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Things to know about Grass and your lawn...

Brick Pavers

Getting a beautiful green lawn is very satisfying. Here are some interesting facts about grass, lawns, common pests, and routine maintenance.

Why is grass green?
(from the Lansing State Journal, April 8, 1992)
Grass appears green because all of the colors in the rainbow are absorbed into the leaves of the grass except green.

To clip or not to clip, that is the question!

Recycling Grass Clippings
When you mow, return the grass clippings to the turf whenever possible. Mulching mowers are specifically designed to accommodate this procedure, but any mower can return clippings to the lawn. Grass clippings begin to break down quickly after mowing, releasing the water and nutrients contained in the tissue. The nutrients (particularly nitrogen) can be returned to the soil and used by the lawn. Recycling nutrients will reduce the total amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed by the turf each growing season. Returning clippings to the lawn will not harm the grass plants or contribute to thatch buildup. Thatch is the accumulation of dead and decomposing turf stems, leaves and roots intermixed with live plant roots and soil that occurs at the soil surface. It can be viewed by cutting downward into the lawn, peeling the sod back and examining the cut piece from the side. A thatch layer of approximately 1/2 inch is beneficial because it acts as a buffer at the soil surface and protects the plants from extreme weather. Thatch that builds up over 1 inch, however, can inhibit water and air movement and weakens the turf stand. If you have a thatch layer of 1 inch or more, you may want to consider a core cultivation of your lawn to alleviate the thatchproblem. Excessive grass clippings left in piles on the lawn surface will smother and severely injure the turf. Simply spread them out over a larger area using a rake or the mower, use them as mulch in gardens or landscape beds, or put them in your compost pile. If excessive clippings are a routine problem on your lawn, try mowing more frequently and raise the mowing height. Mowing heights of 2.5 to 3.5 inches are recommended for most lawns.
- http://www.turf.msu.edu/docs/E0012TURF.pdf

Need to keep your lawn looking beautiful but have some sort of lawn pest problem? Here are a few lawn pests you might be dealing with.

Bluegrass Billbug
Adult billbugs are dull gray to black or brown beetles with a snout or bill. The larvae are white, humpbacked grubs with a yellow to brown head.
Symptoms are irregular patches of dead grass, especially near sidewalks or curbs. The dead grass pulls out easily and has hollow stems. The larvae are present under the grass and brown sawdust-like frass is present in the root zone. The adults can be found in the grass near the dead areas.
Larval controls should be applied in June. Use pesticides labeled for use on grubs. Only heavily infested lawns should be given pesticide applications.

Chinch Bugs
The adults are small, black bugs 3/16 inch long with white wings. The larvae are smaller than adults, wingless, brick red in color with a white band on the back. It is the feeding of the larvae in late July that is most damaging. The injury is irregular shaped yellow patches, 2 to 3 feet in diameter, which turn brown and die out. Non-grass plants may survive in the affected area. The insects keep moving out from the infested area so are most likely to be found at the edges of the spots. Chinch bugs are usually not serious on well watered lawns so watering properly will help control them. Severe infestations will require applications of pesticides.

Sod Webworm
The larval stage causes the damage. The larvae are grayish brown to dirty white and have 4 parallel rows of dark brown spots on the abdomen. The adults are grayish tan moths that fly in a zig-zag pattern in the evening. The symptoms are brown patches where the grass blades are missing and not simply dead. The larvae can be found in silk-lined tubes they have made in the thatch layer.

White Grubs
White grubs are the larval stage of one of several beetles. The most common white grub seen in the soil is the C shaped larvae of the May or June beetle. European Chafer larvae have become a serious a problem in lawns. These larvae feed on the grass roots and when numerous can cause dead areas in the lawn. Symptoms are dead areas in the lawn. The grass in the affected area can sometimes be easily pulled out. Roll back a section of sod to see how many grubs are under the lawn. If many grubs are found, controls may be necessary. Frequent irrigation may help infested lawns cope with grub populations.

Information summarized from the following Michigan State University Extension publications.

  • E-2496 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Hairy Chinch Bug
  • E-2497 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Bluegrass Billbug
  • E-2498 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Sod Webworm
  • E-2499 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-White Grubs
  • E-2500 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-European Chafer
1920 Birchwood, Troy MI 48099 (PO Box 99462)  |  (248) 524-1822 Phone  |  (248) 524-3037 Fax