Why do I have weeds on my lawn?
First of all, there are weeds that are perennial which means that they complete their lifecycle over the course of a couple of years. Then, there are weeds that are annual in nature that complete their lifecycle in one year. Just to make things more interesting, some weeds are grassy in nature like crabgrass and other weeds are broadleaf weeds like dandelions. These weeds require completely different control methods. Grassy weeds like crabgrass, ideally should be controlled before they germinate as opposed to dandelions, a broadleaf weed that can only be controlled after they emerge. And then there is the concept of the seed bank. What the seed bank represents is all the seeds that are in your lawn that have the potential of germinating. Crabgrass produces 150,000 seeds annually! What we do to control your weeds is to make withdrawals from the seed bank so that every year that goes by there are fewer and fewer weeds that are available to germinate.
When is the best time to seed my lawn?
Well, you can get seed to germinate just about any time during the growing season, that’s pretty easy. The tough part is getting it to survive. The heat and humidity during the summer months are the problems. That’s why in most cases Majestic only seeds during the late summer and into the early fall. That way the new seedlings are cooler and have moister weather in which to grow as the fall progresses.
Majestic uses a procedure called aeration and seeding. We core aerate the lawn to relieve soil compaction, allow for greater exchange of soil gasses and nutrients among other benefits and then we apply seed. The aeration holes are great places for seed to survive. We find that the survival rate of the seeds is much higher using this technique and if you do have to repair small areas that were damaged by a snow plow for example, just apply a new dressing of topsoil to the area and then sprinkle some seed over the topsoil, rake it in lightly, add straw and water. The seedling will begin to germinate in about 10 to 14 days, but you have to make sure the soil remains moist. If it dries out even once, it might be enough to kill these little plants. No matter how you decide to do it though, getting new, vibrant turfgrass plants growing is the best way to crowd out the older, less desirable plants (weeds). The thicker your turf, the more resistant to insects, weeds, diseases, and other environmental stresses. In fact, we like to say that our aeration and seeding is one of the most beneficial lawn services that Majestic provides.
How Do I Get A Great Lawn?
There are three main components to having a great lawn:
- Proper Fertilization or nutrients supplied
- Proper mowing practices or “cultural” practices
- Proper watering practices
If you’ve made a conscious decision to pay a professional to provide the proper blend of nutrients and control products to your lawn. To maximize your investment, please follow these simple instructions for mowing if Majestic is not doing it, and watering:
Height: 2 ½ to 3 inches. Different grasses have different optimum mowing heights, but the general rule of thumb is to cut as tall as you can stand it – the higher the better. Leave cutting the grass so low it looks like a golf course to the golf course superintendents. Ironically, they don’t want to cut their grass as low as they have to – they want to cut it a lot higher.
Frequency: Follow the 1/3 rule – never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface in any one cutting. For example, if the lawn is cut to a height of 3 inches, then never let the lawn grow beyond 4.5 inches before cutting. The 1/3 rule determines the frequency of cut. Typically, once per week during the season is sufficient, but you may have to cut as often as once every fifth day during the spring when it’s growing quickly.
Blade: A rotary mower cuts by blunt force. A sharp blade will cause the least trauma to the leaf and give the best results. A dull blade leaves wounds that are an entrance point for disease and give a dull white appearance to the lawn after cutting. At Majestic, we sharpen our blades once per day because we are cutting acre upon acre of turf. Homeowners obviously don’t need to go to that extreme – once or twice per season usually works just fine.
Clippings: Ah. The age-old question: to remove or not to remove? The correct agronomic answer is to return the clippings – they recycle nutrients and organic matter to the soil. But there are drawbacks. Wet clippings can mat on the lawn and if left unchecked they can kill the turf beneath them. Excessive clippings, even if not wet, will do the same thing. Both of these scenarios are related to the frequency issue in that the more you cut, the less the clippings. That said, many people do not like the look of clippings on a lawn. Removing the clippings will result in a reduction in the nutrient levels of the soil but many people are willing to put a little extra effort and money into the lawn in order to have an exceptionally neat lawn.
Every single expert on turfgrass management will give a different answer when asked for the best management practices for water – as well they should. Truth is that every lawn has situations that are unique to that lawn. Soils are infinitely different, trees shade lawns in different ways during the day. All of these factors and more go into determining the proper watering schedule.
Timing: Despite what you may have been told there is no reason not to water overnight (keep reading!). That fallacy stems from the fact that a lawn that is left wet longer than it would be naturally is more prone to disease, and that unplanned watering usually leads to overwatering. During the overnight hours, dew forms on the grass plants. The duration that this free water exists on the leaves influences the amount of infection from turfgrass diseases. If you water when the plant is naturally wet anyway you do not influence the disease pressure one way or the other. The trick is not to extend the length of time that the turfgrass plant would otherwise be wet naturally. For instance, if the dew was present on the plant until 8:00 in the morning and you did not conclude your irrigation until 9:00 you have significantly elongated the time in which the plant is wet. More wet = more disease.
Frequency: Turfgrass plants will respond to how often you irrigate by altering the depth of their root zone. Consider a lawn that is irrigated with one inch of water per week. If that water is applied equally over seven nights it will have shallower roots than if it were irrigated with the same water over three nights. The difference is that infrequent irrigation stimulates the plant to go in search of water deeper in the soil. This would be fine if there were no other variables in the environment. If it is a hot, windy day the soil will dry quickly at the surface. If the plant’s roots are shallow, it will go into drought stress much quicker than if the roots are deeper.
Amount: The amount of water a lawn requires is unique to the lawn, indeed even areas within the same lawn have different requirements based upon differences in soil, exposure to the sun, the grade (hills), the time of day that it is either sunny or shady, etc. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that one inch of water is available to the lawn per week. If it rains one inch then no additional irrigation is required; if it does not rain then that one inch may become two inches and should be applied through the irrigation system. At some points during the season it becomes so hot and dry that the lawn will definitely use two inches of water during a week, maybe more depending on the results you want to see. This is where the science of turfgrass management yields to the art of turfgrass management. Trial and error is required to know your lawn and its irrigation needs.
And it is perfectly acceptable not to apply any water at all. If that is your choice, then the lawn will go into dormancy during the heat of the summer naturally and will almost certainly recover very nicely once the cooler and wetter weather of the fall returns. It is all about managing your expectations.
Be sure to check out our blog for more discussion on turfgrass management topics.
How Do I Take Care Of My Newly Planted Shrubs?
The most common cause of plant death is over or under watering. Trees, shrubs and perennials must receive regular watering for their first year. Slow and deep watering will allow your new plantings to develop a vigorous root system. Most trees and shrubs will do little growing until the following fall after installation. The air temperature is cool and the soil temperature is warm, and this is ideal for root development. Use the following guidelines for care of your new landscape.
The first week after installation, you should water every 2-3 days in order to begin to soak the root system of your plants and to condition the soil. After the first few weeks, 1-2 gallons of water should be applied once a week to plants that were grown in 1 or 2 gallon containers. A 15-gallon container will require 15 gallons of water once a week, etc. Use your own judgment however, if the soil is dry, water, if the soil is wet, don’t.
How To Apply Water
A hand-held watering wand is the best way to apply water to your new planting. The shower type of spray they provide soaks the ground slowly and deeply. Fill a one-gallon bucket with the wand and that will tell you how long it takes to apply one gallon of water. A hand-held hose will also work. Allow the water to come through the hose very slowly and move it from plant to plant. Trees can easily be watered with water bags. This is a bag that is placed around the trunk of the tree and has holes in the bottom. Simply fill the bag once a week and it will slowly release water over several hours. There are bags for evergreen trees as well as shade and flowering trees. Watering can be tedious, but it also can be a time to relax and reflect on the beauty of your lawn and landscape!
Wilt is an indication that the plant’s root system is having trouble. This can be caused by too much or too little water. If you have followed the above guidelines, water the wilting plant. If it perks up, it may have been a little dry and should be fine. If it continues to wilt, it is likely that it is being over watered. Allow it to dry out for a few days and see if it starts to look better. In some cases, anti-desiccants can be used. Wilt-Pruf is an example of an anti-desiccant product. It can be applied to leaves of most evergreen shrubs to reduce the drying effects of the winter winds. It can also be used on any plant in a hot, dry period to reduce the transpiration of moisture through the leaves in the summer.
*SPECIAL NOTE: Hydrangeas can experience “Heat Droop” during the day. This is a normal response to extreme heat and/or direct sunlight. If your Hydrangea is wilting during the day but perks up at night or in the morning, it is receiving adequate moisture. If it still looks wilted in the morning, it requires watering.
A gentle fertilizer such as Mir-Acid or Miracle Grow can be used once a month on new plantings and every two weeks on annual flowers or established plantings. Avoid using a dry, slow release fertilizer such as Holly-tone until the plants have been in the ground for a year or so. The months of April and September are the best times to apply this, however, Azaleas and Rhododendrons prefer to have a spring fertilizing after they flower.
How Do I Take Care Of My Newly Planted Perennials?
Although perennials are plants that come back year after year, they do require care for good performance. After installing new perennials, it is important to provide adequate moisture to prevent wilt. Excessive wilt stops or slows plant development and stunts future growth. Check your perennials first thing in the morning to see if they look healthy and upright.
The watering guidelines for perennials are the same as those for plants. It is also recommended to water newly installed perennials thoroughly in the month of November following the first hard frost of less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures them enough moisture to survive the winter and to prevent dehydration of their rootstock.
When many perennials are finished blooming, removal of the spent flower heads (commonly known as “dead-heading”) generally extends, and occasionally generates additional, blooming. Removing spent flowers also allows the plant to spend its energy on producing healthy roots and storing energy for the winter and spring to follow, instead of unnecessary seeds. Many plants can be cut back drastically (to 4-6 inches) after bloom. Most perennials should be cut back in late winter or early spring once they have browned or been frost-killed.
Weeding & Mulching
Basic perennial care involves weeding, which is an ongoing process, and dividing when the plants become overcrowded or fail to bloom in the center of the clump. Winter mulching is important to protect your perennial collection, particularly where there are patterns of freezing and thawing, which can lead to heaving of the roots, causing the roots to dry out and kill the plant.
How Do I Take Care Of My Newly Planted Lawn?
Proper watering is the key for the successful establishment of your newly seeded lawn. Newly emerged seedlings and seeds that have not yet germinated but have taken up water are extremely vulnerable to heat and drought stresses. Consistent and even moisture is essential to germination and the survival of grass seedlings. Allowing the seeds or newly emerged seedlings to dry out even one time can lead to significant losses and failure of the seeding process. The goal of watering is to make sure the seeds and seedlings do not get too hot and dry, as this will cause almost certain failure. Correct watering is the difference between a beautiful crop of grass or no new grass at all. You should expect to keep the soil surface moist for at least 3 weeks with daily watering after seeding, watering each section of the lawn for approximately 20 minutes or as required.
Apply water at least twice a day to dampen the surface, make a third application if weather is hot and dry or soil is sandy and well drained. Apply water in the morning before the hottest part of the day (preferably by 9am). Water a second time in the late afternoon (typically after 4 or 5pm). Water every 4 to 5 hours if the soil is sandy, the surface is dry, or the temperature is warm. Keep in mind that sunny areas, particularly south or west facing slopes will dry out more quickly than shady areas. Areas near pavement or that receive heat reflected off buildings will also dry out faster. Sandy soils dry out faster than clay soils. The objective is to keep the surface moist but not saturated. Never allow the soil to become soggy as this leads to fungal diseases that will kill the new grass. As the new grass starts to grow, gradually reduce the frequency of the water application while increasing the amount of water that is applied with each application. The objective is to increase root growth by keeping the soil moist 6- 8 inches deep.
Once the new grass reaches approximately 4 inches tall, mow it to a height of 3 inches. Bag the grass or rake if the grass has grown too tall before cutting again. If requested, one of Majestic Lawn Care and Landscape lawn crews will gladly take care of this for you.
Some weeds may sprout up with the new grass. These can be hand pulled while the grass is still young. Herbicides should not be used until the grass has been mowed at least twice. You will probably have to tolerate a few weeds until they can be controlled safely.
Young grass requires fertilization. Unless otherwise instructed, Majestic Lawn Care & Landscape applies fertilizer with new seed. If you decide to fertilize on your own, carefully apply it according to the label instructions.
It will usually take a full year for your lawn to fill in completely. Full sun areas may take longer (surprisingly) to fill in if not watered properly. Some areas may be too shady to ever fill in completely. In those cases, seeding may be necessary yearly. In other cases a shade tolerant ground cover other than grass may be a more appropriate solution.
Sod should have a lush, green surface at the time of installation. This lush, green surface will remain as long as you adhere to these care instructions. If you notice any browning of the lawn, or separation or curling at the seams, you may be under watering. Signs of overwatering are matting down of the leaf blades or a slimy, yellow appearance. Keep foot traffic to a bare minimum on your new sod for the first couple of weeks!
Begin watering new sod immediately after it is laid on the soil. Morning is the best time to water, even if it is before sunrise. Afternoon watering is also acceptable, even though more water is lost to evaporation. Late evening is the time to avoid watering since the sod tends to stay wet all night, providing an ideal environment for fungus disease. During the cool seasons, keep sod and soil consistently moist for the first two weeks. As a general guide, water once a day for approximately 15-20 minutes per section, applying at least 1 inch of water. WATERING TIP: Pull back a corner of the sod and push a screwdriver or other sharp tool into the soil. It should push easily and have moisture along the first 3 or 4 inches. If it doesn’t, you need to apply more water. During the third week, reduce watering to once every third day. Once the grass is rooted, infrequent and deep watering is preferred to promote deeper root growth, rather than frequent and shallow watering.
Mowing, Weeds and Fertilization guidelines for sod are the same as those for seed. During the installation of your sod, we will install a starter fertilizer (and some lime and/or gypsum, if needed) which will take care of the lawn for 60 days.