Tag Archives: lawn

I’m Only Humid

A gardener’s zest for yard work can wilt in August. We’re only “humid” and I understand. Yet in August some of the best entertaining days in the garden are for us to enjoy. From Rudbeckia to Sedums to Buddleia the landscape continues to entertain. With a little TLC and the willingness to wet our “plants” the landscape can reward our senses like an ornamental grass and its wispy dance in the warm summer breezes.

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

I love the month of August and it’s the gateway to some of the best gardening months of the year. This is no time to throw in the “trowel” on the yard and garden. Besides, now is the time we are rewarded with the fruits of our labors harvesting the tomatoes and peppers we lovingly planted months ago.
August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape annuals and give them a kick in the plants! Chopping back stretched, tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life.

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color. In addition ornamental grasses take center stage in August and September as drought and heat tolerant extroverts in your yard. This is also the month for panicle Hydrangeas like PG, ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lamb’ to take center stage in the landscape with their stunning cone shaped blooms. Easy to grow and reliable they put on a show in August and September.

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

August is also a month to think about having that lawn you’ve always wanted. The best time to seed or over seed or establish a new lawn is mid August to October 1. The soil is nice and warm and if you kill unwanted vegetation grass seed will establish nicely as we head into fall. I still believe August 15 to October 1 is the best time of year in Michigan to establish a little “lawn” and order. Remember also that newly hatched grubs do most of their damage to a lawn in August and September, especially if the lawn is thirsty. If you did not apply a grub control in July you still have time this month while the young grubs are feeding near the surface. If you apply now you shouldn’t have to apply next spring.

Establish some "lawn" and order in August

Establish some “lawn” and order in August

Keep vegetable plants like tomatoes well watered so they keep producing and be watching for those miserable tomato hornworms on the plants. Head outside in the evening hours with a bucket of soapy water and pick them off the plants to drown their sorrows in your bucket of soapy water. Plenty of water at the base of your tomatoes and the calcium supplements you added earlier in the season will avoid the unsightly blemishes and “zippering” of the fruit you long to pick.
Unfortunately this also the month to be vigilant in inspecting under decks, patio furniture, mailboxes and other hiding areas for European Paper Wasps. These unwelcome guests pack a wallop of a sting when disturbed and have become much too common in our late summer landscapes. Look for the “paper”-like nests attached to railings or under patio furniture and spray from a distance with a knock down stream of wasp control spray.

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

Don’t let your enthusiasm wilt in the heat of August. We’re only “humid” and the garden party has just begun. See you in September.
Rick Vuyst


A “Root” awakening

If April showers bring May flowers then you my friend are in for a “root” awakening. Every April is different which adds to the adventure. I’ve seen 80-degree temperatures and I’ve seen frosts that would freeze the hardiest of plants. I’ve see sunshine and I’ve seen snow. Sounds like a James Taylor song doesn’t it?

Frozen tulips from last April

Frozen tulips from last April

Last year we had an early March warm up waking the entire landscape only to freeze in the great Arbor day frost of 2012. So what should we expect from our landscape dreams during the month of April? You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

April first of all is a big month for lawn care in Michigan. The lawn greens and begins to grow and we welcome the sound of lawnmowers awakening in our neighborhoods.

Remember the drought damage from last year?

Remember the drought damage from last year?

A great month to get a deal on a 4 step lawn plan applying the first step now and storing the remaining 3 steps in the garage or shed for applications later in the year. The first feeding generally includes a crabgrass control which is important after the hot year we had in 2012. Crabgrass seed from last year over winters in the soil of your lawn and will wake and germinate when soil (not air) temperatures get to be around 60 degrees or warmer.

Soil thermometer

Soil thermometer

If you don’t have a soil thermometer, which most people don’t, you can listen to me on my radio show or you can use the old fashioned less scientific way of gauging spring’s wake up call.

That would be to act when the forsythias are in bloom or apply sometime around tax day. Certainly much easier for you than having to understand the methods of “growing degree days” that us horticultural people like to track at this time of year. Applying a crabgrass control in spring, especially in the hottest areas of the lawn like driveway or sidewalk edges or non-shaded areas will create a barrier to germination so you don’t have an infestation of unsightly crabgrass come the heat of summer.


Cold and frost tolerant Pansies

April includes Arbor Day which here in Michigan falls on the last Friday of the month. April is a great time to plant a tree or landscape shrub. We see many trees show off in April with Crabapples, Redbuds, Juneberry, Magnolia and Cherry trees to name a few. This month is perfect for planting evergreens and woody landscape plants, saving the more tender plants for May when frost is less of a threat. Remember that when it comes to “tender” plants a great frost tolerant plant for some early April flowers in the landscape would Pansies. In regards to tender foliage, keep some deer repellant handy and make sure to apply to susceptible plants during the month. Hungry deer after winter are anxious for a buffet of tender green growth including delicious Tulips and Hosta. Not tonight “deer.”

Understanding the weather can be a variable and tricky issue in April, it is a good month to work on soil preparation, planting bed preparation and some mulching. You don’t have to protect dirt and mulch from overnight frosts. Raised planting beds soil warm quicker in spring. If you’re itching to plant some herbs, pot up some containers and move them in and out contingent on weather conditions.

Thank you very "mulch"

Thank you very “mulch”

In regards to mulch, many will apply because it looks nice. True, but there is a functional use for mulch too. I saw a study that described the impact an appropriate layer of 2 inches of mulch can have for your landscape when the heat of summer does arrive. In this study on a San Antonio Texas day where the air temperature was 105 degrees and in the sun felt like 130 degrees, the bare soil was 102 degrees, the soil under the grass was 92 degrees and soil under 3 inches of mulch was 76 degrees. That gives you an idea of the soil temperature regulating benefit of mulch as well as its ability to hold moisture in the soil.

Let’s get out there and get “growing” now that winter is finally over. You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

Lawn and Order

These pictures look familiar? Snow is the great equalizer….everyone’s lawn looks the same. When the snow clears that’s when things get entertaining. Lots of snowplow damage, mole damage, vole damage, snow mold and drought damage from last summer in our neighborhoods. We need a little “lawn and order”…….

Damage from "Snowplowus winteritus"

Damage from “Snowplowus winteritus”

The lawn edge snow stake carefully snapped off and left to lay between the street and sidewalk

The lawn edge snow stake carefully snapped off and left to lay between the street and sidewalk

Signs of spring...trash, melting snow, and apparent damage from crabgrass and drought from last summer

Signs of spring…trash, melting snow, and apparent damage from crabgrass and drought from last summer

Some Lawn and Order is needed this spring

Some Lawn and Order is needed this spring

Living on the “Hedge”

I remember the summer of 1988. Built an above ground pool that summer. A very hot and dry summer just like this year. I remember coming home from work one afternoon and there were so many people in the pool I wouldn’t have been able to fit a leg in the water if I tried. The summer of 2012 feels like 1988 to me.

A little water will provide “Lawn”-gevity

The lawns are just like they were then, a toasty golden brown with shrubs and trees living on the “hedge” looking stressed.


Trees and shrubs need your attention right now with some trickle or deep watering. This is especially true for spring plantings this year without well established root systems. Be watching for wilting or curling leaves. Some older established trees are showing leaf scorch just like they did in the summer of 1988. It’s not just the heat and drought, but wind adds to the problems increasing the rate of transpiration in foliage.

Trees showing leaf scorch

Remember the ability of your trees and shrubs to endure the stress of this season’s weather hinges in part on how healthy they were going into the season and your willingness to deep water them at the base now.

Looks like it may be too late for these Arborvitae

An impulse sprinkler or the hose nozzle you use to water your car isn’t going to work. You need to lay the hose at the base of the landscape plant and soak the soil for any beneficial effect.

Ironic that this appropriately named “Burning Bush” is showing the strain of weeks without water








I’ve had a lot of people lately ask me if their lawn is going to survive the heat and drought. Turfgrass dormancy is a survival mechanism allowing survival up to 4-8 weeks without irrigation or precipitation without significant thinning upon recovery from dormancy. This would be under ideal conditions of no traffic, good sub or parent soil, moderate temperatures, minimal root competition from trees, etc. Survival can be affected by species, age, shade, maintenance, the quality of feeding you have done in the past, the deck height on the mower, traffic, heatand other factors. Raise the deck on your mower and if you can, park the mower until the drought is over.



A shaggy lawn is better than a scalped stressed turf. Remember that dormancy is reversible but death is not. If the lawn goes too long without any water or if it was unhealthy and stressed going into the drought the roots my die causing thinning of the turf. Cool season turf can survive summer dormancy but cannot survive root death.

Cool season lawn dormancy. Remember dormancy is reversible, death is not.

Turfgrasses that are trafficked during drought conditions must be irrigated regularly to maintain performance and prevent widespread turf damage. Lawn areas established in spring or previous fall should be irrigated because they have not yet developed extensive root systems.

Check irrigation systems for improperly aimed sprinklers, defective heads and evenness of distribution, etc. Water in the early morning hours to improve efficiency because of less evaporation from sun and wind. Watering at sunset encourages disease issues.

Limit traffic on your lawn (including mowing) to minimize crushing of the turfgrass leaves and crowns. Avoid the temptation to apply herbicides even though weeds become more obvious in a dormant lawn because they may be the only thing left that is green! Wait until fall to control lawn weeds, a perfect time for weed control.
Remember the fall season is a perfect time for overseeding and feeding thinned lawns. Turf establishment in Michigan is best done between August 15 and October 15 so don’t lose your “composture” if things are looking bleak right now. Your window of opportunity to improve the green green grass of home is coming soon!


Don’t Get Uprooted!

Eeew, gross! Did someone spit on your Coreopsis while you weren’t looking? Unless you have some really odd people living near you, it’s probably a spittlebug. The spittlebug is the Superman of the bug world; it can leap the equivalent of a 20-story building in a single bound. It is also one of the pests disrupting our “lawn and order” this season. Spittlebugs are typically found on shrubs and perennials like Coreopsis and Phlox. One reliable method you can use to control them is imidacloprid, like Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub. It is applied to the soil under each plant in October or April and absorbed into the plant before the spittlebug larvae begin feeding in May. That said, the problem is one of those “curious” low impact issues in the landscape where you’re better off marveling at nature and living with it. But if it really grosses you out, you can also take the less subtle (and more fun) approach and blast them with the hose the next time you wash your car.

With all the rain we’ve had this spring, your turf may be crying out, “I’m hungry!” How do you know? Red thread may make an appearance in your lawn. It looks like pinkish-red strands extending from the tip of the leaf blade.  In the early morning dew, it can even look like pink cotton candy on your lawn. Red thread is typically active during wet, moist periods like we’ve had this spring when temps are between 55 and 80 degrees and the turf may be under-fertilized. The infected area dies and the turf looks wilted. In severe cases, you may need to apply a fungicide. But most of the time, an application of fertilizer will help the turf outgrow the damage.

Another uninvited guest in our yards right now is the four-lined plant bug This creep-crawly is pretty “skittish” but can make a big mess of your plants. It has a bright yellow body with bold, black vertical stripes and likes to eat perennials, shrubs and trees, leaving leaf-spots that can be mistaken for disease. Because they’re so nervous/skittish (I guess they feel guilty about making such a mess?), you probably won’t ever see the bug. The pattern of damage will be your best clue that you have a bug, rather than a disease, problem. The plant bug doesn’t like to dine alone so the leaf damage will appear in clumps, with surrounding leaves looking fine. In trees, usually only the low-hanging branches are affected.  They feed heavily from June to mid-July then disappear. If you like “living on the hedge,” you can try waiting them out. If not, you can also try spraying with an insecticide that contains carbaryl (Sevin) or a pyrethroid (resmethrin, permethrin or cyfluthrin).