From the FAQ Vault – It’s officially Autumn … I hate raking. What do you recommend I do with these tree leaves laying around on my grass?

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Public Domain Photo by Charles Rondeau

Autumn Dry Leaves (Public Domain Photo) by Charles Rondeau

In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten quite a few phone calls about tree leaves.

People are asking, “Should they be kept on the grass, removed completely, or mulched?”

Some of these calls were from customers with newly installed sod, others have sod that was installed a while ago, and still others were calling about their lawns that were established by seed.

No matter the origins of your grass, and no matter the age of your lawn, at Red Hen Turf Farm we do NOT recommend letting your leaves cover up your grass throughout the entire winter.  

Yes, if you do enough Googling, you’ll see articles that tell you it’s desireable to let the leaves stay there, mainly because a thick layer of leaves gives wildlife a nice place to live and find food.  We disagree about this being a good idea.

In fact, we recommend you limit the advice you get online to reputable, regional websites such as Purdue University Extension, Michigan State University Extension, and Ohio State University Extension. At times, we also might use extension.org and other “land grant university” websites, although we try our “local” sources first.

When we give advice to our customers, it’s typically based on these “land grant university” / Extension websites because they only publish information that is backed up by scientific research and they pass the so-called C.R.A.P. testwhich means they are Current, Relevant, Authoritative / Accurate, and their Purpose is to provide science-backed information to the community and to fellow experts.

University of Minnesota Extension suggests that if you MUST allow leaves to cover up 10-20% of your lawn, it might be fine but leaving an excessive amount of leaves on your lawn over the winter is not advised.  WHY NOT? Many reasons, including:

  1. Excessive leaf coverage over winter will likely smother your grass and inhibit growth in the spring.
  2. Leaves shade your grass, which can prevent your lawn from being able to photosynthesize in the late fall.  Photosynthesis is crucial for plant growth because it’s the process that let’s them turn sunlight into “food”.
  3. Thick layers of leaves can smother and completely kill the turf. Removing the interference from fallen tree leaves also allows your late season nitrogen applications to reach the turf more effectively, and improves the efficacy of late-season broadleaf herbicide applications. Therefore, for optimum turf health, it is critical to remove the tree leaves, or at least break them up.
  4. Leaves, even in small amounts, can trap humidity at the surface of your turf, which may encourage snow mold diseases.
  5. The animals like mice, moles, and voles that might enjoy living in your leaves may cause more damage than usual.

So, what might you do with your leaves?

  1. Rake them up or use a blower, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  2. Use your mower’s bagging attachment, then either compost them, dispose of them, or use them to mulch a non-turf area of your landscape such as your garden of flower beds.
  3. If the coverage is no too excessive, you can MULCH your leaves with a mower.  This chops them into small pieces that won’t smother your grass. Mulching is an especially good way to handle autumn leaves since the nutrients and organic matter will benefit your lawn and soil. To learn more about mulching leaves check out THIS LINK from the City of New Rochelle, New York, which provides information from Purdue and Michigan State Universities.

Until next time! And keep the questions coming … The Red Hen Turf Farm Crew.

 

 

 

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Crabgrass in the Fall – Having a Completely Crabgrass-free Lawn is a Tough Chore!

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Crabgrass growing next to a sidewalk

Crabgrass growing next to a sidewalk  >>> Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips, Weed Management Next to Sidewalks and Driveways (July 14, 2014) – CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO READ MORE

As most of you are WELL aware of, crabgrass is a common summer annual weed in our Michiana lawns.  In July, crabgrass plants were busy flowering and spreading their seeds, but each year it will die out naturally after the first frost.

But what can you do about crabgrass in the months between July and October/November when we usually see our first frost?

Unfortunately, the best time to control late summer / early fall crabgrass is to go back in time and deal with it in THE SPRING with a PRE-EMERGENT herbicide (like our 13-0-5 Fertilizer + Crabgrass preventer), along with mowing right, watering right, and fertilizing right.

Crabgrass is tough to kill and reproduces very effectively.  To expect a 100% crabgrass-free lawn is probably not very realistic – Mother Nature has the upper hand. The most effective approach to controlling this weed is to nurture and maintain a dense, healthy lawn to out-compete crabgrass (and other weeds by default), and prevent it from establishing in the first place.

We’ve been getting quite a few calls and visits from customers whose lawns are mostly free of this weed EXCEPT along areas like the edges along sidewalks, driveways, and roads.  These sections have two major issues going against them:

(1) SALT from winter that is still hanging around in the soil; and

(2) COMPACTION from things like foot traffic, auto/mower tires, and piled snow.

Crabgrass – among other weeds – is very tolerant of growing where there is salt and compaction.   Turf grasses are sensitive to both salt and compaction, and tend to NOT grow well in these spots.  Kentucky bluegrass is especially sensitive to salt damage, while perennial ryegrass, fine fescues, and tall fescue are more tolerant, but not totally resistant.

Another common trouble-spot is along the seams where sod was laid but the edges of the rolls were probably not placed close enough together.  The turf growing in these seams is thin and weak, allowing weeds to out-compete your grass.

Again, the crabgrass you see now in late-August WILL die off with our first frost.  But what about using a POST-emergent herbicide?  There are effective products to use, but TIMING is everything and ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.  Common to these post-emergent crabgrass herbicides is that you need to apply them when the plant is YOUNG … and, well, once we get past mid-July the crabgrass plants are usually
too large to control effectively. Another challenge to treating crabgrass that has already shown up is that these post-emergents work best at temperatures below 85ºF on clear days with low humidity.  That’s pretty hard to do in the dog-days of summer!

So what do I do this time of year in my own yard? I pulled a few out of my front yard the other day. I have more in the backyard and I plan on leaving them. I am not going to try to attempt to eradicate them with herbicides at this time. They are very big and tougher to kill. I am going to tolerate them because they will die with the first frost. Every year I tell many customers that you can apply Crabgrass preventer 2 times in a year.   If crabgrass was bad this year, I would look to doing better prevention next year.

On the other hand, if you’re up for the challenge, we do carry some post-emergent herbicides that we’d be happy to educate you about.

For more in-depth, science-based information, check out Purdue Extension’s publication, “Control of Crabgrass in Home Lawns” by CLICKING HERE.

As always, give our team a call if you have any questions – 574-232-6811.

Jeremy and the Red Hen Turf Farm Team

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Crabgrass and What’s Up with Other Weeds in Your Lawn

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Snow at Red Hen 4-22-15 collage
So what is up with this weather?  This morning’s lake effect snow showers at the end of April was a surprise. I am just glad our employees were ready and more importantly dressed for it.

So what did this weather do to us in the Michiana area in terms of lawn care?

Well we still have time to get our Fertilizer PLUS Crabgrass preventer down before it starts to germinate. I would have this done within the next 2 weeks to get the most benefit out of applying it.

Can you apply a Crabgrass preventer later than within the next 2 weeks and still have at least some effect? Well, yes you can BUT when you buy something why not get the most out of it?

With some spring broadleaf weeds starting to grow, it’s also time to get these under control. When our temperatures are going to be as low as weather broadcasters are stating, we have to understand what will work and won’t work. Some products we carry are great for cool temperatures but not for high humidity and temperatures over 85 degrees.  (Also, to catch up our past posts on fertilizer and weed control, CLICK HERE.)

So my real TAKE-HOME POINT of writing this post today is that reading and understanding a product label is very important. A few of you have heard me say that just because a product is on a store’s shelf does not mean it needs to be on your yard. Well now you have purchased something from Red Hen’s shelf, so the question becomes, “Is it a good time to put it down?”

Think back to the day that you came in and bought a product. Was the weather different? Was it sunny, raining or cold?

One of my goals everyday is to save my friends, coworkers, clients and family time, money and hopefully both. Read the label and (HERE’s THE KEY) if you do not understand part of the label give us call and hopefully I will save you both.

Take care of yourself and your yard,
Jeremy Cooper

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Straight from Red Hen’s FAQ Vault … Should I apply Crabgrass Preventer in the Spring? And WHEN?

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CRABGRASS Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips

CRABGRASS
Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips

Hi everyone.
I hope everyone is faring well with the winter we have been dealt with this year.

We’re about 2 weeks away from the official first day of Spring, and this time of year one of the most asked questions asked about fertilizer is when is the best time to apply.

My own recommendation for the Michiana area is usually within a few days of what Purdue forecasts, so here we go…

I know in my yard I have a few spots where the turf has thinned and I know these are areas where crabgrass will take over, so I am going to apply 13-0-5 with Barricade (crabgrass preventer) on my yard on April 18, 2015.

But remember your yard can be different than mine. Just a few variables that you should look for include:

  • Were your sidewalks edged last year exposing the soil?
  • Is your soil compacted next to the sidewalks, drives and decks?
  • Is your turf thin in certain areas?
  • Are you able to regularly irrigate to keep your lawn growing?

If you have any of these problems, I would apply a crabgrass preventer. It is a lot easier to prevent crabgrass before it happens.

If you have any lingering questions feel free to call or email us.

Learn more:

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Straight from Red Hen’s FAQ Vault … Nutsedge, and Moles, and Grass Seeding, oh my!

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As many of you know, we encourage our customers (and potential customers) to ask questions about our sod, seed, fertilizer, mulch, top soil, and other products.

We are also happy to get a wide variety of questions dealing with lawn concerns – both with sodded yards, and non-sodded yards – including weeds, possible diseases, areas that seem to be dying out, pet-related issues, on so on.

Below, we are sharing 2 actual emails that our Turf Operations Manager, Jeremy, has responded to this year, along with 1 more common question that we hear:

Email #1 – What is this plant that keeps growing in my sod?

 

CUSTOMER:

Jeremy, [I] keep getting the grass coming up in the sod. It seems to grow much faster than the rest of the grass … I keep pulling little shoots like this sporadically throughout the lawn. I didn’t know if it was part of your grass or … crabgrass or something else.

JEREMY / RED HEN:
It is Yellow nutsedge. Remember nutsege is not a broadleaf weed or a grass. Yellow nutsedge is most problematic in turf that is mown too short and has poorly drained soils. They are difficult to control with nonchemical control. I would recommend SedgeHammer+ [which Red Hen DOES carry].

Yellow Nutsedge. Image Source: Purdue Extension’s Turf Tips – June 2014. (Click on the Image for more INFO and PICS of Yellow Nutsedge)

Email #2 – What are these soft spots in my yard?

CUSTOMER:
Jeremy -Hope that things are going well and you are staying busy.The mulch continues to look good.I have a question for you: I believe that I have moles. A good portion of my front yard has soft spots and above ground there is tunnel like dirt/grass. I do not think it is grubs.Any thoughts on what I should do?

Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

JEREMY / RED HEN:
I would buy some Tom Cat Mole Killer. You should be able to find this at a garden center [or even Amazon.com]. Please go to our website and read more about moles, or check out the applicable Google Search Results for “purdue lawn moles” which ensures the results are REGIONAL and BASED ON SCIENCE – HERE’S A LINK TO THOSE RESULTS

Another FAQ –  Is it a Good Time to Seed My Yard?

 

Click on this PHOTO to Sign Up for Red Hen Turf Farm’s e-Newsletter

We get this question year round, and many people are surprised to learn that there are certain times of the year that are MUCH BETTER to plant grass seed than others.

We’re officially into mid-August, and NOW is the best time of the year to plant grass seed – typically any time between August 15 and September 15.

When you are out of that window you can have problems like we had last year. Remember the snow we had last November? So I recommend you get on this as soon as you can.

We you purchase seed, make sure you know what you want even before you go to a store. Some things to consider:

  • Does your yard get full sun or partial shade?
  • Do you want to fertilizer a couple of times or 4 times a year?
  • Do you what just green or deep green color?

Generally, the more expensive the seed the better the quality is going to be. If you stay away from ads in newspapers and fancy containers, you will be a wise shopper.

If there is ever a main point I would like to pass on and hope a wise consumer would remember is this:  When it comes to lawn care for the Michiana area, just because a product sits on a shelf does not mean it is good for your yard.

As always, let us know if you have any questions – 574-232-6811 is the Number to Call.

Jeremy Cooper
Red Hen Turf Farm, Turf Operations Manager

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Late-Spring/Early Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long – Part 1 of 3

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Tip #1 (of 3)
– How to Know if You REALLY Have a White Grub Problem
(and Chances are, You DON’T) –

Q: So what are those white grubs, anyhow?

A: Grubs are NOT worms.  White grubs are larvae that will grow into beetles.

There are more than a half-dozen species of beetles that have a grub stage in their life cycle.

In Indiana, the beetles that have a white grub / larva stage in their life cycles include:

  • Japanese beetles
  • Masked chafer beetles (aka June beetles)
  • European chafer beetles
  • Asiatic garden beetles
  • Oriental beetles

Q: My lawn had some grubs this spring. What should I do to kill these horrible insects?

A: Most people are caught up in the hype of killing every grub. 

The truth is that most grubs do VERY LITTLE HARM, and it’s completely normal to have SOME grubs in your lawn.

Q:  What do you MEAN, it’s normal for me to have grubs in my lawn?

A. Almost every yard has grubs, and we’ve been hearing that there seem to be more grubs this spring than there have been for the past few spring seasons. 

Most grubs do very little harm. However, most expert entomologists believe that until you reach 5-10 grub larvae per square foot, there are not enough of them in one location to do damage to your lawn, and until you are seeing 5-10 grubs per square foot, there likely is no need to even consider using chemical insecticides to kill them.

(NOTE:  There is not a universally accepted grub damage threshold among the expert scientists who study these beetles and their larvae, but if you read various studies on this topic, the range does seem to fall within 5-10 grubs per square foot.)

In the spring, the grubs that were in the soil last fall move up closer to the soil surface from their over-wintering location down a foot or two in the soil.

While the grubs do some spring-time feeding on grass roots, it’s rarely enough to cause enough damage that you’ll notice the effects on your lawn lawn. After a few weeks of feeding, the weather will warm the soil and the grubs will pupate about 3 to 6 inches from the soil surface.  The pupa will develop into adult beetles in May, June and July  (the timing for when they become adults depends on what kind of beetle they are since different beetles have different life cycles.)

Life Cycle of the Japanese Beetle via the University of Arkansas Turfgrass Science website

Life Cycle of the Japanese Beetle via the University of Arkansas Turfgrass Science website

Lawn insecticides do not work well throughout the pupa or adult stages because the beetles are not doing a lot of feeding during these times.

The adult beetles fly around for miles, so killing off spring grubs will have no effect on how many beetles will fly in from elsewhere to lay eggs.  Again, different beetles lay their eggs at different times of the year.

Q:  But my Lawn Fertilizer Company says I need to kill these grubs in the spring. 

A. Again, the presence of grubs in your lawn is normal, and is typically not harmful at all. 

The real trouble starts when people are flooded with advertisements about grub-killing products that don’t tell the whole story.  Frankly, there are numerous insecticides sold in the spring that claim to give season-long grub control. For most people’s lawns, this just means that you are paying for a season of chemicals on your lawn that are simply not needed.

In fact, some of these chemicals will also kill beneficial insects that make their home in your lawn.

Grubs are not particularly susceptible to pesticides unless they are in a stage when they are feeding actively, so springtime is pretty much the LEAST effective time for white grub control.

In Indiana, the most-damaging grub stage occurs in late summer after eggs hatch and newly hatched grubs are aggressively feeding on turf roots throughout the summer and fall.   Therefore, wait until late-June to early July to apply a grub-control product. This will allow the insecticide to get fully incorporated into the soil to control the new grubs which are just hatching, are closer to the surface, and are more susceptible to the effects of pesticides.

Trying to treat grubs in the spring is pretty much a waste of time and money.

In fact, because, through the eyes of the average homeowner, the chemicals don’t appear to be working with springtime applications, there’s a tendency to over apply the grub-killing products, and that’s when excess chemicals tend run off into our water supplies, causing harm to human health and the environment.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle - Image Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle – Image Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Q:  But if I don’t kill the grubs, won’t they keep multiplying and getting worse?

A. There is no relationship of the number of grubs in your lawn from one year to the next.

If a lot of adult beetles are noticed in July (remember the threshold of 7-10 per square foot), then a treatment in August MIGHT be warranted.  Also, keep in mind that during wet summers, the beetles typically lay their so far apart in the grass that the grubs don’t do harm. On the flip side, during cool summers or very hot summers, grubs die from diseases and drying out, so again, very often treatment is not needed.

Q.  Why does my lawn have grubs, but my neighbor’s lawn seems grub-free?

A. Keep in mind that the adult stage of the grub life cycle is a beetle, and beetles can fly. 

Random chance does play a role in where the beetles lay their eggs. Adult beetles like to lay their eggs in lawns will full-sun and plenty of soil moisture. The masked chafer beetle and Japanese beetle lay eggs in July, so if the weather has been dry but your lawn is watered and surrounded by dry lawns, it is a prime target for egg laying.

Q:  Look, I just don’t like the thought of grubs living in my lawn … I’d rather be safe than sorry.

A. Pesticides are powerful things that should only be used when necessary.   

These chemicals can kill beneficial insects right along with the grubs you are trying to target.  Pesticides can also cause pollution. One thing for sure, the advertising for grub control insecticides has inspired the use of pesticides when they were not needed.

We urge you to consider the information in this post before resorting to using products that promise to make your lawn grub-free.

That said, there are circumstances where treating for grubs may warranted. 

You might consider using a fertilizer with added grub-targeting pesticides, like the 15-0-3+IMI that we sell (+IMI means that the 15-0-3 fertilizer has an added chemical called “Imidacloprid,” a widely used and powerful insecticide that can also affect non-targeted beneficial insects.)

If you think you might truly have a “grub problem,” contact Red Hen Turf Farm at 574-232-6811, and we’ll be happy to chat with you. 

Our current hours are available HERE – http://redhenturf.com/About_location.htm 

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… COMING SOON …

Late-Spring/Early Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Lawn All Summer Long  –  Part 2 of 3:

– The Best Time to FERTILIZE Your SOIL is

When your GRASS ROOTS are ACTIVELY GROWING –

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