Thursday, October 5, 2023

August comes to October

 Usually, by the time the calendar flips to October the nights are cool and the days carry a hint of Fall. The trees are bursting with colour, the buzzing of lawn mowers is less frequent, and the splashing in a neighbours' pool is a distant memory of Summer---but not this year.

At a time when most lawns have recovered from July/August stress (drought/dormancy/ chinch bug, etc.), the damage is still visible, and the reclamation far from evident.

As I write this, we have gone 21 days without rain, have daily temperatures pushing 30 C including new record highs for this time of the year. If you haven't been watering your lawn religiously (2x a week for an hour each.) chances are, you have nothing but concrete for soil and any attempts to get water to your parched grass is useless.

The few mechanical core aerations we have done, have pulled up only cores of dust, and we are still waiting for the fall fertilizer to kick-in, in most cases.

You don't have to have inground sprinklers to combat the dryness, just a few minutes to turn on a manual sprinkler and then turn it off an hour later. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security when the rains come. The robust 100 plus millimetres of June and July can easily turn into less than 70 mil over the last TWO months like it has. 

Now you're left with a tale of two lawns---one watered, and one not.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Aeration: Choosing between mechanical and liquid

 Aeration is one of the most beneficial applications you can do for your lawn, however, with new technologies there is a choice between liquid aeration and traditional core aeration.

Which one should you choose?

Let's look at the pros and cons of each.

Both mechanical and liquid break down thatch layers in your lawn, thatch that hampers lawn health and where chinch bugs usually hide. Mechanical does this by punching holes and removing cores of soil to allow nutrients, air and moisture to reach the root zone. Liquid aeration uses a organic mix of Humic and Fulvic acids to create micro channels in the soil and accomplishes the same end. Esthetically, liquid does not leave behind unsightly cores of dirt reminiscent of a flock of geese.

Both applications can be done with seeding, fertilizing, or weed control (if you choose not to seed.)

Now here is where Liquid Aeration leaves Mechanical Cores in the dust in my opinion.

Liquid takes less time and is less labour intensive.

With liquid aeration, there is no need to mark shallow lines, or sprinkler heads.

There is no worry when it comes to hitting Bell or Rogers cables.

Liquid aeration can cover 100% of your lawn's area, unlike core aeration at approx. 85%. 

Liquid will not rip up your lawn and can be done shortly after new sod unlike core's one-year wait for the grass to establish.

Liquid leaves no mess behind i.e. muddy wheel tracks.

Sure, once you own a machine, it pays for itself, but unless you are a lawncare provider why would you buy an aerator?

Although liquid aeration means a constant replenishment of the product, therefore increasing you bottom line, I can't deny the time saved.

In other words, you had me at "less labour intensive."

Friday, August 18, 2023

A few words

 Madness! Insane! Sheer stupidity! Fucked! And on it goes. 

These are not my words, but the words of some of my customers, who endure season after season, issues on their lawns that I am powerless to prevent. Issues like chinch bug damage, crabgrass germination, and a variety of weeds that Fiesta is not able to control.

With all the rain this year the lawns have not gone dormant, so the problems have been easier to see, and the frustration is high.

Homeowners are mad, and I get it. Yet, the fact remains, with limited tools at our disposal to deal with these infestations, it all comes back to lawn heath and proper cultural practices.

Sometimes the wounds are self inflicted---cutting the grass too low, not watering enough, lack of shade, adding extra fertilizer on top of what we have already applied---and sometimes it's the luck of the draw. Durham Region has been hard hit by chinch this year, yet in other areas like Markham, Scarborough and Bowmanville, I've seen only minimal damage. 

So what was lush and green heading into July, is now---in some cases---littered with brown patches and weeds. The best course of action is now reclamation with fertilizer, seed and aeration. 

With patience, affected lawns will return to form, and the "lush healthy look will return for the fall.

The problem? 

Most people looking at a damaged lawn right now, have no patience left. 

Who can blame them?

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The chinch bug calling card is here.

Birds Foot Trefoil has been noticeable for the past few weeks. It hangs off curbs and invades boulevards. It is also the business card for the emergence of the Chinch Bug from your garden areas and on to your lawn.

This destructive insect can quickly destroy your grass with its voracious appetite, so be aware.

Most of the damage in the early days of July is done by the nymphs (these happy little fellows) and can be found around gardens, sunny areas and sources of greater heat (on edges near pavement etc.)

 This grass mosquito will suck the life out of a blade of grass. leaving it with a dry, unhealthy appearance. If you get them in the thousands...well, you can imagine the devastation to your curb appeal.

Now, since the good people of  the Federal Government took away all means to kill the little bastards, we have to resort to other methods of control.

First determine if Chinch Bugs are the cause  by checking around damaged areas. Agitate the grass vigorously with your fingers, peel back the blades. You should be able to see them scurrying for cover into the thatch layer of your lawn.

Another method is to insert an hollow coffee can into the ground, fill it with water, and wait for them to float to the surface.

What can be done?

Hopefully, you have been keeping your grass at 3 inches and above (or ankle high). This will slow the feeding. Think of it as an all you can eat buffet with too much food.

Also, this insect loves over-fertilized lawns, so we caution people  to keep the nitrogen enriched products to a minimum.

Chinch Bugs hate water. A deeply watered lawn is no friend to them. Soapy water is kryptonite as it dehydrates them. A daily dose of soapy water (dish soap works best) to the affected area and perimeter will help your cause greatly.

I have seen some who try to Shop-Vac them out of a lawn, but a better method is to wet the affected area in the evening, then lay a plastic tarp down. In the morning they should be clinging to the tarp, and you can simply remove them from the grass.

Even if you let nature run its course and do nothing, there is still hope. Chinch Bugs are top feeders. Your root system is still intact and will recover in the fall with some TLC...unless you are also blessed with a grub infestation.

Either way, Chinch Bugs are here, right on schedule, and it would be wise to schedule a plan of attack for them.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

The leopard lawns are back


It's a common sight as spring melts into summer---the leopard lawns are here and there. Some of the damage caused by Round-up and unsuspecting homeowners, who never took the time to read the label, wanting to kill weeds at any cost, and others, for a different reason.

More often and than not, I now see lawns like this caused by another culprit---Scott's Turf Builder. 

It's not the fault of the Turf Builder or the good people at Scott's. Again the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the homeowners who don't realize the consequences of applying seed, soil, or other products enriched with nitrogen to an already fertilized lawn. 

Overloading grass with nitrogen, especially at this time of the year, will lead to the lawn burning at the point of application. In most cases, straw-like markings throughout the lawn, or worse, EVERYWHERE, if enough was applied. Who wants that?


It is this mindset which caused the banning of products like Killex and Par III long ago.

Using more doesn't solve problems. It creates them. And please read the bag's instructions prior to applying the product.

Remember that the next time you want to put more on....hmm....moron?

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Part time partners need not apply.

 Last week I pulled up to a longtime customer's property to do her first weed control of the season. The lawn looked terrible. It was covered in weeds, top-dressed and seeded, and was cut to 1 inch in height.

The customer was not happy and came out to tell me so.

"Look at all the weeds," she said.

"The lawn is cut too low," I told her. "And we have had this conversation before, 'when you cut that low, you will have more issues with weeds and insects'. You need to raise the mower."

"I didn't cut it, my neighbour did," she informed me.

"You are paying for a service. You need to tell your neighbour not to cut your grass or you will continue to have the same results, and there is nothing we can do."

"What about the weeds today?" she asked.

"I'll do my best," I said. "But I can only spot spray ones that are not surrounded by seed, otherwise the grass won't germinate." 

We sent her, as we did everyone of our customers, a spring newsletter in April advising 'waiting to the fall for seeding because spring seeding interferes with proper weed control,' but I guess she didn't read it. 

I can understand her disappointment. I would be angry if my lawn looked like hers. I would also follow the advice of the company I paid to do my lawn. I would water it deeply once a week at least. I would raise my mower to the highest setting. I would do my seeding in the fall as recommended, and if it still looked bad, I would question why I had a lawn service in the first place.

BTW. The picture above is not of the customer's lawn in question. But it is on the same route, and like many others, was done on the same day, with the same products.

Look, I don't want to put our sign on a lawn that looks awful. It doesn't do my company any favours.  So, we do our best to make sure the lawn responds to our treatment, like the one pictured above. It's just that, some people are better partners in their lawn care than others unfortunately.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

...and the survey says!

It's climate ties.

While I agree with many of the positions stated in this article, I am disappointed by the omission of how this problem started and how easily we could solve it by amending the pesticide bylaw.