Lawn Maintenance

Watering tips for Grand Rapids in late summer

September 3rd, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

Grass Going to Seed

May 10th, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters
You might be noticing your lawn is more blotchy and spotted now than normal.  A lot of grass is producing seed right now.  Different varieties of grass produce seed at different times of the year.  As the grass produces seed it uses all of its energy on the seed so it loses its color.  Not all varieties of grass are seeding right now, which is why there is a large contrast in color between the varieties that are seeding, and those that are not.  This is what makes the lawn look spotty.  This a natural process and no amount of fertilizer will darken up grass that is seeding.   In fact, fertilizer may make it appear worse since the rest of the grass will turn darker and grow more and this creates more contrast in color.
Make sure your mower blades are sharp.  Cutting through seed heads and thicker stalks of grass will dull your mower blades fast.  Mow on a regular basis because the seed heads can make it very difficult to cut if you let them grow too high.  Keep you mower blade set high, preferably 3 inches or higher.

The red shapes are hilighting individual blades of grass going to seed.

Frost Damage to Landscape Plants

May 10th, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

Remember how nice March was?  We are seeing the consequences of record setting heat that caused trees and shrubs to bud out too early.  Heavy frosts in April damaged the buds and now leaves are curling, turning brown, and even falling from trees.  The frost damage looks bad, but it will not threaten the tree.  The trees are healthy despite their appearance.

Hydrangea with frost damage

This Japanese Maple had no frost damage on the left where it was under a large tree. The right half had lots of damage.

Crabgrass in Early Summer

April 10th, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

This Spring I have been frequently asked how the hot temperatures we’ve experienced in March will affect our crabgrass control. Now that we have finally returned to “normal temperatures” I can better answer this question.

Spring accelerated from snow on the ground on March 3 to 62 degree soil temperatures on March 18. Crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures are at 55 degrees for 3 consecutive nights. We had over a week of soil temperatures above 60 degrees. Forsythia were blooming the 3rd week of March, which usually happens in mid-April. Crabapple trees were blossoming the next week, this usually happens in late April or early May. The grass was growing the last week or March, this usually does not happen until late April. We managed to rocket through 8 weeks of climate change in 3 weeks.

I struggled with the decision to continue applying crabgrass control knowing that it was too late to be effective. I had many discussions with other lawn care professionals and even professors at MSU. We were in unchartered territory and nobody knew what to do.  History and logic told us that “this cannot be happening”, but it was.  80 degree temperatures in March are not uncommon.  However, sustained high day time and night time temperatures are unprecedented.  The temperatures usually plummets 40 degrees after an 80 degree day in March.

I made the decision in mid-March to continue applying crabgrass control with the hope of a frost. A frost would kill any crabgrass that germinated and our pre-emergent would then be effective stopping more crabgrass from germinating.  I am glad I made that decision because this week we finally received that frost.  Hopefully our weather is back to “normal” and we will have effective crabgrass control.  Rest assured that if we applied your crabgrass control and you get crabgrass this summer, we will take care of it.

Warm Temperatures and Your Landscaping

March 12th, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters
With a mild winter we might expect to see less damage to plants this spring. However, prolonged exposure to temperatures above average means that plants are beginning to de-harden early. We see several signs of this already, such as witch-hazels blooming in protected locations and sap in maple trees running two to three weeks ahead of normal.  While other trees and shrubs may not show any signs of coming out of dormancy,  They are softening up every day. Despite the lack of winter temperatures, there still is the risk of a hard frost.  A severe cold snap can cause considerable damage to developing buds on trees and shrubs and cause shoot die-back, bud-kill or death of newly-emerging shoots. We will not know if we have any injury until late May or early June.

Snow Mold

February 24th, 2012 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

Snow mold is caused when there is an extended period of snow cover on ground that is not completely frozen. It can also be brought on by a badly timed fertilizer application which causes a flush of growth too late in the fall. Snow mold can also occur under leaves that have not been cleaned up or amongst long grass that should have been mowed once more before winter set in.

Gray snow mold (also known as Typhula blight) appears in roughly circular bleached patches up to 2 feet in diameter. Grass is often matted and surrounded by a white to gray fluffy halo of fungus. While unsightly, it rarely kills the turf.

Pink snow molds (also known as (Fusarium patch) appear similar to gray ones, but have a pinkish cast. They do not require heavy snow cover, and may kill turf.

To prevent snow mold:

  • In the Fall, continue to mow turf as it grows.
  • Mow it as short as possible when it stops growing.
  • Mulch up leaves into dime-sized pieces in the fall using your mower.
  • In the Winter, avoid compacting the snow.
  • In the Spring, rake matted grass in mold-damaged areas to encourage new growth.

Fungicide applications are not recommended when snow mold occurs. Spring fungicide applications will not effectively control or prevent the disease, nor will it speed up spring turf recovery.

The best way to speed recovery is to remove dead and matted material by light raking to promote air circulation and drying. A light spring nitrogen fertilization will help speed the formation and growth of new grass from the underground stems that are not harmed by the snow mold fungus. Lawns that appear slow to recover this spring will benefit from core aeration, followed by over seeding with the same grass species already present in the lawn.

Proper End of Season Mowing Height

November 10th, 2011 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

Just as it is important during the summer season to mow at the proper height, it is also important to adjust your mower height at the end of the mowing season.  With each cutting this fall, gradually lower your mower height until your last cutting is at the lowest possible height without scalping your lawn.  This will allow leaves to more easily blow off and will help protect your lawn from snow mold.

Don’t rake those leaves, mulch them into your lawn

November 10th, 2011 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

It’s great to have big shade trees in your yard, but come fall you can start to resent them. Those big trees drop leaves and that means extra work for you. However, there’s good news! A recent study done at Michigan State University shows that you can forget about raking, blowing, and bagging leaves. Lawn care is easier than ever. Instead, just mulch them with your lawn mower. It’ll save you work, improve your soil, and add nutrients. Take the grass catcher off your mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. You want to reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. You’ll know you’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf crumbs settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up. With several passes of your mower, you can mulch up to 18 inches of leaf clutter. When spring arrives, you’ll notice that the leaf litter you mulched up in the fall will have disappeared and your grass will look greener than ever.

Spring Seeding

March 7th, 2011 by Tuff Turf Molebusters

Part I: Spring seeding options

(This turf tip is part of a three part series on spring seeding.)

Seeding in spring is difficult and often unsuccessful. However, there are circumstances that warrant a spring seeding:

*Thin turf due to winter damage

*Poor turf density due to poor recovery from previous year’s problems, i.e., grub damage, drought damage, etc. This is the case in 2011 due to heat and drought in 2010.

*Construction of a new home or business.

If a spring seeding is necessary, consider doing it before the ground thaws from winter. Although it is not necessary to seed before the ground thaws it may make seeding more easy as soils are often soft and moist in the spring which may make it more difficult to seed certain areas, especially with heavier equipment.

Seed planted now will lie dormant until the soil temperatures warm in late March, April or possibly May. Depending on your location in Indiana, dormant seeding can be done as early as Thanksgiving and as late as March. The benefit of dormant seeding is that as the soil heaves and cracks during the winter, crevices are created for the seeds which provide ideal germination conditions. Additionally, dormant seeding is easier to schedule than spring seeding, because spring rains make it difficult to find the right time to seed after March in Michigan. Seed can also be planted in April and May, but a March seeding date will allow more time for root development before summer.

Although any cool-season grass can be seeded in the spring, spring seedings are more successful with tall fescue and perennial ryegrass than with Kentucky bluegrass due to the faster germination rate and better seedling vigor of perennial ryegrass and tall fescue compared to Kentucky bluegrass (Fig. 1). If Kentucky bluegrass is seeded in the spring consider using a mixture of tall fescue: Kentucky bluegrass (90:10, weight: weight) or a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass:perennial ryegrass (such as 80:20, weight: weight)(Table 1). Seeding Kentucky bluegrass alone will result in marginal bluegrass establishment due to the slow germination and vigor of the seedlings and increased competition from crabgrass.

Fig. 1. Germination of perennial ryegrass (left, PR) will be followed by tall fescue (center, TF) and then Kentucky bluegrass (right, KBG).

Species Seeding (rate lbs/1,000 ft2) Days to germinate
Kentucky bluegrass 1.0 to 2.0 10-21
Kentucky bluegrass + perennial ryegrass 3.0 to 6.0 5-21
Tall fescue 8.0 to 10.0 6-10

New turfgrass seedlings have poorly developed root systems and thus they cannot affectively take up the nutrients from the soil. Therefore, frequent Lawn Fertilizing is important  after seeding to encourage establishment. To help the turf establish, apply a “starter fertilizer” to enhance seed germination and development. Starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus which is listed as the second number in the analysis on the fertilizer bag. For instance, a 16-22-8 fertilizer contains 22% P2O5. Apply the fertilizer according to the label directions would should supply at least 1.0 lb. P2O5 /1000 ft2. This application will likely include nitrogen (first number in the fertilizer analysis), which will also help the turf develop an extensive fibrous root system that is better able to take up nutrients and obtain water.