Learn more about lawn care.

This Stuff Is So Easy, Even Olive Got An A+

Olive Shiplett Pitbull Pittbull lawn care 101

Educational Links

http://www.turf.msu.edu/

Whether you’re a Michigan or Michigan State fan it’s hard to deny that MSU has one of our nations leading lawn & turf management programs. This is a great site to learn all about how to maintain a healthy lawn and detect diseases.

http://www.gddtracker.net/

This is one of the sites that the pros use. MSU collects climate and weather data in order to help lawn professionals make educated decisions on when to apply fertilizers and pesticides. 

http://www.msuturfdiseases.net

This site is designed to help identify turf diseases. There is a tool inside the site that helps identify disease with helpful pictures. Simply check the appropriate boxes and you should be able to narrow down which disease your lawn could potentially have.

http://www.msuturfweeds.net/

This site is specifically designed to help identify weeds. Simply click on the ID Tool, select whether you’re looking for  a broadleaf weed or a grassy weed, then navigate through the pictures to identify the possible weeds in your lawn.

Mowing Tips

  • Mow at least 3″ high (except in early spring and late fall when grass should be cut shorter)
  • Don’t cut more than 1/3 of the grass height during one mowing
  • Mulch clippings to recycle nutrients
  • Tall grass chokes out weeds and promotes deeper roots
  • Deeper roots help lawns survive droughts
  • Leaving clumps on your lawn can suffocate grass

How Do I Reduce Weeds Without Chemicals?

  • To reduce weeds in lawns, first understand weeds prefer weakened grass with shallow roots.
  • Weeds also need sunlight and nutrients to grow.
  • To reduce, or even better prevent weeds focus on proper Mowing, Watering, and Fertilizing
  • My Fertilizing Program will make sure you lawn has all the nutrients it needs throughout the growing season.
  • The best way to keep out weeds is proper mowing. When the grass is tall the weeds will not grow because they have no sunlight available
  • Keeping your lawn properly watered will keep away thin and bare areas. These weak areas are exactly where weeds will sprout up
  • A nice thick healthy lawn will naturally repeal weeds and will require very small amounts of weed control
Watering Tips
  • Irrigation Systems are ideal to keep your lawn on a proper watering schedule
  • Do not over water. Water 10-20 minutes per area every other day (depending on sunlight)
  • In times of summer droughts or severe heat, water everyday and even a second time during mid evening in necessary
  • Shaded areas don’t need to be watered as much as areas in direct sunlight
  • Water early in the morning (6:00 am – 7:00 am)
    • Watering at night can cause mushrooms and fungus diseases
    • Watering in the middle of the day can be very wasteful through rapid evaporation from sunlight
What Is Crabgrass?

  • Crabgrass is a common invader of manicured turf. It can be identified by its light green appearance and swollen, zig-zag nodes.
  • Crabgrass is a summer annual that re-establishes from seed every spring.
  • Crabgrass can be an indication of elevated soil temperatures caused from lack of water and heat stress.
  • Crabgrass frequently dominates the area between the sidewalk and curb.  This soil tends to not be of the best quality thanks to snow melting salts and dog walking.  Extra heat builds in the soil from the concrete and blacktop.   The edge of the driveway also releases heat which crabgrass likes to grow in while your lawn grasses do not.
  • The best way to eliminate crabgrass is to prevent it. By getting a fertilizer with a pre-emergent crabgrass, you can save yourself a lot of work. While the chemicals will work, they have to be timed properly.
I Have Crabgrass In April.... Right?
  • Crabgrass germinates at different times every year. Typically we start to see it pop-up in June and stick around until October. Since we are not scientists, we utilize and trust GDD Tracker to measure soil temperatures and create graphs to allow professionals like us know when this invasive grass will show up.
  • Crabgrass is most commonly mistaken for 2 grasses:
  • Click Here to see what Crabgrass looks like

What Is Organic Fertilizer?

  • Organic, defined as sourced from living matter
  • Synthetic, defined as made by chemical synthesis
  • Regardless of organic or synthetic fertilizer, the nitrate molecule is the same (this is the food form of nitrogen to the plant). All fertilizers still have the N-P-K formula. The main use of organics usually is to help the soil take better care of your grass
    • A fertilizer may be considered organic, or contain organic components, but still have a toxicity or unwanted chemicals.
    • For example in a laboratory you could combine two Hydrogen molecules with one oxygen to create H20 or water. This would be “synthetic” water, but would be pure water.
    • You could also go out to a local river and fill up the same container with river water. This water would be the natural alternative to synthetic, but which water would you like to drink?
    • Organic or Synthetic: the most important thing is that the fertilizer is applied correctly and all precautions are taken. Some benefits of fertilizer that include organics:
      • It helps maintain bacteria to aid the nitrogen cycle, meaning the grass can eat more easily
      • Diseases such as dollar spot and red thread can be reduced by the use of organics
  • Establish a root system with a newly sodded or seeded lawn in soils that may have been deprived of the essentials. Newly constructed homes may have the top layer of soil removed before seeding or sodding, making it much harder to develop strong roots

What Is A Grub?

  • Grubs are the immature form of different beetles, such as Japanese beetles or the European chafers
  • Peak grub feeding occurs in early fall. Typically grubs operate a few inches below the soil surface, but burrow deeper (up to 8 inches in northernmost areas) before winter arrives
  • Some symptoms of grubs are:
    • Irregularly shaped dead patches appear in your well-irrigated lawn in late summer or early fall
    • Birds, skunks, raccoons or moles are tearing up your lawn – they eat grubs and are trying to uncover them
  • The best way to identify grubs is visually:
    • Pull back a 1′ x 1′ section of grass next to the damaged lawn
    • 0–4 grubs: No need to treat.
    • 5–8 grubs: No need to treat a healthy lawn – unless animals are digging to feed on grubs
    • 9 or more: This many grubs will likely create visible damage to a lawn. Plan to treat
  • Tips
    • Apply a preventative pesticide
    • Water in pesticides after application. Watering moves the pesticide down toward soil and also encourages moisture-loving grubs to move upward
    • Keep an eye on nearby lawns
    • Repair dead lawn patches by reseeding
  • Grub Life Diagram

Granular vs Liquid Fertilizer

  • All fertilizer will have an N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) content regardless of granular or liquid form. Liquid however has many more variables to it such as tank mixing and agitation. Mixes are more likely to run ‘hot’ or even too weak as a result of trying to prevent said ‘hot’ occurrence
  • The most common liquid fertilizer is 46-0-0. Urea (46-0-0) is lacking extras such as potassium and iron which is commonly used in granular fertilizers. This is a cheaper alternative to granular fertilizer
  • Phosphorus is only used for new seed and sod applications. Laws have become stricter, specifically in Michigan, to prevent unnecessary amounts in the watershed. We do not apply phosphorus, except on new sod or seed
  • Granular fertilizer is more common to have a slow release capability, a coating around each granule ensuring slow breakdown, which is more likely to prevent leaching into our watershed. Liquid fertilizer too can be slow release but is not usually used in the industry
  • Since the granular fertilizer is much more visible, this allows for an easy visual inspection of a successful application

Understanding Pesticides Such As Weed Control

  • Common pesticides used are;
    • Insecticides – Insect
    • Herbicides – Plants
    • Fungicides – Fungi
    • Rodenticides – Rodents
    • Bactericides – Bacteria
    • Larvicides – Larvae
  • Even though products may be designed with a target organism in mind it may affect all living things including us humans, so precautions and laws should always be followed
  • Some pesticides are RUP’s, restricted use pesticides. To use these you must have certification relating to the product. With this said, the importance of communication with the professional is emphasized
  • Full understanding and obedience of laws and instructions is what makes an application safe. Like many things in our everyday life, if a predetermined procedure is not followed non ideal results can occur
  • When dealing with turf grass, when you have healthy turf, the use of pesticides should go down. A healthy living thing should be able to defend environmental attacks (weeds, insects, fungus) on its own
Mushrooms
  • Mushrooms grow in your lawn from decaying wood or organic matter; usually from an old tree stump or old dying roots underground
  • Mushroom grow best in wet weather
  • You can simply kick over existing mushrooms
  • You can also try jamming a long rod into the ground (where mushroom growth seems to be persistent) to try to physically break up the decaying matter. This may help with eliminating mushrooms by allowing air flow to penetrate the decaying matter
Dog Urine Damage
  • Dog urine, especially female dogs, is high in nitrogen, salts, and other compounds that in too high of quantities can burn you lawn the same way liquid fertilizer can burn your lawn
  • Highly acidic urine can also drastically change the PH levels in your soil causing constant problems in the affected area
  • An application of gypsum or lime will bring the PH to a normal level
  • Immediately after your dog urinates, use a garden hose to rinse off the area
  • Consult your vet about your dogs diet
Moss
  • Moss plants are an indicator that you currently have less than ideal conditions for growing grass. Some potential causes are:
    • Low soil PH
    • Lack of necessary nutrients
    • Poor drainage
    • Excessive shade
  • A quick fix to get rid of moss is by mixing a solution of Ultra Dawn and Water. This is a safe way to kill the moss. Use 2-4 ounces of Ultra Dawn per gallon of water and apply to the affected area. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary fix and to keep the moss at bay you must address the underlying problem that is causing the moss in the 1st place. Usually eliminating excess shade by trimming trees and shrubs back will prevent future moss
Germinating Grass Seed
  • Grass seed germinates best at 60-80 F
  • Seed needs to come in contact with the soil, raking away dead grass or applying fresh topsoil will help
  • Aeration is a great service to have preformed before applying seed because it keeps the seed temperature stable, keeps in moisture and protects from environmental elements
  • For new seeded areas, straw mat or hay can help retain moisture and stabilize temperature
  • Watering is the most vital step while germinating seed
    • The top 1/2 in of soil needs to stay moist (not soaked) at all times for a minimum of 2 weeks
    • Typically watering 2 times a day for 30 mins is sufficient depending on the time of year and amount of sun a particular area receives
Bentgrass
  • Bentgrass can be caused from bird droppings that contain Bentgrass seeds or wind blowing seeds from one property to the next
  • Downspouts and common flood/low lying areas spawn bentgrass too
  • The best way to eliminate Bentgrass is to use a short lasting vegetation killer (not a season long killer) on the affected area.  Then wait 7-10 days, dig out the turf, level with topsoil and reseed the area

Snow Mold

  • Snow Mold can be caused from:
    • Warm Days combined with snow piles on grass
    • Your lawn was not cut short enough last fall
    • Your soil is wet and holding moisture
    • You have a lot of problem grasses like Bentgrass, which is very susceptible to snow mold
  • The good news is that a light raking should take care of the problem. Don’t rake too hard as it can damage healthy turf. 
  • Try to avoid large snow piles that will not melt on warm days
  • Spreading snow piles on warm days can help prevent or reduce snow mold
  • Mow late in fall at a normal height if short mowing is not desired
  • The best way to prevent snow mold is to cut the lawn very short (2 in) on your last mowing in the fall. This prevents the grass from laying over on itself
Heat Stress Bruising
  • Grass bruising is typically caused when the turf is entering the early stages of heat/drought stress
  • Tires, hoses, trash cans and even foot prints are among a wide range of things that can cause bruising
  • It can often be mistaken for chemical burns to an untrained eye
  • The weight from items on the lawn damages the integrity of the blade
      • Even when this area is watered the blades will not green up
      • The turf will grow out from the crown given 3-4 weeks with regular irrigation or rainfall


Please feel free to CONTACT US with any questions that we may not have addressed on this page.