Month: May 2016

Mulch Much?

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  We are nearing the end of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  We have journeyed through the instrumental practices of a healthy and beautiful lawn and have a few remaining stops.  This week’s adventure stop will help answer the question of mulching or bagging the lawn clippings!  Unbeknownst to the average homeowner there is a raging debate within the industry regarding this topic.  OK!, perhaps it really isn’t raging, nor is there a real debate – I just wanted to create some drama to capture your interest!  Let us move forward with a little less ‘creative license’ on our subject.

Mulch or Bag?  While the question is not overly complicated, it definitely can be too simplified in reasoning what to choose.  Before I was educated on the topic, I would choose based on how lazy I felt.  Unfortunately, I was doing myself a disservice by thinking it was that simple.

Mulch – what is it?  As it pertains to your lawn, simply stated, it consists of grass clippings from the mowed lawn.  The cut blades can be sliced into fine pieces that fall easily onto the top surface of the soil.  Soil microorganism will help break the mulch down and reintroduce nutrients back into the soil.

Don’t grass clippings cause thatch buildup? No – It’s a common misconception that thatch is just grass clippings that do not get broken down in the lawn.  Thatch is actually a matting of stems and roots that form just below the surface of the lawn.  For more info on thatch, our last blog article touches on the subject when we wrote about aeration.

Do I need a mulching mower?  Not necessarily.  A mulching mower will help break the grass blade down into smaller pieces than a regular mower. Mulching mowers are specifically designed to limit grass clumps in the lawn.  Nevertheless, a regular mower will do the trick as well, if you mow often enough, or are only cutting a small amount at a time.

So when should I mulch?

  • When you want to provide extra nutrients back into the soil. Some experts will tell you that if you mulch all year, it is equivalent to an extra application of fertilizer on the lawn.
  • Increase organic matter in your soil
  • Save time and effort! When you mulch you don’t have to spend extra time collecting and disposing of clippings.
  • If you prefer not to add to landfills with grass that can be easily broken down naturally in your own lawn.

When should I bag clippings?

  • When you prefer the look of a ‘clean’ lawn. Typically mulching, when done properly, will not leave much of a visible footprint.  Whatever is left behind breaks down fairly quickly though.  Grass is 85% water, it won’t take much for it to dry up and disappear.
  • Bag, when your lawn is overrun with weeds. You don’t want to run the risk of putting more weed seeds down into your lawn.
  • Bag your lawn when the grass is wet or too long, as it won’t break down quickly and will leave piles of grass or clumps on the lawn. This will also make it difficult for existing grass to grow, breath, or get sunshine.
  • Bag if you want to start a compost pile that can be used in other areas of your garden.

If you are like me, there are appropriate times to bag and appropriate times to mulch.  I really like to bag my lawn during the seasons that I want to add mulch to my garden areas.  Sometimes it’s just quicker to mulch the lawn if I need to get it done before an incoming rainstorm!   Bagging during the fall is also a great way to cleanup leaves in your lawn with minimal effort.  I also like to bag my lawn clippings, when my lovely wife tells me to!

Really whether you bag or mulch, the choice is up to you.  Doing one practice over the other will not cause death and destruction to your lawn.  If you have a preference and it is working for you, great!  Now you may have further reason to stick with it, or consider changing your particular practice.  Either way, in the immortal words of G.I.JOE, ‘now you know, and knowing is half the battle.’

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What Is That Dirt Plug On Your Lawn?

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man.  Again, my name is Brian, and I will be your guide!  This week is our 9th installment of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  We appreciate your continued readership.  It is important to us that we provide value in educating our customers, or to the average homeowner who loves taking care of their own lawn.  As always, if you have questions or would like to make a suggestion on a topic you would like to learn about, let us know in the comment section.

This week will be a primer on Aeration!  Mechanical Core Aeration is pretty straight forward; however, we do get frequently asked questions about the service.  Here are the top FAQ we answer.

What is it?  Mechanical Core Aeration is the process of removing plugs of grass and soil (cores) from your lawn so air, water, and nutrients are able to settle deeper into the soil.  Most homeowners who are familiar with aeration recognize the thousands of little soil plugs that are left on the lawn after the service has been completed.  This can be somewhat unsightly, but it is best to leave the plugs on the top of the lawn.  The good news is they won’t stay very long on your lawn.  When they dry out they will be pulverized by your mower and will break back down into the soil and become a top dressing for the lawn.

Why do I need to do it? Simply stated, it can vastly improve the health and beauty of your lawn.  The grass root system that is present in your lawn needs several things to survive and thrive.  Water, nutrients, and air.  Over time, the soil can begin to compact.  The more compact the soil is, the more difficult it is for water, fertilizer, and air to get to the root system.  Aeration will relieve that compaction resulting in a lawn that is more resistant to diseases, insects, drought and heat stress.  Pulling out core plugs will also improve drainage, air circulation, and fertilizer movement in the soil.  As a result, you have less water runoff – which in turn generally means less water usage over the summer.  All around, a more beautiful lawn!

Can I do it myself?  Yes, you can.  We do have some customers who own an aerator.  However, if you don’t have the budget or space for an aerator, you can rent them from a local equipment rental store.  Some considerations you want to address before renting an aerator is the cost and hassle associated with it.  There generally is a per hour fee, or an all-day fee.  Either option can be costly.  You will also need a vehicle that can tow a small trailer, as aerators tend to be a large piece of equipment.  It’s not something you can stuff into a van or small car.  IF you pick it up by yourself, you would be hard pressed to get the aerator in the back of a truck.  They are larger than a lawn mower, and are significantly heavier.  Aerators are typically self-propelled as well.  With such a heavy machine it can be very difficult to handle, and can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.   Usually with all the time, effort, and cost associated with renting and aerator, it can be comparable to hiring someone to do it for you.

If you do hire someone keep in mind a few factors when making your decision.  Do they own their own equipment or is it rented?  Are they maintaining their own equipment and investing in quality equipment?  What kind of guarantee do they offer in regards to broken sprinkler heads?  All good questions to consider when looking to hire someone to aerate your lawn.

When should I do it?  Spring or Fall.  Aerating your lawn can be stressful for it.  Spring or Fall is a great time to do this as the temperatures and weather are conducive to help it deal with the stress of aeration.  The summer is definitely a time to avoid aerating as the lawn is already trying to deal with the stresses of heat, drought, disease and insects.  It would not be good to add more difficulty to the mix.

I like to dethatch, is that ok?  We are not big fans of dethatching.  If you ask us if we recommend it, we will say no.  Is there a time and place for dethatching?  Yes, however we won’t offer the service, and it is very limited circumstances when it would be needed.  Dethatching is the process of removing and excess buildup of thatch in the lawn.  Thatch is the layer of dead and living grass shoots.  It’s a layer that is decaying, but there are circumstances that can contribute and excess buildup of thatch.  If the thatch layer is too thick it can restrict the flow of water, air, and nutrients much like the soil being too compact.  Basically the thatch layer gets built up quicker than it can decay and be broken down naturally.

The reason we do not recommend dethatching is that it is VERY VERY VERY stressful for your lawn.  It also does not resolve the root cause of the thatch buildup in the first place.  If that doesn’t get addressed you will have to continually do it, and over time you will have a thin unhealthy lawn from the stress of the application and from the root cause of thatch buildup not being corrected.  Generally speaking, aeration will provide the same benefits of dethatching and more, with a lower level of stress to your lawn.  Aerating will also be significantly cheaper than dethatching as well.  It will also help to resolve the root cause of the thatch buildup occurring in the first place.

The only time we would recommend a dethatching is if the layer of thatch is so thick an aeration would not help resolve it.  By aerating you are helping to restore an imbalance to the decay process of the grass roots.  Sometimes even with an aeration there will still be too much thatch to try and break down naturally.

So where does the excess thatch come from?  It can occur for a variety of reasons, but essentially when you water the lawn, the water stays at the root level instead of moving down deeper into the soil.  This can be caused by a compact soil.  This can also be caused by watering for a shorter period of time frequently vs a longer time less frequently.  So if you water 30 minutes every day vs 60 minutes 2-3 times a week.  Both a compact soil and short frequent watering result in the water just sitting at the root level, which forces the roots to grow and fill in at that top surface level of the soil.  They won’t be broken down very quickly and this causes the thatch to buildup.

Whether you aerate your lawn yourself, or you have someone do it for you, make sure it happens consistently.  We recommend every year or every other year depending on the lawn.

If you have more questions about aerating or want someone to do it for you, give us a call.  Let us help you. 208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com #wecareforyourlawn.

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I Found An Alien In My Lawn!

larva of may-bug

White Grub

Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  After last week’s departure, we have returned to “The Grass IS Greener Over There!” series.  I hope you are ready for crabgrass after our previous twopart article detour.   We are picking back up this week with bugs!  In fact, we will spin off from this article into a separate series on bugs later in  the year.  This week will be a brief description about each lawn bug we generally encounter.  However, as the series becomes available, you can click on the hyperlink of each lawn insect to learn further details!

For those parents with little children who might be interested in dirt and bugs this will be a great article!  My son recently has displayed a talent for finding unusual bugs.  If your child has the same talent, you might be handed an unusual lawn bug in the coming weeks.  Hopefully, the insect you are presented with will not be one that feeds on your lawn.  If it is, you will now be educated to identify the insects that will cause damage to your lawn.

Bugs!  What’s the big deal?  If you have never had the misfortune of insect damage in your lawn, you might be questioning the concern.  Well plainly stated, you spend all this energy and resources on creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn, it would be heartbreaking to have it destroyed by something so tiny.  If not caught early or dealt with preventatively, the damage can be very severe, and very costly to fix.

In your lawn right now are a variety of insect species that live within its ecosystem.  Most insects are beneficial for your lawn.  However, there are some insects that might be in your lawn that love making dinner out of your grass.  They can chew on the grass roots (most subsurface insects, i.e. grubs), or even treat your grass blade like a giant straw and suck out the juices within its root system (surface level insects, i.e. chinch bugs).  So how do you know if you have them?

I would like to begin, frankly, with where the average homeowner begins when they encounter insect damage – yellowing in the lawn.

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The first reaction to seeing this type of yellowing in the lawn, generally, would be to add more water.  It looks like it might not be getting enough water.  Sometimes dry spots might look like this, but generally they will be more uniform in the discoloration.  Insect damage is more sporadic in its discoloration.

The very best thing you can do as a homeowner when you see yellowing in your lawn is to investigate.  Assume nothing.  If it is in fact damage by insects and you assume it is lack of water, you will waste precious days needed in treating the insects.  The damage you are seeing currently is where the insects WERE.  They have already chewed out the roots of the grass and it takes time for it discolor.  So they have already moved on from the discolored area and are feasting on new areas.  If you wait 3 or 4 days or 2 or 3 weeks before figuring out that extra watering isn’t helping you can have some serious real estate destroyed!

Some other telltale signs that you have insects feasting upon your lawn:  You might have lots of birds dive bombing your lawn trying to get at the larvae.  Though rare, you could even see skunks or raccoons digging up racoonareas of your lawn trying to feed on the bugs.  One easy way to test if your lawn has insect damage is to pull up on the damage grass area.  If it rolls up like sod or a carpet, then it most likely is insect damage.  Great!  Now that you know you have insect damage, what do you do?  We need to identify, if possible, the actual bug that is doing the damage.

 

In southwest Idaho, we tend to see white grubs as the main culprit of many insect damaged lawns.  We do however get some cooler season insects in fall that will cause problems as well.  Most of these bugs may overwinter as adults and lay eggs in the spring or summer.   I wanted to list each type of insect we commonly run into as well as a brief rundown of their behaviors.

White Grubs – White grubs are the larvae of Billbugs.  Billbugs themselves will eat leaves and grass blades, but when they lay eggs, and those eggs hatch, the larvae are the real instigators of the damage.  The billbug will lay it’s eggs just below the surface of the grass.  Grubs are subsurface larvae.  The grub, as it is growing and morphing into an adult bill bug, will chew on the grass roots for its main source of nutrition.  As the grass roots disappear, the plant itself will die.  Grubs are particularly terrible because they can have 3 hatchings in each season.  Early June, Mid July, and Late August.

larva of may-bug

Japanese BeetlesJapanese Beetles have been a recent problem in the Boise area.  They were not found in Boise until 2012.  They behave very similarly to the Billbug.  They lay eggs just like the billbug and the larvae damage the lawn in the same way as the grub.  The Boise Parks and Recreation website https://parks.cityofboise.org/community-forestry/tree-care/japanese-beetle-information/  has some great information on the Japanese Beetle.  If you think you have found one, it will give you directions on contacting the Idaho Department of Agriculture, as they are working to eradicate this bug from our area entirely.

Japanese_Beetle_(Popillia_japonica)_-_London,_Ontario_02.jpg

chinch-bug-control1Chinch Bugs – Chinch bugs are significantly less common in our area, but they still show up every year.  We have noticed an uptick in how many times we see them over the last few years as well.  Chinch bugs are a very tiny insect that exists at the surface level of the lawn.  So looking for them deep in the soil won’t work.  You have to catch them before they scatter!  They are quick and tiny and when you start looking for them they tend to run away when the grass is disturbed.  They like sunny areas and may be as numerous as 200 insects per square foot.

 

Cranberry GirdlersWe run into this critter a few times every year.   Cranberry girdlers get their name from the plant they like to eat.  Cranberries!  Unfortunately, they also like to feast on grasses and even fir trees.  They are a subterranean larva.  As adults they show in the form of a moth. We usually see them towards the end of summer and into the fall.

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Sod WebwormThough sod-webworm-control1.jpgless common, we do run into sod webworms every year as well.  They are a surface level larva.  They will feed on the grass at the crown level of the plant.  Sod webworm are in moth form as adults and are more commonly known as lawn moths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have identified the type of insect having thanksgiving dinner on your lawn, you can now deal with it!  The type of insect may determine the method you use to treat.  There are a variety of methods to deal with lawn insects.  Some are more effective than others.

  1. Let nature deal with it – There are some DIY and non-chemical methods to dealing with lawn insects. Unfortunately, the ‘natural’ way is doing nothing as lawn damaging insects ‘naturally’ eat grass.
  2. Bacteria in your lawn – Milky Spore is bacteria you can introduce into your lawn that will kill the insect potentially within 21 days. Unfortunately, 21 days after finding damage in your lawn will still result in 3 weeks of continued feeding on the lawn.  Not a quick or good method.
  3. Nematodes – nematodes are a parasite that feed on grubs – You can introduce nematodes into your lawn as well to fight grubs, however, you may need multiple applications.
  4. Home remedies – I have seen recipes such as 1 cup of mouthwash, liquid dish soap, and water. Add 2 cups of lemon juice and put in a spray bottle.  Seriously inefficient – But it gets better!  You can pour 1 cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of chewing tobacco and add it to the mouthwash solution!  That is a lot of work for something that may not work very well, plus how much coverage on your lawn are really getting with a spray bottle.  Think about this very carefully.  You would be using a spray bottle on your 4000 sq. ft. lawn.  You will be making a lot of this mixture to get enough down on the lawn to be effective.  I don’t even know if this even works!  Sorry for wasting your time on this suggestion. (I don’t have a lot of patience for some diy home remedies.  They often are suggested to avoid chemicals, yet use chemicals.)
  5. Chemical – (as if the last one was not a chemical.) There are great products that are SAFE when applied correctly. Really the best way to deal with grubs is preventatively.  80% of grubs, as adults will lay their eggs in the areas they were hatched in.  If you have had grubs in your lawn in the recent past, you will likely get them again.  June is a perfect time to get that preventative application down.  You can treat them after the fact but it is better to take care of them before they damage the lawn.

There has been a lot of concern about safety when it comes to insecticides.  We take safety very seriously when applying treatments on the lawn.  Weed Man uses only products for use on home lawns. They are most safely applied in the capable hands of a trained professional like Weed Man.

Studies done by the University of Guelph show that insect control products tend to stay in the thatch layer of the lawn, where harmful turf insects feed. After 24 hours, less than .3% of the product can be dislodged from the lawn. According to the University, there is little movement of insect control products into the root and soil zones.

Your health and safety come first!

If you think you have insect damage on your lawn, or have found any of these damaging creatures, please give Weed Man a call.  We would love to help protect your lawn investment.  208-888-9911  www.weedmanboise.com  #wecareforyourlawn

Since You Brought It Up…, It IS Crabgrass!

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Thanks for joining us again!  This week we took a departure from our “The Grass IS Greener Over There!” series.  We began a two-part article yesterday about crabgrass.  We discussed the myths of crabgrass!  We also discussed the possibility that the weed you were seeing in spring is most likely not crabgrass.  We will finish this week discussing what crabgrass is, and define its behaviors.  Although we literally, yesterday, were talking about how it’s virtually impossible to see crabgrass this early in the year – it could show up any day!  It was less intended to deal with when crabgrass does/doesn’t show up, and more intended to deal with general misinformation about crabgrass.   With warmer than normal temps, we might see crabgrass very soon.  Let’s make sure that you are prepared for it!

To summarize last week’s article, we could say that crabgrass is very treatable with the right resources.  You want to deal with pre-emergently, and if some still slips through it can be treated post-emergently as well.  There are other ways to help deal with crabgrass as well:

  1. Keep crabgrass seeds from spreading by killing it when you see it.
  2. Remove dead crabgrass plants.
  3. Replant bare lawn spots with new grass seed.
  4. Apply a crabgrass preventer at the appropriate times.
  5. Set your lawnmower at the high end of the range that is best for your grass type.
  6. Restrict too-frequent watering.
  7. Keep your lawn healthy as the most conducive way to get rid of crabgrass.

Continuing on I wanted to help you learn how to identify the gnarly weed and understand why it is such a colossal lawn pest.  This atrocious plant LOVES warm soils.  You will often see it in rocky or bare areas before you see it in the lawn itself.  You will also find it along curbing and sidewalks as the concrete will retain the heat in the soil longer than other areas and it thrives in those warmer soils.  Crabgrass also loves short lawns, over-watered lawns, and unhealthy/weak lawns.  Because we live in a desert climate it gets VERY warm, and we tend to over-water our lawns because of the dry heat.  This is why crabgrass is so common.

Through its life cycle you will see what it looks like and why it is so terrible:photo_2016-05-10_20-32-40

Crabgrass is really ugly – it is just a very unsightly weed.  Think

Beauty and the Beast,  except there are no redeeming qualities of this lawn beast.  When it starts to germinate and poke through the soil it is not very noticeable, and looks similar to the surrounding grasses.  As it matures though it takes a turn for the worse.   Here is what it will look like as a seedling –  you can see it sprouting up in the thin/bare areas

 

 

Crabgrass has high adaptability to differing circumstances –  Certainly there are IDEAL conditions for crabgrass to really thrive, but it can show up in a lot of different conditions as well.  It can stand tall, it can lay flat, it can send runners out, it can change shades of green, it is insidious!  This picture is a great example of the plant still early in its growth stage sending runners out –

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It’s an annual weed that does not act like a normal annual weed.  Most annual weeds grow until they are mature enough to seed then die.  Crabgrass will continue to grow and grow while the temperatures continue to support it.  It will go to seed week after week after week while it lives.  It will only die if you kill it, or when the temperatures Crabgrassturn cold enough.  In the meantime, it will continue to mature – once mature you will see this in your lawn and you will be wishing you had applied that pre-emergent earlier in the year. – This picture shows crabgrass that has come up in a dead area of lawn.  It is very common to see crabgrass showing up where lawn insects have chewed on the root system of the existing lawn, killing it off and leaving real estate open for those crabgrass seeds to germinate and move in.

 

Crabgrass is in it for the long game – each individual crabgrass plant can produce up to 150000 seeds.  These seeds won’t generally germinate until the next season.  So the problem you are seeing this year was a result of last year’s crabgrass plants.  Next year will be a result of this year’s plants.  You can see why homeowners have so much concern over this particular weed.  When the plant is ready to go to seed you will see something similar to this –

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If you fail to treat and stay on top of crabgrass you will have a larger problem to deal with next year.  The problem with crabgrass you have today took time to get to where it is.  This is very important to remember as it will take time to eradicate as well.  The good news is, if you are patient, it will be eradicated!

 

If none of these pictures look like the weed you are seeing, you might be seeing similar grassy weeds.  I wanted to goosegrass.jpgtouch base on some of those weeds as well.
Last we discussed quackgrass.  Some other weeds commonly mistaken for crabgrass are goosegrass – it looks very similar to crabgrass, however one of the defining differences are the rosette of the plant (the center) – goosegrass will be silver or white, as opposed to crabgrass being purple

 

 

Barnyard grass is another weed frequently mistaken for crabgrass.  It generally stands taller, and has a broader and longer leaf than crabgrass does.

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One last grassy weed we sometimes see onPaspalum_distichum_01 lawns that can be mistaken for crabgrass is called dallisgrass – It doesn’t look too much like crabgrass when you look at the whole plant, however, many times a homeowner will use crabgrass as a term to identify any type of grassy weed they are sure of.

 

 

 

 

Our goal is to help you have an amazing lawn!  If you are seeing crabgrass in your lawn, you will not be better prepared to deal with it.  If you are a current customer who is seeing crabgrass (or any other weed) or just aren’t up to the task of dealing with crabgrass, give us a call!  We would love to help.  208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com #wecareforyourlawn

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It’s Not Crabgrass! But Since You Brought It Up…

help.jpgBuckle up!  This article is jam packed with adventure, rabbit trails, sarcasm, and education about crabgrass!  We are taking a departure for a couple weeks from our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  I wanted to address crabgrass in a two-part article as we have a daily inquiry about crabgrass this time of year.  When you are done reading, you are going to be an expert on crabgrass!  This week is all about the myths of crabgrass!  The next article will delve more into identifying crabgrass and differentiating it from other grassy weeds.

Often times, with these crabgrass inquiries, homeowners are concerned that they have gotten the dreaded grassy weed!  A new and unusual grassy weed has shown up in the lawn so they try and investigate a little before they call us.  “My mower told me it was crabgrass” “My neighbor said it was crabgrass” “It’s been there since March!”

All of these statements and more lend me to believe a homeowner has fallen victim to misinformation.

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“Step Aside Homeowner! 

Weed Man is Here!” 

 

(Before I continue, I want you to know that if you call our office, regardless of the weed, or what one might think the weed is, Weed Man is here to eradicate your weeds!)

Trust me when I say it is NOT crabgrass, at least not at this time of year.  Even though its early May, some of our technicians have been known to say that they would bet their children that it is NOT crabgrass.   We will be seeing it soon, with temps getting close to 90 this week, it should START the germination process SOON, but we won’t be seeing poke through the soil just yet for a few weeks.  If you think you see it now, I might say with a smile, “Virtually Impossible”.

You might be skeptical in our confidence. Can I be blunt with you?  If you actually have real crabgrass in your lawn, then the laws of nature have ceased to exist in your lawn.  Perhaps you have more confidence in your mower, or neighbor.  You need a new mower who has better knowledge of his profession/industry, and maybe stop listening to your neighbor – at least in regards to weed identification.  My comments obviously are a bit unsparing, and not meant to make one upset.  I just want to be very clear that we are confident without any reservations that you do NOT have crabgrass.  We are the weed professionals after all!

Crabgrass.JPG <—Crabgrass

How do we know it is NOT crabgrass?  Why are we so certain, and, if not crabgrass, then what?  You still have an unwanted weed in your lawn.  There are a lot of ‘myths’ concerning crabgrass, including that it is too expensive to deal with if you don’t catch it early.  I will deal with some of these myths later, but I can certainly understand the concern about getting the ‘crabgrass’ in your lawn treated.  The last expense a homeowner wants is replacing areas in the lawn due to an out of control weed.  To take care of it, we need to identify it, and sometimes that begins with knowing what it is NOT.

Two reasons it is NOT crabgrass:

  1. Crabgrass is an annual warm season weed. Crabgrass does not hang out year round.  It grows in June and lives through August, and generally dies in September/October when it gets cool.  If you are seeing a weed you think is crabgrass in March, it is a different weed.
  2. Crabgrass will germinate when SOIL (not air) temperatures are greater than 55F° to 60F° for 7-10 consecutive days, and continues until soils reach 95F°. Crabgrass has to have consistent SOIL temperatures about 55F°.  Soil temperatures are always lower than the ambient air temperature.   The first 3 days of May have overnight lows in the 40s.  Even with warmer than normal temperatures, it just hasn’t been warm enough for crabgrass to even germinate.  Alternatively, when the soil temps cool down in the fall, crabgrass can only survive on the sugars it has stored up in its root system.  Once depleted, it will die and decompose.

The weed you are seeing in the lawn is most likely another type of grassy weed.  Unfortunately, there are too many different types of weeds that look like crabgrass for us to discuss here.  Fortunately, if needed, Weed Man can inspect the weed and help identify it.  Again, once identified, you will know how it is best treated.

A good portion of grassy weeds, are easily treated, however there ARE some perennial grassy weeds that are difficult to treat.  Weeds commonly mistaken for crabgrass are goose grass, poa, or Bermuda grass.  The MOST common weed we see mistaken for crabgrass is quackgrass.  Yes, QUACK like a duck.  In fact, quackgrass is technically a grass, it’s just really unsightly, so it is considered a weed.  Refer to our previous article on the definition of a weed.

Quackgrass is a perennial grass that lives year round for several years.  It can slowly spread and take over areas of your lawn if the surrounding grass is weak or nonexistent.  The only type of chemical that will eradicate it would be a grass killer, or round up type product.  The down side of this is that it will also kill your perennial lawn as well.  The alternative is to dig out the quackgrass and plant a desirable grass in the same area.

Quackgrass-3.jpg <—Quackgrass (Not Crabgrass)

There currently is no selective herbicide that will eradicate quackgrass and not kill desirable grass at the same time.  If someone formulated one, they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.  The selective herbicides on the market today will only ‘help’ ‘limit’ the spread of quackgrass at best.  If anyone is telling you that it can be treated, then be very cautious.  Either they are uninformed or are looking to Detour.jpgsell you a ‘easy’ solution for a problem that can only be dealt with by doing the hard work involved in it.

Alas, we are getting too far afield.  Let this information be a sneak-peek into next week’s article on identifying crabgrass impostor.   Let me return back to the subject at hand.  Even though, it is still a little too early to see crabgrass, we are fast approaching its growing season.  I want you to be prepared to deal with it!  There is a lot of misinformation about crabgrass and I wanted to address some of the most common myths:

  • Crabgrass is a generic term for an unknown weed.  Completely untrue, although a common reality.  Many times it is used to describe an unknown weed, without realizing it is a common name for the real plant, Digitaria.
  • Once germinated it’s too expensive to deal with – It CAN be expensive, but it does not have to be.  Post-Emergent treatment with chemicals can be expensive, but there are other ways to help deal with crabgrass.  A change in watering habits and mowing habits will help limit its spread.  Mow at a higher level.  Crabgrass LOVES, LOVES, LOVES lawns that are cut at a short level.  Crabgrass also LOVES frequent short watering.  IF you are watering too frequent and mowing too short you are inviting crabgrass to come live in your lawn.  Changes in your mowing and watering are should not increase any amount of money you are spending on your lawn.  Also crabgrass pulls out of the soil root and all very easily.  Pulling weeds, albeit not fun, is always free.  Still it is better to treat preventatively when you can.
  • Once germinated crabgrass cannot be controlled.  This is definitely not true, see the above myth.
  • If pre-emergent is not applied in April, it’s too late.  Definitely not true.  Again, the germination process has not even started yet locally.  There is still lots of time to get that pre-emergent down.  Crabgrass does not germinate all at once either, so even if you get pre-emergent down a little late, it will still help with crabgrass germinating a little later in the season.
  • You have to apply pre-emergent twice to make it effective – Definitely not true.  This myth is close related to the previous myth about applying early – In fact, most store bought pre-emergent products are good for about 90 days under perfect conditions.  If you are applying at the beginning of April, you will no longer have a barrier in your soil at the end of June.  You will have all of July and August to potentially worry about.  Most dishonest companies will again tell you to apply early in April so they have an opportunity to sell you more product in early summer.   One application of professional grade pre-emergent timed just right will last you the summer (in ideal conditions), when crabgrass will be germinating.
  • Areas treated with pre-emergent are 100% protected/immune areas to crabgrass.  I wish this myth were true!  It would make life so much easier for a homeowner.  Pre-emergent is the best and most effective tool that you have against crabgrass, however, it works very much like an immunization.  Even the best pre-emergent products will only take care of 90-95% of the seeds germinating in the soil.  Some will still slip through.  The good news is that crabgrass can be treated chemically post-emergent as well.
  • It’s been on my lawn since last year/or March – False!  Crabgrass is an annual weed.  It germinates from a seed in soil, grows, lives, goes to seed, dies, and decomposes all from late May to early October.  Crabgrass is physically gone from lawns by the time December rolls around and will not show up until June, generally speaking.

The long/short of it is that crabgrass is real, but not present on lawns yet as it is too cold.  You can treat it preventatively, and if it shows up later in the year, it can be treated as well.  Stay tuned for next week’s article to learn how to identify crabgrass and its behaviors as well as some other unwanted weeds.  Trust the experts who care for your lawn, call Weed Man if you are worried about crabgrass in your lawn.  Whether it is crabgrass, or it’s a different weed, we are here to help take care of ALL your weeds!   #wecareforyourlawn 208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com 

Amazon Goat Rental? or Mow It Yourself!

billy-goat

Welcome back to The Wonderful World of Weed Man!  Our hope is to continue Lawn Care education through our blog.  If this blog helps you learn how to have an amazing lawn, then we have done our job!  This article continues our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  If you are just joining us, you can click on the link and catch up on any of our previous articles.  Our most recent article, ‘If You Don’t Wash Your Lawn It Will Get Dirty’ was all about successful watering habits to make sure you have the most efficient watering habits.

This week we will continue on with mowing practices!   Before we get to far in, I wanted to point out that I discovered Amazon will rent you goats to come and ‘mow’ your lawn.  You can see for yourself right here!  Amazon has just increased a level of impressiveness in my opinion.  For those that prefer not to traipse through goat droppings when they are having fun in their lawn, the old fashioned modern mower usually will do the trick.

We have touched on mowing in a couple articles in the past:  We touched on a very basic set of mowing practices in a blog entry earlier in the year, and covered the mechanics of mower startup earlier in this series as well.  I would like to delve further into mowing practices and expand on what has already been covered.   Mowing is a VITAL part of the success and health of your lawn.

 One person will spend more time mowing a lawn per season than any other aspect of lawn care. 

Fertilizer, Weed Control, and various other lawn aspects of taking care of a lawn require far less time to invest then what is spent on mowing.  If you are spending all that time and energy mowing your lawn, you definitely want to see great results for your efforts.   For those of you who despise mowing your lawn, let me give you some benefits that hopefully will help you realize it is worth your time:

Stronger Grass – only the strongest grass blades left after mowing will heal and improve and the weakest blades will be left in the dust.  The more often you cut your lawn, the healthier/stronger it will be.

Uniform Growth – when you mow the lawn, it brings all blades to a uniform level.  This in turn means that there will be a more even distribution of water and sunlight – which will help the lawn grow more consistent and uniform all around.  You will still get areas that grow at a greater rate than others, but you will see less and less of this over time.

Aesthetically Pleasing – a well-manicured lawn just looks great!  It does!  The curb appeal of your home is important – it is the first impression of your home.  We have been told over our entire lifetime not to judge a book by its cover, unfortunately that is what we do as humans.  We are constantly judging upon first impression.  Make your home’s first impression a great one!

Exercise – mowing benefits you personally.  For every hour of mowing you burn on average 300 calories.  That milk shake you just bought from Sonic will only take you two hours of mowing to burn off!  If you hate mowing and are on a diet, just think of how many times you have to mow the lawn to burn off that meal you want to eat.  It may help motivate you to slim down in more ways than one.

Upon discovering the importance of mowing and resigning yourself to the fact that it must be done, how should you go about it?  Here is a set of principles you need to be aware of throughout the mowing season:

First Mowing – your first mowing is less about a specific date, and more about the state of your lawn in the spring.  Even in the same neighborhood, two homeowners may start mowing at different times of the spring.  You want to monitor the length of your grass, and mow it when it reaches a specific height – 3.5” – 4”.  Then cut it down to a height of 2.5”-3”.  Remember our 1/3 rule.  Cut no more than 1/3 of the blade at a time.  I’ve seen articles where the ‘weekend gardener’ says to cut cool season grasses down to 2”.  Depending on your grass type, this will damage your lawn.  Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye-grass, Tall Fescue (prominent grasses in the Treasure Valley) should all be cut down to 2.5”-3.5”.  Never trust ‘professional’ advice from a person whose title by definition identifies themselves as an amateur lawn hobbyist.   Once the lawn is cut the first time of the year, it will promote growth in the semi dormant lawn and help wake it up for the year.

Raising and Lowering your Mower – Your mower deck, at any given point during the year should be no lower than 2.5” from the ground.  If you mow too short the grass will be damaged and more prone to weakness.  The grass has to expend a large amount of nutrients to try and repair itself.  Vital nutrients it needs to defend itself against drought, disease, insects, and even weeds.  Crab grass in particular has an easier time invading a lawn when the grass is cut too short.  The best way to measure this is to find a flat surface (driveway or sidewalk) and use a ruler/tape measure and measure up from the concrete to the lower lip of the mower deck –

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Mow Different Heights at Different Times – During the cooler seasons of the year (Spring, Fall) you want to have a little shorter lawn than during the hot summers.  If you keep it at 2.5”-3” while it is cooler, this will help keep out some of the cooler seasons diseases like rust and powdery mildew.  This helps the soil dry out the top layer in a shorter period of time to prevent disease.  When the warm temps of summer roll around you would then raise your mowing height to 3.5” – 4”.  A taller grass blade will help shade the soil so the top layer of soil does not dry out too quickly in the triple digit temps.  A taller blade will also help block sun from germinating weeds that are particularly troublesome in the summer.  Crab Grass, Spurge and other summer annuals have a harder time invading lawns with a taller grass.

Keep Your Blade Sharp – I often run into people who love the smell of fresh cut grass.  The stronger the better they say.  It is important to realize that the particular smell the grass makes when it is cut, is in fact a defensive chemical secretion grass makes when it is stressed or damaged.  The grass thinks it is being attacked by an insect and sends a chemical signal out that other parasitic insects will sense and come looking to eat the original insects.  The stronger the smell, the more damage has been done to the blade.  This is typical when you have a dull mower blade.  It is ripping the grass instead of cutting.  It takes more energy and resources to heal itself then if the cut was clean.

blades

  • Grass A = A sharp mower blade
  • Grass B = Very DULL mower blade
  • Grass C = Semi Dull Blade ripping grass
  • Grass D = Blade that has been dull for some time and been continually used on same lawn.

Mulching – if you mow often enough and keep the 1/3 rule in mind you should be able to mulch every time and not see the ‘buildup of hay’ most people think of when they think of mulching.  If the clippings are little they absorb easily back into the lawn without seeing them very much and it is greatly beneficial to do so.  If you mulched all year, it would be equivalent to a full application of fertilizer on your lawn.  That is a lot of nutrients most people throw away each year.

Best Time to Mow – The best time to mow, is similar to the best time to water.  Mornings.  If you mow during the heat of the day, your lawn will be unnecessarily stressed out.  If you mow at evening/night, there is not enough time for your lawn to heal itself before it is introduced to and environment that disease and fungus thrive in.  It will be more prone to disease and damage if you mow at less than ideal times.

Last Mowing – similar to the first mowing, the last mowing is less about a date and more about the state of your lawn.  As long as your lawn is still growing, you still want to mow.  If you don’t mow towards the end of the year and end up with a lawn 3.5” or taller you run the risk of inviting snow mold/winter mold into your lawn.  This occurs when, again the top layer of soil cannot dry out.  As long as it is growing, keep mowing!

Following these principles will help you maintain your lawn and keep it beautiful and green all throughout the growing season!  If you have questions about mowing, don’t hesitate to call us for advice.  If you can’t or don’t want to mow your lawn yourself, let us know.  Though we do not mow lawns as part of our services, we can definitely recommend a great mower to you!