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Jeff’s Perfect Lawn Care Secrets – Week 15 of 2010

Fertilize

This is a good time to fertilize with a slow-release type of lawn fertilizer if you do not plan to do major renovations or over-seeding.  If such projects are planned, hold off fertilizer till mid-June.  Options include Ringer’s Restore, Espoma Organic Lawn Fertilizer, or Milorganite.  For complete fertilizing tips go to www.yardener.comFertilize Lawns

Overseeding

Optional – Late April and all of May are the times to over-seed the lawn or to take care of any repairs that are needed.  If you can, use a grass seed mixture that is predominantly perennial ryegrass.  In the fall you can use a mixture that is predominantly tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.  Perennial ryegrass withstands the heat of summer in seedling stage better than the other two common species.  Overseeding advice is at www.yardener.comOverseed Lawns.

Level Lawn

Optional – If areas of your lawn are uneven from frost heaving or rodents tunneling, add a thin layer of topsoil to bring the low spots up level with the high spots. Rolling the lawn, trying to flatten the high spots, just compacts our already compacted soils. Adding topsoil, raking it smooth, and over-seeding will level the yard surface.

Mowing Lawn

Set the mower height to 2 to 2½ or even 3 inches in anticipation of a new mowing season.  Having the blade sharpened is a very good idea.  If the blade is over three years old, buy a new one.  Mowing advice at Mowing the Lawn.

New Herbicide On The Scene

The first step in overseeding is killing all the broad-leaved weeds in your lawn about two weeks prior to laying out the seed.  PBI Gordon (www.pbigordon.com) has introduced a new herbicide called SpeedZoneÒ Lawn Weed Killer which you may wish to consider.  Like many competing products, SpeedZone kills just broad-leaved weeds and does no harm to the turf grass.  What makes this new product attractive is that it works about twice as fast as the other lawn weed herbicides. It will work in cooler temperatures down to 40 degrees, which means you can use it now.  In addition, it uses less active ingredient per thousand square feet which means it introduces less toxicity into the environment.  A 20 ounce bottle of concentrate will cover 16,000 to 18,000 square feet while the same amount of most competitors will cover 5000 to 8000 square feet.

SpeedZone is labeled to handle virtually all the weeds found in a lawn including the tough-to-kill  creeping Charlie (ground ivy) and clover.  It will not kill any grassy weeds such as creeping bentgrass.

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Jeff’s Perfect Lawn Care Secrets – Week 14 of 2010

I had to put some gasoline into my lawn mower last week.  I was using one of those bright red plastic five gallon gas cans that I have had for years.  The nozzle that comes with the can has always been awkward so I use a funnel to guide the gas into the tank.  And as has happened a few times in the past I put a bit too much into the funnel and the tank overflowed, maybe a half a cup of gas. After wiping the gas from the engine surfaces with an old rag I let the mower sit for ten minutes to make sure the fumes evaporated and there would be no problems when I started the engine.

I have since learned that by spilling a little gasoline I am a hazard to the environment.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans homeowners spill over 17 million gallons of gasoline every year as we fill our various gas powered yard care equipment. I found that figure to be astounding.  Then I learned that those 54 million yardeners use over 800 million gallons of gas each year in caring for their yards.  Think about that figure in relation to today’s price of gasoline.  At $2.50 a gallon Americans waste $42 million worth of gas and that isn’t the most serious problem.

The real problem is the impact of that spilled gasoline on the environment.  Obviously spilled gasoline can seep down into the soil and may eventually pollute the water table.  That is bad enough, however the really serious problem caused by spilled gasoline is the air pollution that is created as the gasoline evaporates.  In 2001 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that the gas fumes from spilled gas, fumes from gas cans with vents left open, and even fumes from just putting gas into a lawn mower created about 87 tons of smog producing pollution per day, equal to the daily fumes from a million automobiles.  That’s just one day.

The culprit is that gas can.  Whether you use the spout or a funnel, there is no easy way to determine when the level of gas in the tank is reaching full.

It turns out that there are gasoline cans that have what are called “spill proof” nozzles.  The nozzle automatically stops the flow of gas when the gas level in the tank makes contact with the end of the nozzle.  In the past five years, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have established regulations requiring all new gas cans sold to consumers in those states to have the “spill proof” nozzles.  They estimate that in ten years, as the older cans are replaced with these new designs, the spillage in those states will be reduced by a whooping 75%.

Armed with this new information I went shopping for a replacement for my old fashioned gas can.  After visiting three stores selling gas cans I found that the new technology in gas can nozzles is not readily available. After calling the Clean Air Division of the Department of Environmental Quality in Lansing, I learned that this problem of air pollution from the evaporation of spilled gasoline by homeowners has never been brought to the attention of that organization.  If those new spill proof cans are not required in Michigan, I guess the stores figure why stock an item that will cost $6 to $12 more than the traditional gas can.

Several years ago, Consumer Reports evaluated the gas cans that were advertised to be spill proof.  The can with the best evaluation was made for Briggs and Stratton. Called the “Smart Fill” fuel can, the nozzle is unlocked before filling the tank and then is inserted into the tank in a vertical position.  When the gas level in the tank reaches the end of the Smart Fill nozzle, it shuts off and you can remove the nozzle from the tank with no spills.  Holding 2.5 gallons of gas, Smart Fill fuel cans can be bought at http://www.jackssmallengines.com Jack’s Small Engines Web Site for $25.  I have ordered two; one for regular gas and one for gas mixed with oil for my tools with two-cycle engines.  Jack’s also sells another gas can, the envroflow, which looks just as good.

I put my lawn mower back into the tool shed; it’s much too early to mow the lawn.

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March 29 – April 4

Renegade Flowers First Up In Potager

Soil Temperature Controls Planting

We don’t plant our vegetables against a date.  We put our plants out only when the soil temperature is right for each species of vegetable.  If we put out a tomato when the soil temp is ten degrees too cold, that tomato will never produce well no matter what we do to try to keep it happy for the rest of the season.  We can’t cheat on soil temperature.  If we do we cause stress in our vegetables that is never completely eased during the whole season.

We all need a digital soil thermometer.  Google “digital soil thermometer” and you’ll find a dozen to choose from.  Mine cost $22 and it’s worked well now for five years.  In early spring I carry my soil thermometer every time I go out in the garden.  No seeds and no seedlings should go into the soil before the soil temp is 40 degrees or higher.  You measure down about two inches.

When the soil hits 40 then you can plant seeds for peas, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, and leaf lettuce.  You must wait maybe three or four weeks until the soil temp hits 60 before putting out any cold weather seedlings like cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and cauliflower.  Wait a few more weeks to plant seed for green beans and cucumbers when the temp is 65, not any earlier.

The big mistake is made when putting the warm weather seedlings into the garden.  Tomatoes, sweet peppers, and summer squash should definitely not go out into the soil until it hits 70 degrees.  If you really like tomatoes, you wait until it hits 75 degrees; that five degrees makes a difference.  I predict our soil temps do not hit 70 much before the second week in June.

On March 24th of week 13 our soil temperature was  39°F  while the air temperature was 45°.

Predicted last frost around May 15th or Week 20; seven more weeks.

Nature’s schedule this week

The miniature crocus should start blooming. Unfortunately the poison ivy starts leafing out. The mourning cloak butterflies come out of hibernation on days that are warm. Those cute salamanders return to the ponds to mate and lay eggs. The bluebirds will be returning so it is time to put out a bluebird nesting box. For you birdwatchers the eastern towhee returns.

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New Product For 2010

If this stuff works it will be a major breakthrough for vegetable gardeners.  We are definitely going to be testing it in the next month.

FreezePruf is like anti-freeze, for your plants.

A scientific-breakthrough– this eco-safe spray actually improves healthy plants’ natural cold tolerance by approximately 2° to 9° F, depending on the variety of plant and the duration/intensity of frost or freeze event.

Developed by botanists, FreezePruf™ protects the plant’s foliage and flowers, externally and systemically (throughout the plant) by enhancing both its natural “anti-freeze” like properties and its ability to survive ice crystal damage.

Imagine moving your temperature zone 200 miles south!
FreezePruf’s easy- to-use, biodegradable formulation and mode of action add a half-USDA Zone equivalent or more to the cold tolerance range of all major ornamentals and crops. So, a plant that is hardy to the low-to-mid teens Fahrenheit (Zone 8a) can be grown with little or no damage in Zone 7b.

Plant earlier, harvest later
You can play the guessing game as to when the last Spring-, or the first Fall-frost will occur and arm yourself with everything from smudge pots to blankets to protect your plants, often with poor results. Or, you can stop guessing! Although FreezePruf may be applied at any temperature above freezing and will produce benefits as soon as plant surfaces dry, best results will be obtained when applied at temperatures above 50˚F and a minimum of 8 to 12 hours before an anticipated freeze. FreezePruf may also be applied seasonally, in anticipation of future cold events within the upcoming 4 to 6 weeks. Since FreezePruf extends the growing season, it’s perfect for perennials as well as fruit and vegetable plants. The guaranteed protection lasts up to 6 weeks.

Easy-to-use
Simply spray liberally to the entire plant. The biodegradable formula is designed to resist washing away by rain or snow and one application lasts four to six weeks. For added protection, reapply as new growth appears.

FreezePruf (and Mother Nature) effect different plants – differently.
Here’s why…
1. FreezePruf adds to a plant’s natural ability to tolerate cold. Plant species vary greatly in their natural ability to tolerate cold (See FreezePruf Plant Effectiveness Guide), and there is considerable individual variation even within a cultivar or variety.

2. A plant’s health and prior care effect how well it will tolerate cold. A drought-stressed or diseased plant, or a tropical plant that is already experiencing seasonal senescence (yellowing of leaves, brown leaf tips, etc.) due to shorter days and cooler nights, will not respond as well to FreezePruf.

3. Both the duration and intensity of the cold event will effect a plant’s and FreezePruf’s performance. Each frost or freeze event is unique in terms of duration and intensity of cold, wind chill factor, relative humidity, snow and ice cover, minimum temperatures and total time below freezing. Even within an individual landscape, microclimates occur and low temperatures can easily vary by several degrees.

See the website.


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Jeff’s Perfect Lawn Care Secrets – Week 12 of 2010

Good Gas For Mower

When you add new gas to the lawn mower, remember to include a gasoline preservative or stabilizer in the mixture to avoid any problems of the gas going bad.

Sharp Lawn Mower Blade

Get your lawn mower blade sharpened so you will be ready for the first mowing job in late April. As I have discussed in the past it is wise to replace your lawnmower blade every few years rather than trying to have it sharpened year after year. Usually the place where you buy the blade will install it.

Leave Crabgrass Preventer to Neighbors

While I may have ranted about crabgrass preventers many times, I will say again that I believe it is better to overseed in the spring and again in the fall as the best method for getting rid of crabgrass.  If you use crabgrass preventer this spring, you cannot overseed until next fall, letting more weeds develop in the meantime.  It does not make any sense.  Thick turf mowed tall has no weeds, including crabgrass!

The Crabgrass Conundrum

Crabgrass is one of the many pesky “grass like” weeds found throughout the United States. Again, it is particularly bad in the east and southeast. Unlike dandelion, crabgrass is an annual plant, dying each year in the fall. However, before it dies it leaves tens of thousands of seeds to keep the family going next year. The common reaction to a crabgrass problem is to spread what is called a “pre-emergent” herbicide (Team, Betasan, or Dacthal) on the lawn in the spring to prevent the seeds from ever germinating. There is no question that such an herbicide will definitely work if properly applied, but there is a problem with this strategy. Unless you overseed that lawn, previously inhabited by lots of crabgrass plants, the grass is going to stay thin and there will be a need to protect yourself with pre-emergent herbicide every year. But you can’t plant grass seed because the crabgrass killer kills all seeds, including grass seeds. It is a classic Catch 22.

Crabgrass is probably the most common grassy weed found in the lawn. There are other grassy weeds, but the technique for dealing with them is about the same as for dealing with crabgrass described below.

The Crabgrass Strategy

So here is a strategy to rid your lawn of crabgrass and many other similar grassy weeds. In the spring, instead of using crabgrass killer, overseed your lawn to make it more dense. Then you raise your lawn mower to 2 or better 2 ½ inches for the whole season. You will still have some crabgrass, but not as much as last year. Then in the fall, overseed the lawn again. Keep that lawn mower high from then on and by the third year you will see very little crabgrass. You can be sure the crabgrass seeds will still be there, but there will be no room and no light available for germination.

Nature report

In the next few weeks you should be seeing the honey bees emerging from their hive on warm sunny days. In addition the Queen bumblebee should begin appearing, perhaps in your flower bed. The dreaded woodchuck whether he saw his shadow or not is likely to call it a winter and begin eating everything in sight. Now is the time to look for that first Robin. Dandelion leaves should be emerging and while they are young they are quite edible.

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Jeff’s Perfect Lawn

NOTE – This the is first of what will be weekly posts giving advice and tips for having a wonderful lawn.  It will be posted here every Sunday.

This is the first post of a weekly posting helping fellow lawn care partners avoid serious mistakes and end up having a better lawn than the neighbors; isn’t that what this about? Check us out every week on Sundays;  https://nancysgarden.wordpress.com.

Snow Mold Goes Away Mostly

Many lawns were hit this winter with significant vole damage, and to make matters worse some have suffered another spring surprise – snow mold.  This is a fungal disease that sometimes occurs when there has been significant snow cover for more than a month or two, just the conditions that led to much of the vole damage.

Snow mold shows up as grey or white flattened patches of grass sometimes a foot across, often in spots where there was considerable traffic on top of the snow or where snow was piled up from shoveling.  Grass infected by the snow mold fungus is not always dead, although it usually does not green up as fast as the grass around the patch.

If you discover snow mold, rake up the area carefully with a garden rake.  This gets some air into the patches which are usually flattened to the ground.  Raking also removes any thatch which can exacerbate the problem.  A fungicide is usually not necessary to control snow mold spread.  As temperatures warm up to the 40’s, the fungus stops spreading.

If two weeks after your lawn has greened up you still have the grey patches, that grass is probably dead and you will need to reseed those areas just as you need to reseed spots with serious vole damage.  [photo of vole]

If you had little paths in your lawn after the snow melted you have voles.  Google “yardener voles” for all the info you need.


Lawn Mower Maintenance (Optional)

Oil Change

The companies making lawn mower engines recommend changing the oil in your engine every spring. It is not a difficult job. If you let it go to every two years, the engine will be fine, but don’t wait any longer to change your engine’s oil.

Air Filter

Air filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. Keep a spare handy and replace the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually you should replace the filter every two years.

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs wear out. They often need replacing due to using stale fuel in your mower. Blocked air filters and oil filters can affect the performance of the spark plug. It is wise to replace the spark plug as a matter of course every season.

[photo of mower blade]

Mower Blade

We recommend that you replace the lawn mower blade every year or at the very least every two to three years; every year is better.

This lawn care  blog is posted every week on Sundays – stay with us.

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I never thought I would be looking forward to a snow storm so I could test a new snow

SnoBoss from Ames True Temper

shovel.  But I am.  The Ames True Temper folks sent us a “SnoBoss” to test.  It’s a combination of the older “scoop” and a regular snow shovel.  It is made of strong plastic that is very light.

You can stand behind the SnoBoss and push the scoop ahead and then grab the handle midway up from the shovel part and plunk the snow where you wish.  If you have some tough crust to get through, the SnoBoss has a foot rest like on a regular shovel to help push through the tough stuff.

You will find the SnoBoss at Lowes and Home Depot and at many of the better independent tool dealers.  The retail cost is $36.99.  I’ll let you know how it works.


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