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You can thank me for the recent rains we've had in Tulsa. Sure enough, every time we send aout a mass letter to all of our lawncare customers in Tulsa about a drought and the need to irrigate their lawns, it rains a bunch by the time they actually recieve the letter. After a long, dry, and very cold winter, the March rains have been nice, with more in the forecast for next week. So with that, and some warmer weather, fescue lawns are perking up, trees are beginning to bud, and it's finally starting to feel like spring.

I've also seen some signs of green bermudagrass in warmer sections of the turf. That's a good sign, because part of the letter we sent to our customers was about the good possibility of some winterkill of bermudagrass this season. The verdict is still out, and we really will not know for sure until about May 1st. If all things work out well with mother nature (does that ever happen?) then Tulsa area bermudagrass lawns should be nice and green by then. So we shall see.

In the meatime, we've been encouraging our customers to keep soil moisture levels good, and the recent rains have sure helped with that. But it was very dry, cold, and often windy this past winter. So we will have some dead plants, particularly evegreen plants, newly established plants, and some that are on the northern fringe of their growing zone.

One good thing about the cool spring is that soil temperatures in Tulsa are below normal for this time of year. Therefore, there is still time to apply and have success with pre-emergent herbicide treatments

. We use Barricade, the best on the market, and will switch to Dimension in mid-April, as it will control newly germinatated crabgrass also. With all pre-emergents, rainfall is good, as they need to be watered into the soil to activate the product.

And while the warmer spring weather and rains after a long, cold winter may make a homeowner want to get out and work in the lawn, resist the urge to scalp your lawn for a few weeks. We can still have a late freeze, and that will harm grass that has been scalped too short. Leave it tall, or jsut take off the top of the turf to clean it up, but don't take it to the ground. Same thing goes with planting summer annual flowers. Don't let the pretty colors fool you as they sit in the garden centers. Be patient, and wait until it warms up some more before you put those into the ground.

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Ornamental grasses are a great addition to the Tulsa landscape. Perennial summer grasses such as pampus grass, zebra grass, fountain grass, switch grass, maiden grass, and feather reed grass are some of my favorites. Annual fountain grass is a nice fast-growing grass with a reddish maroon color, but it will not survive the winters as the perinnials will.

Ornamental grass can grow and spread out to become quite large. So when planting, make sure to leave plenty of room in the landscape for them to mature. New growth begins in spring, continues all summer with beautiful flowering taking place in late summer to fall. Once established, they are very low maintenance, with little irrigation needed unless periods of drought occur. Not much fertilization is required. They are not mowed like turfgrass, rather left to grow naturally. So the place for them is not out in the lawn, but rather in shrub beds, often interspaced with other shrubs and flowers. Ornamental grasses add a nice diversity to an otherwise common shrub bed.

The flowering plumes in fall are particulary beautiful, and can add beauty to the winter landscape. In late spring, the old brown topgrowth needs to be cut back in order to allow room for new green growth from the crown and root system of the plant. I live in the country, where one can burn vegetation, along with other things that can't be mentioned in this blog. So now that the burn ban is off, I put a match to my brown ornamental grasses and watched them burn, saving me alot of time in trying to weedeat or cut with shears the dead vegetation. Burning does not harm the living portion of the grass at all, and in fact will allow it to come out earlier in spring compared to cutting back the vegetation. But don't do this within the city limits, or you will run the risk of burning your house down or getting ticketed for unlawful burning. Thank God I'm a country boy now!

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Now that the latest arctic blast has moved out of here, it's a great time to prune certain trees and shrubs in the Oklahoma landscape. Pruning is a way to help ensure long term health of the tree and remove branches that could be hazardous. The ideal time to prune is late winter just before growth begins. Pruning is an injury to the plant and when done at this time, the cut seals over quickly with the onset of rapid spring growth. With this being said, pruning can be done anytime of the year, but often the plant will not heal as quickly.

Pruning in winter—during the dormant season—invigorates many trees and shrubs because it leaves the plants with extra root and energy reserves that will support new growth on the remaining branches. Dormant-season pruning is good for you, too, because you can see the branches more clearly without leaves in the way. You can shape the tree or shrub for good future growth. And it gives you a reason to go outside on mild winter days, as many of us are ready to do after this cold winter. Do not prune spring blooming shrubs such as azaleas, as you'll be removing many of the flower buds and you will not have a nice colorful display this spring. However, I've seen some dead and damaged azaleas due to the dry winter, so they may not look to hot anyway.

Here are some tips for pruning you trees and shrubs:

  • Prune on a mild, dry day.
  • First prune out the dead and diseased branches.
  • Then remove the overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the crown of the tree or shrub.
  • In general, your goal is to keep the branches that develp or maintain the structure of the tree.
  • Cut branches at the node, the point at which one branch or trig attatches to another.
  • Use clean, sharp tools for a clean cut.

One common shrub in Tulsa that is over-pruned in my opinion are crape mrytles. They are summer flowering shrubs, that if left un-pruned, can grow to 30' high or more. Down in the southern states, where they are never harmed by cold temperatures, they often are found this large….and grow more like a tree. In Tulsa, we are on the northern fringe of their growing area, so sometimes during cold winters, they can be damaged or even killed. And with this winter, don't be surprised to experience that. Many homeowners, and maintenance companies, cut them back every winter. When that is done every year, and at the same place on the shrub, this is what develops. You have a large bottom trunk, with only a few flowering stems shooting out later on in summer. I think it looks rather odd myself.

So unless they are planted next to a home, or in an area where they cannot be allowed to grow higher, I'd just let them grow as high as they can. And then if some of the plant does not make it out of winter, they can be pruned back then.

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With the great weather in late January, we are starting our Early Spring Weed-Control Treatment in the Tulsa area this week. Early on, we are using a new pre-emergent product named Specticle, from Bayer Chemical Company. We've used it in trail situations for over a year now. We applied Specticle last fall on most of our Tulsa lawns. It is a new and very good product, with superior longevity and has a broader range of weeds that are controlled. Most pre-emergent herbicices, such as Barricade, do a great job of preventing crabgrass and other grassy weeds, but not so good on many broadleaf weeds. Specticle will stop many broadleaves from germinating, so that spraying post-emergents later in the season can be cut back on.

Preventing weeds from even germinating is always the best way to provide great weed-control. That's what we are mainly doing with our Step 1 Treatment, with Specticle and later on with Barricade. Speciticle is also one of the safest products to use, and is practically non-toxic. We will be treating all of our customers lawns with this great new product in the early fall for winter weed-control, especially with the great poa annua control it provides. The downside is that it is an expensive product. But we don't try to be the chaepest company in town, rather our mission is to be the best lawn care company in Tulsa. And with over 12,000 customers, I think we've demonstrated that.

As long as a pre-emergent is applied properly before crabgrass germinates, which typically is from very late March, through April, and into summer, then one should not have much of an issue with crabgrass. It won't be 100%, and there are other mainly broadleaf weeds which will not be prevented with a pre-emergent (except Specticle). However, trying to have a weed-free, beatiful lawn is not going to happen with a good pre-emergent in the spring and again in the fall. And as always, the best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy, well fertilized, mowed, and irrigated turf.

There are many other factors in obtaining great spring weed-control. Water in the pre-emergent within a few days in order to activiate it. It's really dry now all of a sudden in Tulsa, so turf will benefit from some soil moisture now also. Even dormant bermudagrass needs to have some soil moisture in the winter, especially to prevent possible winterkill if sudden cold temperatures occur later in spring.

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Now that the arctic air has moved back north where it belongs, and the sun has returned, we can finally get some lawn care work done here at LawnAmerica. Pre-emergent for crabgrass and other summer annual weeds needs to be applied by April 1st, so with any good weather, we should be fine. My big concern is the possibility of winterkill occuring on bermudagrass from all of these long stretches of sub-zero termperatures. We shall see later this spring.

Many homeowners think they can do their own lawn care and save money. Reality is, that once a homeowner adds the costs of the products they have to buy at the box stores, the gas to get there, purchase the equipment, let alone the value of their time…..it's actually a better value to use a professional company. Go to our Lawncare Calculator, enter in your information on your lawn size, value of your time, etc. and you'll see that using LawnAmerica actually saves you money. Doing your own lawn care takes some expertise, and timing is everything. Professionals such as LawnAmerica know what products to use, at what rates, and at what time. And our service is guaranteed. Try taking your empty bag of weed-n-feed back to Home Depot and asking for another bag, because the first one didn't work!

Professional lawncare companies are regulated by the E.P.A. and the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture. We have to apply the proper products at the proper rates by law. We have to dispose of used containers properly. Many homeowners on the other hand, apply too much product, thinking that more will do a better job. That's not the case, and can actually harm turf. Professionals do not harm the environment with their treatments, and act in an environmentally responsible way.

One of the most valuable benefits of using a professional is the time that homeowners save so they can spend time doing things they really enjoy. Now if you are the type of person who does enjoy working in the yard, knows what they are doing, and has plenty of free time, then I can't argue with that person doing their own lawn care. From my experience, there just are not alot of folks in that category, and could use a little help from the professionals.

Whether you choose to do your own lawn care or use a professional, maintaining a thick, healthy turf has great environmental, aesthetic, and economic benefits. And now is the time to begin caring for your lawn in 2014 with an early spring pre-emergent treatment.