Winter Weed Control On Warm-Season Grasses

warm season grass

This picture is a Bermuda grass lawn in Opelika, AL entering dormancy. Each year, as the temperatures drop, this is what happens to most warm season grasses when exposed to freezing temperatures. They take on this almost camouflage-look to them.

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

Types of Winter Annual Weeds

The broadleaf weeds are classified into annuals and perennials. They can also be broken down into winter germinating and summer germinating weeds. Winter weeds germinate in the fall/winter, grow throughout that period and then die when the warm weather returns the following year.

These plants will produce flowers and seeds during that time, which will then germinate again next year. That is why 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 annual weeds like Henbit, Large Hop Clover Poa Annua and Chickweed.

One good thing about warm-season grasses turning brown in the winter is that weed control applications from Spring-Green can be used on grassy weeds like annual bluegrass and Dallisgrass.  The grass you wish to control are often still green and growing while the desired grasses are dormant.

Controlling Winter Annual Weeds

Now is 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 these problem weeds, like crabgrass, from germinating in the spring. Once the pre-emergent application is completed, it’s important to water the lawn at least half an inch to ensure it reaches the grass root growth, especially of there is no rain in the forecast.

Even though your yard may be brown during the winter, keep in mind this is completely normal during this time. There are a few tasks that you can still do to have a more weed-free lawn next year. If you have questions on winter annual weeds or lawn maintenance, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green.

How You’re Damaging Your Lawn By . . . Walking On It

paths damage lawn

Before you ask . . . no, we are not suggesting that instead of walking on your grass you invest in a Marty McFly-style hoverboard. (But if you do own one of those, please send us pictures.)

Winter is a great season, isn’t it? It’s the time of year when we don’t give a second thought to how healthy our grass is underneath all that snow (or, lately, ice). It goes dormant in the fall, awakens from its slumber in the spring, and then we start the taking-care-of-the-lawn seasons. Easy, simple.

Did you know, though, that the simplest activity you do every day might actually be damaging your lawn?

Yep, walking on it could be hurting your grass.

Here’s the thing: Whether we’re walking around the side of the house to the shed, out back to the garage, or to some other frequented destination, most of us walk the same path until we’ve packed down that snow tighter than a sumo wrestler in a smart car. Dogs can be a problem, too: they don’t like to get their paws cold, so once they’ve worn down a path through the yard, you can bet they’ll stick to it when they go outside to do their business.

The problem? Walking that same path over and over throughout the winter can really take a toll on your lawn. Come spring, you’ll notice that it’s the last area to green up, and might even struggle to thrive all season. Traversing on snow-covered grass causes compaction, which can damage the tops of the grass plants or create conditions for snow mold, a fungal disease, to develop. The same is true for grass with a layer of frost on it: Unlike in the warm months, when grass is elastic, trekking across frost-covered grass will break the plants and slow their recovery in the spring.

making snow track on your lawn

So for the sake of your grass, keep these winter lawn care tips in mind:

  • Keep sidewalks and driveways clear to encourage their use. Can’t do much damage to concrete!
  • Clear the yard for your dogs. If you want to use a snowblower, make sure to raise it to the highest setting—don’t worry, you won’t damage the grass.
  • Designate a spot for building igloos, making snowmen, etc. Pick some place that’s out of the way, where you won’t notice a little lawn damage.
  • Blaze new trails! A lot of compaction in a single area is bad for your lawn, but a tiny bit of compaction spread across the yard will help ease the burden overall.

Happy winter!

P.S.  In addition to taking care of your grass, don’t forget about your feathered friends this winter! Check out our tips on feeding birds in the winter.

What Spring-Green Is Doing In The Winter Months

winter lawn care

Many people think that those who work in lawn care have nothing to do in the winter. In actuality, winter is a very busy time for those who work in the lawn care industry.

Some of our southern franchise locations have already started performing applications to control weeds that have germinated and are applying products to prevent new ones from germinating. Granted, the far north franchise locations may not be making any applications, but there is still a good deal of work to get done before the start of their lawn care season.

What Spring-Green is doing during the winter months:

  • Trucks are cleaned up
  • Equipment is refurbished
  • Databases are updated
  • Customer records are reviewed
  • And yes, some vacation time is often enjoyed

Personally, the winter begins my favorite time of year – conducting 17 Professional Development Seminars throughout the US. I try to time the dates of the training seminars with the approximate arrival of spring and warmer weather, which sometimes works and sometimes causes me to endure winter weather storms. I have to say, I do enjoy going south in January when the winter cold is still in full swing in Northern Illinois.

2017 is a special year for me as I will be celebrating 20 years with Spring-Green in March and 39 years in lawn care in February. This will also be the 16th time that I conduct these training seminars.

The reason why it is my favorite time of year is that I get to interact with the people who service the lawns and landscapes in their geographic location. There are a few people that have attended the previous 15 seminars, so it is always great to see them again. I also get to meet many new people each year.

Training the wonderful people that work at Spring-Green is a true joy. I am always amazed at the talent and dedication demonstrated by the fine men and women who work for Spring-Green. They are a conscientious group who service the lawns and landscapes of their customers. They enjoy learning about not only the technical side of things, like weeds, diseases and insects, but also learning more about new products and equipment. The group discussions we have about best practices to follow when working with customers and learning the best ways to serve them are outstanding. I always come away from these training sessions knowing that there are wonderful people working at Spring-Green.

It’s Snow Problem: 3 Easy Winter Lawn Care Tips

snowman garage hacks winter lawn care

Think because your lawn is buried in snow you can’t be taking care of it? Think again! It’s time to get out that shovel and clear your entire yard from snow, then delicately prune each blade of grass to prepare for spring…

No, not really.

But as you gaze out at the sea of white and daydream about the smell of grass clippings or the feel of your hands in the dirt, there are a few winter tasks you can tackle right now to take care of your lawn—even if indirectly.

Sharpen Your Mower Blade

As far as winter lawn care goes, once you get the hang of it this is a pretty quick, simple task.

  1. First remove the spark plug, just in case. You know, just so your mower can’t accidentally come to life and ruin your bowling hand.
  2. Next, tip over the mower, taking care not to let oil get into the filter or carburetor.
  3. Remove the blade, which should be simple enough with the right socket wrench and something to keep the blade from turning while you work.
  4. Put a piece of tape on the bottom of the blade, so you know how to put it back later—otherwise, it won’t cut the grass.
  5. Put it in a vice, sharpen it with a large metal file, and voila! Don’t worry about over-sharpening; your lawn mower will do just fine spinning at such a high rate of speed.

Of course, you can always take your mower in for a tune-up—a respectable outfit should clean the carburetor, sharpen the blade, replace the spark plug, and much more for $100 or so.

A sharp blade will more uniformly cut the grass, making it healthier in the long run. It will also extend the life of your mower. So take half an hour this weekend to do a little winter lawn maintenance, and you’ll be ready to hit the grass running when spring arrives.

Creative Garage Hacks

winter lawn care garage hacks

Garages are amazing. They’re like a black hole, a magnet for superfluous garden implements, broken Christmas lights, and tangles of extension cords that never seem to make their way out. But when spring comes, if you can quickly and easily find everything you need, your lawn will thank you, because you’ll spend more time taking care of it than hunting for that bag of fertilizer or pH tester. Here are some creative ideas for organizing your lawn and garden stuff:

  1. Hit up your local reusable building materials center for old school lockers—then assign one to each member of your family. That way you can keep track of the stuff you use most often, like sun hats and kneeling pads.
  2. Take the almighty pegboard to the next level by drawing an outline of each tool on the pegboard itself. It will remind you—and everyone else!—where the right spot for each tool is. And it will stay nice and organized for longer than a week!
  3. Think small—install a simple shelf above the door or in another small, easily overlooked space. It’s perfect for items that only need to be used once or twice a year.
  4. Donate your extra shovels, rakes, etc. to that neighborhood kid starting his own landscaping business. Or give it to a deserving organization that could use some tools.
  5. BONUS! This won’t really help you get organized, but boy does it feel good to have a clean garage floor. Clean the concrete with a mixture of 2 parts bleach and 3 parts baking soda—when you’re finished mixing, it should have a paste-like consistency. That mixture, plus some rubber gloves and a good stiff brush, will get your concrete shining in no time.

Create a Garden Map

In addition to the tips we outlined last week, we discovered this website the other day, and we’re pretty much in love. First, search for your address on Google Maps, then use the Google Earth functionality to get a top-down survey of your yard. Then visit the Garden Planner for an interactive tool that lets you visualize and build your ideal garden. Draw the shape of your lawn (or whatever area you want to work with) using Google Earth as a guide, then add in shrubs, flowers, trees, planters, even sheds, greenhouses, and basketball hoops—you name it. Draw your dream garden! The tool also includes a built-in shopping list function, so you can go to the garden center with exactly what you need.

Winter lawn care doesn’t have to mean you’re actually outside in the yard. It means going into spring with a plan of attack, and a lot of work already done. Want to talk about how else you can get your lawn in shape this year? Contact your local Spring-Green, and together we’ll work out a plan to get rid of those weeds for good.

6 Helpful Dos and Don’ts for Taking Care of Your Lawn This Winter.

Yard covered in snow

It’s that time of year again, time to take care of snow removal and ice coated walkways. Winter is a time that we tend to forget about our lawn, especially since the ground is usually covered in snow or frost and the temperatures are a lot colder. Unfortunately this is not a time to just sit back and forget all about lawn care, save yourself some trouble when spring returns by taking a few extra precautions.

6 dos and don’ts that will assist you and your lawn this winter season:

  1. Mark your lawn – Ever lose track of where the grass starts along your driveway and sidewalks? By adding markers to the edge of your lawn, allows you to see where you should be shoveling or running your snow blower to avoid harm. Also by adding reflective markers along the street line of your property, you will be able to steer plows away from your lawn.
  2. Avoid placing plants near the street – By placing plants away from the street you will avoid damage to your plants from the extra heavy snow, plows push into your yard.
  3. Avoid the use of salt – By throwing sand or magnesium chloride down instead of salt to melt ice on your drive and walks, will help you avoid the chance of hurting your lawn and plants. The use of salt in extreme conditions can even harm your concrete due to the freezing and thawing.
  4. Just enjoy the snow – The snow actually works as a great insulator for the roots and ends up protecting your lawn. The snow also benefits your landscape providing water to your lawn all winter and as the snow thaws.
  5. Stay off your lawn – Try your best to keep off your lawn when you’ve got some snow. When the snow gets packed down from walking on it, it then becomes a lot harder for the snow to thaw come spring.
  6. Avoid piling snow on your plants – To ensure your plants thrive this season, avoid placing snow from your driveway and sidewalks onto your fragile plants. This will help keep your plants from suffocating

Winter lawn care is definitely simpler in the winter, but should not be completely ignored. By taking a few extra precautions now, you will end up saving yourself a lot of trouble come spring.

Have questions about winter lawn care? Contact your local Spring-Green for more information.

Can I Prune Trees in the Winter?

This may be a good winter to do some tree pruning, especially if the weather stays mild. Winter is not the time you want to try to shape hedges, even evergreens, but you can correct a number of problems that may not be as visible during the growing season when deciduous plants are covered with leaves.

Which Branches Should I Remove?

Tree that needs pruning

The first things you want to look to remove are any broken branches. Also look for branches that are growing into the tree instead of growing out of the tree. Often times, these branches will cross another branch or restrict the growth of the limbs that are growing in an outward fashion. Removing branches that are growing too low can also be done at this time of year.

Sometimes trees or shrubs will become infected by cankers or other diseases that may be noticeable at this time of year. The distinct advantage to pruning trees in the winter months is that there aren’t many leaves to rake up.

This is not the time to shape hedges or prune flowering shrubs. These plants flower in the spring or summer and have already set their blossoms for the following year. Removing these flower buds will reduce the flower levels. Confine your winter pruning to removal of broken, crossing or diseased branches.

Where on the Tree Do I Make the Cut?

pruning

When it comes to pruning, don’t just cut a branch where it is convenient. Instead, make a proper cut close to the main branch or trunk. Leaving behind stubs, or cigars as some people call them, may not seriously hurt the tree, but it just doesn’t look good.

Plus, the wound made by the cut will not heal properly. This may result in wood- decaying fungi invading the tree in the future.

Make the cut just beyond the collar of the branch. The collar is the slight swelling that lies next to the main branch. By cutting at that point, the tree will quickly grow callus growth over the wound to protect it from pest infestation, either from diseases or insects.

Pruning trees in the winter is a good activity, as long as you keep in mind these important points.

Spring-Green offers a number of tree and shrub care services to help your lawn and landscape look healthy and beautiful. Contact your local Spring-Green today!

Will There Be Freeze Damage to Your Lawn This Winter?

evidence of freeze damage on a spring lawn

Answering whether or not there will be freeze damage to your lawn this winter is almost impossible, since there are a few things to understand about how turf adjusts to freezing temperatures first. If your lawn has had a chance to become acclimated to the cold through a period often referred to as the “hardening-off” process, it has a much greater chance of surviving freezing temperatures. If the freeze occurs very quickly without giving the turf time to adjust, there is a greater chance that your lawn will suffer freeze damage.

What Are Cold Response Genes?

Through research, scientists have identified a group of genes called “cold response genes” that play an important role. These genes are activated when the temperatures are in the 32 to 50 degree range for a period of time—this determines whether or not the turf can tolerate freezing temperatures. If these genes do not become active, then the tolerance of your lawn to freezing temperatures is reduced. If a lawn is exposed to freezing after it has had a chance to become acclimated, then there is less freeze damage. In addition to the colder temperatures, the amount of light that the turf receives seems to play important role in the activation of these genes, which may be the reason why freeze damage to lawns is higher in shady areas.

What Happens When Turf Is Dehydrated?

A good deal of this tolerance is based on how the turf reacts to cell dehydration. During periods of freezing temperatures, the water that surrounds the plant’s cells will freeze. Through the process known as osmosis, the unfrozen water within the cells will move out of the cell into the area where the water is frozen. In essence, the cells will dehydrate. Once the water between the cells warms up again, the water will flow back into the cells to re-hydrate them.

When Does the Most Freeze Damage Occur?

The greatest damage to turf occurs during freeze/thaw cycles that can occur throughout the winter, but mainly in the late winter and early spring. If the temperatures warm up enough to thaw the water between the cells, than the cells will rehydrate. If the temperatures drop below freezing before the acclimation process occurs, then the cells can rupture.

For the most part, cool-season turf generally goes through the acclimation process every fall. The greater damage often occurs on warm-season grasses that are exposed to freezing temperatures without going through this process. For instance, a good deal of freeze damage occurred on warm-season grasses during last winter’s (2013 to 2014) excessive cold weather.

How Do I Prevent Freeze Damage to My Lawn?

Turf is a remarkable plant; it seems to be able to tolerate any number of stresses and usually recovers given enough time and care. It has been my experience that turf that is properly fertilized and cared for over the years will recover from many of these stresses faster than those lawns left to fend for themselves. Have additional questions about care for your lawn? Contact your local Spring-Green professional.

Here’s hoping your lawn survives what’s in store for the rest of this winter! Stay warm, friends.

Salt on Grass and Plants: How to Prevent Salt Damage to Your Landscape

salt damage on landscape

To put it simply, the best way to prevent salt damage to your lawn and landscape is to not use it. Unfortunately, that is not always an option, and you can sometimes find yourself with salt on your grass and plants. There are products out there that claim not to damage grass or plants (like calcium chloride or magnesium chloride), but if you use too much, it can still cause damage. In reality, most people end up using plain old rock salt since it is generally cheaper to use. Some of the pet-friendly, environmentally-safe products work, but they cost a lot more. For example, you can find a 50-pound bag of rock salt for about $8 while the “safer” products cost as much as $75 for a 35-pound bucket.

Try Sand Instead

As an alternative to rock salt that ends up on your grass and plants, you can use sand to help prevent slipping on the ice. The one thing to keep in mind is that the sand that you purchase at the store may be moist. When you get it home and put it in the garage, you may end up with a big frozen sand block, which is not very useful, so be sure to thaw it out before you attempt to use it.

Put Up Burlap Barriers or Pavers

You can control the type and amount of salt you spread on your property, but you usually don’t have much control of what your city spreads on the streets. Try as they may, some of the salt ends up on lawns. If your landscape is close to the street, it will also be doused with a healthy coating of salt. One way to prevent salt damage to your landscape is to erect a barrier. Burlap is a good choice to make a screen to keep the salt away from the landscape beds.

There isn’t much you can do to prevent the salt from getting onto your lawn, however. The best thing you can hope for is that there will be lots of rain in the spring to wash the salt down into the soil. In most cases, this is enough to prevent too much damage. If it is a reoccurring problem year after year, especially along the edges, one alternative is to install pavers along the curb.

Dealing with snow and ice is a fact of life for those of us that live in the northern parts of the US, but even the southern folks get an occasional ice storm. Trying to remove it from your driveway and sidewalks can be a challenge. If you do some planning and use products that are less damaging and not overdo the use of these products, you can limit or eliminate the amount of salt on your grass and landscape, and the damage you have to deal with next spring. Keep us posted and good luck!

At Spring-Green, we’re passionate about lawns—all year long. Learn about some of the winter lawn care services we offer, like sprinkler system blowouts. And don’t forget to Ask the Expert your own questions!

Winter Lawn Care: Winterizing Your Lawn Mower and Other Equipment

family in the fall

The weather has been getting colder in the Chicagoland area, and I think it’s time to come to terms with the fact that winter is right around the corner. Hopefully, you have cleaned up your gardens, removed any dead plants and have things wrapped up for the winter in your own yards. Have you considered a few other winter lawn care tasks that should be completed before the snow sets in, such as winterizing your lawn mower or other gas powered equipment or cleaning off your garden tools? We often forget that these things need to be winterized as well.

How to Winterize a Lawn Mower

Fall is a good time to clean up your mower to get it ready for next year. Clean off any grass that has collected on the underside of the deck. This is a task that should be completed on a regular basis throughout the summer, especially if the grass was wet when you mowed. If you never got around to doing so this summer, it is a good idea to take the time to do so now.

Treating the gas with a fuel stabilizer is also a good idea. I like to add this product every time I refill the gas can. If you are going to add it into the gas tank on your mower, be sure to start your mower to circulate the treated gas throughout the engine. It is also a good time to change the oil and complete any other standard maintenance tasks that your mower requires. If you are not very handy at this particular winter lawn care task, most hardware stores offer this service.

Don’t Neglect Your Other Lawn Equipment

Don’t forget about your other gas-powered equipment, such as line trimmers or blowers. They should also be cleaned up and stored for the winter. Most of these have 2-stroke engines that require the oil to be mixed with the gasoline, so treating the gas with a fuel stabilizer is also a good idea. So is replacing the spark plug.

Winterize Your Garden Hand Tools

The hand tools you used during the spring and summer, such as shovels, trowels, garden hoses and such should be cleaned off before you store them for the winter. Use a wire brush to remove caked-on soil and rust and then wipe them down with some motor oil to keep them from rusting again. Unless the handle was varnished, it is also a good idea to smooth off any rough spots with sandpaper and wipe them with some linseed oil. This will help to prevent the wood from drying out and splitting.

Get Your Snow Blower Ready

If you live in an area that receives snow, was your snow blower serviced before it was put away last spring? It is better to do it now than wait until you have your first snowfall before attempting to start it. You should also check the condition of your snow shovels. Do they need any repair or replacement? Again, it is better to check this out now than waiting until the first snow falls.

It is somewhat sad once you have put everything away for the winter. The only thing you have to look forward to is the new seed catalogues that usually come out in January. The holidays are approaching soon, so there are holiday lights to put out in the next couple of weeks. It is surprising how quickly winter can fly by and, before you know it, you will be out in the yard, planting, watering, pulling weeds and enjoying your outdoor environment once again.

More Winter Lawn Care Tips from Spring-Green:

Winter landscaping
Winterizing your sprinkler system—contact us for a maintenance appointment!

How to Properly Remove Christmas Lights on Trees

how to remove Christmas lights

Properly removing the Christmas lights from trees and shrubs when the holiday season is over is important for your plants’ health. If you’re not being careful, it’s possible to damage those plants. I have seen too many people pull on the strings of lights while standing on the ground instead of using a ladder or reversing the process that was followed when the lights were hung.

Unless you are careful, the tender branches can easily snap, as they are frozen stiff. On most deciduous plants, the buds for next year’s leaves and flowers are already on the branches. If strings of lights are carelessly pulled off the plants, the buds may be torn off or become damaged. New buds will eventually regrow in the spring, but this will take some time.

Remember: Last Up, First Off

When removing your Christmas lights you decorated your trees with, follow a “last up, first off” rule and take your time to protect your landscape plants. Keep these tips in mind and your outdoor trees and shrubs will be beautiful during and after the holiday season.

Since we’re in the Christmas spirit, give yourself the holiday gift you deserve—lawn care services from Spring-Green.

Get to know the Spring-Green owner in your neighborhood, and get started right this spring. In addition to popular services like lawn fertilization and weed control, we recently added irrigation maintenance in certain areas—imagine what you could do with the gift of more free time.