There’s some really good information here for all of you homeowners looking to avoid the leaf raking process this weekend. The real answer to this question is NO, but it comes with one catch……he most important point with fall cleanup is that the tree leaves are not covering a significant portion of the turfgrass canopy. 10-20% coverage of your lawn might be okay, but I certainly would make sure the leaves aren’t covering any more than that. Excessive leaf matter on your lawn going into winter is bad for several reasons. First, it will smother the grass and if not removed very soon in the spring it will inhibit growth. Second, it can promote the snow mold diseases. And finally, turf damage from critters (voles, mice) can be more extensive in the spring.
The homeowner basically has three options to make sure that leaves are not covering a significant portion of their lawn:
1) Rake them up or use a blower- compost the leaves or dispose of them
2) Use the bagging attachment for your mower: compost the leaf/grass mix or dispose of
3) Mulch the leaves with a mower (i.e. chop them into small pieces so they will fall into the canopy). This is my preferred option because the nutrients and organic matter will benefit the lawn and soil. Some leaf types have been shown to reduce weed seed germination when mulched into a lawn canopy (maples, others). The leaves of some particular tree species (legumes like honey locust, others) might actually add a significant amount of nitrogen to lawns because these species fix nitrogen from the atmosphere just like soybeans, so higher leaf nitrogen contents in these leaves is possible. Additional resources for these two concepts are here:
Pollinating insects such as bees play an important role in the environment and our food system. With documented declines of Honey bees and wild bees alike worldwide, people are searching for causes and solutions. While there are many factors that contribute to this increasingly important issue, one important culprit is the loss of flowering plants from our rural and urban landscapes. One unique solution for bringing flowers back into the landscape could be our everyday lawn. To do this, we plan to evaluate a number of flowering plants and management practices that together would allow flowers to grow in a lawn.
We are excited to do this research and share our results with you, but until then:
- Planting flowers around your house is a great way to help your local bee community, bees love them and you will too. Here is a list to get you started:
- Andrew Smith wrote: “People fear what they don’t understand”. If you find you’re afraid of bees, consider learning more about them and how important they are. Beelab.umn.edu is a great place to start.
Improving Perennial Ryegrass Seed Production
The focus of my research revolves around improving perennial ryegrass seed production in northern Minnesota. One of the issues that seed producers are facing is an inability to produce seed in the second year of production. Solving this problem could lead to farmers saving money by lowering inputs needed to produce the ryegrass seed. My research approach will attempt to resolve this problem through both breeding and improved agronomic practices.
Perennial ryegrass has a comparatively low winter hardiness which, could be a contributing factor to decreased seed production in the second year. I will attempt to improve this by continuing to breed for increased winter hardiness by conventional mean. I will also strive to develop new screening techniques, which will allow for detection of germplasm with increased winter hardiness. New agronomic practices that are being tested combine different residue management schemes with an assortment of plant growth regulators. The planned effect of these treatments is to increase the amount of vernalized tillers in the spring, allowing for improved seed production.
Forest Tent Caterpillars
Forest tent caterpillars (FTC) are a common native defoliator found throughout much of Minnesota, especially in the north and central areas of the state. When fully grown, this caterpillar is about two inches long with a blue and black body and white footprint or keyhole shaped spots on their back. FTC feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs, especially aspen, birch, oak, and linden/basswood. Populations of FTC are cyclical, with periods of few and increasing numbers of FTC lasting about 8 – 13 years. Eventually these increasing numbers hit outbreak numbers which lasts about three to four years.
Healthy, mature trees can tolerate severe defoliation, even in several consecutive years. Young and unhealthy trees are more susceptible to injury and should be monitored closely for the potential need to treat. There are a variety of residual insecticides that you can use if you want to protect your plants. Consider using products that have a low impact on the environment, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, spinosad, and insecticidal soap. Bacillus thuringiensis is a particularly good product if the tree is flowering as it will not harm visiting honey bees.
Although FTC numbers were down in 2013, if you have experienced them recently, be prepared to treat them if numbers are abundant enough.
The best time to treat them is when they have recently hatched and are small, sometime from early to late May (this will vary depending on where you are in the state and the spring weather).
Forest Tent Caterpillars in Minnesota: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/forest-tent-caterpillars/
For over a month now I’ve been receiving questions that go something like this, “I know I missed the best time for seeding my lawn which is mid-August to mid-September. Can I still seed even though it’s October and temperatures have been mild?” My response is always the same, “Just wait, dormant seeding in November will be your best option.” It is very true that if temperatures are warm during the month of October, you could get some seed to establish prior to winter, but temperatures are unpredictable and could change drastically within a day.
So, what do/did you risk by seeding in October? Well nothing really, except the cost of seed. Chances are that a good majority of this seed will germinate prior to winter, and complete loss of seedlings is possible over the cold winter months. Because of this, your time and money are better spent waiting for the appropriate dormant seeding time which is generally mid- to end-November.
Dormant seeding can be conducted with any turfgrass species. This practice involves seeding when temperatures are too low for the seed to germinate prior to winter. Germination prior to winter is bad and seedlings will generally die if they haven’t matured. Sometimes it is a bit of a waiting game at this time of year. The trick is to find the time when soils are unfrozen so that seed can be worked in slightly, yet air temperatures must be cold enough so the seed won’t germinate. Wait for high daytime temperatures of 35-40 degrees before seeding. You still should be waiting at least two weeks to seed based on the long range forecast for the Twin Cities. Regions of northern Minnesota will be able to seed much sooner, possibly even next week.