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Protecting Your Yard from the Winter Cold

Protecting Your Yard from the Winter ColdCompared to other places around the country, we don’t have to deal with particularly harsh winters down here in the south.  Nevertheless, more than a few times over the past several years, sudden and severe drops in temperature have caught our Georgia lawn care service customers by surprise, causing significant damage to grass, trees, and shrubs.  Although most plants do protect themselves by going dormant during the darker winter months, there are also a few simple things that you can do to make sure they stay as healthy as possible and emerge from the cold weather looking their best.

Wrap Up Your Trees

Winter temperatures in the south can vary a great deal, going from relatively warm one day to freezing the next.  As difficult as this can be for humans, it can be potentially devastating to trees and plants.  Cold temperatures cause growing wood to go dormant in order to protect itself, but significant sun exposure can prematurely end that dormancy, exposing the tree to severe damage when temperatures fall once more.  Caring for your trees should include wrapping the bark in cling wrap or burlap fabric to better regulate their temperature during the winter months.

Rake Your Leaves

It might seem like wasted effort to rake up fallen leaves when your grass has already turned brown, but it is actually much more important than most people may realize.  Leaf cover during the winter keeps sunlight off your lawn, which, in combination with the colder temperatures, encourages moss and lichens to grow.  Fallen leaves can also trap heat and moisture underneath snow, leading to a fungal lawn disease known as “Snow Mold.”  Keeping your yard leaf-free, even if your lawn has turned brown and dormant, will keep it drier and healthier.

Avoid Excessive Foot Traffic

If you want to see a fresh, green, healthy-looking lawn in the spring, don’t allow anyone to walk on the grass when it is covered with heavy frost or ice.  Even if the grass is brown and short, walking on frozen blades will cause them to crack and shatter.  Keep your sidewalks cleared of ice and snow so that you and your guests won’t be tempted to cut across the yard and never allow anyone to park a truck or a car on your lawn.  Even the smallest vehicle will leave impressions in the soil and kill off the grass that is underneath the tires.

Just because your yard hibernates during the winter doesn’t mean that your lawn care regimen can take a vacation.  If you have any questions about any of your landscaping needs, or about any of the customized lawn care treatment packages that we provide, please contact Turf Shield to get more information.  Don’t forget to follow Turf Shield on Facebook  or Twitter to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.

Gift Ideas for the Lawn Care Enthusiast

gift-ideas-for-the-lawn-care-enthusiastThis time of the year, the lawn isn’t many Atlantans’ primary focus. Not only are most lawns dormant right now because they’re composed of warm season grasses, but the recent holidays have left us with a long to-do list so we have plenty of other tasks to focus on. But for people who are passionate about beautiful yards (like our professionals at Turf Shield Lawn Care), it’s always in the back of our minds. If you’re still looking for a belated gift for a lawn care enthusiast on your shopping list this year, here are a few ideas they’ll love.

A good pair of working gloves

Yardwork can be hard on your body, but particularly on your hands, which can blister easily from the friction of a shovel or other equipment you use to care for your lawn and/or garden. Investing in a pair of nice, high-quality gloves can save a gardener or lawn care enthusiast days of painful blisters and scratches.

Digital rain gauge

We’ve mentioned in some of our past lawn care blogs that before watering your lawn, you should consider how much rain you’ve recently received so you don’t saturate or dry out your grass. While some people rely on their local weather stations, the amount of rain can vary greatly from one part of town to the next, so it’s best to have your own gauge so you can see what has actually fallen on your yard. Fortunately for us, it’s the 21st century, so rather than trekking outside to check your rain gauge every day, you can use a digital one instead which casts the measurements to a monitor inside your home or an app on your phone.

A consultation and lawn care treatment with Turf Shield

Turf Shield Lawn isn’t a company who will mow your lawn every week. We’re truly seasoned experts who can diagnose any problems your yard may have, from pests to irrigation issues. We also offer a wide variety of lawn treatments, like weed control, aeration, tree and shrub care, and pest control—jobs that are often beyond the reach of a do-it-yourselfer. Our consultations are complimentary, so a consultation and initial lawn treatment (depending on what the particular yard may need) can be a great gift to help out anyone who wants a fuller, more lush lawn by the spring.

Indoor-outdoor thermometer

Keeping a close eye on the temperature, humidity, and other weather measurements can also help a lawn care enthusiast know what they need to do to keep their lawn as healthy as possible and to adapt to the seasonal climate. Many digital thermometers use two different pieces—a sensor which goes out in your yard and a small indoor monitor which shows you a number of different readings throughout the day.

Wireless speakers

Once your loved one has worked so hard to achieve a beautiful, healthy lawn, they naturally want to be able to enjoy it. When the weather gets warmer, wireless speakers will let them listen to all their favorites in the great outdoors. Just be sure to get one that’s designed to be taken outside so it can withstand the humidity and the elements.

The holidays present us with the unique opportunity to show our family and friends how much they mean to us by thoughtfully choosing gifts for them which reflect their interests, goals, and hobbies. If there’s someone on your list who enjoys caring for their lawn, there are plenty of gifts you can find to help them enjoy their outdoor haven even more. If you’re interested in a consultation and lawn treatment for you or a loved one, schedule your free lawn care consultation with Turf Shield.

Helpful Tips for Healthy Trees

Helpful Tips for Healthy TreesIf you live in Atlanta or the surrounding suburbs, you are undoubtedly no stranger to trees.  With its long-standing reputation as the “city in a forest,” Atlanta is known for enjoying significantly more green-canopy coverage than most other cities in the United States, but properly maintaining the trees that contribute to that canopy can be a confusing prospect for many property owners.  One of the many lawn care services that we offer at Turf Shield, Inc. is a tree and shrub maintenance program that includes seven applications of a unique fertilizer, pesticide, and fungicide blend. These treatments promote healthy growth while preventing damage and disease, no matter what the season, and can be easily customized to each customer’s individual needs, but there are also some important steps that you can take to ensure that your trees are healthy and provide your family with maximum enjoyment.

Plan Ahead

Selecting the trees that you want to plant, and choosing the best locations to plant them, requires a great deal of care and consideration.  Choose short, flowering trees if there are overhead power lines, as larger trees may have to be severely pruned when they grow to maturity.  Think about placing large, deciduous trees on the southeast, southwest, and west sides of the property so they can provide cooling shade in the summer without obstructing the low winter sun.  Conversely, an evergreen windbreak on the north blocks cold winds in winter and makes your yard more usable during colder months.  Finally, don’t forget that some trees only grow in specific types of soil, so consult one of our experts before making a final decision.

Be Diligent about Maintenance

New trees require a great deal of care, including mulching and frequent deep watering.  A heavy coating of wood-chip mulch insulates the soil, protecting the tree seedling from extremes in temperature and helping to keep the roots moist.  The sweltering heat and persistent drought conditions that have plagued the last several Georgia summers are particularly harmful to young trees, so providing enough water to moisten the soil to the depth that includes all of the roots is vital.  Proper tree maintenance encourages rapid root establishment, which not only keeps trees healthy but gives them a firmer hold on the earth, reducing the chance that they may topple over in adverse weather.

Don’t Forget to Prune

Every winter, falling branches cause damage to homes and inconvenience to motorists all across the region, so keeping your trees properly shaped and pruned is as much an issue of safety as neighborly politeness.  Pruning trees during the winter months, while they are dormant, is the most common practice, and is most conducive to provoking a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring.  However, the requirements of individual species can vary, and so you should get some expert landscaping advice and adopt a pruning schedule that takes into consideration what your trees need and the overall effect you are trying to achieve.

If you have any questions about any of your landscaping needs, or about any of the customized lawn care treatment packages that we provide, please contact Turf Shield to get more information.  Don’t forget to follow Turf Shield on Facebook  or Twitter to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.

Your December Lawn Care To-Do List

Your December Lawn Care To-Do ListFor many people, December is not peak gardening season. As the end of the year rolls around, it’s common for many of us to shift our attention away from lawn care and towards the Holiday season. However, ignoring your lawn throughout December can be costly. Plants can be lost, trees can be damaged and your lawn can take the full brunt of the harsh winter cold. That’s why we like to advise homeowners to be mindful of a few minor winter routines that can pay big dividends down the road.

Despite conventional wisdom, there is much you can do in December to maintain your lawn and garden. Just a bit of regular maintenance and knowhow this December can go a long way towards protecting your lawn from the winter cold and having it prepared to triumphantly return to its lush, green form when spring time comes around again.

A few important things we always include on our own personal to-do lists, that can keep your lawn alive through a long, cold December and ready to thrive in the new year, include:

Lawn

  • Winterize all lawn equipment and tools according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Fertilize before the first freeze to replace all of the nutrients in the soil that may have been lost during the hot summer months.
  • Regularly rake gently to prevent leaves from piling up.
  • Clean and service your lawn mower to ensure it’s ready for next season.
  • Treat lawns for potential pests.
  • Check out plant and seed catalogues for ideas for next year.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Continue adding mulch to trees and shrubs.
  • Protect your shrubbery from rodents and other animals who may seek alternate food sources during the winter.
  • Defend trees and shrubs against frost.
  • Continue planting trees, shrubs and hedges for next year.

Taking these handy steps can help put you ahead of the game come next spring. If you would prefer to curl up by the fireplace and leave the lawn care to the professionals, you can always call the experts at Turf Shield. Contact Turf Shield today for your year-round lawn care needs and reap the benefits of letting the pros handle the yardwork for you. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Google+ for additional tips, stories & developments in the world of lawn maintenance.

Why Does My Grass Turn Brown in the Fall?

Why Does My Grass Turn Brown in the FallMany people love the natural beauty of the color-changing leaves in the fall, especially in such a tree-rich area as metro Atlanta. But one part of the landscape that isn’t at its best this season is grass. As the temperature cools, our grass loses its beautiful green color and takes on a brown, straw-like hue. Why does this happen, and is there anything you can do in terms of lawn care to stave it off?

As many Atlantans who have lived up north in the past have discovered, different geographical areas tend to use different types of grass, because each type of grass thrives in a specific climate. Homeowners in the northern US (and other areas with harsh winters) use cool season grasses, which can withstand their low temperatures. In Atlanta and other southern states, however, our climate is best suited to warm season grasses, which are more resilient to the drought and heat that we are more likely to struggle with. While cool season grasses stay green throughout the winter, it is our warm season grasses which turn golden brown during the cooling months.

So what actually causes these types of grass to turn brown? While some homeowners worry that their grass is dying when they see the color begin to change, the good news is that it’s only going dormant. This is done as a defense mechanism, because these grasses do not thrive in cold temperatures as well as cool season grasses do. And while it doesn’t generally get cold enough in Georgia to kill the grass, the temperature does drop enough to send them into dormancy.

It’s understandable that homeowners aren’t thrilled with the color change in the fall and may then wonder if there is anything that can be done about it. Dormancy is necessary for the grass to survive, so there isn’t a way to prevent the grass from going dormant. However, in some cases, you may have the option of overseeding your grass with a cool season grass like ryegrass and enjoy some green in your lawn throughout the winter. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a viable option for everyone and is dependent on the soil type, shading, maintenance requirements, and more, so it’s important to speak with a lawn care professional about your options before taking action.

Whether you choose to accept your lawn’s dormancy or give overseeding a try, being proactive about your lawn care now can help your grass return to its full, beautiful color and thickness in the spring. To discuss what you can do to keep your lawn healthy throughout all four seasons, schedule a lawn care consultation with our professionals at Turf Shield.

Understanding the Various Uses for Shrubbery

Understanding the Various Uses for ShrubberyThere are a lot of different factors that go into caring for and maintaining a pleasing outdoor landscape, and at Turf Shield we deal with them all.  From the fertilization and aeration required to maintain a beautiful lawn to insect control and plant maintenance, our trained and experienced technicians are dedicated to providing the best lawn care solutions in Metro Atlanta.  One area of landscaping that is often overlooked is the importance of small plants and shrubbery.  Although a healthy and beautiful lawn is the foundation of an enjoyable yard, by itself it is simply flat, featureless, and plain.  Shrubs not only highlight your landscape, but also provide a number of vital advantages.

Concealment and Privacy

In many older homes, the base around the foundation can sometimes appear unfinished or unkempt.  Many homeowners use shrubs to conceal this unsightly area, particularly in houses where the façade does not cover the lower portions of the house.  When used as “foundation plants,” shrubs can break up the stark right angle junction of house and ground and visually link the house to the surrounding landscape.  Moreover, adjacent houses, sections of landscapes, or private portions of a home landscape can easily be separated or enclosed by a shrub border, or hedge.  Less expensive than a fence and more easily maintained than a line of trees, a hedge offers an attractive way to keep your yard private.  Pruning and maintenance of hedge shrubs is just one of the many landscaping services that our Turf Shield professionals can provide.

Aesthetic Accenting

When placed around a sign, boulder, or sculpture, or in such a way as to flank either side of a doorway or path, shrubs make excellent “accent plants” that frame or add emphasis to a specific landscape feature.  Shrubs that are particularly striking, such as crape myrtle, rhododendron, or dwarf conifers, can even serve as “specimen plants” that claim a central focal point in a yard or garden, often as an alternative to a more dominating tree.  Smaller, low-growing shrubs can even be used to cover large portions of planting beds, adding texture and reducing the amount of grass that needs to be mowed.

Preserving Your Topsoil

The constantly changing Georgia weather can make top soil erosion an ever-present concern.  Long periods of drought leech beneficial microorganisms and other important nutrients from the uppermost two to six inches of soil, leaving those layers vulnerable to washing away in the next violent downpour.  Shrubs develop strong root systems that cover large areas, holding the soil in place and preventing it from running off into lakes, streams, or sewer drains.  Seasonal aeration can help preserve the health of your top soil, but a border of shrubbery around your lawn can act as a natural barrier that prevents soil run-off and keeps your grass where you want it.

If you have any questions about any of your landscaping needs, or about any of the customized lawn care treatment packages that we provide, please contact Turf Shield to get more information.  Don’t forget to follow Turf Shield on Facebook  or Twitter to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.

Should I Rake My Leaves or Leave Them on My Lawn?

Should I Rake My Leaves or Leave Them on My LawnChanging leaves truly makes autumn a beautiful season, especially in such a tree-rich area as Georgia. That is, until you realize that the leaves will soon fall all over your beautiful lawn. But what’s the best way to deal with leaves? Is raking leaves only an aesthetic choice, or does it actually impact the health and longevity of your lawn? Our lawn care professionals at Turf Shield are happy to tackle some of these most common questions homeowners ask dealing with leaves on their lawn.

Is it unhealthy to leave leaves on my lawn?

It really depends on how thick your leaf coverage is. A small number of leaves scattered around your yard won’t generally cause problems, but if you have more than perhaps 10-20% of your lawn covered by leaves, it is important that you address the leaves. If too many leaves are left on your lawn for too long (and especially if they’re still there when winter begins), they can smother the grass, provide a breeding ground for mold and certain lawn pests, and limit the grass’ growth in the spring.

What are the best ways to leaves off my lawn?

Raking your lawn is, of course, the first thought that comes to mind, but many homeowners prefer to look for other methods to avoid the strenuous physical labor, and In fact, other options may be more beneficial for your lawn. One of the best choices is mulching your leaves: using a mower (ideally a mulching mower) or another method to chop up the leaves into tiny pieces and then leaving them on your grass. This allows the leaf matter to sink into the grass and soil as it decomposes, so that you get a built-in lawn treatment from the many nutrients the leaves can offer. There is even some evidence that certain types of leaves can hinder weed growth, as an added bonus. Keep in mind, however, that mulching is only successful when you have a light layer of leaves, so you’ll likely need to do this frequently to avoid letting the leaf coverage become too thick. If you prefer not to mulch but want to avoid raking as well, other options include using a leaf blower or a bagging attachment for your mower.

How do I dispose of leaves from my lawn?

In many neighborhoods, your garbage pickup service may offer leaf removal. However, this often means they will end up in a landfill, which you’ll want to avoid if possible. Using the leaves as mulch or compost, or chopping them up and adding them to soil for the bases of your trees and shrubs will allow you to keep the leaves out of a landfill and will also benefit your lawn with their nutrients. If you do use a garbage pickup service which does not recycle leaves, try to place them in biodegradable bags rather than plastic ones.

Are there any downsides to raking my lawn?

Most homeowners want to avoid raking leaves because it can be difficult and time-consuming manual labor. However, raking may actually cause damage to your lawn as well, especially if you’re working aggressively or if your grass’ root system is weak. Damage is particularly common when raking wet leaves, so if you do rake your lawn, be sure to do so when the leaves are dry and light.

Leaf disposal may seem like just another tedious task for maintaining your home and lawn, but depending on how it’s done, it can offer tremendous benefits: a clear, clean-looking lawn throughout the fall and winter, and a healthier, stronger lawn by spring. If you’re ready to discuss how we can help you prepare and improve your lawn this fall, schedule a consultation with Turf Shield lawn care.

Autumn is Fire Ant Prevention Season

Autumn is Fire Ant Prevention SeasonFire ants are the worst. Their bites are painful (and potentially dangerous for your kids and pets) and their very existence can create issues for your lawn. Ants dig tunnels under your lawn that can damage the roots of your grass and leave patches of unsavory dead lawn. Ant hills can also be a problem. They can damage mower blades and cause your lawn to be mowed at an uneven height, not to mention they are pretty unpleasant to look at. Controlling a potential fire ant problem during the fall season can pay major dividends when the following spring rolls around.

Autumn is the perfect time to try to rid your lawn of these pesky pests. Unlike some other insects, fire ants are most active when the weather begins to cool down. During the extreme temperatures of summer or winter, fire ants dig deeper to avoid hot or cold weather. However, when the temperatures are less severe the ants colonize closer to the surface. This allows for more effective treatment when using fire ant killers like a dust or a contact kill aerosol spray that require direct contact to kill the ants.

Fire ants use fall as their time to roam around searching for food, making this the perfect time to effectively use bait traps for fire ant control. Fire ant bait can be used year-round, but fire ants that are actively searching for food in preparation for winter hibernation are particularly easy targets. The ants that take the bait will bring it back to their nest and attack the ant colony from within. Bait traps are far less effective during the summer and winter, when the fire ants are less active and less likely to fall into the trap.

Lastly, perhaps the main factor that makes fall the single best time to treat fire ants is the fact that it is followed by winter. Cold weather can be devastating to fire ant colonies. Your bait may take a few weeks to work, but once it enters the colonies, it weakens them and makes them less able to respond to the challenges of cold winter weather. Young colonies are especially vulnerable since they don’t have many worker ants, making it difficult for them to escape the harsh conditions quickly.

Taking action this fall can save you the headache of dealing with a fire ant infestation when next spring arrives. Fire ant infestations may not be completely preventable, but attentiveness and proper lawn care can go a long way towards treating your ants before they become a problem. For more information on fire ant control and how we can help, contact Turf Shield today. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions and set you on the path to a healthy, ant-free lawn.

Essential Fall Lawn Care Tips

Essential Fall Lawn Care TipsThe seasons are changing and autumn is nearly upon us. With summer all but gone and the end of the year rapidly approaching you’re probably not spending much time thinking about your lawn. However, fall is the perfect time to think about your lawn and prepare it for next year due to the mild conditions.

Fall is the time of year when your grass is absorbing energy, moisture and nutrients in preparation for a long, cold winter. Taking a few simple precautions now can pay off big time when next spring comes along in order for your lawn to look lush and green. We’ve provided some tips below on the lawn treatments and services that can help you maintain a healthy lawn through the fall and into the blustery winter months:

Mowing

The first step to preserving your lawn through the fall is to keep on mowing as if it was the spring. We also recommend lowering the height of your mower. Cutting your lawn slightly shorter in autumn can help prevent grass from matting down under the falling leaves. Lastly, consider using a mower with mulch features to spray grass clippings onto your yard. This can add nitrogen to the lawn.

Aerating

We’ve already schooled you on the importance of aeration year-round and the fall is no exception. Aeration will allow oxygen, water, and fertilizer to reach the roots of your grass and be stored through the winter.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing your lawn in the fall, the time when your grass devotes most of its energy towards its roots, is definitely recommended. Grass itself grows much more slowly as the seasons change, but the grass roots continue to grow at their normal rate. Fertilizing in the fall can help deliver essential nutrients for the grass to grow deep roots now and to keep nutrients on reserve for a healthy start next spring.

Controlling Weeds

Weeds can grow out of control in the fall if you’re not paying attention. Weeds within your grass use the fall as a time to absorb energy and nutrients. They’re drinking in everything that comes their way, which makes them vulnerable to herbicide weed killers. Applying an herbicide now can rid your lawn of weeds through the fall and keep them away as spring rolls back around.

If you don’t feel comfortable aerating, fertilizing or maintaining your lawn, you should consider hiring a lawn care service provider. As always, you can contact the pros at Turf Shield with all of your lawn care needs. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Google+ for additional tips, stories & developments in the world of lawn maintenance.

How to Repair Your Lawn after an Outdoor Party

How to Repair Your Lawn after an Outdoor PartyOne of the reasons homeowners want a large, beautiful, lush lawn is so they can use it as a place to spend time with their family and friends. For the past several months, that’s taken the form of backyard barbecues and parties to celebrate graduations, the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and more. Unfortunately, all that extra traffic can leave your grass compacted, browned, and thin—or it can even leave the occasional “bald” spot. Our lawn care professionals at Turf Shield are here to offer a few tips to whip your lawn back into shape.

  1. Determine whether the damage is just cosmetic.

In some cases, the weight may have just flattened the blades of grass but the roots have stayed intact, which means your grass is still healthy—it’s just the “flattened” appearance that needs to be corrected. Try lightly raking the area to help the trampled grass stand back up.

  1. Give your grass time to heal.

Try blocking off the affected area to keep kids and pets away for a while, giving the grass time to recover.

  1. Use the right products to stimulate growth.

For areas which are looking thin or lifeless, certain lawn care treatments and products can help. While most homeowners would use a common nitrogen fertilizer, it’s not typically the best option in this case, because what your grass likely needs is thicker roots, which isn’t what nitrogen fertilizers focus on. Instead, use a product which contains humic acid, cytokinins, auxins, indoles, or gibberlins.

  1. Re-seeding may be necessary for “bald spots.”

For patches of grass which have become not just thin but essentially bare, your best option is probably to reseed the area. This can also be done for the entire lawn if necessary, and our professionals can help you select a type of grass which will flourish in your unique environmental conditions while also being more resistant to damage in the future.

  1. Take steps to prevent future damage.

Hindsight is 20/20, but there are ways you can prepare before your next outdoor party to minimize future lawn damage:

  • Do some landscaping and put in a designated “social area,” like a patio or even just an area of mulch.
  • Take advantage of our regular lawn care treatment packages to keep your lawn healthy so it has a firm foundation by party-time.
  • Put up barriers like rope fences to restrict the traffic to a certain area—perhaps you could keep partygoers in an area that’s due for re-seeding anyway, or one which you know to be healthy enough to withstand the traffic.
  • If the event will span multiple days, try using barriers to restrict traffic to different areas each day.
  • Aerate your lawn in advance and rake in finely sifted compost
  • Don’t mow your grass too short before the party, so you can keep a little extra cushion in place.
  • Adjust your watering schedule as needed to make sure the grass is sufficiently dry before the event, otherwise you may have a muddy mess on your hands.

Despite the old adage, there are times when you can have your cake and eat it too, and this is one of them: you can enjoy your beautiful lawn without destroying it in the process. It just takes some planning, preparation, and consistent care. To discuss your lawn care needs, call the professionals at Turf Shield.