Do It Yourself Lawn Care Worth It? Factors To Keep in Mind For the DIY Landscaper

lawn care professional

It’s safe to state that spring has finally arrived through much of the United States. The temperatures are on the rise, lawns are waking up from dormancy, trees and shrubs are leafing out and many of these plants are also producing flowers and the tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are blooming. It is also the time of year when advertisements for lawn care fertilizers and other control products are seen in the mail, newspapers and online.

If you use a professional lawn care service like Spring-Green to care for your lawn, you may start comparing the price you pay for that service to the prices advertised for different lawn care products and think it may be cheaper to do care for your lawn on your own. Caring for your lawn on your own can appear to be much less expensive than contracting with a professional company, but there are other important aspects of caring for your lawn that should be taken into consideration.

DIY Lawn Care Factors To Keep In Mind

• What products to apply?
• When to apply each product?
• What pest you are trying to control?
• Why each product should be applied?
• What is the size of the area being treated?
• How each product is applied?
• How much of each product to purchase?
• What equipment is needed to apply each product?

It is important to highlight a few of these points. Do you know how big your lawn is in square feet? Most products are applied as a set amount per 1,000 square feet. This can be in pounds or ounces per 1,000 square feet. If you don’t know the size of the area being treated you could either be adding too much product, which can lead to possible lawn damage, or not enough product, which can reduce the effectiveness of the product.

The second critical factor is knowing what type of weed you are treating, what products can and cannot be used on that plant and at what rate. This is especially true when it comes to different species of turfgrasses. The nutritional requirements for Bermuda grass is much higher than that of Centipede grass. In fact, too much fertilizer on a Centipede lawn could result in permanent lawn damage.

Timing in Lawn Care Maintenance

Timing is important.Fertilizing warm season grasses too late in the fall can lead to an increase in winter injury. On cool season turfgrasses, applying too high a rate of fertilizer during periods of stress may result in a decrease in performance and possibly an increase in disease activity.

You cannot effectively control grubs and pests without being able to identify the pest and know what part of its life cycle is the most damaging and at what stage control measures should take place. In regards to insects, does it have a complete or incomplete life cycle? When controlling weeds, are you trying to control a broadleaf weed or grass-like weed. Even lawn diseases have a life cycle, so you need to know if the disease is currently active.

You also must know what product is labelled to control that pest. Just because it’s an insect, it doesn’t mean that all insect control products are effective in controlling that bug. When controlling weeds, you need to know whether you should use a pre-emergent or post emergent product. You need to know if you should use a selective or a non-selective weed control product. For diseases, you need to know if you should apply a preventative or curative product.

There are several RTU or Ready-To-Use products on the market to control weeds, insects or diseases. Many times, these are the same products that the professional companies use, but are mixed in very small quantities, relative to the size of the container. If you are planning to spray an entire lawn for broadleaf weeds, a 16-ounce container is not going to be sufficient in size.

Why Hire Spring-Green Lawn Care?

At a minimum, if you plan to purchase the basic lawn care equipment to fertilize your lawn, spray weeds and control diseases and insects on ornamental shrubs, it will cost about $110.00 for a spreader, two 1-gallon sprayers and a hose end sprayer. After buying all the equipment, you still have to buy the fertilizers and control products.

The biggest advantage you have in doing your own lawn care is that you can pick the day to do the work, providing that it isn’t too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy. It may seem that it is cheaper to do the work yourself, but if you start adding up all the costs, including your time to do the work and the inconvenience factor, hiring a professional lawn care company like Spring-Green makes the most sense! Contact us to get started on your lawn care service this season!

Be Sure You Are Buying the Right Weed Control Product

finding the right products for you lawn

I was at my favorite store the other day, the local hardware store, and they already had their gardening supplies on display. I always wander through those aisles to see what products are new on the market for the new year.

I had to stop when I saw a new Round-Up product that I know is going to cause confusion to homeowners this spring. The new product is called Round-Up for Lawns and it is a lot different from the traditional Round-Up products that have been around for years.

The difference between the two different types of RoundUp:

  • RoundUp contains glyphosate, a non-selective herbicide that will control almost every plant on which it is applied.damaged lawn from using wrong product
  • RoundUp for Lawns does not contain glyphosate, but it does contain traditional selective broadleaf weed control products that can be applied on the labelled turf species without causing damage to the grass as long as the directions are followed. In other words, it will not harm your desired grasses as long as the label directions are followed.

I am fairly sure that people will get these two products mixed up. Someone will want to kill the grassy weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, use RoundUp for Lawns and be disappointed with the results. Although, the new product contains products that will control many broadleaf weeds as well as crabgrass and nutsedge, it will not control many perennial grassy weeds like dallisgrass or quackgrass.

When I visit my local hardware store in the spring and I see the multitude of weekend warriors looking at the available weed control products, I have to resist the urge to ask “Is that what you really want to buy?”

Too many times I have seen lawns damaged when the wrong product was used, such as what is seen on the picture below.

damaged lawn from use of incorrect products - weed control

There are a lot of jokes made about men not taking the time to read directions, but in the case of many pest control products, reading the label can be the difference between success and failure.

Check the label to learn:

  • If the product is labelled for the type of turfgrass in your lawn
  • How to mix the product and type of application equipment needed
  • If the weed you are trying to control is included on the label
  • The weather conditons that will provide the best results
  • What the mowing and watering requirements are before and after the application.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to contact your local Spring-Green office and sign-up for the Preferred Plus Lawn Care Program. Then you can be sure that right products will be applied at the right time by a licensed and trained professional. Contact your local Spring-Green office for a estimate today!

The Lawn Care Season Has Kicked-Off in the South

lawn care in the south now beginning

During the spring, I travel across the US to conduct training seminars for our great Field Staff and Customer Service Professionals in many of the states where Spring-Green does business. I started off in Columbia, SC, working with teams from North and South Carolina along with a team from Alabama.

All of these locations started their lawn care year or are getting ready to start within the next week. It may be early February, but if the weather is good, as it has been, these operations are getting a jump start on late winter weed control. This helps lessen weed populations before warm season grasses begin breaking dormancy and start growing again.

I had a chance to take a walk outside around the hotel where I am staying today and observed many weeds growing in the turfgrass around the building. These are not the type of weeds that start growing in the fall, also known as winter annuals, but are recently germinated weeds. Much of the south has been enjoying a mild, although recently stormy, winter. This allowed weeds to grow almost unchecked this winter, so steps need to be taken to control them.

weeds showing up in the south

The control methods include applications of both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control products.

The difference between the two is fairly simple. A pre-emergent is applied to prevent weeds from germinating and a post-emergent is applied after the weed has germinated and is actively growing.

Not all weeds are prevented with an application of a pre-emergent. The primary weeds controlled by a pre-emergent are annual grassy weeds like Crabgrass, Foxtail and Goosegrass. Fortunately, these materials will also prevent many annual broadleaf weeds such as Spotted Spurge, Knotweed and Lespedeza from germinating as well.

A post-emergent weed control material is applied mainly on actively growing broadleaf weeds. There are post-emergent products that can also be used on many grassy weeds, but that is a blog post topic for another day. The important aspect of controlling weeds with a post-emergent product is that the weed has to be actively growing to get the best control. If it is too: cold, hot, dry or even wet, these conditions can affect the ability of the product to do its job. 

The owners that attended the training course today are well aware that the weather can change, but it is important that Spring-Green locations take advantage of each day that allows them the opportunity to work on their lawns.

If you have questions on weed control this winter, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

Why Are There So Many Weeds This Year?

dandelion field

Depending on where you live in the US, weeds are out of control because there has been so much rain this year. Rain equals weeds; that is just a fact of life in lawn care. It just so happens that the number one service call for any lawn care company has to do with weeds.

Some weeds are easy to control, but others can be a real challenge. There are many ways that weeds can be controlled or eliminated, but why are some weeds more difficult than others?

 Weed Control: 5 reasons why is it not working?

  1. If you are spraying the weeds and the leaves are small, there may not be enough weed control applied, based on the size of the droplets coming from the spray equipment you are using.
  2. If the leaves are hairy, the weed control will sit on top of the hairs and evaporate before it has a chance to reach the leaf surface.
  3. If the weed has a waxy coating, like purslane or Virginia buttonweed, the weed control may roll off the leaf before it has a chance to be absorbed.
  4. If the weeds have an extensive root system, like Canada thistle, it allows the weed to regrow from the root systems that are not controlled.
  5. Some weeds have a very tough cuticle, or skin, like ground ivy or wild violets on their leaves and it is difficult for the weed control to penetrate.

weed1.1

 

Many perennial weeds can be controlled by applying weed control in the fall. This is especially true of wild violets, ground ivy and clover. In the fall, the weeds are sending carbohydrates down into the root system. By spraying in fall, even as late as November, the weed control material will be moved into the root system, preventing the weeds from growing the following year.

weeds

Pulling Weeds by Hand

There are a few annual weeds that you can hand pull to eliminate them, but the one aspect of weeds that make them so hardy is the extensive root system that they grow. In many cases, if you don’t get the majority of the root when pulling the weed, a new weed will regrow from the root that is left behind.  The main stems on many weeds will easily break off at the ground level when they are pulled and a new plant will regrow from what is left behind.

For those of you that live in areas of the US that are short on rain fall this year, weeds are still going to grow. They will not absorb the weed control product as readily as when there is adequate moisture. As for hand pulling, many weeds have adapted to grow if all types of environmental conditions due to their extensive root system. The tops of the plants may be gone, but the rest of the weed will survive to start growing again once the rain returns.

If your lawn is experiencing a weed problem, contact your local Spring-Green office for more information.

Weed Identification Guide: These Weeds Are the Worst

worst weeds

What are the worst weeds to have in your lawn? That is a difficult question to answer for the entire country, as certain weeds grow better in some areas than others. There are a few that seem to grow just about everywhere, so for now I’ll discuss them—and how to control them—in a brief weed identification guide. These are listed in no particular order, except being the ones I thought of first.

1. Wild Violet

wild violet weed identification

You either love them or hate them. It does have a pretty flower that can range in color from white to blue to purple. This weed prefers cool, moist shady areas, but will tolerate full sun. The difficulty in controlling this weed is its extensive root system. It has a deep taproot as well as the ability to produce above-ground roots called stolons and below-ground roots call rhizomes. Violets are extremely difficult to control and require multiple applications of broadleaf weed control products. The best time to control this plant is in the fall, after the first frost.

2. Ground Ivy

ground ivy weed identification

Ground Ivy is pretty easy to identify. It is a creeping winter perennial that can send its stolons snaking out through a lawn. This is where it gets some of its more common names such as Creeping Charlie or Creeping Jenny. It also likes moist, shady areas, but can grow in the full sun. Just like Wild Violets, it is very difficult to control, needs multiple applications, and is best controlled in the late fall.

3. Virginia Buttonweed

virginia buttonweed weed identification

Our weed identification guide continues with Virginia Buttonweed, which is probably the worst weed in the South and Southeast regions, but it can survive as far north as southern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It is a prostrate-growing perennial weed that can form large patches in home lawns, choking out the desired grasses. It mainly reproduces by seeds, but a new plant can grow from plant segments that are left behind from mowing or hand pulling.

4. Canada Thistles

canada thistles weed identification

There are numerous thistle species that can be found in home lawns, such as Bull Thistle, Musk Thistle, and Sow Thistle. To help with identification, almost all thistles have sharp, pointy spines either on the leaf margins, edges, or covering the entire leaf surface. Of all the different species of thistles, the worst one (in my opinion) is the Canada Thistle. The main reason for my designation of “worst weed” is that this is a perennial plant that produces extensive rhizomes that can grow three feet or more in length and quickly take over any lawn or landscape area. You may be able to control this weed when it is growing in your lawn, but if there are plants growing in surrounding areas, the rhizomes will send out a new crop of plants to take the place of those that were controlled. Thirty-seven states have listed Canada Thistle as a noxious weed.

5. Crabgrass

crabgrass weed identification

There are at least 3 species of crabgrass that can be found in residential lawns: Hairy, Smooth, and Egyptian crabgrass. Crabgrass grows very flat to the ground and spreads out, choking the desired grasses. It is an annual grassy weed that is the bane of many homeowners. It may not be as important to identify which type of crabgrass you have; what is important is that there are pre-emergent products that you can apply to help prevent it from germinating, and there are even products that you can apply to kill it if it has germinated in a lawn. One crabgrass plant can produce thousands of seeds to leave behind for the following year’s crop.

6. Dandelion

dandelion weed identification

Dandelion gets its name from the shape of the flower; it resembles the face of a lion. The most hated part of this weed is the white puffball seed head that it produces after it has flowered. Actually, the flower itself is somewhat attractive, and once it has bloomed and produced seeds, it is somewhat inconspicuous in a home lawn – unless you have a lot of them. Dandelions are perennial plants and can germinate from the numerous seeds that are spread by the wind.

7. Clover

clover weed identification

This is a plant that you either love or hate. At one time, people actually used clover as a lawn “grass.” It can be considered an indicator of low soil fertility. It has the ability to produce its own nitrogen on nodes that grow on its roots. It is a perennial plant that reproduces by stolons and seed. The flower is favored by several species of bees. It is another one of those difficult to control weeds that requires multiple applications for complete control.

There are literally hundreds of weeds that can grow in home lawns and I have just included 7 in this brief weed identification guide. The weeds that I listed can be found throughout the country with the exception of Virginia Buttonweed. The definition of a weed is “a plant growing out of place,” but you have to be the one that decides what “growing out of place” means to you.

If you do find there are several plants growing out of place in your yard, and you want to get rid of them, contact your local Spring-Green for a free estimate.

Weed Control Simplified: Kill Your Weeds, Not Your Lawn

lawn damage from weed control product

It’s warming up and lawns are growing once again, which unfortunately means the weeds are, too. Nothing detracts from the aesthetic beauty of a well-maintained lawn than seeing a bunch of puffball dandelions spread across it. Some people may like the bright yellow dandelions, but the flowers quickly turn into puffballs and spread seeds throughout the neighborhood. It can take as a little as a day to go from flower to puffball!

When I go to the hardware store on a Saturday morning, I often see one or two Joe Homeowners picking up bottles of lawn weed control products, scratching their heads and wondering which product to use. The “weed and grass killer” product they pick up will do the job, but their lawn will end up having dead spots. They may have killed the weeds in their lawn, but now they have to repair all those little spots where the grass died.

To Control Weeds, First Identify Weed Type

The definition of a weed is “a plant growing out of place.” So, broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clover, or thistles fit this description. Grassy weeds like bentgrass, common Bermuda grass, crabgrass, Nutsedge, etc., also match the description. The difference is that the control products that you want to use for broadleaf weeds are designed not to harm your desired grasses when used as instructed by the label directions. Grassy weeds are in the same classification of your desired grasses, so the majority of products that you use to control those plants will also damage or kill your desired grass as well.

Label Education

When looking for a lawn weed control product, the most important thing you need to do before purchasing it is to read the label. If you see the name “glyphosate” on the ingredient statement, you don’t want to use that product on your lawn unless you plan on repairing the dead spots in your lawn afterwards. Another important aspect is the amount of product to use when spraying your weeds. Don’t follow the old adage, “If a little is good, a lot is better.” If you purchase a concentrated product that is mixed in water, measure it according to the directions. When spraying you weeds, you don’t need to soak them down. Spraying too much can put the broadleaf weed into shock and it will stop absorbing the product before enough of it has been translocated into the plant, but the surrounding grass may be damaged. The same is true if you purchase a ready-to-use, pre-mixed product.

Spraying weeds may seem like an easy task, but you do need to exercise caution and read the label to make sure you are purchasing the correct product and that you mix it according to the label directions. Also be sure to wear the correct personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves or boots, if the label so indicates.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to contact a professional lawn care service like Spring-Green to do the work for you. We’ve been killing weeds and beautifying lawns for nearly 40 years, and we carry a number of professional, reliable products. Learn more about our weed control services!

How to Get Rid of Wild Violets and Ground Ivy

Wild violets and ground ivy can be considered some of the most difficult-to-control weeds in a lawn. They can drive homeowners crazy with their efforts to rid their lawns of these weeds with little or no success. The key to getting rid of ground ivy and wild violets is knowing the best time to apply control products.

wild violet

How Do Wild Violets Grow?

Even though they are a nuisance, wild violets can be very pretty. They have beautiful, short-lived flowers that can range in colors from white to blue to purple. When my sister and I were children, we would pick wild violets that grew in a forested area near our house and give them to our mother. Now, you can purchase these plants as a garden perennial. In a home lawn, they grow best in shady areas where the desired grasses have a more difficult time growing. This allows them to easily spread by both seed and through underground root systems called rhizomes. The leaves on violets are very tough, making it more difficult for weed control products to penetrate the surface. The extensive root structure spreads underground, allowing this weed to creep out of flower beds and into your lawn. Even when dug up, if any pieces of the root is left behind, the plant will regenerate and begin anew. This fact has really made the wild violet a difficult weed to remove from unwanted areas in your landscape.

How Does Ground Ivy Grow?

Ground ivy was an import from England, where it has acquired some colorful names such as creeping charlie. In England, it is also known as Gill-over-the-Ground, Cat’s Foot or Runaway Robin. Creeping charlie is probably the most descriptive name as it reproduces by seeds and also by long, above ground runners called stolons. The stolons wind their way through the grass, pushing down roots and sending more stolons creeping throughout your lawn. Ground Ivy prefers shady sites, but has been found growing in full sun. The plant has square stems and is a member of the mint family. A strange characteristic of ground ivy is that when mowed, it has a strange strong pungent smell. I guess it doesn’t carry the family trait of the pleasant smell of mint.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Late fall is the best time to apply weed control and get rid of wild violets and ground ivy. The reason for this is that plants are in the process of moving food into the root systems in the fall. Therefore, the weed control products will move down into the root system, providing better control. A follow-up application may also be needed in the spring when the plants are flowering.

It may take two or three years to get these weeds under control. Since both of these weeds prefer shady locations, overseeding with more shade-tolerant grasses may help. If it is too shady for grass to grow, you may need to switch from grass to ground covers or mulch. You will still need to control these weeds before switching and fall is still the better time to do so.

Winter Weed Control on Warm-Season Grasses

With the colder weather hitting the states lately, we don’t need to be worrying about weeds, right? Wrong! Areas with warm season grasses, like Alabama, can still have a weed problem even when the turf goes dormant.

Except for parts of Florida, most warm season grasses enter into a dormant state during the winter. They will turn brown and not green-up until next spring through early summer. Even though the grass turns brown, there are still weeds that continue growing throughout the winter dormant period.

These broadleaf weeds are basically classified into annuals and perennials. They can also be broken down into winter germinating and summer germinating weeds. Some weeds germinate in the fall/winter, grow throughout that period and then die when the warm weather returns next year. Winter germinating weeds will produce flowers and seeds during that time, which will then germinate again next year. That’s why winter weed control on warm season grasses is so essential—applying a weed control application or two during the dormant-turf period will help to eliminate these weeds from your lawn.

Most broadleaf weed control products will take care of the majority of the winter germinating annual weeds like Henbit, Large Hop Clover and Chickweed. One good thing about warm season grasses turning brown in the winter is that a non-selective weed control product like Round-Up can be used on grassy weeds like annual bluegrass and Dallisgrass. Be sure the desired grasses are completely dormant, but that the grass you wish to control is still green and growing before using Round-Up.

Winter is also a good time to apply a pre-emergent weed control product to prevent many annual grasses from germinating. As the name implies, these products will control problem weeds, like crabgrass, from germinating.

Even though your yard may be brown during the winter, there are still a few tasks that you can do to have a more weed-free lawn next year. Talk to your local Spring-Green professional to find the right program for your lawn and budget!

What to Do First: Reseeding or Top Dressing? – Spring-Green Lawn Care Tips

On Page Auger

Lawn Care Tips: Reseeding and Top Dressing

The following is a question-and-answer exchange between a homeowner and Harold Enger, the Director of Education at Spring-Green. Harold provides some expert tips on two important lawn care practices—reseeding and top dressing—and stresses the importance of doing them in the right order. He also addresses the best time to weed and feed.

Question:

“I planted about an acre of grass last spring. It has come in nicely, however, I do have a question. I would like to reseed and top dress the entire area. I would also like to “weed and feed”. Which should I do first and how long do I wait in between?”

Answer:

Mr. Campbell,
Thank you for sending in your question. I am glad to read that you had good success in your seeding efforts last year. Top dressing is a good idea, especially if you have areas that have eroded or sunken over the last year. A good way to incorporate new seed into an existing lawn is to first core aerate the lawn. This will help to relieve any compaction issues, and it will also provide a good site for the seed to germinate. After aerating, it’s time for top dressing: spread either pulverized top soil or a good quality humus compost across the lawn. You don’t need much—about a quarter inch or so is adequate. Then, go ahead and reseed. Be sure to invest some money in the seed and get good quality, weed-free seed. There are numerous blends available. I am assuming that you used a bluegrass/ryegrass blend. I suggest that you use a mix of 20% bluegrass and 80% perennial ryegrass. The reason why I suggest more ryegrass is that it germinates in 5 to 7 days, whereas bluegrass takes 28 days to germinate. It is difficult for most homeowners to maintain adequate watering for 28 days unless they have a sprinkler system.

You will not be able to apply conventional crabgrass control products before or after reseeding, as they will prevent your new seed from germinating. In regards to broadleaf weeds, like dandelions and clover, you need to wait until the grass has germinated and has been mowed three times before applying that type of product. I do suggest you apply a fertilizer after seeding. I suggest you look for a product with an analysis of 14-14-14 or similar and supply about .75 to 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. For that product, in a 50-lb. bag, you would apply about 5 to 6 pounds of product per 1,000 sq. ft. If your lawn area is an acre, then you would purchase between 5 and 6 50-lb. bags of a 14-14-14.

Looking for some additional lawn care tips?
You can ask Harold a question directly on his Ask the Expert blog.

Indicator Weeds and What They Tell About Your Soil

service_grassy-weed

I recently attended the Lawn Care Summit, a program sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network, the lawn care industry’s professional organization. One of the talks centered on indicator weeds and what they tell. Often, weeds can be used as an indicator of other turf problems.

Turf will grow best in full sun and in deep, fertile, well-drained soils . Unfortunately, most lawns don’t have the luxury of having the best growing conditions to develop into a healthy lawn. Shade, compacted soil, foot traffic, insect, diseases, weeds, thatch build-up and improper management are common problems of home lawns. Indicator weeds can shed light on which issues your lawn faces.

The speaker, Dr. John Sorochan from the University of Tennessee, stated, “Weeds do not cause bad turf—they are the cause of bad turf.” In other words, weeds will grow because the growing conditions favor their development.

These weds indicate compacted soils:

  • Virginia Buttonweed
  • Prostrate Knotweed
  • Puslane
  • Goosegrass

These weeds indicate low soil nitrogen levels:

  • White Clover
  • Black Medic

These weeds indicate poor drainage:

  • Nutsedge
  • Annual Bluegrass

These weeds indicate too much shade:

  • Moss
  • Violets
  • Nimblewill
  • Japanese Stiltgrass

These weeds indicate acidic soils:

  • Sheep Sorrel
  • Ground Ivy
  • Cinquefoil

This weed indicate alkaline soils:

  • Broadleaf Plaintain

If you see these weeds growing in your lawn, it may be due to a cultural problem and not because your lawn care company is doing a poor job caring for your lawn.