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

Treating Summer Patch and Dollar Spot in the Summer Months

There are many diseases during the summer that can cause significant damage to lawns in New Jersey. The impact of these diseases can produce devastating effects and costly repairs to your lawn.

Summer Patch

One of the worst diseases is summer patch disease. Summer patch is a root disease that primarily affects Kentucky bluegrass; it can also cause damage to creeping red fescues and hard fescues, while tall fescues, creeping bentgrasses and perennial rye grasses are not impacted by this disease. Because this is a root disease, it is very hard to diagnose summer patch early.

Summer patch is a disease of hot weather conditions and usually the signs and symptoms present themselves between July and September. That being said, infection happens early in the spring when soil temperatures get above 65 degrees. After infection, small patches of turf form and turn a brown/orange color with green colored turf in the center. These small patches can expand to 1 – 3 feet in diameter and resembles a “frog eye” pattern. Multiple rings coalesce to form a larger blighted area.

The best way to avoid or reduce summer patch is to improve cultural practices, and/or apply fungicide applications. Most fungicide applications are for foliar diseases and require no watering. Since summer patch is a root disease, any fungicide applied needs to be watered into the root zone to be effective. Fungicides for summer patch are applied prior to seeing the effects of the disease. We at Fairway Green Inc. recommend three fungicide applications annually, once per month starting in May and ending in July as a preventative. After the disease symptoms are present, the damage has been done to the lawn and fungicides are less beneficial.

Summer patch is most severe in lawns that have poor drainage and are under drought stress. Other factors include thick thatch, soil compaction, improper mowing and improper watering. First, we recommend managing thatch and soil compaction in the lawn. Thatch is the loose organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems and roots that develop between the root zone of the grass blades and the soil surface. Ideally, this layer should be no more than 1/2 inch in thickness. An excessive layer of thatch inhibits the growth of the roots deeper into the soil, which limits access to water as well as many other nutrients. The thatch layer is also the location for the fungi to live, overwinter, grow and infect the root system in the spring. Core aeration is the most common way to help reduce the thatch layer, because it works by mechanically removing plugs of soil from the lawn. This immediately improves water and nutrient flow deeper into the soil, as well as promotes root growth for a healthier, more stress tolerant plant. Other benefits include increased oxygen levels to the soil, improved soil pore space, reduction in thatch build up, and enhanced response to fertilizers. After a core aeration is done, it would also be a great time to overseed the lawn. Core aeration gives the new seed contact with the soil which produces better germination.

Damaged areas caused from summer patch need to be seeded to repair the lawn. We recommend overseeding the lawn with perennial ryegrass. Ryegrass is not affected by summer patch disease and looks similar to Kentucky bluegrass. Rye grass helps mask the symptoms of summer patch disease in the future. To have any success at incorporating enough ryegrass types into the existing turf stand, summer patch lawns need to be core aerated and overseeded annually.

Water properly. Avoid light, frequent irrigation in the early morning while surface moisture is present. Deep, infrequent watering that occurs between 12 am – 6 am is best way and time to water a lawn. Underground irrigation systems should be run 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone every third or fourth day, while hose-end sprinklers should be run 3 – 4 hours per zone once per week. The goal is to get 1 inch of water on the lawn per week. It is also beneficial to not let your lawn become drought stressed in the first place. Keeping to a regular watering schedule has more benefits for your lawn in the long run. If you would like a more in-depth description about watering properly, read our blog article on lawn watering techniques.

Another cultural practice that helps reduce and avoid summer patch is proper mowing. Because this disease is a root disease, it favors low cut turf. When the grass is cut short it promotes a weak, shallow root system. Keep the grass cut high 3 – 3 ½ inches and only take off the top 1/3 of the grass blade at a time while mowing. Leaving the grass clippings behind also adds beneficial nutrients into the soil and will not contribute to the development of excess thatch buildup.

Finally keep the pH of the soil in a summer patch lawn slightly acidic. We recommend for lawns that have a history of summer patch disease, to be in a pH range between 5.8 – 6.0 just under the optimum range (6.3 – 6.5). When the pH is in the optimum range or higher, the effects of summer patch disease tend to be worse for a lawn. Conversely it is not recommended to let the pH of the soil get too low either. If the pH falls too low, the grass plants do not fully utilize the nutrients from fertilizers and suffer from nutrient deficiencies. To know the pH level of a lawn’s soil, a soil test needs to be performed and lime should only be considered and applied based on the results of the soil test. Check out our blog article to learn more about the pH of your lawn.

Dollar Spot

The next summer lawn disease is Dollar spot. Dollar spot is a foliar disease which is characterized by small “silver dollar-sized” spots of bleached turf. This disease can occur on any type of grass variety throughout our area annually. The affected grasses show white to straw-colored lesions that progress from the leaf tip downward or straight across the leaf blades. A brown border surrounds each lesion and appear in an hourglass shape. The individual leaf blades may contain many small lesions or one large one. Infected leaves become blighted, turning white to straw-colored as lesions expand and coalesce.

Dollar spot is most active July through August each year. Temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees and long periods of leaf wetness from dew, rain, or sprinkler irrigation favor the growth of this disease. Prolonged wet foliage is a key factor to this disease. However if conditions are favorable, activity can start early in June and continue into September. Activity can become widespread very quickly within a few days, and spots sometimes coalesce forming larger areas of bleached turf several feet in diameter. However, injury to established turf is almost never permanent.

Grass plants grow off the affected portions of the leaves allowing the disease to be mowed away. However, because dollar spot occurs in the summer when turf growth is slow, this can take weeks. Deep, infrequent watering occurring between 12am and 6am every third or fourth day is the best course of action. Underground irrigation systems should be run 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone, while hose-end sprinklers should be run 3-4 hours per zone. It is important to avoid frequent, light irrigation as this only promotes further spreading of the disease.

Maintaining an adequate nitrogen fertility in the soil is also important when treating dollar spot. Dollar spot disease favors lawns with low nitrogen, so applying a regular fertilizer throughout the season helps increase the nitrogen in the soil and reduce dollar spot activity.

Keep the grass cut high 3 – 3 ½ inches and take off 1/3 of the grass blade at a time while mowing.

Core Aerate regularly to reduce the thatch layer and reduce soil compaction. Keep the thatch layer at 1/2 inch in thickness. Further, core aeration immediately improves water and nutrient flow deeper into the soil, as well as promotes root growth for a healthier, more stress tolerant plant.

Apply a fungicide. A fungicide is meant to stop the further spreading of the disease to uninfected areas of the lawn. A fungicide gives about 20-30 days of control depending on site conditions allowing the lawn some time to grow out the disease and recover without it spreading further. If the environmental conditions remain favorable after the 20-30 day period, another fungicide may need to be applied to continue control of the disease.

Conclusion

If you are in our service area, and your lawn is showing signs of summer patch or dollar spot disease, feel free to give our office a call at 908-281-7888. If you are in our service area or a current customer, Fairway Green Inc. is happy to come out and take a look.

Controlling Summer Broadleaf Weeds

During the summer, there are many broadleaf weeds in home lawns.  Some look similar to each other and often times these weeds are confused with each other.  What are broadleaf weeds?  Broadleaf weeds are dicots characterized by their broad leaves and network of veins. Whichever weed your lawn has, broadleaf weed control can help get the results you desire.

Black Medic

The black medic weed is often confused with clover and oxalis.  While black medic, clover and oxalis all grow similarly and have common features, there are many differences that distinguish the three apart from each other.

Black medic is found in mostly dry and compacted soils, it will grow along the edges of walkways, patios, driveways, etc., or in thin areas of the lawn.  It germinates from seeds in the spring and grows throughout June, July and August.  This weed can tolerate low mowing heights because of its (low, flat, stretched out) growing pattern, and it is able to grow out to 2 feet in length.  While this weed does not fully root into the ground, it does have a very deep taproot that anchors it into the soil.  Also, black medic weeds have the ability to make their own nitrogen, which is why they can outcompete turf in low nitrogen soils.

The foliage has a trifoliate leaflet arrangement at the end of the stem, similar to clover and oxalis.  The leaves have a mid-vein with pronounced rib-like veins running off vertically with a notch at the tip of the leaf.  One distinguishing characteristic is that the leaf stem on the center leaf is slightly longer than on clover and oxalis.  Black medic also produces small yellow flowers.  Once the flowers get to maturity, they form tightly coiled black seedpods, hence the name “black medic”. Like many weeds that are problem some in the summer months, broadleaf weed control can be used to control black medic in your lawn.

 

 

White Clover

White clover begins to grow in the fall when the soil temperatures are between 50 and 60 degrees and remains present annually.  Similarly to black medic, white clover is able to tolerate low mowing heights and can produce its own nitrogen making it thrive in low nitrogen soils and therefore out compete turf.  White clover forms into a mat-like pattern, meaning the leaves are arranged in threes and occasionally fours (four leaf clover or the classic shamrock shape). Further, the leaves have a white ring towards the bottom of the leaf, which distinguishes it from black medic and oxalis.  The root system is similar to

Further, the leaves have a white ring towards the bottom of the leaf, which distinguishes it from black medic and oxalis.  The root system is similar to black medic in that it has a deep taproot and spreads by stolons.  The flowers that are produced are white with a pink hue formed into a rounded head.

Oxalis

The final summer weed to note is Oxalis.  Oxalis can go by many names, but is commonly referred to as “woodsorrel” or “sourgrass”.  Their leaves are made up of 3 heart shaped leaves that are attached to the top of a stem and the leaf color ranges from green to purple.  Additionally, the oxalis weed produces a small 5 petal yellow flower at the end of its short stem.  Under intense heat this weed’s foliage often reddens, wilts and turns downward towards the ground.  The seeds germinate when air temperatures reach 60 to 80 degrees and have a similar root system to that of clover and black medic.  The plant produces seed pods which can expel the seeds out to 10 feet in all directions.  One seed pod can produce between 10-50 seeds and one plant can produce up to 5000 seeds per year.

Broadleaf Weed Control

There is a type of preventative treatment for broadleaf weeds; however it is cost prohibited in a residential lawn setting.  To control these types of broadleaf weeds, a post-emergent herbicide is used, and there are many different herbicides to choose from.  Be sure to follow the directions provided on the label about application.

Other ways to help control broadleaf weeds is through cultural practices.  Proper watering, mowing and fertilizating helps keep the lawn vigorously growing and outcompeting the weeds.

Water deeply and infrequently to improve growth of the lawn.  To start (underground irrigation systems) water your lawn 1 hour per zone twice per week.  For hose-end sprinklers water 2 hours per zone twice per week.  Water your lawn between midnight and 6 am.  Avoid early evening watering. For a more in-depth description of watering properly, check out this blog article.

Mowing your lawn regularly at a reasonable height is another important practice. We recommend keeping the grass at 3-3 ½ inches in length and only taking 1/3 of the grass blade off at a time.  Mowing below recommended grass height aids in depleting the grass of its energy reserves, and also thins the lawn’s canopy and encourages weed growth.

Regularly fertilizing your lawn helps stimulate the growth of the grass plants and outcompete the broadleaf weeds.

Also, regularly seeding bare or thin spots in the lawn will help keep those sections thick and dense to reduce weeds.

Conclusion

Even the best manicured and professionally maintained lawns eventually get some type of weeds.  At the end of the day, all three of these weeds can be controlled with good cultural practices and herbicides.  If you are unsure on how to treat these types of weeds on your own with a herbicide, choose a professional lawn care company to help.  A professional lawn care company like Fairway Green Inc. has access to state-of-the-art tools, techniques and the best products available to produce the highest quality results.

If you are in our service area or have any questions about controlling broadleaf weeds, feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888 or visit our website at www.fairwaygreeninc.com

Brown Patch Disease and Effective Treatments

What is Brown Patch Disease?

Brown patch disease is a very destructive summer lawn disease that causes damage to lawns in the New Jersey area annually. Typically, this disease infects perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, bentgrass, and Kentucky bluegrass varieties of turf grasses. Although this disease is destructive, there are brown patch treatments that will help stop the spreading of the disease

Signs and symptoms

In the early morning hours when the lawn is wet from dew you will notice white spider web like structures on the surface of the turf. This is called mycelium, which is the growth of the fungus. The turf in the surrounding area will look sunken-in and have a “smoke ring” pattern. On the individual blades of grass, lesions can be seen clearly and appear as tan or light brown spots surrounded by a dark brown border, which creates the look of brown spots in your lawn during the summer.

Conditions

This disease lives in the thatch and soil, and can live there for many years even without desirable grass types to infect. Brown patch is prevalent when surface moisture and humidity are high with nighttime temperatures above 68 degrees and daytime temperatures at 80 degrees or above. Rainy weather and high humidity will accelerate the severity of this disease. This disease can form and spread almost overnight; luckily with brown patch treatments you can control the disease.

Treatment

When brown patch disease is active and the environmental conditions are favorable, spreading of the disease continues.  We recommend that a fungicide be applied to the lawn for brown patch treatment; a fungicide is meant to stop the further spreading of the disease to uninfected areas of the lawn. A fungicide will give about 20-30 days of control depending on site conditions. This gives the lawn some time to grow out the disease without it spreading further and for the infected blades of the turf to recover. If the environmental conditions remain favorable after the 20-30 day period, another fungicide may need to be applied to continue control of the disease.  Preventative treatments are possible but need to be applied monthly throughout the summer.

Cultural practices

The best way to prevent or reduce the spreading of brown patch disease in a lawn is to follow good cultural practices. 

Water properly.  Avoid light, frequent irrigation in the early morning while surface moisture is present.  Deep, infrequent watering that occurs between 12 am – 6 am is the best way to water a lawn properly. Underground irrigation systems should be run 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone every third or fourth day and hose-end sprinklers should be run 3 – 4 hours per zone once per week. The goal is to get 1 inch of water on the lawn per week regardless of what type of watering application is used.

Proper mowing.  Do not mow in the early morning when the lawn is still wet from dew or watering because this spreads the disease further. Mow the lawn when the surface moisture has evaporated. Keep the lawn height at 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. Mow off only the top third of the grass plant at a time. Mowing lower than the recommended height increases stress on the plant and can increase the severity of the disease. Also, we recommend removing the grass clippings after mowing until the disease is grown out, because this will help reduce further spreading. Rinse off lawn equipment after each use and keep your mower blades sharp.  Dull mower blades can rip or shred the grass blades which will cause the grass to weaken and be more susceptible to disease.

Regular fertilization. Having a regular fertilization program will help the grass be strong and healthy.  During the summer months it is best to avoid high amounts of nitrogen.  Small amounts of nitrogen are okay in the summer to help regulate color and growth of the lawn.

Core aeration. Reduce the thatch layer and soil compaction by having the lawn core aerated regularly, at a minimum of every other year. Thatch (where disease harbors) is a loose organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems and roots that develop between the root zone of the grass blades and the soil surface. Ideally, this layer should be no more than 1/2 inch in thickness. Excessive thatch can be removed mechanically by core aeration or dethatching. The core aeration process has other benefits as well, such as providing a deeper, stronger root system and better movement of water, air and nutrients into the soil.

Conclusion

Brown patch disease can be very destructive if left unchecked. Being vigilant with good cultural practices helps to prevent or reduce the effects of this disease on your lawn. If all else fails a fungicide should be applied to defend your lawn until the environmental conditions improve. With the brown patch treatments described above, the spreading of the disease can be lessened or controlled.

If you have brown patch in your lawn and are in our service area, feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888 or visit our website at www.fairwaygreeninc.com for a free estimate to go over potential brown patch treatments.

 

How to Get Rid of Nutsedge

Nutsedge has become one of the most problematic weeds in home lawns and landscape beds throughout New Jersey, but there are ways to help you get rid of nutsedge on your property.

What is Nutsedge?

Nutsedge, or sometimes called “Nutgrass”, is a perennial weed from the “sedge” family. A “sedge” is a plant that looks like grass but is not a grass at all. A nutsedge plant spreads underground through rhizomes and tubers. Nutsedge survives from one season to the next by producing nutlets, which are small underground bulb-like seeds.The roots and rhizomes can produce several hundred of these nutlets during the active growing months. A nutsedge plant also produces seeds above the soil surface, which can aid in spreading nutsedge even further. Once the region gets its first frost of the season, it dies off on its own; however, the nutlets under the soil survives over the winter and regrow the next year. They have the ability to live under the soil for multiple years at a time. Getting rid of nutgrass or nutsedge may be difficult, but there are ways to help control the weed.

What does Nutsedge look like?

A surefire sign your lawn has nutsedge is that the rapidly growing plant grows faster than the rest of the lawn. During the summer when your lawn is not growing as fast, the taller upright green plant that looks like grass is probably nutsedge. The blades of nutsedge are yellow or light green in color and have a narrow linear folded midrib and the blades have a slick, shiny or waxy appearance. The blades are arranged in groups of three which also distinguishes itself from regular grass types. Nutsedge has a triangle shaped stem that can be felt when rolled between your fingertips. When nutsedge gets tall enough it forms a cluster of seed heads that radiate out from the top of the flower’s stalk.

Nutsedge control

Nutsedge mostly grows in areas of high moisture, which normally include low lying areas of the lawn, poor drainage areas or next to a broken/leaky sprinkler head. Once it is established, it can tolerate normal levels of moisture and thrive throughout the hot dry summer months.

This most common and effective approach to getting rid of nutsedge is with a chemical application; however, there is no preventative treatment available for nutsedge. It can only be controlled by a post-emergent herbicide. The key to controlling nutsedge is to kill off the nutlet with a herbicide product, most control products take about 10-14 days to completely kill off the plant. It is difficult to get rid of nutsedge and it may require multiple treatments.

The main cause of nutsedge is poor soil that holds water for extended periods of time. If the lawn has drainage problems a professional may need to be called in to regrade the property with fresh soil and add drain pipes to redirect the water that sits for long periods of time. Core aeration is also recommended annually to help reduce the soil compaction. Once the compaction is reduced the water is able to infiltrate the soill more effectively.

Cultural controls are a good defense against nutsedge. A thick dense lawn helps to out compete nutsedge and weeds; therefore to encourage a thick lawn, fertilize regularly to promote growth.
Hand weeding is not an option, because pulling out the plants individually leaves part of the root, rhizomes, and nutlets in the ground only to regrow in a few weeks.

The final cultural practice that helps your fight against nutsedge is proper watering. Most irrigation systems are set up 20 minutes per zone every day and this only makes the nutsedge problem worse. Nutsedge loves to be in very moist soil. Watering every day in short spurts keeps your soil moist for longer periods of time causing the nutsedge plants to thrive. Proper watering for underground irrigation is 1 – 1 ½ hours per zone twice per week and for hose-end sprinklers it is 4 hours per zone once per week. Watering for longer periods of time but infrequently helps the water trickle down through the soil and promotes deep root growth.

If you have nutsedge and are located in our service area, give us a call at 908-281-7888 for a free estimate, and we can help you plan the best course of action to get rid of nutsedge in your lawn.

How to Water Your Lawn in the Summer Months

Prior to the summer heat setting in, deciding whether or not to spend the time during the season on watering your lawn is an important decision to be made. A lawn’s self-defense against summer drought is to go dormant, similar to what a lawn does over the winter. The lawn stops top growth, turns brown and as a result, puts all its energy to keeping the roots alive. If you decide that spending the time and money on keeping your lawn green and growing during the summer months, watering your lawn on a regular basis and before the summer heat hits is imperative. Once a lawn goes under drought stress and turns brown (its dormant state) it takes a longer time to “green” back up. Also, it is recommended that you do not rotate between watering and not watering. We recommend to choose one and stick with it. By rotating, the grass plant is actually using up a lot of its food reserves and weakens the turf even further.

Methods

There are many methods for maintaining a watered lawn; Mother Nature, hose-end sprinklers, and a lot of people also have underground irrigation systems that do all of the work for them. All that needs to be done is to assure that the timer is set to the appropriate day and interval. The image below demonstrates the difference between correctly watering a lawn and one that does not receive water during the hot summer months.

Your irrigation company is hired to check the functioning of the system and does some basic scheduling; however, the schedule they set up may not be what is best for your lawn. Some irrigation companies still go by the outdated recommendation of watering your lawn for 20 minutes every-other day. This scheduling produces inadequate water and promotes shallow root systems, all of which are not good for your lawn. Watering too frequently promotes disease issues as well.

To start, all lawns in our area should receive at least 1 inch of water per week. Our starting recommendation for underground irrigation systems is to run each zone for 1 hour, twice per week. Hose-end sprinklers should run for 4 hours per zone, once per week. It is important to remember that each sprinkler system is different and has varying water pressures; therefore our recommendations are a good starting point, but each system may need adjustments. Additionally, as the temperatures get higher and when/if the color of the lawn is starting to diminish, add more time by half hour increments to the watering schedule; do not add more days.

Early evening watering, between 6 pm to midnight, keeps the lawn wet for a longer period of time. This creates disease issues that can be widespread on the lawn and can cause permanent damage to the turf. The optimal time to water your lawn is between midnight and 6am. Watering your lawn during this time ensures the lawn is not wet for longer than it needs to be and by drying out early enough reduces the spread of disease and evaporation from direct sunlight.

Watering your lawn in the early morning presents a challenge for those who do not have underground irrigation and use hose-end sprinklers. Fortunately, now you can purchase battery operated timers from any home improvement store or co-op. These timers hook up directly to the spigot and turn on and off the flow of water after setting the desired times into this helpful piece of equipment.

Further, when watering your lawn be sure to check on the spray pattern no matter what type of irrigation system is used. It’s very important to make sure that the sprinkler heads are adjusted and working properly to have even coverage and that enough water is being applied to the lawn. Make sure the spray patterns are overlapping and not missing any spots. There are tests that can be performed for the amount of water that is being put out from the sprinkler heads. You can take a coffee can, any flat sided container or rain gauge, and set it out while the irrigation system runs. After the cycle is complete, see if the amount of water equals a ½ inch, and then make appropriate adjustments. To learn more about adjusting sprinkler heads for an accurate spray pattern, check out our blog. Further, modern control panels with irrigation systems have built in rain gauges and soil moisture sensors to help you water appropriately for your lawn.

Finally, if rain is expected there is no need to water your lawn in addition, but make sure to keep track of the amount of rainfall. It’s not necessary to apply more water to the lawn than is needed because too much water is also not good for the lawn. Disease issues and ponding are two common problems created by over watering your lawn. If the lawn collects too much water in poorly drained areas the water is not able to filter it down into the soil causing the grass a loss of oxygen that suffocates and kills the turf.

Conclusion

Consequently, watering your lawn has more components than most may imagine, but with some helpful tips provided above, we have confidence that everyone can achieve a green lawn through the summer months.
If you are in our service area and want more information about watering your lawn, please feel free to contact Fairway Green Inc. at 908-281-7888.

Why Weeds Grow and How to Control Them

What is a weed?

A weed is defined as any plant growing in locations that are not desired, like in a lawn or landscape.

Why do weeds grow?

Weeds are considered opportunistic and grow when conditions are favorable, such as specific temperatures, lawn moisture levels, bare or thin turf areas, and can even grow in cracks in the roads, sidewalks or driveways.  Weeds have the ability to grow anywhere there’s room. Weed seeds come in abundance and from many sources while also having the ability to lay dormant in the soil for years before germinating. When actively growing, weeds produce thousands of seeds per plant and disperse them throughout the season. Some weeds like dandelions are spread with a little help from the wind. Other sources of weeds include poor quality grass seed purchased from the store and soils brought in for new plantings.

Types of weeds

There are three different types of weeds in every lawn and landscape bed. All can be controlled; however, some are easier than others.

  1. Annual Weeds. These types of weeds spread by setting seed, germinating and growing for one season then dying off on their own at the end of their life cycle. These would include hairy bittercress, oxalis, groundsel and chickweed.
  2. Biennial Weeds. Biennial weeds have a two-year life cycle. In the first year a seed germinates and produces a leafy plant. The following year, the plant flowers to produce seeds that then restart the new life cycle of the plant seed. These would include clover, wild carrot and prickly lettuce.
  3. Perennial Weeds. These types of weeds grow for multiple seasons and spread by both setting seed and/or through their root system. These include dandelion, thistle and ground ivy.

How to kill weeds in the lawn

There are many ways to control or reduce weeds in a lawn. One option is to apply a preventative pre-emergent control; however, there is currently no single product that covers the entire spectrum of broadleaf weeds. Most commonly used are post-emergent herbicides when controlling weeds in a lawn or landscape.

Selective herbicides are another way to get rid of weeds in a lawn. The most widely used selective herbicides work by disrupting chemical processes happening inside the weeds. The herbicide mimics a natural plant chemical that stimulates uncontrollable growth. The weeds’ growth happens quicker than the plant can handle and dies.

Other selective herbicides target photosynthesis; the process in which plants produce energy/food from the sunlight it receives. By blocking the photosynthesis process, the weed basically starves to death.

There are also non-selective herbicides that target enzymes in the plant’s cells. The herbicide disrupts the sequence of chemical reactions and produces toxic compounds within the plant causing it to die off. A type of non-selective herbicide is the chemical called glyphosate, commonly known as “Round-Up.” A non-selective herbicide kills off any foliage that was sprayed. This type of product should be used with caution to reduce damaging desirable turf species and ornamental plants and grasses.

The natural way to get rid of weeds in your lawn is to hand pick them out. On smaller size lawns and mulch beds this is an effective way to control a small number of weeds. If you can pick the annual weeds before they flower and produce seed, you can aid in reducing the number of weeds that regrow. Keep in mind, weeds have roots that grow underground, hand pulling tears off the top foliage but the plant’s roots are left behind which can then regrow the plant. You need to remove all the roots to be successful and this is a difficult way to achieve it.

Cultural practices also play a key role in creating a more weed free lawn. Following these simple steps helps your lawn to be the healthiest it can be.

  1. Keep your lawn dense. By having a thick, full lawn you essentially help “crowd out” the weeds. Weeds grow when there is space for them and a thick lawn reduces available space for the weeds to grow in. Any bare or thin areas at the end of the season should be seeded in the early fall (September) of each year to thicken up the turf density.
  2. Fertilize regularly. Proper fertilization helps feed the lawn and keep it growing and healthy throughout the year.
  3. Mow regularly and keep the grass blades high. It is recommended that the grass be kept at 3 – 3 ½ inches in length. Remove the top 1/3 of the grass blade at a time per mowing. This helps shade the soil underneath the grass canopy, which in turn helps reduce weed growth. Mow when the lawn needs to be mowed. Do not mow just because the lawn gets cut every Wednesday. Also, avoid scalping of the lawn by driveways, walkways, patios etc. with a weed wacker or trimmer. If the edges get cut too short they die off, causing the grass to thin back creating bare soil and an opportunity for the weeds to grow in that area.
  4. Water properly. It is recommended a lawn with underground irrigation be watered 1- 1 ½ hours per zone twice per week. Hose-end sprinklers should be run for 4 hours per zone once per week both resulting in 1 inch of water on the lawn per week. Frequent and short watering causes a shallow root system that weakens the plants. Watering properly helps create a deeper, stronger root system in the lawn, which in turn creates a healthier lawn. To learn more about watering your lawn correctly, check out our watering blog.
  5. Core aerate every year. Core Aeration is a great process that can be done; however, it is a costly process, which is why we recommend at least every other year. Core aeration helps improve the root system of the grass plant which creates a stronger plant overall. It also helps reduce the thatch layer and keep it at an optimal level which aids in better air circulation, water and nutrient infiltration to the root zone. For more benefits on core aeration, see our core aeration blog post.
  6. Apply lime when the pH of the soil is low. Keeping the pH within the proper range (6.3 – 6.5) improves the availability of the nutrients in the soil making them more readily available to the grass plants. Here’s a great article on the benefits of applying lime to your lawn and having optimal pH levels.

Conclusion

Weeds are extremely opportunistic plants that can enter your lawn from a variety of different sources. The best way to reduce weeds is to have a healthy and dense lawn. That being said, not everyone has the perfect lawn and herbicides may be necessary to get rid of your weeds. Herbicides are a cost effective and not very labor-intensive way to keep your lawn and landscape weed free. If you are in our service area and have any questions about controlling weeds, please give our office a call.

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

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