The mild temperatures and moderate rainfall makes tall fescue thrive during the spring. We aerate and seed during the fall to repair any areas and help with soil compaction to provide better pore space allowing your lawn to breathe more.
Come spring in our climate, tall fescue is in its second growing season for new plants and numerous seasons for fescue plants that are well established. This also means it’s generating new growth like crazy!!
Spring mowing may often be needed every five days. It is important to not only keep your mower maintained but keep a sharp blade. Often times new mower blades are not sharpened perfect for safety reasons. The easiest way I find to sharpen my blade is a bench grinder. There are many kits you can buy at your hardware store to help you with sharpening and leveling.
What I find easiest for me is to use the bench grinder to sharpen. To level I simply hammer a nail halfway into something upward and flat and place the center of the blade where it would screw into the mower on the nail. If it sits at a 9 and 3 o’clock level I know it’s good. If one side sits lower than the other that means I need to take a little more off that side to even it out.
The importance to having sharp blades goes beyond aesthetics. When the blade is dull it stresses the plant which also makes it more susceptible to disease. When your blade is dull it makes your mowing have a white appearance and the tip is torn. How often you need to sharpen depends on the size of your lawn and how often you mow. A rule of thumb would be to monitor the up close and far away appearance. If it looks like clean even cut you will know. The pictures included is of the same lawn up close and from a distance.
Can you believe it is already time for some lawns to be mowed? To ensure that you have a successful and headache free mowing season, spring preventative maintenance of your lawn mower is the single most important aspect of your preparation. Preventative maintenance of your mower is very easy and will help to insure that your mower performs headache free this mowing season.
There are 4 very easy tasks that every homeowner can and SHOULD preform before cranking up their mower in the spring. Preferably, these tasks are taken care of in the winter before we even think about mowing the lawn this spring.
Changing the oil
Our mowers are just like our vehicles. They need occasional oil changes as well. Dirt and other impurities will contaminate your engines oil over the course of a mowing season. Changing the oil in the mower will insure that the engine will run smoothly for the next few months. Make sure to read your owner’s manual on how to safely change and dispose of the old oil.
Replacing or cleaning the air filter
If the filter in your mower is an accordion-style paper type, just removing it and blowing out the debris with an air hose will suffice. When paper filters become too clogged with debris it is time to replace them. If the filter is foam, wash it in a water and detergent solution, let it dry, and apply a few drops of oil to it. Sometimes, you may need to replace a foam filter, but most of the time a thorough cleaning will do. Again, always refer to your owner’s manual with questions.
Replacing the spark plug
Again, read the owner’s manual on how to perform this task safely. Most of the time all you need is a spark plug wrench and a new plug and you’re good to go. A new plug will help to insure that the mower starts up quickly and efficiently when you turn the key or pull the cord.
Sharpening or replacing your mower blade
Even though this needs to happen before your first mowing of the season, I’ve been known to sharpen or replace my blade up to 3 times a year. Some people with larger lawns could possibly be more. Once you witness the first signs of a dull blade, sharpen or replace it immediately. A sharp blade insures a clean cut to the turf. A dull blade can lead to “tearing” of the turf. This can open the plant up to outbreaks of disease.
Before removing the blade, be sure to detach the spark plug wire to prevent the mower from accidentally starting. Always be extremely cautious when attempting to remove the blade of your mower. Sharpening of the blade can be done with a metal file, sharpening stone, or a motorized grinder. If you need to purchase a new blade, make sure it is sharpened before attaching it to your mower. NOT ALL NEW MOWER BLADES COME SHAREPENED.
These are 4 tasks that each and every homeowner can perform on their own very quickly one winter afternoon. All these tasks are vital to the longevity of your lawn mower. Remember to read your owner’s manual before performing any of these tasks and only perform if you feel comfortable in doing so.
Cold weather injury is one of the most prevalent causes of plant injury that is seen yearly. It’s one of the most under diagnosed issues as typically the damage is not seen until the spring when the event that caused it is long forgotten. Wilting leaves and a thinning canopy may be seen in a bountiful spring, and defoliation can occur weeks after a cold snap that only lasted a day. The cause behind this injury is water. Typically as we ease into the winter plants will gradually reduce the amount of water in their systems. In a cold snap, the temperature change happens to rapidly and the plant is not able to reduce the amount of water in its system, and ice forms. This ice will draw water from the cells and damage the plant tissue. The collapsed plant cells and the inability of the plant to move nutrients and water through its damaged systems will result in injury to the plant.
This damage can be seen in almost every part of the plant, from discolored feeder roots, to leaves having what appears to be tip burn. One of the ways to minimize the damage of winter injury is to maintain a general standard of health in your landscape plants with good cultural practices. Reduce plant stress by controlling any pest and diseases that your plants may be susceptible to. Also, incorporate hardy plant species into your landscape that are zoned for 7a-7b, and are not susceptible to winter injury. Here in Richmond, we are in a transition zone and can experience extreme temperatures on both sides of the thermostat. In most cases however, the damage is not permanent.
Prepping your mower for enduring a long mowing season is one of the most important tasks that homeowner who values a nice Virginia Green lawn can do. There are a few key items that I like to focus on when getting my mower prepped for spring.
- I will always change out the spark plug. This will generally improve the performance of the mower. Especially, if your mower has been tough to start in the past. You will be surprised what a difference a new spark plug can make when you go to start your mower.
- I like to change out or tighten any belts. These tend to rot and/or lose tension after a season or two.
- An oil change is certainly in order to start the season. Just like your car engine, the engine of the mower needs new oil occasionally. I personally have a smaller lawn and a “once a year” oil change suites my mower just fine. Refer to your owner’s manual to see how often you should be changing your mower oil.
- I would also sharpen the blade. I actually do this AT LEAST twice a year. Depending on lawn size, more than twice is probably necessary. If you happen to get a brand new mower to start the season, make sure to sharpen the blade. Even though the mower is new, 99% of the time the blade hasn’t been sharpened. A lot of times, even if you only go to the store to purchase a new blade, it doesn’t come sharpened. So make sure to sharpen all of your newly purchased blades. A clean cut on your grass is one of the most important things you can do to insure a healthy grass plant. A clean cut insures a nice uniform lawn, as well as, allows the grass blade to recover fully from the mowing.
Following these simple steps of mower maintenance, can insure that you’re doing your part in helping your mower last as long as possible while giving your lawn the cleanest cut possible.
You’re getting ready to head out on a summer time cross country tour to see your great aunt Sue in your 1992 Ford Explorer named Sue that’s, no doubt been with you since your freshman year in college, and what’s the one thing you always do before you embark on that 3,000 mile round tripper? You should’ve said take it to mechanic for some preventative maintenance/tune up. It’s the only reason the car named Sue keeps on running. Where am I going with this? Just as prevention is key for your car’s health, your health, it is the same for your living, breathing lawn when it comes to weed control. Preventative measures often afford you peace of mind that something won’t break down or fall apart. Let Virginia Green provide that peace of mind by taking over the preventative care that is built into our lawn care programs.
If you wait, you’re too late
Of course, timing is everything with pre-emergent applications. If the goal is to prevent weeds then we must make timely applications prior to the germination of these pesky summer annuals and crab grass which means applications starting as early in the year as possible. If you’ve been in Virginia for even a year you can attest to the incredible temperature and weather fluctuations that occur throughout the year. In January, we’ll see 28 degrees on Wednesday and 64 degrees by Sunday. An extended period of warm weather in the throws of late winter can result in a crop of unwanted weeds unless we get an early start. With a Virginia Green Lawncare program pre-emergent weed control is applied to your lawn over the first three applications of the year with the goal being to simply prevent summer annuals and crabgrass before they become a problem and make themselves comfortable in your landscape. We are effectively preventing them from germinating and becoming mature, unsightly plants.
What is the benefit?
Whether you are maintaining an already established lawn or building one, quite literally from the ground up, prevention starts with pre-emergent weed control applications that prevent competition (weeds) from invading your otherwise beautiful lawn or lawn that you’re trying to establish. An invasion of weeds can ultimately cause the decline/degradation of your well-established lawn. A full complement of pre-emergent weed control will put your lawn on the straight and narrow for a successful aeration and overseeding for that “work in progress” lawn.
Your lawn won’t be completing any cross-country treks or making any trips to the doctor’s office for various ailments but that doesn’t mean it is not in need of a little preventative care supplied by Virginia Green’s timely applications of pre-emergent weed control. A Virginia Green technician applying pre-emergent is the tune up for your lawn for that summer lawn party you’re having. We provide the preventative care application to your lawn so that it doesn’t become loaded with weeds. Just like that car or your own health, prevention is key. It is almost always the cheaper and easier alternative to ignoring the issues and waiting until it becomes a huge problem.
Communication is important for success.
What’s up? What’s going on? What do you see in your lawn?
We are committed to getting your lawn healthy, green, and weed free. Depending on your program, we see your lawn seven or ten times per year. During our visits, we make certain to do a full inspection and advise you on any issues or challenges.
Even though our technicians are thorough, you get to see your lawn every day. We depend on you to let us know if you are seeing something out of the ordinary, unusual, or something that you think just doesn’t look right. Regardless if you are seeing an unusual grass, brown areas, thin turf or “weeds”, making us aware of any issues as early as possible allows us to tackle them head on in a timely fashion. Often we can give you the advice or information you need on the phone, and a quick call will get you peace of mind. If there is something we can’t handle over the phone, we’ll set up an Agronomist visit. Remember, agronomy visits are included in your program-there is never a charge!
Another important item to remember is that we need up-to-date information on how to communicate with you. We may need to reach out to you about your lawn throughout the year, and it is vital that we have the correct contact information. Please let us know of any changes to your mobile or home phone number ASAP!
We at Virginia Green are stewards of our environment, and as a part of that responsibility we are moving to a more paperless system in our offices. Current email addresses are an integral step in that direction, so if you are unsure if we have your email address (or if it has recently changed), please get in touch with us at (804)285-6200 in Richmond, 757-258-1788 in Williamsburg, 434-975-0100 in Charlottesville and 540-903-2593 in Fredericksburg to verify. We will never sell your contact information; you are safe with us!
We want your lawn to be healthy and look its best. Remember: if you see something, say something!
Most lawn care chores have to be carried out during certain times of the year. Adding lime to the lawn is one of those chores that can be done at any time. Liming is also one of the cheapest ways to improve soil conditions. Soils in Virginia are naturally very acidic. Soil pH’s of 4.5 to 5.0 are common in areas that have not been limed. A pH of 5.0 may be good for blueberries and azaleas, however most lawns will not tolerate these acidic conditions. Liming the soil helps certain nutrients become more available to the plant. Proper soil pH will also encourage soil microbes to convert nitrogen to a plant usable form. Overall, homeowners will get more for their fertilizer dollars if the pH is in the correct range.
How do I know what my soil pH is? Soil Testing.
The value of a soil test, such as one done by Virginia Green, is that it will not only identify the soil’s pH and nutrient levels, but it also will provide a recommendation for how much lime (or not) should be applied to benefit the lawn. The lime requirement of a soil is not only related to the pH of the soil, but also to its buffer capacity or cation exchange capacity (CEC). Total amounts of clay and organic matter in a soil, as well as the kind of clay, will determine how strongly soils are buffered. Buffering capacity increases with the amounts of clay and organic matter. Such soils require more lime to increase pH than soils with a lower buffer capacity. Sandy Soils, with small amounts of clay and organic matter, are weakly buffered, so they require less lime to change the pH.
For a stronger, healthier lawn, call Virginia Green today to have your soil tested. Your lawn will thank you.
Deer are one of nature’s creatures that roam through most of our neighborhoods. They may or may not damage your trees and shrubs. Some damage is not well seen, while others are very noticeable. The best way to protect against deer damage is to protect your plants from the damage. We will mention three ways to prevent damage here.
One way to protect your plants from deer damage such as the deer feeding on them, is to plant deer resistant plants. Deer really like the newer growth of such plants as arborvitaes and azaleas. Sometimes the damage is not seen until it gets severe. One way to protect these plants is to plant deer resistant ones. That maybe eliminating plants like arborvitaes and azaleas. Lists of deer resistant plants can be obtained from your local extension service or state agricultural university.
If you still want to keep your plants that deer like to feed on, then your second option is to use deer repellents. These can be sprayed on or applied near the plants. Sprayed on method are applied prior to deer feeding, usually in the late fall, spring or summer. Several application per year are recommended. Some common products are Liquid Fence, Deer Away, Deer Off, and many more. Other repellents are spread around or hung on the plants. Before applying any repellents, be sure to read the label and follow the instructions.
Another type of protection is a barrier. This method is to prevent the deer from damaging the trunks of young trees or feeding on the plants. Male deer go through a rutting season every year from September to November. They are rubbing the velvet off their antlers, attracting does and marking their territories. They use young tree to do this, and often rub the bark off these trees. To protect your young trees you can put wire mesh held up by stakes or perforated tubing around the trucks. If the deer are feeding on your plants, a thin black plastic mesh netting can be placed over or around your plants to protect them. Make sure the netting doesn’t touch the plants, because deer will still try to eat the plants through it.
There are many ways and materials you can use to protect your plants from deer damage, but it all starts with being proactive and protecting them before the deer come into your yard. Would you like to learn more about trees and shrubs and how to protect them?
Click here to request a FREE estimate! Happy protection!
In a climate like we have in Richmond, VA, grasses usually go dormant and have a tan appearance in the winter. Shorter days and colder temperatures slow down grass growth. Older grass leaves will die in continuous cold and the lawn will look brown. This will occur with all grass types including tall fescue and bluegrass.
Grass blades can also go dormant from a process call desiccation. This occurs in cold windy areas. Cold wind causes the grass blade to lose its moisture. The roots are frozen so no water can be taken up to replace the lost moisture and the grass turns brown. This is most noticeable on west facing areas that have no protection from the wind.
Though the grass looks dead, it is alive and once the temperatures rise in late March to early April, the turf color will begin change and start growing again.
There are some steps to take to minimize injury to your lawn during the cold winter months:
- Late fall fertilizer. This acts as natural anti-freeze for better cold tolerance, maintains lawn density, and stimulates spring color and growth.
- Continue to mow your lawn in the fall until it stops growing. Never reduce mowing to less than 3”.
- Remove leaves as often as possible, never less than once per week. Leaves smother grass and by eliminating light and oxygen. New grass growth is especially sensitive and leaves must be removed more often. Use a blower instead of a rake
- Continue to water until Thanksgiving in our area if it does not rain.
- Stay off the lawn if it is frozen. Walking on the grass can kill spots as the crown of the plant is more sensitive to being crushed when frozen.
Lawn dormancy is normal and we should expect our lawns to be off color in the winter. By properly preparing our lawns now we can expect outstanding color and growth in the spring.
The Effect of Frost to Lawns
The first frosts of the season have begun. What does this mean for your grass? Luckily, grass can stand up against frost. Frost almost always thaws and evaporates later in the same morning that it forms. Frost upon blades of grass is harmless, but keep in mind frost is comprised of ice crystals and can be razor sharp under certain circumstances so you must take precaution in order to not damage your lawn. If you walk across or drive across a frost covered lawn, those ice crystals will penetrate the cell walls next to them and cause damage. This will kill those cells turning them brown.
Myths Regarding Frost
After the first frost, fertilizer should not be laid. This is FALSE. Although not much growth occurs after the first frost, there is still a lot going on in the soil. As autumn progresses, turf grasses switch the emphasis on growth from leaves to roots. The roots that are formed right now contain the fuel that will be used to power the lawn through next summer’s heat and humidity. Anything that you can do now to optimize root development now will pay off next season. Lawns will continue to grow right up until the ground freezes so continuing to fertilize is the right thing to do. An easy way to remember is: if it’s green, it’s growing; if it’s brown, it’s sleeping.
Winter is almost here. That means putting the lawn mower and string trimmer and blowers and all other lawn maintenance equipment away. Here are a few tips to follow when you are storing your small engines for a few months.
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- This is a tip that you can use throughout the year and during the winter months. That is putting an additive (Star Tron, Seafoam, or Sta-Bil) in your gas as soon as you put fresh gas in your container. With the gas that is being sold at gas stations, it is mainly for vehicles which have ethanol. Ethanol is not good for the small engines that are used on mowers, string trimmers, and blowers and other equipment. Ethanol has inherent properties that can cause corrosion of metal parts, including carburetors, degradation of plastic and rubber components. This is why you should put in the additives in the gas can all year long and not just for the winter. Another option is to by the Ethanol-free gas that is sold Sears or Home Depot and other retail stores that sell outdoor equipment that is specifically for small engines.
- Over the years of working with small engines at Virginia Green, here is what I have learned. As it gets time to put mower, trimmer, blower away for the next few months, I will fill the gas tank to about ¾ of the way up with the gas and additives. Then run the engine for about 20 minutes. By doing this you will not have a dry carburetor where any ethanol can dry up and flake off when fuel is added in the spring and cause problems.
- Here at Virginia Green Lawn Care we use a combination of Seafoam and Star Tron as soon as we get any kind of fuel delivery. And this is done throughout the year no matter when we get fuel. With as many small engines that we have here, having one small engine down can be costly.
- Now that mowing the grass is not going to be a weekly job, maintenance on the mower can begin. One of the first thing to remember when doing any kind of maintenance on any kind of equipment (disconnect the spark plug and the spark plug wire). This will ensure that the engine does not have any chance of starting up and you getting injured. Here are a few things to do when working on you equipment.
- Change the oil in the mower. Follow the Owner’s Manual on the frequency of oil change. Most will go by hours, but if you use the equipment in a dusty environment, then changing the oil on a more frequent basis is a good idea. Your Owner’s Manual will also tell you what kind of oil to use in your equipment.
- Changing the cutting blade on your mower. It’s not a bad idea to buy a spare blade when you buy your mower. This way when you take the old blade off your mower you have a nice sharp blade ready to go. Once the old blade is off, take it to your nearest shop or if you able to sharpen it yourself. It’s not a bad idea to spray some WD-40 on the blade before you put it away so that it doesn’t rust much.
- Also while you are getting the mower ready for storage for the next few months, spray the throttle cable and any other cable down with WD-40. This will help the cable from freezing or rusting during storage.
- You will also want to change out the spark plug and the air filter on your mower, trimmer, blower and any other outdoor equipment. Again check your Owner’s Manual for specifics on these items. The air filter is something that you may want to look at each time you start up your equipment, it’s a good habit to get into.