Thatch and dethatch

Thatch is living material that is part of the growth of bluegrass in lawns.  An amount of thatch is normal in a lawn.  In the photo above, my finger is pressed down on the thatch layer that is growing over the top of the soil.  If soil is compacted or if the natural process of the lawn to consume thatch is compromised excessive thatch may build up.  If excessive that builds up, up to 1/2 or 3/4 inch or more, the best solution is to core aerate the area that has excessive thatch.  Regularly dethatching a lawn each spring usually is not necessary and will lead to other issues like increased summer annual weeds and will force the lawn to repair itself in the spring instead of tillering and building density.  Follow this link to UMASS on thatch management.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bees make holes around the size of the tip of your pinky finger. The female drills a round hole through the side, then drills a perpendicular hole along the grain of the wood. She will lay her eggs inside with an insect to serve as a food source, then she will close off the cell. She will lay multiple eggs per chamber and expand the chamber over the season. This site under a bay window is typical. It is protected and unfinished/unpainted wood. Paint (not stain) is good way to minimize the attractiveness of an area.

Leave the lawn clippings!

Why is the Boston area obsessed with removing lawn clippings?  No, granular fertilizer cannot be removed by mowing it.  You should always leave your clippings on your lawn.  Lawn clippings are mostly nitrogen and water and should be left to make your lawn healthier.  Don’t bag the clippings, don’t let your landscaper bag the clippings.  Clippings don’t lead to thatch and are not thatch.  If you have clumps of clippings in the lawn after mowing hit them with a rake or blower to disburse them.

Don’t take my word for it, follow this link to the UMASS fact sheet on good turf care.

Termite swarmers versus ants with wings.

Termite swarmers

Termite swarmers

If you find ants with wings in the spring, there is a possibility that you have termite swarmers.  Termites swarming inside are an indicator that a mature termite colony has access to the structure.  The termite has a thick waist versus an ant has a pinched waist.  The termite has a curved antennae which appears to be made of beads versus the ant has an elbowed antennae.  The termite will drop its wings and pair up pretty quickly, so you are likely to see wings all over the ground and insects walking in pairs.  Termite wings are all the same length and have a dark vein down the leading edge.  Ant wings pairs are not the same length.  Termites are interesting for many reasons, including they mate for life and the male and female will live up to 25 years.  The eastern subterranean termite we have here in eastern Massachusetts cannot set up in the wood above ground inside because it is too dry and needs to find a sunny spot of soil to dig into to start a nest.  Termite inspections are usually free unless you need paperwork for a FHA or HUD NPMA 33 form.  Call us for a free inspection if you spot swarmers.

Springing up! Time for soil tests, first lawn applications and planning maintenance.

Spring temperatures are here in eastern Massachusetts. We are pulling soil tests and putting down the first applications of the year. Hold off on seeding until temperatures get warmer, usually mid – May is a good time is you must seed in the spring. Only seed bare dirt, salt or plow damaged areas. Any disruptive seeding to existing lawn and turf areas should wait until August. When mowing starts – Sharp blades, Cut high and frequently (not on hot afternoons), always leave the clippings, clippings are not thatch. Water deeply and infreqently when the soil needs it.

Bulbs rise up.

Pestcast – Lawn, Mice & Horror Stories

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Finally a chance to put our knowledge out in an audio only format.  For people that like to learn new things on the move, our Pestcast podcast may be the ticket to learning something about pest control and lawn care.

Springtails! Snow Fleas!

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A favorite spring insect, snow fleas or springtails, are making themselves known outside right now.  These ground pepper sized insects flick their tails and jump to amazing heights.  This jumping action is what gets them confused with fleas.  This insect, pictured here from under a microscope, loves the cool wet conditions of spring.  They are often seen most clearly jumping over a patch of snow in a sunny lawn.  Don’t worry, these tiny insects will not bite.

Ultrasonic pest control devices simply don’t work.

Ultrasonic pest control devices – Don’t work. This is probably not a news flash, but people continue to purchase and promote ultrasonic devices to control insects and rodents. Not only has there never been any university testing to prove efficacy, the FTC has successfully sued manufacturers to make them stop publishing claims that the devices work. Don’t rely on manufacturers data to make a decision, look for independent research before purchasing any pesticide, including an ultrasonic repellent.   Click on this link for an example of a press release detailing a successful FTC intervention regarding false claims. 

Plan for spring – Get ready to test your soil.

Plan for spring! Get ready to test your soil and plan your garden. Here in New England you may see your grass and garden again soon as the snow melts over the next two weeks. Plan on running a soil test if you haven’t in the past 2 years, or ever. Pulling and preparing a sample for shipment to the soil test laboratory is easy or call us and we will be happy to handle it for you. For do it yourselfers-start with a clean bucket and clean small garden spade to take samples 3 to 6 inches deep for turf or 6 to 8 inches deep for gardens and ornamental beds. Use a random walk around the sample area to pull around 12 samples, mix them up, let them dry on a plain piece of paper, then mix them again and put a cup into a sandwich bag to mark with your sample id and send to the lab.

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