The 411 on Poison Ivy

The 411 on Poison IvyIf you’ve never gotten a poison ivy rash – consider yourself lucky! Many of the Turf Shield team members can recall a summer or two where a fun day outside exploring resulted in an extremely itchy or red skin rash. To protect you and your loved ones from spending free days soaking in soothing oatmeal baths and longing for a bit of relief – we wanted to give you a crash course on poison ivy, what to look for, and what to do in the event you spot this invasive plant invading your own backyard.

Poison ivy is a nondescript green-looking plant that is known to have ruined more than a few camping trips for people. This plant’s leaves always grow in sets of threes (ever heard the saying “leaves of three, let them be”?): two leaves positioned behind a front leaf that is attached at the top of the stem. Capable of thriving in a variety of different conditions and climates, poison ivy can be found growing everywhere from shaded forests and wet river bottoms to sun-filled locations and your own backyard. This type of weed foliage can be yellow, orange, or red, depending on your geography, and the leaves can grow 4-5 inches long (and sometimes be just as wide).

The reason poison ivy gets such a bad rap is because of the chemical its sap releases, called urushiol. 85% of people are sensitive to urushiol oil and whenever their skin comes into direct contact, develop a rash. Only humans are affected by the oily resin but it can remain on just about any surface for up to five years (it can linger on gardening tools, clothing/shoes, and even on the hair or fur of your pet playing in the yard), and even after the leaves have fallen off.

It can take as little as five minutes for poison ivy to absorb into the skin, so it’s imperative that you act quickly if you think you’ve gotten the oil on your skin. If you’re able to wash it off under flowing water soon after exposure, you may be able to reduce the associated symptoms or stop it altogether from getting worse. Change any clothes that may have come into contact with poison ivy immediately and rinse your skin vigorously for at least 30 minutes with soap and cold water.

Ultimately you’re going to want to get rid of this plant to ensure you’re not constantly at risk of exposure. Poison ivy is invasive and can also do damage to your lawn. It can’t be burned because the smoke from the oil can be inhaled and toxic/lethal – so we definitely advise against that method! A most effective solution would be to use Turf Shield’s lawn care expertise to ensure the safety of not only your yard but you and your loved ones. All of the poison ivy plant (roots and all) have to be removed or else they can easily find another nearby spot to occupy and take over. If you suspect poison ivy is lurking and creating havoc in your own backyard, don’t hesitate to contact Turf Shield for information regarding poison ivy treatment and our additional lawn services today.

Why’s My Lawn Turning Brown?

Image of Lawn with dying grassIt’s the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy some great weather and the Turf Shield team can’t think of a better place than your own backyard. But imagine working all year to make sure your lawn is healthy and green, and then suddenly you notice brown spots/patches running the landscape. What gives? Your lawn leaves visual clues when something isn’t quite right and since there can be a number of reasons why your lawn is turning brown, here are some of the top causes that could potentially affect your own yard.

Growing Conditions

Lack of nutrients and/or water to the soil causes grass to turn brown (because basically it doesn’t have the food needed to thrive). In the same respects, too much water or too little can stress out grass. For those of you that live in areas prone to droughts, paying close attention to how much water your lawn requires to thrive helps to reduce chances that your lawn becomes drought-dormant. Drought-dormant lawns mean grass isn’t getting adequate water and starts to focus on the roots by going into survival mode to try to prevent it from dying off.

Weeds can also cause competition for grass – as both feed off the same supply – so it’s handy to water only when needed and slow down the browning process before your yard starts to look like brittle straw. Controlling weeds can be tricky, depending on the types of weeds growing in your yard, and being mindful of what’s present, the appropriate type of lawn maintenance for the type of grass you have, and implementing an effective treatment plan as early as possible can all help stop progressive growth before it gets out of control.

People & Pets

Believe it or not, people and pets can destroy lawns over time. For people, foot traffic is one of the biggest culprits that contribute to brown lawns. When parts of your yard get trampled over and over again it disrupts soil compaction and leaves parts of your lawn lacking sufficient soil. Not enough soil + not enough nutrition = brown grass. Of course some areas of high foot traffic aren’t avoidable and will leave the grass damaged but if a walkway is installed, it can help redirect traffic and give you a chance to repair a destroyed lawn.

As for our pets, it’s their waste that does the most damage, especially coming from dogs. Dog’s urine is very acidic so whenever they go to the bathroom on the lawn, it turns it into yellow patches of dead grass. The more your pet uses the same area to pee (dogs tend to have favorite spots they go to or feel the need to “mark their territory” to cover the scent of a dog that came through before), the more damage it does collectively. If you take this a step further, think of what it can do to someone else’s yard. Try to be mindful when walking your pet as their urine could inadvertently be ruining their yard.

At-Home Lawn Treatments

Even with the best of intentions, sometimes the do-it-yourself approach to lawn care can be extremely damaging to lawns. First, and possibly one of the most notorious offenders, are chemical treatments. Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insect repellents, and even gasoline spills can cause burned or dead grass. Knowing the appropriate amount of fertilizer to use not only reduces excessive growth (this happens when too much fertilizer is used) but the lack of nutrition (this happens when there’s not enough fertilizer used), so follow recommended feeding schedules for your specific fertilizer and grass type. Insecticides and herbicides can also be extremely damaging if spilled or if too much is used to treat your lawn. Following the manufacturer’s specific application instructions is your best defense if working on your lawn maintenance and not using professional lawn care treatments and services.

A little investigation can go a long way when trying to figure out the source of your browning lawn. Since there can be a number of reasons from disease to human error (plus the many others that we didn’t include this time), diagnosing the cause with the help of a trusted lawn care team can fight the problem before it gets bigger. We offer comprehensive lawn care packages to make your lawn as healthy as it can be, so if you’re combating a brown lawn and are interested in learning more about our lawn care services, contact Turf Shield today.

“There’s Ants in Them Thar Hills!”

fire-ant-control-atlanta-gaAt first glance, lawns seem pretty basic – just soil and grass. But below the surface, there’s far more going on than most homeowners realize, and there are countless different pests and problems which can disturb the delicate ecosystem and cause some real headaches. Among the most common of these pests that our lawn care specialists see are ants. For the most part, people see ants as a nuisance but as a rather innocuous insect (other than fire ants, of course – they’re a whole different ball game). But unfortunately, they can actually do some significant harm to your lawn, so if you’re seeing signs that these unwelcome tenants have moved in, it’s time to put ant control on your to-do list.

About Ants

As most people know, there are many, many different species of ants. While they each have variations in behavior, they cause rather similar problems for your yard regardless of the species (but more on the damage they cause later). Ants tend to thrive best in hot, dry weather, and while we see ant hills as being their homes, the hill is just the front door. Ants live in colonies and create extensive tunnel systems underground, and the hill is formed by the soil and other particles they remove to build their tunnels.

How Ants Can Damage Your Lawn

The primary lawn care problem ants cause is in their tunneling and their hills. The tunnels can damage the roots of your grass, creating patches of dead grass. The ant hills themselves are also a problem, because they can damage mower blades, cause the lawn to be mowed at an uneven height, and create a risk for kids, pets, and anyone else who may be walking or running through your yard and trip on them. While ants may help to control the population of certain other unwanted insects, some species of ants also have a tendency to “farm” specific pests like aphids and mealybugs so they can feast on a unique substance these bugs secrete.

How to Get Rid of Lawn Ants

In some cases of an early lawn ant infestation, you may be able to keep the problems at bay by raking any ant hills in your yard on a weekly basis. Keep in mind that this doesn’t actually get rid of the ants, it simply keeps the ant hills from becoming too large and creating problems. For a more thorough solution, call a professional lawn care specialist who can evaluate your needs and offer the ideal treatment option.

Lawn issues like ant infestations aren’t 100% preventable, but the best way to keep your yard as clear as possible is to keep up with a healthy lawn care schedule, and to keep an eye out for signs of trouble so you can tackle problems before they get worse. To learn more about what we can do for your specific lawn, schedule a consultation with Turf Shield and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions and offer our expertise.