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Listen-in To Garden Radio November 22

This Saturday morning around 8:00 am EST, I will be a guest on my friend Tom MacCubbin’s Florida “Better Lawns and Garden” Radio Show. (Click here to open his radio show website where you will be able to listen in.)

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

 

Last Mowing of the Year in Snow Mold Country

I get this “last mowing of the year” question around this time especially in areas of the country that get snow. Some folks say:  “Take it down lower.”  Others say:  “Leave it long.”  My answer:  Continue mowing your grass until it stops growing at the recommended mowing height that you have been using all season.  For northern grasses like bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue this is 2-1/2 inches to 3 inches.  If you have been mowing 3 inches or taller, you could drop your mower a notch, however do not scalp your lawn for the final mowing of the year.

Gray Snow Mold and Pink Snow Mold are caused by fungi that thrive in moist conditions during early spring under melting snow that is on your lawn for several months. The Snow Mold patches are covered with gray, pink or white matted grass blades that appear to be stuck together. These patches can be up to several feet wide.

The best remedy for snow mold is to lightly rake patches as soon as you can in spring with a leaf rake to allow air and sunlight to get to grass plants. Lightly infected grass plants usually recover when the grass is fed and temperatures start to warm. If the patches are dead (showing no small green grass shoots after you rake), you may need to spread grass seed in these spots.

This is snow mold.  A light raking with a leaf rake will break up matted grass so sunlight and air can reach new grass shoots

This is snow mold. A light raking with a leaf rake will break up matted grass so sunlight and air can reach new grass shoots

My Most Important Late Fall Lawn Tip

Tree leaves are all over your lawn. It’s getting cold. You’ve had a frost. Maybe you’ve even had some snow flurries. Here’s a little known lawn secret:   Rather than raking your tree leaves, save time by mowing them to dime size just prior to feeding.  If you have a Bluegrass, Fescue or Ryegrass lawn, your grass roots are still growing in the soil that is warmer than air temperatures.  Even if you’ve already fed this fall, this means you can really help your lawn by giving it a feeding right now with Turf Builder WinterGuard while you are dealing with your tree leaves.  So put on your gloves and ear muffs and get out your lawn mower and lawn spreader, and feed your lawn.

Rather than raking your tree leaves, save time by mowing them to dime size just prior to feeding. This will help them “compost on your lawn”.

Rather than raking your tree leaves, save time by mowing them to dime size just prior to feeding. This will help them “compost on your lawn”.

You won’t be alone. The expert turf researchers will be doing the same thing with their lawns. In Ohio, Ohio State turf experts say you should get your last winterizing feeding down by the middle of November. In Virginia, the Virginia Tech agronomists say you have until the first of December to get your last feeding down. So, even if you are in the far north, this coming weekend is not too late to get your lawn fed.

One last bit of advice. If you’ve got weeds and want to spread Turf Builder WinterGuard Fall Weed & Feed instead of Turf Builder WinterGuard, your mid-day temps need to still reach 60 degrees the day you apply. Apply to moist foliage on a day when no rain is forecasted for 24 hours. (There is no minimum temperature restriction for Turf Builder WinterGuard without weed control as long as your ground is not frozen.)

How To Tell if Your Home Has Mice and How To Get Rid of Them

Our house in Ohio was an older home in a wooded area that was prone to an annual mouse invasion during the onset of cold weather. Dudley, our cat, was a good signal that there was a mouse in the house when he would get all stirred up or if he spent long periods of time staring at the bottom of the frig, washer or the door to the garage.

A mouse can squeeze through a dime size hole to gain entry into your home or garage

A mouse can squeeze through a dime size hole to gain entry into your home or garage

Here are some signals that may alert you to mice in your house:

  • Are your pets upset? They can get stirred up when they hear and smell rodents in the house.
  • Can you see rodent droppings? Rat droppings are shiny black, blunt at both ends, and ½ – ¾ of an inch long. Mice droppings are smooth, with pointed ends, usually about 1/8 – ¼ of an inch long.
  • Do you see small tracks and tail trails in dusty areas? Look for them in corners, along baseboards, and near sources of food.
  • Do you see areas where wood has been gnawed? Tooth marks that are 1/8 of an inch long may indicate rats; small, scratchy ones may indicate mice.
  • Do you see smears along baseboards and other areas? Those could be rub marks caused by grease and dirt on rat fur.
  • Is there a heavy musky odor in the house? Rats and mice smell bad.

Click here to see how to rid your home of mice and other rodents. I especially liked using the Kill & Contain Traps.

Lime Questions

Why spread lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime helps to raise the soil pH level in acidic soils.  Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7 is neutral, acidic soil registers below 7, and alkaline soil above 7. Your lawn can tolerate a fairly wide pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, with 6.5 being the ideal pH for growing grass.  When your pH is in the ideal range other nutrients in your soil and in the lawn food you spread are more available to your grass plants.  When the pH is outside of this ideal range, some of the nutrients get locked up by the soil and your grass can suffer.

What areas of the country usually need lime to raise soil pH?

Answer: Many lawns in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Northwest are growing in native soil that is naturally acidic.  The reason I say that all lawns in these areas are not necessarily growing on acidic soil is because soil chemistry can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Also, over the years lime may have been spread on a particular lawn on a regular basis raising the soil pH out of the acidic range.  For example, when I first tested my Georgia clay soil I found that it was acidic and needed lime.  After several years of putting down lime, a soil test showed my soil no longer needed lime.  I plan on testing my soil every 2 or 3 years.  Although not as common, you can find acidic soil in other parts of the U.S.

How do you figure out the pH of your soil?

Answer: A soil test kit that you buy in your local garden center can be used to measure your soil pH.  Most states offer more complete soil testing through their Extension Service.  Check for soil testing labs in your state by doing an internet search with your state’s name and the words “soil testing labs”.  Other info on these tests provides values for available phosphorus, potassium, micronutrients and organic matter.  As a former County Extension Agent, who looked at hundreds of soil test results for home lawns in Virginia, I know that the primary actionable number to look for is soil pH.  You can ignore the other measurements if you are feeding your lawn regularly unless one of them shows up as being abnormally low.  For example, if you find that phosphorus is low in your soil, you can substitute a Starter Lawn Food for one or more of your feedings during the year to help raise this important nutrient in your soil.

Will I hurt anything if I put down lime on my lawn without going to the trouble of getting a soil test?

Answer: Probably not in areas that are known to have acidic native soils.  It is always a good idea to do a soil test first before spreading lime on your lawn.  If you live in any area that I mentioned above that has native soils that tend to be acidic, you could spread up to 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 sq. ft. That’s 250 lbs. of lime on a 5,000 sq. ft. lawn.  To spread this much lime, you may find you will need to go over your lawn several times with the spreader set at one of the higher settings.  You will also find that granulated lime is easier to spread than pulverized or powdered lime.

When is the best time to put lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime can be applied anytime the soil is not frozen.  Fall is a great time to spread lime since the upcoming alternating freezing and thawing of your soil can help to transport lime from the soil surface down to lower parts of the soil.

 

Killing Those Dad Gum Fire Ants

The shifting fall weather means fire ant mounds are showing up around these parts.   They wreak havoc on your lawn, and make it next to impossible to feel safe and enjoy your outdoor space with friends and family.  I have had great success with the Ortho two step approach to kill the fire ants I see and control the ones I don’t see.

fire ant sign

This one/two punch does the trick for me against fire ants.

Step 1: I use Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer for mound treatment.

Step 2: I spread Ortho Max Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules across my entire yard.

Fire Ant mound in our neighborhood.  Notice our red Georgia clay soil.

Fire Ant mound in our neighborhood. Notice our red Georgia clay soil.

Listen-in To Garden Radio October 25

This Saturday morning around 8:00 am EDT, I will be a guest on my friend Tom MacCubbin’s Florida “Better Lawns and Garden” Radio Show. (Click here to open his radio show website where you will be able to listen in.)

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

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