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Do you have a mystery lawn?

Posted on October 24, 2012 by | Comments Off

I did. I can’t remember who asked me what type  grass I had. With raised eyebrows, I  probably smiled and said, “green, along with a kelidiscope of colorful weeds and crabgrass.”  Little did I know then how important that question was if I wanted a healthy and environmentally friendly lawn!

We  in the Hampton Roads area are in the “transitional grass zone”.  This means that  both cool season and warm season grasses may grow here.

The  warm  and cool season grass terminology expresses the season when a plant grows and develops the most.  Therefore, it makes sense to fertilize your lawn when it is  developing its root system, a time when it needs nutrients the most!

Knowing whether you have a cool season or warm season grass will determine whether you  fertilize your lawn in the fall or the spring.  Quick hint:

  • Warm season grasses turn completely brown after first frost. They like full sun.
  • Cool season grasses are first to turn green early in the spring and last to stay green late into the fall. They can handle both sun and shade, but may turn brown in an extremely hot summer.

By the way, please don’t give your grass a Thanksgiving dinner! It does not eat leftovers! Grass only absorbs what it needs, when it needs it! If you give your lawn more fertilizer than required, or  feed it at the wrong time, the excess fertilizer  (leftovers) laces runoff with nitrogen the next time it rains. Therefore, fertilizing your lawn in the appropriate season with the correct  amount christens you as a “faithful steward of your time, money, and our environment.”

For more lawn and garden tips, visit askhrgreen.org/good-to-know-fall-yard-challenge/.

Still not sure about what type grass you have? Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office for more information.

Posted in: Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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The Wrong Kind of Howl!

Posted on October 16, 2012 by | Comments Off

Ahhhhhh! Oh, NO! NO! NO! I howled. I can’t believe it! I looked down at my white tennis shoe with the little white mesh holes now enveloped in a humongous soft brown substance with the fragrance of a cesspool!  I was putting the last stake in my public information tent when I backed up into a large deposit of dog feces on the outside of a park fence.  Ugh. Perhaps you are one of those few who have a similar story to tell?

The scary part is this: though dog feces is “natural” along with other feces, a small number of people understand that feces can have an impact on not only on our health and our neighbors’ health, but also on the health of our waterways. It is just not something we normally think about. But it is so important that some cities, including Hampton, have an ordinance (Class -4 Misdemeanor) requiring that dog owners or caretakers pick up their dog’s waste and dispose of it properly.

Why have such ordinances? Doesn’t everyone pick up their dog’s waste and deposit it in the trash? Perhaps you are someone who considers dog feces compost and therefore leaves it on the ground. After all, animal manure is valuable to amend soil, right? However, according to research, dog and cat feces are not recommended in your garden or as compost because of the parasites and bacteria their feces may carry (Source: the Gardener, Vol 7 No. 2, Summer 1996, Van Bobbitt, community horticulture coordinator, WSU Puyallup http://gardening.wsu.edu/stewardship/compost/petpoop.htm).

According to the CDC (National Center for Disease Control) dog feces can contain:

  • Campylobacteriosisv- can cause latent autoimmune effects
  • Cryptosporidiosis –  infection of the small intestine that causes diarrehea
  • Zoonotic hookworms – can infect the intestine and cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea
  • Salmonella – can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps

These health factors are especially important to children under five years of age, cancer patients and those whose immune systems are weakened. Additionally, when feces washes into our waterways via ditches and storm drains, beaches may have to be closed because of high bacteria count.  In addition, the nitrogen pollution from feces washed into our waterways promotes excess algae growth known as algae bloom. Neither is healthy for us or our marine ecosystem.

You certainly don’t want what happened to me to happen to children as they walk the neighborhoods this Halloween! The next time you take your dog out for a walk, place several plastic grocery bags in your pocket so you can pick up your “buddy’s” deposit. After scooping, tie the bag up tightly and place in trash when you get home.  That qualifies as  a wonderful act of kindness!

Posted in: Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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TIME FOR YOUR FALL LAWN CARE HEALTH CHECKUP!

Posted on October 11, 2012 by | Comments Off

Hello, Mr. Fescue! How are you feeling today? Hmmm, I see you are not feeling too well. I’ll need to ask you a question before we continue with this exam.

When was the last time you had your soil tested? What? Never had your lawn soil tested before? Interesting.

Well, I recommend you get your lawn soil tested every three years. You may be lacking some nutrients you need to resist disease and endure a hard winter or an extremely hot summer next year.  I’m sure you are aware that having too much or too little of these nutrients can be harmful to your plant growth.  Also, by getting tested you will learn the recommended amount and type fertilizer necessary to make you healthy again. Why take medicine you don’t need! Be sure to tell your owner to follow directions on soil testing package very carefully and not to take a sample when you are wet.

Since you are in the cool-season fescue grass family, it is important you do this testing now and fertilize yourself accordingly this fall- September through November. Those in the warm-season grass family like Bermuda, Zoysiagrass, Centipede, and St. Augustine may wait until after the frost in the early spring to do their lawn testing.

Any questions?

Can I get a soil test kit over the counter? Yes, you can. Call to your local garden center or hardware store and see if they have soil testing kits available. Just make sure the soil kit includes testing for nitrogen (needed for blade growth) and phosphorus (needed for root growth).

Are there other options?

Remember, as a grass you only take in what you need. If you are given more than you need, it ends up as runoff in our waterways and is harmful to our marine ecosystem.

This soil test is just what all “lawn doctors” should order. If you need help interpreting the results, or have questions, please be sure to contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office. They are there to help you!

Posted in: Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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Unsolicited Buzz About Your Garden

Posted on May 2, 2012 by | Comments (2)

Mosquitoes in the Garden What do you mean by unsolicited buzz about your garden?

I’d love to hear the buzz that my garden is something spectacular, a garden that you just have to see and experience - beauty, exquisite landscaping, the essence of tranquility. Okay, I’m dreaming.  I can barely keep up my front flower bed between working full time and other activities.

However, I do love flower gardens as they cheer me up after a stressful day at work.  I just look at the beauty they provide for a few moments and all seems well.

Unfortunately, there sometimes is a different “buzz” in my garden. This buzz keeps garden visitors away. No, it is not the welcome buzz of the bees pollinating my flowers. It is the buzz of mosquitoes.

It only takes two tablespoons of water, for a mosquito to lay her eggs! Whoa! That means mama mosquito doesn’t need much to deposit her future kiddos in my or your yard!

One consolation is that birds, bats, and goldfish love to dine on mosquito larvae. I have the birds, but not the bats or goldfish. There are all kinds of suggestions to reduce the population of mosquitoes- the most logical is to get rid of standing water. However, to get the real scoop on mosquitoes check out this University of Florida website.  It has all kinds of information from the life cycle to disease transmittance to myth busters about how to actually repel those pests  from making you their dinner at the next evening summer barbeque.

I’m getting ready for some buzz this summer from friends who want to join my husband and me for an outdoor meal. Hopefully there will be the right kind of buzz and we won’t be the mosquitos’ dinner guests!

Posted in: Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Using water wisely

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What’s In A Tree For Me?

Posted on April 26, 2012 by | Comments Off

Tree PlantingThis is a good question as Arbor Day approaches this Friday and Hurricane Season officially makes its debut on June 1st.  Can these two special days sign a peace treaty and agree to understand each other and respect one another?   I think so.

Some people think trees are an enemy when hurricanes visit. What comes to mind is Hurricane Isabel that hit Virginia on September 18- 19 of 2003.  Trees blown over by high winds had destroyed homes, vehicles, businesses, and blocked roadways. Those beautiful stately statues became monsters in the eyes of many businesses and homeowners in the Hampton Roads area.  In the aftermath, I saw neighbors cutting down beautiful healthy trees in fear that someday that tree may fall on their home.  To this day, many have not been replaced in those yards.

What’s in a tree for me?

  • Energy cost savings!  Visit this site for more info.
  • Trees absorb roadway water pollution and carbon dioxide in the air.
  • Tree roots help control sediment and erosion by holding the soil together.
  • Trees give the gift of  oxygen to the air.
  • Trees are beautiful and bring tranquility to the soul.
  • Trees feed our stomachs with pecans, apples, peaches and other delicious fruit. Yum!

TreesOh, yes! There is much in a tree for me.  How about you? Are you looking for something to do that will make a positive impact on our environment for future generations?

Plant a tree this Arbor Day or help replace those trees that were destroyed with a tree that is suitable and can endure the test of time.  If there is not room for a tree in your yard, how about offering to plant one in a public place or in memory of a loved one?  Visit the historic trees in your area.

Have fun this Friday and make an extra point of enjoying the shade and beauty a tree offers you whether it is in your own yard or in a park! Happy Arbor Day!

Check out the Arbor Day website for more ideas.

Posted in: Gardening, Holidays, Lawn and landscape

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