Battle of the hose-end sprayers : Chapin G362D vs. Ortho Dial N Spray

Battle of the hose-end sprayers : Chapin G362D vs. Ortho Dial N Spray

Spraying herbicides or nutrients using a pump sprayer can be very time consuming , labor intensive,  and getting complete coverage is problematic even when using a marker dye. Hose-end sprayers  – though not appropriate for all situations – can make the task much easier and faster. Two of the most popular hose-end sprayer on the market are the Chapin G362D Professional All Purpose Hose End Sprayer and the Ortho Dial N Spray Multi-Use Hose-End Sprayer. Having used both of them, here are my impressions of these products.

Chapin G362D Professional

The Chapin sprayer , coming in at just under $20 at Lowe’s, is a metal body sprayer that can hold up to 32oz of concentrate. Mixing ratio is adjusted by turning the metering dial at the top, and conversion from teaspoons to tablespoons is done by inserting416dqbdvsgl-_sy450_ a small brass converter into the siphon tube. The sprayer features a removable spray deflector which creates a wide and somewhat coarse spray pattern.

Having used  the Chapin sprayer to spray glyphosate before renovation, I have found that  suffers from a few major issues:

  • In what I’m assuming is an attempt to keep the concentrate bottle vertical, the bottle and nozzle assembly rotates independently from the handle. This makes it impossible to spray at an angle and very difficult to get into hard to reach areas or in situations where you can’t walk on the grass, like after seeding.
  • The sprayer seems to have problems metering out concentrate. After spraying half the yard, I realized that none of the concentrate had been extracted from the bottle. Stopping briefly and then resuming spraying magically resolves the problem, but reliability is an issue.
  • The droplet size created by the deflector is very large, which is less than ideal when doing foliar applications. A finer spray can result in more even coverage and better coating of the grass blade.
  • There is significant space between the bottom of the siphon tube and the bottom of the bottle, which means there will always be a good amount of concentrate left over at the bottom.

Unfortunately, while the build quality appears to be good, the design of the product is flawed. These design issues make its use in lawn care challenging if not outright frustrating.

Ortho Dial N Spray Multi-Use Hose-End Sprayer

The Ortho Dial N Spray, coming in at just under $11, is a hose end sprayer made entirely out of plastic. Like the Chapin, it features41tg2wmb16l a 32oz  concentrate bottle but it is also compatible with large Ortho concentrate bottles – just attach the sprayer directly to the bottle. It features 3 spray patterns : shower, fan and jet. The metering dial is located in the side of the sprayer and features 14 settings.

At first touch sprayer feels cheaply made. It is all plastic and you can actually feel the two sides trying to come apart slightly as you
push the trigger. The concentrate bottle attaches to the body of the sprayer somewhat loosely, adding to the “cheap” feeling. However, upon first use, the Ortho proves to be a good performer. The fan nozzle produces a finer spray than the Chapin, though still more coarse than I would like. The metering is solid – the concentrate gets sucked out evenly and consistently. And since the sprayer body is one piece, you can tilt and spray at an angle. Unfortunately, the shower and jet nozzles don’t seem to have much use in a lawn care setting, though they could come in handy for other tasks.

Bonus: an empty Bayer Fungus Control bottle

687073012705After spraying the contents of a Bayer Fungus Control Ready-To-Spray bottle, I decided to hang on to it to see if it could be re-used. The bottle produces an excellent spray with perfect droplet size, and is a consistent performer. After having re-used it for about 20 applications, varying from fungicide to iron, the thread on the bottle wore off to where it could no longer be re-used. While it lasted, the “free” Bayer bottle was the best performing “hose-end sprayer”.

The winner

Unfortunately, both the Chapin and the Ortho sprayers suffer from flaws. The Chapin, at double the price of the Ortho, is sturdy but unusable due to design flaws. It thus gets a 1 star rating. The Ortho, while not as sturdy, does a good job at half the price and so receives a 3 star rating. Maybe Bayer can turn their RTS bottle into a standalone hose-end sprayer? One can only hope.

Tank mixing order

Tank mixing order

20lknapsack1It is not uncommon for multiple pesticides and fertilizers to be mixed together in the same sprayer tank so they can all be applied in one go. Most pesticides labels provide information on compatibility with other pesticides and fertilizers, but testing of all combinations is impossible. If a substance is not specifically mentioned as compatible, follow the label to perform a compatibility test.

To minimize the risk of active ingredients of different formulations interacting with each other, the following mixing order should be used, from first to last:

  1. Wettable Powders (WP or W)  –  finely ground solids, typically mineral clays, to which an active ingredient is sorbed. They provide an effective way to apply an active ingredient in a water spray that is not readily soluble in water. These dry preparations look like dust, contain a high percent active ingredient (usually 50 percent or more) and are mixed with water for application. Wettable powders form a suspension rather than true solution when added to water. Good agitation (mixing) is needed in the spray tank to maintain the suspension.
  2. Dispersible Granules (WDG)  – manufactured in the same way as wettable powders except that the powder is aggregated into granular particles. They are mixed with water and applied in a spray exactly like a wettable powder. This dry formulation usually contains 70 to 90 percent active ingredient.
  3. Flowable or Aqueous Suspension (F, L or AS)  – very finely ground solid material suspended in a liquid. Liquid flowables usually contain a high concentration (4 pounds or more) of active ingredient and are mixed with water for application.
  4. Emulsifiable Concentrate (E or EC)  – usually contains the active ingredient, one or more petroleum solvents, and an emulsifier that allows the formulation to be mixed with water.  These concentrates are soluble in oil and form an emulsion in water. The emulsion-forming characteristic results from the addition of adjuvants to the herbicide formulation.
  5. Solutions

When using a sprayer:

  • Calibrate the sprayer
  • Read the herbicide label and wear personal protection equipment
  • Fill the tank half way with water, never mix concentrated chemicals in an empty tank
  • Measure chemicals you are adding to the tank.
  • Apply the pesticide according to label directions.
Orbit 4 zone watering system review

Orbit 4 zone watering system review

61uosjyvil-_sl1000_As those of us without an irrigation system know all too well, keeping seed moist during a seeding project with hoses and sprinklers can be challenging, especially if the area is large. The Orbit 4 zone watering system aims to make the process easier by automating the task of watering for up to 4 zones. Since the standard hose bib doesn’t have enough water pressure to run more than one sprinkler, the controller turns on each of the zones one at a time.  But how does it perform in the real world?

The system consists of a battery powered controller (2 x AA), a 4 port manifold and 2 valves. The system can control up to 4 valves, but only 2 are provided in the box.  Two additional valves can be purchased separately if needed. The setup process is straightforward: attach the valves to the manifold, connect the valves to the controller, insert batteries and, after a 3o second period in which the controller tests each valve, the system is ready to be programmed.

The Orbit controller supports up to 3 start times, and each start time can be configured to activate between 1 and 4 valves. The valves are activated sequentially from 1 to 4, with only one valve open at any given time. Turning the programming dial to the “How Long” section allows you to configure how long each zone will be watered – this setting applies globally to all starting times configured. Finally turning the dial to “How Often” allow you to select on what days the program will be activated – either by selecting  between 1 and 7  days of the week or by selecting the every 1 day option. Once configured, setting the dial to Auto will instruct the controller to turn on and off based on the configuration entered.

Having used the controller for two weeks to water ~6,500 square feet of lawn during fall renovation, I have found it to be a huge time saver. I have configured all 4 zones to turn on at 9:00AM, 12:00PM and 3:00PM watering each zone for 30 minutes. So far, it has worked flawlessly. The valves feel sturdy and open/close with a loud thump, with no leaking. At the same time, this system has a few annoyances which unnecessarily cripple what could be a fantastic product.

The Pros

  • Sturdy construction.
  • Works flawlessly.
  • Good battery life  – no sign of batteries needing to be changed after 2 weeks of continuous use.
  • Huge time saver for keeping areas moist during seeding.
  • Manual cycles can be initiated with the push of a button.
  • Clear on-screen indication of how long until the next starting time and how much longer left of the current watering cycle.

The Cons

  • Only comes with 2 valves. Additional valves have to be purchased
  • Only 3 configurable starting times. This can be made to work, especially since a manual cycle can be started anytime with the push of a button , but having up to 7 starting times would have been more suitable for the light frequent watering needed during seeding.
  • The electronic controller features a bracket in the back which allows it to mount onto one of the valves. The bracket is too loose and the controller just falls off, making this mounting system somewhat useless.
  • The clock consistently falls behind by about 2 minutes each day. Not a huge deal, unless you need to synchronize starting time with another device like say a pump.

Overall, the Orbit 4-zone watering system has proved to be a huge time and labor saver and has helped me achieve more even germination with far less effort than in previous years. It is a must-have for anyone considering a renovation project without an irrigation system.

Mulching leaves on your lawn

Mulching leaves on your lawn

 

Note : the article below was written by fellow lawn care enthusiast MorpheusPA and is being reproduced here with his permission. Head on over to his blog for more great tips on lawn and garden care : The Green, Green Grass of Home

So what do leaves do? They raise the organic matter percentage in the soil, provide fall food for your worms and micro-arthropods living in your soil, encourage bacterial and fungal activity in the soil, and mulch the soil for winter. Lawns that have been leaf mulched will retain their green color further into winter, green up faster in spring, and generally show greater health than lawns that receive no mulching.

1-24MulchLeaves2REBECCAHow much should you use? Close to 300 pounds per thousand square feet disappears into the grass in a few days if well-chopped, but applications certainly do not have to be made at that rate. This study shows the results of mulching 150 to 450 pounds of leaves into the soil, and effects are generally excellent.

But isn’t leaf litter ugly? Well, yes. The above study states that leaf litter at the highest application resulted in leaves still left on the lawn in spring. However, if you have a rotary mower it becomes easy to render the leaves invisible. With the very large amount I’m using, I mow slowly four times over the area to reduce the leaves to bits smaller than the nail on my pinky (and I have small hands!) By the time I complete the task, almost no visible litter remains–99% has fallen into the grass and becomes invisible. The remaining 1% disappears with the next rainfall.

What’s the NPK ratio of leaves? About 0.8-0.35-0.2 according to this source, but don’t worry about it. Trees extract almost all the chlorophyll and nitrogen and place it in root storage for the winter. Since there is a small amount of phosphorus in the leaves, mulching them is better than allowing rainwater to percolate through them while they sit on the street as the phosphorus enters the waterways and causes algae blooms that aren’t good for lakes and streams. The reason leaves are mulched isn’t to feed the lawn but instead to provide additional organic material for the soil.

Isn’t it more work?  No, not unless you import leaves.  It’s far easier and faster to mulch the leaves your trees drop into the lawn than it is to rake and discard them.

How much at once?  To avoid smothering your lawn, try not to chop up more than about an inch of leaf litter at a time.  That may mean mowing a bit more often under your trees, but the results are worth it!

Foliar Iron Application

Foliar Iron Application

Note : the article below was written by fellow lawn care enthusiast MorpheusPA and is being reproduced here with his permission. Head on over to his blog for more great tips on lawn and garden care : The Green, Green Grass of Home

Iron applications help with the lawn color, but generally do little for the soil.  They’re always optional, but if you find your lawn color is more yellow than you like, they will help restore color.

There are three methods–bottled iron products from any big box store, ferrous sulfate, and ferrous ammonium sulfate.  This article discusses all three below.

Warning:  Iron should never be applied if the temperature will exceed 85 within the next 24 hours.  If the weather takes you by surprise, irrigate the grass enough to wash the iron off of the leaves.  Failing to do so may risk a burn.

Bottled Iron Products:

Almost every big box and local gardening store will carry pre-mixed bottles of iron.  Often, the iron is listed as “chelated,” or bound to an organic molecule to preserve it against chemical reaction.  While this isn’t important when the product is on the leaves, it will help the grass continue to absorb the iron after the product has been watered in.

Most bottled iron products contain 3% to 6% iron by weight, although there are certainly exceptions.  Check the label to make certain that the product’s price is reasonable for the amount of iron it contains.

Simply follow the label instructions and observe all warnings about temperature of application.  If the temperature limit of usage is not listed, assume it shouldn’t be used if temperatures exceed 85.

Most of the chelates used aren’t effective at higher pH levels, so there isn’t much sense in paying for the chelation if your pH is much over 7.2.

These products are readily available, pre-mixed, and sometimes come in their own spray containers.  The down-side is that they tend to be much more expensive than home-made options.  They’re a great initial test to see if your lawn will respond well to iron, and a good option even after that for people who don’t wish to mix their own.

Ferrous Sulfate:

Ferrous Sulphate

The name sounds a bit scary, but it’s just iron sulfate, or iron bound to sulfur and oxygen. Ferrous sulfate (technically, ferrous sulfate heptahydrate, or including 7 molecules of water attached to the ferrous sulfate) is 15% elemental iron by weight, or one of the higher amounts of iron easily available to homeowners and safe for lawns.

Ferrous sulfate, or iron sulfate, is often available in small quantities at gardening stores in the Bonide brand, and the quality is excellent. Larger quantities can be purchased online.

For elite bluegrasses, 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate per thousand square feet diluted in a minimum of 1 gallon of water seems to be the best amount to use.  For non-elite bluegrasses, any amount up to and including 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate in 1 gallon of water per thousand square feet seems best.  For fescues and ryegrasses, 2 ounces per thousand in 1 gallon of water per thousand square feet maximum would be the limit.  Overapplication will result in very dark grass.  In the case of fescues and ryegrasses, it can turn an unnatural almost black-gray-green color that’s fairly unattractive.  The grass is healthy, and will eventually regain normal coloration, but this can take several weeks to months.

Mix externally in a bucket and pour the solution into the sprayer, leaving any undissolved ferrous sulfate and foreign material behind.  This will reduce clogging considerably.

Mix the above amount of ferrous sulfate plus a small amount of any surfactant into 1 gallon of water.  For a surfactant, you can use a quarter to half an ounce of baby shampoo or inexpensive adult shampoo, dish soap (non anti-bacterial), or Morpheus Soil Conditioner.

Again, never spray the lawn if the temperature will exceed 85 degrees within 24 hours.  If you discover that the weather has changed and the temperature is now too warm, irrigate the lawn immediately to wash the mix off the leaves and into the soil.

Discard any unused solution appropriately as it doesn’t store well and will rapidly turn to rust.  Make certain to clean your sprayer afterward, including running water through the wand, to avoid clogs.

Ferrous Ammonium Sulfate:

Ammonium Sulphate
Ammonium Sulphate

This name sounds a bit scarier than ferrous sulfate!  However, it’s simply iron and ammonia bound to a sulfate.  Although it contains less iron by weight than ferrous sulfate, the mix is home-made and will contain the same amount of elemental iron as the ferrous sulfate you put into it.  Consequently, if you used 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate, you’ve applied 0.60 ounces of elemental iron.

So why use it?  The darkening from ferrous ammonium sulfate exceeds that of ferrous sulfate.  Ferrous ammonium sulfate is a somewhat more stable solution as well, being less likely to turn to rust before the grass can absorb it. Ammonium sulfate contains 21% nitrogen, supplying the nitrogen needed to generate chlorophyll (the green color) in plants.

Making ferrous ammonium sulfate requires two chemicals:  ferrous sulfate and ammonium sulfate.

Ferrous sulfate, or iron sulfate, is often available in small quantities at gardening stores in the Bonide brand, and the quality is excellent. Larger quantities can be purchased online.

Ammonium sulfate is often not available at local stores, but can be purchased online from The Organic Store.  The link is to the main fertilizer section, so you will need to scan down to find ammonium sulfate.

For elite bluegrasses, 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate per thousand square feet diluted in a minimum of 1 gallon of water seems to be the best amount to use.  For non-elite bluegrasses, any amount up to and including 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate in 1 gallon of water per thousand square feet seems best.  For fescues and ryegrasses, 2 ounces per thousand in 1 gallon of water per thousand square feet maximum would be the limit.  Overapplication will result in very dark grass.  In the case of fescues and ryegrasses, it can turn an unnatural almost black-gray-green color that’s fairly unattractive.  The grass is healthy, and will eventually regain normal coloration, but this can take several weeks to months.

To create ferrous ammonium sulfate, take the amount you chose above and multiply by 0.85.  Add that much ammonium sulfate to the mix.

So for several mixing levels:

Ferrous sulfate amount: Ammonium sulfate amount:
1.0 oz 0.85 oz
2.0 oz 1.70 oz
3.0 oz 2.55 oz
4.0 oz 3.40 oz

 

…and so on, always using 0.85 ounces of ammonium sulfate for each ounce of ferrous sulfate you use.

What happens if you make a slight mistake?  Nothing, really.  Using too much ferrous sulfate is no issue at all, you’re simply applying a mixed solution of ferrous sulfate and ferrous ammonium sulfate.

Using too much ammonium sulfate is not much greater of an issue.  Although ammonium sulfate can strip a bit of calcium from the plant, a minor imbalance in the amount used won’t cause any problems.  Some fertilizers use ammonium sulfate as their primary nitrogen source and work well without damaging the grass.

Mix externally in a bucket and pour the solution into the sprayer, leaving any undissolved ferrous sulfate, ammonium sulfate, and foreign material behind.  This will reduce clogging considerably.  When adding it to your sprayer, use a small amount of any surfactant into 1 gallon of water.  For a surfactant, you can use a quarter to half an ounce of baby shampoo or inexpensive adult shampoo, dish soap (non anti-bacterial), or Morpheus Soil Conditioner.

For this chemical, spraying above 80 degrees is not recommended as it has a higher probability to cause burning.

If you discover that the weather has changed and the temperature is now too warm, irrigate the lawn immediately to wash the mix off the leaves and into the soil.

Discard any unused solution appropriately as it doesn’t store well and will rapidly turn to rust–although more stable, it will still transform over a day or so.  Make certain to clean your sprayer afterward, including running water through the wand, to avoid clogs.

Watering your lawn

Watering your lawn

sprinkler

Proper watering is the most important lawn care practice upon which healthy lawns are built. And a healthy lawn is a great looking lawn. Grasses, like all other plants, require water to stay alive.  Mother Nature provides for a good portion of your lawn’s water needs, but during periods of hot weather or drought, supplemental water is needed in the form of irrigation. The way in which this water is provided will guarantee the success or failure of your lawn.

A lot of homeowners – especially those with an irrigation system –  have been conditioned to water for 20-30 minutes multiple times a week. This creates a vicious circle in which because water is always available at the surface, the roots grow shallow to take advantage of this water. Because the roots grow shallow, water must be provided frequently or the plant suffers. Frequent watering also causes numerous fungal disease problems which typically wipe out large portions of lawns in early summer. But there’s a better way – it’s called deep an infrequent.

Deep and infrequent watering is a simple concept which involves applying larger amounts of water which penetrate deeper into the soil only when the grass shows signs of drought stress. Water penetrates heavier soils like clay very slowly, while others soils like sand drain very quickly. Temperatures vary from season to season. Some areas of your lawn get full sun, while others are in shade. Some grasses need more water than other. All these variables mean that water needs vary from region to region, and even from one section of your lawn to the next. The deep and infrequent method presented below accounts for all these variables by watering to a depth of 6 inches only when your grass needs it. Sound complicated? It’s not, here are the 2 golden rules:

  • Do not water unless your grass is showing signs of drought stress. This means that you may only need to water once a month in the spring, or not at all in the fall. This accounts for all weather and lawn condition – if the lawn is stressed it’s time to water, be it every 3 days in the summer or once a month in the fall.
  • When watering, water until a 6″ flat head screwdriver easily penetrates the soil all the way to the handle. This will ensure that regardless of soil type and sprinkler output, water penetrates deep enough to encourage deep root growth.

What are the benefits of a deep and infrequent watering program?

  • Grasses are encouraged to “seek” water deeper in the soil building a deeper root system which will better sustain them through periods of drought.
  • Allowing the surface of the soil to dry between watering means that weeds will be unable to compete with your grass.
  • A lawn that is not constantly damp is far less susceptible to fungal disease.
  • Deep and infrequent uses less water resulting in money savings.

Ready to jump on board? Great. Keep in mind that if you’re making the switch, the transition will have to made slowly to allow your grass to adapt to the new regime. Once you master proper watering, the grass will always be greener on your side – especially when everyone else’s lawns are crisp from the heat or dead from fungal disease.

Are organic fertilizers worth it?

Are organic fertilizers worth it?

Recently the popularity of organic fertilizers has been on the rise. More and more people use cracked corn, alfalfa or soy bean meal as their main source of nutrients for their lawn.  Proponents of organic fertilizers often claim that the use of organic fertilizers brings has great benefits. Let’s analyze each claim:

  • Hard to overdose vs. synthetic. This is true. While application instructions on fertilizer bags are generally clear and easy to follow, some novices may feel more at ease knowing they can’t really over-apply and hurt the lawn. Synthetic fertilizers are fairly forgiving as well though, I have applied synthetic fertilizer at double the rate with no ill effects except to my back from all the extra mowing.
  • Slow release. This is also true. Organic fertilizers have to be broken down by bacteria before nutrients becomes available to the plant, resulting in a slow trickle of nitrogen.  However, synthetic options such as coated urea and UMAXX exists at a cost up to 7 times lower per pound of nitrogen.
  • Feeds the soil microbes. This is true, but the need for an over-inflated microbial population in the soil beyond what grass clippings and bugs and normal natural processes can sustain is unclear.
  • Increases organic matter/improves soil structure. This claim is false. Studies have shown little to no long term contribution to soil organic matter content from materials applied on the surface. In pastures studies have shown grass roots to be the major contributor to organic matter – up to 80%. Other studies have show shoot restitution programs to have zero or negative effects of soil organic matter.
  • Safer for kids and dogs. This claim is also false, both are equally safe. No child is going to pick granules of fertilizer out of lawn, and if they did, it’s unclear which one would be worse, a granule of urea or a piece of rotting corn coated in bacteria and fungus.

Organic fertilizers do come with some clear disadvantages over synthetic fertilizers:

  • Cost. Organic fertilizer is up to 11 times more expensive per pound of nitrogen than urea and up to 7 times more expensive per pound of nitrogen that coated urea.
  • Cumbersome. It takes 13-20 pounds of organic material per thousand square feet vs 2 pounds of urea per thousand square feet to apply one pound of elemental nitrogen. That can literally add up to truckloads of corn per year for larger lawns.
  • Slow to act. Since the organic matter has to be broken down by bacteria and fungi before nutrients become available to the plant, it takes a while before you see any results, generally 3-4 weeks.
  • Unpredictable. No one can say for sure when the nitrogen is going to be available to the plant. Availability of nitrogen also changes with temperature since bacterial activity slows once it gets cooler.
  • Unsustainable. Plant derived organic fertilizers are the equivalent of using a gas engine to power a generator which is then used to release hydrogen from water through electrolysis which is then burnt to power a car via steam. Also, a lot more carbon is spewed into the atmosphere for the production and delivery of 20 pounds of corn than for the equivalent 2 pounds of urea.

So with very little benefit backed by mostly anecdotal evidence and a lot of disadvantages, what place does organic fertilizer have in the average lawn? There are situations where organic fertilizers are needed, such as fertilizing an area where nitrogen runoff must be avoided. For most homeowners, synthetic fertilizers work faster, are less work to apply and are significantly less expensive than organic fertilizer. Give your grass the nutrients it needs and the grass will always be greener on your side.