The Armyworm Invasion

Armyworms have been causing a lot of damage in our area this season, here’s what you need to know:

The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) problem is widespread across several states including Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Kentucky. All lawn care companies and some farmers growing grains are affected by this pest. Armyworms are not a worm, but the larval stage of a type of moth. They are called armyworms, because of the way they move across fields in an army-like fashion. Chemical applications must target the larval stage, if the population is in the pupal or adult stage, it is not effective to spray.

A fall armyworm

Armyworm pressure is high this year because of the weather. The moths migrate north every year and usually do not reach the Mid-Atlantic until later in September. They arrived early this year because of the number of southern storms that followed a path from southwest to northeast. The moths are caught up in upper-level winds and deposited as the storms move. The adult moth’s mate and lay eggs. The larva feed in a pattern and literally strip the green parts of the turf.

While it might seem like we are in a lull right now, it is expected that there will be another generation toward the end of September. However, if we have fall-like weather, the lawns will grow vigorously and more than likely recover and be able to grow out of the damage. Please be encouraged to be patient as we have already started to experience the turf coming back in many lawns. While we can’t promise full recovery, the likelihood of that happening is very good. This year is a good year for aeration and overseeding and we encourage you to take advantage of this time in fall to seed and aerate the lawn. We also have service calls available for lawns that are unable to out-grow the second generation.

If possible, we recommend watering damaged areas in the heat of the day to keep the crowns cooled down and hydrated.  This should be kept up until a visible green cover returns to shade the crowns. Home lawn recovery also involves fall fertilizer applications to support the regrowth of the blades.  Fortunately, the first fall fertilizer application can be made right now. With this in mind, we have started our fall applications early this year. In fact, you may have already had your first fall fertilizer. The second will be done in 8-10 weeks, before December 1.

If you’re worried about these pests ruining your lawn and wasting your investment, please consider the many benefits of our services besides the lush top foliage of the tall fescue/bluegrass blend. Our weed controls continue to control weeds. Things like fertilizer, Mirimichi Green Soil Enhancer, and lime are still reacting with the soil helping to create an environment where the lawn can recover. Topsoil, compost, tilling, and seeding are all beneficial service that you have not lost the benefits of. As always, our service will work to help the lawn recover from stresses like this and our usual summer stress as the temperatures cool down and the lawn starts to grow. Please have patience and work with us to get your lawn to fully recover

In closing, environmental stress and pest problems always offer us the opportunity to adapt. The early summer application has been enough to take care of our surface feeding insects until now. We will once again evolve and offer you a solution to this difficult problem.

Mulch Ado About Nothing?

Signs you may need to replace, refresh, or scale back your mulching.

Visually, mulch can offer color and contrast to your landscaping; but the benefits can run root deep. When applied properly, mulch protects root systems by preserving moisture, moderating soil temperatures, and reducing weeds. When it’s not applied or maintained over time with best practices, mulch can:

  • Invite unwanted guests by attracting rodents and pests.
  • Waste your other landscaping investments. Old or over-saturated mulch can harbor diseases, and promote the decay of trees and flowers.
  • Keep your lawn from looking its best by disrupting dormancy and natural patterns essential to the growth of trees, shrubbery, and other ornamentals.
  • Cause property damage by interfering with proper drainage of your lawn, potentially directing water towards structures and foundations.

Done right, mulch should last years and be simple to maintain, but it’s also deceptively easy to make mistakes. The experts in our landscape division talk 1:1 with homeowners about the right type of mulch for your project, planning your lawn around your needs and long-term habits, and industry insights and management practices for preventing soil erosion, run-off, and more.

Four signs you need to replace or amend your mulch…

  1. Looks bad or smells bad. Signs of mold or slimy fungus indicate a need to rehab your mulch, and sour smells are definitely an indicator that acids and sulfur compounds are off in your mix.
  2. When measured, you have less than 2 full inches. While mulch is meant to break down over time and enrich the soil, the benefits of the product are lost at lower/thinner volumes.
  3. Infested with insects. Wood mulch in particular can attract termites, carpenter ants, cockroaches, and more. Left to establish themselves, they could migrate to your home.
  4. You just don’t like it. It’s your lawn, and we’re here to help you achieve the look and feel you want for your property while still maintaining sound agronomic and environmental practices.

Why Garden with Native Wildflowers?

We love wildflowers just as much as we love turf. Both provide different benefits that are vital in the urban environment. Where turf creates a soft, comfortable, safe, and pest-free place for picnics and play, wildflowers provide a beautiful, inviting space for pollinators. Wildflowers are lower maintenance, while turf improves curb appeal. Both have deep root systems that increase the soil’s capacity to store water and significantly reduce water runoff and flooding. Both sequester carbon from the atmosphere, with only old-growth forests storing more carbon than a healthy stand of turf.
These alternatives fill different needs in our environment and should not be considered replacements for one another. We need both. You can’t go out back and have a catch with the kids in an area that, by design, is 4 feet tall and attractive to stinging insects. And, by design, the monoculture of fine turfgrass does not create the habitat so crucial for the survival of these important insects. Because we continue to develop urban and suburban areas, now it is more important than ever to evaluate our outdoor spaces and create sanctuaries that meet crucial demands.
We recently started to create and maintain wildflower meadows of all sizes for our customers. If you are interested in a wildflower meadow or garden for your home, please give us a call at 301-870-3411

Why planting wildflowers makes a difference

“Wildflowers provide a lot of benefits, even when there’s not a flower present,” says Clay Bolt, a natural history photographer, and communications lead for World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Northern Great Plains program.

Their root systems, along with those of other grassland plants, extend deep into the soil, storing water and nutrients while holding on to carbon that would otherwise be released into the air. He likens grasslands to an inverted forest, where much of the growth is underground and invisible.

Why Garden with Native Wildflowers?

Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals.

Native plants are also advantageous, because:
  • Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides
  • Native plants require less water and help prevent erosion.
  • The deep root systems of many native plants increase the soil’s capacity to store water. Native plants can significantly reduce water runoff and, consequently, flooding.
  • Native plants help reduce air pollution.
  • Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.
  • Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
  • Native plants are beautiful and increase scenic values!

Nutsedge News

Nutsedge: The Superweed


The best way to describe nutsedge is “superweed.” Unlike other broadleaf weeds, this sedge has a robust root system made of nut-like tubers called nutlets. The nutlet stores a high amount of energy for the nutsedge to use in its lifecycle. With their grass-like leaves, sedges can be difficult to distinguish within the lawn at the beginning of the growing season. In the hot, humid, sunny days of summer, however, it grows faster than most grasses and even begins to flower. It is easy to distinguish only a few days after mowing by the lighter green leaves shooting up quicker and taller than the grass surrounding it.


Mowing Tips: The No 1 Thing for Lawn Health

Mowing Tips for a Healthy Lawn

Mowing at 3-4 inches is important for health

Proper mowing is the most important cultural practice you can do for a healthy lawn. It is important to state that mowing isn’t necessarily something we have to do to keep the lawn healthy. In reality, the natural growth habit of tall fescue is for it to grow several feet tall. We force it to be 3 to 4 inches high because we want that manicured look and because of all the other benefits we receive from a well-manicured lawn, including pest control. With that said, it stands to reason that there are certain things we have to do to minimize the damage we cause when we mow. Here are some mowing tips and “must do’s” when maintaining lawn during the growing season.

Too Late for Crabgrass? When is the best time to treat?

The best way to control crabgrass is to kill it before it grows with a pre-emergent herbicide, but when is it too late to treat? Unfortunately, there’s no single definitive answer to this question. The short answer is to apply it before the crabgrass has a chance to germinate. The longer answer is that it depends on the weather and which pre-emergent is being used. Pre-emergent herbicides work by creating a chemical barrier that kills the crabgrass when it germinates. Some pre-emergent products provide some post-emergent control as well. Determining when a seed germinates depends on many variables in the environment. For crabgrass, the biggest variable is temperature. Crabgrass only germinates at sustained soil temperatures above 57°F at a one-inch depth. The best way to track the soil temperature is with growing degree days (GDD). Because it is tough to track soil temperatures without specialized equipment, we can use air temperature. Air temperatures will usually need to be at around 50°F for 200 degree days for germination. (more…)

Should I seed my lawn this spring?

We get questions about spring lawn seeding every year. Many people, especially grass seed producers, recommend it, but it may not be the best option. While we can aerate and overseed in the spring, we recommend waiting until the fall for two main reasons. First, the weather in the spring and summer is challenging to seed and new grass. The spring weather can be unpredictably warm or cold, and grass seed needs soil temperatures for germination that are far from guaranteed. Additionally, the grass is in the early stages of growth during the heat of the summer, leaving it susceptible to disease and heat and drought stress. For these reasons, spring lawn seeding is less successful than fall seedings. The second reason is weeds, namely crabgrass. Crabgrass is the most important weed to control throughout the lifetime of the lawn, especially in the first few years of treatment. Because of this, our first application of the year includes a pre-emergent crabgrass control which stops the crabgrass seeds from sprouting by creating a protective barrier of herbicide that kills the crabgrass before it can reach the surface of the soil. It also prevents desirable turfgrass from sprouting, making seeding and crabgrass control almost mutually-exclusive. (more…)


The weather man is calling for BEAUTIFUL WEATHER! over the next several days. Sunny skies with no rain in sight for the near future. While you are making your plans to take advantage of the sunny skies, don’t forget to give the lawn some attention. It will need some water from you. Go to our website and review how to best take care of the lawn as the soil water bank starts to dry up. (more…)

MRW Lawns Earns Esteemed 2015 Angie’s List Super Service Award

MRW Lawns has earned the service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of service provided to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2015.

“We couldn’t be happier about receiving this award. It is one more way we can guarantee our customers are getting the best service!” said MRW Lawns.