Lawn Weed Library: Speedwell

Lawn Weed Library: Speedwell

Speedwell (Veronica) may be a pretty blue-flowered perennial, but this creeping weed won’t take no for an answer and can quickly take over your yard. It plagues lawns and gardens during the spring and summer months and can be found throughout most of the states in the eastern half of the country, except for the extreme southern states.

Identifying Speedwell

There are many species of speedwell, and all vary slightly in appearance. This common weed has petite features that include thin stems and tiny green leaves with scalloped edges. Blooming from May through July, its small flowers have four petals that range in color from white to blue to purple. Heart-shaped seed pods grow on the stems beneath the flowers. The plant itself grows low to the ground in a creeping fashion, and thrives in moist soils and shade.

Speedwell Signs and Symptoms

Although it’s sometimes sold as a decorative ground cover, speedwell’s competitive nature makes it an unwelcome weed. It spreads rapidly, crowding out established grasses and plants. Sometimes known as gypsyweed or veronica, speedwell is infamous for its ability to reproduce rapidly and quickly become a dense carpet. The slender stems creep low to the ground and take root at the nodes in order to spread. The fibrous root systems of this weed are what make it so hard to eliminate.

Speedwell Control and Prevention

Always consider non-chemical methods first when preventing and controlling speedwell. As with most weeds, maintaining a well-kept, healthy lawn is the best way to prevent an infestation. A regular maintenance schedule of mowing, watering, and fertilizing is the best course of action to keep all weeds at bay. Aerate and overseed the lawn in the fall to further strengthen the grass root system. Raising the mowing height also helps create a less welcoming environment for this persistent perennial.

The same approach applies to gardens and borders. Maintain them regularly by hoeing and weeding, and use mulch over bare soil to smother weed growth.

Once you discover speedwell in your yard, mow the lawn as soon as the first flower heads appear. This prevents it from setting seed. In the garden, rake out the weeds and let them dry out and die completely before composting.

If all else fails, speedwell can be controlled using a broadleaf weed herbicide. Apply the chemical in spring or early summer while the plant is actively growing. Repeat as necessary.

To find out more about identifying and controlling speedwell or other weeds, call Free Spray Lawn Care at [phone].

Are Spiders Good or Bad?

Are Spiders Good or Bad?

Creepy. Whether we like spiders or hate them, one thing we can all agree on is that these eight-legged creatures are creepy looking. Most people don’t enjoy coming across these all-to-prevalent pests inside the house, and dislike the wispy, dusty webs they leave behind. Often, when we spot a spider, we squish it, vacuum it, or just kindly show it the door. But are spiders good or bad? Read on and find out on which side these web-spinning wonders fall.

What Are Spiders?

Spiders (Araneae), the largest order of arachnids, are eight-legged arthropods that are found almost everywhere around the world. There are more than 40,000 spider species and all have the ability to bite using fangs that inject venom. For this reason, spiders often get a bad reputation. Spider bodies have two parts–the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Their abdomens have appendages that create silky, sticky webs ranging in shape and size, depending on species. Unlike insects, spiders do not have antennae. They are predators, feeding on insects and sometimes other spiders.

Are Spiders Good or Bad?

Positives. Spiders eat many common household pests, including disease carrying insects like mosquitoes, cockroaches, and flies. In essence, they perform pest control duties for you. They also eat other spiders, therefore, reducing the creepy creature population in your home and protecting you from potentially dangerous arachnids. For example, a harmless long-legged cellar spider feeds on the dangerous black widow spider, keeping you out of harm’s reach.

Negatives. Spiders bite! The good news is they usually only bite when provoked or in self defense. Although they tend to avoid humans, these arthropods have poor eyesight so they can’t easily distinguish between a predator and an accidental encounter. Some spider bites are slightly venomous and a few species are even deadly, so no one wants to risk provoking these eight-legged creatures even if it’s unintentional.

The Usual Suspects

Most spiders fall into the categories of harmless, slightly venomous, or deadly. Thankfully, most of the ones we find in our homes are harmless. Daddy long legs and the domestic house spider fall into the harmless group.

Nearly all spider species are venomous–that is how they kill their prey. But the small doses they deliver are usually ineffective on humans and other bigger-than-a-bug beasts.

Female black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders fall into the deadly category. This is the case, though, only if you are bitten and do not seek medical attention. Easy to spot because of a red hourglass shape on their abdomens, the female black widow spider hides out in basements and wood piles and only administers a venomous bite when disturbed. Light brown in color, the brown recluse is distinguished by a violin-shaped marking on its back. It makes its home in garages, sheds, basements, and occasionally cardboard boxes.

Spider Control

If you don’t like them around, there are ways to keep the pesky spider population down to a minimum around your home.

Outdoors, keep wood piles, mulch, and vegetation from touching your home’s exterior. It’s best to store wood piles or trash away from the house. Fix or caulk any cracks or points of entry around foundations, windowsills, and doors. Most importantly, get rid of their food sources–other pests. The presence of a lot of spiders indicates that there are pests available for them to eat. Consider getting a professional to treat your home or yard.

Keep it tidy indoors. Clean up clutter and store mementos, seasonal decorations, and clothes in tightly lidded, plastic containers. If you see spider webs, be persistent about cleaning them up. Dust often, especially under and behind furniture, to prevent them from setting up shop. And get rid of piles of old boxes in your garage or attic.

Spiders naturally control pests and insects in the home. But no one wants an infestation, even if they are the harmless variety. Call Free Spray Lawn Care at [phone] and let us help you with unwanted pests.

Lawn Weed Library: Henbit and Purple Deadnettle

Lawn Weed Library: Henbit and Purple Deadnettle

Members of the mint family, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) are so similar in appearance and behavior that they are often mistaken for each other. These two winter annuals both produce tiny purplish flowers that bloom in early spring. But the biggest similarity is that these uninvited guests are apt to spread quickly and take over your landscaping. Native to Europe and Asia, these common weeds are now found in North America, and even deemed invasive in some areas. Learn more about henbit and purple deadnettle.

Common Traits of Henbit and Purple Deadnettle

Henbit and purple deadnettle thrive in areas such as gardens, fields, and thinning lawns where the soil has been disturbed. As other members of the mint family, these weedy plants have squared stems. They are winter annuals, so they begin their life cycle in the fall, forming leaves that last through winter, and begin their reign in early spring. This makes them a crucial source for pollinators. After setting seed in late spring or early summer, they eventually turn yellow and wither. The plants bide their time for the cooler days of fall to reemerge. Henbit and purple deadnettle grow low to the ground and feature delicate, purplish-pink flowers.

Differences Between Henbit and Purple Deadnettle

Although these weeds seem similar, there are ways to tell them apart.

Purple Deadnettle

  • Groups of four to six flowers at the stem top.
  • Leaves are slightly pointed, veiny, get gradually smaller toward the top. They are attached to the main stem with tiny, short stems.
  • Upper leaves are tinged with red or purple.
  • Each plant can produce more than 20,000 seeds.

Henbit

  • Flowers are more sparse and tube-like in appearance.
  • Leaves are circular with little veining, attached directly at the stem top, and slightly smaller than purple deadnettle.
  • Stems are usually darker and more reddish.
  • Each plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds.

Henbit and Purple Deadnettle Management

Don’t be fooled by the pretty carpet of purple flowers these weeds produce in early spring. Once established, they are a challenge to eradicate. They generate thousands of seeds that can remain in the soil for years.

Put down pre-emergence herbicides to control these winter annuals in late summer or fall before the seeds germinate. If you are already plagued by them, you’ll need a post-emergence herbicide. Hand weeding works only if you get to them before they set seed and if you only have a small amount of plants.

As with most weeds, a lush healthy lawn is your best defense against henbit and purple deadnettle. Hardy, dense turf leaves little room for weeds to grow, so maintain your lawn regularly with proper mowing height, fertilization, and watering.

For more information on controlling weeds, contact Free Spray Lawn Care at [phone].

Tree Diseases in Ohio

Tree Diseases in Ohio

It’s hard to imagine that anything as long-lived and large as a tree can come to any harm. But these sturdy stalwarts, like all living things, succumb to illnesses and fall prey to pests. They are giant focal points in our yards, so when one is sick it affects the entire landscape. Learn how to identify both common and serious tree diseases in Ohio and how you can protect your property.

Serious Tree Diseases in Ohio

Dutch Elm Disease. This fatal fungal disease attacks the tree’s vascular system, preventing the proper flow of water and nutrients. The fungus is either transported by the elm bark beetle or spread through the connected root systems (root grafts) of nearby trees. Once one tree is infected, others in the neighborhood quickly follow.

Oak Wilt. This rapid-spreading and deadly disease also affects the vascular system of the tree. Although all oaks are susceptible, the red oak is more so than the white oak species. White oaks are often able to recover, unlike red oaks, which usually succumb to the disease soon after infection. Often occurring in later spring or summer, the symptoms range from leaf discoloration and distortion to dead crowns and leaf drop. Fungal spores are either transported to healthy trees by insects or travel to neighboring trees through interconnected roots.

Most Common Tree Diseases in Ohio

Many illnesses that affect trees are often more of an aesthetic issue and usually don’t cause major damage. However, if left untreated, these diseases can spread or harm the tree indefinitely. Here are some of the diseases found in the Ohio area.

Powdery Mildew. Wondering what that white or gray coating is on your foliage? Most often discovered on shrubs, this fungal disease also infects trees. There are hundreds of varieties of fungi that cause powdery mildew. It’s made up of multiple spores that spread quickly to cover older leaves first, and then move onto newer growths, causing leaves to curl and contort. Symptoms are most noticeable late in the growing season.

Anthracnose. A broad term for a collection of fungal diseases, this infection causes tree leaves to drop off too soon. Other symptoms range from blotches and spots on leaves, partially bare canopies, twig cankers, and dieback. Although it won’t kill the tree, the disease weakens it and makes it more susceptible to pests and other diseases. Anthracnose thrives in cool wet weather during late spring.

Needle blight. Brought about by a fungus, this disease affects mostly pine trees causing needles to brown and premature needle drop. Needle blight destroys lower branches first and rarely tackles the top of a tree.

The One to Watch

Thousand Cankers Disease. Producing widespread fatalities in many species of the walnut tree family, this newly recognized disease was first found in Colorado in the early 2000s, but now is making its way into eastern states. Walnut twig beetles (Pityophthorus juglandis) carrying the fungus tunnel into the tree’s wood. The fungus creates dead areas under the bark, called cankers, which in large numbers damage the tree’s ability to circulate water and nutrients. Symptoms of the disease then become more visible in the form of yellow, wilted, or dead leaves, thinning foliage, and branch dieback. Once the symptoms are visible, an infected tree usually dies within a few years.

Management of Tree Diseases

When it comes to protecting these beautiful assets to your property, prevention is your best bet. A few tips to ensure the health of the trees in your yard:

  • When planting, choose disease-resistant trees and purchase them from a well-known garden center or nursery with a good reputation.
  • Ask your local tree or lawn professional about preventative fungicide sprays.
  • Prune trees regularly and remove dead or diseased limbs to prevent spreading.
  • Properly destroy leaves and branches from diseased trees and do not use for compost.

If you suspect that a tree is infected with a serious disease, call in a professional right away. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care at [phone] and we’ll help you keep your trees healthy and beautiful for years to come.