Lawn Care Tips & Advice
The Language of Lawn Care
How many lawn applications do I need per year? Will my application prevent grubs? Should I look for liquid or granular fertilizer? These are just a few of the questions we encounter when the time comes to choose a lawn health care program. So what should you be asking? Lawn Care Programs There are three main components to lawn care: fertilization, weed control, and pest control. Most often offered as a program, lawn care visits typically include a certain number of applications of both fertilizer and weed control over the course of the growing season. When reviewing an offer or estimate, always make sure to check that each application includes both, as some companies split weed control and fertilizer into two separate visits. Another important factor in choosing a lawn care program is the type of product used. Liquid fertilizers will provide a quicker green-up, but tend to be short lived. Slow-release granular fertilizer is more cost effective, providing you with a more sustained green-up (up to 8 weeks!), prevents “overfeeding”, as well as safeguarding against burning your lawn during the dryer summer months. Preemergence Crabgrass Control Usually included with the first application of the year (and sometimes the second), preemergence crabgrass control prevents the germination of crabgrass seeds. It’s important to remember that this does not prevent dandelions! Dandelions are a perennial weed, which will show up year after year. They will be treated after they emerge, typically in mid to late spring. One more really important note on preemergence: it prevents good seed from germinating, too; so if you are seeding your lawn in the spring, it’s important to let your lawn care company know so they can plan accordingly. In this case, a standard starter fertilizer is used without crabgrass control. How many applications do I need? The easy answer? It depends. Irrigated lawns in sunny locations use the most nutrients, so it’s not unusual to see as many as seven applications each growing season. If you have a shady lawn and your lawn health care provider is pushing that many visits, ask why; chances are four or five applications will suit your needs just fine. Remember, thin lawns are more susceptible to weed infestation, so take the time to discuss with your provider what each visit includes! What about grubs? Grub preventive is a separate product from standard granular fertilizer. Usually applied in mid-summer during the larva stage of Japanese beetles, a preventive grub control application stops grubs before they start feeding on the grass roots. While we generally see grubs in open, sunny lawns, no one can say with 100% certainty where they will appear, but chances are if you’ve had grub damage before, they’ve found something they like! Grubs can be treated post emergence as well, but it’s always more cost effective (and healthier for the lawn!) to treat them prior to full development. My estimate has a quote for liming – do I need this? Lime is applied to lawns to raise the pH, but since most of our soils tend to be neutral or a little on the high side, we don’t typically need to apply lime to lawns in our area. If your lawn care company is recommending a liming, ask why, and if the recommendation is based on a soil test or some other factor. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Creating and maintaining a healthy, vibrant landscape is a long-term partnership/ The more you know, the more cost effective your program will be! Have a question? Send it to us here.
Get It Growing – Partnering with KGAN
We’re proud to partner with KGAN CBS2/FOX28 on “Get It Growing,” a biweekly segment on our local morning news! Look out for Geoff Wilming every other Thursday morning in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City! Most Current 3/29/18: Spring Grasses 1/25/2018: Your Lawn Health Care Program 1/11/2018: Indoor Gardening 7/20/2017: Strange Landscape Encounters 7/6/2017: Wildflowers and Japanese Beetles 6/22/2017: Summer Challenges 6/8/2017: Soil 6/1/2017: Wild Parsnip Warning and All About Bugs 5/11/2017: Mother’s Day Bouquets 4/27/17: Happy Arbor Day! 4/13/17: Easter Lilies
Soil Quality Restoration
Giving Life Back to Your Soil Iowa soils have been significantly altered by tillage for farming and grading practices associated with urban development. Years of tillage and soil erosion has caused the loss of more than half of Iowa’s topsoil. The organic matter content has been reduced from a healthy, sponge-like 10% to less than 2%. Often remaining topsoil is completely removed during development for urban growth. Little to no organic matter remains and the graded soils are compacted, leaving a near-impassible barrier to grass root growth. Compacted soils with no organic matter cause nearly all the water to run off during rainfall. When this happens, storm-water runoff flows untreated to storm sewers, and washes associated pollutants directly into nearby streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. A compacted, nutrient-poor soil with low organic matter content also requires more time and money to stay green! However, there are ways to fight soil erosion, and we are proud to offer Soil Quality Restoration (SQR), one of the highest recommended solutions — a completely organic three-step process that enriches the soil and reintroduces vital organic matter and micro-organisms to your soil. The cities of Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty subsidize SQR costs up to 100% — contact your community for more information! Step 1 – Deep Tine Aeration: Aeration helps to improve soil quality by facilitating the movement of organic matter into the soil profile. Perhaps you already get your lawn aerated on a regular basis, which is an excellent practice! Aeration reduces compaction and breaks the thatch layer, which can result in increased availability of nutrients in the root zone, so you can enjoy a healthy turf under your feet and lower long-term maintenance costs. A typical aeration pulls cores that are about three inches long from your turf. However, for Soil Quality Restoration we use a deep tine aerator designed for athletic field maintenance and high quality residential lawn restorations, which pulls 4-inch cores. That extra inch makes all the difference! Our deep tine aeration machines will reduce the compaction of your soil and leaves room for us to add organic compost material. Step 2 – Addition of organic compost material and seed: Soils rich in organic matter support an entire ecosystem of microorganisms that contribute to the soil health. After your lawn has been aerated, we will return to add a topdressing of organic compost mixed with high-quality grass seed to create a favorable soil profile for your lawn. Compost improves lawn and landscape health by increasing porosity and organic matter content, breaking down nutrients and making them available to plants, improving plant hardiness and vigor, and retaining more water in the landscape, while the seed we use is common for turfgrass in the area and will mix well with any existing lawn. Step Three – Next Steps: After we have made our final Soil Quality Restoration visit and your lawn is growing at a healthy rate, remember to leave the grass clippings on your lawn to increase the organic matter content. Grass clippings do not contribute to thatch in yards with active soil microbes and healthy soils. Remember to follow the watering instructions included with your estimate for Soil Quality Restoration to maximize newly-applied seed germination! If you’d like to take a look at our watering instructions, visit our Watering Instruction Page. Call Quality Care today, or request a quote online, and we can make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood! For more information on Soil Quality Restoration: Soil Quality, Better Lawns Made Easy New construction often has compacted soil with low topsoil content. Soil Quality Restoration loosens the soil and reintroduces what your plants need. New sod on clay soil in North Liberty. It didn’t take very well because roots couldn’t penetrate the dense clay soil. We added organic matter to the soil profile with a Soil Quality Restoration, and visited this home a handful of times throughout the season to suppress weeds and fertilize existing turf! Guess which neighbor hired us to add organic matter to their clay soil profile this season… The newest lawn on the block is the healthiest thanks to Soil Quality Restoration! We welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you have about Soil Quality Restoration and your lawn! [Revised 8/2016 – original post 11/2014]
Protection from Pests!
Mosquito Control and Perimeter Pest Control As temperatures become consistently warm, bugs of all kinds become more active. Already you may have seen flies, ladybugs, and spiders in your yard and around buildings. We certainly have! Reduce Mosquito Pressure Are you or your kids outside on warm summer nights? West Nile Virus, spread by mosquitoes, is common to the state of Iowa, and can be deadly. Protect yourself and loved ones from disease and discomfort with Mosquito Control! This application is a spray applied to your grass up to 3 times over the course of the active mosquito season. If you live near water, woods, or other mosquito breeding grounds, you will love this treatment! Like all applications, we would recommend that you keep pets and kids off the lawn until it dries, but after it’s dry the only ones that have to worry are the mosquitoes. Be Proactive – Keep Bugs Outside! Do you find your home plagued with ants, spiders, centipedes, ladybugs or box elder (potato) bugs? Once they get in, they range from annoying to impossible to get out. Be proactive this year with our Perimeter Pest Program. This spray is applied up to four times from spring to fall to the foundation of your home, three feet up and three feet out, forming a protective barrier that discourages many-legged invaders from entering your home. You will notice an immediate effect! Contact us with questions, or request a proposal today!
Your Grass In Spring!
Soil Temperature and Your Grass As we’ve seen this spring, air temperature can be very volatile. One day it can be 70 degrees, and the next, 40! March and April in Iowa can be a trial for your lawn and garden. This can be very confusing when it comes to deciding how to care for your lawn. Lawn care is highly weather-dependent, after all. It was below freezing last night! What should I look out for? Even as soil temperatures slowly rise, the air temperature rises and dips, which is hard on newly-budding plants and the crowns of your grass. Was it close to or below freezing last night? Take care to wait until the sun has been on your lawn for a few hours before going out on your lawn. The top part, or crown, of grass blades are vulnerable to breakage, which stunts or even halts their growth. Should I seed in spring? Grass, like all plants, need water, light and warmth to survive. If you have a lawn shaded by trees, spring is an excellent time to seed with shade-tolerant grasses, as the trees haven’t yet leafed out, allowing for maximum sun exposure. You can also seed in spring if you have not put down crabgrass pre-emergent, like what is present in our Early Spring and Spring Lawn Health Care applications. Have a Spring application upcoming and you’re planning to seed? Let us know and we can change your application to fertilizer-only. Though a weed, crabgrass is an annual grass that grows from seed, just like the seed you want to put down – pre-emergent unfortunately doesn’t know the difference between the two! If you’ve already put down pre-emergent, either you can seed in the fall, or break the pre-emergent barrier by breaking up the soil with an aeration, seeding machine or hard rake and seed where the barrier is broken. But is it too cold to seed? Not at all! As the world emerges from winter, there is a much more dependable indicator of when to seed, and that is soil temperature. The temperature of the air can rise and fall quickly, but soil and ground water retain and lose heat much more slowly than the air, and soil temperature is a major factor in cuing your grass seed to germinate, or sprout, along with moisture and sunlight. The most common turfgrass species in this area are Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, both cooler-climate grasses, often mixed in your lawn and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Kentucky bluegrass germinates between the soil temperatures of 59-86 degrees and takes 20-30 days to germinate, while perennial rye needs a range of 68-86 degrees and 5-10 days to sprout. This means that in spring your lawn is already beginning to green up as soon as the soil warms to spring temperatures, even if the air is still cold. How can Quality Care help me? We’re your neighborhood experts and we’re here to help! We offer overseeding with aeration in the spring and fall depending on your lawn’s needs, which is great for filling in thin spots or making your healthy lawn thicker. We have seeding machines for bare spots, or if you’ve already put down pre-emergent for crabgrass. Not sure what your lawn needs are? Drop us a line! Update 4/13/16: Wow! Thank you! We are completely booked for spring seeding this season.
What’s Popping this Spring?
It can be very exciting to see the winter’s weather fade into the background and spring emerge. Landscape beds have early spring season perennials that are starting to pop. Now is a great time to make note of which perennials, shrubs and trees are early bloomers so you can make planting plans to be the first one blooming next season. Below are some examples of common early spring bloomers. As always, review each species to make sure it is the spring bloomer. Crocus Crocuses are low-growing, colorful, cup-shaped flowers. Because the plants flower so early, crocuses can actually adapt well to planting in lawns and will multiply over time to cover large areas. Select varieties that mature at different times to extend the bloom season. Flower colors include blue, violet, striped, yellow, and white, and height ranges from 3 to 6 inches. While most crocus flower in the spring, the saffron crocus is a fall flowering crocus that is planted in spring. Crocuses are very easy care and low maintenance. Hyacinth The Victorians revered hyacinths for their sweet, lingering fragrance, similar to that of the familiar Lilac. The flowers are closely packed with tubular-bell-shaped, single or double flowers. As well as growing in the ground, colorful hyacinths are excellent for forcing in containers and some are available for early flowering indoors to get started EXTRA early. Daffodils Daffodils are hardy and easy perennials to grow. Their attractive flowers usually bear showy yellow or white flowers with six petals and a trumpet-shape central corona. Leafless stems bear between 1 and 20 flowers! Daffodils are suitable for planting between shrubs or in a border, or for forcing blooms indoors. Daffodil flowers are excellent for cutting. Tulips Tulip bulbs come in virtually all colors, including a purple so deep that it looks black! And by planting a selection of varieties of this perennial, we can enjoy their beauty from early spring through early summer. Tulips do best in areas with dry summers and cold winters – just like our Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor area! The brightly colored, upright flowers may be single or double, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms. They are excellent in beds and borders, many types are good for forcing into bloom indoors, and most are excellent for cut flowers. Phlox Phlox are perennials and a favorite choice among wildflowers. These plants sport many star-shaped, colorful flowers when in bloom. Because there are so many varieties, you can find a type of phlox for almost any garden. They are easy to care for, low maintenance, and carry a wonderful fragrance. Lilac Who doesn’t love lilacs in the spring?! The ideal lilac shrub has about 10 canes and produces flowers at eye-level – all the better to enjoy that sweet, haunting fragrance. Lilacs do come in seven colors but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris. There are also early, mid and late-spring season blooming lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks. Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies. Forsythia Sunny splashes of bright yellow flowers are forsythia’s calling card, announcing the return of spring. To nurture forsythia’s graceful case shape, careful pruning is required. The toothed leaves will deepen into purple tints just before they drop in late fall. To encourage the best flowering, plant forsythia in full sun and provide plenty of water during the growing season. For a spring spectacle, train forsythia against a warm wall. Redbud Tree The Redbud tree is a relatively small tree with spreading branches and a small short trunk. The tree is one of the earliest flowering trees and is often used to add color to gardens. The purple-pink flowers of the eastern redbud appear all over the tree in early spring. The flowers are even produced on large trunks. Redbud has a yellow fall color and is shade-tolerant. We hope this is enough inspiration to get you excited for the spring. Remember, for bulbs, you should go with what you like most, now, so you’re prepared to plant this fall. Happy hunting and happy spring! Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas are happy to help with any questions you have. Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319)366-7822 Iowa City area: (319)354-3108 email@example.com [Revised – original post 4/15/15]
Prepare for Spring with Mulch from Quality Care
As we prepare for spring, we can’t help but to think about our gardens and how soon we will see our plants and flowers start to bloom. A fresh layer of mulch will conserve moisture, improve soil structure, suppress weed growth, and enhance the visual appeal of your garden. Our premium double-processed mulch… well-stocked from spring to fall! What can we do for you? Bulk Mulch Sales for Pick-Up or Delivery Mulch Installation We offer premium, double-processed hardwood mulch, in natural and dark-brown-dyed varieties. We’d love to be your source for high-quality mulch, or request an estimate and we’ll come out to take care of installation too! Our dyed mulch looks black here, but lightens to a beautiful chocolate brown once installed. Why buy mulch in bulk? We offer mulch by the cubic yard – and one yard of mulch equals about thirteen bags of mulch from a hardware or garden store! When you buy in bulk, you save money, time and packaging. It’s a great bang for your buck and better for the environment! Call or email to place your order today! How do you know if you need mulch this season? In your planted beds, spring is the time for a spring clean-up to remove the remains of last year’s perennials, and to clean out any leaf accumulations. Cultivating (lightly raking) mulch in your beds will refresh the color, and let you know if you need to add any more. A mulch cover of about two to three inches in planted beds will help to preserve moisture, enrich the soil as it breaks down, and help to suppress weed competition. Let us know if we can help you do right by your landscape and garden!
Manage your Lawn Care Online!
Manage Your Lawn Care – Online! Spring is on its way! We’re looking forward to the start of the growing season. Flowers and weeds alike are going to be popping up soon so now is the time to get on board with your lawn and landscaping goals! One way to do that is to prepay your Lawn Health Care program and other renewing services! Why Prepay your Lawn Health Care Program? Prepaying for your program means you don’t have to concern yourself with monthly invoices and statements. We’ll drop a service letting you know we were on your property, but you’ll save paper and postage over the year. Prepaying isn’t a contract! It’s convenient, secure, simple and it saves you money; we offer a 5% discount for every service eligible for prepay — not just your lawn applications, but also your aeration, irrigation maintenance, and more! You may have already experienced the benefits of Lawn Health Care. Our state-certified and trained technicians use top-of-the-line products to care for your unique needs. We use granular fertilizer that works with Iowa weather to feed your lawn over weeks. Rather than blanket-spraying your lawn for weeds, we target problem areas directly. With a full season’s coverage of four applications or more, we can guarantee that any stubborn or lucky weeds will be treated for free — just let us know. We’re your neighborhood experts and we are at your service. If you don’t have the letter we send out in the winter or you’re not sure what you would need to pay, not to worry! You can call our office or log into your account manager (or click “log in,” above) and take care of everything from the comfort of your own home! Your Lawn Care, Made Easy! We’re proud to offer a simple and convenient way to manage your lawn care, online! With Personal Account Management, you can: Prepay for services View your balance and make online payments through our secure payment gateway Set up auto-payment See your current, active services and schedule additional services Request estimates and service calls Review service and maintenance tips customized to your lawn’s needs Refer friends and neighbors Log in and see what we can do for you! If you have never logged in before, you will need: Your customer (account) number Your house number Your five-digit ZIP code, and An active, valid email address If you need help, feel free to contact our admin office and we’d be happy to assist you!
What’s the all the fuss about Snow Mold? Snow mold is a type of fungus that damages or kills grass after snow melts. Damage can come in a circular form with multiple spots, or over a widespread area. Snow mold comes in two varieties: pink or gray. Snow mold can manifest based on a number of different criteria. The most common are: A large amount of snow cover over an extended period of time Your lawn was not mowed short enough last fall Your soil is wet and holding moisture Your soil lacks good biology to combat the fungi that causes snow mold. There are some sound cultural practices that can be done first thing in the spring when the snow melts away which are beneficial for the turf, and specifically, the areas damaged by snow mold. Your lawn should be raked (de-thatched) to remove any leaf debris and also to fluff-up matted down patches of turf, improving the air movement around the turf. Debris should be removed for ideal exposure. Aeration can help to break apart excess thatch and help to increase air flow and provide beneficial water and nutrients to the grass roots. An application of fertilizer in the infected patch can also help to boost recovery. A lawn care program with consistent fertilizing and weed control throughout the season will help to keep this area as green as possible, while eliminating weeds that tend to thrive in thin turf areas. De-thatching Aerating Fertilizing Your Lawn If no recovery is seen, reseeding is likely needed. You’ll want to rake away matted down grass so that seed has good contact with the soil below for ideal germination. And as always, don’t forget to water after seeding! Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are happy to help with any questions you have. Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319)366-7822 Iowa City area: (319)354-3108 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cold Weather and Your Lawn
Last Winter, many Iowa lawns experienced desiccation, or dehydration, from extended periods of exposure to high winds and subfreezing temperatures. Aside from golf courses and athletic fields, many desirable turf areas in Iowa don’t get any extra protection, like sand top dressing, before the cold winter weather arrives. In fact, some applications of sand top dressing have shown to slow the Spring green-up process. Desiccation is only one of many potential Winter lawn problems unique to The North Central United States. To learn more about desiccation, and a variety of other cold weather-related challenges for your lawn, take a look at this article published by Professors Zac Reicher and Roch Gaussoin at The University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Understanding winter-kill of cool-season turf-grasses
Emerald Ash Borer and Your Ash Trees
Emerald Ash Borer was first detected in North America in 2002. Since its accidental introduction from Asia, this invasive pest has killed untold millions of ash trees in forest, riparian, and urban settings. In some forests near the epicenter of the invasion in southeast Michigan, more than 99% of the ash trees with stems greater than 2.5 cm in diameter have been killed. All North American species of ash that the Borer has encountered to date are susceptible to varying degrees, including green ash, white ash, and black ash, which are the most widely distributed and abundant ash species in North America. It appears increasingly likely that the Emerald Ash Borer could functionally extirpate one of North America’s most widely distributed tree species, with devastating economic and ecological impacts. (Daniel A. Herms; Deborah G. McCullough, January 2014) While the most common tree species in North America may be susceptible to the relatively new threat of Emerald Ash Borer infestation, there are a variety of ways we can react now to help reduce the environmental and economic damage that seems inevitable. The first step in preparing for EAB is to accurately identify Ash trees in your community. The Michigan State University Extension has compiled an informative reference guide to aid in Ash Tree Identification. Another helpful guide from MSU will help you to determine weather or not your trees may already be showing signs of infestation. If the Ash trees on your property are unhealthy, you may want to consider replacement and/or removal. Be careful when removing your ash tree, as transportation of Ash debris over some boundaries is prohibited. Refer to this page for information on laws regarding Emerald Ash Borer and up to date on the resulting quarantine boundaries. If your Ash trees are in healthy condition and provide the benefit of shade over hot Iowa summers, are essential for erosion prevention, or you just couldn’t bear to lose them, you may want to consider treatment options. Quality Care, the Nature Care Company can help protect your Ash trees from this invasive species. You can find more information on Emerald Ash Borer at iowatreepests.com or emeraldashborer.info
Watering Instructions for New Seed
Quality Care uses modern seeding equipment and grass cultivars selected for our area to maximize seed germination. As with any type of planting project, we must work together to ensure its success and longevity. You are responsible for watering the seeded area unless other arrangements have been made. Please read the following instructions for proper care of your newly seeded lawn, and don’t hesitate to call or email us if you have any questions. New seed requires adequate moisture to germinate. Keep the soil constantly moist, but not soaked, until germination. The first watering should take place as soon as the seed is installed. Water all seeded areas twice per day for 5 to 10 minutes to keep the new seedlings moist. Once the seedlings begin to sprout, change watering to once per day 15 to 20 minutes per section. When the grass is 2 inches tall, reduce watering to 3 times per week, 25 to 35 minutes per section. After your new grass is mature enough to blend with the surrounding turf, reduce watering again to twice per week, 30 to 45 minutes per area. Lawns seeded in the spring should be watered regularly throughout the entire growing season. Fall seeded areas should be watered until dormancy, then the following spring and summer. Too much activity on your newly seeded lawn can impede seed germination. For the next 4 to 5 weeks, please limit activity on your lawn as much as possible. Your new lawn will be ready to cut as soon as it’s tall enough! That is, cut at the height at which you would normally cut your grass. Remember, only take 1/3 of the plant off with any cutting, and cut high, especially in hot, dry weather. It takes approximately 16 months for newly planted lawns to reach maturity. A little attention in the beginning goes a long way toward the future health and durability of your lawn. Enjoy! Before 30 days after professional seeding, proper watering, and favorable weather conditions This baron dirt left after the eradication of encroaching zoysia grass Result of professional seeding, proper watering, and favorable weather Before 30 days after professional seeding, proper watering, and favorable weather conditions
At Quality Care, our staff and technicians are what some call “pet people.” We love our dogs and cats (and assorted gold fish and other pets too!) But we are aware that sometimes they can leave “spots,” and no, not the kind you find on your average Dalmatian. A pristine, evenly green lawn is a human invention that our pets have difficulty understanding. The brown spots caused by their urine are simply the result of too much nitrogen concentrated in a small area. You can recognize pet spots or burn spots by a small crater of brown grass surrounded by a ring of overly-green grass. Urine damage has nothing to do with acid, so canine dietary supplements that alter the urine’s pH have no effect on pet spots. For this same reason, lime treatments tend to be ineffective at treating or reducing burn spots caused by pet urine. Female dogs do not have more potent urine than males, but female dogs (and puppies) do tend to “squat” and concentrate their urine in one small spot. Watering the lawn will help flush excess nitrogen from concentrated areas and reduce the damage done by pet spots. Create a dog run, or fenced area on your property that is in a low-visibility part of your lawn. You can also train your pet to use a mulched area for their bathroom needs. Our friends at Purdue Extension have some great tips for pet owners who want to keep their lawns looking healthy and green! Animal Urine Damage In Turf (PDF).
Moles vs Voles
Each spring, we get several calls about moles and voles and turf damage caused by these pests. While the name ‘mole’ sounds very similar to the name ‘vole’ – the two are quite different animals. Even though both can damage your turf, it is important to understand their differences and the different methods needed to eradicate them. The Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) is the most numerous and widespread, and is responsible for most of the complaints concerning mole damage to lawns and gardens. Moles are not rodents. They belong to the group of mammals known as insectivores, and thus are related to the shrew. Eastern moles have pointed snouts, greatly enlarged, rounded front feet with stout claws, and a short, nearly naked tail. They are six to eight inches long with short, velvety fur that is usually gray to silvery-gray. The eyes and ears of moles are very small and are concealed in the fur. It is a common misconception that treating a lawn for grubs will prevent an infestation of moles. Moles feed primarily on earthworms, but may also feed on spiders, beetles, centipedes, grubs and other insect larvae or pupae. Moles make two types of underground burrows: Shallow surface runs, which they use to find food. These tunnels leave create pushed up ridges as the mole “swims” through the loose topsoil. While these surface tunnels may be used frequently at first, they are eventually allowed to collapse, leaving a cracked depression in the lawn. Deep burrows are also created as the mole’s main home. The deep burrow is marked by volcano-shaped mounds of dirt that the moles push up when digging. During their burrowing activities, they produce mounds and ridges that disfigure lawns and sometimes dislodge plants or injure plant roots. Their mounds also provide a medium for the germination of weed seeds. Moles’ tunneling can cause cracks in concrete sidewalks and can even affect your foundation. Long-term damage can also be extensive. Moles are exceptional diggers and can tunnel up to 12-15 ft per hour. This can cause deep tunnels that can sink your entire soil level or cause large sunken areas in your lawn. Gophers are burrowing rodents and members of the zoological family Geomyidae. The designation “pocket” before the word gopher refers to the pockets in the gopher’s cheeks which are used by the gopher to carry food, nesting materials and other small supplies into their tunnels. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if you have a mole or a gopher! Mole hills tend to have a volcano-shape with a hole in the center of the top. Gophers, on the other hand, will kick out the dirt in a more oblong shape with a hole at one end. Your Quality Care technician can place mole baits in the runs to kill the moles and keep save your lawn from potential damage. Please call the Quality Care office for more information. Again, the Iowa State Extension office can provide you with alternatives to our bait-method of mole control. Their phone number is 319-337-2145. We highly recommend such alternative methods for dog owners- particularly for breeds that are likely to dig baits out of the runs. Our friends at the University of Missouri Extension have additional information on Controlling Nuisance Moles if you are interested. Voles are true rodents, and belong to the order Rodentia and family Arvicolidae . The word vole refers to “field”– earlier uses of the word were used as vole-mouse, and eventually became simply voles. People often refer to voles as meadow mice, or “field mice”. Voles are of pest significance in turf and landscaped areas for two reasons: They tunnel and burrow in turf areas They gnaw on the trunks and roots of various trees and ornamental plants In general, voles are compact rodents with stocky bodies, short legs, and short tails. Their eyes are small and their ears partially hidden. They usually are black, brown or gray, though many color variations exist. The adult vole ranges from 3.5 to 5 inches in length and weighs 1 to 2.5 ounces. Voles are herbivores. The stems and leaves of grasses comprise the majority of their diet, but they will also consume other green vegetation and fruits. Voles do not hibernate and are active throughout the year. During severe winters and snow cover, when green vegetation is scarce, voles often burrow around the roots of trees, which may cause damage to trees and shrubs. Voles are active during dawn and dusk, but may be seen active during the day and night as well. Vole runways in turf are formed by a combination of the vole eating the grass blades, and the constant traveling over the runway. Voles also spread excavated dirt from the burrow system in the runway, resulting in a dirt-bare path in some areas. One of the major keys to managing voles is to realize that, in many cases, voles are associated with dense cover. Inspections should begin along building exteriors. First inspect the immediate landscaping outside of the building looking for runways leading from any dense areas cutting through turf. Landscape plantings with low-lying plants such as arborvitae, creeping yews, junipers, and similar species are good candidates for vole activity. By eliminating weeds and dense ground cover around lawns the capacity of these areas to support voles is reduced. Lawn and turf should be mowed regularly. The meadow vole constructs well-defined, visible surface runways through turf areas, measuring about 1.5-2 in./4-5cm. in width. It is the sight of these paths that cause concern in March and April. Another alternative is trapping. Using mouse traps with peanut butter bait placed in the vole runs may take care of a small infestation, however, the Iowa State Extension Office can provide alternative methods or referrals for professional rodent control companies. For more information about Voles, please read this article from Purdue.
Planning A Garden
Establish a garden at your home today! It makes a great hobby and helps beautify your property. At Quality Care, our focus is creating beautiful, healthy turf; but it is hard to ignore the splendor of a spring garden. So we present to you, the best tips for garden planning and care from Purdue! Purdue Extension offers several gardening publications that can help you get started, many are free. Get Started: Before you start gardening, it’s important to: Find Out What’s Right For You Check the Numbers Have the Right Tools Planning: Planning is the first and most basic step in home flower and vegetable gardening. Planning not only saves time when you’re ready to plant, it also gives you an idea of the types and quantities of seeds or plants you’ll need. Most importantly, planning helps assure that the home garden will satisfy your needs and desires. Planting: You can plant flowers or vegetables from seed or from transplants. Either way, it is important to first prepare your soil. Growing: Working in your garden doesn’t stop after you plant. As the flowers or vegetables grow, you will need to water, irrigate, remove weeds, and check plants for insect and disease problems. If you are looking for professional landscaping help, we recommend giving any of Iowa City’s and Cedar Rapids’ local landscaping companies a closer look!
All About Aeration
Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn. Quality Care provides aeration done with a machine that has hollow tines mounted on a drum. Known as a core aerator, it extracts 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter cores of soil and deposits them on your lawn. Soil cores are best left on the lawn surface; they typically work back into the grass in 2-4 weeks. Aeration holes are typically 1-6 inches deep and 2-6 inches apart. Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves water and nutrient movement in the soil, increases rooting, and prevents thatch accumulation. Aeration improves the growing conditions for the turfgrass plants and results in a healthier, more vigorous lawn. If your property has an irrigation system or invisible pet fence please contact us so that your technician can properly mark these utilities prior to service in order to avoid any possible damage. As lawns age or sustain heavy use from play, sports activities, pets, vehicle traffic and parking, soil compaction can result. Soil compacting forces are most severe in poorly drained or wet sites. Compaction greatly reduces the pore space within the soil that would normally hold air. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb nutrients and water. Compaction reduces total pore space and the amount of air within the soil. It has a negative impact on nutrient uptake and water infiltration, in addition to being a physical barrier to root growth. This results in poor top growth and lawn deterioration. Core aeration can benefit your lawn by: Increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch. Increasing water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil. Improving rooting. Enhancing infiltration of rainfall or irrigation. Helping prevent fertilizer and pesticide run-off from overly compacted areas. The frequency of aeration is largely determined by the soil type and the amount of use. Lawns growing in heavy, clay soils and those subject to heavy foot or pet traffic should be aerated twice a year. Once a year should be sufficient for lawns that are established on well-drained soils and experience little traffic. In Iowa, September and April are the best times to aerate Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season lawns. While the overall results are beneficial, core aeration does cause some initial damage. Aerating in September or April allows the grass to quickly recover during the favorable growing conditions in early fall and spring. Lawns may be fertilized and seeded either before or quickly-following aeration.
Lawn Care Tips
Lawn care is the most basic of landscaping chores. If you want to have a great looking home landscape, you need to know a few lawn care tips. Before you do anything else, such as mowing, clean the lawn. Rake up leaves and debris and clear unwanted brush. If you want a level lawn, get rid of bumps or dips: To get rid of little dips, fill the holes with topsoil and then add grass seed. To remove bumps, use a garden spade to cut an X in the raised area. Peel back the sod and then remove soil as needed before replacing the sod. By cleaning and leveling your yard, you will make the lawn easier to mow, and your yard will have a pleasing, uniform appearance. Mowing – Mow the grass regularly. Depending on where you live, and how fast your grass grows, mow once every week or two. Adjust the lawn mower blade so that it does not cut off more than one third of the grass’s height. The surface area of each blade of grass is important in sustaining the health of the lawn. Cutting the grass too short creates an environment conducive to disease. Aeration – Another essential lawn tip is to make sure that your soil is not too compact. Over time, soil becomes compact and hard beneath the grass, which causes such problems as reduced moisture penetration and restricted grass root growth. Fertilizing – Fertilizer can help your lawn grow. While you can grow a healthy and attractive lawn without fertilizers, many people find them helpful. However, avoid using too much fertilizer, which can kill your lawn and harm the environment as the excess fertilizer is washed away. Top Dressing – Top dressing is composted organic matter mixed half and half with sand. You spread a thin layer over the lawn to improve the lawn rooting, creating healthier, hardier grass, without fertilizer. Overseeding – To prevent weeds and avoid the use of herbicides, you can use the organic lawn practice of over seeding. Overseeding helps crowd out weeds and creates a thick, lush lawn. First, rake or aerate to expose soil. Then spread about one-and-a-half times more than the recommended amount of grass seed.