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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.

Fall Overseeding: What Do I Need to Know?

fall-overseeding-what-do-i-need-to-knowSummer is slowly drawing to a close and for those of us in the lawn care biz that means one thing: time for overseeding.  A long hot summer of drought, diseases, lawn-damaging insects, and constant foot traffic can often leave a lawn looking brown and battered, barely clinging to life.  Overseeding can give your lawn the resources it needs to rejuvenate itself over the cold winter months so that it can burst back into lush abundance next spring.  Although it may seem simple, overseeding effectively does actually require a fair bit of science and expertise, which is why it is one of the many lawn care services offered by the specialists at Turf Shield.  Here are a few valuable insights into this often overlooked but extremely important step in lawn maintenance.

At the most basic level, overseeding, or reseeding as it is sometimes called, involves spreading grass seed over already existing turf, particularly in larger areas where the turf has begun to grow thin.  Overseeding is usually considered when the lawn has developed bare spots, areas that are thinning or patchy, or if it has suffered damage from drought, diseases or insects, but it is not necessarily suitable for all types of grass at the same times of the year.  Cool season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrasses, and fescues, tend to grow best when the air temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and so overseeding in the late summer or early fall gives the seeds time to germinate and gives the resulting seedlings time to mature to the point where they can survive before the winter cold sets in.

In order to maximize effectiveness and achieve the best possible results, fall overseeding should be combined with lawn aeration.  Soil that has become compacted by heavy foot traffic and general wear can prevent air, water and nutrients from reaching the roots of new grass seedlings.  Core aeration, which extracts small plugs of soil from the ground, not only gives roots better access to these vital resources, but also provides better seed-to-soil contact, greatly aiding in germination and the growth of new seedlings.

Overseeding can thicken lawns and make them more attractive, but the process requires know-how, specialized lawn care equipment, and professional lawn care follow-through to achieve the best possible results.  If you have any questions about your lawn, 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.

5 Common Lawn Pests and What to Do About Them

5-common-lawn-pests-and-what-to-do-about-themA lush, green lawn is a beautiful thing to behold. Achieving your dream lawn can be a challenge for many, but maintaining it is something else entirely. This is why many households reap the benefits of hiring lawn care professionals to take care of this. There are many obstacles to avoid for those trying to ensure a lawn sustaining its peak condition. While it may be simple to pick out which portions of your lawn may be suffering, diagnosing the cause of your lawn woes can be difficult.

In order to properly treat your lawn, you must know whether your issues are being caused by a natural issue related to watering or if you are dealing with a lawn pest. Insects, like ants or grasshoppers, may attack grass blades, and burrowing critters like moles, may munch through grass roots and cause green tops to die. We have listed five of the most common lawn pests, warning signs of their presence and some tips for how to deal with these pests:

Chinch Bugs
Chinch bugs are small insects known to attack sunny areas of the lawn. Once there, chinch bugs suck the juices from individual grass plants and inject toxins that can loosen grass from the soil. They can be seen with the naked eye on a lawn if you get down to grass level, but using a drench or floatation test is a more effective way to see if you’re dealing with these pesky parasites. Common insecticides and insecticide soaps can be used to effectively control chinch bugs.

Beetles
Japanese beetles may appear on the lawn, though it’s more common for them to stay below the surface and lay eggs in your soil. Other beetles and their offspring feed on the roots of lawns and can cause damage to the lawn if they are found in large quantities. A powder insecticide can effectively and safely treat your lawn for beetles.

Grubs
Grubs are the larval form of beetles. Grubs make their presence known by devouring grass roots, creating large patches of brown, dying lawn. Additionally, grubs are a prime food source for woodland animals, so a grub infestation can lead to birds, raccoons, or worse, skunks. Predatory nematodes or certain chemicals can be used to eliminate a grub problem.

Moles
Moles are small critters that dig and tunnel through a lawn, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Moles tunnel underground to search for worms and grubs. This can lead to the creation of small mounds of soil on the surface of the lawn called mole hills. Mole hills make mowing difficult by creating bare soil for weeds to germinate in and destabilizing the lawn. Mole traps can be effective for ridding your lawn of these pests, or you can try to keep them away with castor oil.

Armyworms
Armyworms are moth larvae that subsist mostly on grass blades. These pests are not to be slept on. A large infestation of armyworms can completely defoliate a lawn in just a few days. Thankfully armyworms are surface feeders, meaning they can be easily controlled by insecticides if their presence is recognized quickly enough.

While pesticides and chemicals can be effective measures for controlling a pest problem, prevention is still the best course of action. Proper lawn maintenance is still the most ideal to keep pesky lawn pests at bay. Watch your watering habits, because certain pests can be drawn to an overwatered lawn. For questions about lawn pests and how we can help, contact Turf Shield today.

When Should I Water My Grass?

Summer Watering (small)Especially in warm climates like Georgia, watering is vital for keeping your grass in tip-top shape, but it’s not as simple as buying a sprinkler system with a daily timer. There are many factors which go into providing your lawn with the right amount of water at the right time—it even varies among people who live in the same geographic area. For homeowners in the Atlanta area, our lawn care professionals have offered some general guidelines for getting a handle on when it’s time to irrigate your lawn.

Time of Day

In general, the ideal time to water your lawn is in the very early morning. If you water during the day, the sun will evaporate the water before it’s able to reach the roots, but if you water during the night, the moisture sits on the grass and makes the lawn more susceptible to diseases and fungi, so early morning is the perfect balance between these two issues.

Type of Grass and Soil

Various types of grass have very different characteristics. For instance, warm season grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda need less water than cool season grasses like Tall Fescue. As far as your soil type goes, sandier soil will absorb water quickly, so it needs frequent applications of small amounts of water. Clay, on the other hand, absorbs water slowly but holds the water for longer, so it typically doesn’t need to be watered as frequently. Keep in mind, however, that grass typically needs more water during the first year after it’s been planted or sodded in order to allow the roots to establish themselves.

Measurement-Based

Evaluating your grass and soil can give you a better idea of how much water your lawn needs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should simply set up a sprinkler system for 5am once a week and be done with it. If you water your grass during or shortly after rainfall, you could be doing more harm than good. Try keeping a rain gauge so you can see exactly how much water your lawn has received in the past few days, and also be sure to check the weather forecast before you water to see when the next rain is predicted.

Around your Mowing Schedule

Grass can lose a significant amount of moisture when it’s cut, so if your grass is already a bit on the thirsty side when you cut it, you may find yourself with not just a perfectly cut lawn, but a brown one. Make sure your grass is thoroughly hydrated before you bring out the mower.

Lawn care is a task many homeowners underestimate. They expect to simply mow every week or two and perhaps add some landscaping. But for those who want to enjoy both the appearance and the feel of a lush lawn, doing your research and working with an experienced professional can mean the difference between a lawn that’s simply grass and one that’s truly an extension of your home. To find out more about your own lawn and how we can help you maximize its potential, schedule a consultation with Turf Shield’s lawn care professionals.

Getting Down to the Root: The Importance of Aeration

Getting Down to the Root The Importance of AerationLawn care can actually be much more complicated than people think.  While most know that regular mowing and watering is important, and many even understand the necessity for periodic fertilization, fewer take the time to learn about the more specialized lawn maintenance practices that make the basic essentials work more efficiently and effectively.  One of these is aeration, a vital lawn treatment that helps ensure nutrients and water can reach the soil beneath the grass where they can do the most good.  Aeration is just one of the many valuable lawn care services that the dedicated team at Turf Shield, Inc. can provide.

Over time, foot traffic and general wear can cause the soil underneath your grass to become overly compacted, which prevents the proper circulation of air, water and nutrients.  Moreover, excessive lawn thatch, the heavy organic debris on the soil surface, can also starve the roots from these essential elements.  Aeration lawn treatments basically involve using one of several different mechanical devices to perforate the soil with small holes, allowing the air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. Ultimately, this helps the roots grow deeply and helps produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn.

It can be difficult to tell, just from a cursory examination, whether your lawn is in need of aeration.  Lawns that receive heavy traffic from children and pets regularly running around the yard or the lawns of newly constructed homes that may have been compacted under heavy construction equipment are often the best candidates.  In addition, if your lawn dries out easily or has a spongy feel it might mean that it has an excessive thatch problem and could perhaps benefit from aeration.  The Turf Shield team has more than 40 years of experience providing specialized lawn treatment packages in the southeast, and can determine exactly what your lawn needs.

There are two different tools that can be used to aerate a lawn: a spike aerator, which simply pokes holes into the ground with a solid tine, or fork, and a plug aerator that actually removes a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn.  While the former is quicker and less labor intensive, the latter can often be more effective, particularly when dealing with extremely compact soil and heavy thatch.  Aeration is best performed during growing season, when your grass has the opportunity to heal and fill in any open areas after soil plugs are removed, so the timing will depend on the specific type of grass you have. Ideally, aerate a lawn with cool season grass in the early spring or fall and a lawn with warm season grass in the late spring.

There is a lot more to taking care of a lawn than just mowing and watering, and having a team of experienced professionals on your side can often make all the difference.  If you have any questions about your lawn, when you should aerate, or about 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 Twitter or Facebook to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.

Caring for Your Lawn in the Summer Heat

Caring for Your Lawn in the Summer HeatWe all know that the growth and appearance of a lawn, or of any other outdoor plant for that matter, is heavily influenced by environmental factors, like light, weather, and soil composition.  In this part of the country, the effects of soaring temperatures and high humidity can team up to cause some fairly severe damage.  Additionally, since we all want our lawns to look their best during the summer, many try to fight nature by continuing to fertilize, water, and coax new growth out of lawns no matter what the weather. However, by understanding and respecting the seasonal changes of turf grasses, you can take steps to care gently for your lawn even in the scorching Georgia heat.

Once temperatures start to rise above the 80 degree mark, lawns can begin to struggle, with new seedlings and cool-season grasses having the hardest time. Growth will slow, the grass color may fade, and lawns will be less able to recover from stress and traffic. Some cool-season lawns will even go dormant in the summer, looking brown and brittle until early fall.  Many believe that the best way to relieve that stress is by applying water, but that is only true to a point.  While lawns do need more water when the heat is severe, water-logged soils can prevent oxygen from reaching the grass’s roots.  If the roots can’t breathe, they cannot absorb nutrients and water and they may die.  Smart summer watering means making sure that your yard provides adequate drainage, avoid over-watering, and above all don’t try to “water your grass back to life,” especially if it goes dormant.  For certain species of grass, a dormant period is completely natural and they will recover once the weather changes.

Warm-season fungal diseases, like powdery mildew and brownpatch (Rhizoctonia), can become very active when night-time temperatures rise above 65 degrees and the humidity levels are high.  While mature lawns can usually weather such attacks, younger seedlings can be killed off, which is why planting new grass during the summer months is seldom a good idea.  Dormant or drought-stressed summer lawns can also become more susceptible to lawn insect infestations by pests like chinch bugs, cutworms, armyworms, sod webworms, fire ants, fleas, and mosquitoes. Minor infestations often take care of themselves, but severe problems may require professional attention.

Finally, during the summer months, intense lawn maintenance may actually do more harm than good.  Resist the urge to apply extra fertilizer to cool-season fescue turf, as this can actually increase the severity of fungal diseases and may even burn your lawn or create a flush of tender growth that will struggle in the hot weather.  Although Bermuda and zoysia grasses may need some fertilizer in the summer, never try to fertilize cooler weather turf types that go dormant in the heat.  Instead wait until they green up in the fall.  Keeping moisture levels steady is important during dry spells.  Since taller grass tends to be more drought-tolerant and to grow deeper roots, raising your mower blade to the highest level, or even mowing less frequently, and mulching, rather than bagging, your grass clippings will give your grass an edge in beating the heat.

Taking care of a lawn can be complicated, and having a team of experienced professionals on your side can often make all the difference.  If you have questions about your lawn, 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 Twitter or Facebook to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.