Tag: landscaping

Who’s Digging Up My Lawn!?

Lawns in the Midwest often are subject to severe injury by the larval stages (grubs) of various species of scarab beetles. Japanese beetles and May/June beetles are the predominant damaging white grub species found within home lawns. Several other white grub species including: European chafer, Asiatic garden beetle, green June beetle, masked chafer grubs, and Oriental beetle are sporadically found in lawns and may cause some damage.

GRUB DESCRIPTION:

Many white grubs look similar to each other but vary in size. Mature grubs range in size from 3/8” inch – 2″ inches. Grubs are C-shaped and have three pair of thoracic legs (ALIENS!!!). The head is dark, but the body is usually creamy white in color. White grub species identification is not necessary because the cultural control practices are similar. The arrangement of hairs and spines on the posterior end of the grub, called the raster, is a distinguishing feature between species, if identification is warranted.

DAMAGE SYMPTOMS:

lawn damage by grubs
Lawn Damage by Grubs
Damage via furries digging for grubs.
Damage via furries digging for grubs.

Grubs chew off grass roots and reduce the ability of the lawn to take up water. During the hot, dry weather of late summer, large dead patches of lawn will begin to develop. Irrigated lawns may not show the damage as quickly, because the lawn is being watered regularly. Sometimes the damage can get farther along before it is noticed in an irrigated lawn compared to a non-irrigated lawn. The sod in those dead patches can be quite easily rolled up like carpet to reveal the grubs beneath, because the grubs have chewed through all the roots. This is also the time when skunks, starlings, moles, shrews, voles and other furries start to forage for their favorite, plump snacks, which causes digging in the lawn.

GRUB FACTS:

I’ve spoken to my spray technician about what to expect this year for grub damage. She feels that the severe cold that we experienced will not make much impact on the populations of beetles this year. The grubs here can generally be put into two categories, the May/June Beetles (#1) and the Japanese beetle (#2) grubs.

The #1 grubs are generally bigger and closer to the surface. These grubs are also mostly on a 3 year cycle, living 2 years underground. Many of these beetles may not have made it, but they are also not the ones that cause a bunch of damage to the lawn as they emerge sooner, so less feeding during the summer and the lawn has had time to recover. Although, these being closer to the surface and larger makes them attractive to wildlife, who will dig feverously to get to the squishy snacks. The related thought to this, is that with the harsh winter we had, many of the furries most likely did not make it through the winter.

Regarding the severity of our winter. Yes, we did see temperatures of -16F here, but that was aboveground, air temperature. We also had a bunch of snow that does act as an insulator. Therefore, although the freeze line may have been deeper, it is still just a freeze line, no colder than freezing, just deeper.

The Japanese beetle grubs (#2) will go as deep as necessary to avoid the freeze. These emerge later in the season, thus will cause more damage as the feeding is continuing into the drier, summer months and the grass cannot keep up with lack of roots and it’s water needs.

MANAGEMENT:

  • Allowing your lawn to go dormant during the dry summer months can help by not moving the eggs of the beetles into the lawn and they will dry-out on top of the lawn where they were laid.
  • The two nematodes that are most effective against Japanese beetle grubs are Steinernema glaseri and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. The latter is commercially available.
  • Apply Milky Spore to your lawn area only if you’ve seen grub activity in your lawn during the spring. Many experts do question it’s effectiveness, though.
  • Make your yard attractive to birds that might eat them. Starlings and robins love to get them when they are freshly hatched.
  • Attract the solitary fly (Istocheta aldrichii) and the parasitic wasp (Tiphia vernalis) that lays its eggs inside the adult beetles (fly) or the grubs (wasp). Adult wasps feed almost exclusively on the honeydew of aphids associated with the leaves of maple, cherry, and elm trees and peonies. (Hmmm, so aphids or grubs… which pest is worse!!)

small wasp

  • Unfortunately, if your lawn has been severely attacked, pesticides may be your only recourse. Responsible IPM methods can be employed to reduce the chemical impacts to the environment.

Prevention: An ounce of it…

Products containing imidacloprid, thiamethoxam or chlorantraniloprole, are preventive insecticides that work well on newly hatched grubs present in July, but do not for large grubs found from September to May. Remember, this will prevent the next generation of grubs from infecting your lawn; it has no effect on the ones that are currently maturing. There are different recommended timings for application depending on the active ingredient. Although the bag often states to apply anytime from May to Aug 15, it is highly recommended that products containing imidacloprid or thiamethoxam be applied and irrigated into the soil in June. Best to apply before a storm as it works best when watered in. Preventive products containing imidacloprid or thiamethoxam will consistently give 75%-100% reduction of grubs if they are applied in June or July.

Curative treatments:

There are two insecticides, carbaryl and trichlorfon, that are considered curative treatments. These kill all life stages of the of #2 type grubs, but do nothing to #1 type grubs. These two insecticides are the only choices available if high numbers of grubs are found in the fall after the middle of September and in the spring before early-May. They are not as effective as the preventive compounds in reducing grub numbers because they have a less active time in the soil and timing of the application is critical. Consider carefully whether it would be best to wait and apply a preventive next spring. If the need should arise to use a curative compound, make sure to keep the infested lawn watered regularly and fertilized. It is recommended to treat the area again with a preventive application the next summer or grubs will likely reoccur.

© The Naturarian

Use Landscaping to Save on Energy Bills

Landscaping can significantly reduce the costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy

When planting trees for energy conservation, try to:

• Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.

• Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.using trees as a windbreak to your houseCommonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.

When a windbreak is planted correctly, a larger area of relatively calm air is formed downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks will made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

winter landscape drawingFor us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

summer landscape drawingDeciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location, it should grow within 20 feet of windows and should grow to a mature size of at least 10 feet higher than the windows they are shading.

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying and death to the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant the shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building wall.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© The Naturarian

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian

Ring Around the Lawn – Fairy Rings

fairy ring fungus in lawn a ring of darker colored grassFairy Ring fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Fairy ring with mushrooms bloomingApproximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. If a soil profile is pulled from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. It’s been said that fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are ineffective and a waste of money.

It is best to just be proactive in how you maintain the lawn. Do not over-water or over-fertilize, and be sure to aerate in the spring.

dancing fairiesThere’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…

Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. This must be done under a full moon and in the direction the sun travels.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. European folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms.

© The Naturarian

Beware of the Mulch Volcano ~ No Tree is Safe!!

mulch volcano There are many rumors out there that somehow become common knowledge that are very detrimental to whatever the cause is.

Mulching trees is one of them. I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanoes’. If the truck of your tree looks the same as a telephone pole, there’s too much mulch on it!!! The tree should flare out where it comes out of the ground.tree fell due to too much mulch on trunk

Sadly, homeowners see this and think this is the correct way to go and the vicious cycle continues. Professional landscapers do it all the time just to fill their pockets, telling you it’s horticulturally correct. Don’t fall for it! You DO NOT need to add mulch to your beds yearly. It is a good idea to cultivate what is still there, though. My advice is to apply biannually or where it may have eroded.

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few.. However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo to the right, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. This tree looked completely healthy. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Here are my PeeGee Hydrangea trees, PROPERLY mulched, which looked to have survived my fall planting. You can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. I really only put enough over the rootball to make it the same color/blend well with the mulch doughnut.

tree properly mulched

correct way to mulch

Below is a reality check. Look how high that mulch was! 😯

© The Naturarian