Monthly Archives: October 2015


The fall armyworm is considered a pest east of the Rocky Mountains in North America and can wreck havoc with crops if left to multiple.  The origin of its name comes from its feeding habits. The armyworm will eat everything in an area, and once the food supply is exhausted, the entire “army” will move to the next available food source. Though they feed primarily on grasses such as oats, wheat, fall rye, corn, barley, and forage grasses, they also can be a pest of some vegetables including: bean, cabbage, carrot, onion, pea, pepper, radish and sweet potato. These pests that usually appear in large groupings can be a huge problem for gardeners, farmers and agricultural areas.  Let’s learn more about these pests including: how to identify them, what their life cycle is, and how to manage an infestation.


The armyworm has a life cycle ranging from 30 days during the warmer months to 60 days during the cooler autumn months.  The pupa is reddish brown, about 13 mm long and eventually turns black.  The larva stage is yellowish green and has a hairless body marked by longitudinal stripes along each side of the body.  The egg is whitish green and globular.  The adult moth has grayish-brown forewings, each with a white spot near the center, and grayish-white hind wings.

Damage: “Overall estimates of the armyworm’s damage haven’t yet been done. But reports of infestations have been listed from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine to New Brunswick, Canada. And the insects are known to consume up to 10 acres of crops in 24 hours.” says Steven Herbert, an agronomist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. These pests arrive in New England when weather systems such as Tropical Storm Allison and other storms blow caterpillars and moths from the midwest into our area.

Management:  Keeping an armyworm population under control can be done in several manners.  The armyworm has several natural occurring predators such as parasitic wasps and ground beetles.  There are also several fungi that can attack and infect the armyworm.  In addition to these cultural controls, they are also susceptible to several insecticides and are easily controlled chemically when buildup occurs. Contact Pro-Tech if you suspect an armyworm invasion.

Need a Fungus Fix?

All season long you delighted in your green plush lawn.  You enjoyed the uniform color you worked so hard to get and then maintain.  But then you noticed darker green rings and tiny little mushrooms that are all along the edge of the ring.  What is this?  Why is this happening?  How can it be stopped? If you need a fungus fix or possibly just some information take a look the following facts and tips on mushrooms in your lawn.

What is a mushroom?  

A mushroom is one of fifty different types of fungus that lives in your lawn.  The easily recognizable umbrella-like toadstool is merely the tip of the iceberg so-to-speak.  This visible part of the mushroom is the reproductive part of the fungi that opens and releases spores that can spread to other areas or your lawn. These mushrooms can take the form of a ring in your grass commonly called Fairy Rings.  The news is not all bad about mushroom.  This fungus has the job of helping to break down decaying organic material. Unfortunately your yard probably already has enough waste like yard clippings, pet waste and mulch to take care of the average yard.

What are Fairy Rings?

Fair Rings take on three general types.  The first is the type that causes the soil to become hydrophobic enough to repel water, leaving a dead brown circle. The second type of fairy ring will create a lush, dark green inner circle of grass or turf that grows much faster than the surrounding vegetation.  The third type is extremely common and does not cause any lawn symptoms other than an arc of mushrooms.

Mushroom Management-

Mushrooms are fairly difficult to eradicate completely.  The first thing you will want to do is examine your yard to see if you are creating an environment that allows for mushrooms to grow in the first place in order to prevent further problems.  Look for shady and moist areas in your yard and try to trim back trees and bushes to allow the sun to get at the grass.  Over moisture is a major cause of fungus.  Also examine the yard for drainage and over moisturized areas.  Dethatching your lawn and aerating it is also a great way to discourage mushroom growth.  Since lawn mushrooms like damp, shaded and organic waste rich environments be sure to make your yard unwelcoming to these fungi.  If you find that picking each mushroom, digging them out and solving the moisture problem has not done anything to solve your problem, you may need to contact a professional lawn maintenance company like Pro-Tech to evaluate the problem and handle the management of your mushroom invasion.

What has your lawn been trying to tell you?

Now that growing season is over, it is time to reflect on what went right and what went terribly wrong with your lawn and garden this past season.  With the extra time you may have this fall and winter,  do some research on what your lawn may be trying to tell you and how you can solve that problem.  Consult with our professionals at Pro-Tech to find a solution and make next year’s growing season the best yet.  Let’s look at some common lawn problems and how to tackle them next season.

Bare Spots – While the cause of some brown or bare spots may be obvious, others need more investigation.  For example obvious causes include a well-beaten path in an area where children play often or a location where dog urine has burned away the grass.  These problems may mean that you should create a dog area with mulch or ground covering.   Or it may mean that a path of stepping stones may help “pretty-up”  the common walkway. If you really don’t know the cause of the spots, it may be time to have your soil tests to find out what is missing in the mixture.

Brown or Dead Spots – Your lawn is probably trying to tell you that it needs deeper watering.  A helpful tip may be the screwdriver method.  Stick a screwdriver into the ground to see how far the water is getting into the soil.  It should penetrate without a lot of struggle.

Fairy Rings – Circles, sometimes called Fairy Rings are the result of fungus.  You may notice mushrooms in the circle and may need to adjust watering times.  Morning is the best time to water to avoid over moisture that can lead to the growth of fungus.

Pest Problems – If you notice an infestation in your lawn or garden, you will notice the grass not growing or dying off in patches.  Consult a professional like Pro-Tech to determine the specific pest as well as a treatment program.

Streaks that are Brown or Yellow –  Your lawn may be trying to tell you that there was a problem during fertilization.  Either you overfertilized an area or underfertized.

Grass Coming up in Clumps– You may find that clumps of grass are coming up as you work on your lawn.  It is possible that you had a grub problem and need a grub treatment.

Winter Irrigation System Prep

Remember learning about freezing points in middle school science class?  If your memory is exceptional you may recall that substances contract as they cool.  Water also contracts until it gets close to the freezing mark. As it gets closer to 32 degrees it begins to freeze – turning into ice.  That ice then expands.  Expanding ice in pipes can cause them to crack, split and even burst open.  This is not a lesson you want to learn the hard way with your sprinkler or irrigation system.  A little work in the fall to prepare the system adequately can mean saving yourself from a costly and labor intensive problem down the road when the weather gets colder.

All irrigation systems need some sort of winter clean out long before the first freeze.  Depending upon your system and the level of your expertise you may be able to do some of these yourself or you may want to call a professional in to efficiently clean and prepare your system for the winter months.

  • Shut off the Water Supply – Using the main water valve for your irrigation system, shut off all water leading to it.  The main valve should also be insulated for the winter along with any pipes leading to the system.
  • Remove Water from all the pipes.  There are several ways to drain your pipes: a manual drain valve, an automatic drain valve or the compressed air blow-out method. However, since there could be potential safety risks we recommend contacting your local irrigation specialist. Many offer sprinkler winterization services this time of the year.
  • Protect valves and backflow preventersInsulate backflow preventers and valves if they are above ground. You can also use insulation tape for this. Be sure not to block the air vents and drain outlets on backflow preventers.
  • Clean all Heads – Find all sprinkler heads in your yard and clean them thoroughly. Some systems have detachable heads that can be cleaned and safely stored for the winter.  This is also a good time to inspect for bent, broken or damaged heads or piping.

Protecting your Trees and Shrubs from Winter Damage

Every autumn we trade in our gardening tools and lawn mowers for rakes and eventually shovels to handle the cold and snowy winters that are synonymous with the New England area. While some delight in the change of temperature and precipitation, the harsh climate is often responsible for severe damage to landscape plants, shrubs and trees that grow in our yards. The winter temperatures, wind, and even sun can damage branches, destroy bark and bleach and desiccate evergreen foliage.  No one wants to find injured trees or shrubs when the snow melts in the spring.  So let’s discuss some methods to care for your landscaping that will provide them protection and some degree of warmth.

Evergreen Discoloration – The winter sun and wind can cause trees and shrubs to have water loss that can not be replaced due to frozen roots system.  Bright sunny days can also cause the foliage to take on a bleached look because the chlorophyll in the foliage is destroyed.  To minimize the damage try:

  • Analyze the location of your evergreens.  If they are on a south face side of the yard consider changing the location to avoid the direct sun and wind in the winter.
  • If moving the shrubbery or trees is not an option try wrapping them in burlap to create a protective covering from harsh wind and sun.  Be sure to leave an opening for some light and precipitation to to get.

Snow, Ice and Salt Damage – Heavy snow, ice storms and salt run off can severely damage not only the branches of the trees/shrubs but also the root system.

  • Wrapping and girdling the most vulnerable trees such as the arborvitae and junipers should help them survive heavy snow and ice storms.
  • To prevent salt damage, do not plant trees and shrubs in highly salted areas. Shovel a little away from trees and shrubs so that salt piles will not build up near them.  Use the least amount of salt necessary near the newest plantings.

Root Injury – Roots go dormant later than stems so be sure to mulch younger bushes and shrubs in the fall so that there is a protective covering of the root system that will provide some level of insulation throughout the first tough winter.