Monthly Archives: June 2015

Red Thread Grass Disease

Does your lawn have small reddish or pinkish patches? Did the patches start small and are now growing in size?  If so, your lawn may have Red Thread Disease.  If, after careful examination, you discover that you do have Red Thread you may have many questions such as: What is this?  What caused it?  What do you do about it?  Let’s explore Red Thread and what it means for your lawn.

Identifying Red Thread – Red Thread is a fungal organism that causes patches of turf to turn brown and produce strands of red threadlike material. These threads are caused by a fungus – Laetisaria fuciformis / Corticium fuciforme and they grow on infected blades of grass. The threads can extend to around an inch past the height of the grass. The pinkish/red fungus can be unsightly but usually lawns will recover.

What causes Red Thread? – Red Threat is really a symptom of one or more of the following: improper watering, poor grass, poor soil or all of the above.

  • Watering – Overly moist soil and dry roots can lead to optimal conditions for Red Thread to develop.  Over watering can make the disease worse.  To help lawn drainage and aeration (letting oxygen in and carbon dioxide out) aerate the lawn using a hollow spike lawn aerator in autumn.
  • Poor Grass – Red Thread is most severe on Perennial Ryegrass. Having a good mixture of types of grasses can help your grass be more resistant.
  • Poor Soil – Newer lawns typically don’t have the most biologically active soil and are therefore subject to disease issues. The more biologically active your soil is, the fewer problems your lawn will have.

What can homeowners do to avoid optimal conditions for the growth of the fungus?

  • Avoid the spread of the disease from lawn clippings.  While the disease is severe bag clippings to avoid allowing the fungus to spread.
  • Do not over water the lawn.  Check for overly moist soil and allow for water to be absorbed.  Water only every few days if you notice soggy areas.
  • Feed the lawn when necessary because when lawns and grasses are lacking in nitrogen they are much more susceptible to the onset of Red Thread.
  • Consult Professional Lawn Care services like Pro-Tech  to discuss the need for chemical or non chemical controls.

Common Fertilizing Mistakes

When humans eat they need a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.  Just like people, grasses and plants need “food” in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients. Instead of a plate full of veggies, meats and carbs, plants and grasses depend on fertilizer to get what they need to grow lush and healthy.  Unfortunately there are many common mistakes homeowners make when feeding the grass and garden.

Let’s examine some of the most common errors made when it comes to fertilizing.

  • Applying the wrong amount -The most common mistake is overfeeding the lawn or garden. Excess fertilizer is bad for plants and the environment.More is not always better.  This is true in the case of fertilizing.  Too much lawn fertilizer can burn the grass.  You want to aim for about a pound of fertilizer with nitrogen for every 1000 square feet of lawn space. Companies that manufacture these fertilizers for grass and plants spend countless hours and research to find out the appropriate application amount. Read the labels and follow them.  Do not assume that if it says a certain amount that a little more might be better.
  • Applying at the wrong time – In general fertilizing should occur in the spring to jump start growth and the fall for a winterizer to prepare the lawn for the winter months.  In addition two more  times in between those visits are usually ideal. 
  • Applying in the wrong manner – Do not dump fertilizer in one spot.  Be sure it is spread evenly.  Use a fertilizer that is recommended on the packaging and read the labels carefully.  Drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders are the two most common application mechanisms.  Be aware of how far the fertilizer is being thrown so you do not over fertilize certain areas of the grass.
  • Skipping a soil test – The amount of fertilizer that a plant needs varies based on many factors, like the age of the plant, soil type, pH level and much more. The most accurate way to determine the amount of fertilizer a plant needs is to do a soil test. Soil tests are usually performed by your State Department of Agriculture or Extension Service for free or for a small fee.

Japanese Beetles

The Japanese Beetle has, for close to a century,  been one of the most seriously damaging insect pests of both turf-grass and landscape plants over a broad area of the eastern U.S..  This destructive plant pest  originated in Japan where the beetle’s natural enemies keep its populations in check. In the United States, however, there is no natural enemy and the weather is favorable with an abundant food supply.  This has led to widespread infestations found in more than 22 states east of the Mississippi.

While these are small pests, they carry a big threat. They feed on hundreds of species of plants causing monumental damage to crops each year. Let’s look at identifying these pests and how to control them.

Identifying the Japanese Beetle –

  • Adult Japanese Beetles are ½ inch in length and metallic blue-green with tan wings, with small white hairs lining each side of the abdomen.
  • Japanese beetle larvae look like a white grub and have a V-shaped series of bristles on their raster (the underside of the tip of the abdomen.
  • The eggs of Japanese Beetles are found in moist  soil and are small, oval, and white.

Behavior of the Japanese Beetle Japanese Beetles feed in groups, starting at the top of plants,  so it is easy to spot them when you are weeding or watering.  The beetles feed on the leaves of the plants thus defoliating the plants and damaging the plant to its death.  Another behavior unique to these beetles is the odor or pheromone given off by them causing an alert to go out to nearby beetles to congregate.  This is why many plants can have a multitude of beetles. Although Japanese beetles have a wide range of favorite foods, some plants are more appealing to them than others. Here is a quick list of plants that are leave favored and most favored by Japanese Beetles.

The least desired are:

  • Ash
  • Boxwood
  • Burning bush
  • Dogwood
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Magnolia
  • Northern red oak
  • Redbud
  • Red maple

The most favored are:

  • American linden
  • Apple
  • Apricot, cherry, peach, and plum
  • Birch
  • Crab apple
  • Crape myrtle
  • Japanese maple
  • Norway maple
  • Pin oak
  • Rose

There are several control methods for Japanese Beetles. Some of the control methods include: picking off the beetles by hand and putting them in soapy water, pheromone beetle traps, insecticidal soap, and insecticide sprays.  Talk to your lawn care professional, like Pro-Tech Lawn Care to discuss what method would be right for your lawn and garden as well as for your family.


Lawn Care – Being Water Smart

Caring for your lawn involves many steps including proper watering.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Sense program, the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day—that’s 320 gallons used every day by the average family. Outdoors, especially in the summer, the amount of water used by a household can exceed the amount used for all other purposes in the entire year. Of the estimated 29 billion gallons of water used daily by households 30% of that is outdoor water usage.  During the warmer months that percentage can rise to 60%!   Maintaining a healthy lawn and garden does not mean that water has to be wasted.  Here are some suggestions on how to care for your lawn AND be water smart at the same time.

  • Choose plants wisely – If you want to be water smart choose plants that are water conserving and drought tolerant. Water-conserving plants hold on longer to the water they receive. Drought-tolerant plants can go for a long time without water. They simply don’t need as much water. The best plants for a water-wise landscape are trees, shrubs and groundcover that require little water once they’re established, and hold on to the water they get.
  • Use Water-wise lawn watering techniques – Hand held watering is extremely inefficient.  An irrigation system can allow for a precise amount of water to be delivered on a schedule.  More sophisticated sprinkler systems have rain sensors and know when there has been recent rain and thus will not water at that point.  Wireless smart controllers activate automatic sprinklers via computer-based weather data and garden needs and specifics. Using smart controllers can save over 40 gallons of water each watering.
  • Time your watering wisely – Water early in the morning  to reduce evaporation, Watering early in the morning also reduces plant disease. This is because leaves and grass have time to dry during the day, decreasing the risk of fungal diseases that thrive in moist conditions.
  • Use mulch – Incorporate mulch around shrubs and garden plants to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and prevent erosion.
  • Use rain barrels – Rain barrels collect rainfall and runoff from downspouts. Use the rainwater to water container plants and gardens. Make sure your rain barrel has a good, well-fitted screen so it will not harbor mosquito larvae.


Mow Like A Pro

For busy homeowners, mowing, trimming and treating for weeds and pests can become dreaded weekend chores to check off regularly during the spring, summer, and well into the fall. Hiring a lawn care company to take care of some of these chores could free up some of your time and create the beautiful, lush lawn you have been dreaming  about for years.  If contracting a professional lawn care company is not in the cards for you, knowing the tricks to maintaining the look of a professionally mowed lawn might help the overall health and appearance of your lawn and garden.  Here are some great strategies to learning to “mow like a pro.”

  • Mow height – Different grasses thrive at different heights, Do some research and find out what lawn mowing height range is best for your lawn, then mow at the higher end of the range. Longer grass shades out weeds and gives the lawn more leaf surface to produce food.  Set your mower high, and you and your lawn will be happier. Read More about Grass Mow Heights
  • Wet Grass – Avoid mowing grass when it has just rained or there is excessive morning dew.  Grass tears easily when wet and the mower tires are more likely to do damage to the lawn.
  • The 1/3 Rule – No more than one-third of the grass plant should be cut at any one time. Even if weather or vacations have gotten in the way of regular trimming, you may be tempted to cut down low, don’t do it.  Cut off too much of the leaf blade at once, and your lawn will suffer. Here’s a good video from Cornell Cooperative Extension agent Dr. Frank Rossi, a turf specialist, who explains the rule:
  • Sharpen Blades Regularly – Sharp blades mean a clean cut while duller mower blades can tear grass, resulting in ragged edges that can leave your lawn vulnerable to disease. A quick trip to the local hardware store or lawn care company can help you keep the blades in good condition.
  • Maintain your mower – Clean your lawn mower after each cutting.  Keep the blade clear of clumped on debris.  Change the oil at least once during the season and store in a dry area.
  • Let the clippings fall – Don’t bag your clippings, instead let them be mulched by the mower and fall on the grass.  They will decompose quickly and are a good source of nutrients.