Do these things in late winter to help prevent weeds this summer





During the winter homeowners oftentimes do not think much about their lawns, and certainly not about ugly weeds such as crabgrass until they start seeing them around Memorial Day. However, late winter, which is February meteorologically in the Raleigh, NC area, is when you should get started to help prevent weeds later this spring and summer.

The first treatment of the year by Crownover Green is key to preventing annual weeds such as crabgrass and spurge that would otherwise sprout and grow throughout the summer. By mid-March we will apply our weed pre-emergent, which essentially provides a barrier on top of the soil that prevents weeds that sprout from seeds from growing. When a lawn is free of debris and excess dormant top growth, more pre-emergent coats the soil and is therefore more effective at preventing weeds. Here are a couple of basic tasks that will help you prepare your lawn to look its best later this summer.

Remove Large Debris
If your lawn is littered with tree branches or pine cones that are too large for your mower to shred, pick them up. and put them at the curb for yard waste pick-up.

Mow Down the Brown
Before weed pre-emergent is applied, set your mower height lower than usual and mow the dead growth and other debris in your turf. It is best to bag and remove the clippings. Shorter top growth will allow the pre-emergent to reach the soil where it needs to be in order to work. After the first mowing, raise your mower blade a notch or two and let your grass grow this spring.

Rake Lightly
Some organic debris left on the lawn is good as it decomposes and returns nutrients to the soil. However, too much of it may smother your grass as it begins its growing season this spring. If there is still a lot of debris on your lawn after mowing, we recommend raking it off.




Go to Crownover Green's main website.

How can I get rid of moles in my yard?

Moles can cause damage to a landscape, including turfgrass, small annual plants, and paver patios or walkways. They tunnel unseen through the top few inches of soil in search of prey, and leave a trail of damage behind them. In a lawn, the tunnels appear as narrow ridges that may have a small hole here or there where the mole popped its head out. In a lawn with a lot of mole activity, the surface may feel spongy as it is walked upon. These are tell-tale signs of a mole problem.

Mole tunnel in a lawn
Many homeowners think that applying a grub control solution will deter moles. Unfortunately, this is not the case, though you will find lots of pest control companies in the Raleigh, NC area and sites all over the web that tell you this will work. You may also have heard this from some of your friends and neighbors. They say killing the food source of moles will send the moles elsewhere, but grubs are not the main food source of moles. While they do eat grubs, the main staple in a mole's diet is earthworms. Moles also enjoy slugs, snails, centipedes, millipedes, and other juicy insects in your soil that are beneficial for your turfgrass and other landscape plants. Applying an insecticide that would kill all of the life in your soil would be a setback for your turfgrass and landscape plants, and most insecticides are either acutely toxic to people and pets or they are water contaminates. Crownover Green does not recommend applying insecticides to eradicate moles. We've had many clients who have had moles, and don't know of any who got rid of the moles by killing bugs. The only proven way to eradicate moles is to kill the moles.

The hassle-free method for eradicating moles is to contact a professional critter control service that will have the expertise to trap or kill the moles. Beware that a general pest control company may offer grub control as the first step. When this method doesn't eradicate the moles they'll offer additional services at additional costs. Find a pro that addresses the problem directly.

If you are a DIYer, there are several products available at garden centers. There are traps, gassers, and baits. If you don't want to kill the moles and are not expecting total eradication, then you could try mole deterrents. There are sonic spikes and castor oil pellets or sprays. Whatever DIY option you might choose, follow the label instructions closely to get results. Moles become very active in late winter or early spring as the ground becomes soft. Spring is also mating season for moles so spring is a good time to get them under control.

My grass is brown during the winter. Is it going to be ok?

Winter can be hard on a lawn, even in the Raleigh, NC area where the cool season is relatively mild overall with typically short periods of freezing temperatures. Along with sometimes frigid temperatures will come browning of your turf. Is brown grass during wintertime healthy grass, or is it a sign of a problem or deficiency?

Most plants experience color changes during Raleigh winters, and all of the turfgrasses that are common in our area experience some degree of browning.

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass during Winter

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass are warm-season turfgrasses that turn sandy tan in color during dormancy from late fall through early spring. This is normal. There is nothing that can be done to keep warm season grasses from turning brown in winter, although some people who do not like the dormant color of their lawn choose to "paint" their brown grass green or overseed with a winter ryegrass, which is green. Bermudagrass is usually totally dormant during the winter and it is hard to damage. Extremely cold temperatures or heavy use of a dormant lawn could potentially cause some winterkill (loss of turf) of Bermudagrass, but this is unlikely, and Bermudagrass will typically rebound well from winterkill. Zoysiagrass, while appearing to be dormant like Bermudagrass during the winter may not be fully dormant. It may still be vulnerable to winterkill from frigid temperatures, fungal disease, and heavy traffic during moist conditions. Zoysiagrass also rebounds reasonably well from winterkill, but maybe not as robustly as Bermudagrass. Large areas of damage to Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass due to winterkill may require re-sodding or seeding.

Fescue Grasses during Winter

Fescues, both Tall and Fine Fescues, are cool-season turfgrasses that are semi-dormant during Raleigh, NC winters. They are more tolerant of frigid temperatures and do not usually experience winterkill in our area. During winter, Fescue grass blades do not grow much, but the root system may continue to grow except during the few coldest weeks of the winter. Fescues tend to retain some green color during the winter, but browning is normal. Some homeowners may notice variations in the amount of green from one Fescue lawn to the next within the same neighborhood.

Lawns that are greener than others during winter may be the result of high levels of fast-release nitrogen fertilizers being applied to those lawns in late fall. At Crownover Green, we will not heavily fertilize a lawn in late fall. Some lawn care companies apply a high nitrogen fertilizer (also often including phosphorus) just before a Fescue lawn enters dormancy in an attempt to keep it greener during winter. A problem with this strategy is that the grass probably will not use all of the nitrogen and phosphorus that are applied and the excess nutrients are released into our groundwater. This potential for over-fertilization of lawns contributes to dead zones in our waterways and waterbodies. At Crownover Green, we feel it is a solemn responsibility of turf managers to protect our community's ecosystems.

Will My Brown Lawn Turn Green Again?

Browning of turf during winter in Raleigh, NC is normal, and every type of turf generally returns to its beautiful green color in its proper time. Because we cannot control nature, we cannot guarantee that your lawn will totally escape winterkill. However, widespread winterkill is rare in our area, and we do guarantee that we will work with you to get your lawn looking beautiful again as quickly as possible if it sustains any damage whatsoever during the winter.

Click here to read a previous article about when you can expect your grass to green up this spring.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.


How to Get the Most Out of Your Fall Fescue Lawn Renovation

Fescue lawns in the Raleigh, NC area can suffer some damage during the summer from drought, heat, fungus, lawn equipment, pests, pets, or playtime. Fall is the season to fix the damage and get your Fescue lawn looking its best. Between about early/mid-September and mid-October in the Raleigh, NC area is the best time for Fescue grass seed to germinate, and Fescue seedlings that sprout in the fall have several months to become established in order to survive the following summer.

What Should a Lawn Renovation Consist Of?

A Fescue lawn renovation should consist of core aeration, a good quality fertilizer with a balance of macro and micro nutrients, and a good quality blend of Fescue seed.

core aeration How Can I Get My Lawn Aerated?

You have a couple of options for getting your lawn aerated. You could do it yourself by renting an aerator from a local equipment rental store. A few of your neighbors may be interested in splitting the cost and doing their lawn renovations at the same time. Another option is to hire a lawn care service, such as Crownover Green, to aerate your lawn. For Crownover Green clients, core aeration is included in our comprehensive seasonal lawn care program.

How Can I Get the Most out of My Fall Lawn Renovation?

Besides arranging for aeration, and choosing a good quality fertilizer and grass seed, here are a few other important considerations for maximizing the success of your fall Fescue lawn renovation:
  1. Mark underground cables, wires, and irrigation systems. Most aerator tines will not go deeper than about 3 inches. Typically, underground wires (e.g., for an electric pet fence) or TV cables are buried deeper than this. However, if you are concerned that the aerator could cut or damage anything underground on your property, you should mark off where they are located with spray paint, lawn flags, or some sort of conspicuous stake. Irrigation pipes are usually not a concern but sprinkler heads should be marked.
  2. Consider topsoil. If you have low spots, holes or ruts in your lawn that are either a safety hazard or are bothering you, before the fall renovation is a good time to fill them in with topsoil, which is fairly inexpensive by the bag at garden centers.
  3. Prepare to water. Keeping your new grass seeds moist is a critical factor in whether your lawn renovation will ultimately be successful. Some seeds may be terminated every time they are allowed to dry out. Therefore, keeping them moist keeps them viable. Plan to water briefly (just enough to wet the seeds at the surface of the soil) 3-4 times per day for up to 3 weeks until most of the seeds have sprouted. Then gradually decrease the frequency while increasing the duration of watering to help the new seedlings mature. If you don't have an automated irrigation system, we recommend investing in timers for your hose-end sprinklers; and to reduce the number of times you will need to move your hose-end sprinklers to water the whole lawn each time, we recommend sprinklers that will cover large areas (unless you only have small areas to water).
  4. Consider a seed germination aid and/or erosion control. If you have sloped areas where there is not enough existing turf to hold fertilizer and grass seeds in place during rainfall, then we recommend rolling out erosion control blankets. For flat areas with bare soil, sprinkling on a germination aid such as this one will help keep the seeds moist between watering. Wheat straw is the most economical germination aid but it usually contains wheat seeds, which may create a weed problem in your lawn over the winter.
  5. Mow low. Shorter turf allows sunlight to reach the grass seeds. Mow your lawn at about 2 inches and either bag or rake/remove the clippings if possible so that the new seeds will not be smothered by thatch or grass clippings. After the renovation, let the grass grow for 2-3 weeks and then mow at the usual height of about 3"-3.5".
  6. Ensure ground is soft. The aerator tines will penetrate deeper into your turf, and therefore make the renovation more successful, if the ground is moist. If the ground is not already soft from rain, then water well a few hours before the renovation.

How to Make Your Lawn More Heat and Drought Tolerant

Our climate in the Raleigh, NC area can be hard on landscape plants and especially turfgrass. Tall Fescue lawns can suffer damage as early as May when daytime temperatures reach 80 degrees and in the absence of soaking rainfall events.

With summer comes heat and sometimes extended periods of little or no rainfall. So what can you do to not only help your lawn survive or even thrive through the summer without wasting water and money?


1) WATER PROPERLY*

  • One inch of water per week – Your lawn needs at least one inch of water per week during the growing season to keep it healthy and green. The heat and drought conditions during North Carolina summers can kill any type of grass that you may have in the Raleigh, NC area. Warm season grasses such as Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass are very resilient and will not die off as quickly or easily as Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass, but they will gradually thin out during long periods without water. In the absence of adequate rain, it is necessary to water your lawn to keep it alive.
  • Water only when your lawn needs water – Setting your sprinklers on a timer and forgetting about them not only potentially wastes water and money, but it also creates ideal conditions for weeds and disease. It is best to water only when your turf shows signs of drought stress. You can observe drought stress by standing back from your lawn and looking at it as a whole. You will notice darker grey-green areas. This is what occurs before you start noticing the grass in these areas turning brown. If your Tall Fescue turf has already turned brown and does not bounce back from watering, then it will need to be reseeded in the fall. Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass lawns are generally more resilient to drought and should bounce back.
  • Water deeply and infrequently – Watering for a few minutes every couple of days not only encourages shallow root growth of your turfgrass, but it also provides a more ideal environment for fungal disease and the most invasive and hard-to-control weeds. Whereas, watering deeply twice per week will encourage deeper and heartier root growth; and the stronger and deeper the roots are, the longer they will stay moist between watering.

Read more about proper lawn watering in a previous blog article HERE.

* There are exceptions to these watering recommendations for newer turf. Consult Crownover Green or another reputable turf manager for alternate watering recommendations if your lawn is not mature or well established. 

2) MOW PROPERLY

  • Mow at the right length for your type of grass – Longer grass shades the soil from the sun and keeps the roots moist. This will keep your grass greener and reduce irrigation needs. For cool-season grasses, such as Fescues or Kentucky Bluegrass, set your mower on the higher settings (3"-3.5"). For more information on proper mowing of Fescue grasses, read a previous blog article HERE. For warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass, set your mower on one of the lower settings (1"-1.5"). While certain Bermudas and Zoysias can tolerate being mowed lower than an inch, they will dry out faster at this length, which not only increases irrigation needs, but it also allows more sunlight to reach the soil surface, which will germinate more weed seeds.
  • One third rule – Never cut more than 1/3 of the length of your grass blade in one cutting. By letting your grass grow too long and then hacking it you are stressing your turf, which leads to browning, gradual turf thinning and greater susceptibility to disease. You will need to mow more frequently during your lawn's peak growing periods (spring and fall for Fescues, summer for Bermudas and Zoysias).
  • Mow during low-stress periods – Avoid mowing during drought or extreme heat. Cutting your grass when it is stressed from periods of extreme heat and drought will cause further browning and increase the chance for disease. Chances are that your grass isn't growing much if it is not getting a lot of rainwater anyway, so let it be.


Go to Crownover Green's main website.


How much should I water my lawn?

We often talk with folks about watering lawns and the most frequently asked questions related to watering are 1) "How often should I water my grass?" and 2) "How long should I run my sprinklers?"

How often should I water my grass?

The answer to this question is simple: Usually not more than twice per week unless you are establishing a new lawn with sod or seed. More frequent watering may be causing more problems with your lawn.

Many people we talk with say they water twice a day, every day, every other day, or at least three times per week. If you are one of these people you may be enabling your lawn's addiction to water and creating weed and disease problems. The frequent watering offenders tend to be those who have automated in-ground irrigation systems.

The problem with frequent watering is not that you are using more water than necessary (although you might be). The problem is that by watering frequently, you may be preventing your turf from reaching its full potential for heat and drought tolerance. Furthermore, you are creating a more ideal environment for fungal disease and some of the most invasive and hard-to-control weeds that we see in Raleigh, NC area lawns.
lawn sprinkler
If you water frequently and briefly, then your turfgrass roots will have no reason to grow deeper because all of the water that the plant needs to survive is right at the surface of the soil. Whereas, watering deeply twice per week will encourage deeper and heartier root growth; and the deeper and stronger the roots are, the longer they will stay moist between watering, which will help the grass survive through the summer.



Some of the most frequently watered lawns that we see in the Raleigh, NC area have the worst problems with tough summer weeds including nutsedge, crabgrass, or spurge. Pathogenic fungi also love moisture. They develop on the blades of your grass, and the more frequently you wet your grass down the more likely you will be to eventually see a fungal disease which can kill large sections of your lawn very quickly.

In mid-summer when daytime conditions are sunny and very hot a lot of water may be lost to evaporation. In the absence of rain you may wish to water a third time during a week. However, the recommendation of Crownover Green for clients with automated irrigation systems is to set your sprinklers for twice per week in the morning, and manually run them a third time only when needed.

For how long should I run my sprinklers?
The answer to this question is not as simple because different types of sprinklers vary in the amount of water they put out in a given amount of time. There are different types of sprinkler heads that have varying rates of output and varying ranges of motion. Therefore the length of time your sprinklers should run depends on the particular sprinklers you use.

Here's how to determine how long to run your sprinklers. Put out a few soup bowls around your lawn. Then run your sprinklers to see how long it takes to fill them with the amount of water that your type of turfgrass needs. Zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass lawns should thrive on 1" of water per week through the summer, so they should receive .5" of water twice per week. Tall Fescue lawns need at least 1.5" of water per week, so they should receive .75" of water twice per week. If you have an automated in-ground irrigation system, be sure to put bowls in the various zones of the system. If you use hose-end sprinklers, put the bowls in each area as you water.

Turfgrass that is watered well twice per week and properly mowed (read about proper mowing in a previous blog article HERE) will be healthier and look better through the growing season. If you have been a frequent waterer or if you have an immature lawn, you may need to water more frequently at first and work toward twice per week.


Go to Crownover Green's main website.

Why is my Bemudagrass so thin in some places?

Almost every Bermudagrass lawn that we encounter has areas where the grass is thin. What do these lawns have in common? Shade. Bermudagrass needs full sun all day in order to stay thick. If you have a Bermudagrass lawn, then you have probably noticed this phenomenon.

Your Bermudagrass lawn is most likely a cultivar called Tifway 419, which is a very nice hybrid Bermudagrass. Real estate developers today seem to prefer it to other types of grass probably because it is affordable and establishes relatively easily from sod. It is a very attractive lawn when it is cut at the proper height (1"-1.5") and frequency (at least once per week), when it receives adequate water (1" per week), and when it is in full sun (at least 8 hours per day). The great thing about Tifway 419--or just about any other type of Bermudagrass--is that it will take a lot of abuse. Cut it improperly or infrequently, let your kids and pets rip and tear on it all summer, neglect to water it. It will survive, and even better, it will repair itself because it spreads aggressively by both underground stolons and above ground rhizomes (runners). Here's the bad news: It won't look as nice in areas where it receives shade at some point during the day, and it doesn't stand a chance where there is less than about six hours of full sun exposure per day.

Lawn areas that are typically thin on a Bermudagrass lawn due to shade are those against the foundation of your house or fence, and under or near trees and shrubs. If your house is within 25-30 feet of your neighbor's house, the Bermudagrass may be thinner between your houses.

What are some other options for areas that receive less than 8 hours of sun per day? Along foundations, fences, and natural areas, or under the branches of trees in your yard, consider non-lawn features such as shade tolerant shrubs, perennial flowers, or ground covers. For larger areas where you would like to have a lawn, choose a different type of grass. Tall Fescue does well with 5-6 hours of sun. One cultivar of Bermudagrass called "Tifgrand" will handle a little more shade than other cultivars of Bermudagrasss. While Tifgrand has a finer texture, it is a suitable match for Tifway 419, and it will do well with about 6-7 hours of full sun exposure.

Contact us today to discuss a solution for your shady lawn.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

Your Fescue won't stay nice for long if it's not kept nice and long.

One of the most important things you can do to help keep your grass thicker and greener while minimizing weeds and fungal diseases during the stress of summer is to mow it at its proper height. The proper height for Fescue is 3"-3.5". The only times we recommend cutting it lower is the first time you mow in late winter and just before your fall renovation. A little shorter in the spring and fall when temperatures are consistently below 80 degrees is probably ok, but not too low or you may be compromising root growth during critical periods when your turf needs to build its strength. When daytime temperatures start flirting with the 80 degree mark, it is time to raise up the mower deck.

Keeping Fescue grasses long has several benefits.
  • It shades the soil from the sun, which keeps your grass's roots moist longer. 
  • The shaded soil also prevents some weed seeds from germinating and sprouting. In our experience, homeowners who mow their lawns lower than 3 inches usually have more weed problems. 
  • Cutting Fescue higher reduces the stress on the turfgrass plant, which makes it less susceptible to fungal disease and drought stress.
  • Keeping the grass higher, allows the turfgrass plant to focus its energy on growing deeper, stronger roots rather than on recovering from close cutting. 

While some people have a preference for a shorter lawn, in our experience Fescue lawns that are mowed higher stay nicer through the growing season than those mowed lower, which tend to suffer more damage from heat, drought, and disease during the summer. If you mow your own lawn, set your mower at 3"-3.5". If a lawn service is cutting your grass too low, ask them to cut it higher.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

When will my grass green up this spring?

After a cold winter, there is usually much anticipation of warmer spring temperatures. Following even the coldest of winters, our landscapes eventually start looking a little brighter with daffodils blooming, evergreen plants beginning a transformation to their warm-season colors, and grass greening up.

Each of your outdoor plants, including your various trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and grass, has a certain temperature at which it will leave its winter dormant state. Organic lawn care is especially dependent on soil temperatures because an organic approach relies on the living ecosystem within the soil to help the grass grow. From late fall through early spring, most of the organisms in the soil are in their dormant state. They are hibernating. As the temperatures rise in the spring, these organisms wake up and begin processing nutrients, making them available to the grass.

It should be noted that grass that is greener during the winter or that greens up early in the spring is not necessarily healthier than grass that is not as green. It is simply a sign that certain high-nitrogen fertilizers, which are not as dependent on the soil ecosystem to work, were applied late during the previous fall. The actual health of a lawn should not be measured by when it turns green after being dormant, but rather by the content of the soil, level of pests and diseases, and overall appearance of the lawn throughout the entire growing season.
  
Tall Fescue in February in Wake Forest
Tall Fescue in May in Wake Forest

At Crownover Green, we closely monitor soil temperatures using this tool provided by the state climate office at North Carolina State University. Knowing the soil temperatures throughout the growing season helps us gauge when to sow seed or apply the various organic lawn care products that are included in the Crownover Green Lawn Care Solution. It also helps us know when to expect different types of grass to begin greening up in the spring.

Fescue turfgrass will begin to come out of dormancy as soil temperatures exceed about 50 degrees, which is typically around mid-March in Wake Forest and Raleigh, NC. By mid April, a Fescue lawn in this area should reach its ideal deep green color.

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass will begin to exit dormancy as soil temperatures reach about 60 degrees and will gradually turn from their sandy tan color of winter to their bright green color of summer when soil temperatures exceed 70 degrees, which is usually by June in this area.

Alas, no matter when the grass greens up in the spring, it never seems to green up fast enough.

Does organic lawn care work as well as chemical lawn care?

The short answer to this question is, "Yes, organic lawn care definitely works as well or better than chemical lawn care." Would you expect a different answer from an organic lawn care provider?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions from prospective Crownover Green clients, and we understand that it is a common misconception that organic lawn care is less effective than chemical lawn care. The fantastic advertising by the big lawn chemical companies gives one the impression that the only way to grow good grass is to use their products. You will even find several lawn care "experts" who assert that you will have to lower your standards if you don't go with a chemical cocktail program or that your lawn will look worse before it will look better if you go with organics. We have not found this to be the case with the Crownover Green Lawn Care Solution, and our clients seem to agree.

Close-up of an organic lawn by Crownover Green
Really? I tried using organic fertilizer once and it didn't work.
The key to an effective organic lawn care program is implementing a comprehensive plan. There is not a one-bag-does-all organic product like a chemical weed and feed product, and one application of an organic fertilizer that you buy at the garden center may not produce the results you are hoping for. A good organic program should at least include soil organic matter (which is found in good organic fertilizers), soil microorganisms (which are contained in compost teas), and natural weed controls. Given the clay soil that is common in the Raleigh, NC area, annual core aeration is also particularly important.

What if I switch from a chemical program to an organic one?
A lawn that has been treated with synthetics over time is likely deficient of the biological components that are necessary for natural plant growth (i.e., the lawn is dependent on the synthetics to look good). Therefore, you may need to kick-start the biological process by applying extra soil organic matter and soil microorganisms in the first year at the right times of year based on your type of grass (more on timing in a future blog post perhaps). If these extra materials are not applied, then your lawn could actually look worse for several months before it will look better depending on when you make the switch. New Crownover Green clients get the extra materials at no extra charge.

What about weeds? How can I get rid of them organically?
Pull them and work on getting your lawn as thick as possible to prevent more from popping up in the future. A homeowner may not have many other organic options. Crownover Green uses various methods. We pull a lot of weeds (read We. Pull. Weeds.). We freeze weeds (read We. Freeze. Weeds.). The spray solutions that we use routinely are the safest available, including one that is certified organic, one that is mineral-based (non-synthetic), and two synthetics that are classified by the EPA as a Reduced Risk Pesticide (low impact on human health, low potential for groundwater contamination, and low toxicity to birds and fish).

Organic lawn care is better than chemical lawn care.
Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Organic lawn care is safer for people, pets, aquatic life, and our water supply.
  2. Organic lawns are less susceptible to pests and diseases; whereas chemically maintained lawns require even more chemicals to fight pests and diseases.
  3. The roots of organically maintained grass grow deeper and the grass resists heat and drought stress better.
  4. The soil under an organic lawn holds moisture longer which reduces irrigation needs and saves you money over time.
  5. Crownover Green organic lawns look as nice or better than chemical lawns. Seeing is believing.


We. Freeze. Weeds.

Crownover Green has added a "cool" new tool called Frostbite to our organic weed killing arsenal for 2014. The Frostbite Natural Weed Control System uses a blast of dry ice to kill weeds with no residual chemicals and no adverse health effects.

The Frostbite weed control device used by Crownover Green.

The system is basically a spray gun with a rigid plastic cone on the end of it, and it is connected with a hose to a cylinder containing liquid CO2, which is carried either in a backpack or on a cart.

Frostbite was invented by Rob Howerton, who happens to be a North Carolinian, and its effectiveness has been tested at North Carolina State University. Turfgrass can withstand the freeze from the dry ice, but many weeds succumb to a one second blast at -70 degrees Fahrenheit. Fescue grass is virtually unaffected by the freeze. Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass will temporarily return to dormancy (turn brown) at the spot of the weed, but this is no more damaging than chemical herbicides.

We leased the Frostbite system during the summer of 2013 for a 30 day trial period. It is not a perfect system. It doesn't kill every weed. Plus, the entire system was cumbersome, and the 50-pound CO2 cylinders are very heavy to carry in a backpack. We will avoid this as much as possible in 2014 by using a golf bag cart to wheel the tank around clients' lawns. Additionally, the new device that we purchased is lighter and more svelte than the prototype that we tested.

New Frostbite device on left and old prototype on the right

We decided that the Frostbite system will be a good complement to our current weed killing methods--pulling and spraying--because it kills a couple of weeds that are difficult to pull and resistant to our safer herbicides.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

5 Safer Weed-Killing Alternatives to Roundup

The controversy over the adverse health effects of Glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Roundup, is well documented online (Google "health effects of Roundup"), especially related to genetically modifying food crops to resist repeated dousing with Roundup. Granted there probably aren't many people or pets eating the weeds from the cracks of the driveway, so spraying Roundup there may have a less direct or immediate impact on our health. It is also important to mention that there are significantly more toxic chemicals on the shelf at your garden center than Glyphosate (Google "2,4-D"). Notwithstanding, there are good reasons to be cautious about spraying a toxic chemical in areas where we and our loved ones relax and play; and in general, we think it is a very good idea to reduce the use of synthetic chemicals as much as possible to keep them out of our public water supply (which usually contains some level of Glyphosate, by the way). Here are some safer options for addressing weeds and grass in non-lawn areas:
  1. Hand-pulling - Pulling weeds is the safest, most effective way to eliminate them and it provides instantaneous results, which are some of the reasons why hand-pulling weeds is included in the Crownover Green Lawn Care Solution. To learn more about why we love hand-pulling weeds, read a previous blog entry, We. Pull. Weeds. There are a variety of weed pulling tools ranging from less than $10 for a very basic hand tool to about $50 for one that enables you to pull weeds without even bending over. These tools are especially useful on weeds such as dandelions that have a deep taproot. However, pulling all of the weeds on your property may not be a viable option.
  2. Weed Torch - A basic weed torch, which is powered by small propane canisters, can be purchased for less than $50. Burning weeds is effective, provides instantaneous results, and involves less elbow grease than hand-pulling. However, there is an obvious safety concern. Please be careful.
  3. Boiling Water - Yes, water. Boiled. It's actually very effective and works quickly, but is only practical if you have just a handful of weeds to kill. If you have a lot of weeds, it could take a while to boil enough water to kill them all. Also, please be careful.
  4. Vinegar - Pour vinegar into a spray bottle, add a couple drops of dish soap, and spray it on your weeds on a hot sunny day. The soap helps the vinegar stick to the foliage of the weed and many weeds will shrivel within an hour our two. Grassy weeds, not so much (although don't spray it on the grass you want to keep), and some waxy broadleaf weeds might need a follow-up application. The advantages of vinegar are that it is cheap, fairly safe, easy to get, and quicker to apply to a large number of weeds than hand-pulling or torching.
  5. Other Safer Sprays - There are several effective organic liquid products on the market, but the big box garden centers don't tend to stock many of them because they cost a little more than Roundup (and therefore probably don't sell as well). At some local garden centers or online you can find 20% horticultural vinegar, which is four times stronger than common household vinegar, or products that contain citric acid, cinnamon oil, clove oil, or herbicidal soap.
There is not necessarily one best choice for killing weeds. Choose the one that will work best for you based on your budget, patience, and overall preference. And please note that a substance capable of killing an unwanted plant might also kill a desirable one, so be careful when applying it near turf or ornamental plants.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

We. Pull. Weeds.

Yes, we do pull weeds. From the lawn. With our hands. All sorts of weeds: bittercrest, chickweed, creeping charlie, dandelion, henbit, plantain, thistle . . .


Weeds pulled from lawns in Raleigh and Wake Forest
Pulling weeds seems to be an unfamiliar practice these days, and especially for a lawn care company. The gold standard in professional lawn care is to identify the most effective mixture of chemicals to quickly kill everything in the lawn except the grass. We reject this standard because spraying a cocktail of chemicals on lawns where children and pets play is, well, unwise. 

So, at Crownover Green, we are revolutionizing professional lawn care by actually pulling weeds by hand. We do it because it is not only the organic way, which is what we are all about, but it’s also the best way to eliminate weeds from a lawn. There is no chemical that will make a weed disappear quicker than by a pluck with a thumb and forefinger.

There are some herbicides that are much safer than the typical chemical cocktails (a certified organic herbicide, another natural herbicide, and a couple of synthetic herbicides that the EPA classifies as Reduced Risk) and we use them, but judiciously, and with the ultimate goal of developing a thick carpet of grass with so few weeds that they can be easily managed by ongoing hand-pulling.

Pulling weeds . . .
. . . is safe. No harmful chemicals are involved.
. . . is free.
. . . is gratifying. The results are instantaneous.
. . . is really not that hard. Squat, grab, and pull.

Learn more about our whole turf treatment program, called the Crownover Green Lawn Care Solution, which includes weed-pulling. 

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

Why do weeds still emerge even after you apply a pre-emergent herbicide?

There are several reasons why weeds will emerge even though pre-emergent was applied. Here they are in no particular order:
  • Weeds that spread via their root systems (creeping roots, bulbs, tubers, stolons, rhizomes) will not be affected by pre-emergent herbicide. They will keep spreading year after year if they are not properly addressed. Pulling them out by hand may not be effective due to their strong or expansive root systems, which will promptly regenerate new weed plants. Short of digging them up and replacing these sections of your lawn, the most effective way to eradicate them is to spray them with a post-emergent herbicide (preferably organic or reduced risk synthetic); and depending on how robust their root system is, it may take multiple applications throughout a growing season to get rid of them. 
  • Some weeds that spread via seed are biennials (e.g., dandelions), which means that they don’t spread seed until their second year of life which is after a first year in which they become a well-established plant that is not affected by pre-emergent herbicide. If they are in their second year of life, they must be pulled out by hand or sprayed with a post-emergent herbicide. 
  • The timing of when you apply the pre-emergent may not be in sync with when the weeds germinate. If you apply it too late, some seeds in your lawn may have already germinated and grown beyond the point at which the pre-emergent will kill them. If you apply it too early, the residual effects of the pre-emergent may be reduced before certain weed seeds begin to germinate. Well-timed application is critical. You need to know the soil temperature at which certain weeds begin germinating and apply the pre-emergent then for maximum impact. 
  • Weed seeds that are deposited in your lawn by natural processes after the pre-emergent was applied may not be affected by the treatment. Weed seeds are being deposited in your lawn every day throughout the year by wind, birds, and other wildlife. Seeds may also be transported to our lawns inadvertently by our children, pets, and ourselves. 
With so many reasons why weeds might still grow despite applying a pre-emergent herbicide, you may be wondering if it makes sense to apply one at all. At Crownover Green, we believe that it is especially worthwhile to apply a pre-emergent on lawns that are thin or on which the weeds were not well managed the previous year in order to thwart certain aggressive and invasive weeds in a lawn. Your lawn may contain hundreds or thousands of weed seeds that are lying dormant during the winter. As the soil temperature rises, these seeds begin to germinate and grow. If a pre-emergent herbicide has been properly applied, many of these tiny plants will be terminated and you will never notice them.

Get a quick quote now so we can manage the pesky weeds in your lawn.

Go to Crownover Green's main website.

Why do we have lawns in the first place?

This is the first blog post by Crownover Green, and while we plan for most of our posts to provide tips and information on organic lawn care, this first post is a somewhat philosophical explanation about our approach to lawn care.

Any deliberation about how one chooses to spend his or her time or resources should start by deciding why it is worth doing at all. At Crownover Green, we believe that a decision about the way one might choose to maintain his or her lawn should start with an answer to this simple question: "Why do I have a lawn in the first place?"

Lawns do not occur naturally. In our area of North Carolina, a natural plot of land, untouched by humans, would have many varieties of plants on it, including trees, shrubs, and ground covers. The terrain would possibly be uneven, and there would likely be various species of wildlife inhabiting it. Think, forest. Wake Forest, circa the 1800's.

Woodlands are wonderful places where we may like to spend time, but only a few among us in the Triangle area choose to make our permanent home in the middle of the woods. The rest of us live in neighborhoods that have been thoughtfully planned on plots of land that have been pragmatically and pleasingly landscaped. We don't want to rip through briers and thorns, climb over fallen trees, or stumble over rocks as we walk out of our houses every morning. We like feeling relatively secure that our pets will be ok when we let them out the backdoor in the evening to do their business. And we like having a thick cushion of turf that is free of poisonous or injurious plants for our kids to play ball on, roll around on, or just relax on.




We cultivate our little pieces of the planet to fit our lifestyles and our sense of beauty. We like nice trees, shrubs, and flowers. And we like lawns. Thick, green lawns. We like them because they look good. But more importantly, we like them because they provide a comfortable and safe place for us to be with our loved ones.

Rodney, the founder of Crownover Green, began studying and experimenting with organic lawn care methods when he realized that the big chemical companies that promise beautiful weed-free lawns, are selling chemicals that are linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, and all sorts of chronic illnesses. After initially pondering, 'Why do I have a lawn in the first place?' he questioned, 'If my reason for having a lawn is for my family to have a comfortable and safe place to be, then why would I broadcast a bunch of chemicals on it that I believe could harm us?'


So there you have it--the basis for the Crownover Green Lawn Care Solution. We believe that lawns should be beautiful and that they should fulfill their purpose for our loved ones. 


Go to Crownover Green's main website.