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Aeration & Why We Do It
Aeration is the process of mechanically poking thousands of holes in the soil. This allows water, oxygen and nutrients to better penetrate to the roots of your grass.
Solid-tine “spike” aerators pulled by lawn tractors are of little benefit. The best time to aerate fescue grass is in fall or early spring, when the grass is growing rapidly. On very compacted soils, aerating twice a year would not be out of the question. Apply fertilizer and water after aerating so the turf recovers rapidly.
Anyone who has wielded a shovel in North Carolina knows that the soil usually contains a lot of clay. The tiny clay particles are easily packed tightly together by rain and foot traffic. After a hot Southern summer, the earth can seem like it is made of bricks! The soil under a lawn becomes harder and harder as the years pass. It is rained on, walked on, played on and mowed regularly. Digging up the whole lawn to soften the soil is usually out of the question. What can be done to loosen the earth in a lawn while avoiding extreme damage to the lawn grass? The answer is to “aerate” the lawn – using an aerator machine which pulls plugs of soil out of the ground and loosens it. The holes allow oxygen and water to penetrate more deeply. This causes roots to go deeper, making the lawn more resistant to drought and disease.
Where to aerate?
The best time to aerate a lawn is just before the grass begins to grow rapidly. Fescue grass makes most of its productive growth in fall, so September and October are prime months to aerate fescue lawns. Bermuda, zoysia grass and centipede grass lawns are best to aerate in April – just as they have completed green-up, ready for vigorous growth. Not only is aeration important for soil compaction, but is a GREAT time to re-seed your lawn from which it has undoubtedly sustained some level of turf damage from the hot Carolina Summer.
Grass deficiency symptoms – soil nutrients needed
Nitrogen – Older leaves turn yellow green and little new growth is noticed.
Potassium – Leaf tips and edges looked burned.
Phosphorus – Foliage will change from dark green to reddish in hue.
Magnesium – Foliage will appear yellowish green with red tinted edges.
Calcium – New leaves will be small and grass will be rust colored.
Sulfur – Fully-grown leaves turn yellow.
Iron – The new grass will turn yellow.
Manganese – The new grass turns yellow.
Zinc – Grass leaves will appear shriveling, narrow bladed and smaller than usual.
Boron – Yellowed grassing and immature growth.
Molybdenum – Fully grown and mature grass appears gray-green.
The secret to partly eliminating any one of these problems from occurring is of course in the first step with a soil sample and improving the soil at that time of seedbed preparation. Feeding the lawn on a regular maintenance schedule as prescribed by the product information will probably result in not having any of these problems crop up in your lawn.
If large areas of your lawn have suddenly disappeared or turned brown, fall armyworm is likely the cause. Established lawns often recover from this injury with little lasting damage, but recently seeded or sodded areas can be more seriously harmed by armyworm feeding. When deciding whether or not to treat, consider the age and health of your lawn and check to make sure fall armyworm are actively feeding before taking action.
Where do armyworms come from?
Fall armyworm is a type of caterpillar that matures into a small moth with gray and brown wings. Fall armyworms do not overwinter in North Carolina. Instead, egg laying moths migrate northward from Florida and the Gulf Coast each spring and summer, typically arriving in NC by June. Once they arrive, each female moth lays around 1,000 eggs in masses of 50 or more. The eggs are typically laid on houses, shrubs, trees, fences, mailboxes, or similar structures. Two to 10 days later the caterpillars emerge and strike out in search of food.
At first, feeding by small armyworms is not very noticeable or damaging. After a couple of weeks of growth, the larger caterpillars feed voraciously as they march across turf areas, eating all above ground green leaf tissue and leaving behind large areas of thatch and brown turf. After feeding for 2 to 3 weeks, the caterpillars dig into the top inch of the soil to pupate. Within 2 weeks, a new population of moths emerges and usually flies several miles before laying eggs to start the cycle all over again. It is possible in some years to have as many as 4 generations of fall armyworm in North Carolina.
To treat or not to treat
Often, by the time fall armyworm damage is noticed the caterpillars have finished feeding, moved into the soil and pupated (formed a cocoon). At this point the damage is done. Pesticides will have no effect on the pupae, which do not feed on grass leaves or roots. Therefore, the first step in determining whether or not to treat is to determine if fall armyworms are still actively feeding. If they are still feeding, armyworms can be found at the edges of the damaged area, feeding on green leaf tissue. Armyworms feed most actively in the early morning and late afternoon.
As warm (hot!) summer weather approaches the risk of brown patch disease developing in your lawn increases. Because this disease is fast moving and potentially destructive to large areas of grass it is important to recognize the symptoms and begin treatment immediately. Even better, learn the factors that contribute to brown patch disease developing in the first place, as proper management can reduce the chances of developing it.
Brown patch is caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Though it will grow and spread at temperatures over 65F, it becomes most active and aggressive when day temperatures are over 80F, night temperatures are over 70F, and humidity is high. In other words, pretty much all summer here in the Piedmont. Different grass strains have differing resistance to brown patch, with some being highly resistant and some being very susceptible.
Symptoms are tan-brown patches of dead grass that may seem to appear virtually overnight. Spots may be round or irregular in shape. Affected spots range from a few inches to several feet in diameter, and smaller patches may merge to create larger, irregular patches. Close inspection of individual grass blades at the edge of the affected areas will reveal the irregular tan-brown spots with a dark border that eventually kill the individual grass blade, then the grass plant, spreading rapidly through your lawn.
Besides high temperatures and humidity, high levels of nitrogen can encourage brown patch. Fast release fertilizers, while they may cause rapid greening, will encourage brown patch spread by producing soft, lush growth that is more easily infected by the pathogen. Nitrogen doesn’t cause brown patch, but it can make a mild infection much worse. Mowing can also contribute to the development of brown patch disease. Too low (under 2.5” for fescue) reduces the plant’s ability to produce food energy, weakening it and making it susceptible to infection. Too high (over 3.5” for fescue) and humidity at the plant level increases, increasing the risk of infection. Mow frequently enough to remove no more than 1/3 of the length per mowing, as cutting more severely can stress the grass, increasing the risk of disease.
To minimize the risk of developing brown patch in your lawn, only fertilize at the appropriate rate for summer, if at all, and use a slow release fertilizer. Keep mowing height at around 3 ½” and mow frequently enough that you don’t stress the grass by removing too much at once. Aerating in spring can increase airflow around grass plants, reducing humidity and the risk of disease.
Keep in mind that if your turf is a susceptible type it may be difficult to completely prevent brown patch disease and preventive fungicide applications may be in order as soon as temperatures begin to reach the 80F mark. Fungicide applications will not reverse any damage that has already occurred, making preventive applications important if you have low tolerance for any visible damage.
If brown patch does develop it is important to treat promptly, as under the right conditions it spreads very quickly, and continues to spread as long as conditions are favorable. Treatment must be continued for as long as disease pressure remains, generally every 28-45 days.
So, even though brown patch disease can be very damaging, knowing how to minimize the likelihood of developing the disease, early identification in case of infection, and prompt treatment or prevention can minimize the damage brown patch causes to your lawn.
Leaves On Your Lawn
Home owners tend to turn their attention away from their lawns as autumn arrives. Grass growth slows, and preparing the home itself for the coming cold months seems like a greater priority. But autumn is a crucial time of year for grass. Make a lawn-care mistake in the fall—as many people do—and it could cause problems for the entire next year or longer.
Mistake: Letting fallen leaves accumulate. Many home owners do not bother raking or blowing until nearly all the leaves are off the trees. But grass needs lots of sunlight to thrive, and the longer that leaves linger on your lawn, the less light gets through. Light-starved grass soon begins to weaken and die; creating an opening for weeds that will dog you in the future.
Better: Remove leaves whenever they cover your lawn to such a degree that you see more leaves than lawn. Also, rake whenever rain is in the forecast—dry leaves tend to blow around enough that the lawn below still gets some sun, but wet leaves mat and remain in place. (And wet leaves are much harder to remove.)
Mistake: Inadequate leaf mulching. Some home owners run a mulching mower over fallen leaves and let the cut-up pieces remain on the lawn, thinking that these mowed leaves are like mulch that will help—or at least not hurt—the lawn. It’s true that mulched leaves can be beneficial for topsoil. But it is vital that most of the mulched leaf pieces get down into the lawn rather than remain on top where they continue to prevent sun from reaching the grass blades.
But be aware that there is a fine line of just the right amount of mulched leaves and to much. Too many mulched leaves can create an impenetrable thatch layer that will take far too long to disintegrate and will block water & nutrients from getting into the soil. It can create a run off of much needed nutrients into areas that you did not intend on having them & also become a breeding ground for fungus and disease as the layer of rotting leaves is too thick and not enough oxygen is supplied to the vital areas of the composting layer of leaves. Also, keep in mind that too many leaves on the lawn will impede Legacy Turf Care’s ability to properly apply our lawn treatments. If you’re not up for the challenge of leaf removal, don’t hesitate to contact us as our maintenance division would be more than happy to assist you with leaf removal services.
There are some basic facts about these pests that will help you sort this out. Moles create superficial tunnels in your lawn that you can easily see and depress with your foot. They sometimes produce small mounds of fresh soil but not usually. Moles dental structure is such that they cannot eat plants or roots. They are not rodents but insectivores and eat only insects and worms. Moles are territorial, and a large lawn with significant damage may have only one to three moles.
So if you have tunnels you can see easily, you have moles. Although moles do not eat the roots of the grass, their tunnels can create an air pocket between the soil and the roots that allows the roots of your grass to dry out and slowly decline. This is why it is important to treat mole infestation as soon as possible to stop the dry roots from dying completely.
Moles are a challenge to control. Because of this, many repellent-type products are available, most of which are thought to be ineffective. One exception is castor oil, which may have some short-term repellent activity, but studies about effectiveness have been inconclusive.
Moles are more common in well-tended lawns. Well-watered and fertilized lawns have more earthworms and, therefore, will better support a mole population. Moles’ diet consists mainly of earthworms and not white grubs as once thought. Do not use insecticides labeled for grubs to attempt to control moles.
The most effective way to eliminate moles is to use poison gel worms. These are similar in texture to the plastic worms used for fishing but contain poison.
If killing moles is not something you want to have done we have several barrier treatments available to taint their food source which sends them away from your lawn in search for better tasting food supply. Although these treatments are temporary, they may be your ideal treatment if killing isn’t your cup of tea.
Top dressing is the process of applying compost, soil, or sand over the surface of your lawn. It has been performed on golf courses since the sport was invented in Scotland, but has only recently become popular on home lawns.
Good soil is living soil. That may sound like a cliché, but it’s true. One tablespoon of soil can contain billions of microorganisms. These microscopic organisms are one of the reasons we have plants and trees. In nature, soil microbes enrich soil by converting fallen leaves, limbs and other debris into nutrients plants can use. Since many home lawns have poor quality soil, top dressing becomes even more important. Top dressing is simply a way of adding organic material and restoring the balance to home lawns, building better soil and increasing soil flora.
Benefits of compost topdressing:
• Adds organic matter to soils
• Builds up the soil flora
• Helps improve soil structure
• Helps reduce lawn diseases
• Reduces traffic stress and relieves compaction problems
• Helps with water retention
• Reduces the need for fertilizer
• Can help reduce thatch
• Increases Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of your soil – the degree to which soil can absorb and exchange cations (positively charged ions).
• Evens out the lumps and bumps that are present on an uneven lawn
The Legacy Turf Care approach to top dressing starts with using the highest quality organic compost blends available. Using the most efficient, powered compost spreader that is calibrated to spread a ¼” thick layer of compost evenly across your lawn.
We apply ¼”thick layers Spring & Fall to slowly introduce high quality organic compost into your existing clay soils. Going any thicker then ¼” at a time would create impenetrable layers of soil that could choke the fescues ability to retrieve oxygen, nutrients & water.
When done correctly you will not see bumps & lumps of compost on top of the tall fescue. Our state of the art machines spread the organic compost so evenly that it works its way down to the base of the fescue rather quickly, making it more readily available to the grass for nutrient uptake and less visible from the surface.
What Will Fertilizer Do For Your Lawn?
Pre-emergent crab grass preventer + fertilizer
This application creates a short term barrier from newly un-germinated weeds. Stopping them from germinating in the early spring months. This treatment does not stop weeds that have previously germinated in years past that will once again rear their ugly heads at the first sign of spring. The pre-emergent application creates an effective barrier for roughly 30-45 days. This is why your program will include more than one application staggered the proper amount of days apart. In conjunction with this application will be a nitrogen based fertilizer application to help green your lawn up from the dormant winter months.
Spring/Summer iron fertilizer
Once the warmer Spring/Summer weather has arrived we no longer use nitrogen based fertilizers to keep your lawn green. Nitrogen fertilizers in the warmer months can damage your lawns ability to naturally fight off disease & insects. We use a custom blend of organic and synthetic fertilizers to give your lawn premium results.
Lime is important for our southern lawns that are growing in dense clay soils. Lime is used to adjust your soils pH to proper levels. Natural soil pH in the Charlotte area is around 5.0. The target pH being 6.0-7.0. We utilize soil testing to determine which kind of lime is needed for your lawn and how many pounds of lime is needed to correct your pH.
Organic root booster fertilizer
Our organic root boosting fertilizer is 100% organic and not only adds organic micro nutrients back into your soil it also helps slowly break up the compaction of the clay soil.
Winterizer color boosting fertilizer
Late fall and early winter we apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to help your lawn keep as much green through the cold winter months as possible. How much green color your lawn holds through these colder months is directly correlated with the quality of soil that your lawn has. If your lawn does not hold onto its green color for very long during the winter you might want to consider our compost top dressing service.
Bermuda grass suppression
Did you know we can kill the Bermuda grass creeping into your fescue lawn and not harm the fescue grass? We have a treatment program that consists of 3 applications to remove or slow down the progression of unwanted Bermuda grass in your fescue. One application is applied just as your Bermuda grass goes into dormancy (around October) and two applications as the Bermuda grass is coming out of dormancy (March/April) Applying the treatment to your lawn at the correct time of the year is critical to the level of suppression of the Bermuda grass. Although these application are very successful, it is impossible to create a barrier to stop it from creeping back into your lawn from either the road or neighboring properties.
Did you know?
Bermuda grass roots can grow 10’ deep! Bermuda grass can spread into your lawn from clippings that blow into your lawn from neighboring properties or even clippings blowing off the street into your lawn.
White grubs are the larvae of scarab beetles. The grubs of economic importance in North Carolina are those of the Japanese beetle, the green June beetle, the southern masked chafer, the northern masked chafer, and the Asiatic garden beetle. Several other species, such as May beetles and June beetles, are also present but usually in low numbers. The Japanese beetle is consistently the most damaging grub in this state. Two relatively new pests, the turfgrass ataenius (on bluegrass) and the oriental beetle, are present in western North Carolina. These insects appear to be expanding their range and may become serious problems in the near future.
All these grubs have cream colored bodies with yellow to brownish heads, brownish hind parts, and six legs. Mature grubs vary in length from 1⁄4 to 11⁄2 inches, depending on the species. White grubs usually lie in a curled or C-shaped position. Billbug larvae may also be present but can be distinguished by the absence of legs.
Identifying grub damage can be easier than most other pest or disease. If the soil is very “loose” to where you can basically peel back layers of grass like sod, chances are you’ve just discovered a grub infestation. Most of the times when you peel back the soil/grass you will find grubs lying just under the damaged roots of the fescue grass. Grubs kill the grass from the roots up & arms worms kill the grass from the tips of the grass down towards the roots.
The timing of the insecticide application is critical if control is to be effective. There are two approaches, preventative and curative. Some of the newer products (Merit® and Mach 2®) are preventative, and are most effective when applied prior to when the eggs are laid. This approach should only be used in areas that have a history of grub infestations. The curative approach is used when an existing infestation is detected. The best time to apply curative insecticides is when the grubs are actively feeding near the soil surface. Pesticides applied any other time will be ineffective. This feeding occurs from August through October, and again in April through early May. Curative treatments applied in late summer or fall are usually more effective than spring applications because the grubs are small. Specific timing depends on the species of grub, and on location in the state. Timing of applications in the mountains will generally be later than in the eastern part of the state. Timing of applications for control of the turfgrass ataenius varies.
Another factor affecting chemical control is irrigation. Irrigation prior to application is highly recommended, especially in dry weather. Grubs stay deep in the soil when conditions are dry, and irrigation a day or two before application helps to bring them closer to the surface and improves control. Insecticides kill grubs more effectively if watered in after application. After treatment, green June beetle grubs may be found on the soil surface, whereas other grub species will die in the soil.
Why Is My Neighbor’s Grass Greener?
There may be several reasons why your neighbor may have greener grass. I will touch on the most common things that might affect your lawn.
K31 Tall fescue – Most home building/construction companies plant the cheapest variety of tall fescue grass they can find. K31 (Kentucky 31) variety of tall fescue is hands down one of the toughest & drought resistant varieties of fescue grass. But what it lacks is the ability to turn a darker shade of green. Not only is it limited on color, but it is a coarser wide blade of grass. Newer varieties of turf type tall fescue grass have a thinner slower growing blade of grass which allows more blades of grass per square foot, giving your lawn a thicker lush appearance. Not only do the newer varieties of fescue give you the appearance of a thicker lawn from the smaller blade but they are more disease resistant and have the ability to turn a darker shade of green. K31 has been used in commercial, industrial sites, roadways, county parks & livestock pastures for many years.
Quality of your soil – Our clay soils have proven to be a tough environment to get a good lawn, tree, shrubs or garden started in. Without amending the soil with organic matter you might be in for an uphill battle. Sure we can grow just about anything in the clay soil, but to get the plant material to thrive we need better quality of soil.
If you’re living in a newer home built in a development chances are your problem lies just inches below the top surface. We’ve noticed for many years that builders of homes will leave behind a lot of building debris when completing a house. Just inches under the surface you’ll find gravel, brick chips & discarded concrete mix containing mortar sand. Although the damage is done from the construction crew burying their garbage, our compost spreading services can help alleviate this issue over time.
Tree roots & shade
If you have a large number of mature trees shading your lot this can inhibit your lawns ability to thrive. The trees extensive root system soaks up all the water & nutrients leaving only table scraps for the lawn. Millions of tiny feeder roots lie just inches under the ground soaking up everything it can on a first come first serve basis!