Remove New Invasive Vines From Your Lawn

Swallow-wort, also called "dog strangling vines," is no ordinary weed--it is quickly becoming an aggressive invader in landscapes throughout the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, and Canada. A twining vine in the milkweed family that can grow up to 7 feet tall, this nuisance is spreading rapidly in forests and open fields of undisturbed soil.

There are two varieties: The pale swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum rossicum), which comes from the Ukraine; and the black swallow-wort (V. nigrum) that originated from southwestern Europe. In their natural environments, both varieties are kept in check by native natural enemies, particularly insects and diseases. The vines are unique in that they contain strong and unusual poisons that limit natural enemies and keep deer and cattle from feeding on them.

How to Control Swallow-Wort
  • Ensure early detection and total weed removal--for sample photos, visit
  • Do not remove in the fall when seeds could be dispersed.
  • Thoroughly clean any mowers that moved through patches of swallow-wort in the fall.
  • If there are pod-bearing plants on your property, remove them carefully (without dispersing the seeds) and destroy them by either bagging and taking to a landfill, or burning.
  • Plow and plant an annual crop until the seed soil bank is depleted, which can take as long as five years.
  • Mowing does not get rid of swallow-wort but it can be used to prevent the plant from going to seed.
  • If digging up the plants, the complete root crown must be completely removed before the seeds ripen.
  • Weed removal is difficult: Swallow-wort's root system (massive, running deep and wide) must be manually pulled or dug out. Buds on the root crown easily re-sprout after mowing.
  • For very large infestations, herbicides (such as Garlon 4 [triclopyr ester] or Roundup Pro [glyphosate]) have been effective. Spraying must be done only after flowering has begun, not before. 
Source: Weed Removal: The Difficulty of New Invasive Vines

A Short Guide to Cost Effective Lawn Care

Lawn maintenance and repairs cost homeowners about 40 billion dollars annually according to the Environmental Protection Agency's home and garden survey. In a country where the lawn is seen as a status symbol, being cost effective with lawn care can do a lot to make your home more beautiful as well as your wallet less empty. For the most part, we fuss over our lawns way too much. The number one way to be more cost effective is generally to back off a bit with not only worrying, but watering, mowing, fertilizing and the like.


The best time to fuss over your lawn is in the fall. During the fall months, rains will return and the lawn can rest a bit from the summer sun. By doing most all lawn treatments during this time, the lawn can get a jump start for a healthy spring season. The summer is also a time when the lawn receives the most use and abuse, so fall care has the largest effect and the longest time to be effective.


Over watering can not only cost your pocketbook a very large hit, but can also hurt both the lawn and the environment. Turf grasses need only 1 inch of water a week to maintain active growth and say lushly green. Added water only depletes the soils and fertilizers which have been given to help the grass thrive. In this way, the extra water really hinders growth. Not only that, those chemical fertilizers are being washed out of the lawn and into the storm water downstream as pollutants. Lastly, chlorine has been added to most all municipal water and can really damage the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in the soils. Minimal watering may seem counter intuitive, but is often best.


If possible, leave the clippings to fix nitrogen to the soils. The clippings will return half the nitrogen back which the grass needs. Not only does that mean less synthetic fertilizer is needed, but it also means less money for the homeowner. Grass should only be fertilized once a year if the clippings are used. For best results, use a nitrogen fertilizer and only apply as directed. More is definitely not better in this instance. Unless you specifically know there is a phosphorous deletion in your soils, you should never add phosphorous. Most all soils have abundant amounts and too much can harm the lawn.


Don't buzz cut your lawn. Raise the mower blade to be 2 inches or higher. The higher the grass, the larger the photosynthetic ability. Since the green leafy part of the grass is what feeds the roots of the plant, buzzing the grass down doesn't allow much left for food. This directly hinders the grass health. Also, the intensity of the sun can then shine directly onto the soils. Without the buffer of slightly longer grass the sun and water can be too harsh.


For areas which have become overly damaged, fall seeding by hand scatter is best. Seed can be purchased in small quantities at most home and garden stores.

Source: Being Cost Effective with Your Lawn Maintenance and Care

5 Steps to an Ideal Lawn

5 steps to a lush, almost perfect lawn

While there is no magic pill to achieving a better lawn there are some basic steps you can follow that will go a long way in giving you a lush, healthy lawn you'll be proud to walk over. Here then are the 5 basic steps to help anyone achieve a beautiful lawn.
  1. Get the mowing height right for the right time of year.
    There's a lot more to mowing than just cutting the grass every Saturday. One of the most fundamental steps to a perfect lawn is getting the mowing height right for your type of lawn and for a particular season.

    Most grasses can survive with a length of 2" - 3". This applies for spring and early fall. In the summer, if possible, set it a little higher*. Never go below the minimum recommended height except for the last mowing of the season which should be around 1.5" for most turf grasses. There are exceptions to this, but if you have a lawn that requires that exception, you already should know your mowing height.

    Mowing height is important because the length of that grass blade is the part that absorbs sunshine which the grass blade then miraculously converts into food! Imagine if you were a blade of grass and got hungry, all you had to do was stand outside and soak up some rays!
    There are many that think fertilizer is lawn food, but that's not true. Plants actually make their own food using sunlight. it needs to grow and develop into a healthy plant.

    In fact, fertilizer isn't even absorbed by the plant as it's put down on the soil. In laymen's terms, the fertilizer that gets put down on the lawn must first go through the digestive juices of a lot of tiny microbes that live in the soil. Only then is it in a form that can be absorbed and used by the plant, not as a food, but as building blocks to build more cells and carry on the process of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

    Never remove more than 1/3 at any one mowing. This may mean you'll have to mow more often during prime growing times (usually spring and early fall).

    Leave the clippings on the lawn after you mow. This not only saves time and energy, but the clippings decompose and add vital nutrients back into the soil. Grass cycling recycles plant nutrients back into the soil. Clippings contain the same beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium nutrients as that expensive bag of fertilizer. In fact, clippings can provide up to one-third of the annual feeding requirement for your lawn.
  2. Use a sharp blade.
    The type of mower doesn't matter, but the blade's condition does. A dull blade tears at the grass. Take a close look at a grass blade a few days after mowing. If the blade is dull you'll notice a jagged brown line across the tip of the cut grass. This is a good indication that your blade needs sharpening. Professional mowers sharpen their blades about every 8 hours of use. For most homeowners, twice a year is recommended.

    The jagged edges caused by a dull mower blade make it more difficult for the grass to fight off pests and disease.
  3. Regulate the water intake
    Over watering your lawn causes more damage than a lack of water. Most turf grasses can handle dry spells, but not flooding. Most grasses require 1" - 1.5" of water per week. This is enough water to moisten the soil to 4" - 6" below the surface for clay soils and 8 - 10" for sandy soils.

    Don't guess at how much water your lawn is getting. For measuring Mother Nature's contribution, invest in a rain gauge. If at the end of the week she's contributed enough, hold off adding more. If she comes up short, you'll want to add some supplemental watering. Again, measure how much water your sprinkler is putting down.

    You'll have to follow local regulations when there are watering bans, but just remember that less water is acceptable and grass is a very resilient plant. When the rains do return your lawn will come back with a little encouragement on your part.
  4. Give your lawn a regular, balanced diet-- just don't over-do it!
    Don't over-fertilize your lawn with too much of a good thing. 4 balanced fertilizer applications a year is plenty: spring, summer, early fall and after the first frost for cool season grasses. If you're in drought conditions, skip the summer application. Never skip the fall application. It’s important to use lawn products by following label instructions. Get the best results by following the directions. Over application will not improve performance. As mentioned above, fertilizers are processed through their interaction with tiny microbes before they can be used. Over-applying fertilizers can create unfavorable conditions for those microbes, even killing them. When that happens, the soil becomes sterile and the grass won't grow.

    How do you know if you're over applying fertilizers? Get a soil test first. Soil tests should be required before applying anything to your soil. 

  5. Prevention is the best medicine for a healthy lawn
    Preventing problems is better than having to correct them. Consistent maintenance is the key. Repair bare spots as needed. Spot treat for weeds with the right herbicide following label directions. Use pre-emergent herbicides for most grassy-type weeds like crabgrass.

    Soils can become compacted in high-traffic areas or in areas that have mostly clay soils. Have your lawn aerated once a year, preferably in the fall when soil temperature is around 60 degrees. 
That's it. Pretty simple actually and easy to follow.
Source: 5 Steps to a Perfect Lawn

Get in the Spirit of Winter Sowing

How to Winter Sow
Several years ago, Trudi Davidoff, a Long Island housewife, began thinking about how plants reseed: seeds fall in late Summer or in Fall, endure Winter without any human assistance, and reemerge the following Spring or Summer. She began experimenting with giving certain seeds a little help, and before long, winter sowing caught on fire: first on the GardenWeb: and later also on the Winter Sown Organization site: Trudi didn't invent the concept of sowing in the Winter for flowers the following Spring, but she created a system and organization that's cheap and simple. And it works. This will be my 5th year wintersowing; I've never successfully grown plants from seed any other way.

When I bake, I like to make sure I have all the ingredients first.   Here are what you'll need to get started with winter sowing:
      Box cutter
      Ice pick or soldering iron
      Duct tape
      Clear packing tape
      Saran wrap
      Potting soil
Milk jugs, ½ gallon or gallon size, soda pop bottles, margarine tubs, the deep meat trays used by Wal-Mart, and the Styrofoam boxes sometimes used for shipping meat from Omaha Steaks (a generous Christmas gift we received one year from hubby's sons) are some of the containers I like using.   Last year I picked up some 99¢ plastic boxes from Wal-Mart and used them, too.   Soak the containers in a 1:10 Clorox solution and allow to air dry.
I discovered that Sharpies don't last outdoors as well as Deco Art paint pens, which I get from Michaels.   Mark one line 4" from the bottom of the container and another line 3" from the bottom.
After warming the box cutter's blade, slice along the 4"-from-the-bottom line, but don't cut the container in two; instead, leave untouched about 2" to create a kind of hinge.
Using a soldering iron or ice pick (or whatever you prefer), poke drainage holes in the bottom of the container. For milk jugs, I poke 5 holes. Not as large as the holes on plastic plant pots, I'd guess the holes I make are about the size a pencil point might make, about ⅛” .   If you’re using plastic containers with lids, solder some holes in the lid, too.

Write the name of the seeds you're about to sow on the duct tape and place the duct tape label on the bottom half of the container, a few inches beneath the severed part. Some people prefer using a numbering system, such as 3J -- rather than using the plant's name.
I fill a large, very cheap, mixing bowl with potting soil (I had a bad experience with Miracle-Gro potting soil so I use Fafard; be sure not to use seed starting mix) and then I wet the soil completely. Fill the container up to the 3" line and (finally!) sprinkle the seeds. Tamp lightly to ensure there is good soil-to-seed contact, close the top to the bottom of the container, and seal with clear packing tape, and the containers are ready for the outdoors.   Choose a full sun location where runoff from the roof won't drown the seeds.   If the location becomes windy or is likely to be nudged by curious animals, you'll want to prop your containers so they don't fall over.
Sometimes, as I'm placing my finished containers on the tray I use to carry the containers outdoors condensation inside the containers begins, but usually the condensation forms soon after the containers are put outdoors. It is critical that you see condensation inside the containers because that means there's sufficient moisture for the seeds. Usually, containers won't need supplemental water until the temperatures begin to warm.   When condensation stops showing, tilt the container on the side very gently and let water trickle slowly down, being careful not to dislodge the seeds or place the containers on a shallow tray filled with water and let the containers soak up the water. Even in my Southeastern Zone 8 garden, condensation forms best when the containers are placed in full sun, although I do move the slow-to-germinate containers to a shadier spot when temperatures warm up.
Okay, I hear a question: why use clear tape on the containers? No matter how nasty Winter weather becomes, the moment you see signs of germination, you’ll be doing the happy dance. I hear another question: how many seeds per container? No doubt you'll do some experimenting and fine-tuning of your own way of winter sowing, but with tiny seeds like Shirley poppies, I probably use a whole packet per gallon-size jug. Larger seeds, like those of Blackberry lilies, I space more generously in the container -- maybe 16 per container.
There’s no need to pot seedlings up to larger pots: the seedlings can be planted directly in the ground.Trudi calls it the "hunk o'seedlings" method: grab a piece and plant. No pricking out and no acclimating the seedlings to the outdoors since they've been growing outdoors all winter.Of course, for larger seedlings, you'll be able to break off individual seedlings, but the hunk-o' works. Although I felt like a meanie doing it, last year I planted out Clarkia seedlings the last of January, and they thrived.Winter sown seedlings are very sturdy little guys!
Why is Saran wrap on the list? If you use margarine containers, for instance, you'll want to cover them with Saran wrap, but be sure to poke a few holes on the top. It may be necessary to place hoops made from hangers to create a structure for the Saran wrap so that it doesn’t touch the tops of the seedlings.
Using a notebook will help you know which seeds you've winter sowed and when. I also like to note when I see germination, when I've planted the seedlings, and when flowers first appear.   But of course all that is optional.
Okay, which seeds can you winter sow? Hardy annuals, perennials, biennials, shrubs, and trees. If an annual reseeds in your area, then it's hardy for you. Trudi's list of hardy annuals in the FAQ's is so helpful I kept a printed copy handy for reference when I began winter sowing.
Source:  Wintersown


Virginia Green Lawn Care is pleased to announce the Cartwright family of Richmond as the winners of the October Lawn of the Month. The Cartwright property was self- nominated and as they pointed out, with this win, they are the third Cartwright household to win this honor this year. Way to go Cartwright families, keep up the good work! The Cartwrights have been members of the Virginia Green family since 2007 when they began on our Premium Lawn Care program. The following summer they upgraded to our Estate Lawn Care program which they remain on today. Their healthy, lush lawn is looking beautiful and very green. The Cartwrights will receive a $50.00 credit toward a future service with Virginia Green and Matt their technician will receive a gift card for his efforts.

As we always point out, we love to receive nominations from homeowners for the lawn of the month program. All you have to do is send us an email to and attach a current photo of your lawn in Jpeg format. Your lawn will then be entered into the voting for that month’s winner. Good luck and may the best looking lawn win.  

Why do I have holes in my lawn?

Q: Yesterday while repairing grub damage to my lawn, I noticed a large number of holes in areas not affected by grubs. The holes are about 1 inch deep and 1 inch wide. It looks like the lawn had been aerated, but there was no loose soil evident. What do you think is causing this?  I didn't treat for grubs this year. Next year, what is the best time to apply a grub preventer? Do I need to use it every year?

A: The holes sound like the work of birds mining for grubs. Grubs are a nutritious bird lunch, and this digging is helping you hold down next year's problem already.

Once grubs polish off a section of lawn, they move into live turf and feed on those roots until knocking off for winter deeper in the soil. The fact that you're seeing holes tells me grubs are still at work in what appears to be unaffected lawn -- for now. Given enough time, those sections would brown out, too.

   Grub feeding will be winding down shortly, so I wouldn't bother putting down any kind of insecticide now.

   The bird holes will fill in next spring. However, openings like that are also weed invitations, so you can either scatter some grass seed now to "re-grass" the holes (beating weeds to the punch) or worry about killing weeds next spring, if necessary. Either way, the birds are doing more good than harm.

   Skunks also love to go grub-hunting, but they tear up a lawn far more by digging and scratching their way to lunch than birds do with their more surgical, beaky grub excisions.

   I don't use grub treatments at all. Like most bug problems, damage runs in cycles. You might get bad damage one year, then virtually nothing in another year. In my opinion, it's wasteful and unnecessarily polluting to apply insecticides "just in case" every year.

   When grubs kill off sections of my lawn, I invest the time, effort and money on reseeding instead. In grub off years, I get off the hook altogether. In bad years, even a 25-pound bag of quality grass seed isn't much more expensive than treating the whole lawn with a grub preventer. I don't mind the work either. I look at it as good exercise in the fresh air.

   That said, grub preventers do what they're advertised to do. The key is getting them down and watered in before the new "crop" of grubs hatches. Early summer is the time to get the preventer down -- June or July is ideal.

Source:  Holes in the Lawn