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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Turf Alert - Heat stress is coming to a lawn near you!



 100 plus soil temperatures in the sunny areas have already been reached this week

Summer months bring warm temperatures and sometimes periods of dry weather to the lawns of Northern Illinois.  Grass lawns across Antioch-Gurnee-Waukegan and Lake Forest enter survival mode to withstand the stress associated with this time of year.  There are several cultural practises that can help maintain a healthy green lawn through these periods of stress.  Proper mowing height and watering practises are two of the most important things to do properly as summer begins.

Watered lawn area next to non-watered lawn - 2016

With the forecast of multiple 90 degree days ahead and no rain in the forecast, begin watering now to prevent or assist with heat stress on the lawn.   A bluegrass-based lawn needs about 1 inch of irrigation per week to keep adequate moisture levels and to prevent the onset of browning and dormancy.   Although this amount of irrigation is adequate for moisture needs it doesn't always keep a lawn from going dormant, but it does give it the best chance to stay green during heat stress.

When soil temperatures get above 90 degrees bluegrass can begin survival mode which consists of opening stomata (cells that release moisture in an effort to cool the plant) making the lawn look thinner as the leaf tissue dries out.  Next it will begin to draw moisture back into the crown of the turf leaving the grass blades to turn brown.  This doesn't mean the grass is dead, just beginning to show signs of dormancy which helps it survive summer stress.  A well planned watering program will help keep the lawn healthy and green as the stress begins.  Watering before or at the beginning of a dry spell can delay the effects of heat and lack of moisture.  When the forecast doesn't call for rain for more than 5 days, begin a deep and infrequent watering schedule for the dry spell.  With summer temps in the upper 80's, windy days and longer periods of direct sun rays the evapotranspiration rates of the lawn escalate quickly, which can leave your lawn with inadequate moisture for ideal plant health in just a few days.

Along with watering regularly during hot and dry summer months the lawn should also be mowed properly.  Less frequent and at a taller height will keep activity on the grass to a minimum and allow for full shading of the soil below with longer leaf tissue.  Also be sure that when you do mow the lawn, never remove more than a third of the leaf tissue height or else additional stress and moisture removal will be unnecessarily added to the lawn that is already stressed out.

Non-watered lawn that is dormant - 2016

For more watering and mowing suggestions please visit us online or feel free to contact us at Lawn Doctor of Antioch-Waukegan

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

April showers should bring plenty of beautiful flowers and lawns in May!


April showers have produced an amazing amount of precipitation across the Antioch- Gurnee -Waukegan area this spring.  Antioch received over 6" of rain throughout the month of April, well over the historical average of 3.5" for the month.  Although temperatures were slightly above normal in the early part of the month the last weeks of the month were mostly cloudy, cool and slightly below normal or at normal.  The result was a cool, wet month leaving many lawns soggy, saturated but green and growing.  Wet springs encourage growth of all plants including grasses, perennials and even weeds.  As we dry out and warm up a lot of weeds will begin to pop up as temperatures raise.  Late spring should bring a lot of leaf tissue growth from all plants and flowers should produce full vibrant blooms in May just as the old saying goes.

Wet springs are great for turning grass green and germinating new seed.



A wet and cool spring has brought many delays to outdoor activities including all lawn care and landscape projects for all outdoor contractors across the area.  Many lawn mowing services, aeration's and seeding projects have been delayed as the ground has been too wet and soft for heavy equipment.  Lawn Doctor of Antioch has been trying to keep up with the demand for these services as dry days present themselves but have been a little behind in completing these services by early to mid spring.  A wet spring will be beneficial for seeding projects as the extra moisture will greatly help new seed germinate.  The extra moisture will also help grass generate new and green leaf tissue as we begin mowing lawns.

Dollar spot on a golf course

Along with green lawns, germinating seeds and blooming plants extra spring rains can also produce some problems for lawn care this year.  More weed seeds will germinate as a result of the saturating rain.  More insects later in spring and summer can also be a result of a wet spring, so we will have to monitor that as the season continues.  Mosquitoes and other insects that lay eggs that last over winter will also have a healthy population rate as well.  Some lawn diseases also like the cool wet cloudy conditions that this spring is offering.  Dollar spot is common disease found in the area when cool wet conditions exist in the spring.  It is a little early to see anything as of now but a keen eye should be looking out for this later in spring.


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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Early Spring lawn Preparations



Early spring brings excitement and joy to many homeowners in the Antioch-Gurnee-Waukegan area as humid warm air and extended sunlight hours bring the lawns and plants out of their winter slumber.  The thoughts of enjoying the outdoors once again brings a lot of anticipation along with a list of things to do.  There are many projects and plans racing through our minds as the warmer days allow for open windows and sunroofs throughout the neighborhoods.  One way to eliminate the uncertainty of lawn tasks and projects is to get develop a plan to have in place once the warmer weather is here to stay.

A spring lawn plan should include the following lawn care activities to either "enjoy" doing yourself or make sure you have hired to get done for the season.  A lawn fertilizer application consisting of spring fertilizer with a pre-emergent weed control for annual grassy weeds, mainly crabgrass.  A soil enrichment product such as a soil conditioner or pellet compost to provide soil nutrients and organic matter to encourage microbial activity.  And a core aeration with over seeding as needed to allow oxygen to penetrate the soil profile and begin filling in any bare or thin spots in the lawn.  Spring conditions are very favorable for new growth and developing a lawn for the duration of summer so don't miss this opportunity to get the lawn growing in the right direction.

Spring fertilizer should consist of a medium rate application of Nitrogen (13-19%) and a low Potassium rate (1-6%).  The source should be of a fairly quick release form for fast release and uptake as the plant needs it during the warmer and wet conditions that vary from day to day.  The herbicide should be the broadest range of weed control to prevent the most seed from germinating and taking root before the grass has a chance to generate new growth.  Most products are designed for stopping the establishment of crabgrass.  Although you wont generally see it until June or later the germination process for crabgrass can begin with a string of 5 or more days with soil temperatures above 50 degrees.


Spring is also a great time to core aerate a lawn in order to increase oxygen to the root zone of the topsoil.  This activity also relieve soil compaction from freezing ground or extended snow cover.  By alleviating the soil and allowing more oxygen to the root zone, the turf is able to green up and begin growing in tune with the air temperature increasing.  Aeration is one of the best natural activities for the improvement of the lawn without forcing any nutrients or chemicals onto the lawn.



Spring is also a great time to introduce or add organic matter to the soil to boost microbial activity.  The most effective way to do this is with the addition of soil conditioners or organic compost made into pellets that can be easily applied to the lawn similar to fertilizer.  The organic matter feeds the soil microbes as the temperatures warm up,which leads to a healthier and more rich topsoil.

These early spring lawn tips are a great way to get the lawn growing in spring and can be done by homeowners alone or can be hired out to be done by a lawn care provider.  Lawn Doctor not only suggests these services but we also provide them for you.  Contact the lawn professionals at Lawn Doctor of Antioch to take care of your spring lawn to do list so you can enjoy the warming spring days on a golf course, walking or biking or just relaxing on your patio.



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Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall is the time to improve your lawn


                                  

Many homeowners ask throughout the season each year, "what is the best thing I can do for my lawn?"  My answer is always "to aerate and over seed in the fall with desirable grass types- bluegrass, ryegrass and turf-type tall fescue.  In addition to regular fertilization and weed control".  However, this question is rarely asked now in the fall, which is the perfect time to implement the answer.  Now is the time to repair the lawn from any and all thins spots or damaged areas form the stresses of summer heat, insects, grubs, diseases or general compaction from heavy traffic.


Lawn suffering from summer stress


Same lawn several weeks after early fall aeration and over-seeding


Lawns across the Gurnee, Antioch, Lake Villa and Waukegan area are enjoying the cool temperatures and sunny days of mid-fall.   Lawns love this type of weather, which produces cool night time temperatures and warm soil from sunny days.  This combination of cool nights and warm soils produces the right combination for both new seed germination and root growth for the existing lawn.  This is the exact reason why fall services like over-seeding and aerating are so beneficial to the lawn right now.  New seed helps thicken up and fill in summer damaged lawns and aerations allow oxygen and nutrient penetration into the root zone.


                                                               
Have patience - results from fall services like aerations and over-seeding are not an immediately satisfying.  Aerations leave dirt plugs and can trample down grass leaf tissue while they dissolve over a couple of weeks.  New seed takes 2-3 weeks to germinate and up to 8 weeks to become full enough to mow.  There are no immediate results with any of these lawn services.  However if you take pictures and compare before and after months or even seasons apart, you will begin to notice the improvement these services can make over time.  As part of an annual program these services generally are maintaining an adequate level of lawn appearance.  If you already have a great lawn these services are sometimes just needed as a way to maintain the lawn at a great appearance.  Lawns that have never had these services or were damaged from grubs or summer stresses will greatly improve over the coming weeks with a little watering and a lot of patience.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Grub Damage in my lawn


Late August generally brings cooler temperatures and much needed rain to help green the lawn backup from summer heat and drought stress.  However, sometimes the lawn doesn't green backup and that can be the first indication of grub damage in the lawn.  The second indication is that the turf will pull up when you grab the leaf tissue or crown of the plants.  This is because the hatching grub larvae are eating the base of the turf roots just below the surface of the soil and underneath the crown.  This basically separates the turf very easily from the soil where the roots are embedded.


This summer brought on a lot of insect damage with the dry and hot conditions.  This is often easily overlooked during the high temperature conditions because it looks like the lawn is just going dormant.  Many instances of billbugs, chinch bugs and sod webworms have been found across our service area.  These insects usually only damage the leaf tissue on top portion of the turf.  They like to eat at the base of the leaf tissue above the crown causing the grass to brown.  This damage is usually only temporary as the plant puts out new leaf tissue as the cooler temperatures and rain return.  When you pull up on the damage turf it separates without pulling up the roots out of the ground.

At Lawn Doctor we provide a surface insecticide with our early summer application to help prevent some of the insect damage.  We also provide preventative grub control at the same time for accounts that have added it to their service program.  If your lawn did not receive these treatments and the lawn is not greening back up then check for these symptoms.  If the turf pulls up and several grubs can be easily found in an area the size of your fist then a curative insecticide needs to be applied before more damage occurs.  For further answers to grub and insect damage or any other lawn questions please contact us.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Late August always brings a big change in the lawns appearance.




I have noted on my calender the date of August 20 for the last several years for a reason.  This seems to be the day (ok, week) that the first signs of change are going to be happening in the lawn.  This year is proving to be no different.  The days begin to become obviously shorter, the sun becomes significantly less intense and night time air temperatures become noticeably lower.  All of this results in heavy morning dews and lower soil temperatures which leads to a greening up lawn.  If we are lucky enough to get a thunderstorm or two, which happened again this week this year, the lawn greens up even faster and goes right in to growth mode and begins repairing itself from summer heat and drough stress.






There are two main reasons why the lawn suffers and turns brown during the month of July and early August.  High soil temperatures from direct radiant heat, higher daytime and nighttime air temperatures, and lower precipitation rates leave the lawn struggling to grow and usually results in dormancy to survive.  This situation unfolds every summer across the area and has for thousands of years.  We call the month of July and first half of August the "danger zone" in the lawn care industry because there is not much we can do from the service side, we simply ask that everyone waters regularly and mows high and less frequently.  We aim to minimize the services and applications of any kind to lawns during this time unless they are being irrigated.  Simply walking on the lawn during the danger zone can cause more damage in extreme cases from heat striping.  However, that is all going to change in the next week or two.



All of these conditions make late august and early September a perfect time to begin fertilizing, aerating and power-seeding services.  If you haven't maintained a healthy lawn all season and want to thicken up the lawn for fall now is the time to schedule those services or begin planning to do the work yourself.  A healthy thick lawn in the fall will also carry over to a better lawn next spring which builds a thicker healthier lawn to prevent and withstand summer stress next year.  Because as you now know and as this blog states, mother nature will return again next year and prove this all true once again.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Heat tracking in lawns

We have recently noticed a few instances of a somewhat rare phenomenon in the lawn care industry that we would like to point out in an effort to better communicate to both our customers and those interested in lawn care.  Along with the previously posted summer stress issues for the lawn in this blog, we wanted to bring up a more recent issue which is very rare but is currently a potential for lawns across the Antioch, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst, Gurnee, Lake Forest and Waukegan area.  This recent phenomenon is referred to by some in the industry as heat tracking.




Heat tracking occurs when pressure is applied to the lawn from foot traffic, lawn mowers, fertilizer spreaders or anything else that can compress the leaf tissue down to the ground below.  When  this pressure is applied at the exact time frame (usually early afternoon at the peak heat of the day) that the turf is at its wilting point or entering dormancy stage it breaks the leaf tissue at the base of the crown of the plant causing an immediate killing (usually within 24 hours) of the leaf tissue.  Although this damage appears as herbicide or fertilizer burn from tire marks, it is simply caused by natural processes.  The only indication that this may occur ahead of time is seeing footprints on turf from leaf tissue not rebounding quickly after being compressed.

This is the same type of damage that can happen on turf in late fall or early spring when the same pressure is applied to the leaf tissue when it is frozen but the crown is not.  This usually results in frost delays at golf courses in the area, as the grounds department tries to prevent similar damage. (Hopefully the thought of frozen turf helps cool off whoever is reading this).

As the lawn endures many forms of stress during summer months, watering (hydrogen application) and being patient for cooler temperatures are the two main solutions needed to keep the lawn healthy.  Cooler fall temperatures will soon return and the lawn will begin to grow and thrive as it did in spring and has done every fall throughout history.  

I have also attached a link to the website that covers this topic here
















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