By Rusty, Tue, 03/14/2023 - 18:39

We know that dealing with critters in your yard can be a real pain, but there are things you can do to keep the damage and trouble to a minimum. We want to share some tips on how you can identify and manage pesky wildlife such as armadillos, moles, deer, hogs/wild boar, and mosquitoes.

Identifying and Removing Armadillos from your lawn

armadillo damage

Signs that Armadillos are in your landscape:

  • Keep an eye out for holes or burrows in the ground that are around 3-5 inches wide and a few inches deep. You might also notice piles of dirt around the burrows, especially near the openings, and the grass torn up in a couple hundred square foot space.

  • Damage to your lawn or garden beds. They like to dig around for insects and grubs, so you might see patches of soil that look rooted up or areas of your lawn that have been dug up. And if you spot small, dark, cylindrical droppings around the burrows, it's a pretty good bet that armadillos are to blame.

If you don't want those pesky armadillos messing up your yard, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Your best bet is to find there burrow, which is easiest to find by looking around the base of your home. They will typically dig a football sized hole under your foundation, HVAC unit, or shrubbery and there will be a pile of dirt next to the hole where they created their home. Once located, trapping is the most successful way to rid your lawn of these pesky critters. Many pest control companies offer humane wildlife trapping services.

  • If you cannot find their home, trapping may still be an option, but you might be less successful. Locating their entry point (if your yard is fenced in) may be your second best option. If you find where they’ve dug under your fence, use chicken wire or any type of fencing to keep them from coming back.

  • If trapping or excluding them doesn’t work, your last chance for success is eliminating their food source - grubs and insects. We offer a lawn pest and grub control program which can protect your lawn from grubs and help it recover from the armadillos. 

  • A handy DIY trick that we cannot confirm works is to try using castor oil or rags soaked in ammonia to make them steer clear of certain spots in your lawn. Exclusion and trapping are the most effective and proven solutions.

Identifying and Removing Gopher Moles from your Lawn

mole tunnels

There are a few signs that suggest you might have moles in your yard:

  • Look out for raised ridges or mole hills on your lawn, which are created as moles tunnel just below the surface of the soil.

  • You might also see shallow tunnels or ruts in your lawn, caused by moles as they search for insects to eat. These can make it difficult to mow your grass.

  • Gopher Moles are most noticeable in areas where the grass is thin or they frequently travel, such as against your driveway or sidewalk as their tunnels run along them.

Although they aren’t typically the only cause of the lawn’s struggle - they absolutely do contribute to it by creating air pockets at the roots allowing turf roots to dry out.

  • Talpirid mole baits and other similar brands work well if you’re patient, although they do take some time and consistency to be effective. Make sure to put them in the mole's most frequented tunnels (typically near concrete where they tunnel paralel to it) and be sure to use gloves (this keeps your scent off the baits).

  • Similarly to Armadillos, our grub and lawn pest control program will help reduce the grubs and help the lawn improve from other struggles helping the mole tunnels become more visible.

  • Here's a YouTube video made by our friend, Allyn Hane, the LCN about different types of mole traps to use.

  • You can also try this approach (just kidding!) 

Identifying Deer Plant Damage and Keeping them from your Landscape

If you suspect that deer are munching on your landscape, there are a few signs to look out for:

  • The most obvious signs are damage to your plants, including bite marks on leaves, broken branches, and completely stripped foliage. New plants pulled out of the ground are also a common sign, as they test them to see if they’re tasty.

  • Another indication is the presence of tracks or droppings in your yard. Deer tracks are typically heart-shaped and leave imprints, while their droppings are small and round. 

If you find that deer are treating your landscape plants like a buffet, you've got a couple of options, but know that none of them are simple - especially if you live in the San Felasco area. Those are some of the boldest and most persistent deer we have ever dealt with.

  • First, plan your landscape design with deer-resistant plantings such as Drift Roses, Snapdragons, Flax Lilies, Camellias, and Hollies that deer are seldom interested in. Sometimes designing with nature in mind is easier and more prudent than fighting your surroundings.

  • Exclusion works well if you want to grow things they will see as tasty - such as a garden or certain flowers. Put up some high fences to keep them out. 

  • Another idea is a motion-detected sprinkler head. We have used these regularly in landscape installations where deer are common and may want to taste the new plants - even though they are deer-resistant.

Identifying Hog or Boar Damage and Protecting your Landscape from them.

Hog damage

Signs that hogs might be causing damage to your landscape: 

  • You might notice areas of soil that have been rooted up, creating large patches of bare ground. Hogs use their strong snouts to dig for food, and this can create large damage to lawns - significantly worse than either moles or armadillos.

  • Hogs may leave behind tracks or droppings in your yard. Hog tracks are typically round or oval-shaped and have distinctive imprints from their cloven hooves. Their droppings are also large and cylindrical in shape.

  • Another sign to look out for is damage to plants or crops, as hogs are known to eat a variety of vegetation, which is unlike armadillos or moles. They may leave behind bite marks on leaves or chew through stems and roots similar to deer - but deer do not tear up the lawn.

Hogs and Boar can be a real disaster for your yard, so it's crucial to act fast once you spot them. You've got a few options here, but really only two are successful:

  • Put up a fence to exclude them from your backyard. This is common in Nocatee where there are so many natural preserves and hogs are invading backyard lawns neighboring the preserve to search for food. Although it isn’t ideal, the hogs will just move on to the neighbor’s lawn.

  •  If a fence isn’t practical for you, the next best thing to do is trap them. Please note than HOAs may have different rules and regulations in regards to this, so contact your local HOA board to request how to address the issue to avoid unexpected violations.

Reducing and Controlling Mosquitoes in your yard:

If you have mosquitoes swarming your yard, it is almost impossible to enjoy your outdoors. Take these steps to get rid of them.  

  1. Get rid of any stagnant water around your place.Here’s a few of the most common sources of standing water around your home that mosquitoes love 

  2. Ensure good drainage in your yard. Eliminate spots in your yard that are prone to puddling or stagnant water collecting.

  3. Start a Mosquito Pest Treatment Program or install a mosquito misting system

For more information on mosquitoes, please feel free to use this resource that goes more in-depth on mosquitoes as a whole. 

When dealing with wildlife damaging your landscape or ruining your time outdoors, it's important to follow local and state laws and regulations. There are many effective methods available for preventing damage from deer or controlling the presence of armadillos or moles that are both safe and humane. Take the time to identify the wildlife in your yard and use the right methods for control to ensure a healthy and balanced ecosystem in your landscape.

If we can be of help to correct or protect your landscape from wildlife damage please don't hesitate to reach out to us at (352) 378-LAWN or (904) 913-LAWN or fill out our form at the top of the page!

By Rusty, Thu, 08/18/2022 - 07:31

Although the word 'pest' is typically used to describe an insect such as chinch bugs or webworms, the term is actually used to describe anything that is unwanted. (Perhaps you remember what you may have called your little sibling growing up?) In this case, a lawn certainly is not improved by being pestered with a lack of one of it's three basic needs) Wondering what pests may be the problem in your lawn? Check out our list of 10 common lawn pests and solutions to get rid of them!

1. Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are small pests that can cause a large amount of damage to your lawn. Chinch bugs suck the moisture out of grass blades, then replace that moisture with a poison that kills the grass. Lawns that have been affected by chinch bugs appear to have drought-like symptoms, including yellow, brown, or dead grass. Chinch bugs are most prevalent from late spring to mid-fall and are typically found in St. Augustine lawns, although they are occasionally found in Zoysia yards as well.

2. Crabgrass

Crabgrass is an annual summer weed. While it germinates in early spring and completes its life cycle by fall, crabgrass seeds can lay dormant in your soil, waiting for next season to bring soil temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Several different types of crabgrass can be found in Florida.

    • Gainesville Pest of the Month: Crabgrass
    • Gainesville Lawn Weed and Disease Control Tips
    • A Tool to Identify Common Gainesville Florida Lawn Weeds

3. Drought Stress

St. Augustine and Zoysia lawns are the easiest to diagnose drought stress in. Both leaves have a midvein that acts as a “spine” for each individual blade, allowing it to open and close as needed.  Healthy, well-watered grass blades will appear almost completely flat and totally open. When grass begins to dry out, the blade will close in half upon itself, to reduce its surface area to the sun and thus conserve water. This will also give the grass a “hazy” look, as the backs of the blades are not as deep a green as the enclosed fronts.

4. Tropical Sod Webworm

Sod webworms are a common nuisance in St. Augustine and Zoysia lawns. Sometimes they're just pesky and can be easily ignored, but often they can destroy a lawn as they multiply. Even minor infestations in poorly managed turfgrass stressed by hot, humid, and rainy weather can cause problems for homeowners and property managers. Because it’s difficult to detect this pest early on, managing sod webworms may present challenges without proactive lawn treatments.

5. Doveweed

Doveweed is an aggressive summer annual turfgrass weed. Its long leaves resemble St. Augustine grass in appearance, so this weed can grow unnoticed for some time. But doveweed doesn't just invade St. Augustine grass, it also takes hold in Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and zoysia grass. Not only can doveweed be an annoyance to people who are trying to grow turfgrass, it can also cause serious contact dermatitis for dogs that come in contact with the weed.

6. Take-All Root Rot

Take-All Root Rot is a fungal disease that lives in the soil and attacks turf when conditions are favorable. Most commonly, it is found in St. Augustine lawns, however it can also be found in Bermuda and even Zoysia turfgrasses.

7. Armyworms

The armyworm is the most common cause of damaged turfgrass on golf courses, athletic fields, and home landscapes.The larva of armyworms can cause rapid, significant loss of leaf tissue in turfgrass. They feed primarily on Bermuda and Ryegrasses in our area, but can also move to Zoysia and St. Augustine grass where they swarm.

8. Nutsedge

Nutsedge, also called nutgrass, is an aggressive weed that often plagues lawns in the wet seasons like we have been in. There are several different varieties of nutsedge, and they're all perennial weeds in the sedge family that regrow each year and reproduce in a manner that makes them difficult to manage.

9. Brown Patch Fungus

Brown Patch lawn disease is triggered in a consistent time of year as the weather transitions from Summer to Winter or Winter to Summer (transition seasons of spring and fall). Brown Patch will be identified by circular browning patches of lawn which will continue to grow in size from the size of a dinner plate up to a few feet in diameter. Multiple circles of Brown Patch are common on St Augustine lawns infected by the disease.

10. Broadleaf Weeds

Broadleaf weeds in North Florida lawns are not only a nuisance, but they actually make it more difficult for your grass recovering from winter frost damage to fill back in and recover. Weed control applications with pre-emergent and post-emergent products are a must for North Florida lawns looking to recover from a tough winter. Proper identification of weeds is a must for targeted control with so many different herbicides on the market.

Dealing with pests is often easier said than done. While you may find some success taking a DIY route, you’ll more than likely end up with incomplete pest control and recurring infestations. For best results, we recommend partnering with a professional team like ours here at The Master's Lawn Care with decades of experience and the industry’s leading products and technology, we are equipped to handle outdoor pest infestations of all kinds in North Florida yards.

If you're tired of fighting the battle for St. Augustine pest control or need a Nocatee lawn care program, call our office at (904) 813-LAWN. If you have questions about your Gainesville lawn pest program, please call (352) 378-LAWN or fill out our online form so we can schedule a meeting to discuss how we can help!

By Rusty, Tue, 07/12/2022 - 20:32

Sod webworms are a common nuisance in St. Augustine and Zoysia lawns. Sometimes they're just pesky and can be easily ignored, but often they can destroy a lawn as they multiply. Even minor infestations in poorly managed turfgrass stressed by hot, humid, and rainy weather can cause problems for homeowners and property managers. Because it’s difficult to detect this pest early on, managing sod webworms may present challenges without proactive lawn treatments.

What are sod webworms?
Sod webworms are the larvae of lawn moths. They live in the root level of your lawn and munch up the tops of grass leaves. A large population can kill an entire lawn in a matter of days!

What does sod webworm damage look like?
When the weather turns hot, patches of your grass may start to turn brown a d looked scalped or chewed down. If you see little moths flying above your grass and the scalped patches start to grow, you could have a North Florida lawn pest known as the tropical sod webworm.

Damage caused by sod webworms first appears as small, brown patches of closely clipped grass. These patches may come together to form large irregular dead areas.

An early sign of potential infestation is sod webworm moths zig-zagging over the turf at dusk and morning. If a sod webworm infestation is suspected, closely examine the turf for evidence of insect activity. Small patches of grass will be chewed off at ground level. Fresh clippings and green fecal pellets are also usually present at the soil level.

Why do I have sod webworms?
In general, a proactive lawn fertilization program is your best bet against sod webworms from ever entering your yard. This means regularly watering – but not overwatering them because over watered lawns are enticing to adult moths ready to lay eggs – and reducing any stresses on your yard.

How do I eliminate Sod Webworms in my lawn?
Professional lawn spraying is the best solution for controlling sod webworms. Retail pesticides sold in Home Improvement stores can also be effective solutions for killing sod webworms. Look for products advertising St. Augustine lawn pest control, and that say webworms or show a photo of a worm. Homeowner products do take 3-4 applications to break the webworms life cycle, and you can damage your ecosystem if not used in accordance with the label.

Too long and don't care to read? Or want to see visual webworm damage?
Watch our Video here: How to identify sod webworms and how to control them

If you're tired of fighting the battle for pest control in your North Florida lawn, call our office at (352) 378-LAWN or fill out our online form so we can schedule a meeting to discuss how we can help!

By Rusty, Tue, 07/12/2022 - 19:53

Gainesville, Fla. based The Master’s Lawn Care has announced their new merger with Reddish Pest Control, which is a locally owned and operated pest control company in Gainesville, Florida since 1983.

Reddish Pest Control’s Owner, Bob Reddish, has more than four decades of experience in the pest control industry and is well known in the Gainesville area. He is also well-respected in the pest exterminator industry as well. He started his career off by having an interest in nature and bugs.

The Master’s Lawn Care President Rusty Thompson said, “while Bob is currently working towards retirement, we look forward to working together to get his clients set up for success so we can continue exceeding his client’s expectations.”

Reddish Pest Control offers complete pest control services, including lawn care, weed control, disease control, home perimeter pest control and termite prevention.

“When I started thinking of who I could trust to serve my pest control service clients of over 30 years, The Master’s was at the top of my list,” siad Bob about the merger.

About The Master’s Lawn Care:
Founded in 2004, The Master’s Lawn Care has been providing lawn care services to residential and commercial clients in Gainesville, Alachua, Newberry, St. Augustine, Nocatee, Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville Beach. The Master’s Lawn care is licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture with Landscape/Ornamental and General Household Pest Control Licenses. They are also Florida Water Star Certificate Holders, Backflow Inspection License Holders, and were selected as a Preferred Contractor by GRU for Irrigation services in Gainesville, Florida.

By Rusty, Wed, 06/08/2022 - 19:03
Photo of Doveweed

Doveweed is an aggressive summer annual turfgrass weed. Its long leaves resemble St. Augustine grass in appearance, so this weed can grow unnoticed for some time. But doveweed doesn't just invade St. Augustine grass, it also takes hold in Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and zoysia grass.

Not only can doveweed be an annoyance to people who are trying to grow turfgrass, it can also cause serious contact dermatitis for dogs that come in contact with the weed.

How to identify doveweed:
Doveweed can be identified by its thick, grass-like leaves that resemble leaves of St. Augustine grass and centipedegrass. However, it can be distinguished from these turfgrasses by its bright-green color. It produces clusters of small blue to purple flowers that originate from a short stalk near leaf nodes

How to avoid doveweed in your lawn:
This weed prefers wet areas, so drainage issues or over-watering will favor the establishment and growth of this weed. For this reason, ensuring irrigation is not excessive is a key management practice to control this problem. Another cultural practice that plays a major role in doveweed management is mowing. Mowing too short and too frequently will favor doveweed because its leaves will grow horizontally avoiding the mower blades. Choose a mowing height that allows good ground cover, yet only removes a third of the turf leaf blades. If mowing a St. Augustine lawn, we recommend mowing above 4.5" when fighting doveweed.

How to manage dove weed in your lawn:
Once the weeds are established, they grow vigorously. When managing doveweed, use an integrated management approach. As always, a healthy lawn is the best defense. Healthy turfgrass can outcompete weeds. Pre Emergent herbicides can help; be sure to read the label first and closely follow the directions.

If these lawn weeds are caught early enough and you prefer to DIY your lawn weed control program, reducing irrigation and hand-pulling is the most effective way to keep these weeds from spreading. However, they do spread rapidly so it will be a good bit of elbow grease to get it under control.

If it is too far gone for hand weed control, then herbicides rated for use in your specific turfgrass that control doveweed can be used. Please note as the weed is a vigorous grower, it will take repeated treatments (following the label instructions) to get control. The hardest time of year for doveweed control in Gainesville is summer, as the daily rains can render your applications useless - allowing the weed to thrive.

If you are on a lawn program, controlling these weeds takes attention early in the season - because once they get established it will be an ongoing battle.

If you're tired of fighting the battle for weed control in your Gainesville lawn, call our office at (352) 378-LAWN or fill out our online form so we can schedule a meeting to discuss how we can help!

By Rusty, Tue, 04/12/2022 - 19:05

As we have mentioned before, the second basic need for a lawn is water. But what about your plants? Each plant has different watering needs.Some factors to consider include the species and age of the plant, the type of soil in which it is planted, and its exposure to the sun.

The symptoms of drought stress may be similar to the symptoms of over watering or even to some pest and disease problems.  It is important to identify the causes of the problem in order to take corrective steps.

Under drought stress, many plants shut down their specialized leaf tissue openings to minimize the dehydration loss. However continuous drought conditions can lead to internal head load and limit the plant's vital gas and nutrient exchange causing partial or complete collapse of the plant. Drought stressed plants are highly vulnerable to pest (insect and disease) and winter damages.

Here are some tips to help with drought stress on landscape and garden plants:

Trees and Shrubs
1) Give trees a good soaking water once or twice a week. Newly planted trees and shrubs (1-3 years old) need twice a week of watering to about one inch depth (0.6 gallons of water is needed to cover an inch deep per square foot). If trees and shrubs are mulched, place the soaker hose underneath the mulch to ensure the soil root zone gets adequate water. Or use 15-20 gallon Tree gator bags on young trees that drip on the root ball.

2) Control any weeds or turf growing underneath the tree’s drip line area. Weeds and turf compete with trees for water.

3) Spread wood chip mulch to about 3-4 inches deep and keep it 6 inches away from the tree trunk. Avoid volcano mulching around the tree trunk.

4) Don’t fertilize drought-stressed trees and shrubs.

5) Avoid unnecessary pruning or transplanting of trees and shrubs.

Flowering annuals and vegetable crops
1) Mulch your vegetable crops and flowering annuals using clean straw or hay, rice hulls or leaf mold.

2) Before watering, check the soil moisture by poking a finger an inch deep into the soil media. If the soil is dry, give a good soaking water around its root zone area. Shallow containers and 6” deep raised beds may require twice a day watering.

3) Water gently around the base of the plants and avoid splashing on its leaves. Morning hours are good for watering plants.

4) Control weeds by mulching or pulling them.

5) Avoid frequent fertilization of your crops, if needed, use granular products containing some slow-release formulation and water it immediately after application.

1) Water the perennials when the soil surface dries out moderately. Place the soaker hose a few inches away from the crown of the plant and water to an inch deep (0.6 gallons of water is needed to cover a one inch depth for one square foot). If using a wand, direct the flow of the water around the base of the plant.

2) Avoid overhead watering to prevent foliar diseases. Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation loss.

3) Mulch helps in conserving soil moisture and smothering annual weeds. Use shredded wood or bark mulch to a depth of 3 inches.
If you need help with Central Florida Lawn Irrigation, give our team a call or text at (352) 378-5296. We look forward to working with you!

By Rusty, Thu, 03/10/2022 - 19:04

The armyworm is the most common cause of damaged turfgrass on golf courses, athletic fields, and home landscapes.

The larva of armyworms can cause rapid, significant loss of leaf tissue in turfgrass. They feed primarily on Bermuda and Ryegrasses in our area, but can also move to Zoysia and St. Augustine grass where they swarm.

The name ‘armyworm’ originates from agriculture, where infestations sometimes resemble an army as they move across large agriculture fields. The same behavior can sometimes occur in turf, where areas as large as a football field can be consumed in the course of 2-3 days!

If armyworms are present in turfgrasses in large numbers, it is important to treat them as soon as possible to avoid further injury. There are several active ingredients that are effective in controlling fall armyworms, but many variations exist in formulation, use site, applicator requirements, etc.  As always, be sure to follow the product label for specific instructions on timing, use rate, and application methods. For a complete list of products labeled for fall armyworm control, consult the Florida IFAS website as they are updated regularly.

They're most active at night and hide in plants and under garden debris during the day. In their larva stage, armyworms attack a variety of crops as well as grasses, sometimes moving in masses to new areas in a way as its name suggests, an army on the march.

Markings on newly hatched caterpillars are usually hard to distinguish, older larvae have distinctive stripes that run the entire length of the body. Fall armyworms are brown with yellow stripes, beet armyworms are green with light stripes. Adults are gray, mottled moths (1-1/2 inch wingspan) with a small white dot in the center of each forewing and dark margins on the hind wings.

How to Control Webworms
Treating early is the best way to control an armyworm infestation. If this happens in your yard, you can control armyworms with an insecticide. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) sprays are a safer alternative and ideal for use in home situations. Bt is most effective when applied to small caterpillars. If you find armyworms in your lawn, they're surface feeders so you should be able to spot them in the turf.

If you suspect armyworms as the cause of your garden/lawn woes, it’s important to identify and treat the problem quickly. Armyworms can lay devastation to a lawn or garden in a matter of days. At the first signs of brown patches and chewed plants, look for the small armyworm larvae, which are identifiable due to their green, yellow, brown, or reddish stripes that span their body length. Then, it’s time to consider treating your yard! We are here to help you get through this!

If you need help with Gainesville lawn pest treatments, give our team a call or text at (352) 378-5296. We're local and have been serving Gainesville for over 15 years. We look forward to working with you!

By Rusty, Tue, 02/15/2022 - 10:33

When hearing the word “scale,” someone might think of scales on reptiles. It is not that far off for comparison. Cycad scales grow under a wax covering resembling reptilian scales.

There are many species of plant-scale insects. Asian cycad is one of the most common scale insects that infect the Sago Palms by feeding on the bottom of the fronds. These insects are flat and oval and are commonly tan, white, or brown. Scale insects are tiny, as tiny as a pinhead.

Over time Cycad scale will cover the entire plant stems, trunks, and foliage.
The eggs hatch under these scales and become larva or crawlers.

How does the scale cause damage?
Scale insects, specifically the crawlers, suck sap from the Sago Palm. As the crawlers feed on the sap of the plant,  it excretes a sticky substance called honeydew.
This honeydew attracts ants, flies, and other insects.
Honeydew also traps fungus spores. The honeydew leads to sooty mold, which looks like black soot and prevents light from getting through to the leaves.

How to identify an infestation?
While scale insect pests are incredibly tiny, the “scales” are easy to see.
Check for white or black dots, or scales, on the tops and bottoms of your Sago Palm. On heavily infested Sago Palms, the leaves will look white.

Natural Ornamental Pest Control Treatments To Get Rid of Scale
Effectively, natural treatments only prolong the life of the Sago, and are not effective in stopping the scale infestation. Pruning- heavily infested fronds can be pruned, placed in a sealed bag, and disposed of away from plants. Prune any sick-looking fronds too.
Scraping- If the scale found is not too much, you can scrape it off with a fingernail, or dull object. Note that the scale infestation will return.

Traditional Pest Control Treatment Strategy:
To reduce insecticide use, our team will use horticultural oils in the cooler months to control this common landscape pest. In the warmer months, the best method is systemic insecticides that are soaked into the plant and kill the scale as they suck the sap. Often living in the soil, these insects are not well controlled by contact insecticides. We work around this by using systemic ornamental pest control treatments that move into the plant tissues these scales feed on.

If you need help with Gainesville lawn pest treatments and fertilizer programs, give our team a call or text at (352) 378-5296. We're local and have been serving Gainesville for over 15 years. We look forward to working with you!

By Rusty, Mon, 02/07/2022 - 07:12

This article was written for our industry association, the National Association of Landscape Professionals

When you take on a new lawn care client, you may think you know what products should be applied based on what you’re seeing in the turf. However, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye and this is where the importance of soil tests come in.

“It’s like going to the doctor,” says Mike Hall, COO of Spectrum Analytic, Inc. based in Washington Court House, Ohio. “They’re going order a battery of tests if you’ve never been to that doctor before to find out what’s going on inside your body. A soil test does the same thing. It finds out what’s going on in the soil so you can amend it properly and not just guess.”

Hall guarantees that if you pulled a soil sample from each house in a cul-de-sac the results would be different for each lawn, so it’s important not to assume the soil is the same as the other properties you care for in the area.

Soil tests can tell you what is deficient and what may be in excess in a lawn.

“That’s an enormously important thing to know because we live in a world where all the inputs that people are using are becoming ever more expensive,” says Bob Mann, director of state and local government relations for NALP and agronomist. “So, if you’re using them improperly to excess or not enough or not charging what you should be charging that comes right off your bottom line. It’s good business sense to know exactly what you’re dealing with on a per lawn basis.” 

When it comes to conducting soil tests it’s critical you gather enough cores. You can’t just pull one sample from a corner of a yard and expect it to tell you anything. Also, be mindful of what you’re sending to the lab.

“You want to get rid of the verdure, the growing portion of what you pull up, get rid of the thatch layer, that intermingled layer of living and dead tissue, and then the first couple of three inches of soil put in the bag,” Mann says. “You want to be specific to where the roots are going to be growing to the exclusion of all that organic matter.”

Majority of the time the sample bag from the laboratory will indicate where to fill it so you know the amount of soil to provide. Hall says if you are planning to treat the front and backyard the same, pull 10 to 12 cores and mix the soil well so you can treat the property based on that one sample. However, if there is a problem area in a yard, it’s best to do a separate soil test for that spot so you can properly diagnose the issue.

“Your results are as only good as the person that takes that sample,” Hall says.

As for when you should conduct soil testing, Mann and Hall agree that after taking an initial soil test for a new client, they should be placed on a three-year rotation. Mann says the best time to conduct soil testing is in the spring before anything has been treated so the soil test does not reflect any recent applications.

When selecting who to send your soil tests off to, Hall advises looking for a soil lab that has quality control methods, competitive prices and agronomists on staff who will help you understand the results. Mann says whether you choose to work with a cooperative extension or a private company’s soil lab, you need to establish a relationship with them first before sending them hundreds of soil tests.

“You want to set up an account first off, so they know who you are,” Mann says. “You want to tell them ahead of time ‘Hey, I’ve got 1,000 customers, and I want to do 333 soil tests every year. Put everybody on a cycle, plus I budget 500 new sales a year.’”

Once you’ve established a relationship with the soil lab of your choice, then comes the matter of deciding what tier of testing you want to go with. Mann says this depends on how detailed you want to get and how much you want to pay.

The most basic level of soil testing looks at the soil pH, which affects how other elements are taken up by the grass. For those who are applying lime no matter what, they can be compounding the problem if the soil pH is already over 7.

“Grasses grow in a wide range of pHs but you want to be in that proper range so the other elements in the soil, the micros and macros, are taken up by the turf,” Hall says.

Another soil test level is looking at the nutrient levels in the soil – both the macro and the micronutrients. The third type of testing level looks at the physical aspect of the soil including the level of organic matter, the texture and the cation exchange capacity.

Mann says it’s important to work with a soil lab so you are not overwhelmed by the results. They are a resource for your company.

Both Mann and Hall advise not absorbing the cost of soil testing. Instead, communicate to the customer why soil testing matters, and provide them a PDF of the soil test results so you can back up why you advise making certain applications.

“I think it’s like anything else, I’ve never found a hospital where they did free blood testing,” Hall says.

Depending on what lab you’re using, you’ll get some basic recommendations back from them, but how you interpret those recommendations is what really matters. Dr. Frank Rossi from Cornell University says don’t let the data lead you astray.

“What he meant by that is don’t just look at the soil test numbers in a vacuum,” Mann says. “You have to be engaged in a constant effort to educate yourself as to what’s going on.”

While soil testing can ensure you have better success with your lawn care practices, it also helps with significant savings, so your company isn’t applying expensive products that are unnecessary for certain properties.

“We want you to be successful,” Mann says. “We want you to be professional. We want you to be a trusted resource when it comes to this and part of that is getting engaged with soil testing.”

The Master's Lawn Care conducts a soil test in partnership with UF-IFAS and their turfgrass department on Hull Road to ensure our programs for lawn health clients are tailored for each lawn's specific needs, related to soil, grass type, cultivar, amount of sun, and other property dynamics. 

By Rusty, Tue, 01/18/2022 - 15:46

The fungal disease known as melting out is seen most commonly in cool-season Zoysia grass, but it can also be a killer in warm-seasons as well.
Symptoms of melting-out resemble leaf spot symptoms and these two diseases are often grouped together. Melting out however is a cool-weather disease where leaf spot is a warm-weather disease. Symptoms first appear as black to purple spots on the leaf blades. Spots eventually move to the leaf sheaths, and the fungus invades the crowns and roots of the grass. The grass will appear yellow or blackish brown from a distance depending on the nitrogen level of the turf during infection.
Melting-out has two stages of disease development; one being in the early spring in cool, wet weather, which brings about spotting on the leaves of the turf. As cool, wet conditions persist, the crown and root rot stage of the disease follows, and infected turfgrass begins to thin and die.

How to manage Melting Out:

  • Raising the height of your lawn mower during the cool, wet weather of early spring and fall will help turf to survive an attack of melting-out.
  • Proper fertilization during the cool weather of the spring and fall will help to reduce disease severity.
  • Managing the irrigation settings to reduce watering should reduce the severity of melting out.
  • Finally, systemic and contact fungicides can be used after all of the above measures are taken into account.

If you need help with Gainesville lawn weed treatments and fertilizer programs, give our team a call or text at (352) 378-5296. We're local and have been serving Gainesville for over 15 years. We look forward to working with you!