source. Ruling out diseases can be very tricky depending upon the weather, timing, and location of injury. This summer has seen a significant upswing in disease-related damage ranging from pits and scars, to unusual patches. Preventative measures can be taken to help clean up your lawn with either traditional or organic treatments. Insects are perhaps the easiest to detect given their predicable nature and timing during the season. Now is a perfect time to treat for grubs, sod webworm, and chinch bugs using either organic or traditional materials.
Doing some simple things properly for your lawn during the next 6 weeks can reduce unsettling issues arising from disease, insects, and environmental stress. Summer is generally not the best time to spray for difficult to control broadleaf weeds like ground ivy and violets since high heat and low soil moisture content reduce product effectiveness. If you think you have an invasion at your house, get it checked out and maybe there is a solution to either stop the problem or slow the damage. Don’t let your lawn scare the neighborhood children – plan ahead and keep it clean and green!
July is a month where your home lawn can be easily neglected due to many New Englanders seeking out the beach or mountain lakes on summer vacation. There is a short checklist that can prevent some issues and provide peace of mind while you are away enjoying those early morning beach walks.
Before you depart, make sure your lawn is cut the day before you leave if possible. If you have a mowing service, the task of mowing is not really an issue. If you mow yourself, a cut the day before will normally give you a solid 7 to 10 day time frame in which to return without the lawn having grown too long. In fact, during a hot July period, it is better to go 2 weeks without mowing if the air temperature is in the 80’s and rainfall is absent. If you return and your grass is really tall, such as over 6”, removal of your clippings is recommended or be sure to rake up the rows of cut grass.
Have your lawn inspected for insect activity; left unchecked, under ideal weather conditions you can lose a lawn in days without curative action. I have seen a number of lawns with sod webworm damage with the characteristic tan moth taking flight as you walk near. These small patches are fist size in nature and can coalesce into larger stripes or patches if not treated during the summer months.
Although this season has been on the humid and warm side, promoting diseases over insect activity, a professional lawn evaluation is worth the peace of mind. If your lawn has confirmed disease issues, it may well be worth a fungicide application to “clean things up” during the July/August period where serious injury can occur. Summer diseases can easily appear to be drought or insect activity. Hot weather and warm nights can bring on blotches and spots in mere hours without you realizing the culprit. You may awake and look out the kitchen window only to ask “Those patches were not there yesterday, were they?” Thatchy lawns are particularly prone to summer patch diseases, manifesting as scars and pits when placed under stress.
Irrigation or lawn watering is helpful during dry periods but is not necessary during a standard summer vacation. If you have a sprinkler system or a friend to water, be sure to water in the am or day versus late afternoon, thus minimizing disease issues. As always, infrequent deep watering is preferred over frequent light watering to promote deeper root systems and minimize disease. A 1hr watering every other day is generally preferred over a daily 15 minute watering. Don’t let your lawn stop you from enjoying a great July summer vacation.
I normally don’t write on the topic of lawn pesticides because it is so vast, involves emotions, has supporting scientific data on both sides, and has so many people who claim to be ”experts”. There are some who would request additional laws through legislation given their own unique perspective on an industry I have worked in for over 24 years. Unfortunately, these very factors create confusion because most people are not aware of existing oversight from state agencies concerning laws already functioning within the scope of lawn treatments and specifically pesticides. On a happier note, there are already stacks of laws restricting, monitoring, and enforcing the use of pesticides in a lawn setting within the state of New Hampshire and Vermont. Both states have divisions within their respective departments of Agriculture. In either state, you must pass a written exam which is very comprehensive in material and substance in respect to the license you desire to obtain. For instance, if you want a turf license, you must take a turf category exam which tests life cycles and specific pests relative to turf or lawns. In addition to this, you must also take what is commonly known as the “core” which consists of basic terms and laws relative to using pesticides in each respective state. Items such as reading the label and rates are covered as well as important safety protocol among lots of other subject matter. If you wish to get another license, say for treating ornamental shrubs, you must take another exam- but you do not have to repeat the “core”.
In both states, your license expires after 5 years so you must either keep up on annual certification credits or retake the entire set of exams. Each license requires its own set of credits so this often involves a lot of training during the winter months to accrue enough points to renew every 5 years. In either state, you must have a minimum grade in order successfully pass, become certified, and have a license issued in your particular category. In New Hampshire, at least one person within a given company must also obtain a higher class license (Supervisory) like a manager who oversees his or her employees who have an operator class license. The Supervisory level person must then take the exam again, receive a higher score, and pass an oral examination to receive this “Supervisory Level” class license. As you might imagine, this is most delightful and lots of fun . . . NOT. As you might have already surmised, all of this licensing and continuing education helps to keep the industry informed on the lates products or issues at hand, monitors product being applied per state and acre by filed reports, and provides a great deal of accountability.
There are different classes of licenses ranging from commercial, to commercial not for hire, to private. These classes cover home farms, to golf courses, to commercial lawn companies who treat businesses and residential home lawns. Each has overlapping general rules in NH but each has specific regulations that must be adhered to as part of best practices when dealing with pesticides. As you may have concluded by now, there is already a lot of regulation regarding pesticide use in NH and VT. Bad decisions cannot be prevented by adding legislation already on the books designed to watch and monitor any business involved with pesticides. However, nothing substitutes or compliments intelligence quite like common sense. Making good daily decisions on what products to use, where to apply them, appropriate rates, and when not to treat for issues are all very important to a high quality, reputable business. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.
Real trouble arises with a lack of experience and businesses who do not become licensed yet illegally apply pesticides. Real trouble continues when a home owner can purchase similar or the same products at a Home Depot/hardware store and then treats for the wrong problem, at the wrong rate, at the wrong time of year because they did not know the pest life cycle. I can assure you, there are millions more “Do it yourself” folks out there treating their own lawns or pest problems than all of the commercial lawn companies combined in either state- or the USA for that matter! The pure volume of these numbers speak for themselves. Who do you think is more likely to inadvertently make a mistake, the employee equipped with a state license with training or ”Mike” on the weekend?
As for pesticides, I have read that the sole intention of a pesticide is to kill- and by definition this would be correct. However, vinegar used at a higher concentration is used as an organic herbicide and can burn your cornea or cause serious injury. It’s still vinegar but it can be used as a herbicide too. Very interesting. I believe in using the right tool for the right job. Should everyone be “saucing” up their lawns just for aesthetics? Maybe not. This question is all in the eye of the consumer. We do live in the United States where choices can be made? We all have the right to make choices, all within reason- within the laws established by our government. Perhaps there are alternatives. There are materials and pesticides that exist which are in fact more environmentally safe than just 5 years ago. Like colors on the rainbow, the industry of lawn care continues to change in favor of less pesticide use and more education. This statement means there may be a time and reason for using a particular product, but only after ruling out alternative measures.
For instance, does every lawn have to be weed free? Most likely not. You can reduce pesky weeds in your lawn by keeping it properly cut and healthy. You can reduce nuisance weeds by aerating and overseeding, by doing many little things correctly. Who is willing to step up to the plate? What is wrong with treating for weeds maybe once or twice a year to knock back the population complimented by a turf health care program? What is wrong with living with weeds? To each his own may best sum this up, with a dash of compromise.
The issue of pesticide use will always be a hot topic, and it should be for many reasons. However, additional government regulation and control may not be the best and first answer over education and common sense. Information is power and those who rely on emotions and not real information are at a disadvantage. This is my humble opinion for today’s post. I hope you learned something new today, use it!
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
Chinch bugs are under rated and a delightfully evil little lawn pest. They love hot weather and can devastate a lawn if left unchecked in mere days to weeks. Don’t think your are in the clear if you live out in the woods, these pests will find your lawn and eat it while you sleep. They are small, they are shy and hide down in the thatch layer where you don’t see them. Chinch bugs vary in color but the adults have an unmistakable white diamond on their backs.
These tiny little fellows have kids that range in color from orange, to gray, to black before reaching the slim classic adult with the diamond back. They are about 1/8″ long and run fast when you uncover their hiding places. A trained eye can easily spot them but unless you are down at ground level forget about it, these guys will party until your lawn is dead and gone. The funny thing about chinch bugs is they get about two generations in NH and VT. Left to their own evil plans, chinch bugs populations will build over time- especially in dry weather. Since the adults overwinter and hide for the following year- the population will continue to expand and move further into your lawn. In other words, chinch bugs do not die over the winter, they hide and wait for warmer weather like many of us!
I recently visited a lawn which pictures I have enclosed in this post. I have not seen this many chinch bugs since the late 90′s! Oh my word, there were so many, they were climbing up the garage door and foundation. Can you say science fiction? Not in this case- this is real. If you view these pictures- the lawn has a grey tint to it versus a brown or tan. While most lawns will only suffer blotches or patches, a heavy infestation will cause extreme thinning and the unmistakable look of death- grey. This lawn has suffered massive damage and most of the turf will not recover especially with heat and drought stress. We treated the lawn to clean up these villans today mostly to save the front lawn and stop the population explosion underway.
If you have any doubt, have a professional check it out. This homeowner went to a local garden center and a few other “experts” and no one could determine the identity of this bug. This is why licensed, educated, field experienced veterans like myself are truly of value and set the bar of those in the industry by merit and deed. Don’t let a brown lawn stay brown, make sure it is checked.
There are many kinds of bugs that can damage or even destroy parts of your lawn such as the grub of the Japanese beetle. While they may be out of sight underground, their appetites for turf roots cannot be easily satisfied. As a result, browning usually occurs all the way to large areas of dead grass in the spring or fall. How can you save your lawn? Can this evil beetle and its associates be stopped? Take a deep breath as we take a closer look at this villain and his underground buddies.
To begin with, you must start with the environment. Grubs live underground therefore they are considered a subsurface insect pest, as opposed to a surface one- such as a chinch bug or perhaps cutworms. This is important because what method and material you may use to target the grubs underground is vital. So let us move onto timing. When can you kill them? Well, there is curative- you have grubs and they need to die now or preventative- you may have them or are likely to in the future so you treat ahead of time as insurance.
Before you treat anything, ask yourself a question. Do you really need to do this? Many lawns will tolerate minor grub infestations and do just well. Just because you found a few in your mulch beds or garden while digging does not make for an alien invasion or epidemic! An average lawn will tolerate grub feeding and not all grubs eat turf. So, before you pull out the tank and flame thrower, ask for some professional advice or at least consider the multitude of choices available.
Grub control products have progressed a great deal in the last few decades in terms of effectiveness, amount of active ingredient required, ease of application, and environmental impact. Before I proceed forget about Milky Spore, it does not work in New England and should be outlawed. Most registrations have elapsed or are revoked which is why there is only a few on the market even though there should be NONE. There is not a shred of scientific evidence or proof that one grub can be killed by this magical elixir in NH or VT. While I normally do not take such a harsh stand on a topic, I simply cannot stand on the side line while people throw their hard-earned money. Both Universities in NH & VT agree with this statement since it is at their training seminars that Milky Spore is akin to curing all of your aches and pains with just one teaspoon of “Uncle Jacks wonder tonic”. Let us move onto more productive conversation.
There are a handful of different materials that will virtually decimate a grub population when used properly. Many of these control products are only required in small amounts and last months because they are taken into the grass plant up through the root system. As a result, these control products are very effective and pose a minimal risk to user and the environment. One new product in particular does not even require a signal word (Danger/Warning/Caution) this is unheard of in the turf or agricultural industry. Most of these products can be applied alone or blended with a fertilizer for improved results. Some studies show that with proper irrigation, soil moisture, and fertilizer- a lawn is better protected due to the ability of the grub control material to be readily taken into the turf via the root system.
Most preventative control products can be applied from late May all the way into September in some cases. The stage of the grub and the material chosen is imperative because not all will work at specific times or stages. This would be like trying to stop an elephant with a broom, it just is not going to happen verses say a bulldozer- the tool being used and the timing is very important.
Nematodes are being bred and are being touted as a very effective organic if not biological control of not only Japanese but dozens of other beetle grubs. I plan on using nematodes this year in my program and have done enough research to at least give them a try based upon my findings. If stuff does not work, I just won’t use it- period. Sorry, but clients do expect results. There are lots of important things which must be done in terms of timing, watering, volume etc- but there is no denying these boys are chemical free! I will report back in a later post the results and findings of how these treatments went later this summer.
Now is the time to research and have your lawn treated if you have had grub damage or problems in the past. Remember, adult Japanese beetles are very difficult to control since they are strong flyers. Good hunting.
The following link sums up the importance of timing and life cycles when selecting control products: