Turf - demon?

A city commissioner proposed passing a city ordinance limiting lawns.  The purpose was to reduce the citizens carbon footprints by replacing turf with hardscapes saving the city water usage, water run-off and lawnmower exhaust. It was a bad idea!!! 


How do I choose plants for my yard?

Often, we choose plants for yards simply because we like their appearance.  It is tempting, but choosing by looks alone costs money, ending in disappointment.  The United States divides into hardiness zones.  We're in Zone 8, meaning the average low is about 38 degrees, record low- about 6.  Plants chosen for Zone 8 are happy in our area.  So- Mother Nature's Private Eye counsel is this:  Get into the ZONE!!!


What is IPM?

IPM is an acronym used by environmental professionals.  Mother Nature likes IPM because it's an environmentally friendly and a very, very responsible approach to chemicals, lawns and landscapes.  IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management.  Good environmental stewards demand an IPM approach.


#1 Lawn Maintenance/Landscape Treatment

Mythconception: Every mailman, every barber and everybody on a Homeowner's Association board know the facts about the water use of warm-season turf grasses. It is purported that St. Augustine grass uses far, far more than any other warm-season turf grass.

Facts: All warm-season grasses require water to stay green, even the new cultivars of zoysia. [Zoysia is my personal favorite.] Some of the turfs will green back up more quickly when water is supplied, others may have less ability to bounce back. Under well-watered conditions bahia grass has been shown to use more water than St. Augustine grass. Replacement of St. Augustine grasses with any of these cultivars have no substantial water savings. St. Augustine has tremendous resiliency and ability to grow during the long days of summer.

#2 Landscape Treatment

Mythconception: All fertilization events are an opportunity for nutrients to leach or runoff into water bodies.

Facts: Fertilization is incredibly important in maintaining a healthy attractive landscape. The benefits of a healthy turf are numerous, including decreasing our carbon footprint, reducing soil erosion, temperatures, noise, air pollution, filtering the effects of stormwater runoff, providing play areas and keeping little paws from tracking dirt into the house. OK, that last fact is based on my own scientific observations at my home. The other facts are published facts taught in a cliff hanger research paper by Beard and Green (Beard, J.B. And R.L. Green. 1994. The role of turfgrasses in environmental protection and their benefits to humans. J. Environmental Qual. 23:452-460).

Application amounts is established by scientific criteria. When the proper blend and rates are used 100% of the nitrogen applied is utilized by the turf. Nutrients are required by the turf and plants to be up to doing the jobs listed above.

The type of fertilizer is critical. Some franchises use cheap fertilizer that has quick release nitrogen. Quick release of nitrogen impresses you by greening up your lawn quickly which gives the illusion of health. The reality is the nutrients need to be released over a period of time to develop healthy root systems. At Nature's Finest we pay an additional $18 - 14/bag to have a blend that is absorbed and utilized by the landscape. The extra expense is caused by having the nitrogen wrapped which makes it impossible for the fertilizer to leach into our water. The fertilizer we choose to use is environmentally responsible. The price is significantly different. Some competitors use 50# bags that cost $14 - $20. With the slow release nitrogen and added nutrients we pay $32 - $38 a bag. Our water is worth protecting.

#3 Landscape Treatment


Healthy turfgrass can capture up to four times more carbon from the air than is produced by the engine of our lawnmowers. "When you take care of your lawn and promote a healthy root system, your lawn acts as a carbon sink, pulling and storing away carbon," reports Dr. Sahu. He is an energy expert and University instructor. The report is available at

Sahu studied well-managed turfgrasses that are cut regularly and at the appropriate height, fed with nutrients, such as grass clippings, watered responsibly and not disturbed at the root zone. Mowing grass and pruning shrubs and trees keeps plants in a growing state. This, in turn, ensures they are actively pulling carbon dioxide- a greenhouse gas - from the air.

Dr. Sahu says, "Your lawn, if managed properly, can be essentially a decent foot solider in our quest to reduce our carbon footprint." He then added,"the key is to actively manage your lawn, improving its carbon intake, and not letting it 'go to seed' and into a 'dormant state.'"

Allowing us to maintain your lawn is saving our environment. In addition to a healthy lawn we reduce water consumption by choosing the correct mower height. It is win/win for us and our children.

#4 Lawn Maintenance


The most common problems in the landscape are typically foliar leaf spots or blights. Leaf spot can be caused by both fungi and bacteria and result in dark blotches or spots on foliage. Root stem and crown rots are more serious diseases and will make plants yellow, droop and often stunt growth. We can also throw in the discussion the mildews and molds that thrive in Tallahassee.

But the bottom line is we can prevent infection by selecting the right plants for the right site. Plants need the correct soil and light conditions and to be planted at the correct depth. Don't mulch too closely to the stems or crowns and keep the plants properly fertilized. Keep weeds out of the garden so they don't compete for nutrients.

The greatest contributor to many plant diseases is improper water management. We can't control the weather but we can choose when we water plants under normal circumstances. Remember absolutely no overhead watering of plants in the evening which leaves foliage wet for long periods and encourages the growth of leaf spots, blights and mildews. When foliage stays wet over night it is a disaster.

Keep the garden clean, removing dead foliage. Anticipate problems for the next season. Any diseases identified this year will likely produce inoculum that leads to more problems next season unless the proper timing and treatments are scheduled to reduce the impact.

Whenever we speak about diseases remember that diseases are the exception not the rule. For the problems to occur you have to have a susceptible plant, the right environment and a pathogen.

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