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.

Tips for Smart Summer Watering

Tips for Smart Summer WateringSummertime in the south can play havoc on your lawn.  One minute your grass can be drying out under intense, punishing heat and the next it can be drowning under a torrential summer thunderstorm.  During this tumultuous time of year, being able to adapt your lawn care strategy to changing conditions is extremely important, because providing too much water can be just as problematic as providing too little.  So here are some helpful watering tips to keep in mind so that you can keep your lawn healthy and lush all summer long.

Plan Your Lawn to Fit Your Location

There are many varieties of grass, each adapted to thrive under differing conditions, and choosing a grass that is suited to your region will make care and maintenance far easier.  In the south, either Zoysia or Bermuda are good choices, as they are both naturally drought-tolerant and don’t need regular watering.  A tall fescue may look and feel nice, but unless you have a chance to water it often it will die out quickly, leaving you worse off than you started.  Tall fescue is also vulnerable to various diseases that can do extensive damage to the turf in times of stress.

Water Your Turf Efficiently

Watering grass during the hottest parts of the day is a waste of time, as the majority of the moisture will be absorbed into the hot air before it ever reaches the grass’s roots.  Instead, plan to water very early in the morning, before it gets too hot. This way, most of the water will make it to the roots, but the grass blades will still dry quickly, preventing disease and fungus.  For maximum efficiency, limit watering to once a week for about an hour or so.  Watering every day encourages both a shallow root system, which is less able to tolerate drought, and annoying weeds like dollarweed and nutgrass that thrive in moist soil.

Mow Only When Necessary

When the weather is hot, it is often advisable to let grass grow a bit longer than usual.  When grass is cut, it can lose a great deal of moisture through the cut blades, which can turn grass brown if you are unable to water it frequently.  In drought conditions, taller grass can also help shade and cool the ground, reducing moisture loss and helping the grass stay greener.  Conversely, a lower height provides air and light that encourages new weeds to sprout.  During the summer we recommend only mowing the grass after it has rained for at least two days in a row and that you set your lawn mower blades at their highest setting.

Ground water is a precious, and sadly increasingly limited, natural resource.  Taking some precautions to make sure that you use that resource both effectively and responsibly is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy your lawn for many years to come.  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.

Pest Infestations That Can Destroy Your Lawn

Pest Infestations That Can Destroy Your LawnMaintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn can be a complicated job, with many different factors and potential difficulties to take into consideration, which is one of the reasons why the specialists at Turf Shield offer customized lawn care treatment packages that can be tailored to specific lawn care needs.  Among the most irritating and vexing of these concerns are common garden-variety pests, the tiny insects that can sometimes take root and cause major damage before you even realize that they are there.  Georgia is home to a wide variety of these lawn pests, but the most common fall into three basic categories: soil-inhabitants, thatch-inhabitants, and the ubiquitous fire ants.  At Turf Shield we believe that educating our customers about all issues involving lawn care is the best way to ensure that they can enjoy a truly top-notch lawn.

Soil Inhabitants

These insects spend the majority of their life cycle deep underneath the soil feeding on the parts of the grass that are below the ground’s surface.  Their presence results in patches of wilted, dead, or dying grass and the sod may be disturbed in areas where wildlife or pets try to dig them up.  Soil-Inhabiting insects include mole crickets, billbugs (a form of weevil), and white grubs, which are thought to be among the most damaging turf insect pests in the United States.  Treating an infestation of pests living beneath the soil often requires the application of insecticides at the root zone of the grass.  Because the correct timing and method of application are so important for optimal results, we recommend you consult with one of our lawn care specialists before attempting any pest control treatment.

Leaf, Stem, and Thatch Inhabitants

These insects live in the cut and broken plant matter that cover the surface of the soil, feeding off the grass stalks themselves.  They are usually most apparent when the grass is cut off close to the ground, and they can cause irregular spots of yellowish turf or dead spots where their infestations go unchecked.  Thatch inhabitants like cutworms and armyworms are actually the caterpillar stages of different species of moths, but they can also include tiny beetles like chinch bugs and spittlebugs.  Because these insects thrive in areas with heavy thatch accumulation, periodic thatch removal is often the best way to address an infestation, but specialized irrigation techniques can also be used to both diagnose and treat the problem.

Fire Ants

The Red Imported Fire Ant, common to most areas of Georgia, does not actually feed on the turf grass itself; it preys on other insects and dead animals.  However, the mounds that they build (which can reach up to two feet in diameter and up to eight inches tall) are unsightly and rob the grass they cover from much-needed sunlight.  Moreover, because the toxins released by the ants disrupt the vascular systems of surrounding plants and because the ants themselves are very aggressive and will swarm out of their nest to attack if disturbed, most people are eager to get rid of them as quickly as possible.  At Turf Shield we offer a unique, specialized fire ant treatment that can help eliminate these pests to make sure your lawn is a more enjoyable place for your family to spend time throughout the year.

Pest control is a vital part of any lawn care treatment plan, but due to the wide variety of insects and symptoms that may be involved, it is important that the pests be accurately identified so that the most appropriate method of control can be used.  If you have questions about your pest problems, 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.

4 Tips for Saving Time and Money on Routine Lawn Care

4 Tips for Saving Time and Money on Routine Lawn CareHere at Turf Shield, we offer customized lawn treatment programs that are tailored to the unique needs of our customers’ lawns, with a whole array of lawn care services ranging from simple lawn treatment to aeration, over-seeding, and even fire ant control.  However, keeping any lawn looking its best can often be a full time job.  Even though we can offer the best advice and support available, there are still a number of routine lawn care duties that remain the responsibility of the homeowner.  Unfortunately, even routine tasks like regular watering and mowing can be both expensive and time-consuming.  Here are four great tips for saving time and money on routine lawn care:

Plan Ahead

If you are starting from scratch and have a chance to plant a lawn yourself, look for a slow-growth, drought-resistant grass species that can save you water, fertilizer, and time in the long run. In the southeastern part of the United States, this is usually a Zoysia (if you get a lot of sun) but we have several experts who can answer your questions and help you find the specific species that are right for your climate, soil, and lifestyle.

Water Wisely

An established lawn needs about 1 to 1.5  inches of water per week in the growing season, and although it may seem sensible to give the lawn a little bit each day, that is actually not the case.  Light, daily watering encourages shallow root systems, so instead try to water thoroughly only once or twice every week.  Watering is most effective if it is done in the early morning or late evening, when evaporation rates are low and more water can be absorbed into the soil.  Finally, don’t be afraid to let the grass turn a little brown during dry spells, as most species can easily go as long as a month without water.

Don’t Bag – Mulch

Grass clippings created while mowing your lawn are a free source of slow-release fertilizer, so let the mower discharge the clippings back onto your grass rather than bagging them.  Not only does this save on total mowing time, but it also can cut fertilizer costs by up to thirty percent.  The only time that you may need to bag your lawn clippings is when your lawn is having a disease breakout, which is often signaled by irregular brown patches or rings in the lawn.

Maintain Your Mower

Sharp lawn-mower blades cut cleaner and faster, which means you can achieve a better looking lawn with less time and effort.  Moreover, when the blades on your lawn mower are dull they can stress the grass, making it more susceptible to disease.  We recommend sharpening and balancing your mower blades 1 to 2 times over the course of the growing season.  When this simple practice is combined with some basic engine maintenance it can reduce your fuel costs by as much as twenty-five percent.

The best looking, longest-lasting lawns are the result of a strong team effort where we have an opportunity to work closely with the homeowner to achieve the best possible results.  If you are interested in any of the services we offer, including lawn treatment, tree and shrub maintenance, aeration and over seeding, or fire ant control, 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.

4 Steps to Proper Spring Fertilization

With the dark winter months finally behind us, it’s once again time for spring grasses to burst back to life, hungry and ready to be fed.  Early season lawn care is one of the secrets to getting your grass back into tip-top shape for warm-weather barbeques and backyard parties.  At Turf Shield, our team is committed to helping you maintain the health and beauty of your lawn, and so here are some helpful bits of advice to keep in mind when planning your spring fertilization.

4 Steps to Proper Spring FertilizationChoose the Right Fertilizer

When you purchase fertilizer, you’ll notice three numbers on the label.  These numbers represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium (respectively) that are present in the mix.  A 20-5-10 mixture is a good basic mix for your first application in the spring, although every lawn is different and our lawn care specialists can suggest customized lawn treatment packages to address your lawn’s individual needs.

Control Your Nitrogen Levels

The most nitrogen you need on a lawn is one-tenth of a pound per week; grass can’t get any greener than that and, if you use more, you’re only going to have to mow more often.  Slow-release granules break down slowly over a long period of time, and so need to be applied less often.  Moreover, they are also generally very easy to apply accurately.  Liquid spray fertilizers, on the other hand, can achieve impressive results quickly, but it often can be difficult for a nonprofessional to get a smooth and consistent application across an entire lawn.

Get the Timing Right

Ideally, you should give your lawn its first fertilizer treatment of the year in the spring when the soil temperature reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  In most parts of the country, this will be around mid-April, when lilacs begin to blossom and the grass starts growing once again.  Provide a second feeding about four weeks later, in early to mid-May, and then every six to eight weeks thereafter.  Our team can provide a variety of regularly scheduled lawn care services to help you keep up with the maintenance.

Don’t Forget to Water

Contrary to what some people think, the more you water your lawn, the more fertilizer it needs.  Before you fertilize, check your local weather forecast. Plan to fertilize just before a day of light, steady rain. You’ll save water and your grass will be well-fed.  Remember that as the grass grows, it uses more water and more nutrients, so if you have a sprinkler system or it is raining often you’ll need to fertilize more frequently, while in drier conditions less fertilization may be necessary.  Our specialists can work with you to determine exactly what schedule will work best for you.

A healthy lawn gives your family a safe and beautiful place to play, while providing the perfect natural frame for your home and life and a professional lawn program can provide the nutrients and protection that a healthy lawn requires.   If you are interested in any of the services we offer, including lawn treatment, tree and shrub maintenance, aeration and over seeding, or fire ant control, please contact us to get more information.  Don’t forget to follow Turf Shield on Facebook and Twitter to get all the latest updates and lawn care tips.

Protecting Your Yard from a Cold Snap

Protecting Your Yard from a Cold SnapLet’s start with some lawn care basics: a cold snap is defined as “a sudden, brief spell of cold weather.” As many of us know, even though spring has officially arrived, the weather in Georgia can still be unpredictable. One day it’s sunny and 80, the next, you can see your breath in the morning as you head to work in 40 degree weather. While it’s easy for us to grab a jacket to adjust for the back and forth weather commonly seen this time of year, it’s not as simple for our yards. When the first signs of spring start to show, many people use the warmer weather to get ahead on planting, seeding, fertilizing, and other yard work but fluctuating temperatures can end up doing more harm than good if a cold spell occurs, so we’ve rounded up some of our most helpful tips for protecting your yard from a cold snap.

Regardless of your turf (like Zoysia, Bermuda, plants, etc.), cold snaps are arguably more damaging to your grass and other landscaping than in the winter because spring is around the time when plants start to blossom. Waiting until late April through mid-May before starting your spring gardening can serve as a buffer for reducing potential weather-related damage to your new seedlings, but if you’re one of the eager ones who like to start here, a few do’s and don’ts can make a world of difference.

Do’s

  • Pay attention to the weather forecast – just as you’d check for days of rain that will require an umbrella or much needed raincoat, check the forecast to see if any spells of cold could threaten to harm the hard work you’ve put into your lawn. Knowing how long a cold spell is expected and when it will start can help you put a plan of action in effect to prepare your yard BEFORE the freeze starts.
  • Water your landscape – believe it or not, damp soil traps in heat longer and provides more insulation than dry soil. We’re not saying you should over water your lawn in preparedness for the colder temperatures (too much water can be just as damaging as not enough water in some instances) but be conscious of your watering habits to avoid root and crown rot diseases that occur from over watering and prolonged periods of wet soil.
  • Insulate your plants – For light freezes, creating a type of insulation for your plants is key because it helps to trap in warm air from the ground to provide a type of blanket. This can be a sheet or a blanket (never cover a plant with JUST plastic – plastic will damage the plant, but if you use plastic, it just needs a sheet put down first to serve as a type of buffer between your plants and the plastic.

Don’ts

  • Ignore potted plants – hanging plants and plants that are potted need protection from the cold too! Potted plants have even less protection that plants that are in the ground but are far easier to physically move. We suggest bringing potted plants inside the house, or store them in the garage, overnight to keep them warm and safe. If you have massive plants that can’t be easily moved, insulation is your best defense and can be achieved by wrapping the entire container in heavy layers of materials that would help trap in the heat (like blankets or even bubble wrap).
  • Forget to uncover your plants – plants still need sunlight so be sure to uncover your plants the morning after an overnight cold snap to reduce any condensation build up that could cause the plants to freeze if it temperatures continue to drop the next night. Even if you’re expecting a few nights of cold temperatures in a row, you should repeat the process of covering and uncovering for as long as necessary – it may be an extra step before you go to bed but it’ll be well worth it if it can save your beautiful yard and some money when you eliminate having to start all over again from scratch!
  • Give up – even if what you see on the ground level appears to be ruined, don’t give up. Sometimes cold sensitive plants can recover by starting new growth from the roots or base of the plant. It may take some time for that to happen, but just try to be patient and give it a chance to thrive again before you immediately write the plant off as permanently damaged.

Since different plants can be affected by different temperatures, there isn’t a general rule of thumb for protecting each and every type of plant simultaneously. When planning out the landscape for your yard and spring gardening, pay particular closeness to a plants’ hardiness rating which can help you navigate how each plant thrives under certain weather conditions (will it last through extreme cold or does a particular plant need dry, humid air to flourish?) and which ones will perhaps need some assistance to survive sudden temperature drops.

With a team of professionals with over 40 years combined experience, Turf Shield continues to deliver superior lawn care for over 40 years to those who value the health a well-maintained landscape needs and the beauty it can provide. Whether you’re a novice gardener just getting started or a seasoned veteran who’s ready to take their yard to the next level, our variety of lawn care services are uniquely tailored to provide the most ideal results. For more lawn maintenance and landscape tips, stay connected with Turf Shield on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more!