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It's time to irrigate you lawn. We are now more in our normal summertime pattern in Tulsa with hot temperatures and little rain. So while overall most lawns in Oklahoma have been looking pretty nice, without consistent irrigation, they will begin to dry out and look bad. Lawn fertilility.....as long as you are a full program LawnAmerica customer, you are taken care of. But without good soil moisture also, you lawn will not be very green and lush.
If you have an irrigation system, set it to come on early in the morning before the sun comes up, and before our LawnAmerica guy gets there! Usually, about 3 times per week is fine, as long as we do get some rainfall also from time to time. The key though is to water long enough to supply about 1/2" of water each time. This allows the water to get down deeper into the soil where the turf roots are. If you don't water long enough, and most people do not, you'll only be wetting the top inch or so of soil. Therefore, that's where the turf roots will grow, and they will be dependent then upon frequent watering. Plus, weed roots are often shallow, so you'll be watering the weeds. Let the very top layer of soil dry out some....that's OK, as long as you have good deep soil moisture present.
Fescue, being a cool-season grass, often struggles in Tulsa during July and August. Water fescue more frequently if you want it to look nice, but not during the evening. Over-watering leads to Brown Patch turf disease, which often looks like drought stress. During extreme heat and drought times, it's also good to water fescue during the heat of the afternoon to cool it down, while still leaving time for the turf to dry out before sunset.
So summer is the time of the season when we really need the help of our customers to help their lawns and landscapes look good. We're good, but without water, plants don't thrive. And since we can't water the lawn, nor are we in charge of when it rains or doesn't rain, we need your help!
"Just look at those pretty purple flowers", my wife said as we drove to church yesterday past a field flush with purple. "Those aren't flowers...they're weeds!" I exclaimed to her. We put our kids through college by killing those purple flowers in thousands of Tulsa area lawns over the years. The pretty purple flowers are actually winter annual weeds named Henbit, a member of the mint family, Laminacea, and has a fresh minty smell. I actually remember learning that 40 years ago at O.S.U. in my botany class. Once Henbit explodes into the Tulsa landscape, I know that the influx of new spring lawn care customers is about to hit a peak, so I always look forward to the Henbit invasion.
While Henbit is actually a colorful and pretty plant in the wild, when it's growing in a home lawn, it's a weed. A weed is simply a plantgrowing out of place. And for homeowners who demand the perfect, weed-free, green lawn in Tulsa, it's not supposed to be there. So, we either keep it out by applying a good fall pre-emergent product, or we spray it with a post-emergent product in spring after it comes up. Henbit can literally take over a lawn if left un-checked, especially in thin bermudagrass, where weed seeds can proliferate. The challenge is to effectively eliminate it once it goes to flower in March. It's very tough to do so, even with a great application of post-emergent herbicide such as Trimec.Once an annual plant such as Henbit goes to seed (those pretty purple flowers), it's in the final stages of it's annual life cycle. At that point, it's a tough old plant, and it's very hard for the herbicide to make it's way down into the roots for complete control. Mowing down the dying weeds about 7 days after an application really helps speed up the control, while removing the dying vegetation. Many homeowners think lawn care companies can just wave our magic wand, and the weeds will dis-appear in a few days. Doesn't quite work that way. The plants have to die, and then decompose, which takes time. And anything green (weeds) growing in a brown, dormant bermudagrass lawn really stands out now. Once the bermudagrass begins to green up soon with warmer weather, green weeds will not be nearly as noticeable, and the thickening bermudagrass will help choke out weeds. If Henbit and other winter annuals are a problem now, don't neglect fall lawn care. These are much easier to control the previous late fall with a good pre and post-emergent herbicide applied then, either before the weeds germinate or when they are very small and easier to control. And if you don't mind the Henbit that much, fine. Just mow them down short in early May, and the heat will take them out. And truth be told, I really kinda think they are pretty also, as my wife does. But hey, I make a living in part by controlling them, so you do what you gotta do!
Being a science teacher by trade many years ago, thought I would pose a little quiz for my readers. Below is a picture taken this morning, on April 25th, in a typical Tulsa neighborhood.
The question is Why is the lawn on the left nice and green, and the one on the right is brown with very little green showing?
If your answer was D, you are correct, so give yourself an A! You must have been one of those students who actually paid attention in science class and learned things like the effect of temperature and weather conditions on living things, such as grass.
The spring of 2013 has been totally different than the past two springs. It is in fact shaping up to be one of the coolest on record in Tulsa. Last year, we were mowing bermudgrass in late March, as it was green and growing already. Not so in 2013, with soil temperatures as cold as they are. Even this morning, the temperature was 34 degrees, which is crazy cold for very late April. So warm-season turf such as bermudagrass is not going to grow and green-up when it's this cold. It's not the fertilizer, we've had some good rains, and it's not the lawn service. It's science. It's Mother Nature. Until it gets warmer and hotter, bermudagrass will struggle to even turn green. I believe we've only hit 80 degrees one time this spring, and that's the temperature where bermudagrass really takes off. Fescue on the other had looks great now, as it loves cool weather like we are having. But, remember what it looked like during the past two summers?
Applying more fertilizer on turf now is not going to help, and could actually do harm to the grass. I can't control the weather, so I've learned just to deal with whatever is thrown our way. The key now is to be patient. In a few months, we'll all be wishing it was this cool, so enjoy it while you can. The bermudagrass is not dead, it's just going to take it's sweet time to get growing. So look at all the time and money you are saving by not having to mow your lawn! However, we do recommend that you mow, and mow fairly short in order to allow your grass to green-up quicker. Mowing short will also help with spring weed-control. Many weeds, especially winter grassy weeds like Annual Bluegrass, love this weather. Normally the growing bermudagrass helps to choke these out, but not so this year. And if weeds were recently sprayed, mowing will help to speed up the control and decomposition of the dying plant material.
In Tulsa, we live in what's called the Transition Zone in growing turf. Both warm-season turf like bermudagrass and zoysiagrass can grow, while cool-season fescue and ryegrass can be grown also. However, it is sometimes too hot for the cool-season turf to do well, or too cold for the warm-season turf to grow. We've not had the massive winterkill as we experienced in 1990, or during a few other winters, but bermudagrass is struggling. Rest assured that we at LawnAmerica are doing all we can to help your lawn look great. Please be patient. Hot weather will be upon us soon, and we'll all be happier....I think.
I hear it often from homeowners. “Why is my lawn not as green as my neighbors?” Or, “I didn’t see enough fertilizer on my lawn after your treatment.” Yes, fertilizer, particularly nitrogen fertilizer, is mainly what makes lawns in Tulsa nice and green. Since nitrogen does not stay in the soil profile for that long, it needs to be consistently added to the soil in order to produce the thick, green turf which homeowners and others desire.
However, fertilizer is not the only factor in making grass green. Genetics is huge, as certain turf varieties will be more green and thick than others. Just as in people or any other living thing, there will be differences in characteristics and appearance, and that is a good thing. Soil types play a major role in turf performance and health. Irrigation, mowing practices, and sunlight are all huge in determining how green and healthy turf is.
Yes, fertilizer is important, or we would not be able to stay in business! The types, amounts, and frequency of fertilizer application are all important. And I can assure you that LawnAmerica knows and uses the best types of fertilizers, applies them accurately, and at the proper times using the proper rates.
It’s easy to make a lawn really green…..just dump a bunch of Urea or 46-0-0 on the lawn. Just make sure you water it in well, or you’ll burn your lawn. Even if you do water it in, too much nitrogen will still burn it, especially during hot weather. Bermudagrass turf in Tulsa needs about one pound of actual nitrogen per 1000’ per growing month. Too little will lead to thin turf, pale green color, and other problems such as Dollar Spot turf disease. Too much nitrogen will weaken the root system, cause too much topgrowth (you’ll be mowing every 3 days), could cause other turf disease issues, and could burn the turf. And using excessive nitrogen or any other fertilizer, such as phosphorus, can be bad for the environment. So our best full programs, the 6 and 7-Step Programs, supply about 5-6 lbs of actual nitrogen per 1000’ to the turf, with four treatments of granular fertilizers, spaced about every 4.5-8 weeks, depending upon the season and program.
We use higher analysis fertilizers at LawnAmerica, such as a 32-0-7 during mid-summer. So if our goal is to apply 1.4 lbs of actual nitrogen per 1000’, we only need about 4.5 pounds of fertilizer applied to that 1000’ of turf. So when we blow the fertilizer off concrete areas, as we do, and with some of the fertilizer pellets being brown (they are organic), you will be hard pressed to see a bunch of fertilizer.
On August 1st of this year, I warned homeowners in the Tulsa area through a blog to be on the lookout for Armyworms in their lawn, as the conditions this year with all the rain and lush growth are very similar to the last big invasion about 14 years ago. It appears that we could be in for at least some damage in areas, if not all over Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma. Today (August 24th) I saw one lawn in south Tulsa devastated by Armyworms, and other lawns in the area had small worms down in the thatch. Then later in the day, as I was watering my blueberry patch out in the country, I looked down and saw Armyworms in my Bermudagrass. How dare they!
The Fall Armyworm is the larva stage of a small gray moth, which migrates up from Mexico and Texas during the summer. Remember learning about complete metamorphosis in Science class years ago? Well, it starts when the female moth flies in and lays up to 2000 eggs in grass, shrubs, fences, tree, etc. at night, with hatching occurring a few days later into tiny larvae. They are very small and hidden down in the thatch layers of the turf. You won’t see them unless you get down on your hands and knees and look carefully into the turf. They are pretty harmless at this point as they are so small. But over a week or so, as they eat more and more grass foliage, they become much larger, over an inch long; mainly green, with brown stripes down the side. About 80% of the damage caused by Armyworms occurs during the final two days of their feeding, before they burrow into the ground to change to the pupa stage. Then a weak or so later, the pupa hatches into, you guessed it, the adult moth, and the process starts all over again. Several generations occur from August up until frost in late October or November.
These devastating insect pests can destroy turf almost overnight, as they typically invade the lawns as an army marching over the turf. In 2000 with the last big invasion, I remember actually seeing the lawns move as thousands of caterpillars moved across the turf eating grass blades down to the dirt. You could actually hear the chomping of the insects eating the turf, at least I could back then when my hearing was better. So the key to controlling Armyworms is to treat them with an insecticide when they are smaller and before they do damage to the turf.
Fescue turf is the main concern, because if they eat Fescue down to the dirt, it will probably just die, especially when it is hot. We never recommend scalping Fescue, and an Armyworm invasion is like a super scalp job. If your Fescue dies, then you’ll be re-seeding your lawn this fall, which is much more expensive than an insecticide treatment (same cost as your regular lawn treatment). They also love to feed on Bermudagrass, and can take it down to the stems and dirt. However, Bermudagrass is pretty tough, and it will recover in most cases with good irrigation and fertilization. Your lawn will look awful though for several weeks before it recovers. If you have a Zoysiagrass lawn, you’re in luck, as typically they won’t touch it.
There are several common liquid insecticides that control Armyworm larvae, but that needs to happen soon before they get much larger. Scout your lawn, and if you see them, we recommend contacting LawnAmerica promptly, or just treat it yourself. It’s actually a fairly easy treatment for the homeowner if they can buy a hose end sprayer and drench the lawn with the insecticide. Sevin and Permethrin are two common products you’ll find, but just read the label to make sure Armyworms are on it. Granular insecticides are OK, but don’t work as well as a liquid drench for Armyworm control. If we experience a major invasion of Armyworms in Tulsa, we’ll be hard pressed to be able to treat everyone who calls that day. We’ll be ready and do the best we can. But they can explode almost overnight, so I would recommend scouting your lawn and treating when they are small. It will be first come—first served when people call or contact us on our website, so I’d get with us sooner than later.
(And see better results from our service!)
1. Communicate with us. If you experience problems with your lawn, or have too many weeds pop up in between treatments, call us or request a service call online so that we can come out to provide a free service call. You see your lawn every day, and we are only out every 6 weeks (on average). We can solve most problems, answer most questions, and make you happy if you simply contact us.
2. Water your lawn consistently and properly. Oklahoma turfgrass requires about 1-2” of moisture per week to perform well. During summer especially, Mother Nature doesn’t help much. Water deeply to wet the soil to a depth of 6-8”. Fescue needs more watering during the summer months. Don’t water lightly every day. Check out our watering page for more information.
3. Mow your lawn properly. Never remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade with mowing. At some times, that means mowing your turf every 5 days or so. Use a sharp blade. Mow a little higher on Fescue turf—never shorter than 2.5.” During the summer and late fall, raise your mowing height, unless you have a shorter turf variety of bermudagrass. Read more about proper mowing and lawn mower maintenance.
4. Don’t mow weeds down before a service call. If your lawn has just been mowed, it’s difficult to see weeds in the turf and hard to get enough herbicide on the weed surface for good control. Nutgrass especially is nearly impossible to control if the lawn has just been mowed. For superior Nutgrass control, you should really consider getting on our 7-Step Showcase Care Program! Wait several days after mowing to allow weeds to grow higher and then call us. We’ll be out within one day to treat the weeds then. You can then mow a day or two after that, removing the top parts of the dying weeds.
5. Have realistic expectations and be patient. Customers need to know what we can do and what we cannot do with our service. With lawncare, you can’t just write us a check and expect everything to go perfect. Turfgrass is a living, dynamic collection of plants that is subject to many environmental, cultural, and biological factors which we often cannot control. If a lawn has declined, with thin turf and heavy weed infestation, it will take time to allow our service and Mother Nature to allow the turf to recover.
6. If you have shaded conditions, overseed fescue every fall. Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass will not grow well in shaded conditions. As trees grow, and more shade develops, fescue is your only alternative for turf. Being a cool-season grass, fescue sometimes has a difficult time surviving Oklahoma summers, so overseeding every fall will help rejuvenate fescue areas.
7. Aerate your lawn every other year. Most golf courses aerate 2-3 times annually. Most golf courses have a much larger budget than homeowners, though. If you could aerate at lease once every other year, your root system will be healthier and your turf will perform better. Read more about aeration and liquid aeration.
8. Refer friends to LawnAmerica. We don’t spend a large part our budget on advertising, and we don’t have an army of telemarketers constantly preying on homeowners. Our money is better spent on keeping and training great employees, using quality materials, providing useful educational materials, and using the best equipment to name a few. By doing a great job for our existing customers and encouraging them to refer others to us, we can grow our company and be even more productive without overspending on advertising. Plus, we have a great referral program that encourages you to provide these referrals to us! Visit our referral page to find out more.
9. Follow your invoice instructions. All of our regular lawn treatments need to be watered into the soil to be effective, whether it’s a pre-emergent herbicide or a fertilizer. Usually, they don’t need immediate watering—just within a few days. It varies according to the season and the treatment, so you’ll need to follow our instructions. If a granular fertilizer has been applied to your turf during the summer, it’s not going to do any good until it is watered well into the soil.
10. Pay your bills on time. It’s sometimes easy to put the bill for the lawncare guy on the bottom of the pile. However, we need cash as much if not more than other companies in order to pay our employees and vendors and provide a great level of service. Collecting money takes away from our time and money that could be better spent on providing better service to our customers. When bills are not paid on a timely basis, it holds up your scheduled services, which throws the schedule out of sync and can easily cause your lawn to go downhill.
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Sometimes the answer is right below our nose, or out in our pasture in this case. We've searched for that natural or organic weed-control for those folks who don't like to use pesticides in any way shape or form. There's really nothing out there in the market yet that is natural or organic which does a good job of controlling weeds. There are good natural and organic fertilizers, but when it comes to controlling weeds, there's just nothing that is very effective.
So I thought hey, what about ol' Root Beer, one of our prize bucks on the farm? He'll eat anything that's green. He got out of his pen a few weeks ago and just stripped my newly-planted 3' pine trees to the stem. So being the old science teacher that I am, I put him in our backyard full of henbit, chickweed, and various other weeds and turned him loose to see what he could do. Sure enough he started munching on my weeds in the backyard and got a belly full, while stripping the lawn of henbit and other weeds. And he was the ultimate natural "weed-n-feed", because as fast as he was eating weeds, that natural organic fertilizer was coming out the back end. What a deal!But I really don't think our LawnAmerica customers would appreciate me bringing my goats out to their front lawn to eat their weeds and poop on their grass. So, I'll just chalk it up to another brief and somewhat goofy idea from this entrepreneurial mind. I do feel that there is a place for incorporating organic fertilizer into a lawn care program, as we do here at LawnAmerica. I do think that in five, maybe ten years from now we could have some actual options for organic weed-control. It will probably be more expensive, and not as effective as the products we have and use now though. The products we have available now are pretty good, and if used properly, pose no unreasonable risk to people, pets, or the environment. So we'll just keep using them judiciously, and keep the goats in the pasture where they belong. The best way to control weeds naturally is to maintain a thick, healthy turf, which helps to prevent many weed seeds from germinating, while competing with weeds that are in the turf and choking them out. This really is a natural way of controlling weeds somewhat. But even with thick turf, you'll still have some weeds such as crabgrass, dandelions, and nutgrass to name a few. Those still will need proper herbicides applied at the proper time to effectively control.
With a great fall winding down, the weather is becoming cooler, and gardeners are slowly migrating back indoors for winter. But don't put away your gloves and tools quite yet, as now is a perfect time to add a new tree or a grouping of shrubs to the landscape. Or perhaps you have an area in the landscape that needs 'remodeling' or rejuvenating. Or as in my case, maybe the family dog got bored and literally pulled out of the ground a 7’ new Redbud tree I had planted in the backyard last spring. Anyone want a friendly 3-year old Golden Retriever? The fall may be the best season to plant, surpassing even the spring. Many people prefer Spring for planting, but the fall months of September through December have distinct advantages. Fall planting follows the heat of summer, before a cool winter season, and trees and shrubs planted in the fall use this to good advantage. Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which may occur all winter in Oklahoma. During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established. When spring arrives, this expanded root system can support and take advantage of the full surge of spring growth. Fall is the optimum time to plant balled and burlapped trees and shrubs. Balled and burlapped plants have ample time to recover from transplanting and proliferate roots before spring growth begins. Remember, however, all bare root plants, including roses and pecan and fruit trees, should be planted in late winter when they are completely dormant. Plan ahead before just throwing something into the ground. 'Plan before you plant' is always a good rule of thumb. Whether you are planting a single plant or an entire landscape, plan first, then plant. Good planning is a worthwhile investment of time that will pay off in greater enjoyment of attractive and useful home grounds, and in increasing the value of your home. It's much easier to move plants on paper then to dig them after planting in the wrong place. A plan saves many planting mistakes. Every plant in the landscape should serve a purpose. Ask yourself if you want a plant for screening, for privacy, or for shade. How large will it be five years from now? Plants, like people, grow up. Remember, that a small one-gallon-size plant will look entirely different after a few years of growth in your landscape. This is a common mistake homeowners make, by planting shrubs or trees too closely together, not realizing that they do grow up—just like your kids! Plant properly for success. Here are a few guidelines on getting the job done right:
So don’t settle down into the couch watching football too soon this season yet Dad! Before Winter sets in, why not get out in the landscape and give it a good “going over” so that it will be ready to take off next Spring. It's a great time to plant a tree, shrubs, bulbs, and other landscape additions that will come out strong next spring.
If there is one question that we get asked a lot during the course of the year, it is “When is the best time to seed Fescue?” The answer to that question is right now, if not sooner.
The Autumn season is the best time of year to establish or over-seed a Fescue turf for several reasons.
We, at LawnAmerica, offer Fescue seeding services from mid-September through mid-October. In our seeding process we cultivate the ground using core aerators and rakes, we apply our custom LawnAmerica Fescue seed blend (which has NO weed seed), we fertilize with a combination of liquid fertilizers and an organic soil amendment as well as following up in 3-4 weeks to insure that seedlings are germinating properly.
If you have Fescue turf or need Fescue turf, don’t delay seeding, whether you do it yourself, or enlist our help. A little of bit of time and effort spent this Fall will pay dividends in a beautiful turf next Spring!
If you need our help, I recommend that you call soon. Our schedule is almost full.
And I almost forgot, don’t forget to water, or pray for rain (or both)! It’s pretty dry out there.
Yesterday was a first. I actually made a wood fire in the fireplace on the back porch, and its mid-July in Oklahoma! I almost thought I was at our old cabin in the Colorado mountains sitting by the fire. Compared to many of the recent summers we’ve experienced in Oklahoma, with brutal heat and little rainfall, the summer of 2014 is turning out to be quite a godsend. So while the rain does mess up our production schedule somewhat, we’ll take the benefits that it provides.
So how does this cool, rainy weather affect lawns and landscapes in Tulsa and NE Oklahoma? Well for one, you can and should turn off your irrigation system for a while, and give it a break. That’s a good thing for your water bill, with the 2” of rainfall last week, and now a day or so of good soaking rains. These are the types of rains which really soak into the deeper layers of soil, causing the turf roots to grow deep. And that’s a good thing, so when the very top soil layer dries out later, there will still be good soil moisture deep being utilized by those deep roots.
Some people water too much, not only wasting precious water resources, but also hurting the turf. Excess soil moisture cuts off the oxygen supply in the soil, which is bad for the turf. Too much rain or irrigation leaches out soil nitrogen faster, leading to a negative impact on green turf color later on. Summer weeds such as crabgrass and nutgrass love saturated soils, so they can proliferate in wet soils. And, turf diseases such as Brown Patch can be more severe in wet periods and with over-watering.
So turn off the sprinklers and let Mother Nature do her thing! Get outdoors and enjoy the green turf, trees, and landscapes in Tulsa and NE Oklahoma this July, instead of sitting in the air conditioning trying to stay cool as we normally do during July. With the rains, bermudagrass will be growing like crazy into July, so now is a great time to try Primo, our great turfgrass growth regulator, which slows down the growth of grass by 50% for up to 6 weeks with one treatment. Our customers who have this service done several times during the summer love it, as it saves time, money, and their turf actually is greener and thicker with the Primo treatment.
Our LawnAmerica guys also love this cool summer weather. Normally, they are dog tired by 1:00 with working in 90 and 100 degree heat. Not now…..they just keep on working into the afternoons killing weeds and fertilizing grass, like the energizer bunny. So give em’ a shot on your lawn if not already doing so! They’re good, and they service more turf than anyone in Oklahoma.