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Moles can cause damage to a landscape, including turfgrass, small annual plants, and paver patios or walkways. They tunnel unseen through the top few inches of soil in search of prey, and leave a trail of damage behind them. In a lawn, the tunnels appear as narrow ridges that may have a small hole here or there where the mole popped its head out. In a lawn with a lot of mole activity, the surface may feel spongy as it is walked upon. These are tell-tale signs of a mole problem.
Mole tunnel in a lawn.
Many homeowners think that applying a grub control solution will deter moles. Unfortunately, this is not the case, though you will find lots of pest control companies in the Raleigh, NC area and sites all over the web that tell you this will work. You may also have heard this from some of your friends and neighbors. They say killing the food source of moles will send the moles elsewhere, but grubs are not the main food source of moles. While they do eat grubs, the main staple in a mole’s diet is earthworms. Moles also enjoy slugs, snails, centipedes, millipedes, and other juicy insects in your soil that are beneficial for your turfgrass and other landscape plants. Applying an insecticide that would kill all of the life in your soil would be a setback for your turfgrass and landscape plants, and most insecticides are either acutely toxic to people and pets or they are water contaminates. Crownover Green does not recommend applying insecticides to eradicate moles. We’ve had many clients who have had moles, and don’t know of any who got rid of the moles by killing bugs. The only proven way to eradicate moles is to kill the moles.

The hassle-free method for eradicating moles is to contact a professional critter control service that will have the expertise to trap or kill the moles. Beware that a general pest control company may offer grub control as the first step. When this method doesn’t eradicate the moles they’ll offer additional services at additional costs. Find a pro that addresses the problem directly.

If you are a DIYer, there are several products available at garden centers. There are traps, gassers, and baits. If you don’t want to kill the moles and are not expecting total eradication, then you could try mole deterrents. There are sonic spikes and castor oil pellets or sprays. Whatever DIY option you might choose, follow the label instructions closely to get results. Moles become very active in late winter or early spring as the ground becomes soft. Spring is also mating season for moles so spring is a good time to get them under control.

Tall Fescue lawns in the Raleigh, NC area can suffer some damage during the summer from drought, heat, fungus, lawn equipment, pests, pets, or playtime. Fall is the season to fix the damage and get your Fescue lawn looking its best. Between about early/mid-September and mid-October in the Raleigh, NC area is the best time for Tall Fescue grass seed to germinate, and Tall Fescue seedlings that sprout in the fall have several months to become established in order to survive the following summer. Spring-seeded Tall Fescue is unlikely to survive summer stresses.

What Should a Lawn Renovation Consist Of?
A Tall Fescue lawn renovation should consist of core aeration, a good quality fertilizer with a balance of macro and micro nutrients, and a good quality blend of Tall Fescue seed.

How Can I Get My Lawn Aerated? 

You have a couple of options for getting your lawn aerated. You could do it yourself by renting an aerator from a local equipment rental store. A few of your neighbors may be interested in splitting the cost and doing their lawn renovations at the same time. Another option is to hire a lawn care service, such as Crownover Green, to aerate your lawn. For Crownover Green clients, core aeration is included in our seasonal lawn care program.

How Can I Get the Most out of My Fall Lawn Renovation?
Besides arranging for aeration, and choosing a good quality fertilizer and grass seed, here are a few other important considerations for maximizing the success of your fall Tall Fescue lawn renovation:

Clearly Mark TV/Internet Cables, Pet Fence Wires, & Irrigation Components
If you are hiring someone else to aerate your lawn, use brightly colored spray paint or marking flags to mark obstacles. Mark sprinkler heads, valve covers, pest control stations, and anything in your turf that aerator tines could damage if workers do not notice them. Small obstacles at ground level or those partially obscured by grass may not be observable while operating machinery, so your are better off to be safe than sorry. Additionally, if you know a neighbor has underground obstacles near your property line, please arrange to either mark the obstacles or mark the property line ahead of time. Most aerator tines may penetrate the soil about 3-4 inches. TV/Internet cables and underground pet fences are typically not deep enough to avoid damage. Other utilities such as electric, gas, and water lines are safe. Call 811 to have your TV/Internet cable marked if you do not know where it is.

Prepare to Water Briefly Multiple Times Per Day Until the Grass Sprouts
Keeping your new grass seeds constantly moist is the most critical factor for germination. Watering seeds once or twice per day will not  produce the best results, and watering deeply is not useful for the seeds, which are at the surface of the soil. Plan to water briefly (just enough to wet the seeds at the surface of the soil) several times per day until the grass has sprouted. Tall Fescue seeds will begin germinating in 7-10 days if they are watered properly.
If you don’t have an automated irrigation system, consider investing in a programmable timer for your hose-end sprinklers to help you continue frequent watering when you are not home.

Consider Erosion Control
If you have sloped areas where erosion is a problem, then consider using erosion control blanketsWheat straw is an economical material that helps prevent erosion and retain moisture but it usually contains wheat seeds, which may create a weed problem in your lawn over the winter. For flat areas, sprinkling on a seeding mulch such as Greenview Seed Accelerator will help keep the seeds moist but frequent watering is still required.

Mow Low
Before aerating and seeding, mow at least a couple notches lower than usual, and either bag or rake/remove the clippings if possible. Mowing low and removing clippings helps sunlight reach the seeds, which may improve seed germination. After the renovation, skip a week of mowing and then mow at the usual recommended height of about 3.5″ for the rest of the growing season.

Ensure Ground is Soft
The day before your lawn is to be aerated push a screwdriver into the turf. If it easily penetrates 2-3 inches then the ground is soft enough for aeration and proper harrowing of the soil for optimum seed germination. If the ground is not already soft, then water it until it is soft. Do not overwater to the point that the soil is saturated or mushy.

Consider Topsoil 

If you have low spots, holes or ruts in your lawn that are either a safety hazard or are bothering you, then before the fall renovation is a good time to fill them in with topsoil, which is fairly inexpensive by the bag at garden centers.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

We often talk with folks about watering lawns and the most frequently asked questions related to watering are 1) “How often should I water my grass?” and 2) “How long should I run my sprinklers?” How often should I water my grass? The answer to this question is simple: Usually not more than twice per week unless you are establishing a new lawn with sod or seed. More frequent watering may be causing more problems with your lawn. Many people we talk with say they water twice a day, every day, every other day, or at least three times per week. If you are one of these people you may be enabling your lawn’s addiction to water and creating weed and disease problems. The frequent watering offenders tend to be those who have automated in-ground irrigation systems. The problem with frequent watering is not that you are using more water than necessary (although you might be). The problem is that by watering frequently, you may be preventing your turf from reaching its full potential for heat and drought tolerance. Furthermore, you are creating a more ideal environment for fungal disease and some of the most invasive and hard-to-control weeds that we see in Raleigh, NC area lawns.
If you water frequently and briefly, then your turfgrass roots will have no reason to grow deeper because all of the water that the plant needs to survive is right at the surface of the soil. Whereas, watering deeply twice per week will encourage deeper and heartier root growth; and the deeper and stronger the roots are, the longer they will stay moist between watering, which will help the grass survive through the summer. Some of the most frequently watered lawns that we see in the Wake Forest, NC area have the worst problems with tough summer weeds including nutsedge, crabgrass, or spurge. Pathogenic fungi also love moisture. They develop on the blades of your grass, and the more frequently you wet your grass down the more likely you will be to eventually see a fungal disease which can kill large sections of your lawn very quickly. In mid-summer when daytime conditions are sunny and very hot a lot of water may be lost to evaporation. In the absence of rain you may wish to water a third time during a week. However, our recommendation for clients with automated irrigation systems is to set your sprinklers for twice per week in the morning, and manually run them a third time only when needed. For how long should I run my sprinklers? The answer to this question is not as simple because different types of sprinklers vary in the amount of water they put out in a given amount of time. There are different types of sprinkler heads that have varying rates of output and varying ranges of motion. Therefore the length of time your sprinklers should run depends on the particular sprinklers you use. Here’s how to determine how long to run your sprinklers. Put out a few soup bowls around your lawn. Then run your sprinklers to see how long it takes to fill them with the amount of water that your type of turfgrass needs. Zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass lawns should thrive on 1″ of water per week through the summer, so they should receive .5″ of water twice per week. Tall Fescue lawns need about 1.5″ of water per week, so they should ideally receive .75″ of water twice per week. If you have an automated in-ground irrigation system, be sure to put bowls in the various zones of the system. If you use hose-end sprinklers, put the bowls in each area as you water. A water-saving strategy would be to irrigate at about 50% of the total amount your lawn needs and hope for rain to supplement your irrigation. If it does not rain, then you can manually run your sprinklers to make up the difference. Turfgrass that is watered well twice per week and properly mowed (read about proper mowing in a previous blog article HERE) will be healthier and look better through the growing season. If you have an immature lawn, you may need to water more frequently at first and work toward twice per week. Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

During the winter homeowners oftentimes do not think much about their lawns, and certainly not about ugly weeds such as crabgrass until they start seeing them around Memorial Day. However, late winter, which is February meteorologically in the Raleigh, NC area, is when you should get started to help prevent weeds later this spring and summer.

The first treatment of the year by Crownover Green is key to preventing annual weeds such as crabgrass and spurge that would otherwise sprout and grow throughout the summer. By mid-March we will apply our weed pre-emergent, which essentially provides a barrier on top of the soil that prevents weeds that sprout from seeds from growing. When a lawn is free of debris and excess dormant top growth, more pre-emergent coats the soil and is therefore more effective at preventing weeds. Here are a couple of basic tasks that will help you prepare your lawn to look its best later this summer.

Remove Large Debris
If your lawn is littered with tree branches or pine cones that are too large for your mower to shred, pick them up. and put them at the curb for yard waste pick-up.

Mow Down the Brown
Before weed pre-emergent is applied, set your mower height lower than usual and mow the dead growth and other debris in your turf. It is best to bag and remove the clippings. Shorter top growth will allow the pre-emergent to reach the soil where it needs to be in order to work. After the first mowing, raise your mower blade a notch or two and let your grass grow this spring.

Rake Lightly
Some organic debris left on the lawn is good as it decomposes and returns nutrients to the soil. However, too much of it may smother your grass as it begins its growing season this spring. If there is still a lot of debris on your lawn after mowing, we recommend raking it off.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

Winter can be hard on a lawn, even in the Wake Forest, NC area where the cool season is typically relatively mild with short periods of freezing temperatures. Along with sometimes frigid temperatures will come browning of your turf. Is brown grass during wintertime healthy grass, or is it a sign of a problem or deficiency?

Most plants experience color changes during winters in our transitional climate zone, and all of the turfgrasses that are common in our area experience some degree of browning.

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass during Winter

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass, which are the most common warm-season turfgrasses in our area, turn sandy tan in color during dormancy from late fall through early spring. This is normal. There is nothing that can be done to keep warm season grasses from turning brown in winter, although some people who do not like the dormant color of their lawn choose to “paint” their brown grass green or overseed with a winter ryegrass, which is green. Bermudagrass is usually totally dormant during the winter and it is hard to damage. Extremely cold temperatures or heavy use of a dormant lawn could potentially cause some winterkill (loss of turf) of Bermudagrass, but this is unusual, and Bermudagrass will typically rebound well from winterkill. Zoysiagrass, while appearing to be dormant like Bermudagrass during the winter may not be fully dormant. It may still be vulnerable to winterkill from frigid temperatures, fungal disease, and heavy traffic during moist conditions. Zoysiagrass also rebounds reasonably well from winterkill, but maybe not as robustly as Bermudagrass. Large areas of damage to Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass due to winterkill may require re-sodding or seeding.

Fescue Grasses during Winter

Fescues, both Tall and Fine Fescues, are cool-season turfgrasses that are semi-dormant during Wake Forest, NC winters. They are more tolerant of frigid temperatures and do not usually experience winterkill in our area. During winter, Fescue grass blades do not grow much, but the root system may continue to grow except during the few coldest weeks of the winter. Fescues tend to retain some green color during the winter, but yellowing or browning is normal. Some homeowners may notice variations in the amount of green from one Fescue lawn to the next within the same neighborhood.

Lawns that are greener than others during winter may be the result of high levels of nitrogen fertilizers being applied to those lawns in late fall. At Crownover Green, we do fertilize in the fall but will not overdose a lawn with nitrogen for the sake of color. When a lawn is overdosed with nutrients late in the season, the grass is unlikely to use all of the nutrients that are applied and the excess nutrients either leach into our groundwater or run off into our waterways. This potential for over-fertilization of lawns contributes to dead zones in our waterways and waterbodies.

Will My Brown Lawn Turn Green Again?

Browning of turf during winter in our area is normal, and every type of turf generally returns to its beautiful green color in its proper time. Because we cannot control nature, we cannot guarantee that your lawn will totally escape winterkill. However, widespread winterkill is rare in our area, and we do guarantee that we will work with you to get your lawn looking beautiful again as quickly as possible if it sustains any damage whatsoever during the winter.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.


There are several reasons why weeds will emerge even though pre-emergent was applied. Here they are in no particular order:
  • Weeds that spread via their root systems (creeping roots, bulbs, tubers, stolons, rhizomes) will not be affected by pre-emergent herbicide. They will keep spreading year after year if they are not properly addressed. Pulling them out by hand may not be effective due to their strong or expansive root systems, which will promptly regenerate new weed plants. Short of digging them up and replacing these sections of your lawn, the most effective way to eradicate them is to spray them with a post-emergent herbicide (preferably organic or reduced risk synthetic); and depending on how robust their root system is, it may take multiple applications throughout a growing season to get rid of them. 
  • Some weeds that spread via seed are biennials (e.g., dandelions), which means that they don’t spread seed until their second year of life which is after a first year in which they become a well-established plant that is not affected by pre-emergent herbicide. If they are in their second year of life, they must be pulled out by hand or sprayed with a post-emergent herbicide. 
  • The timing of when you apply the pre-emergent may not be in sync with when the weeds germinate. If you apply it too late, some seeds in your lawn may have already germinated and grown beyond the point at which the pre-emergent will kill them. If you apply it too early, the residual effects of the pre-emergent may be reduced before certain weed seeds begin to germinate. Well-timed application is critical. You need to know the soil temperature at which certain weeds begin germinating and apply the pre-emergent then for maximum impact. 
  • Weed seeds that are deposited in your lawn by natural processes after the pre-emergent was applied may not be affected by the treatment. Weed seeds are being deposited in your lawn every day throughout the year by wind, birds, and other wildlife. Seeds may also be transported to our lawns inadvertently by our children, pets, and ourselves. 
With so many reasons why weeds might still grow despite applying a pre-emergent herbicide, you may be wondering if it makes sense to apply one at all. At Crownover Green, we believe that it is especially worthwhile to apply a pre-emergent on lawns that are thin or on which the weeds were not well managed the previous year in order to thwart certain aggressive and invasive weeds in a lawn. Your lawn may contain hundreds or thousands of weed seeds that are lying dormant during the winter. As the soil temperature rises, these seeds begin to germinate and grow. If a pre-emergent herbicide has been properly applied, many of these tiny plants will be terminated and you will never notice them.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.