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Late Summer/Early Fall: Great Time to Kill Poison Ivy

Fall is an excellent time to treat poison ivy because cooler temperatures tend to make the weeds more susceptible to treatment. Look for the leaves to change from green to shades of red, orange or yellow, making it easier to detect and kill.  Another reason fall treatments work so well is this is the time of year when poison ivy puts more effort into root growth in anticipation of winter weather.  This means when you spray poison ivy leaves now the active ingredient is sucked through the plant right down to the roots to kill the plant completely.

Poison Ivy leaves change from green to shades of red, orange or yellow in fall.

Here is a link to a great website from Michigan State University that shows the different leaf configurations for poison ivy.  Also very helpful they show plants with three leaf patterns that can be easily confused as being poison ivy.

My Grandma always said: “Leaves of three… leave them be!” (click photo to enlarge)

Once you have figured out that you have poison ivy.  Here are links to info about two products that will kill poison ivy, roots and all, along with other kinds of evasive plants like kudzu and wild blackberry:  Roundup Poison Ivy plus Tough Brush Killer and Ortho Poison Ivy MAX plus Tough Brush Killer.

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Rita and I get excited about our fall vegetable garden.  The reason is we eat a big salad almost every night and there is nothing like picking fresh lettuce, spinach and kale leaves just minutes before dinner.

We get more salad than you can “shake a stick at” from various kinds of lettuce, kale and spinach we plant in August to harvest in cooler fall weather. (click photo to enlarge)

There are many vegetables that you can plant now for harvest this fall. You may have space in your garden where some of your early summer vegetables have finished doing their thing. This will give you room to plant lettuce, spinach, turnips, mustard, kale, collards, and other cool weather veggies that are not really bothered by frost. Some of you in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other southern states with mild winters also have the opportunity to plant other vegetables including squash, cucumber, tomato and many others. And do not forget to plant a few containers with lettuce, spinach or a good mesclun mix to set around your deck or patio.

When planting in directly into the ground, replenish your soil by mixing in an inch or two of Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Garden Soil. When planting in containers, start with a fresh bag of Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Potting Mix. (Garden Soil is for mixing with native soil in the ground while Potting Mix is for containers and hanging baskets.)  And don’t forget to give your veggies some plant food to maximize your harvest.  If you do not feed them you may end up with puny plants.  We like to use Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Vegetable Food.

Here is a link to some great Bonnie Plants fall gardening tips and video that will help make a big difference in your fall vegetable garden.

How to Check For Bed Bugs

You stay in hotels. Your kids go to summer camp. Your college kid has moved home for the summer. If bedbugs hitchhiked into your house, you may need more than the motherly advice “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

The Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Trap will tell you whether you have bed bugs in ONE hour. The Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Trap uses a patented pheromone attractant that lures bed bugs out from their hiding places.

Here is a link to info about the full line of Ortho Bed Bug products ranging from traps to treatments.

Use these traps anytime you suspect bed bug activity, after treatment to ensure bed bugs have been eliminated, or when traveling to know whether or not bed bugs are present in hotels.

Lawn Thatch Problem: Lawn Aeration OR Dethatching?

First let’s talk about thatch.  When a lawn has more than a half inch of thatch; water, air and nutrients may not be getting down to the roots. The tell-tale sign to look for is if your lawn does not really turn a healthy green after feeding. You can check your thatch layer thickness by removing a plug of grass, soil and all, and measuring the brown thatch layer between the green growth and soil layer. If thatch is greater than a half inch, consider aeration or dethatching.

This illustration shows that root depth is restricted by both compacted soil (far left) and too much thatch (2nd from left). Feed your lawn after aerating. The result is improved root growth as shown in the far right illustration.

I recommend Lawn Aeration using a machine that removes cores from your lawn in cases where you want to improve your existing lawn by opening up the thatch layer without tearing it up.  A dethatching machine may be a better choice if you are trying to remove dead thatch to expose soil so new grass seeds have a better chance of getting started.

Since fall is a great time to aerate cool-season grasses, this is a very timely topic for those with bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue and bentgrass. The best time to aerate warm-season grasses is early summer, however if you have a severe thatch problem in your Bermuda, Zoysia or St. Augustinegrass you can aerate anytime your lawn is actively growing.

A second reason to aerate a lawn is if the soil is compacted. You can tell if your soil is compacted if it is difficult to stick a screwdriver into your soil even when it is wet. When a lawn gets a lot of use (like you get with athletic fields or golf courses) the soil can get packed down and compacted, restricting the flow of water and nutrients. There are some tell-tale signs that your lawn may be compacted. Poor drainage is one. If water pools up on your lawn or runs off instead of soaking in, it could be because the soil is compacted. Lawns that look worn-out are often because of compacted soil.

Aerate your lawn by making individual holes around three quarters of an inch in diameter, three inches deep, and no more than 3 inches apart. This is best done with an aerating machine that removes plugs of soil, NOT the kind that just punches spike holes in the lawn. Soil should be moist enough for the machine to remove plugs that are around 3 inches long. Follow up the aeration with a feeding of Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Natural Lawn Food.

You can rent an aeration machine at many Home Centers and Hardware stores.

Oh, here’s some good news: after aerating, you can leave the plugs on your lawn.

Comparing Crabgrass with Dallisgrass

Since I am getting a lot of searches for Dallisgrass info, here is a repeat of one of my previous postings.

One weed that gets confused with Crabgrass this time of year is Dallisgrass.  Folks see Dallisgrass in their lawn and the first thought is that their Crabgrass preventer did not work.   Dallisgrass is a perennial grass that is common in the south and surrounding states to the north.  Since it is a perennial grass, it comes back every year from roots so a spring applied preventer to take care of annual grasses like crabgrass that grow from seed each year only helps to stop some germination of new plants.  Often the only choice is to kill this grass with a weed killer like Roundup.   The downside is that Roundup will kill all vegetation in the area that you spray, however you can seed that area a week later.  (If you plan on using Roundup to kill Dallisgrass, be sure to use the one that kills all vegetation and not the one that is now sold to kill weeds in your grass without harming the good grass.)  You may still have Dallisgrass next year so turf experts suggest you work on the problem for a couple of years.  One thing that helps is to encourage your good grass with regular feedings and mowing at taller mower heights.  The seed heads provide the best way to identify Crabgrass and Dallisgrass.

On the other hand, if you have crabgrass, you can spray with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer.   This spray is most effective on young crabgrass.

Dallisgrass is often confused with Crabgrass. Dallisgrass seed head on left and Crabgrass seed head on right.  (click photo to enlarge)

Dallisgrass can be confused with Crabgrass (click photo to enlarge)

Crabgrass in Bermuda grass lawn (click photo to enlarge)

August Lawn Suggestions

Some lawns need feeding.  Most Southern lawns (like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia) love to be fed at two month intervals from spring to fall for a total of about 4 feedings a year.  Centipede only likes two or three feedings a year from late spring to late summer. Scotts GreenMAX Lawn Food, Scotts Turf Builder or Scotts Natural Lawn Food are good choices for this time of year.   Northern lawns (like Bluegrass, Fescue and Ryegrass) appreciate two or three feedings from mid-August to Late November.  As the day and night time temps drop into the 80’s or below this month, you can give your lawn the first of these important fall feedings.

This Northern lawn is looking very good in August because it has received regular feedings. (click photo to enlarge)

Problem lawns can be “killed and replaced”.  This “kill and replace” strategy is for lawns troubled by the kind of grassy weeds you can’t kill without killing your good grass and for lawns you are fighting a constant battle with lawn diseases. We are approaching the best time of year to renovate cool-season grass lawns (like Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fescue). Note: warm-season grass lawns (like Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine and Centipede) are best started in late spring.  Click here to link to one of my blog postings to see how this is done.

Continue to protect your lawn from insects.  Tiny insects can attack your lawn during summer causing it to thin and turn brown.  One indication that they may show up is when you see moths fly from your lawn when you mow or walk on your grass during early evening hours.  These moths do not damage your lawn, however they lay eggs for insects like sod webworms and cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown.  Other insects, like chinch bugs can show up about the same time.  You can protect your lawn while feeding it with a special summer lawn food called Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard.  This product also takes care of other insects like fleas, ticks and ants.  If your lawn does not need feeding, you can spread Ortho Bug B Gon MAX on your lawn to take care of any insect problems.  Oh by the way, it is ok if you still see some moths after treating, since they do no damage.  You have protected your lawn from the damage caused by their hatching eggs for about 6 weeks or so.

Lawn moths fly from the lawn during the evening or when mowing. They lay eggs for sodweborms or cutworms that can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown during summer. (click photo to enlarge)

Kill lawn weeds if they are growing.  Weeds are harder to kill if they are not actively growing.  Most weed controls are designed to work if your temperatures are between 60 and 90 degrees, so check the label for suggestions to get best results.  Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer takes care of most weeds.  Do not use on Floratam (a variety of St. Augustinegrass), Centipede or Bahiagrass lawns.  Ortho Nutsedge Killer and Ortho Weed B Gon Chickweed & Clover Killer are also options depending on where you live and your lawn type.  Note:  If you are planning to put down grass seed in the weeks ahead be sure to check weed control directions for waiting periods.  For example, some weed controls suggest you should wait a month after using before seeding.

Crabgrass germinated in this area where the grass was thinned from a lawn fungus problem. It is easier to kill before it gets big.

Cucumbers are Doing Great in Our Deck Planter

Our pickle cucumbers are giving us a bumper harvest growing on the leaning trellis in our self-watering deck planter.  We have 6 of these self-watering planters which hold about 4 gallons of water and are on rollers so they can be easily moved.  During spring and fall we fill the water reservoir twice a week even if we are getting regular rain.  During the summer when the veggies are mature and the weather is hot, we fill the reservoir every other day.  (Here is a link to more info on the planters we are using.)  (Here is a link to more info on the trellis we are using.)

cucumber deck planters

We planted cucumber seeds on June 2 after harvesting the last of our spring lettuce.

cucumbers deck planters

This picture was taken about 6 weeks after planting. We pick cucumbers every day!

This year after the last of our spring harvest from our deck planters (kale, spinach, various kinds of lettuce) we planted our summer veggies.  One planter has 3 – Padron Pepper plants, one has 3 – Carmen Sweet Pepper plants, one has carrots and beets, one has Adam Pickler Cucumbers, and the last two have Bush Green Beans planted a month apart.  Around mid-September we will plant the planters with lettuce, kale and spinach.

The soil is Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix. We have found it is best to start with fresh soil each year and clean the roots out of the water reservoir. We also added some fresh soil to the top 4 inches when we planted our summer veggies.  We fed the plants with Osmocote Plant Food when we planted them.