Sunday, July 24, 2011

See spot run

Hopefully with this weather we've been having you've still been watering the lawn- one deep watering a week is sufficient, or about 1" worth.

And I trust everyone has their mowing height at the highest possible setting if you're even cutting it at all? Three inches will keep your lawn drought tolerant and able to survive the dormancy that comes with the Summer heat and lack of rain.

If you haven't been doing this then you probably have seen the crabgrass encroaching, yet again, from the pavement and lawn edges where it oh-so loves the heat.

The bad news is there is nothing that can be done to control it at this time of the year. Dimension and Acclaim are no longer options and Corn Gluten?...well, you're asking a lot from an organic control in these you have crabgrass.

The good news is, crabgrass has a shallow root system, so it's easy to pull up when on the perimeter. However don't let it get to the point of germination, otherwise next year the problem could be a whole lot worse.

The next problem in the heat is Chinch Bug- a top feeding insect that sucks the juice out of your grass rendering it lifeless.

Chinch also love drought and can take out a lawn pretty quick if not dealt with. If you want to know whether you have Chinch, locate a patch of lawn where it is stressed, preferably before 10 AM, and use your fingers to rub the grass vigorously. Then peel back the grass blades to the soil and look if you can see either the nymphs, (black with red on their backs), or the adults, (black with white on their wings).

Ways to combat this insect are to keep the lawn watered and the thatch layer to a minimum (aerate/ rake). I would have said Neem Oil but....oh yeah that organic has now been banned by the PMRA.

Now are you ready for the catch 22 of this whole situation?

So you've been watering regularly, the grass is a decent length, there's no sign of Chinch and the crabgrass is minimal or non existent. You're pretty pleased with your effort until you see signs of Grub damage- a circular brown patch in the middle of the lawn that isn't responding to water and seems to come up like a carpet because the root system is gone.

The beetles have to lay their eggs somewhere and they'll have better success in a nice juicy lawn like yours over one that is burnt to a crisp, dry and hard like concrete.

Unfortunately the only options here are to watch your lawn disappear to an all you can eat grub Thanksgiving, or apply nematodes.

However, know this; the earliest an application can be done is mid August, it has to be performed in rainy/cloudy conditions, or at dusk because UV will kill the microscopic nematodes.

Oh, and you must, must, must water for three days following the application to effectively flush your nematodes into the root zone.

If you're going to do it yourself, be aware of expiration dates and the nematodes must remain refrigerated until, no wonder people tell me they don't work.

Do all this and grubs shouldn't be a problem and you won't have raccoons and skunks digging the hell out of your lawn either.

Yet, there is one way to help combat all this, but it will take time. Over seed every fall with an endophytic grass seed, preferably one that will establish a deep root system and is drought tolerant like Eco Lawn.

Even with all this there are no guarantees anymore. All it takes is one misstep and with Mother Nature tripping horribly over the last two years we might as well turn to Lady Luck after all it couldn't get any worse....right?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Say goodbye to it.

Are you kidding me? Neem oil has been banned?

Am I to believe now I can't even use organic products to keep a lawn healthy?

Wow! What a bunch of idiots!

But where to lay the imbecilic blame?

Could it be those lawn companies that were actually foolish enough to tout Neem oil as a Chinch Bug control in their promotional materials, when they knew it was not registered in Canada as anything but a foliage sheen?

Could it be some of the distributors who saw profits rise when the pesticide ban came in? Psst we have something for Chinch Bug. Meet me in the ally in five minutes.

Could it be the PMRA who wouldn't recognize this ORGANIC product for anything else than making your plants sparkle?

They're all to blame in my books.

Not once was I ever stupid enough to promote Neem for Chinch. Sure, I used it in my applications and labeled it as a foliage sheen to my customers. I knew I couldn't legally say it was an effective Chinch deterrent. Hell, I didn't even list it as a possible control when discussing Chinch on my website.

Yet, here we are and Neem is now off the table as an, someone in the government sure has a hard-on for the lawn care industry.

Why don't you dudes just show up at my house and put a bullet in my brain. It would be preferable to this slow death you're currently putting me through.

And mark my words, Fiesta will suffer the same fate one day. After all, it's an organic control too. When I see what the liquid iron is doing to my equipment, I wonder about all those companies out there applying blanket applications and the amount of product leaching into the ground. At least, for the most part I only do spot applications.

I can't help but think about a story I heard once concerning going green by getting more electric cars on the road. Then someone realized that all those electric batteries have to be replaced and discarded from time to time. Suddenly the idea didn't seem so green after all.

And this is no different. Every time there's one solution two new problems crop up in its place.

Just telling it like it is...because really, what else do I have left to lose...fertilizer?

Maybe I'm getting my panties in a knot over nothing? There will be another product to replace Neem down the line, but what about this heat...on lawns that are already drought stressed?

Sure you can water because the Chinch don't like well maintained lawns, but the municipalities want you to conserve the precious liquid.

Sure you can aerate to break up the thatch layer, but I'd rather run my machine over concrete than compacted, drought-stressed clay.

Sure you can over-seed with an endophyte enhanced grass seed like Eco-Lawn, but you'd have better results finding a brothel in the Vatican then getting seeds to germinate in this heat.

Get ready to raise the rent people, because the Chinch bugs are moving in.

The buffet just opened and it's on your lawn.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bite the hand that feeds

Last week I finished up the final Summer applications and was appalled to see the crabgrass starting on many of the lawns.

OK, crabgrass loves the heat and you usually see it at this time of the year, especially under these toasty conditions. The problem for me is, since crabgrass was also rampant last year I added pre-emergent treatments to all the programs this year in an attempt to avoid the same situation.

However, since the only tool I have to treat it is Corn Gluten, (an organic that is very hit and miss), I seemed to have dumped a ton of money into a product that doesn't work very well.

I did two separate applications; some got granular and some got liquid to the same result.

I'm sure my supplier will tell me that the product was not applied at the recommended rate and that's why it didn't work.

I can assure you, since I don't employee students and did many of the applications myself, it was correctly applied.

What we have is simply a product that doesn't work very well, yet costs twice as much and someone is making a lot of money off my back and your wallet.

But who has to field the complaints?....Moi!

It's the same deal I have with Fiesta, sometimes it works well and others I don't even want to talk about it (just look at your clover and chickweed this year and tell me what's wrong with this picture). Bad enough that the customer's confidence is already on the edge with this product because of Weed-B-Gone- a dumbed-down version of what I use. Thanks very much Scotts. I'll bet you're not hurting for money?

With grub season about to start I'm faced with the same issue in nematodes. Last year- one of the worst in some time- I did every single application myself. They were done in cloudy, or rainy conditions, they were watered in properly yet some of my customers still had grub problems come Spring. Thank you very much Environmental Factor. No wonder all the Dragons Den bought into your product....ka-ching!

Oh by the way that spray tank I bought back in the Spring is leaking somewhere else now. Thank you very much Rittenhouse.

Funny thing, I have a spray tank on one of my trucks that I paid $400 for, is God only knows how old and works without fail.

You'd think in the technological age we live in, someone would be able to deliver a better mouse trap, but not so. Products are not as good because there's no money to be made in stuff that lasts.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Dimension and no one had crabgrass and if they did I used Acclaim and wiped it out.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Merit and no one had grubs.

Before the pesticide ban, I used Par III and no one had weeds.

The customer was happy, I was happy. Now if you want to see what your lawn used to look like you have to play golf.

In fact, the only product that hasn't let me down is Eco-Lawn the low maintenance grass seed. Thank you very much Wildflower Farm, you guys still rock!

I guess it's evident that I'm pissed, but if you don't want to get called out as a company with inferior products then give me better stuff so I can do my job and keep my customers content at least. I'll happily pay for things that work properly, but when they don't, I feel it's my duty to inform others...and if you've read this you can consider yourself informed.