Homeowners have been busy early this summer mowing their lawns. I have heard some homeowners say it seems that all they do is mow. This should come as no surprise since Wood County has received on average over 14 inches of rain since June 1. This, coupled with extremely warm temperatures, has turf grass rebounding from the stressful conditions we experienced last summer.

Normally, we do our annual mower yearly maintenance in the fall. However, based on the many hours our mowers are experiencing this year, it is a good idea to do a mid-summer maintenance program. Most homeowners use a rotary-type lawn mower that requires periodic maintenance to keep it working efficiently and safely. Use the operating and service instruction manual provided with your mower, and consistently perform the suggested maintenance.

If the service manual cannot be located, basic engine maintenance is essential. Most mowers require an oil and filter change (if equipped) after every 50 hours of use. Check the lawnmower model number and research the correct oil recommendations and oil filter recommended by the manufacturer. When working on the mower, be sure the blade and all moving parts have stopped. Also detach the spark-plug wire so the engine won’t start accidentally.

When accessing the underside of the mower for inspection or cleaning, always turn it so that the air-filter side of the mower is up. Otherwise, oil will drain out into the air filter and cause all sorts of issues. I know this is true — don’t ask me how I know this.

Keep spark plugs and air filters clean. Replace if needed. Periodically, clean the underside of the mower. The metal deck can rust out if old grass residue builds up. To reduce fire hazard, keep the engine area free of grass, leaves, and excessive grease.

An often-overlooked maintenance item is keeping the mower blades sharp. Shredded or brown tips of grass blades are an indication of a dull or damaged mower blade. It’s advisable to have an extra blade on hand so a replacement is available when you detect poor cutting. Frequently tighten the blade and engine mounting bolts, as well as any other nuts, bolts, and screws. Check mower wheels, bearings, and axles for wear and lubrication. Replace loose, wobbly wheels. Be sure to keep the drive mechanism on self-propelled mowers in good working order. Finally check belts and gears for wear and fit.

Now that you have your lawnmowers maintained, it is also time to continually check the vegetable garden. Botanists will group plants into families. The Solanaceae family includes many plants with even some that are poisonous such as Jimsonweed and nightshade. Other plants in this same family include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. What makes families so interesting is they are often plagued by the same insects and diseases.

At this time of year, two closely related insects may be plaguing your tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. Both the tomato and tobacco hornworms are sneaky, pesky little creatures that could be lurking around your garden. Both look very similar and can be mistaken for each other. The tomato hornworm is green and has a black horn with white stripes on its sides which are slightly different than the white stripes on the tobacco hornworm that is also green with a red horn.

These hornworms, when they become mature larvae, are 3-4 inches in size and will devour leaves and even the fruits. The life cycle of the hornworms starts with moths that lay single, pale green, yellow to cream — colored egg on the bottom sides of the Solanaceae plants in mid-July. Upon hatching, the larvae molt several times, and by mid-to late August are mature larvae. When the larvae are finished devouring your plants and fruit, they drop from the plant to the ground where they burrow into the soil and begin to pupate and overwinter.

If you are not squeamish, picking off the larvae or worms and dropping them in soapy water is a great control method. If a pesticide is warranted, synthetic pyrethroid insecticides that include the active ingredients bifenthrin or cyfluthrin, or lambda-cyhalothrin, provide some control. Remember as with all pesticides, it is up to the end user to follow all labeled directions on the pesticide label.

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