5 Winter Lawn Care Tips for Southern Homes

5 Winter Lawn Care Tips for Southern Homes

Winter is upon us in full force in the south. Winter in the southern states varies greatly, with the potential for snow, ice storms, rain, and fluctuating temperatures that can range from below freezing to balmy 60s and 70s, all within the same month! Regardless of the weather, it is important to maintain your lawn care plan even during the dormant winter season. Here are 5 winter lawn care tips you can use if you live down south.

Adjust Your Sprinklers

Many homeowners don’t think to adjust their sprinkler settings from summer to winter. Continuing on a summer watering schedule can lead to overwatering for your lawn. During the winter, most grasses only require an inch of water per week. Warm season grasses don’t soak up as much water in the winter months and this overwatering can lead to problems for your lawn. Adjust your sprinklers to a schedule that allows for the recommended amount of water per week.

Cut Back on Lawn Traffic

In the summer months, turf is springy and resilient. In the winter, the turf’s energy is redirected to its roots rather than its crown, leaving dormant grass brittle and weak. Heavy traffic on your lawn while it is in this dormant, brittle state can lead to severe damage. Try to avoid heavy lawn traffic by using walkways, pavers, and sidewalks as much as possible. It is also important to avoid traffic on your lawn when frost is present as this makes it much more susceptible to damage.

Get Rid of Debris

Winter lawn debris can be leaves, branches, or any other organic material that accumulates. Leaving this clutter on top of your grass can lead to disease and bacteria and can also suffocate the turf. Removing organic debris allows your lawn to breathe which allows it to soak up the nutrients it needs from the limited amount of sun it gets during the day.

Consider Resodding Your Lawn

If your lawn is swampy or has bare spots, winter may be the time to consider resodding. Although the roots will be dormant and grow slowly, once the weather warms up they will take hold and flourish. If you decide to resod in the winter use caution – your lawn will be overly sensitive and can be damaged more easily.

Aerate and Weed

Depending on what type of grass you have, winter may be a good time to aerate. Soil compaction is exponentially worse in the wintertime. Aeration not only helps alleviate this compaction, but also allows oxygen, nutrients, and water to get to the roots where it is desperately needed. Aeration also makes your lawn less susceptible to invasive weeds that can run rampant in the winter months. For this reason, it is also important to continue weeding during the winter.

If you need help getting a jump on your winter lawn care, contact a local lawn care company who can give you a free lawn analysis and help set you up for a lush, healthy lawn come spring.

 

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6 Winter Lawn Care Essentials

6 Winter Lawn Care Essentials

Lawn care doesn’t end just because the weather gets cold. Even if your turf goes dormant during the winter months, it can always benefit from a little TLC. Here are 6 of our favorite winter lawn care essentials to help ensure a lush, green yard in the spring.

Aeration

Your soil can become compacted for several different reasons, including lots of foot traffic, heavy machinery, etc. Soil compaction causes the soil to dry out because it isn’t getting adequate hydration which in turn leads to poor nutrient uptake by the roots leading to drainage problems, dead turf and bare spots. Thatch is the layer of material and debris between the soil and the visible grass. A thatch layer of 1″ is considered healthy; anything greater than 1″ blocks air and water penetration to the roots which leads to drainage issues. Aeration is a solution to both of these issues. Holes are made through the turf into the soil below, allowing air and water to penetrate through. Aeration can be done manually or with a power aerator. It can also be done in the warmer months or in the winter, as long as the ground isn’t frozen yet.

Minimize Soil Compaction

Help avoid the need to aerate by minimizing soil compaction in the first place. As mentioned before, compaction decreases nutrient intake by the turf, causing it to dry out and leading to drainage issues. Soil compaction in the winter is often caused by increased foot traffic, parking cars on the grass, and storing machinery and equipment on top of it. Avoid compaction by limiting storage on top of the grass and sticking to walkways and sidewalks when outdoors.

Fertilization

Winter is also a perfect time to fertilize, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Check the pH of your soil. If your soil is acidic, winter is a great time to add a little lime to it for balance. You can also apply a slow-release fertilizer to help winterize before the spring.

Raking

Raking is not just a chore for the fall. Leave can drop at different times during the cold season. Wet leaves on the ground can cause water to buildup, fungal growth, pests, and bare patches on your lawn. Rake up any leaves that fall, even if you’ve already done it multiple times.

Clean Up Debris

Winter storms can leave behind a mess of branches, tree limbs, and other debris. Even though it’s cold outside, it’s best to clean these up ASAP. Heavy limbs can impede water drainage and compact your soil, and lead to crown hydration, all of which can cause bare patches on your lawn. Crown hydration, also known as grass freeze, is when warm weather spells cause the soil to thaw and tricks the grass into thinking it’s spring. The grass sucks up water and nutrients in preparation for spring growth, but the cold weather comes back and refreezes the soil and the water it has retained, causing it to expand inside the crown of the grass and kill it.

Maintain Equipment

Winter is a great time to make repairs and perform maintenance on your lawn machines and tools since they aren’t in regular use. Give your mower a once over and follow the appropriate maintenance instructions (e.g., fuel stabilizer in gas powered equipment). Give it a thorough cleaning and repair or replace any parts that are necessary. Sharpen your mower blades so they’ll be ready for spring. Check the gears on your height adjustment mechanism and store equipment in a dry, protected area.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the need for lawn care slacks off. Use this time to get ahead before the spring to ensure you have a lush, healthy lawn you can enjoy year-round. For help with all of your lawn care needs, contact your local lawn care company for an analysis and ongoing maintenance plan.

 

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5 Pests That Can Destroy Your Lawn

5 Pests That Can Destroy Your Lawn

The last thing any homeowner wants is to invest time and money into getting their landscaping exactly how they want it only to have it destroyed by lawn pests. Lawn care is difficult – finding the perfect balance between overwatering and underwatering, fertilizing and aerating, mowing and maintenance. Pest control for your lawn is just another step in your lawn care plan. Here are 5 pests that can destroy your lawn, along with options to treat and prevent them.

Armyworms

Armyworms
Armyworms are smooth skinned pests that range in size from 1 to 2 inches long. Armyworms turn into brown moths when they reach adulthood. Colors range anywhere from yellow and green to dark brown and black with stripes running down their sides. Armyworms feed on grass blades and stems and will also skeletonize leaves on other plants. They will seek shelter from the sun and heat during the day and emerge at night and early morning to feed heavily on your grass. They are known for creating circular bare spots in the lawn as they eat the grass. Signs of armyworms include clusters of eggs, caterpillar frass, and the presence of live worms. Armyworms can be treated with chemical insecticides, diatomaceous earth, or by removing them by hand and dropping them in soapy water. Armyworms can be prevented by aerating annually, fertilizing regularly, and checking for their presence monthly.

Grubs

Grubs
Grubs is a broad term for the larvae of most species of beetle including white grubs, masked chafers, june beetles, and japanese beetles. While looks vary among species, grubs are commonly c-shaped pests that are whitish to yellowish in color. Grubs usually feed in late spring, summer and into early fall. Once the weather cools, they burrow deep into the soil and go dormant for winter. Grubs will feed on the roots of grasses just under the surface of the soil, creating irregular patches of damaged turf. The damage usually begins with wilted grass blades and then progresses to brown colored patches and eventually death of the grass. While chemical insecticides will be effective in eliminating grubs, there are non-chemical treatment options, as well. Nematodes are microscopic parasites that can be added to your lawn which invade the grubs’ bodies and kill them. This process takes longer but is less harsh than typical insecticides. Grubs also require moisture to survive. Putting your lawn into drought by not watering for 3 to 4 weeks will make the environment inhospitable for grubs.

Chinch Bugs

Chinch Bugs
There are several different species of chinch bugs that feed on different types of grass. They are easy to recognize but hard to see. Chinch bugs are tiny, measuring about 1/5″. They have black bodies with white wings folded across their backs and a telltale white stripe across their bodies. Chinch bugs are usually active from June to September. These pests literally suck the life out of your lawn by sucking on grass blades and releasing an anticoagulant that makes the grass unable to absorb water, thus drying it out and killing it. Chinch bug damage causes irregular turf patches that start with a purple tinge and then subsequently wilt, yellow, and then turn brown. This damage is commonly mistaken for drought damage. Chinch bugs can be treated with insecticides.

Mole Crickets

Mole Crickets
Mole crickets are common lawn pests in the southeastern United States. These destructive pests are 1 to 2 inches long and grayish brown in color. They have spade-like front legs that they use to burrow through the soil along with beady eyes. They are not good at jumping like their cricket cousins. Mole crickets consume grass and roots while burrowing through the soil near the surface. Signs of mole crickets include small mounds of dirt, a spongy lawn, and brown or dead grass. They leave a path of destruction in their wake with raised burrows and brown patches on your turf. You can check for the presence of mole crickets by adding 2 tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water and pouring it over a 1 to 2 square foot section of your lawn. If mole crickets are present, they will come to the surface. Once you have identified them as a problem, you can treat with the appropriate insecticides.

Moles

Moles
Moles are small, burrowing mammals that are mostly blind but have a keen sense of smell. Moles range from 4 to 11 inches long with greyish-brown fur, long thin snouts, and large powerful front feet they use to burrow. Moles live underground and feed on earthworms, grubs, and insects. While these pests don’t eat plants, their burrowing can cause damage to roots and their tunnels allow other pests to access your turf. Moles leave visible trails in your yard and cause brown patches from subsequent root damage. Their tunnels can also cave in easily, putting you at risk for injury and leaving you with a spongy feeling yard. Moles can be trapped and baited. Eliminating their food sources (grubs, earthworms, etc.) can also make your lawn less attractive to them, helping to keep them away.

Whether you have an existing problem with lawn pests or you just want to get a head start on prevention, a local lawn care company can help! Contact them today for a free lawn analysis and an ongoing prevention and maintenance plan tailored to you.

 

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Lawn Care: How To Keep Your Lawn Healthy This Summer

Lawn Care: How To Keep Your Lawn Healthy This Summer

Summer is the time of year when we want our lawn looking its best. Unfortunately, the summer months are also the time your lawn undergoes the most stress. Drought, hot temperatures, and increased traffic from kids and pets combine to increase the wear and tear on your yard. The warmer weather can also lead to an increase in both disease and pest activity in your grass.

Summer lawn care doesn’t have to be a full time job but taking a few steps now can help keep your yard lush and green even during the hottest of days. Here are some lawn care tips you can use to keep your grass summer ready.

  • Mow high. Put your mower on a high setting, leaving grass blades about 3 inches tall. This not only provides shade for the root system, allowing for deeper, stronger roots, but it also keeps them covered during high heat.
  • Water deeply and regularly. Water consistently during the summer. Rather than shallow watering more often, water deeply once or twice per week. Your yard needs 1 to 1-1/2″ of water each week. If you have an irrigation system, program it appropriately.
  • Water early in the day. The best time to water your lawn is between 6:00 and 10:00 am. This gives your grass enough time to dry out during the day, helping to prevent fungal disease. If you have an irrigation system, program it during these hours if possible.
  • Maintain your mower. Keeping your mower and other lawn equipment properly maintained is critical to good lawn care. Dull mower blades will tear the blades rather than cut them, leaving them with brown tips. Make sure mower blades are sharpened and also change the oil, filter, and spark plugs as necessary.
  • Treat pet spots. When your dog urinates on the lawn it is essentially overfertilizing the area, usually leaving a yellow-brown spot on the grass. If possible, try to rinse the area with water immediately after your dog has done its business. Overseed these areas when appropriate for your grass type to fill in bare or damaged areas.
  • Fertilize. The general rule for lawn care is to fertilize every 6 weeks. If this causes your grass to grow too fast, consider using a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content. Using a mulching mower is also a good option. Mulching mowers naturally fertilize your lawn by recycling the nutrients in grass clippings back into the soil. When fertilizer is applied, make sure it is spread evenly and judiciously.

Lawn care doesn’t have to consume your entire summer. If you need assistance with lawn care at any time during the year, contact your local lawn care company for a free analysis.

 

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Preparing for Spring Lawn Care

Preparing for Spring Lawn Care

As the weather warms, the time for spring cleaning is upon us – and that doesn’t just apply to your house! Spring is the time to get your lawn in shape, as well. Cold weather during the winter can leave your grass weak because of the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures. Spring is the time to get your grass replenished and nourished so that you can have a lush, healthy lawn during the warmer months when you want to enjoy it. Here are some spring lawn care tips to get you ready for spring.

Don’t Start Too Early

Timing is everything when it comes to landscaping. While many of us want to jump right in as soon as the weather is warm, starting on your lawn too early can actually compact the soil and kill new grass shoots before they are fully matured. Try to wait until your lawn has turned mostly green before doing any mowing or aerating. Check your soil to see if it is compacted. If it is, add aeration to your fall lawn care plan. It is not recommended to aerate your lawn in the spring.

Rake In the Spring and Fall

While most of us associate raking with falling leaves in the fall, it is just as important to rake in the spring, as well. While there aren’t usually any leaves to rake this time of year, raking does help control thatch by breaking it up and allowing the grass underneath it to breathe. It also helps prevent mold and other diseases. Thatch is the intermingled layer of dead leaves, roots, and stems that accumulates under grass and soil. Thatch is considered excessive if it is more than 1/2″ thick.

Clean Up and Out

Spring cleaning extends from your home to your yard. Your lawn usually sees higher traffic in the summer so cleaning it up in the spring will help prepare for that. Take a walk around your yard and dispose of any twigs, branches, and other debris that may have accumulated. Use your rake to get rid of any dead grass. Wait to put out lawn furniture or other items until the grass has matured and is fully green.

Nourish and Repair

The harsh weather of winter combined with other environmental factors (dog urine spots, large objects like furniture and toys that were left out, areas of high traffic, etc) can cause bare or yellow patches on your lawn. Spring is the time to reseed these areas to fill them back in. After new seed is spread, water the area daily for the first week. Don’t mow these areas until the grass is at least 2 inches tall. If your grass is thin, spring is also the best time to overseed to help thicken these areas. After the overseeding is spread, water these areas daily for at least 2 weeks. A slow release nitrogen fertilizer can also be applied when you overseed and then again about 5 weeks after the grass starts to sprout.

Fertilize Your Lawn

Early spring is ideal for applying a fertilizer with weed killer to provide additional nourishment for your lawn. Best practice is to use a lighter fertilizer in the spring and save the heavier fertilizer for fall as this allows the grass to sustain nourishment over the colder winter months. Too much fertilizer in the spring can also allow disease and weeds to flourish.

Keep Your Mower Height High

This rule applies year-round. Any time you mow it is best to only remove about 1/3 of the total grass length at any given time. In early spring, mow at the highest setting based on the type of grass you have in your lawn. By leaving the grass taller you allow the roots to sink deeper and crowd out any weeds that may be emerging.

Edge Your Flower Beds

Edging in the spring helps prevent grass from invading your flower beds. Edging is best done by using a garden spade to cut a deep, V-shaped trench about 2-3″ deep around the edges of the flower beds. Once this is done, it can be maintained with a string trimmer throughout the summer and you can recut the trenches as you need to.

Get Rid of Weeds

Weeds can quickly take over your lawn if left unchecked. There are two types of weed killers (also known as herbicides): pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergents kill weeds before seedlings can even emerge. Post-emergents kill weeds after they have germinated. Pre-emergents should be applied in conjunction with fertilizer so that it forms a barrier that prohibits the germination of the weed seeds. You should also avoid aeration when using a pre-emergent as this will puncture the barrier the herbicide provides and it won’t be effective. Post-emergents can be applied any time. Take caution when using these herbicides and make sure to read the product label carefully. Some post-emergent herbicides are selective meaning they only target weeds while other post-emergents will kill anything that is green, including your grass shrubs and flowers!

Eliminate The Grubs

Hibernating grubs begin to crawl toward the surface of lawns to chew on grass roots in late spring. Therefore, a grub preventative product should be applied in early spring. It is especially important to treat for grubs if you had a problem with them in previous years or if you have a neighbor that you know has a problem with grubs.

Tune Up Your Tools

Mowing season really picks up in the spring, making it the best time to clean and tune up your mower and other lawn equipment. Change the oil, air filters and spark plugs and make sure your gas can is full. Clean any dirt or old clippings that may still be lingering on your equipment. Sharpen blades and replace any that are necessary. If your mower has been stored for winter, leave it out in the sun for 1 to 2 hours to warm before cranking it up for the first time.

Call The Pros

Lawn care can seem overwhelming, especially this time of year. While many enjoy working in their yards, others look at it as a chore. Whatever your situation, a professional lawn care company can provide you with a free lawn care analysis and set up the most appropriate treatments and timing to get your lawn healthy and green, not just in the spring but year-round.

 

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