How Cooler Temperatures Are Affecting Lawn and Landscape

Is It Spring Yet?

As is the case with most years, sometimes it will warm up early, fooling a lot of plants, including turfgrasses, to start the annual spring green-up. Only to be broadsided with an arctic blast and cooler temperatures that pushes plants back into winter dormancy.

Cool-season turfgrasses like bluegrass, ryegrass and the fescues are somewhat accustomed to these weather fluctuations, but the warm-season grasses, such as Centipede, St. Augustine and Bermuda grasses can be greatly affected by a cold snap after they have been coaxed into an early spring green-up by an early warm up. Such is the case with many lawns in the warmer parts of the United States.

Roland Freund, Franchise Owner in the Houston, Texas area, posted some information on his Facebook page about lawns in his area that are turning a purplish color due to some cooler temperatures that have pushed southward. Turf turning a purple color is often a sign of stress and when warm season grasses that have started to come out of winter dormancy get hit with freezing temperatures, the result can cause turf to turn an off-color. Luckily, it is a temporary condition and the turf generally recovers on its own.

Some warm-season grasses that have started to green-up can display an usual camouflage-like pattern when subjected to cooler to freezing temperatures, such as what you see in the picture below. This can happen to Bermuda and Zoysia grasses. Just as is the case with St. Augustine, this is a temporary problem and the grasses usually grow starting growing and the damage disappears as new grass blades cover up the blades that have turned brown.

grass in cooler temperatures
The one unknown for warm-season turfgrass lawns is how the extremely cold temperatures that affected much of the South in early to mid-January. Temperatures in the single digits is a common occurrence in the areas where cool-season turfgrasses grow, but this year many parts of the south experienced near record setting cold weather for an extended period. It is still a little early to tell if those temperatures had a lasting effect on lawns and landscapes in the South. I will tell you that I was conducting a training session in Lake Charles, Louisiana towards the end of January, and I saw many palms trees whose fronds were badly damaged by the cold weather. It is going to take some time for those trees and the lawns to recover from the cooler temperatures.

Caring for warm-season turfgrass lawns at this time of year focuses on controlling existing winter weeds and preventing the growth of annual grasses like crabgrass and goosegrass. Weeds are much more durable than turfgrasses and will quickly come back from the onslaught of freezing temperatures. It is almost time to start fertilizing these grasses, but patience is necessary. Applying fertilizer too early can have detrimental to these grasses.

As the South gets ready for the beginning of spring, what about the lawns and landscapes in the cool-season areas? Spring applications have started for lawns in the Transition Zone where Tall Fescue is the predominate turfgrass. Except for parts of Northern California, Oregon and Washington, it is still too early to prepare for the first application of spring.

It is a best practice to wait until the ground is no longer frozen to apply the first application. In many northern states, this is mandated by law to prevent run-off from fertilizer or weed control products off of the frozen ground. It is still early and spring will be here before we know it, unless, of course, the area is hit with a late winter storm – not an uncommon occurrence in March or even early April. The best thing to do is make sure the lawn mower is tuned up and plan ahead for the season. Spring is just around the corner, so remember you can count on your local Spring-Green to make sure your lawn looks green, and thick for the upcoming season!

White or Gray Matted Web-Like Grass? It’s Snow Mold!

Gray Snow Mold

There are two types of Snow Mold that can develop on residential lawns, Pink and Grey. Although all grasses are susceptible to the diseases, they are most common on bluegrass, ryegrass, bentgrass and fescues. Pink Snow Mold, also called Microdochium Patch and Gray Snow Mold, also called Typhula Blight.

Although they are both associated with snow cover, Gray Snow Mold requires at least 60 days of snow cover for it to develop. Both types of Snow Mold are most severe when snow falls on unfrozen turf, but Pink Snow Mold can occur without snow cover during cool (less than 60 degrees) weather that is wet and cloudy.

Identifying Pink and Gray Snow Mold

Gray Snow Mold

Symptoms develop under the snow and become evident as it melts. This lawn disease appears in circular to irregular-shaped patches that can grow as large as 3 feet in diameter. The grass is covered with a white or gray fungal growth and the grass blades appear matted together. In severe cases, large sections of grass blades can be damaged and will take a long time to recover.

Pink Snow Mold

This disease appears in roughly circular-shaped patch that can range from a couple of inches to about a foot in diameter. The disease presents as a white patch with a pinkish ring on the outer border of the patch. The grass blades appear matted and look is if they are glued together. As thee patches dry out, they will feel hard to the touch.

How to Control and Prevent Snow Mold

Both diseases overwinter as spores in the patch layer, so reducing thatch levels is very important. Fall core aerations will help to reduce the thatch levels and improve the health of the turf by developing better root systems and reducing compaction. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizer in the late fall and continue mowing if the grass continues to grow. Overly long grass that falls over on itself is more likely to develop snow mold.

If possible, grind up leaves with your mower in the fall to recycle the nutrients back in to the soil. If it becomes too cold to continue mowing, but there are still many leaves on the lawn, do your best to rake them up before the snow starts to fall. Leaves left lying on the lawn provide great conditions for this grass disease to develop.

In most cases, an application of a disease control material is not warranted on residential lawns. Snow mold is usually not severe enough to warrant an application of a disease control material. If small sections of either gray or pink snow mold does develop, lightly break up the fungal mats with a leaf rake or even your fingers if the spots are not very large. If large snow piles remain on the lawn near driveways or sidewalks, do you best to distribute the snow across the lawn so that it melts faster.

Usually this lawn disease is a sign that winter is ending as it is generally seen when temperatures start to warm up and snow quickly melts. If you have any questions or would like us to check it out, don’t hesitate to contact your local Spring-Green. 

Grub Control: It’s Time To Treat Grubs On Your Lawn

grub damage

One of the most common and potentially destructive insect in lawns of all types is white grub. It is also known as grub worms, annual white grubs or just plain old grubs. They damage turf by feeding on the roots of the plant as well as disturbing the soil with their constant search for edible roots. They eat whatever is in front of them, including soil and other organic matter.

The digging and feeding of grubs is bad enough, but there are several animals that will feed on grubs when the grubs are active. Grubs are generally active in the late summer through fall and then again for a brief time in the early spring.

Birds, skunks, raccoons, armadillos, foxes, wild pigs and moles may dig up a lawn while looking for a tasty grub meal. These varmints can do more damage to a lawn with their digging then the damage caused by the grubs themselves.

Grubs are members of the scarab beetle family. Some of these stout-bodied insects can be colorful in design.

Fun fact, the ancient Egyptians fashioned jewelry that depicted the shape of the scarab beetle. The scarab beetle that was common in ancient Egypt is the dung beetle. It had a habit of rolling balls of dung and deposited the balls in their burrows, on to which they would lay their eggs. When the eggs hatched, the larvae would feed on the ball of dung. After the ball was consumed, the young adults would emerge from the burrow, looking for more food or a mate. This emergence was seen as a type of creation and it was associated with one of their gods.

Grub Species

In North America, there are at least 10 species of white grubs, 6 of which are native to the area. The accidentally introduced species are the European chafer, oriental beetle, Asiatic garden beetle and the Japanese beetle.

The Japanese beetle has become a severe pest mainly east of the Mississippi River, although their range seems to increase in size every year. Most grubs have a one year life cycle, but there are ones that have a two or three-year life cycle. Their life cycle is known as metamorphosis.

Grub Life Cycle

1. Begin life as an egg, laid into the soil 1 to 4 inches deep in a dehydrated state
2. Eggs absorb water from the surrounding soil to remain viable
3. After 2 to 3 weeks, eggs hatch into tiny grubs, about the size of a bluegrass seed
4. Start feeding on fine root hairs and other organic matter
5. Continue feeding until October/November, then move deeper into soil as temperatures fall
6. Resurface in early spring, do a little bit of light feeding and then dig back into the soil to pupate
7. After a few more weeks, adult beetles emerge to lay eggs and the whole life cycle begins again

Treating Grubs

The time to apply grub control for this year is from late June through mid-August. Most of the grub control products available work best as a preventative, keeping the newly hatched grub from growing. If you plan to apply the product yourself, be sure to read and follow label rates and directions. Since the grubs live and feed in the soil, it is important that the product is thoroughly watered into the lawn to reach the grubs.

If you or your neighbors had grubs in the past, contact your local lawn care professional at Spring-Green. They will be happy to provide this valuable service to help prevent grub damage to your lawn.

How To Control And Treat Red Thread Lawn Disease

red thread lawn disease

One of the more common late spring to early summer diseases on cool-season grasses is Red Thread lawn disease. It is most severe on Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass and Tall Fescue. There is another lawn disease that occurs at the same time and under the same environmental conditions known as Pink Patch.

The main difference between the two lawn diseases are the fruiting structures. Red Thread takes its name from the red thread-like structures called sclerotia that are produced by the fungus. Pink Patch produces tiny puffs of pink-cottony mycelium that resemble little bits of cotton candy stuck to the grass blades. Of the two diseases, Red Thread is the more common one seen in home lawns. Red Thread may develop when temperatures range from 40 to 75°F. Most grass activity occurs when temperatures range 65 to 75°F and during periods of cool, cloudy weather with long periods of evening dew.

What Does Red Thread Lawn Disease Look Like?

Symptoms are often visible from the street as circular patches of tan or pink grass about 4-8 inches in diameter. Upon closer inspection, the sclerotia are easily visible, appearing like small, red threads protruding out of the grass blades, especially near the tip. Red Thread will affect the leaves, leaf sheaths and stems without killing the entire plant, unless the outbreak is severe. The infection begins as small blighted areas on leaves and rapidly enlarge, covering the entire leaf blade. The affected leaves will dry out and turn a bleached straw color.

After it has completed its life cycle, the disease produces the red threads or sclerotia. In other words, unless the weather conditions last a long time, the red threads signal the end of its activity. These threads will break off and act as “seeds” for future outbreaks of the disease. Mowing infected areas has little impact on spreading the disease so collecting clippings during this period is not very beneficial.

How To Treat Red Thread Lawn Disease

It is important to maintain an adequate nitrogen fertility program to lessen the effects of Red Thread. Fertilization after an outbreak of Red Thread will help the turf to “grow out” of the effects of the disease activity. Fertilizer will help the lawn grow and then the diseased parts of the plant can be mowed off to allow newer, healthy blades to grow. Avoid excessive watering during cool, cloudy periods that may extend the time the turf remains wet. Core aeration and overseeding with improved varieties of turf grasses that are more resistant to Red Thread are another two important cultural practices.

There are chemical control options, but by the time the red threads are seen, it is usually too late to apply a preventative disease control application. Making sure the lawn is well fertilized, mowed properly and receives the right amount of water on a weekly basis is the best approach to take when dealing with Red Thread lawn disease.

If Red Thread is a problem in your lawn, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. They will be happy to inspect your yard and provide a beneficial lawn care program.

Control And Treat Damaging Grubs On Your Lawn

grubs

Going to the hardware store on the weekend is something many homeowners do, especially in the spring. People stock up on fertilizers, weed control products as well as controlling insect pests in and around the home, and in landscape, gardens and lawns.

In regards to insects, it is estimated that there are over 1 million identified species of insects and probably several times that number is yet to be discovered. Fortunately, there are only about 2 dozen species of insects that feed on lawns. It is hard to say which of these insects are the most damaging, but the species that seems to be the most discussed are white grubs.

What Are Grubs?

Grubs are the larval stage of a scarab beetle. There are several different species of beetles that produce grubs that damage lawns. In the Midwest, Japanese Beetles and Northern Masked Chafers are the most common. The Japanese beetle causes the most damage as the adults feed on many trees and flowering plants and the female adult lays her eggs in turf areas, which then hatch into lawn-damaging grubs.

In the South, Japanese Beetles, Green June Beetles and Southern Masked Chafers are the most common species. In the Northeast, Asiatic Garden Beetles, European Chafers, Oriental Beetles, Northern Masked Chafers and Japanese Beetles are the most common.

Most grub species feed on the roots of turfgrasses in the late summer into early fall. They act like little sod cutters feeding on the roots of the turf grasses. If a lawn is being watered and fertilized on a regular basis, the damage may not even be noticed unless the population of grubs is above 20 per square foot.

The bigger problem is damage that is caused by skunks, raccoons, armadillos and other foraging animals, who rip up a lawn in search of a late-night snack. It is not clear as to why these animals know that grubs are present in a lawn, but most speculation points to either their ability to hear their feeding or smell grubs. Unfortunately, there is no product that will prevent the skunks, racoons, and armadillos from tearing up a lawn.

Treatment for Grubs

Good grub control requires the material be applied at the appropriate time. Most grub control products are insect growth regulators that prevent grubs from getting larger. Therefore, it is critical that the material is applied before the eggs hatch.

Look for products that contain certain active ingredients to control grubs. Chlorantraniliprole, Imidacloprid, or Trichlorfon will help control grubs and surface insects, prevent grubs from growing after they hatch or will control existing grubs if its actively feeding in a lawn. Products with these ingredients need to be watered in to move the solution into the soil where the grubs are active. Note that grubs will still be present for several weeks before they are completely gone.

Applying an insect or pest control in the spring is usually not recommended as the grubs are not feeding enough to ingest enough of the material to kill them. The best thing to do is to make sure you apply a grub preventative in early summer to avoid a problem with grubs later on. The solution will prevent the eggs from hatching or growing in your lawn.

Contact your local neighborhood Spring-Green lawn care professional to assist with grub damage on your lawn areas. They will provide you with the program and products to help keep your lawn free from grubs.

Does Your Lawn Have Damage From a Lawn Mower?

lawn mower mowing

I recently received some pictures that one of our Field Service Professionals from Columbia City, IN of a lawn that he has been taking care of this year. Earlier in the summer, the lawn suffered from damage caused by mowing during the heat of the day that resulted in some disease activity on the stressed grass plants. As you can see from the first two pictures, this lawn was seriously stressed by heat and a lack of water.

mower damage to lawn

mower damage to lawn

After telling the customer that what they were seeing was related to the weather, improper mowing and some disease problems, the customer agreed to wait a few days to see how the lawns would recover.

It is important to point out that these lawns were fertilized just prior to the streaks appearing, which led these customers to ask if the damage was the result of the application.

The customer agreed to water the lawn and change the mowing practices. When the Field Service Professional went back 9 days later, the lawn had almost completely recovered. It was fortunate that the Columbia City area did receive some much needed rain during that period as well. As you can see by these two pictures, the lawn looks great and has recovered.

lawn recovery from mower damage

lawn recovery from mower damage

As I stated earlier, turf is an amazing plant. It can recover from a great deal of adversity, especially if it is being cared for with proper cultural practices and a well-balanced fertilizer program like Spring-Green’s Preferred Program.

Turf grass as we grow it on home lawns is not a natural system and needs help to grow. An important component of proper cultural practices is core aeration. I wrote about the benefits of core aeration many times over the years as I know what it can do for a lawn.

The soil found in most yards is usually not good. It is usually full of clay, rocks and even construction debris. Core aeration provides open places for the roots to grow and expand, giving you a better lawn in return.

I have been in the Green Industry for a long time and have endured  my share of droughts, floods, late snow fall, early snow fall and many other types of weather related problems. The one plant that seems to be able to keep coming back year after year is the turf grass plant. Of course, the other type of plant that seems to do even better than turf are weeds, but that is a Blog Post subject for another day.

For question on lawn mower damage or any other type of damage to your lawn, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

Hail Damage: What You Should Be Concerned About!

hail damage

Hail damage to trees, shrubs and other garden plants is an all-too-common occurrence at this time of year. We rely on thunderstorms to bring us rain in order to water our lawns and garden plants, but storms can come with hail, and even pea-sized hail can end up causing severe damage.

After a hail storm, you need to inspect all your plants, shrubs and trees for damage. The part of a plant that typically gets the most damage are the leaves on all your plants. The hail stones can punch holes in the leaves or even shred flowers and their stems.

Depending on the severity of the storm, leaves and stems can be ripped from plants and branches can be torn from the tree. The damage usually occurs on the side of the plant that faces the storm and on the top-side of the branches.

If the damage occurred in early summer, it is a good idea to fertilize your plants, which will help them to grow new leaves. Be sure to stay on top of  watering, especially any plants that were severely damaged. An addition of 2 to 3 inches of composted mulch will also benefit these plants.

If the damage is localized to the leaves and they look tattered or torn, it is okay, especially if it occurs while these plants are actively growing. The plant has plenty of food reserves to grow new leaves so they will recover. If there are broken branches, carefully prune them. Be sure to cut back to a main limb/branch and, not in the middle of the limb/branch.

Damage to limbs should recover on their own. The plant will form a callus over small damaged branches and twigs. If a limb has extensive hail damage, you may want to consult an arborist for the best approach. In some cases, the only choice is to remove the damaged plant and replace it.

Take the time to evaluate the damage and take the necessary steps to help your plants recover and heal. It may take a year or more for complete recovery, but if you give your plants some TLC, they will recover.

Are Billbugs Active in Your Lawn? Try the “Tug Test”!

grass

One of the most misdiagnosed insect pests of cool season grasses is the Billbug Grub. They can be a serious pest of home lawns as well as golf courses, parks, athletic fields and just about anywhere turf-grass will grow.

There are 8 known species that will feed on various cool-season turf grasses. The grub itself is in the larva stage of an adult weevil. They do not have legs and are only about 1/8 – 3/8 of an inch long. They feed on the root systems of grasses just below the thatch layer. While the annual white grubs that cause so much damage to home lawns in the fall is much larger, sometimes reaching 2 inches in length and will have 6 legs.

billbug grub

The female lays her eggs in the stem of the grass plant near the crown. As the larva hatch, they will begin feeding on the grass blades at the base of the plant, but they quickly begin to feed down through the middle of the plant to get to the root systems. They will feed until mid-July. The adults will also feed on the grass blades, chewing notched-shaped holes in the middle of the blade or along the edges.

The damage they cause usually shows up in mid to late summer and is often confused with disease-damage or browning of a lawn that is often associated with summer dryness.

Try the “tug test” to determine if Billbugs are active:

  1. Look for grass that appears drought stressed, but with small brown patches.
  2. Grab the grass plant by the stem and give it a slight “tug”.
  3. If the plant pulls up easily, look at the base to see if there are small grains of sand-like material called frass, of insect droppings.
  4. If you search further you may actually find the small grub in the surrounding soil or even inside the stem of a grass plant.

billbug grub

 

Putting down an insect control would be the best thing to do if you find active Billbug Grubs in your lawn. There are several products labelled to control both the grubs and adults. It is best to check with your state’s Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service for products that are labelled to control Bill Bugs in your state.

Depending on the extent of the damage, core aeration and overseeding may be necessary. This may be a task that is better suited for a professional lawn care company like Spring-Green. Contact your local Spring-Green to find a location nearest you.

It’s Time To Treat For Grubs!

Lawn with trees

Did your lawn suffer damage from grub activity or small animals such as skunk’s, raccoon’s or armadillo’s? If so, these small animals dug up your lawn to snack on grubs…

Grub 101

  • Grubs are the larval stage of scarab beetles. 
  • There are at least 10 species of grubs that are pests of home lawns. They are considered the most destructive of all lawn inhabiting insects.
  • Of the native species, the Northern and Southern Masked Chafers, May beetles, and green June beetles are the most widespread.
  • There are four accidentally introduced species:
    • Japanese beetle – the Japanese beetle is the number one insect pest as it can damage plants and lawns during two life stages.
    • Oriental beetle
    • European Chafer
    • Asiatic Garden – the Asiatic Garden beetle has regional significance, mostly in the Northeast US.
  • The adults feed on over 300 plants including roses, linden trees, garden beans, grapes and even poison ivy.
  • The larvae feed on the roots of all cool-season turfgrasses, causing significant damage to lawns.
  • The type of damage that the adult Japanese beetles inflict on the leaves is called skeletonizing as they feed on the tissue between the leaf veins.
  • If populations are high enough, they have the ability to defoliate a tree in a few days. The tree will not die as a result of this attack and generally the tree will regrow enough leaves to survive.
  • The adults of the Asiatic garden beetle, green June beetle, and May beetles also feed on an assortment of plant materials, but usually not to the same extent as Japanese beetles.
  • The European Chafer and North and South Masked Chafer adults do not feed on any plant material during their life stage. The adults may not feed, but the grubs, especially of the two Masked Chafer species, can do significant damage to a lawn.

Damage Control

There are several options for controlling grubs before they damage your lawn. If you choose the chemical option or try one of the biological controls, be sure to read and follow all label directions.

Many of these products need to be watered within a short period of time after the application to be effective. Grub control products from hardware or home improvement centers work best when applied prior to the grubs laying their eggs. The material needs to already be in place when the larva hatch to provide effective control. You can also contact a local Spring-Green office to schedule this service for your lawn. Applying a grub control is good insurance against these lawn damaging insects.

Avoid Doing This To Your Lawn…

brown lawn

In one of my recent training seminars, one of the Field Service Professionals, Jason who works in our Plainfield, IL office, sent me this picture of a lawn with a good deal of damage.

My first thought was that the homeowner applied too much fertilizer to the lawn using a drop spreader, but the more I looked at it, the more I started to second guess the cause of all of the browning.

The reason why I don’t think it is caused by fertilizer is that the browning is too consistent, although there are several areas that appear to be unharmed. I also wondered about the lines going through the damaged area, which is something you would not see if this was related to a misapplication of fertilizer.

I have not actually seen this site, but I am fairly sure the damage that is seen in this lawn is the direct result of being power raked too deeply. A power rake is a machine that has a series of tines on a shaft that spins at a very high velocity to “power rake” thatch dead grass from a lawn. If done properly, there is little damage or stress to the lawn.  Unfortunately, many times the user of a power rake machine sets the cutting depth too low and ends up causing damage to the lawn.  Since it is just supposed to skim across the top of the lawn, not rototill it.

brown,

Another concern with power raking is that the process can damage the crown of the plant. The crown is the growth point for the roots and the shots. As long as it is alive, the plant will recover from numerous stresses. The process of power raking will damage or even kill a good number of crowns.

When a lawn is power raked, it will pull up an abundance of grass blades, both alive and dead. That means there will be a good deal of raking to remove all the plant matter from the lawn. There are power rakes that have a grass collection system, similar to a leaf sweeper, to collect the grass that is pulled up. It may make it easier to use one of those, but the grass still has to be placed into bags or into a compost pile.

The alternative to power raking is core aeration. It is a much simpler process and will benefit your lawn a lot more than power raking will. Contact your local Spring-Green office to sign up for this important service.  Your lawn will be greener and more importantly healthier if you do.