Lawncare – Grassmasters

Category Archives for Lawncare

Five Tips for to Protect Your Lawn from Summer Heat

The recent rainfall has been a welcome refresher after a couple weeks of oppressive heat, but let's be honest--this is Southern Illinois, and the hottest, most intense days are likely yet to come.

We do our best to prepare your grass for the inevitable heat and drought that comes with Midwestern summer, but we'd also love to share some tips and best practices YOU can do to preserve your lawn's health during these tough months.

1. WATER CORRECTLY

The surest way to ensure health, longevity, and hydration for your lawn all summer is to water your lawn. We get it--your water bill skyrockets. It's not necessarily great for the environment as it wastes water. Watering consumes tons of time dragging sprinklers around and managing hoses and timers if you don't have an in-ground watering system.

But even those that choose to water can hurt their lawn by OVER watering. If the soil remains constantly wet, grass roots suffocate. They don't get enough oxygen.

If you water, water like a pro. Keep track of rainfall and ensure that your lawn gets at least ONE INCH per week. The rule is water infrequently, but deeply. So you can get optimal results with one watering session to supplement any weeks where you don't get one inch of rainfall.

2. MINIMIZE FOOT TRAFFIC

Summer is a time for playing in the yard. If all the neighbor kids like to come over, you likely know the signs as paths of wear start to appear in the lawn. Foot traffic beats down and damages dry, brittle grass blades.

Spread playtime around the yard so one concentrated area doesn't get beaten into the dirt. Consider stepping stones for high-traffic areas. Or, you can focus a small amount of watering in areas that get high foot traffic.

3. DON'T MOW SHORT

Don't cut your lawn too short! This is a cardinal rule of lawn care and we see both homeowners and commercial lawn mowing services break this rule far too often.

Short grass is weak grass. The weakness eventually transfers to the root system. Weeds get more light and more water and tend to infest and strengthen in shortly-cut lawns.

Each lawn is different. Grass blends and shade and all kinds of factors can go into your lawn's optimal care. That's why we tailor each and every customer.

However, here are two universal rules that may help--do not remove more than 1/3 of your grass's blade height in any single cutting, and for most mowers, cutting on the highest setting is typically your safest bet. On most mowers this is 3.5 or 4 inches.

Another summer-mowing tip: don't mow drought-stressed grass. If it's brown, dormant, and struggling, leave it be. Don't cut out of habit. Time your mowing so that you're cutting the grass after recent rainfall or watering with SHARP mower blades.

4. MULCH, DON'T BAG
Tis the season to put on the mulch cap and put on some high-quality mulching blades. The mulched clippings act as slow-release fertilizer as they decompose to help your lawn maintain its health between our fertilizer applications.

Also important: if you produce clippings, aim them away from streets and storm drains. Most local ordinances prohibit this, and it's better to keep clippings in your yard than to let them clog a storm drain or decompose in the water system.

5. PREVENT INSECT DAMAGE!
Your lawn is highly vulnerable to insect infestation and damage during the summer months. A combination of heat-weakened lawns and peak insect activity is a recipe for disaster.

We see lawns every year that are destroyed by insect damage and require expensive and time-consuming renovation. If only they took the additional step to PREVENT that damage with a pesticide application SPECIFIC to hungry lawn invaders.

Common infestations include ants, fleas, chinch bugs, sod webworms, and armyworms. Also, we have seen lawns decimated by grubs, and we expect a high-risk of grub damage this year for many lawns in our service area.

At a minimum, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND adding a grub control application to your lawncare plan this year. The saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we're prepared to give our best customers preferred, email-list pricing on this application.

To control the infestation of other pests and increase the comfort and safety in your yard, our NUISANCE PEST CONTROL package takes care of fleas, ticks, chiggers, ants, spiders, crickets, roaches, and over 100 insects across your entire lawn.

Enjoy your lawn without painful insect bites and reduce your risk for lime disease. Armyworms and sod webworms destroyed many lawns in 2014, and this package offers total control of those pests as well.

Current options and pricing are in our recent mailer. You can also request a tailored quote for your property using our web form, or by calling us at 618-228-7400.

We wish you, your family, and your lawn a healthy and happy summer!

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Is Your Lawnmower Ready for Spring?

As we get our first dose of prolonged, warm weather in the greater St. Louis area, make sure your mower is in prime condition for the frequent cutting schedule of spring!

Maintain Your Mower!

You might have taken care of a mowing or two already this season, but spring is a great time to take care of your mower so it can take care of your lawn all summer long!

  • Blades
  • Spark Plugs
  • Filters
  • check
    Tires
  • check
    Fresh Fuel
  • check
    Lubrication & Cleaning!

Blades

Sharp blades make for healthy grass. You want them to cut, not rip! Sharpen or replace them before the frequency of spring mowing picks up.

Spark Plugs

Replacing spark plugs annually is a cheap, simple way to keep your mower in top condition. Refer to your owner's manual.

Air and Fuel Filters

Again, it's good practice to replace air and fuel filters. For most common mowers, these are inexpensive and easy to replace on your own.

Tires

If you have a rider, are the tires inflated, with good tread? Inflate them to the proper PSI and replace when necessary.

Fresh Fuel

Did you put a fuel preserver in your fuel container last winter? If not, that fuel is probably not fresh. Don't put stale fuel in your mower!

Lubrication & Cleaning

Many riding mowers have lubrication points. You can find a chart in your owner's manual. If you don't have a grease gun, here's an Amazon pick that gets the job done:

While you're lubricating, it's the perfect time to make sure your mower is clean. Wipe down painted areas and check for any rust damage.

Final Thoughts

Follow these tips for a mower that lasts longer, cuts better, and treats your lawn right! 

If you love cutting a green, healthy lawn, call or email us for a tailored quote!

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Spring Grass Seeding: What to Look For

While fall is the best time for seeding, it's common for homeowners to plant grass seed in the spring for a variety of reasons.

Spring planting may be due to timing (maybe they want to start a new lawn and don't want to live on a muddy lot for a whole season), or for spot repairs of bare, thin, or weak areas of the yard.

You can always call Grassmasters for help, but if you want to do it yourself, here is what to look for in quality grass seed.

KNOW YOUR TURF ZONE

The United States has five zones. Our area is tricky because it's a "transition zone" with intense seasons that encompass different aspects of all the zones. Grasses require tolerance to heat, cold, and drought.

Examine your yard and make your seeding determinations based on sun and shade, and then you can use this chart to find some excellent grass types:


SHADE/WARM

SHADE/COOL

SUN/WARM

SUN/COOL

St. Augustine

Rough Bluegrass

Bermuda 

Kentucky Bluegrass

Centipede, Zoysia

Tall & Chewings Fescue

Buffalo

Fine Fescue


Note: if you have an area that is a blend of sun and shade, use Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass for cool season zones.

Use Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia for warm season zones.

Pro Tip for Tougher Lawns!

If you have kids that play outside and want to grow a tougher, wear-resistant lawn, here are some hearty grasses with a high wear tolerance. Mixtures of these types hold up to rough and tumble kid traffic:

WARM SEASON WEAR-RESISTANT

COOL SEASON WEAR RESISTANT

Zoysia

Fine Fescue

Bermuda

Tall Fescue

Bahia

Kentucky Bluegrass

Tough lawns are kid-friendly lawns!


WHERE TO BUY SEED

Buy seed from a reputable store, such as a garden center or a big box home improvement store. Buy the best seed available! Don't cut corners, or you may end up with more filler and more weeds.

Cheap seed is cheap for a reason. You want fresh seed, not end of season leftovers. Choose a brand with a guarantee. Keep your receipt and if the seed is a disaster, write them with proof of purchase and you should be able to recoup your investment, depending on the company.

At Grassmasters, we guarantee our seed and only use the freshest, highest quality mixes specifically for this area.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: THE LABEL

Skip the marketing jargon on the labels. Fastest growing, miracle lawn, one-step, less water, all mean nothing compared to what's in the mix. For that, you need to check the label.

The Federal Seed Act of 1936 requires detailed and uniform labeling. You can trust the label information, and it's not hard to decipher.

You know the seed type you need, now check the label for the following information:

Kind and Variety

Look for specific variety names. "Merion Kentucky Bluegrass" is better than "Kentucky Bluegrass." The more generic the type, the better chance you have less desirable characteristics compared to the more specific cultivars.

One tip: shy away from annual ryegrass, which dies off in one season. If any annual ryegrass is in the mix, expect a thinner lawn after just one season, with possible bare spots.

Date

You want a date in the current year. A sell-by date is usually included. Fresh grass is better!

Weed Seed

Almost all grass packages have some weed seed, but you can minimize your risk and inconvenience by getting seed that has less than 1 percent listed on the package.

Germination Percentage

Don't buy seed with a percentage less than 70 percent. This is the amount of seed you can expect to blossom into grass plants under optimum conditions.

Inert Matter

Anything that won't grow is inert matter. Filler materials such as dirt and chaff make up this percentage. You can find grass seed with zero percent inert matter, but anything under 1 percent should suffice.

A pic of Scott's sun & shade mix taken at a home improvement store. Can you tell if this is good seed?

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Follow these general guidelines to get some quality seed for your zone. If you want to get extremely specific with your seed types, you can always check with us, or the local extension. We're happy to help!

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Five Secrets for Your Best Lawn Ever

Don't Just Control Weeds - PREVENT Them!

Notice we said prevent weeds, not kill them or otherwise treat them. Pre-emergent weed control is the best way to tackle stubborn weed issues. In the case of tough weeds like crabgrass, pre-emergents are far and away the most effective measure to control them.

Pre-emergents are best applied in the early Spring before weeds have a chance to flourish. So that means as we post this (February), now is the time to plan out your pre-emergent weed treatment, so you're not chasing down pesky weeds throughout the entire season.

At Grassmasters, step one of our lawncare program is always pre-emergent treatment. Call us with any questions you have about what to apply to your lawn--even if you don't give us your business, we'll help you get it right.

Sharpen Your Mower Blades

The best lawn can look chopped up and haggard if you don't have sharp blades taking the tops off the grass plants.

A sharp blade makes a clean, healthy cut on the grass plant. Dull blades can wreak havoc on your grass, ripping instead of cutting, and sometimes pulling grass up and out of the ground.

A dull mower blade damages your lawn's appearance and creates ideal conditions for disease and weeds to flourish.

Clean, sharp blades are critical to your lawn's health.

We'll outline how to properly sharpen your blades in another post, but you can easily find instructions online, or pay a local shop a few bucks to sharpen them up.

Alternatively, you can replace them entirely. When is the last time you replaced your lawnmower blades, anyway?

Aerate Your Lawn Each Year

Aeration is perhaps the single, most beneficial thing you can do for your yard.

Professionally-executed core aeration controls thatch, enhances the root system, increase nutrient uptake and gives the lawn a great opportunity for growing new grass plants.

We go into tons of aeration detail on this page of our website, so click HERE for more information on how aeration benefits your lawn, and how the right kind of aeration is critical to getting those benefits.

Control Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are one of the biggest obstacles you'll face in getting a healthy, manicured lawn for reasons you may overlook.

If you take the time to sculpt a perfect lawn, chances are you spend a lot of time outside, and are working in your yard in order to enjoy it and spend ever more time outside.

However, despite your good intentions, you'll rarely go outside to enjoy it if the bloodsuckers are around to bite you non-stop.

If it seems like we're overstating mosquito risk, we do so with good reason: we live in a region (St. Louis Metro-East) that has a history of Zika risk, with researchers at Saint Louis University confirming that our zone is one of the highest-risk areas for Zika transmission in 2017.

Train Your Pets!

Pets are wonderful, but the urine of both cats and dogs can leave unsightly yellow and dead spots in your yard.

In addition, dog feces is one of the top causes of water pollution in the United States.

You can do everything right, but your lawn won't look its best if it serves primarily as a pet toilet.

Your best bet is to pick up after your dogs and do all you can to train them to urinate somewhere other than your yard.

Outdoor cats are a challenge, but you can use a strategic mulch bed to give them a more pleasing spot to do their business--and more importantly, stop urinating in your yard.

Final Thoughts

At Grassmasters, we have hundreds of tips, strategies, and tools to help your outdoor paradise look its best.

These are just four of our favorites, and we hope you found them helpful as Spring approaches.

Call us anytime with questions, consider joining our email list for even more information and a chance to join our giveaways, or fill out our quote form if you want to partner with Grassmasters on your best lawn ever.

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What is a Grass Plant?

Grass plants are the heart and soul of any beautiful lawn, but how much do you really know about that wonderful plant that makes up the lush, green color of a Grassmasters lawn?

The density and sheer amount of grass in your lawn may surprise you. A 4,000 square foot lawn typically contains around 3 million grass plants. That's right--you are officially the caretaker of literally millions of plants!

Let's take a closer look at your grass by breaking it down into three distinct areas: what you can see above the ground, what is at ground level, and what is below the ground.

Above the Ground

Shoot - Anything above the ground is called a shoot.

Stem - This sturdy piece supports the grass leaves.

Blade - The upper, broadest portion of the leaf.

Sheath - at the base of the blade, you'll find the sheath. This element wraps around the stem.

Collar - the area where the sheath and blade meet is called the collar.

Nodes - At the top of the stem, you'll find nodes. Buds emerge from the nodes after the grass is cut.

Tiller - Secondary shoots growing from the crown on the same grass plant.

Stolon - Stolons run from the crown and create "daughter" plants beside the original plant.

At Ground Level

‚ÄčCrown - Right at ground level, you can find the crown. All the action takes place here; think of it as grass plant junction. The leaves that you can see above ground emerge from the crown, and the roots that drive into the soil also emerge from the crown.

Below the Ground

Roots - Pretty obvious, but the roots are below ground. Roots soak up food and water, but they also and importantly give a grass plant its firmness, keeping it anchored to the ground.

Rhizomes - Functionally similar to stolons, rhizomes run underneath the ground to create daughter plants.

Final Thoughts

The anatomy of grass is surprisingly complex, but all the parts create a dense, lush lawn when you pay closer attention to caring for these resilient and beautiful plants.

If it seems complicated or overwhelming to nurture the health of millions of plants--don't worry. Grassmasters has your back. We'll partner with you to assure that your lawn is healthy, tough, and above all, beautiful.

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Lawn-Friendly Ice Melt Tips

Picking up some ice melt product? Remember, your lawn pays the price for ice! 

You're a veteran of Midwestern winters, so chances are, you've already got some ice melt products handy for the extreme temperatures and freezing rain we're experiencing. 

Just remember, the salt always runs off and contacts your lawn, your plants, your concrete, your landscaping--and sodium-chloride salts will kill the edges of your lawn and damage your concrete surfaces.

The key takeaway: make sure your de-melting product's active ingredient is POTASSIUM CHLORIDE. Even better, CALCIUM CHLORIDE. 

Calcium-chloride products are proven to be grass-friendly, pet-friendly, and pavement friendly. 

These products can sometimes cost a little more, but you'll reap the benefits in the long run by preventing damage to your lawn.

Here's an example of an effective calcium-chloride product from Amazon (Click image for Pricing):

Lawn-friendly, calcium-chloride ice melt product by Eco-Clean Solutions

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Brace Your Lawn: Winter is Coming

Grass plants are resilient, but not invincible, especially in the extreme cold we're experiencing in the region. 

Even if you take meticulous care of your lawn, you may experience some dead grass and lawn injury thanks to the winter we're experiencing so far. 


Beware: Frozen Grass CAN Break!

It's unavoidable, but as long as you're consistent with your plan from year to year, you can minimize the impact of winter injury. 

Remember to reduce foot traffic on frozen and frosted grass. Breaking the grass blades can intensify the chances of winter injury. 

If you don't have a lawn plan, 2018 is a great time to start, and Grassmasters can help! 

Call us at 618-228-7400, or use our "get a quote" button to tell us about your lawn!

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Fall Lawn Care Tips for Your Greenest Lawn Ever

The end of summer doesn't mean the end of lawn care. The months of October-December are critical for the long-term health of your lawn.

Invest some time with these simple steps in the fall, and you can expect your lawn to flourish next spring!

TIP #1 - REMOVE LEAVES FROM YOUR LAWN

We know, raking isn't fun, but now that we're getting into leaf-raking season, it's important to know that fallen leaves can damage your lawn.

Leaves that become wet with dew and rain form a mat that suffocates grass and breeds fungal diseases. More leaves on the ground mean it's a bigger, thicker, more destructive "mat." So don't wait for all of the leaves to fall before you start raking!

Everyone's Favorite, Raking Leaves!


Obviously, you don't have to rake by hand--you can use a collection bag or vacuum system with your lawnmower, which is optimal if you have a large yard or a ton of deciduous trees.

Bottom line: remove leaves so they don't become a soggy, suffocating mess that damages your lawn!

TIP #2 - MOW LOWER THAN USUAL

Keep mowing your lawn, as needed, throughout the fall.

As the growing season comes to a close, begin to lower your blade for the last two cuttings of the season.

As you lower, make sure you never take more than one-third off of the blades at any one cutting.

Your last two cuts should be at least an inch lower than normal.

While it's best for your lawn to always keep your grass high and mow on a high setting, for these last two fall cuts, you want to allow more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass as it goes dormant.

The end result is healthier grass that stays greener as it is less likely to have leaf browning throughout the winter!

TIP #3 - LOOSEN THE SOIL VIA AERATION

Loosening the soil prevents compaction, controls thatch and allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach the root system.

A professional-grade core aerator is the best tool for the job. At Grassmasters, we use top-notch equipment, and our experienced staff aerates your yard efficiently and at the right time of year.

However, if you're the DIY type, we recommend renting a professional core aerator instead of using a manual tool. We've even seen some people use a pitchfork or other fork-like tools or spiked shoe gadgets to "aerate" their lawns, but this only adds to the compaction since cores are not removed from the soil!

Core Aeration

If cores aren't pulled, it's not true aeration.

We are posting this in November, but it's not too late to get the benefits of aeration. Don't put it off until spring--spring aeration can make it easier for weeds to establish, so it's better to do it late in the fall than try to put it off until spring!

Overseeding is typically done with aeration, but the recent hard frosts have spelled the end of the prime season for establishing new grass.

Check out the Illinois Extension for more about core aeration.

TIP #4 - FERTILIZE TO WINTERIZE YOUR LAWN

Your lawn needs the right winterizing fertilizer, and it needs it right now!

While the plants may grow more slowly, or not at all, the root system is active all the way up until the soil itself freezes hard, and that typically doesn't occur until mid-to-late December.

Even with hard frosting or even some snow, the ground temperatures are high enough to cause melt and keep the root system active.

In the fall, your grass needs a shot of the plant sugars that protect roots from freezing. Those same sugars also give the entire grass plant energy to bounce back early in the spring.

Sugars are produced by chlorophyll, which grass produces in abundance when there's ample nitrogen.

That's why we apply and recommend a slow-release fertilizer with the right blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Potassium is also vital in the fall since it aids root growth and adds protection against disease, increases drought tolerance, and increases cold resistance.

You need to winterize your lawn by the end of November to allow your lawn to continue receiving critical nutrients and prepare for true winter dormancy!

Winter Fertilizer for Your Lawn

TIP #5 - TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Timing is the most overlooked element of lawn care!

For example, overseed too late, and the seedlings will be too tender to survive.

Fertilize too early, and the grass will send up tender blades that will get hammered by the cold.

Fertilize too late, and the roots won't be able to absorb all those nutrients you're feeding them.

Thinking about aerating in the spring because you can't get around to it this fall? Spring aeration can make it easier for weed seeds to get established.

These are just a few examples!

The best way to get a perfect lawn care schedule? Let Grassmasters worry about it! We apply the right products at the right times all year long.

For our complete lawn care calendar, click HERE.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Beautiful, hearty lawns are built in the fall.

If you're ready for the best lawn on the block, take the time to apply the tips we shared in this post.

Of course, we're happy to partner with you in the health and well-being of your lawn.

Just fill out our web form HERE, or call us at 618-228-7400.

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