Horticultural Oil

Personally, I find this word incredibly hard to pronounce, but let’s work it out together.

What is Horticultural Oil?

– Horticultural oil is an oil that can be applied to plants to control insects, mites and diseases.

“How does it control them?”

  •  Hort oil, when applied to the plant surface, suffocates the insects
  • It also
    • Disrupts the metabolism of insect eggs and
    • Disrupts the ability of some insects to feed (which makes them starve to death)
  • This means that it is also preventing these insects from spreading more diseases from plant to plant

“How do I apply?”

  • It is recommended to spray trees and bushes (especially hemlocks), early in the spring
  • Make sure the weather is mild
    • Do not apply it during warm, summer temperatures
    • Do not apply on humid days
    • May want to avoid windy days to control drifting
  • Use a backpack sprayer and measure the product appropriately, follow the label!
  • Avoid blue spruces – product will take away the color
  • Have fun!

I added that last part to remind you to have fun and enjoy your gardening adventures. Nature is crazy cool, so absorb it and really become its friend. If you don’t want to be its friend, at least treat it kindly and take these tips and use them! I hope you learned a lot today and I hope you will learn a lot next week too.

(Get it? I’m hinting that you should definitely pop in next week to see what else there is to learn)

*wink*

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for weekly tips

 

Crabgrass control and spring seeding

Okay, so last week we talked about de-thatching, remember? I hope you took that generous knowledge and put it to good use, and I hope you’ll consider how helpful it (hopefully) was for you and continue reading this with high expectations and low likelihood of disappointment. Because these next steps are just as useful as last week’s. (maybe even more, I am a whole week wiser, you know)

So I will continue on, and after this post we will both have made great strides toward the best lawn in the world (or at least on your block). There are a couple different routes you could take, so let’s see what’s behind door number one…

SCENARIO ONE

“Simply Seeding

Any questions about what seed to use, check this post out, Seed to Use

With your lawn so freshly de-thatched, it is the perfect time to seed! When the soil is broken up a bit the seeding is entirely more effective, and the de-thatching does a fine job of this. So let’s start seeding. (finally!!)

I know what you’re thinking… isn’t fall the ideal time to seed?

To that I say… yes, but lucky for you there is a small window during the spring that works, too. Just make sure the seed is put down early enough so it has time to germinate before it gets too warm. When the sun comes up and starts beating down on young seedlings, it becomes struggle to survive, so get the seed down early.

The next step after seeding is to think about the fertilizer and lime needs of your lawn. Crabgrass control is an important application to perform, but most weed preventers also happen to prevent grass seed from germinating. So when it is time for you to apply it, try to remember to only apply it to areas that you have not seeded. On the areas you haveImage result for crabgrass seeded, you could use instead a starter fertilizer that also controls weeds.

If you buy a crabgrass control product or round 1 product, it is designed to prevent growth. DO NOT apply this product to fresh seed. Instead, find a starter fertilizer with weed control. It is more expensive, but worth it to protect all the seed work you did. Check the package, it should be clear about the goal of the product. Purchase the right one and apply according to the label. It’s ok to use 2 products, one for seed and one for the rest of the lawn. Please feel free to ask us and we can let you know what products to use.

The next step is to complete a lime treatment.

Lime treatments are good to put to use when lawns are weedy, patchy, or yellow. Adding lime helps restore that beautiful green appearance you remember once upon a time. Lime treatments also add calcium and magnesium to soil.

SCENARIO TWO

“Simply Not Seeding”

This scenario plays fairly similarly to scenario one, the only difference being that you skip the seeding and starter fertilizer. The skip means that you can freely use crabgrass control on the entire lawn.

POST-SCENARIO

No matter which scenario you chose, it is so great that you have gone out of your way to complete these steps to improve your lawn. Just remember the order, because it is of upmost importance! (written four times to really set the knowledge in)

Dethatch, Seed, Fertilizer, Lime

Dethatch, Seed, Fertilizer, Lime

Dethatch, Seed, Fertilizer, Lime

Dethatch, Seed, Fertilizer, Lime

 

 

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for Weekly Tips

Seeding a Lawn? Choose Grass Seed Wisely

Spring Lawn Service; De-thatching

Picture this…

You’re talking to your neighbor.

They are going on and on and on about their gorgeous lawn. They just measured the grass in front of you, putting the ruler up to your face chanting that they have the perfect height of grass. They boast endlessly about their shiny flowers and weed-less environment. You wonder how your conversation had become about the lawn and also wonder how you could politely stop talking to this strange person. She leans over, looking just slightly past you.

“Oh, how awkward. You have thatch. Tsk tsk, I hope I didn’t make you feel bad. I should probably go. Have a good day, if you need me to help you with your lawn, just let me know.” (don’t ask me how they can tell you have thatch, maybe they’re some sort of magic lawn care person or something).

Then they are gone, and you are left staring ahead angrily… wondering what a thatch is and thinking about whether it’s worth it to move.

Don’t move! Because lucky for you, I have all the answers you seek. Your odd neighbor will never tsk at your yard ever again.

What is thatch?

Thatch is a layer of organic material built up over time that is on top of the soil and at the base of the grass blades.

Thatch threatens the root system of your lawn, so you do NOT want it!

Okay, but is thatch really a big deal?

Okay, I totally get it. You hear that it threatens the root system and you’re just like…. Psh, the root system. The root system isn’t even visible so I don’t need to worry about it. The only person who will notice that is my weird neighbor.

The root system is important though, and there are some unfortunate consequences if it is threatened by thatch.

Thatch….

  • Prevents water, fertilizer, and healthy nutrients from reaching the soil
  • Reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed
  • Invites disease by acting like a sponge and keeping moisture on the leaf
  • Creates an uneven lawn
  • Increases pest problems (gross)
  • Suffocates the base of the grass blade

I don’t know if you could tell, but these are not good things.

Okay, so how do I thatch?

Mow the lawn a little lower than you normally would, grab a dethatcher and go at it! It is recommended to make at least two passes over the lawn. Than you should rake up all the debris left over, water and fertilizer. Your lawn will then be a beautiful, dethatched environment.

It is recommended to complete the thatching in the spring prior to any applications. This will clean up the leftover debris from the fall and winter and prepare the lawn to accept the first application of crabgrass control, ensuring all nutrients and weed control make their way into the soil.

Do I have to thatch every year? If it’s in the budget or timeline, than yes.

But, No! There are ways you can avoid thatching the lawn annually,

Lime applications and core aerations will help reduce the thatch layer. Make sure you keep excessive nitrogen applications minimal. Fungicide and insecticide treatments will build up the thatch and should be used on as needed.

And grass clippings should be left on the lawn to provide nutrients back into the soil. This practice does contribute to the thatch layer, but a small price to pay to give back more nutrients.

If those steps sound like too much work, you could also just simply dethatch every year. The choice is yours, young obi wan.

Okay, I hope you guys learned enough to really stick it to your neighbor! Let them never judge the thatch layer of your lawn ever again. Good Luck!

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for Weekly Tips

 

 

 

Spring Game Plan

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is already MARCH. March is just one step away from April and you know what they say about April… April showers bring May flowers. And you know what the say about showers… showers are the weather of spring. Which means that April is probably spring, am I right?

OKAY, my point is that spring is approaching and will be here any day now.

So now my question for you is, do you know what you and your lawn will be doing in less than a month?

Do you have a, shall we say, Spring Game Plan?

No?

Okay well, I’ll let you in on my secret spring game plan and if you’re interested (you should be) grab on and take it for a spin. You might just have the best lawn of the season.

First I’ll give you the plan for the lawn, these steps are in this specific order for a reason… so don’t stray away from it!
  • 1st: Spring Thatching (heavy raking to remove thatch and dead debris)
  • 2nd: Seeding – You have a short window for this! The seeding needs time to germinate before it gets too warm outside, so seed early.
  • 3rd: Fertilizer – Here’s the thing though, if crabgrass control is used it will kill the seed that you might have put down. However, there is a product out there that controls crabgrass while also acting as a starter fertilizer. You could use this product, or just use a straight starter with no weed control.
    Products that won’t kill the seed:
    Tupersan
    Scotts Starter with Crabgrass Preventer
    Products that will kill the seed:
    Dimension
    Halt’s
    Other crabgrass controls
  • 4th: Lime the yard
  • Remember to not do these out of order! You definitely do not want to thatch after a crabgrass application is put down. You see, the crabgrass control creates a barrier on the surface to prevent weeds from sprouting, and a thatching after the treatment will destroy the barrier and make the control worthless. So you know, just don’t do it.
Now here’s the plan for the landscape…
  • 1st: Horticultural oil
    This needs to be done early in the spring (another short window). It suffocates the eggs and young insects
  • 2nd: Fertilizer Treatment
    This should be done early to mid spring. (So either before or during the first bloom. Allow the spring to begin before applying, don’t force a growth)

Alright, so that is the spring game plan so far.

I hope it has peaked your interest and inspired you to make this the lawn that will be the talk of the town. Just follow this plan and make this spring the best one yet!

Ready, set, LAWN!

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for weekly tips

 

Lawn Mowing Tips

Mowing a lawn seems simple enough… just pull the string really hard or climb onto the cushioned seat and start forth toward a tamed lawn and pleased neighbors. Maybe it really is that simple.

BUT have you ever stopped to consider that maybe every single mowing strategy or technique you have devoted yourself to coImage result for lawn mowinguld possibly be doing more harm than good? OR have you ever considered that every single mowing strategy or technique you’ve relied on is actually 100% correct and absolute perfection? (dang, good job)

No matter which category you fall in, checking in and making sure you’re doing the absolute best you can for your lawn is quite a wise decision! So read on. Educate yourself. Grow your mind as to be able to properly care for your home. Stand up for your lawn’s right to look healthy and beautiful.

Okay… so let’s get to the actual tips.
  • When should you mow?Image result for mowing stripes
    • Later in the evening (for those cooler temperatures) on DRY grass
  • How often and which pattern should you mow in? Try not to depend on any sort of schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, whenever your daughter comes home from college). Instead, mow based on the length of your lawn.
  • Frequency depends on your individual grass, BUT it is good to remember never to cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade. (so cut when it’s around 3.5 – 3.75 inches)
  • But what if you waited too long??
    • That’s okay! Just raise the mower height and cut it once, then lower the deck and cut it to the proper height! See? It all works out.
    • Be careful not to cut the lawn too short! This is called scalping.
  • VARY your cutting pattern
    • One week, go east to west
    • Next week? North and south.
    • Next one? Why, go diagonally! Not only will it prevent ruts that your mower may create over time, but it will also add some excitement to spice up your gardening ritual.
  • Okay, okay, okay, but what is the correct height for grass?
    • Early Spring – Keep the height of the grass around 2.5 inches
    • Summer months – Raise the mower deck high, at least 3 inches (more shade for soil). The hotter, the higher.
    • Fall – Lower the deck back to 2.5 inches
  • Also, don’t bag. If cut with a sharp blade at the proper height, the clippings provide nutrients that will break back down into the soil.

I have to say though, all of this is pointless if you don’t keep your lawn mower in good condition! Start by keeping it clean every week, then go here, Lawn Mower Maintenance, for some great ways to keep your mowing running great.

Okay, so I hope this provided some valuable information for all you lawn mowers! My own personal preferences also involve some good noise defying headphones and some rockin’ jams to really get the vibe pumpin’, but that’s up to you. The rest though, the rest you should seriously try to follow! It’s possible that reading through this and actually following these tips could take you from worst looking lawn in the neighborhood to the very first recipient of the prettiest, most well-kept lawn in the neighborhood award.

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for weekly tips

Winter Damage; snow mold and voles

As the snow melts, a little earlier this year, there will more than likely be some damage to your lawn that happened during the winter. Two of the biggest problems are voles and snow mold. Snow mold is simple to deal with if identified property. Voles are a nuisance and can be tough to rid out of the lawn and landscape.

Let’s take a better look at voles, which are common during the winter because they use the snow as cover to mover around. Below is an image of the tunnels they create above the surface. This is a sign that there is vole damage, which can be easily confused with moles. Moles will stay below the surface and are not active in the winter. These runway looking paths can be severe, where the grass has died off. Or just mild damage where the grass is flattened.

Voles look like mice, but have longer fur and shorter tails. They are stubborn and can create communities of up to 300 voles per acre. They are herbivores and come out at night to feed on vegetation. There is winter damage because they navigate through the snow, protected from predators so they can create a good amount of damage in your lawn.

Vole control is difficult and unfortunately almost futile when it comes to trapping or any chemical baits. So start with these tips;

  • take away the food source (excess vegetation)
  • take away protection like wood piles and grass clippings
  • keep the lawn trimmed, cut short at the end of the season
  • wrap trees and shrubs to prevent them from being eaten

Mold damage –  Typically snow and dampness will create a brown looking lawn. It will be matted down and appear to have killed the grass. Often times a simple raking and good fertilizer program will quickly fix the issue. And with most molds, a little sunlight and dryer weather may be all that is needed. Don’t go overboard with extra treatments or fungicides. They are often not needed.

One cause of snow mold is when certain areas of the lawn are covered more than the rest, causing these areas to matte down. If there are leaves and piles of grass clippings left behind and then covered with snow, this will probably lead to mold. The big pile of snow that takes the longest to melt may be an area of concern. Sometimes the snow pile cannot be avoided, but the left over leaves and grass is a big no-no. Your technician should yell at you if it is seen. Please request a late season drive by from your lawn tech and he can let you know if your lawn is ready for the winter.

There are simple ways to avoid snow mold, and also some easy fixes, so don’t stress too much about it. First off, the lawn has to be clean and cut short at the end of the year. Make certain all leaves are gone and the grass is cut down to about 2 inches. This will help with the vole issue as well. Secondly, proper nitrogen applications are necessary, avoiding quick release products at the end of the year. All of our products are slow release.  And our winterizer application does not force a growth spurt, but goes into the soil to make sure the roots get the nutrients for the winter. Finally, controlling the thatch layer is important. You can do this through de-thatching and aerations to loosen up the soil. Allowing the ground to ‘breathe’, increasing airflow and oxygen into the base of the grass will reduce the likelihood of snow mold.

The proper ways to fix both these problems is to rake and fertilizer. If needed, seed the areas. The vole issue may be an ongoing fight for a while. An outdoor housecat will probably work wonders, they tend to get all the little critters away from the house. And the snow mold can easily be prevented and remedied.

Last week we went over lawn mower maintenance, and next week will be on lawn mowing techniques. The single most important post we send out all year is to ensure the lawn is cut properly. Keep an eye out for that post and we look forward to talking to you. Thanks,

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for weekly tips

 

Lawn mower maintenance

Lawn mowing is a critical job to a healthy lawn and if done poorly, the lawn will be limited and weak areas will die off. In order to properly cut the lawn, your mower has to be running in peak performance. In this post, we’ll go over some of the simple steps to get your mower ready for the upcoming season. These tips are for a typical cutting season, approximately 30 cuts, so adjust the maintenance if you are the
neighborhood lawn guy!

To get the best cut —> use a sharp blade spinning at max rpms

To achieve this, follow this list;

  • Keep the mower clean
  • Follow owner’s manual
  • Use high octane, fresh gas (buy enough for only a few weeks)
  • Check oil often (don’t screw cap in to check level)
  • Once a year, change oil, oil filter, air filter, fuel filter and spark plug (tune up kit should have all these things)
  • Keep blade sharp, like a butter knife, not like a razor
  • Keep tire pressure consistent
  • Tighten belts
  • Lube and grease as needed (follow manual)

One of the simplest ways to ensure your mower is spinning at max capacity – keep it clean. Do not allow any build up under the cutting deck, around any belts, or on the engine. A hose could do the trick, or use your hands and a putty knife. If your hands go near the blade, then disconnect the spark plug. Spinning the blade by hand could possibly ignite the engine.

The owner’s manual will be a valuable source of information when it comes to maintaining your specific mower. It is written by the people who built the mower and they should know the best what to do.

Use high octane fuel and don’t let the mower run out it while running. Most recommendations are for a minimum of 87 octane, but I like to use the good stuff. The more expensive gas will last a bit longer on the shelf, but keep only enough for a few weeks. At the end of the season drain the tank or use fuel stabilizer. Bad gas is usually the cause for engines not starting.

Oil is critical to a properly running mower, considered the blood of the engine. Check it often to make sure it is at the proper level. There are different guidelines to checking different engines, but usually you do not have to screw the dipstick it. So make sure it is checked properly. Any debris that is visible, get it out and if the oil looks dark, than change it. Every time the oil is changed, replace the oil filter as well and dispose properly.

Tune up kit – The air filter should be checked constantly. It clogs quickly and collects a lot of dust and debris. There is usually a foam filter around the air filter and this piece will collect most of the junk. These are easy to clean, and they are inexpensive so clean or replace often.Image result for mower tune up kit

The spark plug is a simple item to change also. Often this piece is replaced only when the engine fails to start. It is inexpensive and easy to change, so just take care of it every year. Same thing with the fuel filter. I would suggest this is the most overlooked item to check. It should be part of a tune up kit and fairly easy to change.

Sharpen the blade, properly. Here’s a checklist.

  • Disconnect spark plug
  • Flip mower up and keep carburetor side up to avoid getNew blade and tools hanging on pegboardting oil in it
  • Mark the blade to make sure it goes back on the same way
  • Take single bolt out of the middle of the blade, be careful and use proper tools
  • Sharpen with a file or grinder to ‘butter knife’ sharp. Too sharp will actually dull quicker. And careful with a grinder, it might heat up the blade and ruin it. Also, only sharpen one side, the top side. 50 strokes with a sharp, 10 inch file should do it.
  • Balance the blade by hanging it on the wall, should be level to the ground. If not, shave some more off the heavy side
  • Put blade back on securely

The guidelines listed here will allow your mower to operate as efficient as possible. A sharp blade spinning at max rpm’s is the goal. We will get into mowing techniques in a later post as the spring nears, but the best techniques are useless if the mower is just damaging the grass. This is step one.

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Sign up for weekly tips

New Site and Blog

The new site is up and running, along with our revamped blog page. We look forward to providing great information throughout the year to all homeowners interested in a healthy lawn. The archives have some helpful posts from last year, and we will continue to add a lot of content. To keep up with all this info, sign up for our weekly tips and we can walk you through the best methods of caring for your lawn and landscape, or check back often for new posts.

Sign up for our weekly tips here

www.greatcarelawnservice.com

Final, season closing thoughts

It was a balmy 50 plus degree today, but the winter is pretty much here.  While the weather is still fairly warm and there is no snow on the ground, you still have time to get the final touches done on the lawn.

The lawn needs to be ‘put to rest’ for the winter months.  This includes the final mow and a good clean up of the lawn and property.  All of the leaves need to be taken away from the lawn and landscape, dragged into the woods or taken off site. I like to get the bulk of the leaves with a tarp. Then take a blower to the shrubs and get all the leaves into the lawn. Once all of the loose debris is blow onto the lawn, I run the mower over it once to mulch everything. This is done with the deck fairly high. The second time around the blades are lowered and I bag everything, and get it off the lawn.

When the large majority of the leaves, debris and grass are cleaned up, take a leaf blower and get everything else up. This process takes a little bit of time, but get the blower down into the grass and blow everything out. A good raking will do as well, be requires a lot more work. All of the little twigs and leaves that may be ‘stuck’ will get loosened and removed, preventing any damage over the winter months.

Raking the leaves, clearing out the beds, double cutting the lawn and then doing a fine cleaning with the blower or rake is quite the job. So, give yourself a few days, even over a few weekends to get this done.

If there is a lot of leaves left in the lawn, or if the grass is too long, there will be some damage to the lawn.  Dead spots or fungus will be left for you to deal with in the spring time.

Mower maintenance is very important so clean that up and put the mower ‘to rest’ as well prior to storing it for the winter.

We hope this information helps and also stresses the importance of late season care for your lawn. Following these guidelines will give your lawn a great chance to survive the next few months of cold weather and will rebound quickly in the spring. Thanks for following!

Seeding a lawn? Choose grass seed wisely

In this post we are going to talk about the different types of grass seed.  It is very important to choose the right match for your specific environment and also for when you are putting the seed down.

There are basically 3 different types of grass seed that you will see in lawns up here in New England.  (Bentgrass is a fourth type which we won’t address here. It is primarily used on golf courses and not a good grass to have on your property). The types available are:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Fescue
  • Ryegrass

Many bags of store seed you will purchase will be a blend of these, either all three types or perhaps just two.

The differences between the three types are germination period, traffic tolerance and whether they will grow in the sun or shade. The color is another difference but this is hardly a choice. Everyone wants a deep rich lawn, but you cannot choose a grass seed based on color. It has to fit the actual living environment and not just a great looking picture. So, let’s go through each type and identify which one is best for you.

Kentucky Bluegrass is a cool season grass and is often considered the king of grasses. ItImage result for kentucky bluegrass has a great looking, rich green color. It goes dormant in the summer months which makes it grow really well in the sun. Bluegrass continues to grow and expand as it is cut, so it naturally fills in the bare spots. It is often used on athletic fields and and golf courses because of the color and ability to withstand full sun. It tends to be more expensive and requires several weeks to germinate so it needs to be planted early in the fall.

Fescue is the second type of seed you will come across in the cooler seasons. There are different kinds of fescues but generally speaking, they do well in both sun and shade. The tall fescue has a deep root system and

Image result for fescue

requires less water and fertilizer, so it does well in the sun.  The finefescue tolerates dry and shady conditions, but do not do well with alot of traffic. The fescue type will also fill in bare spots as it is cut, just like the bluegrass. When purchasing a shady blend there should be a higher percentage of fescue.

 

Ryegrass is a third type. It has a quick germination period, especially the annual ryegrass. It comes up quick but also dies with the first frost. A perennial type will also come in pretty quick and comes back every year. A ryegrass will not fill in the bare areas and basically grow vertical and stay where it is. They don’t have the underground roots that expand. The ryegrass is also tolerant to many insects as well, like chinchbugs.

 

 

 

A blend of seed is typically what you will looking for. The front label will tell you sun, shade or both. But turn the bag over and read the label to see the mix of seed that is in there. Some of the newer products have a coating or additional products in there that is not seed. I typically recommend staying away from those because there is less seed in the bag, and more ‘filler’, including weeds. They are designed to make it easier for the homeowner to care for because it requires less water. But you will pay more for less seed.
So look at the label and a good mix will be close to 100% grass seed. Take a look at the two labels below.

A sun blend will have a good amount of kentucky bluegrass, while a shade mix will have a lot of the fine fescue. Even with the shade mix though, it still needs sun to finish the photosynthesis process. If you are trying to seed an area that never sees the sun, than you will have to come up with a different game plan, perhaps mulch or some type of ground cover.

The label on top is a Scott’s product, take a look at the bottom of the label and see the watersmart coating. Over half of that bag is not even grass seed. The label below is a lesco product that is pure grass seed, close to 100%. It requires more attention and more watering, but you will more grass popping up in a couple weeks.