Many people assume that there’s no need to start treating their lawn until “spring” when the trees and flowers are blooming in April. Warmer spring temperatures bring your lawn out of dormancy and begins an active growth cycle. Unfortunately, that means crabgrass will be germinating and growing too! Pre-emergent crabgrass weed control applications are an important step in annual lawn management. However, choosing the right timing for the application can be tricky, and bad timing will only result in a waste of time and money.
For the best results, pre-emergent should be applied BEFORE crabgrass is visible above ground. Just like those pretty spring flowers, new crabgrass will begin to appear in mid-spring and by then, it’s too late. The key to crabgrass control is making sure the seeds cannot germinate. If you wait until after crabgrass is present and growing, pre-emergent won’t work and you’re in for an uphill battle to keep control of your lawn without doing damage. In our growing region, a lawn without pre-emergent treatment can expect crabgrass to spread quickly during the warm summer months. Between midsummer and early fall, each plant will produce thousands of seeds. While the first frost will kill existing crabgrass plants, the seeds remain dormant through the winter, waiting to ruin your lawn next spring. Unwanted grasses and weeds simply cannot thrive in robust grass; besides a regular fertilization and weed control regimen to keep your turf happy and healthy, keep these tips in mind for success in the spring and summer:
• Mow at frequent intervals to keep the grass at a consistent height- we recommend 3.75 to 4 inches for tall fescue. Crabgrass seeds require plenty of light to germinate, so keeping the turf thick and tall will keep any weed seeds at the soil surface in the dark. Mow too short, and weed/crabgrass seeds will grow, well… like weeds. Also, be sure to keep your mower blades sharp so that they CUT blades of grass, instead of tearing. You can bag clippings if you like, but we recommend mulch mowing and leaving the clippings in the lawn- they help restore nutrients to the soil as they decompose, and can help to block sunlight from those pesky weed seeds lurking on the soil surface!
•In an established lawn, water deeply once or twice a week this spring and summer, instead of daily. Watering on an irregular schedule and only when needed promotes deeper root growth that’s essential to healthy turf grass. Remember, the goal is a few gulps, not several sips. The only time you’ll want to water frequently, is if your lawn is newly-seeded or sodded: then, you’d water in shallow, more frequent intervals just until the grass gets established before weaning it back to once or twice a week. Not sure how much is enough? We recommend at least one inch of water a week, once the rainy part of spring is over. Because every sprinkler system flows differently, the easiest way to measure an inch of water on the lawn is to set a clean, empty tuna can on the lawn and run your system. When the can is full to the brim- that’s one inch of water. Write down how long you had the system running to water that amount, then you can program your system for the same amount of time, once (or twice) a week!
If you’re concerned about crabgrass ruining your lawn, call us! The first two rounds of our Basic Program of fertilization & weed control include crabgrass pre-emergent. We’re winding down with Round 1 for 2018, but there’s still time to get your lawn treated with the first application of crabgrass pre-emergent before it’s too late in the season!
Our service areas:
Virginia Beach Lawn Care
Chesapeake Lawn Care
Norfolk Lawn Care
Leaves that are not removed from your lawn can block sunlight and air from reaching the grass. The problem becomes worse when it rains -those fluffy layers of leaves turn into dense, soggy mats. The lack of air circulation can lead to turf diseases and may even smother the grass and kill it. But raking isn’t the only—or even the easiest—method of protecting your lawn’s health. It turns out that mulching leaves is what’s best for the health of your lawn. You can easily mulch the leaves by running over them many times with a mower to chop them into tiny bits, and letting the mower scatter them back into the lawn. As the mulched leaf bits decompose over the winter, they enhance the soil with valuable nutrients that feed the microbes and worms present in any healthy lawn. And compared with raking, mulching leaves takes MUCH less time and effort.
The first and most important rule is to set the deck of the mower to the HIGHEST SETTING to leave the grass as tall as possible. If the deck is too low, you’ll end up scalping the lawn and the grass will be vulnerable to weeds and possible to damage from winter temperatures. Better to leave the deck set high and make several passes with the mower from different angles to mince the leaf bits up to the size of a dime- and multiple passes will help scatter the bits around the lawn evenly. Properly shredded leaves are the size of confetti and will filter down between the blades of fescue where they won’t be noticeable. In summer lawns such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, or Zoysia, the shredded leaves will blend in with the brown, dormant grasses.
When you’re done, if there’s so much leaf mulch that you can’t see ANY grass, try one more pass with the bag attached to the mower, then scatter the leaf-litter that was picked up into your landscaping beds. Leaf mulch is also beneficial to planted beds this time of year, but it’s important to add mulched leaves to the beds NOW, so they’ll be fully decomposed by spring. If you wait until spring to leaf-mulch the beds, the nutrients won’t be broken down and available to the plants when they need it most.
It’s nice to know that the back-breaking job of leaf raking isn’t necessary- or even advised- for lawns in our region. So instead of hours of raking and bending over to fill plastic bags that could wind up in our landfills, simply ditch the bag attachment on your mower and enjoy a nice walk around the yard! If you have a landscaping service that usually mows for you, be sure to ask them to mulch the leaves for you instead of bagging. It’s better for your lawn, better for our environment, better for your back, AND, better for your wallet!
What can I do to protect my delicate trees and shrubs this winter?
The Lower Tidewater region is unique because we enjoy warm summer weather that is ideal for tropical trees and succulents. Unfortunately, we can also experience harsh winter temperatures and high winds that can severely damage tender plants. Wrapping palms and other tropical trees in plastic sheeting is NOT advised in our specific area, because the winter temperature fluctuations can cause condensation inside the plastic, which can lead to rot and specific types of fungus. Our tree and shrub care expert, Dave Planelles, recommends applying an anti-transpirant product such as AquaLock to any ornamental plants that are susceptible to winter burn, because it protects by forming a “thin, flexible, water-repellent layer on plant surfaces” to insulate and prevent damage.
Other recommendations from Dave to keep your shrubs healthy this winter, include keeping the mulch level around the base of the plant at NO MORE than TWO inches deep. If the mulch layer is too thick, it may cause harm to the plant by preventing proper nutrients from being absorbed, and can (in some cases) suffocate the plant. In our region, two inches of mulch is more than enough to insulate and protect the roots and retain the right amount of moisture. Dave also recommends considering a light application of a low-nitrogen, organic 3-4-3 product, such as our “Replenish” top dressing compost fertilizer to help gently feed roots over the winter. If there are disease/pest concerns, having an application of dormant horticultural oil will help to smother any lingering scale bugs and their eggs, as well as protect against diseases like blight on new growth in early spring.
Over the next two weeks, Dave will begin applications for customers who purchase an AquaLock treatment for their delicate ornamentals. If you’d like an estimate for the cost of an AquaLock treatment for your at-risk shrubs and trees this winter, or for more information on Dave’s Annual Tree & Shrub Program, please contact our office and Dave will be happy to stop by to evaluate and quote pricing for you!