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In the Past Year

Winter Weather Predictions: A White or Wet Christmas?

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.

Winter Watering

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!

 




The Story of Fairy Ring, a not so Fairy Tale

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 info@soilsalive.com. We’re happy to diagnose the issue whether you’re signed up for our program or not!




The little bug that causes a BIG blow to your lawn

It’s chinch bug season and truthfully, there is nothing to be excited about here. With the abnormally warm winter we had, it is likely that these pests are larger in number than usual. If these little guys get free reign they can devastate a yard within days. While chinch bugs most commonly affect St. Augustine lawns, they have been known to cause destruction in Bermuda and Zoysia yards as well.

What are chinch bugs?

Appearance: Chinch bugs are very small insects with six legs that only grow to about one-fifth of an inch long. When matured, they have black bodies that are covered with frosty white wings folded over their backs.

Up close picture of the lifecycle of chinch bugs. 

The name chinch bug is derived from the Spanish word chinche. This word has come to mean “pest” and is used in many phrases such as tener de chinches la sangre, meaning tiresome or troublesome. 

Lifecycle: In early spring, once temperatures reach 70° F, chinch bugs mate. Females lay up to 500 eggs on grass leaves, stems, roots or in other protected crevices over a period of two to three weeks. Each year we can experience up to four generations of chinch bugs.

Damage: In a short amount of time, chinch bugs can destroy large swaths of your lawn. They damage lawns by inserting their beaklike mouth into leaf blades and sucking out the moisture and nutrients, while also adding toxins back into plants. Grass leaf blades will turn yellow on the edges and then brown out in large patches. Chinch bugs love the heat so they tend to start by damaging the parts of lawns closer to hardscape such as driveways, curbs, sidewalks or along the foundation … anywhere it’s very warm.

Identification: Due to their diminutive size, you may not even know you have an infestation until the damage is already done. The best place to look for these insects are on the stems of your grass, near the soil surface. After you sit and watch closely, you’ll be able to spot them crawling around.

Chinch bug damage. If your yard has circular patches such as these above, seek help!

Beware of irrigation problems! Since we haven't gotten much rain in the last two weeks and the temperatures have been on a consistant rise, it is definitely time to set the sprinkler system to twice a week. If you are watering consitantly and don't see any signs of chinch bugs, do an irrigation audit to make sure that every part of the lawn is getting proper coverage. 

As with any pest prevention practice, a healthy, robust lawn grown in nutrient rich soil is your best defense against most pests and diseases. Insects are opportunistic and will cull weak plants first. Because chinch bugs thrive on excess moisture, be careful not to overwater your lawn. Regular fertilization and soil feedings will help to keep soil biology healthy and beneficial predatory insect populations active.




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