Tips

Why You Shouldn’t Hard Prune Crape Myrtles

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A properly placed Crape Myrtle is a low maintenance plant needing little or no pruning. Problems with overgrown, misshapen, or misplaced Crape Myrtles can be greatly reduced with proper selection of Crape Myrtle cultivars, proper plant selection at the nursery, and proper plant placement in the landscape.

Crape Myrtle pruning started because there were only a few cultivars available, none of which were “dwarf” or smaller varieties. the only way to keep a Crape Myrtle to a desired height was by hard pruning “topping” on a regular basis. Topping leaves large branch and stem stubs that are not only unsightly, they can also weaken the plant. This practice, known as “Crape Murder” is no longer recommended.

Negative effects of hard pruning:

  1. Delays flowering in the Spring and can shorten the season of bloom.
  2. Stimulates sprouting from the roots of the base of the main stem which takes nutrients away from the tree.
  3. Removes large amounts of starches and other food reserves which weaken the plant.
  4. Dramatically reduces the size of the plant canopy, decreasing its ability to perform photosynthesis.
  5. Increase the risk of wood decay and insect infestations.

Generally, Crape Myrtle pruning of any kind should be avoided unless it improves the plant structure or removes dead or damaged branches and twigs. If pruning is necessary, tip pruning “tipping” is acceptable. Tipping removes small-diameter branches (typically one-year-old) on the outer edge of the plant canopy where the spent flowers and seed capsules are. However, tipping is very time-consuming and impractical on larger Crape Myrtles and has no real benefit to the plant.

 

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

 

Soil pH and its Effect on Nutrient Availability

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There are 18 elements necessary for plant growth. They are Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Boron, Copper, Zinc, Molybdenum, Chlorine, Nickel, and Silicon. Soil pH directly affects the growth and quality of many landscape plants by influencing the chemical form of many elements in the soil and soil microbial processes. For example, landscape plants may exhibit nutrient deficiency or toxicity symptoms as a result of highly acidic or alkaline soils pH. In acidic soils, the availability of plant nutrients such as Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium is reduced, while the availability of potentially toxic elements such as Aluminum, Iron, and Zinc are increased. In alkaline soils, Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Boron are commonly deficient.

So what is soil pH? Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. On the pH scale, a value of 7 is neutral, a value less than 7 is acidic, and a value greater than 7 is alkaline. Florida soils can vary widely in pH, depending on the “parent material” from which the soil formed or on the management of the soil. For example, soils formed under pine flatwoods can be quite acidic. In contrast, soils formed from calcium carbonate-bearing materials like limestone, marl, or seashells are alkaline. Alkaline conditions are common in coastal soils and the mineral soils of south Florida. It is also common to encounter alkaline soils in the home landscape as a result of calcium carbonate-rich building materials (i.e., concrete, stucco, etc.) that may be left in the soil following construction.

Most common landscape plants are well suited to a wide soil pH range. For example, popular woody shrubs and trees (e.g., pittosporum, viburnum, oak, and pine) grow well in acidic to moderately alkaline soils. However, there are a few acid-loving plants like azalea and gardenia that do not grow well in soils with pH greater than 5.5. St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda grass prefer a pH range between 6-7 while Centipede prefers a range between 4.5-6.

The best advice about dealing with soil pH is to choose landscape plants suited for the natural pH of your landscape soil. While some soil additives can raise or lower the pH of soils, the effects of these materials are often short-lived. In addition, if your soil pH is within 0.5 of a pH unit of the ideal range, adjusting the pH will probably not improve plant performance. However, if you want to try to change your soil’s natural pH to grow a specific plant, you have the following options.

To raise the pH of acidic soils, add a liming material like calcium carbonate or dolomite. Dolomite has the added benefit of supplying Magnesium, which is often deficient in Florida soils. Have your soil tested before applying any liming materials because many of Florida’s natural and urban soils have an alkaline pH. If a soil pH test indicates that your soil is acidic, it is important to test for the lime requirement before applying any liming materials to the soil. The lime requirement test measures your soil’s natural ability to resist (buffer) changes in pH. This test is part of the standard landscape and garden soil test offered by the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory. Results of this test will indicate the amount of agricultural limestone you should apply to a specific area to reach a target pH.

In established landscapes, lime can be surface-applied and watered in, but take care not to overwater (e.g., no more than 0.5 inches of water over the treated area).

Unlike liming, lowering the pH of strongly alkaline soils is much more difficult if not impossible. In fact, there is no way to permanently lower the pH of soils formed from high Calcium materials, such as marl or limestone, or soils severely impacted by alkaline construction materials. In these circumstances, it is best to select plants that are tolerant of high pH conditions to avoid chronic plant nutrition problems.

Soil pH can be temporarily lowered by adding elemental sulfur. Bacteria in the soil change elemental sulfur into sulfuric acid, effectively neutralizing soil alkalinity. However, the effect of elemental sulfur is localized to the area that was amended, and the effect is temporary. Soil pH will begin to rise shortly after soil bacteria exhaust the added sulfur supply. This effect prompts repeated applications of sulfur to ensure that the soil remains at the desired pH. Using sulfur to amend a soil is complicated. Adding sulfur at high rates or applying it too frequently can damage your plants. If you decide to apply sulfur, be sure to look for signs of plant response after the application.

Always consider the pH of your soil when selecting new plant material for your home landscape or garden. Take action to correct soil pH only when it is substantially higher or lower than the desired pH for the plants you are growing. To avoid damage to your landscape plants, always have your soil tested for pH and lime requirement (if soil pH is acidic) before adding lime or sulfur to the soil.

 

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

 

Large Patch

Large Patch also known as Brown Patch (Rhizoctonia solani) is a disease that occurs on all warm-season grasses, especially St. Augustine and Zoysia. This disease is most likely to be observed from November through May when temperatures are below 80 degrees. Infection is triggered by rainfall, excessive irrigation, or extended periods of high humidity resulting in the leaves being continuously wet for 48 hours or more. 

This disease usually begins as small patches (about 1 foot in diameter) that turn yellow and then reddish brown, brown, or straw colored as the leaves start to die. Patches can expand to several feet in diameter. It is not uncommon to see rings of yellow or brown turf with apparently healthy turf in the center. Turf at the outer margins of a patch may appear dark and wilted.

Large Patch

The best way to help avoid getting Large Patch is to irrigate on an As Needed basis during the early morning hours when dew is already present. Fungicides can be used once the disease is present, however, they only stop the disease from spreading they do not promote turfgrass growth.

The turf must be actively growing in order for the diseased turfgrass to recover. Symptoms do not disappear until new leaves develop and the old leaves are removed by mowing or decomposition. Since the disease normally occurs when the turfgrass is not growing very rapidly, recovery may be very slow.

 

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

 

Battling the Southern Chinch Bug

thb2HairyChinchBugAllStages02bThe Southern Chinch Bug is currently the most difficult to control and most damaging insect pest of St. Augustine grass in Florida. Nymphs and adults feed on plant fluids withing the leaf sheaths, down in the thatch, and this feeding kills the grass plants and contributes to weed invasion. Homeowners and lawn care companies seek to prevent this damage by repeatedly applying insecticides to keep Chinch Bug numbers low. However, numerous Chinch Bug populations have developed resistance to every major chemical class that has been used against them.

Southern Chinch Bug activity occurs from March through November in North Florida. It is estimated that 3 to 4 generations with overlapping life stages develop each year in our area. New damage may appear by May or June, depending on Spring temperatures, and any damage that existed in late Fall will become apparent in the Spring. Part of the difficulty in dealing with this pest is that one generation may develop in 4-6 weeks during the summer and any insecticides used to treat them will likely kill the adults and nymphs, but the eggs will survive. Then new nymphs will hatch, and the infestation will continue. Thus, damage may become visible again within 2-3 months of treatment.

Adult females may live up to 2 months, laying 4 or 5 eggs a day, or 250-300 eggs in a lifetime. Eggs hatch within 6-13 days, and nymphs mature in 4-5 weeks. Southern Chinch Bug populations tend to be clumped, rather than randomly dispersed throughout a lawn. Infestations generally occur in open, sunny areas near sidewalks and driveways, but also in the middle of a lawn. Infested plants have slower growth, turn yellow, and die. As their host plants die, individuals will spread to healthy turf and continue feeding.

The Southern Chinch Bug causes millions of dollars worth of damage each year in Florida. There is no way to fully prevent this pest from infesting a lawn, but with early detection and proper chemical applications, the damage can be mitigated. Proper cultural practices, like mowing, fertilizing and watering can also reduce the susceptibility of an infestation.

For more information visit EDIS IFAS Extension.

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

 

 

 

Nematode Management

Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil and can be found in most lawns. Some nematodes are beneficial, feeding on bacteria, fungi or other microscopic organisms. However, other nematodes are harmful to plants because they feed on the plant tissues and cause plant damage. These plant-parasitic nematodes feed on the roots by puncturing the plant tissue and ingesting plant fluid. Some nematodes remain in the soil (ectoparasitic) while they feed and others (endoparasitic) crawl inside the root tissue to feed.

As nematodes feed, they cause damage to the roots reducing the ability of the plant to obtain water and nutrients from the soil. When nematode populations get high enough, or when environmental stresses such as high temperatures or drought occur, symptoms may become evident. These symptoms include yellowing, wilting, browning, thinning or plant death. The damage usually occurs in irregularly shaped patches that may enlarge slowly over time. Similar conditions may be caused by other factors such as soil condition, fungi or insects as well.

Here are the most common nematodes that damage southern turfgrasses.

Lance- St. Augustine, Zoysia and Burmuda

Sting- Zoysia, Burmuda and Centipede

Stubby-Root- St. Augustine

Root-Knot- Zoysia

Ring- Centipede

What can I do if my lawn has nematodes?

Many of the highly effective nematicides used in the past are no longer available because of their risk to humans and the environment. There are a few “organic” products that claim to suppress nematodes in home lawns. However, there is no field effectiveness data conducted by credible scientists that indicate they work.

There is one product that is labeled for home lawns and it uses a bacterium to help suppress nematodes. This bacteria (Bacillus firmus) colonizes the root system and produces compounds that protect the root system from nematodes. However, timing is critical to achieve good results with this product and repeat applications, 4-8 weeks apart, are necessary. This bacteria does not kill nematodes, it only protects the roots, and should not be used to “fix” an existing nematode problem.

The best way to manage a nematode problem is by improving overall plant health and avoiding other stresses on the grass. Grass that is given proper water and fertilizer can often withstand higher levels of nematode infestation. Depending on what nematodes are present, replacing with a different turf type might also be an option or replacing turf with an alternative groundcover could be beneficial.

 

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

 

How to win the battle against fleas and ticks.

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Blood-sucking fleas and ticks pose potential harm to your family and pets. Besides having an irritating bite, they also spread diseases. Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are just a few tick-borne diseases.

A single flea can lay up to 500 eggs in a matter of months, while a female tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs. They can survive weeks and even months without food just waiting for a host. Controlling fleas and ticks in and around your home can be achieved by following these recommendations.

First, if your pet has fleas and ticks, consulting a veterinarian should be your first step. They can recommend the proper treatment needed for your pet.

Secondly, controlling the fleas and ticks inside your home can be done by vacuuming your carpets several times, and washing dog bedding with hot water.

Finally, treatments outside your home should also be done.

Control fleas and ticks in your lawn with these simple tips.

  • Mow it right: Both of these insects hide in longer grass. Mowing your lawn at the proper height reduces flea and tick hang-outs.
  • Avoid overwatering: Fleas and ticks prefer moist environments. An overwatered or poorly draining lawn can extend an invitation to these insects. Ensure you’re watering your lawn properly. If you have a drainage issue, aerating may help. For moist, shady areas on your property, follow the tips below to limit the attraction for fleas and ticks.
  • Keep it clean: Neatness counts when it comes to eliminating habitats for fleas and ticks to hide and lay eggs. Remove yard debris, such as piles of lumber, bricks and stones. Keep shrubs pruned and bed area cleared.
  • Check pet hang-outs: Flea and tick larvae remain within 50 feet of your pet’s favorite resting areas. Clean and treat around any cool, shady spots your pet favors, such as spaces under decks or porches, beneath low-hanging shrubs or along fence lines. Don’t forget to treat dog runs and kennels too.
  • Protect your home: Establish a barrier around your home with a perimeter pesticide treatment. This treatment can prevent fleas and ticks from migrating into your home, although they can still hitch a ride on you or your pet.
  • Let the sun shine: Both fleas and ticks like shady, moist areas. Prune trees and shrubs to allow more sunlight to enter your landscape.

Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. offers a one-time Flea and Tick Treatment or an Annual Perimeter Pest Control Program. Our one-time Flea and Tick Treatment treats your lawn, where fleas and ticks hide, along with a perimeter spray around your home. Our Perimeter Pest Control Program involves routine pest inspections along with an insecticide barrier around the exterior of your foundation. We place four bait/monitoring stations around the perimeter of your home and spray the entire perimeter, including around all entry points where insects could enter the home. We also treat fire ant mounds and place bait around your landscape to greatly reduce the number of fire ants on your property. Monthly (12 applications) and Bi-monthly (6 applications) service plans are available.

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach and ask about our Flea and Tick Treatment or Perimeter Pest Control Program.

 

Perimeter Pest Control

Ant-individual-Florida has always been known as a “buggy” place by many people. Now it’s confirmed. In a recent national survey among homeowners conducted by Infogroup, Florida received the unwelcome distinction of being the state with the worst bug problems. Cockroaches, ants, termites – they’re all very comfortable residents of the Sunshine State.

The good news, these pests can be controlled and even prevented from infesting your home. With routine pest inspections and proper applications of baits and insecticides, anyone can have a pest free home. Perimeter Pest Control is the best option to prevent pest infestations inside your home. If you can control the invading pests on the outside you don’t have to deal with them on the inside.

So what is Perimeter Pest Control?

Perimeter Pest Control is an outer barrier protection plan to reduce bugs from entering your home and foundation. Since the treatment is performed outside, perimeter pest control is a safe method, since no chemicals will be applied inside your home. In fact, most perimeter pest control treatments do not require anyone to be present inside the house.

At Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. we offer a Perimeter Pest Control Program that involves routine pest inspections along with an insecticide barrier around the exterior of your home. We place four bait/monitoring stations around the perimeter of your home and spray the entire perimeter, including around all entry points where insects could enter the home. We also treat fire ant mounds and place bait around your landscape to greatly reduce the number of fire ants on your property. The common pests controlled with our Perimeter Pest Control Program are ants, spiders, roaches, millipedes, centipedes, fleas, ticks, crickets, earwigs and many other insects that can crawl into the house. Monthly (12 applications) and Bi-monthly (6 applications) service plans are available.

Just because we live in the state with the worst bug problem, doesn’t mean we have to live with those bugs in our homes.

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach and ask about our Perimeter Pest Control Program.

Mosquito Control

600x250_mosquitoMosquitoes are not only annoying, they are also the deadliest creatures on Earth. They transmit diseases like, West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever and dengue. They can even transmit heart worms to your dogs.

There are about 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, all of which live in specific habitats, exhibit unique behaviors and bite different types of animals. Despite these differences, all mosquitoes share some common traits, like their life cycle. All mosquito species go through four distinct stages during their life cycle:

  • egg – hatches when exposed to water
  • larva – “wriggler” lives in water; molts several times; most species surface to breathe air
  • pupa – “tumbler” does not feed; stage just before emerging as adult
  • adult – flies short time after emerging and after its body parts have hardened.

The first three stages occur in water, but the adult is an active flying insect. Only the female mosquito bites and feeds on the blood of humans or other animals.

  • After she obtains a blood meal, the female mosquito lays the eggs directly on or near water, soil and at the base of some plants in places that may fill with water. The eggs can survive dry conditions for a few months.
  • The eggs hatch in water and a mosquito larva or “wriggler” emerges. The length of time to hatch depends on water temperature, food and type of mosquito.
  • The larva lives in the water, feeds and develops into the third stage of the life cycle called, a pupa or “tumbler.” The pupa also lives in the water but no longer feeds.
  • Finally, the mosquito emerges from the pupal case after two days to a week in the pupal stage.
  • The life cycle typically takes up two weeks, but depending on conditions, it can range from 4 days to as long as a month.

Different species of mosquitoes prefer different types of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Some examples are old tires, buckets, toys, potted plant trays, gutters, around air conditioner units, etc.

Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. can control your mosquitoes to make sure your family stays healthy, and is able to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. Our Mosquito Control Program treats your landscape, where mosquitoes hide, along with areas where they breed, like standing water in gutters, retention areas, water features, etc. Each visit we inspect your yard for breeding and harborage areas and treat not only the adults, but the larva as well. Monthly (10 applications February – November) service plans available. We can make your backyard enjoyable again with our mosquito control program.

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Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach and ask about our Mosquito Control Program.

 

More on Watering Your Lawn.

spinkler-systemHeading into summer, we always get the same question, “How much should I water my lawn?”

That question is not an easy one to answer, because every lawn and every irrigation system is different. According to many experts, 1/2 to 3/4 inch is needed for replenishment of moisture every 2 to 3 days during warm periods of active growth, and every 10 to 14 days during less active growth periods. This water can come from rainfall or an irrigation system. However, no irrigation system can provide the uniform coverage needed like Mother Nature. This is because most systems are poorly designed (inadequate coverage, lacking head to head coverage, etc.) and/or over time sprinkler heads can get clogged, need readjusting, the flow rate of your pump may change, etc. A few other factors that affect how much water your lawn needs are, sunny areas require more water than shady areas and sandy soils need more than clay soils.

The best way to water your lawn is on an “as needed” basis. The easiest method to determine whether your turf needs water or not is to use the “footprinting” technique. If you step off the grass and you can still see your footprints there after a few seconds, your turf needs water. Another way to tell if your turf needs water is to look at the leaf blades. Dry leaf blades will fold in half making your turf look spindly. The turf will also take on a blueish grey color. If you see any of these symptoms in your turf, it’s time to irrigate.

Irrigation systems need constant monitoring due to rain events and environmental conditions. “Set it and forget it” should never be the method used. Even if you hire a professional irrigation company to monitor your system regularly, you as the homeowner, should work with that company to keep your lawn healthy.

A general rule is to irrigate your lawn 45 minutes for rotor zones and 30 minutes for spray zones 3 days a week during the summer months in the absence of rain. However, as stated above, that may or may not be what your turf really needs. For more information about Irrigation visit the University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach for all your Irrigation needs. We have a Licensed Irrigator on staff.

 

Consider redoing your old weedy lawn.

downloadSome people use herbicides to control weeds in an old, declining lawn. Then, with all the weeds gone, the lawn’s owner suddenly realizes that he or she has no lawn left.

Sometimes the best solution is to start over. Many older, thinning, declining, weedy lawns need to be reestablished. As lawns decline and thin, the weeds move in. When you reach the point where there is less than sixty percent desirable turf coverage, reestablishment should be considered.

In the process of redoing a lawn, attempt to determine why the lawn declined and correct mismanagement practices that were contributing factors in the lawn’s demise.

 

 

Common causes for lawn decline:

Soil compaction – Mowing equipment, vehicles and foot traffic (from adults, children and pets) all result in the soil becoming compacted within a lawn. Compacted soil results in less water and oxygen getting to the lawn roots and less than favorable growing conditions for the roots.

Nutrient imbalances – Routine fertilization can result in some fertilizer elements building up to excessive levels while other elements may be lacking. It’s common to find high levels of phosphorus in older lawns. Phosphorus does not leach readily even in our sandy soils. Other elements such as potassium leach readily. Over time, we’ll end up with too much of some nutrients and too little of others, which contribute to growth difficulties and possible decline in our lawns.

Tree competition – Trees and larger shrubs can compete with a lawn. As a tree gets larger with time, it becomes more competitive with lawn grass. The tree’s demand for water and nutrients increases as it becomes larger. Its root area becomes more extensive and it progressively produces more shade. Lawns usually thin significantly in association with older, large trees and shrubs.

Soil pH- pH levels that are too acidic (below 7) or too alkaline (above 7) can have negative affects on your lawn. Nutrients can bind up in the soil making them unusable to the turf.

Root pests numbers may slowly build to damaging levels as a lawn ages. Some common examples include nematodes (microscopic roundworms), soil inhabiting fungi such as Gaeumannomyces and ground pearls (a scale insect found in soil).

Improper lawn maintenance practices may be a contributing factor in the decline of an older lawn too. Common contributing factors to a lawn’s demise include routinely mowing too low, excessive fertilization and improper irrigation.

Sometimes herbicides are only a “band aid” approach when dealing with an old, mismanaged lawn.

Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for a Lawn Consultation today. (850)897-3073 Niceville  (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach

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