AVOIDING FROST DAMAGE TO FINE TURF
The wimpy New England winter has left lawns exposed and uncovered. And while our cool-season turfgrasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass, perennial ryes and fescues can adequately cope with morning frosts, it is important to re-route foot and machine traffic away from the lawn. At least until the morning sun has had a chance to melt away the frost. Any traffic on frosted turf, whether wheel or foot may cause grass blades to break off at the crown. The tiny ice crystals rupture the grass plant’s cell membranes, resulting in a perfect footprint or well-demarcated wheelmark in the turf.
Spring or frost damage is nothing more than an eyesore and poses no threat to the turf. It will eventually recover and fill in as air and soil temperatures increase and the grass begins to emerge from its winter slumber. For those who value their fine turf, it’s still advised you use the driveway or sidewalk and ask the mailman to do the same!
What are horticultural oils?
Horticultural oils are highly refined paraffin oils which have insecticidal activity. Oils kill insects in one of two ways: either via suffocation by blocking the breathing apparatus of the pest; or by disruption of cellular membranes. Two types of oil are commonly used: dormant oil and summer oil. Dormant oil is a heavier weight oil and is applied to plants during the dormant season, that is prior to bud break in spring and after leaf drop in fall. Summer oil is of lighter weight and can be applied to plants that are in active growth and in full leaf.
Why use oils?
Horticultural oils are very safe to use and pose no safety problems to the applicator nor the environment when used according to label directions. Oils have no residual effects. Insect resistance or tolerance to oils is rare since the mode of action is mechanical rather than chemical. Also, the use of dormant oils to kill eggs and other overwintering life stages of pests during late winter and early spring allows the pest control operator an extra window of opportunity for managing pest problems in the nursery or landscape.
What pests do they control?
Horticultural oils are used mostly to control sucking type pests, or soft bodied, insects including adelgids, aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, psyllids, and mites. During the growing season, control of scale insects with oil requires that oil be applied while the insects are in the vulnerable crawler stage of development.
How should oils be applied?
Horticultural oils must be mixed with water prior to application. Oils contain emulsifiers which permit the oil to be mixed with water. Oils are not compatible with some pesticides, so check the label before combining oil and pesticides.
Oils must be applied while the target organism is present. Oil has no residual effect. Thorough coverage is essential.
Dormant oils may only be used on plants in the dormant state, while summer oils may be used both during the growing season and dormant season. Always READ THE LABEL to be sure you are using the product appropriately and safely.
Apply when temperatures are between 40° F and 100° F. Do not apply just before rainfall or while leaves are wet. Damage to plant tissue usually occurs when oil does not have a chance to evaporate in a timely manner. Therefore, do not apply oil when humidity is expected to remain above 90% for a period of 36 or more hours.
Do not apply dormant oils when buds are fully open or when shoots are actively elongating.
p> Avoid applying oils to sensitive plants. Among oil sensitive plants are: beech, black walnut, maples, hickory, smoketree, azaleas, Japanese holly, redbud, spruces and Douglas fir. Always read the label for information on sensitive species.
Written by: Ron Kujawski
UMass Extension, in cooperation with researchers at UMass Amherst, will assess specimens to determine whether they are black legged ticks (deer ticks), and if so, will determine whether or not they carry the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease. The test can detect the Lyme disease pathogen from a single tick. There is a fee of $40 per sample.
Ticks can also be analyzed for the pathogens of babesiosis and anaplasmosis for a fee of $100. These tests are not conducted separately. The test for Lyme disease must also be ordered at the same time. Thus the test for Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis costs $140.
To submit a sample, download the submission form and follow the instructions.
Tick Sample Submission Form
Address packages to:
UMass Extension Tick Assessment
Agricultural Engineering Building, 250 Natural Resources Way
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003
Use exact address to ensure delivery.
For specific information, contact:
Dr. Craig Hollingsworth, (413) 545-1055,
What is the turn-around time for diagnostic results?
Typically, we open tick samples on TUESDAY afternoon and begin processing the ticks that day. So far, we have always been able to send results by the end of that week. Specimens that arrive after TUESDAY are processed the following week. Keep in mind that UMass mail can require one extra day for campus distribution.
Is your tick good enough?
A number of people have called to ask if their ticks can be analyzed. The answer is almost always “YES.” We have successfully processed broken and torn, water-soaked, dried-up and alcohol-bathed ticks. A few extra days in the mailbox will not affect the results. We prefer that you do NOT encase your tick in tape, but if the deed has been done we can deal with it,. The best samples are fresh ticks that have been treated as directed on the sample submission form. If we cannot process your tick, we will refund your fee.
About the diagnostic tests
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing detects the genetic material (DNA) of the Lyme disease bacteria and other pathogens. If a tick contains the specific pathogen, the test will give a positive result. If the tick does not contain the pathogen, we will receive a negative result. The test will NOT indicate whether the tick has transmitted the disease. This depends on the amount of pathogen it is carrying and how long it has fed. A negative result however should assure individual that disease transmission from a particular tick is not expected.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health offers the following advice with regard to tick test results.
Tests performed on the ticks are not perfect and they do not test for all infections ticks may be carrying. Therefore, even with a negative result, people should still monitor themselves for the appearance of rash, fever or other unusual symptoms and immediately seek the advice of a health care provider should any symptoms occur.
If someone has been infected by a tick bite, symptoms may begin to occur even before the results of tick testing are available. People should not to wait for tick testing results before seeking medical advice should any symptoms develop.
A positive test on a tick is not an automatic indication that treatment is needed. A positive test indicates that the tick was infected but not that the tick was successful in spreading the infection to the person bitten. The longer a tick is attached to you, the greater the chance that it will spread infection. Discuss any positive test results with your health care provider.
Archive for the ‘Noon Turf Care’ tag
Last week, I called up Matt Noon to ask him about a webinar invitation he sent me.
Noon, part owner of Noon Turf Care with his brother Chris in Hudson, Mass., held a webinar last fall for his customers and prospects.
One of his friends had recently bought a house, and kept calling Noon with questions about how to take care of various parts of it – the lawn, the plants, the gutters.
“That’s what our clients are like,” he says – lots of questions about the same stuff, all the time.
So, to help answer these questions, Noon put together a webinar and sent the invitation to his Outlook contacts. (That’s how I made the cut.)
The webinar went over fall maintenance tips for homeowners, and focused on their, turf, plants, outdoor power equipment and exterior maintenance.
At the end of the presentation, Noon took questions, and offered attendees a free tree and shrub evaluation.
He told me he didn’t get hundreds of people on the call – more like a few dozen. But it allowed him to get in front of a few dozen people at once – people who were interested in hearing his message about lawn care.
The cost to put on a webinar is minimal and the upside is good. You can download Noon’s slides here, and read more in an upcoming issue of Lawn & Landscape.
The Liquid VS Dry Conundrum: Selecting your Fertilizers
By: Matthew Noon, President of Noon Turf Care
|When I sat down last year with our company agronomist to review our product usage from the past year, I came to a realization that our company needed a new product strategy. During the past several years we have experienced rapid growth which has put a tremendous amount of pressure on top managers to control costs. Product cost for a lawn care company is a major expense that is a large factor that controls profit margins. Aside from wages, product cost is one of the most important factors that determine our financial success. Negotiating product pricing with our vendors is one the most important decisions we make all year. It has been my experience to see Lawn care companies’ product expense vary from 10% to 20% per year.|
|Lawn care company owners and managers are in a difficult position with regard to pricing issues with their vendors. Rising demand factors from China and abroad that have spiked fertilizer costs by almost 10% in the past year. It doesn’t matter whether one uses liquid or granular, both costs have risen significantly. To make matters worse, it has become increasingly difficult to hedge product costs for the season with vendors. Due to recent market value fluctuations in products such as urea and potassium fertilizer, vendors are hesitant to hedge the risk with their customers by maintaining fixed prices throughout the year. Some vendors create early order programs that give the illusion of offering discounts but most are providing the savings to you somewhere else in the transaction. We will not play these games. Our vendors will not offer these gimmicky programs because we insist on rock bottom pricing without all the game-playing if they want to do business with our company.|
|Product availability and cost then becomes a large factor in considering whether we should use liquid fertilizers or dry granular fertilizers. Both National companies and small privately owned companies each have their own philosophy on what to use. While many companies say that they make this decision based only for financial reasons, others base it on quality and results. For the past 12 years we have wrestled with using liquid or granular. Some years we have used liquid and others we have used granular products both having their advantages and disadvantages.|
|Through trials and tribulations, we have come to the conclusion that there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Decisions need to be made based on each individual company’s specific circumstances. These decisions should be based on cost, storage, equipment and most importantly results. Keeping your customers’ best interest in mind is the most important variable to consider in the decision-making process. At the end of the day, results are the most important because without that you don’t have a loyal customer. Once a client loses confidence in your company based on their lawn appearance not much can convince them to remain as a long-term client. And as we all know, customer churn is a most expensive cost to our bottom line.|
|I have realized that combining liquid and granular fertilizers into our program for the year was the perfect blend depending on the round. Striking a balance of both has truly improved our product cost, labor, consistency in product and most importantly quality of results. Furthermore, it has helped with client perception. When selling a service you never want to make a client feel that they can do the same job themselves. When one of our 500 gallon spray trucks arrives at a client’s home and the technician begins spraying, value is truly added. The client just feels that they can’t do it themselves. I liken it to when you dine out for brick oven pizza. I don’t care how good I can make pizza at home, it does not compare to eating pizza just cooked in a 600 degree brick oven. The service experience is there in spraying rather that applying granular. You wow the client and make them feel that they are receiving value that they could never attain.|
|Liquid fertilizers have their benefits as many of you already realize. As we slowly moved over to using it as well as granular it was a perfect mix but it took some time to train our staff and adjust to this new method. I also thought it was in our company’s best interest to assert more control over our own mixing. This created consistency in our products as well as deterred theft and carelessness in product usage. For example, a lawn technician may not pay attention to the setting of their spreader and apply too much or too little granular to the lawn application. When we mix our own products we can analyze our program over the year in such feature as nitrogen output or usage of weed control. As well as eliminating the waste of opened bags not fully used. It also increased our quality control in treating weeds. No matter how well one manages a lawn technician, if they have to pass over the lawn twice to do the job the second time around with never be as consistent as the first time. When our technicians are using granular fertilizers they miss areas when treating weeds and crabgrass. Loading all of our trucks each morning was beginning to also look like one of those crazy restaurant kitchens with chefs bumping into each other. It was a madhouse when all we used was granular. Loading a half a dozen pallets of fertilizer into trucks was exhausting and labor intensive. It is also a lot cleaner to treat with liquids rather than granular. When using granular, technicians lose much of the product when unopened bags are subject to the elements and many technician spread product spill onto driveways and walkways.|
|There are many advantages to having liquid in your program however, one drawback is the upfront cost. To administer liquid applications one needs the investment of equipment. That is the need for agitating enhanced spray tanks to apply liquid fertilizer on lawns. This equipment can range in cost from $4,000-$18,000 depending on the equipment. Additionally, if it is the desire to mix the liquid products prior to distributing to each individual truck, there is the need to invest in a bulk mixing tank system. We invested in this when we reached 30 trucks in our service location. This cost us approximately $40,000.00. So, although it is a very good investment, it will take three years to see a return on investment. However, once accomplished, we have a clean method of loading trucks quickly and efficiently thereby making it more cost effective.|
|Granular applications also have their advantages. Granular is much more cost effective to apply. Typically all one needs is a $400.00 dollar spreader, a $14.00 bag of fertilizer and a certified applicator for application. It’s also a phenomenal fertilizer to apply during dry and hot period’s times of the year. Slow release granular fertilizers are much better for feeding lawns that are suffering from heat stress and dry weather. Typically, our company applies slow release granular fertilizers during the summer and fall seasons. When applied, our 30% slow-release fertilizers allow lawns to be fed slowly when it’s very warm and dry and those lawn are then fed to avoid burning. Additionally, lawns can then be fed with less frequency. They also make for a fantastic management tool. We have all received that call from a customer that the lawn technician did not treat the entire lawn or even treat it at all. It is very easy for one of our service managers to immediately visit and address by physically going to the lawn and seeing for themselves. A better solution is to educate the customer on the phone to go to the lawn and look closely to actually detect the granular fertilizer.|
|When we began our business we were servicing under 1,000 customers with granular fertilizers. It was a much better option in my opinion. It was easy to scale our service initially with granular fertilizer. Although we always used liquid herbicides and insecticides. Based on my research and own personal experience granular pesticides are less effective in controlling weeds and even insects. As our company grew and we needed to control costs and consistency in product we slowly transitioned into both liquid and granular fertilizers and we have finally struck a perfect balance. We start the first several rounds using liquid fertilizer to feed the lawn quickly without a slow release because we know we will be back again in 5 weeks. We also have the ability of mixing the pre-emergent and broadleaf control so that we can hit control every problem weed and grass on the lawn with one pass by technician. We then transition into a granular slow-release fertilizer for the warm and dry season and the fall as it is better for the lawn. Having this eclectic balance has saved our company time, wages and product cost. Most importantly, we keep our customers best interests in mind by developing a superior lawn care program throughout the year.|