BRIAN'S LAWN CARE, LLC
|Posted on March 28, 2018 at 2:55 PM||comments (6514)|
What is Core Aeration?
Core aeration is the practice of running an aeration machine over your turf that pulls out 2-3” core plugs. Aeration is very important for the overall health of your turf and is typically done in early Spring or Fall. Our native soil is heavy clay which holds a lot of water and also dries out and becomes as hard as a rock. This is not a good growing environment for turf. This is where core aeration helps.
Benefits of Core Aeration
Reduces soil compaction. Pulling plugs from your lawn softens the soil. This gives your existing turf the ability to grow a deeper root system and grow in thicker. A thicker turf reduces weed pressure and helps with improved tolerance of heat.
Increased uptake of water, oxygen and nutrients into soil. When you pull plugs from the soil, the ability for fertilize to have a bigger impact increases and reduces run off. If you spread grass seed, the holes allow a place for the seed to germinate.
Break up of thatch. Over time, your lawn will build up a layer of thatch, especially if there are a lot of weeds or if the grass isn't cut on a regular basis. When the layer of thatch is thick enough, the ability of water, oxygen, and nutrients is substantially reduced. Running an aerator over your lawn breaks up the buildup of thatch and allows your turf to breathe.
Signs your Lawn Needs Aeration
Excessive patches of Clover, thin grass and bare spots, and water puddling on the lawn after a rain are all signs that you need to aerate your lawn. Not necessarily a sign but if your lawn has heavy foot traffic (i.e. children playing, dogs, parties, etc.), you definitely need to aerate your turf. Heavy foot traffic over time is will compact the soil quickly.
In closing, if aeration is something you do yourself, use a core plug aerator and never use the spike aerator. Spike aerators cause more compaction because they drive soil into the ground instead of pulling a core plug. Also, do not aerate during late Spring or Summer when weeds are actively growing. Agitating the soil during this time will awaken thousands of weed seeds.
|Posted on March 16, 2018 at 7:10 AM||comments (3757)|
Why Lime Is Important
Over time the constant use of fertilize will leach the soil of calcium and magnesium. Other causes are rainfall over time, irrigation and a breakdown in organic material. This results in acidic soil, a weedy lawn, yellow to lime green grass and excessive moss. The lack of calcium in your soil also affects microbial activity which makes nutrients less available to your grass. If your lawn care program is not working as it should, then you likely have acidic soil and/or a deficiency in calcium. Grass thrives when the soil is neutral to slightly acidic. Neutral soil has a PH of 7 while slightly acidic soil has a PH of 6 to 6.5.
Figuring out the PH level in soil is a quick and easy process. You can purchase soil test kits for about $12.00 at your local box store. There are several options available. Below I have two examples of the tests I use on my lawns.
The first soil test is very easy to use. Simply push the stakes into the soil to get a reading. The second requires a soil sample, but it too is fairly easy and takes less than 10 minutes to get a reading. The second test also allows you to measure the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil as well.
Once the PH level is diagnosed the next task is to figure out how much Lime to use. Most of the time it will take 25 to 75 lbs of Lime per 1,000 square feet to get the PH level to adjust. The amount will depend on how acidic the soil is. If you do not know the square footage of your lawn then use four times the amount of Lime then you would fertilize. So if your lawn uses one bag of fertilize, use four bags of Lime. Once the lime is applied it takes about two months for the PH levels to change. After two months perform another soil test. If the desired result is not obtained then apply more lime.
When applying lime it is important not to fertilize your lawn for at least a month. Avoid using fast acting limes as they are caustic. Use dolomitic lime. Lime can be purchased at most lawn and garden centers. Use a fertilizer spreader to evenly apply to your lawn. You can apply Lime any time of the year but Fall is the most desirable time.
|Posted on March 9, 2018 at 8:05 AM||comments (4155)|
Bare spots in your lawn happen for various reasons. Heavy foot traffic, pet damage, mower damage, insect, grub and/or disease damage, gas spills, fertilize spill, and rocks under the soil. If any of these do not happen to you, then consider yourself one of the lucky few. Unfortunately, many of us will get bare spots in our lawn. The problem some face is how to repair these bare spots properly.
Addressing The Issue
First we need to address what caused the bare spots. Pet damage and heavy foot traffic, will continually cause bare spots and heavy compaction of the soil if not addressed. These two will be the biggest cause of bare spots and the hardest to eliminate. Insect , grubs and disease damage can be wiped out with the use of a good insecticide or fungicide. These will usually happen during the Summer months. Rocks under the soil will always cause that dead brown spot in your turf. When I say rocks I am referring to large "creek rock" slabs. These hold heat which in turn increases soil temperature. Unless removed that dead spot in your turf will be reoccurring.
Repairing Bare Spots
Two methods are available for repairing bare spots. Which method is used depends on the size of the areas in question. First is over seeding and top dressing bare spots. A hard garden style rake or a Garden Weasel will be the only tools needed.
The materials needed will be a good, tall turf fescue and a bag of either compost, hardwood mulch or potting soil.
To prepare the damaged areas, use the hard rake or Garden Weasel to remove any debris and to rough up and loosen the soil. Next add the seed. Do not completely cover the area with seed (refer to the pic above). Putting down too much will result in a weak root system and poor growth. Next, apply a very light coating of top dressing about a 1/4 inch thick. Top dressing prevents the seed from drying out and holds heat in which speeds up germination. The second method is using sod. This will obviously be the method used for larger areas. Tools needed are a hard rake or Garden Weasel, and a spade. The spade will be used for two tasks, removing a layer of soil deep enough for the sod to lay even with the turf and to cut off any excess pieces of sod. Remove any soil necessary so the sod lays even with the existing turf. Take the rake or garden weasel and rough up the area working the soil at least a 1/2 inch deep to help with root development. Sod will require more water than the seeded areas and if you use sod do not fertilize for at least a month.
|Posted on February 28, 2018 at 9:20 AM||comments (3230)|
Good Equipment Makes A Difference
Having the right equipment for maintaining your lawn is important. The wrong equipment could make mowing your lawn like trying to cut a steak with a butter knife. Also, if your equipment isn't up to par, you make be spending way more time than necessary cutting your lawn. Today I want to go through, what I think are some good options in equipment for the home owner that wants to have nice looking lawn but doesn't want to spend and eternity doing the work.
If you go the cheap route then expect to work longer and harder for a not so nice looking finish. A good mower is an investment, and if properly maintained will last you for many years. Personally I do not like the look of a standard 21" push mowers cut, but if you do then my suggestion is to buy one in the $350.00 to $400.00 dollar range that mulches. Honda and Toro are excellent choices. Ultimately I would purchase the Toro Timemaster 30" mower. With two blades and a 30" deck, you cut a tremendous amount of time from mowing and you receive a wonderful, striped lawn. The cost of these machines is $995.00. For larger yards, you will want a riding mower, preferably a zero turn. Depending on what size mower deck and what brand you get you can purchase a good zero turn mower for between $2600 to $4,000. A good standard riding mower is going to cost at least $1500 to $2,000, so why not shuck out that extra amount of money to buy something that will virtually last forever? Lets compare performance and cut quality on a riding mower versus a zero turn. Zero turn mowers will reduce the amount of trimming you will have do because of the mowers ability to turn on the spot and to go around objects more effectively. Riding mowers cannot get into tight spots like z-turns and they cannot pivot around objects like swing sets, trees, etc. This leaves a tremendous amount of trim work to be done. Second, you can mow at a faster speed on a z-turn then on a riding mower. This has to do with the deck quality and blade speed. So, if it takes you and hour on a riding mower to cut your lawn, expect to reduce your time in half with a zero turn. If you want a nice, striped lawn, then a z-turn is a must have. As far as deck size is concerned, a 46" to 52" deck is preferable. Toro, John Deere and Cub Cadet offer decent priced zero turn mowers for the homeowner.
String trimmers and trimmer line
String trimming (weed eating), is what will give your lawn that manicured look, so the type of string trimmer and trimmer line you choose is important. You can either use a battery powered or gas powered string trimmer. If you decide to get a battery powered trimmer, make sure the battery is no less than 40 volts. A gas powered trimmer should have at least a 21 cc sized motor. Using an underpowered string trimmer will not give you the results you want. Also when choosing a trimmer always go with a straight shaft. Straight shafts will allow you to trim at a 90 degree angle and edge around your sidewalks, and driveway. Trimmer line should be .80 inches. The smaller line does the best job overall and gives a nice, clean finish. You can purchase a good string trimmer for $175.00 to $300.00 at most box stores along with the trimmer line.
There is nothing worse than having an underpowered blower. I use backpack blowers but since we are talking homeowner use the practical thing would be a hand held blower. There are battery powered and gas powered blowers. Once again, with the battery powered you want to go no less than 40 volts. Whichever blower you decide to go with make sure the blower can blow at least 155 miles per hour. The higher the speed the easier the task. Higher speeds also help with blowing your leafs into a pile in the Fall. A good blower can be purchased for about $100.00 to $200.00 dollars.
|Posted on February 20, 2018 at 8:20 AM||comments (1364)|
Springtime comes around every year just like Christmas, except the only gift we receive is the task of mowing our grass and trying to make it look good. To some of us this is like getting a set of handkerchiefs for a Christmas present. For a lot of us, mowing our lawn is something we look forward to and anticipate because we want our lawns looking tight and crisp. But here is the biggest problem I see home owners doing: mowing too low. Trying to get your lawn to look like Wrigley Field, by mowing too low will fail you every time. Wrigley Field has a full time staff that constantly fertilizes, irrigates, and applies fungicides and insecticides. If you aren't prepared to follow those procedures, then raise your darn mower deck.
What Happens When You Mow Too Low
Several things happen when you mow too low. First, you allow more space for weeds to infiltrate your turf which increases the need for weed control . Second, you stress your turf by cutting off most of the grass blade. Scalping the turf weakens the root system because it is always in recovery mode. Mowing at three to three and a half inches creates a strong, deep root system, greatly reduces weed pressure in your turf and will increase heat tolerance. Not to mention your lawn will look a lot better.
Best Practices For A Nice Looking Lawn
Being an army of one with limited resources what can one do to create a nice looking lawn? First thing, if you currently do not have a weed control/fertilization plan in place, refer to my last blog on DIY lawn care or call us for a lawn care plan. Second, raise your mower deck. Cool season turf (fescue, bluegrass) wasn't meant to be cut at 2 inches . Adjust your mower deck to the highest setting if you have a push mower and 3.5 inches if you use a riding mower or zero turn mower. I cannot stress enough the importance of mowing at least three inches. Third, make sure the mower blades are sharp. Mowing with dull blades injures the turf and can bring on disease. I recommend sharpening your blades at least three times per year. Lastly, mow on a consistent basis. Mowing every five to seven days is a good practice. This schedule will reduce clippings, keep diseases at bay, and it will prolong the life of your mower.
|Posted on February 10, 2018 at 8:10 AM||comments (3203)|
You want a green, lush, weed free lawn but you don't know where to start? Not sure if you are putting down enough fertilize or weed control? Ladies and gentleman, I am here to help. If you are that DIY'er that wants to have the best looking lawn on the block, I have a simple to follow plan that will not disappoint.
Weed Control and Fertilization Basics
Let us look at the fundamentals of basic weed control and fertilization for turf. First, fertilizing your turf at least three times per year is a must. Grass is a living, breathing organism. If the only food your turf gets is that Springtime application of Weed n Feed, then I would not expect a nice looking lawn (try going half the year without food, then get back with me). Second, weeds grow through the year, so weed control applications need to happen through the year as well. At least two applications (three is preferable) of a granular and liquid weed control is advised. Most pre and post emergent herbicides provide a one to two month barrier for weed control. Third, a high nitrogen fertilize should be applied in the late fall. This is what your turf will feed on during the winter months.
So how do we know when it is time to apply the products? Let's make this simple (it's lawn care not rocket science right?), we have four seasons Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. In the last paragraph, I advised a minimum of four applications for the year. The first application can be applied between the last week of February and the last week of March. This application is primarily for crabgrass and weed pre emergent with fertilize. The fertilize used should be low in Nitrogen (10-15%) and preferably slow release. The second application can be either granular fertilize with weed control or a liquid weed control. The condition of the lawn will determine what to do. If the lawn has a lot of weeds, then the liquid application is the right choice. If weeds are minimal then use a granular, but make sure the nitrogen is on the low side (10-15%). The liquid application can be applied using either a handheld sprayer or a backpack sprayer (I will explain equipment later). I prefer a backpack sprayer because I can mix up to 4 gallons of weed control which will easily cover a 6,000 square foot lawn. Now between this application and the next, there may be a need to spray some weed control. Always keep some mixed in your sprayer for spot treating purposes. The third application of the year will be a granular, slow release fertilize with a moderate nitrogen level (20-25%). Apply this around the middle of August to the end of September. The purpose of this application is to help the turf rebound from heat stress, heavy foot traffic (kids, dogs, parties) and to feed the turf. You may or may not need to spray weed control. This will depend on the overall condition of your lawn. Finally, the last application of the year is a high nitrogen (30-40%) granular fertilize. Apply between the last week of October up to the end of November. The purpose of this application is to give your turf something to feed on during the non growing season. Below is a sample schedule for this program:
1. February - March Granular fertilize 13-0-5 with Crabgrass pre-emergent
2. May June Granular fertilize 13-0-5 with weed control or Liquid weed control (2 4-D)
3. August - September Granular fertilize 25-0-4 and spot treat for weeds (2 4-D)
4. October - November Granular fertilize 46-0-0
Three S's Spreaders, Sprayers, Square Footage
Now that we understand some of the fundamentals of lawn care and we have a general plan of action, I am sure the next questions are how the heck do I know how much fertilize and weed control to use? How do I figure out what low, moderate, and high nitrogen is? And what equipment do I need and how do I use it? I will answer these questions in this section. Lets attack the first question, which is how much fertilize and weed control to use. We need to figure out the square footage of our lawn. To get the square footage we need the length and width of the lawn. You can do this by taking large strides (3 feet) and counting off the number of strides it takes from the front to the back of the yard and from side to side. If it takes 40 strides to get to the back of your lawn (40 x 3 =120') and 15 strides to go across your lawn (15 x 3 =45'), multiply 120' x 45' to get 5,400 square feet. Most 50 lb bags of granular will cover 10,000 square feet, so with this in mind we know that it will take half of a bag to cover 5,400 square feet. Pretty simple stuff right? For liquid applications you want to mix two ounces of weed control product with one gallon of water. One gallon of water will cover about 1,500 square feet, so about four gallons of water and eight ounces of weed control will cover a 5,400 square foot lawn. One question down and two to go. So how do we know what low, moderate, and high nitrogen is? First of all it will be on the front of the bag. If you are looking at the front of the bag you will see three numbers (i.e. 10-0-5, 24-8-15, 46-0-0, etc.). The first number is the percentage amount of nitrogen per pound of granular and the other numbers are phosphorous and potassium. For equipment there are many options that are cheap to expensive. A good rule of thumb if you are a DIY'er is to go somewhere in the middle when choosing equipment. On granular spreaders you can spend $25.00 up to $500.00. When selecting a spreader ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure the to get a spreader with tires and not plastic wheels (you will thank me later for that tip). My recommendation for a good home owner spreader is the Earthway 2050P ($114.00), which can be ordered on Amazon. For liquid applications, hand sprayers/backpack sprayers can cost $30.00 up to $800.00. If you go the handheld route keep in mind you will have to stop an pump after several seconds of spraying and you will have to stop and mix more chemical, but with that being said, my favorite handheld sprayer is the Round Up Pro two gallon sprayer ($45.00) which you can order from Amazon or most box stores carry them too. For a backpack sprayer you can't go wrong with the Round Up backpack four gallon sprayer ($70.00)which can be ordered from Amazon. I highly recommend the backpack sprayer because you can carry it on your back which allows you to continuously pump the handle to keep the pressure up. This allows a more thorough application and will save a lot of time and effort. Now that we have our equipment we need to know how to use it. The Earthway spreaders directions will serve as a guide as to where to set your gauge. Walking at a certain speed ensures that you won't put down too much or too little fertilize. Your pace should be as if you are comfortably walking down a sidewalk (about 2-3 mph.). This pace will give you about a six foot spread width. When spreading fertilizer use an up and back pattern and make sure to overlap when spreading. When spraying liquid, first make sure you give the sprayer a good shake to make sure everything mixes thoroughly. Make sure to use the red tip that comes with the backpack sprayer. Before spraying your lawn I would practice spraying on your driveway. This will get you acclimated to how wide a path your spraying and how fast you need to walk. The surface should be completely covered but not saturated. A few passes up and down your driveway will give you a good idea of the pace you need to spray.
Fertilize And Weed Control Purchase
Finding the products you need is really easy. The website www.domyown.com is a great place to order your materials online. Most lawn and landscape centers that supply people like me also have a retail section for the DIY'er and will have spreaders and sprayers too. There you can find exactly what you need for the program I have laid out for you. If your lawn is like our example above, one 50 lb bag of product will provide two applications. The liquid weed control (2 4-D Amine by the way) will last you two years because of the quantity you will have to buy. You can store these products on a shelf in your garage.
In closing, I hope this information helps out and if you have any questions you can always email me or call me and I will be glad to help.
|Posted on January 27, 2018 at 10:05 AM||comments (6327)|
Introducing Our New Organic Based Lawn Program
It has been in the works for sometime, but the Organic based lawn program is finally here. I wanted to make sure that everything in this plan was sound and made sense. Although the plan is not 100% organic it is a much safer alternative to use for pet owners, families with children, people with health issues or people who want to use a more environmentally friendly approach to lawn care.
So what the plan does is remove a significant amount of chemicals and synthetic fertilizer used and moves to organic fertilize and organic products.
Why Organic Based Lawn Care?
Healthy soil is the foundation to any thriving lawn, landscape, or garden. The organic fertilizer used in the plan provides the soil with essential microbes and minerals that typical synthetic fertilizers don't provide.
My traditional lawn care plans will spray weed ccontrol applications about three times per year. With this plan that is reduced to one time per year and the other applications will include spot treating for weeds as needed.
The Organic based plan not only focuses on green, lush grass, but also healthy rich soil that is teaming with microbes, bacteria and other important nutrients that will enable the turf to utilize the fertilizer more effectively.
The organic fertilizers and the Holganix LTO 4-0-2 (below) are great to use if you have a garden (like me), or if you want to feed your shrubs and trees.
The Organic Plan
- Crabgrass pre emergent/Granular fertilize 10-0-4
- Liquid weed control/Crabgrass Pre emergent/Holganix LTO 4-0-2
- 8-3-5 granular fertilize (organic)/ Spot treat weeds
- 10-3-2 granular fertilize (organic)/ Spot treat weeds
- 21-3-7 granular fertilize (semi-organic)
In closing if you have any questions concerning this plan please call or text 502-321-4309 or email me at [email protected] Thank you and look forward to hearing from you.