GTI Lawn & Garden Letter

Entertaining advice for home gardeners with a focus on lawn and garden care and the outdoor gardening lifestyle. Suitable primarily for people living in northeastern North America and similar temperate climates in other parts of the world.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Canada Day Weekend Update

It is sizing up to be a great weekend weather wise for the long weekend here in southern Ontario. Cooler temperatures came in on the heels of thunderstorms that passed through this part of the province yesterday.

The heat of early summer has dried many lawns to a crisp. At this point there is very little you can do in the way of maintenance other than waiting until we get sufficient rain and cooler temperatures to bring the grass back to life. Avoid excessive traffic on the lawn as the dormant grass is less resistant to abrasion. Don't mow the grass (you shouldn't have to) and do not fertilize. Proper irrigation will help keep lawns growing through the heat of summer but many municipalities, particularly those dependent upon ground water, discourage irrigation. Lawn dormancy is a natural grass survival strategy.

If you are fortunate enough to water your lawn to keep it cool and green, be sure to use water wisely by watering no more than once a week. Water very early in the morning and water deeply to encourage deep rooting of the grass. A hose timer is a wise investment. The general rule of thumb is to apply one inch (2.5 cm) of water per week but sandy soils may require a little more (or more frequent application) whereas heavier clay soils may require less irrigation. Use old tuna cans to determine the application pattern and rate of your sprinkler for optimum application. The very best option is to have a professionally installed and regularly audited in-ground irrigation system that can be programmed to efficiently deliver water to your lawn. Remember that a thick healthy lawn can be allowed to go dormant in summer with few ill effects and the added bonus of less mowing and nutrient requirements than an irrigated lawn.

Many lawns have gone to seed at this time of year. Mowing will remove the seed heads but leave the stalks which die and are often confused with some sort of disease problem. This condition appears even worse under heat and drought conditions. There is nothing you can do other than wait for some rain or irrigate if that option is available to you.

European chafers are beginning to fly now. You will first notice them at dusk often by the low hum of the masses of adult beetles swarming around a tree. The adults themselves cause no damage but they do lay the eggs that result in the more destructive larval stage of the insect. Not much can be done at this point other than to make note on the calendar to begin monitoring for their presence later in the season.

Chinch bugs are small insects that suck the vital fluids out of grass plants. They can cause serious damage and tend to be more of a problem in dry seasons. You can begin to monitor for chinch bugs by taking a large can with a surface opening of approximately 200 cm (diameter approximately 14 cm – large coffee cans work well) and cutting out both ends to make a metal tube. Insert one end into your lawn where you suspect there may be chinch bug activity. Add some water and monitor the surface of the water. Chinch bugs are small insects with triangular markings on their backs. Young chinch bugs are often clay coloured. You should check at about ten locations across your lawn and if you have more than 20 chinch bugs per sample, treatment is recommended. We are not aware of any effective non-chemical control for chinch bugs.

For more detailed information on chinch bugs including images of damage and what the insects look like, check out this Ontario Ministry of Agriculture & Food on-line Factsheet Hairy Chinch Bugs in Lawns.

Using a reputable licenced local lawn care service will insure that your lawn is cared for in an environmentally responsible manner and save you time that you can spend attending to the more colourful corners of your garden.

Marinated Flank Steak

Continuing my Canada Day tradition of posting one of my favourite BBQ recipes, I give you a simple marinated flank steak. Flank steak is a cheaper cut of beef that is low in fat but very tender and tasty if marinated for a long time and sliced thin. The perfect main for a make ahead Canada Day BBQ. Try it in sandwiches made from fresh baguettes.

1 lb flank steak (or thereabouts)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger root or 1 tsp ground ginger

Score one side of the steak by making shallow cuts in a crisscross pattern. Place meat in a shallow dish or plastic bag (a large ziplock bag works well). Combine soy sauce, oil, vinegar, sugar and ginger; pour over meat. Cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days.

Remove meat from marinade and grill for 4-5 minutes each side on high. Let rest for 5 minutes covered with foil then slice thinly across the grain. Serve hot or cold. Makes four servings.

(Adapted from Smart Cooking by Anne Lindsay, published by Macmillan of Canada)