Don’t Make These Common Summer Lawn Care Mistakes

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by summer lawn care. Taking care of your lawn during the summer months is not rocket science. Still, it can feel like it sometimes – especially when there’s a mainstay of misleading and inaccurate information about how exactly to best care for your summer lawn. Of course, all intentions are in the right place, but where is a weary homeowner to turn when looking to keep their lawns healthy as the temperatures soar and the outdoor fun escalates? The good news is, your easy solution has arrived. The professional lawn care team at Spring-Green has put their heads together to compile a “mistake list” to eliminate the learning curve, dispel any false lawn care myths, and prepare you for a summer full of outdoor fun. Let’s get started!

Avoid These Summer Lawn Care Mistakes & Myths:

Don’t Burn with Fertilizer:

Adding too much fertilizer or adding it at the wrong time is a common summer lawn mistake that homeowners make. Too much fertilizer can burn grass blades and promote disease. By choosing slow-release fertilizers that do not need to be replenished as often, you can nourish your summer lawn with the vitamins it needs while not risking burning or other common problems.

Don’t Overwater or Underwater:

It’s important to find the perfect balance when it comes to watering your summer lawn. Too much or too little can cause big problems. If you water your summer lawn with too much water, you will wash away nutrients and create an environment ripe for fungus, making it susceptible to disease. Too little water can cause your grass to die. As a rule of thumb, most types of grass require one to two inches of water per week to thrive.

Don’t Neglect the Weeds:

Weeds are strong and resilient in nature. They’re especially strong and thriving during the summer months. Weeding is an essential task to keep your lawn healthy. If left unchecked (or “un-weeded” to be more accurate), your lawn could get into serious trouble from overpowering weeds. Be sure to check for weeds routinely and remove as quickly as possible when they appear in your summer lawn.

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Don’t Cut with Dull Blades:

Have you checked the sharpness of your mower blades lately? Cutting the summer lawn is a common mistake that is easy to make, but almost just as easy to prevent. Dull mower blades can injure your grass blades and impact the aesthetic look of your lawn.

Don’t Cut Too Short:

Just like watering, mowing requires a perfect balance between too much and too little. Many overzealous homeowners take the step of mowing their lawn too much or leaving the grass blades too short. As a rule of thumb, you should never cut the grass below the one-third mark. If you do cut your grass too short, you may cause it to lose valuable nutrients and succumb to disease or even die.

Don’t Leave Clumps of Cut Grass After Mowing:

The grass grows like crazy in the summer, and post-cut grass clumps can seriously pile up. Resist the temptation to leave the clumps as they lay after you mow your lawn this summer. The left-behind grass clippings can block sun from reaching your lawn and cause yellowing and even cause your grass to die. Be sure to rake up the grass clippings to keep your lawn healthy.

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Don’t Choose the Wrong Grass for Your Area:

Certain types of grass fit your geographic location, and others don’t. It’s that simple. If you choose grass types that aren’t a good fit for your climate and soil characteristics, you will be struggling against the odds to help your summer lawn succeed.

Don’t Neglect the High Traffic Areas:

Summer is the time for increased outdoor activity, raised temperatures, and scorching sun – all elements that can lead to wear and tear of the summer lawn. One way to mitigate against this issue is to install stepping stones or pavers in highly trafficked areas. You may try other ways to minimize traffic on your summer lawn that includes fencing and path lighting.

Don’t Overlook Signs of Insects and Pests:

Summer lawns are prime targets for insect infestations, such as chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fire ants, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. A routine pest preventative maintenance plan can help you keep your lawn from getting overtaken by these common summer insects.

Summer lawns are more important than any other time of the year when outdoor enjoyment needs are at their highest levels. Myths and mistakes for the care of your summer lawn abound. Don’t fall for the common missteps, just call the pros in from Spring-Green to assist you in your summer lawn pursuits. Spring-Green can share professional know-how that fits your unique area, your unique lawn and your unique goals. We’ve been the neighborhood lawn care specialists for over thirty years, so you can trust that we know the difference between summer lawn care myth and reality.

Contact Spring-Green for a consultation today.

Deep Root Feeding Your Trees and Shrubs This Fall!

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Just as your lawn requires regular fertilization for overall health, vitality and beauty, so do your landscape trees and shrubs. Why? Because trees and shrubs are plants, living organisms, which require food in order to live and thrive. This is why a comprehensive maintenance program will include tree and shrub care in addition to scheduled lawn care visits. The key nutrients are the same—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—as are the issues with organic versus synthetic fertilizers (efficacy and absorption rates differ between the two). Despite these similarities, however, we don’t feed trees and shrubs quite the same way, nor do we need to feed them as often. Let’s take a closer look.

Deep Root Feeding Trees and Shrubs

When we feed a lawn, we apply fertilizers evenly across the lawn’s surface. The fertilizer materials reach the soil where they are absorbed and made available to the grass plants via their root systems (even more so if the lawn has been aerated at least once a year). By comparison, trees and shrubs tend to have larger, deeper root systems. Because not all nutrients are as mobile in the soil as others, surface fertilization may not be sufficient to reach those tree and shrub root systems. In addition, surface feeding trees and shrubs with the necessary fertilizer quantities may adversely affect the surrounding turf, whether by causing excessive growth or outright damage. A better way to feed trees and shrubs is to put the nutrients deeper into the soil. There are several methods commonly used to for this purpose, some easier than others to carry out. Spring-Green accomplishes this through a process called deep root feeding.

Using specialized professional equipment, we inject liquid fertilizers into the root zone of targeted trees and shrubs. The most effective way to do this is to make intermittent grid patterns of pressurized soil injections beginning about a foot away from the base and ending within the perimeter of the “drip line” or canopy of a given tree or shrub. The individual injection sites are about two feet away from one another and six inches deep. Smaller shrubs receive injections equally spaced around the perimeter, as close to the base as is practical. This pattern of hydraulic injections places the nutrients right in the root zone, where targeted trees and shrubs can access them.

Which Trees and Shrubs Should Be Fertilized?

Deep root fertilization is most beneficial to ornamental trees and shrubs, as opposed to mature shade trees, which are much larger and tend not to require supplemental nutrition. These smaller trees and shrubs will take up the injected nutrients and utilize them for enhanced growth and vigor above ground as well as better root development below. They will become healthier overall and more resistant to disease and insect infestation.

Spring-Green recommends deep root feeding twice a year, once in spring and again in the fall, as prescribed in our 2-Step Tree Program, which incorporates additional benefits as well. Customers may schedule an individual root feeding or opt for this comprehensive two-step program. When homeowners consider the investment they have already made in their landscape plantings, especially in light of the cost of replacing ornamental trees and shrubs, our tree and shrub care services prove to be of real value.

While reading this post, you may have developed a few questions of your own. Which of my trees and shrubs need deep root feeding? We can explain which plants should be targeted and why. Should I schedule a single service or a full program? We can discuss both options. Can I start in the fall? Yes, absolutely, whether you opt for a single service or full program. We would love to hear your questions concerning any aspect of tree and shrub care or lawn care for your home. Please do not hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We look forward to hearing from you.

Fall is a good time to fertilize cool season grasses!

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Right now many of us are wondering how it could possibly be fall already, but it’s a fact. The autumnal equinox has passed, football season is underway, and pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages are all the rage. If your lawn contains types of cool-season grasses, like Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fine Fescue or Tall Fescue, the fall season also presents some fantastic opportunities to improve the overall health, vitality and beauty of your lawn. Performing core aeration in the fall loosens the soil, breaks down thatch and allows air, water, and nutrients in. Overseeding immediately after aeration allows more seed to reach the soil as well. But perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do for your cool season lawn is feed it!

Grass is a seasonal plant whose growth rates fluctuate at different times of year. During the fall season, lawns are recovering from the stresses of summer, such as heat and drought. Early fall is a period for vigorous growth in cool season grasses, which take advantage of the milder temperatures and more consistent moisture levels. This new growth and recovery uses up nutrients, which must be replenished. A fall application of a controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer provides the necessary nutrients to keep your turf green and growing longer into the fall season.

Fertilizer For Fall  Applications

Here’s an interesting fact about cool season grasses: as growth above the ground begins to slow, the grass plants are putting more energy into root development, which is essential for winter hardiness and ensures greater turf density the following spring. As you might guess, all of this also requires nutrients. This is why fall fertilization is such an essential part of an effective cool season lawn care program. Depending on where you live, there may be enough time to apply a second, late fall application of fertilizer. We recommend that the applications be 4 to 6 weeks apart. In late fall, when the grass plants are no longer using the nutrients for growth, they begin storing the nutrients in the stems and rhizomes (the root system), which keeps the plants healthier not only over the winter season but also into spring.

What type of fertilizer is best for fall applications? There is no universally correct answer to this question because the nutritional needs of turf grasses vary by region based on predominant grass types, soil composition, and climate as well as when the product is being applied. It should most definitely be a lawn fertilizer, as opposed to a general purpose garden fertilizer. All bagged fertilizer products are required by law to display the guaranteed minimum percentage (by weight) of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Of these, nitrogen is the foundation nutrient essential to any fall feeding program. Nitrogen products can be formulated for quick release, where it becomes immediately available in the soil, or slow release, which becomes available over a longer period of time. Many lawn-specific fertilizers will contain both.

Preparing Cool Season Grasses For Winter

A few cultural practices will also help your cool season lawn prepare for its winter nap. As late fall approaches, begin to gradually bring the cutting height down on your mower. Do this in steps, over the course of several mowing, so that you are never removing too much of the grass blade at once, which would damage the turf instead of helping it. Also never adjust the mower so low that you are scalping the lawn all the way down to the soil surface. If you have a blanket of fallen leaves or other debris on the lawn, rake them up. Leaves can also be ground to a fine mulch with repeated mowing, though it is important to ensure that the resulting pieces have been finely ground. Both of these practices—gradually lowering the grass height and keeping the lawn’s surface breathable by controlling leaf cover and removing debris—will help prevent diseases like snow mold from taking hold.

Have we given you enough to think about? No worries! The easiest way to ensure that your lawn is receiving the correct balance of nutrients, in the proper amounts and at the right time, is to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green and let us take all the guesswork out of it. We will be happy to answer any questions you have, too.

Is it Too Late to Apply Nitrogen Fertilizer to Warm Season Grasses?

 

nitrogen fertilizer

The simple answer if you are reading this in late August or early September is “No.”  This decision is based on several different factors.  A general rule is to apply the last nitrogen fertilizer to a lawn that contains warm-season turfgrasses two months before the first frost. Unless you live in the deep south, the last application of a fertilizer that contains a high amount of nitrogen would be September 15 at the latest. If you live in the more northern areas, you run the risk of turf damage and lawn disease development if nitrogen is applied after September 1st.  Of course, these are based on averages, so there is a little “wiggle” room, but not much.

 

Applying Nitrogen Fertilizer to Warm Season Grasses

Centipede, St. Augustine, Hybrid Bermuda and Zoysia grass are the most common warm season grasses and they usually go dormant in the late fall.  Applying a high rate of nitrogen after the middle of September for the more moderate warm-season areas will increase the shoot and leaf growth while the plant is slowing its growth.

It is important that these grasses have a chance of “harden-off” before going dormant.  If pushed to grow, the tender new growth is more susceptible to freeze damage.  These succulent shoots are prone to being attacked by a common cool-season disease called Large Patch.

Another problem with fertilizing later in the fall is that it may increase the number of cool-season weeds that germinate. Weeds like henbit, common chickweed and Shepherd’s Purse are considered winter annuals and will grow and spread while the desired grasses have slowed down growing.

Determining Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in Fertilizer

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer indicate the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the bag. The number one nutrient needed by turf is nitrogen. Here is a chart that provides the amount of nitrogen each turf type needs for the entire growing season.

Warm Season Grass#’s of Nitrogen Per Year
Hybrid Bermuda5 to 6 lbs.
Common Bermuda4 to 5 lbs.
Centipede Bermuda1 to 2 lbs.
St. Augustine grass (sun)3 to 4 lbs.
St. Augustine grass (shade)1 to 2 lbs.
Zoysia grass3 to 4 lbs.

 

If you haven’t applied the recommended amount of nitrogen to your lawn this year, don’t try to catch up now.  In regards to the other two nutrients, phosphorus and potassium, they are required, but they are usually found in an abundant amount in the soil. The only way to tell if the lawn needs either of these two nutrients is to have your soil tested.  Most cooperative extension services offer this service at a low fee of less than $25.00 per sample.

If you live within the area that has a first frost date of mid-October, try to fertilize between Labor Day and the end of September, depending whether you are in the northern or southern parts of that zone. If you are not sure, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

Is Organic Fertilizer or a Lawn Care Program Better For My Lawn?

organic fertilizer

The first thing to understand about lawn care and lawns in general is that the lawn as we know is not a natural system. Most of the grasses we grow in our home lawns, sports fields, commercial properties, parks and playgrounds are not native to North America.

Here is a quick summary of the origins of common turfgrasses:

Kentucky bluegrass – native to Europe, northern Asia and the mountains of Algeria and Morocco.
Perennial ryegrass, Fine and Tall Fescue – native to Europe.
Centipede grass – native to southern China
St. Augustine – native to the tropical areas of the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies and West Africa.
Bermuda grass – native to West Africa
Zoysia grass – native to Japan.

Since lawns are not a natural system, they need help to grow and prosper in the varied and diverse environments where the grass is planted. At the very least, these grasses will need supplemental food to grow well. There may be some who disagree with this statement, but the plant needs food and where that food comes from is not as much of a concern to the plant as long as it is in a form that the plant can utilize.

Organic v.s. Synthetic Fertilizers

The biggest difference between synthetic and organic fertilizers is the time it takes for the plant to be able to use it as food. With many organic fertilizers, the process to change it from its natural state to plant form, can take days to months before it can be utilized by the plant. Synthetic fertilizers are in a form that can be used by the plant much faster, sometimes within a day.

Synthetic fertilizers are also more economical for most homeowners as the amount of nitrogen, the nutrient that makes turf green and helps it to grow, is usually at a much higher rate in each bag. They are also more widely available than most organic fertilizers.

Effects of Organic and Synthetic Chemicals for Pest Control

In regards to pest control, the synthetic chemicals have come a long way in regards to efficacy and environmental impact. Usage rates are much lower and focused on more specific pests than using a “one product for all problems” approach.

There are many natural and organic control products and some work very well, while others are not very effective or a large amount of the product has to be used to achieve some type of control. Cost is also a major factor when deciding on using organic control methods. Any product, natural or synthetic, can have adverse effects to the user or the environment if proper safety practices are not followed.

Choosing which method to use when maintaining your lawn is truly a matter of choice. They both work, but you will find that the traditional lawn care programs and products, such as what Spring-Green offers, will produce the results you desire at a reasonable cost and will not have an adverse effect to the environment.

Consider Spring-Green for all your lawn care needs this year and contact your local Spring-Green Lawn Care professional to help create a great, healthy lawn.

5 Tips to Controlling Moss In Your Lawn

Moss in your lawn

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you are all too familiar with the annual battle to control moss in your lawn. The long periods of cool damp weather that the area is known for sets up the perfect climate for moss development. It is generally a problem in the spring, but it can persist and grow throughout the remainder of the year if environmental conditions are conductive for its growth.

Moss can be a problem throughout the US, not just in Washington or Oregon. Here are 5 best practices that will reduce moss growth in your lawn:

Eliminate shade

One of the best ways to control moss is to improve the amount of sun that reaches the turf. Consider pruning trees and shrubs to increase sunlight penetration.

Improve drainage

This can be accomplished by adding a bioswale or a rain garden to catch stormwater runoff.

Water deeply and infrequently

Over watering is a great way to increase moss growth as well as several types of algae. Allow your lawn to dry out before applying any more water.

Mow high

Mowing short will reduce the vigor and growth of most home lawns. The grass blade is the food producing part of the plant. The shorter it is, the less food will be produced, which in turn will lead to a weaker plant. Weak plants cannot out-compete moss.

Fertilize properly

Except for Centipedegrass, most lawns require anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. of turf per year. Check with your County Extension office for the recommended amount to apply to your lawn on an annual basis.

There are several approaches to controlling moss, potassium salts or sulfate products such as ferrous sulfate or ammonium sulfate. There are also herbicides that will control certain types of moss. Look for products that contains carfentrazone as one of its main ingredients. Be sure to read and follow all label directions when using any of these products.

moss in your lawn

Consider having your soil tested. Most County Extension offices offer this service at a low cost, usually less than $20. If the pH of the soil is too low (acid), the addition of lime may help reduce the amount of moss by encouraging better turf growth through improved nutrient utilization by roots of the turfgrasses.

Core aeration will also help by reducing compaction and will help the turf roots to grow and expand. Keep in mind that it is especially a good idea to plant grass seed that is shade tolerant if the area has a good deal of shade.

Finally, it is important to understand that if there is too much shade, grass will not grow well. The area may need to be replanted with shade tolerant ground covers or perennials. Most grasses need about 70% sunlight during the day to grow well. There are a few turf grass types that will tolerate a little more shade, but it is sometimes easier to stop fighting the battle and change to ground covers or hostas.

To find out more about moss and ways to control it, contact your Neighborhood Lawn Care Professional at Spring-Green.

Planting Bulbs in the Fall: Autumn Bulb Planting Tips

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Of all the jobs to do in the fall, the one that I like the best, but hate to do is planting spring-flowering bulbs. It is not the actual job of planting, but I have a tendency to purchase too many bulbs and then I have to find places to plant them and then do the actual planting. Planting 100 small crocus bulbs may not seem like a big task, but it is if you follow the recommendation to plant them 3” apart—and that’s a good starting point when thinking about how to plant bulbs.

How Deep Should I Dig?

I have a very shady lawn and landscape, but I don’t worry too much about the shade from the trees as the bulbs will be up and ready to flower before most of the leaves on the trees open up. When I’m getting ready for planting bulbs in fall, I usually look for open areas where I can dig a large hole about 2 to 3 feet across and about 6 inches deep. The soil in the bottom of the hole should be loose and well-drained. If this is a problem in the area you picked, you may have to dig the hole about 6 inches deeper and add a layer of pulverized soil or humus compost to get back to the 6-inch depth.

What about Fertilizer?

Bone meal makes a great fertilizer for bulbs. I usually sprinkle a couple of ounces or so across the three-foot circle and lightly mix it in. If you don’t have any bone meal, a high phosphorus fertilizer will also work. On most fertilizer bags, the percentage of each nutrient in the bag is indicated by the middle number of the fertilizer analysis, such as 5-15-3. As with any fertilizer, don’t overdo it. It is easy to fall into the “if a little is good, a lot has to be better” trap. You could end up damaging the bulbs.

Once you have all the bulbs in place, slowly sprinkle soil over the bulbs with a shovel. Once you have placed enough soil in the hole so that the bulbs are covered about 50%, you can use a rake to finish the bulb planting job. The soil will create a mound over the area, which is okay. The soil will settle down over time and by next spring, it will be at about the same level as the rest of the landscape bed. It is also a good idea to water the area if rain is not predicted in the near future.

Now that you have completed planting your bulbs, the next part is the hardest – waiting until next spring to see the results of your work.

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Some other tips that may be helpful:

  • If you have a problem with squirrels digging up the newly planted bulbs, lay chicken wire over the area. This can be buried about an inch or so under the soil so it cannot be seen.
  • If you plan to plant single bulbs, use a bulb planter.
  • Place mulch over the area to help keep in moisture and help protect the bulbs. Don’t use more than about 3 inches thick of mulch.
  • Planting bulbs in the fall is not difficult and the results next spring make it worth the effort.

Want your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood? You take care of the planting, and we’ll take care of just about everything else. Let’s find out how good of a team we can be.

Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Fall: Cool vs. Warm Season Grasses

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Is Fall a Good Time to Fertilize?

It all depends on what type of grass you have growing in your lawn.

If your lawn has warm-season grasses in it like Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia, you are at the latest possible time to fertilize your lawn. Many universities recommend that these grasses not be fertilized after the end of September since you don’t want to stimulate new, tender growth that could be damaged by frost. These warm-season grasses need to “harden off” or slowdown in growth as they begin to enter into their dormant period. If you still want to fertilize your lawn now, you could cause damage to your lawn that may not become apparent until next spring.

If your lawn has one of the cool-season grasses, like bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue, this is the best time of year to fertilize it. Fall is the time of most active root growth for these cool-season grasses. They need the food that the fertilizer provides to grow new roots. These grasses are better adapted to the cooler temperatures of fall and actually grow better at this time of year. In addition to lawn fertilization, fall is also a good time to core aerate your lawn as this process will help the roots grow better as well.

How Much Fertilizer Do I Need?

Depending on where you live, there may still be enough time to apply two applications of fertilizer this fall. You should space the applications apart by about 4 to 6 weeks. As far as the amount of fertilizer you should apply, generally speaking you should apply between three-quarters to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Determining how much fertilizer product you need to deliver requires the use of some mathematical equations.

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percent by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is in the bag. So, if the bag has an analysis of 28-0-3, the bag contains 28% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 4% potassium. If your goal is to provide three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., then divide .75 by .28, which equals 2.68 pounds of product applied per 1,000 sq. ft. If your lawn is 10,000 sq. ft. you will need about 27 pounds of product to supply three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fall is rapidly approaching, which means that leaves will be falling soon and before we know it, we will be switching from lawn mowers to snow blowers. For this, I can wait.

If you hate math, leave fertilizer application to the pros. Get in touch with your local Spring-Green today!