New York State IPM Program

April 17, 2017
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Earth Day: What It Means to Me — and the IPM Connection

Earth Day: What It Means to Me — and the IPM Connection

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” — attributed to Chief Seattle

I’m an environmental educator. Have been one all my life. Among my goals? To erase the line between us and the environment. So often we think of nature as someplace we have to travel to. But this separates us from understanding how we affect our world — for good or for bad.

Amazing creatures like this robber fly can be found in your backyard. These excellent predators catch their prey in the air.

At this time of year we are surrounded by appeals to plant trees. Conserve water. Recycle. Save the polar bears. Want to find examples of IPM as an Earth Day theme? Good luck.

Which is too bad. Because the critters and plants that surround us prove that the environment is right here, right now, all the time. The mice in your kitchen are proof that we coexist with nature even inside.

There is no line.

What’s in a name? Is this a weed or a spontaneous lawn flower? The bee doesn’t care!

Basic ecology tells us that all living things need food, water, shelter, and space. Overwater an indoor plant and you will find fungus gnats. Mow your lawn too short and spontaneous lawn flowers will outcompete the grass. Fail to empty outdoor buckets or refresh the water in your birdbath and there will be no shortage of mosquitoes.

When living things move into our space, we typically label them as pests. But this, my friends, is how nature works. When we provide food by leaving dirty dishes around, don’t seal the garbage right, or plant a favorite flower (tulips, say) in an area with no shortage of deer, we might as well just sit back and watch what comes to partake of our offerings.

Who needs to visit Africa? We can watch the circle of life in our backyards! And no need to get all those shots!

I dream of a world where, along with learning about tigers and redwood trees, children learn about our environment through ants and dandelions. For even in the most urban areas, we find ourselves in nature if we only open our eyes and take the time to recognize it.

My appeal? For Earth Day 2017, let’s each learn about one critter we see often – especially one we consider a pest. Where does it fit in the food web? What helping hand have we given it? And to help your exploration, I recommend starting with the NYS IPM Program’s What’s Bugging You webpage.

Erase the line. And have a very happy Earth Day.

p.s. I would love to hear about what you learned. Feel free to contact me at jkz6@cornell.edu with your story!

February 10, 2017
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Lawn IPM – the February Edition

Lawn IPM – the February Edition

I love any excuse to come to New York — when it’s not February. — K. A. Applegate

Ahh, February. The Monday of months. Yet even with a foot of snow on the ground over most of New York, you can take steps now for a healthy lawn.

The Feb. 9 U.S. Drought Monitor shows 35% of the Northeast in a drought.

First, be grateful for the snow — and add more to your wish list. The Northeast Regional Climate Center notes that much of New York is still in a drought. We’ll check next week to see how the February 9 snowstorm affects the readings, but The New York City reservoir system was at 77.6% of capacity on February 8 compared to normal capacity of 87.8%. We still have a ways to go to make up the deficit.

Second, now is a great time for learning and planning. The new and improved Cornell Turfgrass website has a section dedicated to home lawns and includes:

Lawn Care features expertise from Cornell University Turfgrass research team. Vidoes, photo galleries, interactive images and concise directions make it quick and easy to understand how to cultivate a healthy lawn that is an attractive environmental asset.

  • Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset -available as an ebook on iTunes and as a website. This resource includes information on basic and advanced care of lawns, how to renovate, choosing the right seed, dealing with salt (whether it comes from deicing products or your dog), and even tips on hiring a lawn care professional if that is your preference. Videos and photo galleries are included.
  • Turfgrass Species and Variety Guidelines for NYS – If you want to get deeper into the science of seed selection, then this is the resource for you. Different types of turfgrass are adapted to different soil, light, and traffic conditions. Choosing the right type will help you maintain the best lawn with the least amount of inputs such as irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides.

    Cornell University turfgrass expert Dr. Frank Rossi narrates this short how-to video on sharpening your mower blade.

Third, the single most important lawn care practice you can undertake for a healthy lawn is proper mowing — and now is a great time to sharpen those blades. Why bother? Dull blades:

  • shred rather than cut grass
  • stress your lawn, making it …
  • more susceptible to insects, diseases, and drought
  • increase fuel use by up to 20%

For DIYers, the Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset website has a video on blade sharpening. Or beat the crowds: take your mower to a repair shop for a tune-up before mowing season hits.

Fourth, the ongoing drought left many poorly or non-irrigated lawns a little thin. Overseeding helps fill in the bare spots. You don’t even need to wait until spring. Dormant overseeding over the next few weeks can help you get a head start on the season. Use the resources above to choose a drought-tolerant turfgrass type, so watch the forecast and try to get out ahead of the next snowstorm.

February is short, so take advantage of this time to prepare for your best lawn yet. Learn more at IPM for Landscapes, Parks & Golf Courses.

September 1, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Talk, Tick Checks, Tick Folklore — and More to Come

Tick Talk, Tick Checks, Tick Folklore — and More to Come

I needed some quick advice on ticks. So I went to NYS IPM’s tick webpage and saw — oops. This page is due for a makeover. Now.

Why? Conventional wisdom has it that a (so-called) deer tick needs to be attached to its host for at least 24 hours before it can transmit Lyme disease. (We’ll acknowledge the co-infections later.) Only … conventional wisdom is wrong. Now the best we can say is … no one knows. It varies. The main thing is to get the tick off asap. Just keep in mind that a rush job isn’t necessarily in your best interests. Better to remove it carefully than to remove it too quickly.

Buddy, can you spare a dime? It's easy to miss a tiny tick that's about to have dinner at your expense.

Buddy, can you spare a dime? It’s easy to miss a tiny tick that’s  about to have dinner at your expense. Photo credit Boston Public Health Commission.

The other little problem? Back in the day, biologists thought there were two related tick species: the blacklegged tick and the recently discovered deer tick. But turns out they’re one and the same, so biologists reverted to the old name. Folks: we proudly bring you the (drum roll) blacklegged tick.

Back to removal. Some people swear by “tick tornados.” (Look them up.) And yes — if you need to get a tick off a furry animal, by all means. But for us hairless humans, at IPM (short for “integrated pest management) we still recommend pointy, fine-tipped tweezers as the best way to remove ticks without ticking them off. Enlist help if you can’t reach the tick. Your helper, after all, might need someone to return the favor down the line.

That folklore about gooping them up with petroleum jelly or snubbing out a lit match on their buts? It’s not only folklore — it’s dangerous. Because next thing you know they’ve vomited everything that was in their stomach into your bloodstream.

In a panic? Scraping at them with your fingernail and decapitating them … same result.

Fine-tipped tweezers. Check. (Straight tweezers are fine.) Grasp right behind head. Check. Etc. Photo courtesy HealthHub.

Fine-tipped tweezers. Check. (Straight tweezers are fine.) Grasp right behind head. Check. Pull gently but firmly straight up. Check. Photo courtesy HealthHub.

So here’s what you do. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Try not to twist or jerk the bugger; it’s tricky enough getting the head and mouth-parts out as it is.

But if they break off? Not to worry. After all, you got the all-important abdomen off; that’s where the toxins are. So see if you can tug the head out with your tweezers. Can’t? Swab the site with rubbing alcohol (which you’d do in any case) and leave it be. Eventually they’ll come out as your skin regenerates itself from below.

Actually, the main thing is to prevent the tick getting on you in the first place. (Prevention is key to good IPM, right? Right.) Use repellents and permethrin-infused clothing. While outside, check your legs and arms periodically to see if any critters are climbing up. Shower after you come in.

Most important? The daily tick check. Make it check part of your evening routine — floss, brush teeth, tick check.

I promised to acknowledge those co-infections. Right now it’s just this simple list: anaplasmosis, babesia, bartonella. (Can ticks actually transmit bartonella? Unclear. Also: you might find ehrlichiosis listed in online site. It’s actually a complex of several different bacterial diseases. One is anaplasmosis. This stuff gets complicated fast. Which is why I’ll get to the details in another post.)

And yes, there’s lots more tick-borne diseases, but to our knowledge here at IPM, blacklegged ticks don’t carry them. That promised post, btw, will note not just characteristics of these diseases, but list diseases carried by other types of ticks.

Closing remarks: Best reason for ditching the name “deer tick”? It suggests that deer are the problem. Well, yes, ticks do infest deer, and deer can travel widely, so yes, they carry them around in the literal sense and ticks will drop off here and there. But no, deer don’t vector (aka “carry”) Lyme disease. Look to mice, chipmunks, and shrews for that.

August 26, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

The Barclays PGA Tournament kicks off the FedEx Cup playoff in professional golf. This year it’s right here, right now — at Bethpage State Park on Long Island in downstate New York. The IPM (integrated pest management) piece of this story? Here’s where we tested, developed, and showcased preventive, threshold-based IPM protocols that can steeply reduce year-in, year-out pesticide use on any golf course, anywhere — all while protecting habitat for pollinators and many other creatures. In fact, we’ve scored environmental impact quotients up to 96 percent lower than conventional practices.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

The IPM tactics we honed on Bethpage’s Green Course over 12 years are also used on its Black Course — among the most challenging courses you could find anywhere. Think of it. Putting greens buzz-cut to within an inch of their life. Talk about stress! (Technically, that’s an 1/8th inch of their life.) Fairways mowed to about ½ inch. Roughs to an inch or so — and even that’s a height we don’t recommend trying at home.

Which is why we can’t stress how important long-term, real-world research is. Whether it’s searing heat and no rain or relentless rain and chilly weather — or any combination thereof — well, you just don’t get truly useful results until you’ve tested your work in widely differing seasons and situations. And in dealing with pests on golf courses, it’s all about the season. It gets even more impressive when you consider that Bethpage (along with the other 24 public-park golf courses across New York) is open to all comers, facing heavy traffic and tight budgets.

92-plus: that's an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

92-plus: that’s an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

We’ve always known how important beneficial insects and other organisms are to ecosystem health. In fact, many of our IPMprotocols are built around using beneficials and biocontrols to keep pests at bay. Equally as important: protecting nontarget organisms — frogs, for example — from exposure to pesticides. Which is why we were happy to find this fine fella hanging out at Bethpage in a marshy verge during an Earth Day trek around Bethpage. And a 2015 survey of pollinators in naturalized areas at Bethpage revealed at least 92 species of bees, wasps, and other pollinators as well as a diversity of plants that attract them.

Good stuff. Thank you, Integrated Pest Management.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

August 2, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Climate, Weather, Data: Crops and Landscapes

Climate, Weather, Data: Crops and Landscapes

With all the talk about climate change you might wonder how it will affect food production, pests, and even landscapes—and what you can do about it. From the Valentine’s Day massacre winter freeze to plant life gasping for water, changing weather patterns have affected our crops all over the Northeast. Learn how gathering information on weather and climate can help growers, gardeners and landscapers plan for changes. Find details on The Climate and Weather Conference webpage.

Remember the adage "knee high by the 4th of July"? This year it was ankle high. And dry.

Remember the adage “knee high by the 4th of July”? This year it was ankle high. And dry.

Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes. It’s all happening August 15, 2016 at the Albany County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office, 24 Martin Rd., Voorheesville, NY, 12186.

We’re honored that Richard Ball, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will kick off the conference. Speakers from New York and across the Northeast will discuss the current state of knowledge on climate change and changes in weather patterns. We’ll also learn how collecting climate and weather data can help us predict and manage pests. Open discussion sessions are included so you can ask your own questions. Join us.

Space is limited. Preregister here. Preregistration closes on August 10. The Climate, Weather, Data portal has maps, the agenda and registration details. Questions about registration? Email or call Amanda Grace at 315-787-2208.

The program runs from 9:00-4:15 and costs $45 and includes lunch, breaks and materials. Yes, get NYS DEC credits, too!

July 27, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Hiring Now: Four New NYS IPM Posts

Hiring Now: Four New NYS IPM Posts

The New York State IPM Program seeks four new staff to amplify our IPM outreach and research for farms and communities around New York. Here are the positions (three of them new) we seek to fill:

  • Biocontrol Specialist (Extension Associate)
  • Alternative Weed Management Specialist (Extension Associate)
  • Coordinator for the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (Extension Associate)
  • Coordinator for Livestock and Field Crops IPM (Senior Extension Associate)

Our mission: to develop sustainable ways to manage disease, insect, weed, and wildlife pests; and to help people use methods that minimize environmental, health, and economic risks. Our agricultural and community programs have overlapping issues and settings. Agricultural IPM programming includes fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, and livestock and field crops. Community IPM promotes insect, weed, plant disease and wildlife management in schools, homes, and workplaces as well as on lawns, playfields, golf courses, parks and landscapes; it also includes invasive species and public health pests. NYSIPM is a national leader in developing and promoting IPM practices.

Hands-on workshops held on neighborhood farms are a tried and true way to get IPM practices to stick.

Hands-on workshops held on neighborhood farms are a tried and true way to get IPM practices to stick.

We foster a collegial and cooperative environment where teamwork is emphasized and appreciated. We also collaborate with Cornell University faculty, staff, and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, as well as with specialists from other states and universities. These positions will be housed either in Geneva (NYSAES) or Ithaca (Cornell campus).

Education and Experience

All applicants must have an MS (required) or PhD (preferred) degree in entomology, plant pathology, horticulture or other suitable field. A minimum of two years professional experience in extension education and research or demonstration in required for extension associates and eight years for the senior extension associate. We will consider experience as a graduate student.

Additional Information AND HOW TO APPLY

For more information and application instructions, click here. Applications will be accepted until 8/31/2016 or until a suitable candidate is found.

June 9, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

Most of the wasps we’re too familiar with (and afraid of) are sociable with their own kind, building large nests in trees or underground. The problem is when they build nests under your eaves, picnic tables, or even (if you’re a farmer) under the seat of that baler  you’re about to rev up as part of your pre-harvest maintenance check.

At a distance these wasps make great neighbors. As predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects, they help keep their numbers in balance. And that balance, that ounce of prevention, is a core tenet of IPM. But wasps are trigger-happy, so to speak — grab that picnic table to move it out of the sun and you’ll wish you looked underneath it first.

We could talk about any wasp you want, but today we’re focusing on bald-faced hornets. Just know that you can also apply IPM’s preventive tactics — we’ll get to that later — to your standard-issue yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers and honey bees.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Bald-faced hornets house their colonies in large, enclosed carton nests. Like most wasps (and bees) these mostly mild-mannered critters turn nasty when their nest is threatened. They don’t know you had no intention of harm. But when  bald-faced hornets live too close, yes, they represent a public health concern.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Did You Know…?

  • What’s in a name?: White-faced hornets can be easily identified by the large patch of white on their faces.
  • Family relations: This hornet is the largest yellow jacket species in North America.
  • By the numbers: A nest can contain hundreds of hornets, and most will attack to protect their queen.
  • Danger! White-faced hornets have unbarbed stingers, so they sting repeatedly. (Author’s note: Take it from me — disturb a nest and yes, you might get stung way more than you’d like.)
  • Beneficial insect: White-faced hornets are important predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.
Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Since technically it’s still spring and a chilly May slowed them down, you still have time. Inspect (in IPM lingo, “scout”) the aforementioned eaves, picnic tables, and outdoor equipment as well as the undersides of the railing on your porch or deck; that sort of thing. You’re looking for small carton nests that look like these, only way smaller. For other stinging wasps, keep and eye out for what looks like clots of mud (nifty inside, should you get a chance to dissect one) and the clusters of open cells, rather like honeycombs, that comprise a paper-wasp nest. Basically, you want to find a nest under construction, as it were — one with just a few workers ferrying back and forth to care for their queen.

Did You Know…?

  • Last year’s empties: See a scary-big nest? Most likely it’s from last year — and wasps don’t reuse them. On the other hand, a subtle scent left behind tells other wasps that this could be a good place to build a nest of their own. So get rid of empties.

Moving quietly on a warm-enough day, stake out a claim nearby and watch the nest for 15 minutes or so. See any wasps? You’ve got an active one. No wasps? Best to scrape the old nest off so they won’t worry you later.

How to get rid of them? At dusk or dawn (dawn is better — it’s usually cooler) get out there with a tall pole, a SuperSoaker, or a hose with a good nozzle on it (you want a focused, powerful stream of water) and knock them down one at a time. Then stomp on them. Need a light? Don’t shine it right on the nest; better yet, cover your light with red cellophane. (Wasps don’t register red.)

Looking ahead — for larger nests later in summer, ask yourself if the nest is close enough to where you live, work or play to pose a significant threat. If it’s at a distance, best to leave it be.

More prevention (core IPM!): cover outdoor garbage receptacles and pick up dropped fruit under fruit-bearing trees. Integrated pest management can help to determine if a bald-face hornet nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed.

For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

May 18, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Dandelions? Wasps? Mice? For Every Season There Is a Purpose (But It’s Not Always Obvious)

Dandelions? Wasps? Mice? For Every Season There Is a Purpose (But It’s Not Always Obvious)

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! — Mark Twain

For IPMers who answer homeowner questions, what many people want in spring is an answer to dandelions. These in-your-face, bright bursts of yellow are speckling lawns statewide. Homeowners that aren’t yet convinced how important these early flowers are to pollinators want them gone — now. The bad news (or good, depending on your perspective) is: it’s not the best time to do anything. The best time to control broad-leafed weeds is late summer and fall. (We covered this a couple of years ago: Dandelions – Love Them or Leave Them, but Don’t Spray Them.)

We have exactly the opposite problem with wasps and yellow jackets. Now is the time to prevent later problems because their populations are so low in spring.

Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.

Identification is important! Is it a bee? Wasp? Bald-faced hornet? This carpenter bee will be managed much differently than other types of stinging insects.

Last autumn a homeowner had “a swarm of bees” take residence in the attic. A pest management professional removed the nest and sprayed an insecticide. When “the bees” were noted this spring, the homeowner worried that they were back for a repeat performance.

The homeowner admitted that he didn’t know if it was bees, yellow jackets, or paper wasps. Identification matters when deciding how to deal with a large active population (you can find pictures of different types of stinging insects here and a video here). But no matter what type of insect is currently scoping out his house, the IPM solution is the same. Find the opening and seal it properly. (Unless it’s a carpenter bee. For more information on them, check out our Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please! fact sheet.)

This soffet was likely damaged when a ladder slipped during a routine gutter cleaning.

This soffit was likely damaged when a ladder slipped during a routine gutter cleaning.

In the case of our nervous homeowner, a damaged soffit provides access for all sorts of critters. (The soffit connects the outside wall with the overhang on your roof.) Forget stinging insects. The 1/4″ to 1/2″gap is large enough for bats and mice to enter. (Mice are good climbers.) This is relatively easy to repair by reseating the soffit flush with the bottom. To learn more about sealing openings, you can’t go wrong with the NYS IPM publication Beasts Begone! A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings.

When yellow jacket nests are this small, there is little risk in removing them manually.

When yellow jacket nests are this small, there’s little risk in removing them manually.

Along with inspecting your house and outbuildings for openings that provide access to stinging insects, take the time you’d have spent on dandelions to watch for queens starting new nests under decks and eaves. These small nests can be easily removed using a broom handle or stream of water. (We covered this last year: Inspect for Wasps and Avoid the Sting.)

Looking for yet more info on stinging insects? Seek no further: NYS IPM’s Stinging Insect IPM video and What’s Bugging You page.

September 25, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Lawn IPM – Reducing Stress

Lawn IPM – Reducing Stress

“It’s so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.” ― Charles Martin, Chasing Fireflies

While drought stress might not seem like an IPM issue, it can definitely impact how your grass will respond to pests, both current and future. As Pat Vittum, Turf Entomologist at UMass, tells her students, “Turf can take one or two stresses, but not three or four.” How can you reduce stress during these dry times?

Yes, it is dry out there.
Yes, it is dry out there.
Hold off on fertilizers…

at least until the weather flips to cooler temperatures and you can water it in, either by timing it before predicted rain or through irrigation. Fall fertilization will help to increase turf density by helping the turf produce more tillers, rhizones, and stolons and encourage shoot growth, but only if it can reach the root zone. Look to apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 ft2, plus other nutrients recommended by a soil test.

Baby it

Now is not the time to park on the grass, host a neighborhood  pickup flag football game, or allow the kids to set up a bike ramp.

Mow high

Set your mower to its highest setting. The longer the leaf blades, the deeper the roots, providing a buffer against drought, diseases, and insect damage.

Make sure those blades are sharp.

If you haven’t yet sharpened your blades, don’t wait any longer. Dull blades shred rather than cut, allowing more moisture loss and increase turf stress. You can find information on blade sharpening here.

Wait to mow

Unless you have irrigation, your lawn is likely not growing. No growth, no need to mow. If storms drop some needed moisture and the grass takes off, wait until a cooler time of the day to mow. Do not, however, wait too long. If you end up leaving clumps of clippings, they can block out the sun and seal in the moisture, leaving the turf susceptible to humidity loving diseases. Once it is growing, mowing should be conducted often, twice a week or more. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). The more tillers, the fuller your lawn, leaving less room for weeds.

For up-to-date information on turfgrass conditions, listen to Cornell’s Frank Rossi’s weekly podcast. Grass specific weather information, including when and how much to water, can be found at ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry.

June 16, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Lawn IPM – Preparing for Summer

“Sopping, and with no sign of stopping, either- then a breather. Warm again, storm again- what is the norm, again? It’s fine, it’s not, it’s suddenly hot: Boom, crash, lightning flash!” – ― Old Farmer’s Almanac

Early June and the grass still has not come out of dormancy.

Early June and the grass is still dormant.

What a spring it has been. After a spring drought, the grass is now recovering (or finally coming out of dormancy!) as parts of New York have received inches of rain over the past two weeks. Wet soils, higher temperatures, and humidity can lead to turf damage and pest pressure. What can you do to help prepare for summer stress?

What a difference a week, and rain, makes.

What a difference a couple of weeks, and rain, makes.

Hold off on fertilizers

Spring fertilization promotes top growth at the expense of root growth. Grass needs deep roots as a buffer against summer heat, drought, insect damage, and diseases. Unless you are maintaining high quality, high traffic turf, such as on golf putting surfaces, wait until the fall to fertilize.

IrrigationPicture1

Ideally, your grass should be receiving one inch of water per week. If you have the ability to irrigate, keep track of rainfall using a rain gauge, and supplement when needed.  You can also monitor the ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry website, which has a link that can help you determine if you should water your lawn today.

Mow high

Set your mower to its highest setting. The longer the leaf blades, the deeper the roots, providing a buffer against drought, diseases, and insect damage.

Make sure those blades are sharp.

If you haven’t yet sharpened your blades this season, don’t wait any longer. Dull blades shred rather than cut, allowing more moisture loss and increase turf stress. You can find information on blade sharpening here. Resharpen the blades after every 10 to 12 hours of use. As an added incentive, dull blades can increase fuel costs 20%, so sharpen those blades and save money!

Timing is important

Warm, rainy days can lead to significant growth, leading to mowing anxiety. Mowing when soils are saturated, however, and can lead to rutting and compaction. Try to wait until the soil has had a chance to dry.

On the flip side, if you wait too long, you can end up leaving clumps of grass clippings, which can block out the sun and seal in the moisture, leaving the turf susceptible to humidity-loving diseases. Under these conditions, collect clippings and compost them, if possible.Picture2

Grass specific weather information, including weed development, heat stress, and when and how much to water, can be found at ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry. For weekly  information on turfgrass conditions, listen to the weekly ShortCutt podcast by Cornell’s Frank Rossi.

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