The first 3-5 weeks after installation are the most critical. The landscape contractor’s job is to create an environment so that the potential of a good lawn is possible. The homeowner’s responsibility is to maintain an environment that is conducive to the germination and growth.
NEWLY-SEEDED AND OVER-SEEDED LAWN:
Grass seed, lime and fertilizer have been applied with the seed. Crabgrass control may also have been applied – especially for Spring seeding.
Straw has been spread to act as a mulch. It is very critical to keep this moist. This will keep the grass seed wet, aiding in the establishment of a good yard. Only on very rare occasions will a lawn suffer from too much water.
Hand-watering large areas is inefficient and time-consuming. A sprinkler is needed. Because a sprinkler only reaches a limited area, it is necessary to move it to different locations to get full coverage.
Normally, watering 1-2 hours in each location every day will be enough. This should start when we leave and continue until the grass is ready to cut the first time – about 3 weeks.
Straw is applied to protect the seed from drying out and also from birds. If the straw isn’t kept wet enough and a strong wind comes up, it can blow it into clumps. These clumps must be spread out or they will smother the tender grass underneath. Before mowing , take a leaf rake and gently rake off the largest clumps.
MOWING NEWLY-SEEDED AND OVER-SEEDED LAWNS:
When the grass gets 3-4” high, it is time to start mowing. After raking off the straw, set your mower “high” and collect the clippings. It is a good idea to have your blade sharpened so that it cuts through the grass and just doesn’t tear it out of the ground.
After a week or two of cutting “high”, gradually lower the blade to the desired cutting height.
NOTE: The fertilizer that we applied will last about 4 weeks. At that time, start applying fertilizer according to the schedule listed in “Lawn Maintenance – Established Lawn.”
Installing sod will quickly give you a thicker, greener, more even yard than seeding. SOD MUST BE KEPT WET! If it dries out even for a short time on a hot day, it is done for! Sod can be over-watered, but a general rule is to keep it wet enough that when you step on it, you leave a footprint. Normally by watering one hour in each place two times a day, this will be accomplished.
MOWING – SODDED LAWN
As soon as the sod is rooted down, you can mow it. This usually takes 3-4 weeks. Mow it “high” the first time and then gradually reduce it down to the mowing height you desire.
Fertilizer was applied when sod was installed and will last 4 weeks. At this time, start your maintenance schedule.
LAWN MAINTENANCE – ESTABLISHED LAWNS:
To keep an established lawn looking good, it is necessary to make 3-5 applications of a pesticide every year. The application is easy – just work, but it’s the pesticides that gets a little confusing.
Most of the material for lawn care can be applied either as a liquid or as granules. Both are effective. It is a matter of personal preference as to which one you use.
STANDARD LAWN CARE:
A standard lawn care program like the lawn care companies apply contains the following items:
- CRABGRASS CONTROL: Crabgrass is a coarse, rough-looking grass that can ruin the look of an otherwise good-looking lawn. Sometimes called “Fall” grass, this grass only lives one season. It starts in the Spring as a seed and by July and August, it is a large rough-looking clump.Control is easiest if you apply your chemical in the Spring before the seed starts to germinate. Usually, this is between March 15th, and April 15th. A good rule of thumb is to apply the pre-emergent before the forsythia bloom drops.This application can be done at any temperature and it doesn’t matter if it rains afterward.
- WEED KILLERS: It is almost impossible to prevent weeds from cropping up in your lawn. So the normal procedure is to wait until the weeds appear and then apply your control material. Young, tender weeds are a lot easier to control than old ones, so a late Spring application is best. (Normally 4-6 weeks after the crabgrass control.)For best results if using a granular product, apply when grass is damp so the granules will stick to the weeds. DO NOT WATER FOR 48 HOURS AFTER APPLICATION.
- INSECTICIDES: Because of the large number of varieties of insects that attack the lawn, getting good control is difficult.Normally, an application in early June and then again in early August will keep you out of trouble; however, you must keep monitoring your yard and if browning occurs (either in spots or more like a spreading patch) another application may be necessary.Insecticides can be applied either as a liquid or as a granule. Either product should be watered in to get the chemical to the insects. Usually, watering 1-2 hours per spot is sufficient.PLEASE NOTE: You can also apply a fertilizer in conjunction with the first three applications for crabgrass, weeds and insects. The easiest way is to apply a dual- purpose product so that you only have to go over your yard once.
- LAWN FERTILIZER: A good lawn fertilizer is normally applied alone in mid-September when cooler, wetter temperatures start the grass growing again. Apply just before a rain or water in for best results.A weed killer can also be applied at this time. Trying to control weeds at this time is more difficult, but if you kill only one-half the weeds, next year’s control will be easier.
- WINTERIZER: A late application of fertilizer can be very beneficial. These fertilizers are low in nitrogen (to prevent too much tender growth) and high in phosporus (to stimulate root growth.) The soil at this time is still warm enough to grow roots even though the top of the grass has stopped growing. Applying a fertilizer by mid-November will give you a better root system next year and help keep the grass green through Winter.The following information will help in determining when to apply certain materials:
CRABGRASS CONTROL PLUS FERTILIZER – Apply March or April.
WEED AND FEED – Apply April or May and September or October.
INSECT CONTROL – Apply June and August.
LAWN FERTILIZER – Apply September or October.
WINTERIZER – Apply October or November.
- LIME: Lime is a material that will modify the soil acidity. Most grass grows in a Ph of 6 – 6.5. (This is a scale to measure soil acidity from 1 – 14, with 7 being neutral.)Most soils in the Mid-Ohio Valley are acidic and can use lime; however, a soil test is the only way to tell for sure.Adding fertilizers and watering a lawn over a period of time will make the soil more acidic. So, liming might have to be done periodically.The best kind of lime is the pelletized type. This material is more expensive, but can be applied with a spreader to get very even coverage.
- WATERING: Your first concern immediately after landscape installation is how to water. Most landscape plants like a moist, but well-drained medium. It is just as easy to kill a plant by over-watering as it is by under-watering. This is especially true with clay soils. Because of its very nature, clay does not drain well. You can dig a hole in clay, fill it with water, and two weeks later, the water will still be there. This is called the “bathtub” effect. Now, imagine a plant trying to grow in that clay soil! If too much water is applied, the planting hole fills up with water and the roots drown. Without roots, the plant dies.Please be careful watering in clay. Wilted leaves may be an indication of too much water as well as too little water.Here is a general recommendation on how to water:Always hand water. This way, you can tell exactly how much water gets on each plant.Some plants, even if they are the same size, will use more water than others. Check in between waterings to see if plants show signs of needing water.
WATERING IN CLAY SOILS:
A. First 3 weeks – every other day. B. Fourth week and after – once a week.
Small – 1 gal. Small – 2 gal.
Medium – 2-3 gal. Medium – 3-5 gal.
Large (small tree) – 5-7 gal. Large – 5-10 gal.
X-large – 10 gal. X-large – 10-15 gal.
NOTE: Sandy soil and good topsoil are harder to over-water, so we are not afraid to recommend adding water to the soil. Watering by hand is still recommended, but you can apply more water more frequently than with clay soils.
WATERING IN SANDY SOILS:
A. First 3 weeks – every other day. B. Fourth week & after – every 5 days.
Small – 2 gal. Small – 2-3 gal.
Medium – 3-5 gal. Medium – 5 gal.
Large – 7-10 gal. Large – 10-12 gal.
X-large – 10-15 gal. X-large – 15 gal.
NOTE: Obviously the time of the year plays a part in determining how much to water. Springtime with all the rain showers might be less. Summertime especially if it is dry should be more. Most plants like moist, not soggy, conditions so water accordingly.
- Over-watering – especially in clay soil in the Spring.
- Under-watering – new installation especially in the Summer.
- Run-off – applying the water too fast with too much pressure will cause the water to run off. This is especially true if a weed control fabric was used.
- Dry Root Ball – Sometimes (especially if water is applied too fast or with a sprinkler) the ball of soil that contains the roots dries out. The ground around the ball is moist, but the soil that the roots are living in is dry. The only way to check this is to dig down next to the trunk and feel the dirt in the root ball. Placing the hose by the trunk and letting it trickle solves this.
II. FERTILIZING: Either fertilizer tablet or mushroom compost (a component in our planting mix) was used when we planted. This is the bare minimum to keep the plant going this year.
We recommend some type of liquid fertilizer (such as Rapid-Gro or Miracid) be applied to the foliage at least once a month. The next Spring, apply a fertilizer pellet or spike to the plant and continue with the liquid fertilizer.
III. WEED CONTROL: No matter how many chemicals, how thick the mulch or which weed control fabric is used, you are bound to get weeds in your shrub beds.
A pre-emergent weed control was applied to the soil just before the mulch was applied. This creates a vapor barrier under the mulch so that any weed seed germinating or coming up through this barrier will be killed. This chemical will last one year and then should be re-applied. This can be done on top of the existing mulch.
Sometimes because of high temperature or excessive water, this chemical breaks down prematurely and you don’t get the control you’d like; therefore, it is a good idea to re-apply this granular product about three months after installation.
Ideally, this chemical will control the weeds in the landscape, but there are some weeds that are not affected. Sometimes it breaks down, sometimes it just doesn’t work as it should. Normally in those cases, weeds will spring up here and there in the beds. DO NOT PULL THEM! This would disturb the vapor barrier and defeat the chemical’s purpose. Instead, apply a chemical called “Roundup” directly to the weed foliage, being careful not to get it on the foliage of the good plants. It will kill root and all. After weeds are completely dead, just cut them off at ground level. If however you do not feel comfortable with spraying Roundup, pull them and add a little pre-emergent.
Mulch should be kept 3-4” thick for best control. As the mulch on the bottom decomposes, periodic “top dressing” will be necessary.
IV. INSECT CONTROL: All plant material is susceptible to some kind of insect or disease. Control is applied when the insects appear. Prevention is extremely difficult.
Insecticides can be dangerous. Care in application and handling is necessary. Re-apply after a rain when leaves are dry and wind is calm.
We divide insects into 3 categories by the way that they damage the plants:
Chewing insects (caterpillars, Japanese beetles, worms, etc.) actually eat leaves and stems. To control them, apply an insecticide to leaves and stems so that when the insect eats the plant it ingests the poison and is killed. Malathion and Sevin are effective treatments.
Sucking insects (red spider mites, aphids and scale) do not eat the plant. Instead, they suck the juice out of the plant. Control here is a little bit harder in that the chemical must be absorbed into the plant so that the insect can suck it up. Bayer Tree and Shrub or Bayer 3 in 1 works the best. Boring insects are actually living on the wood tissue inside the plant.
Dogwood, birch and lilac have real problems with borers. Once the insect is inside the plant, control is extremely difficult. A systemic insectide such as Bayer Tree and Shrub or Bayer 3 in 1 can sometimes control them. Borers do not stay in the plant indefinitely. They can be effectively controlled when they appear on the surface areas of the plant.
Chemicals can be dangerous, expensive and ineffective if not used properly. Bring in a specimen on a leaf or branch for us to inspect and we’ll make sure you use the right “stuff.”
V. PRUNING: All shrubs should be trimmed to keep them looking good.
- Evergreens that only grow once a year. Trim just after new growth appears.For example Spruce/Pine –
- Evergreens that grow throughout the year. Trim anytime. For example Juniper/Yew
- Flowering Shrubs and Trees that are Spring flowering. These plants bloom on last year’s growth. Trim within one month after blooming. Examples: Magnolia, Forsythia.
- Flowering shrubs and trees that are Summer blooming. These plants bloom on new growth. Prune late March to early April to promote new growth. Examples: Potentilla, Abelia, Spirea.