Solutions

Earthworms

Most everyone thinks of Earthworms as “night crawlers” or those brownish-red fishing worms. Normally they are beneficial to the soil. However, when population increases, usually in richer soil in moist areas, they really make a mess. They deposit little beads of soil about the size of a pinhead on top of the soil. When you see the cumulative effect of beads of soil on top of the ground the end result is a spongy, muddy situation.

Most everyone thinks, incorrectly, that this is Mole Cricket damage. Usually they are the first problem noticed in Winter through Spring when the ground moisture is higher. As the season progresses the dispersal of beads looks like little volcanoes usually less than the circumference of a dime. It can get so bad that the soil they deposit on top of the ground actually covers up the lawn. In addition, the rich soil they deposit aggravates Brown Patch fungus so they are often noticed together in problem areas. To lessen their effect, drain water-clogged soil. If this problem becomes severe enough, we offer additional applications to reduce the effects of this problem.

Brown Patch Fungus

Brown Patch is a disease that routinely attacks Centipede and St. Augustine grass lawns. It is caused by “Riczoctonia Sp”. which is a soil-borne fungus. This disease causes brown circles to appear in the lawn in mid-October and is considered active when the “golden halo” of about 2 inches in diameter is present on the outside edge of the circle. These spots occur year after year. In mild winters this disease will remain active and can actually kill the grass. If it gets real cold, this disease activity will become dormant and will reactivate in the same spot in the spring. Since Brown Patch is spread and aggravated by water, please do not water these areas in Winter. Improving drainage, increasing light and air circulation, removal of leaf litter, and thatch removal will help decrease the severity of the disease. We offer fungicide applications (at an additional charge) which will generally keep the grass from dying and the “golden halo” will disappear, rendering the disease inactive. However, these spots, even after treatment, will remain brown until about one month after “Spring Green Up”.

Brown Patch Fungus is most severe on St. Augustine grass lawns.

Winter Kill

During the cooler months of WInter, prior to “Spring Green-Up”, there are areas that may be killed by the weather. Where roof drainage occurs from roof gutters and roof valleys, water is concentrated, which can cause the grass to die due to root rot. Underground springs also drown the grass on the sides of slopes. When the soil water tables rise, the water will be relieved in a circular area. Usually this is noticed as extremely wet areas, semicircular in shape, adjacent to street curbs. Sometimes this water, rich in iron, will stain the concrete curb a dark reddish-brown. Low areas where the water stands during the late winter rains will also kill the grass by becoming stagnant, which will rot the roots. Shaded areas, such as the North side of your fence, home, or shrub rows, will occasionally die due to the increased effect of winter caused by the sun falling in the Southern Hemisphere during the Winter.

Most all of these areas will re-grow as the sun rises and the days lengthen during the Summer. Even though there is little you can do to change this situation, funcicides may help in reducing further Winter Kill caused by root rot and associated secondary disease problems.

Centipede and St. Augustine lawns have more problems with Winter Kill than do other types of lawn grasses such as Bermuda and Zoysia.

Molecrickets

These guys get blamed for everything. Molecrickets are about the size of regular Brown Fishing Crickets, and have adapted shovel front feet for digging. They are very ugly, destructive creatures. Usually they are identified by their tunneling. These tunnels are approximately the diameter of your small finger, and are usually less than two feet in length.

The tunnels about the size of your wrist are caused by ground moles, which are about the size of a mouse. If you can twist your ankle in it, this damage is caused by a mole, and the only recommended control is to set a mole trap on the run, which can be fifty feet long. Their primary food is earthworms, and it is impossible to starve them to death by chemically eliminating their food source. If you have this problem, run – don’t walk – and get a mole trap, because they can cause large areas of your lawn to die over the winter. It usually takes about a week for a trap to be effective.

Getting back to Molecrickets – their activity starts in March and April. They emerge from deeper in the soil in March and start tunneling in April and early May. They fly to lights and lay eggs everywhere they land. The eggs hatch in June and July, then young Molecrickets begin to eat the grass roots.

We are now adding insecticide to reduce problems with Molecrickets in the Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer, Late Summer, and Fall lawn applications. These treatments are extremely effective. However, it is imperative that you turn off night lights in Late April and Early May, during the mating and egg-laying times. Bright halogen lights are the worst for attracting Molecrickets at this time.

It is impossible to eradicate Molecrickets, due to their mobility above and below the ground. As the season progresses, we add more and different insecticides and we reduce their numbers drastically.

Molecrickets are also attracted by night lights in October, and will walk back into an area already under control. Their size, health, and vigor is maxed-out in the Fall. When it begins to get colder, they move underground for the Winter to emerge again in Spring. Please understand that control of Molecrickets is not possible while they are underground. You can lessen the severity of Molecrickets in your lawn in two ways. First, turn off night lights and security lights in Late April and Early May. Second, and most important, recommend the Liqui-Chem Program to your neighbors.

Fairy Ring Fungus

This disease is caused by “Toadstool” or “Mushroom” type fungi. It usually appears in early Summer. On first impression, you think of Brown Patch Fungus, since it was present just earlier in the Spring. Even though Fairy Ring Fungus is similar to Brown Patch in appearance, it is treated differently. Normally, these are dead, incomplete circular areas or crescent shapes, sometimes with a line of toadstools and a narrow band of green grass in the leading edge of the crescent shapes. These areas are permanent and occur in the same spot year after year.

The fungal mycelium (or threads) concentrates in these dead areas in the soil and forms a mat that does not allow water to penetrate. This causes the lawn to dry out and die. Also, this entire complex moves in the direction of the leading edge each year, slowly, and will eventually move off the area after many years. The fungus actually feeds on organic matter present in the soil and does not directly attack the lawn.

At present time, there are no chemicals available to control Fairy Ring Fungus. You can lessen the severity of this disease by injecting water into the ground and by core aeration. Anything you do to add moisture or air to these areas will help. It is best to keep fertility levels high.

Ticks, Ants and Fleas

We all know what these problems are because they are human and animal pests. Our service blanket sprays four applications of environmentally friendly insecticides routinely each year. We vary these treatments to maximize their effectiveness.

These treatments work very well and will more than help reduce problems associated with these pests. However, eradication of below-ground complexes and insect harborages under structures are not included in our program.

Sodwebworms and Armyworms

Sodwebworms cause dead areas in the lawn about the size of your fist. Armyworms make the lawn look scalped in areas. Both will leave chewed-up leaves and Frass (excreted digested grass) in their path. These are easily identifiable and control of these insects are routine in our program. After we treat for these problems, the lawn usually recovers quickly.

ST. AUGUSTINE LAWNS

St. Augustine lawns have a few special problems that are relatively exclusive to them in our area, such as Chinch Bugs, St. Augustine Decline (SAD Virus), and Grey Leaf Spot Fungus. These problems are in addition to the problems previously mentioned.

Chinch Bugs are usually the first insect problem in the spring and are, by far, the most destructive of all insects and diseases in our area. They are about the size of a pin head, move fast, and are mostly black in color, with two white areas in the mid-body region. Chinch bugs can completely kill a lawn in the course of one to two weeks.

Due to the fact that we are adding insecticide in more applications, you should be able to forget about the Chinch bug problem. However, they cause instant large straw-colored dead areas in St. Augustine grass and can cause the leaf blade and sheath to break off from nodes or bumps on the stolon. Chinch bugs lay their eggs in the nodal region of the stolon which causes the blades and leaf sheaths to break off green, rather than straw-colored. This latter situation is usually temporary and very controllable. If you notice these problems, call us immediately. Control of these pests are a routine part of our program.

St. Augustine Decline (SAD Virus) is uncontrollable because there are no chemicals available to control the virus. The symptom of this disease is a yellow mosaic pattern which occurs longitudinally along the leaf blade. It looks just like a canary yellow brick wall would look if it was turned vertically. This brick-like pattern is very small, and you may need a magnifying glass in order to identify it. Eventually, this problem will pass.

Grey Leaf Spot Fungus begins in mid-June and usually will kill the lawn by September. It causes a yellowish-brown burned look on the grass blades. There will also be lesions about the size of a pencil eraser on the leaf blade with a tan center and a reddish-maroon border. After this infection begins, the blades will wither, turning brown in color. You can lessen the effect of this disease by not watering when you see this problem. Also, wash the underside of the mower after mowing so as not to re-infect the lawn. All St. Augustine lawns get this problem each year. Please remember that St. Augustine grass in our area is very susceptible to disease. Do not water between October and June to lessen the impact of Brown Patch Fungus.

Almost all diseases on St. Augustine require water to get worse. We offer additional-cost applications for disease control.

Special note: St. Augustine grass stays greener longer in the fall, and is the last to green up in the Spring, about one month behind Centipede lawns.

CENTIPEDE LAWNS

Centipede is the dominant lawn grass in our area. It is very tolerant of insects and diseases, however, it is not tolerant of Cultural Mismanagement which causes Centipede Decline.

Centipede Decline is a term we use to describe some sick Centipede lawns. Its number-one cause is mowing too high, which allows thatch to develop. You must stay within recommended mowing heights. As this thatch is built up from high cutting heights, the roots gradually disassociate with the soil and root only into the thatch layer. This is often seen as the grass that wiggles when you walk on it. It then dies out in a pockmarked fashion, or as if a herd of horses ran across the lawn during hot, dry periods in late Spring. Some things that contribute to this problem are: Customers who fertilize behind us, Molecrickets, Nematodes, and Lime. Liming Centipede grass will kill it, period. Please don’t do it.

You can lessen the severity of Centipede Decline by staying within recommended cutting height all Summer. Also, it is very important that after your lawn turns brown with the first frost, lower your mower deck one notch and bag up the old leaf blades. This is not quite scalping, and will help keep your thatch problems under control.