Liquid vs Dry Lawn Treatments
As far as your lawn cares, it simply wants some Nitrogen each year to assist in growing and some help if disease or pests are present. Your lawn does not care if the lawn application is liquid or dry. Issues arise only when cost and ease of treatment come into question between lawn care companies. There are pro and cons to each method of fertilizer use, so let’s start with the liquid vs dry debate.
Generally speaking, liquid is more fun to apply, and certainly easier on slopes because carrying a hose is much lighter than 60 lbs. of fertilizer in a spreader. However, the trucks which carry liquid fertilizer are limited to only one or two blends in a given day due to limited tank availability. So, while lots of companies like to say their liquid blends are customized, they are about as customized as everyone getting one or two percent milk that day – you don’t really have a choice. This is an important distinction because granular products come in a huge assortment of blends, so it’s easy to bring along many types associated to differing lawn types and needs. Therefore, due to simple transportation logistics, dry applications are in fact, much easier to “customize”.
For instance, if we take this customized liquid blend theory and apply it in real life, we find out that applying herbicides or even insecticides to a shaded lawn area is not really the appropriate or professional thing to do. Lawn pests don’t live in the shade; lots of lawns in New Hampshire and Vermont have shade. Is it the right thing to do to apply a blend mixed for the day that may be appropriate for a sunny lawn but also is applied on shaded areas? If I take this one step further, I can apply the same theory to fertilizer. Again, shaded grasses only need a fraction of the nitrogen that a sunny area requires. If we take the “custom” liquid blend of fertilizer we are again either over applying the material on shaded lawns or under applying them in the sunny areas. If there is weed control in the premixed liquid application, does it make sense to spray every lawn for weeds even if they have none? Think about these facts for a moment and let them sauté and slowly sink in; then decide what “custom” really means to you as the consumer. It means you get what’s on the truck for the day.
What about the claim that granular fertilizer makes a mess; it gets all over your walkway,patio and into flowerbeds. Mercy, there must be fertilizer everywhere! This might be true if the applicator is sloppy and fails to use the spreader guard device which is designed to deflect material going in unwanted directions. Furthermore, one of the three spreader ports is supposed to be closed when trimming. As a final counter point to granular treatments being messy, most professional companies carry landscape blowers with them and even if the preceding two procedures fail, the blower moves the product onto the lawn where it is intended to be used. Driveways have little use for fertilizer. One other note, most natural and organic fertilizers benefit flowers, trees, and ornamental shrubs in and around a landscape. On the other hand, pesticides in mulch beds or other areas are considered “off target” and are technically illegal in the eyes of state regulators in either Vermont or New Hampshire. Even liquid sprays can drift from wind or applicator error onto driveways, walkways and other non-lawn areas except the spray cannot be removed. There are no best applications here, only proper control of the equipment being used when it comes to liquid vs. dry materials.
When I read how liquid fertilizer is easier to absorb, I think of feeding my child baby food…this is silliness. Turf will green up faster with a liquid treatment but the same application of dry will provide the same level of green and they will both last the same amount of weeks. The key is how much nitrogen (N) is in the mix? Nitrogen is expensive, and the more you get, the more it costs. As I stated earlier, if the lawn truck is going out with .75#N in its liquid tank, everyone is getting that blend for the day. Do you like vanilla? I hope so. On the other hand, granular treatments can be adjusted and modified to each client. One lawn may be new and require a higher dose of N, say more like 1.25#N, while a shaded area may only require .5#N.. This type of practice cannot be achieved with liquid batches in mini-tanker trucks like larger lawn care companies. In fact, slow release fertilizers are great for not stressing out lawns when it comes to heat or diseases. Think again when you hear about liquid fertilizers being easy to absorb and use.
My last point is about pesticides being used in a liquid formulation on lawns. Why do we need to spray so many pesticides when it may or may not be required? Does it make sense to say insecticides are more easily absorbed into turf when many work on contact and not in the plant itself?
My grassy friends, there is no right or wrong answer here – only choices. This is science, not sales. You decide what makes sense and then vote with your wallet on this and many other lawn care topics. Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best with your liquid or dry lawn products!
Dandelions are a primary post-emergent weed target
Spurge is a primary pre-emergent weed target
I have lots of folks asking the difference between treatments that claim control over annual broadleaf weeds, or pre-emergent weeds like spurge, vs. post-emergent weeds such as dandelions. While this is often a very confusing distinction, a brief explanation will clear things up and differentiate between the two types of weed control.
Annual broadleaf weeds germinate beginning in late April and continue throughout the summer. The early season crabgrass suppression treatment not only inhibits crabgrass, but these annual broadleaf weeds as well. Therefore, these weeds don’t even germinate because of this first treatment in many lawn programs. However, this type of treatment will not control existing weeds like dandelions or clover. A subsequent treatment which targets these perennial or biennial broadleaf weeds works completely different by attacking the plants you see in your lawn right now. This is done by contact with the leaf surface and by absorption into the root system.
Although there are some annual broadleaf weeds which will germinate later and not be controlled by the first treatment in April or May, subsequent weed treatments in a post-emergent setting will address those villains. Another option to naturally reduce both annual and perennial/biennial broadleaf weeds involves turf building by adding compost tea, kelp, annual aeration/overseeding, lime, as well as natural or organic fertilizer. A healthy lawn that is thick and growing will naturally crowd out a huge amount of weeds over time without the need for broadleaf weed control treatments. However, many folks like to speed the process up by having a few select weed reduction treatments followed up by a conversion to natural treatments afterward.
So, if you are confused about pre-emergent weed control versus post-emergent weed control, I hope you feel a little better after reading this short blog post! Have a great spring and don’t fear, “Mrgrass” is always near!
Spring is a great time to fix your lawn before the summer heat moves in.
Spring is an ideal time to topdress and aerate your lawn; two steps that can really improve your lawn. Topdressing is a process where you add a thin layer of compost or soil on the lawn surface to add organic material. This process is ideal for seeding as it makes a nice surface for grass to germinate. Instead of adding yards or truck loads of soil and starting from scratch, some lawns can be salvaged with just ¼ to ½ inch of topdressing. This process won’t bury existing healthy grass but fill in around it like water around an island, creating a great seeding surface. Another benefit of topdressing allows you to seed over any weed or crabgrass barrier which may have been recently applied since doing so into the soil would be futile; it just won’t work because the chemicals prevent seed germination.
Spring aeration and overseeding is an excellent process which can help thicken up a lawn, with or without utilizing topdressing. Aerate when soil moisture is good to enhance seed germination in the holes created by the machine. (a line about overseeding?)
Everyone has some degree of winter damage or bare spots from plowing or salt use over the winter. May and early June are ideal times to repair these often neglected areas of your lawn. Addressing these weak links will make the entire lawn look better during the summer. Left unchecked, bare spots will yield crabgrass and broadleaf weeds no matter how many times you spray. The solution lies with replacing open soil spaces with healthy turf grass. Perennial rye is a great grass to use in the spring because it germinates fast and is tough. Crabgrass is a fierce competitor so the sooner you get “good” grass to germinate; the better off your lawn is as summer approaches. No amount of spraying will suppress the inevitable weed infestation as bare soil heats up and fills in with fat crabgrass plants.
Take advantage of May and June’s cooler, wetter weather and get your lawn ready for summer before you leave for the beach this year!
I was on my stomach trying to get this picture. Chinch bugs are small and very shy, they always try to run and hide.
- A thatchy lawn in the sun is a prime location to experience chinch bug damage, especially in a warm, dry spring.
I visited many lawns this past week infested with grubs, chinch bugs, and even ticks. The picture below illustrates classic chinch bug damage with active chinch bugs feeding as adults. The picture to the right is that of an adult chinch bug. The lawn was thatchy and not a current client but certainly needs some help from my program. Left untreated, these adults will have lots of kids and spread to other areas, causing further damage this spring. Recommended treatment for chinch bug is a surface insect control, either organic or traditional in nature to stop the feeding. Aeration and seeding may also be warranted to help restore the turf area for a more pleasant view versus brown thatch. If you suspect insect damage, be sure to contact a local professional for a lawn inspection, not an over the phone lawn quote from a satellite.
Despite the early spring and absence of snow, current weather in April is so dry lawns are under drought stress just as they attempt to put up new leaves. I have been on countless lawns and have discovered conditions more typical of late June or early July than mid April. While the warmer temperatures have induced some greening of grass, those lawn areas susceptible to drought stress are staying brown and are unable to capture enough moisture to push out new blades. I am seeing areas of lush green grass in typically moist or shaded areas while grass in the open sun with sand below is all but stalling, remaining brown.
The result of a dry, cool spring is crystal clear; lawns simply are not greening up as fast as they could or normally would with a massive lack of natural rainfall. A spring drought will not help any lawn or ornamental landscape plant since the winter was mild and dry. Turf grass exposed to drying winds and no rain means slow to minimal recovery from a snowless winter. The real proof of this phenomenon will show as winter kill during the upcoming weeks. As a result, lawns will have a hard time pulling out of winter stress or at least may not recover as quickly or completely. For those fortunate enough to have an irrigation system, fire those babies up and get that carpet of brown green! Our weather is more akin to those living in the dry Midwest like Arizona than NH or VT. With some rain in sight, perhaps this dry trend will end and the hum of weekend lawn mowers will appear as quickly as the migration of robins returning from Florida.
While fertilizers are a part of a healthy lawn, they are only one piece in the puzzle.
There is no denying it, spring is upon us and soon your spring cleaning will end up outdoors with the yard. Yes, the lawn will beckon for your attention and no matter how long you put off the inevitable, your shrubs and grass will demand attention. Are you one of the many who do not relish the task of raking, mowing, and trying to maintain your own landscape? If so, you are not alone and should not be ashamed to admit this dark secret. In fact, many folks feel compelled to fertilizer their own lawn simply because everyone else is doing it. In our business, we call this “keeping up with the Jones’”, a classic syndrome seen across NH and VT. The pressure builds with each passing weekend to visit a local hardware store and buy flowers, gloves, shovels, rakes, fertilizer, and lime. As each Saturday expires, you see time going through the hour glass; time you simply do not have.
Why would you continue to suffer when the cost of hiring a professional lawn care company can actually yield better results, save you countless hours, and even represent an economic savings in your bank account? Quality is not cheap, but it may very well be less expensive than toiling for hours upon hours only to obtain the same results, be them poor to acceptable. There is an appropriate saying, “doing the same thing over and over will not result in a different outcome”. Sometimes a change is refreshing and the right thing to do, or at least worth considering that there are alternatives to maintaining a healthy lawn and landscape.
In the big world of lawn care, there are daunting choices to be made, promises and coupons are given without hesitation. No wonder you are confused and skeptical about our profession and what it really costs! No doubt your skepticism could be born from a bad past experience, perhaps with a large national chain or a “gentleman” in a pick-up truck with little or no experience? Like revisiting a restaurant after having a bad meal, you simply cannot even consider the option of professional turf care. Who can blame you? I cannot. But what I can say is there are lots of folks with lots of real experience in this business in NH and VT. Professionals in every sense of the word that have the education and real field experience necessary to diagnose, prescribe, and care your lawn.
If the coupon or direct mail piece sounds too good to be true, it most likely is! You are looking to save time, money, and receive the results most would expect from a professional lawn care company. If the trucks look the same, they have similar marketing strategies and programs. I hate to spoil your dinner, but there are no supersonic, ultra coated, magnetic, super powered fertilizers in existence. There is a basic science of soil life and how it supports plant growth. Yes, fertilizers have a roll, but are not the end-all to a healthy lawn. I don’t care how many times or what you coat the fertilizer pellet with, the applicator’s skill level, treatment consistency, and amount of fertilizer applied are the key to quality results – period. This fact applies to compost tea, lime, aeration, sea kelp, and yes- even fertilizer!
If the coupon does not fit, and if the gimmick seems slick and full of ideal promises, you might want a second opinion from a professional in the business, someone like me or a locally owned business in your own home town. A great lawn can be yours without sacrificing your valuable weekends or draining your bank account. You get what you pay for in the end so let it be effective and worth your hard-earned income. Have a great spring!