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

Tick Control: Important Facts You Must Know About Ticks

It seems that ticks are getting a lot of press coverage lately due to their potential to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Powassan.  2017 is forecasted to have higher than normal tick populations leaving many people wondering what options they have for tick control.  In this blog, we are going to provide a broad overview on ticks and discuss methods of tick control.

What is a Tick?

Ticks are parasites that attach themselves to a host and feed on the host’s blood.  They are part of the arachnid family, meaning they have eight legs, like spiders.  Ticks are vectors of several tick-borne illnesses that affect both humans and animals.

What is the Life Cycle of a Tick?

Ticks have a four-stage life cycle.  It’s important to understand the time of year each stage occurs so that optimal tick control methods can be used to target the predominate life cycle stage.

The first stage is the egg stage.  An adult female tick will typically breed while on a host animal and then drop to the ground to lay eggs.  A female tick can lay several thousand eggs at a time, which will eventually hatch into the second stage.

The second stage is the larval stage.  At this stage a tick will be very small, less than an eighth of an inch and will only have six legs.  It will look for a host, typically mice at this stage, and feed for several days before falling off and molting into the third stage.

The third stage is the nymph stage.  At this stage a nymph tick will molt from the larval stage (having six legs) to the nymph stage (having eight legs.)  After this molting occurs it will then start looking for its next meal.  A nymph tick will prefer animals like racoons and possums, but will also attached to larger hosts, such as humans, when given the opportunity.  Like the larval stage, after it has fed for a few days, it will fall off, molt and advance to the final stage of its life.

The final stage: Adult.  At this stage the adult tick will feed for the third time on even larger animals such as deer, dogs, or humans.  This is where they will feed and breed before dropping off and laying eggs to start the cycle over again.

Where do ticks live?

Ticks prefer shady and damp areas such as wooded areas, brushy fields with tall grass, ornamental landscaping beds and leaf or wood piles around your property.  Any type of tick control application should target these areas.  Ticks do not run, jump, fly, blow through the wind or travel great distances on their own.  They travel on host animals, mainly mice and small rodents.  They are very slow moving, patient and have an incredible ability to locate their hosts/prey.  They select sites that warm-blooded mammals travel regularly to provide a better opportunity for contact with prey.  Typically, on the end of low lying branches or the tips of ornamental shrubs and plants where they can grab onto an unsuspecting host walking by.

You may occasionally find ticks in your lawn as they drop off a host, but they do not prefer to be there.  Maintained lawns typically get direct sunlight to the soil, making the habitat too dry for ticks.

What happens when a tick bites me?

You will not feel the tick actually bite you.  After they bite they can secrete anesthetic properties from their saliva resulting in the person or animal not feeling it.  Depending on the species of tick, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours before it feeds.  A tick will cut into the skin and then embed themselves in to the flesh. They will stay attached for several days feeding on your blood.  Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host during the feeding process.  If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host in this way.  If the tick has fed and falls off, you may notice a small red mark and it may also itch.

How do I remove a tick safely?

Ticks that are attached to the skin should be removed as soon as possible.  Follow these tips for safe removal of a tick.

  1. Take a clean set of finely tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick by its head as close to the surface of the skin as possible.
  2. Once grasped pull the tick upwards with a steady even pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick. This can break the mouth parts off and remain in the skin.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

What kind of diseases can ticks carry and pass on to me?

Most people are very familiar with the fact that Lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks, but over the last few months the Powassan virus has been in the spotlight.  We will start by discussing Lyme disease.

A tick must have taken an initial blood meal to transmit Lyme disease.  At least thirty-six to forty-eight hours of feeding is required to have transmitted the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to a human.  After this amount of time passes, the tick will be engorged (full of blood).  After a tick bite, monitor the area closely, if the Lyme disease was passed on from the tick to the host, a “bullseye” pattern will appear at the site of the bite.  This is a clear indication of Lyme disease and it is best to seek medical help.

Powassan virus is a rare disease that can also be transmitted by ticks.  In the past ten years, there’s been approximately 75 confirmed cases in the Northeast, three of which were in New Jersey.  The disease can cause neurological damage and even death in some cases.  Given that this year is predicted to have higher tick populations, there has been increased emphasis on tick control to reduce your chances of getting bit.

There are many other types of diseases spread by ticks.  If you are bitten by a tick, become sick soon after and you believe you or your pet has contracted an illness, you should seek professional care immediately.

Tick Control

Fairway Green Inc. offers a four-step tick control program starting in the spring and ending in the fall.  We time our tick control applications with the various stages of a tick’s life cycle to help reduce the population around your property.  The first application is a liquid treatment targeting adult ticks.  The timing of our second tick control application is in conjunction with the nymph life cycle, which is why we utilize a granular application that targets both adults and nymphs.  The third treatment is a liquid treatment that covers low lying nymphs as well as adults.  The last tick control treatment in the fall is also liquid and targets adult ticks, which is the fourth and final life stage in a tick’s life cycle.

In conjunction with regular tick control applications from a professional lawn or tree care company there are several other steps you can take in your fight against ticks.  Keep your family pets tick free with the use of tick control collars, dips or powders.  Check your animals regularly and remove any ticks you may find.  Check children and yourself thoroughly after outdoor activities.  You can also contact your local health department or a cooperative extension service in your county for more information on ticks and any health hazards associated with them.

Conclusion

Tick populations are predicted to be higher than normal this year so be sure to monitor regularly, especially if you were outside in favorable tick habitat.  If you’re interested in tick control and are in our service area, please feel free to call us at 908-281-7888 for more information.

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.

Crabgrass Prevention and Control

What is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that is a problem in most home lawns throughout the country.  As an annual, it completes a full life cycle in one season and germinates from seeds that were dropped during a previous season by a mature crabgrass plant.  One crabgrass plant produces thousands of seeds which can live in the soil for many years before germinating.  Crabgrass starts to germinate when soil temperatures reach 55-60 degrees and stay at that range for about a week. For New Jersey, this is typically sometime in late April or May, but can vary from year to year depending on the weather.  Crabgrass will continue to germinate throughout the summer as well.   

Why does Crabgrass grow in my lawn?

Crabgrass is typically found in stressed areas of lawns that are thin, bare, and have poor growth.  Common examples of these areas are along curb edges, driveways, and walkways.  It favors these areas because these types of areas are hit hardest by stress throughout the season.  That being said, even a well-maintained lawn can still have annual issues with crabgrass.

What options are available for Crabgrass prevention and control?

There are many options available for crabgrass prevention and control.  Here are some helpful tips to help you this season:

  1. Crabgrass prevention can be accomplished by apply a crabgrass pre-emergent every year. Crabgrass pre-emergent needs be applied in the early spring season (March & April) and it is also recommended to complete two treatments. The second treatment should be applied 6 to 8 weeks after the first treatment and is meant to reinforce the initial treatment and increase the duration of the product into the summer season.   Crabgrass pre-emergent products typically lasts in the soil for about ten to twelve weeks depending on site conditions and cultural practices.  A crabgrass pre-emergent creates an invisible barrier in the soil and controls the plants once they cross the barrier.  For more information on how pre-emergents work, follow this link to our Landscape Bed Weed Control Blog. Try not to disturb the soil after the crabgrass pre-emergent has been applied.  If the barrier becomes compromised (core aeration, dethatching, seeding, construction, etc.), crabgrass will most likely emerge in these areas.  Because crabgrass is very similar to desired grass species, the pre-emergent will also control any new seeding you may have completed.  For this reason, (and many others), spring seeding is not recommended.
  2. Once the crabgrass plant has emerged, it’s too late to apply any pre-emergent controls. This is where a post-emergent crabgrass control will come in handy. Post-emergent crabgrass controls are applied as a liquid, directly to each plant.  This will control the crabgrass plants after they’ve already started growing above ground.  A post-emergent crabgrass control will NOT prevent new growth of crabgrass nor will it control actively growing broadleaf weeds.
  3. Keep the lawn thick for additional help with crabgrass prevention. Any bare or thin areas should be seeded in late summer. A dense lawn not only helps shade the soil, keeping it cooler, but it also provides less space for the crabgrass plants to grow.  See steps 6-9 below for additional tips on keeping the lawn thick.  All of the following steps will not only help with crabgrass prevention, but also improve overall health of your turf.
  4. When mowing the lawn, keep the grass blades at a height around 3 – 3 ½ inches and only cut off 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. Keeping the canopy of the grass tall will help shade the soil beneath, keeping it cooler which will help reduce crabgrass from germinating.
  5. Edges of driveways, walkways, patios, pools etc., typically get cut too short with a weed wacker. In addition, uneven ground can result in short mowing heights or even scalping. Both scenarios are problematic when it comes to crabgrass prevention and control.  Scalping weakens the grass plant and makes it more susceptible to injury and death when stressed.  Once turf grass is in decline and more of the soil is exposed to sunlight, crabgrass seeds can germinate in those areas.  Be extra careful mowing uneven areas and using the weed wacker along the edges to avoid cutting your turf too short.
  6. Water. Watering will not only help improve color but will aid in growth as well. By watering correctly early in the season, and continuing thru August, you will be promoting good turf growth which will make it difficult for crabgrass plants to move in.
  7. Fertilize regularly. Fertilizing on a regular basis will help stimulate growth and create a thicker lawn. When the lawn is thick and vigorously growing, it will shade the soil and create more competition against the crabgrass plants.  A thick and healthy lawn is a great way to help with crabgrass prevention.
  8. Core aerate the lawn annually. Crabgrass thrives in compacted soils. By core aerating regularly you are creating better soil conditions.  This also helps improve water and nutrient movement to the roots, resulting in a stronger root system and healthier lawn.
  9. Lime the lawn if the pH of the soil is low. The pH is the measure of the alkaline or acidity of the lawn soil. When the pH is in the proper range (6.3 – 6.5) the lawn will utilize all of the nutrients it gets during the year, creating a healthier, stronger and vigorously growing lawn.  For more details on Soil pH, here is a link to our pH and Lime blog.

Conclusion

Don’t let crabgrass become a pain in your grass!  The steps above will not only help you with crabgrass prevention and control, but they also promote a healthier lawn.  With the tips above, you and your lawn professional can reduce crabgrass and make your lawn look beautiful for years to come.  If you are in our service area or have any questions, feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888 or visit our website at www.fairwaygreeninc.com

Applying Pre-emergent Weed Control for Landscape Beds

What is Pre-emergent?

A pre-emergent is a type of weed control used to control broadleaf weeds as they germinate and before they become a problem. There are many products out on the market today. Most times it is a granular (pellet) formulation type product that is used but liquids are also available. For many landscape beds, weeds will seemingly infest over-night and homeowners will spend countless hours picking them by hand or paying a landscaper to pull them out. Applying pre-emergent weed control will give you a fighting chance to keep a little green in your wallet and the weeds out of your hands.

How does Pre-emergent for landscape beds work?

Pre-emergent works by creating an invisible barrier in the mulch/soil area. Weeds are controlled as they germinate and come in contact with the barrier.

Not all weeds and grasses are controlled by one type of pre-emergent product. There are pre-emergent products that work on annuals, some that work on perennials, and even ones that work on both. Product choice is extremely critical to ensure you don’t harm desired plants that are in your landscape beds that have not emerged by the time of application. This is especially true for homeowners that have desired perennials in their landscapes.

For example, daffodils in the picture would have been controlled if the wrong pre-emergent herbicide was utilized. We recommend applying pre-emergent weed control that is safe for your desired plants and still controls the majority of weeds. For the few undesired weeds that emerge later in the season, a non-selective herbicide like Round-up can be used directly on the weed. Always be sure to read the label prior to applying pre-emergent weed control in your landscape beds.

Applying Pre-Emergent: How to Choose the Ideal Locations?

Pre-emergent weed control for landscape beds can go on mulch, wood chips, shredded rubber mulch, rocks, stone type areas, etc. A granular product can be spread with a low volume back pack sprayer or hand crank type spreader. Driveways, walkways, and other high traffic areas should be avoided with a pre-emergent. The more traffic there is on an area, like a rock driveway where cars travel daily, the faster the material will break down and reduce its capabilities to control weeds. Weeds in these types of areas can be controlled with a combination of pre-emergent and post-emergent products, but this is outside the general scope of this blog.

Things You Can Do In Your Landscape To Help Reduce Weed Growth.

There are some things that you or your landscaper can do in the landscape beds to minimize the weeds.

  1. When installing new planting beds around your property, use a breathable landscape fabric instead of plastic or vinyl. Once trees, plants and flowers are planted and beds are edged, cut and lay down the landscape fabric prior to mulching. This will create a barrier that will help reduce weeds. The fabric can be purchased at any garden supply store and are easy to cut to any size you need. Depending on the thickness of the material, it can last anywhere from 2 to 5 years in most landscape beds.
  2. One of the easiest ways to reduce weeds in your landscape beds is a layer of quality mulch. Not only does mulch help retain moisture, but it also creates an additional barrier to reduce the weeds. Most homeowners prefer a double or triple shredded hardwood mulch that has been dyed. The dye used, which comes in many colors, will help the mulch retain its color for up to a year. A layer of mulch that is maintained around three to four inches is all that is recommended to help reduce the weeds in your landscape beds.
  3. Hand pulling weeds is also an effective way to reduce visible weeds. Keep in mind that by hand pulling the weed/plants, some of the roots may be left behind in the soil. Even if it looks like you got it all out, one little piece of root left in the soil can regrow the plant.
  4. Minimize traffic on the mulched areas. Try to not move the mulch around by raking or digging in the bed. This will disturb the mulch and weeds can start to grow.

Conclusion

Weeds are a nuisance and your time is valuable. One surefire way to help with weed management throughout the season is to treat them preventatively by applying pre-emergent weed control to your landscape beds. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here is a link to our tree and shrub service page where you can learn more about our Landscape Bed Weed Management Program. Also, if you are in our service area and have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 908-281-7888

Soil pH and Lime: How Lime Affects your Soil

What is pH?

Soil pH is the measure of its acidity or alkalinity and is rated on a simple logarithmic scale. The scale represents hydrogen ion concentration and ranges from 0.0-14.0, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline.  The halfway point on the scale, 7.0, is neutral. Soil acidity increases as values decrease from 7.0 to 0.0, and soil alkalinity increases as pH values increase from 7.0-14.

What causes the pH of the soil to be acidic?

The soils of the northeastern region of the United States tend to be naturally acidic. The amount of annual rainfall largely determines whether soils will become acidic, neutral, or alkaline. In regions of high rainfall, such as here in New Jersey, the alkaline elements are leached deep into the lower soil regions by percolating rain water. This natural process leads to acidic soils.

Along with rainfall, there are other factors that will affect soil pH.  Removal of grass clippings that contain alkaline elements, instead of allowing them to decompose into soil, will promote acidity.  Leaves, pine needles, and other plant matter can create more acidic soil conditions as they decompose, and living plants will feed on alkaline elements (potassium, calcium, and magnesium). For these reasons, areas under dense tree cover or anywhere grass and tree roots compete for soil nutrients tend to have more acidic soil.

Why does the soil pH matter?

Knowing the soil pH is crucial because it strongly effects grass growth. Soil pH dictates nutrient availability, elemental toxicity, and microbial activity.

Various mineral nutrients are readily available in varying concentrations depending on the pH of the soil. At certain critical levels, some of the minerals remain bound to other minerals and are unavailable for plant use. The chart is a general representation of plant nutrient availability based on soil pH levels.  The narrow areas of each band represent low availability of that nutrient, while the taller areas represent optimal nutrient availability.

The chart clearly illustrates that between a pH of 6.0-7.0, availability is at its peak for most of the critical lawn nutrients.  The other thing to observe is that at about 5.5, nutrient availability becomes problematic and only gets worse as the soil becomes more acidic. Likewise, as the soil becomes more alkaline than 7.0, nutrient availability will also begin to suffer. However, soils with a pH of 7.0 or more are very rare in New Jersey, so the concern is normally in keeping lawn soil as alkaline as possible.  The chart is not specific to our grass types, for typical cool season grasses found in New Jersey, the recommend pH level for optimal nutrient availability is between 6.3 and 6.5.

In addition to increased soil nutrient availability at a range of 6.0-7.0, this is also the range at which microorganism activity starts to peak. On the above chart the line labeled actinomycetes illustrates this point. Actinomycetes are bacteria in the soil responsible for the breakdown of a lot of organic matter as well as complex soil nutrients.  Keeping the soil microorganisms as active as possible is of interest to the lawn care technician because they will help breakdown fertilizers into forms usable by plants, as well as keep thatch to a minimum by aiding in decomposition.

How can the pH be corrected?

Acidic soil pH can be corrected by applying lime.  The most common liming materials are calcitic or dolomitic agricultural limestone. These are natural products made by finely grinding natural limestone. Since natural limestone is relatively water insoluble, agricultural limestone must be very finely ground so that it can mix with the soil particles and react with other nutrients to change soil acidity. The more finely ground the limestone is, the faster it will react in the soil. Both calcitic, and dolomitic lime contain calcium carbonate. Dolomitic lime however, also contains magnesium in the form of magnesium carbonate and should be used when soil tests indicate a magnesium deficiency.

Because high quality, finely ground limestone is very dusty and difficult to spread, some companies market a prilled or pelletized limestone for commercial and residential use. A small amount of clay or a polymer is added to the ground limestone so small prills are formed instead of dust. This makes it easier to apply out of a fertilizer spreader. Once applied, soil moisture will cause the granules to dissociate and disperse the limestone particles. Furthermore, newer pelletized lime products can be manufactured with reactants such as organic acids. These reactants speed up the chemical process by which lime changes soil pH, allowing for lawn applicators to produce quicker results, while using less product.

When using any limestone product, it is important to apply the material at the correct rate. Calcitic or dolomitic limestone, be it ground or pelletized, can have recommended application rates ranging anywhere from 5-200lbs/1000sq.ft. The rate at which the lime should be applied depends on the pH of the soil, what target range is trying to be obtained, and soil type.

Optimum pH range in cool-season turf soil is between 6.3-6.5. At this range soil microbe activity and nutrient availability is high, and it provides the most optimum condition for the most desirable species of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye.

Soil type comes into play when determining lime application rate. Certain soil types will be more resistant to change in pH than others. In general, it is more difficult to change pH in clay soil than it is in sandy soil. When liming clay, higher lime amounts will be necessary to have the same effect that a smaller amount would have on sandy soils.

Before applying lime to an area, a test of the pH should be done. Soil pH should be measured at least once a year as a general practice. This can be done using any number of kits or through the use of a pH meter. The lower the pH, the more lime it will take to correct. For example, a soil with a pH of 4.5 will require significantly more lime to correct to 6.5 than a lawn with an initial pH of 6.0. It is for this reason that a pH reading should be taken at least once each year.

If severely low pH is suspected, a soil sample can be sent to a commercial or university lab. The results of the soil test will specify how much lime should be added in a single or multiple applications to correct the problem. In addition, any other nutrient deficiencies that may exist will be specified, and recommendations on treatment to correct these issues will be provided. Soil tests are a very accurate and a useful tool in determining hard to diagnose turf issues. However, soil test results take time and are an added expense, which is why they are less practical for determining pH on every lawn.

If you are in our service area and want to know more about liming your lawn or testing the pH, give our office a call at 908-281-7888.  Also, you can learn more about our liming process from our website.

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.

Salt Damage to Plants and Snow Removal Tips

Salt Damage to Plants

Each year, we apply more than 15 million tons of rock salt nationwide to help de-ice roads, walkways, and driveways.  While the salt makes it much safer for us to travel in the winter, it is important to understand the impacts it can have on your lawn and landscape.

If you live on a busy road or salt your own driveway and sidewalk, you’re probably well aware of the salt damage to your lawn.  When roads get salted by your town, they are most likely using rock salt, which is primarily made of sodium chloride. The salt works great for melting ice and making our roadways safer to drive on in the winter by lowering the freezing temperature of water. However, for your lawn, salt damages the turf primarily by drawing out the moisture (drying it out) and making it turn brown.

What many homeowners may not be aware of is that salt can also damage plants, trees and shrubs.  Wind driven salt sprays from road trucks can travel up to 150 feet.  Salt damage to plants can be extreme when it comes to pine, spruce and fir trees.  Salt damage to evergreen plants causes the needles to brown from the tip to the base. Trees that lose their leaves each year may be damaged as well, but it will not be noticeable until the spring of the following year when the plants do not leaf out.  If rain or snowmelt does not dilute excess salt placed on sidewalks or driveways, the soil becomes very salty and can damage the plants easily.  A good tip to help prevent salt damage to plants is to learn to control where you are applying the rock salt.  Avoid applications of rock salt directly into your lawn and landscape beds.  Also, minimize applying rock salt to areas that will run off into your lawn and landscape.

Although you can’t control what gets applied to your street, there are some options that you can use on sidewalks and driveways to help minimize salt damage to plants and your lawn.  Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium chloride are all options that are more effective and safer for your plants, but come at a higher cost than rock salt.  In addition, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium are all nutrients that are beneficial to your lawn and landscape plants in varying quantities.  You can also try to improve traction by using sand or kitty litter.  Some homeowners put up a burlap screen or snow fence along walkways and driveways to block salt from getting onto the lawn and preventing damage.  If you do use rock salt this winter, try to minimize usage on your driveways and sidewalks, especially near the edges if possible to reduce salt damage to plants and turf.

It is very difficult to reverse salt damage to your plants, you might want to consider replacing the plants and some of the surrounding soil as an option. If your lawn is damaged, remove 4 inches of soil and reseed the areas.

Snow Removal Tips

This has to be near the top of every homeowner’s least favorite chore, unless you have a company come out to remove the snow for you!  Whether you have a snow blower or shovel, you still have to bundle up in your snow gear and head out to deal with whatever mess Mother Nature has decided to give us.  Prior to using any equipment this winter, make sure you follow a few steps to prepare.  Inspect your shovels for cracks or breaks and replace if necessary before the first snowfall.  If you have a snow blower, make sure you have the proper gas for the machine.  It’s always a good idea to start the snow blower to make sure everything is working properly before the first snowfall.  Speaking from experience, it’s never fun to find out your carburetor is clogged right after a large storm!  Also be sure to check that oil levels are correct and the belts don’t have any breaks or cracks.  If you find anything that needs repair, it’s better to have it done before you really need it.

When removing snow, you want to pay attention to where you are putting it.  By just throwing snow out of the way, you may be adding additional snow onto your landscaping plants. The added weight of the snow can cause damage to those plants, potentially snapping branches or causing some plants to lean unnaturally.  So the next time you are out there shoveling or snow blowing, pay attention to where the snow is piling up and try to avoid your landscape plants.

We know that snow removal from driveways, roads, and sidewalks is important, but don’t forget to also remove snow from your landscape plants to prevent injury.  After each snow fall, spend a few minutes inspecting your landscape plants and do your best to brush off the snow if there is any heavy build up.  Only remove the snow if it comes off easily, otherwise wait for warmer weather to melt it.  You may end up doing more harm than good by forcing snow off the plants.

If you are in our service area and have any questions about salt damage to plants and turf, or snow removal advice, please feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888

Are You Prepared to Comply with the New Jersey Fertilizer Laws?

What are the New Jersey fertilizer laws?

The New Jersey fertilizer laws were signed into effect by Governor Chris Christie on January 5, 2011.  It is one of the most restrictive fertilizer laws in the nation for good reasons.  It was enacted in three phases.

  • Phase one- This required the use of best management practices to reduce the impacts of fertilizers on waterways, and provided public education regarding correct fertilizer use.
  • Phase two- Initiated the creation of a certification program for professional fertilizer applicators and lawn care providers.
  • Phase three- Required manufacturers to reformulate their fertilizers for New Jersey.

Why were the fertilizer laws enacted?

The New Jersey Fertilizer Laws were enacted to help protect waterways from having run off of fertilizer by setting new limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be applied on lawns as well as the times in which they can be applied.  In addition, fertilizer companies and homeowners are required to clean up any fertilizer that has gotten onto hard surfaces such as patios, walkways, decks, sidewalks and roadways.  Other factors that impact waterways include soil erosion, leaking septic systems, biological waste that makes its way into storm sewers, and even leaves washing into sewers and waterways.

How do the New Jersey fertilizer laws affect businesses?

A “blackout period” was imposed to restrict the timing in which fertilizers can be applied.  This date range is from December 1st to March 1st for lawn care companies.  Neither Nitrogen nor potassium can be applied between these dates.

In addition, businesses are now required to be licensed to apply fertilizer.  This not only applies to established businesses, but anyone you hire to apply fertilizers must be licensed.  To obtain this license, applicators are required to pass a test, take continuing education courses and pay an annual fee.  It is illegal to apply fertilizer in New Jersey without this license.

Enforcement of this law will be done by the municipalities, counties, police, local soil conservation districts and the local health departments.  Any of these parties can receive reports from citizens, community groups, and companies regarding the fertilizer applicators that are operating without proper certification.  Professional lawn care applicators and homeowners that violate the law are subject to an initial fine of $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent offense thereafter.

This New Jersey state law also affects the fertilizer manufacturers.  Since the law went into effect, the fertilizer manufacturers had to change their formulation of products to comply with New Jersey laws.  These fertilizers are now required to contain 20% slow release nitrogen and 0% phosphorus.  Phosphorus can be used if a soil test indicates a need for phosphorus or the lawn was recently seeded.

How do the New Jersey fertilizer laws affect the homeowner?

The “blackout period” for homeowners begins on November 15th and goes until March 1st.  Homeowners will have a little less time to get their final fertilizer of the season completed since the blackout period starts sooner than for a professional fertilizer company.

If you are a “do it yourselfer” you want to make sure you purchase a fertilizer that is specifically made for lawns.  If you purchase the lawn fertilizer from your local hardware store, nursery or co-op, it should already be reformulated to comply with New Jersey laws.  Be sure to follow the instructions on the label when applying the product.

Have the New Jersey fertilizer laws benefited the environment?

The New Jersey Fertilizer Laws are a good thing for our state.  As lawn care professionals, we are doing our part to help protect the environment.  In addition to helping our environment, these laws also ensure businesses are operating legally through continuing education and testing.

 

Anti-Desiccants: Everything You Wanted to Know About Protecting your Plants During Cold Weather

What is desiccation?

In biology and ecology, desiccation refers to the drying out of a living organism. In your landscape plants, winter desiccation injury occurs when plants lose moisture from the leaves and do not have the ability to absorb water from the frozen soil. This moisture loss may cause your plant’s leaves and stems to dry out, resulting in discoloration of leaves and even death to stems and branches.

What is an anti-desiccant spray?

An anti-desiccant is a material applied to the foliage of evergreen plants to slow the rate at which moisture is lost.

How is an anti-desiccant spray applied?

An anti-desiccant, also called “anti-transparent” is a liquid spray.  It is applied using a pump system which moves the material through a hose end sprayer.  The liquid is sprayed onto the foliage until it is completely covered and there is slight run off of material.  It will take about two to four hours for the material to dry.  Once dry, it adheres to the target area and is in place to protect your plants.

Here is a video of anti-desiccant being applied:

How long will an anti-desiccant spray last?

Anti-desiccants are typically applied in November and December, and will last for a couple of months. The material gradually wears off and will be gone by springtime. In areas that experience cold harsh winters, like New Jersey, multiple treatments are recommended to ensure the material is in place to protect the plant all winter long.

Do I need an anti-desiccant spray?

If you live in New Jersey and have broadleaf evergreens (plants that keep their foliage all winter) then the answer is yes.  New Jersey can have drastic fluctuations in temperature as well as high winds during the winter, both of which can accelerate moisture loss in plants.  Anti-desiccant applications are very beneficial for plants exposed to wind and/or full sun that will lose moisture faster than ones which are protected from the wind and in shade.

Warning- Not all plants should get anti-desiccant treatments. Do not spray an anti-desiccant on waxy-blue conifers such as blue spruce.

What can I do to protect my plants from winter injury?

The first step is an anti-desiccant application.  This will help your plants hold moisture by providing protection against evaporation and slowing down moisture loss. It will also protect the foliage from accelerated moisture loss due to wind.  This spray will break down over time, so it’s a good idea to have the trees and shrubs treated regularly in the winter to extend the anti-desiccant spray longevity.

Next, you may wrap your plants with burlap.  For small plants, you may wrap the burlap over or around the plants and secure it with twine.  For moderate to large plants, you may drive stakes into the ground around the plant and then secure the burlap to the stakes using staples. This creates a “screen” or “windbreak” around the plant.  Burlap and stakes can be purchased from most garden centers, improvement stores, nurseries and co-ops.

There are also rolls of tape that can be purchased to wrap around the bark of smaller trees.  This will help reduce splitting of the bark that can be caused by large changes in temperature during the winter.  Split bark can cause damage or disease to the interior (cambium) of the tree, leading to permanent injury or death.

Water the plants throughout the fall even as it gets cooler out.  In the fall, plants are still growing and require good soil moisture to do so.  Keeping the soil around the roots moist until the ground freezes will ensure the plants have adequate moisture going into the winter.

Another helpful tip is maintaining proper mulch levels in your landscape beds.  2 to 3 inches of mulch will insulate the soil and help regulate soil temperatures throughout the year.  Please note that mulch should not be piled high on the trunk of trees or covering the shrubs. This will lead to decay and damage in the future.

Conclusion

An anti-desiccant treatment should be applied to your broadleaf evergreens prior to and in many cases during the winter months to minimize moisture loss.  Minimizing moisture loss will not only maintain the look of your landscape throughout the winter but will also reduce stress on your plants.  In areas with high wind, like New Jersey, a burlap wrap is also recommended for certain broadleaf evergreens which are susceptible to winter damage.  It is best you do everything you can to protect your landscape from winter damage and overall plant health going into the winter can play a key role. Improve your plant’s health during the year with proper cultural practices and regular fertilization to maintain a beautiful landscape.

If you are in our service area and have any questions about protecting your plants this winter, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888

Winter Deer Repellent

deer-repellent

New Jersey is home to a very high deer population.  While many of us enjoy the wildlife that New Jersey has to offer, deer are destructive to landscape plants.  Damage to plants in the landscape is more prevalent in the winter.  There are several reasons for this.  First, the deer’s natural food supply in the woods is greatly reduced due to plants being dormant.  The second is habitat reduction, as land is being cleared for construction of homes and businesses.  In addition, the population of deer in our area has increased exponentially over the years.  The combination of these factors lead to deer foraging on your landscape plants and making a meal out of your investment, your landscape.

There are several ways you can minimize winter deer damage on your landscape, also known as “deer proofing,” planting “deer resistant plants,” applying a netting, installing a fence, or applying winter deer repellent to your plants.   Let’s talk about the first one, “deer resistant plants.” There are many plants in nurseries that boast a label that says “deer resistant”.  Plants that have thorns, such as barberries, are not a favorite of deer, so it is a pretty safe plant to have. With that being said, who wants a landscape of just one type of plant?  Boxwoods are another plant that are generally deer resistant.  The word ‘generally’ was used because in rare cases, deer have eaten boxwoods. This has happened the past two winters when snow cover was on plants well into March.  During harsh winters, deer are going to take advantage of any food source they can get in order to survive.  Other examples of plants labeled as deer resistant are andromedas, viburnum, and osmanthus.

The second deterrent, installing a fence is a very good deterrent, but it may not be feasible for some people to have this done.  Zoning laws and community rules may not allow it, or a new fence might not be something planned in the budget.  Aesthetically, it’s not the most eye pleasing option and regardless, deer have been known to jump over a 6-foot fence with ease.  Netting and temporary fencing are also options but may not be what you are looking for from an aesthetic standpoint either.  Unless you’re planning to build a high-fence around your landscape, this might not be the best option for you.

The third deterrent is where we can help, applying a winter deer repellent directly to the plants that deer are known to feed on.  Our winter deer repellent, called DeerPro, can be applied anytime from October to February.  It is applied with a low volume backpack sprayer.  One application in October will give you protection until the early spring.  The active ingredient in the winter deer repellent is Thiram, which is a strong taste-deterrent.  Deer are creatures of habit.  They usually follow the same path daily and stop and eat at the same places.  Deer will start to feed on the treated plants and realize they do not like the taste, causing them to move onto the next available food source.  This is called a conditioned response.  We are basically training the deer to not eat the treated plants, however the deer can still be on your property.

DeerPro winter deer repellent leaves a visible residue on the plant for the duration of the winter.  When the material is first applied it appears whitish-green in color and pales as it dries.  When the weather begins to warm up in the spring and the plant awakens from its dormant state, the material will start to fade away.  Below is a video of DeerPro winter deer repellent being applied.

Through years of extensive trials, we have found repellents to be the most realistic and cost effective option when it comes to minimizing winter feeding damage. We feel that DeerPro winter deer repellent is the best product on the market and it provides the longest period of control. If you have deer feeding on your landscape and you are in our service area, give us a call @ 908-281-7888 for a free estimate.

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