As temperatures warm up and lawns grow again, folks across the country dust off their lawn mowers, head to the backyard and start this year’s lawn care regimen. But many will be making some common mistakes that can keep those lawns from doing their best.
Steve Pettis Jr., an agriculture extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, laid out a handful of common lawn care mistakes he sees people make and offered some ways to make sure that this year you keep up a beautiful, healthy lawn.
And if you’re not sure on the specifics of caring for your lawn, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, more than three out of four Americans has a lawn or tended landscape at their home and of those, 81% do the lawn work themselves.
But, 69% say their lawn could use some improvement and 31% admit they don’t know how to grow a healthy lawn. Here are some common mistakes to avoid and make sure you end up among the percentage looking out over a lush, green lawn this summer.
1. Cutting too short
Mowing a lawn properly is trickier than it seems, and the first common mistake Pettis mentioned was cutting grass too short, leaving too little of the grass blade to ensure the plant gets enough nutrition.
“Plants need leaves to produce food,” he said. So if you come in week after week after week removing leaves, eventually the plant’s not going to have anything to generate food to keep growing.
Remember the one-third rule: Never cut off more than one-third of the grass length in any one mow. If you have fallen behind on mowing, do not be tempted to catch up by mowing it all at once. You or your lawn service should mow multiple times, taking off one-third at a time.
2. Soil compaction
Many people inadvertently compact their soil through foot traffic or machinery as well, Pettis said.
Some of the larger mowers can weigh upward of 1,000 pounds, pressing the soil particles together and hampering root growth, as well as the root system’s access to oxygen and water.
“If your soil is compacted, you need to aerate the soil,” he said. If you have high-traffic areas in your lawn, it should be aerated annually. Otherwise, do it as-needed.
“Overwatering is another thing that people always do too much,” Pettis said. “Grass only needs the equivalent of one inch of rainwater per week.”
An easy way to measure the water you’re putting on the grass is to install a small rain gauge on the lawn somewhere and measure out that inch of water, he said, either through irrigation or rainfall. Each spring, it’s a wise idea to conduct a sprinkler audit and review the time of day you sprinkle so you don’t add too much water.
Confusion about the amount of irrigation a lawn needs is a common problem and the National Association of Landscape Professionals also report that one in three Americans admit they aren’t sure how often a lawn should be watered.
4. Dull mower blades
Another mistake that’s easy to avoid but can make a major difference for your lawn is the maintenance of lawn mower blades. Old, dull blades hurt both the health and look of your lawn.
The University of Massachusetts Extension Service Turf Program emphasizes the importance of getting a clean cut and keeping mower blades as sharp as possible regardless which type of mower is doing the cutting.
“Dull mowers tear the grass blades rather than cut them. This results in excessive injury to the plants as well as a brownish cast to the turf,” says the program’s fact sheet giving lawn care tips on mowing.
5. Too much fertilizer
Adding too much fertilizer, or adding it at the wrong time is a common mistake Pettis sees people make and one that can lead to some unintended lawn problems including increasing diseases.
While some fertilizer packaging may show the right amount of fertilizer to apply, Pettis recommends checking in with your local extension service on how much to use on your lawn, saying like grass height, it can vary from region to region. The high levels of nitrogen in quick-release fertilizers may give a quick green-up, but are easily washed away and can cause water pollution. In addition, they can leave your lawn dependent on chemical fertilizers. Lawn care experts advise that you should opt for slow-release fertilizers that do not need to be replenished as often.
Another potential solution is to mulch your grass clippings, which returns nutrients like nitrogen to your lawn and can improve soil conditions over time, according to the UMass Extension Turf Program.
6. Too much herbicide
The final mistake Pettis mentioned is on the other side of the spectrum: using too much herbicide.
Some states, like California and New York, restrict the use of herbicides by private homeowners so it may not be an issue for everyone, but in any case, weed killers should be used minimally.
“If you do need an herbicide, use it sparingly and use it only where you need it, don’t apply it to the entire lawn,” Pettis said.
A better option is to simply tolerate more weeds or to remove weeds by hand or by hoe.
“People’s home lawns don’t need to look like golf courses,” he said. “We put enough chemicals into the environment, so the less we can put on home lawns the better.”
It’s everywhere: According to Jim Brosnan, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Tennessee, a 2017 survey by the Weed Science Society of America found that it is the No. 1 most common turfgrass weed.
It follows forsythia: This weed is a summer annual (typically — there are some species that are considered perennials), and its germination occurs when soil temperatures are sustained above 55 degrees F. Don’t have the tools — or the time — to track soil temps? Watch for the forsythia to bloom. This event often coincides with soil temperatures warm enough to sustain this weed’s germination.
It needs a shave: A couple types of this weed have hairy leaf sheaths. One type of this weed can grow up to three feet tall if left unmowed.
It preys on the weak: It favors sandy, sunny locations with weakened turfgrass, says Michael Sisti, golf and lawn care market manager for FMC. Areas damaged by insects or along sidewalks and driveways are prime targets for this weed.
It is prolific: A single plant can produce 150-700 tillers and 150,000 seeds, according to Sisti. Primary reproduction for this weed is through seeds, so it is important to remove seedheads or apply a preemergent herbicide for control.
Did you guess crabgrass? If you did, you’re right. And while knowing about it is great, the real question is how do you deal with it?
There are several species of crabgrass, but among the most common found in lawns are smooth crabgrass and large crabgrass, according to Brosnan. Large crabgrass is more commonly found in the south and smooth crabgrass in the north, but both can be found in the Transition Zone.
The best defense against crabgrass is a healthy, thick lawn and root system. Cutting the lawn at the recommended height will encourage a healthy root system to develop and will also remove seedheads. But be careful. Cutting the lawn too short can lead to poor turf density, which will make the lawn more susceptible to crabgrass.
“Because crabgrass is such a prolific seeder, anything that can be done to reduce seed production will help alleviate the occurrence of this weed,” Sisti says.
Another benefit of keeping the lawn lush and healthy? Increased mowing height can improve the efficacy of several preemergent herbicides used for crabgrass control, according to Brosnan. Data regularly show that preemergent herbicide applications are the most effective way to control crabgrass in the landscape, he says.
Finally, don’t forget to keep an eye on your equipment, Sisti adds.
“It’s important to note the calibration of your application equipment, both sprayers and spreaders, is essential to ensure you’re delivering the proper amount of active ingredient,” he says. “Any type of soil disruption, like dethatching or heavy raking, can nullify the crabgrass barrier.”
Lawn care professionals battling clover don’t consider themselves very lucky. White clover is a broadleaf weed found in warm- and cool-season turfgrass. It can tolerate a wide range of mowing heights and environments and is a perennial, so it will persist from year to year.
The good news is resistance to pre- or postemergent herbicides has not been observed in white clover; although, it is always possible for any weed to develop resistance.
The best way to combat potential herbicide resistance in white clover is to use products that have been shown to have effective control against the weed and apply the herbicide at the labeled rates. Also, rotate herbicide modes of action whenever possible.
Leaves: Despite the hunt for the ever-elusive four-leaf clover, leaves are typically found in a trifoliate arrangement with three round, elliptical leaflets. They often have a white watermark that partially encircles the base of each leaflet. Leaves are also slightly serrated along the margins.
Roots: Clover is a legume, so it can produce its own nitrogen. Therefore, it can persist in turfgrasses that are deficient in nitrogen. Seeds in the soil seed bank will germinate when the soil temperatures are about 50-75 degrees F.
Flowers: White clover produces white flowers on long stems that are mostly present in spring and fall.
Stems: Most active growth is in the spring and fall and spreads from stems and stolons that root at the nodes and can form dense prostrate mats or clusters.
Since white clover is a perennial weed, preemergent herbicides aren’t effective; however, there are many postemergent options available for white clover control. Active ingredients to look for include fluroxypyr, triclopyr, quinclorac, dicamba, 2,4-D, MCPP, MCPA, metsulfuron, trifloxysulfuron and topramezone.
Sources: Eric Reasor, Ph.D., Southeast research scientist, PBI-Gordon; Jason Fausey, director of technical services, Nufarm
Products that combine fertilizers with another lawn care chemical can reduce the number of applications if the schedules for each substance line up.
“Being able to apply a fertilizer and something else — like a pesticide or herbicide — in one pass is the No. 1 reason why lawn care operators (LCOs) would use it,” says Jim Jensen, formulator business segment manager at Nufarm Americas. “It gives them the flexibility to save some time, especially if they have a one-week window to apply a pesticide, for example. They’re able to apply both at the same time.”
The most common combinations include pairing granular fertilizers with either herbicides (pre- or postemergent) or insecticides. There are also instances when the fertilizers are combined with fungicides, but fungicides are generally more efficient when sprayed, Jensen says.
How they work:
Traditional nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizers are impregnated with another substance, such as an herbicide or insecticide. This chemical combination allows operators to meet two needs at once: applying fertilizer and another chemical at the same time.
Fertilizer plus herbicide products are the most common combination for LCOs, and they provide food for turfgrass while also controlling weeds, says Tony Goldsby, Ph.D., research agronomist for The Andersons Plant Nutrient Group.
Product use do’s:
LCOs need to consult the product label to determine the proper application rate for their geography, since the preemergent herbicide’s effectiveness can be affected by high amounts of rainfall, Goldsby says. “Then you can select the proper fertilizer plus preemergent combination product that will suit the needs of your area,” he adds.
In addition to rainfall, LCOs also should monitor soil temperatures and apply the preemergent barrier before the weed germinates; for example, crabgrass starts to germinate at 55 degrees, Jensen says.
To ensure product accuracy, Jensen says operators should overlap the product area during application. It’s also important to sweep or blow off any particles left on hard surfaces into the lawn area to prevent runoff.
Product use don’ts:
It’s possible for lawn care professionals to use multiple combination products, but they shouldn’t assume a product will be fine because it’s been used by itself in an application in the past. They need to review all of the labels before adding the combo to their program.
“You may have a combination product that is fine when applied as a stand-alone application, but you may need to stay clear of other combination products,” Goldsby says. Even products that can be used in conjunction with another combination product may need to have application times spaced out — such as a week window — to prevent possible turf injury, he adds.
Ask customers what they expect from their lawn care company, and one of the top answers is probably “results.” That means companies are tasked with keeping their clients’ turf green and healthy — and to do that, they will need the right general fertilizer for the job.
Finding the most well-suited fertilizer can come down to the price, quality, turf type, conditions, product capabilities and operator preferences. To help sort out all of those different factors and concerns, several industry professionals share their insights on purchasing trends and how to select the best fertilizer.
No matter the property’s location, condition, type or issues, there are two factors that remain true: Lawn care operators (LCOs) should want to provide a quality product and service. That goal encompasses everything from how and when they apply products to the actual products themselves.
So, when it comes to choosing the right general fertilizers for lawn care services, Chris Sherrington, technical director at Lawn Doctor, a lawn care franchise based in Holmdel, N.J., says his company looks to purchase quality fertilizer that’s blended and formulated to the highest standard. For Lawn Doctor, that means finding a product that has a uniform pearl size, less filler in the bag and controlled-release technology.
“The price does come into play, but I feel like a lot of our Lawn Doctor owners will pay that extra to get a good quality material,” Sherrington says.
Lawn Doctor services mainly residential properties — about 90 percent of its customers — as well as commercial properties. The firm provides lawn care, ornamental tree/shrub care and outdoor pest control services in 40 states. Lawn Doctor had $130 million in sales last year and has 222 franchises across the country.
Ask what’s in the bag
For many others in the industry, the price per bag is still one of the top deciding factors when it comes to purchasing fertilizers, says Chris Derrick, Koch Turf & Ornamental field sales agronomist. But after customers ask about the price, he says another common concern is the nitrogen level of the product.
“The next question we see many consider is the amount of slow-release nitrogen that is in the bag,” says Derrick, who adds that the interest in the amount of slow-release has become more important to LCOs in recent years.
Like the name suggests, slow-release fertilizers provide a steady amount of nutrients that break down during a period of time. While slow-release fertilizers generally cost more, the number of applications are fewer, helping to offset some of the overall cost.
To reduce some of the cost and stress of finding new products between applications, Sherrington says he’s also seeing more Lawn Doctor franchise owners buying fertilizer in bulk to last for two to three rounds of applications.
“They find a good product they can use early, midseason and in the fall,” he says. “It’s also comforting to find a product that works and performs well — and meets the customer’s expectations.”
Customers care about results, and if they can see those with the current product being used, they will feel more comfortable going forward with that same substance on their lawn. It’s easier to sell them on a product that’s already proven to work.
While product quality is an important factor to consider when purchasing fertilizer, even the highest grade will fall short if it isn’t the right fit for a lawn and its needs. LCOs need to assess each property separately, even though there will be some similarities with other sites in the same area.
Some of the deciding factors that affect which fertilizer an LCO should use include whether it’s warm- or cool-season turf, the number of weeds and type of application approach. Lawns with an overgrowth of weeds may require a general fertilizer that will speed up turf growth so the grass outgrows the weeds. For a steadier approach, operators may consider an extended-release fertilizer for continuous nutrition.
Besides the lawn’s current state, LCOs also have to consider local conditions and ordinances. For example, LCOs in Florida can’t apply fertilizer that contains nitrogen and phosphorus between June and September. So, operators in areas with specific laws have to find fertilizers that will provide nutrition regardless of the restrictions.
Consider steady growth
One way to deliver a steady level of nutrients is by using an enhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF).
“A lot of folks industrywide are using more enhanced efficiency fertilizer technology with applications,” Sherrington says. “You’re not seeing that drop off, but instead, you’re seeing more of a uniform feeding.”
EEF products are gaining ground throughout the industry, Derrick adds, but operators need to understand exactly what they are before choosing one. He says it’s important for LCOs to educate themselves and better define what type of enhanced efficiency fertilizer will work best for their properties and services.
There are three main types to choose from: stabilized nitrogen, slow-release nitrogen and controlled-release nitrogen. Derrick says LCOs can extend a fertilizer’s longevity up to 26 weeks and produce a healthier turfgrass for their customers by using EEF technology.
“We are also encouraging LCOs to question what is in the bag of the general fertilizers they purchase — paying more attention to the analysis and understanding how the analysis can affect things like the amount of product used or handling required,” Derrick says. “Having a larger percentage of EEFs in the analysis allows for increased performance and less potential of nitrogen loss, making EEFs a sound economical choice.”
Lawn care professionals also should look at how their current fertilizer blends may contain high amounts of filler, which offers little to no nutritional value, Derrick says. Using a blend with a higher amount of EEF technology can be a better solution for LCOs, he adds.
Beyond EEF technology, LCOs are looking to boost their efficiency — and level of convenience — in other ways when applying the fertilizer.
“They prefer a product with high nutritional value, so there are fewer fertilizer applications, freeing time for their crews to complete other tasks, more efficient nutrient delivery and reduced storage and handling of fertilizer bags,” Derrick says. “Spending less time at each property means more properties each day, which equates to increased revenue.”
Lawn care companies are also in search of fertilizers that can meet the needs of all of their customers’ properties. That means the need to change the analysis, rates and calibration settings is minimized, Derrick says.
“I think the needs of many LCOs will continue to evolve as they gain greater experience in operating their businesses more efficiently,” Derrick says. “The green industry, as a whole, needs to keep emphasizing the importance of understanding what it is that is being applied.”
Ultimately, LCOs need to determine what they value and need from a general fertilizer and then choose the type and brand that best meets those requirements.
Large patch — formerly called brown patch — is a disease of warm-season turfgrasses, such as centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, seashore paspalum, zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass. One of the major fungal diseases of warm-season turf, large patch is caused by the soil-borne fungus Rhizoctonia solani and infects and rots the leaf sheaths, crowns and stolons of the turf.
According to Jim Kerns, Ph.D., associate professor and extension specialist of turfgrass pathology at North Carolina State University, large patch is relatively easy to diagnose because its symptoms are so unique. Here is what to look out for.
Symptoms: “Large patch can develop almost anywhere warm-season grasses are grown, but the disease is most severe in the transition zone or areas with prolonged humidity or precipitation,” Kerns says.
The disease creates irregular patches ranging from 10 inches to 3 feet in diameter, or larger in some cases. The perimeter of the patch displays a yellow or orange color, the patch interior becomes sunken and injured turf appears thin and tan. The plant will develop lesions on the leaf sheath, which can look different depending on the grass species that is affected. Sometimes the lesions are just necrotic — dead cells caused by severe injury or disease — like on zoysiagrass and centipedegrass, but on St. Augustinegrass, the lesions are purple in color.
If you determine turf has developed large patch, there are steps you can take to help rid it of the disease.
Treatment: Preventive fungicide applications are best for large patch, Kerns says. Time the first fall application when the average thatch temperature is 70 degrees F, or when the average soil temperature at a 2-inch depth is 72-75 degrees F.
“In North Carolina, we typically target about 75-degree F soil temperatures to initiate preventive fungicide applications,” Kerns says. “However, for those managing St. Augustinegrass or centipedegrass, preventive applications may need to target 80-degree F soil temperatures.”
A second fall application two to four weeks later is recommended to extend protection through cool, wet weather. According to Kerns, a colleague in Missouri also has found early spring application to be critical in the Midwest.
Cultural practices, such as improved drainage and regular aeration during the summer, are also important to the success of reducing large patch.
Spring is in the air. Grass is growing, flowers are blooming, insects are hatching and the weeds are, well, they’re as pesky as always. As lawn care operators (LCOs) enter the busiest times of the year, it’s important for them to evaluate their strategies for combating lawn invaders of all types.
To address the myriad issues that can affect healthy turf growth, LCOs must have an arsenal of products they know are proven to work. We spoke with some of the makers of those products to find out how they’re working to help lawn care providers do their jobs effectively.
They told us about products they’re proud of, but most importantly, we got the scoop about what’s on the horizon for the lawn care industry as a whole. As environmental awareness and water conservation continue to be on clients’ radars and the labor market becomes tighter, how can LCOs operate in an efficient manner and how can the products they use help them do that? Read on to find out.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Aqueduct Flex is a new fast-acting granular that treats and prevents localized dry spots. It contains Aquatrols’ core water management technology, which is specifically designed to reduce water repellency and promote recovery from moisture stress in all turfgrass and landscape plants. Aqueduct Flex utilizes a high-quality granular carrier that releases ingredients and completely dissolves with as little as a quarter-inch of moisture. This reduces the need for access to irrigation and having to water immediately after application. The new durable and resealable packaging also makes storage and movement of unused product more convenient and secure. Whether you’re looking to spot treat problem areas, make broad preventive applications or reduce moisture stress in landscape beds, Aqueduct Flex is a versatile solution for any landscape professional.
PREDICTIONS: Water and labor issues will continue to impact the green industry, and Aquatrols is committed to developing solutions that help with both. Reducing the amount of water needed to sustainably maintain turf and landscape plantings makes sense from an environmental conservation standpoint. It also makes business sense.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Bayer has been involved in the area of pollinator health for many years, and we’ve done a lot of research in insecticide development. We introduced an insecticide solution called Altus to the lawn and landscape market in October 2017, which is compatible with pollinators and has fans in the ornamental production area. It also has fans in lawn care industry because LCOs are treating various landscape plants, sometimes while they’re in the flowering stage. Altus is compatible with pollinators and effective on troublesome insects like whiteflies, aphids and lace bugs. Most lawn care companies go with a preemergent herbicide because it’s cost-effective — it’s easier to prevent weeds from coming up than attacking them strictly from a postemergent standpoint. But the lawn and landscape industry hasn’t had a lot of preemergent products come into market. Bayer was fortunate enough in 2011 to bring to market (the active ingredient) indaziflam, brand name Specticle. Specticle FLO is a broad spectrum preemergent weed control product used on warm-season turf and has a long residual. You get a little more out of it, and the net result is you have fewer repeat applications of postemergent herbicide, which can result in fewer callbacks and cancellations, which saves a lot of labor.
PREDICTIONS: The three portfolios are insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Now we feel there’s a fourth portfolio that could be really anything — water management-type products or soil amendments. There are a lot of things related to plant health beyond just pest control. How can we improve an LCO’s efficiency? Pest control, people, fertility and product application — that all goes back to labor. There’s also a lot going on in agriculture and golf course maintenance that could have a place in the turf and ornamental marketplace — GPS technology and sophisticated, automated equipment.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Pending federal registration, GameOn and Relzar specialty herbicides are going to change the game in weed control. Both of these products contain a new active ingredient called Arylex active. Arylex active is a Group 4 synthetic auxin with a different mode of action and it is the newest active ingredient in the turf market in the U.S. Relzar will simplify weed control for both warm- and cool-season turfgrasses. GameOn specialty herbicide also has our latest formulation of 2,4-D, called 2,4-D choline, that has low odor and has reduced volatility compared to the 2,4-D used in a lot of postemergent products. GameOn will provide fast-acting, systemic control of more than 100 broadleaf weeds. Arylex active is absorbed through the foliage, down to roots and shoots. We’re seeing good knockdown upfront and more complete control of the weeds. Another great aspect of these products is the application flexibility, especially with respect to hot and rainy conditions. We have also seen excellent turf safety with these products throughout the trials. Corteva is committed to bringing new innovations to the market that make life easier for lawn care professionals, and our R&D pipeline has never been more robust. We have done thorough research on these two new products — GameOn and Relzar — for the past 10 years before bringing them into the market.
PREDICTIONS: I expect the lawn care business to grow; however, the tight labor market and employee retention are going to continue to be a challenge for LCOs. The industry needs products that LCOs can easily train the labor force to use and that deliver exceptional control of several broadleaf weeds at the same time. LCOs are looking for products that provide them with application flexibility and help them reduce callbacks. They also want products that provide effective weed control throughout the season, have different modes of action to overcome resistance issues and are easy to use. There are a lot of areas throughout the U.S. that are seeing increasing restrictions around use of phenoxy products, such as 2,4-D or dicamba, and having a product option that doesn’t contain 2,4-D or dicamba will be huge for the turf market.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: At FMC, we are excited to have our latest innovations, Dismiss NXT herbicide, Solitare herbicide and Fame SC fungicide serve the lawn care market. Much of the lawn and landscape industry is already familiar with Dismiss herbicide for control of yellow nutsedge and kyllinga. Dismiss NXT builds upon that success and provides an improved tool to help lawn care operations control yellow nutsedge long term. It contains sulfentrazone and carfentrazone-ethyl, which over time help reduce tuber viability in the soil. By reducing the number of tubers in the soil, less yellow nutsedge may appear the following season. Solitare herbicide is ideal for improving lawns with thin density and constant weed outbreaks. It helps control not only yellow nutsedge, but also crabgrass, clover, dandelion and other difficult-to-control broadleaf weeds, like ground ivy. The combination of quinclorac and sulfentrazone also performs better on the midtillering growth stage of crabgrass compared to quinclorac alone. Fame fungicide offers a reliable defense against patch diseases, like brown patch, large patch and summer patch. With its rapid uptake by the turfgrass, Fame is translocated through the plant for better coverage. This provides better distribution of the product throughout the plant, which means better curative activity on specific diseases and less preventive breakthrough, which can reduce the likelihood of a costly follow-up application. An added safeguard: Fame SC is rainfast within 15 minutes.
PREDICTIONS: FMC is constantly staying abreast on the current trends in the industry. We’re innovating to provide tools LCOs can apply seamlessly to make day-to-day operations more efficient and help serve their customers in a timely manner. We’re currently exploring new active ingredients to continue to serve as a partner in the lawn care industry.
Fred Hulme, Ph.D.
RECENT INNOVATION: H2Pro wetting agent contains the latest technologies to improve water use in containers for an extended period of time. This is important for hard-to-soak growing media and experimenting with new media components like wood fibers. Additionally, H2Pro can help finished plants better survive the retail environment where irrigation might be less than optimal. High root zone pH can result in chlorotic foliage due to iron deficiencies. ICL has recently introduced the Peters Excel pHLow product line to mitigate this issue. Peters Excel pHLow 21-7-7 Acid Hammer water soluble fertilizer is a great tool to lower media pH. Another product innovation is Peters Professional with Black Iron. These water-soluble formulations contain one of the strongest iron chelates available while maintaining efficiency at extremely high pH levels. Osmocote Blue Max coated aluminum sulfate provides safe, controlled-release bluing of hydrangeas with a single application.
PREDICTIONS: Fertilizers and other products need to be longer lasting and less labor intensive to make businesses profitable. Environmental awareness will continue to grow at the consumer level. Smart controlled-release fertilizers that reduce runoff, leaching and waste will begin to supplant widespread use of water-soluble and granular fertilizers. Water restrictions will only continue to increase. High-performance wetting agents that improve the spread and retention of water in the root zone and reduce the frequency of irrigation application will become increasingly important tools.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: At Koch, we have done significant research documenting the level of nitrogen use efficiency of our products and substantiating how much turf managers can benefit from an enhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF) compared to using unamended urea. Stabilized nitrogen (N), such as UFLEXX fertilizer, is one option. The urease inhibitor, NBPT (N-(N-Butyl) Thiophosphoric Triamide), reduces ammonia volatilization, resulting in more N available for plant uptake. Dicyandiamide, or DCD, when used in the proper amount, slows down the conversion of ammonium to nitrate in the soil, extending the time of nitrogen availability and reducing losses to leaching and denitrification. It is important to make sure the stabilized N product used has enough DCD to be effective. Slow-release fertilizers do just what the name implies: slow down the rate of nitrogen released so that availability is better matched with plant demand. Products such as XCU slow-release fertilizer can result in increased N uptake by the plant and less lost from the system. Controlled-release fertilizers such as POLYON fertilizer and DURATION CR fertilizer provide the most advanced control of nutrient release. These products can be engineered with release longevities up to six months or longer.
PREDICTIONS: One trend we are seeing, and that continues to grow, is an evolution of fertilization programs. Recently, more LCOs are innovating with programs that include only two or three fertilizer applications using controlled-release polymer-coated fertilizer. Fewer applications does not necessarily mean reducing the number of visits to a property. The time savings can be used for other revenue-generating or value-added services. Fewer fertilizer applications mean savings in time, but also freight, fuel, equipment wear, employee fatigue and other areas. Regulations and restrictions on fertilizer use are on the rise. If these regulations were to impact you, it could affect the way you do business. Enhanced efficiency fertilizers can be a solution to help address these challenges. The green industry needs to continue to present the science behind what we do, as well as the impact our businesses bring to local economies, in order to continue to bring valuable services to our customers and communities.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Our newest product launch at Nufarm is Sure Power selective herbicide. Sure Power is a new postemergent herbicide that is completely unique for the cool-season turfgrass market. The first thing applicators will notice is that weeds begin showing symptoms and death within two to three days after application. In addition to being fast, Sure Power is highly effective as it controls more than 250 broadleaf weeds as well as sedges and common weedy grasses, including bentgrass, crabgrass and goosegrass. Sure Power herbicide is specially formulated to penetrate the leaves of even the most difficult-to-control weeds, such as wild violet, with a summer application. It’s important to understand this unique formulation does not require or allow surfactants, fertilizers or other pesticides to be mixed, as additional uptake can result in a temporary response to the turfgrass.
PREDICTIONS: Within the turf and landscape segments, we will continue to find weeds invading areas where they have not previously been found. Weeds that are often isolated or found in limited regions of the country such as false green kyllinga or Japanese stiltgrass are now being found throughout much of the country. Resistance is another issue we will battle in the future. It has never been more important to consider a complete weed management program to ensure you’re maximizing the use of all the available chemistries.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Vexis, containing pyrimisulfan, which is a new active ingredient to the U.S. professional market and PBI-Gordon’s first proprietary molecule, will initially be offered in a granular end-use formulation. Vexis can be applied to both wet or dry turf and will offer the professional an innovative solution for a growing sedge and kyllinga problem. SwitchBlade, which contains another new active ingredient for the U.S. professional market, halauxifen-methyl, provides the end user with a non-2,4-D broadleaf control option while demonstrating very good turf safety even on sensitive warm-season varieties. We have a new fungicide in at EPA with an expected registration in June 2019. It’s called Union Fungicide SC, and it’s a unique, proprietary combination of cyazofamid and azoxystrobin. This product was conceptualized and developed to meet the market needs of a dual mode of action fungicide offering turf managers the flexibility to apply one product, which preventively controls a variety of turf diseases typically associated with summer stress — Pythium, anthracnose, brown patch, summer patch, fairy ring, red thread and others. In late 2018, we launched the first and only liquid flutolanil product for the turf market, Pedigree Fungicide SC. Flutolanil has been around for many years as a wettable powder formulation and wasn’t an easy product for turf managers to use. Our customers using Zylam liquid systemic insecticide are treating larger areas and asked for help minimizing the environmental impact of packaging disposal. The addition of a larger package size reduces the number of bottles being consumed by our customers by a factor of four and also saves them time and money.
PREDICTIONS: We predict advancements in technology; for example, GPS is now crossing over into the LCO industry. We can see precision application becoming a real trend in the not-too-distant future. As crazy as it sounds, we are probably not too far away from watching an LCO truck pull into a neighborhood or property and unload automated spray units that communicate with a computer in the truck. Another prediction is resistance management. Resistance will become more of an issue due to the continual overuse of the same chemistries and lack of chemistry rotation. Finally, public scrutiny — continual backlash from the negative connotations of glyphosate and that our chemistries are carcinogenic — will continue. It will be a tireless effort to continue to try and educate the public on our products and the steps we as manufacturers take to ensure we produce a product that is not only effective, but also safe to people and the environment.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: Adigor surfactant is packaged along with Manuscript. This surfactant maximizes the performance of Manuscript and maximizes weed control based on how the active ingredient pinoxaden works in the plant. Another aspect in relation to Manuscript is that it contains a safener — which safens the desirable species but also helps control the target weed. Manuscript herbicide launched in the fourth quarter of 2018. It’s part of a new herbicide subclass for the turf market in what is called ACCase inhibitors. Manuscript is a postemergent grassy herbicide for use on turf species like zoysiagrass, Bermudagrass and St. Augustinegrass sod. It’s active against signalgrass, a serious problem in the southeastern U.S., and tropical carpetgrass. It also has activity on large and smooth crabgrass and dallisgrass, which is also difficult to control in the Transition Zone, and in the south and southeastern U.S. It fills a niche with control of those particular species.
PREDICTIONS: With a variety of weather extremes across the U.S., what does that portend for us in terms of pest pressure? We’re probably always going to have white grubs and brown patch, but what other pests might be favored with some of these extreme weather conditions, whether it’s drought or flooding? That’s relatively unknown, but it’s certainly going to play a role in how turf managers are going to address (pests) going forward. There are resources out there in order to help turf managers deal with how turfgrass pests are affected by weather extremes. (Turf managers) used to base when to make applications on a calendar basis. It’s gone from that to paying much more attention to the phenological indicators — for example, when the forsythia blooms — and also turning to models. Syngenta has a website where you can plug in your name, email address and zip code and it will send you an alert, for example, when soil temperatures in your area are getting near when crabgrass germinates.
Anthony Goldsby, Ph.D.
RECENT INNOVATIONS: One of the products we released last year was our 22-0-4 fertilizer containing our Humic Coated Urea (HCU) and Black Gypsum DG. This fertilizer has the limestone filler removed and replaced with our Black Gypsum DG soil amendment. Soil health improvements are achieved through the addition of humates in both Black Gypsum DG and the HCU. The benefits of integrating humates into the soil include improved cation exchange capacity, nutrient chelation, improved soil structure and aid in flushing bicarbonates through the soil profile. Another recent product innovation is our 21-22-4 starter fertilizer with the herbicide Mesotrione. In applying our 21-22-4 fertilizer with Mesotrione product, you can achieve both pre- and postemergent control of broadleaf and grassy annual weeds. The low level of active ingredient per acre (0.15 lb. A.I.) is maximized for effectiveness by our homogeneous 135 SGN granule size. This product can be safely applied to cool-season grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. Do not use this product with seed mixes containing greater than 20 percent fine fescue. Our Turf Nutrition Tool (TNT) was reimagined and relaunched for end users in early 2019. LCOs can create custom fertility programs for their customers. It is accessible from any type of device and features many of our premium and professional fertility products. Another bonus: This program is free. Just sign up at TurfNutritionTool.com and create an account.
PREDICTIONS: The freight cost of shipping materials like fertilizers is and will continue to be a challenge. Most of the products manufactured and sold through distributors to LCOs spend at least a portion of their journey on a semitrailer. Finding new and unique ways to innovate products and subsequently drive down shipping costs will be important. The green industry is also going to continue to see increased regulation and mandates relating to the application of fertilizer products. Therefore, providing options that utilize organic or enhanced efficiency nutrients will need to be a focus for fertilizer. This will also take a shift in mentality from the current turfgrass management practices, with more focus being placed on products that increase nutritional efficiency in the soil, like humates.
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A four-word ode to grumpiness and grass turned into an enduring national punchline
Over the years, a beautiful yard has become a classic American one-liner in which a grumpy old man, spotting youngsters crossing his grass, rails, “Get off my lawn!”
What wayward kids today may not appreciate in this iconic duck-and-cover is the symbolic role that fine lawns have and continue to play in America’s cultural revolution.
Prior to the mid-1900s, American lawns came in three varieties: public grounds, a few fussy estates owned by the wealthy and a ginormous, undeveloped rural expanse primarily tended by cattle. There was the ugly incident in 1876, when Congress passed a law forbidding the Capitol grounds from being used as a playground after a rowdy Easter egg hunt. But for the most part, lawns were a peaceful rarity until the economic expansion that followed World War II. New suburban developments lured veterans into the sparkling new suburbs, and a love for lawns entered the national psyche as an important part of the American Dream.
Google’s Ngram Viewer, which tracks the use of phrases in books, says the phrase took off in popularity in the early1960s when the first baby boomers came of age. Baby boom youths, with their countercultural hippie movement, provided their parents with the trespassing youths to yell at, further embedding this humorous archetypal clash between old men and proud boys into the American consciousness. To the hippie mind, the scene came to represent the counterculture’s rejection of middle-class material goods, as symbolized by the well-trimmed suburban lawn.
David Letterman, ‘The Simpsons,’ Clint Eastwood popularize the phrase
Talk-show host David Letterman may not have created the phrase, but he popularized it. The Indiana-born boomer jumped at the phrase, adopting it as one of his signature tag lines beginning in 1980, barking “Get off my lawn!” into mainstream American consciousness.
Baby boomer humor grew to dominate sitcoms throughout that decade, ultimately elevating “Get off my lawn!” to iconic status. Homer Simpson helped spread its fame in a 1992 episode of the suburban satire, “The Simpsons.” His cartoon father, Abraham Simpson, expressed a similar pointless rage in the meme-worthy “Old man yells at cloud.”
Grumpy old men are a staple of the big screen, but veteran actor Clint Eastwood elevated it to a new, violent height in his 2008 film “Gran Torino,” in effect reprising his own catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day,” from his 1983 Dirty Harry classic, “Sudden Impact.”
Musical ‘Get Off My Grass’ references
Popular music has yet to fashion a true Grumpy hit, although numerous songwriters have played with the idea. Perhaps best known of the contenders is a homemade YouTube backyard rocker, “Hey You Kids Get Off of My Lawn,” by two nongrumpy dudes cleverly named Auld Guise. Although Minnesota singer-songwriter David Stoddard’s 2016 album “Get Off My Lawn,” lacks an actual single by that name, Spotify lists one by Wormhole Effect, YouTube features a video of another by Grasscore and Shrapnel Records offers a 2006 recording called “Get Out of My Yard” by Illinois guitar shredder Paul Gilbert on which the only lyrics to the title track consist of “Get out of my yard” being screamed by the artist through his guitar pickups. There’s even a country-rock party band based in Conway, Ark., named Get Off My Lawn.
Memes, mugs and yard signs
By the ’90s, the internet had hit its stride, and what better way for a new, rebellious generation of young people to celebrate their presence than to officially ridicule all things old and grumpy, elevating the lawn exchange to a ubiquitous meme? What was becoming a symbol of generational clash not only spawned an assortment of online products, including yard signs, T-shirts, coffee mugs and towels, but its growing online presence helped it work its way into politics.
“The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening unwittingly embedded Grumpy into the political arena when he decided to add a cartoon version of President George H.W. Bush to his cast in 1991. The juxtaposition of H.W. and the Simpsons milieu and its success in humanizing one of America’s more remote presidents may have helped inspire the “Get Off My Lawn Podcast,” hosted by far-right Canadian commentator Gavin McInnis, and “Hey, Get Off My Lawn!!!,” a Sirius/PRX “reality radio” show hosted by stand-up comic Bryan Cox.
Phrase is here to stay
Keeping up with the times, the phrase has now been attached to Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, casting him as the political equivalent of the grumpy old man role in social media memes. The phrase has even been proposed as a character skin for the game Fortnite.
How is it that similarly dismissive catchphrases (“Gag me with a spoon,” “Talk to the hand”) have faded while “Get off my lawn” continues to thrive like bluegrass in May? Perhaps the secret lies in the interchange between who’s on the lawn and who may soon be under it. Its value endures because we know we won’t. Young and old alike can easily picture themselves in this existential selfie.
The post ‘Get Off My Lawn!’ How a Catchphrase Was Born and Grumpily Lives on appeared first on Lawnstarter.
The sunshine and pleasant weather in the greater Los Angeles area creates the perfect conditions for your plants. It can be hard to balance family and work life and maintain your lawn during the height of the growing season. Deciding whether to mow your own grass and trim your shrubs or hire a local lawn care company can be tough. Check out these pros and cons of DIY lawn care in Los Angeles before you start the mower.
Doing your own lawn care can be a great workout. You’ll get more steps in on your fitness tracker and work up a sweat. Add in some digging or transplanting, and you’ll also get a weight resistance workout. Maintaining your own lawn is an excellent way to stay healthy and active. Lawn growth is a continuous cycle, so you know you’ll burn the calories week and after week by doing your own lawn care.
Enjoy the Outdoors
DIY lawn care is another way you can enjoy L.A.’s sunshine as well as tidy up the landscaping around your home. People living in Southern California spend a lot more time outdoors compared to other parts of the country. Doing your own yard work will help draw you outside and soak in some much needed Vitamin D.
Get the Kids Involved
Having the kids get outdoors to pull weeds, transplant vegetables, or trim the lawn is a great teaching opportunity. Kids will unplug from their devices and work up a sweat and get their hands dirty. Teaching these lessons to the younger generation is an excellent way to learn the essential aspects of home ownership. They’ll also learn to appreciate the local environment. It’s also a great bonding opportunity for parents and kids.
Taking care of your own lawn takes significant time that not all families have to spare. Weeknights are busy with activities while weekends should be a time to relax from a busy work week. DIY lawn care will require a set schedule. The grass doesn’t stop growing just because you’re busy. Dealing with an overgrown lawn can be even more of a hassle if you have to skip a week during the peak of the season.
It is hard to beat the sheer convenience that a lawn care company can offer. Many lawn care companies arrive during the week while you’re at work making lawn care a forgotten chore that magically gets done. When you add up the time spent to care for your lawn, plus the cost of equipment and supplies, it can be cheaper to hire a professional. Time is money, and some homeowners enjoy having that extra time each week to spend doing other things rather than DIY lawn care.
Compliance with Regulations
Many LA homeowners live in neighborhoods that have strict rules about landscaping. Trimming the lawn to an optimal height, edging, and keeping weed growth down is a big issue. Being out of compliance with your homeowner’s association can be stressful, cost you a fine and make you the black sheep of the neighborhood.
Being aware of these pros and cons can help homeowners make the decision about lawn care. Consider these pros and cons of DIY lawn care in Los Angeles when deciding how to handle your lawn this year.
Thanks to our proximity to the Great Lakes, the Windy City can often be the skeeter city. Summer is prime time for those hungry female mosquitoes that love to feed at daybreak and dusk. Enjoying your backyard can be nearly impossible when the critters are waiting for their next feast. Thankfully Mother Nature provides us with remedies along with the problem. Check out these plants that repel mosquitoes in Chicago and make your outdoor living space more enjoyable this year.
The unique aroma of basil is a favorite among many Chicago gardeners. This beautiful dark green plant provides an abundance of leaves that can season some of your best dishes. It’s also an insect-repelling herb that can stop mosquitoes from entering your yard. While sweet basil is often used for cooking, cinnamon and lemon basil varieties are best for keeping hungry mosquitoes away. Plant basil in a sunny spot of the garden and snip off mature leaves to use in the kitchen.
The cheery look of marigolds is enough to make them a favorite throughout Chicago. However, these little beauties also possess a strong ability to repel mosquitoes. The red and orange colored blooms have an odor that mosquitoes don’t like. Place marigolds in small pots all around the garden and on patio tabletops.
You can buy citronella candles for your backyard, but why not plant citronella directly in the garden? The strong odor the plant gives off helps to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella can grow quite large at about 6 feet tall so pick a spot in the garden that can handle its full mature size. Consider planting citronella in a container to help keep it small and easy to move around the yard. Plant this perennial grass in sunny spots of the garden that have plenty of drainage.
This purple beauty has many different benefits making it a natural choice for a Chicago garden. Lavender smells fantastic and helps promote peace and relaxation. It’s also a magnet for area pollinators like butterflies and honey bees which help support a stronger environment. But mosquitoes aren’t big fans of Lavender, making it an excellent option for the garden. Plant it on a terraced part of the yard or hillside as they are great at providing ground cover. Enjoy the blooms and then cut them to dry and freshen up the indoors as well.
While your feline friends will love the smell, mosquitoes hate it. That’s why catnip (also known as catmint,) is a great addition to a Chicago garden. It’s a perennial herb related to the mint family and is quite easy to grow. You can also crush him up and put in around your yard to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Just don’t be too surprised if you find many neighborhood cats like your plant as well!
Also known as Horsemint, this distinctive plant is excellent at keeping mosquitoes out of your yard. Lemon Balm is a hardy plant that’s quick to take over a small space. We recommend planting it in a container to help keep it in check. Place it near a window or side table to see all the action from pollinators like bees and butterflies that will flock to its distinctive scent.
Keep in mind a colorful garden can also be functional. If you want to enjoy the pretty colors make sure you add one of the plants that repel mosquitoes in Chicago.