Fall: The Best Time For Seed!
Before & After Power Seeding
Our lawns have taken quite a beating this summer with the weather! From a snowy and rainy spring, to the worst drought in a decade this summer. A seeding is the best way to revive your stressed lawn and fall is the optimal time to apply grass seed.
Grass seed needs certain conditions to germinate and grow well, which includes warm soil, decent moisture, and some sunlight. In the fall, these conditions are typically met. The ground is already warm from the summer, we tend to see more rain than in the summer, and we have cool nights and warm (but not hot) days that help to reduce water evaporation. All of these factors allow an 80-90% germination rate in the fall versus a 30-40% germination rate in the spring.
In spring, we have to begin our battle with weeds. Crabgrass preventer and other weed control products that we normally use on lawns can be harmful to the seedlings, so we have to make a choice: do we prevent and kill weeds, or do we do a spring seeding? If we do a spring seeding, we will have to contend with weeds through the whole growing season because weed prevention products cannot be used AND our seedlings will also have to fight with the weeds for water and nutrients (the weeds will usually win). Since weeds are not as much of a concern in the fall, it is one less thing that the seedlings have to contend with.
Seedings tend to do better in the fall because there is more time to develop a root system. Fall seedlings have the rest of the fall and all of the following spring to develop deep, healthy roots in preparation for the expected dry, hot summer. Seedlings that come up in the spring have, at best, one month to prepare for summer weather. The lack of a developed root system is the number one reason seedlings burn up in the summer heat - not because our customers aren't watering. Seedlings can only hold so much water because they are so small. They just cannot hold enough water to sustain them through the dry, hot summer.
So what is today’s take away lesson? Try to avoid spring seedings if you can. Waiting until the fall will produce less frustration and give you better results. If you have any questions about our patented and guaranteed Power Seeding service, please call the office.
Older lawns may not recover as well from summer stress because of the aging grass plants. They are not as resilient as newer grass plants. I liken this to the flu. Typically, when an adult gets sick with the flu, we’re out of commission for days, but when a younger person gets the flu, it seems like they are outside running around 24 hours later like it never happened. Same goes for grass plants, the younger ones can not only fight off diseases better, they can also recover faster if they do get sick. This is just one of many reasons that reseeding is vital to the continued health of your lawn. If it has been more than 5 years since you last seeded your lawn, it is time to start thinking about the long term health of your lawn and consider a core aeration with over seed or a Power Seeding this fall. Be prepared to water after you put down seed. The soil must stay moist for 3-4 weeks while the seed germinates. If you have any questions about seeding, please call us here in the office.
Power Seeding vs. Over Seeding
There are many different methods of seeding a lawn. We offer 2 different options: Power Seeding and Core aeration with an over seed, depending on the condition of your existing lawn.
Lawn Doctor's patented Power Seeder typically has an 80-90% germination rate, meaning that 80-90% of the seed that we put down will turn into grass plants if watered properly. We recommend Power Seeding if you are unhappy with the condition of your lawn, i.e. if it is thinning, if you have bare spots, or if you are starting with bare dirt. We do guarantee our Power Seedings for our full-service lawn care customers.
In comparison, a Core aeration with an over seed typically has only about a 30-40% germination rate, as the seed that germinates is the seed that falls into the plug holes. We only recommend getting an Over Seeding if you are already happy with the condition of your lawn and either want to keep it looking great by replacing aging grass plants or want to introduce a new grass type into your lawn to increase disease resistance or drought tolerance. Over Seedings are not covered by a guarantee.
I'm not going to lie, this has been a tough year to be in the lawn care business! We started off the year with a snowy and rainy spring, making it difficult to get services scheduled in a timely manner. Then we had what the Boston Globe called the worst drought in a decade with extremely hot and dry temperatures, which weakened our lawns. It’s now mid-September and we still haven’t had much rain and most towns are still enforcing strict water bans. The lack of water from the drought and the intense sun created a perfect storm for weed growth.
The drought has left some lawns badly damaged. While your grass is somewhat resilient and can many times bounce back, the drought conditions this summer may have been too much for your grass to take. Bluegrass lawns have definitely taken the brunt of the damage because the watering requirements for bluegrass is already so high. Throwing a drought into the mix is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, some of the damaged lawns that we are seeing are not going to recover on their own. If your lawn has not started to show signs of recovery from the drought yet, there is a good chance that it is not going to come back without some seeding work.
If you plan on doing some seeding work yourself, please don't just pick up the cheapest seed you can find and throw it down on your lawn, as there is a chance it will not match your existing lawn and you will end up with patches of discolored grass (see picture below). Also beware of grass seeds that say they will grow anywhere, sun or shade; they will, but the types of grass seed in those mixes, well, let's just say it's not what we would recommend you use on lawns in our area. Many also contain seeds for weeds in addition to grass. If you have any questions about seeding or are interested in our guaranteed Power Seeding, please call our office.
What is Core Aeration?
Core aeration is one of the best things that you can do for your lawn to improve the health of your existing grass plants. It removes small plugs of soil from your lawn which has numerous benefits such as:
- loosens compacted soil
- allows more water, nutrients, and oxygen to penetrate to the roots
- reduces thatch levels
- helps lawns with fungus issues
These all encourage strong root development which in turn gives you a healthier, thicker lawn.
After a wet start to the season, Mother Nature has thrown us another curveball with almost no rain in the past 2 months. In the spring we had plenty of rain to green up lawns, but now many lawns are completely dry and dormant. Please read the important "Jen's Notes" section below for more information on watering. We are currently providing summer lawn check-ups with quotes on fall seed and lime applications. Fall is the best time of the year to apply new grass seed so please let me know if you would like to be added to our fall seeding schedule. If you prepay for your fall seed and lime services, you will receive 10% discount off the regular price. If you have any questions regarding seeding or would like to seed just a portion of your lawn, please call me for a quote.
Thank you for your business and have a wonderful summer!
There are many people who do not like any bugs but there are a lot of bugs that are actually beneficial to us as humans. These can be split into 3 categories: predators, pollinators, and recyclers.
Predators are bugs such as spiders and ladybugs that will eat other bugs that either feed on us or our garden plantings.
Pollinators are bugs such as bees that help pollinate flowers. Though many people are allergic to bee stings and thus see them as more of a threat, they will usually not sting unless provoked.
As annoying as we think they are, flies are also considered a beneficial bug because they are recyclers of trash, dung, and carcasses.
Bad Bugs: Grubs & Mosquitoes
Grubs are the larvae of beetles such as Japanese beetles and masked chafers. They cause an estimated $234 million in damage on lawns every year. Female beetles burrow into the ground and lay their eggs in lawns. When they hatch, the grubs will feed on the roots of your grass plants, killing off large sections of your yard. Most of the time, you will not know that you have a grub problem until it is too late. The picture to the left shows a grub damaged lawn.
Common misconceptions about grub prevention:
I've never had grubs before so I don't need it.
This is probably the most common misconception about grubs. If you have a lawn, it is susceptible to grub damage.
We had the grub preventative last year, we don't have to put it down again this year.
The grub prevention is only good for one season of protection. What you put on your lawn last year is no longer going to be effective this year.
It will be cheaper to just take care of the grubs if I get them in my lawn.
You can absolutely do this, the only problem is that it can cost three times as much to fix the damage they caused to your lawn than it would have to just get the grub preventative put down. It may take more than one application of the curative treatment to rid your lawn of the grubs and on top of that, you still have to pay to seed or resod the damaged part of your lawn.
Lawn Doctor strongly recommends all of our customers get a grub preventative application on their lawn, whether we do it or you do it yourselves.
The American Mosquito Control Association, an international organization of almost 2000 public health professionals, works to educate the general public about the risk of mosquitoes and the important service provided by mosquito control companies such as Lawn Doctor. For information or tips on how to reduce the population of mosquitoes on your property, please contact us.
Florida officials believe a total of 15 Zika infections in the Miami area are the first in the nation to be transmitted by local mosquitoes. The development marks a major change in the course of the disease in the continental U.S., where all cases until now have been linked to travel to Zika-affected regions. The virus, which is mainly transmitted via mosquito bite, is known to cause devastating birth defects.
In honor of the lack of rainfall we have received in the past two months, I wanted to talk a little bit about irrigation and your lawn. Irrigation systems or manual sprinklers are designed to be supplemental sources of water for your lawn, not to provide all of the water for it. When Mother Nature fails us, we start noticing the shortcomings of our irrigation systems.
One of the problems we have noticed is that many people start watering too late. A lot of people that we talked to didn't even get their irrigation systems turned on until the middle of June, which was well after lawns started suffering from drought stress. You should be calling your irrigation company in February to schedule an April appointment to get your system turned on. Just because it is turned on does not mean that you have to use it, but you will at least be prepared when you do need to use it.
Another phone call that we get is "Well, my neighbor doesn't do anything to their lawn and it's still green." Your neighbor's lawn, while they might be right next door to you, can have completely different conditions than your lawn. Things like shade, drainage, slope, type of grass, type of soil, etc., can all affect water retention in your lawn. Even different areas in your own lawn have different watering needs. We have seen lawns that are completely drought-stressed, except for where the gutter downspouts pour out. Lawns where there is a south-facing slope that gets sun all day shows stress but a north-facing slope is just fine. Do you have rocks in your soil? If you do, those are baking the lawn from the inside out. A friend of mine has remnants of an old concrete pad in his backyard buried under grass and every year, it is the first area to go dormant when the weather gets hot because the concrete holds heat so much more so than soil.
Unfortunately, because of all of these factors, giving a one-size-fits-all watering solution is difficult. What we can tell you is that using a moisture meter is a foolproof way to make sure your lawn is getting the water that it needs. These can be purchase from Lowes for about $10 and are simple to use. You stick it in the ground and it will tell you if it is wet or dry.
SERVICES CONTINUE FROM SEASON TO SEASON, FOR A CHANGE IN SERVICE PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE.
Turf Alert: Drought Stress
A few weeks ago we contacted you about the drought conditions in our area and how it is affecting our lawns. Unfortunately, the conditions have not improved and this continual lack of rain is wreaking havoc on our lawns. We are now at the point where we are seeing entire lawns going dormant because they have not been watered. We did not get the rain last week that we were expecting and we’re getting a little today and tomorrow in the forecast.
If you cannot water your lawn, it is important that you stay off of it; this means no kids or pets playing on it, no kiddie pools on it, and absolutely no mowing. The more traffic your drought-stressed lawn has on it, the more damage you will do.
To check without a doubt if your lawn is getting enough water on it, you can purchase a moisture meter at local hardware stores for a few dollars (see picture below.) Stick it in the ground and see what the meter says: if it is at a 1-3, you need to water more, 4-7 you're doing great, 8-10 you could probably cut back on the watering. Please be aware that you have to check different areas of your lawn, sticking it in one area will not give you an overall picture of your whole lawn.
Another problem we have seen are irrigation systems that are missing areas (see photo below.) This is common as sprinkler heads sometimes get bumped, clogged, or broken. A broken head can ruin pressure for an entire zone of irrigation.
As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. You can simply reply to this email or give us a call in the office at the number below.
Lawn Doctor of Franklin-Grafton
P.O. Box 514
Upton, MA 01568
TURF ALERT! Sod Webworm & Dollar Spot Fungus
Sod Webworm is a common pest in cool season turf grass like bluegrass, ryegrass or tall fescue and this season we are seeing a bit of it. Typically, the damage occurs during the summer months to the tips of grass leaves in small patches but can grow to large areas if left unchecked. The damage inflicted by sod webworm insect looks very similar to the damage we see from a very common fungus called dollar spot (see next section). Both sod webworm damage and dollar spot fungus from a distance, look like round, slightly irregular spots between 2 to 6 inches of damage, in spots over the lawn. It is very common that we see spiders making webs on the lawn in areas where sod webworms are very active. One other way to identify sod webworms is by watching the adult moths, which metamorphosed from the worm larvae, fly around in the lawn in the early evenings to mate. Another way is to check the blades of grass in the area with the brown spots and look for areas that look chewed away (see picture above). If you believe you have sod webworm, please call the office to add an insect control treatment to your lawn care program.
Dollar Spot Fungus
Dollar spot fungus gets its name from the "silver dollar" sized brown spots that can be seen in the lawn. Typically, the spots look like they are from drought stress, but adding water can actually make the problem worse. Overwatering, or more importantly, too frequent watering is the number one common cause of Dollar spot fungus. Soil compaction, heavy thatch, mowing too short, bagging clippings, and poor drainage are all other contributing factors. According to Purdue University, Dollar spot fungus is a cosmetic fungus that rarely if ever actually kills the lawn. One way to diagnose dollar spot is to look at the lawn in the early morning after a good dew. If you see what resembles webs all over the lawn holding on to the morning dew, but they all go away after the hot sun of the day hits, you probably just saw the mycelium of Dollar spot. Blades of grass with the fungus will have lesions usually mid blade (see photo above). Your lawn will start to recover when cooler temperatures prevail as we move into fall. Typical recommendations to minimize the spread of the fungus include:
1) Cut back on your watering;
2) Mulch your clippings when you mow and mow high (your mower blade should be set at the highest setting);
3) Book a core aeration to help with soil compaction;
4) Add an extra boost of fertilizer;
5) Add a fungicide treatment – This is only as a last resort if the fungus continues to spread despite following all other recommendations.
Call 508-449-9300 to schedule your FREE On-Site evaluation today.
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