Controlling Texas Hornworms

Controlling Texas Hornworms

You can find these pesky caterpillars feeding on your various garden plants like tomato, eggplant, pepper, and potato. Hornworms can be hard to spot because they blend in with the plant leaves. They literally look like a leaf in their coloring. If you see dark spots on your leaves, look underneath and you may find one of these buggers. If you don’t see them in time, they can take your plants down to a nub in a matter of days.

Factoids about Hornworms

All living creatures serve a purpose, so what’s the purpose of the pesky hornworm? Well, it matures into a beautiful sphinx moth that resembles a miniature hummingbird.

With that hook on one end, it sure looks like it might sting or bite, but nope. A hornworm’s horn doesn’t sting and is no threat to humans. If you poke one, you may be treated to a defensive response. The hornworm will rear up, looking as threatening as possible, and make loud clicking noises.

Wasps are a great ally in controlling hornworm populations. If you see a hornworm with what looks like grains of white rice stuck all over its back, it has been parasitized by a wasp. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will eat the hornworm. The wasps have a natural duty to keep the hornworms in check.

How to control Hornworms

Commercial and organic pesticides are available. Or you can pick them off your plant and transport them to another location. Remember, they do not bite or sting, and the worst thing that can happen is they will make a loud clicking sound.

As mentioned in our factoids, if you see the hornworm covered in white egg sacs that look like rice, leave that hornworm alone. The egg sacs are those parasitic wasps called the Braconid wasp. Let the eggs hatch. Then you’ll have an army of wasps to defend your garden against all types of pests. These wasps are not a threat to humans.

Preventing future Hornworms

Tilling your garden after your harvest and again in early spring, can kill the majority of the overwintering pests and reduce hornworm problems for the coming year.

If you need help with your lawn maintenance, call First Response Lawn Care today!

Bald Spots in Your Lawn

Bald Spots in Your Lawn

Do you have bald spots in your lawn? Before the turf can be treated, you need to determine the root, pardon the pun, of the problem. If you eliminate pests and fungus as causes, you may just find that you need some seeds.

Good seed-to-soil contact will get the seeds germinating fast. Using a sharp spade or shovel, cut the area around the dead turf. Then, use the flat part of the spade to lift off the dead turf. Because you are removing at least a couple of inches of thatch and grass, fill in the area with some clean topsoil to keep it level with the rest of the yard.

Rake out the area until it is smooth and there are no big clumps in the soil. Cast a thin layer of seeds on the area, and then gently rake the seeds into the topsoil. Cover it with straw to hold in moisture and protect the seeds from birds.

If your lawn seems thin all over, try overseeding it. The basics are the same as patching. Rake the area well, picking up any leaves and debris in the turf. Cast the seeds over the turf, and then spread about a half an inch of compost or topsoil on the lawn. To get good seed-to-soil contact, gently rake the seeds and soil into the grass.

If you don’t have time to patch your lawn, call a professional. First Response Lawn Care is here to help with your bald spots—on your lawn!

Planting Fall Flowers

Planting Fall Flowers

It’s not too early to start thinking about your Fall landscape. Now’s the time to decide on the best show of flowers for your yard. Let’s talk about a few choices you have for a beautiful display of Fall color –

Chrysanthemums (“Mums”)

Plant fall-blooming annual mums for seasonal color. Mums remind us of football and Halloween. These fall favorites ignite a landscape with blazing color. The first step is to buy the right kind of mums. Not all garden mums are created equal in terms of surviving winter cold.  When buying garden mums, look for tags that say hardy mums or garden mums, as opposed to the less hardy florist mums or cutting mums.

The best time to plant fall purchased garden mums is the minute you buy them, which should be as soon as you see them for sale. Early planting—even as early as September —helps plants develop a strong root system. Plant garden mums too late, and winter freeze-thaw cycles can shove plants out of soil, a condition known as frost heave. Without early planting to permit strong root growth, shallow rooted garden mums don’t really stand a chance.

After planting garden mums, don’t forget to water throughout fall. It’s also wise to add mulch at planting time over plant roots. Once soil freezes, add another mulch layer around the base of garden mums to help insulate soil and prevent frost heave.

Marigolds

Marigolds come in a variety of warm colors. Other than mums, there aren’t many plants that give exceptional fall color. Factoid: African marigolds planted in fall will out-bloom any chrysanthemum.

The best time to plant marigolds in the garden is during the first few weeks of September. Even though they are often thought of as a spring through summer flower, they really perform much better from late summer up until first frost. You can use them to fill holes in your borders, add color to your fall display, and to mass plant. Tip: Plant marigolds around your Fall vegetable garden to deter insects because of their strong fragrance.

To ensure success with marigolds, establish your beds with good soil prep and proper drainage, and always hand-water the first several weeks to allow roots to establish. Don’t give marigolds any shade at all. Do not over water or give them less than full, blasting Texas sun.

Zinnias

Plant some dwarf  (low growing) or giant (reach up to 4′ tall) zinnias for a vibrant bright display of color. Zinnias are annuals, so they grow for one season and make great cutting flowers, but do not come back in subsequent years.

Usually, fall zinnias of all types begin showing up in Texas garden centers in September. They need full sunlight for a half day or more, and will thrive as long as they have moderate water and are planted in a well-drained soil.

Zinnias are one of the easiest annuals to grow. Outstanding in beds, borders, and containers, and they attract butterflies to your garden.

Let us know your favorite Texas Fall flower! And if you need help planting, call First Response Lawn Care today at (214) 701-7622!

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Your Flower Bed

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Your Flower Bed

Are you fed up with squirrels digging in your potted plants or eating your flowers? We are hearing more and more customer complaints about the battle between gardener and squirrel. Squirrels can cause a lot of damage in potted plants and the garden, and we know many of you have gone out to tend to your carefully planted containers only to find chaos, with pots knocked over, bulbs gone, and plants and flowers uprooted. On investigation of the remaining soil in the pot you may have found buried whole nuts or shells. The squirrels from H-E-double hockey sticks have visited….

How to stop squirrels from digging

Here are a few tricks to stop these pests from becoming a serious nuisance. These work best with container gardening but they can also be applied directly to small areas of your garden beds.

The most obvious way to stop squirrels in their tracks is to put physical barriers in their way.  One of the most commonly used tricks to keep squirrels out of potted plants is to put something in the pots that the squirrels won’t like. We aren’t encouraging poisoning or harming the critters, just keeping them away from your potted plants and garden. Here are our top 7 ways to deter squirrels –

  1. Try covering the surface of the pot with attractive rocks and stones. The squirrels won’t be able to budge them and yet they’ll enhance the appearance of your garden containers.
  2. Try laying chicken wire just under the top level of soil when planting bulbs to prevent squirrels from digging them out. Remove it when shoots appear.
  3. Mix in fresh, strong smelling coffee grounds with the top layer of soil. The odor is repellent to squirrels but does them no harm.
  4. Or make your own hot pepper spray. You can make pepper spray by combining a couple of teaspoons of washing up liquid with a small bottle of hot pepper sauce and water. Put it into a plastic spray bottle to apply. Commercial pepper sprays are also available specifically for keeping squirrels away from plants and gardens. If you don’t want to actually spray your plants, sprinkle hot red pepper flakes or powder in the soil around the plants to keep squirrels away. Of course you’ll need to repeat this regularly, especially after each time it rains. They do not like the spiciness at all and they will avoid any area that has been treated. You can make pepper spray by combining a couple of teaspoons of washing up liquid with a small bottle of hot pepper sauce and water. Put it into a plastic spray bottle to apply. Commercial pepper sprays are also available specifically for keeping squirrels away from plants and gardens. If you don’t want to actually spray your plants, sprinkle hot red pepper flakes or powder in the soil around the plants to keep squirrels away. Of course you’ll need to repeat this regularly, especially after each time it rains.
  5. Bone meal is also repulsive to squirrels. It is a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen and ammonia, and has a strong scent that deters squirrels. The added bonus is that you will be adding nitrogen to your soil at the same time!
  6. There are organic products on the market with non-toxic repellents such as Nature’s Defense..  It is safe to use around children, pets, plants and food crops.
  7. Ultrasonic technology is also available and very affordable like this Solar Yard Guard Ultrasonic Animal Repeller from Target.

Squirrel repellent can be a valuable tool when you are trying to protect your bulbs, flowers and plants. Squirrels are tenacious and we know this is an on-going battle, but hopefully one of the above tricks will work for you.

First Response Lawn Care is here for you. If you need any help with lawn maintenance or just want to talk about squirrels, give us a call at 214-

Late Summer Is A Great Time to Fertilize

Late Summer Is A Great Time to Fertilize

Hey North Texas, late summer is a great time to fertilize your lawn. Summer is tough on grass. Heat, drought, foot traffic, and insects stress it out to the max. Feeding your lawn in the late summer protects and strengthens it against these problems.

Lawns in warm-season grass areas should be fed over the summer months as they grow steadily from spring to fall. If you see insects in your grass, it’s time to also incorporate insect control.

In the late summer and early fall, root growth begins again because of the decrease in soil temperature and increase in natural rainfall. The grass will green up again with the production of new roots and shoots and damaged patches will start to disappear. Fertilizing at this time will provide the nutrients the grass needs to recover and re-grow rapidly.

The fertilizer you apply in the late summer will be used up by the plant to grow shoots and roots, rather than being stored in plant tissue for use in the future.

Proper fertilization can keep your grass thick and healthy. This helps the lawn resist insects and diseases and makes it harder for weeds to grow. Fertilizers release minerals and nutrients in a “slow release” form. Clients ask us all of the time if it’s too late to make their lawn better and we say it’s never too late with a good routine of weeding, feeding and aerating.

With the fertilization in late Summer, you’ll see improvement in color, growth and health of your lawn.

If you aren’t on a regular schedule to feed your lawn, call First Response Lawn Care today and let’s get started on a plan for your lawn!

Skunks Do More Than Stink Up Your Lawn

Skunks Do More Than Stink Up Your Lawn

We’ve been smelling a lot of skunks in our yard lately. Typically it’s when we take the dogs out later in the evening. So today’s topic is on skunks and your lawn. 

Those cute little black and white striped skunks are nocturnal animals that are naturally mild-mannered and non-aggressive. They prefer small animals and insects for dinner instead of your lawn and garden. They do occasionally visit gardens and if they do, it may be because corn or other plants are close to the ground.

Skunks can be very nice to have around because they dig up and feed on grubs and other crop-destroying insect life. However, skunks are not partial to insects. They will eat leaves, buds, grasses, grains, garbage, any fruit or berries within reach, and even small game. This is what can make them a bit of a nuisance.

Why do skunks spray?

You can smell an angry skunk from miles away. A skunk can spray you from 10 to 12 feet, sideways, up, or down, with little apparent effort. Most gardeners worry more about a skunk spraying in the garden, on the gardener, or on a pet than about a skunk chewing up their lawn and garden.

Under a skunk’s tail are a pair of ducts which, in peacetime, remain hidden, but which emit a foul ammunition when they are upset. Each of the two pouches contains enough ammunition for six rounds. After the supply is exhausted, it takes a week for the liquid to replenish.

A skunk’s warfare is purely defensive. When confronted by a menacing man or clamorous dog, skunks will try to sidestep by ambling off. This means that if you find a skunk, simply turn back and you should be fine. If pursued, skunks will turn, face their aggressor, and stamp their forefeet. This is their first warning and you should run!

The second warning comes when their tails, all but the tips, are hoisted and the spray is released. People can get sprayed when they walk through their yard in the dark or disturb a skunk while eating.

How do you know if you have skunks in your garden?

Skunks are often mistaken for raccoons, because they both have five toes. Sometimes the fifth toe is hard to see in skunk tracks. Their heels usually are not part of the tracks, and their claw marks are usually somewhat visible. Often, the best way to identify skunks is unfortunately by their odor.

If your lawn or flower bed has lots of holes in it, you may have a skunk problem. Skunks dig up the turf looking for grubs. They move around at night and dig in grassy areas, making distinct 3– to 4–inch deep holes. Skunk activity increases in the spring and then lessens naturally, so any problems may stop all on their own.

Skunks sometimes feed on corn, but they only eat the lower ears. If a corn stalk has been toppled over, the culprit is more likely a raccoon. Planting taller varieties of corn can minimize this damage.

How do you get rid of skunks?

  • Probably the best skunk repellent is a light. Skunks are nocturnal and their eyes are very light sensitive. A bright light or a motion sensor flood light will scare skunks away.
  • Most animals, including skunks, dislike the smell of citrus fruits. Place orange or lemon peels around the yard as a natural skunk repellent.
  • Spray a mixture of castor oil and dish-washing detergent diluted in water. Skunks find the smell offensive. Spray the area at night when the skunk is away foraging.
  • Predator urine (e.g. dogs) can be used to repel a skunk. These are commercially sold in garden centers.
  • If the skunks are in a smaller garden patch, put bars of strong–smelling soap or a room deodorizer near your garden. Skunks hate strong scents.
  • If nothing works, there are humane ways for professionals to trap skunks and transport them elsewhere. Often, skunk removal by trapping is the only answer, and there just isn’t a lot you can do if it is a skunk.
  • One of the best preventative methods is to treat your lawn so that you get rid of the skunk’s favorite snacks–insects.

 What do you do if you or a pet are spayed by a skunk?

 If you or your pet is sprayed by a skunk, try a mixture of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda, and 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap. Shampoo only the area sprayed by the skunk. We recommend wearing rubber gloves. Then using a sponge or washcloth, wet the area and work the solution into the skin (or fur) with your hands avoiding the eyes. Then rinse. There are also commercial skunk odor removers like Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Removal.

Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda convert the skunk musk into an odorless chemical, and the soap in the mixture breaks down the oily residue so the other chemicals can work.

First Response Lawn Care provides expert lawn treatment. Call us today to get started on a lawn treatment plan for your lawn.

Affordable Fate Texas Lawn Mowing Services

Affordable Fate Texas Lawn Mowing Services

Lawn mowing, lawn care, fertilization, seeding, sprinkler systems at First Response Lawn Care Rockwall we pretty much do it all. The best part is that we are affordable, reliable, and genuinely care about your lawn.

We are a locally owned business and our goal is to provide quality services to our community. We serve Fate, Rockwall, Royse City, Caddo Mills, Rowlett, Forney, Heath, Sachse, Wylie, Lavon, Garland and surrounding areas. We want to ensure that residents in our communities are pleased with our fair prices, and know that we are truly dedicated to high-quality customer service. Why do we care? Because we are a part of these communities!

We are easy to work with, accept all major credit cards, and we will be there when we say we will. We can handle all of your landscape needs from lawn mowing, flower bed clean-ups, and treatment for your yard to ridding your lawn of weeds and unwanted bugs. We make time for you so you can make time for your family.  We are even a licensed lawn sprinkler company offering irrigation systems and repair!

Now that Summer is in full force, if you find yourself slaving over your lawn, let us take care of it for you. Professional lawn service frees up your time so you can invest it in more important things…like life!

We provide complete lawn service from our family to yours. If you are looking for a great, dependable lawn mowing service, call us today for a free quote at 214-701-7622. Ask for Shannon!

Stop the Ant Brigade

Stop the Ant Brigade

Ants are not generally considered harmful pests, but they can create havoc to turf grass not just cosmetically either. The actual health of the lawn can be compromised by an ant problem. Controlling ants in the lawn becomes important where their hill building causes root damage to grass and unsightly mounds. Lawn dwelling ants are not the stinging sort, but some species have a habit of undermining grass roots and causing large dead patches in the lawn.

The actual ant hills are another problem in the lawn. Ant hills can become large and make mowing difficult. As we all know, raking out the hills will  just scatter the ant population. You could try raking frequently to reduce hardened mounds from occurring. This simple step is effective if done on a weekly basis from fall to summer, but who has the time to do that?!

Call First Response Lawn Care today and get started on an ant control treatment today!

When Heat Rises Increase Watering Your Garden

When Heat Rises Increase Watering Your Garden

When Heat Rises Increase Watering Your Garden

Now that the summer temps are reaching triple digits, we need to take extra care in watering the lawn, plants and vegetable garden. We happen to notice that our tomatoes weren’t producing much, and the pepper plants looked particularly wilted recently. Veggies need water to produce, so watering the garden correctly is crucial in the hot summer especially when we are not getting enough rain. Tomatoes are especially unforgiving if they dry out, then get wet and get dried out again. This creates problems like blossom end rot. And if you start noticing cracks in your fruit, this happens when water follows a drought, causing the fruit to expand suddenly and split the skin. The only way to avoid this is to keep the soil consistently moist. We’ve put together a list of tips for watering your garden that should help in this heat!

Water your vegetables two to three times a week or more. 

During really hot summer weather, watering the garden deeply and often is critical. The water needs to penetrate the soil to encourage deep roots and get away from the hot soil surface. If you aren’t using a sprinkler or drip system, put a cup or can in the garden soil and don’t stop watering until it has collected at least an inch of water. If your veggies are in containers like pots, you need to water every day during the heat because containers dry out faster than the ground. To hand-water a small plot, or pots, use a nozzle turned to the “shower” setting for gentle, rain-like watering. If water just puddles on the surface of the soil at first, move on, and come back several times to be sure the water is actually soaking in to the soil. The soil needs to be thoroughly moist.

Watch your garden for an “indicator” plant.

The first indication of a wilting plant in the garden is your dehydration indicator. When you notice a plant with droopy leaves, you need to take action. The first is usually a plant with big leaves like squash, cucumber and melon because those lose lots of moisture fast. But in our veggie garden, we noticed the peppers and tomatoes wilted first. Of course, it’s better to water consistently so that this never happens. We all have busy lives and even the attentive gardeners get caught by wilting plants in the summer months. Note that in very hot, dry, and sunny weather, the big-leafed plants will wilt a bit mid-day no matter what, but they recover quickly in the evening. We keep a watering schedule programmed in our cell phone to remind us to check the more vulnerable plants each day at some point.

Avoid wetting the plant’s leaves. 

If you use a sprinkler system, it is impossible not to wet the leaves when watering the garden, so in that case, water early in the morning so that the foliage will dry early and quickly to minimize disease risk. You can put the sprinkler on a timer so that it comes on just before daybreak, when the leaves may already be wet with dew. The gardening principle here is to avoid adding to the length of time that the leaves stay wet because many diseases need moisture to thrive.

Help keep water in the ground. 

Use mulch! We recommend organic mulch like chopped up leaves, finely ground bark, wheat straw or pine needles, but any mulch is better than none. Spread mulch around and under plants. This creates a barrier between the moist soil and the blazing sun. You need a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch in hot weather. This will act as a shade cloth to keep in moisture and cool plant roots. Without mulch, the intense sun bakes the soil requiring even more watering.

If you need help reviving your lawn in the heat of the summer, call your lawn care experts First Response Lawn Care at (214) 701-7622. We serve Rockwall and surrounding cities Royse City, Fate, Rowlett, Sachse, Wylie, Lavon, Forney, Heath, Garland, and Mesquite Texas. We are here to help!

Fungus Among Us Lawn Mushrooms

Fungus Among Us Lawn Mushrooms

Mushrooms are actually part of a fungus that grows underground, hidden from sight. Lawn fungi and their mushrooms don’t harm a lawn. They’re actually good guys in the ecosystem of your yard, breaking down organic material into nutrients your lawn can use. When most people hear the word “mushroom,” they think of the typical umbrella-shaped one, which is sometimes called a toadstool. Common names for lawn fungus, include puffball, shaggy mane, Japanese parasol or the oddly shaped and smelly stinkhorn.

Common Causes and Solutions
Fungi living beneath lawns are usually long-lived organisms that produce mushrooms when conditions are right. The top reasons mushrooms occur are buried organic matter, high moisture and low light.

Cause: Buried organic matter
A fungus grows by breaking down organic matter. In a lawn, that organic material could be buried timber, a stump, or tree or shrub roots that remain underground after plants have been removed.

Sometimes you can hasten the material’s breakdown by applying nitrogen fertilizer. Use a readily available nitrogen source, not a slow-release one. Aim for a rate of 1/2 to 3/4 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. If you don’t mind disturbing your lawn, you can also try digging up the organic material.

Cause: High moisture
Periods of prolonged rain can coax mushrooms to form, as can overwatering a lawn. Heavily compacted soil and a thick thatch layer can create drainage problems, which provide ideal growing conditions for mushrooms.

Solution: While you can’t do much about overabundant rainfall, you can address lawn watering practices. Aim for deep, infrequent lawn watering, which encourages turf to develop an extensive root system. Learn tips for lawn irrigation.

For drainage issues caused by compacted soil, try aerating your lawn. If your lawn needs to be aerated, check out our services below.

Lawn Aeration