Keep Weeds out of your Shrub Beds


Shrub Bed weed management

Weed Control in your shrub beds can be tedious and difficult. You can either pick them out regularly or try to find a product that can help keep them under control. With so many different products, it’s often very hard to find the right ones that work.

I am here to help sort it out.

There are 2 different types of weed controls.

Pre-emergent weed controls
Post emergent weed controls

Pre-emergent weed controls like Gallery & Treflan (known as Preen on the retail market) are applied before most of the weeds and grasses are present. They settle in the top layer of the soil & don’t allow the weed seeds you have to break through and become a problem.

With most pre-emergent products, it is a good idea to apply them at least a couple times. I like to apply them early, and again 45-60 days later again in the summer. This continues to send the message “Stay out of my Beds” throughout the summer.

Products like Treflan are available in granular form. Products like Gallery are dry or liquid concentrates that are mixed with water and sprayed to prevent weeds. Although these pre-emergent products generally present No harm to your existing plants, always read the label and water them in after application.

Post emergent weed control products are applied after weeds have emerged and you must now get rid of them. You need an actual weed to kill.

Within the post emergent group, you have 2 other types.

Selective & Non- Selective

Non selective herbicides like Round-up affect all vegetation. They do not selectively kill one type of undesirable weed while not affecting other vegetation around it. Non Selective weed controls can be very useful in certain types of situations.

Selective weed controls kill target weeds without affecting other products around it that come in contact with them.
The best example to give is using lawn weed control products to kill weeds in the lawn, but don’t kill your grass.

Products like Ornamec do exist that will kill annoying grasses & weeds in your landscape beds, that do not harm any of your plants. They are often referred to as “over the top” products because you can spray around and over the top of your plants without harming them.

This is often a better strategy than simply picking weeds by hand because many times, hand weeding leaves roots and pieces of the grass intact and the keep coming back. Low growing junipers are the worst.

Non selectives like Round up can also be used in certain areas.
Shrub beds with plants that are spread out well, offer the opportunity to use non selective weed controls like Round up.

You must make sure it is not windy and avoid spray drift at all costs. Narrow the nozzle spray pattern on your garden sprayer too. The narrower pattern will help keep the product right where you need it, on the weed and not on your plants.

Some other tips to keep weeds down in your shrub beds.

Use quality weed fabric whenever possible to keep weeds from breaking through.

Use bark mulches to keep soils cooler. Weeds tend to like soil warmth. Mulches help to keep soils cool. Check here for more mulching advice.

Don’t allow weeds and grasses to from seed heads. Try to take care of the weeds before more seeds are produced and deposited for next year’s crop of weeds.

Do any cleaning in your beds before you apply pre-emergents.
Pre-emergents form a barrier on the top of soil that prevents certain weeds from popping through. Raking, digging and foot traffic disturb this barrier and may provide areas for weeds to pop through.

Read this post for some additional Weed Control Strategies

Click here for information on where to purchase some of these weed control products.

For other resources check also.


Stop Overmulching Your Plants! No More Mulch Volcanoes


Bark Mulch is good for trees & shrubs for a number of reasons.

It looks good in the landscape and can help tie the whole landscape together among different planting beds.

It keeps weeds down from underneath.

It helps to keep roots cool in summer months and holds moisture in the soil.

It can also keep soil from eroding on slopes.

It can also help to insulate roots from extreme winter cold.

When mulching I suggest that you use a weed fabric that is allowed to breathe under the mulch in an attempt to keeps weeds down. Just make sure you don’t use standard rolled plastic sheets. It does not allow rain or irrigation water to penetrate to the root zone, and it also may also restrict oxygen to the roots.

But mulch can cause problems if it is applied improperly. I often see mulch applied incorrectly daily in the summer months. The # 1 culprit is applying so deep that air cannot penetrate into the soil and roots will suffocate. It can also be so deep that water cannot penetrate and the roots may dry out. Sometimes the feeder roots grow upwards into the mulch. Neither of these conditions is healthy for the trees or shrubs.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the Bark Mulch Volcano. (see picture below)

mulch-volcano.JPGmulch volcano

The biggest problem with too much bark mulch can be seen in many places. A mulch volcano is just one.

Mulch volcanoes are the mounds or cones of bark mulch that are two or three feet deep, and piled up along the trunks of trees and shrubs.

I am not sure why this habit has developed, but these deep mulch piles can cause much damage to trees & shrubs. I suspect professional landscapers are the originators and sometimes the worst culprits. Not all of them, but many of them.

You see, professional Landscapers get paid to do work. When customers ask for fresh mulch every spring to freshen up the landscape, the landscaper can’t and doesn’t usually turn down the work. After all, this is how they make a living.

Tree & shrub trunks are covered with bark that is designed to protect the trunk. They need air and light. If you pile too mulch onto the bark, it will be exposed to dark and moisture. As the bark continues to be in the moisture, it will begin to rot. Rotted bark cannot protect the tree from diseases, and in fact, diseases grow better in the dark moisture of the mulch. The offending trunks are more likely to get diseases and allow harmful insects to damage trees.


Some trees have shallow roots, especially maples. If bark mulch volcanoes are piled around the trunk, the roots will start to grow into it. These roots tend to stay in the mulch volcano and will then grow around the trunk in the mulch. As the root grows in diameter, it pushes against the trunk, which is also trying to grow bigger. These roots will eventually strangle the trunk. This type of root is called a “girdling root”. The trunk will keep growing wider above and below the girdling root, and may actually encase the root.

It also doesn’t encourage the tree and shrub roots to expand out in a healthy fashion. Healthy root growth has many agronomic advantages, but it also aids in stability.

Bark mulch is best when pit down to a depth of about 3-4 inches if you are starting from scratch.

Try this if you need a handy bark mulch calculator. Punch in desired depth, bed measurements and PRESTO, the correct amount pops out.

Even though bark mulch does break down some, after 2-3 years of annual mulching on top of mulch, it often accumulates to unhealthy levels for you plants.

So what do you do instead of annually piling more mulch on top of mulch?

I’ve got a better way that is less expensive, healthier, and with much less work.

MULCH MAGIC (or similar product)

Mulch Magic

Mulch Magic® is an easy-to-apply, long lasting spray colorant which restores the bright, original-looking color to faded fibrous mulch products like cedar, cypress, redwood bark, pine straw and more. With one quick application, it helps keep landscapes looking freshly groomed for three months or longer.

Looks Great and easy to apply!

With Mulch Magic®, one person with a sprayer can quickly restore the color to keep existing mulch looking its best. As the existing mulch breaks down naturally and renews the soil, replace with new mulch to keep your landscaping investment looking sharp throughout the growing season. Mulch Magic® will also help blend the color of the older mulch with the newer mulch. Enjoy all the benefits of colored mulch because of the endless design possibilities using color, contrast, and texture in your landscape.


At only 3-4 oz per gallon of water, will also allow you to freshen up your mulch for a few years, saving money and labor.

BEFORE before

AFTER new-new-mulch.JPG

So instead of spreading unhealthy levels of bark mulch yearly, try a product like Mulch Magic or similar every other year or for 2 years in a row before adding new mulch.
Your trees & shrubs will love you for it!!

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Lawn Disease Reference & Chart

A Very use useful lawn disease reference that I consult often.

Hopefully you will find it useful too…

Lawn Disease information

Insects: A little prevention and scouting can save your lawn

Insects: A little prevention and scouting can save your lawn

Lawns and Shrubs are home to many, many insects. Few of them are harmful, and many are even beneficial.

Healthy grass plants can tolerate some feeding by the harmful insects like grubs and chinch bugs. But when the number of pests reaches a certain level – called a threshold – the quality of your lawn can be hurt. The open spaces the pests create in turf can be ugly, and invaded by weeds.

Most pesticide applications made to home lawns aimed at killing insect pests are either unneeded or ineffective. To make sure that you need a pesticide, you must first “scout” for the pests to see if there are enough of them to justify the treatment. If you do treat, you need to make sure that you apply the right pesticide correctly and at the right time.

For example, as I’ve stated before, treatment for grubs isn’t justified unless there are more than 6- 10 grubs per square foot. Unless someone peels back the sod at several locations and checks to see how many larvae are feeding on grass roots, you won’t know if the pesticide is needed.

In spring, grubs are usually too mature to be controlled by most pesticides effectively. You may still get some control, but it requires the right product and watering it in well.

A better way is to selectively treat certain areas with lower active ingredient insect control products before certain problems pop up.

Imidiclopyrid (merit) is excellent lower active ingredient grub prevention when applied at the right time (summer in most parts) and watered in quickly. It saves the possibility of using a higher active insecticide later on that might not be so nice to the many beneficial insects and worms in your lawn.

If your don’t use Merit for prevention, then scout for grubs in late summer and early fall to determine if treatment is necessary while the grubs are still small enough to control. (If treatment is justified, mid August and September are usually the best times.) Because they feed below-ground, insecticides need to be watered in to get the product in the soil before sunlight has a chance to break down the material. This will make it less effective if it sits for a week, and allow the grubs another free week of rent in your lawn.

Similarly, scout for surface feeders (such as cutworms, sod webworms, chinch bugs and bluegrass billbugs) before treating.

Regardless of the pest, the best way to minimize damage is through prevention:

• Keep turf healthy through proper mowing, watering and fertilizing. Healthy turf will tolerate more pests.

• Plant the right grass for your location. Choose grasses that resist pests, such as endophytic varieties of perennial ryegrass, fine leaf and tall fescues. (Endophytes are beneficial fungi that live on the grass and discourage surface feeders.)

• Scout before you treat. If you use pesticides, treat when the pest is most vulnerable, and follow all directions carefully. To prevent water pollution, never apply pesticides when ground is frozen or saturated.

To prevent drift and volatilization (which
• Releases pesticides into the air), do not apply when temperatures are high or it is windy.

One of the other areas you might take a pro-active approach is around your foundation. Using a low active ingredient insect product like Talstar twice a year around the foundation will really help with the ants and other outdoor/indoor pests.

Talstar controls 75 pests (including termites, fleas, ticks & lawn damaging insects) and can even be used indoors as well as outdoors per the label.

Once again, a little intelligent low rate prevention can sometimes be better than blasting insect problems after they do their damage.

As always, read all insect and weed control labels and follow the label instructions.

For additional resources check


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Manage your weeds the professional way

A thick lawn is your best defense.

Weeds are opportunists. They will find bare spots or places where your grass is weak, and they will exploit them to their advantage.

Perennial weeds (weeds that grow from their roots every year) can spread and make a lawn unsightly. Annual weeds (weeds that die at the end of the season and reseed the next year) can leave bare spots that are vulnerable to runoff.

No matter what weeds you have, the first line of defense is preventive practices. Try these options to get at the root of the problem first, before resorting to herbicides.

Prevention practices

Mow high. Do not mow grass shorter than recommended for the species you grow. Mowing at 3 inches or higher helps grass shade out weeds and encourages a thicker, more competitive turf. See other sections of this site to make sure that you are using the right grass species, fertilizing and watering correctly, and generally doing all you can to encourage healthy grass.

Reduce compaction. Pay special attention to heavily used areas and sections next to pavement. Weeds can gain a foothold in these spots and spread to the rest of the lawn if it is weak.

Repair bare spots by raking in seed in early spring so that the new grass can compete with the weeds that are sure to come up. This can be tricky though. When you seed, you can’t use traditional pre-emergent crabgrass products because these will keep your grass seed from germinating just like the crabgrass seeds.

There are however a couple of products and strategies to avoid this situation and keep the spring crabgrass germination

If lawn is thin, fertilize it properly ,with quality fertilizers ,to improve density.

Let the weeds be your guide. If weeds dominate an area, it’s likely that there is something wrong with either the growing conditions or your lawn practices. Dense stands of prostrate knotweed are a good sign of soil compaction. Don’t just pull out the weeds. Relieve the compaction. Violets (Viola spp.) are a good sign of low light levels. One solution might be to seed shade-tolerant fine fescues or new shade and drought tolerant hybrid bluegrasses.

If you use herbicides…

• Use the right product at the right time. Follow label directions and try to spot treat areas with the weeds only using the right liquid concentrate weed control. The best and most economical way is in a pump sprayer. You usually mix a very small amount with water and spray. This saves lots over time.

• Use granular weed control products only on lawns with lots of weeds throughout. Some products are better than others for certain types of weeds. Applying at the right time, and allowing the weeds to take in the weed control is critical. Usually this is done while the grass is wet or damp to help the granules stick to the weed. 24-48 hours without rainfall is best.

• To avoid volatilization and drift, which release pesticides into the air, do not spray when temperatures are high or it is windy.

• To help prevent polluted runoff, do not apply pesticides when heavy rains are expected or the ground is already saturated or frozen. You will also get a better result.

• Sprayers should be triple rinsed with a spray tank cleaning solution to avoid residual left over when you use the sprayer for other products.

The types of weed control products include:

Pre-emergence herbicides:

• Most common for crabgrass.
• Applied to soil before weeds are expected.
• Have low solubility and bind to organic matter.

Postemergence herbicides:

• Most common for perennial broadleaf weeds.
• Applied after weeds have emerged and are actively growing.
• Avoid application before irrigation or rain.

Nonselective herbicides:
• Kill or injure all plants they come in contact with.
• Used to kill vegetation before reseeding.

Annual grass weeds.

Crabgrass is one of the most common grass weed problems. It is a warm-season annuals. They thrive when temperatures are hot and cool-season lawn grasses are least competitive. Still, they have a tough time invading a healthy lawn.

One place where they can more easily gain a foothold is along paved areas where high temperatures can damage cool-season grasses – along the edges of driveways, sidewalks and patios, for instance. Soil temperatures are usually warmer in these areas and crabgrass germinates earlier. These are also harder to get granular applications on as you are spreading your product in a spreader.

Where hostile conditions exist for lawn grasses, you can spot treat for crabgrass with pre-emergence herbicides. These herbicides work on the seeds as they germinate. Because they are ineffective on ungerminated seeds or established plants, timing is critical.

Using a strategy of spraying just the edges of the driveway or sidewalk about 1-2 ft wide, will keep crabgrass pressures down considerably. The benefit is great, it doesn’t cost much, and you are only treating a small area along the edges where crabgrass pressures are greatest.

Optimum timing for pre-emergent treatment of crabgrass is about the time that forsythia blooms wane, when the soil temperature is between 59 F and 65 F.

As mentioned earlier, Pre-emergent herbicides do not distinguish between weed seeds and grass seeds. So you won’t be able to replant grass where you’ve applied them for 2 to 6 months. Two products do exist to allow you to seed in spring and control crabgrass. Professionals use them and you can too.

The first product is called Siduron. It is usually easiest to apply this as a granular over the seeded area at the time of seeding. It won’t inhibit new grass seed from germinating while controlling crabgrass. Siduron is a little pricey, but their aren’t exactly many alternatives.

The second product is Drive DF. It is a dry flowable product that you mix in water and spray before you seed an area. It works great in small seeded areas because you can spray it where you want to seed. You use only about 1/3 of an ounce per gallon of water. The best part: It is also a post-emergent crabgrass spray too. You can use it to spray existing crabgrass plants if some emerge anywhere else in your lawn. It also controls a few broadleaf weeds like clover too. It can be bought in Drive 1# containers for a little more than 100 dollars (professional s use cases of this size) . It can also be purchased in Drive 1.5 oz bottles for about 20 dollars. This size will make 5 gallons of crabgrass pre-emergent for seeded areas or crabgrass killer for mature crabgrass plants .

As mentioned above, once crabgrass emerges, you can apply postemergent herbicides, usually from early June through mid-July. Several different herbicides are on the market that can kill plants that have not yet tillered. Drive DF is a good one . Acclaim Extra is another good product. Acclaim Extra is only a post-emergent crabgrass control . It is a liquid you mix in water and spray on crabgrass. It comes in large size concentrate, but is also sold in Acclaim pint size containers. An average rate is about ½ oz per 1000 sq ft or gallon of water. This will give you 16 gallons or 16,000 sq ft of crabgrass killer.

Spot treating with non-selective herbicides such as Round-up can kill the plants and reduce their contribution to next year’s seedbank. But you must use absolute caution and care not to accidentally spray and kill other plants nearby. Round Up will also kill any grass it touches and leave dead spots throughout the lawn. Drive DF and Acclaim Extra will not do this.

Perennial broadleaf weeds

Unlike annual grass weeds, herbicides for broadleaf perennial weeds are usually applied post-emergence. The advantage of post-emergent control is that you can see how many weeds you have before you decide whether or not to spray. If you just have a few, pulling them by hand might be your best option. If you don’t have to spray, then don’t.

Most broadleaf perennials – such as dandelions — have their greatest visual impact in spring. But late summer to mid-fall is a great time to control them with herbicides. As the weather cools, these weeds start storing food produced in their leave in their roots, just like cool-season lawn grasses. If you apply herbicides at this time, it will be transported along with the food and stands a better chance of killing to root.

When applied in spring, you can still get good results with quality weed control products. Because the weed is hungry and growing, it will take the weed control in and be effective at this time too. You can spray them with the quality weed control products, or use granular weed controls in a spreader. Spraying is more economical and you get the product right where you want it. Granular products are more suited for large areas filled with weeds to get a knockdown. Avoid rainfall for 24-48 hours. This gives the weed control time to work.

Make sure you choose a selective broadleaf herbicide – one that kills only broadleaves and not grass. Nonselective herbicides, such as Round-up, can kill all plants that they come in contact with.

I will detail some more specific weed control strategies as the season progresses, but this should get you on your way.

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How to get rid of moles

People will often offer lots of advice on how to get rid of moles, unfortunately most of it is wrong.

Grubs are a common misconception and buying grub killer will waste your money and do nothing for moles
In the past, not much was truly understood about mole behavior, but one company has done a 3 year study of moles and their habits, and came up with the best information on how to get rid of them.

Most moles diets are 90-95% Earth worms. If they come across a grub, they will certainly eat it, but the main source of there diet.
Moles are tricking. No gimmicks work. If anyone tells you differently, it was by luck or coincidence. Sonic Chasers, grain pellets, all the advice from your neighbor doesn’t work.

What does work is time & scouting , the right way. You need to find the active tunnels. Usually they are the ones running along a sidewalk or driveway or running parallel to a house. If you’re not certain, take a small hand spade and open up a small hole in the tunnel. Mark the area, and do it all around the yard. Come back 24-48 hours, the holes that are repaired are active tunnels.

Now you have the active tunnels, these are the ones to concentrate on. Moles traps can work, but most don’t use them right. You need more than one. Maybe 5-6.

Put them in front of the repaired areas and set them. It is a good idea to actually sterilize them with hot steam, or water and wear rubber gloves when setting them. Moles don’t see well, and have a keen sense of smell. If they smell human scent, they may not go through.

More than likely there are more than 1, so if you catch 1 or 2 , reset the traps and put them back.

Their are easier to use professional products like Talpirid that offer the easiest and most effective way to get rid of moles. It is a rubberish earth worm with an active ingredient on it. Instead of a trap near the repaired holes, you insert a worm. Once you identify the active tunnels, open a small hole and insert a worm. Mark the area with a stick or cheap flag. When you come back 24-48 hrs later and the hole is repaired, then you know he ate the worm and you got him. Moles are neat little creatures and will always repair the hole if they come across it.

Hope it helps and save your grub dollars for prevention products like Merit, and use those dollars for grubs…. (which also has a lot of myths and wasted money associated with them)

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How to treat grubs

grub damage

I spoke a couple days ago about grubs and grub damage. After reading that, and you determine you actually have a grub problem (not just a few grubs), then it is time to do something about it. But what?

For the environmentalists amongst us, I will mention Milky Spore and
beneficial nematodes. Both are bio-controls of grubs. Neither should be used when a grub problem is present, because they won’t work to do much for your current grub problem.
If you are of the belief that you, under any circumstance, your customer will never allow use of an insecticide on a lawn insect problem, then maybe you could give it try. But only before the grub problem pops up. That’s when to use it.
They can be expensive and tedious to apply to the lawn, but you may get some benefit from it.

After saying all that, its time to take care of your grubs. If you have an existing grub problem, the best product in most situations is DYLOX 6.2 G. It’s sold in different forms, but most likely in a granular material in a 30 lb bag. For most grubs, it requires about 3#s per 1000 sq ft. always read your label and follow the correct label rate fro your situation. More is never better, and often times in Lawn care, it can even worsen a situation.

Once applied to the lawn, it must be watered in pretty well before too long. You do not want to let Dylox sit out in the sunlight because the sun will begin breakdown the active ingredient, thus making it less effective. You bought the product, and you should get the most out of it.
You also need to get it where the grubs are and that is in the soil, not on top of the lawn.

Late summer and early fall is when you will see new grub activity. You will want to treat the grub problem as early as possible because you don’t want to do it in spring time when they will be much harder to control as they mature.

After watering it in, the Dylox will be ingested by the grubs, and they will stop feeding immediately on the roots. They will not however just disappear. They stop doing the damage, but can take a while to fully die and decompose. You will see grubs in the area still or even animal damage from hungry skunks.
This doesn’t mean it isn’t working. It most likely is, but you can’t control the skunks and raccoons from digging around and eating the dying grubs. If damage has occurred you may renovate and seed the area.
There are other products labeled for grubs like Sevin, Grub-X, merit, Mach2 and so forth. Merit (imidocloprid) and mach 2 are prevention products, and are not effective on existing grubs.

Sevin is another broad spectrum insecticide that is labeled for grubs. I prefer Dylox, because SEVIN needs heavy irrigation or else it gets hung up in the thatch layer and never gets to the grubs. Sevin also can harm earthworms and other beneficial organisms. Dylox doesn’t exhibit these same characteristics and moves throughout the soil fast. Dylox doesn’t have much residual; it only treats what is active.

One BIG pet peeve of mine is retail stores and GRUB-X. Not either one really, but the marketing that is employed. Homeowner’s walk into a garden center or big box retailer looking for something to control the grubs eating the lawn. Right out in front of the aisle is a BIG display of shiny black and red bags with a picture of a grub on it. It says GRUB-X, it’s made by SCOTTS, and so it must be good. They spend 25 bucks for the 5000 sq ft bag, apply it and what happens? Nothing most likely. Why? Because Grub-X is a prevention product and needs to be applied at a certain time before the grubs are eating your lawn. Simply put, Scotts and retailers are putting one over on you as a homeowner. The product itself as a prevention (imidocloprid or Merit) is a great product, but only when used properly. Treating your hungry grubs is not using it properly.
For a homeowner this can mean.

1. Waste of time
2. Waste of money
3. Grubs keep creating more damage
4. Homeowner get frustrated
5. Homeowner buys more Grub control, and seed to repair the area

Lots of waste in there!

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