Monday, July 29, 2019

How To Properly Apply Weed & Feed in Turfgrass

To be honest with you I'm not the biggest fan in the world of combined weed & feed products but they can and do work when used properly. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to applying weed and feed especially when you go into a "box" store and start asking for advice from customer service representatives that really have no idea what they are talking about. For over a decade, I worked as a sales manager for multiple major lawn and garden suppliers which required a lot of store visits all over the south. I have spoken with many CSRs that have no clue what they are talking about and have on many occasions witnessed advice given that could potentially cost thousands of dollars of damage to their customers lawns. I even had someone tell me that they were a certified "Master Gardener" and then proceed to ask me what the 3 different numbers on the bottom of a bag of fertilizer were.

Picking Out Weed And Feed
Since this blog is geared more toward southern lawns I'm going to go ahead and assume that you are using weed and feed on a southern turf grass (Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia, or St. Augustine), or Bahiagrass (more rare). I'm sure most of you have used or heard of Bonus S by Scotts, which is the most popular weed and feed product out. You can buy the name brand stuff online but if you are going into your local box store, it is perfectly fine to go with the store brand version of weed and feed. The Scott's brand may be marginally better, but it will not be noticeable and for the price of the store brand, it's really not worth spending the 25-30% more on the Scott's, but if that makes you feel comfortable go for it.

3 Main Store Brands Compareable to Bonus S.

  • Walmart - Expert Brand
  • Lowe's - StaGreen Brand
  • Home Depot - Vigoro Brand

All 3 of these store brands come in a "purple bag" southern weed and feed mix and will be comparable to the more expensive Bonus S.

*Note: Do not use any of these purple bagged products on bahiagrass, you will need to find a weed and feed geared toward bahiagrass. Vigoro makes a bahia weed and feed that can be found at Home Depot.

Always use a granule when you want to do a weed and feed. There are no good liquid weed and feeds out there so don't be tempted to try one of them just for ease. Every liquid Weed and Feed that I have seen for sale only contains nitrogen and an herbicide, no potash or phosphorus which kind of negates the purpose of a weed and feed.

How To Apply Weed And Feed. 

Timing matters

One of the common misconceptions about applying weed and feed is when to do it. Most people start putting their weed and feed down in march which is way too early in most cases. When it comes to spring time weed and feed applications the date is far less important than the temperature. Most of the time March and early April are too cool to start applying your weed and feed. You want consistent days above 80 degrees before you put it down. Always put your weed and feed down in the morning when the grass is wet either from the morning dew or from a quick rinse down with a hose or irrigation system. When speaking with people who have had trouble with weed and feed or claimed that it "just made my weeds grow", it became apparent that they put their weed and feed down on dry grass, or put it down and then watered it in immediately.

Steps to put down weed and feed

  1. Use in the morning. 
  2. Make sure that the grass is wet.
  3. Apply product using a broadcast spreader without overlapping.
  4. Wait at least 8 hours and then water the product in.
  5. Do NOT do multiple applications in a short period of time. 
The reason that you want to put weed and feed down on wet grass and then wait to water it in is because you want the active ingredient (herbicide) to stick to the broadleaf weeds in the yard. If you put it down on dry grass, or water in immediately you have just wasted the herbicide portion of the weed and feed and essentially just applied a fertilizer which in turn, also makes your weeds grow. 

When Not to put down weed and feed 

burned grass, scorched grass, fertilizer burn
Fertilizer Burn
I have heard many horror stories about people completely destroying their lawns with weed and feed or even fertilizer for that matter. The most common causes of turf burn are 1. Too many applications or 2. Putting it down too late in the year. Both Nitrogen and the herbicide used in most weed and feed products are heat intolerant and can cause massive burning in your yard if put down when temperatures reach above 90 degrees. I always advise my clients to stick to around 85 degrees when they are doing their springtime weed and feed or fertilizers. Now, if you don't have a lot of weeds and you want to see some greening or slight growth in your yard during the peak summer months, there are some products that you can use.

How to Fertilize Your Grass In The Summer

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Have algae on your dock, boat, vinyl siding, or fence? Use this!

30 seconds cleaner results
A few years ago I started noticing a lot of chatter about a product that has been making its way into stores here in the south. It was originally a product that was used in the PNW for moss and algae control but it had been re branded for use for algae control on vinyl, fencing, docks, and a fair bit of other surfaces. This product, 30 Seconds Cleaner is a mix of bleach and some other proprietary ingredients that mixes at a 1:1 ratio with water. On the packaging  (and the name) claims that all you need to do is spray it on, wait 30 seconds and then hose it off and your surface will be algae free. Obviously I was skeptical when I read this so I decided to give it a try and I couldn't believe how well it worked (for most applications, I'll explain further down). This was a few years ago and I have been buying this product in the fall and spring every year to treat my fence and my family's boat. Since the time I started using it I have had conversations with friends of mine that work on shrimp boats and other commercial fishing vessels and apparently this is the number one product that they use on their docks. I guess I never read the small print, but as it turns out 30 seconds cleaner is safe to use around waterways as well as safe for the grass. I did notice that none of my grass ever died when I had used this but it wasn't really a big thought in my mind.
This product has been an excellent addition to my spring and fall cleanup arsenal but it doesn't work so great on all surfaces. I assumed that this should do well on dealing with algae and mildew on concrete but it has been hit and miss for me when it comes to porous concrete. On newer concrete surfaces it seems to do a lot better with more porous slabs. I've had quite a few jobs that I could use some 30 seconds on and call it a day but there has definitely been a handful that I have had to bust out the surface pressure washer to really take care of my customers issue. That being said, I would still recommend you give this a try if you do not own a pressure washer, but if you do I would stick with that.

As far as vinyl, wood, plastic and other non-porous surfaces go, this product has worked wonders for me and has cut down on a lot of my personal and commercial jobs. If you are doing several hard to reach surfaces and are moving around a lot to different areas, the concentrate version of this product is your best bet. That being said, you're going to want to make sure that you have a bleach rated pump sprayer like this Chapin that I use when I'm not using my backpack sprayer. If you are doing large surface areas like the side of a house or a big dock, there is a hose end 'RTS' version of the 30 Seconds Cleaner that is less of a hassle to use. Just connect a hose and go.

Some Notes on 30 Secconds Cleaner - Based on experience.

  • Works okay in the "30 seconds" that's claimed but really takes 10 minutes for best results. 
  • This product is biodegradable (huge plus)
  • May require some pressure washing/scrubbing on really bad areas. 
  • Should not harm plat life (in my tests)
  • Safe to use around pets according to bottle (However I would still be careful)
  • Works awesome on wood decks, vinyl, plastic, and brick. 
  • Hit or miss on some concrete driveway surfaces especially if very old (but worth the try)
  • Kills algae, mold, mildew and moss
  • Cleans at a rate of 200-600 sq/ft per gallon depending on surface used on. 
  • Does not leave stains. 

If you have tried everything to kill chamber-bitter and nothing has worked, try this!

chamber bitter chamberbitter chamber-bitter gripeweedOne of the biggest pains that you need to deal with when maintaining your lawn is obviously controlling the weeds. Most weeds are fairly simple to get rid of all you need is a little liquid herbicide or weed and feed depending on the time of year. However, there are some weeds that are almost impossible to control especially if you are trying to use products that are sold at a local big box store. Chamberbitter aka Gripeweed is one of those weeds that pop up from time to time and cause homeowners a giant headache. Do not even bother walking into one of your local stores to try to find an herbicide to control this pesky weed you will either walk out with nothing or walk out paying an extreme mark up on a product that may or may not work.

There is only one herbicide that I use for Chamberbitter control. 
The only herbicide that I ever use or recommend for dealing with chamberbitter/gripeweed is a product by Bayer called Celsius. This product works excellent for the control for MOST weeds in southern lawns including chamber bitter. Occasionally you will need to do a second treatment but generally this product works well the first time. This is the ONLY product that I have found to work well for chamber-bitter that is available for consumers to easily purchase. The only downfall with this product is the cost, it is far from cheap but goes a very long way so you also have to take that into consideration. While most liquid herbicides you are mixing at a rate of 1.5-6oz per gallon, Celsius is used at a rate of 0.05 to 0.12 ounces per gallon, for chamber-bitter I stick with the higher end of that scale use a little over .09 ounces to a gallon. This is a selective herbicide that shouldn't harm the lawn as long as you are not using it in scorching heat, overlapping, or using on the wrong lawns. This is a herbicide that should only be used on warm season turf grasses (Bermuda, Centipede, St Augustine, Zoysia). With most herbicides 1 gallon of water should cover around 1000 sqft of lawn. If you are unsure of yourself I would measure out exactly 1000 sq/ft sections and just use one gallon at a time.

As with all concentrate herbicides you're going to need a pump sprayer. I always recommend this Chapin sprayer that is rated for bleach use as bleach rated sprayers typically last a bit longer than regular use sprayers. Of course you can use any old sprayer you have lying around. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Ants keep coming into the house? Do this!

If you have ever had to deal with ants entering your home you are not alone. Typically when you find ants in the house you will find them in two places, the kitchen, or the bathroom. This is because they are looking for water and happens most often on dry days. Obviously, if you have ants in other parts of the house carrying crumbs away there's an easy fix for that, stop leaving food out. If you can't figure out the culprit of the ants and you are looking for a way to get rid of them, there are a couple things that you can do to minimize or eliminate your problem. There are many products out there for ant control, most of which are contact killers but I find these to look like they are working on at first but are really ineffective on the whole. Don't get me wrong, contact killers will kill the bugs that they come into contact with for the most part, but like any other species, ants adapt and overcome, finding other ways around these poisons and continue to make their way into your home.

When it comes to any kind of ant there is only route that I use and recommend - Baits. Baits are exactly what they sound like. They are a granule or a gel product that contains a slow acting poison as well as a food based bait on the outside. Ants think that these poisons are food so they pick them up, bring them to their nest and then feed the entire colony. When it comes to easy to buy baits for consumers there are two brands that I always tell people to buy, each one has their own benefits depending on the situation. My favorite brand for baits, especially in a granule form is Amdro. Amdro has been around for years and manufactures some of the best bait granules that you can buy. I know many other commercial applicators that use Amdro baits simply because it's cheaper than other commercial grade products and works just as well, if not better. Below I will highlight the two steps that I use to eliminate ants in the house.

1. The first thing that I do is treat the outer barrier of the house. My favorite product for this process is Amdro Ant Block. Ant block is a granule based bait that you spread around the entire exterior of your home. When ants are moving toward your home, they find this first, pick it up, and bring it to their nest and feed the colony. There is one caveat with any bait based poison that you need to keep in mind. DO NOT GET IT WET. Do not use these types of products when it is supposed to rain within 24 hours and definitely do not try to water them in like other granules that you are accustomed to using. Getting water on these baits is the easiest way to ensure that they will not work. Ant block is super easy to use. All you need to do is shake the product back and forth (about a foot wide) around the outside walls of your house. Each bottle will do about 1100 linear feet so for most regular size homes one bottle will do. Once you have completed this process move on to step two.

2. Obviously a product on the outside of the house will do nothing for the ants that are already in your house so now we will need to take care of those. There are a few different brands of indoor baits that are available. Amdro makes one as well but I prefer to use the Terro Brand. Terro is known for their indoor bait gels and they are extremely effective but you need to make sure that you are getting the right one. The one that I use is the Terro Liquid Ant Killer II gel pack. These work better than the bait stations but you need to make sure that they are away from where any pets can access them. For the most part, the best place to put these baits are behind sinks and toilets and also on window sills. These packs come with a little gel tube and has these little cardboard squares that you rip off and put a few drops on. Super easy to use and very cost effective. The bottle goes a really long way and will outlast the squares that come with the pack but you can always just use another random piece of cardboard to hold the product. When you put these out within a day you should start seeing ants surrounding the poison, grabbing a little bit and bringing it back to wherever they are hiding.

If you figure out that the ants are fire ants you can find my post about how to kill fire ants HERE.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Fleas are a pain to kill, this is how it's done - yard treatment

One of the biggest nightmares many pet owners have on their mind is Fleas. Fleas not only are very uncomfortable for humans and pets to deal with but they also have the potential to carry disease. If you have ever dealt with fleas before, you know that they are not an easy problem to get rid of mainly because the eggs are very resilient to pesticides. I have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people over my career with the same story. "I treated for fleas which seemed to work at first but after a month they were back again in full force". If you are one of those people, I have some information for you that can help increase your odds of wiping out fleas completely in the future. If you have a flea infestation in the house you will have an infestation in the yard. Even if you rid your entire house of fleas it will become a never ending cycle as long as you have an infestation in the yard.

The key with successful flea treatment is timing. You cannot put down an insecticide for fleas and just call it a day. Insecticides are not very effective for knocking out flea eggs so you will need to time your treatments to not only kill the active flea population, but also to kill all of the newly hatched fleas before they themselves lay eggs. Typically the best time to retreat for fleas is 4 weeks after the first treatment and then again a couple weeks after that. There are some insecticides that claim to knock out the eggs but I have found them to be pretty ineffective. They will knock down some of the problem but the majority of the eggs remain untouched.

There are many products on the market today that if used correctly will work with the method that I use. I typically like to use a liquid concentrate Permethrin (such as Martin's Liquid Permethrin) as it is easy for me to use with my pull behind sprayer but most people will be perfectly suited with a spreadable granule product and then watering it in, especially if you have a home irrigation system. As far as granule products go just chose one that is a permetherin variant such as Bifenthrin, Cypermethin, Zeta-Cypermetherin etc. Usually when a client is interested in using a granule product I just recommend them using Over N' Out (yes the fire ant killer). Over N' Out has been a long time favorite for flea treatment in the yard mostly because it used to use Fipronil as the active ingredient which is still used in many flea treatments for pets. Now they active is a mix of two different permethrins that are extremely effective for fleas in the yard and kills all sorts of different yard insects. 

The only way to be effective with treating the fleas in the yard is to be vigilant and set a time line. Make sure you stay on top of your treatments and don't wait an extra week or else you will just end up in a never ending cycle never fully taking care of the problem.