Grass is green in more than color

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

It now appears after visiting a few home and garden centers this week, we have shifted into overdrive to increase our homes’ spring bling look.

While striving to have the perfect yard we often get side tracked by problems. We have received two major calls this week, lawn maintenance problems and dealing with carpenter bees.

Q: How important is a healthy lawn?

A: When someone calls with problems and we offer solutions a common comment I get is, “Is grass worth that much trouble?”

Here are some facts.

Your lawn does more than just provide green space and aesthetics to your home. In the United States there is an estimated 31 million acres of grass in home lawns. A well maintained lawn has multiple benefits; to start it could keep your home cooler on hot days by reducing surface temperatures as much as 30 to 40 degrees compared to bare soil and asphalt.

A healthy lawn of about 10,000 square feet can absorb over 6,000 gallons of rainwater without noticeable runoff. This water then becomes a valuable resource in nourishing the lawn and landscape while soaking through the topsoil and replenishing groundwater reserves

Lawns also aid in the improvement of soil quality. Grass plants are continually building new topsoil from decomposing roots, stems and leaves. A typical lawn will produce 233 pounds of grass clippings per 1,000 square feet during each growing season; therefore, cycling grass clippings back on the lawn definitely helps the environment and reduces landfill waste.

Lawns, in addition to environmental benefits, provide a place to relax, have fun, generally feel good about ourselves and even increase property values by as much as 15 percent. So, the next time you are working hard to make your lawn look good, pat yourself on the back for being a good environmental steward.

Q: How do you treat carpenter bees?

A: I have received approximately eight calls this week relating to controlling carpenter bees in carports and sheds. Carpenter bees are notorious for boring galleries into unpainted softwood lumber like pine, cedar and cypress.

However, they will sometimes bore into painted wood and other types of lumber. These galleries are about a half inch in diameter and can be as long as two feet or more. They will use these same galleries from year-to-year if untreated.

The risk to the homeowners can be great. First the sight of holes in your wood structures is alarming combined with the sawdust that is generated by excessive invasions.

But more importantly is the possibility of the weakening of the wood by numerous galleries. These holes allow moisture to enter the wood and begin the decay process or weakening of the wood that causes a loss of structural strength.

The most effective way to control carpenter bees with insecticides is to apply small amounts of insecticide dust directly into the galleries. Female bees are killed when they return to the gallery and newly hatched bees are killed when they emerge.

Dusts work better and last longer than liquid or aerosol treatments because they remain in the gallery, where they will contact the bees, rather than soaking into the wood. Painted or sealed wood is attacked less often by carpenter bees, so painting or sealing the wood surface is also a method of preventing this problem.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.