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5 Steps to Restore Your Lawn this Fall

In this video, Plant and Turf Specialist David Yost outlines 5 steps you can take to restore your lawn to a lush, healthy state in the fall following the stressful conditions of summer.

Managing Grubs in Your Lawn and Garden

Have you been noticing large patches of dead grass in your lawn that peels up like a carpet? If so, you may have a problem with grubs. Don’t fret! These pesky critters are one of the most common pests in our gardens and luckily, they can be managed. However, before you can get rid of these menaces, you must understand them! Check out our information below and if you find yourself with any lingering questions, call one of our three locations or come by the Plant Clinic to speak with a plant specialist.

What are Grubs?

Grubs are the larval stage of any beetle or scarab. There are many varieties of scarabs in our area that can cause serious damage to turf grass. Beetles like masked chafer, green June beetle, and may beetle are native beetles that can sometimes cause damage to the lawn. More serious pests like the invasive Japanese and Asiatic beetles will frequently cause damage in the lawn.

Japanese Beetles  (Popillia japonica)

Japanese Beetle

Japanese beetles were unintentionally introduced to the United States in 1916 and today they can be identified in over half of all U.S. states. Adult beetles have a copper elytra (wing covering) with metallic-green coloration and actively feed throughout the summer. Adults are active during the daytime and may be found on a large variety of ornamental and agricultural plants, in particular on roses or pear, apple, plum and cherry trees.

Asiatic Beetles  (Maladera castanea)

https://grubid.cals.cornell.edu/node/1

Asiatic beetles were also first detected in New Jersey in 1922. The adult beetle is 3/8” long and cinnamon-brown. The adult actively feeds and lays eggs during the night time. Shine a flashlight on the ground to identify active beetles in your garden beds. Asiatic beetles also feed on a wide range of plant material.

Grub Damage and the Grub Life Cycle

https://cues.cfans.umn.edu/old/extpubs/7664japanese/7664f08.jpg

Understanding the life cycle of these beetles can mean the difference between success and failure in working to effectively control them. Both Asiatic and Japanese Beetles have a single generation each year, with adults feeding through the summer and grubs overwintering in the soil, then becoming active as the soil warms up and they begin to eat root material. In late May or early June adults emerge from the ground to breed and continue feeding.  Females will typically burrow into the soil of the lawn to lay eggs in mid-July. Grub stage sod damage may become evident during August and September when grubs are aggressively feeding in order to store energy for the winter. 

Adults Japanese and Asiatic beetles eat the tissue between leaf veins on ornamental and agricultural plants, giving the appearance that the leaves have been ‘skeletonized.’ They also frequently go after ripening fruit and will even eat the flowers of roses and other members of the Rosaceae family. However, what makes these invasive beetles such a serious pest is that not only do the adults cause extensive damage to plants; the larvae are also voracious eaters, particularly of sod roots. In cases of heavy grub infestation it is very common that this will result in large dead patches of grass that quickly turn yellow or brown.

Via Michigan State University - https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_to_choose_and_when_to_apply_grub_control_products_for_your_lawn

Upon inspection, this damaged turf will peel right up from the ground with very little effort.Often you will also see many of the culprits still lurking below the surface as you investigate. This makes grubs very easy to identify; however, it is best to identify grubs as they are just becoming active, before they become a detriment to our landscapes. This is usually sometime in early to mid-May and middle to late August. To identify a grub infestation, cut three sides of a square-foot section of grass and carefully lift the sod up to avoid damaging the sod. If you see more than five or six grubs in that small space, it is time to get moving on grub control. 

Conventional and Organic Control Options

Conventional

Season Long Control: With proper timing, season long control products such as BioAdvance Season Long Grub Control are the most effective methods to treat and prevent a grub infestation The ideal time to apply is before adult beetles emerge. For the Northern Virginia area, we recommend application of these products during the last week of May. If you are not sure whether adult beetles have emerged or not, you should call the garden center to speak with a plant clinic representative.

24-Hour Grub Killers: Should you miss the window for effective application of season long products,24-hour grub killers can be effective at wiping out a population of feeding grubs overnight. These products usually contain strong pesticides such as Dylox, which kill many other lawn pests such as ticks. 

When applying these products, remember to always read the label instructions and follow them exactly to ensure safe application. Also, while products like those listed above can help us to control unwanted garden pests, they can also have an impact on ‘beneficial’ insects as well. Many chemicals listed for control of grubs have shown to impact fireflies, solitary bees, ladybugs and other desirable garden insects. For this reason application of these chemicals is only recommended to control serious infestations.

Organic

Organic alternatives to conventional pesticides have been used to control Japanese beetle grubs for decades.  These alternatives are more selective in their control and less likely to impact beneficial insects.

Milky Spore: Paenibacillus popilliae is a spore-forming bacterium which is pathogenic to grubs. The commercially available milky spore is exclusively pathogenic to Japanese beetle larvae. In order to be effective the spores must be ingested by the grubs. Once the grub is infected, it has a white appearance which contributed to the name of this product. For milky spore to be effective, there must be a significant grub population where it is applied to the soil. 

Milky spore can be hand applied in its powder form in one application, or there is a granular form that can be spread using a lawn spreader more easily, but requiring more applications over a longer time frame.

Beneficial Nematodes: Beneficial Nematodes can be used to control various garden insects such as moths, ants, and most importantly grubs. As with milky spore, the denser the grub population is the more effective the nematodes are at spreading and infecting the grubs.The best time to apply them is during August, when young grubs are feeding on root material. Nematodes will work quickly to control grubs but they can be very sensitive to environmental conditions. Bright sunlight in particular can kill nematodes, so it is recommended to apply them at dusk or during a rainy day for best results.

Controlling Adult Populations

Other methods of effectively controlling beetle grubs involve going after the adults. There are many insecticides that can be used to control adult populations on garden plants. Furthermore, many extension services and universities recommend using pheromone-baited beetle traps to control adult beetles as well as removing and destroying adult Japanese and Asiatic beetles when discovered in the landscape. If you have questions about these options or any others, please give us a call or visit the plant clinic at one of our stores.

Turf Tips: Lawn Restoration and Weed Prevention

This post was originally published in August 2017.

The summer places some serious strain on our lawns. High temperatures, weeds, and drought conditions can all cause our turf to suffer, losing density, color and health. The end of summer is a great time to start thinking about giving your lawn some restorative care to bring back the green and help it regain density and color. To begin, evaluate your lawn and think about what you would like to accomplish. Do you need to overseed, eliminate weeds, or simply fertilize your lawn? Each of these tasks can be completed in just a few, simple steps as long as we are mindful of the correct time and order in which to begin each process.

Merrifield Grass Seed

Seeding

Does your lawn have bare patches, or do you want to introduce new grass varieties to your existing lawn? If so, September is the ideal time to seed, . Seeding now will give you plenty of time to complete several rounds of fertilization before winter sets in. Before you begin seeding, scrape up bare spots in your lawn and loosen the soil to create good contact between your soil and the grass seed you will be spreading. This is also a great time to mix in some compost if you want to improve your soil. Then, select your grass seed and spread it over the lawn using a drop or rotary spreader. We recommend one of our three Merrifield seed blends, which have been custom-designed to perform well in our local environment.

ISTOCK Lawn Care

Fertilizing

Regardless of whether or not you plan to seed, September is the ideal time to begin your fall lawn fertilization project. We recommend fertilizing every 4-6 weeks, with 2-3 applications before winter. If you are seeding your lawn, fertilize immediately after seeding with Merrifield Select seed starting lawn food for your first application, then follow up every 4-6 weeks with Merrifield Premium Lawn Food. If you are not seeding your lawn, use Merrifield Premium for all fertilizer applications.

Turf Tips and Lawn Care for Green Grass

Eliminating and Preventing Weeds

If weeds are overtaking your lawn, you can focus on killing summer weeds and preventing winter weeds in September. Bayer Advanced Season Long Weed Control will simultaneously kill existing weeds, such as clover and dandelions, while preventing weeds, such as chickweed, bittercress and others from taking over next spring. If you just want to prevent winter weeds, use Fertilome Broadleaf Weed Control with Gallery. You cannot use either of these products if you plan to seed your lawn immediately, as they will prevent your seed from germinating. If you wish to seed your lawn and prevent winter weeds at the same time, you will need to use Scotts Step 1 for Seeding with Weed Preventer. If you wish to seed your lawn and eliminate summer weeds, you will need to apply Trimec Lawn Weed Killer immediately and then wait for the time specified on the product label before you begin your seeding project. Generally, you will need to wait 2-3 weeks. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on the weed control label to ensure your seed is not damaged.

Determining the Right Restoration Process for Your Lawn

Every lawn is different! If you have questions about the steps you should take to bring out the best in your lawn, we encourage you to come in to visit our turf specialists.

Lawn, Grass, Turf

Spring Lawn Care Checklist

Now is the time to get your lawn in spring shape! The weather is warming up, trees are starting to bloom, and healthy, dark green grass can really contribute to the feeling that spring has arrived. By taking a few steps, anyone can refresh their lawn for a beautiful spring landscape. Before starting your lawn refresh, remember that each one is different and your lawn’s care needs will be unique to the conditions it is under as well as its current state. If you need any assistance deciding which of the steps apply to your lawn, please call one of our experts at the plant clinic or stop by and see us.

Control Winter Weeds

March is the perfect time to control and eliminate any winter weeds that crept into your lawn over the season. Chickweed, bittercress, henbit, deadnettle, clover, dandelion and wild violet are all weeds that may be seen at this time.

Check out our blog post on eliminating winter weeds.

Prevent Summer Weeds

After treating winter weeds, it’s a good idea to pre-treat for summer weeds. Preventing their germination from the beginning will save you a lot of trouble, and help you maintain a weed-free landscape throughout the season. Common summer weeds include crabgrass, goosegrass, foxtail and Japanese stiltgrass. When planning your weed prevention, you will want to take into account whether or not you will be seeding your lawn.

For full information on preventing summer weeds, visit our summer weed prevention blog.

Seed and Fertilize

Take advantage of the spring season to fill in your lawn by overseeding. This is a great opportunity to select new seeds that will work great in your lawn’s conditions. We offer many varieties and are happy to help you select one that will thrive in your landscape. When you are seeding, fertilize your lawn as well with a high phosphorous formula.

For complete steps and our recommended products, check out our seeding and fertilizing blog.

Turf Tips: Liming the Lawn

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

To grow healthy grass and keep weeds at bay, the pH level of your soil needs to be between 6.2 and 6.8. Soil pH influences the availability of plant nutrients. A low pH level makes phosphorus remain bound to the soil and not be absorbed by your lawn. Without adequate phosphorus, your lawn will not grow vigorously and healthily.

In our Washington, D.C. metro area, our native pH level is generally between 5.0 and 5.5 (on a scale from 0 to 14). A pH level lower than 7 is acidic, and higher than 7 is basic or alkaline. Our native soil pH is great for acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. But to grow thick, healthy lawns in our area, we generally need to raise the pH level of our soil. This is where liming comes in.

Each time you apply lime at the recommended rate, it will raise the pH level of your soil approximately ½ point over the course of a few months. If you need to raise it further than that, you can reapply lime as needed.  Just make sure there is at least a six-week interval between applications. Once you get your desired soil pH level, you typically need to apply lime once every two years to maintain the level.

Spring is an ideal time to apply lime, but it can be done any time of year when the ground isn’t frozen. After you apply lime, you need to water the lawn thoroughly. This will help wash all of the product off the grass and down into the soil where it belongs.

Testing your soil

There are a few ways to determine the pH level of your soil. You can use a pH meter, a pH test kit, or you can send a soil sample to Virginia Tech and they will send back a detailed analysis of your soil, including the pH level. You can pick up all of these supplies at Merrifield Garden Center.

Types of lime

There are several different forms of lime. Some come in granular form, while others come either pulverized or pelletized and packaged in 50 lb. bags, which cover 1,000 square feet. The pulverized or pelletized packages are ideal for large properties with extensive lawn areas.

Fast Acting Lime is an easy to use, pelletized lime that can be applied at lower rates. Mag-I-Cal is lime combined with humates, an organic supplement that improves soil structure, nutrients and moisture holding capacity. If you aren’t sure which lime is best for your situation, please ask one of our lawn specialists for assistance.

Turf Tips: Seeding & Fertilizing

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

A thick, healthy, dark green lawn is important to the look of your overall landscape. Colorful annuals, healthy shrubs and stately shade trees are wonderful features, but the overall appearance of your property is often dictated by the lawn. Having a beautiful lawn is not as difficult or time consuming as you might think. Mowing the lawn is the biggest chore, but all the other tasks are rather minimal.

Spring is the ideal time to get started building a healthy lawn. Controlling weeds is the first order of business. Next up is seeding and fertilizing, two simple steps that can be done the same day, and in any order.

Seeding

Seeding gives you the opportunity to introduce new and improved varieties of grass to your lawn. The term “overseeding” simply means applying grass seed “on top of” the existing lawn. New seeds will settle down on the soil surface between existing blades of grass, and from there it will germinate and fill in the lawn.

Although we carry many different types of grass seeds, we recommend our private label options as they are custom blended for the specific conditions in our Northern Virginia area. The varieties in our mixtures were selected because of their superior performance in local and regional turf trials conducted independently by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. We have three different blends of grass seed:

Merrifield Tuff Play

  • Our most versatile and popular mixture. Great for high traffic areas as it contains top performing tall fescues with a touch of Kentucky bluegrass.
  • This mix performs well in full sun to 70% shade conditions.
  • It establishes itself quickly, tolerates drought and wear and tear, and is resistant to disease problems.

Merrifield Sunny

  • This blend contains top performing varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass for a premium lawn with a rich, dark green color.
  • This mix performs best in full sun to part shade conditions and requires more maintenance and water than the fescue blends.
  • Good traffic tolerance.

Merrifield Shady

  • This mix contains top performing fine-textured fescue, shade tolerant perennial ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass.
  • This mix is ideal for use in moderate to heavy shade conditions.
  • It produces a soft, fine-bladed grass that is not quite as traffic tolerant as Merrifield Tuff Play.

If you need assistance selecting the right seed for your lawn, stop by or call the garden center and speak with one of our turf experts.

Before you seed, mow the lawn and rake out any thatch or dead grass. Then you can apply your grass seed with a drop or rotary lawn spreader to ensure proper coverage. If you have any bare spots, you’ll need twice the amount of seed in those areas. Then cover those areas with soil or straw when you are done.

Fertilizing

Fertilizer is very important to the overall health of the lawn. It provides beneficial nutrients necessary for it to perform at its best. At a minimum, fertilizer contains the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium your lawn needs. Many also contain iron and other micro-nutrients that will help your lawn thrive.

At the time of seeding, we recommend fertilizing with Merrifield Select Lawn Food 14-18-14. This high phosphorous formula will aid in seedling germination and promote strong root growth, which is critical to new seed. In the fall, we recommend following with two applications of Merrifield Premium 26-0-12. After you have seeded and fertilized, be sure to water the lawn thoroughly.

Turf Tips: Preventing Summer Weeds

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist and Turf Expert

Untreated summer weeds have a way of wreaking havoc on our lawns. The good news is that they haven’t germinated yet. You can intervene in the process by applying a summer annual weed preventer now. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to start by treating any winter weeds that currently reside in your lawn.

Types of Summer Weeds

Summer weeds include varieties of grassy and broadleaf weeds. Grassy weeds include crabgrass—the most infamous of all—goosegrass, foxtail and Japanese Stiltgrass. Japanese stiltgrass is now the most common weed in the state of Virginia. Each of these plants produces over 1,000 seeds that will remain viable in the soil for 3 to 5 years.

Many broadleaf weeds begin germinating in early spring and include spotted spurge and lespedeza, among others. Regardless of what type you have, all of these will stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise healthy and attractive lawn.

Preventing Summer Weeds

To determine which product you should use to prevent summer weeds from attacking your lawn, you must first decide if you are going to seed the lawn this spring.

If you’re not planning to seed the lawn

If you are not seeding the lawn this spring, there are three different products you can use to control summer weeds:

  • Preen Crabgrass Control
  • Organic Corn Gluten

Preen Crabgrass Control contains dimension, a very effective ingredient that prevents summer weeds. Both products will remain active in the soil for 2 to 3 months, which means you need to put down two applications per year (for example, one in mid-March and another in early June).

Corn gluten is an organic weed preventer, which naturally inhibits all seed growth. This product will last about 1 to 2 months in the soil, which means you need to put down two applications per year (for example, one in mid-March and another in late April or early May).

If you put down two applications of any of these products in the spring and early summer, your lawn will be ready for fall seeding. Fall is an ideal time to seed as the warm days and cool nights provide the optimal growing conditions for cool season grasses.

If you are planning to seed the lawn

If you are seeding the lawn this spring, we recommend using Scott’s Step 1 for Seeding (Starter Food with Weed Preventer). This product contains tenacity, an ingredient that can distinguish between the “bad” summer weed seeds and the “good” grass seeds. This product also provides starter fertilizer to help your grass seed germinate.

Once your new grass seed has germinated and been mowed twice (this typically occurs about 6 to 8 weeks after seeding), you can apply a second application of another summer annual weed preventer. For the second application, we recommend using one of the three products for not seeding your lawn. By this point, your new grass will be mature enough to withstand the dimension ingredient. You should only use the Scott’s Step 1 for Seeding for the primary application as your lawn doesn’t need a second application of the starter fertilizer that comes automatically in the product.

Lawn

Treatment for Summer Grassy and Broadleaf Weeds

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

In our area, our lawns are the happiest when the temperature is between 50 and 75 degrees F and they get about an inch of water per week. With the soaring temperatures and lack of rain we encountered in July and August, our lawns are way out of their comfort zone! Stressed, thin lawns become vulnerable to weed takeover.

The last few weeks we’ve seen lawns mostly struggling with summer annual grassy and broadleaf weeds. these include crabgrass, Japanese stiltgrass, spurge and lespedeza. This a good time to treat these weeds and get ready to restore your lawn as the ideal time for seeding is right around the corner.

Crabgrass

Crabgrass

Spurge

Spurge

Japanese Stiltgrass

Lespedeza

Lespedeza

Treatment

If you’re struggling with grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and Japanese stiltgrass, we recommend Bayer Advanced Bermudagrass Control for Lawns. If you’re struggling with broadleaf grasses, such as spurge or lespedeza and/or grassy weeds, we recommend Trimec Crabgrass Plus Lawn Weed Killer. You can apply either product immediately. Just be sure to wait three to four weeks before seeding your lawn.

If you’re not sure what weed has taken over your lawn, bring a sample into any of our three stores and see a plant specialist at our plant clinic. We’re more than happy to help you diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment plan.

Summer annual weeds can be prevented, but the treatment must take place in the spring. The best way to protect your lawn from summer weed takeover is by maintaining a thick, dense turf.

Groundcovers: Growing A Wall-To-Wall Carpet

This post was updated in February 2021. Original post is from 2015.

Groundcovers may be some of the smallest plants we carry, but low-growing plants can have a huge impact on a landscape. Thanks to their trailing growth habit, they will spread out over large areas, creating a living carpet in your garden beds. They can be used to fill in gaps along a garden path, protect against soil erosion and cover difficult to maintain sections of your landscape. These days people are beginning to use them as lawn alternatives as well.

Most groundcovers are evergreen, but many of them bloom in the spring, and some in the summer.

Things to Consider about Groundcovers

Before selecting your groundcovers, consider the following:

  • How much light will your plants receive? Check the area where you will be planting first so that you can choose a compatible groundcover.
  • Will they be receiving occasional foot traffic from humans or pets? If so,  consider choosing “Stepables,” a selection of low-growing plants that can withstand an occasional stomping. Dianthus, campanula, sedum and veronica are a few options from this brand.
  • Will you have time to weed during the first year? After about a year, your groundcovers should be grown in enough that they will choke out weeds from growing among them. However, you will need to weed or apply weed preventers until this happens.
  • Are you willing to prune occasionally? Once your plants are established, you will probably want to edge them each spring, then trim them periodically with hedge shears.

You will need to water periodically, especially as the plants are becoming established during the first year. We also recommend fertilizing your groundcover once per year to encourage their growth and bloom. Merrifield Flowering Plant food is a good choice for fertilizing.

Groundcovers for Sun

Periwinkle

This is one of our most popular groundcovers, and features delicate lavender flowers in the spring.

Carpet Rose, Shrub

Carpet Roses

If you have a space with full sun, ground-covering roses are a beautiful option. They are blanketed with blooms from the end of May through November, making them a great choice for areas where you want to add lots of color. These roses are reliable and durable, too.

Creeping Juniper, Groundcover

Creeping Juniper

Junipers, which thrive in sunny, dry conditions, are frequently used to cover sunny slopes that would otherwise be difficult to maintain.

Groundcovers for Shade

Variegated Mondo Grass, Groundcover, Istock

Mondo Grass

Mondo grass makes an excellent groundcover in shady areas. In places where you do not have enough sun to grow grass, a dwarf variety of mondo grass can replace your lawn or be grown between stepping stones. Black mondo grass can provide contrast with other shade garden plants.

Pachysandra, Groundcover

Pachysandra

This is an excellent choice for areas that are too shady to grow grass or other plants. In the spring, it produces small, white flowers.

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