Fall Invading Insects

Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service

Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The weather is much more enjoyable, the trees turn fantastic colors, and football begins again. With all the fun of fall, however, comes the not so enjoyable entry of insects into our homes.

Most people see the same insect pests in their homes each year. The majority of household pests that we tend to see most often in the fall invading our homes for warmth and food are boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, and spiders. None of these really warrant any control by a pesticide, they are fairly easy to control and do not do any real damage to your homes or to you.

boxelderbug

Boxelder Bug

Boxelder bugs, or Democrats as some people call them, are a common nuisance pest to enter homes in the fall and they are often seen leaving the home in the spring. These are the insects that are black with a reddish-orange X on their backs. They are a type of a true bug that is found feeding on many trees but they prefer boxelders, ash, and maples.

MultiAsian

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

Multicolored Asian  lady beetles are a nuisance pest as well, that we often see in the fall. These are the ladybugs that we find in our homes in the fall. These ladybugs can bite and it can cause pain, but they don’t cause any medical issues. The biggest problem with these lady beetles is that they get in the house and are found all over your home. They are just trying to find a place to hide out for the winter.

Spiders are common in our homes throughout the year, but tend to be found more during the fall and winter. The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider. Wolf spiders include one of the largest species of spiders found in Nebraska. They are quite hairy and often times will have 2 white or lighter brown colored stripes down the back of the spider. There are some wolf spiders that can be the size of a half dollar or more, legs and all. These spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite. Most often, a wolf spider will not bite us, but if they do the reaction is mild.

brown_recluse1-Dept of Ento

Brown Recluse Spider

Brown recluse spiders are becoming more common in southeastern Nebraska. These spiders are about the size of a quarter, legs and all. They are a brown color with a darker brown fiddle shape on their back. They can cause a bad reaction in some people, not all people are as sensitive to the bites as others. If you have brown recluse spiders in your home or office, just take the time to look around things that have been stored before you move them. Most of the time, if a person gets bit it is because they accidentally trap the spider between themselves and either an article of clothing or a box. The best way to ensure you do not get bitten is to shake out items when you take them out of storage and watch where you put your hands when you pull boxes out of storage.

Household invading insects and spiders, generally, will not cause any damage to your homes or yourself. The only problems with these insects being in your homes is that they can come in swarms and they have an “ick” factor as most people do not enjoy insects, especially in their homes. The best control for these insects include:

  • Sticky traps around the home
  • Step-on or smash any you see
  • Vacuum or flush any found
  • Seal up all cracks and crevices on your home and door and window screens
  • Indoor/Outdoor barrier sprays can help reduce the population of some home invading insects and spiders
  • Do NOT spray a population of insects found in a wall void, this can lead to a secondary insect population that comes in your home to help decompose those dead insects left in the wall void

 

Fall Lawncare

fall landscapeAs we draw closer to fall, we can start to prepare our lawns for winter. I wanted to take time, this week, to cover all of those items on your fall lawncare “to do” list.

It is now time to reseed your lawns for the fall. This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between August 15 and September 15 of the year. The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks. If you reseed after September 15 you will probably have some success, but not as much. The seed that you put out on the ground may sprout and some might even overwinter, but much of it may die from winterkill because the root systems will not be fully developed. If you are a homeowner who wants to sod an area of your lawn, you can do that until they can no longer cut it from the fields. Do remember to keep newly seeded or sodded areas watered throughout the fall and in the spring.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

Good turfgrass choices for Southeast Nebraska include Turf-type tall fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass.   Using seed that is 100 percent of either of these or a mix of the two types would be great choices for Nebraska. You can buy mixes of turfgrass seed, but avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky Bluegrass. Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and no noxious weed seeds. We can also use Buffalograss in our lawns for a warm season grass, but warm season grasses should be plugged in June and July.

As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn. Two applications in the fall are recommended for Kentucky bluegrass and only one is recommended for tall fescue, but one application for either species is better than none. The timing for fall fertilizer applications is Labor Day and Halloween if you do two applications and Halloween if you do only one application.

The fall is the best time to control broadleaf perennial weeds such as dandelion and clover. You can add a broadleaf herbicide to your lawn fertilizer to get a two-for-one application. It is often sold in stores as a combined product. The best herbicide choices for homeowners would be anything that contains 2,4-D or a triclopyr product for clover and ground ivy or creeping Charlie.

Photo by Nic Colgrove

Photo by Nic Colgrove

If you need to aerate your lawns, now is a good time to do that. You can still aerate your lawns into November if you don’t get around to it until then. Aeration is best done in the spring or the fall of the year, but it is not necessary to do it every year, if you don’t want to. Aeration is done to break up a heavy thatch layer in the grass and to reduce the compaction of the soil. The thatch layer is the layer of dead organic matter in between the grass blades and the soil line. Leaving the clippings on the lawn does not increase the thatch layer, in fact it can actually give you enough nitrogen to replace one fertilizer treatment for the year. If your thatch layer is more than one half of an inch, you may want to aerate your lawn, if it is less than that, you may decide that it is not necessary to aerate this year.

Fall Gardening

Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Photo by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

With school beginning again soon, fall will be here before we know it. There are a few things that we can start doing to prepare for the winter or to prepare our fall vegetable gardens. It is good that we can finally see the temperatures starting to go down from those terribly hot and humid days so we can get back outside again, comfortably.

Fall vegetable gardens can be planted soon. Most of our fall vegetables should be planted within the first week or two of August to ensure a good fall harvest before the frost takes the plants out. Those plants that you may have planted in the early spring to get to maturity before it got too hot are the things that are usually planted in the fall. For a fall harvest, plant these crops (from Backyard Farmer online calendar at byf.unl.edu):

  • Beets August 1-10
  • Carrots August 1-15
  • Chinese cabbage August 1-20
  • Lettuce August 1-5
  • Mustard August 1-25
  • Radish August 1-20
  • Snap beans August 1-5
  • Spinach August 20- September 15
  • Swiss chard August 1-20
  • Turnips August 1-15 (from Backyard Farmer online calendar)

The first frost in Beatrice, Nebraska occurs on September 29, on average and is within a week either way for the surrounding counties. So the best way to determine when to plant a fall garden is to count backward from the first frost date and compare it to your harvest time listed on the package. For example, if your lettuce says that it takes 50 days to mature, planting on August 1 will give you mature lettuce by the end of September. This will ensure that you will have a harvest before the frost hits.

If you want to extend your growing season even longer, you can build a cold frame. A cold frame is a miniature greenhouse or a box built over your garden. Cold frames are built with a light-admitting lid, such as glass or plastic film, that helps hold in the heat on the plants growing inside. A cold frame is an inexpensive way to extend your growing season because they can be built at home with only a few supplies. It also keeps the air and soil temperature around the plants up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding environment.

Photo from Iowa State University Extension

Cold Frame Photo from Iowa State University Extension

Another thing that you can do in the fall is to prepare your vegetable garden for spring. If you are done in your garden and your plants have died due to frost or you are just tired of eating all of those cucumbers, you can clean up your garden in preparation for next year. Removing all of the dead plants will help to reduce the diseases and insects that may use them as an overwintering habitat. Also, after removing those plants you may want to till up your ground to get it ready for next spring. This is also a great time to add any compost or manure to your ground if you need to add some nutrients for better plants next year. After tilling it up, you should put some type of mulch on the bare soil to keep it from eroding or blowing off in the wind, grass clippings are a cheap, easy mulch to use.

100_0852

Mosquitoes…Oh No!

mosquitoWe are finally getting some much-needed rain to the area. Most of Southeast Nebraska is either out of the drought or only in the first category of drought, which is abnormally dry. Due to all of this rain we have been seeing, we are also starting to see problems with mosquito populations in the area.

Mosquitoes are a type of insect that is in the same order as flies. These insects have a complete lifecycle, which includes an egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. They are also vectors of many different diseases. Because of these factors, we need to do what we can to eliminate the problem and reduce mosquito populations.

The first three life stages of a mosquito are completed in or near bodies of water, typically standing water, the adult is the only stage not in the water. Because of all the recent rains we have seen in Southeast Nebraska, mosquito populations should be fairly high this year. The mosquitos are out laying their eggs on all the standing water left behind by the recent rain events, which will lead to large populations throughout this summer.

During the summer we all tend to spend a great deal of time outdoors working in the garden, mowing, or just having outdoor get-togethers and grill-outs. It is during this time we really notice the mosquito problem and want to do something to eliminate the problem. This isn’t an easy fix, but there are steps you can take to reduce the problem and make it more enjoyable to be outside.

Bug Spray Collage 2

  • Eliminate any breeding locations for the mosquitoes
    • Eliminate any standing water from your property
      • Clean bird bath’s and pools weekly
      • Dump buckets and old tires that may have water in them
      • Check for low areas in your landscape that may have water sitting in it
  • Make sure your lawn is mowed properly and your shrubs are all pruned correctly
    • Often we find mosquitoes in the edges of lawns where the native grasses are taller and there is a lot of overgrown landscaping. If we keep our lawns mowed, we will have less of a mosquito population.
  • Use bug sprays that have the ingredient DEET in them
  • Use citronella candles around our outdoor functions
  • Even barbeque smoke will help deter mosquitoes from the area
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and long socks to limit skin exposure to the insects
  • Use Bug Zappers
  • Use larval control methods such as Bti products in the bird bath or baby pool
    • Bti is harmful to the larvae of mosquitoes but not to birds, fish, mammals, or other organisms
  • If you are planning an outdoor gathering, you can control the resting adult mosquitoes on lawns, flower borders, smaller trees, and shrubs with a labeled insecticide about three hours prior to the planned event, according to Barb Ogg, Fred Baxendale, and Jim Kalisch from UNL Extension. Just be sure to read and follow all label directions when working with pesticides.

It is best to utilize some methods to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes because they spread many diseases including West Nile Virus, which is currently the most important mosquito-vectored disease in the U.S. Most people who get West Nile Virus have no symptoms or have flu-like symptoms. However, from 2001 to 2009 1,100 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to West Nile Virus. Most of the deaths occurred in people ages 65 and older.

Information for this article came from “Residential Mosquito Control” NebGuide by Barbara Ogg, Extension Educator; Frederick Baxendale, Extension Entomologist; and James Kalisch, Extension Associate.

Storm Damaged Trees

tree pile, pic monkeyFrom the front window of my office I can see a very sad sight, a large mound of tree limbs and dead trees from the storms last week. The thunderstorms that raged through Nebraska on June 3, hit us with hail, high winds, and tornadoes. These storms caused damage to many of our trees.

broken branch pic monkey

Many of our trees had very large branches break off of the tree. This is not a good situation for the tree to be in. The leaves that come off of the tree when a branch breaks were all aiding with photosynthesis, this can be a large shock for the tree when it loses all that photosynthetic material. It also leaves a large wound for the tree that takes time to seal up. If you can get to the location of the break, it is best to go in and clean that break into a good pruning cut. Some of the trees I looked at from the storm, had bark ripped all the way down the trunk of the tree, this is not a good situation for the tree to be in either. When trees have open wounds that are large, it takes a long time for the tree to seal up that location, if it can ever be done. This is a great location for insects and diseases to come into the trees and cause secondary effects on the trees.

Some trees were uprooted on one side of the tree. This is not a good situation for the tree as this caused a great deal of damage to the roots of the tree. According to John Fech, Kathleen Cue, and Graham Herbst from Douglas-Sarpy County Extension, the younger the tree is, the more chance it has to survive storm damage that caused it to lean.

  1. If the tree is 0-5 years old, it has a good chance to survive leaning and should be staked as soon as possible, as long as it is not closely located to people or property.
  2. If the tree is 5-10 years old and is leaning, there is a 50% chance that the tree will survive.
  3. If the tree is more than 10 years old and is leaning, it becomes a hazardous tree. If that tree is in an area where it is in close proximity to people or properties, it should definitely be removed. However, if this tree is on an acreage or farmstead and is further away from people or property, it may be able to survive in that location,
  4. With any of tree damage a Certified Arborist should be consulted to know for sure.

hail, pic monkey

The hail also caused a great deal of damage to our trees and shrubs. As the hail falls from the sky, it can rip through the leaves of many of our plants. Hail can cause holes through leaves and it can fray the edges of the leaves. Hail can also cause wounds on the trunk and branches of younger trees and shrubs, which would be a location for insects and diseases to enter the tree and cause secondary problems to the tree or shrub. There is not much we can do for hail damage to a tree or shrub. Most damage from hail is minimal and the plants can survive it.

 

Integrated Pest Management

Bee pollinating clover

Now that gardening has fully begun, it brings to mind the fact that so many of our fruit and vegetable crops are pollinated by insects. According to the Crops & Soils Magazine for certified crop advisers, agronomists, and soil scientists; more than a third of the food we eat depends on pollinators. Because of this, we need to make sure we are doing what we can to protect and reduce the damage to bees and other pollinator insects.

Bee populations have decreased in the past few years due to a problem called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is still being researched. The scientists are calling the reduced bee populations Colony Collapse Disorder and are attributing it to pesticides, a mite, and poor bee nutrition due to a lower diversity of flowers for the bees to forage. There are things we can do to help the bee populations, including planting a wider variety of plants for the bees to forage for pollen.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a good way to help reduce pesticides in the environment and help our bee populations. IPM is a method of managing weeds, insects, or diseases by using multiple techniques. Control methods for IPM would include mechanical such as hand pulling, cultural such as tillage, biological such as allowing natural predator insects to survive and chemical such as using pesticides.

IPM practices for insects would include

  • Tilling the garden after the growing season
  • Hand removal of the insects
  • Inspection for eggs to remove prior to emergence
  • Utilizing row covers to protect the plants from damage
  • Scout your gardens often to reduce an insect pest problem while the population is small
  • Try to avoid killing all the predator insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis’, and ground beetles.

Weeds in a lawn

The main idea behind managing weeds in your lawn or in your garden is to reduce locations where they grow and have healthy plants that can out-compete the weed species.  IPM practices for weeds would include:

  • Hand pulling
  • Mowing grass at the recommended 2.5-3 inches
  • Mulching around trees and gardens
  • Fertilizing correctly to ensure all plants are healthy
  • Planting the right plant in the right place

For a disease to occur there must be a susceptible plant host, a disease causing organism, and the proper environment.  IPM practices for diseases would include:

  • Watering plants early in the morning
  • Avoiding watering over the top of the leaves
  • Spacing garden plants and trees correctly
  • Planting resistant cultivars
  • Removing exhausted plant material in the fall to reduce possible diseases to overwinter where the plants will be next spring.

Chemicals are often a good way to manage pests in our lawns and gardens, however if we use an IPM program we may not develop a pest problem in the first place. If a pest problem does occur and chemicals are necessary, just make sure that you are applying the pesticides correctly. Use pesticides only as prescribed on the label, in the correct environmental conditions, and using the correct personal protective equipment. Also, if insecticides are necessary for an insect pest, be sure to apply them later in the evening when bees are no longer active for the night to avoid harming the bee population. It is also best to avoid spraying insecticides on plants that are blooming, so bees cannot be harmed when foraging that flower for pollen.

Fleas and Ticks

LewiNow that warm temperatures have finally come, summer will be here before we know it. With warmer temperatures, comes many insects and other arthropods outside to annoy us, including fleas and ticks. I have a wonderful miniature schnauzer that I would hate to see fleas and ticks on, and I don’t want him bringing these pests inside my home. There are many things we can do to protect our pets and ourselves from ticks and fleas.

tick

Ticks are arachnids, they are a close relative to spiders, as they have 8 legs. The most common tick found in Nebraska is the American dog tick, or the wood tick. In extreme southeastern Nebraska, the Lone Star tick may also be found, which can be a carrier for a disease similar to Lyme disease. Many times we will find ticks on our pets or ourselves after being outside, especially if we have been in heavy vegetation where ticks are often found.

Ticks can be controlled through the use of many tactics.

  • Tick collars
    • The pet will still need to be inspected for ticks
  • Shampoo treatments
    • Need to be repeated often
  • Spot pesticides
    • Purchased from your veterinarian
    • Applied monthly through the spring, summer, and fall
    • The most recommended treatment of control for your pets.

Bug Spray Collage

To reduce your exposure to ticks,

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, if possible
  • Wear proper clothing
    • Light -colored
    • Long-sleeved shirts
    • Long pants
  • Use repellents
    • Those containing DEET work best
  • Inspect yourself upon returning home from potentially tick-infested areas
  • Remove any ticks that became attached to you
    • Use fine-tipped tweezers
    • Pull the head and the rest of the tick out all together to avoid infection
    • disinfect bite location and wash hands after removal of ticks
  • It is not practical to use chemicals in your yard to control ticks
    • The best thing for controlling ticks in your lawn would be to keep it mowed at the recommended 2-3 inches
flea

Highly magnified view of a cat flea. Jim Kalisch, UNL Department of Entomology

As for fleas, these are transported into your home by pets and by other stray animals to your yard. Fleas are the tiny insects that jump around on your pets and can get into your home. Many of the tick pesticides are also labeled for fleas. If your pet gets fleas or brings them into your home, it is best to treat inside your home and the pet at the same time.

  • For your home
    • Wash bedding
    • Vacuum
    • Use an insect growth regulator (IGR) in areas where the pet spends time to kill any larvae still found in your home
  • For your pet
    • Apply spot pesticides
  • For your yard
    • Utilize IGR’s outdoors, in shady locations, where the pet spends time
Spot treatments for fleas and ticks for Dogs.

Spot treatments for fleas and ticks for Dogs.

For flea and tick control it is recommended that you work with your veterinarian before you use products on your pet. It is important to read and follow label instructions with any pesticide. Products for use on dogs may not be appropriate for cats. The information for this blog came from Barb Ogg, UNL Extension Educator in Lancaster County.

 

Preparing Summer Gardens

Tilled gardenWe are almost past our frost-free date for 2014. We usually say we are safe to plant all our summer plants on or following Mother’s Day for the year, which is May 11th of this year. This way we are going to be past any fear of frost, in most years, which would injure or kill what we just planted. With that said, we need to make sure that all our gardens are prepared correctly and our plants are planted properly.

Vegetable gardens need to be tilled and the soil needs to be prepared for planting. The time to apply additional organic matter to our gardens would be while we are tilling it up for planting. Spring is the time that we can add compost to our vegetable gardens, don’t apply fresh manure to a garden unless it is done in the fall of the year to allow all the bacteria in the manure to break down. When adding compost to a garden, till through the garden a few times then add compost at a 1-2 inch layer to the soil surface and run the tiller through the garden an additional 2-3 times.

Tilling Garden

After the soil is prepared, and we have come to Mother’s Day weekend or later, you can plant your summer vegetables into that soil. Make sure you follow the spacing recommendations that are on the seeds or labels. If plants are grown too close together they will have a lower vegetable yield and they are more vulnerable to diseases in the environment. Be sure to water all newly planted vegetables and seeds in immediately after they are planted. Granular fertilizers can be applied to the soil when planting to help give the plants a jump-start. A general vegetable garden fertilizer of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 works very well to help your plants grow well.

Another thing we can do with our gardens this time of year, is cleanup all of our annual and perennial beds and plant our container gardens. If you haven’t already done so, prune back all the dead material on perennials such as coneflowers, lilies, and ornamental grasses. This will allow the new material to grow up and look nice. If there are new perennials you want to plant in your garden, you can plant those now. You can also begin planting annual plants as needed to fill in your flower beds. If you haven’t pruned back roses or butterfly bushes, you can do that now too. Wait to prune back spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, and spring blooming spireas until after they have bloomed for the year.

Container Gardens

Container Garden Ideas; Photo from: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07238.html

Container gardens can also be planted now. Follow these steps for a great container garden.

  • Choose your  container
    • Make sure it has a drainage hole, otherwise most anything can work for a container
  • Fill the container with a potting soil or soil-less mixture
  • If it is a large container, you can fill the bottom third with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, or gravel
  • Plant your container with annuals, perennials, herbs, succulents, or mixtures.
  • Keep your container plants well watered, as they tend to dry out quickly
  • For a visual display, try to plant the container with a thriller, a filler, and a spiller
    • The thriller could be something tall and eye-catching, such as spike grass
    • The spiller could be something that drapes over the side of the container, such as wave petunias
    • The filler could be whatever else you like to put in your container to fill the space, such as gerbera daisy

Tree Planting: Happy Arbor Day, April 25th

2013-05-09 10.12.49The last Friday in April is Arbor Day. This year that holiday falls on April 25th. In support of this holiday we should all go out and plant a tree or more than one if you desire, or support an organization that does plant trees if you have no need or space for extra trees in your yard.

When planting trees, utilize diversity. Diversity is planting many different types of trees in an area so that if any new disease or insect comes, it doesn’t wipe out all of our trees. The lack of diversity has been a problem recently with pine wilt in Nebraska. Entire windbreaks are being destroyed in a matter of a couple of years due to pine wilt. Just make sure that whatever tree you choose, is resistant to many of the common diseases we see in Nebraska such as Pine wilt.

Planting a tree correctly initially will ensure its success.  Here are the steps to planting a tree correctly:

  • Pick a good location
    • Plant your tree away from buildings and other plants
    • Allow it to grow into the location
  • Dig a hole that is 2-3 times wider than the root ball and only as deep as the root ball
  • Loosen up the sides of the hole
  • Before planting the tree, remove the burlap and wire basket
  • Be sure to also remove any tags, twine, or wire from the tree
  • Do not amend the soil that covers the root ball after it is placed into the hole
  • Plant the tree so that root flare is at the soil surface
  • Install a mulch ring around the tree
    • At least two to three feet out from the base of the tree
    • Only 2-3 inches deep
  • Staking a tree is not a mandatory practice, if you do have to stake the tree due to high winds, make sure that the tree has plenty of movement within the stakes
    • Also be sure that the staking material is removed after the first year to avoid the tree being damaged by the staking materials.
This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

This is a very nicely installed mulch ring!

One problem that you might notice now in your landscape, after the winter, is deer damage to your trees and shrubs. Deer can do a lot of damage to a tree over the fall and winter months, especially to a smaller or younger tree. Many bucks will rub on trees later in the fall to remove the velvet from their antlers, which can leave a canker or open area on the tree. They can also do damage to our trees and shrubs when they feed on the buds, leaves, and stems of many different ornamental plants. These twigs are going to have a jagged or torn appearance to them due to the way the deer feed on the plants. Typically the damage from deer to a tree can heal, but it will be a location in the tree or shrub where diseases and insects can enter the plant.

My beautiful picture

If you notice deer damage to your plants, there is nothing you can do for the tree after the damage has already happened. However, depending on the severity, your tree will probably survive after being damaged by deer. You can help reduce the problem in the future by utilizing an electric fence around your property to keep deer out of your lawn, or by putting up a 4 foot tall fence around each tree in your landscape. Remember to protect any newly planted tree from deer when planting.

Spring Lawncare

2011-10-27 10.05.27Each year in the spring, we tend to get very excited to be able to get back outside and work in our lawns and gardens. However, this is still fairly early in the year to do much work in our yards. This article was written to prepare you for when the best time is to begin lawncare activities in the spring.

Overseeding our lawns can take place between April 1 and April 30 for the cool season turfgrasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. If you are planting a new warm season lawn or are adding plugs to thicken it up, you should wait until late May through June to do that. The warm season grasses would be either Buffalograss or Zoysiagrass. These would be the four best turfgrasses to use in our lawns in Southeast Nebraska.

When purchasing grass seed, watch for the following important statements on the seed bag:

  • Purchase weed free seed, 0.3% or less weed seed in the package
  • No noxious weeds found in the seed mixture
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that is advertised in the Sunday newspaper, as those are not usually good seed choices and are not suited well for our area
  • Avoid purchasing lawn seed that contains annual ryegrass as that is more of a weed species

The best seed choices are either:

  • 100% of turf-type tall fescue
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Buffalograss
  • A mixture of tall fescue and bluegrass

Mowing your lawn should begin as your lawn begins to grow again. We should mow our lawns to a height of at least 2” for Kentucky bluegrass and 2.5-3” for tall fescue. So, you can wait until the lawn gets to at least 3 inches before beginning the mowing routine in the spring. Remember, only mow off 1/3 of the grass each time that you mow. The lawn clippings may be left on the lawn or bagged and removed from the lawn, at your own discretion. If you return the clippings back to the turf, it will add up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet over the course of the growing season. This can account to one fertilizer application for your lawn over the growing season.  Below is a picture of the 3 types of lawn mowers you can purchase.

Mower Collage

As for the fertilization, this should also wait until later in the spring. It is recommended to add 1.0 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet between April 20th and May 10th. This fertilization should be done with a slow release fertilizer of your choosing. Fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass can be applied 4 more times throughout the growing season. To make this easier to remember, fertilizer treatments should be done on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. As for tall fescue lawns, these only need to be fertilized two times a year, in the early spring and late fall. We should avoid fertilization during the hot summer months to avoid possibly burning the grass blades. The spring fertilization can be done in combination with a pre-emergent herbicide that will combat crabgrass, foxtail, sandburs and goosegrass. Do not use crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides if you have overseeded in the spring until you have mowed your new seedlings at least 3 times. Dandelion and other winter annual weeds can be treated in combination with the Labor Day fertilizer treatment for best control.

Fertilizer Spreader, Photo from Acreage.unl.edu