The most important lawn care application of the year... fall pre-emergent!

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It may seem a little strange to you that I am writing about fall pre-emergent herbicides in mid-August when temperatures are pushing 100.

One of the most importance lawn care applications and often most overlooked is coming up very soon. 

The most critical applications are the ones that include pre-emergent herbicides.  Everyone knows the importance of the spring applications, but many don’t realize fall applications are just as critical.

Nothing will set you up for a successful lawn in 2020 more than what you DO or DON’T do in your lawn this fall.

Why are the fall pre-emergent applications so important?

The fall pre-emergent applications are the keys to having a weed free lawn next spring.

The fall pre-emergent prevents poa annua, rescuegrass, cheat, brome, chickweed, and henbit.  These are the weeds that clutter your lawn in the spring.  Weeds that are easy to prevent in the fall - but extremely difficult to control in the spring. 


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Common chickweed is a winter annual broadleaf with a prostrate, mat-like growth (rarely higher than 2") and broad egg shaped leaves spaced evenly and opposite each other along the stem with small white flowers in the spring. One interesting fact about chickweed seeds - they can remain viable in the soil for 7-8 years. Chickweed is another winter annual that is easily prevented and when not prevented is fairly easy to control in the winter to early spring, but very difficult to control once flower production begins in spring. As with many weed issues, the tried-and-true best defense against chickweed is a thick and lush lawn going into the fall.


Henbit is a broadleaf winter annual weed with greenish to purplish square stems, green scallop edged leaves, and reddish purple flower in the spring. Seeds germinate in the fall but the weed often goes unnoticed until we have periods of warn winter weather when henbit grows best. Henbit is easily prevented with fall pre-emergent applications but can be difficult to control in late spring when it is mature, flowering and littering your lawn. As with most weeds, a dense turf is the best prevention against the development of henbit.

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Poa annua, also known as annual bluegrass, is the fall’s equivalent to spring’s crabgrass.  Without a fall pre-emergent, your lawn will not be clean next spring. Just like crabgrass, when it is mature, poa annua is hard to control without causing turf injury.  Next spring, we want your lawn to be focused on emerging from dormancy without the harmful effects of harsh post-emergent herbicide applications.

How a Bermuda lawn looks in April when no fall pre-emergent applications were made.

How a Bermuda lawn looks in April when no fall pre-emergent applications were made.


 
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Poa Annua is an annual grassy weed that invades lawns in the fall and winter. It is a lighter green clumping grass with small white flowers (seed heads) in the spring. Germination occurs in moist soil starting in the fall when night temperatures drop into the 60s and continues through the winter and spring. Poa Annua has a competitive advantage over bermuda in the winter when it is activity growing and the bermuda is dormant.

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Poa Annua germinates and thrives in thin areas of fescue during the fall, winter and spring. Poa Annua does not have a competitive advantage over fescue when it is thick, healthy and actively growing. Overseeding thin fescue in the fall is a great way to prevent poa annua.


Timing of the fall pre-emergent applications is critical.  Annual weeds will germinate throughout the fall as temperatures cool and will dirty your lawn as temperatures warm in the late winter and throughout spring.

The first application for the fall needs to be made sometime between late August and early October. 

A second application should be put on your lawn 4-8 weeks after the first fall pre-emergent to ensure full control until the lawn emerges from dormancy next spring. Research shows that poa annua has developed some resistance to pre-emergent applications.  A second fall re-emergent in October through November increases the prevention of poa annua.

Next spring when the crabapples are in bloom and fescue is green, Bermuda lawns should be weed free. This is only possible if a fall pre-emergent is applied between late August and early October with a second application 4-6 weeks later.

Next spring when the crabapples are in bloom and fescue is green, Bermuda lawns should be weed free. This is only possible if a fall pre-emergent is applied between late August and early October with a second application 4-6 weeks later.

There is only one reason to not put the first fall pre-emergent application on your lawn: Seeding Fescue.

The same pre-emergent herbicide that prevents annual weeds from germinating WILL PREVENT new grass seed from coming up.  Because developing a thick turf is so critical to good weed control, and because September through October is by far the best time to establish a cool season lawn, skipping the fall pre-emergent application is the right thing to do.  Once the new seed is up, actively growing, and has been mowed 3-4 times, you can apply the second fall pre-emergent application. 

Important – If you are planning on seeding all or part of your lawn this fall, please let us know so we can adjust your applications accordingly.

Dormant Bermuda will be weed free in February and March when both fall pre-emergent applications are on schedule.

Dormant Bermuda will be weed free in February and March when both fall pre-emergent applications are on schedule.

We have three types of lawn care customers:

1.     Customers who subscribe to the full 7-step program and enjoy having a clean, healthy and growing turf.  If you are on the 7-step program, you will receive the fall pre-emergent applications.

2.     Customers who want the make sure their lawn receives spring and fall pre-emergent herbicides at the correct times but enjoy applying their own fertilizer.  If this defines you, you are receiving our 4-step weed control only program and will receive the 2 fall pre-emergent applications. 

3.     The occasional application customers who takes a few applications, often the early spring applications.  If this defines you, please don’t skip the fall pre-emergent steps this year.  You will not regret the fall applications next spring when your lawn starts the year weed free.  

Remember – it is always easier to prevent weeds than it is to kill actively growing weeds. 

Nothing will make a bigger difference in the way your lawn looks next spring than applying both fall pre-emergent applications in 2019.

If you have any questions about fall pre-emergent herbicides, please give us a call at (405)367-3873.

Lorne Hall

August Lawn & Landscape Tips

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July was tough on lawns and landscapes.  Most of the metro went the entire month without receiving even a ¼” of rainfall.  Unless you are doing a good job of infrequent, deep watering, the soil moisture your landscape needs to survive the summer heat is missing. 

And…now comes August! 

Late July through August is typically the most difficult time of the year for your lawn and landscape.   August usually brings over 20 days of temperatures in the 90’s and 5 days over 100.  Nighttime temperatures don’t offer much escape from the heat either with lows that often don’t get below 80 degrees.

July’s lack of moisture followed by the thoughts of a typical August is enough to make anyone want to give up on having a great lawn and landscape the rest of the year.  But, don’t give up!  We are only a few short weeks from the cooler days of September.   

August is the month to stay focused so you will have an enjoyable landscape when outdoor weather returns.   

 

Mowing – Both warm season turf (Bermuda and Zoyia) and cool season turf (Fescue) should be mowed at the highest level this month, warm season 2-2.5” and cool season up to 3-3.5”.  At the higher level the lawn will have more leaf space resulting in more heat and drought tolerance. Continue to mow often enough that you are removing only 1/3 of the grass each time you cut.  If you are cutting frequently enough to pass the 1/3 test, don’t catch the clippings.  Allowing the clippings to decompose on the lawn will return moisture and nitrogen to the soil. Give no bagging a try.  You will be surprised at how much more color your lawn will retain even in the heat.  When you bag your clippings you are tossing out nitrogen and water your lawn could really use this month.

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Watering – Make sure your lawn and landscape are receiving at least 1 ½” of moisture per week.  All the soil moisture from the abundant April through June rainfall has vanished.  Your turf and plants need deep soakings to avoid showing signs of stress. Water in the early morning.  To learn how long and how often you need to water to get 1 ½” of moisture, place small cups or cans around your lawn.  Water a typical cycle and then check the cups.  Adjust watering times and frequency accordingly to insure 1 ½” is applied each week.  Trees planted in the last year will benefit from having a hose placed on a slow trickle for a few hours once per week. 

The number one problem we are seeing in the lawn and landscape is short, too frequent, watering cycles!

If you are unsure about your watering practices, let us help.  We can schedule an Irrigation Audit/Check to make sure your system is operating at its peak efficiency during the summer heat. 

Fertilizer – Apply fertilizer to warm season turf this month.  This time of the year, Bermuda and Zoyia benefit from a high nitrogen fertilizer that is low in phosphorus and potassium.  DO NOT fertilize cool season lawns until we reach the cooler temperatures of September.   Warm and cool season turfs react differently to the heat of July and August.  Bermuda and Zoyia, when well maintained and properly watered, will thrive.  Cool season lawns, although still green, are in their off season.  

 
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Weed Control – Spring pre-emergent herbicides are reaching the end of their effectiveness in your soils.  Should an occasional weed show up in your turf this month, it is best to go easy on weed control.  We have reached the time of the year that damaged turf may not have a chance to fully recover before fall.  Great weed control is about 80% the result of thick turf.  August is the month to focus on turf development going into the fall.

 

Inspect Shady Lawn Areas - September and October is the best time of the year to establish fescue in the shady areas of your lawn.  This month, assess the areas of the lawn where Bermuda has become thin due to increasing shade (Bermuda needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight), areas of the lawn where fescue did not perform well because of very dense shade (Fescue needs at least some dappled sun), and areas of fescue that have been damaged by brown patch this summer (June’s moisture and warm temperatures were the perfect conditions for brown patch).   Because fescue does not spread you should plan on adding some seed every fall.

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Insect Watch – If grubs have been a problem in your lawn, now is the time to apply an insecticide.  Remember, the insecticide will kill desirable insects also.  Only treat for grubs if there is evidence of a problem.   Continue to inspect shrubs for aphids and treat as needed.  If you have experience bagworm problems this summer and treated for them, it is a good idea to also remove as many of the old bags as possible.  Watch for webworm in your trees in late August.  The second generation of webworm is the one that causes damage.  If noticed early when the webbing is small, simply cutting the branch out is the best control.  If spraying is required, you most penetrate the webbing to gain control.

 
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Landscape Color – Take pictures, make notes, of the plants that are doing the best in your landscape during the most stressful time of the year. 

·       Black-eyed Susan’s are the perfect perennial to add color to the landscape during July and August. 

·       Crape Myrtles are loving the warm days and rewarding us with abundant summer color this year. 

·       Lantana, Penta and Periwinkle are at their best now. 

Go ahead, knock on the door of the house with great summer color and ask them about their plants.  Pick a nice summer evening just too slowly stroll around a public garden for the purpose of seeing what plants are loving the summer warmth. 

If you need assistance or have questions concerning your lawn and landscape, give us call.  (405) 367-3873. 

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart

Fescue in the off season!

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All turf grasses have an offseason.  A season when they are not at their prime.  For warm season grasses, it is the winter.  No one expects their bermuda lawn to be green and actively growing in January.  Everyone understands that it is dormant.

What about a cool season turf?  When is fescue’s off season?  

Fescue is at its best in the spring and fall, often has greenish-brown freeze burnt leaves in the dead of winter but goes through an off season during July and August when temperatures average 90 plus.

One of the advantages of fescue, when best practices are followed, is it will keep good color during its off season, unlike bermuda.  Bermuda will always have more color than fescue in July and August, but March through early June and September into December, you can’t beat the greens of a fescue lawn.  

Bermuda is the dominate turf in our region, but it doesn’t grow in shade.  Fescue is the preferred turf for shady areas.  Gracefully aging neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City area are full of mature trees and lawns that have transitioned from bermuda to fescue.  Every homeowner eventually must face the need for fescue in their landscape. 

How do you keep a fescue lawn looking its best in the summer heat? 

Let’s run through a list of best and worst practices for fescue during its off season.

Best practices for keeping fescue looking good during July and August:

  • Mow fescue at 3” – 3 ½”.  The more leaf space the better color and the more draught tolerant the lawn will be.

  • Water deep.  Water infrequent.  Water in the early morning.  Fescue lawns that are receiving 1 ½” of moisture per week, on an every other day schedule, only in the early morning, look the best in the heat of summer. 

  • Fescue lawns that receive at least some dappled sunlight look the best during the summer heat.

 
Fescue lawn with dappled sunshine.

Fescue lawn with dappled sunshine.

 
  • Fescue lawns that are aerated in the fall have stronger root systems and can better withstand hot, dry days.

 
Fescue when watered and mowed properly in full sun in the heat of the summer.

Fescue when watered and mowed properly in full sun in the heat of the summer.

 

Worst practices for fescue during the summer heat:

  • Fescue cut too short.  Remember leaf blades store moisture the plant needs to withstand the summer heat.

  • Stop watering twice per day, morning and evening, every day.  Short and frequent watering does far more harm than good.  It is a myth that fescue needs to be kept wet during the summer heat.  When temperatures are hot and fescue stays consistently wet for more than 6 hours at a time, brown patch will damage the turf.  When brown patch starts spreading in a fescue lawn it looks like the lawn needs more water.  The natural response is to water more which makes the problem worse.  On most site visits I made in the past two weeks where customers were concerned about their fescue, I discovered brown patch was the problem.  In each case the homeowner had increased watering to two times per day, morning and evening, every day.

 
Brown patch in fescue.

Brown patch in fescue.

Fescue with a mild case of brown patch.

Fescue with a mild case of brown patch.

 
  • Heavy shade and low air circulation.  Fescue performs best if it receives some light every day.  Fescue will tolerate more sun than most realize and does well in full sun when it is watered and mowed properly.  Air circulation plays the important role of drying the leaf blades between watering cycles.  Small backyards, with wood fences, and heavy shade are the hardest on fescue in July and August.

 
Drought stressed fescue.

Drought stressed fescue.

 
  • Tight clay soil that has never been aerated result in shallow rooted fescue that will struggle in the heat.

 
Fescue seeded over Bermuda in full sun in the heat of the year.

Fescue seeded over Bermuda in full sun in the heat of the year.

Fescue in full to dappled sun in July.

Fescue in full to dappled sun in July.

 

During fescue’s offseason take a stroll around your lawn and start planning for the fall.  The cooler days of September will be here soon.

Do you need to make some changes to how you are mowing and watering your fescue?

Are you trying to grow fescue in full shade, in a location where there is little wind movement?  If so, can you improve the conditions, or should you consider transitioning to a shade tolerant ground cover?

If your fescue didn’t perform well due to the excessive moisture and high humidity of the early summer, or if it has struggled with brown patch in the heat, start making plans to overseed this fall. 

Do you have areas of the lawn that are becoming too shady for bermuda?  Bermuda starts to thin anywhere it does not get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.   Is this the fall to start establishing fescue in those areas?

Whether you have a full fescue lawn or just some fescue in shady areas, don’t fret, fescue’s best season is just a few weeks away!

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape

(405)367-3873

   

What can your lawn do for you?

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In the race to reduce carbon output and conserve water, many have forgotten the long list of benefits of a healthy lawn.  Concerns over water supplies, herbicides, pollutants, and your carbon footprint have caused some to race toward a more minimalist approach to landscapes and lawns. 

Over the past few years the media joined the war against the landscape with articles such as “The Life and Death of the American Lawn.  Grasses – green, neatly trimmed, symbols of civic virtue – shaped the national landscape. They have now outlived their purpose.” 

One of the hottest trends is the replacement of natural grass with landscape gravel or artificial turf.  Both have their place, but not at the expense of a healthy landscape of plants, trees, and turf.   

Is it good for the environment when living plants are replaced with artificial materials? Yes, water will be saved.  Yes, there will be less fertilizer used.  But, is there more to consider?

Can replacing a living plants with artificial materials really be a net positive for the environment?  

When it comes to the benefits of turf grass most people don’t give it much thought.  The environmental benefits of a healthy lawn are seldom considered. Most would have a hard time answering the question, “What is your lawn doing for you?” 

Let’s explore a few reasons why a healthy landscape is important to our environment:

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Turfgrass captures carbon.

Healthy lawns absorb carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen.

The average, managed lawn, captures more carbon than a lawnmower produces. The average lawn captures 300 lbs. of carbon per year and has a net positive impact on our environment. 


A 2,500 sq. ft lawn, half the size of the average lawn, provides enough oxygen for a family of four. 


What is a managed lawn?  A lawn that receives regular mowing, and some fertilizer and weed control applications.  Maintaining a healthy turfgrass environment provides us with a critical component of a healthy world – less carbon.  An Ohio State study found lawns that received only an occasional mowing and no fertilizer or weed control captured far less carbon.   

Maintenance habits have a big influence on whether turfgrass helps or hurts the environment. Lawns cut too short typically create a negative carbon exchange.  Weedy lawns, nutrient deficient lawns, and drought stress lawns result in thin lawns that have a negative impact on the environment.    

 

Actively growing and healthy landscapes can provide benefits of heat reduction.

Trees, shrubs, and lawn areas around homes can reduce air temperatures on the average 15 degrees compared to concrete, asphalt or gravel.

Studies estimate that improved planting and maintenance of lawns and landscapes could reduce total US air conditioning requires by 25%.  Grass cools the air by absorbing solar radiation and through evapotranspiration.

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A healthy turf slows water runoff reducing erosion and therefore reducing sediment build up and improves the quality of streams, ponds, and lakes.

Less runoff increases infiltration of water into the groundwater supply.  A dense root system traps and removes pollutants moving through the soil and into the water supply.  The natural filtration system of healthy turfgrass improves water quality.

Turfgrass is more effective at stopping erosion than any other plant.  Grass naturally slows runoff and allows more water to be absorbed.  Also, grass is a natural water purifier.

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Lawns are a major component of higher home values.

Smart Money reported consumers value a home with a well maintained lawn and landscape on the average 11.3% over the base value. 

Healthy lawns improve air quality by trapping dust and allergens.   

Dense turf reduces the blowing of soil particles.  Also, it only takes 25 sq. ft. of turfgrass to provide enough oxygen for one adult for one day.

Great lawns benefit the community and human health.

Green areas enhance community pride, provide places for people to come together and promotes outdoor activity.  Research shows the result is improved physical and mental health and reduced stress.

The belief that well maintained lawns are an environmental liability are short-sighted.  Water concerns are legitimate.  Overwatering lawns and excessive use of fertilizers and herbicides drive much of the concern.  Education on proper watering, maintenance, fertilizer, and herbicide use is important.

A scientific study “The Role of Turfgrasses in Environmental Protection and Their Benefits to Humans” concluded that there is no valid scientific basis for water restrictions of turfgrass.  The report stated, “the main cause for excessive landscape water use in most situations is the human factor.”

James Beard, Professor Emeritus of Texas A&M, said, “The environmental benefits of turfgrass are the most sensible and economically feasible approach to counter the greenhouse effect.”

So, what has your lawn done for you lately?  “More than you can imagine!”

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn & Landscape

What's eating your landscape?

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What’s Eating at You? 

Better Yet - What’s Eating at Your Landscape?

Do you ever go through spells where something is bugging you and you just can’t seem to shake it? 

Well, that is exactly how a lot of landscape plants are feeing right now!

Before we jump into the bugs, let’s talk about the most important gift you can give your plants…

ATTENTION!
Healthy landscapes are a result of an Integrated Pest Management program. The first step of an IPM approach is maintaining healthy plant material with proper watering, feeding, and pruning. Insect activity increases on plant material that is already stressed. The second step is simply monitoring your plants. Weekly observation is critically important. Does the overall plant color look healthy? How do the leaves look?

Complete control is much easier when insects are noticed early and populations are small.

Here are a few of the things that may be eating at your landscape this week:   

Bagworms

  • ½-2” long spindle shaped bag wrapped in the foliage of the host plant.  Young bagworms are very hard to spot.

  • Favorite host plants are juniper, arborvitae, spruce, pine and cedar.  But, they can attach themselves to deciduous shrubs and trees. 

  • Females lay eggs in bags left on plants over the winter.  One female bagworm will lay as many as 500 eggs. The eggs hatch in the late spring and tiny larva crawl out and start feeding.  As they feed, they use silk and plant materials to protect and camouflage themselves.  Bagworms can strip a plant of foliage.   They are active from May through September.

  • Heavy infestations, particularly on the same plant year after year, can cause plant death.

  • When there are only a few, control is best done by hand picking.  If you have a large population an insecticide treatment should be made as soon as they are noticed.  Try to remove any bags left on plant material in the fall.  Bags left on the plant will serve as cocoons for females to lay more eggs. When removing bags, destroy them.  Do not pick and toss on the ground as the worm will crawl back to a plant.

 
Young bagworms are small and can be hard to see. They wrap themselves in the plant needles making them hard to notice.

Young bagworms are small and can be hard to see. They wrap themselves in the plant needles making them hard to notice.

If you notice a juniper or cedar starting to loose color, inspect for bagworms.

If you notice a juniper or cedar starting to loose color, inspect for bagworms.

Left untreated, large, heavy infestations of bagworms will kill mature trees and shrubs.

Left untreated, large, heavy infestations of bagworms will kill mature trees and shrubs.

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Aphids

  • A small, soft-bodied insect that is nearly invisible to the naked eye.  The honeydew, sticky substance they excrete is the easiest way to know aphids are active.  Colonies develop on the underside of the leaf and often are not noticed until the sticky substance starts to show.

  • They feed on the leaves, stems and buds of a wide variety of plants throughout the growing season.  Usually they attack the succulent new growth.

  • Aphids generally do not cause serious harm to mature plants, although they can be harmful to young plants.  Heavy populations can cause wilt and yellowing of leaves as the sap is removed.  Blooming trees and shrubs will see a reduction in flowers.  Aphids can promote sooty mold, a fungal disease, and spread viruses. 

  • Early detection is the key.  Aphids mature in 7-10 days and can produce 40-60 offspring resulting in population explosions in the thousands within a few weeks. 

  • When populations are small, a high-pressure blast of water can be used to wash the insects off the leaves.   Wiping the leaves with a soapy solution is also effective with early detection.  In most cases, once you notice the honeydew, it is best to treat with an insecticide.  A dormant oil application in the winter is helpful in reducing populations the following season.  Lady bugs can be used as a beneficial insect control when populations are small.

 
Aphids feed on the underside of the leaf and become noticeable as the leaf becomes covered with the sticky substance they excrete.

Aphids feed on the underside of the leaf and become noticeable as the leaf becomes covered with the sticky substance they excrete.

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Spider Mites

  • Very small (1/60 of an inch) that live on the underside of leaves and survive by sucking on the cell content of the leaves.  First shows up as stippling of light dots on the leaves.  Leaves then turn from bronze, to yellow, and then fall off. 

  • They get their name from the small silk protective webs they create. 

  • Because spider mite damage can look like many other plant problems, the best way to determine if it is spider mites is to shake the plant leaves over a white sheet of paper.  Spider mites will look like tiny moving black dots on the paper. 

  • They are active from early summer through fall, but the hotter and dryer the weather, the more severe the spider mite problem will become. 

  • Spider mites reproduce rapidly when conditions are perfect.  Spider mites can hatch in as little as 3 days and become mature within 5 days.  One female can lay up to 20 eggs per day during their 2-4 week life span.

  • The best control results from making two applications 7-10 days apart.

  • Adequate plant moisture during the hottest time of the year helps prevent population explosions.

 
Early signs of spider mites.

Early signs of spider mites.

Silk protective webbing formed by the spider mite.

Silk protective webbing formed by the spider mite.

To know if you have spider mites shake leaves over a white sheet of paper.    Spider mites will look like tiny moving black dots.

To know if you have spider mites shake leaves over a white sheet of paper.

Spider mites will look like tiny moving black dots.

 

Webworm

  • Caterpillars that weave a loose web around tree branches while they are munching on the leaves. 

  • Favorite trees include hickory, mulberry, oak, pecan, popular, redbud, sweetgum, and willow.  But, you can find them on most ornamental shade trees when populations are heavy.

  • There are typically two generations each season, but there can be as many as four.  First generation shows up in July and the last generation is in September or October.

  • Early generations won’t cause long lasting damage.  They are just unsightly.  The last generation can cause damage when the branch tries to re-bud just before a killing frost.  When this occurs, you can expect the affected branch to die.

  • The best control is to cut out any affected branches in the early generations when the webbing is small.  Completely dispose of the branch as the worms will exit the webbing and return to a tree.  If the population has increased to the point that pruning is not possible, an insecticide application will be needed.  The spray must penetrate the webbing to gain control of the caterpillars.  Dormant oil applications are a good idea as worms overwinter in tree bark.

 
The webworm caterpillar weaves a loose web around tree branches to protect themselves while they are destroying your tree’s leaves.

The webworm caterpillar weaves a loose web around tree branches to protect themselves while they are destroying your tree’s leaves.

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Inspect your plant material often.  Our landscapes represent large investments in both time and money. They add curb appeal and provide enormous benefits to the environment.  It is important that we do all we can to keep them healthy and growing.

Let us know if we can help you have any questions or concerns about your plant materials.

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape

(405)367-3873

Summertime = water time!

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The forecast is beginning to look like a typical July – temps in the 90’s, lots of sunshine, and only slight chances of scattered showers.     

All the abundant moisture this year is fading quickly from the soils.  In the last 10 days the soil moisture content has gone from 1.0 (saturated) to .2 (dry).  Other than a few scattered showers, it has now been two weeks since we received a 1” of rainfall.  


Good watering practices need to be your number one focus in the landscape for the next few weeks.

Good watering practices will have the biggest influence in the health and appearance of your landscape the rest of the summer.

Best Watering Practices…

Apply 1” to 1.5” of water per week.  

Your lawn and landscape need 1” to 1.5” of moisture per week when temperatures are consistently 85 degrees or higher. 

A common question is “How long should I water?”  Every irrigation system is different – different head types, different size nozzles, different head spacing, different areas, etc.  

The best way to know how long you should water is to measure the amount of water your system puts out in each zone. Take a few cans and place them around your lawn in a random pattern. Run your sprinklers through a cycle and measure the amount of water in the cans. If the sprinklers ran for 15 minutes and you had .25” of water, you need 60 to 90 minutes per week.

Next determine how long you can run your irrigation before you there is excessive runoff. This will tell you how many times per week you need to water. If you can get away with watering every 4th day, you will have a healthier, stronger landscape. Unfortunately, with our tight soils, watering every other day on the required ODD/EVEN system during the hottest times is needed to get the correct amount of water on the lawn without excessive runoff.

If you don’t have the time to audit the amount of water your system puts out, start with these settings, monitor, and adjust: Fixed spray pattern heads with 10-15’ spacings – 15 mins per time. Larger rotor type heads on 10-30’ spacings – 40 mins per time.

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Set your controller to water with back to back run times. 

For most of our landscapes, if we run our sprinklers long enough to get the recommended amount of water, we end up with a lot of water running down the street.  Split your zone run time in half and set your controller to run through the zones back to back. 

Example:  Set the controller to run at 4:00 AM and 4:30 AM.  When the 4:00 cycle completes, even if it past 4:30, the controller will start the second cycle. 

I know from experience that moist soil will absorb more water than dry soil.  Soil is just like the sponge in your sink. A dried sponge repels water before it starts absorbing water.  Your landscape is the same.  The first cycle moistens the soil and the second cycle soaks in. 

Split, back to back, irrigation cycles are an old golf course trick.  In fact, large commercial irrigation controllers have a run/soak cycle setting that waters a short time, delays, and then waters a longer time.

I started this a few years ago on lawns with slopes and gradually have incorporated the concept to all lawns.  It makes a difference in watering efficiency.

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Water in the early morning. 

Evaporation is at the lowest point in the pre-dawn hours.  Also, wind is usually at the lowest point of the day in the pre-dawn hours.  I prefer to set most irrigation controllers to start at 4:00 AM with the goal of having the cycle completed by 8:00 AM. 

Avoid watering in the heat of the day when much of the water will be lost to evaporation.  Also, avoid watering in the evening. Watering in the evening promotes many turf diseases because the lawn stays wet too long.

This is critical for fescue lawns.  If fescue stays wet for more than 6 hours at a time and temperatures are in the upper 80’s or higher, brown patch is unavoidable.  Fescue performs best in the heat if it is watered deeply and grass blades are dry by noon. 

Earlier this week I reset a system on a fescue lawn that had brown patch starting in several areas.  The system was set to run at 4:00 AM, noon, and 9:00 PM every day.  They were creating the perfect breeding and spreading conditions for their lawn’s worst enemy.

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Daily watering is not needed.  

Unless you are trying to get newly planted seed to germinate or new sod to take root, there is not a good reason to water every day.  Always water deep and infrequent.  Daily, shallow watering creates a landscape that is shallow rooted and more dependent on constant moisture for survival. 

Fescue will benefit from a deep soaking, every other day, during the summer months just like Bermuda. Shallow, daily watering in the summer heat is very damaging to fescue. Remember - Brown patch symptoms look very similar to draught stress. Typically, the more you water, the worse the fescue looks, so you add more water, and the cycle of decline continues.

A common myth I would love to dispel is that fescue requires a lot more water than bermuda.  Yes, it does for a couple of weeks in the fall when you are trying to get newly seeded fescue to germinate, but mature fescue doesn’t require more moisture than bermuda

I water my fescue the same way I water bermuda – deep, infrequent cycles.

Aeration improves moisture absorption. 

You can’t beat aeration for improving your soil structure. A key benefit of improved soil structure is better water absorption.  Lawns that receive annual aeration (or at least every other year) do not experience as much runoff. 

Always pay attention to water need. 

If we receive .5” of rain or more, turn your controller off for a few days.  Install a rain sensor if you are not good at remembering.  A rain sensor will pay for itself easily in one season.  Just because it is summer, don’t assume you can leave your controller in automatic and forget it. 

Don’t stress if your lawn and landscape gets a little dry, it will rebound quickly once water is applied.  Remember, just as we have experienced this spring and early summer, too much water is more damaging than not enough. 

A good indicator that your lawn is needing water is the foot print test.  If the grass retains your foot prints instead of quickly springing back, it is time to resume watering.

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Watch for uneven water patterns. 

If you notice areas where the lawn color is fading, you may have uneven moisture patterns.  This could be the result of a broken head, clogged nozzle, or a head that is out of adjustment.  

Even if you don’t have an irrigation system, the concepts of good watering apply.  

It is important to learn how long you need to water when you are using a hose end sprinkler.  Next time you water, set out a few cans.  You will be surprised how long you need to water to get the proper amount of water on your lawn.  Invest in a digital hose water timer, such as the ones made by Orbit.  It will make it easier for you to control the timing and frequency of watering. 
 

If you need help in determining your lawn and landscape’s water needs, let us know. 

We can schedule an irrigation audit for your lawn and landscape.  We will inspect for even water distribution, measure water rates, adjust heads, make recommended irrigation changes, and set the controller for optimal operation. 

Give us a call if we can help – (405)367-3873. 

A healthy landscape is an important part of our environment.  A healthy turf helps clean the air, trap carbon dioxide, reduce erosion, improve groundwater quality, absorb noise, reduces temperatures, as well as, adds cub appeal and value to your home.  A key component to a healthy landscape is proper water usage. 

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape

July Lawn & Landscape Tips

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Shocker!  We have gone a whole week without rainfall in the Oklahoma City metro area.  This is the first week since mid-February that we have not had some precipitation. Normal annual rainfall in our area is around 35”, compared to 55” we have received in the last 365 days. 

If there is any practice that has been reinforced this year is important to plant a little high and make sure you have positive drainage away from your plant materials.  During periods of excessive moisture, plants with poor drainage, or ones that are planted too low, even if it was years ago, will be weakened by root damage.  Plants need the right balance of air and moisture in the soil.  When excessive water robs the soil of space for air, roots start to rot.  Rarely do know there is a problem until temperatures start to rise and the plant doesn’t have enough root system to supply the plant with needed moisture.  This week we looked at several plants that are struggling with root damage from the excess moisture. 

What is important for lawn and landscape now that temperatures are in the low to mid 90s and less rain is in the forecast?

Let’s take a look…

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Mowing – For warm season turfs (Bermuda and zoyia) gradually raise the height of your mower. Bermuda should be mowed between 1.5” to 2.5” during the summer heat. Fescue, cool season turf, should be maintained at its maximum height, 3” to 3.5” now. The more leaf space you have the more drought resistant your lawn will be. Mow often enough that you only remove 1/3” of the grass each time. For healthy, irrigated, and fertilized Bermuda, if possible, mow every 4-5 days for the best lawn. If you are mowing often enough you are only removing 1/3 of the growth, don’t catch the clippings. Grass leaves are mostly water and nitrogen and they break down very quickly into the soil. If your lawn has a brown cast to it after you mow, you are cutting below the leaves and into the stems. Stems do not break down quickly and can lead to thatch build-up, so if this is the case, it is best to bag when mowing.

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Watering – Your lawn and landscape needs at least 1” to 1.5” of moisture per week during the hottest periods of the summer. Water on an odd/even schedule early in the morning – before dawn. Avoid watering in the evening. Remember, deep soakings are always best. Shallow watering creates shallow roots dependent on more frequent watering. Monitor local rainfall and turn irrigation off when there is sufficient rainfall. Newer plantings will require additional watering until they have established roots.

Brown Patch – We are starting to see brown patch on Fescue. Brown patch occurs when there is excessive moisture, high humidity, and/or high due points when summer temperatures are in the 90s. Brown patch is worse in areas with dense shade and/or low wind movement. Anytime the leaf blades of your fescue stay wet for more than 6 hours at a time in the summer, brown patch is unavoidable. The temptation is to water fescue more frequently in the summer. It is common for us to find fescue lawns with the irrigation set to run morning and night creating the perfect conditions for the disease to spread. If you have heavy shade and/or low wind movement (most smaller backyards) water after sunrise and no more than every other day. Resist the urge to water more. Your fescue is not dying due to summer heat, it is struggling with brown patch. As a part of our 7 Step Lawn Care Program for cool season lawns, lawns with brown patch will receive a fungicide to help suppress the disease.

Fertilizer – Because warm season grasses are actively growing, they need feeding during July. We try to use a fertilizer with close to a 3 to 1 to 1 of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).  Most of our soils have plenty of phosphorous and potassium, but nitrogen needs to be replaced.  July is a great month for turf development and a thick, healthy growing lawn is the best defense to weeds. Do not fertilize fescue lawns now.  As a cool season grass, fertilizer in the heat of the summer on fescue will cause damage.

Weed Control – If you are on a regular lawn care application program, and if your first application was made prior to the first of March, you shouldn’t be experiencing many summer annual weeds.  But, with the excessive rain, we have seen some breakdown of pre-emergent herbicides, and a lot of nut sedge.  Nut sedge thrives in tight, wet soils – this year is the perfect storm for nut sedge.  If you didn’t get an early pre-emergent, you most likely have a good crop of crabgrass now. Controlling weeds in the heat of the year often can cause more damage to the turf than is beneficial.  It is important that label instructions are always followed when spraying for weeds.  Don’t over apply.  Again, what is most important in July is developing a thick, healthy turf.  If you are too aggressive on weeds now you will have weak spots that are more susceptible to weeds in the future.  

Shrub Pruning – Selective pruning and light shearing should be practiced during the summer heat. Major pruning needs to wait for now. Avoid any pruning or shearing on spring blooming plants because most likely you will be removing flower buds and reducing the show next spring. 

Aphids

Insect Watch – The first step to healthy plants is inspecting them regularly and then treating as needed. If you attempt to treat on a schedule, you will find that you often will miss the target pest. This year is a prime example. Bagworms and aphids have both been late to the game. With bagworms, by this time of the summer they are usually getting big and very noticeable. This week I noticed a few needle evergreens with very small bagworms aggressively feeding. Aphids also are late but are now aggressively attacking plants. Start watching for spider mites. They thrive in hot, dry conditions. They gather on the underside of your plant leaves and do damage by sucking sap from the leaves. They will leave small holes and eventually your leaves will look yellow and weak. They are very small and can be very hard to see. Take a white sheet of paper, place it below the leaf and lightly shake the leaf. If you see small specs of red, yellow and brown on the paper and they start moving around, it isn’t dust and dirt you are seeing, it is spider mites. Organic controls include insecticidal soap, predatory insects, and neem oil. If you subscribe to our Tree & Shrub Care program, we are inspecting each time we visit your landscape and treating as needed.

Bag worms

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Grub Worm Control – If you have experienced grub damage in the past, or if you have noticed a lot of June bugs around your landscape, July through August is a good window to apply an application for control. Grub worms are the larva form of the June bug. June bugs have laid their eggs and they are hatching now. Grubs are easiest to control when the new grub is small and feeding close to the surface in July and August.

Tree Leaves – Expect some leaf drop on deciduous trees in the summer heat.  Because of the abundant rainfall this year, trees are loaded with foliage and we may experience a lot of leaf drop should July and August turn out hot and dry.  Some leaf drop is a good thing as the tree naturally adjusts to the amount of moisture it is receiving.  The fun fact about most trees is they have a secondary set of buds.  If they are stressed, they naturally drop leaves to survive, and then re-bud as they recover.

If you have any lawn or landscape concerns, needs or questions, please give us a call – (405)367-3873.

Lorne Hall

Hall|Stewart

Crape Myrtle - Summer's Biggest Show!

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This week marked the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and the start of Crape Myrtle season. 

Most blooming trees and shrubs last for only a few days or a couple of weeks.  But the crape myrtle holds the distinction of being our longest blooming shrub or tree.  Typically, the crape myrtle starts adding color to the landscape in mid-June and doesn’t stop until the first frost.  This year, due to the cooler than normal start to the summer, the crape myrtle hasn’t started to put on their summer show yet but will in the next couple of weeks.   

This past week, I was fortunate to spend a few days in Charleston, South Carolina, the first place the French planted crape myrtles in the United States.  One of our favorite activities of the week was a morning walk through Charleston’s crape myrtle lined streets. 

There are over 50 varieties of crape myrtles and new ones are introduced every year.  They are found throughout the southern US and perform well anywhere south of USDA zone 6. 

Crape myrtle Sizes    Standard Crape Myrtles  - When allowed to grow as a small tree will reach up to 25’ in our region and require little maintenance. Simply remove any dead wood from the tips of the branches in the spring and let the plant go for the season. They can be grown as a single trunk or a multitrunked tree.   Semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles  - Typically grow 8-12’ tall and make an excellent colorful screen when grown in a row.   Dwarf Crape Myrtles  - Grow only 2-4’ tall, are small and mounding, and ideal for a landscape bed where you want a splash of summer color.  Selecting the right sized plant is important. Crape myrtles are at their best when they can grow to their natural shape and size. Constant pruning on the wrong size plant to keep it in a space it was not meant to fit will reduce the summer blooms.

Crape myrtle Sizes

Standard Crape Myrtles - When allowed to grow as a small tree will reach up to 25’ in our region and require little maintenance. Simply remove any dead wood from the tips of the branches in the spring and let the plant go for the season. They can be grown as a single trunk or a multitrunked tree.

Semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles - Typically grow 8-12’ tall and make an excellent colorful screen when grown in a row.

Dwarf Crape Myrtles - Grow only 2-4’ tall, are small and mounding, and ideal for a landscape bed where you want a splash of summer color.

Selecting the right sized plant is important. Crape myrtles are at their best when they can grow to their natural shape and size. Constant pruning on the wrong size plant to keep it in a space it was not meant to fit will reduce the summer blooms.

Crape Myrtle Colors – The color pallet ranges from white, pink, purple and red.  Bloom color is not the only attribute of a crape myrtle.  Their foliage ranges from dark green, wine colored, velvet and dark purple. The combination of the bloom and foliage colors is one of the things that attracts me to the plant.

I am most fond of the large, full sized, tree formed crapemyrtles.  It is hard to narrow my list of favorite crapemyrtles, and my list often changes, but these are just a few of my current favorites:

Pink Velour  – Large 12-15’ small tree form with dark wine foliage and bright pink flowers. The foliage and flower combination are very striking.

Pink Velour – Large 12-15’ small tree form with dark wine foliage and bright pink flowers. The foliage and flower combination are very striking.

Dynamite  – Also a small tree that grows up to 15’. Dynamite was one of the first red tree form varieties. New foliage is nearly crimson in color and changes to a rich green as it matures. Flowers are brilliant red.

Dynamite – Also a small tree that grows up to 15’. Dynamite was one of the first red tree form varieties. New foliage is nearly crimson in color and changes to a rich green as it matures. Flowers are brilliant red.

Natchez  – One of the largest tree form crape myrtles reaching 25’. Foliage is rich green, and flowers are white. The cinnamon brown bark puts on a show of its own as it exfoliates.

Natchez – One of the largest tree form crape myrtles reaching 25’. Foliage is rich green, and flowers are white. The cinnamon brown bark puts on a show of its own as it exfoliates.

Ebony Flame  – A great accent plant that grows 10-12’ with dark red blooms on intense black foliage.

Ebony Flame – A great accent plant that grows 10-12’ with dark red blooms on intense black foliage.

One of the nation’s leading innovators of crape myrtles is Oklahoma’s own, Dr. Carl Whitcomb. Dr. Whitcomb holds 32 patents and has authored five books including Know It and Grow It, a book every landscape enthusiast should own. You can see all of Dr. Whitcomb’s crape myrtles by following this link: http://drcarlwhitcomb.com/Patented_Plants.html

Crape Myrtle Bark  – One of the most overlooked aspects of the plant is the bark. The bark is smooth and ranges in color from pink to gray. As the plant matures, the thin bark exfoliates to expose a different color underneath. Too often, tree form crape myrtles are severely pruned every spring and we never get to enjoy the beautiful bark of the mature plant.

Crape Myrtle Bark – One of the most overlooked aspects of the plant is the bark. The bark is smooth and ranges in color from pink to gray. As the plant matures, the thin bark exfoliates to expose a different color underneath. Too often, tree form crape myrtles are severely pruned every spring and we never get to enjoy the beautiful bark of the mature plant.

Crape Myrtle Fall Color  – Another overlooked characteristic of the plant is the fall color. Varieties range from yellow to red. Much of our fall color is found in larger trees. Crape myrtles add fall color to the landscape below the color of the large trees.

Crape Myrtle Fall Color – Another overlooked characteristic of the plant is the fall color. Varieties range from yellow to red. Much of our fall color is found in larger trees. Crape myrtles add fall color to the landscape below the color of the large trees.

I would challenge anyone to find another plant that offers so many features to the landscape.  From the long bloom, the variety of colors, the many shapes and sizes, and the addition of exfoliating bark and good fall color, you can’t deny the crape myrtle a place in your landscape.

Lorne Hall

Hall Stewart Lawn + Landscape