Category Archives: Lawn Care Advice

U.S. Lawns: A Brief History of Home Lawns and Turf Grass in the U.S.

As humans we love our lawns, as evidenced by our obsession with lawn care and maintenance. But as much as we love our lawns and yards, we also tend to take them for granted. How often do you think about the environmental impact and the technological evolution of lawns? Truly Nolen takes a closer look at the history of lawns.

history of home lawns

Lawns play prominent aesthetic and environmental roles

Not only do lawns turn an ordinary plot of dirt into a green paradise surrounded by ornamental trees and flowers that frame your home perfectly, they also provide a soft carpet for our feet. We love to gather in parks for picnics, sporting events and other leisure activities, but seldom do we think, “Good job, lawn, with that noise reduction and pollution benefit thing you do for us. Oh, and thanks for keeping that dirt in line.”

Lawns and turf grass areas also:

  • Control soil erosion and protect the quality of groundwater
  • Help trap synthetic organic compounds and enhance bio-degradation of synthetic compounds
  • Absorb and remove carbon dioxide gases
  • Moderate temperatures by dissipating heat from urban areas
  • Provide high visibility from intruders, enhancing home security
  • Serve as firebreaks to reduce fire hazards

Visually, lawns promote the quality of our lives, lend a hand towards community pride and increase property values. But when did this love affair with lawns begin?

Lawn love is in our DNA

Anthropologists note a connection between humans and lawns in ancient civilizations. Taking a page from ancient African civilizations, the low turf grass on the Savannah helped tribal civilizations stalk their prey.

From the Middle Ages into the Renaissance

As far back as the Middle Ages, throughout Europe, treeless grassy areas helped defend fortress castles, assisting guards in detecting movement as far off as the horizon. Moving into modern times, people started to enhance the quality of their lives, developing an interest in lawn cultivation. Dr. James Beard, in his book The Journal of Environmental Turf grass, says that, “The more technically advanced a civilization, the more widely turf grasses are used.”

Painters, as early as the 12th century placed their subjects in idyllic settings surrounded by grassy areas, kept clipped by grazing animals. “Bowling greens” for tennis courts, croquet courts and golf putting greens developed around the same time, paving the way for the importance of turf grass for outdoor sports of the future. Cricket is noted as the first team sport played on turf grass. The dawn of soccer in England in the 1500s and the evolution of golf in Scotland furthered an interest in turf grass for sports.

European Renaissance paintings from the 15th century portray ornamental lawns and public green spaces and by the 16th century, paintings and literature of the higher classes featured manicured formal gardens.

Wealthy Renaissance landowners flaunted their wealth, devoting much of their grassland to livestock production and surrounding their homes with lavish lawns, maintained by servants with hand scythes. The lower classes, who needed the land around their homes for growing fruits, vegetables and herbs, grazed their sheep and cows in a central “common” grassy area in their villages.

Later, adventurous Europeans, fleeing religious persecution and economic hardship in Europe arrived in North America with grass seed in hand. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that mechanical mowers arrived on the scene in the United States.

Huge steps in lawn mowing equipment and cultivated turf grass seed technology

Invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830, the mechanical mower expanded the areas of cultivated grass areas, allowing the public to enjoy mowed grass lawns in parks. 1890 saw mass production make mechanical mowers affordable to the public for the first time.

By the early part of the 20th century, turf grass seed cultivation evolved towards better density and performance for sports. During this time, New York’s Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead included lawns for each home in his Riverside Park design, outside Chicago.

Levittown, Long Island offered the 1952 homebuyer a suburban community that included a lawn as part of a package deal. Levittown drew national attention as GIs returning from World War II radically increased the demand for affordable housing.

Young men marrying and starting families gave rise to the America Dream of owning a house with a lawn. Since the 1950s, advances in technology, development of turf grass cultivars and the DIY lawn product industry evolution, devotion to lawn cultivation permeates America’s consciousness.

Florida lawn care can be challenging

Currently, a focus on eco-friendly lawn care, with Integrated Pest Management is ushering in a new dimension in lawn care that promotes lawn maintenance by skilled professional pest control companies. In Florida, lawns come under constant stress from heat, humidity, weeds, salt, poor water retention, insects, fungi and other diseases. Florida’s year round tropical climate requires constant care to ensure nutritional balance, combat insects and control weeds.

While the first step to a healthy lawn involves proper mowing, trimming and watering, knowing when and what type of insecticides to apply can be challenging, as over application can damage your lawn. Also, Florida soils require specific nutritional requirements that commercial fertilizers don’t satisfy. Plus, sand in Florida’s soil can deplete nutrients, due to poor water retention.

Cut out the guesswork. Your local Truly Nolen representative can provide you with a Grass Facts Sheet for your particular type of turf grass with tips on maintenance and proper care. Then, starting with a comprehensive lawn analysis, Truly Lawn Care protects and nurtures your lawn year round. Contact us today to give your lawn the best care you can.

What’s Eating Your Lawn?

Types of grasses and lawn pests found in Florida

The Sunshine state is truly the ideal place to live and work. With the sun shining year round, your yard is the perfect place to host a BBQ, watch the kids play, lounge by the pool or even take a nap under the shade of a tree.

Having a healthy and beautiful lawn in Florida is important when it comes to maintaining the aesthetics of your home, but all of that sunshine and Florida’s humid climate can put a lot stress on your lawn. Our year round tropical climate makes keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful a year-round task. Florida is susceptible to grass and plant funguses and other pathogens, salt intrusion and poor water retention, providing the perfect conditions for invading insects and weeds to thrive. Considering the multiple types of grass found in Florida, in combination with the different types of common pests that are known to destroy the aesthetic value of Florida Lawns, all Florida homeowners can benefit from a brief Florida Lawn 101.

Types of Grasses Found in Florida

Florida is home to certain types of grass that flourish well in warm, humid climates. While many lawns consist of a mixture of grass varieties, let’s take a closer look at some of the specific types commonly found in the Sunshine state:

  • Augustine grass/Floratam

This dark green, course grass is probably the most common grass found in warmer climates. With a broad blade and rounded tip, St. Augustine grass (also known as Floratam) requires a lot of moisture in order to survive. In summer month’s it grows quickly, requiring weekly mowing. During the winter, spring and fall months the grass can generally be cut every five weeks.

  • Bahia grass

This soft, deep green grass tends to do well in sandy soil and warmer conditions. Similar to the St. Augustine blade, Bahia grass grows quickly in the summer month’s but slows during the other seasons. Unlike St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass has a pointed tip instead of a rounded one. Even though the blade itself grows slowly, the seed stalks tend to grow rapidly.

  • Bermuda grass

With a deep green color and a sharply pointed blade, Bermuda grass can most often be spotted on the rolling hills of the golf courses in Florida. Chosen for its dense quality, this grass requires consistent watering and fertilizing.

  • Centipede grass

Centipede grass prefers more humid, warm areas and does not require as much fertilizer as other grasses. The blades themselves tend to be pointier, and grow very low, almost horizontally to the ground.

  • Zoysia grass

This dark green, turf type grass tends to have a softer blade, and is the most susceptible to damage due to lack of moisture. Homeowners like this grass because of its ability to stand up to foot traffic, as well as provide an attractive choice for lawn cover.

Common Lawn Pests found in Florida

Due to Florida’s environmental conditions and warm weather, many pests tend to thrive in both the Northern and Southern parts of the state, causing headaches for many homeowners as their lawns become susceptible to damage. Actively seeking on-going pest management and lawn maintenance is essential to identifying the culprit at hand early on, saving homeowners’ money in the long run, as well as unnecessary additional damage to the lawn.

Some of the pests that might be causing damage to your lawn include:

  • Chinch Bugs

If you’ve noticed areas in your lawn turning yellow, and then a reddish color before dying, chances are Chinch bugs are around. Partial to the St. Augustine grass, Chinch bugs extract the liquid found in grass through their needle like beaks, depleting the grass of its nutrients, often feasting in large groups. Since Chinch bugs like the sunny areas of the grass, you may notice patches on your lawn, especially in well exposed areas.

  • Mole Crickets

Preferring the warm coastline of the southeastern United States, Mole Crickets can be particularly destructive to your lawn if left untreated. Feeding on the roots of mostly Bermuda grass and Bahia grass, Mole crickets, tunnel through the soil causing the roots of the grass to loosen eventually drying out the grass and killing it. Though hard to spot, you’ll notice evidence of mole crickets by dry patches of grass on your lawn and signs of tunneling in the soil.

  • Sod Webworms

Adult sod webworms are in fact a small brown moth that lives in turf grasses. Though the adults do not actually consume the grass, their offspring are the main cause of lawn destruction. After the female sod webworms lay their eggs, these eggs hatch and the small caterpillars that emerge begin feeding on the top growths of the grass where they have hatched, usually in the spring time.

  • Army Worms

St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass are often times the feeding choice for Army worms. Growing up to 2” in length with gray/yellow stripes going down its body, army worms feed mostly at night on the blades of these warm weather grasses. Since these insects love chewing on grass, you’ll notice brown areas on the blades that indicate where an army worm has chewed.

  • Grubs

White grubs in particular, are the most damaging turf insect pest. Feeding on the roots of grass plants, they tend to be most active in mid to late summer. Just under an inch in length and shaped like a “C”, these bugs can go undetected for a long time before evidence, such as irregular sections of brown grass, appears. Since they have been busy eating away at the roots of the grass, the damaged turf can be easily detached from the soil.

  • Spittlebugs

As their name implies, Spittlebugs produce a white, ‘spit’ like protective barrier that can appear as a frothy substance on plants and grass. Adult spittlebugs do not produce this foam, but rather the nymphs that have hatched in early spring who then adhere themselves to plants and begin feeding. In particular, the Two-lined spittlebug damages grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda grass by causing patches of turf to turn yellow and eventually, brown. Proper fertilization techniques can aid in discouraging the development of Spittlebugs in your garden.

The Grass is Always Greener

Tips for Ornamental Care

Ornamental plants generally require little care and can provide interesting textures and colors to any garden. The benefit of ornamental plants is that they can flourish in diverse soil conditions. Unlike lawn grasses that require specific care and treatment, ornamental plants can be considered a bit hardier, despite their often delicate appearance.

Some ways to keep your ornamental plants happy among the rest of your garden:

  • Maintain regular fertilizer, pruning and pest control.
  • Add compost to the soil when transplanting ornamental plants.
  • Proper drainage and irrigation are important despite moisture retentive plants.
  • Periodically trim your ornamental plants, preferably in the spring as new growth occurs.
  • Allow enough space for your plants to grow.

Tips for Grass care, Fertilization & Weed Control

In addition to active pest management control, proper fertilization and weed control techniques should be used to help maintain healthy, vibrant grass. With year round tropical conditions, applying best practices to lawn care can extend the life of your lawn and provide a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy.

  • For thin grass, consider seeding it during the spring. If overseeding, it can sometimes be helpful to choose a different grass variety that has been grown for natural insect resistance.
  • Paying special attention to the type of grass ensures that the appropriate amount is cut. For example, Floritam grass should be cut at 4”, while Zoysi grass is typically cut between 2 -3 inches.
  • Watering your lawn less frequently, but with more water helps ensure that the roots are receiving adequate moisture, which will encourage them to grow deeper.
  • Fertilization applications are best done in spring and late summer.
  • Proper mowing techniques can also ensure that fertilization treatments have had time to work. Ideally, waiting a day before and after your lawn has been fertilized makes for the optimal time for mowing.
  • Weed control is best applied when the weeds have grown a bit to allow the solution to adhere from the top right down to the root

With Truly’s Lawn Care program, an initial analysis can help determine current problems pertaining to pests and overall health of your lawn. Taking into consideration everything from grass type, nutrition, watering, fertilization and more, Truly’s Lawn Care experts can identify areas that are prone to weed or insects and provide tips on how you can maintain a beautiful lawn. Contact Truly Nolen today to see how we can develop a customized lawn care plan that will keep you and your toes happy all year round!

Keeping Pests Out of a Shed (411)

While residents may notice a pest infestation in their homes early on, bugs and rodents can harbor in yard sheds and storage structures for a while before their presence becomes apparent. Especially during winter months, pests look for food and shelter in humid, covered areas. If homeowners suspect unwelcome visitors, they should contact a pest control professional promptly. However, there are several steps homeowners can take to limit the chances of an infestation.

Prepare from outside in
Wood dwelling critters like termites can severely damage the foundations, walls and roofs of garden sheds. If these bugs aren’t dealt with quickly upon first notice, they can cost homeowners hefty sums in repair and replacement fees. It’s therefore essential to eliminate elements that attract the pests.

Because rats, mice and many creepy crawlers can enter structures through seemingly tiny holes, it’s a good idea to seal up any crack or crevices in external walls, foundation and piping.

Pests are lured by moisture and standing water. It’s always important to clean up water and other liquid spills promptly. To eliminate humidity, residents should inspect external and internal faucets and eliminate any leaks in pipes and valves. Homeowners may also consider purchasing a dehumidifier to dry up the shed’s interior.

Because a lack of ventilation can foster the stuffy environment many bugs are used to, it’s a good idea to place a fan in larger storage structures. Homeowners may also consider opening and closing shed doors every day or so to let fresh air in.

Watch what you store
Sheds can be a great place to keep gardening tools, infrequently used appliances and other household items. However, residents should be very cautious about what they store.

Moths, beetles and other pantry pests can get into dry foods and grain, endangering residents and causing headaches for those whose products are destroyed. Meanwhile, rats and raccoons can contaminate pet food, putting furry friends at risk of bacterial diseases.

Dry products and soil should always be stored in an airtight container and inspected frequently and before use for signs of pests, such as dropping, larvae and rips or holes in packaging. Items like holiday decorations, clothing and bedding that are placed in a shed should be cleaned thoroughly and sealed in bins. Cooking appliances should also be effectively cleaned and free of food residue.

Firewood should never be kept in or near sheds. It’s best to place it outdoors on a platform to keep pests away. Meanwhile, if a trash bin is kept inside the shed, residents should empty it frequently.

Don’t Let Pests Sneak in this Winter

Many homeowners are preparing their residences for winter and potential bug infestations due to the cold weather. It’s important to seal up cracks, repair ripped screens and ensure the areas surrounding windows and doors don’t have any crevices that the cold wind or an unwelcome pest could penetrate.

Even though most homeowners think they’re doing everything they can to protect their residence from bugs, insects can still find their way inside and cause problems. If residents are finding pests in their home during this chilly time of year, it could be  because they are failing to properly inspect their firewood, in which the bugs are hitching a ride inside on wood stored in the backyard.

Pests can lurk in firewood
On an autumn day, it may seem like a great idea to grab some wood from the yard, and enjoy a warm fire to ward off the seasonal chill. However, the lumber homeowners are bringing inside could be covered with insects, and if it’s not checked properly before being brought inside, it could result in a pest infestation. As the holiday season approaches, many homeowners may be expecting guests and not have the time or resources to deal with an insect issue.

There are plenty of unwelcome critters that can hide in firewood, waiting to be brought into a home. Two common ones are box elder bugs and Asian lady beetles, while stink bugs are another problematic pest to look out for.

Avoiding the problem
Those who like to enjoy their fireplace during the fall and winter need to take the proper precautions before bringing any logs into their homes. A single piece of wood could contain unwelcome pests that could pose a threat to a home.

Most homeowners don’t chop their own wood, preferring to purchase it elsewhere. Being a responsible buyer is critical to preventing bug issues, so residents need to be prepared to ask questions when making a wood purchase. Buyers should always inquire as to where the wood came from. Some areas are infested with insects that live in firewood, and bringing those pests home can threaten an entire yard once the weather warms up.

Accidentally bringing wood covered with bugs into a home can also cause problems – especially if the logs are covered in stinkbugs, which can be a real nuisance to homeowners. If some unwelcome critters do manage to get into a home, it’s important to call pest control professionals to handle the situation.

Pest Control Tips for Gardens

Many homeowners have to deal with pests and the issues they bring with them. Oftentimes, these homeowners require the services of pest control professionals to remedy the situation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any tactics the homeowner can employ to help deal with the issue.

In a recent piece for the Paxton Record, Marc Amore, an area pest control expert, provided some useful information on how gardens and insects can help in pest control situations.

“People have been using plants and the chemicals that they create as pest control for several hundred years,” Amore wrote for the news source. “One of the first plants used for pest control, was the extract of the tobacco plant, nicotine. It was used by the Dutch in the 1600s. Another example is the chrysanthemum flower, from which pyrethrum is derived, and is still used commonly to this day. So this is not a new concept.”

Amore went on to list a number of herbs that can be planted among the vegetables in any garden that will go toward reducing the number of pests present there.

Anise can be effective in dealing with snails, slugs and aphids; oleander for codling moths; borage for tomato heart worms and cabbage worms; cloves for spider mites, cowpea curculio and squash vine borers; and mint for aphids, ants, flea beetles, beetles, important cabbage worms, squash bugs, rodents and white flies.

Amore added that there are a number of vegetables that can be useful in warding off pests. These include potatoes, horseradish, lettuce, radish and onions. Also, flowers known to contain properties that lend themselves to pest control efforts include marigold, petunia and geranium.

Don’t hesitate to contact the professionals
Although herbs, flowers and gardens themselves can help with pest problems, homeowners with gardens who are having trouble getting on top of an infestation should contact a pest control professional. Licensed pest control experts use only certified and approved equipment and pest control tactics that will effectively get rid of any infestation problem in a timely manner.