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Let's Talk Turf

Visit Turf Talk periodically to get the latest tips and tricks and things to look out for during each season. Would you like to know more about a specific topic? Call us today for personalized service at 515-322-3285.


In technical terms, aeration is the natural occurring process of air exchange between the soil and its surrounding atmosphere. In practical terms, aeration is the process of mechanically removing small plugs of thatch and soil from the lawn to improve natural soil aeration. It’s commonly called “core aeration” but you may have also heard it referred to soil cultivation (coring, spiking and slicing). Most homeowners simply call it aeration.

Spring and Fall are ideal times to aerate your lawn. ILS performs Core Aeration. This can make your lawn healthier and reduce its maintenance requirements through:

  • Improved air exchange between the soil and atmosphere

  • Enhanced soil water uptake

  • Improved fertilizer uptake and use

  • Reduced water runoff and puddling

  • Stronger turfgrass roots

  • Reduced soil compaction

  • Enhanced heat and drought stress tolerance

  • Improved resiliency and cushioning

  • Enhanced thatch breakdown

Products and Rain

Products such as fertilizer, crab grass pre-emergent, grub control, surface feeding insect control and some fungicides are commonly granular.

These small pellets don’t do their job until they dissolve. They need the rain to get down into the soil and into the turfgrass. Even if it rains very hard for a long time, the likelihood of these materials running off is rare.

Pellets will usually sink in water versus float, and get lodged in between grass blades, thatch, and root mass. Even if some does wash out, it’s very rare that you’ll loose a substantial portion during a downpour.

Remember, if your lawn treatment is put down one day and it doesn’t rain for a couple days and then pours, it’s the same thing as if it rained immediately after the treatment.


Did you know that dandelions are a perennial weed that can live for two or more years?

Perennial weeds require a different control method than your typical annual weed or they will continue to come back year after year. 

ILS offers a solution to this pesky perennial, ask us how we can help you!

Grubs & Grub Control 

Grubs are larvae from a variety of beetles and bugs. After hatching they begin to feed on our lawn's root system. Grubs can cause a huge amount of damage. 

Beetles, like Japanese and chafer beetles, emerge in early summer, feed on plants in the garden, and lay their eggs in the soil in the lawn. Later in the summer, the grubs hatch and immediately begin to feed. They will continue to eat and grow until mid-fall, when they move deeper in the soil so they can survive through the winter. When the soil warms up again in the spring, the large, mature grubs move back into the upper soil levels, where they transform into adult beetles that emerge in early summer and start the whole process over again.

ILS offers a solution with a grub preventative application to reduce the risk of grubs in your lawn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the fertilizer that you use liquid or granular?
ILS only uses granular fertilizers. Granular fertilizers release slowly over a longer time period and have much less burn potential.

How long will it take for my lawn to green up?
During normal conditions, green-up will happen within 7-10 days. However, if your lawn has a heavy thatch layer, it may take longer. The exception to this is with granular fertilizers. These require some water to activate and make a visible difference.

How long should we stay off the lawn after treatment?
If your lawn only received a granular fertilizer application, you can begin lawn activity right away. However, if a liquid weed control or insect control was applied, please stay off the grass until the liquid has dried or the insect control is watered into the soil. Depending on the temperature, humidity and
wind, this can take from one to a few hours.

What is a pre-emergent application?
Pre-emergent applications put a microscopic layer on the soil that prevents many seeds from sprouting, including crabgrass. This invisible shield is usually put down in early spring before the soil temperature reaches 55-60 degrees.

I want to plant new grass seed this spring. Can I plant seeds after a pre-emergent application, but
before the crabgrass begins to grow?

No. A pre-emergent application will also stop desired grass from growing. It is generally better to wait until the fall to plant new grass seed, with adequate time after a pre-emergent application has been completed. However, there are some special circumstances that we can custom tailor a program to help you. Please call or email us to discuss the details.

Can I mow the same day my lawn is treated?
If our granular fertilizer was applied, you may mow immediately. However, if weed control was applied, do not mow your lawn for 24 hours. Your invoice has detailed information about what we applied. As always, do not hesitate to call or email us if you have any questions.

When mowing the lawn, what is the proper mowing height?
Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at a height of 2.5 to 3 inches in the spring and fall months. Mow bluegrass lawns at a height of 3 to 3.5 inches in June, July and August. A higher mowing height in summer helps to cool the crowns of the turfgrass plants, encourages deeper rooting and provides more leaf area for photosynthesis during the stressful summer months.

Mowing below the recommended range may scalp the turf and cause the turfgrass to deteriorate. Extremely low mowing heights decrease the total leaf surface area, carbohydrate reserves and root growth, creating a situation where the turfgrass plants are unable to produce enough food to meet their
needs. This makes the plants more susceptible to drought, high temperature and wear injury. In addition, the bare areas created by a decrease in turfgrass density increase the likelihood of weed problems.

How often should I mow my lawn?
Generally, never remove more than one-third of the total leaf surface at any one mowing. For example, to maintain a lawn at 3 inches, the grass should be mowed when it reaches a height of 4.5 inches. Mowing frequency is based on the growth rate of the turfgrass. Weather conditions, cultural practices
(such as fertilization and irrigation practices) and other factors determine the growth rate of turfgrass.

Should I remove the grass clippings when mowing the lawn?
When the lawn is mowed properly, grass clippings do not need to be removed or bagged. Small clippings filter down into the turf and quickly decompose, returning essential plant nutrients to the soil. Lawn clippings do not significantly contribute to thatch development. Grass clippings should only be bagged or raked and removed when mowing extremely tall grass.

Does it harm the grass to mow the lawn with a dull mower blade?
A sharp mower blade cuts the grass. A dull blade tears the ends of the grass blades. The damaged tissue dries out, giving the turf surface a whitish appearance. Also, the torn leaf tissue loses greater amounts of water and increases the possibility of disease and insect problems. Sharpen the mower blade at a minimum of twice a year.

How often should I water the lawn?

Most lawns in Iowa require 1 to 1½ inches of water per week. When watering the lawn, apply this amount in a single application or possibly two applications three or four days apart. Avoid frequent, light applications of water, which promote shallow rooting and lush growth. Lush, shallow-rooted turfgrass is less drought tolerant. It also is more susceptible to pest problems. To determine the amount of water applied by a sprinkler, place two or three rain gauges within the spray pattern.

When is the best time to water the lawn?
Early morning (4 to 9 a.m.) is the best time to water a lawn. A morning application allows the water to soak deeply into the soil with little water lost to evaporation. When watering is completed, the turfgrass foliage dries quickly. Watering at mid-day is less efficient because of rapid evaporation, and strong winds may cause uneven water distribution. Strong, mid-day winds also may carry water onto driveways, sidewalks or streets, wasting considerable amounts of water. Watering lawns in late afternoon or evening may increase disease problems.

Is it necessary to water the lawn during hot, dry weather?
You have two options when confronted with hot, dry weather. One option is to do nothing and allow the grass to go dormant. The alternative is to water the turfgrass during dry weather to maintain a green, actively growing lawn.

Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, can survive periods of dry weather. In dry weather, the shoots of the turfgrass plants stop growing and the plants go dormant. Dormancy is a natural survival mechanism for turfgrass. While the leaves have turned brown and died, the turfgrass roots and crowns remain alive. Generally, Kentucky bluegrass can remain dormant for four to six weeks without suffering significant damage.

Should I water after my fertilizer application?
If weed control was not applied, you may water the lawn. However, we encourage customers to always water in the morning if possible.

Should I water after my weed control application?
No, while a light rain should not affect the weed control treatment, it is best to leave the lawn treatment on the weeds until it is absorbed. This process usually requires less than 24 hours.

Aeration and Overseed
Do you recommend aeration?

Yes, core aeration is strongly recommended on a regular basis — usually once a year for normal thatch layers. If you have extremely heavy thatch layers, or compacted soils, we recommend aerating twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the fall. Aeration breaks up the thatch layer and loosens soil thus allowing air, water, and nutrients into the root zone. You can also combine our liquid aeration or liquid de-thatch applications together with your mechanical aeration for even greater results.

When is the best time to seed my lawn?
The best time to seed cool-season grasses is late summer. At ILS we begin our Fall seeding around August 15th. Seeding can generally take place as late as the end of September. Seeding dates in October can work, but the chance of success goes down each day after the first of October.

The primary reason for seeding in late summer and early fall is due to the timing of the warm season weeds that germinate during spring and summer months. Crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyard grass, foxtail, and other warm-season, annual grasses that germinate in the spring and summer, can out compete the growth of our cool-season lawn grasses. Additionally, the soil temperatures and moisture are generally better for establishment of cool-season grasses in late summer. If warm season weeds do germinate in late summer, they quickly die in September, providing better opportunity for cool season grasses to have a couple of months to fill in.

Is overseed warranted?
No. Seed is not warranted. ILS can only control the amount applied per thousand square feet and the application method by our trained and certified team members. ILS cannot control any other natural environmental condition or property owner cultural practices that occur once the service is complete. Common circumstances may include but are not limited to weather of any kind, over watering or under watering either by natural water or irrigation (amounts and timing), temperature, pets, other living animals, human foot traffic, mowing, trimming or other turf, plant or landscape projects performed during or after a completed service by a property owner or other servicer.

I have an irrigation system and/or invisible pet fencing. Does anything need to be done with these
before the aeration?

Yes-Irrigation systems: Any irrigation heads or control valve boxes that are in the yard area will need to be marked so they don’t get damaged. Pet fencing typically runs along the perimeter of the yard and needs to be properly marked to ensure the line doesn’t get cut. Additionally, if you know that you have a shallow TV, internet line or underground downspout, we ask that you mark those too.

Weed Control
How can we keep weeds out of our lawn?

The best defense against weeds is thick dense turf. When sunlight is unable to reach the soil, weed seeds cannot germinate. At ILS, our fertilizers are carefully chosen and applied at the correct time to improve turf density. It is also a good idea to seed the lawn which will speed up the process and help to fill in thin or bare areas.

How long does it take weed control to work?
Several factors determine the timing of results. Plants go through a growing cycle and that includes weeds. During the heat of summer, weeds develop a thick waxy layer that helps them conserve water. This thick layer also makes it more difficult for weed control. In the spring, this thick layer has not yet
developed, and so visible results are much faster. Under normal conditions you should see the weeds begin to curl and twist within 24 hours up to a few days. Weed death occurs in one to four weeks after the application, depending on sensitivity of the weed and environmental conditions. Follow up
applications may be needed after 30 days for more mature weeds or areas of heavy infestation.

It started raining right after you treated our lawn. Do I need to have you come back out?
Most of the time– NO. Granular fertilizer benefits from rain. On days when we suspect precipitation, we will add a special adhesive to our weed control application to speed up the rainfast time. If you notice that weeds are not visibly dying within 7 – 10 days, call us and we’ll gladly come and re-apply.

Why do I have mushrooms growing in my lawn?

Mushrooms are part of a fungus that grows underground, hidden from sight. The mushroom is the tip of a fungus iceberg, if you will – a clue that a large fungus lies buried in soil. Lawn fungi and their mushrooms don't harm the lawn. They' re good guys in the ecosystem of your yard, breaking down
organic material into nutrients your lawn can use.

A mushroom reproduces through spores, like seeds. The mushroom releases the spores, which spread by wind or water, to start a new fungal colony.

When Mushrooms Occur
When mushrooms appear on the lawn, break them off or mow over them. If you have pets or children who might be tempted to taste mushrooms, gather the broken pieces and dispose of them.


Cause: Buried Organic Matter & Extended Periods of Rain
A fungus grows by breaking down organic matter. In a lawn, that organic material could be buried timber, a stump, or tree or shrub roots that remain underground after plants have been removed. Solution: In most cases, when the fungus has finished breaking down the buried organic matter, the
fungus (and accompanying mushrooms) will disappear.

Why do I have moss on my lawn?
It is important to understand that mosses occur when some underlying condition allows them to out
compete turfgrasses and other plants. These conditions most frequently are some combination of:

  •  poorly drained, persistently wet soils

  •  acidic soil conditions

  •  medium to dense shade

  •  repeated “scalping” of turf on uneven terrain

  •  compacted soils

There are no chemical controls for moss. You can rake the area to clear as much of it as possible and begin renovating the area. You can also test your soil to see if it's suited to your grass. Soil that is too acidic — has a low pH level — will hamper the growth of grass. Moss, on the other hand, will do well in
acidic soil. In general, turfgrasses need a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Apply amendments as indicated by the test results to bring your soil to a level that will better suit your grass. Lime will raise the pH level, making the soil less acidic.

What are grubs?

Grubs are the larval stage of a variety of different kinds of beetles, including June bugs and voracious Japanese beetles. Adult beetles lay their eggs in the soil in mid to late summer. As the eggs hatch, they develop into the white-worm looking larvae. As the larvae grow, they work their way down to the root
zone of your lawn where they eat the roots. Usually in early fall you will suddenly notice dead patches of lawn start showing up in your lawn if you have grubs. By this time, it is too late to effectively treat for them and they will begin the process again. Grub control is largely a matter of timing so that they can be controlled in their early stages of development and before they go deep into the soil and go dormant for the winter. At ILS, we apply a preventative grub treatment, providing you with season-long control.

I have beetles on my lawn and in the shrubs ... does this mean I will have grubs?
No, although the beetle is the adult stage of the grub, they do not always lay their eggs directly after feeding on your ornamentals or shrubs. If you are scheduled for our guaranteed grub control, your lawn will be protected. If not, give us a call. We can inspect your lawn and recommend the proper treatment.

Do you offer flea & tick control?
Yes, we can treat your lawn as an optional service to control fleas and ticks that go after household pets.

What is nutsedge or also known as water grass?

Nutsedge makes itself known during periods of rapid summer growth as it outcompetes heat-challenged lawn grasses for water and nutrients. The bright yellow-green leaves of yellow nutsedge stand out clearly against turf, as do the dark green leaves of its purple relative. Left to grow tall, nutsedges
produce distinctive spiky flower clusters: yellow-brown for yellow nutsedge and purple-brown for purple nutsedge. Nutsedges spread and reproduce in several ways. Plants may flower and release seeds that germinate and sprout into new plants. These weeds also spread via underground stems, known as rhizomes, which send up shoots that become new plants. However, the most prolific means of nutsedge reproduction is through underground tubers known as nutlets. Nutsedge requires a special treatment and is not covered with broadleaf weed control.

What are voles and how do they cause damage to my lawn?
Voles are mouse-like rodents known mostly for damaging grass, bulbs, trees and plant roots. Vole runways are on the top of the soil, created in the grass. Voles like to keep these often used runways clear, and will keep the grass or other vegetation clipped close to the ground. The longer vegetation or
grass surrounding the tunnels that is left unclipped forms shelter over the runways. The runways are about an inch and a half wide. Voles do create burrow systems underground as well, and you may see small mounds of dirt indicating burrow openings. These runway systems are very noticeable in the spring after the snow melts. Since voles will have the extra shelter of snow, they will move out into the more open areas of your yard and you'll see the criss-crossing paths on the ground. In most cases, lightly rake the dead grass and the areas will usually fill in on their own throughout the Spring.

Why does my lawn burn where my dog urinates?
Before you start implementing changes to correct lawn burn, you need to make sure that your dog is the culprit. First, make sure that the brown spots are in areas where your dog urinates. Most dogs will have an area in the yard that they choose to use when they relieve themselves. Second, make sure that the grass in the brown spots is still firmly attached. If the grass is firmly rooted, that points to lawn burn. If the whole bunch of grass pulls up, roots and all, then you may be dealing with a grub problem. And third, make sure that your own dog is the problem. If neighborhood dogs are coming into your yard and causing the problem, treating your own dog won't help.

Understand the Cause of the Urine Burn
Lawn burn is caused by the nitrogen in dog urine. Because dog urine is very high in nitrogen-containing waste products, when the dog urinates, it is like pouring a nitrogen-containing fertilizer on the lawn. A little nitrogen is good for the grass, but an excess causes damage. The prevention of lawn burn involves trying to reduce the amount of nitrogen meeting the grass.

Contributing Factors to Urine Burn

There are several factors that make lawn burn more likely to occur:

  • Female dogs are more likely to cause lawn burn than males because females void their entire bladder in one location instead of lifting their leg and marking, like males.

  • Large dogs deposit more urine, so they increase the quantity of nitrogen in one location, making lawn burn more likely.

  • Dogs fed a very high protein diet are more likely to produce a urine that causes lawn burn.

  • Nitrogen is one of the substances excreted when protein is broken down; the more protein, the more nitrogen and the more chance of lawn burn.

  • The additional amount of nitrogen in dog urine may be all that is needed to put already fertilized lawns over the edge and cause lawn burn.

  • Lawns that are stressed are more susceptible to damage. Lawns that are suffering from drought, disease, or are newly sodded or seeded are more susceptible to lawn burn.

Solving the Problem

  • Saturate the urinated spots with water. After the pet urinates, pour several cupsful of water on the spot to dilute the urine.

  • Feed a high-quality dog food that does not exceed your pet's protein requirement. High quality foods also have more digestible protein sources that are more completely utilized by the pet and create less nitrogenous waste in the urine.

  • Encouraging your dog to drink more water will help dilute the urine and decrease the risk of lawn burn. Small amounts of low sodium broth in the drinking water may help increase your dog's water intake.

  • Train your dog to urinate in a location that is less visible. This approach is very effective for

  • owners who do not want to add supplements to their dogs' diet.

  • Replant your yard with more urine-resistant grasses. The most resistant grasses tend to be

  • perennial rye grasses and fescues. The most sensitive tend to be Kentucky bluegrass.

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