Sunday, June 26, 2016

Battle of the three armies

The ugly yellow flower you are seeing on most city boulevards and the odd lawn is Birdsfoot Trefoil. The significance of this weed? It is Mother Nature's calling card to let us know the siege of crabgrass and Chinch Bug are on the way leaving you to hold the fort against the coming onslaught.

After another weekend of high temperatures, crabgrass will probably explode seemingly overnight and the heat stress your lawn is already under may soon be disguising a hungry army of chinch bugs as they march onto your grass from gardens and from the thatch layer of your turf. Although given the heat stress most lawns are currently under Ican imagine there will be much to munch on.

Although chemically there is no solution for either of these invaders there is still hope for small victories.

As far as Crabgrass is concerned- Corn meal as a post emergent? Well, it's dirt cheep so what-the-hell, might as well give it a spin with crabgrass running rampant in the heat of summer. I've tried this on a few patches and it is working...very slowly...but working. I believe a healthier dose of the powder would expedite the process, but for me to cover a lawn with corn meal...let's say I'm not too eager.

You could also pull the weed out. It doesn't have a deep root system and will come out of wet soil easily, ( if we ever get rain), but it spreads quickly so you must keep on top of it.

If you simply want to admit defeat, this is an annual weed and it will die-off come fall. Just make sure you keep it cropped so it doesn't go to seed and compound the problem next year,

As for the Hairy Chinch Bug, they do most of their damage in midsummer during periods of hot, dry weather.  With their piercing mouths they suck juices from the crown and stems of grass, causing small sections of grass to appear sunken, yellow and finally brown.  As damage progresses the small spots can run together to become large dead patches that is usually mistaken for drought stress.

The life cycle of Chinch Bugs is quite different than that of White Grubs.  The adults spend their winter in shrubbery, under trees and in flower beds.  In spring the adult becomes active and deposits eggs into the lawn.  The eggs quickly become tiny nymphs by early June and become adults by mid July.  Damage begins and becomes evident usually in July.

                  Small infestations of Chinch Bugs won’t cause noticeable damage, but after several weeks of hot, dry weather, the attack can be quite severe.

                The easiest way to detect the presence of Chinch Bugs is to make a cylinder out of a large tin can.  Coffee containers or 48 oz tomato juice containers will do the trick just fine.  Sink the can partway into the soil and fill with water.  Within minutes tiny bugs will emerge and float to the top.  Those of us who are over 50 may need glasses, because the Chinch Bugs are only 4 mm long.

                  The best time to do a Chinch Bug test is in July  when the bugs are most abundant.  The best place to do the test is at the edge of a suspected affected area usually near a heat source like pavement, or a sunny area of the lawn.

                Chinch bugs are now difficult to control.  Since Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticide Act came into place, Diazinon, Chlorpyrifos and Sevin are no longer available.

Know that Chinch Bugs dislike water. Mixing a little dish detergent like Sunlight or Palmolive into the mix will improve results. You can also try a shop-vac on the infected area to remove this insect.

Yet a healthy lawn is still the best defense- annual aeration (fall),  over-seeding with endophytic grass seed (stay away from Kentucky Blue grass). Proper watering and cutting is also essential. Following these guidelines wont eliminate the enemy altogether but it will go along way to limiting the damage to your lawns infrastructure.

What ever your weapon, make no mistake the battle is about to begin between you, Chinch and crabgrass.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer comes early

It didn't take long. One weekend of higher temperatures and increased humidity mixed with an overall lack of precipitation. The result? Heat stress, brown patch and summer patch.

It's the type of conditions we usually see on lawns late July, or early August. Yet here it was not even June and it seemed almost every lawn was suffering from one or the other.

This is precisely why we preach the importance of proper cutting, (3" high), and watering, (1 to 2 inches per week), when temperatures go north of 30 Celsius.

In the case of turf diseases like brown and summer patch, pounding your grass with water is only going to add to the problem. Make sure watering is less frequent, mowing blades are sharp and the thatch layer has been aerated. It is also important to stay away from quick-release fertilizers. Remember in Ontario fungicides are not an option and would be a very expensive remedy if they were.

Slow and steady wins the race here. Over time a resilient lawn will correct itself with proper  techniques and return to the green you expect without damaging your wallet.