How can I control mosquitoes in my North Florida yard?

Mosquitoes are an unfortunate fact of life in Florida. Nothing is worse than being in a backyard full of mosquitoes, especially since mosquitoes aren’t just annoyingly painful, they also carry many life-threatening diseases. To prevent your yard from being overrun with mosquitoes, try these five tips.

1. Remove Standing Water
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. The eggs hatch into larvae about three days later, and about 12 days after that, adults emerge and fly away. Considering that each female can lay up to 400 eggs and the life cycle is complete in about two weeks, you can see why mosquito populations can increase so quickly. Reducing the amount of standing water around your home will minimize breeding sites and reduce the number of mosquitoes. Some places to look include children's toys in the yard, clogged rain gutters, tree holes, old tires, discarded cans, and the saucers of your outdoor flower pots.


Pest of the month: Doveweed

Doveweed is an aggressive summer annual turfgrass weed. Its long leaves resemble St. Augustine grass in appearance, so this weed can grow unnoticed for some time. But doveweed doesn't just invade St. Augustine grass, it also takes hold in Bermuda, hybrid Bermuda, and zoysia grass.

Not only can doveweed be an annoyance to people who are trying to grow turfgrass, it can also cause serious contact dermatitis for dogs that come in contact with the weed.

Doveweed thrives in overly moist soils because of poor soil drainage or frequent rainfall and irrigation, combined with lack of sunlight. In these wet areas, homeowners may not realize this grass-like weed is present until large patches of turfgrass have been smothered out. In summer, doveweed produces small, 3-petaled, lavender flowers that, when in bloom, become more noticeable in the lawn.

Once the weeds are established, they grow vigorously. When managing doveweed, use an integrated...

Pest of the month: Sod Webworms

We have already seen activity with the recent rains, this pest is in season and looking for lawns to feed on!

Sod webworms are the larvae of lawn moths. They live in the root level of your lawn and munch up the grass leaves. They can kill an entire lawn in a matter of days! When the weather turns hot, patches of your grass may start to turn brown. If you see little moths flying above your grass at dusk, and the brown patches start to get larger, you could have a sod webworm problem.

Look for saucer-sized brown patches where your lawn is driest. Upon closer inspection, these areas will have a grazed or scalped appearance. The centers of the patches may have been eaten away and replaced by weeds. At root level, you'll see small white tubes made of silky web. At dusk, you might even see the worms themselves. They're about 1/4 - 3/4 inch long.

Under heavy sod...

Pest of the month: Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are small pests that can cause a large amount of damage to your lawn. Chinch bugs suck the moisture out of grass blades, then replace that moisture with a poison that kills the grass. Lawns that have been affected by chinch bugs appear to have drought-like symptoms, including yellow, brown, or dead grass. Chinch bugs are most prevalent from late spring to mid-fall and are typically found in St. Augustine lawns, although they are occasionally found in Zoysia yards as well.

What do Chinch Bugs do to a lawn?
They destroy by inserting their razor-sharp beaks into a blade of grass and then sucking out its natural fluids, causing the grass to dehydrate and die. Any time you find yellow patches of grass that turn brown and die—especially in sunny spots during hot weather—it's probably chinch bug damage. The damage caused by chinch bugs appears quickly in hot weather. With most of the damage in open, sunny areas, this may be mistaken for drought...

Pest of the month: Crabgrass

In the late winter, we talked about the best defense for lawn weeds being pre-emergent weed controls (before the seeds germinate).  As we now are heading into late spring, the second-best time to get them under control is while they are still young and juvenile. Crabgrass is the best example of this. If you do not get it under control in spring, you will be having to hand pull it in summer because it will be too developed to control.

Applying a quality pre-emergence herbicide according to label instructions before soil temperatures get too warm is the best way to prevent crabgrass. Of course, having a thick, healthy lawn can win, but it is tough. A properly applied pre-emergence herbicide labeled for crabgrass should prevent the weed from growing throughout the summer. Keep in mind that even the best pre-emergence herbicides...

Gainesville Landscape Pest of the month: Drought Stress

The old saying "April showers bring May flowers" was said by someone who didn't live near Gainesville Florida. In our area, April is consistently the driest time of year. It’s when the spring season starts and Gainesville yards begin to heat up, but the summer afternoon storms and humidity haven't come yet.

This dry weather also brings in a past "Pest of the Month," which is Drought Stress. Although the word 'pest' is typically used to describe an insect such as chinch bugs or webworms, the term is actually used to describe anything that is 'pestering' the lawn, and this month it is drought stress.

As water becomes limited, your turfgrass will give off signs that it’s in need of watering. If you spot these warnings in advance, you can alter your sprinkler schedule to avoid drought stress and keep your lawn green and healthy.

Here are a few warning signs to keep in mind:

If the color shade of your grass is...

Gainesville Landscape Pest of the month: Holly scale

Have you noticed a black moldy coating on the leaves of your holly plant? This isn’t mold, it’s actually a symptom of our pest of the month. Holly Scale. Your hollies have an infestation of one of the many kinds of scale insects. Scale can’t digest all the sap they suck from leaves so they secrete honeydew, which allows sooty mold to grow on leaves. The honeydew accumulates on the foliage and can cause it to look shiny and feel sticky.

This rich food source does not go unnoticed. Ants, wasps and other insects may be attracted to the sweet honeydew. Even more common is the growth of fungal organisms that produce an unattractive black coating on the leaves called sooty mold. These fungi feed on the honeydew and do not attack or directly damage the plant, but the appearance of sooty mold is often the gardener’s first noticeable sign of trouble.

Light infestations of scale can be scraped off by hand or infested branches pruned out. Promptly dispose of prunings. For...

Gainesville Landscape Pest of the Month: Large Patch Fungus

During the winter months, your grass may begin showing brown circular spots that seem to be struggling. This is the first sign of Large Patch Fungus, which is a fungal disease commonly seen in Florida lawns during the cooler months, particularly St. Augustine and Zoysia grass.

Turf in Florida is most vulnerable to this  Fungus when rainfall, high humidity, or excessive irrigation leave your lawn damp for a duration of more than 48 hours. This turf disease is active when nighttime temperatures range from 60-75 degrees and daytime temperatures don’t exceed 85-90 degrees. This is the biggest reason why it is so prevalent in spring and summer, as the high temperatures that typically evaporate the moisture aren't present in early spring and late fall.

To reduce the chances of being infected by Brown Patch Fungus, or limit and manage the disease water your lawn on an as-needed basis, rather than just a set schedule, and consider the time of year and rainfall...

January’s Lawn Pest of the Month: Frost Damage / Leopard Print

During the cool season here in Florida you will find frost damage to your lawn that almost looks like leopard print. Frost damage can happen without freezing temperatures. The National Weather Service measures the air temperature about 6 feet above ground level however, the ground-level temperature might be even lower.

This swirly leopard print pattern is caused by the grass going into a dormant state during the cool season and may also happen as your lawn comes out of hibernation in late winter.

If you notice this pattern in your winter lawn, don’t fret, it can be fixed. Your grass will steadily green-up moving into the spring with the longer days and warmer temperatures. Allow your lawn to recover and continue mowing at the optional mowing height for your particular grass. It may take a few weeks for the pattern to dissipate, once it does, you can mow the grass back down to ⅓ of the blade to avoid scalping the grass.

Your landscape creates a powerful first...

Gainesville Landscape Pest of the Month: Winter Weeds

As winter comes, grass grows dormant for the cold winter months, by shutting down and turning brown in order to conserve water and nutrients.

Common winter annual weeds are chickweed, henbit, Carolina geranium, annual bluegrass, hop clover, and lawn burweed. These weeds will be bright green in comparison to your dormant grass.

You can control these weeds by preventing their growth in the warmer months. These weeds are in your lawn all year long but are dormant in the warmer months. Once you begin seeing the weeds, they are actually close to the end of their life cycle. So for now, mowing over the weeds might be your best bet. But this is not your permanent solution.

To be sure you do not struggle with the same problem next winter, it is important to spray preemergence herbicide in the fall when nightly temperatures are between 55° to 60°F
for several consecutive nights (Usually beginning in October). Doing this will form a barrier on the soil surface...