Garden Care Nature Uncategorized

The Cicadas are Coming!

What do I do?

Sit back and enjoy the cacophony of cicada love. They have waited 17 years for this raucous cicada party. Once adults have mated and females have laid eggs, they will die. They will be gone by the end of June.

What good are cicadas?

This will be a banner year for baby birds fledging with bellies full of cicadas. Small mammals, foxes, dogs, box turtles and others feed on these clumsy fliers until they are full. Chickens love cicadas. Cicadas nymphs aerate your soil and the expired adult bodies, provide a terrific source of nitrogen for your trees and gardens as they decay.

Should I apply pesticides?

No, absolutely not. Pesticides are not effective against cicadas and may harm other beneficial insects nearby. Netting is your best bet for young or recently transplanted trees.

How do I cover my small trees with netting?

Cicada Netting is currently being sold at local Nurseries and Box Stores.

Watch this terrific video on How to Install Netting put out by the Cicada Crew at the University of Maryland

Will MowCow come out and wrap my trees with netting?

We are not offering this service at this time.

How can I remove them from my trees and shrubs when I am terrified of bugs?

We encourage you to reach out to neighborhood youth. Invite them to pluck cicadas for you and move them to trees in a nearby wooded area. Offer cicadas to teachers who may want to host a Cicada Olympics event at their school or in the neighborhood.

Also – cicada researchers want to see your images so they can track this big Brood. Report them on the Cicada Safari app.

What is The Cicada Olympics event?

In 2004, Dr. Cindy Smith, wife of MowCow owner Richard Linsday, hosted the most fantastic learning event for the whole second grade at Nokesville Elementary School. Exactly 17 years later, she has compiled all the activities into an e-book available on Amazon. As a George Mason University Environmental Science and Policy professor, as well as a bug, botany and science education enthusiast, Cindy feels authentic learning is by far, the best way to experience and retain science and nature content knowledge. Please share this ebook link with neighbors and teacher friends and turn this cicada emergence into an incredible cicada learning experience.

Visit Dr. Cindy Smith’s website!

Into what types of trees will the female cicadas lay their eggs?

Females prefer the softer wood along branch tips.

What will tree the damage will look like:

You will see branch tips flagging in July. That is a sign that female cicadas scraped a groove in the branch tip and laid their eggs. Most mature trees will recover with no problems at all.

Here’s a great resource about the damage cicadas can do to your plants:


Promising Results from Lawn Renovation Experiment

Last fall, we selected a poorly performing lawn to test out a new lawn renovation program.

Our full sun test area had very compacted soil and was riddled with bare spots that even weeds would not colonize.  In late October, we divided our test area in half and used a core aerator to break up the compacted clay soil in both plots.  Both plots were overseeded with our MowCow Special blue tag certified seed blend which contains a mix of turf type tall fescues and perennial rye.  Rather than amending with top soil or compost, as is frequently done to enhance underperforming lawns, we spread a dry product containing 60% organic matter and micronutrients magnesium and sulfur.  Much of the new seed sprouted to a height of about an inch before the colder weather set in.

Both plots were aerated and seeded in mid October. Left plot had dry organic fertilizer spread in mid October. Right side did not receive this fertilizer treatment. Image taken April 13.

We did not apply any pesticides.

Initially in late March, the new turf grass sprouts appeared stunted in both plots which was disappointing, but made sense considering our county was experiencing a serious drought. Heavy rains in early April changed everything.

Turf grass seedlings took off in the plot in which the organic material was applied. Additionally, chickweed and other winter annual weeds did not thrive in the treated plot.  The weeds were present in January, but the turf grass seedlings appeared to vigorously outcompete these weeds forming a dense, lush section of weed-free turf.  We are impressed.

This organic product shows great promise for healthy lawn renovation.

MowCow lawn experiment
A closer view of the test plot that received no fertilizer product. Chickweed is present and the bare spots still exist, even though plot was aerated and overseeded in October. Image taken April 13.
MowCow healthy soil shows promise
This angle shows the plot on the right side has a high turf grass germination rate and very low weed pressure, even though both plots received the same amount of turf grass seed. Herbicides were not applied on either plot. Image taken April 13.

One Surprising Reason You Have Lawn Weeds

Ever wonder why weeds routinely show up in the exact same places each spring?

One frequently overlooked lawn weed contributor is birds. Different backyard bird species enjoy weed seeds as part of the daily diet. The moist journey through the digestive system can give seeds a boost.Weeds under tree indicated in circle

Unfortunately (for your lawn), weed seeds survive in birds’ digestive systems. When birds poop, the seeds are deposited, ready to sprout when conditions are optimal.

Wondering if birds are introducing weeds into your yard?

If you look on the ground directly under common perch sites, including mailboxes, branches, fence posts, and bird feeders, you’ll frequently find weeds sprouting.   Also if you look along the ground below their favorite tree branch and along the flight path to the bird feeder, you’ll often see a trail of growing weeds here as well.

Next time you are wondering how that weed arrived in your yard, remember to gaze upwards.  Look high and low to see if you can spot the flying feathered seed sower.

Lawn Care Nature

What’s this fern-like Weed?

The excessive spring rain in Northern Virginia has lead to dramatic weed growth.

Queen Anne's Lace weed just pulled from landscape bed
A freshly pulled Queen Anne’s Lace weed

This spring, we’ve hit the jackpot on steady soaking rains. Our reward is lush green growth, and unwelcomed weeds in the lawn and landscape beds. A roadside weed that we’re seeing quite often is Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota.

The fern-like foliage of Queen Anne’s lace has unexpectedly sprouted in many of our client’s landscape beds. Our Technicians repeatedly hear clients share, “What is this? I’ve never seen this tall weed here before.”

Queen Anne’s Lace seeds can lay dormant in the soil for up to five years, waiting for good sprouting conditions. Steady rain, on multiple days, like we’ve just experienced, percolates down deep into the soil, triggering germination in the buried seeds.


How did Queen Anne’s Lace end up in my garden?

Prolific white flowers, which are produced in the plant’s second year, put out hundreds of tiny seeds. Queen Anne’s Lace has a sweet bloom, similar to the cow parsnip, but much smaller. This plant can become invasive and extremely hard to eradicate due to the strong, deep taproot and the velcro seeds. These hitchhikers move to new locations on pet fur, pant legs, birds and even car tires.

Queen Anne's Lace Flower Head with central red flower
The “beautiful white lace” Queen Anne was tatting has a telltale central “drop of blood” from a single prick of the finger

 Queen Anne’s lace roots smell just like ‘real’ carrots.

Queen Anne's Lace weed, (left) compared to a stubby orange carrot (right)
Queen Anne’s Lace, (left) a stubby orange garden carrot (right).

In fact, this plant is the direct ancestor to the commercially grown carrots we eat in our salads.  As this fast growing plant gets taller, its leaves shade out smaller plants growing nearby and underneath.  The best (and most time consuming) way to remove Queen Anne’s Lace is to carefully pull out each plant, making sure to get the deep taproot.


While it may not look nice in your landscape beds, caterpillars of the large eastern black swallowtail butterflies, think the weed looks and tastes just fine.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Queen Annesl ace weed
Black swallowtail caterpillars munching Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. Photo credit: Edith Smith