FINDING ANSWERS

MAINTENANCE MYSTERY

Q Last season we hydroseeded several lawns, some new construction, some renovations. After preparing the soil and checking the pH, we seeded all the lawns with northern climate seed using hydroseed mulch, starter fertilizer and tackifier. We did not have the maintenance contract on these lawns, but during several visits last year, I saw that the lawns were growing nicely. This year, the lawns look horrible. They are thin and yellow and a lot of areas look bare. How do I repair these accounts? What can be done to prevent this from happening this year? — New York

A You are not alone in this experience. Because you did not have the maintenance account for these lawns, the possibilities for what caused the decline are endless. The first thing you should do is contact your seed distributor to determine if there was a problem with the seed lot. A reputable representative will inform you if there have been other cases similar to yours. You should also review the weather conditions for the year and compare them with previous year's. If you haven't done so in the past, it is helpful to keep a daily log of weather conditions, including temperature, wind speed and precipitation. If your area experienced a dry fall or winter, that could be as damaging as a summer drought. Without being in control of irrigation or any fertilizer/pesticide treatments that may have been applied during summer and fall, it is hard to determine precisely what other causes contributed to the problem. Interview the clients and ask open-ended questions that could pull out any history of care and see if the puzzle pieces won't fit together.

RINSE AND REPEAT

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Q When we triple-rinse our 2.5-gallon plastic jugs containing liquid simazine, much of the residue is not removed from the walls of the container. Can you recommend a solvent, detergent or procedure which would remove this residue so that we may apply it on target and prevent it from contaminating the landfill? — California

A The Environmental Protection Agency's recommendation for proper rinsing and disposal of pesticide containers takes into account a wide range of possibilities for the fate of pesticides in the environment. In addition to water solubility, pesticides can be degraded by ultraviolet radiation, microbial degradation, reaction with minerals in the soil and hydrolysis. Simazine is much less water-soluble than glyphosate and 2,4-D, for example, but its microbial decomposition is fast compared to some other herbicides. If you have rinsed three times and there is still residue, microorganisms or sunlight should break down the rest. There is a handy reference called EXTONET available online that provides extensive information on most pesticides. Much of the information is more scientific than the average user would like, but a bit of careful study may be helpful.

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