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Tuomey Turfgrass Consulting, LLC

Providing Expert Turfgrass & Horticulture Consulting Services

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Posted on September 12, 2013 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (236)
In this blog post, I’ll be discussing PESTICIDES.  I’ve referred to pesticides at various times throughout this blog.  But, I’ve never really gotten in depth on the topic.  Using pesticides is widespread in the landscaping and agriculture worlds.  Without pesticides, our landscapes and crops would be seriously damaged or at least in a great deal of trouble.  The incorrect use of pesticides can be harmful to people, plants, animals and the environment.  If you are going to use a pesticide, as a turfgrass warrior, you need to know some of the characteristics, precautions and procedures regarding pesticides.  There are professionals out there; use them if you can.  Just going to the garden center and applying a bunch of stuff off the shelf can be dangerous and harmful.  Here’s some background information on pesticides.
Any life form that interferes with the comfort, health or productivity of people is considered a pest.  Pests are either weeds, insects (or insect-like), disease causing pathogens or vertebrates.  (Like moles – you can read what I said about moles in the blog topic “Lawns we are working on…”)  The first step in proper pest control is proper identification.  Misidentification is the number one cause of mission failure. 
There are really three strategies for pest control.  They are: prevention, suppression and eradication.  Prevention is used when the occurrence of a pest can be predicted – usually based on seasonal activity or climate based activity or some other cycle.  Suppression is when the pest is already present and you want to minimize or mitigate its effects.  Eradication means total annihilation of the enemy….I mean pest.  Remember the end of the movie Caddy Shack?  I think Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) was going for eradication.  Eliminating the pest is usually not feasible or economically practical.  But, in a high quality stand of turf (Like Bushwood Country Club), eradication may be the only acceptable objective.
There are six methods of pest management: host resistance, biological control, cultural control, mechanical control, sanitation and chemical control.  Host resistance is the plant’s natural or in bred ability to fight the pest.  Biological control uses the pests natural enemies, like a parasite or predator.  Cultural control takes in to account your management practices like mowing or irrigation.  Mechanical control uses machines or traps to control the pest.  A bug zapper in your backyard is an example of mechanical control.  Sanitation involves the removal of resources needed by the pest for survival.  Reading your seed bags and using weed-free seed or washing equipment between sites are examples of sanitation practices.  Chemical control is what we all think of when we think of pesticides.  Sometimes it is the last resort, but chemical control may be the only way to accomplish the mission.
FIFRA – the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act – defines a pesticides as, “…any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, or weeds, or any other forms of life declared to be pests, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for the use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”  The pesticide can be natural or manmade.  They are usually classified by function – like; guess what a rodenticide kills?  Correct; rodents.
Pesticides are formulated a few different ways.  The ACTIVE INGREDIENT (AI) in the formula is the chemical that kills the pest.  Most are diluted in some way to make them safer to handle.  The material used to dilute the formula is called INERT or INACTIVE INGREDIENT.  Although it is usually water, the inert ingredient may be some solvent or wetting agent.  Both active and inactive ingredients together are called the PESTICIDE FORMULATION
Liquid formulations are Emulsifiable Concentrates (EC), Wettable Powders (WP), Flowables (FL), Soluble Powders (SP), Soluble Liquids (SL) and Ultra-Low-Volume (ULV) Formulations.  ECs are not soluble in water but they are oil-soluble.  The active ingredient is dissolved in an oil based solvent.  When added to water they become milky or an emulsion forms.  (An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible; nonmixable or unblendable.)  These are very effective because they contain high concentrations of active ingredients.  But, they are easily absorbed through the skin (dermal adsorption) of people or animals.  WP combines the active ingredient with a dry carrier like mineral clay or talc.  They look like dust or baking flour.  WP will not dissolve in water.  That’s why you got to keep shaking or stirring (agitating) the tank.  Be careful not to inhale the powder.  A new development is dissolvable bags that are dropped directly into the tank.  WP can easily clog filters and nozzles.  FL is a finely ground solid that is mixed with a liquid and an emulsifier to make a suspension (A suspension is a heterogeneous mixture containing solid particles. A dispersion of solid particles in a liquid.)  So, FL needs regular agitation as well.  FL are easier to handle and do not clog as easily.  SPs are similar to WP except they completely dissolve in water.  No agitation needed.  Since most pesticides do not dissolve in water, there aren’t that many available in this formulation.  ULV contains 80 to 100 percent of the AI.  In some cases, they are distributed and sold “as is” – without solvents - or very little – or you do not have to add anything.  ULV needs special equipment and is not really an option for the average homeowner.  ULV can be very dangerous to your health without that equipment.
Then you have dry formulations.  These are: Dusts (D), Granules (G), Baits and Fumigants.  D are finely ground pesticides combined with carriers like chalk, talc,or clay.  They are usually ready to use.  But, the AI is usually between 0.5 to 10 percent.  Dusts are applied dry so they are very prone to drift and inhalation.  G also consists of an AI and a carrier – usually clay, vermiculite (which is like a 2:1 clay), corn cobs, fertilizer granules, etc.  This is the formulation with which most homeowners are familiar.  We usually spread G with seeders and spreaders.  GrubEx is a granular pesticide.  The AI for G is @ 1 to 15%.  The granule usually needs to be activated by moisture.
Baits are usually mixed with some sort of desirable food for the pest and placed in areas where the pest will easily find it.  Baits are great for fire ants and mole crickets.  Fumigants are poisonous gases.  They start in solid or liquid form but enter a gaseous state after application.  These gases can get in to very small spaces.  I briefly mentioned fumigants in my “WEEDS” blog post.  Fumigants are usually put under some sort of tarp.  I said in my blog post, “You want to try to put a huge tarp over your entire lawn and pump a carcinogen and a reproductive toxin under it?”  Yeah; fumigants are tough to control, they can drift and can be very harmful to humans, animals and other plants.  Fumigants are not a tool for the average turfgrass warrior.
Before you use a pesticide, you WILL (That’s an order.) read the label.  Of course, my troops always follow the directions.  But, you need to know what’s on the label with this stuff.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires all pesticides to have an EPA approved label.  The label is a legal document that provides information and data regarding the laws and regulations.  Users may be held legally liable if the pesticide is used incorrectly or anything bad happens.
Here’s what you will find on a pesticide label:
Brand Name
Chemical name
Common name
Formulation – remember the descriptions AND the acronyms I used earlier; EC, WP, etc. 
Registration and Establishment Numbers – very important in case of poisoning or other liability claims.
Signal Words – like CAUTION, DANGER, WARNING
Precautionary Statements – hazards to people and animals, hazards to the environment and hazards that involve physical or chemical properties – like something could catch fire or explode.
Statement of practical treatment – first aid
Pesticide Classification – classified by the EPA as “general use” or “restricted use.”  General use pesticides can be bought and applied by any turfgrass warrior.  Restricted use pesticides may only be bought and applied by turfgrass warriors (like me) with a special permit or license.  If the label does not say restricted use – it is for general use.
Directions for use – READ AND UNDERSTAND THIS!  This is not advice.  This is not a recommendation.  This is the law; violators are subject to criminal prosecution!
Misuse statement – stresses the need to follow the directions.
Re-entry statement – When can someone go back into the treated area without protective equipment?
Directions for storage and disposal – good safety information.
Manufacturer’s warranty
I say again (Turfgrass warriors never say REPEAT! – That means fire again at the same data!) – do not take this lightly.  Whether it is a pesticide, a fertilizer or a bag of grass seed - READ THE LABELS and COMPLY!  We need to live to fight another day.  Good copy?

Memberships & Certifications

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (81)
Tuomey Turfgrass Consulting is a proud member of these fine organizations:
NALP (National Association of Landscape Professionals) is the national trade association representing more than 100,000 landscape industry professionals, who create and maintain healthy, green living spaces for communities across America.  PLANET members are committed to the highest standards in industry education, best practices, and business professionalism.
The Virginia Turfgrass Council - The VTC is a 53 year old organization whose mission is to unify efforts to promote turfgrass improvement and advancement of the turfgrass industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association - VNLA is the commonwealth's trade association for garden centers, nursery growers, landscape designers, installation and maintenance contractors, greenhouses and horticultural suppliers.  Their mission is to unify, strengthen and promote the Green Industry and maintain, promote and certify industry practices and principles that keep Virginia green and growing.

Maryland Nursery Landscape and Greenhouse Association - MNLGA's purpose is to promote the use of ornamental plants, products and services.  MNLGA supports all constituent groups of the horticulture industry including landscape, garden centers, interiorscape, grounds maintenance, nursery, greenhouse and arboriculture.  The association communicates the role of the horticulture industry in improving people's quality of life.  .

We have the following certifications:
Certificate in Turfgrass Management - The University of Georgia
Certificate in Horticulture - PLANET
Certified Fertilizer Applicator - Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Agriculture
Certified Fertilizer Applicator - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Certified Fertilizer Applicator - Maryland Department of Agriculture
Certified Nutrient Management Planner - Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Soil and Water Conservation

Turfgrass Diseases

Posted on June 1, 2013 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (88)
In this section, I will be discussing turfgrass diseases.  I understand your average turfgrass warrior may not have the training or experience to successfully diagnose and treat turfgrass diseases.  But, my intent here is to perhaps make you warriors aware of the various diseases.  And, perhaps, you will be able to understand more if you think your turf area has a disease.  At that point, you can call in a guy like me for some fire support.
As I say all the time, the best way to fight disease, drought, weeds and other stresses to your stand of turfgrass is to have a thick, healthy stand.  Once you get your stand going, if one of these diseases does strike, then you may need to do some analysis, some soul searching and perhaps take some other courses of action.
Diseases for most plants can be caused by forces of the physical and biological environment surrounding the plant.  These diseases can be divided into two categories: noninfectious and infectious
Noninfectious diseases are usually caused by nonliving agents like a surplus or deficit of fertilizer, a chemical spill or environmental stresses like high or low temperatures, drought or salinity.  Mowing improperly or heavy traffic can also be considered a noninfectious disease injury.
The pathogens associated with infectious diseases are: fungi, viruses, bacteria and nematodes.  Most of the turfgrass infectious diseases are caused by fungi.  Before modern methods for analysis, scientists thought fungi were part of the plant kingdom.  But, fungi do not have chlorophyll and are unable to produce their own food through photosynthesis.  Some fungi feed on the dead leaves, stems, and roots of our beloved turf.
A fungus (the singular form, the plural form is fungi or funguses) begins when a spore or sclerotium (plural is sclerotia) germinates.  The germinating spore or sclerotium produces microscopic threads called a hyphae.  A mass of hyphae is called a mycelium (plural is mycelia).  These mycelia are sometimes seen as “cotton like” or “cob web like” growths in the turfgrass.
Disease causing hyphae can enter the turfgrass through “wounds” in the tissue (caused by improper mowing, for example).  Or, they can enter through the natural openings on the surface of the turf tissue called stomates.  The hyphae can grow inside the plant and take plant nutrients, denying the nutrients for your turfgrass.  And, the hyphae can reproduce outside the tissue and spread to other plants.  Thousands of spores can be found in just 0.25 inches of tissue.  During peak discharge times, a fungus may release more than 100,000 spores an hour.  Moist tissue aids hyphae in spreading more easily.
For the sake of brevity, I will list some of the more common diseases. 
These are foliar diseases:
Brown Patch or Rhizoctonia Blight (Rhizocatonia Solani)
Gray Leaf Spot (Pyricularia Grisea)
Dollar Spot (Sclerotonia Homoeocarpa)
Gray Snow Mold or Typhula Blight (Typhula Incarnata)
Pink Snow Mold and Fusarium Patch (Microdochium Nivale)
Leaf Smuts (Stripe Smut, Ustilago Striiformis, and Flag Smut, Urocystis Agropyri)
Red Thread (Laetisaria Fuciformis, formerly Corticium Fuciforme)
Powdery Mildew (Erysiphe Graminis)
Pink Patch (Limonomyces Roseipellis)
Rust (Puccinia & Uromyces)
White Patch (Melanotus Phillipsii)
Southern Blight or Sclerotium Blight (Sclerotium Rolfsii)
Yellow Patch (Rhizoctonia Cerealis)
These are foliage and/or root diseases:
Curvularia Blight (spp.)
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum Graminicolaand Glomerella Gramincola)
Downy Mildew or Yellow Tuft (Sclerophthora Macrospora)
Drechslera Leaf (spp. formerly known as Helminthosporium)
Fusarium Diseases (Crown and Root Rot)
Necrotic Ring Spot (Leptoshaerea Korrae, formerly known as Fusarium Blight)
Spring Dead Spot (Leptoshaeria Narmari)
Pythium Blight, Cottony Blight, GreasySpot (spp.)
Take All Patch (Gaeumannomyces Gramminis, formerly known as Ophiobolus Patch)
These are some other diseases and disorders:
White Leaf of Bermudagrass (Spiroplasma Citri)
Fairy Ring (Several Soil Inhabiting Fungi)
St. Augustinegrass Decline Virus (SADV– Panicum Mosaic Virus)
Slime Mold (Mucilago Crustacea, Physarum& Fuligo)
I don’t want to get into the various hosts, symptoms, favorable conditions and control strategies for each of these diseases.  That will take forever.  You’ll have to wait for the book.  In fact, there have been many books written just on these diseases.  But, before I move on, I’d like to say a few words about NEMATODES.  These are basically roundworms.  Depending on the species, a nematode may be beneficial or detrimental to plant health.  From agriculture and horticulture perspectives, the two categories of nematodes are the predatory ones, which will kill garden pests like cutworms, and the pest nematodes, like the root-knot nematode, which attacks plants, and includes those nematodes that act as a vector, spreading viruses between plants.
Disease control and diagnosis:
In order for a disease to take hold in your turfgrass, three crucial factors must be present.  These three conditions are commonly referred to as the “Disease Triangle”.  Before you can attack and hopefully control diseases, turfgrass warriors must have an understanding of the disease triangle.
The bottom line with regard to the disease triangle (I know this is a Venn diagram, but, work with me here.) concept is that if any one of the three factors or conditions are missing, disease development will not happen.  Please see below:
Here are some simple examples.  If you have Tall Fescue grass, you will probably NOT be susceptible to Spring Dead Spot – since Spring Dead Spot only occurs in Bermudagrass.  Therefore, you do not have a susceptible host.  If there are no pathogens present because you only use disease free soil or sprigs, one of these conditions, the pathogen piece, would be missing.  Finally, if you are aware of, or are able to manage some of, your environmental circumstances (including cultural practices), like being aware of the weather, or managing your watering (e.g. most turfgrass diseases need at least 12 hours of moisture before the turfgrass can be penetrated), you are eliminating the conducive environment piece.
The primary method of attacking turf diseases is using fungicides.  Much like herbicides, there are two types of fungicides: contact and systemic.  Contact fungicides are sprayed on the fungus and inhibit its growth.  Contact fungicides will not kill the fungus already in a plant.  Systemic fungicides are taken up by the fungus and are effective against fungi that are already in the plant.
If you really want to attempt a proper identification and diagnosis of a turfgrass disease, you must consider these four basic steps: 1. You must correctly identify the turfgrass you have, 2. You must be able to identify the symptoms of the disease, 3. You must be able to have a handle of the environmental conditions (to the extent you can), and 4. You must be able to recognize the signs of the particular pathogen.  This is much more difficult than it sounds; trust me.
Ensuring you know what species of grass you have can be tough, especially since there are about 9,000 varieties.  Many pathogens are specific to certain species of turfgrass.  Similar to the example I gave above, regarding Tall Fescue and Bermudagrass, knowing exactly what kind of grass you have can eliminate many types of diseases and be a big help in the diagnosis process.  NC State has excellent online resources for disease identification.
Steps 2 and 4 are very closely related.  You must know the difference between SYMPTOMS and SIGNS.  I’m serious.  SYMPTOMS are changes in the normal appearance of the grass.  Larger symptoms may be brown spots, patches or rings.  Smaller symptoms may be lesions on the grass leaves.  SIGNS are visual evidence that there is a particular pathogen present.  Is there “cotton like” mycelia?  Smut, Rust, Powdery Mildew each have a different look.  The best time to look for signs is in the morning with dew on the grass.  Dry turf often does not easily reveal signs of disease.
And, of course, step 3 is all the stuff I’ve been talking about throughout this blog – climatic conditions and cultural practices.  Certain diseases are more aggressive in certain temperatures.  Most diseases favor conditions of high moisture, high humidity, overcast skies, low light/shade; in addition to improper mowing, watering and excessive thatch.
Just like our other battle streamers for fighting weeds or pests, this may require some special forces.  There are some fungicides that can be obtained over the counter.  As always, I urge my troops to use caution, read the label and follow directions.  Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and FUNGICIDES are nothing to take lightly, or try to make in your basement.
Don’t guess.  If you need help, give me a shout; or, I can refer you to an expert closer to you.  Don’t mess around with this.
Here's an addendum to my post (above) regarding turfgrass diseases.  I got a call from Jack.  Jack is a customer in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, Virginia.  I did his lawn last year.  You can see pictures of his lawn in my blog post "Lawns we are working on..."  Jack calls me and says, "My Lawn is dying and you gotta come see it!"  So I screeched out of my driveway with the turf-mobile and went over to Jack's house.  (Maybe I should get some sort of flashing light for the roof of my truck.) Here's some pictures:
Jack's lawn was not doing well.  Immediately, I was able to make a diagnosis.  Jack's lawn had Brown Patch or Rhizoctonia Blight (Rhizocatonia Solani). 
Jack didn't believe me.  So, I took a sod sample.  This is different from a soil sample.  A sod sample is basically an inverted circular and cone shaped cut into the turf, about 8 inches in diameter and 8 inches down.
I shipped that sample to the lab at NC State University.  I mentioned above that NC State has some pretty good resources for online turf disease diagnosis.  Well, they also have the nation's foremost lab for turfgrass disease diagnosis.  But you got to send them sod from the infected area, not just soil.
The lab verified my initial diagnosis - brown patch.  How did this happen?  Well, I started asking Jack alot of questions.  Most of the questions centered around Jack's management practices.  Especially his management practices AFTER he was provided my report on what needed to be done to his lawn.  My investigation revealed that Jack had been watering too much and he had made an unauthorized application of fertilizer.  In fact, Jack had no idea about the fertilizer he put down.  Apparently he mixed together a few bags of remnant, old fertilizer he had sitting around his garage.  Jack was sufficiently counseled and sent on his way.  The good news is, I was able to "prescribe" a good fungicide that could correct the situation.  Jack, go forth and sin no more.
I saw Jack after this last post.  He and his wife are getting ready to retire to Arizona.  He sent me a picture of his future lawn.....well, yard, really.
This is one way to ensure you never have another turfgrass disease!


Posted on May 13, 2013 at 6:27 PM Comments comments (89)
This is the time of year when lots of folks ask me about WEEDS.  I discussed weeds and some weed treatments in a few earlier blog posts, mostly in response to some questions.  Here, I want to “set the record straight.”  I want to provide some of my thoughts and other information concerning turfgrass weeds.
Uniformity in our lawns is usually what we strive for.  Weeds disrupt that uniformity.  Weeds also compete with our lawns and playing fields for water, nutrients, light and space.
How do we define what a weed is?  A weed is basically a plant growing out of place or where it is not wanted.  A few sprigs of some nice warm weather turfgrass popping into your beautiful cool season turfgrass lawn (or vice versa) could be considered a weed.  Like bentgrass growing in a stand of Kentucky bluegrass.  That could be as disrupting as dandelions or thistles.
A friend of mine, who has a great deal of farming experience in the midwest, once said to me, "A beautiful rose in a field of wheat is a weed."
Before developing a weed treatment regimen, let’s look at the ecology of weeds.  Weeds have a unique ability to grow in a wide range of habitats and conditions.  Weeds almost always possess one or more of the following traits: prolific seed production, rapid establishment, they have either rhizomes or bulbs, and they have long term seed survival.  Seeds are the primary manner in which weeds disperse.  Many are very abundant seed producers.
The top 6 inches of soil can contain as many as 13,000 weed seeds per cubic foot.  And, one study showed how weed seed could still germinate after being in the soil for some 80 years.
Just like any other plant, weeds are influenced by climate factors.  Temperature has the most effect.  Moisture is the second most common effect.  And, the absence or presence of light may impact weed growth.  Factors with regard to your soil can also have an impact; pH level, nutrient levels, oxygen content, etc.  Some other factors like mowing too low, severely dethatching in the spring, or light irrigation can have an influence.  The grass seed you use can have an influence too; make sure the seed has a very low percentage of crop seed or weed seed content.  Sanitary practices – like washing your equipment after use can have an influence as well. 
If you have weeds, see if any of your management or cultural practices are promoting weed growth before you commence chemical, biological or nuclear warfare.  There may be some simple corrective actions to take before you nuke your lawn.
There are two types of turfgrass weeds: grass like or broadleaf.  As I mentioned on one of my first posts – grasses are monocots; broadleaf weeds are dicots.  Weeds can also be categorized by their life cycles: annuals, biennials or perennials.  Annuals complete their life cycle in one growing season, within a year.  Annuals that begin in the spring and complete their cycle in the fall are summer annuals.  The ones that start in the fall and complete their cycle in the spring are winter annuals.
Biennials require two growing seasons to complete their cycle; the first year they establish themselves vegetatively, the second year they form flowers, set seeds and die.  Perennials live for three or more years.  Strategies for controlling various weeds are determined by what type of weeds they are.
As I’ve said before – the best way to control weeds is to have a thick, healthy stand of turfgrass, by utilizing proper cultural and management practices.  Many weed species are not that “competitive” with thick, healthy turfgrass.  When I’m starting from scratch with one of my clients, my first step is to try to get a thick stand of grass growing.  I worry about weeds later.  Remember, growing a beautiful stand and eliminating weeds can take several growing seasons – it does not happen overnight.  You really need to establish a “strategy” or a “program”.
Anyway, I digress….  One way to control weeds is biological control.  That’s using the weed’s natural antagonists to control the weed.  This is a pretty scientific and extreme method and is probably out of reach for the average homeowner.  Besides, this is an area of turfgrass management that needs quite a bit more research to be done – especially for residential use.
Chemical control is something with which we are more familiar.  This is the use of herbicides.  Herbicides kill or inhibit the growth of plants.  Although there are over 180 different types of herbicides; for turfgrass, we only need to consider a few.
Herbicides that target specific weeds are called selective herbicides.  Herbicides that kill all plants they come in contact with are nonselective herbicides.  Herbicides that kill only the part of the plants with which they come in contact are called contact herbicides
Herbicides that are absorbed by the roots or shoots and are then translocated within the plant are systemic herbicides.  Systemic herbicides are very good at controlling perennial weeds since they kill the underground parts of the plant.  In another post, I talked about glyphosate (Commercial Name: “RoundUp”).  Glyphosate is a systemic, nonselective herbicide.
Herbicides applied prior to planting or sodding are called preplant herbicides.  Preplant herbicides for turfgrass usually involve fumigation with ethyl bromide.  Also another method the average homeowner does not want to attempt.  You want to try to put a huge tarp over your entire lawn and pump a carcinogen and a reproductive toxin under it?  I recommend a different course of action.
Herbicides applied prior to weed emergence are called preemergence herbicides.  These form a chemical barrier that when the weed seeds start to germinate and come in contact with the chemical barrier, they die.  Preemergents are ineffective if the weeds are already growing.  A good preemergent should not hurt established turfgrass.  Read the label and look for: benefin, bensulide or DCPA. 
Postemergence herbicides are applied after weeds have emerged or started growing.  These are used to control broadleaf and perennial grass weeds.  Sometimes these are used to control annual grasses.  Converse to preemergent herbicides, postemergent herbicides do not control weeds prior to their emergence from the soil.  Look on your postemergent labels for contents like MSMA, or 2,4-D.
Annual grasses can be controlled by either post or preemergent herbicides, although preemergent is best.  As I discussed in an earlier post, put your preemergents down early – when the soil temperatures at a 2 inch depth is no more than 55 degrees F.  Remember, when you do that, you have just put down a chemical barrier.  That barrier will remain in place for 6 to 12 weeks.  That will prevent ANYTHING – even good grass seed – from growing.
Postemergence herbicides on annual grasses are most effective when the weeds are in early stages of growth.  So, this should be rather “early” in the season too.  In many cases, two applications may be necessary.  Space out those applications at least 10 to 14 days.  Postemergence has its issues: there may be a need for multiple applications, dying annual grasses can be unsightly in your turfgrass, and, postemergent herbicides may discolor and weaken desirable turfgrass.
These are really difficult to control.  Much of the time they cannot be selectively controlled.  The physiology and anatomy of perennial grass weeds and desirable turfgrasses are very similar.  What kills one could kill the other.  Spot treatment of perennial weed grasses is the key – trying to avoid touching the nearby desirable turfgrass with the herbicide - or as little as possible.
These are the most common in turfgrass.  Look for these chemicals on the label; 2,4-D, mecoprop and dicamba.  These are systemic in nature.  If you have at least two of these three chemicals on the label, you’ll be okay.  If you see all three, you're in great shape.  Now, be careful.  These can harm surrounding vegetables, flowers, trees or shrubs.  Dicamba is very mobile in the soil.  Broadleafs are best controlled with postemergent  herbicides. Some warm season turfs are sensitive to 2,4-D and dicamba – like St. Augustine and Bermuda.
Repeated applications of 2,4-D and Dicamba will provide fair to good control.
Always read the label and comply with the instructions.
If using a postemergent, treat weeds at the early stages of growth and the weeds should be actively growing and not under drought or temperature stress.  Air temperature should be between 65 and 85 degrees F.
Do not mow for 3 to 4 days prior to application so maximum weed topgrowth can come in contact with the herbicide.
Postemergents should stay on the foliage for at least several hours for best results.  Avoid watering for at least 8 hours, ideally 24 hours, after application.  Do not apply if rain is in the weather forecast within 24 hours.  Delay mowing after application as long as possible.
Do not apply in windy conditions.
When using granular herbicides for broadleaf control, you will get best results if the weed is moist.  You want the herbicide to “stick” to the weeds.  Do not allow any traffic on the treated area for 8 to 10 hours after application.
Be patient if you see little or no results.  Several days to three weeks may pass before there are any signs of success.
In many cases, newly seeded or sprigged areas are not tolerant of herbicides.  Make sure you’ve mowed (using the one third/two third rule) at least three times prior to application to new areas.
Do not apply postemergents to warm season turfs as they break winter dormancy.  Wait until the warm season grasses are completely out of dormancy.
After attacking broadleafs, wait 4 to 6 weeks before seeding or sprigging. 
Grass clippings from recently treated herbicides should NOT be used as mulch around trees, shrubs, vegetables or flowers.  Clippings collected after the turf has been mowed 3 to 4 times should be okay. 
I put my (granular) preemergent down rather early.  Since I live in the mid-Atlantic region (the transition zone), I go for early to mid March.  Now, this has been a very cool spring this year.  But, my early approach continues to work.  That usually is about a 90% solution.  Some weeds still manage to pop up.
So, later, in mid April or early May, I put down my (granular)postemergent herbicide.  That handles most of the ones that persist.  Let’s say that’s now at a 95% to 98% solution.
Then I “spot treat” the “one-sies and two-sies” that still manage to foil my efforts with a (liquid) postemergent.  I have a one gallon, pump action sprayer.  It even has a strap on it so I can lug it around the yard.  I spray each weed, in the center of mass with a steady stream for two or three seconds.
I realize the spot treatment phase of the operation may not be feasible for those of you with larger lawns.  There are larger supplies of herbicides for larger lawns and you can get real serious with applicator equipment that can be towed behind a tractor or are self propelled, walk behind types.  For example, I have a broadcast spreader that I can tow behind my lawn tractor.
Each year (or growing season) can be different.  This year its chickweed.  My chickweed survived every assault, until I spot treated it with my sprayer.  It took at least two to three weeks to see any effect.  Once it was dead, I tilled it under and planted some grass seed.  That area looks beautiful now.
I recommend to my clients to do NOTHING (herbicides, pesticides or fertilizing) once the soil/air temperatures start to climb – like mid May or definitely by Memorial Day – JUST STOP; reconsolidate in your current fighting position.  If you still have a weed problem by the end of May, live to fight another day.  Focus on mowing and (perhaps – especially depending on rain) watering over the summer.  Start planning subsequent operations for the fall.

Leadership By Example

Posted on April 15, 2013 at 4:18 PM Comments comments (72)

John Quincy Adams once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." (The Paradox of Power)  That is pretty close to my definition of leadership - The ability to inspire greatness in others. 
Well, I've been asked by several of my turfgrass troops what MY lawn looks like.  Besides telling them it is none of their business, I usually show some photos - or, I bring them over to the house.  Here, below, is a photo of my backyard in 2011:
Just to the left of center in this 2011 photo, you will see a tree that is almost directly behind another tree.  That second tree, behind the front tree, died.  Not sure what happened.  I didn't see any presence of disease.  In the spring of 2012, it just didn't come back, bloom again.  And, it started to really look bad.  So, I had it removed.  The stump was ground down.  I removed all the wood debris.  Put down lawn soil , seeded and fertilized.  In the pictures below, in 2012, (third one down) you will see the place where it was - and it looks like it was never there.  Now that's turfgrass management!
Here are the pictures taken in 2012 below:

Okay, below here's some pics of my yard taken just recently - June, 2013.   Not too bad.   All the other, earlier pictures above are taken much earlier in the growing season.
These are taken much at least a couple months.  You can perhaps see some signs of heat stress already.  I quit watering a few years back - too expensive.  I just let it go dormant.
You can see I got lots of dense shade.
I've experimented with all sorts of things over the guts....all sorts of things.  Now, I am a "minimalist."
But, this year I have been experimenting with a mulching kit for my mower.  That means it has special blades and a block for the discharge chute.  The jury is still out.  I don't think the blades do as good a job as regular blades.  They have seemed to get awfully dull awfully fast this year.

The clippings I have seen do seem to be a bit more chewed up....much smaller in size.
I dunno...
We'll see....

Here are some pics from May of 2014.  Not too bad either - considering the winter we had.  There was some cold weather damage.  Any time your turf remains under water, or under ice, for long periods of time, you can have a difficult recovery in the spring.
I also had some salt/de-icing compound damage along the street.  And I had some of that damage around my back patio and along the front walkway.  I knew that would happen.  But, I'd rather sacrifice some turf, in this case, than have someone slip and fall.

This is a shot of the north side of the backyard.

This is a shot of the south side of the backyard.

An update on the mulching attachment and mulching blades - I think they do not cut as finely as the regular blades.  Sometimes I have to go over an area more than once.  But the evidence of excessive clippings is not  there.  The thatch that is generated is minimal and it soon decays.
Do the right thing - purchase a mower (or get an attachment) that can do mulching.  It is environmentally responsible.

And, this is a shot of the front yard looking from NNE to SSW.  Everything is beautiful and green now.  But, this will all look a little brown once the summer sets in.  Like I said earlier, I do not water any more.  Too expensive.

If we get a real hot summer, I'll post some pictures of my turf when it goes dormant.
Again, note all the shade.  That also has an impact.  Turf needs photosynthesis just like all plants.  Part of that process is a requirement for light.

Like my recent post on heat tolerance, and my future post on shade tolerance, you need to find that difficult balance between turf and trees. 

These two shots are from fall, 2014.  The leaves are just starting to be an issue.  I've already aerated, overseeded and fertilized for the winter.  But, as the weather cools off, I begin to cut a little lower, much lower than during the spring and summer months.  A nicely cropped yard will look real good when the snow falls.
Here are some pics from May of 2015. It is not often that my backyard looks better than my front yard. My front yard is the first pic - w/ the walkway on the right hand side of the pic.

Here are some pictures of my yard from the fall of 2015.  I mean late fall.  We had warm weather like up to Christmas.  These pictures were taken just before the first day of winter @ 21 DEC.  You can see some leaves have been chopped up (mulched) by my mower.  Read my blog post, "Fall Leaf Removal".  I talk about what to do about  leaves and some of the options for dealing with them.  Most of my leaves were removed but I still had to mow in between leaf removal visits.  Heck, I usually have all my lawn care equipment winterized and stored for the winter before Thanksgiving.  I was mowing almost up to Christmas this year.

Even as late in the fall growing season as these pictures were taken, I did not get full recovery from my fall aeration, overseeding and fertilization.  We had a fairly dry summer and fall.  It was super difficult to get those aeration cores into the hard soil.  (Same with all my customers.)  Although I usually recommend aeration in September, I was unable to get it done until after some rain around Columbus Day.  That not only gives you little time for growth before the first frost, it also makes you run up against the close out time the law demands for fertilizer applications.

Below are some shots after my second mowing, around late April, 2016.  I did all my work in the fall.  I put down my fertilizer after the date of the last killing frost in my region, usually early April.  Took my mower out of hibernation.  Put on fresh blades and leveled the deck. 


Posted on April 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (84)
My Fellow Turfgrass Combatants,
Good job.  Carry on with your great work in the service of your lawn.  In this block of instruction, I will discuss THATCH.  That's right; you heard me.  THATCH.  Thatch buildup results because you are not following orders.  So, it is your fault.  Thatch can be a good thing - but like many good things; too much is NOT good.
Lawn thatch is the buildup of excessive unwanted material in your lawn that can choke out air, water, nutrients and sunlight.  An excessive build up of thatch in your lawn can cause grass to stop growing and even become more prone to insects and lawn diseases by weakening your turf.  Thatch is composed of dead grass build up, pine needles, leaves, moss or other organic material.  It can also refer to the dead layer of sod that is left over after an insect infestation.
Write this down: You will never have more than 0.5 inches of thatch.  Now repeat after me; "I will never have more than 0.5 inches of thatch in my yard."  AGAIN!  I CAN'T HEAR YOU!  Okay.  If you have more than that, its time to get out of your Class B uniform and get to work.
How do I "de-thatch" or remove thatch from a lawn?
There are four ways to manually get rid of thatch from your lawn.  If it is a small lawn, you could do it by hand.  De-thatching a 1,000 square foot front yard could easily take 2 to 3 hours.  It can be real back breaking work - or, awesome PT - depending on how you look at it.  Most people prefer to do de-thatching or thatch removal by renting a machine (Like I do - I also have a thatching rake I can pull behind my tractor).  These machines are called a lawn thatcher or "power rake".  These lawn thatchers should cost between $65 and $120 for a 4 hour rental.  Another way to do it is to hire someone to do it for you.  Rates vary according to area.  They typically charge about $150 to $200 for a 2,000 square foot yard, including clean up.  Clean up can be a big deal.  Depending on how much thatch you have, you could have several large trash bags or a couple pick-up trucks full of dead grass.  With two people this takes about an hour.  If you are doing it by yourself, you should plan on 3 to 4 hours.  Bigger lawns will take longer.  Before thatching, make sure to mow your lawn about 1/3 shorter than usual.  If you normally cut your grass at 3", cut it down to 2".  It is best to thatch when the grass is dry.  A wet lawn can very quickly turn into a mess.
If the main problem is moss, try using iron sulfate first to get rid of the moss.  (Sweet soil is an alkali that may raise the pH to inhibit future growth; however it is not very effective once the moss is already there.)  It may be important to stay on top of it, by adding iron to your lawn in the spring and the fall.  The best time to put the iron on is whenever moss is actively growing.
When is the best time to thatch a lawn? (“Power Rake”)
The best time to “de-thatch” a lawn with a thatching tool or machine is in the spring or in the early fall.  That falls in line with the doctrine I have been spouting off to you - don't mess with your lawn in the middle of the summer or the middle of the winter.  Lawn thatching in the spring or fall allows your lawn to recover before it gets too hot or too cold.  De-thatch before you core aerate.  Most lawns will not look that bad after they get de-thatched.  Depending on how much thatch and other organic material the machine pulls up (sticks, stones, debris), your lawn could look like western Iraq.  Because lawn thatchers can take a lot of moss or bad grasses out of your lawn, the lawn may need to be re-seeded in order for it to heal properly.  (If there is a lot of moss, you may also need to add iron sulfate to get rid of the remaining moss before seeding.)  Lawns with 'dead thatch' can be very tricky to deal with if insect damage is extensive. 
How often do I need to thatch my lawn?
It depends on the lawn and the type of climate.  Most experts recommend thatching once every 3 to 5 years.  Some yards may not need to be thatched for many more years.  You can tell if you have thatch by placing your foot on the grass and seeing if your foot makes an impression that stays on the lawn, not unlike the drought diagnosis I mentioned in my section on irrigation.  You may also be interested in finding out more about dethatchers or power rakes...the different types of weapons for this sort of operation.


Posted on March 25, 2013 at 5:16 PM Comments comments (77)
This section will consist of many posts regarding aeration.  You will not be able to tell there are multiple posts unless you check back from time to time (as you have been ordered to).  Then you will say, "Gee, that topic has grown over the last couple of weeks."  You gotta realize, I "craft" these posts.  And, I plan them out (strategically - hooah) over time.  So, like a fine wine, I will NOT post information has matured...until its ready.
What is Lawn Aeration?
Aeration is the process of using a mechanical, liquid, or a manual lawn aerator to aerate your lawn.  Making holes in the surface of your lawn allows deeper root growth and reduces soil compaction.  A lawn aerator allows air, water, and nutrients direct access to the root system.  Not only does lawn aerating give you a better looking lawn, but it also thickens the turf and this promotes deeper root growth by allowing the roots to expand and grow deeper into the soil.  Lawn aeration holes hold water in them which can soften hard soil and give clay soils more room for expansion.  In addition, there are a few different types of lawn treatments that go well with aeration; these include thatching, fertilization, overseeding and liming.  I will brief you on these other topics soon.
How often do I use a Lawn Aerator to aerate my lawn?
Most experts recommend you should aerate lawns, as a minimum, every 1 to 3 years.  If you have hills, pets or active outdoor children you may even need it twice a year.  The best time to fertilize and over seed is just after you aerate your lawn.  For new lawns, turf aeration is very important.  Most developers scrape off the topsoil when they build a new home and it can take years before that soil can be naturally healthy again.  The best way to make it healthy quickly is with a lawn core aerator.  Also, in many areas new lawns tend to be installed on top of hard clay.  A core lawn aerator can speed up the process of soil integration by encouraging roots and grass growth.  If you have bad soil, you should aerate at least once a year for the first five years you own a home.  It is very effective to also fertilize and over seed right after aerating.  After a lawn is established, most experts still recommend that you aerate once every three years. 
When should I aerate my Lawn?
The best time to aerate your lawn (in the mid-Atlantic region) is usually in April or in late September.  For Spring aeration the optimal window is March to the end of June.  In the fall, it is September to October.  The 'perfect time' to aerate a lawn may change according to location (See my post on turfgrass adaptation zones.).  If you live in warm coastal states like California, or Florida, the perfect time to aerate could be as early as February and as late as November.  For the Midwest and the south, summer is a great time to aerate.  If the ground is too soft, it may not be a good time.  If the ground is too hard it may need to be watered for about an hour before hand to obtain the best results with a lawn aerator.  Lawns that are aerated on a regular basis may produce better plugs.  Lawn aeration can be done using a lawn aerator machine, aerator shoes, liquid aeration, a tow behind aerator, or a hand aerator.  If I had all kinds of time and money, I'd aerate every spring AND fall - even if I didn't overseed.  Many great golf courses aerate more than once a year and they don't necessarily overseed when they aerate.  They just aerate!
Do I need aeration?
If your lawn needs to be aerated, it is a good idea to know right away.  The following are six tell-tale signs that your lawn could greatly benefit from being aerated.

1) If your lawn is yellow in some spots, it usually means that these areas are not getting enough water.  Aerating these areas will help increase moisture penetration down to a lower level and increase root development.

2) If the water you put on your lawn runs off without soaking into the lawn it is also a good indicator that aeration will help.  Hilly lawns also tend to harden up faster.  A good aeration should help the water to soak in.

3) If the soil is dry or compacted it will also benefit by being aerated.  Aerating the soil can allow moisture to soak in and break up hard clays.

4) If the lawn has a lot of clay in it, it may need to be aerated.  Clay soils expand in the summer when they get hot and contract in the winter.  Aerating them before they get hot will allow the soils to expand without contracting the delicate root system.

5)  If the Lawn is yellow, this usually means that the lawn is not getting even water.  Aerating the lawn will allow water and moisture to have more direct access to the root system.  Over time, aerating will helps the roots break through soils and create self-sustaining turf.

6) Another good indicator that your lawn needs to be aerated is if you haven't aerated your lawn in quite a while.  Most lawn experts recommend that you aerate your lawn at least once every three years.  If the soil is compacted or has a lot of clay in it this may even need to be done more often.
Benefits of Fall Aeration

Since most lawns need to be aerated every year, homeowners typically choose between spring aeration and fall aeration because those are the two best times to aerate.  Between March and May (April is often best) and September to October (late September is usually ideal) is the best conditions for a superior aeration job.  Fall aeration provides benefits that are not seen in the spring and it may be a better time for your lawn.  Consider whether your lawn would be improved by the following benefits of fall aeration.

Better dirt plugs when core aerating
The ground in fall is usually soft enough to get decent plugs but not too soft.  The spring in many areas is too wet, that it can be hard to find the right time to aerate because the ground is saturated much of the time.  Aerating when the ground is too soft results in holes that close-up quickly and don’t provide improved access to nutrients, water, air and fertilizer for very long.

Best time for over seeding
Because aeration creates additional space in the soil and reduces compaction, it is a good idea to over seed after aerating.  Fall is the best time for over seeding because there is plenty of rain to help the new seed come in with little effort and without spring weeds.

Improved lawn drainage
Lawn Aeration is vital for good lawn drainage and helps reduce runoff.  Fall aerating can be done with lime or sand to further improve drainage.

More benefits from fertilizer
It is a good idea to fertilize your lawn after aerating as more fertilizer will reach the roots.  Fall aeration increases the benefits your lawn gets from both fall and winter fertilizing.

Great as part of winterizing yourlawn
Fall aeration makes it easier for your lawn to do well over the winter months and come back beautiful in the spring.  A great hint for over seeding in the fall is to use a good shade seed to prevent moss growth over the winter.
Tips for Good Lawn Aeration
To get the most of your lawn aeration, take these tips to heart:
Aerate on a day when temperatures are mild.
The soil should be moist, but not wet.  Wet soil catches in the hollow tines of the aerator and makes the process difficult.
If you have cool-season grasses, aerate in the fall.  Lawn aeration for warm-season grasses is usually best done in the spring time.
When you aerate in the fall, don't wait until too late in the season!  Make sure there are four weeks of good growing time left for your lawn to fill in the holes and make the most of your aeration efforts.
After aerating your lawn, leave the soil plugs alone for a few days to break up.  You can crumble the plugs with a rake, lawn mower, or old piece of carpet dragged lightly across your lawn.
Before your first aeration, talk to a turfgrass specialist (Like Me!) about your soil type, the grass you have, and how deeply you should aerate your lawn to get the best results.
This completes the block of instruction on Aerating.  Take a break and be back in your seats in one zero mikes.


Posted on March 15, 2013 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (429)
Troops, let's talk about watering your turfgrass.  As in mowing, I said, "High and slow."  With watering, it is "Deeply and infrequently."  Water composes from 75 percent to 85 percent of the weight of a healthy grass plant.  It is essential for seed germination, tissue formation, plant cooling, food manufacture, and nutrient absorption and nutrient transport.  A grass plant loses the most water under conditions of high light intensity, high temperature, low relative humidity, and windy conditions.  Without adequate water, the grass plant can’t cool itself and becomes susceptible to wilting, desiccation, and death.
Are some grasses more drought tolerant?
Yes; grasses differ in both their need for water and their drought tolerance.  Also, seedling or recently established lawns (less than 12 months old) have little drought tolerance.  You must consider the proper planting time for the various grasses in order to successfully establish a lawn.  Some mature grasses develop deep roots and require less water.  However, the most drought-tolerant grasses may not be suitable for all regions of CONUS.  Consult ME or your local agriculture extension agent for specific information for your area.  Tall fescue, when properly managed, develops a deep root system and can be very drought tolerant.  However, this advantage is lost if grown on shallow or extremely compacted soils.  Kentucky bluegrass can survive extended drought periods by gradually slowing growth, turning straw colored and entering summer dormancy.  Once water becomes available again, it can initiate new growth from the crown of each plant.  Perennial ryegrasses have little tolerance to dry conditions and usually do not persist well in non-irrigated areas.  Fine fescues such as creeping red, chewings fescue, and hard fescue tolerate dry periods quite well due to their low water requirements.  Warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustine grass, and centipedegrass actually prefer warm conditions and can tolerate most drought conditions due to their deep and extensive root systems.
How much water does my lawn need?
This varies somewhat depending on grass type.  In general, applying one inch of water per week is the recommendation when there is insufficient rainfall during summer drought.  An inch of water can be measured by marking the side of a tuna or pet food can placed in the lawn.  Remember, if nature provides water by rainfall, irrigation may not be needed.  Nothing is more wasteful (and sure to attract attention for all the wrong reasons) than seeing irrigation running in the rain!  Pay attention to current weather conditions and forecasts in order to use water more responsibly.
What about too much or too little water?
Over-watered lawns frequently lead to excess blade growth, summer fungal diseases, and more frequent mowing.  Excessive watering also wastes water and increases the risk of fertilizer and pesticide runoff from the lawn to paved surfaces.  This could negatively impact local water quality.  Lawns that receive little to no water from irrigation or rainfall during summer months will go dormant.  Grass blade coloring will lighten.  Most lawns will recover when water returns.  During a severe drought, cool season grasses (ryegrasses, fescues, or bluegrasses) may die and require reseeding in the fall.  This may be acceptable to those looking to conserve water during summer months, or may be necessary because of water-use restrictions during a drought.  Again, where warm-season grasses are adapted within the region, consider using them because they can better withstand most drought conditions.
How can I tell if my lawn needs water?
A “thirsty” lawn turns from the normal green color to a purple-bluish color.  In these areas, the grass blades will not spring back if you walk across the lawn and your footprints are visible. “Foot Printing” is the first sign of “wilt” and indicates a need for water.
Tips for better watering
Deep and infrequent watering maintains a healthy root system and reduces weed infestation (as opposed shallow roots and germination of weed seeds).  Applying one inch of water is often difficult to achieve in a single watering given the slow infiltration rate on most soils in the mid-Atlantic region.  Therefore, smaller amounts of water applied every three to four days may be required to allow water to enter the soil without causing runoff.  Water is best applied early in the day (0500 hours to 1000 hours) when evaporation loss is lowest.  Afternoon watering is authorized but wind may affect uniformity.  Night watering minimizes evaporation, but may increase fungal diseases.  Consider that numerous automatic sprinklers all running during periods of high household use (like early in the morning) may place extreme demands on a community's water system.  Water the lawn, not driveways, sidewalks, or roads, by adjusting sprinkler heads.  Mow your grass at the right height during the summer (HIGH!).  Longer grass blades increase the depth of the root system, shade the soil, and help drought tolerance.
So, troops, make it happen.  Watering for 30 minutes each day at noon is not the solution.  Water deeply, real deep, to the maximum root depth.  Water the daylights out of your lawn (if you can afford it).  Then wait for signs of drought stress.  Then water it again at that time.  Frequent, light waterings is a no go at this station.

More on Mowing....

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 11:59 AM Comments comments (90)
Let me say a few more things about mowing....first....Cutting Height
How high should you cut your grass?  Well, five factors determine the best cutting height:
Use of the Area
Environmental Conditions
Turf Health
Mower Type
Turfgrass species is the main factor.  The location of the crown for each species is different.  Some species have elevated crowns so they would suffer from thinning and loss of vigor if the cutting height is too low.  Unless you are preparing for a golf tournament in your yard, you should cut at the upper limit for the species you have.  If you have a great deal of shade, cut it high to maximize photosynthesis.  Temperature is also a consideration.  When it gets hot; raise the height.  Also, cut it high if the turf is recovering from some sort of stress or damage. 
Scalping is the excessive removal of green shoots during mowing, causing a stubbly, brown appearance.  When a lawn is scalped, root and shoot growth stop immediately. 
Mowing Frequency
Mowing frequency should be determined by growth rate.  And growth rate depends on environmental conditions, species and management principles.  Under high growth periods, you may have to cut the grass more than once a week.  Increased nitrogen fertilization and irrigation will stimulate growth. 
A widely accepted rule of thumb is the “one third; two thirds” rule.  Simply stated, remove no more than one third of the leaf tissue at any one mowing.  Mowing too frequently is also a hazard.  Mowing too frequently makes turf susceptible to disease because of repeated wounding of the leaf tips, which may allow fungi and other pathogens to enter the plant.
Turfgrass tends to grow or lean in the direction of mowing.  Mowing in the same direction each time may allow a buildup of clippings in rows which can result in excessive thatch accumulation.  Alternate your direction of mowing.
Mowing Equipment
Mowers basically have two cutting types: scissoring or impact.  Reel mowers are scissor type mowers.  They consist of 5 to 11 blades attached to a cylinder called a reel.  They push the grass leaves against a cutting bar called a bed knife.  Reel mowers are used in high quality turf areas like golf courses.  They cut real close and make a beautiful stand.  But they are expensive, hard to find and your ground must be perfectly level and smooth.  There are some small "push" powered reel mowers.  I recommend those mowers a lot for Warriors who have real small lawns, like around a townhouse, or for Warriors on the overweight program.
An impact mower is what most of us are familiar with – a rotary mower.  It cuts the leaves with blades that rotate horizontally at high speeds.  The mower cuts the grass by the sheer speed of the blade. 
With either type of mower, having sharp blades is the culminating point in this battle.  Sharpen your blades each year before mowing season.  Dull blades can reduce the quality and heath of the turf drastically.  Now, sharpening blades may throw them out of balance.  If you or Bubba at the local hardware store do not know how to properly sharpen blades, and balance them, don't do it.  I just buy new blades and recycle the old ones.
Do not mow when the grass is wet.  That tends to rip, shred or pull the grass. 
Returning grass clippings to the ground is a touchy subject.  Too little has no effect.  Too much can create thatch and can eventually choke out a lawn – by not allowing air, water and other nutrients into the soil.  Decomposition of some clippings provides nutrients.  But, too little doesn’t do anything and too much can be a bad thing.
Always cut at the highest BLADE SPEED possible.  The mower should move slowly.  Let the blades do the work. 
HIGH AND SLOW - that's what I always say.
Mandatory Annual Safety Briefing
Each year more than 110,000 great Americans are injured using lawn mowers.  Here's what the Army Corps of Engineers has to say about mower safety:
Lawn Mower Injuries:
§The power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home.
§The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year lawn mowers injure over 110,000 people seriously enough to require treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
§More than 9,000 of the people hurt were younger than 18 years. Older children and adolescents were most often hurt while cutting lawns as chores or as a way to earn money.
§Injuries include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones,burns, and eye and other injuries. Both users of mowers and those who are nearby can be hurt.
Four types of power lawn mower accidents cause the majority of injuries:
§Contact with rotating blade.
§Propelled objects. Rocks, glass and wire are hurled at initial speeds above 170 miles per hour. Objects may be thrown 50 feet or more.
§Overturning. Thi soccurs primarily when riding mowers are used on steep slopes or embankments. Victims may be pinned under the mower or come into contact with the blade.
§Riding mowers running over the victim. Accidents occur if the operator fails to look when backing a riding mower, children playing are seriously injured, or an operator pulls a power mower backward over his or her foot.
Other Hazards:
§The muffler and cylinder head heat up during operation, and remain hot for sometime after the engine has been turned off and can cause burns.
§Most mowers are powered by gasoline-driven combustion engines. Gasoline is a very explosive and flammable material that should be treated with respect. Gasoline is flammable because it vaporizes with air to form a mixture that ignites easily. Vaporization can occur in temperatures as low as zero degrees.
Follow these guidelines:
§Read the operator’s manual. The manual explains safe procedures that should be followed
§Check guards and shields. Be sure all protective devices are in place before starting the mower. Shields and guards are for your protection and will prevent  injuries if used.
§Don' tmow when other people are nearby.
§Wears trong shoes or boots, not flip-flops or sneakers.
§Pick up rocks, sticks, pine cones, and toys before mowing, even if you are using a mower that collects the clippings automatically.
§Wear goggles or safety glasses, and wear hearing protection. Once you get used to protecting your hearing, you'll be amazed at how annoyingly noisy a mower is when you aren't wearing protection.
§Fuel your edger and mower outside, and do it before you start, not during operation.
§If  you are going to remove or replace the blade, disconnect the spark plug first.
§Turn off the mower and wait for the blade to stop spinning before you empty the grass catcher, unclog something from the blade or under the mower, or push the mower across rocks or gravel.
§Riding mowers aren't meant to carry passengers.
§Make sure other people, especially children, are out of the area. Young children should be supervised while the yard is being mowed. The mower operator may no thear or see children approach.
§Never point the discharge chute at anyone.  Never run the mower over gravel.
§Do not mow wet grass. Wet grass is slippery and the operator can lose footing, slip under the mower, or allow the mower to roll backwards. Wet grass also clogs the discharge chute and can cause the engine to falter.  When this happens, always turn off the engine and wait a few seconds for the blades to stop rotating before correcting it.
§Use care on inclines. Some slopes are too steep to mow safely. Always push walk-behind mowers across slopes to avoid coming in contact with the mower (e.g., by sliding down the hill onto the mower, or allowing the mower to roll backwards on top of operator).  Drive riding mowers up and down slopes.
§Never leave a running mower unattended.
Do your PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services), wear the right gear and be aware of your surroundings.  Hooah?  ESSAYONS!

Turfgrass Insects

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 6:22 PM Comments comments (189)
I want to expand this section on turfgrass insects.  If you refer back to one of my earlier categories – “Lawns We Are Working On” – you will see where I answered Marc’s question about grubs (Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 6:15 PM).  When you feel like it, please review that section. I won’t bore everyone with repeating that information on white grubs.  Also, in response to that question, I started this section on turfgrass insects and I posted a drawing and a picture (above & below) of a lawn grub.
Now, I’ll provide some more information regarding turfgrass insects.
Insects are all around us.  They are some of the most plentiful creatures on this planet.  They are 70 to 80 percent of all known animals.  There are over a million species of insects on earth and the US has about 100,000 different species.  But, the good news is; less than 3 percent are a nuisance to plants or people.  As I said in my post referenced above, less than 100 species attack turfgrass.
A true turfgrass warrior should have at least a basic understanding of insects and how they form, their life cycles and how they damage our turfgrass.  What are they and where are they?  If you can’t operate the internet, you wouldn’t be reading this.  So, in this blog post, I can give you the basic information and then you can search from here.
Insects go through a progression of changes in their life cycles called metamorphosis.  There are two categories of metamorphosis – simple and complex.  When an insect develops from an egg into a larva, or a worm-like organism, that is a complex (or complete) metamorphosis.  Like the larva of a butterfly is called a caterpillar.  Larvae eat a lot.  This is the stage when the insects that attack turfgrass cause the most damage.  Then the larva goes through pupation to become an adult.  Most turfgrass insects go through complete metamorphosis. 
The insects that have simple metamorphosis do not have a larval stage.  They hatch into nymphs which are merely smaller versions of the mature adult.
Insects have three main body parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen.  And, the insects that damage turfgrass have two different types of mouths – chewing and piercing-sucking.  They either chew up pieces of the plant tissue or they suck the juices from the plant tissue with an extended, hollow, beak-like extension or siphon.
Here I will list the common species of grubs and where they are usually located.
Japanese Beetles: most common east of the Mississippi River but can be found throughout the US.
Green June Beetles: primarily found in the east from NY to FL, but can be found as far west as TX & OK.
European Chafer: mostly found in the northeast, with some in MI & OH.
Southern and Northern Masked Chafer: the Southern masked chafer is found east of the Rockies but most likely in KY, IN, IL, MO & TX.  The Northern Masked Chafer can be found from CT west to OH & MO.
May or June Beetles: mostly found in eastern CONUS.  Less likely to be found on the west coast or southwest.
Black Turfgrass Ataenius: found usually on golf courses or other intensely managed turf.  Can be found in the north Atlantic coast and the Midwest. 
Oriental Beetles: Found in NY, CT, MA, NJ, RI, PA, NC & HI.
Asiatic Garden Beetle: can be found in most northeastern states and along the Atlantic coast from MA to SC.
Here are some more “soil inhabiting” insects:
To the left is a picture of an adult Billbug.  These insects have bills or snouts.  These can be found throughout the US.  There are basically three species: the Hunting Billbug, the Phoenix Billbug and the Bluegrass Billbug.  The larvae have no legs.  Unlike turf damaged by grubs, billbug damaged turf cannot be rolled back like a carpet.  Turf damaged by Billbugs will pull away easily because the chewed stems break away from the crown.  If you have Billbugs, you will most likely see some fine, tan sawdust-like excrement that accumulates in the feeding area.  Turf damaged by Billbugs will have firm soil whereas turf damaged by grubs will have loose soil.  Below is what Billbug damage looks like.
Mole Crickets
These can be found in the southeast US, especially in FL, and along the south Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.  There are two main species: the Southern Mole Cricket and the Tawny Mole Cricket.  Mole Crickets have shovel-like front legs which actually cut the turfgrass roots.  They also feed on the roots.  They go through simple metamorphosis, so the nymph looks like the adult.  Usually a soap solution is applied to see if Mole Crickets emerge.  Insecticides can handle the Mole Cricket.  To the right is a drawing of a Mole Cricket.
Ground Pearls
These can be found in the southern and southwestern states.  They look like miniature pearls.  They are actually a type of insect called: Scale.  They have piercing-sucking mouth parts.  Not much is known about their life cycle.  They attack Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, Centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass.  They can go as deep as 10 inches so fighting them can be tough.
European Crane Fly
Most likely found in the Pacific Northwest.  They are tough; that’s why they are called “leather jackets”.  The adult looks like a large mosquito.  They do not harm people or property.  They feed on turf roots and crowns.  There are some preventative insecticides out there.
Below Are Thatch Inhabiting Insects:
Sod Webworms
These are the larvae of “lawn moths”, sometimes called “millers”.  They can be found in most regions of the US and they like to feed on Kentucky Bluegrass, Perrenial Ryegrass, Fine Fescue, Bentgrass, Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass.  They differ from other moths because they fold their wings around their body, making them look real thin.  That also makes them hard to see.  They also have a snout-like projection from the head.  They hide during the day.  But, if disturbed, they will fly a few feet.  They feed on the leaves just above the crown.  The first sign of damage is yellow patches of turf.  Large numbers of these moths flying just above your turf in the early evening is a bad sign.  But, they can be easily controlled.
Cutworms are larvae of night flying moths too, but they are easily 2 to 3 times larger than the Sod Webworm.  They feed on the turf at night and lay curled up in the turf during the day.  They cut the turf and pull it into a burrow in the soil before eating it.  You can detect them by seeing turf leaves that are unevenly chewed or severed.  You may even spot their green excrement pellets.  These can be easily controlled as well.
Armyworms are like caterpillars that attack turfgrass.  They are found throughout the US – east of the Rockies.  There are two species: The Armyworm and the Fall Armyworm.  The larvae feed at night.  They feed on the lower surfaces of the leaves.  They can be very damaging.  A horde of Armyworms can devour all the grass in an area and move on quickly.  But, they can be controlled. 
There are the Hairy Chinchbug and the Southern Chinchbug in the US.  The hairy species is in the northern states and the southern one likes warm season turfs, especially St. Augustinegrass.  They have piercing-sucking mouth parts.  They suck out the juices and, in doing so; inject a toxic fluid into the plant tissue.  Detection and control are fairly easy for Chinchbugs.
Leaf & Stem Inhabiting Insects
Mites are arachnids, not really insects.  They have eight legs and two body parts.  There are:  The Bermudagrass Mite, Winter Grain Mite and Clover Mite.  Bermudagrass Mites are very tiny and only feed on bermudagrass.  Winter Grain Mites are only active in the winter.  Clover Mites are so small they look like little, reddish specks and will leave a reddish stain when crushed. 
Frit Flies
The larvae of these flies (aka maggots) feed on most cool season grasses.  Their tunneling also destroys stem tissue.  You can detect them because they are attracted to white.  Throw down a plain white piece of paper and they’ll hop right on it.
These are aphids.  They attack about 60 species of turfgrass.  They have piercing-sucking mouth parts.  Like Chinchbugs, they suck out fluids and inject a toxin.  The damage usually begins with turf in the shade.  There can be as many as 4,000 in a square foot.
Both the adults and nymphs pierce and suck the leaves and stems.  They can be detected as you walk through the lawn.  They will “hop” or jump as you disturb them.  Control is difficult because they can infest, cause damage and move away from the area so quickly.
Other Pests
These other pests may not feed on or damage turfgrass.  But, they may build mounds or make holes.  Or, they may be a nuisance to people or pets.  These are:
Red Imported Fire Ant – Can make very large mounds and sting people.
Cicadas – They can be loud and there can be lots of them.  Good thing they only come around every 13 or 17 years.
Sowbugs & Pillbugs – These sometimes feed on turfgrass or other succulent plants.
Millipedes & Centipedes – Centipedes in the south can sting you.
Slugs and Snails – These are mollusks.  They may feed on other flowers and shrubs.
Fleas – These can get on your pets and then on you.  There are insecticides to treat your yard if this becomes a problem.
Ticks – May cause anemia and transmit disease (like Lyme Disease).  A female tick can lay as many as 6,000 eggs.
Spittlebugs – These suck plant juices.  They hide in a froth-like substance they create.  They rarely cause damage. 
Chiggers – Immature larvae of certain mites.  Spray-on or lotion repellants usually work on Chiggers.
Earwigs – They feed on other plants but do not damage turf or bother people.
A few final words about insect control….
It is not economically feasible or practical to absolutely eliminate all your insects.  It just can’t be done.  The goal should be to contain the problem enough to where there is little or no damage to your turf and little or no nuisance to yourself when working in or enjoying your yard.  There are so many factors affecting the insect population in your AO (Area of Operation); climate and predators are just a couple factors.  It is hard to control all the variables. 
I will discuss pesticides later in a separate post.
One thing is for sure.  For many of these pests, you will not be able to make any sort of diagnosis from your deck or patio.  You’ll have to get on your hands and knees, and maybe even have at least a 20 power lens to see what’s going on.  Your neighbors may think you are a freak.  But you will have a better lawn.
Thanks for your request.
There’s not much to say about a RASTER.  It is just part of, like the tail end of, a white grub or chafer/beetle larvae.  These pests are a real problem in the northern Midwest.  Now, that being said, the raster (or the “raster pattern”) is the most common way to identify which species of white grub a turfgrass troop may have in his or her AO.  The shape of the anal slit can also be used in identification.  Determining the correct species provides a better way to develop a management strategy.  Ohio State and Michigan State University have great fact sheets for identifying grubs.
There are some methods to remove white grubs.  I talked some about grub control before, but here are some other ideas:
1.      Keep your lawn healthy.  Do the management practices I’ve talked about throughout this blog.
2.      Aerate.  Grubs prefer compacted soil.
3.      Keep a lookout.  Turf will turn brown and wilt.  The turf could be rolled back like a carpet or rug because the grubs sever the roots.  Look for skunks or moles feeding on grubs.
4.      Water deeply.
5.      Think about using milky spore.  (But that only works on Japanese beetle grubs; those are the most common though.)
6.      Consider using parasitic nematodes.  That’s a stretch though…
7.      Use “the spikes of death” lawn aerator attachments to your shoes.  They are terrible for aerating but you might get the picture.
8.      Try a mixture of diatomaceous earth mixed with soap powder at a rate of 6 to 9 kg per 100 m2.  Alternately, use a tablespoonful of pyrethrum dissolved in 4 L of water.  Spread either one of these mixtures across the infected area of the lawn.
9.      Use a fertilizer high in potassium in the fall.
10.    Then, there’s always chemical control……
Spittlebugs are a different story.  They are moth like black bugs with the orange stripes.  They are much like aphids.  For protection, spittlebug nymphs release a mass that looks like spittle, hence the bugs' name.  It serves to protect the nymphs.  The insects can do serious damage to grass, especially the centipede variety.   They fly about while you are mowing or walking through the lawn. 
Spittlebugs feed on plants by inserting needle like beaks into the stem and suck out juices.  Unchecked, this can cause grass to become bleached or yellow, then eventually wither and die.  The symptoms are similar to the damage caused by chinch bugs in St. Augustine, but spittlebug adults are much more mobile than chinch bugs, so the damage tends to be spread out, rather than concentrated.
Spittlebugs overwinter as eggs in plant stems, under leaf sheaths or in plant debris.  Nymphs hatch in the spring and begin feeding.  The nymphs feed for about a month before becoming adults.  Adults live about three weeks and lay eggs the last two weeks.  The eggs take about two weeks to hatch.  Two generations hatch each year.
Adult spittlebugs are about a quarter-inch long and black to dark brown.  They have two bright red or orange stripes across their wings.  Nymphs resemble small wingless adults.  They're white to yellow-orange with red eyes and a brown head.
Early on, a damaged lawn will have yellow spots of dead or dying grass.  Spots might overlap to form large areas of dead turf in heavy infestations.
The nymphs are easily detected.  Just look on the grass stems near the soil surface for the distinctive spittle masses.  In severe infestations, you can actually hear a squishing sound as you walk across the grass.
Adult spittlebugs also can damage ornamental plants, particularly in late summer and fall, when populations are at their highest levels.  The ornamental plants they prefer include hollies, asters and morning glory.  If spittlebugs feed on woody plants, the new growth will be twisted and deformed and the leaves will have irregular brown blotches.
Infestations can be controlled with turf insecticides that contain pyrethroids, such as bifenthrin (Ortho Max Bug-G-Gon), cyfluthrin (Bayer Advanced Multi-Insect Killer), cyfluthrin+imidacloprid (Bayer Complete Insect Killer), or lamba-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Once and Done Insect Killer).
Use plenty of water to apply the insecticides since you need to move it through the thatch layer of the grass and into the soil.  When using a liquid insecticide, you can achieve the best volume of water with a hose-end sprayer.  Spittlebug infestations are worse in a rainy summer or if a lawn has been over-watered.
The nymphs need high humidity to survive.  Turf with excessive thatch is much more likely to provide them the conditions they need.  This occurs when centipede is mowed higher than it should be.  Reducing the mowing height will cut down on the spittlebugs' numbers.
Hope this scratches your itch!