Hey y’all, it’s been a little while but we’re back to spread some knowledge! We hope everyone’s winter has been full of warmth and joy! It’s been consistently colder than last winter but before you know it, the temperatures will be above 70 on the daily, the sun will be shining and the birds will be chirping! La La La La La ♫
It’s prep time!
Some of you gardeners may be getting a head start by sowing seeds indoors to prep for spring planting. Others may be looking outside thinking, there is no way I am going to start doing a n y t h i n g outside in this cold!
We do not blame you, that is why we are here to help where we can! While we don’t see ourselves being able to come out daily to tend to your seedlings, we are happy to do some soil prepping for you!
Our Soil Building Program began in January and we are about a week out from being done with our first round so it’s not too late to get started! Even if you do miss the first round you will be ahead of the game opposed to waiting until next year to start!
The first 3 treatments of the year are the most important. We pack a mixture of vitamins, nutrients, and other amendments into the Liquid Compost to give the plants and turf the best possible push out of dormancy.
Spring Set Backs
Some of you may have experienced the dreaded Brown Patch last fall. If so, you may already know that these areas will be the last to green up in the Spring. In 2017, we experienced a lag of green up in these areas all the way into May.
More fatal setbacks could have been chinch bugs, take all root rot or grubs. If these areas caused dieback or large bare spots, it could take the whole season for the grass to fill back in - depending on the severity of the damage and turf variety. Spring is a great time of the year to lay sod or plant St. Augustine plugs. This may be an option for some people depending on their patience and tolerance for the bare areas.
Weeds are growing, so we’re mowing.
Right around this time each year, weeds will begin to grow quickly. Mowing in February and early March will cut off their flower heads before they can bloom and spread more seed, greatly reducing your population of spring weeds. As a bonus, the clippings will quickly compost into the soil when left on the lawn, adding nutrients to the soil. Mowing now also allows more light to reach the soil, warming up microbes and alerting them to get to work at improving the soil and also warming roots, prompting them to grow.
All of this prepping may seem a bit premature because of the recent cold snap but you'll be thanking us later when you're two steps ahead of your neighbor come Springtime!
Am I the only one who was NOT ready for the cold spike that we had a couple of Friday’s ago?! Seriously, it was S L E E T I N G on my way home from work and all I kept thinking was…I am not ready for this yet!!
While I was sitting by the fire that night I started thinking about weather predictions and what The Old Farmers Almanac called for this winter. So, I picked up my little yellow book and started reading.
This little book is full of interesting anecdotes and novelty information. I skimmed through the classifieds full of psychic ads and natural fertilizers. I indulged a bit in the astrology section and the moon’s influence on seed germination and yield. Then I came across the section about how they predict the weather.
So how DO they predict the weather?
Solar Activity, Climatology, and Meteorology
Solar Activity (sunspots more specifically) have a direct influence on the Earth’s weather. Sunspots are magnetic storms on the surface of the sun and they increase and decrease over the course of an 11 year cycle. The cycles start and end with what scientists call Solar Maximums and Solar Minimums. The Solar Maximum peaks when there are the most visible sunspots during that cycle and the sun is outputting the most energy. The Solar Minimum is just the opposite.
These bright areas on the sun are called sunspots
Climatology and Meteorology are studies of the climate and the earth’s atmosphere that are based off of statistics over a certain period of time. At the Almanac, they base their predictions on 30-year statistical averages prepared by Governmental Meteorological Agencies that are updated every 10 years.
Basically, scientists at the Almanac take current solar activity and compare it to solar patterns along with statistical averages of our climate and atmosphere to predict the weather. Pretty neat, huh?
So, what kind of winter is the Almanac calling for in 2017-2018?
Colder- but not colder than usual? What does that mean for us because I’m pretty sure that Christmas last year was sunny and 75! The map says the North Texas region will be cold and snowy so I am crossing my fingers for a White Christmas.
More frosts means less insects and diseases
The last couple of winters have been pretty wacky and the insects have had longer periods of breeding time and have been multiplying by mass amounts. This is not good for weakened plants that are targeted by plant eating insects. More freezes would be a plus, but minus the freeze damage that ensued last year.
As of now, we encourage everyone to cut off their system. Lower nighttime temperatures mixed with excess moisture equals a fungal breeding ground. If you are noticing brown spots in your yard, give us a call because you could have Brown Patch AKA Rhizoctonia. If not, you can sit back and enjoy the cold rainy winter ahead of us!
Have you ever noticed an eerily uniform ring of mushrooms in your yard? Or maybe a patch of dead grass that is so perfectly circular that it looks like it could have come out of a scene from the movie Signs? If so, you probably have a fungal disease in your soil called Fairy Ring.
Fairy Ring Folklore
The name Fairy Ring comes from a long trail of European folklore. Some say that the rings come up where the fairies danced the night before. Other cultures believe that they are witches circles and humans are not meant to step into them, lest they be punished. There are many variations of the mythical nature of Fairy Rings but science seems to disprove anything s u p e r n a t u r a l going on here.
The Science Behind Fairy Ring
Fairy Ring is a severe fungal disease that can surely disrupt the American dream of having the best and brightest yard on the block. It starts with a spore that is underground - think of the mold that forms on old bread or food. The tiny individual strands are called hyphae and a colony of those silky tubular structures make up what is called the mycelium. As the mycelium grows outward in a circular structure in search of more nutrients, it depletes the soil in its path. This results in a hydrophobic environment meaning that the soil is unable to retain water. Anything that tries to grow there will eventually die due to lack of hydration and nutrients.
The dead grass indicates the hydrophobic environment that is left after the Fairy Ring has taken it’s course.
Different Signs of Fairy Ring
Since mycelium is an integral part of the soil food web, Fairy Ring is likely to occur almost anywhere, in the right conditions. Some research has said that this phenomenon is stemmed from decaying wood matter of any kind i.e. tree roots, stumps, construction lumber buried underground. Other research states that it is a result from thatch buildup on the surface of the ground. Either way, not all mycelium creates Fairy Ring but all Fairy Rings stem from mycelium.
So what’s the cure, Doc?
From our experience we have found no successful cure for this, unfortunately. Since the issue stems from the mycelium, the only true way to eradicate it would be to dig it completely out of the ground. It is nearly impossible to know if you have successfully gotten every tiny bit of this fungus or not.
Most people do not seek guidance or solutions until their grass starts dying; so, if you have mushrooms or dark green circles, I wouldn’t fret just yet. If/when it does occur, our recommendations are always geared towards practical solutions. Since resodding and pesticide products can be extremely expensive, the most efficient solution would be to install a large bed where the Fairy Ring is. Depending on your style and aesthetic preferences, there are many different routes you can go in terms of what to put in the beds. We would recommend to stay away from planting much in them though because it is possible that they will also be affected by the Fairy Ring. Perennials may be a good choice since they will die off with the changes of the season.
The mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of the mycelium fungi underground.
We are a l w a y s happy to answer any questions you may have regarding issues in your landscape. If you think you may have Fairy Ring but need a confirmation, please feel free to email us pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to diagnose the issue whether you’re signed up for our program or not!