Got a variety of good lawn care questions this month. Next month we’re tackling interior and exterior painting. Want to know if you can paint aluminum siding; the truth behind VOC paints or what color is most popular in the southwest? Send your questions our way and we’ll get ‘em answered!
I’m interested in Integrative Pest Management (IPM) – pest control companies that take all efforts to not further the use of chemicals, whether for lawn care or pest control. I’ve contacted many in the past, but all I’ve received is lip service. -Lisa T., Wesley Hills, NY
We found several “A”-rated pest control companies in the New York area that have been Green Shield certified, meaning they only use green products and practices in and around the house. Just sign in, and do a company search for Arrow Exterminating, Assured Environments, Magic Exterminating or Suburban Exterminating to read the reports for each. Arrow Exterminating, who has offered IPM services for more than 20 years, told us monitors and plant oils, such as mint, are common, non-toxic solutions.
I read that it’s a good idea to let the grass grow to seed before cutting it for the first time. That way, it automatically reseeds itself the way nature would. Is this true? -Mare H., Dublin, Ohio
For turf grass, that’s likely to do more damage than good. As soon as it’s long enough to cut you should start the mowing routine. One exception would be if you're leaving it as a prairie grass. But if you’ll have to mow at some point, the gain for the mess and time is not worth it.
I’m having a terrible problem with grubs in my yard. Any suggestions for treatment, especially a less toxic but effective method? -Carol S., Ann Arbor, Mich.
Elite Pest Management is Green Shield certified and services the Ann Arbor area. President Kenneth Matheny says the most effective non-toxic way to get rid of grubs is eco-ic, which is made by ecosmart. This company isn’t currently rated on the List, so if you hire them please don’t forget to submit a report!
What do-it-yourself products are recommended for treatment of grubs in Florida? Is Milky Spore effective? -Thomas and Gaynel H., Wesley Chapel, Fla.
According to several of the lawn care experts we spoke to, milky spore is not an effective treatment for grubs. Several use Dylox, which is an insecticide. A good do-it-yourself treatment is Bayer’s Merit product. The trick is proper irrigation – about one-half inch of water – to get the treatment down into the roots where the grubs are doing their damage. If you’d prefer to try an organic treatment, like cinnamon, campfer leaves or milk toast, keep in mind they require a large quantity, which can increase the labor and cost.
Can you break the lawn care category into two: traditional and green? I would love that. And any help locating a green company in the Twin Cities would be appreciated. -Becky G., Columbia Heights, Minn.
We found two “A”-rated lawn care companies on the List that are also part of the Live Green Live Smart partnership in Minnesota:
Top Notch Treecare caters to trees and wetland restoration.
Gustafson Design, Inc. specializes in site planning and landscaping, including natural and native landscaping.
Owner Dale Gustafson has 45 years of experience in the lawn care industry and great insight on what it takes to have a truly green lawn. He encourages all of his clients to get by with the least amount of usage (heavy traffic, kids playing, etc) and treat more areas in native plants, like prairie or low-maintenance grasses. “A lot of people want green grass that their kids can play in without the use of chemical treatments, but those two things are not generally compatible. The old fashioned lush green yard isn't sustainable if you don't maintain it with some degree of chemicals,” he explains.
“You have to learn to appreciate the beauty of a natural setting. If you don't see beauty in native plants or grasses, which don’t require a lot of fertilizer or water and maintain and build the soil, you're going to have a problem.”
If fertilizer isn’t an option for your lawn, the following steps will produce a reasonable turf, as long as it’s not being used too actively:
• Keep your lawn mower very sharp and mow frequently – more than once a week. A sharp mower makes a clean cut and keeps the grass healthier. “Look at the blade a couple days after you mow. Odds are it’s split, and that's hard on the grass,” he says.
• Only cut off a little bit of grass, never more than one-third, and leave it on the lawn with a mulching mower to recycle the nutrients.
• Consider a mechanical push mower, which is less stressful on the grass because it cuts like a pair of scissors. It will also allow you to maintain frequent mowing schedule without gas consumption.
• When it gets hot and dry, don't mow.
And beginning this summer, Angie’s List will display green icons next to every service company that uses green work practices and products inside and outside the home. We’ll send out an email to all of our members when that new feature is live.
Has anyone had experience with a herbicide specific for nimblewill? -Louise Crandall, Indianapolis
We went straight to the expert on this one, and Bob Andrews, owner of The Greenskeeper in Indianapolis said there’s virtually no treatment for it. “It's not a broadleaf weed so it doesn't react well to herbicide. The best thing is to physically remove it,” he said.
Do you have any tips for getting rid of water-needy lawns in our dry climate? A green, grassy yard isn't environmentally friendly. I'm planning to go to drought-tolerant California native plants. -Jo Beckwith, Temple City, Calif.
Tammy Tingley, owner of Andromeda Landscape in Bellflower, told us this is becoming a more frequent request among her clients, due in part because of the water price increase that will take effect January 1, 2009. Tingley also made this transformation in her own yard last year. “We only have to water once a week and trim once a year. Our yard is all rock and plants and quite frankly it’s the nicest one in the neighborhood and requires the least amount of work. It amazes me that people don't do more of this stuff!'
Tingley says nandinas, juniper-style plants, like Hollywood, tam and verigated, fountain grass and raphaelis are all great options and do well in both warm and cooler weather. For color, she suggests status, which has pretty purple flowers and variegated hollies. Ground cover, like mulch or bark, is also important because it helps retain water and decreases weeds.
We're in the process of choosing a sprinkler company. Which should be done first - the landscaping or the sprinklers? The footprint for all the sprinklers is already there (lawn, beds etc.) The sprinkler company wants to do the job after the landscaping is done so the lines won't be damaged, but the landscaper wants the sprinklers installed first so they won't damage the plantings and so that they can water immediately. I don't know what to do, but I have to decide soon and I would really appreciate your advice. - Natalie J., Stamford, Conn.
I would certainly do the landscaping first. The landscapers could cause damage to the irrigation lines while digging and the irrigation contractor will want to know what type of landscaping they’ll be dealing with before suggesting the correct system and layout of sprinkler heads. I hope that helps!
Trackback URI |