Check out our Landscape and Gardening Tips

Check out this page for money saving and landscaping tips. For more blogs please visit our page on www.merchantcircle.com/mcclendonlawncare. We have more seasonal blogs posted there. If you have any questions about your lawn or landscape please feel free to contact us.

Choosing the Best Grass

The first and most important question to ask is how much sun will be available to the grass. It is much better to use a grass that will grow in the conditions available rather than fighting the environment year after year. Fescue grass will tolerate more shade, while bermudagrass would be a better choice for full sun locations. Centipedegrass on the other hand can be grown with little or no fertilizer.The second question is how much can you afford to spend. Seeding is usually cheaper but sodding will look the best in a short time. Fescue will usually need to be overseeded every two years but the creeping grasses will cover an area without new seed each year.For very large areas that receive little maintenance, Kentucky 31 fescue or common bermudagrass may be the best choices. Small, high impact areas may need a turf type fescue or a sodded bermudagrass.It is far better to determine which grass matches the conditions of the area before you plant rather than finding out by experience two years later.Turfgrasses are divided into two categories: cool season grasses and warm season grasses. Cool season grasses are planted in the fall of the year. These include tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass. The ideal planting dates are September through October. In some cases tall fescue can be planted in early spring, but in general we find that spring planted fescue does not fare as well as fall planted fescue.

 

Warm season grasses should be planted in the late spring and early summer. The planting dates for bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and centipedegrass are May, June and July.

 

The rates of establishment vary between the grasses. Cool season grasses tend to establish in four to six weeks. Warm season grasses vary greatly. Bermudagrass planted from seed, for example, may take two to three months to establish. Zoysiagrass seed and centipedegrass seed often take four to six months to establish.By planting these grasses by sod you speed up the rate of establishment. A sodded lawn gives almost instant establishment

 

LIGHT LEVELS THAT GRASSES REQUIRE TO GROW SUCCESSFULLY:

  • Bermudagrass: full sunshine to very light shade

  • Centipedegrass: full sunshine to very light shade

  • ‘Meyer’ zoysiagrass: full sunshine to light shade

  • ‘Emerald’ zoysiagrass: full sunshine to partial shade

  • St. Augustinegrass: full sunshine to partial shade

  • Tall fescue: full sunshine to partial shade

 

Since light levels are hard to define, use these examples:

  • Full sunshine: eight hours of unfiltered sunshine sometime between sunrise and sunset

  • Light shade: six hours of sunshine filtered through high pine foliage or scattered hardwood trees OR six hours of unfiltered sunshine sometime between sunrise and sunset

  • Partial shade: eight hours of sunshine filtered through high pine foliage OR four hours of direct sunshine between sunrise and sunset

  • Shade: all day sunshine filtered through scattered hardwood trees OR direct sunshine at least three hours per day

  • Dense shade: No direct sunshine touches the grass all day, such as the shade under a southern magnolia or the shade between two houses whose shadows prevent sunshine from hitting the earth at all.

 

No grass will grow well in shade or dense shade. If you have a shady spot, save yourself some grief and plant groundcover or cover the spot with mulch.

 

TOO-GOOD-TO-BE-TRUE GRASSESYou have probably seen the full page advertisements in the Sunday paper touting “Amazing Turf!” or “Miracle Grass!”. Claims are made that the grass is lush, drought tolerant and adapted to much of the United States.> While there is a small amount of truth in each advertisement, rest assured that if such a grass did exist, it would be quite an achievement.> The best advice regarding miracle grasses is “Buyer Beware!”

How to Get Rid of Insects Naturally

The more we discover about synthetic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides the more we learn how unhealthy they are for the environment and the people and animals that live in it. Pesticides can create more problems than they solve.



Spraying garden chemicals to get rid of unwanted pests and weeds not only cause health risks, they often aren't even that effective. Initially, they will kill off a lot of pests, but eventually these pests can develop resistance to the pesticide and come back even stronger. Another problem is the side effects many synthetic pesticides can have on unintended targets (think of DDT and birds).



The best plan is to avoid the need to use pest control in the first place by starting with healthy fertile soil, matching your plants to the soil type, ensuring proper sunlight levels and watering conditions, and using appropriate organic fertilization and pruning, when necessary. But, if that doesn't work there are many alternatives to chemical pesticides that can reduce pests while leaving a healthy environment for your plants, pets and family.



Barriers&Repellents
Barriers and repellents help keep pests out of the garden. They can act like a wall preventing crawling insects from accessing your home or vegetables. For example, by planting carrots in toilet paper rolls cutworms can't get to them. Plants can provide a living barrier to insects, too. Peppermint, spearmint and pennyroyal naturally deter aphids and ants, so plant them throughout your garden and these pests will stay away.



Simmering cedar twigs in water and then pouring the (cooled) water over plants will deter cutworms, corn earworms and other pests. Snails won't cross a line of lime, just as ants avoid cayenne pepper or iron phosphate -- a natural inorganic material widely used as a nutritional supplement -- keeps slugs at bay.



In addition to the many "do it yourself" pest remedies, you can purchase organic pest control products that work on just about anything lurking around the garden or home.



Beneficial Insects
Lady beetles, lacewings and preying mantises are but a few of the beneficial insects that will prey on the insect pests you don't want. These "good" bugs can be lured into the garden with attractive habitat (food, shelter and water) or they can be purchased and released into the garden -- you'll still need a healthy habitat for them to survive.



There are many reasons to introduce beneficial bugs into your garden. Over the long term, they are safer and more effective than chemicals, but you'll need to do a little research first to determine what your specific pest problem is and which beneficial insects to enlist to help. Luckily, the Internet provides a wealth of resources, as

does your local extension service.

Biological Pest Control
Based on highly specific, naturally occurring insect diseases caused by protozoa, bacteria, fungi and viruses, biological pest controls are effective against their target insects but are nontoxic to humans, pets, wildlife and beneficial insects. They are also less likely to build pest resistance than chemical pesticides and they break down quickly in the environment.

One of the better-known biological pesticides is Bacillus thuringiensis, which is often used against leaf and needle feeding caterpillars. This bacterium is found naturally in soils around the world and paralyzes the digestive tracts of the insects that eat it.

Spinosad is an insecticide derived from the bacteria Saccharopolyspora spinosa and can be used as an alternative to malathion sprays. Spinosad has been found to kill medflies, but not the predators that eat them, and it is approved for use on food crops. It also helps control thrips, caterpillars, leafminers, fruit flies, borers, and much more.



A third (of many) biological pest controls is milky spore powder which targets the white grubs of Japanese beetles. When the grubs come to the surface of the lawn to feed (usually July or August) they ingest the bacteria. These milky spores germinate and multiply inside the grub, killing it.

How to Treat Your Lawn in the Fall

How to Treat Your Lawn in the Fall

Keep your lawn healthy in the fall, and learn how to repair your damaged turf with these step-by-step instructions.

 

After a summer of heavy use many lawns start showing signs of wear and tear by the end of the season. Early autumn is a great time to repair the damage and to ensure that your turf is in good condition for the year ahead.

 

Rake Out Moss

Kill off any moss with a lawn moss herbicide before vigorously scratching out dead material (thatch) from the lawn with a spring-tined rake; rent a motorized scarifier for large lawns. Raking improves the look and health of the turf.

 

Aerate the Soil

Open up air channels in a compacted lawn by pushing a border fork into the soil, or use a hollow tiner, which pulls out plugs of soil. Work across the lawn at 4-inch intervals. Repeat this process every two years.

 

Apply Top Dressing

After raking and aerating the lawn, work a top dressing into the holes. You can buy this premixed from garden centers and hardware stores, but it's easy and cost effective on large lawns to make your own.

 

Brush in Dressing

Work in the top dressing thoroughly using a stiff brush or besom, lightly filling the new aeration channels, and covering the ground to encourage strong rooting. Apply it evenly and make sure the grass isn't smothered

 

Feed and Sow

Wearing gloves, apply a granular autumn lawn fertilizer evenly over marked out squares. Water in if no rain falls within three days of applying it. In early autumn, the soil is sufficiently warm and moist to sow grass seed too. Sprinkle seed to match your lawn type at half the recommended rate for new lawns to help thicken up any bald spots.



 

Common Garden Insects

1. Aphids These tiny pests cause damage by sucking the juices from the leaves and stems of plants, and spreading disease while they do so. They are fairly easy to get rid of -- sometimes all it takes is a strong blast from your hose to knock them off of the plant.



Common Vegetable Garden Insect Pests



2. Asparagus Beetle If those eagerly-awaited stalks of tender asparagus are showing brown spots, scarring, or are bent, asparagus beetles are probably to blame. One of their main predators is a parasitic wasp -- another reason you don't want to use broad spectrum pesticides in your yard. In addition to encouraging the wasps, you can also handpick the larvae, eggs, and beetles from your plants.



3. Cabbage Worm You know those pretty white butterflies you see hovering around your garden in early summer? Yeah. You may want to start checking your cabbage, kale, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies for holes in the leaves. Look underneath, because most likely the culprit is a light green larva that hatches from the eggs deposited by those pretty white butterflies. One of the easiest ways to control them (besides covering your crops with floating row covers and eliminating the problem all together) is to hand pick them and drop them in a cup of soapy water.



4. Colorado Potato Beetle If the foliage on your potato plants is starting to get chewed, chances are good that you have a potato beetle problem. A little work and vigilance, and you can still protect your potato crop. Colorado Potato Beetles overwinter in the soil, so crop rotation can be a huge help in reducing the damage your garden sustains.



5. Corn Borer/Corn Earworm Not just corn, but also peppers, beans, and potatoes can fall victim to corn borers. If any of these plants start toppling over, chances are good that a corn borer has made its way into the stem. Bacillus thuringiensis is an effective natural control for these pests.



6. Cucumber Beetle Besides gnawing on the leaves and fruits, cucumber beetles also spread bacterial wilts. Handpicking is a great option here, as are floating row covers to provide a barrier to these pests in the first place.



7. Cutworm So, you planted out a bunch of perfect tomato seedlings only to find them toppled over, as if chopped down by tiny axes, the next morning. You have a cutworm problem.You can make simple collars from empty toilet paper rolls to protect the stems until they are too large to sustain damage from cutworms. The rolls will break down in the soil, or you can compost them.


8. Flea Beetle Tiny holes in the leaves of eggplants, peppers, radishes, pumpkins and squashes, melons, or tomatoes ( as well as other plants) are a sure sign of flea beetles. While the photo shows a gold-colored flea beetle, they are also often shiny black beetles. You will see them hopping around on the plants like, well, fleas.
9. Mexican Bean Beetle It's late summer, and the foliage on your beans is reduced to almost nothing but the veins. Look under any remaining leaves, and you'll probably find a Mexican bean beetle larva or two. Mexican Bean Beetles are found just about everywhere in the U.S.


  10. Slugs The main crop that slugs damage in most gardens is lettuce. These slimy pests just can't get enough of my Amish Deertongue lettuce. Happily, they're fairly easy to get rid of. You can hand pick and squish them, handpick and throw them into a bucket of soapy water, let them drown in some beer, or use a grapefruit rind to trap them.


11. Squash Bug Yellow spots on the leaves of your pumpkins, winter squash, or summer squash are one sign of squash bugs. Another is wilting vines, or vines that wither and turn black. It can be a bit confusing, because the symptoms (wilting vines) are easily confused with that of squash vine borer (below). One good way to determine the difference is to look for dusty looking frass (dropping) on the stems -- that's usually an indicator of vine borer rather than squash bugs.


12. Squash Vine Borer Your perfectly healthy zucchini or pumpkin has a withered vine here and there. Cut open the vine just about where the problem starts, and you'll probably find the grayish-white larva known as squash vine borer. The good news is that once you find them, you can halt the damage. Simply slice the vine open and dig the borer out. Then you can trim off any yellow or wilted parts of the stem, and bury the rest in the soil. It will grow new roots, and keep growing happily


13. Tomato Hornworm Hornworms have voracious appetites. If you find that your perfect tomato suddenly looks like it became an all-you-can-eat buffet, the culprit is most likely hornworms (who have no problem eating either the leaves of fruits of tomato plants.) Most of the above information was written either by myself or insect expert Debbie Hadley, who is a colleague of mine at About.com. I hope the photos, descriptions of damage, and organic control options outlined in each article help you keep your garden healthy and bountiful.