Preparing for the Spring Growing Season

Preparing for the Spring Growing SeasonWith the winter behind us and spring fast-approaching, all of us here at Turf Shield are looking forward to getting back outside and enjoying the famous Atlanta greenery.  Unfortunately, the sudden, heavy rains and fluctuating temperatures that characterize the Georgia winters can be extremely hard on lawns and gardens, so it is often necessary to take steps, even before the spring growing season begins, to get your outdoor area back into shape.  Here are some steps that you can take in late winter and early spring to help ensure that your lawn or garden looks its best.

Rake Your Lawn

In most parts of the country, grass is dormant during the winter months, but is ready to spring back to life in the spring.  However, the weeds and dead plant matter that accumulate over the winter months can often get in the way.  Start off the spring season by getting rid of the weeds and raking your lawn thoroughly to remove the winter debris.  This allows light and air to reach the level of the soil, which encourages the grass to grow.

Revitalize the Soil

Your soil is likely to be dried out and compacted after a long winter.  Spring is an excellent time to add organic material, like compost or manure, to replace moisture and valuable nutrients and to aerate the soil to improve its consistency.  In particular, pay special attention to plant beds and areas where you want to encourage new growth.

Move Your Shrubs

Over the course of the year you may come to think that a particular hedge or bit of shrubbery would be more useful or attractive in a different spot.  Now is the time to make that move.  The early spring is more favorable to transplants because the soil is more consistently moist, which helps new rooting to expand from the transplant zone and reach out for more nutrients.

Re-Seed Bare Patches

Spring is also the time to re-seed areas of the lawn that have been worn bare by foot traffic.  First, rake the bare spots firmly with a metal rake and then sprinkle them evenly with new grass seed.  Don’t forget to keep the areas well-watered until the seeds germinate and the new grass is firmly established.

Prune Your Foliage

Larger plants that have survived the winter, like trees and shrubs, may require pruning so that they will continue to grow in the coming months.  Ornamental blooming plants should be pruned right after they bloom to avoid cutting off future flowers, while fruit trees should be pruned well before their buds begin to bloom to avoid overstressing the tree and reducing the crop.

Plant New Flowers

Once you’ve handled all of the old plants, it’s time to turn your attention to new ones.  Spring is an ideal time to plant daffodils, lilies, crocus, hyacinth and any other bulbs as well as new vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Remember that new bulbs often need to be protected from sudden, unexpected frost and disease with a one to three inch layer of mulch as well.

Putting in a little bit of effort to prepare your lawn or garden for the coming spring can provide big payoffs down the line.  Our lawn care specialists can work with you to determine exactly what measures you should take to keep your yard looking its best.  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.

Can Too Much Rain Hurt Your Lawn?

Can Too Much Rain Hurt Your LawnHere in Georgia, we often have to take special steps to deal with the effects of drought on our lawns and gardens.  However, if there’s anything that can be said for the weather in the south, it’s that it can be unpredictable.  Warm, humid air can churn up violent thunderstorms at a moment’s notice, drowning your lawn under a flood of rain water.  Unfortunately, since this is a relatively infrequent occurrence, many lawns are not equipped to drain this sudden excess water properly, and so puddles of standing water are left behind.  The experienced lawn care specialists at Turf Shield have more than forty years of combined experience caring for lawns and gardens throughout Georgia, and can offer some useful insights into how best to protect your lawn from too much water.

Heavy rains, particularly when they persist over an extended period, can place stresses on your grass and plants, especially if those plants are native to drier climates, as is generally the case with the warm season grasses we use here in the south.  Although soil may seem solid, it is actually riddled with tiny spaces in between the particles.  These spaces hold air and water that can then be easily absorbed by root systems.  Heavy rains, however, can fill these spaces with water, effectively depriving the roots of the oxygen they need.  If these conditions continue long enough, the roots stop functioning properly and may even begin to die. At this point, even though the soil may be filled with water, the roots will no longer absorb it and the plants will begin to wilt.  These damaged root systems are also more vulnerable to attack by fungal organisms in the soil that cause root rot, which can be highly damaging and potentially even fatal.

So what can you do if your lawn has been flooded by rain?  Fortunately, the effects of heavy rain in the later winter months are often less damaging than those in the late summer.  Plants are in active growth in late summer, and the warm soils encourage the activity of root rot fungal organisms in the soil, but in the late winter most plants are still dormant, which makes them better able to endure saturated soil.  Still, the best way to avoid water damage is to plan your yard so that it never happens in the first place.  When landscaping your yard, make drainage a chief concern.  Whether you are planting shrubs, bedding plants, perennials, vegetables, or ground covers, make sure that the beds you prepare for them are about 6 to 12 inches higher than the surrounding soil.  Although raised beds do drain faster and so potentially will need to be watered more often than ground-level beds, they are your best defense against sudden, torrential rains.  Look over your property while it is raining to observe exactly where the water is flowing and then use that information to plan out what sort of plants will go where.  Finally, you can also help prevent your soil from becoming impacted by performing regular lawn aeration treatments.  This will allow more air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots, producing a stronger, more vigorous lawn.

If you have any questions about any of your landscaping needs, or specifically about how best to plan your lawn or garden layout and maintenance, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tips for Caring for Your Trees

Tips for Caring for Your TreesAnyone who’s shopped for a house knows the value of “curb appeal” (looking attractive from the road), but having a home that looks welcoming, put-together, and well cared-for is dependent on the lawn as well as the house. Keeping your yard looking its best can be much more complex than homeowners expect, between caring for the grass, trees, bushes, and landscaping, so today, all of us at Turf Shield are here to help by offering some tips and tricks to keep the trees in your yard looking healthy and robust.

  • Have the deadwood pruned from your trees at least once per year.
  • Trees are made to survive in natural conditions, like rich soil, plenty of water, and surrounding wildlife, but different trees are also best in different climates. Talk to a tree care professional who can recommend the best trees for your lawn or find a way to give your existing trees any nutrients and necessities they may be lacking.
  • When laying mulch around a tree, keep it at least six inches away from the trunk. Mulch piled too close to the trunk will trap too much water, potentially causing the trunk and roots to rot.
  • Don’t prune a tree for the first year after it’s been planted, other than to remove obvious dead or broken branches.
  • Lower your risk of lawn pest infestations by planting trees from a variety of species. It can also be helpful if your trees vary in age.
  • Rather than blanket fertilizing all your trees, try “prescription fertilization” – having a lawn care professional evaluate what (if any) nutrients your trees are lacking and selectively fertilizing to fit their needs.
  • To check the moisture of the soil, insert a small trowel two inches into the soil and create a narrow trench so you can touch the lower soil with your fingers. It should be moist but not soggy.
  • Some areas have pruning restrictions due to certain pest infestations or widespread tree diseases, so be sure to find out if any apply to you before pruning.
  • Don’t wait to fertilize until after your tree is planted – fertilize the soil before you plant your new tree, and continue with maintenance fertilizations throughout the tree’s life as needed.

Building and maintaining a beautiful lawn which complements your home’s appearance while providing an enjoyable outdoor space requires a delicate balance between all the elements of your landscape. If you want a healthy yard without all the hassle, at Turf Shield, we have the tools and experience to make your trees, grass, bushes, and more look their best all year round. To discuss what we can do for your lawn, schedule a visit with Turf Shield.