As we transition from the hot summer months to the cooler fall season, lawns may need some extra attention to help recover and prepare for winter dormancy. It is crucial to consider the following things when planning your fall lawn care application schedule.
Did your lawn suffer heat and drought stress?
As cooler temperatures and rain return to the forecast, cool season turf will begin to grow more rapidly. This growth is necessary for your lawn to begin to recover. With heat and drought stress taking hold on cool season turf, it may have gone dormant. The seasonal browning of the turf during these stressful conditions is nothing to be concerned about.
Brown Spots and Fungus!
We often receive calls after long periods of dew and warm nights of brown spots taking over a lawn. If you look close in the morning you can see tiny white hairs or webs growing in the turf. This is one of the easiest identifiers of turf disease. Weak root systems and compacted soil can promote disease growth. Aeration will not only loosen the soil to encourage more airflow through the soil but also drive root growth down. Stronger roots build the foundation for a healthier plant system.
Many lawns in the Wabash Valley were established on clay soils. Over time, the clay will compact. Hard compacted clay makes it very difficult for plants to create healthy root profiles. The compacted soils also make it very difficult for nutrients to move freely. Soils that are bound together restrict the movement of water, air, and nutrients from your lawn. The more often you can aerate your lawn, the healthier it can become.
Army Worm Infestation
Over the last week, we have seen an outbreak of fall armyworms in the Wabash Valley. In our 34 years in business, we have only had about a dozen lawns affected by armyworms. In the last week, we are seeing the largest outbreak since the 1970’s according to many universities. This email is intended to educate and inform our customers about what we are seeing in lawns and what can be done to help remedy the issue.
What, why, how?
We are seeing the larval stage of the armyworm infest the Wabash Valley. These caterpillar-type insects come in several colors but appear to be mostly black or brown with stripes. They will feed primarily on cool-season turf grasses and agricultural crops. As an adult, the armyworm is generally a gray moth with a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. Entomologists do not have a real answer to why Armyworms are so widespread this year other than weather patterns. Winds allowed for dispersal, and ideal moisture has allowed for high fecundity and survivability. Typically natural enemies help keep the population in check.
Since this is a very rare occurrence in the Wabash Valley, we are trying to learn as much as we can about this insect and the impact that it is having on lawns. Because of the life cycle, feeding habits, and resistance to pesticides, a preventative application would not have had any effect on the current outbreak. Not every lawn will be impacted by armyworms but it is good to understand them and know what to look for on your own.
The armyworms are only feeding on the foliage. Areas can look scalped, or they can brown out when foliage dehydrates quickly during feeding. The turf should recover. I’d fertilize it and encourage growth. If the crown is exposed, water lightly in the heat of the day to prevent the crown from drying out.
In the last week, we have made several service calls and discovered armyworm damage. It first appears as drought stress but can spread quite fast as the insect is feeding. Below are pictures of armyworm larvae, damage, and eggs.
There are a few easy ways to check for armyworms on your lawn.
1) Get down and dirty in your grass. Look for the actual worms. They are always on the surface of the turf and are about 1-2 inches long.
2) Pull the turf. If the grass comes up but the roots stay in the ground, that’s a very good identifier of armyworm damage.
3) Look for signs of armyworm eggs. These eggs look like white masses and are usually found on structures and buildings. I have found some this morning on our clothesline post as pictured above.
Armyworms feed on the leaf tissue but leave the crown and roots of the grass intact. Insecticide can be used to spray and kill armyworms to stop the current feeding damage, but it will not reverse the damage once done. Insecticides will only be effective in early instar stages of the armyworm. Once feeding begins, there is a very short window to successfully apply an insecticide that will kill the worm. Once you notice damage, the armyworm is usually on day 2 or 3 of their 5 day feeding cycle. It is almost always too late to apply an insecticide at this point. If you feel that an insecticide treatment is warranted, choose one that contains bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, or carbaryl (Sevin). Always read and follow all labeled instructions of any products that you apply. If you have questions, consult a professional licensed applicator.
Ultimately, irrigation and a proper fertilizer program will be the best thing for the turf to regrow and recover. Purdue University is not suggesting an insecticide treatment for our area as the armyworms will no survive in our climate and it is not expected for us to see any more generations to cause future damage.
The recommended recovery strategy is to irrigate, fertilize, apply insecticide (only if worms are still actively feeding on turf), overseed and aerate. Insecticide treatments at this time will not be effective as many of the armyworms have begun to dig into the soil to pupate.
The fall armyworms in the Wabash Valley is a very rare event. Entomologists have not seen a recorded infestation at this level in at least 40 years. Insecticide treatments may help, but only if the worms are small and actively feeding. The feeding stage of the armyworm lasts 4-5 days maximum. They only feed on the foliage and will not kill the plant. Proper irrigation and a healthy fertilizer program will encourage plant regrowth and lawns should recover over the coming weeks. If you decide to apply an insecticide, always read and follow all labeled instructions. Consult a licensed professional if you have questions.
Bowman’s Pro Turf, LLC Operation During COVID-19 Outbreak
Over the last few weeks, the workforce in the United States and Wabash Valley has been affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. We have been closely monitoring the situation and assessing how it may eventually affect the lawn care industry and our business locally. At this time, we see no reason to halt the daily business operations of Bowman’s Pro Turf, LLC. While we are taking this very seriously, we also feel it also important to provide the promised services to our customers and maintain a sense of normalcy for as long as we are able.
Unlike some jobs, our operation is based on the independent work of our technicians on the property of our customers. We currently have very little face to face interaction with many of our customers in our day to day operations.
Using the guidance and recommendations of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the CDC, and in compliance with OSHA, we are taking the following steps to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers.
Because of the already strict rules of wearing Personal Protective Equipment, our team members have already been following many of the guidelines suggested by the CDC and other agencies. We are confident that we will continue to provide outstanding and timely services for the Wabash Valley and our customers over the coming weeks and months. The safety of our employees and customers is always at the front of our minds. We take this situation very seriously and want to reassure our customers that while we are on your property, we are taking all necessary precautions while providing the quality service you have come to expect
We are asking for the support of our customers and the community to urge local officials to allows us to continue to provide these services during this time. Our livelihood depends on being able to travel freely and preform work on our customers property. The very strict safety regulations already in place help to protect us and our customers from unnecessary contact and spreading of the disease.