Fairway Green, Inc
9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 281-7888

Category Archives: Lawn Care Programs

Mulching Your Landscape

To mulch or not to mulch: that is the question.  Simply put, mulching your landscape is a good thing.  But…having too much of a good thing (mulch) can be bad.

Mulching Recommendations

There are a few common reasons we mulch our landscape beds, it makes our yard look great, it helps reduce weeds, and proper mulching can benefit landscape plants.  Regardless of the reason, you want to follow a few recommendations to avoid negative impacts on your landscape plants.  In general, mulch should be maintained at a depth of 3 inches.  If you already exceed 3 inches and are planning to add another layer this year, we recommend removing some of the existing mulch before adding another layer to help maintain the 3-inch depth level.  Avoid piling mulch high on plant trunks and stems, keep the mulch away from the bases and be sure the root flare is visible.  Piling mulch too high on plants is a very common mistake that has serious consequences to the health of your plants.  We discuss this in more detail later in the blog.

Types of Mulch

There are two types of mulch for landscapes.  Organic and inorganic.  Organic mulch is what we are all probably used to seeing landscape professionals apply to the landscape beds.  You know, the brown, black, and sometimes red stuff.  These types of mulch are basically ground up trees and shrubs and other organic matter. Some people may elect to use chopped up leaves or grass from the lawn mower, and others may use wood chips. The inorganic mulch would be plastic or rubber mulch, stones and rocks, etc.

Benefits of Mulching your Landscape Beds

There are many benefits to having organic mulch applied to your landscape.  One benefit is keeping the weeds in the beds to a minimum.  However, the key here is to be sure that the areas being mulched are free of weeds before applying, otherwise they will keep growing until they poke through.  You may have a nicely mulched landscape today, and if the weeds were not taken care of prior to the installation, next week you will have beds dotted with weeds.  The weeds will likely be more noticeable coming up through the new mulch so you may feel like you wasted your money.  To help reduce weeds, you can apply a pre-emergent control to your landscape beds, learn more by following this link to our landscape bed pre-emergent blog.

Another benefit is mulch helps retain moisture.  This is especially helpful if you do not have irrigation in your landscape beds.  If the beds were bare and it rained, the water would penetrate the ground very quickly or run off before the ground can take it in.  Mulch absorbs that moisture and slowly seeps into the soil, allowing the plants to take it in.  It acts kind of like a sponge.  In addition, to retaining moisture, mulch also helps regulate temperature in the summer and winter.

One more benefit to mulching your landscape is that when the mulch breaks down, it is putting nutrient-rich organic matter back into the soil.  This is especially true if you elect to use chopped up leaves for mulch.  Leaves contain natural nitrogen and other beneficial nutrients that can be recycled back into the soil.

Finally, a freshly mulched landscape is very appealing to look at.  It is like laying down new carpeting or a floor.  If you’re looking to sell your home, it might not be a bad idea to put down a fresh layer of mulch.  Same thing if you’re having a graduation party, wedding, or a big birthday party.

Problems with Over-Mulching

Now, let’s talk about what NOT to do when mulching your landscape beds.  The first would be what the industry calls ‘volcano mulching’.  This is when mulch is piled so high and tight up against a tree that it looks like a volcano.  Literally.  This is very bad for the tree!

 

Trees exchange oxygen at the base, and if the mulch is piled too high, the tree will suffocate.  You may not see results from that suffocation early, but over the years the tree will slowly decline.  At that point, the damage is done.  Trees have a natural flare at the bottom, almost resembling a bell-bottom.  This is that area that needs to be exposed.  If your tree looks like a telephone pole sticking out of the ground, you have too much mulch (see photo above).  In addition to the lack of oxygen exchanged, mulch piled high on tree bark can also promote disease and cause the bark to rot.  For more information on the potential harms of over-mulching, here is a link to an article by Rutgers University titled Problems with Over-Mulching Trees and Shrubs.

The same rule of thumb applies to woody shrubs, such as hollies, boxwoods, rhododendrons, and laurels.  Woody plants have a single stem that comes out of the ground and then it branches out to its form.  That stem needs to be visible.  In other words, if you cannot see the stem or if some of the lower branches are covered, you might have too much mulch.  Not only will it likely suffocate the plants, but the continued moisture that is on the bark will cause it to rot, and possibly girdle it and die.

Conclusion

Mulch is a beautiful thing when applied correctly but can also kill your plants when done the wrong way.  If you have any questions about mulching your landscape, please feel free to contact us if you live in our service area.

Integrated Pest Management

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is defined as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of sound cultural practices and judicious pesticide use.  For turf grass management, pest prevention is accomplished by focusing on optimal cultural practices to promote a healthy lawn which can tolerate a higher degree of pest pressure.  The techniques used to control pests in an IPM program include seeding with improved pest resistant turf varieties; cultural techniques such as proper mowing, watering, fertilization, aeration; and the judicious use of pesticides when needed. An integrated pest management program does not exclude the use of pesticides, instead, the use of a variety of cultural controls help reduce the need for pesticide products.

What is a pest?

The word pest is often associated with turf damaging insects, however a pest refers to any organism that interferes with our desired plants.  This could be an insect, but also includes weeds, rodents, fungus, bacteria and other living organisms.

How does an Integrated Pest Management program work?

Set Threshold levels
The first step is to set a threshold level, which is a customer determined point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate action should be taken.  For example, two people may have very different threshold levels for the amount of dandelions they will tolerate in their lawn.  Seeing a single pest does not always mean control is required.  It is important to understand pest levels that can potential become a threat to your turf and cause damage.  Setting proper threshold levels for pests that can harm your lawn should be carefully determined if you want to avoid damage.

Prevention
A healthy lawn is the best defense!  As a first line of pest control, Integrated Pest Management programs work to minimize pest populations before they become a threat to the lawn.  This can be accomplished by seeding with pest-resistant varieties of grass types along with other appropriate cultural practices such as proper watering, mowing, fertilizing, applying lime and aerating to promote healthy turf.  These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient.

Scouting
Not all insects and weeds require control. Many organisms are beneficial. Integrated Pest Management programs work to monitor for pests and identify them, so that appropriate control measures can be made in conjunction with threshold levels. The scouting process will determine if and when pesticides should be applied.

Control
If threshold levels are surpassed, even with proper preventive methods, then pesticides could be required.  IPM programs evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk.  Effective pest controls are chosen, which includes traditional chemicals applied as a targeted spray (spot treatment) or blanket (whole lawn treatment).

What are the pros and cons of an Integrated Pest Management Program?

Let’s start with the pros.

  1. Your property will be carefully monitored by a professional lawn care provider.
  2. Less pesticides will be used on your property.
  3. IPM encourages healthy cultural practices that benefit your lawn and the environment.
  4. You’ll be provided with proper watering techniques and mowing practices.
  5. A soil analysis provides great information and helps design a plan specific to your lawn’s needs.

Now the cons.

  1. Your property will have some weeds, even with spot treatments.
  2. Your property will have some insects that can damage your turf.
  3. You may have disease and disease damage.
  4. Seeding may be required to repair insect and disease damage.

Conclusion

Integrated pest management utilizes multiple techniques to help prevent pests and promote healthy turf.  Environmental factors are outside of our control and as they change from year to year, IPM techniques will need to adapt as well.  A soil analysis is a great starting point so that corrective treatments for pH levels and nutrient imbalances can be made as soon as possible.  In addition to regular fertilization, there are a number of other practices and applications that help promote lawn health:

  • Core Aeration
  • Seeding – pest resistant varieties
  • Lime Applications
  • Proper Mowing
  • Correct Watering – both frequency and duration

If an integrated pest management program is something you are interested in trying, feel free to call us at 908-281-7888 if you are in our service area.  We will work together to optimize cultural practices and set threshold levels that work for you!  For more information, here is a link to our Integrated Pest Management website page.

9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14, Hillsborough, NJ 08844 United States | (908) 281-7888
Phone: (908) 281-7888