Summer Lawn Pests

Summer Lawn PestsFrom shifting weather conditions to specific kinds of weeds, every Georgia home-owner knows that each season brings its own unique lawn care challenges. One of these varying challenges is pest control. Different trouble-making insects wreak havoc on your grass at different times of the year. For the typical lawn-owner in Georgia, there are three primary pests to look out for in the summer:

Southern Chinch Bugs

Interestingly, these bugs are particularly damaging for St. Augustine grasses (a common type of grass used in Georgia), although they can cause mild damage to other types of warm season turf as well. Southern chinch bugs suck the moisture from your grass, then inject a poison that kills it, ultimately leaving dead patches that look much like drought damage. You can reduce your risk of southern chinch bugs by keeping your lawn trimmed (since these pests thrive in wet thatch), and by steering clear of overwatering and overfertilizing. If you do find your yard infested with these insects, call Turf Shield Lawn Care to set up a consultation and discuss your pest control options.

Grubs

The term “grubs” actually includes the immature forms of several different types of beetles. Typically living just under the surface of your soil, they like to eat grass roots, often until you could simply lift up an area of your grass like carpet. Grubs tend to mate in early summer, and then lay eggs which hatch around mid to late summer and reach their peak feeding age in early fall. Start keeping an eye out for grubs now so that you can treat them while they’re still susceptible to pesticides and before they cause serious damage.

Caterpillars

As with grubs, there are several types of caterpillars that can do serious lawn damage, although the most common varieties include tropical sod webworm and fall armyworm. These pests feed on the actual blades of grass, biting holes out of them before ultimately eating away larger areas of grass. You can limit your susceptibility to caterpillar damage by applying water and fertilizer appropriately (not excessively), and by seeking treatment as soon as you notice caterpillars in your yard.

Getting your lawn in tip-top shape (and keeping it that way) is a never-ending job. There’s a lot to learn if you want to adjust for the many seasonal issues that can affect your grass. That’s why our professional lawn care experts at Turf Shield are here to help. To find out what we can do for your grass, schedule a consultation with us today, or for more lawn care tips, follow Turf Shield on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Do Temperature Fluctuations Hurt My Plants?

Do Temperature Fluctuations Hurt My PlantsLawn care is all dependent on the season. There are certain steps you need to take during the spring, during the summer, during the fall, and during the winter to keep your grass and other plants healthy. But what happens when the temperatures swing so much that it seems as if all four seasons are happening in one week? In metro Atlanta, we’ve had our share of temperature fluctuations in the past few months, and while it seems like there is more consistency heading our way, the recent issues have left homeowners asking, “can all these temperature changes hurt my plants?”

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, they can. Each species of tree, shrub, and other plant has a certain range of temperatures it can endure without damage. This should be a factor when you first choose the types of plants you want in your yard. But even if all of your plants can withstand the typical temperatures we see in a Georgia winter, they need a period of time to adjust and essentially “brace themselves” for the cold. Normally, autumn serves this purpose.

But in the case of our recent weather, several weeks of warm, spring-like weather were followed by a sudden cold snap. Even if that colder temperature is well within a particular plant’s tolerance range, when the plant is accustomed to warmer weather and does not have time to adjust to a sudden cold snap, the lower temperatures can cause damage than they normally would.

So what can you do to protect your plants from sudden drops in temperature? It all depends on the specific plants in your yard, so our lawn care experts at Turf Shield Lawn Care can give you more direct guidance. But in the meantime, here are a few tips:

  • Make sure the trees and shrubs you have are well-suited to the climate of the southeastern US.
  • If you’re expecting a sudden cold snap, cover the susceptible plants with quilts, plastic, blankets, or other items to minimize the cold.
  • If your soil is dry, consider watering your plants a day or two before the drop in temperature, because this can help the soil hold in more heat.
  • Take precautions to keep your plants healthy all year round, to help them stay stronger and potentially less sensitive to cold snaps.

For homeowners who are dedicated to having a beautiful and healthy lawn, the uncontrollable temperature can be quite a burden. But there are always measures you can take to reduce damage and hopefully keep your plants healthy and happy. To find out what you can do to have a more enjoyable lawn, schedule a consultation with Turf Shield Lawn Care.

How Do I Choose a Type of Grass?

best type of grassAt Turf Shield, we’ve created our blog as a place homeowners can look to for lawn care tips and quick advice from our professionals. But arguably the most important step toward building and maintaining a lawn you and your family can enjoy is selecting the right type of grass to begin with. Few people realize just how many varieties of grass are available to choose from and how much these brands vary. That’s why we’re here – to break down the choices and help you choose the best type of grass for your yard based on factors like geography, shading, budget, maintenance levels, and more.

What types of grass will thrive in Atlanta?

The best way to begin choosing a grass is by looking closely at where you’re located, because this effects the temperature, soil, and seasonal changes, all of which will impact your checklist of what to look for in your grass. The most important distinction is whether your region is ideal for “cool season” or “warm season” grasses. Interestingly, Atlanta lies at the junction of these two areas. For the most part, warm season grasses are best for residents of metro Atlanta, although the farther north you are, the most likely you are to need a cool season grass instead. Here’s a closer look at the five most commonly successful grasses in the Atlanta area:

Bermuda Grass:

  • Grows well on a wide variety of soils
  • Goes dormant as soon as the temperature drops in the fall (giving it a brown color), but survives cold temperatures well and returns to green in the spring
  • Resistant to heavy foot traffic
  • Needs plenty of sun and little or no shade to grow well
  • Grows aggressively, which means that it can take to your lawn quickly, but it can be difficult to keep from invading flower beds, gardens, and landscaping areas
  • Low-maintenance lawn care

Centipede Grass:

  • Grows slowly but aggressively, so it can choke out weeds but takes several months to take to your lawn
  • Can be easily kept from invading flower beds, gardens, and landscaped areas
  • Can grow successfully in soil with poor fertility
  • Low-maintenance and more resistant to many pests
  • Fairly tolerant of cold, but can be killed by extended temperatures of 5 degrees or lower
  • Can tolerate a small amount of shade
  • May be damaged by temperature swings in the spring

St. Augustine Grass:

  • Survives drought conditions well
  • Moderately resistant to heavy foot traffic, though not as durable as some other varieties
  • Can tolerate a small to moderate amount of shade
  • Ideal for moist, semi-fertile soils
  • Grows aggressively, so it can provide some weed control, but can also be controlled around borders
  • Poor cold tolerance – can be damaged when temperatures fall below 20 degrees

Zoysia Grass:

  • Highly tolerant of drought conditions, though it does become dormant in extreme drought
  • Grows slowly
  • Tolerates very little shade
  • Can endure a moderate amount of foot traffic
  • Highly aggressive, which means that it can choke out many weeds, but that it can also spread into flower beds and other unwanted areas

Tall Fescue

  • Grows very quickly during the spring and fall
  • Cool season grass, which means it’s most successful the farther north you are
  • Tolerates shade and high foot traffic well
  • Not as drought-resistant as most warm season grasses
  • Can go dormant in hot weather, returning to green when the weather cools
  • Must be reseeded every fall, because it does not spread by the root system in the way warm season grasses do

While we’ve laid out a helpful summary, choosing your lawn is a complex decision, and a grass that has thrived for your neighbor may be unsuccessful for you. To find out what type of grass best fits your needs and how to best take care of it, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawn care professionals who can evaluate the many features of your yard and recommend the ideal grass for you and your family.

Yard Killing Plants You Should Know About

Yard Killing Plants You Should Know AboutThis time of year we start to see yards shake off the last remnants of winter as flowers and plants burst into bloom. A nicely manicured lawn full of vivid bright colors, fluttering butterflies, and fragrant smells that fill the air – what’s not to love? At Turf Shield, our motto is “we make your lawn healthy and that makes you happy” because it’s a matter of pride and happiness in your home and a matter we don’t take lightly. For many gardeners, spring and summer are great times to be outdoors and spruce up the yard, whether tending to returning plants or adding new ones to the family. Before you pick just any plant to add, we want to share some of the top yard killing plants you should know about to help protect your yard and your investment.

There’s a term we like to use for plants that can be harmful when introduced to certain environments which are called invasive plants. Invasive plants are types of weed plants that are considered aggressive because they grow and spread, ultimately destroying or displacing other plants nearby. They aren’t ideal for your yard because they can get out of control and cause a lot of damage to your yard. Trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and flowers can all have invasive species and use their roots, seeds, shoots (and sometimes all three) to help them reproduce faster. Here are four common types of invasive plants that could require more than your average weed control:

  • English Ivy – Formally known as hedera helix, English Ivy may look pretty as it sprawls across lawns, traverses up the side of buildings and blooms with delicate flowers, but beware – these climbers can reach heights of 50’ or more and can be poisonous to you and your yard. Some homeowners may fancy English Ivy because of its great ability to cover walls, but the holdfasts (aerial root-like structures that help the ivy latch onto surfaces) can be extremely damaging to trees by blocking much needed sunlight, adding weight to the tree to cause instability, and even destroy the tree’s bark.
  • Forget-Me-Nots – This simple, yet elegant, little plant may look innocent, but it’s far from it. Fans of shady, moist areas, forget-me-nots grow extremely quickly and lack the sort of natural checks and balances that keep it from overtaking other plants in the yard and threaten their livelihood. Forget-me-nots can be an easily treatable plant but requires total removal of the root system or else new forget-me-nots will start to sprout just as quickly as they were removed; therefore, it would seem to be a fitting name because unless you stop them before they get out of control, they’re simply unforgettable.
  • Pachysandra –Also called Japanese spurge, Pachysandra provides year-round evergreen ground cover and even blooms sweet white flowers in early spring. Pachysandra can thrive in partial/full shade and is deer, rabbit, and drought-resistant, with the ability to cover the ground with its lush blanket within a few years. This seemingly low maintenance plant may seem ideal, but Pachysandra is one that can take over quickly, damage woodlands and streambeds, and be very stubborn to get rid of without the help of professional lawn care services.
  • Bindweed – Trying to eradicate this type of climbing vine is not something that you can do on your own in one go. This thread-like vine has a large, hardy root system and a tendency to wrap tightly around competing plants or latch onto other nearby upward items. Bindweed can silently creep into your yard unnoticed until it starts to bloom trumpet shaped white or pink flowers that resemble morning glory. Since its root system can get really deep, bindweed has the possibility of encroaching into a neighbor’s lawn and spreading to the farthest corners of your own yard. Hand-pulling this weed would take years, or even your entire life, to destroy them, and trying to uproot it with a hoe only helps spread the bindweed more.

If left to their own devices, it can take years to successfully get rid of invasive plants, not to mention lawn treatment for invasive plants can ultimately become quite costly. It is always a great thing when you’re able to save time and money on lawn care, but knowing what potential dangers could be lurking in your yard will ultimately help you stop a problem before it spreads. For more information on the services we offer, don’t hesitate to contact Turf Shield at 678-502-7589 today. We share the latest lawn maintenance and landscape tips on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, so stay connected with Turf Shield so you don’t miss out!

Keeping Kids and Pets Safe During a Lawn Care Treatment

Keeping Kids and Pets Safe During a Lawn Care TreatmentA lush, beautiful lawn can be a great space for a family to enjoy, connect with each other, and take a break from the day-to-day. But certain lawn care treatments like pesticide or fertilizer application need to be handled with care, so be sure to follow the directions on the label precisely to ensure they are used properly and safely. This doesn’t mean you can’t reap their benefits – it simply means you need to exercise caution, and the tips below can help.

Follow instructions. Every chemical is different and has its own guidelines in terms of how long you should keep your family off the lawn after it has been applied. The most common recommendation is 24 hours, but our team at Turf Shield can provide you with more detailed instructions based on your specific needs.

Start by talking to us about your options. Various lawn treatments may seem like they have the same goal, but they may be better suited to particular types of grass, environments, uses, etc. This is one reason homeowners are typically happier if they hire a professional to do the job right the first time, rather than treating the lawn themselves and not knowing what type of products to use or when to administer them.

Before the treatment, clear away any outside objects. Toys, lawn furniture, and other items can be accidentally sprayed or can have the chemicals transferred by contact or even by the wind, so bring these items inside before the treatment begins.

Steer clear of pavements. Just as with outdoor objects, pavements can come into contact with the pesticides as well, particularly when a homeowner is doing their own yard work. This can lead to dangerous contact with pets or children, and the chemicals can also be swept into the water supply by rain, so it’s best to work with a professional who understands their equipment and can be more precise.

Wipe everyone’s paws and shoes when they come inside. This is only necessary during the first few days after your lawn treatment, but it can be an important way to keep the products from being tracked inside (even if the pets and kids haven’t been on the grass) in case they did land on the pavement.

Put up signs about the recent treatment. This serves two purposes: first, it alerts neighbors and passersby to keep their pets and children from stepping onto your lawn, and second, if you have kids, it can serve as a reminder to them in case they’ve forgotten to stay off the grass.

Having a healthy lawn typically requires more than simply a regular mowing, and while the idea of chemicals or pesticides is nerve-wracking to some homeowners, rest assured that we only use EPA-approved products which are safe when used correctly and when the proper precautions are taken. This means you can enjoy a happy lawn while still providing a safe environment for your family. To start discussing a plan for your lawn, schedule a consultation with Turf Shield.

What is Pre-Emergent Weed Control?

Temperatures are rising, and as long as this trend continues, warm season grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda will be coming out of dormancy within the next few weeks. Unfortunately, we’re also coming upon the time when weeds are beginning to germinate (or start sprouting and developing roots). The good news is that at Turf Shield, we can help you get ahead of the game with pre-emergent weed control.

What is Pre-Emergent Weed ControlWhat is pre-emergent weed control?

There are plenty of products and methods we can use to make your yard as weed-free as possible, and one strategy we often recommend is to stop weeds before they’re actually visible with pre-emergent weed control. As the name suggests, these products target weeds before they ever “emerge” and appear from the ground by creating a barrier in the soil which kills the weed as it begins to germinate and grow. The specific option we will use on your lawn will depend on factors like the specific types of weeds which typically grow in your yard.

What are the advantages to using pre-emergent weed control?

One of the most attractive features of pre-emergent weed control, of course, is that you never have to see the weeds develop. Though the treatment may not reach every weed seed, you’ll drastically cut down on the number of weeds you’ll see throughout the season. Another positive point to this strategy is that pre-emergent weed control is a rather low-maintenance plan. Using a pre-emergent in your lawn care plan can limit the number of weed-pulling sessions and additional treatments you’ll need for months.

Can I do my own pre-emergent weed control?

There are products available which you can use to pre-emptively treat your lawn, but for the safest and most successful results, it’s best to work with a professional. Remember, to always follow the directions on the product label very carefully. Some products can do more harm than good if used incorrectly, and some can also stain your concrete or other stone landscaping. The timing and precision of administering the treatment are also crucial to getting the results you’re looking for, so going the DIY route could cost you more time and money later if the treatment is ineffective, if you use a chemical which targets the wrong kinds of weeds, or if it stunts your new grass’ growth.

Your lawn’s health is much like your own health – prevention is key and can save you a significant amount of work, stress, time, and money in the long run. To discuss how we can give you a more enjoyable law year-round, schedule an appointment with Turf Shield. Or, for more helpful lawn care tips, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.