Even though the winter was warm this year, the trees still lost their leaves as usual, and our most lawns went dormant as a result of a couple of hard freezes. With the winter coming to an end and temperatures warming quickly, we’re all feeling that springtime excitement and ready to see some new green emerge!
Weeds are growing, so we’re mowing.
About this time each year, weeds will begin to grow quickly. Mowing in February and early March will cut off their flower heads before they 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 improving soil and also warming roots, prompting them to grow.
Mow weeds before they spread!
How can you control your weeds before they grow out of control? And why are a few weeds in your organic lawn not such a bad thing? Read more HERE.
You can’t trick nature.
We know that adding quick-release synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to the soil can make plants grow and turn a deep, beautiful green. It's tempting to think that if we add fertilizer to the lawn in late winter, it will jumpstart the grass to green up and take off. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
There are several factors that trigger your grass to begin sprouting new growth. Day length, total sun exposure, and soil temperature are the main contributors to the breaking dormancy in your lawn. Putting fertilizer down too early does not alone stimulate new spring growth, and therefore results in a wasted money and resources. When you fertilize too early, all you’re doing is fertilizing the cool-season weeds!
You'll still want to mow the lawn a few more times before your first heavy feed. The right time to add a strong fertilizer is in April when the lawn is completely green and in need of regular mowings. At this point, grass is ready for a boost that will sustain it through the rest of the season.
Instead of an unnatural blast of synthetic fertilizer, our year-round Soil Building treatments provides steady stimulation to the microbes and fungal networks that improve the soil in both texture and nutrient quality and quantity, growing healthy roots and vigorous plants. Are you a plan member? We’ll be applying an organic dry fertilizer beginning in April to give plants a boost prior to summer heat and drought.
We say it all the time: great soil is essential for healthy plants. A healthy beautiful lawn is possible when you have healthy bio-diverse soil. But, what makes soil good? Quality soil is full of living microorganisms that decompose organic matter and create natural spaces in the soil for air and water.
Beautiful lawns and gardens start with bringing the soil to life.
How can we get more of these important microbes in our soil?
By accommodating what these good guys need to thrive, you can encourage and recolonize your soil with the microbial communities as well as beneficial bacteria and fungi that in turn contribute to the well being of your lawn and landscape. Basically, you have to feed the soil.
Molasses Improves Microbial Activity
Including dried flakes of molasses into your soil is an easy way to feed the soil microbes. The readily available sugar in molasses provides carbohydrates, vitamins and a number of minerals like calcium and iron. Once molasses is added to the soil, the microbial growth rates take a quick upturn.
Microbial activity naturally increases at this time of year when soil and air temperatures are warming, so it's the perfect time for an application of molasses to feed the soil. The late winter-early spring application is particularly effective on poor, depleted soils and brings a welcome lift as the plants begin to wake up after their winter rest. The February/March application of our Soil Building program includes liquid compost, seaweed, molasses and other bio-stimulants.
Each component of our program contributes to the balance of diversity needed for vigorous soil and robust vegetation. When your landscape is in need of revitalization, we help get you on the right track to a lush environment that gives back to you in return.
On a recent site visit at a client’s home we noticed an all too common sight around Dallas right now: damaged Indian Hawthorn shrubs. These once lush evergreen shrubs were covered in both crisp, brown leaves and foliage covered in black, roundish spots. Our diagnosis? Freeze damage coupled with a historic battle with a common fungal disease called Entomosporium Leaf Spot (ELS).
While Entomosporium Leaf Spot is mostly dormant for the winter, the spots show clearly that the plant has been heavily infected during the previous growing; the infection most likely began last year after a rainy spring. The fungal disease made the plants more susceptible to freeze damage this winter. While we didn’t have a lot of cold weather, we did have a few hard freezes that followed warm weather. When plants aren’t acclimated to the cold, you’ll often see more freeze damage, or lose more plants when hard freezes do happen.
ELS is treatable. Though, plants affected by it (most commonly Indian Hawthorns, Pear, Quince and Photinias here in DFW) have a hard time recovering once severe damage has occurred. If the problem becomes chronic we usually recommend pulling out the shrubs and replacing them with a different plant that is better suited to the location.
Why did ELS attack your plants?
Mild winters and warm, wet springs have created the perfect environment for this fungal disease to spread and thrive. It passes from leaf to leaf in splashes of water, then enters the plant through the leaves.
- Sun loving plants, such as Indian Hawthorn, that get too much shade will be more susceptible to fungal diseases.
- Overwatering your plants, or watering then in the evening, can encourage faster spread of fungal diseases such as ELS.
- Look for tiny red spots on plant leaves, sometimes with a yellow ring around them. Spots can grow so large over time the spots cover the entire leaf and get darker.
How to manage leaf spot:
- The best prevention is to choose the right plants for the sun exposure, then be sure to manage your watering schedule properly so as not to encourage the disease.
- Water the soil, not the foliage of your shrubs. Try water in the morning to give plants time to dry during the day. Dry foliage reduces the spread of fungal diseases.
- Once leaves are infected, they cannot be treated and saved. Instead, remove any leaves with spots. Don’t add them to the compost pile or you could spread the disease through the compost and back to your plants. Bag the infected leaves and add to the trash instead.
- Infected leaves that have dropped around the base of plants should be cleaned up quickly and disposed of to reduce spread of the disease.
- Reduce pruning in summer months and always sterilize your pruners between plants, if your plants are infected with a fungal disease.
- Use a copper fungicide, or other natural fungicide labeled for the treatment of ELS, on the rest of the plant and uninfected foliage. You will need to reapply based on the label instructions.
Could your landscape shrubs be infected with a fungal disease? Our Pest and Disease ID Guide is ready to help you grow healthier garden here.