Stop Raking and Start Mulching

Fall is finally here, and soon we’ll be cussin’ all the leaves we have to rake up.

What if I told you that you could skip raking altogether?

It’s true. You can use your lawnmower to mulch your leaves instead. The smaller pieces break down faster, delivering a vital round of nutrients to your yard. When paired with a nitrogen lawn fertilizer, the results can be outstanding. 

Any mower can do it, and any type of leaves can be mulched. 

You’ll want to remove the grass catcher from your mower and set your mower height to about three inches. Mow the leaves several times, reducing them to dime-sized bits. Keep mowing until you can see about a half inch of grass through the layer of mulched leaves. The more grass you can see, the smaller the leaf bits will be and the quicker they will decompose.

Once your leaves are mulched, soil microbes will compost the remains and incorporate nutrients into your grass and soil—a natural fertilizer that enriches your soil, cuts down on weeds, and feeds your turf.

When you think about it, it’s kind of silly to work so hard raking and bagging leaves, then rush to the store to buy a bunch of mulch.

Timing and fertilizer deliver an extra boost.

It’s time to mulch when leaves cover more than a third of your lawn, or when leaves have completely covered your grass. If a cold snap drops a lot of leaves within a few days, you can hold off until there’s an even layer of leaves over your yard. 

Once you notice it’s time to mulch, don’t wait more than a few days to do so. Mulch before it rains so your leaves aren’t clumpy and tough.

After mulching, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to boost the appetites of your soil microbes, accelerating the decomposition of your leaves. 

A lot of folks worry that leaving leaves on their yards will smother their grass. That’s true, if you don’t mulch your leaves and let big piles of them completely block your grass from the sun. 

If you insist on the tidiness of a completely raked yard, you can put a bagger on your mower to collect your mulch and spread it over you garden or flower beds. 

No matter your goals, our certified lawn technicians want you to get the most out of your lawn. They’ll work with you to create a plan that sets your grass up for a healthy winter and a more vibrant spring. Reach out to us through our contact page to set up your complimentary assessment.  

Debunking Lawn Myths

You know, one of the things I’m most proud of about Lawn & Pest Solutions is the collaborative, educational factor our technicians bring to each customer. LPS professionals help you understand what’s going on with your lawn and what you can do between applications to help it thrive.

As such, we dispel a lot of misconceptions about lawn care. Some of them are laughable—like the myth that you can aerate your yard by wearing golf shoes when you mow. But others are easy mistakes to make without a deeper level of expertise.

Here’s a few myths we hear regularly.

1. My lawn needs watering every single day.

Nope! In fact, it’s better to water deeper and less often than to water shallow and more frequently. Allowing water to penetrate deep into the soil will encourage your grass to grow deeper roots. Not only do strong roots make your grass look and feel better, they make your lawn more durable in times of stress.

2. If I want a deeper green color to my grass, I need to apply more fertilizer.

Of course, fertilizer plays a big role in your lawn’s nutrition. Fertilizer gives your grass what it needs to grow stronger, for its roots to grow deeper.

While a properly fertilized lawn will produce a more vibrant color, the shade of green is determined more by how often you mow and your mowing height. The type of grass you have also plays a role. Zoysia, bermudagrass, and Fescue have a darker, richer green tint. St. Augustine grass, among others, has a brighter green hue.

3. If I don’t bag my clippings, my lawn will have a thatch problem.

Returning your clippings to your lawn provides an addittional 30% of the nitrogen your grass needs. Also, a healthy lawn needs a thatch layer-that’s where Mother Nature performs some of her magic. Some thatch is good!

Thatch can become a problem if you don’t mow your lawn often enough-see my next “myth.” Otherwise, keep sharp blades on your mower and mulch your clippings or use a side discharge mower.

4. If I mow shorter, I won’t have to mow as often.

This might be true at the barber shop, but it’s not so straightforward when it comes to your lawn. Sometimes over-cut grass grows back even faster.

More likely, mowing too short will give your grass too much exposure to sunlight, causing it to brown over. In the summer months, it’s better to err on the side of length than cutting too short.

The sweet spot for your grass length is between one and three inches, and when you mow, you shouldn’t take off more than a third of the blade. That’ll require a mowing every seven to 10 days.

5. It’s getting close to leaf-raking time.

Not so fast! Mow over your leaves instead and you’ll be providing some great organic matter for your soil. As long as you mow or mulch the leaves often and don’t let them build up, the leaves are beneficial. Those tiny bits of leaves will decompose over the winter, adding a nutrient rich material to your thatch layer.

Remember, your lawn is on your side. It wants to be green, durable, and good-looking. All you have to do is meet your grass halfway, making the right moves at the right time.

Our LPS technicians are here to help you get there. Reach out through our contact page to schedule your free assessment.

Drought-Proofing Your Lawn

A drought is more than just a week with no rain. It’s an extended period (a few weeks, at least) with little or no rain. When your grass turns brown, it’s essentially going into hibernation to save energy. You’ll notice this discoloration after a week or so with upper 90’s temperatures and no rain. 

Signs of heat stress

There are other signs of heat stress than brown grass.

Perhaps you’ve noticed footprints on your grass after you walk across your lawn. Footprints on a hydrated lawn should disappear after a few minutes, because hydration gives grass blades their elasticity. If your footprints are still visible after a few hours, your lawn needs water. 

Soil shrinks during a drought. Look along the edge of your yard, where it meets the driveway or sidewalk. If there’s an obvious gap in the soil at these edges, the soil is drying up, and your grass needs water. 

Of course, dry soil is hard soil. Take a screwdriver and push it about six inches into the ground. If it goes in easily, your lawn is hydrated. If it’s difficult or impossible, your lawn is too dry. 

Proper watering

Did you know that watering too often can result in shallow grass roots? It’s true. Non-irrigated lawns typically come through a drought in better shape than irrigated lawns.

Think about it. The roots of your grass only grow as deep as they need to in order to reach water. If the top layer of soil is always moist, the roots never need to penetrate deeper. When a drought hits, a shallow root system won’t be able to absorb as much water as it needs. 

It’s best to water deeply and infrequently (two or three times per week), so grass roots must grow deeper to find water. 

Tips for watering systems

If you use and irrigation system to water your lawn, investing in a rain sensor will save you water and money. Not to mention, you’ll benefit from a healthier lawn with fewer weeds. 

To put it simply, a rain sensor tells your irrigation system not to run when it’s raining. This prevents overwatering and removes the hassle of manually turning your system on and off according to the weather. 

A good irrigation schedule waters deeply, as mentioned above. Set the timer of your irrigation system to run two or three days a week, leaving at least a day in between. If it rains, your rain sensor will prevent the irrigation from running for a few days automatically. 

If you don’t have an irrigation system, sprinklers will work just fine. Your lawn needs about an inch of rainfall per week to thrive. That typically translates to about 20 to 30 minutes of sprinkler time three times per week. As with an irrigation system, you’ll want to leave at least a day between waterings. 

Don’t forget to move your sprinklers around to reach all areas of your yard, especially during a drought. The best time to water is between 5 and 9 a.m. Watering at night invites fungi and diseases to fester in your grass.

Prepare your yard for anything

Know your grass. During a drought, Bermuda grass will fare best, while Centipede and St. Augustine grasses will need more pampering. 

By caring for your yard through aeration, consistent weekly mowing, and timely fertilization, you can give your grass a fighting chance against drought. Our technicians will work with you to create a plan to keep your yard beautiful throughout the summer. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary assessment.

Waterlogged Lawns

It’s been an incredibly stormy few days here in North Mississippi, and you probably see a lot of standing water when you look out over your yard.

That’s no good.

What’s happening to my lawn?

The health of your grass depends on its root system. If you’re no stranger to our blog, you’ve noticed the emphasis we place on cultivating your lawn’s root system as a living, growing organism. Just like any other organism, that root system needs oxygen and nutrients to survive.

Waterlogged soil makes oxygen exchange more difficult—it’s not so different from a person being held under water.

Certain species of weeds thrive in water-saturated conditions. Heavy and frequent rain plays a big role in what types of weeds pop up and how fast they grow. Don’t be surprised if you see more weeds spring up over the next few weeks.

Wet, soft soil doesn’t anchor tree roots very well, and when heavy winds come into play, they could lead to disaster. Do you have an older tree in your yard, or a tree leaning over (or toward) your home? Now may be the time to contact a tree surgeon for advice.

Finally, it’s never a good idea to park your car on your grass, but doing so can be especially damaging after a heavy rain. Not only do your tires leave ruts, but they compact the soil, making it even more difficult for your grass to get the oxygen it desperately needs to thrive.

How do I keep my lawn from drowning?

The silver lining of so much rain is that standing water can highlight problem areas of your yard. It can help you prioritize what adjustments to make in order to achieve your best lawn.

Take a walk around your yard. Are your flower beds holding water? If so, you may lose some shrubs, or the ground may become so saturated that water could seep under your house, taxing its foundation.

Areas of your yard that hold water will become thinner and produce more weeds. You’ll need to consult a professional on how to fix this drainage issue. While LPS doesn’t offer drainage services, we’ll be happy to consult with you and help you find a reputable contractor.

Heavy rainfall might necessitate a round of aeration to break up compaction. The aeration process will help fight the damage from so much rain and compaction by allowing your grass to better access the oxygen it needs to grow. LPS can help with that. If you haven’t aerated your lawn in the last year or two, you should definitely consider lawn aeration this year. Reach out through our contact page to set up your free assessment.

Grass is a resilient plant. Your lawn wants to thrive and maintain the deep green look that’s so appealing and enjoyable. These tips will give your yard a leg up and help it bounce back quickly once the rains have passed.

Say ‘Goodbye’ to Houseflies

Houseflies can be the peskiest of all pests.

If you don’t squash the one buzzing elusively around your kitchen, you could be facing a few dozen in just a few days. The older generation kept flies away by dropping a penny in the bottom of a Ziploc bag full of water, then hanging the bag above the outside door. A more effective method is to dispose of your garbage and to recycle in a way that doesn’t attract pests in the first place.

Sugar is an insect magnet

Even the last half-sip left in the bottom of a soda can attract houseflies and other insects, like roaches, who lay eggs in that tiny bit of liquid. One female housefly can lay up to 150 eggs at a time. The warm weather speeds up the gestation period—eggs hatch faster, and larvae reach maturity sooner. If a fly has laid eggs, you’ll soon see dozens of tiny white larvae appear in your home.

When food and drink containers pile up in your trash and recycling, you’re inviting a problem.

Proper disposal techniques

  • Rinse before you toss — Giving soda cans and plastic food boxes a quick rinse before throwing them in the trash can or recycling bin greatly diminishes that sugary bug beacon.
  • Use quality trash bags — Thick trash bags tamp down on the trash odor that attracts houseflies and other pests. In addition, they’re less likely to tear and leak into your bin.
  • Clean your bins — Cleaning your trash can might sound ironic, but trash leakage can attract everything from yellow jackets to roaches. Give your bins a good power washing every so often. If you can, use trash cans and recycling bins that have a lid. This helps keep liquid out and helps contain trash odor.
  • Dispose regularly — If your trash cans and recycling bins are so full the lids won’t close, you have too much trash. Minimize the amount of garbage and the time it sits around.
  • Store bins away from entry points — 50 feet from doors and windows will probably do the trick. However, the farther you can store your trash from your house, the better.

Exclusion is better than removal

There are dozens of DIY methods you can try to get rid of houseflies—soda bottle and vinegar traps—and of course, there’s the classic fly paper trap. But these machinations tend to get a bit messy. As is usually the case with pests, it’s better and easier to avoid them in the first place. Our trained technicians can treat your home for existing infestations and work with you to keep pests out. During your assessment, they’ll help you identify entry points and other channels pests are using to invade your home.

To learn more about Pest 360 and other Lawn & Pest Solutions programs, check out our website.

Lawn Aeration 101

If you’re like me and many of my lawn care clients, you don’t want to just look at your beautiful green yard—you want to use it. And you should! But even light traffic from kids and pets comes with a price. 

Over time, your soil becomes so tightly packed that grass roots can’t grow deeply. Not only that, compacted soil makes it difficult for oxygen, water, and other nutrients to reach those roots. A simple lawn aeration can give your grass the breath of fresh air it needs to thrive.

What causes compaction?

If your home has been under construction, it’s likely your yard has received more traffic than usual, whether from construction equipment or simply from people walking across the grass.

A lawn established by sod may result in soil layering. New sod can hold water, making it heavy enough to press down and compact on the natural soil underneath the sod. 

Your lawn’s thatch layer may be too thick. Lawn thatch is a layer of dead grass parts—like stems and stolons—that sits just above the soil. Though a healthy thatch layer is good for your grass and makes your lawn more resilient, excessive thatch occurs when living grass grows faster than thatch material breaks down. 

Oh, and parking on your lawn definitely leads to compaction. 

The ins and outs of aeration

Aeration simply breaks up the compacted soil by poking holes in the surface of your yard. Doing so allows air and other nutrients to reach the roots of your grass. The best time of year to aerate your lawn is right now. Your grass is growing, while temperatures aren’t hot enough to stress your lawn.

For a low-tech lawn aeration method, use a pitchfork or a rolling spike aerator like the one shown in the header of this post to poke 2- to 3-inch-deep holes about 2-3 inches apart. You might think this sounds easy, but it’s a long, hard day of work, even for a smaller yard. Not to mention, it isn’t the most effective aeration practice.

A better method involves a lawn aerator, which removes plugs of soil from the soil surface. Subsequent mowings will break down these plugs. At Lawn & Pest Solutions, we offer a professional aeration service that will set your grass up for healthy, rapid growth all summer long. We’ve got all the tools for the job, along with the know-how to help you achieve your best lawn.

Taking steps to prepare your yard now, in the early spring, will pay big dividends in a few months. Give us a call or request a free estimate. Our certified technicians will help you make a plan to get the most out of your yard this summer.

Kickstart Your Lawn

Electric Lawnmower” (CC BY 2.0) by Rennett Stowe

Spring is upon us, and it’s time to whip that lawn into shape. 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help kickstart your yard.

If you haven’t mowed your lawn yet, do it now.

Clear away any sticks or other obstacles that might be hiding in that overgrown grass, and don’t forget to sharpen your mower blade. A dull mower blade will leave jagged, uneven cuts that make your grass vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Remember the one-third rule: You never want to cut more than a third of the grass length at a time. And leave your clippings. They provide nutrients to your grass.

Hold off on watering.

Unless you’ve just planted some new sod or seed, we get enough rain to support good growth.

Don’t apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer just yet.

You can’t force grass to take on a deep green color this early in the spring. Color development is dependent upon temperatures, so have a little patience.

Once the weather warms up and your grass is growing rapidly, you can apply fertilizer based on to your species of grass, as well as your soil’s pH. You can test your soil’s pH with a simple kit from the state extension service. Our experts would also be glad to assist you with this.

Fertilizer application is crucial. The right product applied at the right time, at the correct rate, will result in full, healthy turf growth. Healthy, dense grass is the best method of weed control.

Check for soil compaction.

When soil is compacted, grass roots can’t break through it, so they don’t grow deep. Parking your car on your grass or heavy traffic in general can result in soil compaction. Fix compacted soil with an aerator (you can rent them at an equipment rental store), or have a Lawn & Pest Solutions professional aerate your yard for you.

Assess your yard’s drainage.

Where does standing water collect in your yard after a rain storm? 

It really shouldn’t. Water should drain away from your house, toward the street, and not onto your neighbor’s property. While we do not provide drainage solutions, we would be glad to consult with you about your problems and refer you to a reputable contractor.

This is the perfect time to plant new sod.

New sod or seed needs a fertilizer that’s low on nitrogen and high in potassium. And it needs water immediately after planting—seriously, right away. Once the seed germinates or your sod grows roots, gradually wean your turf off of irrigation. This will cause the roots to grow deeper in search of moisture.

If you’re debating which breed of grass is best for your lawn, our lawn specialists would be happy to help with that decision. Whether you want to cultivate a lawn that turns heads, or a lawn that is functional and low-maintenance, we’ll help you choose the turf that’s right for you and your yard.

Don’t seed grass or fertilizer by hand.

It’s practically impossible to spread grass seed evenly by hand. You can purchase a spreader at most home improvement stores for under $100.

Putting in a little extra work now will pay big dividends by the time full summer rolls around. In the early spring, your grass is fragile from its winter dormancy. Following these steps clears the way for your grass to grow healthily on its own. Once it’s up and growing, then we can apply more substantial measures. 

We’re here to help.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free estimate and assessment. Our lawn care professionals have the expertise you need to create a plan to achieve your perfect yard. 

Waterlogged Lawns & What to Do About Them

It’s been an incredibly stormy few weeks here in North Mississippi, and you probably see a lot of standing water when you look out over your yard. 

That’s no good. 

What’s happening to my lawn?

Even though your grass is brown and semi-dormant, it’s still a living, growing plant. You may not be able to tell, but your lawn’s root system grows and expands a lot during this time of year. That root system needs oxygen to survive. Water-logged soil makes oxygen exchange more difficult—it’s not so different from a person being held under water.

If temperatures dip into the low twenties or below, it could further stress your grass. Lots of rain plus frigid temperatures is a one-two punch to your grass.

Some weeds thrive in water-saturated conditions. Heavy and frequent rain plays a big role in what types of weeds pop up and how fast they grow. Don’t be surprised if you see more weeds popping up in a few weeks. 

Wet, soft soil doesn’t anchor tree roots very well, and when spring winds come into play, it could lead to disaster. Do you have an older tree in your yard, or a tree leaning over (or toward) your home? Now may be the time to contact a tree surgeon for advice.

Finally, it’s never a good idea to park your car on your grass, but it’s especially damaging after a heavy rain. Not only do your tires leave ruts, but they compact the soil, making it even more difficult for your grass to get the oxygen it desperately needs to thrive.

How do I keep my lawn from drowning?

The silver lining of so much rain is that standing water can highlight problem areas of your yard. It can help you prioritize what adjustments to make in order to achieve your best lawn when spring weather finally comes around.

Take a walk around your yard. Are your flower beds holding water? If so, you may lose some shrubs, or the ground may become so saturated that water could seep under your house, taxing its foundation.

Areas of your yard that hold water will become thinner and produce more weeds. You’ll need to consult a professional on how to fix this drainage issue. While LPS doesn’t offer drainage services, we’ll be happy to consult with you and help you find a reputable contractor.

Your grass will break dormancy soon, making this an excellent time for aeration. The aeration process will help fight the damage from so much rain and compaction by allowing your grass to better access the oxygen it needs to grow. LPS can help with that. If you haven’t aerated your lawn in the last year or two, you should definitely consider lawn aeration this year. Reach out through our contact page to set up your free assessment.

Grass is a resilient plant. Your lawn wants to thrive and maintain that deep green look that’s so appealing and enjoyable. These tips will give your yard a leg up, and by spring, your efforts will have made a world of difference.