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 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 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.
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.
“…winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.” – Madeleine M. Kunin
This turf along the edge of a walkway could use some help recovering after months of shoveled snow was piled on top of it.
As spring progresses and temperatures continue to rise, lawns are recovering from the long winter. As the grass grows and the dry tips are mowed off, areas that need help will become more obvious. What can you do to help prevent weeds from taking over bare patches or thin areas? It’s time to break out the seed!
Mary Thurn from Cornell University guides us through the process of patching small weak or bare spots.
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ― William Shakespeare
It’s Spring (with a capital S) and the urge to get outside and work in the yard is mounting. When it comes to your lawn, what should you be thinking about and doing as April progresses?
Ahhh, spring. Waiting for the grass to grow.
Getting ready to mow
Depending on where you are, it might be awhile yet before it is time to gas up the mower. In the meantime, avoid the rush and get your mower tuned up and the blades sharpened. Set the mower blades to their highest setting. If you do nothing else this year, keep your blades sharp throughout the season, mow high, and leave the clippings in place.
Not sure how to remove the blade from your walk-behind or tractor? Want to sharpen your blades yourself but don’t know how? Here are some videos to help you out:
Do not fertilize if the lawn is looking good or you fertilized in the fall. The grass can get all the nutrients it needs from the soil and grass clippings.
Research has shown that fertilizing is best done in the fall when it supports root growth. Spring fertilization promotes top growth. There are two issues with this. First, promoting top growth at the expense of root growth leads to grass that is less resistant to drought and pests. Second, while you may currently find it hard to believe, you will get tired of mowing.
Fall is also the best time for seeding, but if you have bare patches or thin areas, fill these areas with a mixture of perennial rye grass seed.
Are you in charge of maintaining athletic fields? If you’re looking for a two or three week head start on getting your fields ready for spring — consider a proven IPM practice: dormant overseeding. (Farmers, this can work for cool-season grains and forage crops. And homeowners — here’s a trick from the pros that you just might be able to use.)
Yes, right now those artic blasts might still be leaving us chilled. But winter weather has its advantages: snowmelt and freeze-thaw cycles help both push and pull seeds into the ground, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.
Frost heaving is more extreme on bare soil. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass. Photo Credit: Michal Maňas
Meanwhile, spring is just around the corner — meaning it’s time to be on the lookout for weather conditions that allow you to apply grass seed. So secure your seed and calibrate your spreaders.
What conditions are you looking for? Choose a time when:
there’s no snow cover
nighttime temperatures are predicted to dip below freezing and …
days begin to warm.
Ideally the forecast will also call for snow — snow that will push the seed into the ground while also protecting the seed from marauding birds. When that snow melts and is absorbed into the soil, it also helps pull your seed down through the crowns of existing plants, further increasing seed-to-soil contact.
Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Photo Credit: Joellen Lampman
Choose which seed to apply by your expectations for each field. Will your athletes be on the field in early spring? Then apply the quickly germinating perennial rye at a rate of 6 lbs./1000 ft2. If you have fields that won’t be used until June or July, apply Kentucky bluegrass at a rate of 3 to 4 lbs./1000 ft2. There will be some loss due to seed mortality, so these rates are 50% above conventional rates.
Your IPM benefits? Dormant seeding allows you to avoid cultivating the turf when the soil is too soft and wet to work. It saves fuel and equipment costs, too. And getting this turf management practice out of the way early means you’re better set up for the busy field season. Best of all, the seeds you apply in winter can germinate two to three week earlier than those applied during a conventional spring seeding — and your grass will be better able to face the onslaught of spring weeds and athletic cleats.
Enjoying our ThinkIPM blog? Truck on over to our School ABCs blog — you’ll find plenty of good stuff there, too. Sure, it’s aimed mainly at school staff — but who doesn’t care about our schools? Seek no further:
Touchdown! But who wants goose poo on their cleats? Sign up to learn more.
Although beautiful in flight and valued as a symbol of the wild, Canada Geese frequenting school grounds, including athletic fields, are a growing concern. Come and learn about goose biology and behavior, the legal framework for dealing with goose problems, alleviation techniques available to schools, and the long-term management of geese and goose problems.
A second workshop helps school personnel learn to deal with goose problems on school grounds and athletic fields on February 20 (Rochester) or March 13 (Norwich).
Aren’t bed bugs supposed to be button-shaped? This one is because it’s well fed, but as it digests its meal it’ll become buttonlike again. Courtesy Gary Alpert.
Don’t panic, and don’t assume the insect’s source, but discreetly remove the student from the classroom. If you’re not the person responsible for pest management, contact them immediately. Someone must attempt to collect the insect for proper ID! Examine the student’s belongings, in keeping with your district’s personal property policy. If the insect is a bed bug, contact the student’s parents by phone, explaining the facts without targeting fault. Offer to send educational bed bug information home with the student at the end of the day. There should be no reason to send the student home early. If your district is completely unprepared for this type of event, it’s time to determine a policy.
A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. … Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.
The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:
Areas around buildings
Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers
The person responsible for pest management decisions in your school or child care facility should be able to identify bed bugs, as well as understand their life cycle, habitat needs and how to prevent or remove them. But all of us should do ourselves a favor and learn about this pest. With ever-increasing incidences of bed bug infestations, knowledge is your number one key to prevention.
Children are not little adults – they are still growing and developing. We need to take special precautions to keep them safe
…a great reminder from the EPA’s newly updated Healthy Schools website. They hope to provide a more user-friendly site and have added a “School Bulletin Board” where you’ll find all the news regarding healthy school environments.
Is it mole? A vole? These small mammals are often confused with each other, probably because they’re both associated with tunnels. But they’re really quite different and, depending on the circumstance, could be a pest — or not. Since the first step in IPM is to identify your problem, let’s shed light on these two critters.
We cheated here to give you a good look at a couple of voles. Microtus agrestis is related to the two vole species found in NY, but is found in Europe. Photo Credit: Tomi Tapio K
Since voles are seen above-ground much more often than the elusive mole, let’s take a look at them first. You might see them darting through lawns during the day (or your cat might bring them home). They’re active day and night year-round where the ground cover is thick. These small rodents are herbivores, eating almost exclusively plants.
At a quick glance you might confuse them with mice, but their stocky bodies are more compact and they look like they are missing half their tail. Also, unlike mice, they are adapted for digging; different species have different tunneling behavior, which can help with identification.
Voles often have several litters per year. Their populations can fluctuate a good deal — meaning that sometimes they’re quite abundant while other times it would take a naturalist’s sharp eye to know they’re even around.
That lovely tracery exposed as the snow melts — vole tunnels! Photo credit: Woodsen.
Meadow Voles(Microtus pennsylvanicus) are the most abundant vole species found throughout New York and are common in grassy areas including lawns. They are dark brown with a grayish belly and can be 5 inches long.
How do you know if you have meadow voles? Besides actually seeing them (or receiving one in a display of cat love), signs include:
runways through the turf, most visible after snow melt
girdled woody plants
chewed-off herbaceous vegetation
ground burrow openings
After the snow melts, vole damage becomes obvious. Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service – North Central Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Pine Voles(Microtus pinetorum) probably live throughout New York except for parts of the North Country, although actual distribution is uncertain. Their preferred habitat is forests with thick ground cover; they like orchards too. They are auburn colored and can be four inches long.
Pine voles are harder to detect as they don’t use surface runways. Their extensive underground tunnel systems lead them to their favorite food source, the roots of woody plants.
Once you’ve seen a mole, you’ll have a hard time confusing it with any other animal. Their broad feet, adapted strictly for digging, give them away. Everything about this animal is a clue that it lives underground. Moles have no external ears that can get caught as they move through their tunnels. Their dark, shiny fur has no grain, allowing them to move forwards and backwards with equal ease. And their eyes? You’d practically have to catch a mole to get close enough to see them — they’re that small.
Moles damage is pretty distinct. It involves quite a bit of soil and no entry holes. Photo credit: Kim F
What are they looking for — feeling for — down there? As insectivores, they’re searching mostly for earthworms. But they’re also happy to eat insect larvae, including grubs, and other underground invertebrates. They don’t eat vegetation, although they will line their nests with grass.
Largely solitary, moles are active year-round, day and night. They create grass-lined nests in burrows 1 ½ to 2 feet below the surface often under something solid such as tree roots, sidewalks, and buildings. Litters of 4 or 5 pups are born in the spring. Maturing quickly, the young are independent at about one month old.
What are indications that you have moles? You will find low ridges or mounds of dirt with no entry holes.
An eastern mole’s rare glimpse of daylight. Photo credit: Kenneth Catania
It is up for debate whether Eastern Moles (Scalopus aquaticus) are found in New York, although it’s possible they’re in the lower Hudson River Valley, the metro New York area, and Long Island. We do know they prefer moist sandy loam soils. They can be up to 6 ½ inches long with a naked tail.
Hairy-tailed Moles(Parascalops breweri) are found statewide. They can be up to 5 ½ inches long and have a short, hairy tail.
The star-nosed mole is very aptly named. Those appendages contain over 25,000 sensory receptors designed to help it feel its way around. Photo credit: US NPS
Star-nosed Moles(Condylura cristata) are found throughout much of New York, often occurring in low, wet ground especially near water. They can be up to 5 inches long, and their most striking characteristic is the fingerlike, fleshy projections surrounding their noses. More than their noses separate them from other mole species. They are more sociable than other moles. They tend to have larger litters. And Star-nosed moles swim! Who knew that those large feet are also good for paddling?
All mole and vole species in New York are legally classified as “unprotected”. For more information on both these mammals, including IPM strategies should voles chew the bark off your ornamental shrubs or moles turn parts of your lawn upside down, visit Cornell’s Wildlife Damage Management Program website.
Adapted from Moles and Voles of New York State by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University
September 30, 2014
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on IPM for Dead Grass SOS
Grub damage is showing up in New York later this year than usual, so don’t let your guard down just because it’s October. Still, how do you know if it’s grubs — or something else? One test: if you can loosen the sod with a trowel or garden fork, then peel it up like a carpet, you’ve got grubs. Monitoring, though, is your best bet, and here’s how (pdf) — or watch this video.
Recently I visited distressed homeowners with a lawn so badly infested, I could brush the turf away with a swipe of my fingers. They didn’t want to use pesticides, but they also didn’t know the proper way — mow right, feed right, and water right — to care for their lawn. Given how sandy soil their soil was, their turf showed drought stress despite 2014’s rainy summer. And they had never fertilized.
Stressed grass is more likely to succumb to pests like white grub
My IPM recommendations:
Mow Right: Raise the height of cut on the mower to its highest level and sharpen the blades regularly.
Feed Right: Provide a fall nitrogen fertilizer application. Conduct a soil test to determine if other nutrients are also needed.
Water Right: Most grasses need one to two inches of water per week. When nature does not provide, it is important to provide supplemental water.
To tackle the grub issue, research at the State University of New York at Delhi has shown that turfgrass aerators can lower grub populations, sometimes as much as 90 percent. Aeration can also help better your success with overseeding. Beneficial nematodes are another, albeit more costly, choice for grub control.
Grubs had so badly damaged the roots that I could brush the grass away with my fingers.
While early fall is an excellent time to overseed with a drought-resistant turfgrass, when you have bare areas like this homeowner and have access to water, overseeding now will help get a jump on the weeds and help stabilize the soil. For these homeowners’ sandy, sunny location and their need for a low-maintenance lawn, Cornell recommends either a 100% tall fescue blend seeded at a rate of 7 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet — or a mixture of 65% fine fescue blend, 15% perennial ryegrasses, and 20% Kentucky bluegrass blend at 4 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Cutting grass roots to the quick — that’s a grub’s stock in trade. But pesticides cost money and time — let alone potential health hazards, whether to ecosystems or us. Cutting grubs to the quick? Now, there’s an idea.
Aerators can often be rented at local hardware stores.
Groundskeepers and savvy homeowners use aerators with their sharp tines to break up hard, compacted soil, letting life-giving oxygen and water deeper into the earth. But those tines have another function, though not by design. They’re like tiny spears, meaning that a grub in the wrong place at the wrong time is a goner. (Aerators can be rented.. In the NY Capital region, I am able to rent an aerator at my local garden store for $40 for four hours and $80 a day. To find one in your area, try Googling: aerator rental “your town”).
Big grubs make the best targets. And the research … well, just read on.
Research at the State University of New York at Delhi has shown that yes, turfgrass aerators can lower grub populations, sometimes as much as 90 percent — depending, of course, on conditions that vary from site to site and year to year. Building on that, NYS IPM-funded research at SUNY Delhi looked at which cultivator designs do best against grubs.
Results? All aerators can cut grub populations — though the old standard hollow-core aerators did best in these trials. And it’s an inexpensive tactic if you have the equipment. With this information in hand, you can plan your aerate with grub management in mind. Ideally you’d time a tactic like this for when grubs are big enough to easily impale, yet not so big they’ve already dug deep to survive the winter.
So should you get punchy? Our video shows you how to assess your lawn and scout for grubs. If you find 10 grubs per square foot, now is the time! Grubs are pretty big and still close to the surface in late August so aerating might be just the ticket.
Thin weak turf leaves bare areas susceptible to erosion and weed invasion.
Let me count the ways. First, a little perspective – this is the front lawn of a school that was just renovated. There was little money to invest in the lawn and even less to help the struggling lawn.
Problem #1: Compaction
This area was the staging area for the equipment and material storage during school renovations, so we know right off the bat that this area is compacted.
The Fix: Aeration
To relieve compaction, a core aerator can be used to punch holes in the turf, pulling out soil cores. The holes left behind provide space for air and water movement and root growth within the soil. If the school does not own an aerator, a small one can usually be rented at a local hardware store for a nominal fee. In the NY Capital region, I am able to rent an aerator for $40 for four hours and $80 a day.
Problem #2: Excess Straw
Straw laid down to protect seeds and seedlings can eventually be detrimental to turf health.
We can still see a significant amount of straw that was put down to protect the seeds and seedlings. At this stage, however, the straw is actively competing against the turf. Soil bacteria need nitrogen to decompose the straw – nitrogen that is also needed by the grass.
The Fix: Feed Right
Typically you would wait until the fall to get the most out of your fertilizer, but in this case, the Cornell Turf Team recommends an inexpensive, quick-release nitrogen fertilizer, such as urea, to increase nitrogen levels in the soil and make it available to the struggling grass. A soil test will determine whether other nutrients are also needed.
Problem #3: Less Than Ideal Growing Conditions
On top of compacted soil, this area has no irrigation. In the Northeast you can have a lawn without irrigation, but you want to make sure to give the grass every other advantage.
The Fix: Mow Right
We recommended raising the mowing height – to allow for more and deeper root growth. Also, be sure that mower blades are sharp. Dull blades shred, not cut, leaf blades, creating more stress.
(Likely) Problem #4: The Wrong Seed
We can’t be sure, but it is a likely that the area was seeded with an inexpensive contractor mix. Choosing the right grass for the site is one of the most important steps you can take to solve a number of problems.
Bare areas within weak turfgrass stands are susceptible to erosion and are practically an invitation for weeds to fill the void. The Child Safe Playing Fields Act prevents the application of an herbicide to either prevent or control weeds on school grounds, so providing a good growing environment to maintain healthy grass is imperative. The above fixes, and more, can be found in detail in Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset.