Weeds

MY Grass ISN’T Greener Over HERE!

 

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This week we have an addendum to our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  We thought we said all we could say on the subject, and we thought wrong.  It became apparent to me, that we sometimes will get questions on why a homeowner’s lawn just isn’t greening up like they hoped.

Though, uncommon, we do hear a customer say, “My lawn looks worse than my neighbors!  We do exactly what they do!”  Or, “My lawn was WAY better last year, and I’m not doing anything differently than before.”  The frustration is audible, and understandable.  Time, effort, money go into making your lawn beautiful and the results are less than expected.  The bottom line is that you just want your lawn to be healthy and look great!

So what happens when you do everything the same year in and year out and the lawn just isn’t as good as you remember it from its glory days?  What do you do when you do everything right and the grass just isn’t greener?  It’s easy to question the product you are using on the lawn, or even the professional service being used on the lawn.  That’s natural, and even warranted in some instances.  However, not all lawns are the same.  There are also, MANY, MANY variables that play are part in the overall health of your lawn, it may not be the product or professional service that is causing the problem.

It’s important to ask yourself what might be different this year?  Are the kids playing in the sprinklers more or less this year?  Are there any new pets in the household?  Any new animals in the neighborhood?  Have you seen an abundance of wild bunnies in your neighborhood recently?  What is different this year versus last year?

The question being asked may not have a quick or simple answer.  In fact, more often than not – ‘doing the same thing as last year’ turns out to not be as similar as one might think.  Many factors that affect the lawn are rarely the same year in and year out.  To better understand why a lawn might not be up to par, I wanted to talk about some of the outside influences that can affect the health and beauty of your lawn.

Neatly cut grass

Neatly cut grass. Full frame short with wide depth of field.

Fertilizer

Some products are not designed for long term results.  They are designed for color over health.  They will make your lawn green, but not necessarily healthy.  Are you using the exact same product you used in the past or did you switch products?  Is your neighbor using the same product? Not all fertilizers are equal.  Timing is important as well.  Some fertilizers will only last a few weeks, some 6-8 weeks, and others 8-12 weeks.  Watering, soil temperatures, and coating are all factors in the breakdown process of fertilizers.  A fertilizer that lasts 8-12 weeks will tend to run out towards the 8-week mark during the heat of the summer due to the warmer soil temps and increase in watering.  Is your lawn a little overdue for fertilizer?

Soil Type/Conditions

It’s easy to see on the surface if a lawn is doing well or not, however the soil under the surface has an important role in the life of your lawn.  Like fertilizer, not all soils are the same.  Your neighbor might have a claylike soil.  You could have a sandy soil.  Clay soils hold nutrients better, but drain poorly.  Sandy soils are the exact opposite.  Even year to year your soil conditions can change.  Clay soils, since they drain poorly become compact more often.  Did you aerate last year?  This year?  Never aerated?

Mowing

Are you using a mowing company or doing it yourself? Did you sharpen the mower blade this year?  Are you mowing more often when sunlight is on the lawn 16 hours a day which causes it to grow like crazy?  Or letting it grow crazy and then cutting it down really short, stressing your lawn out.

Are you mowing at the same time of day? I have different schedules for work throughout the year so it affects when I can mow my lawn sometimes.  Mowing in the early morning when the lawn is wet is not recommended.  Mowing later in the evening when it is cool is not a good option either.  Your lawn is more susceptible to disease and fungus at night.  When you mow the lawn, it basically has an open wound.  Just what disease and fungus like!

If you are hiring a mowing company, are you using the same one?  Are they mowing at the same time?  Are they mowing at the correct height and frequency for your lawn and the time of year?  Are they sharpening their mower blades regularly?  Do they have a new mowing technician?  Do they regularly clean their equipment?  It’s important to keep in mind that a mower can unknowingly bring in disease from another lawn as well.

Watering

Watering your lawn, is not as simple as turning the timer to the ‘ON’ position and letting it be.  In fact, if you are doing that assuming that last years’ times were adequate, then you have just pinpointed the problem.  How you water in September/October will be different than how you water in March/April and different still for July.

Assuming you have the correct length of time and frequency for the time of year in which you are watering.  You need to consider whether or not others in the neighborhood are watering at the same time.  Are more neighbors watering at the same time this year vs last year resulting in lower pressure. Lower pressure means less water on the lawn in the same length of watering time.

Are you watering during the heat of the day when the water can evaporate up 50% before penetrating into the soil?  Are all your areas getting adequate coverage when the sprinklers are on?  Do you need a sprinkler system tune-up?  Have you checked out the sprinkler system yourself or are you trusting that the watering at 3 am when you are sleeping is working like it’s supposed to.

Weather – This is a variable that is completely out of everyone’s control.  Weather affects your lawn SIGNIFICANTLY.  In fact, it is probably the largest contributing factor for a lawn looking great one year, and not so great the next.  The Treasure Valley, last year, had the hottest June on record since 1869.  We saw temps in June we normally see in July.  That is stressful for the lawn.

This year it is drastically different.  We did have some warm days this month, but lots of cooler than normal days too. We went from a high of 101 to a high of 62 in 7 days.  7 days with a 40-degree variance in the high!  When you extend the highest high to the lowest low that week you went from 101 to 37 in a 7-day period.  Almost a 65-degree variant.  Plants do not like that much of a variance.  It can drastically affect them.   Watering for 100-degree weather is vastly different than watering for 62-degree weather.  Without any effort on your part you may have went from under watering to overwatering within a week, just from not noticing the weather.

Just taking temperature into account it affects how you need to water, and if you aren’t watering to the weather/season you can easily run into lawn issues.  This doesn’t factor in wind, humidity, dew point, or rainfall.

InsectsLawn damaging insects do not respect property lines or lawn history.  Unfortunately, grubs do not care if they have never visited your lawn before.  You don’t have a lot of control in this circumstance other than applying a preventative grub control.  This might be the difference you are seeing in your lawn this year.

Education – What you know about lawn care definitely affects how well your lawn looks.  If you are not very knowledgeable, it can be easy to assume that you are doing everything correct, and there has been no change, therefore the results should be the same.  The exact opposite can be true as well.  Perhaps you know quite a bit about lawn care.  Perhaps you have been doing the same thing for years and it always looks ok, except this year.  Sometimes doing the same thing might be slowly, slightly, damaging your lawn over time.  Perhaps you break a watering rule or a mowing rule.  Just one rule, but it’s broken continually because it never caused a problem in the past.  Shallow frequent watering and short mowing will train your grass roots to sit near the surface and one day your lawn will struggle to grow.

 

If your lawn is not looking the way it used to, you need to figure out what is different.  We bring these variants up, not to shift blame from us a service provider.  We are extremely confident in our products, training, and technicians.   We bring these variables up, because as the expert, we understand what affects your lawn.  It may be something little and easy to fix.

Asking and answering these questions will show you where your lawn might need a little extra help.  Remember, your lawn is a living organism.  It’s easy to talk about on paper, not as easy to treat in real life.  The best question you can ask is:  Did I follow all of Weed Man’s recommendations to have an amazingly beautiful lawn?  If you did, then you would have hired us, in which all you have to do is call us!  We will do a free lawn inspection to determine what is going on with your lawn, so you don’t have to figure it out yourself!

www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

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Mr. Peanut Goes to War…On Your Lawn!

Mr._Peanut_Goes_to_War.jpgIt is another great week at The Wonderful World of Weed Man.  We hope you are enjoying your summer in spite of the terribly weird weather temps.  Alas, that is Idaho.  The weather has already improved since I started writing this article.

Last week we touched on a perennial weed we find very difficult, but possible to treat – Canadian Thistle.  This week, we wanted to talk about another lawn weed we come across quite often – Nutsedge.  Below is a picture of nutsedge in a lawn via the University of Minnesota.

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Every time I am on the lawn and diagnose a ‘grassy weed’ someone is curious about as Nutsedge, I get a look like I’m teasing them.  Peanuts in my grass?  Yes, and no…  This sedge gets its name because in some cultures it is actually a crop that is edible.  Nutsedge is cultivated for its tubers, called earth almonds.  Apparently all parts of the plant development are edible and the tubers taste like almonds.  Who knew?  Mr. Peanut is wreaking havoc on your lawn!

Nutsedge is actually somewhat easy to treat.  It has its own set of difficulties, but in comparison to thistle or crabgrass it is easier to deal with.  It is referred to as swamp grass, sometimes called water grass.  Other names include Nutgrass, or Peanutgrass.  Nutsedge, though it looks like grass, it is actually a sedge.  They look similar but are distinctly different plant types.  Nutsedge has three long blades that protrude from the base of the plant.  They grow very quickly and are slightly yellow/light green in color.  Because of the growth and color of the plant it generally stands out in your lawn, especially if you haven’t mowed in a few days.  Standing out so easily in your lawn will quickly disrupt your beautiful uniform colored lawn.

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This particular plant can reproduce itself in a variety of ways: through seed, rhizomes, and tubers.  Nutsedge is a perennial plant that will typically emerge in May in our area when it begins to really warm up.  It will continue to grow and develop until the first frost in the fall.  The cold weather will kill the above ground portion of the plant, but the tubers will survive underground over the winter.  The dormant tubers will germinate and emerge throughout the next year or remain dormant in the soil for longer.

Let’s take a moment and analyze Nutsedge by the numbers:  1 seed can turn into a basel clump (the base of the plant) which produces umbels (3 blades).  The umbel can produce 1500 seeds in one season.  In addition, the plant will reproduce itself via tubers that can spread out rhizomes.  The tuber will produce the rhizome which can produce 1900 new plants which can multiply to 7000 new tubers in one season.  Each tuber can have up to 7 buds/rhizomes with the reserves to sprout them all.  Essentially via rhizome, tuber and seeding, 1 seedling can create a whole plant system capable of producing 90,000 seeds within one year.

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Great, now you know what Nutsedge is and that it multiplies like rabbits, what do you do?  Well Howard Garrett, the ‘Dirt Doctor’, states “There is only one guaranteed, foolproof method to completely kill Nutgrass,” he recounts: “First, dig out every tiny piece of the plant including the seeds and nutlets (tubers). Make sure you sift the soil through a mesh screen. Dump the collected material on the driveway and burn it. Sweep up all the ashes and seal in a concrete box. Drive to the coast and dump the sealed box 20 miles off shore.”

That is one labor intensive surefire way to eliminate Nutsedge.  Barring the drastic, what does the average homeowner need to do.

Cultural Practices:  Remove the cause of your waterlogged soil.  Aerate, change your watering habits, or fix your leaky sprinkler pipe. 

I referred to Nutsedge as a swamp grass or a water grass earlier in this article.  Nutsedge will show up in soils that are waterlogged

The reason I bring it up, is that the Treasure Valley climate is considered a semi-arid or steppe region.  However, we are on the low rainfall side of the spectrum.  To be classified as a desert the area needs to have 10 inches or less of rainfall every year.  We get 11 inches.  So for all intents and purposes we are a desert.  All the responsibility without the cool title or benefits!

Yet even in our climate, Nutsedge can grow if it has a constant source of water.  This can be from poor drainage in the soil, watering too frequently, or you have a sprinkler pipe leaking.  Leaky pipes are easy enough to fix.  Poor drainage can be a result from a compact soil.  An aeration will help relieve this issue.  However, a vast majority of the time that we see Nutsedge, it is on a lawn that is being overwatered.  Unfortunately, some homeowners’ lawns have become a main tributary for the Boise River via their ever flowing sprinkler system.   Without that constant source of water, Nutsedge, would have a hard time growing naturally.

The modern sprinkler system has done wonders for moving water in an efficient way to help with lawns, but it has taken away our ability to think like a farmer or remember our 3rd grade botanical lessons.  When summer rolls around and temps get about 100, we think our lawns need constant watering.  Your lawn does not like that often of a watering.  But you know what does?  Insects, fungus, disease….and certain weeds like NUTSEDGE.  It’s easy to get carried away with the watering and slowly bad things will begin to happen to your lawn.

Avoid overwatering your lawn.  We live in a desert, but if you water strategically, your lawn will get the moisture it needs, and unwanted non-desert swamp plants will not.  3 times a week for a good period of time is all you need even when it is REALLY, REALLY HOT.  Not 4 times a week, nor 5 times a week. Not daily, NOT TWICE DAILY!  You get the point…

If you have questions about watering, please refer to an earlier article we published.

If you don’t get the waterlogged soil resolved, you will be fighting a losing battle.  You have to solve this before any other resolution will be effective.  Nutsedge will come back over and over and over again, worse each time.

Mechanical Practices:  Pulling Nutsedge can become an exercise in futility unless you catch the plant early.  When you pull on the Nutsedge blade, they will just detach from the tuber.   The plant is still alive and has the reserves to produce more shoots.  The key catching the plant at an early stage where it has to use up its reserves to produce new shoots before it can reproduce more tubers.  Usually you can do this when it only has 3-4 blades coming up.  Be warned:  This is a very slow and arduous process.

You can also dig up the tubers and remove the plant through tillage.  Again, not the best option for a lawn.  Great advice for a garden area where digging up the weed will not disturb the surrounding plants that are wanted.

Another digging option exists that we are aware of:  PIGS!  Pigs love to eat the tubers of Nutsedge.  They are very quick to find the buried tubers and will dig them up and eat them.  This is probably not the best option for you finely manicured lawn though.  If you happen to have a Nutsedge problem in a field though….

Chemical Practices:  Really the most effective and quickest way to deal with Nutsedge is through herbicides.  Currently, there are preemergents available to help reduce Nutsedge, but they do require a professional pesticide applicator.  Unfortunately, preemergents for Nutsedge are not safe to use on turf grass….so post emergent is the best option for Nutsedge in the lawn.

You can kill Nutsedge with Round up, however, Roundup will kill everything else around it as well, unless you can spray the Nutsedge with surgical precision.  Selective herbicides labeled for Nutsedge will work to kill it without killing your lawn!  Selective herbicide is the way to go.

Always be careful when applying herbicides, and please read the label and follow directions accordingly.  Better yet, hire Weed Man to take care of the issue for you.  We can also help diagnose and advise on watering habits to prevent re-occurrences.  Give us a call!  208-888-9911, www.weedmanboise.com #wecareforyourlawn

Canadian Thistle: The Mythical, Cancerous, Post-Apocalyptic, Iceberg-ish, Villain of the Weed World.

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  Last week we finished up our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  I hope you enjoyed it and found it to an informative series.  Although our blog will not always consist of subject series, it will have many.  Before we get into our next series in a few weeks, I wanted to touch on some common concerns our customers are currently seeing right now. This week we will talk about Canadian Thistle!

If you have never had the displeasure of thistle in your yard, you have won the lawn lottery!  I hope you never have to deal with it.  But if you do, or have had in the past, or are currently dealing with it now – there is hope!  Canadian Thistle is one of the most difficult weeds we deal with here in the Treasure Valley.  I hope to open your eyes to answer the question, “Why won’t it just die!”

 

Canadian Thistle is a perennial weed that will continue to grow and seed and spread for several years.  It does not live and die within a season or single year.  It has a deep and wide root system.  Its creeping root system can extend up to 17 feet horizontally in the soil.  It can plunge 20 feet deep into the soil as well.  The plant itself above surface and grow up to 5 feet tall.  It is most famous for causing pain and suffering to those who walk barefoot unawares in the lawn.

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What most people don’t understand with thistle is that many of the surface ‘plants’ are really connected together and are in fact one giant plant.  Let me illustrate with a picture from Purdue University:

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From the picture you can see why we would consider this weed much like an iceberg.  The root system is much larger than the surface plant itself.  What you actually see in the lawn is only a small percentage of the plant.

If the size of the plant wasn’t bad enough you also have to contend with its behaviors.  Nancy Muehllehner, from a submission with Columbia University best describes why Canadian Thistle becomes so easily established: “Part of success of the thistle may also be due to its physiological advantage of being able to propagate through two methods, by seed and by cloning itself.  Introduction to new areas occurs mostly by wind-borne seed or sometimes by run-off in ditches. From there it then spreads rapidly by rhizomes (root segments). Lateral roots 3 or more feet deep spread from a fibrous taproot which then gives rise to aerial shoots which are sent up at 2 to 6 inch intervals.  This allows the thistle to dominate an available habitat and utilize all the available resources in a given area.

Not only does thistle spread easily, seeds it produces can lie dormant and still be viable for up to 20 years in ideal circumstances.  The seed is just waiting for those right conditions to germinate!

Thistle also can produce a chemical that will inhibit the growth of other plants nearby.  The more I discuss thistle, I feel like I am speaking about some mythical creature.  It can clone itself!  It hides itself!  Not everything is as it seems with this plant.  It lies in wait! And it has a superpower to stop other plants from growing!  It is villainous!

So what can you do to defeat this lawn villain!  The first thing to remember is do not pull this weed out of the ground.  It is inadvisable with a bare hand as you will get stabbed by its prickly leaves.  The roots are also designed to break and split when pulled out.  When you pull out one weed, two will grow later.  It’s much like a hydra!

Be careful when trying to dig up thistle as well.  If you leave any part behind it can turn into a new plant.  Even root pieces as little as an inch long have capability of staring a new plant.  The more you dig, the more plants you may be creating.  Little zombies coming back from the dead!

THERE IS NO ONE AND DONE

SOLUTION FOR THISTLE

The best option when it comes to dealing with thistle is a multifaceted long term approach – it is much like a cancer in your lawn.  You have to wear it down over time with several methods until it is gone.  You want to kill thistle without killing your lawn.  The only way to do that is slowly with varying methods.  Here are some steps you need to take to help eradicate this weed:

 

  1. Organic options – we mentioned not pulling the weed out, however, it can be cut. Remove the whole top without disturbing the root.  In essence you will be depriving the weed of its source of food.  It cannot make more food without the green leaves.  If you cut the plant before it buds or flowers you will also help in preventing future seeds.  It will also have to expend some of its energy and resources to shoot up new leaves.  Over time it will be a losing battle if you stay determined and vigilant.
  2. Natural Predators – Cattle, sheep, and goats will help with thistle. Though this may not be a good option for your lawn…Some butterflies will feed on thistle as well.  Though I don’t know that would be a very reliable investment.  If you had a large pasture natural predators would be a great method for you.
  3. Make your lawn less inviting to thistle – Thistle likes low fertility soils, open areas, sunlight, and minimal water. Make sure your lawn has a good fertilizer regiment.  Fill in any bare areas with grass seed so the thistle doesn’t setup shop there.  If you keep your grass a little taller 3-4” instead of 2-3” it will shade the soil and low leafed plants a little better.  Don’t go crazy with the watering as you do not want to introduce disease into your lawn, but a little more water will help weaken thistle.  This step will not eradicate, but it will help weaken and even slow the spread.
  4. Weed Control – Thistle is resistant to many types of weed control, including kill all products, like ROUNDUP. Now you wouldn’t spray roundup in your lawn as it would kill the grass around the thistle as well.  I only bring it up to point out how tough it is to even kill with weed control.  It can be done though.  Resistant is not immunity.  One treatment of weed control will not do the trick.  You have to have several.  And depending on how mature the plant or plants in your lawn might be, it may take a season or even two to fully eradicate.
  5. Professional Help -If you have tried these methods it may be time for a professional – This is where many homeowners can get in over their head.  They have tried treating the weed once or even twice with no luck.  This is definitely normal, however, it is advisable to hire a licensed professional when you are dealing with multiple weed control applications on the lawn.  Even spot treating you want to be careful how much you are putting down, and how often.  You do not want to damage a lawn or cause other secondary issues.

If you are running into a thistle problem that you cannot handle, Weed Man would love to help you out.  Give us a call 208-888-9911 or 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.

W

“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 

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.
Weed Man Super Hero 2.png

Fertilizer is the BEST Weed Control!

Soil Test.JPG

Welcome back the the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This is part two of our “The Grass IS Greener Over There!” Series.  If you missed last week’s post you can check it out here.  This week is going to be a primer on lawn fertilizer.  I know, I know, you can hardly contain your excitement!  The masses have clamored, and we are answering.

(For those of you who just like the answer, and less of the journey – just hire Weed Man and we will make your lawn look amazing!  If you want to know the why and how, then read on!)

Large amounts of misinformation and myth exist out on the ‘interwebs’ regarding lawn fertilizer.  So much information that we could never cover it in one blog post.  My goal for this post is to give you a general overview and deal with the most important factors when it comes to fertilizer.

Why should I fertilize, you ask?  We will discuss many of the benefits a little later, but, in a nutshell lawns need food/nutrients.   If you were to visit our website, you would find a very basic overview of our fertilizer service –

“A well-fertilized lawn is better at preventing weed infestation as well as drought and disease. In turn, healthy lawns help the environment by producing oxygen, cooling the air during hot weather and trapping and absorbing urban dust and pollution. Blended exclusively for Weed Man, our fertilizer is a 65 percent slow-release granular fertilizer and is made from naturally occurring ingredients including nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Weed Man’s most popular premium quality, slow-release granular fertilizer feeds your lawn for 4-6 weeks, or 6-8 weeks depending on the blend or time of year.”

There are many types of fertilizer:  Liquid, granular, slow release, quick release, etc..  Granular will feed the lawn at the root system/soil level. A liquid spray only feeds the blade generally and may not last in the grass very long.  Slow release will meter out the nutrients over a period of time breaking down via water or soil temperature.  Quick release fertilizer does the opposite.  It gets into the system quickly and it is metabolized quickly.  Quick release reminds me of a person who wants more energy and instead of eating healthy and exercising they drink coffee.  Do you really want your lawn to look healthy or be healthy.  When we visit your lawn we will use a granular slow release – the best product we can find for the overall health of your lawn.

There are a tremendous amount of benefits to having a healthy lawn, and fertilizer helps your lawn become/stay healthy.  

There are a few components that lawns need to maintain their health and vitality. Essentially up to 17 elements are required for your lawn to thrive:  Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Zinc, Iron, Boron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Copper, Calcium, Chlorine, and Nickle.  These elements can be found in Air, Water, Soil, and Fertilizer.  Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium are the 3 macro nutrients that your lawn needs the greatest help with, and the remainder of essential nutrients are referred to as micro nutrients.

When you visit your local hardware store looking for fertilizer, every bag will have an NPK number listed on it.  24-0-6 for example (the mixture we use) tells you that 24% of the mix is Nitrogen, 0% Phosphorous, and 6% Potassium.  Although we do utilize phosphorous in our mix, it is not a large enough amount to register for the NPK – we find for the lawns we treat, it is an element that already exists in the soil in our area.  No sense in placing more elements than needed in the soil.  There has been a lot of legislation and concern over the years about phosphorus.  Purdue has a great fact sheet about phosphorus in fertilizer.

24+6 = 30, at least the answer chart at the end of the math book shows it to be 30.  What about the other 70%, is it just rocks and filler?  Absolutely NOT!  The remainder 70% is comprised of compounds and micro nutrients to help the lawn absorb the macro nutrients.  For example elemental phosphorous catches fire spontaneously when exposed to the air, and is poisonous to plants in concentrated forms.  (Think Fireworks!)  We couldn’t put that down on the lawn in its raw form, so it must be manipulated to an amount and form feasible for the plant to absorb.

So once down on the lawn, what exactly does the fertilizer do for the grass?  Well, let me take a deep breath and expound on some of the laundry list of benefits just associated with the plant biology:

  • Promotes rapid growth hastening recovery after mowing
  • Helps the formation and function of chlorophyll
  • Synthesizes amino acids that turn into proteins
  • Regulates the uptake of other nutrients
  • Stimulates early root formation and growth
  • Hastens maturity of plant
  • Stimulates blooming and seed development
  • Causes energy transformation and conversion of sugars
  • Vital for photosynthesis
  • Essential for cell division
  • Increases disease resistance and hardiness
  • Strengthens cell walls
  • Affects water intake

Other benefits of fertilizer include:

  • A good looking lawn – who doesn’t want this?
  • More oxygen in the environment
  • Better disease, drought, and insect resistance
  • Run off and erosion is lowered.

I wanted to transition from that last benefit to one of the common myths we hear regarding fertilizer:  It’s better for the environment if you don’t fertilize and let “nature” take care of your lawn.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  The statement does not even make any sense.  Think about it.  Where in nature do you see grass similar to what you would see in a residential lawn?

A residential lawn is NOT a natural environment for grass.

Lawns need help.  Left to nature lawns will not improve on their own.  Most lawns are setup over compacted soils when a home was developed.  Very little or no top soil was left when the home was built, and sod or seed was put down over the rocky construction debris.

Not only will nature fail to take care of your lawn, leaving your grass unfertilized will impact the environment in a much larger way, then if you do fertilize.  Erosion and runoff levels could be 100 to 1000 times greater for unfertilized lawns than those that utilize a fertilizer.  University of Minnesota did a study on residential lawn runoff and found that unfertilized lawns were worse for the environment than fertilized lawns.  Here is quick video from the leading professor conducting the study.  My favorite quote from Brian Horgan, Ph.D –

“If you don’t fertilize your lawn thinking you’re doing better, you’re actually doing a lot more harm than if you properly fertilize your turf”

I think he sums it up nicely.  Fertilize your lawn.  It really is the best weed control.  Make your lawn healthy by supplying it naturally occurring elements.  A healthy lawn is a thicker lawn.  It fills in bare spots.  Will it eradicate weeds?  NO. When you limit your bare spots and have a thick lawn, its is so much more difficult for weed to germinate.  This means less weeds in general.  Which means less man made chemicals needed to spray for weeds.  It really is the BEST weed control.

My final point will be to show you pictures.  Here are a couple pictures of lawns with a partial fertilizer program (first picture) or no program at all? maybe a competitor?(second picture) in comparison to our program.  These we taken from previous year customers who had a full program, but who had NOT YET had our spring fertilizer for this year.

 

To sum up:  Go out and fertilize your lawn.  Better yet, Hire Weed Man!