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weed that is matted low lying with seed pods

Weed that is matted low lying with seed pods

It is safe to say that 2020 was a long, long year. Covid-19 has taken a physical, emotional and/or financial toll on most Americans and now we have been dealing with the winter blues. The winter blues are real. Many suffer from a lack of motivation, eating issues, trouble sleeping and sadness during the dark and cold winter months.

But hope is on the way! The snow has melted, and the temperatures are finally increasing. With spring arriving, we can start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking of light, it is not easy to leave your house in the dark each morning, only to come home in the dark at the end of the day. We all know that little smile you get the first time you realize the sun is still up at 6pm. It means that spring is almost here!

Day light savings has given us an extra hour of sun and one of the best things to do is get outside and enjoy all that life has to offer. Take a few minutes to put down the phone, tablet, or smartwatch. Look at the flowers, birds, sunset or smell the spring air. Take a moment for yourself and focus on the good things.

The outdoors is a great place to do that, and your back yard is a great please start. Taking pride in a beautiful lawn and/or landscape will help. You can take solace in knowing that like most living plants, your lawn absorbs carbon dioxide and converts it into oxygen. Not only does a thick lawn produce oxygen, but it also does a great job at trapping dust, smoke, and other pollutants. Well maintained trees and shrubs create a sound barrier to provide a calming sense of privacy. Your yard is also a great recreational space to play with children, grandchildren, and pets. Physical exercise has been proven to improve your mood, decrease depression and lower stress. Just a few minutes a day walking your property to increase your outdoor activity is a great place to start.

Benefits of being outdoors in the spring

  • Being stuck indoors for months means an increase in screen time for most. Cutting down on TV, phone and tablet time at home will help minimize stress and sadness from the current news cycle. Use that time to stay active, talk to friends and family or simply relax.
  • A healthy meal plan can also improve your mood. No one is saying it is time to diet but try to incorporate some healthy choices to improve how you feel. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. Foods high in vitamin D can help balance your mood. Another way to get outside this spring is to start planning your garden. Your green thumb may help you enjoy fresh vegetables all summer long.
  • Our fast-paced world can make it difficult to get to sleep. Many of us are on our phones to the late hours of the night when we should be asleep. An afternoon nap on your hammock or favorite chair will help your body recover.
  • Being outdoors allows you to clear your mind. Walking in nature has been found to help you focus, improve impulse control and concentration.
  • Outdoor activity can help reduce the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by helping to lower anxiety and sadness.
  • Free aromatherapy.
  • A walk each day can help lower your blood pressure and stress related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.


Being outdoors and enjoying green, healthy plants will simply make you happier. Combined with sunlight, warmer temperatures, the peaceful sounds of nature there is no better place to be this spring than your back yard. Take a few minutes this weekend to enjoy the simple things nature has to offer. Smile, laugh and play like you are a kid again. Trust me, after 2020, we can all use some time to enjoy the simple things nature and your back yard have to offer.

Hairy Bittercress: The Winter Invader

With over 30 years of experience in lawn care, I can say without question the most common misconception is that broadleaf weeds are preventable. There is nothing that makes customers more frustrated than seeing broadleaf weeds in a lawn they are paying to have maintained. So why do broadleaf weeds pop up in maintained lawns from time to time?

The Grand Illusion

If you search the internet, you may find a few products labeled for preventatively controlling broadleaf weeds. However, these products are not practical for residential lawn use, and are generally not included as part of any normal maintenance program. Instead, maintenance programs typically utilize control products that are applied to the foliage and stems of existing broadleaf weeds which the plants absorb into their roots. When done often enough in combination with regular fertilization, the combined regimen will discourage broadleaf weed growth while promoting the dense growth of desirable turf grasses. Because the weeds are almost never allowed to outgrow the grass, it appears to the homeowner as though the weeds are being prevented.

Hairy Bittercress

In the early part of each spring, customers call in waves about a weed with little white flowers popping up all over the lawn. Comments about how they’ve “never seen this weed before”, or that it “wasn’t there last year” are common. So why is this particular weed such an issue each spring worth writing about? To answer that question, we need to rewind a bit.

Hairy bittercress is a winter annual that starts growing in fall as a small, low-growing weed. The plant develops as a basal rosette (like the dandelion), with leaves that are round to kidney shaped, the largest of which can be found at the end of the stems. The plants remain smaller at this phase and are only slightly more obvious when they occur in mulch beds or any place where grass is not present. As more bittercress continues to germinate into November, regular weed control treatments stop. In addition, the grass starts to slip into winter dormancy which slows stem and leaf growth dramatically.

With the grass dormant for the winter, and no winter weed control applications taking place, the hairy bittercress continues to mature off and on through the colder weather. If the winter is snow covered for extensive periods, the maturation of this weed is very slow. Years with winters like this are when homeowners are less likely to take note of this weed in their lawns, because it does not have the opportunity to bloom before their initial weed control treatments are applied. However, in years where the winter is not as cold and there is almost no snow/ice cover, the hairy bittercress matures quickly and goes into bloom much sooner than initial treatments can be applied and well before any lawn mower is even pulled out of its shed. The white flowers sprout atop 3-9” stems and any homeowner can spot this winter invader with just a brief observation being made of the lawn from their front door.

What to do?

First, don’t panic. Second, call your lawn care provider and explain that there is hairy bittercress growing in the lawn. They will send out a technician to provide your initial treatment of the spring, which should include broadleaf weed control. For all of the concern raised by the presence of this pest, it is actually very easy to control with a single application of broadleaf weed control.

Hairy bittercress plants can be easily plucked from the lawn from the base of the stem if herbicide use is not desired. It is an annual, so any plants missed will die as it gets warmer; however, if pulling weeds, homeowners should try to get as many as possible before plants go into seed. Hairy bittercress develops very obvious seed pods that form upright along stems. They will actually burst when disturbed and catapult seeds as far as 16 feet! The more plants removed before these structures form, the better.


The best defense against any weed is maintaining a thick, healthy lawn. Seeding whenever necessary to establish dense turf cover will keep weeds from being able to infiltrate the lawn. Proper fertilizer applications done regularly throughout the year should also help to promote desirable turf growth which will further crowd out unwanted weeds.

If you have any questions about hairy bittercress and controlling it, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888 or request a free estimate online.

Spring Lawn Care Mistakes

Seeding in the Spring

Seeding during the spring often leads to undesirable results for the homeowner. What factors in the spring hinder your seeding results? Some important things to remember is there are a lot of active weeds to compete with the new seed in the spring and weed control cannot be applied to the areas you seeded. Also, the most stressful time of year for your cool season turf is right around the corner: summer heat! Let’s discuss more.

A lot of broadleaf weeds are actively growing during the spring, any new grass seed you put down will be directly competing with the broadleaf weeds for space to germinate. The areas you would seed in your lawn are typically small patches where you can see the soil. Due to the lack of plant competition in the bald areas, this creates the perfect environment for weed growth. Additionally, weed control can potentially harm new seed and immature plants, so the weeds can’t be treated until the new grass plants mature.

The summer temperatures in New Jersey can greatly affect the new grass seed. We can experience heat influxes as early as May, and if there is a heat wave with temperatures over eighty degrees for a week, this can be enough stress to cause damage to the young plants. The summer is very stressful on grass plants, especially young grass plants that have not developed an extensive root system like the other areas of established turf.

Misapplying Fertilizer

When applying fertilizer to your lawn, it is important to apply the right amount; both not enough and too much can have consequences to the appearance of your lawn. Be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer label you purchase and apply accordingly. Before you begin, it is important to have a general understanding to the size of your lawn. If you don’t know the size of your property, we recommend measuring first so that you apply fertilizer at the correct rate.

In the spring, it is very important to remember that soil temperature is what brings the turf out of dormancy, not applying fertilizer. Be careful not to over fertilize in an attempt to bring the turf out of dormancy, this will only happen when soil temperatures rise.

Not Servicing Your Mower

Mowing damage is common and easily avoidable. We recommend having your entire mower serviced at the start of the growing season. Servicing your mower will have the blades sharpened, engine checked, rotary looked at and oil changed. Sharp mower blades provide a clean cut off the top of plant. Dull blades can tear, shred, and bruise the ends of the grass plants which weakens the plant. This type of injury can also be a spot for disease to enter the plant. Having the engine and rotary checked is also critical to protecting your lawn. If the rotary runs too slow, this will lead to leaf injury when mowing.

Mowing Too Short

In the spring and summer months, healthy grass grows fast! It might seem tempting to mow your grass short so the frequency in which you have to mow is decreased; however, mowing the grass too short can have an impact on the health and appearance of your lawn. The best grass mowing height in our service area is about 3 – 3 ½ inches in length and when mowing the lawn, mow off only 1/3 of the grass plant at a time. By removing too much of the grass blade at one time, it can weaken the plant which in turn will reduce its ability to withstand other environmental issues such as disease, surface feeding insects and even invasion of broadleaf weeds.

Not Applying Crabgrass Pre-Emergent

Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that is a problem in most home lawns in our service area and around the country. This weed typically grows in stressed areas of the turf; including thin or bare areas and can become a headache to treat after it becomes established in your lawn.

When it comes to treating this undesirable plant, prevention has more success than post emergence control. Turf experts recommend applying two rounds of crabgrass pre-emergent in the spring; one between the months of March or April, and the second round four to eight weeks after the first. The crabgrass pre-emergent applications create a barrier in the soil that controls the plants once germination starts.

Applying Weed Control Too Early

When purchasing a fertilizer from a home improvement store, it is normally going to come with a broadleaf weed control competent to it as well. We recommend waiting to apply this broadleaf weed control until after the weeds become active in your lawn. Applying the fertilizer and weed control mix before the weeds are present on your lawn provides no control of future broadleaf weeds. Broadleaf weed control for common weeds like dandelions only work after the weed has emerged.


We certainly all make mistakes, let us help you avoid some common lawn care mistakes so that you can achieve a healthy and great looking lawn. If you have any questions regarding spring lawn care, and are in our service area, give our office a call or request a free estimate online.

Things to know before you seed this Spring

Spring is finally here! It’s time to get outside and enjoy the nicer weather. One common activity for most homeowners is doing a spring clean-up around the yard. This is also when most people notice the bare areas of turf and decide it’s time to do some spring seeding. Spring seeding has its place, but it’s important to have real expectations and understand the potential long-term issues before spending your time and money on seeding your lawn early in the season.

Broadleaf Weeds

Lots of plants are actively growing in the spring, including broadleaf weeds! When you decide to seed in the spring, the grass plants are going to be actively competing with weeds for places to germinate and grow. Once you seed, it’s not a simple process of just spraying the weeds to kill them, the young immature grass plants will not be strong enough to withstand weed control and survive. Most weed control products recommend waiting until you’ve mowed the new grass 3 to 4 times before applying the product. You’re forced to wait until the grass plants and the weeds mature before you can spray the weeds. If you have aggressive weed growth, you may have to touch up seed those areas after you control the weeds.

Since we’re talking about weeds, lets discuss the tiny crabgrass seeds that are lying dormant in the soil, just waiting for temperatures to warm up enough so they can germinate. Although crabgrass won’t be actively competing with your young grass plants in the spring, it will start to encroach a little closer to summer.

Prior to crabgrass germination, we typically apply a crabgrass pre-emergent product in the spring. Most of these products not only control crabgrass, but also kill your young grass plants. If you plan on seeding, you will have to avoid applying crabgrass pre-emergent in the seeded areas if you want any of the new plants to survive!

During the summer months, when a lot of the cool season grasses go dormant, crabgrass becomes a major issue and can take over sections that you seeded in the spring. All the time and money spent will have provided nice short-term results, but long term you will need to seed again in September.

Can you still prevent crabgrass?

If you really need to seed and a crabgrass pre-emergent was already applied or you want to have one applied, there are options. If the crabgrass pre-emergent was already applied, you can add a few inches of fresh topsoil to the areas you want to seed. This will allow the plants to germinate and grow before hitting the pre-emergent layer in the existing soil.

The other option is to use a pre-emergent product that is safe to use on new seed. We have found these products are not as effective, but it is an option you can try. If you go this route, please make sure you read the label and application instructions completely before applying the product. Timing and quantity of product are extremely critical when dealing with newly seeded areas.

Working with the Weather

The final concern with spring seeding has to do with the weather, which is completely out of our control. In the Northeastern United States, cool-season grasses are the dominant varieties used, and as the name suggests, they prefer cooler temperatures. A mature grass plant is going to be much more resilient and stress tolerant than a plant that was recently planted and doesn’t have a fully developed root system. We want our new plants to grow as much as they can before summer arrives and temperatures start rising, making it stressful on turf.

Also, spring snowfall, which has happened to us in recent years, makes it even more difficult by shortening the growing season before summer and cooling the soil temperatures, delaying germination even more. Even if you do everything perfect in the spring and your new grass plants are looking great before the summer, stressful weather conditions are ahead, and the plants are still very vulnerable.

High temperatures and drought are extremely difficult on younger plants and they might not survive. In addition to the high temperatures, the summer is also when most lawn diseases are active. An immature plant is more susceptible to disease and more likely to be killed by the disease when compared to a mature plant. For more information on minimizing turf disease, click here to read our blog.

There’s still hope for seeding

If you’re still reading this blog, I want to let you know successful spring seeding is possible, it might need a little extra care depending on the weather. Watering correctly to help reduce stress and potentially using a fungicide to minimize disease impacts increases your odds of success. If it can wait, seeding in late August through September is preferred in our region. You will have less competition from other weeds, crabgrass will be near the end of its life cycle, the most stressful weather has typically passed, and cooler fall temperatures are right around the corner. Make sure you don’t wait too long in the fall; germination stops quickly when soil temperatures get too cold. Late August through the month of September is a great window to seed.


Now that you are aware of the potential limitations with spring seeding, you can make the best decision for your specific situation. A lot of times, you don’t have a choice and spring seeding is necessary, at least now you know what to look for and expect long term. If you’re in our service area and have questions about seeding, feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888.

When will my lawn green up?

This picture illustrates how a Fine Fescue grass (right) greens up differently than a Blue/Rye grass mix (left).

In the spring, many lawns are brown and still in their winter dormancy state. They will eventually green up, but timing depends on some external factors. Your lawn’s green up in the spring is dictated by the temperatures of the soil as well as grass type. The temperature of the soil needs to reach 50 to 65 degrees to actively start the growing and green-up process for northern grasses in our area including rye, blue and fescues. To further complicate things, different species of grasses green up at different soil temperatures. Thicker lawns can take a little longer to green up because the sunlight is not directly getting to the soil, hence taking more time for the soil to reach the desired green-up temperatures. Also, if you have a lot of tree cover or other shade issues, the soil may take a little longer to warm up, delaying your lawn’s green up. You can’t control the external factors but there are a few things you can do to help your lawn green up a little quicker next spring.

What can be done to help the green up process in the spring?

The most important thing you can do to help your lawn green up in the spring is starting to think about it in the fall. Specifically, a winterizing fertilizer applied late in the fall season will improve the green up process the following spring. The winterizing fertilizer is one of the most important applications for your lawn. It will provide nutrients that help promote root growth and get stored as reserves over the winter. The stored nutrients will be used for new growth and aid with your lawn greening up during the spring.

Once your lawn greens up in the spring you are going to want to keep it that way for the rest of the season. Here are some helpful tips to keep your lawn green all season long especially during the hot and stressful summer months.

  1. Water the lawn regularly. Your lawn should receive roughly 1 inch of water per week. It is recommended to start running underground sprinklers for 1 to 1 ½ hours per zone, twice a week. As for hose-end sprinklers start at around 4 hours per zone, once a week. If the lawn loses color add more time to your watering schedule not more days. Bump up your watering schedule by half-hour increments weekly until the color is adequate. Watering should occur between midnight and 6 a.m. Watering your lawn at night while you are sleeping will help to minimize the length of time the lawn is wet which will reduce disease activity. It will also help save you money. At night there is no sun to evaporate the water and you will use a lot less water to achieve your watering goals. For hose-end sprinklers, you can go to any home improvement store and purchase battery operated timers and splitters for the hoses to set up in your lawn for overnight watering. Once the hot summer months roll around, the lawn will be under a tremendous amount of stress. If the lawn does not get enough water it will turn brown and go into summer dormancy. Once the lawn turns brown from summer stress it will take heavy watering for to green back up. The secret to having a green lawn all summer long is to water on a regular schedule and keep to that schedule.
  1. Mow the lawn correctly. The taller grass blades will shade the soil underneath keeping the soil moist longer. Mow the lawn when it needs to be mowed (not because you mow every Wednesday). Mow off 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. Keep the height of cut to 3 – 3 ½ inches in length, and change the direction of the mowing pattern with each mowing. This will help to reduce bending of the grass blade in the same direction and reduce ruts by the tires of the mower. Keep the mower blades sharp to avoid shredding the leaf tips, which can cause infection of disease and the weakening of the grass plants in general.
  2. Core aerate your lawn annually in the fall. Core aeration is the mechanical process of removing plugs of soil creating small holes in the lawn which allows air, water and nutrients to get down to the grass root zone. This process also helps the grass roots grow deeper and produce a stronger, more vigorously growing lawn. To watch a video and learn more information about core aeration, check out our blog.
  3. Apply lime. Lime will help to regulate the pH of the soil. When the pH of the soil is low the nutrients in the soil are not completely available for use by the grass plants. If the pH is in the optimum range (between 6.3 – 6.5 for grasses in our area) the lawn can utilize the nutrients to its full capacity which will help create a healthy and stronger lawn. For more information about soil pH and lime, check out our blog.
  4. Fertilize your lawn regularly throughout the season. By maintaining a good fertilizer program, you are supplying your turf with vital nutrients (like Nitrogen which helps maintain the color of the grass plants) it requires for optimum health, growth and color.


Bottom line, be patient, there is nothing wrong if your lawn greens up later than your neighbor’s. It will green up over time, but keeping it green throughout the season, now that’s the real trick to a beautiful colorful lawn. If you have any questions about lawn services that can help the lawn green up throughout the year, check out our platinum lawn program.

If you are in our service areas and have questions, please feel free to give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Early Spring Weeds

The season of new life in our lawns and landscapes has finally arrived! Early in the spring, trees and shrubs produce beautiful flowers that bring vibrant colors to the landscapes, but unfortunately this time of year also brings unwanted plants; also known as weeds. Below we will go through the most common early spring weeds and the best treatment methods.


Dandelions are easily the most infamous of the early spring weeds that are very easy to identify. We’ve all driven by a beautiful green landscape freckled with dandelions, disrupting the look of a lawn that recently greened up from winter dormancy. Dandelions are a perennial plant with leaves between 3-10 inches in length, stemming from a singular taproot. The yellow flower will transform into the white “puff ball” that we all used to pick up and blow on when we were kids. This part of the flowering weed is the seed head. Often, the seeds are carried by wind to a new destination and germinates to form a new dandelion plant the following year.

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy bittercress is another common early spring weed that sticks out like a sore thumb in the lawn. This early spring weed is an annual plant that starts to grow in early winter and matures through the very early part of the spring season. It produces a white flower, that is easily identifiable among the rest of the green plant. Many homeowners observe the presence of this weed despite having a lawn treatment service because this weed develops during the winter and most lawn companies have stopped treating weeds for the season. Unfortunately, its presence in the lawn is almost unavoidable.

Wild Onion/Garlic

Wild onion and wild garlic are perennial plants that grow from bulbs in the soil. These are the tallest of the early spring weeds that are sure to stand out on any home lawn. Both plants have thin green waxy leaves; however wild garlic are round and hollow leaves, while wild onion leaves are flat and solid. The bulbs of the wild onion and garlic plan can remain dormant in the soil for several years, making the control for these weeds sometimes difficult. They look very similar to scallions you purchase in the store, except smaller. Additionally, deer will not eat these weeds, and your dogs and cats should stay away from these plants as these early spring weeds are poisonous to them.

Common & Mouse-ear Chickweed

An early spring annual plant, chickweed typically will grow along edges of beds, sidewalks and curbs as seen in the image below. Chickweed grows in low lying patches as it roots itself from nodes along its stems. It can develop a white flower if soil temperatures become warm enough before the lawn is being mowed regularly. The difference between the mouse-ear variety and common chickweed is that the leaves of mouse-ear chickweed are hair covered and appear fuzzy upon close inspection.


This early spring weed is an annual plant with circular to heart shaped leaves and square stems that have a green to purple color to them. The flower of henbit grows in whorls around the stem and are a pink to purple in color. Henbit usually resides in the harshest of environments near foundations, in stone, and very compacted soil.


Although there are numerous types of early spring weeds, controlling them is not very difficult with the right product. A treatment with the appropriate broadleaf weed control should kill most of the visible weeds this year. Unfortunately, broadleaf weed control does not act as a preventative, so you will need to apply follow up treatments as more weeds emerge. When selecting weed control, make sure you read the label to confirm the product will control the type of weeds growing in your lawn. In addition, be sure to follow all instructions for proper use and rates to avoid any adverse effects. Please make sure you do not apply a non-selective herbicide to your turf, such as Round Up containing Glyphosate, this will not only kill the spring weeds but also any grass plants that it contacts as well.

For information on cultural practices that can help prepare your lawn and landscape ready for outdoor parties and get togethers this spring, check out our spring maintenance blog.


Although it’s practically impossible to avoid having these weeds enter your lawn, these common early spring weeds are easy to control. If you have a lawn care company already, control of these early spring weeds should be included as part of your basic program. If you’re a do it yourselfer, getting rid of these early spring weeds can be accomplished using over the counter herbicides. Just be sure to read and follow all label instructions.

See also  what soil to use for weed seeds

To be ready for the common summer broadleaf weeds, check out our blog. If you have any questions and are in our service area, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888.

Before You Plant Grass in the Spring

Among a host of other long-awaited chores, many homeowners are eager to get out onto their lawns once the snow has melted and plant grass in the spring. While it may be difficult to contain the urge to rush out to the local home improvement store and spend hundreds of dollars in a state of euphoria brought on by the smell of fresh cut grass, there are a few things to consider first before planting grass in the spring.

How to decide?

The first thing to consider before planting grass in the spring is whether or not the lawn needs to be seeded at all. In the early months of spring the soil is often super saturated from the snow melt. A lot of the plants are overly succulent with no rigidity and the color is poor because a lot of plants are still dormant. Keep in mind that the lawn has just started to wake up and isn’t looking its best. I mean, would you want anyone making any decisions regarding what to do about your overall appeal right after you rolled out of bed? Just try not to be overly disappointed with the lawn’s appearance at first sight and know that it looks as bad as it is going to early in spring before the soil temperatures become warm enough to trigger spring growth before you decide to plant grass in the spring.

How should one determine if you should plant grass in the spring? Spring seeding should be planned if there any obvious areas of exposed soil. These areas can represent a large percentage of the property, or be as small as a baseball or basketball. Even small areas of exposed soil where there is little to no grass present can be an eyesore, and establishing new grass in these areas before they become worse through erosion is important.

When to plant grass in the spring

Once the decision is made to plant grass in the spring, the work should be done as early as the weather permits. The best time to plant grass in the spring is when the snow has melted and it appears that there will be no future snow accumulation. This is usually between late March and early April. The timing is important because it is essential that the new seed has as many weeks as possible to establish before the summer arrives. One of the biggest disadvantages to seeding any areas in the spring is that a large percentage of the new plants do not develop a root system mature enough to survive the stress of summer. Therefore, it is best only to address the sections of the lawn that absolutely need it in spring.

The above pictures show a portion of a lawn that needs to be seeded, and what it looks like post seeding.

After you seed

After the seeding has taken place it is important to feed the young plants. If you have a lawn care service in place they should be notified. Explain to them when and where on the property you have planted grass in the spring. The service provider can then be sure to avoid the application of any herbicides to the areas, and to bring out starter fertilizer with the next scheduled treatment to apply on the new grass. Keeping new grass properly fed with starter fertilizer high in phosphorus is critical in trying to ensure that the young plants establish in time for summer. Skipping the Early Spring application of fertilizer for fear that it may damage the turf in some way is a huge mistake often made by homeowners. Like any other newborn, young seedlings need to feed immediately to grow, and like infants they require a special diet different than that of mature adults.

With the new seed planted and fertilized, it becomes about monitoring the seedlings as they come in. The areas need to be kept moist always. One of the advantages of planting grass in the spring is that there is frequent rainfall, so keeping seeded areas moist is not very difficult. Light, frequent watering is best. New plants do not have roots, so deep watering does not serve much of a purpose. Traffic of the areas should be kept to a bare minimum. Use stakes and some string or caution tape to keep anyone from entering the area unnecessarily. The areas will need to be mowed eventually, but that should not happen until the new plants reach a height of about 4” or so.

If these instructions are followed to the letter, the new grass will have been given the best chance to germinate and establish. However, there are additional issues that come with planting grass in the spring that may adversely affect the result despite the best efforts of the homeowner.

Summer Heat

First, as mentioned already the trick with planting grass in the spring is to get it to establish before the summer arrives. Sometimes though, summer arrives earlier than expected. It is not unheard of for there to be heat waves as early as May, and it won’t take much to damage the young plants. Just a single week of temperatures more than eighty degrees may be enough to cause injury from which the new grass will not be able to recover.

Broadleaf Weeds

Second, the race for the new grass to establish is not just against the heat, but also the broadleaf weed growth. In areas of the lawn where there is less grass established there is more soil exposed to direct sunlight. The temperature increase in the soil, along with the lack of plant competition, creates the perfect environment for excessive broadleaf weed growth. If broadleaf weeds establish in these areas before the new grass does, then the results may be less than desirable.


The last factor to consider before deciding to plant grass in the spring is crabgrass. The most effective way to control crabgrass is preventatively with treatments that are applied in the early spring. Any areas seeded cannot be receive this treatment because it prevents the new grass from being able to establish. What this means is that any areas seeded will most likely have to contend with a good deal of crabgrass growth. And because crabgrass growth doesn’t really occur until June, even new seed that looks amazing to that point can suddenly become lackluster once the crabgrass populates the area. The crabgrass can be treated at that point, but then the homeowner is left with an area filled with dead crabgrass plants until the lawn can be reseeded at summer’s end.


While spring is the time for new growth, all the factors mentioned should be carefully considered before planting grass in the spring. In general, smaller touch up seeding is a non-issue and should be taken care of without much thought. However, before doing any extensive plantings of grass in the spring, it may be best to contact a lawn care professional and weigh the options carefully.

For more information about preparing your lawn and landscape for spring, check out our blog that takes an in-depth look into preparing your property for the spring. If you are in our service area and have any questions about planting grass in the spring, please don’t hesitate to call us at 908-281-7888.

How to Prepare your Lawn and Landscape for Spring

Spring is the time of year we think of warmer temperatures, longer days, plants budding and nice flowers. Before you start planning the outdoor barbecues and family get togethers, you may have some clean up to do after the winter weather took a toll on your landscape. Below are a few helpful tips on how to prepare your lawn for spring and spring landscape maintenance tips that will get your property ready before the outdoor parties and get togethers.

Assess Your Lawn and Landscape

The first step to prepare your lawn for spring is to assess the current status. Take a walk around your property to look for fallen branches, debris, and any damage that might have been done over the winter and recent storms. Create a prioritized list of items that need to be done to help stay on task and organized.

Tune Up Your Landscape Equipment

After your property check, it’s a great time to assess your landscaping equipment to make sure everything is in working order. It will be difficult to prepare your lawn for spring if your equipment is not working properly. Check your lawn mower, leaf blower, weedwacker and anything else that has a small engine for leaks of any fluids or other obvious signs of damage. If you didn’t clean your equipment at the end of last year’s season, doing so now will make inspecting for damage a lot easier. Check the spark plugs on all your gas-powered equipment and change them as necessary. Once your inspections are done, it’s time to do some routine preventative maintenance. For your operating equipment, change the engine oil, grease bearings, inflate tires on equipment if applicable, and lubricate moving parts. Sharpen your mower blades before the season starts and on a quarterly basis going forward. It’s also a great time to spool your weedwhacker with some new line.

Get Out There

When it comes to preparing your lawn for spring and spring landscape maintenance, cleaning is pretty much on everyone’s list! Clean out your landscape beds and the borders around the edges of the property from debris that collected over the winter.

Prepare the lawn by raking leftover leaves and debris from the fall. This will also help if there are any winter lawn diseases present, such as pink or grey snow mold. By lightly fluffing up the matted down turf with a leaf rake, it will help increase oxygen flow and aid in growing out the disease. This type of disease will not cause any permanent damage and addressing it early is a great way to prepare your lawn for spring.

The grass may still be brown despite the warmer temperatures. Don’t worry, the grass will green up. The thing to understand is that air temperatures do not green up a lawn; it’s the soil temperatures. As the spring days get longer, the sun has more time to warm up the soil. Once the soil reaches the ideal temperature for your type of grass, you will notice significant green up.

Dull and damaged mower blades like the one in this photo need to be sharpened to avoid shredding grass plants.

Mow Your Lawn

The first mow of the lawn at the beginning of the year will set the tone for the season. Keep the grass at a height of 3 – 3 ½ inches in length all year long. Only take off 1/3 of the grass plant at a time. If you’re going through the steps to prepare your lawn for spring, don’t forget about your lawn mower blades! Keep your blades sharp to get a clean cut and avoid shredding the grass blade. A shredded grass blade not only makes the lawn look bad and gives it a whiteish tint, but it also weakens the plant, making it more susceptible to drought, disease and insect damage.

Seed Only if You Must

Although September is the optimal time to seed your lawn, sometimes you just have to seed in the spring. Large areas that are bare, very thin, or have a lot of old, dead crabgrass plants in the area should be seeded. You can prepare your lawn for spring seeding by loosening the soil in those areas to about 1 – 1 ½ inches or add 1 – 1 ½ inches of top soil. Then, mix in your grass seed and lightly rake it into the loose soil. Grass seed germination rates are higher with better seed to soil contact. Now water, water, water! Watering is very important for new seed. Water every day for 20 minutes per area in the morning to keep your soil and seed moist. Seeding is the only time we recommend watering at high frequency and short duration. For tips on how to water your lawn correctly, please visit our blog. Keep in mind that any areas seeded in the spring will not be able to receive crabgrass or weed controls which in turn will make those areas have issues with weeds and crabgrass all year long.

Check Your Irrigation System

Have your irrigation company come by to check the system and turn it on for the season. Have any heads or pipes that were damaged from the cold repaired. Set your watering schedule to start out at one hour per zone twice per week. You want to get one inch of water on your lawn per week. As the temperatures get hotter, increase your watering time by half hour increments. Do not add more days, instead add more time to your watering schedule. Starting to water early in the season may sound crazy, but if you water early enough and get a good start, it will be healthy going into the harsh summer months and less susceptible to drought, disease and insects.

Prune Trees & Shrubs and Mulch Your Landscape

So far, we’ve focused mainly on how to prepare your lawn for spring, but what about your landscape plants! Now is the time to start spring landscape maintenance by pruning your trees and shrubs of any broken or dead branches. For flowering shrubs, wait until flowers bloom so you don’t cut off limbs that will be producing flowers or fruits. You should assess whether you can remove the branches yourself or if you should hire a company to do so. A general rule of thumb is if you have to get on a ladder to cut down limbs or branches, you probably should hire someone to do it. Depending on the nature of what needs to be removed, be sure to pick the right person for the job. Also, be sure that any tree company that you use is properly insured and licensed.

Plant your annual flowers. This is a good time to spruce up your landscape with flowers. Flowers can really add a lot of ‘pop’ to an otherwise mundane landscape. Like shrubs, it is important to try and determine where to plant which flowers. For example, if there is a dry, sunny location that you want to bring color to, wave petunias may be an option. Or, if there is a lot of shade and moisture in a particular location, impatiens might work for you. Do you want to plant different flowers every year? If so, annual flowers are what you are looking for. Do you want to plant just once and have them come up in the same location every year? If yes, then perennials are the way to go. The choices of what flowers to use in your landscape is limitless. When purchasing new flowers or shrubs, be sure to read the tag to determine the proper planting location. For example, if you have an area that is mostly shaded, look for plants that prefer shade or minimal sun to give it the best chance of thriving in your landscape.

Replacing dead or dying shrubs is another key step to preparing your landscape for the spring. If the shrub is dead, see if you can determine why it died. Is it the right plant for the location? Are the soil conditions ideal for the plant? It is a good idea to determine these factors before replacing the dead shrubs with the same, or similar, plant. If it is deemed that the location is not ideal for the plant you want, you will be replacing that plant year after year. If you are unsure how to determine this, just give us a call and we will be happy to help you.

Maintain 2 – 3 inches of fresh mulch on your landscape. This will help regulate the soil temperatures and help hold soil moisture for the trees and shrubs, reduce weed growth and give your landscape that nice clean maintained look. Please note that mulch should not be piled high on the trunk of trees or covering the shrubs. This will lead to decay and damage in the future. For more information on mulching and the risks of having too much mulch, please see our blog on mulching your landscape.

Repair Damages to Your Home or Property

We’ve gone through ways to prepare your lawn for the spring and tips for spring landscape maintenance, but don’t forget about the house! Now is the time to make repairs to the outside of your house as well, here are a few common issues:

  • Repair and clean clogged gutters
  • Fix shingles that were damaged during the winter
  • Mend fence posts or panels that are loose or broken
  • Sweep gravel back into your stone or brick walkways
  • Seal your driveway if necessary
  • It’s also a great time to repair damages or reseal your deck
  • Fix landscape lighting that may have stopped working over the winter


When it comes to preparing your lawn for spring and starting your spring landscape maintenance, it seems like the to do list keeps on growing! That being said, there are perks to owning a home. It’s your sanctuary and taking pride in our properties adds benefits to our lives, communities and our environment. If you are in our service area and have any questions about topics covered in this blog, such as proper mowing, watering, seeding, etc. please don’t hesitate to call us at 908-281-7888.

Tick Control: Important Facts You Must Know About Ticks

It seems that ticks are getting a lot of press coverage lately due to their potential to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Powassan. 2017 is forecasted to have higher than normal tick populations leaving many people wondering what options they have for tick control. In this blog, we are going to provide a broad overview on ticks and discuss methods of tick control.

What is a Tick?

Ticks are parasites that attach themselves to a host and feed on the host’s blood. They are part of the arachnid family, meaning they have eight legs, like spiders. Ticks are vectors of several tick-borne illnesses that affect both humans and animals.

What is the Life Cycle of a Tick?

Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. It’s important to understand the time of year each stage occurs so that optimal tick control methods can be used to target the predominate life cycle stage.

The first stage is the egg stage. An adult female tick will typically breed while on a host animal and then drop to the ground to lay eggs. A female tick can lay several thousand eggs at a time, which will eventually hatch into the second stage.

The second stage is the larval stage. At this stage a tick will be very small, less than an eighth of an inch and will only have six legs. It will look for a host, typically mice at this stage, and feed for several days before falling off and molting into the third stage.

The third stage is the nymph stage. At this stage a nymph tick will molt from the larval stage (having six legs) to the nymph stage (having eight legs.) After this molting occurs it will then start looking for its next meal. A nymph tick will prefer animals like racoons and possums, but will also attached to larger hosts, such as humans, when given the opportunity. Like the larval stage, after it has fed for a few days, it will fall off, molt and advance to the final stage of its life.

The final stage: Adult. At this stage the adult tick will feed for the third time on even larger animals such as deer, dogs, or humans. This is where they will feed and breed before dropping off and laying eggs to start the cycle over again.

Where do ticks live?

Ticks prefer shady and damp areas such as wooded areas, brushy fields with tall grass, ornamental landscaping beds and leaf or wood piles around your property. Any type of tick control application should target these areas. Ticks do not run, jump, fly, blow through the wind or travel great distances on their own. They travel on host animals, mainly mice and small rodents. They are very slow moving, patient and have an incredible ability to locate their hosts/prey. They select sites that warm-blooded mammals travel regularly to provide a better opportunity for contact with prey. Typically, on the end of low lying branches or the tips of ornamental shrubs and plants where they can grab onto an unsuspecting host walking by.

You may occasionally find ticks in your lawn as they drop off a host, but they do not prefer to be there. Maintained lawns typically get direct sunlight to the soil, making the habitat too dry for ticks.

What happens when a tick bites me?

You will not feel the tick actually bite you. After they bite they can secrete anesthetic properties from their saliva resulting in the person or animal not feeling it. Depending on the species of tick, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours before it feeds. A tick will cut into the skin and then embed themselves in to the flesh. They will stay attached for several days feeding on your blood. Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host in this way. If the tick has fed and falls off, you may notice a small red mark and it may also itch.

How do I remove a tick safely?

Ticks that are attached to the skin should be removed as soon as possible. Follow these tips for safe removal of a tick.

  1. Take a clean set of finely tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick by its head as close to the surface of the skin as possible.
  2. Once grasped pull the tick upwards with a steady even pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick. This can break the mouth parts off and remain in the skin.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

What kind of diseases can ticks carry and pass on to me?

Most people are very familiar with the fact that Lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks, but over the last few months the Powassan virus has been in the spotlight. We will start by discussing Lyme disease.

A tick must have taken an initial blood meal to transmit Lyme disease. At least thirty-six to forty-eight hours of feeding is required to have transmitted the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to a human. After this amount of time passes, the tick will be engorged (full of blood). After a tick bite, monitor the area closely, if the Lyme disease was passed on from the tick to the host, a “bullseye” pattern will appear at the site of the bite. This is a clear indication of Lyme disease and it is best to seek medical help.

Powassan virus is a rare disease that can also be transmitted by ticks. In the past ten years, there’s been approximately 75 confirmed cases in the Northeast, three of which were in New Jersey. The disease can cause neurological damage and even death in some cases. Given that this year is predicted to have higher tick populations, there has been increased emphasis on tick control to reduce your chances of getting bit.

There are many other types of diseases spread by ticks. If you are bitten by a tick, become sick soon after and you believe you or your pet has contracted an illness, you should seek professional care immediately.

Tick Control

Fairway Green Inc. offers a four-step tick control program starting in the spring and ending in the fall. We time our tick control applications with the various stages of a tick’s life cycle to help reduce the population around your property. The first application is a liquid treatment targeting adult ticks. The timing of our second tick control application is in conjunction with the nymph life cycle, which is why we utilize a granular application that targets both adults and nymphs. The third treatment is a liquid treatment that covers low lying nymphs as well as adults. The last tick control treatment in the fall is also liquid and targets adult ticks, which is the fourth and final life stage in a tick’s life cycle.

In conjunction with regular tick control applications from a professional lawn or tree care company there are several other steps you can take in your fight against ticks. Keep your family pets tick free with the use of tick control collars, dips or powders. Check your animals regularly and remove any ticks you may find. Check children and yourself thoroughly after outdoor activities. You can also contact your local health department or a cooperative extension service in your county for more information on ticks and any health hazards associated with them.


Tick populations are predicted to be higher than normal this year so be sure to monitor regularly, especially if you were outside in favorable tick habitat. If you’re interested in tick control and are in our service area, please feel free to call us at 908-281-7888 for more information.

Crabgrass Prevention and Control

What is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that is a problem in most home lawns throughout the country. As an annual, it completes a full life cycle in one season and germinates from seeds that were dropped during a previous season by a mature crabgrass plant. One crabgrass plant produces thousands of seeds which can live in the soil for many years before germinating. Crabgrass starts to germinate when soil temperatures reach 55-60 degrees and stay at that range for about a week. For New Jersey, this is typically sometime in late April or May, but can vary from year to year depending on the weather. Crabgrass will continue to germinate throughout the summer as well.

Why does Crabgrass grow in my lawn?

Crabgrass is typically found in stressed areas of lawns that are thin, bare, and have poor growth. Common examples of these areas are along curb edges, driveways, and walkways. It favors these areas because these types of areas are hit hardest by stress throughout the season. That being said, even a well-maintained lawn can still have annual issues with crabgrass.

What options are available for Crabgrass prevention and control?

There are many options available for crabgrass prevention and control. Here are some helpful tips to help you this season:

Home Lawn Problems and Solutions for North Dakota (H1553, Revised Aug. 2017)

W hile an attractive lawn can complement an equally attractive landscaping with trees and shrubs, one that is unkempt and weedy will be a major distraction. Indeed, a good looking lawn is as important to the total landscape picture as a shined pair of dress shoes is to formal attire. The two just naturally go together.

In response to the many inquiries about home lawn care and problems, the intent of this NDSU Extension publication is to assist the homeowner first in identifying these problems and, secondly, providing advice on actions they can take to solve these problems. Our initial emphasis will be to adjust or modify cultural practices to minimize or, in some cases, eliminate the pest. We also provide options for chemical use in case the problem has not been solved.

Each author has contributed to this publication based on his or her expertise: Alan Zuk on typical diseases observed on home lawns, Janet Knodel on insect problems; and Ron Smith in dealing with distractive weeds.

In surveying the retail market, we noted the wide availability of combination products, with herbicides and fertilizer being the most common. While this appeals to our American desire for convenience, our research has found that such combinations are not as effective in taking care of the problem, and the homeowner is better off using the pesticide (in this case, the herbicide) separately from the fertilizer application to obtain better control.

We encourage the North Dakota homeowner to be a wise shopper: Ask if using any pesticide is needed to correct the problem. If so, the homeowner should use the least toxic material according to label directions. Blanket applications of most pesticides, including fungicides, insecticides or herbicides, on an annual basis are not recommended in any instance for reasons of environmental concerns.

Weed Problems in Lawns

Nothing is more distracting in an otherwise attractive lawnscape than the presence of weeds, both broadleaf and grassy types. Broadleaf weeds, with dandelions as a conspicuous example, cause homeowners to expend money and effort to bring them under control. More than being a visual nuisance, they can compete with the desired turfgrass plants for space, light, water and nutrients. Even if the homeowner is committed to a low-maintenance or low-input lawn, some form of weed control should be implemented if for no other reason than to be considerate of your neighbors.

The first point to understand is that weeds, both the grassy and broadleaf types, are opportunistic plants that will fill any space not covered with turfgrass. Consequently, the final objective in moving toward a low weed count in a lawn would be to have dense, well-maintained turfgrass.

See also  vermont weed seeds

Some weeds are easy to control with a pre-emergence herbicide; others will require repeat applications. What you never should do is what we term “revenge spraying,” which is overapplying the herbicide in an attempt to kill the weeds faster. Most herbicides are as effective as they can be when applied according to label directions. An example of following the label is to make sure the weed leaf surface is moist when applying granular herbicides.

Below is a list of common weeds, which once established, may require more than a single herbicide application to be controlled effectively.

Broadleaf Weeds

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion. (Alan Zuk, NDSU)

This is a deeply taprooted perennial. The distinct yellow flowers in May make them a favorite target of homeowners. The flowers are followed by parachute-type seeds that children (as well as Mother Nature) distribute indiscriminately. When not in flower, dandelions are not as conspicuous but still can be identified easily by the milky sap in the leaves when they are broken. While digging dandelions out is possible, essentially the entire root system needs to be extracted or any significant fragment will form a new plant. Control is most effective with herbicide application in the fall and in maintaining a dense turf canopy.

Prostrate Knotweed, Polygonum aviculare

Prostrate knotweed. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

This is a low-growing annual that usually is found where soil compaction exists. It is one of the first weeds to germinate in the spring, just as soon as the frost has left the surface of the soil. Close mowing will not eliminate it, but when caught early enough while the plants are still young, it is easy to control. Mid to late-summer attempts at controlling this weed, especially reducing seed production and future infestations, usually fail. To correct without chemical use, initiate a practice of core aeration and continue the practice annually, especially if the areas are going to be compacted continually from foot or vehicular traffic.

Wild Violets, Viola spp.

Wild violet. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

A cool-season perennial, this plant will make itself known via the heart-shaped leaves that have a waxy surface and reproduce via bulbs and seeds. The lavender violet flowers look nice in a flower bed, but when spreading in a lawn, this plant is a source of annoying distraction. Few herbicides effectively control wild violet; consequently, proper timing of the herbicide application is very important to maximizing control.

Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis

Field bindweed. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

The slender stems on this aggressive, deep-rooted perennial make it difficult to control in both lawns and surrounding ornamental plants. Spade-shaped leaves have pointed basal lobes. Field bindweed is immediately recognizable when the white to light pink morning glory-type flower is produced. The extensive root system and numerous viable seeds that are produced make this species difficult to control, especially in high-traffic or compacted areas.

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Ground ivy. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

It also is known as “Creeping Charlie.” The plant has square stems with opposite leaves, spreads via runners, roots at every leaf node, and will thrive in both sun and shade. The flowers often are missed by the homeowner, but when present, are lavender, trumpet-shaped and first appear in early spring. This particular weed is a good scavenger of available soil nitrogen, definitely making it a worthy turfgrass competitor.

Black Medic, Medicago lupulina

Black medic. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

This, along with white clover, Trifolium repens L., is a member of the legume family, giving both the ability to mine nitrogen from the air as well as the soil. Black medic produces foliage similar to that of white clover, being trifoliate in form. Black medic distinguishes itself with vivid yellow flowers and hairy stems leading up to the leaves. While the flowers of white clover are attractive to bees, those of the black medic are much less so. Black medic is a winter or summer annual that disperses seed every year, with a strong taproot, making it difficult to remove by hand pulling. While white clover is a perennial and will root along spreading stems, black medic does not root at the nodes. Both are tolerant to 2,4-D so herbicide mixtures should be used.

Oxalis (also known as Yellow Woodsorrel), Oxalis stricta

Oxalis. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

It often is confused with clover and black medic in leaf form. They differ significantly when viewed side by side in that the oxalis has distinctly heart-shaped leaflets that are always a lighter or yellowish green. This is a unique weed in that it has both annual and perennial forms; the flower and capsule (fruiting structure) are what warrant special comment. The flower is yellow and tubular, and when the capsule matures, it expels the seed, doing so with great momentum, scattering the seed like birdshot in multiple directions several feet away. It is a curse to have in greenhouse environments and can go from being insignificant to a real headache if not controlled early in detection.

Broadleaved Plantain, Plantago major

Broadleaved plantain. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

A common problem in compacted lawn areas, this is second only to dandelions for ease of identification. The broadly dark green, parallel-veined leaves make it easy to spot in any lawn. In contrast to the common dandelion, which has an extensive taproot, the plantain has fibrous roots and a rattail-like seed head that is not nearly as obvious as the yellow flowers of the dandelion. Reducing compaction via cultural practices will limit the presence of this weed. Plantain is easily dug or controlled with herbicides.

Bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare

Bull thistle. (Rod Lym, NDSU)

Bull thistle is a biennial that forms a conspicuous rosette the first year. Leaves are covered with sharp spines and dense hairs. The plant has a deep taproot, so it doesn’t spread by rhizomes like Canada thistle. The rosette stage is the easiest to control either with herbicides or by digging to cut the taproot below the crown.

Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense

Canada thistle. (Rod Lym, NDSU)

Canada thistle rosette. (Rod Lym, NDSU)

Canada thistle is a colonizing plant that spreads specialized creeping roots and can take over an area of the lawn quickly if control measures are not instituted early and frequently enough. This perennial has leaf edges that are crinkly and covered with sharp spines.

Annual Sowthistle, Sonchus oleraceus

This annual is in a class by itself. It has smooth stems and emits a milky sap when broken. The flower resembles a dandelion, and the root system is a taproot. This sowthistle reproduces by wind-blown seed. The leaves are alternate, and while spiny, they are not as rigid or sharp as bull or Canada thistle.

Perennial Sowthistle, Sonchus arvensis

Perennial sowthistle. (Rod Lym, NDSU)

This is an invasive perennial that is similar in appearance to the annual. It differs in the ecological threat it poses. It spreads vegetatively as well as with wind-borne seeds. Each tiny piece of root can grow a new plant. The roots are deeply penetrating and colonizing. Multiple methods of control are employed: cutting and pulling, or spraying with glyphosate or a selective broadleaf herbicide.

Perennial Grassy Weeds

Grassy weeds pose a particular problem in lawns if they are perennials. Attempts at control can become expensive and require much effort with few satisfactory results. In many cases, the homeowner might be better off simply learning to tolerate their presence and managing the lawn to favor the full development of the desired turfgrass. Some of the more common perennial grassy weeds encountered in North Dakota lawns are:

Tall Fescue, Festuca arundinacea

Tall fescue. (Courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

Both a weed and a desirable lawn grass when planted properly and with the correct cultivar selection, tall fescue is considered a utility grass that often is used along roadsides for its tolerance to abuse. Its coarse, bunch-type habit of growth often shows up from purchasing low-quality seed mixes at a “bargain” price. It is identified by its sharp-pointed leaves, very small ligule and auricles, and stem bases that are often reddish. Although chemicals exist for selective control in lawns, the homeowner is better off either digging out the clumps with a shovel and sodding or reseeding that area. Using chemicals to control perennial grassy weeds in the lawn often leads to collateral damage that is not pleasing to the homeowner.

Creeping Bentgrass, Agrostis stolonifera

Creeping bentgrass. (Courtesy of Purdue University Extension)

Another desirable grass on golf courses, it can be an annoying weed in the home lawn. The seed being very small (more than 5 million seeds/pound), it easily can become wind-borne or carried on golfing equipment to the home lawn environment. It becomes obvious in a typical higher-mowed bluegrass turf by spreading in circular patches with its stoloniferous growth over the top of the desired grass. Like tall fescue, if just a few clumps occur in the home lawn, the homeowner is better off simply digging out the offending patches and either sodding or seeding the open area immediately.

Foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum

Foxtail barley. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

This is a perennial that often is found in continuously moist and recently disturbed sites with a high pH, restricted soil drainage, and waste areas and fields. It is among the first grasses to establish after disturbance and rapidly invades areas exposed by a receding water table. It often is a “holdover” in newly constructed residential areas that previously were abandoned fields.

Quackgrass, Agropyron repens; [Elytrigia repens]

Quackgrass with rhizomes. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

Quackgrass is a major headache for homeowners desiring a “perfect” lawn. It has an extensive rhizomatous (underground) system that spreads quickly once established. Digging does little good unless 100 percent of the rhizome is removed, which is almost impossible to do. Mowing high (more than 3 inches) will help reduce the presence of this pest in the lawn.

Annual Grassy Weeds

Unlike their perennial cousins, these pests are relatively easy to control with chemicals and good management practices.

Annual Bluegrass, Poa annua

Annual bluegrass with seed heads at the edge of a golf green. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

This bluegrass is the bane of the fussy home lawn owner. It sets conspicuous seed heads, is apple green, and will go to seed and die out when hot, dry weather arrives. It will be conspicuous in the cool, moist weeks of spring and fall. Upon close examination, the plant will have a conspicuous, membranous ligule; folded bud; and boat-shaped leaf tip.

Barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crusgalli

Barnyard grass with spreading base of plant. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

Distinctive seedheads. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

Like all annual weeds, this one will show up in open, water-stressed and compacted areas. It usually is one of the first weeds that new homeowners encounter when seeding a new lawn. This weed will lie flat and is fan-shaped when under mowing pressure and typically will have a purple-tinged sheath near the base of the plant. The plants lack a ligule.

Crabgrass, Digitaria spp.

Crabgrass with distinctive seed heads. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

In contrast to the cool-season quackgrass that shows obvious growth in the early spring before the desirable turf has a chance to green up, crabgrass is a warm-season annual that starts to germinate at about the same time common lilacs are starting to bloom in the area. One plant potentially has 10,000 seeds, which can result in a high seedling population getting established in bare areas. This grass is easily controlled with a pre-emergence herbicide and cultural practices.

Fall Panicum, Panicum maximum

Fall panicum. (Ron Smith, NDSU)

Like crabgrass, this pest is most conspicuous in late summer or early fall with a display of coarse seed heads. In contrast to the crabgrass, which has a long, membranous ligule, panicum has a ligule that is a fringe of hairs.

Foxtails, Setaria spp.

Foxtail. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

(Ron Smith, NDSU)

Three foxtails are common in our area: green foxtail, yellow foxtail and foxtail barley. The seed heads on all three are conspicuous and a give-away to their identity. Foxtails produce up to 10,000 seeds per plant and have the added headache of being viable in the soil for up to 20 years. The green and yellow foxtails are annual species.

Sandbur, Cenchrus spp.

Sandbur. (Courtesy of Anne Streich, University of Nebraska)

Common in open, sandy soils and where the rainfall is typically low during the growing season, this weed will provide a lasting memory if one should step on one of the burs in bare feet. While the flat leaf blades are sandpapery to the touch, the presence of the sharp burs certainly will confirm it.

General Nonchemical Control of Lawn Weeds

Before jumping into the arsenal of chemicals that are on the market for weed control in home lawns, try some common-sense cultural practices that will promote weed control:

  • Mow high. Set the mower height at 3 inches or more by measuring from the bottom edge of the mower deck to a flat, solid surface.
  • Postpone dethatching and power raking until the grass is growing actively and weed seed germination would be at a minimum. The biggest mistake the homeowner makes is to try to get a jump on the season and employ these tactics to “clean up the yard” from winter debris while the grass still is dormant. This opens the crown canopy to sunlight, exposing otherwise dormant weed seed and creating a setting that results in unwanted weed seed germination.
  • Avoid fertilization when the grass is dormant. Companies are anxious to move their product as early in the spring as possible, so retailers will have “spring fertilizer sales” in March. If the price is right, make the purchase, but hold onto it until you have mowed your lawn at least three times. Spring fertilization is most effective sometime in May, or around Memorial Day.
  • Hold off irrigating the lawn as long as possible coming into the spring. As the grass comes out of dormancy, the root system becomes increasingly active and will develop in soil that is warm and moist and has good drainage. Watering too soon will encourage shallow root development. When the irrigation is turned on, water deeply and infrequently. Don’t follow municipality recommendations of EOD (every other day) watering. Water when the grass needs it, just before wilting.
  • Follow a rational fertilization program. Decide what you want your turfgrass to look like. High fertilization rates require greater irrigation frequency, predispose the turfgrass to disease problems and will result in soft, succulent growth that could exhaust the turfgrass from excessive top growth. This also would necessitate greater mowing frequency. If fertilization is going to be just once a year, then make it in the late summer-early fall, when it will do the most good. For a little better looking grass, follow up the fall application with one in the late spring. Most lawns will look very satisfactory with two timely applications of a complete turfgrass fertilizer.

Using Herbicides to Control Weeds

Basically, chemical weed control involves using two classes of herbicides: pre-emergence and postemergence. Pre-emergence herbicides work by preventing emergence of weed seeds. The herbicide is applied and watered into the soil, where a chemical barrier will keep the weed seedlings from emerging. Most of the pre-emergence herbicides on the market are for summer annuals such as the ones mentioned in this publication. This would necessitate the application being made in the spring at least two weeks before germination of the weeds.

Since crabgrass, as well as most annual grassy weeds, germinate when the lilacs are starting to bloom, the application of the pre-emergent herbicide would need to be made at the time the forsythia in the area are coming into flower, or about two weeks before the lilacs flower.

Most herbicides that are labeled for controlling crabgrass as a pre-emergent herbicide will control all the other annual weeds in this publication except for annual bluegrass. Only one herbicide in the pre-emergence category will allow the desired grass seed to germinate when it is applied: Tupersan (siduron). It is incorporated into the soil at the time of seeding bluegrass, fescue and perennial ryegrass without harm. It should be worked into the soil because it tends to break down in sunlight. Hydro-mulching will help block some of the sunlight that might cause degradation.

For annual bluegrass, the homeowner is better off just accepting this minor pest in the lawn than attempting to bring it under control. Most chemical control measures will work up to a point, but because of the prolific and repeated seed production from this very genetically diverse bluegrass (36 variants so far), the impact of this bluegrass can be minimized with regular high mowing and bagging the clippings where the seed heads are evident.

Herbicide chemical formulations are changing constantly in response to new regulations and laws pertaining to their use. Chemical companies continually rename their formulations to catch the customer’s eye at the retail level. Check the label for the chemicals in it and their concentration. Popular “weed and feed” products will have a lower concentration of the active ingredient (AI) than a product that is formulated only as a herbicide. Research has shown that the herbicide concentration in these combination herbicide and fertilizer products is insufficient at giving good control of the target weeds. You are better off locating the weeds in the lawn and applying the appropriate herbicide in a liquid solution.

“Crabgrass Killer” certainly will be an eye catcher for anyone desiring to kill this prolific weed. When you look on the label, you find the AI in the product is called pendimethalin, one of the oldest and most common AIs on the market for pre-emergence for grassy weed control. If you shop a little, you might find other trade name products on the market such as Pre-M, Halts or something as unimaginative as Weed Grass Control. At this point, the homeowner would be wise to check the concentration of the AI, the price and the square foot area the package will cover.

Other popular products on the market are Trimec and Super-Trimec. What is the difference? Both are combination products that contain three active ingredients that research has found creates a synergistic effect in controlling the target weeds. Trimec is formulated with 2,4-D, or (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), MCPP (methylchlorophoxypropionic acid) and dicamba (3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid). This product is very capable of killing a wide spectrum of broadleaf weeds in the lawn when properly applied. Super Trimec simply replaces one of the AIs (MCPP) with 2,4-DP, which is a sister chemical to 2,4-D but works faster and in cooler weather than the Trimec formulation.

Trimec Plus is another well-known product. Its formulation has been altered with the addition of an arsonate compound, which will give a broad spectrum of control of both broadleaf and grassy leaves.

It also carries a “Warning” signal word, to which homeowners should be alert. “Caution,” “Warning” and “Danger” are the three signal words that appear on pesticide labels, none of which should be taken lightly. They serve to alert the applicator to the precautions (found on the label) that are needed to apply the product safely, so it neither harms the applicator nor the environment.

A look at these formulations indicates that a review of the available herbicides obviously would be outside the purview of this publication. Such a review would be temporary at best because formulations of such products continually change. We simply will say that if you have a weed in your lawn, a herbicide of some formulation is available to kill it.

Turfgrass Diseases

Most homeowners desire a beautiful lawn, and many spend hours or even a significant amount of money to achieve that goal. No matter how much effort one puts into managing a beautiful, vigorous lawn, turfgrass diseases are something that all homeowners will have to cope with at some point. No single turf species or cultivar is resistant to all grass diseases. However, planting resistant turfgrass cultivars is a wise policy and will reduce the odds of encountering a disease problem.

Thatch. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

Most turfgrass diseases occur because of improper cultural practices, such as watering improperly, applying too much fertilizer or not enough, mowing too low or high, using pesticides that impede soil macro- and microorganisms, and allowing thatch to accumulate.

By the time the signs (visible expression of the pathogen) and symptoms (visible expression of a disease) of a turf disease are noticeable, trying to achieve effective chemical control usually is too late. Many fungicides are safe for homeowners to use if label directions are followed. However, most are not available for use by homeowners because the general population lacks the ability to diagnose turfgrass diseases properly. Furthermore, some products are very hazardous to people or pets that come into contact with them during or after application. Also, some fungicides are extremely expensive and may require specialized application equipment. Therefore, we recommend that fungicides be applied preventatively by a professional applicator. By hiring a professional applicator, a homeowner can avoid purchasing too much product, which must be stored safely and properly.

Contact your local county Extension office for proper chemical and nonchemical disease control options.

Gray snow mold, Typhula spp.

Gray snow mold mycelium. (Alan Zuk, NDSU)

Gray snow mold sclerotia. (Alan Zuk, NDSU)

The following are cultural methods to prevent gray snow mold:


  • Improve soil aeration.
  • Keep mowing grass as long as it is growing. Tall grass will mat down under snow.
  • Do not fertilize within six weeks of dormancy.
    • Late N applications will promote lush growth.
    • Late growth will interfere with winter hardiness.
    • A layer of leaves will contribute to matting down and moisture buildup.


    • If practical, shovel the snow off susceptible areas.
    • Spread something dark (humate) on the snow surface to promote melting.
    • Rake lawns to air out the turf and promote drying.

    Gray snow mold is a common cold-weather disease that can affect all cool-season turfgrass in North Dakota. It typically attacks turfgrass leaves but can kill the crown during a severe outbreak. Loss of the meristematic tissue (turfgrass crown) will cause plant death. It develops during winter under snow cover at temperatures just above freezing, usually requiring 30-plus days for development.

    After the snow melts from an infected area, light tan patches ranging from 2 inches to 2 feet are present in the lawn. Patches also may coalesce under snow cover to produce a larger infected area. The disease cannot advance once snow cover recedes. The patches often are covered by a white, cottony growth called mycelium. Thirty days of snow cover can result in a light outbreak. Sixty days of snow cover typically results in a moderate outbreak and 90-plus days of snow cover can cause a severe outbreak. If the crown is killed, the turf must be re-established.

    Fungi survive warm weather as resting structures called sclerotia, which are black (T. ishikariensis) or reddish brown (T. incarnata) structures visible to the naked eye. They may resemble black pepper sprinkled over leaves and ground litter or they may grow as large as a pin head either on or embedded in the grass leaves.

    A preventative fungicide treatment applied right before permanent snow cover occurs usually is very effective in preventing gray snow mold infection. Contact your county Extension specialist for recommended chemical control options.

    Chemical control options: Instrata (chlorothalonil, fludioxonil and propiconazole), Bayleton (triadimefon), Prostar (flutolanil) and Medallion (fludioxanil).

    Susceptible Turfgrass Species:

    Moderate Susceptibility
    Kentucky bluegrass
    Perennial ryegrass
    Fine fescues
    Tall fescue

    Severe Susceptibility
    Annual bluegrass

    Pink snow mold, Microdochium nivale

    Pink snow mold.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Pink snow mold. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Pink snow mold is a cold-weather disease that affects all cool-season turfgrasses. It develops under snow cover at temperatures ranging from 30 to 60 F. Unlike gray snow mold, the disease still can proliferate after snowmelt as long as conditions remain cool and wet. The fungi produce dead, matted, tan, circular patches ranging from 3 inches to 2 feet in diameter. However, the circular pattern may not be as distinct in taller mown grass. The mycelium produces a pink cast in the infected areas during wet conditions, often with a darker pink to red perimeter. Another difference between pink and gray snow mold is that pink snow mold does not produce black sclerotia in the infected areas.

    A preventative fungicide treatment applied right before permanent snow cover occurs usually is very effective in preventing pink snow mold infection. Contact your county Extension specialist for recommended chemical control options.

    Chemical control options: Instrata (chlorothalonil, fludioxonil and propiconazole), Insignia (pyraclostrobin), Compass (trifloxystrobin) Ferti-lome Halt Systemic Spray (thiophanate methyl), Banner Maxx (propiconazole) and Medallion (fludioxanil).

    Cultural methods to prevent pink snow mold are the same as those listed under gray snow mold.

    Susceptible Turfgrass Species:
    Moderate Susceptibility
    Kentucky bluegrass
    Fine fescues
    Tall fescue

    Severe Susceptibility
    Annual bluegrass
    Perennial ryegrass

    Stripe smut, Ustilago striiformis

    Stripe smut. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Stripe smut is a cool-weather disease that primarily affects bluegrass and bentgrass. It is most active in temperatures ranging from 45 to 60 F. Lawns exhibit poor growth and often are patchy, uneven and thin. Leaves on infected plants develop yellowish-green, elongated streaks that eventually turn gray, then finally black. The leaf breaks along the black stripes, causing the leaf to tatter and release spores. The tips of the tattered strips curl downward, causing the leaves to turn brown and die. Severe infections may kill the entire plant.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Bayleton WP25 (tridiamefon) and Fungo Flo (thiophanate methyl).

    Cultural methods to prevent stripe smut: Avoid frequent light irrigation in the afternoon and evening. Control seldom is required because the disease is rarely severe. Apply nitrogen to infected areas, along with deep watering early in the day to stimulate growth and aid recovery.

    Leaf spot and melting out, Drechslera spp.

    Leaf spot phase. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Melting out phase. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Leaf spot and melting out are caused by Drechslera spp., a cool-weather disease that affects most grasses. It is most active in temperatures ranging from 45 to 60 F. Once a serious problem primarily on Kentucky bluegrass lawns that caused thinning and eventually large-scale loss of turf, it now is considered only a nuisance in most cases because of the availability of resistant cultivars. The symptoms appear in the form of small, purplish elliptical spots on grass blades after green-up in early spring. The center of the spot soon fades to tan with a purplish border. When the air temperature reaches 85 F or higher, the fungi can spread to the crown and other lower portions of the plant, causing severe stress or death as a result of crown, rhizome or root rot; this phase of the disease is called “melting out.” Melting out also can develop into a serious problem in early summer during periods of prolonged leaf wetness or if improper cultural practices are used.

    Leaf spot may reappear in the fall but usually with less impact.

    Leaf spot and melting out caused by Bipolaris spp. are similar to leaf spot symptoms caused by Drechslera spp., but they usually attack turfgrass in midsummer during hot weather.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Daconil Ultrex (chlorothalonil) and Eagle (myclobutanil).

    Cultural methods to prevent leaf spot and melting out: Avoid high nitrogen fertility, avoid low mowing heights, mow with sharp blades, water deeply and infrequently to prevent drought stress, avoid prolonged leaf wetness, renovate with improved cultivars and apply preventative fungicide treatments.

    New Kentucky bluegrass cultivars, some with moderate to high levels of leaf spot and melting out resistance, are released every year. Contact your county Extension office for a list of resistant cultivars. Avoid planting susceptible cultivars such as ‘Park,’ ‘South Dakota Common’ and ‘Kenblue.’

    Red thread, Laetisaria fuciformis

    Red thread (mycelium in front of thumbnail). (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Red thread injury to turf. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Red thread affects most cool-season turfgrasses during temperatures ranging from 40 to 75 F. Signs of the fungus are pinkish to red threadlike hyphae (cottony or hair-like filamentous structures produced by fungi that infect and digest plant tissue [plural – mycelium]) that grow on the grass blade and sheaths. The hyphae, which can be spread by foot traffic and mowing, often are seen protruding from the leaf tip, often giving infected areas a pinkish hue. Symptoms of the disease are tan grass blades that are dispersed throughout the lawn. The disease also can form scorched-like patches ranging from 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Patches also can coalesce to form larger infection sites. Red thread does not affect roots, so turf rarely is killed by the disease and will recover after favorable fungal growth conditions subside.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Daconil Ultrex (chlorothalonil), Eagle (myclobutanil) and Prostar 50WP (flutolanil).

    Cultural methods to prevent red thread: Provide adequate nitrogen fertility, maintain a soil pH of 6.5 to 7, water deeply and infrequently, avoid prolonged leaf wetness by watering in the morning and prevent thatch buildup.

    New turfgrass cultivars, some with moderate to high levels of red thread resistance, are released every year. The following cultivars offer good red thread resistance:

    Kentucky bluegrass

    Fine leaf fescue
    SR 3000

    Contact your county Extension office for more information regarding resistant cultivars.

    Brown patch, Rhizochtonia solani

    Brown patch.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Brown patch leaf lesions. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Dollar spot. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Dollar spot leaf lesions. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Brown patch is a common patch disease that affects several cool-season grasses in North Dakota, primarily tall fescue. Symptoms can appear quickly in warm, humid weather, primarily when nighttime temperatures exceed 70 F during heavy dew formation. During favorable conditions, fungal resting spores in the thatch begin to grow and rapidly damage the susceptible turf. Symptoms may appear as circular brown patches ranging from inches to several feet in diameter or as large blighted areas that lack a distinct pattern. The circular patches often are bordered by a brown band referred to as a smoke ring. Irregular, tan lesions with a brown border usually are visible on individual grass leaves. Mycelium often are visible between grass blades in infected areas in the morning, especially in the presence of dew. Brown patch rarely kills the turfgrass crown, which allows the turf to recover after favorable disease development conditions subside.

    In addition to favorable weather conditions, brown patch development can be promoted by improper cultural practices such as over fertilization, excessive leaf wetness caused by watering lawns during the early evening hours and by allowing thatch to accumulate.

    Chemical control options: Heritage (azoxystrobin), Compass (trifloxystrobin), Bayleton (triadimefon) and Prostar (flutolanyl).

    Cultural methods to prevent brown patch: Do not over apply nitrogen fertilizer, avoid prolonged leaf wetness by providing irrigation deeply and infrequently in the morning or early afternoon, and prevent thatch buildup.

    Dollar spot, Sclerotinia homeocarpa

    Dollar spot can infect most turfgrasses, including Kentucky bluegrass and creeping bentgrass putting greens. Although the disease can develop under any growing conditions, it primarily attacks nitrogen-deficient turf when daytime air temperatures reach 59 to 86 F, followed by cool evenings and heavy dew.

    Infected turf produces bleached white spots about the size of a dime, which can increase to the size of a silver dollar and eventually coalesce to produce large patches. Cottony mycelium often are visible on infected turf in the morning, especially if dew is present. Leaf constriction approximately half way up the blade and a bleached hourglass-like spot with a black or red margin are noticeable with the naked eye. The fungus lies dormant in thatch and soil until environmental conditions are right, then it infects the turfgrass if adequate leaf moisture is present. Primarily a foliar disease, the fungus produces a toxin that can kill the crown of the plant and even the roots during a severe infection. Many fungicides are available that are effective in preventing or curing dollar spot. However, infections on residential lawns are rarely severe enough to warrant chemical control.

    Professional turfgrass managers should consult with their county Extension specialist for advice on the most effective fungicides available.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Daconil Ultrex (chlorothalonil), Eagle (myclobutanil) and Bayleton 25WP (triadimefon).

    Cultural methods to prevent dollar spot: Provide adequate nitrogen fertility, water deeply and infrequently, avoid prolonged leaf wetness by watering in the morning, prevent thatch buildup and use resistant turfgrass cultivars.

    Summer patch, Magnaporthe poae

    Summer patch. (Alan Zuk, NDSU)

    Summer patch is a soil-borne fungus that affects all cool-season turfgrasses, especially creeping red fescue and bluegrasses. However, it rarely infects bentgrasses and ryegrasses. Immature turfgrass cannot provide fungal colonies with enough root tissue to survive. Therefore, the pathogen typically attacks mature turfgrasses that are two years old or older. Symptoms of summer patch are very similar to those of necrotic ring spot and may have to be diagnosed by a professional for proper identification. The fungus colonizes turf roots in midspring and slowly attacks healthy root tissue. Turfgrass decline appears during the heat of summer because the roots no longer can function properly and the plant eventually dies. The infected turfgrass forms a 2- to 12-inch crescent, doughnut or ring-shaped dead patch with a green center. Patches may reach 36 inches in diameter or even coalesce to resemble large-scale grub damage. The frog eye appearance is caused by the outward growth of the fungus. Since the fungus is soil-borne, it cannot be eradicated; outbreaks can occur in the same area annually or after remaining dormant for several years. The pathogen favors poorly drained soil and can be spread by foot, mower or vehicular traffic.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Cleary’s 3336 (thiophanate methyl) and Heritage (azoxystrobin).

    Cultural methods to prevent summer patch: Avoid high soil pH, aerate to provide soil drainage, prevent thatch buildup, provide air circulation to the turfgrass canopy, avoid summer stress of turfgrass, raise mowing height to encourage deeper rooting, apply quick-release nitrogen fertilizer to declining turf, apply a contact fungicide for preventative control and use resistant turfgrass cultivars.

    Pythium blight, Pythium spp.

    Pythium blight. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Pythium blight spread by flowing surface water. (Courtesy of Jack Fry, Kansas State University Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources)

    Pythium blight can be caused by a host of fungal pathogens belonging to the Pythium genus. All turfgrasses, especially cool-season species such as creeping bentgrass, rough and annual bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass, are susceptible. Foliar blighting occurs when daytime temperatures reach 86 to 95 F and the average nighttime temperature reaches 68 F with a relative humidity of 90 percent or higher for 14 hours or more. Root and crown infections are initiated by slightly cooler temperatures and wet soil. The disease usually starts near poorly drained areas or in low areas with limited air circulation. Large areas of turf can by killed quickly. The disease can be spread by heavy rain; mowers; and foot, cart and vehicular traffic.

    Patches ranging from 1 to 6 inches can appear suddenly in hot, humid weather and can coalesce rapidly. Infected leaves have a straw-colored lesion that lacks a margin. Infected areas are accompanied by white cottony mycelium, which are visible especially in morning dew. Leaves appear to be water-soaked and feel oily when rubbed between the fingers, hence the name “greasy spot.”

    Chemical control options: Banol 66.5 L (propamocarb), Subdue 2E (metalaxyl) and Aliette WDG (aluminum phosphonate).

    Cultural methods to prevent pythium blight: Aerate to provide soil drainage; avoid turf cultivation until infected areas have recovered; avoid excessive leaf wetness by providing irrigation in the morning; prevent thatch buildup; raise mowing height to encourage deeper rooting; avoid mowing in infected areas during moist, hot weather; prune trees to provide good air circulation to the turfgrass canopy; avoid summer stress of turfgrass; apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer; apply a contact fungicide for preventative control; use fungicide treated seed; and use resistant turfgrass cultivars.

    Fairy Ring

    Fairy ring.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Fairy ring.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Fairy ring.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Fairy rings are caused by several species of fungi collectively referred to as basidiomycetes. They are soil- and thatch-borne fungi that form rings or arcs of dark green or dead grass. These rings can range in size from 2 inches to several yards in diameter. Fairy rings can be classified into three types. Type I fairy rings have a band of dead grass and a band(s) of dark green grass. Type II fairy rings lack the band of dead grass, and Type III fairy rings consist of a ring of toadstools or puffballs that may be accompanied by a dark green ring. The lush green growth, called the zone of stimulation, is caused by the release of nutrients (primarily nitrogen) from the activity of the fungus decomposing organic matter in the soil, such as dead tree roots, buried construction material or excessive thatch. The ring of dead or dormant turfgrass plants, the zone of inhibition, is a result of the water-resistant (hydrophobic) properties of the fungal mycelia. As the fungus grows in the thatch and soil, it prevents water from penetrating and reaching the plant roots. The result is plant dormancy or death. The majority of the fungal mycelia can be found below the fairy ring symptoms. As you move toward the center of the ring, the fungus is absent, resulting in a return to the normal appearance of the turfgrass plants and the characteristic ring symptom of this disease. The bands of lush growth often are visible throughout the growing season and may persist in the same location for many years as long as a food source remains. Fairy ring damage is the most severe in dry, nutrient-poor areas and can be exacerbated by excess thatch.

    Chemical control options: Heritage (Azoxystrobin), Insignia (pyraclostrobin) and (ProStar 70WP) (flutolanyl).

    Cultural methods to prevent fairy ring: Do not bury organic matter such as lumber and construction material, water and fertilize appropriately to mask symptoms, and balance rates of thatch accumulation and decomposition to decrease nutrients available to the fungus. Fungicides and wetting agents may offer limited control. Soil replacement is also an option. This can be quite labor-intensive and requires the removal of a 20-inch-wide by 8- to 30-inch-deep band of soil, followed by replacement with sterile soil and reseeding or sodding. Mushrooms and puffballs may be raked up and discarded. Be sure to wear gloves if handling the fruiting structures to prevent skin contact with toxins such as alkaloids that are produced by some mushrooms and puffballs. Controlling weeds in zones of dead and dormant grass also may be important.

    Powdery mildew, Erysiphe graminis

    Powdery mildew. (Sam Markell, NDSU)

    Powdery mildew resembles powder or flour on the upper side of ornamental and turfgrass leaves. The disease typically occurs during periods of high humidity, air temperatures around 65 F, poor airflow and shade. The disease rarely warrants chemical control, but a severe outbreak can kill turfgrass, especially a newly established lawn.

    Chemical control options: Banner Maxx (propiconazole), Bayleton (triadimefon), Eagle (myclobutanil), Cleary 3336F, (thiophanate methyl) and Fungo Flo 4.5F (thiophanate methyl).

    Cultural methods to prevent powdery mildew: Improve airflow and sunlight by selectively pruning trees and shrubs, avoid excessive leaf wetness, fertilize with nitrogen to allow the turfgrass to outgrow the disease and plant resistant cultivars.

    Rust, Puccinia spp.

    Rust. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Rust. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Rust affects all turfgrasses grown in North Dakota, especially Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, which often is included in seed mixtures for quick cover. The disease typically occurs in late summer during extended wet periods accompanied by air temperatures ranging from 68 to 86 F. Nutrient-deficient grass, grass grown in shade or turf managed under other forms of stress are very susceptible to infection. Symptoms include yellow spots on the leaves, which cause the lawn to look off-color. The spots develop into pustules that produce copper-colored fungal spores that easily adhere to shoes, clothing and skin as one passes through an infected area. Although rust typically subsides when dry weather returns and rarely warrants chemical control, a severe infection can cause grass blades to wither and die.

    Chemical control options: Heritage (Azoxystrobin), Daconil Ultrex (chlorothalonil), Medallion (fludioxanil and Banner Maxx (propiconazole).

    Cultural methods to prevent rust: Avoid excessive leaf wetness by providing irrigation in the morning, improve airflow and sunlight by selectively pruning trees and shrubs, provide adequate nitrogen fertilization and avoid plant stress.

    Slime mold, Physarum cinereum and Mucilago spongiosa

    Slime mold.
    (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Kansas State University Department of Plant Pathology)

    Slime mold. (Courtesy of Derek Settle, Chicago District Golf Association)

    Slime mold can affect all turfgrasses but is not considered a destructive disease. Slime mold is a primitive organism (prokaryote) that uses the grass blade for support as it feeds on bacteria, fungi and organic matter such as thatch. The spores typically spread from thatch to the leaf during heavy rain. Although the black and white reproductive structures, called sporangia, often form an unsightly mass on grass leaves in patches as large as 1 foot in diameter, they do not harm the host turfgrass unless the entire blade is covered and its ability to photosynthesize is reduced; such conditions can cause leaf yellowing.

    Noticeable masses appear in cool, humid weather and break apart when hot, dry weather returns. Mechanical removal of the fruiting structures can be achieved with a rake, broom or strong stream of water from a garden hose. Chemical control is not warranted.

    Chemical control options: Not necessary, but Fore (mancozeb) will provide effective control if coverage is heavy enough to block sunlight from leaves.

    Cultural methods to prevent slime mold: Prevent thatch accumulation from exceeding 1/2 inch.

    Turfgrass lnsects

    Turfgrass insects can be extremely destructive to residential lawns. Most turfgrass insects rely on thatch for shelter, cover or a secondary source of food as they feed on grass leaves or roots. Therefore, the best preventative control measures are to employ proper cultural practices in managing your lawn, which includes thatch control. See NDSU Extension publication H-1170 for proper thatch control practices. One should not resort to chemical control upon first detection of an insect in the lawn. Threshold numbers are available for each turfgrass insect that indicate the number of insects per unit area that would cause noticeable damage. Threshold numbers should be considered before applying insecticides. Many insect populations can be held below their threshold number by using proper turfgrass cultural methods, especially avoiding thatch accumulation.

    Sampling is a good way to estimate the number of insects present in a given area to determine whether chemical control is needed. The following are reliable sampling methods that are effective in determining pest populations of turfgrass insects commonly found in North Dakota:

    Flotation sampling — Cut both ends out of a metal cylinder such as a coffee can. Pound it 3 to 4 inches into the ground in a damaged area and fill it with water. Small insects will float to the top quickly. Estimate the number of insects per square foot based on the number present in the area covered by the can.

    Irritant sampling — Mow the grass in the damaged area. Then mix 2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent in 2 gallons of water and pour the entire batch over 1 square yard. Any larvae present in the canopy should come to the surface in a few minutes.

    Soil sampling — Cut a square foot of turf on three sides, undercutting 2 to 3 inches deep with a sharp, flat-edge shovel. Roll the sod back and count the number of grubs in the sampling area. Crumble some of the soil from the root zone to expose more grubs. After counting, level the soil and roll the sod back into place. Be sure to provide water for several days to promote re-establishment. Roots should recover quickly if the sample was cut deeply enough.

    Contact your local county Extension office for other sampling methods and proper chemical and nonchemical insect control options. A partial list of insecticides for control of lawn insect pests is provided in Table 1.

    Armyworm, Mythimna unipuncta

    Armyworm adult. (Gerald Fauske, NDSU)

    Armyworm larvae. (Gerald Fauske, NDSU)

    Armyworms migrate into North Dakota but are unpredictable as to when they will arrive. Larvae strip turfgrass vegetation as they feed in large groups. The destruction they leave in their wake and the short time it took can be quite alarming to most homeowners.

    Adult moths overwinter in the pupal stage in southern Florida and southern Texas. After warm weather arrives, moths migrate northward to all states east of the Rocky Mountains, often blown in on strong southerly winds during the summer months. Adult moths are buff-colored and have a 1.5-inch wingspan with a diagnostic white spot on each wing. After arriving, adults mate and females lay a cluster of 25 to 200 eggs on any type of vegetation, then cover the mass with a layer of grayish scales. After the eggs hatch in one to two days, armyworm larvae begin stripping turfgrass foliage, primarily during dusk and morning hours. Therefore, a healthy lawn may appear to be defoliated overnight if the infestation is severe. Young larvae are green and approximately 1/16 inch long. Mature larvae are brown to grayish or green and 1.5 inches long, and have a distinctive netlike pattern on the head and a dark stripe along each side of the body, with a lighter orange stripe below the dark ones. If the larvae stop feeding or are chemically controlled before they feed on the crown tissue, the turf likely will recover. However, if the turfgrass was in a stressed state before armyworm feeding began, a lawn may be lost even if the crown tissue is left intact.

    Sampling method: Irritant sampling

    Threshold number: five larvae per square yard


    Variegated cutworm adult.
    (Gerald Fauske, NDSU)

    Variegated cutworm larva.
    (Gerald Fauske, NDSU)

    Several cutworm species, such as the variegated cutworm (Peridroma saucia), black cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon) and bronze cutworm (Nephelodes minians), defoliate turfgrass in North Dakota. Mature cutworm larvae range from 1 to 2 inches long and can range from brown to black to gray and may be spotted or striped, depending on the species. Cutworm larvae are nocturnal and feed on the lower stems of tender flowers and vegetable bedding plants, but when those food sources are not available, they begin to feed on turfgrass leaves. Adults are brownish to grayish moths with a small, black daggerlike marking on each wing. Adults are nocturnal and do not damage turfgrass. Once the warm weather of spring arrives, adults begin feeding on flower nectar. Females then attach eggs to the tips of grass blades. As morning light appears, larvae burrow into the soil or hide under foliage to avoid detection throughout the day. Damage is more noticeable in short grass compared with grass mowed high. Defoliated areas may range in size from that of your little finger to large patches several feet wide. Cutworm larvae may kill turfgrass if they feed low enough to injure or destroy the crowns. If insecticidal control is necessary, the optimal application time is late evening because larvae actively feed after dark.

    Sampling method: Irritant sampling

    Threshold number: five larvae per square yard

    Sod webworm

    Sod webworm adult.
    (Courtesy of Jessica Lawrence, Eurofins Agrosciences Services,

    Sod webworm larvae. (Courtesy of Ward Upham, Kansas State University Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources)

    More than 40 species of sod webworms can be found in eastern North Dakota. The first signs of sod webworm activity are moths flying in an up-and-down pattern over the turf canopy during the twilight hours. The dull-colored moth ranges from 0.5 to 0.75 inch long, and has a snoutlike projection rather than a typical proboscis and wings that fold over the body when closed, giving it a wedge-shaped appearance.

    Damage is caused by larvae, which feed on leaves at night beginning in mid to late summer. The larvae range from green to gray to brown, and are from 0.75 to 1 inch long, with a brown head and spots that run the length of the body. Evidence of larval activity includes baseball-sized dead patches in the lawn with silken tunnels at ground level. The webbed tunnels are littered with grass, leaves and excrement that resembles green pellets. Damage may go unnoticed if the lawn is healthy and actively growing but tends to be more evident during hot weather later in the summer. The best control is achieved when insecticides are sprayed in the evening because larvae are more likely to ingest the insecticide since they feed shortly after dark. Insecticides should be applied when adult moth flight activity is observed and larvae reach the threshold level. Endophyte-enhanced turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and fine fescue contain fungal endophytes that generally are resistant to sod webworm attacks.

    Sampling method: Irritant sampling

    Threshold number: four to six larvae per 4 square feet

    Western chinch bug, Blissus occiduus

    Western chinch bug adult. (Patrick Beauzay, NDSU Department of Entomology)

    Western chinch bug nymph. (Patrick Beauzay, NDSU Department of Entomology)

    The western or buffalograss chinch bug primarily feeds on buffalograss and zoysiagrass but also can damage other warm- and cool-season turfgrasses in North Dakota. Nymphs and adults cause turf damage by sucking fluids from the grass stems with their piercing/ sucking mouth parts. Adult females are approximately 1/8 inch long by 1/16 inch wide, while adult males are smaller. They range from gray to black or brown with white wings. Adults overwinter at the bases of the turfgrass host and in the adjacent thatch layer. They re-emerge in the spring when the air temperature reaches the upper 60s and begin to mate when temperatures reach the 70s. Eggs are laid in the thatch near the base of the crown. Nymphs begin feeding on turfgrass immediately after hatching and continue to do so through the adult stage. Damaged turf first appears as small, yellow patches that often coalesce to cover the entire lawn. Severely damaged turf can die, especially if it is in a state of stress during the infestation.

    Sampling method: Flotation or irritant sampling

    Threshold number: 15 to 20 insects per square foot

    White grubs

    White grubs are the larvae of May and June beetles or masked chafers. Larvae of billbugs are similar in appearance to white grubs but lack legs and develop into a weevil as an adult. All of these species do extensive damage to turfgrass by feeding on the roots. Larval feeding begins in late spring in North Dakota, but damage usually is not noticed until the summer months. Predicting peak damage is difficult because timing varies among species and seasonal weather trends. Signs of grub damage begin as small, irregular dead patches several inches wide. If control measures are not taken, the damaged areas can expand to several feet or yards in diameter. A simple way to diagnose grub damage is the “tug test.” Grasp a handful of damaged turf and pull; if the turf comes up in large pieces without resistance, the damage likely was caused by white grubs severing roots from the turf as they feed in the thatch layer or just below the soil surface. Diseased turf, although dead or damaged, will provide resistance during the “tug test” because the roots still are intact.

    Skunks and moles often cause secondary damage to grub-infested turf by digging and tunneling for larvae just below the soil surface. Mole tunnels and skunk diggings may indicate a white grub problem.

    Systemic insecticides provide effective control if applied approximately one month before the heaviest feeding occurs. Contact or stomach insecticides can be used as a rescue treatment, but neither chemical control measure will revive dead or severely damaged turf.

    An effective nonchemical control measure is to avoid thatch accumulation and maintain a vigorous lawn. Also, avoid permanent night lights in or near the turf area. They attract adult beetles, which often lay eggs at night in turf adjacent to illuminated areas.

    Biopesticides have not provided reliable control of white grubs. Milky disease spores (Bacillus popilliae) are not effective against white grubs of May beetles, June beetles or masked chafers. Beneficial parasitic nematodes are effective for white grub control only when soil moisture is adequate. However, efficacy often is unreliable compared with conventional insecticides.

    Sampling method: Soil pest sampling for larvae of May and June beetles and masked chafer beetle, and irritant sampling for billbug adults

    May and June beetles, Phyllophaga. spp.

    May/June beetle adult.
    (Courtesy of Ward Upham, Kansas State University Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources)

    May/June beetle larvae. (Courtesy of Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

    The May and June beetle have a three-year life cycle ending with the emergence of adult beetles in late May or early June; hence the names May or June beetles. Adults are tan to brown, ranging from 0.5 to 1 inch long and 0.25 to 0.33 inch wide, with a smooth, hard exoskeleton. Adults mate shortly after emerging from the soil. Females lay eggs 3 to 7 inches below the soil surface. The eggs hatch in three to four weeks and produce white C-shaped larvae approximately 1 inch long when mature with six legs behind the head. With the aid of a hand lens, two rows of whiskers can be seen among the rasters near the anal slit of the grub. After hatching, the larvae dig upward to feed on turfgrass roots for the rest of the summer. Feeding may cause the turfgrass to wilt, thin or even die in small to large patches. As fall approaches, the larvae migrate downward below the frost line to hibernate for the winter. They move upward again after spring arrives to resume feeding. The most extensive turfgrass damage is caused by the second-year larvae. As fall approaches, the larvae move down below the frost line once again. They resume feeding for a short time during the third spring before pupation into the adult stage begins. Adults emerge from the soil the following spring to mate and complete their three-year lifecycle. Adults do not damage turfgrass; after emergence, they mate and feed on ornamental foliage for a short time, then die.

    Threshold number: three to four larvae per square foot

    Northern masked chafer, Cyclocephala borealis

    Masked chafer adult. (Courtesy of M. Reding and B. Anderson, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service,

    Masked chafer larva. (Courtesy of M. Reding and B. Anderson, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service,

    Masked chafers have one generation per year. The northern masked chafer is native to North Dakota, and like the May/June beetles, causes extensive damage to turfgrass by feeding on the roots during the larval stage. Larvae look similar to those of the May/June beetle except that the body is shorter and thinner, and has a scattered raster pattern lacking the two lines of whiskers on the hind end, which are present on the May/June beetle. Adults are smaller than the May/June beetles, measuring 0.5 inch long and 0.25 inch wide and have a brown, masklike patch across the front of the face. In late June, females lay their eggs on the soil surface. After hatching, the grubs feed on grass roots until late summer. By September, the grubs are in the third instar of development and do the most destructive damage to the turf. At this time, they move deeper into the soil to begin hibernating in the larval or pupal stage. Adult chafers emerge from the soil in June to mate, then die shortly afterward because, unlike the May/June beetles, adult chafers do not feed.

    Threshold number: eight to nine larvae per square foot

    White grub raster patterns

    May/June beetle larvae raster pattern.
    (Courtesy of University of Nebraska, Department of Entomology)

    Masked chafer beetle larvae raster pattern. (Courtesy of University of Nebraska, Department of Entomology)

    Bluegrass billbug, Sphenophorous parvulus

    Billbug beetle adult. (Courtesy of Joseph Berger,

    Billbug larvae. (Courtesy of Ward Upham, Kansas State University Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources)

    The bluegrass billbug damages bluegrass and fescue lawns during the larval stage. Billbug larvae are not a true white grub. Nonetheless, they can do extensive damage by feeding on stems, crowns and shallow roots. The legless larvae are white, stubby and humpbacked; have a brown head; and are approximately 0.25 to 0.5 inch long when mature. The adult is a small, dark brown to black weevil approximately 0.25 inch long with a long curved snout and often are seen walking across concrete sidewalks and driveways adjacent to infested areas. Females lay their eggs in May in holes that they chew into stems and crown tissue. After hatching, the larvae tunnel through the lower plant parts as they feed, and even may migrate down to shallow roots. Small patches of damaged or dead grass appear in midsummer and may coalesce into larger dead patches. If billbugs are suspected, look for hollowed stems and yellowish sawdustlike frass at the bases of plants. Dead turf pulls up easily because of the lack of root resistance. Larvae stop feeding in midsummer to tunnel into the soil to pupate into the adult stage. If the weather is conducive, a second partial generation may occur that ranges from September to October. Adult weevils of the second generation overwinter under leaves that accumulate in shrubs, tall grass and against buildings.

    Threshold number: six to eight larvae per square foot

    Additional References

    Bambara, S. 2003. Fall armyworms in lawns. Ornamentals and Turf. Dept. of Entomology Insect Note. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.

    Braxendale, F.P., and R. Gaussoin. 1997. Turfgrass management for the northern great plains. EC97-1557. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

    Capinera, J. 1999. Fall armyworm. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Dept. of Entomology and Nematology.

    Heller, P. 2007. Sod webworms in home lawns . Penn State University. College of Agricultural Sciences. Dept of Entomology.

    Kennelly, M. 2007. Rhizoctonia brown patch on fescue . Kansas State University. Dept. of Plant Pathology.

    Kennelly, M. 2008. Fairy rings in turfgrass . EP155. Kansas State University. Dept. of Plant Pathology.

    Kennelly, M. 2009. Slime Molds in the Lawn and Landscape . Kansas State University. Dept. of Plant Pathology.

    Latin, R. 2007. Turfgrass disease profiles – Gray snow mold . BP-101-W. University of Purdue Cooperative Extension.

    Mulrooney, B. 2004. Fungicide recommendations for turfgrass. University of Delaware, College of Agricultural and Natural and Resources, Cooperative Extension.

    Obasa, K., and M. Kennelly. 2010. Rust Diseases of Turfgrasses . Kansas State University. Dept. of Plant Pathology.

    Oklahoma State University Dept. of Entomology and Plant Pathology-Armyworm.

    Sod Webworm. 1999. University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program. GreenShare Factsheets .

    Upham, W. 2009. Powdery mildew of turf . Kansas State University. Dept. of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources.

    Upham, W. 2009. Summer patch. Fairy rings in turfgrass . Kansas State University. Dept. of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources.


    The authors extend their gratitude to the following individuals for their contributions to this publication:

    Jared LeBoldus
    Jeff Stachler
    Marcia McMullen
    Rich Zollinger

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