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So What’s the Difference between LawnAmerica and Trugreen?

I was out in the field with two of our Route Mangers in Bartlesville on Wednesday helping to do some lawn treatments and checking on how things were going. There happened to be a Trugreen truck running around in the same neighborhood treating some lawns, one of which was right next door to one we had just treated. In the markets we serve in Oklahoma and in North Carolina, Trugreeen is the biggest competitor, as they are the largest national lawncare company in the nation. In Tulsa however, LawnAmerica is larger than Trugreen, which is rare in the larger markets they are in.

We sometimes are asked the question, “What makes us better than Trugreen”, or any other lawncare company for that matter. So these pictures show just a few examples of why customers are better served by using LawnAmerica.

TruGreenTrugreen

Notice the sidewalk next to the turf where the lawn flags are. The LawnAmerica lawn has no fertilizer on the sidewalk, as our guys carry a blower on their trucks to remove granular fertilizer off concrete surfaces such as sidewalks, and put it into the turf where it belongs. Their guys are too busy to do that, and have too many lawns to treat that day. Blowing fertiizer off sidewalks and driveways is the right thing to do, from an agronomic and environmental standpoint, but it does take time and money.

Their fertilzer was all white, inicating that there was zero slow-release nitrogen or organic material in their fertilizer blend. TrugreenOur LawnAmerica lawn fertilizer, as you can see in this picture, has some blue pellets, green, and with two shades of brown, in addition to the white pellets. We’re not trying to have pretty colored fertilizer or anything, but these are all slow-release nitgrogen or organic sources of nitrogen. Addiing slow-release nitrogen to a fertilizer blend is also the best agronomic and environmental practice, and leads to superior results. Again, they do cost more money. I can can buy a bag of fertilzier without slow-release Nitrogen for about $6, while our spring fertilzier blend came in at almost double that price. But the results are worth it. And you can also see in the Trugreen lawn a line of crabgrass and other weeds in the turf next to the sidewalk, which has fertilzer still on it. Our lawn is clean and weed-free.

So these are just a few of the many real differences between LawnAmerica and Trugreen. It’s all about better people, better products, and better processes, such as doing the little things in blowing fertilizer off concrete areas. Trugreen is a big, national company owned by private equity. Those investors living in other states really don’t care much about customers, just the balance sheet and financials. LawnAmerica is locallly owned, and while the balance sheet is still important, I as the owner know the importance of taking care of employees and customers, and giving back to our community. That is where it all starts, and are the keys to providing great service. And I’m sure that the owner of Trugreen is not out working in the lawns, talking with customers, and does not write his own blogs!

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Proper Mowing After Rainy Periods

After the second rainiest spring in Oklahoma history, it’s been difficult to keep up with the mowing schedule on Tulsa area lawns. And, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass lawns will be exploding in growth soon with the hot temperatures, good soil moisture, and assuming that our LawnAmerica fertilizer is in the soil doing its job!

The general rule of thumb is to never take off more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade with each mowing. However, when it rains all the time, and one cannot even get a mower on the lawn for up to two weeks, the grass is going to be really high, so you’ll need to make some adjustments. If you mow at the regular height for bermudagrass, say about 2.5” now, and the grass is 5-6” tall, then you are removing over half of the leaf blade. This not only looks bad, especially with all the heavy grass clippings left on the turf, it’s also bad for the health of the turf. Excess clippings left on the turf can lead to thatch problems, as the heavy clippings cannot decompose as light clippings do. When more than 1/3rd of the grass plant topgrowth is removed, the turf then puts all of its energy into recovery and growing the leaf and blade back, at the expense of the root system. So the roots just shut down temporarily, which is bad for the turf.

So raise your mower to the highest setting, so you are not removing as much of the grass. Wait a few days then, lower the setting to normal, and mow it again. So by taking the mowing height down in stages, you’ll lessen the shock to the turf and ease it down into the proper height.

A deep, extensive root system is key for a healthy turf, so anything which hurts the root system will harm the turf. With all the rain, the turf roots have had plenty of soil moisture on the surface, so that’s where they grow. Let the top inch or so dry out some, so that the roots will then have a motive to grow deeper in the soil to absorb that deep soil moisture. A homeowner can also help train turf roots to grow deeper with mowing a little higher than normal, as there is a direct relationship between mowing height and root depth.

With the good soil moisture, now is a great time to aerate your bermudagrass lawn. This is another cultural practice which helps the health of a turf root system.

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During the past few summers, we’ve had in influx of bermudagrass mite infestations in some lawns in the Oklahoma area. I’ve been caring for turf for 30 years in Oklahoma, and until recently, mites have not been that big of an issue. For some reason though, they seem to be getting worse. The damage is typically worse under drought conditions when the turf is under stress, as has been the case for the past few summers. However even with the drought-busting rains in May, we’ve seen lawn similar to this one, with severe damage.

The very small, white bermudagrass mite in an eriophyid mite only 1/100” in size, so they cannot be seen with the naked eye. The mites feed under the leaf sheaths, sucking sap from the plants. The can go from egg to adult in 7-10 days, so the population can quickly explode into a damaging level. As the mites feed on bermudagrass, the plants shrivel and develop a “witches broom” effect or what looks like tufted growth on the stem. Yellowing and wilting then can occur, giving the appearance of drought stress and thinning turf.

Mites spread by wind, water, from other insects, etc. If mite damage is present, mow turf a little shorter than normal and bag the clippings to remove as many mites as possible. Water and fertilize the grass well so that the turf will outgrow the damage. There is no miticide or insecticide that has the bermudagrass mite on the label. However, university research and our experience has been that at least two liquid treatments of insecticides such as Bifenthrin applied about a week apart can provide some control of the mites. LawnAmerica can provide that if needed. This type of liquid insecticide treatment is fairly easy to do with a hose-end bottle of insecticide from the local garden center, which can be applied with a regular garden hose.

Chad, one of our Mangers, recently recorded a view of bermudagrass mites on a Tulsa lawn with a magnifier, in which you can actually see the tiny little pests crawling on the underside of a grass blade. Even though they are small, in such great numbers, they can wreck havoc on a lawn, so we do suggest that you treat the lawn if damage is present, or call us and we can provide service for you.

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17 years ago we were just getting started as LawnAmerica. At the same time, millions of 17-year cicadas had just hatched that spring, the males flew around singing their music to attract a female, leading eventually to this new generation of periodical cicadas coming out soon in Oklahoma. Unlike the annual cicadas, which hatch out every summer, periodical cicadas have mainly 13 or 17 year life cycles. In 2015, the Kansan Brood IV of the 17-year periodical cicada is set to emerge soon in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The cool and wet weather probably has delayed the emergence some more than likely, but we do expect them to burst out soon in our area as another reminder of the wonder of Mother Nature.

Nymphs of the cicada have been living underground for the past 17 years feeding on plant roots at about a depth of about one foot. When soil temperatures rise, typically in late May to early June, the nymphs emerge and attach to trees and shrubs, going through several molt stages as they grow into adults. The adults have stout dark brown bodies, transparent wings, and big red eyes. Adult males emerge and begin their pitched singing for several weeks in trying to attract a female mate. After mating, females can lay up to 600 eggs by cutting small slits in tree and shrub branches, which soon hatch after about 6-8 weeks into very small nymphs again and drop to the soil. These nymphs then burrow into the ground to feed and live for the next 17 years, which makes it 2032 when the next brood V will emerge.

So the adult phase of the life cycle is very short, enough time to mate, reproduce, only to die a few weeks later…..what a life! The adults are sometime called locusts, but they are not. They do not bite and are generally harmless, while very interesting to listen to and observe nonetheless. They can damage certain trees and shrubs with their slitting of the branches to deposit their eggs, but not enough to really be of concern. In some cases, the population of cicadas is so large that their constant singing is almost deafening, while very soothing in other areas. They are a great food source for birds and other animals for a time. Some say that the mole population is always great the year before emergence, with all of the larger nymphs present in the soil as a food source, with the mole population going down in the year after, with the small nymphs not being a major food source for moles at that time. Moles have seemed to be a big problem lately, so let’s hope this is true in order to decrease the mole population in Oklahoma.

For a recording of the 17-year cicadas singing, visit the following link:

https://vimeo.com/98684840

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One of the challenges that this record-setting rainfall during May has been being able to even mow your lawn in all the mud. And with all of the rain, weed-control has been a challenge. With the excessive soil moisture, we fully expect weeds to be somewhat of a challenge this summer. It’s a combination the turf not being real thick and healthy due to saturated soil, many weeds loving the wet conditions, pre-emergent herbicides breaking down a little sooner than normal, and not being able to mow frequently enough.

If you’ve had a difficult time keeping up with mowing due to the soggy soil and the grass it really high, adjust your mower setting higher than normal, so you can top off the lawn rather than cutting at the normal height. Try to not take off more than 1/3 rd of the leaf blade, which is the rule of thumb when mowing properly. Then a few days later, assuming it does not rain again, you can mow at the normal height and you should be fine.

Nutgrass, or Yellow Nutsedge, is one weed that will be a challenge this year with all the rain. Sedges are not really a grass, although they have thin blades as grasses do. Sedges love to grow in moist conditions, and boy we are living that out right now. Our 6 and 7-Step customers have an advantage with nutsedge control however, since we are wrapping up our Step 3 Treatment with Echelon Weed-Control applied. Echelon specifically targets sedges, and will do an excellent job of controlling it, even preventing it from coming up much into the summer. Nutsedge is a tough weed, and it’s not that with Echelon applied that you’ll never see a strand of Nutgrass in your lawn. We have found that with this treatment consistently applied every year, it really helps cut down on the problems, along with providing excellent control of other broadleaf and grassy weeds.

So now is a good time to upgrade your program level to our 6 or 7-Step if you are currently on 4 or 5 treatments per season so you can take advantage of the benefits Echelon provides. Lawn care is like anything else….you generally get what you are willing to pay for. So the more frequently we can come out to provide service, the better results you will see.