Posts Tagged ‘dethatching’

Lawn Pesticides and the rainbow of emotions

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!

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Fall lawn seeding in NH & VT

Fall is a superior time to establish an entirely new lawn or to simply fix a dead patch.  Both projects involve preparation of the site and subsequent seeding with an appropriate grass type best suited for the location.  The lawn pictured in this blog post was completed by our company less than a month ago and shows excellent progress within a short period of time.  This is due to warm soil, cooler days, excellent topsoil mixed with compost, high calcium lime for improved seed germination/pH adjustment, and lots of grass seed.  Like making a fine chili, the ingredients may seem simple- yet putting them all together in the proper sequence is paramount to success.  Whether you are undertaking a few square feet to 6,000 sqft as pictured in this lawn renovation- execution is as vital as the quality ingredients to achieve a new lawn area.

If you are going to do the lawn repair/installation yourself be sure to order quality loam mixed with compost if available.  Make sure you have enough time and a small tractor to move the loam if you are receiving a truck load or more.  Two experienced people can install a large lawn area in a weekend if the project has been thought out ahead of time.  Having the proper seed variety is not as easy as it may seem or the quantity.  Most grass varieties will call for 8 to 14lbs per 1,000sqft depending upon the type.  Rye and Tall Fescue have much larger seeds then Bluegrass or some shade varieties so more or less will be needed as a result.  The best lawns take thought and using a house brand or a generic “sun” or “shade” mix is often not the answer or solution for achieving a long term turf area.

Applying a slow release fertilizer with high calcium lime are additional tools to help the seed establish itself and put down a root system- all critical phases in the first 2 to 3 weeks.  Using hay adds weed seeds so stick to straw or nothing at all.  If a lawn is properly rolled to insure good seed to soil contact- you will get germination in the presence of adequate moisture.  Straw helps on slopes or areas that may not receive adequate water.  Seed nets or mats are very useful on steep slopes where you want to establish anything to help stop erosion.

The soil will stay warm into early November, especially around houses and southern or western exposures.  Since grass must undergo a physical change over winter- any grass established now will have a head start next year in terms of survival.  While larger projects may be put on hold until spring in terms of renovation- gambling with smaller areas are often worth the roll of the dice to get grass setup for the following year.  Location is key when it comes to making the call whether to embark on spot seeding or not in the fall.  If in doubt, seek the advice of a professional for options.  Fall seeding in NH & VT are great times to repair damage caused by summer heat and drought.

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Autumn leaf removal, simple yet important

As the air cools and summer fades into piles of colored leaves, your lawn beckons attention before the snow covers it with a blanket of white.  Some lawn projects can be simple like raking on a regular basis or mowing with a vacuum bag style tractor system.  Raking, or specifically a lack of leaves allows your lawn to capture more sunlight as the deciduous trees lose their green canopy.  Increased sunlight can really help shaded and weak areas capture additional energy to help prepare for the winter.  In some cases, this vital time period could be a month or more of growing before slowing to the point of near dormancy with the onset of freezing weather.  Any leaves left on the lawn can cause a mulching action by inhibiting sunlight from reaching the leaf blades below.  Don’t allow piles of leaves to sit for weeks on end, or the grass underneath will suffer the consequences possibly even leading to damage.  Keeping your lawn clean in the fall can really improve the chances of winter survival and minimize damage.  Turf that is left covered with leaves or lots of pine needles face a lack of air, light, and often succumb to ice damage in a weakened state.  As simple as raking or leaf removal is, it is very important to all lawns to approach winter clear as opposed to buried out of sight under leaf litter.

Autumn is also a great time harden your lawn off for winter.  A wonderful mowing height during the growing season is 3″ as a standard.  Your mowing height can be lowered as October fades into November.  Drop your mowing deck a half-inch a week starting in late October with the final cut in mid November being around 1 to 1.5 inches in height.  The slow drop in mowing height helps harden your lawn off and slows growth in addition to falling temperatures.  Many folks put their mowers away much too early in October when the lawn continues to grow well into November in many years sometimes to the Thanksgiving holiday break in southern areas of NH or VT.  Some of the most simple cultural things like mowing and raking can make or break some turf grass areas between not only looking great, but awesome.  The preventative care in raking and mowing can yield big dividends over a harsh winter- aiding in survival and spring recovery.  Turf that goes into the winter long and by that I mean a normal height of 3″ or more- will be predisposed to snow mold and ice damage, even more so with leaf or needle debris.

Plan ahead now and rest easy this winter knowing you did all you could to help your lawn make it into a new year!

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