Your lawn requires cultivation to help improve soil conditions, just as your vegetable garden and flowerbeds do. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through soil aeration.
Small cores of soil and thatch.
Core aeration is the removal of small cores of soil and thatch (the layer of living and decomposing organic debris between the soil surface and green vegetation) from your lawn with specially designed equipment. A series of hollow coring tines are rolled over the lawn, puncturing its surface and systematically removing small plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn. The removal of these plugs allows air, water and nutrients to reach the root system of grass plants much more effectively. Fertilizer and water use becomes more efficient. This contributes to a healthier, deeper root system that enables the grass plants to better overcome stress caused by a number of factors including environmental conditions such as drought and damage caused by insects and disease.
Plugs should be left on the lawn following aeration as they contain soil microorganisms that will help to break down thatch. These plugs disappear in a short period of time when left on the surface of a lawn.
Grubs & Your Lawn
Dead, brown patches on your lawn, often resembling severe drought stress may indicate a problem with grubs. Grubs cause damage to grass plants by feeding on their roots. Turf that is damaged by grubs lifts up easily like a carpet due to a lack of root system support. Large numbers of grubs left untreated in a lawn can be devastating to the turf.
Grubs that invade turf are the larvae of the June beetle or European chafer beetle. European chafer grubs are slightly smaller than June beetle grubs when fully mature and are commonly found in this area.
Unlike June beetles, which take three years to complete their lifecycles, European chafers take only one. In a typical year, European chafer grubs hatch in the soil during the latter part of July, and then begin feeding immediately. They continue feeding well into the fall until soil temperatures fall below 5° C. They spend the winter deep in the soil and then resume feeding for a short time in the spring before changing to pupae and later, adults. Adult European chafers emerge in June and can sometimes be seen in late June or early July at night, congregating around lampposts during mating flights.
Grubs can be difficult to control especially when they mature. In most cases, their numbers can be reduced to a level where their feeding does not continue to cause damage to the grass. However, this will not guarantee that damage resulting from raccoons and skunks digging for them will stop.
The best time to control European chafer grubs is in June or July using a new product called Merit® that is available for professional use only. This product controls grubs by stopping their feeding and is highly effective in controlling even the most serious grub problems. Other available treatments to control grubs are best applied in late summer or early fall in an effort to control newly hatched or immature grubs. Applications to reduce grub problems can also be made in the spring, however, grubs are larger and treatments generally less effective at this time.
Have Grubs Been a Serious Problem on Your Lawn?
Great news! Finally new technology has produced a highly effective grub control product called Merit® that will provide excellent control of grubs with one application per year, in most cases. Unlike other grub control treatments Merit® is designed to specifically control grubs in the very early stages of their lifecycle. The treatment is most effective when made during the months of June, July or early August. If you have had a serious grub problem on your lawn in the past, it is quite likely that you will have one again in the future.
Crabgrass is an annual weed that invades home lawns and gardens. It germinates when soil temperatures reach about 15° C and air temperatures stay above 18° C for at least five consecutive days. Crabgrass usually establishes itself in mid to late spring. There are two types of crabgrass that grow in Ontario, namely, large and smooth crabgrass. Both types are yellow-green in colour and have wide leaf blades that taper to a point at the end. Crabgrass plants produce finger-like purple seed heads when mature. Seeds are produced over winter in the soil and germinate the following spring.
Crabgrass normally invades lawns that are thin, weak and undernourished. Crabgrass is rarely present in lawns that are properly fertilized, watered and mowed correctly at a height of at least 5-6cm (2-2.5 inches).
The very hot dry summers that we experienced in 1998 and 1999 provided ideal conditions for crabgrass to flourish on home lawns. Many homeowners did not recognize that they had a problem with crabgrass until mid to late summer. By that time, it was too late to apply a preventative or early post-emergent crabgrass control treatment. By late August and into September, crabgrass plants that were not controlled produced large quantities of seed.
This year is expected to be another bad year for crabgrass as a result of the abundance of seed that was produced last fall. The best defense against crabgrass is to promote a healthy, thick lawn and to have a preventative crabgrass control material applied to your lawn this spring.
Spring Lawn Care
Early spring lawns can appear straw-coloured and dead. If the grass seems very dense and matted, you can help by giving the lawn a good, vigorous raking. Remove the piles of material and add them to your compost pile. This raking opens up the turf to allow light, water and fertilizer penetration. It stimulates the grass plant and makes the lawn look much better. If your lawn is very sparse and you have had a serious problem with crabgrass in previous years, you may wish to apply a crabgrass control. Crabgrass control is best performed in the spring in an effort to stop crabgrass plants from germinating and growing. After a crabgrass control has been applied, the soil surface should not be disturbed. Raking or digging may reduce the effectiveness of the crabgrass control material.
Is it Crabgrass?
It is not uncommon for our customers to call us in the early spring to help them get rid of that *!#@* Crabgrass in their lawn.
If the weed grass is present in early spring, the problem is likely not Crabgrass but instead a perennial weed grass such as Quackgrass.
Quackgrass is extremely vigorous, and is taller, faster growing and lighter green than desirable lawn grasses. Quackgrass has a broad grass blade and a tough, wiry network of underground stems. It is useless to treat Quackgrass with a "Crabgrass control product". Crabgrass control materials are only effective against crabgrass and other annual grass type weeds.
Quackgrass anchored by an underground network of stems.
There is no selective weed control material for Quackgrass. The recommended procedure for control and/or suppression of Quackgrass is to "stunt it out" or "crowd it out". This is accomplished by supplying a good program of fertility to the turf, in order to thicken it up. In addition, the lawn should be mowed frequently (every 3 to 4 days) in the spring and fall at a slightly reduced height than normally recommended, 5 cm (2 inches). This will help to stunt the growth of the Quackgrass and encourage desirable grasses to crowd out the Quackgrass.
Crabgrass - Can It Be Controlled?
Yes, but it's not easy!
Control of Crabgrass is best done in spring, prior to or soon after the germination and establishment of crabgrass plants. Crabgrass seeds start to germinate when the soil reaches about 18° C (65° F). This is roughly the time when forsythias and lilacs bloom.
The most effective way to control Crabgrass is to apply a pre-emergent control just before the seeds begin to germinate. This material will stop crabgrass plants from growing.
If Crabgrass still becomes established, a post-emergent treatment may be applied to completely rid your lawn of Crabgrass.
It is also very important that the desirable lawn surfaces be properly nourished with fertilizer. A thick lawn will shade the soil surface to help prevent additional Crabgrass seeds from germinating during the season as the Crabgrass control barrier weakens.
Voles and Mice
If there are trails evident on your lawn this spring that are devoid of grass you may have experienced a problem with voles or mice this past winter.
Voles and mice belong to the same family and are similar in size and appearance. Mice however, have large ears, large eyes, and long tails. Voles have small ears, small eyes, and short tails. Mice and voles are active during the day and night. They are mainly vegetarians. They make narrow pathways 2.5-5cm wide through grassed areas under snow cover. After the snow melts their damage becomes evident. Damage will generally recover within a short period of time provided that the lawn is raked early in the spring and debris is moved so that air, light and moisture have an opportunity to influence plant vigor. Application of a high quality, slow release fertilizer product should be performed to further help encourage recovery. Seeding may be required to repair damage only where severe injury to the grass has taken place.
Voles and mice prefer to invade lawns that are covered in debris or left too long going into the winter. Making sure that leaf debris is raked up prior to winter, and adjusting mower height slightly to reduce the normal height of cut during the final mowing of the year will help prevent voles and mice from invading a lawn. Where necessary, voles and mice can be controlled using traps or baits. The use of traps is considered to be the most effective method to control them. Baits that are available to help control voles and mice should only be used in accordance with their directions.