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Helpful Landscape Advice

By Prestonwood Forest Neighbor, Chris Kuehl

Listed below are some reasons your yard might be having the summertime blues. Often you can fix these problems on your own saving you 5 times what you will spend by calling a professional. Just remember, whatever you buy, read the directions so you won’t kill anything that might be beneficial to you or your neighbor’s lawn. I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful person this year that really opened my eyes to some things that I had taken for granted such as butterflies and bees. Unfortunately, with using any worm or insect killer there is going to be a trade-off. You can minimize this by doing a little research in advance & closely following directions on the product while avoiding areas that are not impacted.

1. Sod web worms: Several summers ago, we were plagued with Sod web worms on a biblical level. They were everywhere and some people lost their entire lawns almost overnight. It was insane. That was my first year in business and I was just as lost as the "professionals" because most people had never witnessed anything like it before. Summer is also the time of year these nasty things live for. They eat the bottom blade of grass almost to the root. You will start to see “thatch” form. Thatch is dead grass that sits at the bottom of healthy grass. Right above the soil level the pattern you will most likely see circular patterns the size of small plates. These circles will start growing. It will look like someone poisoned your yard. You can also look at the blades of grass and see where they will be cut at the base of the blade close to the soil.

2. Chinch bugs: They thrive on heat and your yard and love St. Augustine Grass. They will usually start in the driest, hottest part of your lawn. Remember the sections that normally are the hottest in your yard are next to concrete, curbs, sidewalks, driveways. These areas soak in the heat and retain it throughout the day making the soil and vegetation super smoking hot and dry. These bugs love that, they suck the remaining juice out of the blade of grass while injecting a chemical that causes your grass to turn brown and die.

3. Grub worms: Summer is a little too hot for these guys. They usually start their damage in early fall. They start eating roots of grass stocking up for their winter hibernation. That being said, the grub worm is not the usual summertime lawn predator, but don't rule them completely out.

4. Armyworms are grayish brown caterpillars that can grow to 1-1/4 inches. Fall armyworms have a cream-colored upside-down “Y” on the fronts of their head capsules. ... Small, young (early instar) larvae feed at the base of grass plants turn the tips of grass white from feeding.

--Enough with the nasty insects. Let’s talk mowing practices. The following items are some things to not do-

1. Dull blades: Keep your blades sharp. If you or your lawn service mow your lawn and your grass blades have tears at the top of the blades, more than likely the blade is dull. Look at your grass and inspect for torn or jagged edges. Summer is the most common time when disease and fungus can also enter through the damaged grass blades. Your grass is already stressed to the max from the summertime heat.

2. Watering after dark: A lot of people water at night because they think it is healthier for the grass. In all honesty it is not. Lawn disease loves those who water at night. A safe time to water is a couple of hours before dawn at the most or just wait until dawn. By watering at dawn, you will get good saturation and the sun will not burn the water away before getting to the roots. Also, don't water in the heat of the day either. When you do this condensation will occur too fast and before the roots are properly saturated. Also, by watering during the heat of the day you can burn your plants and grass as the water droplets work like a magnifying glass. The sun hits the water droplets and heat up and before you know it you have cooked your grass.

3. Soil compaction: You would not drive your car through your lawn or park it on your grass at night (well, some might) so beware of heavy lawn machinery. Most of these zero turn riding lawnmowers you see cutting residential lawns weigh between 550 lbs. to 1500 lbs. Now add a grown human to that and you have an up to a 1600 - 1700-pound machine going back and forth through your lawn every week. It’s even worse for your lawn’s soil when you have saturated soil and one of these machines is rutting up your lawn. Have you ever walked through mud and you see the mud/soil disperse and shoot out the sides of your shoe? Well this is no different then what one of these mowers is doing except now you are a 500+ pounds heavier. You might not see the grass and root damage right away but believe me it is occurring and it's just a matter of time until the damage is permanent. If changing mowers is not an option, you can have your yard guys change the pattern they mow every other week. Instead of them driving the same path every week, get them to change it up and go an opposite direction. This will decrease soil compaction as well reduce the depth of the ruts they are putting in your lawn.

--The last two things I want to mention that can have ill effects on your lawn are bad irrigation and dormancy.

1. Irrigation: When is the last time you watched your irrigation system cycle through all of its zones? If you don't know how to manually cycle through your system, get on YouTube and type in your brand, model, number of your unit and hit video. More than likely there is a video that can help. Otherwise you can do an Internet search on the same & an owner’s manual is likely to be found. Take 20 minutes and start at zone 1 and watch each head come up as you move through the zones. Watch to make sure each head is hitting your lawn/flowerbeds or even overlapping a little. If it’s not reaching something make note of it. Remember that rotors need a longer operating time than spray heads as they are covering a lot more area and must go back and forth while a spray head is releasing water constantly and in the same area without moving. For example, set your time for a spray head for 10 minutes 3- 4 days a week, while your rotor heads need 15 to 18 minutes, 3- 4 days a week.

2. Dormancy: Your grass might be going into dormancy. Your grass is kind of like a human body. If it feels over stressed it will shut down. if it’s too hot, not getting enough water, diseased, cold, its natural defense is to turn itself off to prevent destruction. It wants to live and be happy just like anything else that is alive.

One last thing, landscaping/yard work is one of the hottest, hardest activities you can do in the sun. You are sweating buckets. Stay hydrated, wear your bug spray and sunscreen. Take breaks.

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