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White grubs under the sod

Dead patches in the lawn are typical signs of grubs

Dead patches in the lawn are typical signs of grubs

Andre has the most beautiful lawn.

It’s lush, it’s thick, it’s a lovely deep green …

So when Mark asked me to take some pictures of grubs in his lawn, I was really surprised.

But sure enough, when I went down, I saw several brown patches in the front lawn; one of the telltale signs of grub activity. Some of these patches were quite small and not very obvious but there were also some larger areas that were completely dead.

Damaged turf peels back easily

Damaged turf peels back easily revealing the grubs.

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As is typical of turfgrass that has been fed on by white grubs, the grass in these damaged areas was very easy to peel up because the grubs had literally consumed most of the roots that held it in place. As the turf was rolled back, the soil underneath was littered with white grubs. I have seen pictures of this in books and online, but I’d never actually seen it in person. It was pretty impressive.

White grubs are the larval stage of scarab beetles, a large family of heavy-bodied beetles which include the Japanese beetle, June bugs, and European chafers. They are typically white or pale gray in color with brownish or orange heads and six legs near the head. When found in the soil, they are usually curled up in a characteristic C-shaped position.

White grubs are usually found curled up in a c-shape.

White grubs are usually found curled up in their characteristic C-shape.

Japanese beetle grubs usually get blamed for a lot of the turf damage in our area but I think these grubs may be the larvae of one of the chafer beetles. There were thousands of these reddish brown beetles swarming around at night in July so I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot of chafer grubs in the soil this fall.

The problem with grubs is that by the time you see the damage to the lawn, it is almost too late to get good control. Understanding the life cycle of these lawn pests is important in determining the optimal time for controlling them.

A heavy infestation was found beside a willow tree near the pond.

A heavy infestation was found beside a willow tree near the pond.

Fortunately, the timing of the life cycle is similar for most of the grubs that feed on grass roots. The cycle begins when the adult beetles emerge from the ground in late June and July, mate, and begin laying eggs in the grass.
Well, I don’t know – which comes first the beetle or the egg!

Anyway, in about 2 weeks or so, the eggs hatch and young larvae (grubs) begin to feed on the roots of the grass. From late August through October, the grubs grow, molt, and continue to feed heavily on the plant roots. This is when you will begin to see damage to the turfgrass.

A grass plant with roots eaten by grubs (right) compared to undamaged grass plants (left)

The roots of the grass plant on the right were eaten by grubs. Undamaged grass plants have healthy roots (left).

Once the weather turns colder and the soil begins to cool down, the grubs stop feeding and burrow down deeper into the ground. At this point applying grub control products is pretty much a waste of time and money. In the spring when the soil warms a bit, the grubs begin to move up toward the surface again and feed on the roots for a short while before they pupate near the surface. Spring treatments are not as successful as late summer treatments because these larger grubs don’t feed much in the spring and the pupae are fairly resistant to insecticides. The adults emerge in early to mid summer and the cycle begins again.

The best time to go after these grubs is when they are small, close to the surface of the soil, and actively feeding on the grass roots. This usually means that most of August is the prime time to apply a grub killer. In September and early October, the grubs are bigger but are still close to the surface and actively feeding on the grass roots.

  • From August through mid-October, control products containing the active ingredient trichlorfon (Dylox) such as Bayer Advanced 24 Hour Grub Control work well when applied according to the label directions.
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  • From May through mid-August, grub control products such as Bonide Annual Grub Beater, Bayer Advanced Season Long Grub Control, or Scotts GrubEx Season-Long Grub Killer can be applied according to the label directions to control grubs in the lawn. (These pesticides may not be available in all states.)

Before deciding on a control strategy, it’s important to determine if chemical control is even warranted. Generally there is a threshold number of grubs (more than 10 grubs per square foot of lawn) above which it might make sense to consider applying a grub control product. There are specific sampling methods that can be used to estimate the number of grubs per square foot in your lawn. The results of this sampling will help you determine whether treatment is necessary. Healthy vigorous grass can usually withstand small populations without much damage and control measures are usually not needed.

Skunks further damaged the turf when they dug for the grubs by the willow tree.

Skunks further damaged the turf when they dug for the grubs by the willow.

A side effect of a heavily or moderately infested lawn is that critters like skunks, raccoons, and moles really love to eat these fat, juicy grubs and will often tear up the lawn digging for them. We saw evidence of this in one heavily infested area at the farm.

Looking at the numbers of grubs that we found in some sections of Andre’s lawn, I think he needs to get out there this weekend and spot treat with a grub control before it’s too late!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Vole runways wind through the dead grass after the snow melts.

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”

Voles can do a lot of damage to trees, shrubs, and perennials in the landscape.

Voles can do a lot of damage to trees, shrubs, and perennials in the landscape.

The beginning of the poem, “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, came to mind when “Bo”, our field manager, came to me this morning exclaiming, “I’ve never in my life seen so many voles before!”

“Bo”, a.k.a. Tim, was bush hogging a field that hadn’t been cut for a long time and he had been watching hordes of voles (Microtus spp.) running in all directions to get out of the way of the tractor. Good thing they were able to hear (and feel) it coming from a distance so they all managed to flee to safety!

He called me over to the field so I could see the extensive runway systems and holes that the voles had created throughout the overgrown field. It was pretty impressive what these little critters had managed to do to this abandoned field.

Meadow voles can create major highways under the cover of snow!

Meadow voles can create major highways under the cover of snow!

In the spring of 2010, we had a post on our Discussion Board asking about “strange marks/trails in my yard … These trails are 1-2 inches wide with smooth turns. The grass is ripped out of the ground and deposited to the edges of the tracks. These appeared in the late winter after snow melt.”

He included some photos and it was pretty clear that they were vole runways. Voles can be very active under the snow because when there is snow cover, they don’t have to worry about predators as much and they can have a real party under there!

The same thing happens when there is a heavy cover of tall grass, although our resident barn owls have no trouble catching as many voles as their fluffy little owlets can eat – and that’s a lot!

Cozy entrance to a meadow vole runway.

Cozy entrance to a meadow vole runway.

In a field, voles usually aren’t much of a problem but in the landscape or orchard, they can be devastating to your perennials, shrubs, and trees. Plant injury from vole feeding can be severe enough to cause significant decline and/or death of many ornamentals and edibles as well. They absolutely LOVE Astilbe and hosta and we have lost many of our prize hosta to their voracious appetites. Although we have not experienced damage to our fruit trees so far, the tender bark of apple trees and other fruit trees is another of their favorite meals. Voles can girdle trees by chewing the bark or devour whole root systems causing the death of the trees.

In many cases, the damage from voles may go undiscovered until the decline or death of a particular plant is noticed. Trees and shrubs which have had their roots chewed will eventually begin to wilt and may even fall over. If the damage is severe, they can often be pulled right out of the ground with very little effort. In vegetable and perennial gardens, entire plants may disappear completely or be partially pulled underground.

So what can you do if you have voles in your garden?
Moles and voles can be difficult to get rid of and some say the only way is to trap them. Many of our gardening friends have had success with certain repellents such as:

    • Bonide MoleMax (Granules and Ready to Spray)
    • Bonide Repels All
    • Mole Scram
    • Liquid Fence Mole Repellent

These repellents are biodegradable and safe to use around children and pets when applied according to label directions.

MicrotusAnother effective way to protect plants and bulbs is to create a barrier between the vole and its lunch! Voles don’t like to tunnel through coarse materials, so when you plant, surround your plants with a coarse aggregate that has jagged edges. Espoma Soil Perfector is perfect for this; it’s safe, nontoxic, lightweight, and easy to use. Soil Perfector also promotes rooting and since it doesn’t breakdown, it creates a permanent barrier.

Tree guards are another effective way to protect your young trees from vole damage. The green tubes you see neat rows of in many fields are there to protect saplings from vole damage. When set-up correctly, they go several inches into the ground and prevent voles from reaching the tender trunks.

Here are a few more ideas to protect your trees and shrubs from vole damage.

If you have these critters in your garden – I’m so sorry! We have them now, too. We never had a problem with them when our outside cat was alive. He kept them out of the gardens for many years. I guess it’s time to replace him – I’m tired of my hosta disappearing!

Until next time, Happy Gardening!

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Persian Speedwell

Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)

It’s very obvious that our spring has come early this year. The flowering trees at Viette’s are popping with amazing color and the spring bulbs are up and filling the gardens with more bright splashes of color.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

But along with these very welcome spring flowers, come a host of not so welcome early spring bloomers which invade our carefully tended lawns and gardens; chickweed, henbit, mustards, wild violets, dandelions

These common garden weeds came early as well and are up and blooming profusely in my gardens and even in some of Andre’s gardens.

One of the earliest blooming spring garden weeds is chickweed (Stellaria). This annual weed is often categorized as a winter weed because it grows well in cooler conditions and it often forms bright green carpet of foliage as early as January or February – it even grows under the snow.

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

One of the keys to its success as a garden weed is that it can go from a seed to producing its own seed in as little as 30 days.
No wonder it’s so prolific!

If you want to look on the positive side, chickweed does have some redeeming characteristics. The seed is a great source of food for the birds and the name “chickweed” comes from the fact that the seed and tender young foliage was at one time used to feed domestic chickens. The foliage is rich in vitamin C and the plant can be used as a source of wild greens.
Hmmmm, I think I’ll stick with spinach!

Purple dead nettle

Purple dead nettle

Two other widespread winter annuals that are blooming right now are Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and its closely related and equally invasive cousin Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). They are members of the mint family and can be seen blooming profusely all around us, turning whole fields into a sea of pink and purple. In fact purple dead nettle is currently creating quite the ground cover in our blueberry patch. I definitely need to work on that.

These annoying weeds often invade turfgrass and we get bombarded with questions in the spring about how to eradicate it. Of course, one of the best tips is to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Mowing the grass high (no lower than 3″) will help to shade out most lawn weeds and a thick, well-fertilized lawn will usually outcompete the weeds.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Pre-emergence herbicides to control winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, and the others I mention in this post must be put down in late summer or fall before the seed germinates. It’s much to late for that now. Once they are growing, hand weeding or the use of post-emergence herbicides are the best way to control them, especially if you catch them before they get a chance to set seed.

Interestingly, henbit and purple dead nettle are kin to the beautiful (and better behaved) cultivated form of Lamium that many of us plant in our gardens; Lamium maculatum. The variegated cultivars, ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘Purple Dragon’, ‘Shell Pink’, and others are often used as attractive ground covers for the sun and shade.

More early spring “wildflowers” that we consider weeds …

Shepherds Purse with its unusual seed pods

Shepherds Purse with its unusual
seed pods

Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a very common winter annual that produces copious amounts of seed in their little seed pods that resemble the purses once carried by shepherds, hence the name. Each plant is capable of producing 40,000 seeds which can remain viable for up to 30 years – yikes! But – the seed is peppery and can be ground into a  mustard-like seasoning. Got hotdogs?

Two delightfully cute little wildflowers I came across in the grass at the nursery are Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica; seen in the banner above) and Field Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana).

These tiny field pansies are so cute!

These tiny field pansy flowers are so cute!

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I know these weeds can be annoying to have in your lawn and many people strive to eradicate them but their little flowers are just so adorable – how could you?

I’m just sayin’ …

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Moss growing in the lawn

Yesterday I received this question on our Viette discussion board:

Moss is taking over the yard and choking out the grass.

Moss creeps into the lawn when grass is thin and weak due to unfavorable growing conditions.

Moss creeps into the lawn when grass is thin and weak due to unfavorable growing conditions.

Hmmm, this sounds familiar! Much of my lawn is more moss covered than grass covered.

The thing is that moss doesn’t really choke out the grass but rather it slowly creeps in and thrives under conditions that are unfavorable for the growth of most turfgrasses. Chances are that the areas where the moss is growing did not have a healthy, vigorous stand of grass to begin with. I know that’s how it is at my house. Generally moss cannot compete with grass but it can become established in the lawn when the grass is weak and thin due to poor growing conditions.

How can you get rid of moss in the lawn?

There are several products that can be sprayed or spread on the lawn to kill moss but, unless you figure out and fix the environmental conditions that allowed it to become established in the first place, you will be throwing your money away because chances are good that it will just come back.

So what are the conditions that favor the growth of moss?

The simple answer is they grow well under the cultural conditions that are the worst for growing grass – namely shade, low soil fertility, compacted soil, poorly drained soil, acid soil …

The trick to eliminating moss growth in the lawn is to improve the growing conditions for the grass, at which point the grass will easily outcompete the moss.

Improve the soil. The first thing to do is get your soil tested. Unlike turfgrass, mosses grow well in areas of low pH (acid soils) and low soil fertility. A soil test will provide you with information on nutrient availability and the soil pH. The analysis from these tests will often include recommendations for amendments to improve the pH and nutrient content so the soil is perfect for the optimal growth of turfgrasses (and the demise of the mosses).

Moss absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves so it is able to establish in areas with poor soil fertility.

Moss absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves so it is able to establish in areas with poor soil fertility.

Aerate your lawn. When the soil is compacted, grass doesn’t grow well because nutrients, air, and water cannot penetrate the soil and get to the roots. This doesn’t affect the growth of mosses because they are non-vascular plants that absorb water and nutrients through their leaves; the “roots” function solely to anchor them to the soil. Core aeration reduces soil compaction and encourages the development of a deep healthy root system for the grass. This should always be done when the grass is actively growing so the roots have time to recover. A core aerating machine can be rented for the job.

Improve drainage. Wet soggy soils lack adequate oxygen for the growth of healthy turfgrass. Improper watering practices and/or poor drainage can lead to overly wet soil. When you water your lawn, be sure to water slowly and deeply every 10 days or so unless there is a soaking rain. This will allow the water to seep deeply into the ground and will encourage the formation of a deep root system. Be especially careful not to over water grass that is growing in shade. It doesn’t use as much water and over watering can lead to disease problems.

Core aeration will help improve drainage but sometimes other measures must be taken including the installation of drainage tiles or filling in depressions.

This shady section of my lawn has more moss than grass!

This shady section of my lawn has more moss than grass! Even a shade tolerant grass selection didn't perform well.

Reduce shade on the lawn. Probably the main reason that moss invades our lawns is that the yard is too shady. Most varieties of turfgrass do not grow well in these conditions and when the grass is thin and weak due to inadequate sunlight, that’s when the mosses take hold – they love shade! I know this is why we have so much moss in our yard. The parts of our lawn that are covered with moss are in fairly deep shade.

This is probably one of the hardest conditions to correct. Often the selective removal of a few trees is all that is needed to reduce the amount of shade on the lawn. In my case, since we are surrounded by woods, this would not be practical. Sometimes simply removing some of the lower branches of the trees is enough to increase the sunlight that reaches the grass. Another approach is to thin the tree canopy (but never remove more that 20%-25% of the limbs in any one season). It is usually wise to consult a certified arborist before doing any major tree work.

Of course the other alternative is to renovate and reseed the shady areas of the lawn with a shade tolerant grass seed blend. This works well if the area is not in deep shade. If your problem is deep shade and you can’t increase the sunlight, you’d better just give up on grass and plant a nice shade tolerant ground cover like vinca or pachysandra!

Once you’ve figured out why your grass isn’t growing well,  you can correct the problem and THEN you can take steps to kill or remove the moss. After the moss is gone, you can reseed the area with the confidence that your grass will come in strongly and the moss will be history!

Read more about moss growth in lawns.

Until next time – Happy Gardening and Happy New Year!

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Fall leaves cover the lawn

Fall is such a beautiful time of the year.

Such a beautiful view out the front door!

Such a beautiful view out the front door!

I love to look out into our woods and see the bright palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. Every morning it seems to get more colorful but now every morning there are more and more leaves on the ground, so I know the beautiful fall color won’t last much longer! As I drove down the driveway this morning, the wind was blowing and the leaves were pouring down heavily. The driveway is becoming so covered with leaves that it’s beginning to be hard to distinguish between it and the lawn!

Hmmmm, I guess I know what we’ll be doing this weekend.

But wait … what SHOULD we be doing?

Fallen leaves are a precious resource for us gardeners because they provide a fantastic source of “free” organic nutrients. They are packed with minerals and trace elements that can enhance our vegetable gardens, flower beds, and lawns. There are many different ways that our fall leaves can be utilized but one thing is for sure – the worst place for them is in the landfill!

A 2"-3" layer of leaves covered my lawn this morning.

A 2"-3" layer of leaves covered my lawn this morning.

Wonderful “stuff” can be created with your autumn leaves but there is no doubt that you will get the most benefit and the fastest results if they are shredded first. Unshredded leaves breakdown very slowly and tend to mat down and pack tightly together. This can create a barrier to water and air penetration and your lawn or gardens can literally be smothered by densely packed layers of leaves.

A single pass with my mulching mower made short work of the leaves, turning them into small pieces that will mostly disappear over the winter.

One pass with my mulching mower made short work of the leaves. A second pass created even smaller pieces that will mostly disappear over the winter.

Shredding leaves can be as simple as running your lawn mower over them. If you regularly mow your leaf covered lawn before the leaves get too thick, you may never have to rake a single leaf! A mulching mower will shred the leaves into small pieces that are deposited right on the lawn where they will break down over the winter, providing nutrients to the grass and improving soil structure. This is what I have done for the past few years but this year, I think I am going to rake my leaves and shred them with our shredder so I can use them as mulch on some of our woodland perennial gardens. Our shredder came with a small bag that attaches to the output but I got tired of having to stop all the time to empty it so I made a BIG bag out of a single bed sheet! It’s perfect! Now when we empty the bag, we have a nice sized pile to spread!

A beautiful pile of shredded leaves created by mowing over leaves without the mulching attachment. This pile can be used for mulch or to create compost or leaf mold.

This pile of shredded leaves was created by mowing over leaves without the mulching attachment. It can now be used for mulch or to create compost or leaf mold.

If you don’t have a shredder, you can simply run your lawn mower (without the mulching attachment) back and forth over the leaves to chop them up. These leaf bits can then be raked up and used as mulch or added to the compost bin. Many gardeners worry about leaf mulch or leaf compost changing the pH of their soil but the leaves break down slow enough that pH levels are generally not affected.

Shredded leaves are a wonderful addition to the compost pile. They are carbon-rich (brown) and should be mixed with some nitrogen-rich (green) materials like grass clippings, disease-free garden trimmings, or non-meat kitchen scraps in a ratio of about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The ratio is approximate but too much carbon-rich material will slow down decomposition and too much nitrogen can result in a smelly compost pile. Using shredded leaves, a good mix is about 5 parts leaves to 2 or 3 parts grass clippings and kitchen scraps. If you turn the pile every 3-4 weeks and keep it moist (not wet), you can have wonderful nutrient-rich compost to add to the garden by planting time in late spring.

We mulch some of our woodland perennial beds with shredded leaves. It's a "free" natural mulch that looks especially nice in this setting.

Some of our woodland beds will be mulched with shredded leaves. It's a "free" natural mulch that looks nice in this setting.

Leaf mold is another product that can be created from shredded leaves. It’s like half compost – made from just the “browns” without the “greens”. Finely shredded leaves placed in a bin or pile, kept evenly moist, and turned every so often will create leaf mold in 6-12 months. Since the leaves aren’t mixed with a nitrogen source, the process is slower and the end result isn’t as rich in nutrients as compost, but when leaf mold is mixed with the soil, it acts as a wonderful soil conditioner to improve drainage and soil structure. Got clay? Add leaf mold!

Bottom line – don’t waste this nutrient-rich resource by allowing it to fill up our landfills or be washed from the curb into storm drains.

Chop up your leaves and create some goodness for your gardens!

Until next time- Happy Gardening

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A large fairy ring

Recently, it seems that everywhere I look mushrooms are popping up! They are especially noticeable in the lawns and fields I pass by on my way to work. I guess our recent rains have triggered some of the fungi growing in the soil to push up their fruiting bodies, a.k.a. mushrooms. The club fungi, which make up the group Basidiomycetes, are probably the most familiar of all the fungi because they produce very visible fruiting bodies like the gill mushrooms and puffballs.

There are about 60 different species of fairy ring fungi.

There are about 60 different species fungi that will form fairy rings.

The underground growing portion of these fungi, the mycelium, is made up of long threadlike strands which are dispersed throughout the soil. The mycelium secretes enzymes that are responsible for breaking down organic matter in the soil releasing nutrients to feed the fungi. Eventually the mycelium produces reproductive structures/fruiting bodies (mushrooms or puffballs) which contain spores. The fungal spores are dispersed by various means; wind, water, or “critters”, and when they come to rest in a suitable environment, they germinate and form a new mycelium. Hmmm, the life cycle of Basidiomycetes in a nutshell! Probably more than you ever wanted to know but it gives a little background for the subject of my post.

One of the most interesting formations created by mushrooms is the “fairy ring”, a circular ring of mushrooms that is often found in fields, lawns, and even wooded areas. For eons, fairy rings have been the subject of myths, folk tales, and superstitions. The name “fairy ring” comes from old folk tales from the British Isles that describe these rings as marking the path of dancing fairies. There are loads of other wild stories in folklore from many different countries which expound upon the origin of fairy rings.

The edge of a fairy ring

The fruiting bodies, mushrooms in this case, pop up just inside the outer edge of the mycelium.

The scientific explanation for the formation of fairy rings is a little less whimsical!

There are about 60 species of fungi that typically produce fairy rings. They begin when a single spore germinates and the resulting mycelium grows outward in a circular pattern. In the first year it may produce a small cluster of mushrooms. As the mycelium grows outward obtaining nutrients from organic matter in the soil, the circle expands. Since the mushrooms pop up near the edge of the growing mycelium, they form an ever widening ring each year. Some years, if conditions are not favorable, the fruiting bodies may not appear but the mycelium continues to grow unseen beneath the surface of the soil.

Eventually the supply of organic matter in the inner portion of the circle becomes depleted and the strands of mycelium in the center die. The living mycelium continues to grow outward seeking nutrients and depending on the soil type, weather conditions, and the amount of organic matter in the soil, the fairy ring may increase in size by 3″ to 19″ each year.

An older pair of mushrooms in the ring. Since they don't all pop up at exactly the same time, a fairy ring can have several different sizes of mushrooms.

Since they don't all pop up at exactly the same time, a fairy ring can have several different sizes of mushrooms.

A fairy ring may continue to grow unchecked for many years unless it hits some type of physical barrier or it grows into another fairy ring. If it runs into another fairy ring, growth of that section ceases but the rest of the ring continues to grow outward resulting in the formation of a scalloped edge. One of the largest fairy rings ever recorded was discovered in France and is reported to be almost ½ mile in diameter and over 700 years old!

Fairy rings are most obvious when they occur in lawns where they are often accompanied by a ring of lush, bright green grass or sometimes a ring of dead grass. The growth pattern and effect on the turfgrass depends on the species of fairy ring fungi.

My co-worker, Gerry Coggin, snapped these photos of a fairy ring growing in a churchyard near his home. Cool!

Now its time to dance with the fairies but beware – some legends warn against entering a fairy ring – you never know what will happen …

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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These patches of wild onions have popped throughout my lawn.

Patches of wild onions have popped up throughout my lawn - or maybe they're wild garlic?

No – I’m not talking about the onions you purposely grow in your garden; I’m talking about those annoying wild onions that pop up in your lawn every spring.

Each clump is actually comprised of many small bulbs growing  together.

Each clump is actually comprised of many small bulbs growing together.

They break dormancy early, much earlier than your grass wakes up from its winter nap and consequently, they are quite obvious in the lawn, standing out against the brownish winter grass. This is what drives some gardeners bonkers. Once they start in the early spring, they grow very quickly and soon these tufts of bright green wild onions reach 6″ to 10″ tall making your lawn look quite unkempt and scraggly.

I say wild onions, but these could also be patches of wild garlic. Both wild onion and wild garlic are cool season perennial weeds that come up each year from small bulbs similar to the onion sets that you plant in your vegetable garden. If allowed to flower, they produce seeds which fall to the ground and germinate. This is more likely to occur when they are growing in the garden, though, not in the lawn. The patches that grow in the lawn are normally mowed down before they get a chance to flower and set seed. Ahhh, the fragrance of fresh mown wild onions!

Wild onion and wild garlic grow from bulbs. One clump may have a  multitude of different sized bulbs.

Wild onion and wild garlic grow from bulbs. One clump may be made up of a multitude of different sized bulbs.

So they’re in your landscape and you want to get rid of them – what can you do?

Pulling them doesn’t work because invariably you just end up breaking off the top and leaving the bulbs in the ground to come back up the next year. Been there, done that!

The most environmentally friendly way to “try” to get rid of them is to dig them out.

Easier said than done!

You have to be very careful to get all the bulbs in the cluster including the roots and any tiny bulblets that have formed off the main bulb. This is a bit easier in a garden than in the lawn but is usually not a very effective way to control them. A digging tool like a dandelion digger makes the job a little more successful but it’s really hard to get every bulblet. If you are set on digging them out, do yourself a favor and irrigate the lawn and garden first or wait until after a good soaking rain. This will soften the soil and make it easier to pull out the entire cluster of bulbs.

In the lawn, wild onions and garlic are unsightly for a few weeks in the spring but once you mow and the grass begins to grow strongly, they blend right in and by late spring they go dormant and disappear anyway. Mowing slows them down especially since it keeps them from flowering and setting seed, but they will still grow back from the bulb the following spring.

The blue-green onion foliage really stands out in the lawn!

The blue-green onion foliage really stands out in the lawn!

If you can’t stand them in your grass and digging them is not feasible, you can spot treat the patches of wild onion/garlic in your lawn with a selective broadleaf herbicide like Clear Choice. Spot treating is more environmentally responsible because you are targeting the specific problem with less herbicide and very little wastage. There are other selective herbicides that are listed for use on wild onion and wild garlic – check the label to be sure. Always read and follow the label directions when using any pesticide.

Remember, one of the best ways to fight lawn weeds is to keep your grass thick, lush, and healthy through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Here are some tips from the Viettes.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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