Skip to content

Get the Jump on Ticks and Fleas

We take the precaution of treating our pets for fleas and ticks.  We wear protective clothing and repellents when hiking.  Yet experts say we can take an extra step to help protect our family and pets from being attacked by fleas and ticks.  The good news is this extra step is easy and does not cost much.

Our neighbor took this picture last year of a dog tick that dropped off her dog after gorging itself with blood.

The milder than normal winter has caused Entomologists across the country to predict a big population of fleas and ticks this year.  Since fleas and ticks can hideout in your lawn, you can help protect your family and pets by taking a few minutes to spread Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Insect Killer granules on your lawn using your trusty Scotts lawn spreader.  The good news is that this single treatment not only kills fleas and ticks for up to 3 months, but also knocks out ants, chiggers and 100 other insects, many of which can cause your lawn to thin and turn brown in summer.  The final step is to water your lawn after spreading to put the kill in motion.  Once your lawn is dry it is safe for your kids and pets to play on your lawn.  (I keep Dudley, our cat, inside while I spread the granules.  I then gave the lawn a good watering of ¼ to a half inch to activate the kill.  Once the lawn is dry we let Dudley back outside.)

I treated my lawn yesterday and now I know fleas and ticks do not stand a chance around our home!

As you can see, Dudley is not worried about fleas and ticks!

Coarse, Clumpy Fescue vs. Turf-type Fescue

Hear the grass name “Fescue” and you may immediately have good or bad thoughts.

Coarse Fescue, “The Bad Fescue” is a clumpy, wide-bladed grass that grows taller than your good grass.  The only way to get rid of it in your lawn is to dig it up or spray individual plants with Roundup.  (Note:  Roundup will also kill your good grass so be careful where you spray.)  Roundup also comes in a gel product that may make it easier to treat individual weeds that are taller than your existing good grass (click here for more info) Kentucky 31 Fescue is a coarse fescue that is often sold for roadside plantings.

“Bad Fescue” is a clumpy, wide-bladed grass that grows taller than your good grass

“The Good Fescue” is one of the many turf-type fescue varieties.  In my experience the best way I know to buy the good fescues is in a blend like Scotts Turf Builder Heat-Tolerant Blue (click here to learn more) or Scotts Turf Builder Southern Gold Mix (click here to learn more).  You will also find fine-bladed fescue grasses in shade mixes for dense shade.

“Good Fescue”. This Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue lawn is nice and thick and has a pleasing texture.

How I Took Care of My Georgia Fire Ant Problem

Spring rains and warmer weather are encouraging fire ant mounds to show up.   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 2-Step approach to kill the fire ants I see and control the ones I don’t see.

When you accidently encounter a fire ant colony thousands of ants are on you like a magnet with multiple stings and bites. The Ortho 2-Step method will help you will the war on fire ants! (click photo to enlarge)

Here’s how I took care of my Georgia Fire Ant problem:

Step 1 – Kill the Mound: Treat mounds you see with Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer (click here for more info).  This product is designed to kill the queen and destroy the mound.  Do not disturb the mound prior to treating.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of product over and around each mound and do not water.  Over the next several days the ants and queen in the mound will be killed.

Step 2 – Protect the Ground: Treating only the mounds you see is not enough to completely get rid of fire ants. That is because not all fire ant mounds are easily seen. Colonies may remain active underground, hidden from sight. Additionally, new queens can fly in to establish colonies or foraging fire ants may enter the yard to look for food. Use a lawn spreader to put down Ortho MAX Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules (click here for more info) to protect your lawn by killing foraging fire ants and controlling new fire ant mounds from forming for up to six months.  Water your lawn after spreading the granules.

Landscape Focal Point Idea

These three photos were all taken in one year as this high impact flower bed featured all tropical plants made dramatic growth.  These kinds of plants are considered annuals as they will not survive outside during winter (some of them are considered to be houseplants).  We planted this flower bed when we lived in Ohio, however these kinds of plants are available across the country in the tropical plant section of your local garden center.  Here are the details:

First:  We mixed a couple of inches of Miracle Gro Garden Soil for Flowers into the existing soil in the bed.

Second:  We planted these plants:

1-Red Banana plant

3-Purple Threadleaf plants

3-Pennisetum “Rubrum” plants

3-Coleus “Morning After” plants

3-Carex “Amazon Mist” plants

3-Peperomia “Silver Ripples” plants

And Third:  We fed with Osmocote Flower & Vegetable Plant Food.  I like Osmocote because it provides 4 months of feeding… a good choice for someone who forgets to feed on a regular basis.

These three photos show the dramatic results:

Our flower bed just after planting on May 20. (click photo to enlarge)

Our flower bed on August 18, three months after planting! (click photo to enlarge)

Stand back Rita… I don’t know how big it’s gonna get! Our flower bed on October 6, five months after planting. (click photo to enlarge)

Answers to My Most Asked Grub Questions

When is the best time to put down GrubEx?

The number 1 question I get in spring is when is the best time to apply GrubEx since the package says to apply spring to late summer? You will also note a direction on the package to not apply to waterlogged soils and to water after application. Since the soils tend to be very wet this time of year and since the grubs will not be laying their eggs until summer, I asked our researchers when they apply GrubEx to their lawns. Their answer: Early May. (If you are reading this and May is in your rearview mirror and you have not put your GrubEx down yet this year, apply as soon as you can up until late summer.) A single application of GrubEx in spring prevents the next generation of grubs that will hatch this summer from attacking your lawn.  (Click here to learn more about GrubEx.)

When do grubs do the most lawn damage?

Most grub damage is done in Fall, however some folks do not notice they have a problem until sections of their lawn look dead in spring because the roots are gone. Sometimes the lawn can be peeled back like a carpet. In extreme cases you may see raccoons or crows tear up the lawn looking for grubs to eat.

Grubs are the white larva of common beetles, including those pesky Japanese Beetles. They feed on your lawn’s roots, eating away where you can’t see them – until one day your lawn turns brown and you can roll up sections of it like a carpet. (click photo to enlarge)

Here is the grub life cycle:  In early spring mature grubs awaken from hibernation and begin to work their way up from deep in the soil to just below the grass surface. In late spring, these grubs change into a pupae stage before turning into beetles that later feed on roses and other shrubs and trees in your landscape. In summer, beetles burrow into the lawn and lay eggs that will hatch into grubs.  In late summer and early fall, newly hatched grubs feed heavily on your grass roots before hibernating for winter. It is during this time that young grubs do the most lawn damage as they gorge themselves prior to hibernation.

(Click image to enlarge)

I treated for grubs, why do I still have moles?

GrubEx doesn’t harm earthworms, which are so beneficial to your soil. Even though you rid your lawn of grubs, you may still get the occasional mole in your lawn feasting on your earthworms.  Click here to get info about a product called Tomcat covering how to rid your lawn of moles.

Should spring grubs be treated?

If you find grubs when digging in your soil during spring the first thought is to rush to get a treatment on your lawn. There are two reasons that you may not need to worry about spring grubs. First, they do not feed in late spring when they are making the shift from the grub stage to the pupae stage prior to becoming beetles. And second, if your lawn looks healthy in spring it can tolerate a few grubs without sustaining damage, especially if there are less than five grubs present per square foot.

Grassy Weeds in Your Bermuda or Zoysia Lawn

Grasses that stay green all winter can really stand out this time of year when they are growing in mostly brown Bermuda or Zoysia lawns.  These grasses are either annual grass, that lives less than a year and then grows back from seed OR perennial grass that lives longer than a single year.

Here are 4 photos of grassy weeds to help you figure out if you are dealing with an annual grassy weed or a perennial grassy weed problem.

This is an early spring picture of the annual grass Poa Annua in a Bermudagrass lawn. Notice the light colored seeds. (Click photo to enlarge)

This is perennial Kentucky Bluegrass in a dormant Zoysia lawn. (click photo to enlarge)

This perennial Tall Fescue in a dormant zoysia lawn. (click photo to enlarge)

This perennial grass in a dormant zoysia lawn. (click photo to enlarge)

What to do about annual grassy weeds?

Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) is the most common annual grassy weed and is very obvious now along with other “winter annuals” like Chickweed and Henbit.  To stop these winter annual weeds from invading your lawn next winter, you can treat your lawn next Labor Day weekend with Scotts Halts or Scotts Turf Builder with Halts.  (You apply these same products in early spring to prevent crabgrass and other summer annual weeds.  When you apply this product in early fall it helps prevent Poa Annua and other winter annual weeds.)

What to do about perennial grassy weeds?

There are not any weed controls that will kill the perennial grassy weeds without harming your Bermuda or Zoysia grass.  One way to deal with these problems is to dig out individual clumps of these grasses when they are so obviously visible in your dormant lawn.  This could be a good option if you only have a few clumps.  There is a particular Roundup product that makes it easier to treat individual weeds and grasses that are growing near plants that you do not want to touch with Roundup.  Here is a link to more info about Roundup Gel.  If you go this route, you will need to be careful not to get the Roundup on the surrounding good grasses even if they are dormant.  This may be a little bit easier to pull off if the grassy weeds are growing taller than the good grass as shown in these photos.

Vegetable and Herb Planting Tips

If you started your seeds inside and are ready to transplant, allow your tender plants to acclimate to the sun, wind and outdoor temperatures by placing them outside for increasing periods of time for several days prior to planting.

Garden Centers are loaded with great looking vegetable and herb plants that are ready to be planted.

If you buy plants at your local garden center they are likely already acclimated to outdoor conditions.  If you can’t plant right away, keep your plants watered while they wait to be planted and do not leave them sitting on a hot driveway where roots can get over heated.

Improve your soil by mixing in an inch or two of organic matter every time you plant.  Adding fresh organic matter every year really makes a difference in how your plants grow.  When planting in your native soil I like Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Garden Soil with Water Conserve.  When planting my veggies in containers I like Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.  (Note “garden soil” is for planting in ground and “potting mix” is for planting in containers or hanging baskets.)

For plants that are in peat-type pots, cut the shrink-wrap label from the rim of the pot and tear away the bottom of the pot (can leave the sides).  You do not want the edge of the peat pot to extend above the soil line as this tends to “wick” the soil moisture out causing roots to dry.

Most plants like to be planted deep enough to they are still growing at the same soil level as the pot they were growing in.  The exception is tomato plants.  Tomato plants can be planted deeper than they grew in the pot as new roots will form along the stem.

Firm the soil around the plant to avoid air pockets.  Feed your plants.  My favorite plant food for in ground planting is Miracle Gro Nature’s Care Organic Vegetable Food.  For container gardening, I like Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Plant Food.  After feeding water your plants thoroughly.

We get more salad than you can “shake a stick at” from various kinds of lettuce, kale and spinach planted about a month ago. (click photo to enlarge)