Month: April 2016

If You Don’t Wash Your Lawn It Will Get Dirty!

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Thank you for rejoining us for the next installment of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!‘ series.  Last week’s installment, located here, covered Weed Control.  This week will explore watering practices for your lawn.

We have been seeing an increase in calls at our office lately about sprinkler startups.  For more information we did post a DIY article on starting your own sprinkler system this spring.  If you still need this done and cannot do it yourself, I recommend having a professional address it soon.  Pushing this chore off may result in a drought damaged lawn. The weather changes so much around here, you never know if it will be record highs or record lows.  As the old axiom goes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”

Once you have your sprinkler system set and ready to go, it is important to understand certain truths about watering your lawn.  If you are faithful to water your lawn like a professional, you will always have great results.

Watering properly is much more an art than a science.

Every lawn is different, and there are many variables that affect how you should water. Some of those variables include:

  • Grass type
  • Soil compaction
  • Soil PH
  • Grass height
  • Shade
  • Wind

Two neighboring lawns may have exactly the same watering lengths and frequency, but due to the differing variables the results may be a different outcome.  For example, if one lawn is mowed at a higher cutting, they will require less water than a lawn mowed shorter.  A longer grass blade will shade the soil longer which results in a slower evaporation rate of water in the soil.

As you can see, it can get very complicated very quickly if you aren’t confident in how you should water.  With a little education, you will be watering like a professional!

When I visit a lawn and a customer asks me about watering, I always give them a starting point.  Again, every lawn is different.  If you can begin with a few good standards, then you can make the necessary adjustments to your specific needs.

  1. Water regularly – your lawn will need 2-3 inches of water weekly depending on soil type, rainfall amounts, wind, and ambient temperatures.  You will water more in the summer, than in the spring or fall.  However, it still needs to be watered regularly all times of the growing season.
  2. Early morning watering is the best time to water.  Watering during the hottest time of the day really is a waste of watering.  Up to 50% of the water you put on the lawn during this time can evaporate.  So if you watered for an hour, it really was like watering for 30 minutes as far as your grass is concerned.  Evening watering is only slightly better than midday watering.  Evening watering can promote the spread of disease in your lawn as the top layer of water in your soil won’t evaporate quickly enough.  Sometimes you don’t have  choice in your watering as many HOA assign watering times – so water when you can when you have no choice.
  3. Water deep and infrequent.  A long watering 2-3 times a week is much better than watering daily for a shorter amount.  Think about – if you water 1 hour 3 times a week, that is 3 hours of watering per zone for the week.  If you water 30 minutes every day, that is 3.5 hours of watering per zone for the week.  You save water, and the longer/deeper watering allows the water to go deeper in the soil where it will not evaporate as quickly.  Your grass roots will go deeper in the soil to find that water,which results in a much healthier lawn.  The alternative is watering all the time – it will cause your lawn to get a disease and be unhealthy, albeit slowly.  Let me use a metaphor to illustrate what happens to your lawn when it always has water on it.  Pretend your lawn is a finger.  Water is a band-aid.  What happens to your finger when you have a band-aid on it for several days without changing it.  It begins to decay!  Same thing happens to your lawn.  Don’t water everyday!
  4. Rule of thumb for sprinkler heads.  If you have the large rotor heads that turn, water 45-60 minutes per zone 2-3 times a week (2 in the cooler months, 3 in warmer months).  If you have the pop up spray heads, water 30-45 minutes per zone 2-3 times a week.

Now that you have the basics down you can fine tune any areas that look like they might need a littler more help.  If you are watering 45 minutes 3 times a week and an area just isn’t greening up, bump your times up to 60 minutes.  Don’t add a 4th day of the week, keep it at 3 times a week maximum.  You can even raise your mower, remember a higher grass blade helps shade the soil.

Remember,

If You Don’t Wash Your Lawn It Will Get Dirty!

Failing to water your lawn will result in drought stress, which can lead to dead grass, which will turn into a bare dirt patch in the middle of your lawn.

If you want further help with watering your lawn or have questions that we may not have answered here, please get in contact with us!  We would love to help you with your lawn needs.  www.weedmanboise.com  In the meantime, we hope you will join us again next week with the continuation of our blog series.

 

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Hey Weed Man! Can You Spray My Weeds?

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Welcome back the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This post is a continuation of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!‘ series.  If you are just now joining us for this series, last week we touched on lawn repairs! This week, I wanted to discuss Weed Control!

This topic can be very overwhelming, it sometimes is confusing on where to even start the conversation.  This post will not be all inclusive in regards to the subject, nor is it intended to be.  I state this so that you will be encouraged to do your own homework on the subject should you feel inclined.  Nevertheless, I want to discuss some of the broad themes of weed control.  Let us begin at the beginning.

It is important to define what a ‘weed’ is, as it can mean one thing to one person, and entirely different thing to another.  In a nutshell, a weed is just an unwanted plant.  There is not an actual genus/species that weeds fall into for horticulture.

Essentially ANY plant that has little or no value (for food, medicines, or visual aesthetics) or that competes with plants of value is defined as a weed.  

Case in point – Dandelions.  Dandelions were once culturally accepted as a source of nutrition and even had claimed medicinal benefits.  Every portion of the dandelion is edible.  I have seen many articles stating that they are in fact a ‘super food’, containing many nutrients such as B Vitamins, potassium, beta-carotene.  I have also seen social media posts about cures and helps for ailments such as: kidney stones, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.    This is all great!  However, if you told someone today you were excited about your lawn sprouting dandelions so you could start your new dandelion diet, you might get a few strange looks.

My point is this:  Dandelions have value, but they are considered UNSIGHTLY in your lawn.  So they are labeled a weed.  Again there is no specific plant type exclusive to the classification ‘weed’.  What is defined as a weed to one person, may be a desirable plant to another person.  What is considered a weed in one particular area, may be a desirable plant in another area.  (I am thinking of the pumpkins my wife and I planted last summer.  They started as a great idea for a super pumpkin carving party!  By the time October rolled around they had become a ‘weed’ in our yard that needed to be eradicated).

Great!  We have decided on an arbitrary definition for weeds, now what?  Well, the next topic to discuss is eradication.  Whether it is your garden, or your lawn, you want to protect your investment and get rid of plant invaders.

There are many methods for getting rid of unwanted plants.  Some are more effective than others.  The context in which you find your unwanted weeds may also dictate the type of method you need to use to get rid of them as well.  There are several categorical methods for weed control, and within those categories, several specific methods.  I will highlight some of the most common.

  1.  Coverings –  This includes ground covering to help prevent germination of weeds.  This can be mulch, bark, weed mats, etc…
  2. Tilling – to help uproot weeds so they might die.  This is usually recommended for gardens when you are trying to prep for the season.
  3. Elbow Grease! – just pulling up weeds from the soil.  This is very labor intensive and may be very inefficient/ineffective depending on the weed.  If you miss the root, it will just come back.
  4. Thermal – Fire!  This is usually not recommended for that average home.  No need to risk burning your house down to take care of a weed.  I have also seen people use boiling water on weeds.  It is pretty inefficient on larger weeds and you run the risk of really harming yourself if you are not careful.
  5. Herbicides – This is really the most common and most effective, however over time weeds can build up a resistance to herbicide.  This is why we feel the best weed control is a healthy lawn.  There is a time and place for herbicide – it is our business after all, but it is not the end all solution to controlling weeds.  We try to broad cast weed control as few times as necessary.  We also target and spot treat weeds directly for great results as well.  This limits how much herbicide is being used where it is not actually needed.  This is parted of an integrated pest management (IPM) system. More on this later.
  6. Organic –  I wanted to list this one separately as it is not really a way to get rid of weeds, at least in the way as it is often represented.  ‘Organic’ really, much like ‘weed’ is an arbitrary term.  It means different things to different people.  True organic means a chemical compound that does not already exist in nature.  Most of the products labeled ‘organic’ are not truly organic.  They don’t exist in nature ready made.  Do you research when you come across ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘home remedy’ weed sprays.  Here is a great article regarding home remedy weed sprays.  They can sometimes be less effective, more expensive, more harmful to the environment, and more dangerous for humans than you average chemical weed killer.

Regardless of how you control weeds, it is important to do so.  Obviously you want your lawn to look great.  There are other important factors in getting rid of weeds.  Unwanted weeds can result in damages or losses for you or your property:

  • Increased costs to control weeds, or replace lawn where weeds were thriving.
  • Weeds can harbor insects, pests (rodents), diseases, and pathogens.
  • Some weeds are harmful to humans or pets: thistle, puncture-vine (goat-heads)
  • Reduce the value of your property
  • Some weeds are noxious/poisonous to humans or pets – such as Poison Hemlock.  For a list of poisonous/noxious weeds known to be in Idaho, Idaho Weed Awareness has put together a great website.

If you want to avoid any of these issues, get rid of the weeds.  The best option for eradicating weeds is utilizing an IPM ( integrated pest management) system.  This generally includes several methods and variety of systems all integrated together to kill, contain, and prevent weeds.

Several steps can be taken and various times of the year to help maintian a beautiful lawn.  Some of the steps that we utilize in our IPM are:

  • Fertilization – again a healthy lawn is less prone to weeds.
  • Proper mowing techniques.  Cutting your lawn at the proper height can result in 50% less weeds. A taller grass after cutting will help prevent sunlight reaching to germinating weeds.
  • Proper watering.  If you water too little your lawn will struggle but some weeds that require less water than grass may thrive.  The opposite can be true as well.  Some grassy weeds like nutsedge thrive Ina soil that is constantly wet.
  • Proper trimming/edging. Crab grass loves lawn borders because it’s generally a warmer soil by the sidewalk. When you trim your edges too much and open up bare areas between lawn and sidewalk, weeds will move in. Be careful when you trim.  It looks great until those weeds pop up.
  • Pre-emergent. This is vital if you want to prevent crabgrass. It works much like an immunization.  Not 100% effective but nearly so and drastically reduces the germination of those troublesome summer annuals.  You don’t need to apply this two times a year. Companies that tell you to apply it twice just want to sell you a product twice. Once, timed just right, is all that is needed.  Also do NOT aerate AFTER you put pre-emergent down as it can disrupt the barrier in the soil it created.
  • We broadcast twice a year.  Once in the spring to get the pre-ermegent down as well as taking care of simple broadleaf weeds.  The second broadcast is in the fall.  This seems strange as the weeds are ‘dying’ in the fall. Yes, the summer annual weeds die in the fall, but the perrenial weeds remain.  In fact the fall is the best time to treat weeds because the circulatory system of the weeds are moving all captured nutrients down into the root system.  What better time is there to get a systemic weed control into the plants root system?  This is really the difference maker in eradicating weeds versus just controlling or containing weeds.   Lawns that treat weeds in the fall really have a clean looking lawn in the spring.  If you don’t treat your weeds in the fall you really have just started the work all over from the beginning.
  • Spot treating. When we are out on lawns to fertilize we are spot treating weeds at the same time.  Instead of blanketing chemicals and placing them where they are not needed several times a year, we target the weed specifically.  This is a more efficient and environmentally responsible method to take care of weeds.

If you are utilizing an IPM you will see success in your war on weeds!  Weeds are an ongoing problem as nature has a way of working against you.   Always.  As you can see this can be a lot of work, but you have to stay vigilant.

Better yet, call Weed Man!  We will do it for you.
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Lawn Repair or Replace?

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Welcome back the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  We are on Part 4 of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!‘ Series.  If you are joining us you can find last week’s blog post here.  We are excited that you have joined us for another adventure in the lawn world.  Our hope is you learn something about your lawn to help make it more enjoyable part of your home!

This week, I wanted to discuss repairing areas in your lawn.  Whether you are new to the lawn world, or have been dealing with lawns for many years, you will eventually run into an issue that needs fixing.  Lawns can get damaged or have areas die off for a variety of reasons:

  • Insects – this is usually the quickest and most destructive cause of lawn damage.  Several insects like to feed on the lawn and can damage or chew away the root system.  Essentially, without the root system, the lawn is dead – it just doesn’t know it yet.  Many times the damage you see on your lawn from insects is an area where they WERE recently.  It takes a bit of time for the damage to show.  Without a root system, grass cannot repair itself.  This is generally the most severe form of lawn damage.
  • Drought Damage – just not getting the water it needs.  Lawns can generally recover from drought damage depending on how severe it is and how long it has been since it was watered.
  • Disease – many type of fungi are present in the soil waiting for the right conditions to attack!  It’s a slow death as well – again not as severe and quick as drought or insects, but it still can lead to a lawn that needs fixing if the damage is severe enough.
  • Animal – In my instance it is my dogs – not necessarily urine spots.  Most lawns can recover from that.  My damaged areas from my dogs are from digging or a running path they constantly go over.  Again some healthy lawns can recover from running paths over time, but digging usually  needs a bit of training for the dog and repair work for the lawn.  It could be another type of animal as well, like voles or gophers.dog dug.jpg

 

Whatever the cause – the lawn looks terrible!  At this point we run into many people who feel it would be better to just start over.  I think what surprises me most is the amount of money someone would put into completely replacing the lawn and then disregard correcting the root cause.  Above and beyond that one will spend a large amount of money, but not utilize any type of lawn program to maintain/improve on the large investment they made!

(Insert soapbox for me to stand on) –

Please, I implore you.  Make no hasty decisions about replacing your entire lawn!

And for goodness sake, if you spend the thousands of dollars needed to replace your lawn, fix the root cause.  On top of that, PLEASE HAVE SOME TYPE OF ANNUAL LAWN PROGRAM TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR INVESTMENT!  It does not have to be with us, but please protect your investment.

(I will now step down from the soapbox.)

It may be hasty to replace the whole thing!  Your lawn is a living organism and most times it just needs minor repair work and some tlc.

Don’t go crazy – save yourself some time/headache/money – focus on a repair.

To properly repair your lawn it is important to know what caused the damage in the first place.  It would be terrible to spend the time and money repairing your lawn to only have it happen again.  Once you have identified the root cause of the damage and taken steps to make certain it doesn’t happen again, you are ready to repair!

The steps for repairing your lawn are as follows:

  1. Remove the old dead areas with a shovel.  You can trim up the areas being removed so they are straight.
  2. Check soil conditions and level.  You may needs to till up the soil a bit or add some top soil to make sure that the level matches the surrounding grass area.  This will also ensure that whatever replacement method you use the soil will be ready for it.
  3. Replace the grass.  You can seed this area, or if you want to spend the money for quicker results you can lay down sod in the damaged area.  For more information on seeding you can take a look at a previous blog post on over seeding.  For those who are utilizing sod:  Make certain that you cut the sod to fit the damaged area as close as you can.  Try and find a sod grass type that matches your existing lawn.  A majority of lawns in our area use a Kentucky Blue Grass.
  4. Water the new grass area.  Depending on sod or grass seed your repair will need more water than the main part of the lawn.  You can use a sprinkler attached to a hose to water that specific area more often than your automated system will do.
  5. Restrict traffic in new areas.  This will help ensure all your hard work is not undone by a neighborhood lawn bully walking in your lawn!
  6. Watch it grow!  Soon your new grass will fill in and blend with the rest of the lawn.  Usually within 3 weeks both sod and seed will be coming in nicely and will be ready to be cut with a mower.

6 simple steps to repairing your lawn, saving you lots of hassle and embarrassment!  If you are unsure your lawn capabilities or need help diagnosing the root cause of the damage in the first place, keep us in mind and give us a call!  www.weedmanboise.com

 

 

 

 

Sprinklers – The Life Blood of Your Lawn!

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  We are on part 3 of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There’ Series.  If this is your first visit, you can catch up on last week’s post, ‘Fertilizer is the BEST Weed Control!’

This week I wanted to discuss Sprinkler Systems!  For most of our local population, gone are the days of dragging hoses around the yard to make certain your lawn is watered.  The automated sprinkler system has greatly improved the quality of life for homeowners and lawns.  When a sprinkler system is maintained and utilized correctly your lawn can really look amazing!  Your sprinkler system really is the lifeblood of your lawn.

If, however, your sprinkler system is not maintained or incorrectly utilized, you may have more work on your hands than when you used to drag a hose around the lawn.  We will talk more about watering practices in a later blog post, but for now it is important to know that your lawn can have a slow death by under watering or even over watering.  In the mean time, there are steps you can take to make sure your sprinkler system is properly maintained.

With irrigation already flowing in some areas of the valley, now is the time you should be thinking about your spring sprinkler startup.  Here are 10 easy steps you can take to make sure you start off the year right and limit your headaches later on in the year.

  1. Check the Soil – Before turning your main line on to your system, you should check to make sure the ground is not frozen at the level your pipes are set.  Lower levels of soil are the last to thaw when spring hits and if you turn water on to frozen pipes you can really have a costly repair on your hands.  Use a shovel and probe about 12 inches down.  If its hard as a rock then you should wait a week, and check again before starting up.
  2. Seal/Close all plugs and drain valves – Watch out for unwanted critters!  Spiders like to hang out in valve boxes – clear out any cobwebs and then close valves/plugs – if you don’t you will have a flood on your hands.  I’ve run into this one before – I forgot to plug my blowout access one year, and I quickly had a valve box fill up before I could shut the water back off.  I then had to wait a bit for the water to settle/drain – prolonging my task at hand.
  3. Open main line SLOWLY  – Once you are ready to supply water to your system you will want to open up your main source of water, but do this slowly.  There can be an immense amount of pressure in the line and introducing it all at once may damage your system and you will have to deal with a  costly repair.  You most likely will need a large metal sprinkler valve key to open this.  Any hardware store should be able to supply this for you if you do not have it already.
  4. Visually Inspect –  Check your main valve box for any leaks or issues – if you find any, shut your main line off and proceed to any repairs or adjustments needed.  If repairs are needed in the main valve box they can be complicated or costly.  Seek out professional help if you are not comfortable with taking care of it yourself.
  5. Manually Test and Adjust Line Valves – Each valve in your manifold should have a method to turn it on manually.  Either a lever, a knob that will turn, or small plastic screw can allow you to turn on/off the valve without the aid of electricity.  Now is a great time to test each line and adjust the pressure from the valve to make certain each line is in working condition.
  6. Power Up the Timer – Now that the main part of your system has water and is working, you can set up your timer to make sure it is ready to go as well.  Each timer is a litter different, so you will need to consult the owners manual for yours.  Make sure it is plugged in/turned on.  If it has a battery backup, now is a good time to replace it.  Battery backups are nice so you don’t lose your timer settings.  Once on, you can now individually check each zone.  One at a time make sure all of them turn on/off.
  7.  Inspect Each Zone/Headsprinkler.jpgWith the control system and main manifold correctly functioning you can move to the individual zones and heads.  Do one zone at a time.  (you might want to do this on a sunny day if you can, because you will be getting soaked)  With the individual zone on, check to make sure every head is operating.  If you have a burst line, you will know right away as it will look like old faithful has made a visit to your lawn.  Barring any pipe busting, you can now focus on unclogging any heads.  Adjusting the direction and reach of head as well. The reach of a head, ideally, will stretch to the adjacent heads around it.  Do the best that you can though – some systems may not have been installed with this in mind.
  8. Check Coverage  – At this point you want to make sure that your entire lawn is getting coverage.  You don’t want to have any surprise dry spots when it warms up.
  9. Adjust the Timer to Match the Season – The watering times for spring are going to be very different than the times for summer.  Spring and Fall watering should be an 30-60 minutes per zone 1-2 times a week.  Summer will require 30-60 minutes per zone 2-3 times per week.  Every lawn is different, every system different – these times are just a good starting point.  Adjust as needed
  10. Test and Re Test –  Now that everything is visibly working, you should do the tuna can test.  Depending on your lawn and where you live and time of year 1-3 inches of water are needed per week to keep your lawn healthy and green.  The best way to test this is with a tuna can.  Tuna cans are about an inch thick and if you place one in your lawn you can see how much water is accumulating in that area each time you water.  It is good to do this periodically throughout the year, especially if you are seeing areas turning brown when it gets really hot!

Following these steps will help get you started off right this year!  If you feel you do not have time or the expertise to go through theses steps, then reach out to a professional.  If you are a Weed Man Customer, we have a sprinkler professional we utilize to help our homeowners.  Sprinkler Startups start at $45! Just give us a call or visit us at weedmanboise.com.