How a dormant oil spray will help eliminate tree pests

It’s officially spring, which means the flowers will be blooming and the pests will be working hard to damage your fruiting and ornamental trees and shrubs. Because several pests become active in spring, it’s important to make sure you use a treatment with a dormant oil spray to stop these pests at their most vulnerable stage. The following are just a few reasons why it’s important to get a dormant oil treatment:

  • They are selective and environmentally friendly
  • They help prevent certain pest outbreaks when applied properly
  • Individuals of the problem pest are all in the same life stage, such as an egg or larva, making them easier to target
  • Pests are easily accessible
  • Most natural enemies (insects and mites that prey upon pests) are not yet active, and so their populations are not harmed

How does a dormant oil spray kill pests?The most common dormant oil is petroleum-derrived, and may also be referred to as horticultural oil, superior oil, supreme oil, paraffinic oil, and other names. This term describes a class of high quality oils formulated for agricultural use. Other oils, such as vegetable-derived oils, can also be used for a dormant spray. Any oil applied in early spring should be mixed with water to a concentration of 1.5 to 2 percent for best results. The same oil product may be applied in the summer, but should be mixed to a concentration of no greater than 1 percent to prevent plant injury.

Oils kill pests primarily by smothering, and work best on soft-bodied insects. Insects require oxygen to live, and oil plugs the insect’s air-exchange system, causing slow suffocation. Oil works best on insect and mite eggs just before they hatch because their oxygen requirement increases.

Common pests of woody plants that can be targeted with a dormant oil spray include many aphids, European red mite, rust mites, leafroller caterpillars, peach twig borer, scale insects, shot hole borer, apple mildew, apple scab and coryneum blight.

When is the best time to get a dormant oil spray?

There is not an exact time that applies to all pests. For some pests, the dormant oil spray should be applied while the buds on the plant are still tight (3 to 4 weeks before they typically start to swell). The time to spray for most other pests on trees is anytime during the period between bud swell and leaf emergence (i.e. when flower buds are exposed and/or when less than 1/2 inch of the leaf is exposed). At that time, insect and mite eggs begin to hatch, caterpillars emerge from hibernacula (overwintering structures), and other overwintering insects and diseases become active and more susceptible to pesticides.

The spray can be applied during the following range of bud stages:

  • Apples: swollen bud to 1/2” green
  • Pears: swollen bud to cluster bud
  • Peaches/Nectarines: swollen bud to pre-bloom
  • Apricot: before bloom

Keep in mind that dormant sprays are not required every year. For example if you had an aphid or peach twig borer problem last season on your peaches, then apply your delayed-dormant spray this spring. If you have had very little damage from those pests, then you could consider skipping the spray.

*Most of this post was used with permission from the Utah State University Extension.






5 reasons why you should aerate your lawn

The weather is starting to get better and flowers are starting to bloom, which means it’s time to get your lawn ready for the season.  And one of the best ways to get your lawn in check is to get it aerated and jumpstart a healthy lawn. The following are 5 reasons why you should aerate your lawn:

SONY DSC1. Gets air into the soil

Lawns often get compacted from foot traffic and just overall use. As a result, the soil has fewer space to breathe, and the lawn needs space to breathe and supply its roots with oxygen. By creating holes in the ground, it breaks down the soil and gives the lawn some space to loosen up the particles and allow oxygen to get in better.





SONY DSC2. Nutrients get into the soil by the roots system

As with reason No. 1, the soil needs some space to allow nutrients to get to the root system. With compacted soils, it prevents roots from expanding and interferes with drainage and the filtration of water, which disrupts the process of the roots soaking up the nutrients needed to survive. Once again, breaking up the ground with holes allows some space in the soil.





3. Allows water to penetrate the soil better

Rain and irrigation water compacts the soil, reducing space for roots to grow. However, by aerating, it allows rain and irrigation water to soak farther into the soil. This will allow the root system to grow better and allow the nutrients to be soaked up better.






4. Helps get rid of the thatch layer

If thatch is left unmanaged there can often be serious problems with lawn pests and can often cause problems with trying to maintain the overall care of the lawn. In many lawns, a thatch layer of more than a 1/2 inch will keep the lawn from soaking up nutrients, water and fertilizers placed on the lawn. By aerating, it reduces some of that thatch layer and mixes it up with some of the soil, helping soil organisms break up the thatch.




DSC004425. Eliminates uneven parts of the lawn from worms

Worms are a very vital aspect of a great lawn. They, too, help with filtration and the breakdown of the soil. However, with a compacted lawn, worms have little room to break through the soil. As a result, the worms can often create uneven parts in the lawn. By aerating it gives the worms more room to do their job, thus helping promote a healthy lawn.

Weed ID App



Ferta-Lawn of Bountiful has developed a new smartphone app to help you identify lawn weeds and some of the problems associated with your lawn. With the app, you can identify weeds yourself using photos of some of the most common weeds found in Northern Utah. If you can't find the weed found in your lawn, take a picture and send it to us and we'll help identify it for you. Additionally, request and estimate for weed and pest control. Communicating with Ferta-Lawn couldn't be easier. And it's all free.

The Ferta-Lawn Weed ID app can be downloaded on both an iPhone and Android smartphone. The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and requires iOS 5.0 or later. With Android phones, it requires 2.2 and up. 

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Spring Watering and Mowing


Proper mowing practices

By far, mowing is the most time-consuming activity in taking care of a lawn. If done correctly, mowing can enhance the benefits that come from other cultural practices, such as watering and fertilizing. Here are a few tips to ensure a proper cut:

  • Mow when the lawn is dry.  This will reduce, if not prevent, leaving clumps of grass throughout the lawn.
  • Always keep mower blades sharp.  Dull mower blades tear turf grass, which results in a loss of moisture. After mowing, grab a couple of grass leaf blades and look at the cut. If the tips are uneven, the blade needs sharpening.
  • Remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade. Turf grass will remain greener and use less water when removing less than 1/3 of the leaf blade. This may mean mowing twice a week instead of once a week.
  • Mow at a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches. The longer the leaf blade, the deeper the roots can go in the soil. Turf will use less water due to the cooling effect on the soil.
  • Alternate mowing directions. This will help the leaf blades to grow straight up and be more resistant to traffic and wear.
  • As the temperature increases, so should the mowing height. Springtime mowing is recommended to be at 1 ½”, but when the temperature gets into the 90s and 100s, 2 ½” - 3” is recommended. The longer grass will keep the soil from losing water to evaporation and protect the crown of the plant. Longer grass helps promote a deeper root system.



A common mistake is made far too often: setting the irrigation system to water every other day for 10 minutes during the early spring. When summer season arrives, the system is then adjusted to water every day. We then wonder why our lawns suffer from summer heat stress.

Here are some steps to get your lawn ready to face the summer heat:

  • Begin now.  While the temperatures are still cool, the soil is allowed to dry without causing heat stress to plants. Plants lose less water to evapotranspiration in the spring.
  • Water only when needed. Use the “bounce-back” test. If, after stepping on the lawn, the grass blades don’t bounce back, then the lawn needs water. Don’t make the mistake of setting automatic sprinklers to turn on every other day too early in the year. This discourages the roots to go deeper into the soil.
  • Know your water system. The question that gets asked the most is, “How much should I water?” Lawns need about 1” – 2 ½” of water per week, depending on the weather. Using straight-sided cans, measure the amount of water applied in 15 minutes. If the system reaches ½” in 15 minutes, then you should water for 30 minutes to 75 minutes per week.
  • Water deeply and infrequently. Avoid the temptation to water every day or even every other day when the lawn appears dry. Try adding more time to the duration and keep the same number of days between watering. Water should penetrate to just below the root zone per watering (you can check this with a shovel or screwdriver) to encourage roots to go deeper. If runoff occurs before reaching this level, stop watering. Allow the water to soak in for an hour, then run the cycle again.

By following the above steps, you can avoid the drought stress problems that occur in many lawns during the summer. Remember, the trick is to begin in the spring and not when the lawn is suffering from drought stress.









With the warm weather starting to make an appearance, it's time to start getting your lawn in order. One of the best services you can do to get a jumpstart on a healthy lawn this year is to get a spring aeration done. Spring aeration helps the lawn get a strong root system to come up healthier. Additionally, aeration helps water and nutrients to get down to the root system and helps the thatch in your lawn to decompose. By aerating in the spring, it also helps in an earlier green-up of your lawn.






Winterizer and fall weed control


The weather is getting colder, which means the growing season is coming to an end. However, fall is one of the most important times of the year to help your lawn through the winter months. A winterizer fertilizer application -- nitrogen and other nutrients -- for the lawn keeps the soil healthy through the winter season, which helps prevent disease and injury to your lawn. Additionally, a winterizer application will help your lawn maintain a better color in the winter, allows for a quicker bounce back in the spring and helps establish the root system.

And if that's not enough, an application of weed killer is essential in keeping weeds from taking over your lawn in the next growing season. Weeds grow throughout the year and need to be controlled even during the winter months. A weed killer application in the fall keeps the weeds from germinating in the winter and spring months, which gives you a fighting chance before the growing season already begins. If a weed killer is applied in the fall months and a pre-emergent application is performed in the spring, your weed problem will be drastically reduced. Consistent weed applications will ensure your lawn is healthy and green throughout the year.





Fall Foundation Spray



Pests such as spiders, ants and other outdoor insects invade our homes as the temperatures drop as they search for winter protection. Once inside, these pests are difficult to get rid of. However, prevention is the best method to ensure these pests do not invade your home. One of the best methods is a fall foundation spray, which sets up a barrier during the winter months. The foundation spray is applied directly to the foundation of your home, providing a barrier for a few months. If the fall foundation spray is followed up by a spring foundation spray, your home will be protected for most of the year. One or two additionally applications may be needed to provide a full year of protection.

At Ferta-Lawn, all of our lawn technicians have been trained and licensed to spray for these pests safely. Call Ferta-Lawn to learn more about the foundation spray and how to get signed up for this home application. If you sign up to receive a foundation spray on the same day as your lawn application, we'll give you a discount.





Cranberry Girdler


The temperatures are cooling down, which means fall is shortly to follow. And while your plants, trees and lawn prepare to go into dormancy in the coming months, there are still several pests that appear during this time of the season. And if left untreated, your lawn and trees could start showing signs of distress, which will only get worse next spring. One such pest that thrives in the fall months is the cranberry girdler. The cranberry girdler is a webworm that gets underneath the turfgrass and is not readily visible to the naked eye. This pest thrives in cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, bent grass and fine-leaf fescues. In addition to attacking the root system of turfgrass, the cranberry girdler also damages firs and coniferous trees.

The cranberry girdler larvae do the most damage by pruning the roots or destroying the crowns. Often damage is similiar to grub damage where the sod can be easily pulled away from the soil. The first indication of cranberry girdler is small brown spots in late summer, which is when the larvae is near maturity. Healthy, green lawns will generally show less damage, but the damage can spread quickly.

Several natural agents such as parasitic wasps and flies, and birds can be effective in eliminating cranberry girdler, but often an insecicide can be the best way to erradicate this pest from your lawn and trees. Broad spectrum products work effectively, but may reduce natural enemies. If you suspect cranberry girdler to be in your lawn or if you have more questions about this pest, contact Ferta-Lawn.





Planting Pansies


Pansies are one of the most popular flowers in the United States, with several varities, colors and sizes giving homeowners several options. The best tetmperatures for growing pansies is from 40 degrees to 60 degrees, and thrive better in mild weather. Pansies will have their prettiest flowers during the spring months, but the flower will fade as the temperatures increase. Some of the stronger plants will bloom in the fall, and occasionally in the winter. Pansies grow best in full sun or partial shade. If the plant is in the shade for most of the time, the number of flowers is decreased. It is best to plant pansies about 7 to 12 inches apart, but should not be planted in the same location for more than 3 years in a row.

Planting pansies as a seed should be done as early as July or August. It typically takes about 6 weeks for seeds to become seedlings. If starting from seedlings, plant in September to get a good jump on spring. Once the seedling has been placed in its permanent site, it will take another 6 weeks for it to become established. Pansies require rich, well-drained soil.

Pansies are beautiful flowers and can brighten up any landscape.





What This Summer Taught Us



This summer was one of the hottest and driest on record. Dry spots and weeds like Bindweed (Morning Glory) were found in many of our yards as a result of the growing season. Living in the second driest state, water is always a concern. So how do we help our lawns stay green?


Water for longer periods. Many people think watering every day is the only way to keep a lawn from drying out. But this can keep the roots shallow and increases the need for more water. Cut a few days off of your schedule, but increase the watering times. This helps the roots stay deep and gets the water deeping in the soil, which reduces evaporation. Also, water early in the morning. This keeps the lawn moist as the temperatures increase during the day. This also reduces certain types of fungus that grow in lawns that are watered during the evening.

Don't overwater. Lawns that receive more water than needed can develop many problems. Necrotic Ringspot (NRS) is one such disease that can appear in your lawn if you overwater. And once you get NRS, there is no getting rid of it. You can do things to mask it or slow it down, but the disease will always be in the soil. Additionally, overwatering removes vital nutrients to a healthy lawn, such as iron and nitrogen.


Cut your lawn at a higher setting. During the warmer months, keep the length of the lawn around 3 inches. This is one of the best things a homeowner can do to reduce the water needed for your lawn. Also, this keeps the water from evaporating, keeps the roots deep and crowds out the pesky weeds. Weeds such as Morning Glory prefer dry soil. Lawns are a great environment for this type of weed to grow and will take advantage of any dry spots or short spots in the lawn. Finally, fertilize regularly. A healthy lawn is able to withstand the heat and drought better.