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Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Posted by mayasamsara FL (My Page) on
Tue, May 13, 08 at 17:53

Hello, Everyone!

My husband and I have been using TruGreen for the past year to get our lawn back after almost killing it out of ignorance. In the meantime, we've been doing some research and are ready to move on to organic lawn care.

We live in New Smyrna Beach (C/N Florida) and have St. Augustine (not sure which variety). Most of it is growing well at this time, but with a few weeds and yellow areas (working on compaction issues there).

We're hoping to find out what to do and what to expect in transitioning from chemicals. We're already mowing high and watering deeply and we're thinking about a compost application over the summer (is that a good idea?).

First, I've heard that the lawn might get bad before it gets better as we transition - is that true, and if so, is there anything I can do to minimize any die-off?

Second, does anyone have any advice for fertilizers, amounts, and timing of applications? We're definitely hoping to go the cheap-and-easy route, but we're willing to do what we need to for a nice lawn.

Lastly, is there any way to encourage more rapid populating of beneficial organisms (via application, for example), or will we just have to wait for them to return?

Thank you, in advance, for any help you can provide.

Be well!
- Marlena


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Proper watering and mowing are the important things. Fertilizer is an extra added benefit for color. It also improves the density of St Aug. Have you read the Organic Lawn Care FAQ on the Organic Gardening forum? It will help you with some of your questions.

I've never seen anything but improvement when "transitioning." Die-off is a new one on me.

If you think you need more microbes, then compost is the way to get them. The application rate is 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. I doubt you really need it. Simply feeding the microbes you have usually gives you all you need. It's a lot cheaper and easier than compost.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

First I have a question for you.
When and what was the last thing you/Trugreen applied to your lawn?

We're hoping to find out what to do and what to expect in transitioning from chemicals.
First off stop using any/all chemicals on your lawn. Leave beneficial insects alone, some include; lizards, frogs, paper wasps(the ones that make nests under your eves) etc etc. Always "Mulch Mow" at your mowers highest setting. Water with .75-1" water once a week. Feed your soil 4x per year starting early spring through late fall. Let it rest over winter.

You should expect to see A Dark Green Healthy lawn. I also have never heard of things getting worse before better.

Second, does anyone have any advice for fertilizers, amounts, and timing of applications?
Most of use use Feed Grains applied @ 10-20lbs per 1000sqft. You can get them in 50lb bags at farm/feed stores. I like using Soybean Meal(SBM) and Alfalfa Pellets. For my first spring feeding I use both @ 10-15lbs per 1000sqft. For my 3 other feedings I use SBM exclusively.
If used alone apply SBM @ 10-15lbs/1000sqft and Alfalfa @ 20-30lbs/1000.

Lastly, is there any way to encourage more rapid populating of beneficial organisms
High quality/homemade compost.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Thanks for the reply, dchall san antonio - I will continue to look through the FAQ section for additional support. When I've looked for information in the past, I was just so inundated with information from people all over the country, and wasn't sure what would best apply here.

Skoot cat - I'm not sure exactly what they applied to my lawn last time, but the last date was 3/31 for TruGreen and it was "round 3" - whatever that was, I'm not sure, as we can't find the detailed stub they left us. If you think it's important for me to find out, I can contact them tomorrow when they're available.

About two weeks ago, I sprinkled some Epsom salts on my landscaping areas and tried a bit on one small section of the lawn to see if there was any effect (none noticed at this point).

Yesterday, I sprayed some LazyMan liquid aerator and soil conditioner on the few compacted spots and after watering a bit, I used a hand-held core aerator on those areas.

Other than that, we're good on the mowing, grass cycling, leaving insects alone, and watering. We also have a backyard compost bin, but we're lazy about it and just throw plant clippings and kitchen scraps in (it's not covered, watered, turned, etc.).

Would you advise fertilizing soon, or should I wait until well into the summer?

As for the die-off issue - I read in a few places that when transitioning from chemicals, since the grass isn't used to growing deeply because it's chemical dependent and not dependent on soil organisms and nutrients, then it can sometimes get worse before it gets better. I'm glad to hear that you haven't experienced that. :)

Thank you both for your replies - it's nice to know there are people out there willing to help out. Your support is greatly appreciated!


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Thanks for the reply, dchall san antonio - I will continue to look through the FAQ section for additional support. When I've looked for information in the past, I was just so inundated with information from people all over the country, and wasn't sure what would best apply here.

Skoot cat - I'm not sure exactly what they applied to my lawn last time, but the last date was 3/31 for TruGreen and it was "round 3" - whatever that was, I'm not sure, as we can't find the detailed stub they left us. If you think it's important for me to find out, I can contact them tomorrow when they're available.

About two weeks ago, I sprinkled some Epsom salts on my landscaping areas and tried a bit on one small section of the lawn to see if there was any effect (none noticed at this point).

Yesterday, I sprayed some LazyMan liquid aerator and soil conditioner on the few compacted spots and after watering a bit, I used a hand-held core aerator on those areas.

Other than that, we're good on the mowing, grass cycling, leaving insects alone, and watering. We also have a backyard compost bin, but we're lazy about it and just throw plant clippings and kitchen scraps in (it's not covered, watered, turned, etc.).

Would you advise fertilizing soon, or should I wait until well into the summer?

As for the die-off issue - I read in a few places that when transitioning from chemicals, since the grass isn't used to growing deeply because it's chemical dependent and not dependent on soil organisms and nutrients, then it can sometimes get worse before it gets better. I'm glad to hear that you haven't experienced that. :)

Thank you both for your replies - it's nice to know there are people out there willing to help out. Your support is greatly appreciated!


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

More than likely they put down fertilizer and possibly some weed killer. Just a guess. You might want to find out for sure.

If they did apply fertilizer I personally would wait until the June or July to apply anything else. I would go with a combination of alfalfa pellets and SBM @ 10-15lbs each. Once you've applied the grains spray Unsulfured molasses @ 4oz per gallon to cover 1000sqft. Then irrigate.

SBM is high in protein, which in-turn will feed your grass very well. Alfalfa offers nutrients and a high availability of trace minerals. Alfalfa also contain trianconatol, a natural fatty-acid growth stimulant. Both can be used to feed your lawn and landscape plants.

As for the epsom salts, I would skip it and use the above.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Thank you so much! I finally feel like I know what to do for a change... :)


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

It is so easy that I have given up on the idea of writing a book. Every time I started to put fingers to keyboard, I came up with a pamphlet, not a book.

1. Water correctly (you already are)
2. Mulch mow correctly (you already are)
3. Fertilize on the federal holidays (because those dates are easy to remember). Memorial Day is coming up!

When you do that most of the problems go away. It is just that simple. I suppose I could add a step 4 that says Don't use chemicals for anything. If you ever have a question about how to take care of this or that issue or concern, please write in here. There are organic solutions for nearly everything.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Instead of writing a book, why not try writing a letter to get on a national talk show. I was thinking about the Ellen show in particular. She seems very concerned about the environment. I was disappointed that on many of the 'earth day' shows, I didn't see any mention of organic lawn care using grains as fertilizers.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Hello, all!

Well, here we are in September, and it seems that we've made a real mess of things...

We left for two weeks in July and assumed that the rain would take care of things for us (neighbors mowed for us, but only once, I think). When we got back (late July), we spread alfalfa and molasses as recommended, along with 1/2 the recommendation for the SBM. I would have put the entire amount, but it wasn't straight SBM - it had oats and corn throughout (entire grains) and I got a bit scared (even though the feed store assured me it wasn't an issue when I called them).

So, now, there is a huge dead patch with weeds growing throughout. It's been raining pretty well over the past few weeks, so I haven't worried about watering, but I'm sure our vacation had something to do with it. I also noticed a swarm of little bugs (I'm thinking chinch, from what I saw and researched) and the back yard is full of piles of dirt (moles?).

Things are going from pretty nice when we had TruGreen back in April to really bad now, and really quickly, it seems. I ordered some beneficial nematodes that should ship out tomorrow and I can apply them on Wednesday, but I'm not really sure what else to do to try to preserve what we have left.

Any suggestions? (If you feel the need for a picture, I'm happy to put one up.)

Thanks!


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

A pic would be great!

We left for two weeks in July and assumed that the rain would take care of things for us (neighbors mowed for us, but only once, I think).

If I remember correctly we had alot of rain July. But, if your area did not receive enough water your lucky to have any grass at all. Some grasses go dormant without water, but St.Augustine will die without water.

For now hand pull the weeds and pay extra attention to the dead spot. Hand water extra when needed. Since you only applied half the SBM, I would also apply the rest of the Soybean meal (dont worry about the corn/oats) and spray molasses again to the entire lawn. If you have compost apply it @ 1/4" thick in and around the affected area to help speed up recovery.

Are the problem areas in full sun, near the street, sidewalk, driveway etc?

When did the problem first appear?

Can you further describe the bugs you saw?


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

There's one major problem area where everything died - it's in full sun and we first really noticed it a couple of weeks ago. We had a bunch of rain and we're both teachers, so we've been busy, and I've just kind of been watching it and researching a bit.

As for the bugs, I had read somewhere about chinch bugs and told myself I'd start testing for them, but that night, there was a swarm of them on my bathroom window (adjacent to the dead spot) and a few of them somehow came inside, so I got a good look. They were very small, but longish and slender with whitish wings. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought that matched the chinch description pretty well. Since the rains a couple of weeks ago, I haven't seen them out like that night, and I've been watering a little extra (I read that sometimes runs them off).

I will work on posting some pictures in a few minutes.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support with this. It's so nice being able to get expert help! :)


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Wow - I didn't know I'd have such a hard time figuring out how to add some photos...

You can see smallish pictures at the site linked. There are two that show the overall area and two that show it close up next to grass and the weeds growing in it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of my lawn issue


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

That looks like brown patch or brown spot to me, which is a fungus. I also live in Florida up near Jacksonville. I am also new to the organic lawn care scene and am preparing to put down my first application of corn meal. I chose corn meal because the Organic Lawn Care FAQ said that a good fungus grows on the corn meal which can destroy bad fungus such as brown patch. I have two spots as well but treated with chemical fungus control about a month ago before deciding to go organic. The dead grass has to be raked out and new sod or plugs put in. I would probably cover the affected area with compost prior to putting in the sod or plugs.

BTW, were did you get your beneficial nematodes? If you do have cinch bugs, hopefully the nematodes can help with that.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Thats not as bad as I thought. Not to worry, I have a few spots in my lawn that look like that as well. If you look around at other S.A. lawn most have some heat/stress damage. The sun has been brutally hot lately and the grass has taken a toll. Pay extra attention to the lawn and look for signs of drought stress, wilting etc. In the afternoon your lawn will wilt, if by the next morning its still wilted it should be watered withing 24hrs. Its going to take some time for the runners to fill in these spots, but it will happen, so be patient.

First Off- Sharpen and balance your mower blade. The tips of grass appear to be shredded.

In the dead areas lightly rake up the dead material as not to damage the surrounding healthy grass. Remove as many stolons/runners as you can, they should pull out by hand easily. Then get some quality compost and spread it 1/2" thick in and around the effected area. (If you use Composted Cow Manure, mix in some peat to lighten it up a bit. 2parts peat to 1 part compost manure) You could also fling some Used Coffee Grounds(free at Starbucks) before you apply the compost.

If you've received the nematodes, tonight would be an ideal time to apply them. The weather is suppose to be cloudy and rainy through Thursday.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Thank you so much for the information. I've been so busy and haven't been able to find the time to get back on here until now.

I did get the nematodes that Wednesday and applied them and watered them in. It really hasn't rained at all here since, but I've been trying to keep track and water properly. The patch seems to have grown a bit and I'm starting to see a lot more brown throughout the lawn (although not in patches - just dead matter at the base of the grass blades) and the moles are doing a great job of making everything feel funny when I'm walking around out there.

As for the mower blade, we had taken the original one to get it sharpened a while back and the guy that sharpened it said there wouldn't be much left to sharpen the next time. It was still shredding the grass blades at that point, so we bought a new blade, but the story was the same in terms of the shredding. I thought I was just making something out of nothing, until you noticed it, too. We did get an old-fashioned reel mower that we've been using on the front (my husband refuses to do the entire backyard with it, due to the size) and it seems to be kinder to the grass blades. Do you have any suggestions for the best way to go about sharpening the gas mower blades?

Oh, and we're planning to put down the rest of the SBM and molasses today.

Thanks, as always, for your help! :)


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

It was still shredding the grass blades at that point, so we bought a new blade, but the story was the same in terms of the shredding.

I had the same thing happen. My blade was sharp, but it was tearing up the grass. Turns out my mowers RPM's were too low and needed to be adjusted. Once I had the RPM's tuned up(approx. $7.00) it was cutting like a champ. Take it to your local mower shop and ask it they can check/adjust the RPM's of your mower.

We did get an old-fashioned reel mower that we've been using on the front (my husband refuses to do the entire backyard with it, due to the size) and it seems to be kinder to the grass blades.

I dont blame him! Plus, the problem with most reel mowers is the cutting height. Even the highest setting on a reel mower is usually to low for St.Augustine grass. S.A. should be cut @ 3-4+ inches, measurement taken from solid ground up to the cutting deck.

You should notice an improvement in your lawns appearance soon. Summer takes a toll on everyone's lawn. Be sure to feed your lawn one more time before winter (around Thanksgiving) Then let it rest until spring. Continue to water deep and infrequently and mulch mow all fall leafs as often as needed.

Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a perfect lawn. Every lawn (organic or synthetic) is going to have problems, changes in appearance etc. Overtime, when using organics/grains, these issues are usually less drastic and in most cases take care of themselves. Next year your lawn will preform better, then the year after that you should see the full effects of an organic lawn. Hang in there, and remember you have a self healing lawn. S.A. spreads by runners and will quickly fill in a bare/troubled area.

best of luck


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

The best thing for you to use is TurfPro. You are basically in central florida as I am, have you ever listened to the Garden Rebel on saturday mornings? He has recommended this product for years, I finally found it on the web at www.TurfProUSA.com and used it, I was so happy to have found something that is 100% organic that actually works. It is so simple to use, you just water it into your lawn, it comes with a hose-end sprayer or just use your own, it is great.

Here is a link that might be useful: TurfPro products online distributor


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Maya, I live in central Fl as well and tend to agree that transitioning is difficult. (I also have St. Augustine floratam) This is my first year and to date have applied sbm, alfalfa both as tea and in pellet form. I have also fought chinch bugs, and brown patch.
The good news is that the beneficial nematodes seemedto have worked and cornmeal applied about 3 weeks ago, stopped the brown patch in its tracks. I see a greening (to date uneven) and have raked dried grass abd re-plugged. Also, I have no weeds so there is hope for the future through if the truth be told, a few weeks ago I looked rather longingly at the grass of my neighbors who use Tru-Green.

I realise now that there is no instant fix and refuse to go back to chemicals. I plan to apply organic manure with peat in a week or so - I dis that last week but did not completely cover my large lawn. Now that it is cooler the grass looks better and the plugs have a better chance of catching. Good luck!


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

rosarama,
What do you mean by 'organic manure?'


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

David - Where have you been? missed you! By "organic manure" I mean manure that is l;abeled "organic" purcvhased fro my local HD. To that I add everything from my kitchen scraps (no meat, of course). I let it sit for a few months until all the ingredients are broken down and then I use it. My roses calle out to me in loud voices about two weeks after I give them some of it so it should work well for the lawn as well - shouldn't it?


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Good soil is all about getting carbon and the right amounts of minerals in the soil. And fine tuning the ph to get the maxium use of those ingredients.
Appying liquid carbon in the form of humate and liquid organic fertilizers are the cheapest and most effective way to go. In otherwords less work and less time consuming. Just spray it on and continue to mulch those clippings that's all there is too it.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Hi Rosarama, I left for another lawn forum when Bestlawn got the boot from GardenWeb. That didn't work out so well so I'm basically between forums and just haunting around right now.

Regarding the manure, if it smells like manure, then I would not use it directly on the lawn. Some of the fresh manures contain a lot of urine that can burn the grass right away. I'd let it compost over the winter. Once it smells very fresh, then it is ready to use.

I'd be interested in reading more about greenstay's ideas. To me good soil is more about a healthy population of beneficial microbes than it is about getting carbon and the right amounts of minerals. Fine tuning pH is the very least of my priorities. And I've never seen a liquid product that can supply as much protein per 1,000 square feet as three dollars worth of corn meal can.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Of course micro organisms are part of the solution and the liquid fertlizer mixture, (soil food) I use supplies this, at up to 1000% increase. I spray fish, kelp, humate, mollases, bone meal, and lime or sulfer to adjust the PH.
Nitrogen is better utilized with a PH of 6 and above, so the PH is an important factor.

Carbon in a rain forest is low because it is leached out. That rain forest would be very productive with more carbon. The tribes in the Amazon have learned this principle to survive. That's where mulching the clippings come in play.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

Okay I see what you're saying. I think we're talking the same issues with different language. I think in terms of protein and carbohydrates and you're saying nitrogen and carbon. There's protein (nitrogen) in your fish and kelp and carbohydrates (carbon) in your kelp and molasses.

And I'm not saying pH is not important, it is just that you'll never find me micromanaging it. I get what I get from my soil. My white limestone dust soil starts at a pH of about 8.5 and gets adjusted by the microbes down toward 7(ish) until the rains come and wash the acidity out. Then the plants turn yellow and we get to wait until the microbes have a winter to recreate the lower pH for us. The only material that helps adjust the pH on limestone seems to be a product called greensand or glauconite. The reason it works is not understood but there's a lot of guessing about it.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

To show you what Dchall is saying about growing on limestone soil...

Before and After Lawn

So it is pretty much pointless to focus on pH in my case and dchall when you have that much of limestone to deal with. Ideally, you plant something that can do fine in such high pH soil and it's fine. I've used a ton of greensand but I don't have anything to compare to on just how much it really helped. Soybean meal is my main fertilizer with occasional alfalfa pellets and kelp liquid spraying everywhere. Maybe it's me but it seemed to help my lawn stay green longer into the fall/winter despite 20 nights of freezing temperatures. January is usually the coldest month though so that will probably cause total dormancy and not see any new growth till late feburary-early march.


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

That's my soil!!

The main pH adjuster for my soil is the microbes. They seem to so something to make the iron available when it should be bound up in the high pH soil. When we get torrential rains for a week, then the grass turns yellow. If I am "johnny-on-the-spot" with my greensand, the grass will never turn yellow. Otherwise it turns yellow in a week and remains that way until I apply greensand or until the following spring. If I apply greensand after the grass has turned yellow, then it takes 3 weeks to green up. This year I waited and waited until it would have only been green for a few weeks. Instead I just blew it off and will wait until March when the grass greens up and starts growing again. I will apply corn meal on Washington's Birthday but that's all until Memorial Day (unless the torrential rains come in April or May).


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

David, the manure I use is all broken down. Of late been putting it into an aerated garbage can and adding everything from my kitchen, except meat, potato peelings, etc. I keep adding layers of the manure to encourage the additions to break down and when it all looks like soil, I plan to apply it to my lawn and roses. I did this last year but only to the roses. They spoke to me after that and in a loud voice too (lol)


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RE: Transitioning from TruGreen to Organic - St. Augustine

The problem with beneficial nematodes is that the are very sensitive to chemicals and dry weather. Hope that you have been organic for a while otherwise the nematodes won't work. Keep the lawn as wet as possible while they do their work. Praying Mantis may work also to kill some bugs. I have had two properties with lots of moles. First time I tried to kill them. This time I let them live and once they ate up all the grubs they moved to another spot. They used to be in my front yard. Now they are all in the back yard. Had to add a little grass where the moles tunneled, but they ate more pests than they ruined grass. Don't give up and go back to TruGreen. TruGreen does short-term cures but looking at my neighbors who use TruGreen, the magic of the chemicals doesn't last and they're so bad for you and your neighbors. The TruGreen employees are not well-trained. Today I watched one spray grub and weed killer on my neighbors' lawn with only gloves and no mask or protective clothing. His cotton pants were soaked to the knees with chemicals. This is the guy who tells you his chemicals are safe. Doesn't that tell you something? I've been working on improving the soil on my lawn for years. Natural fertilizer, some lime and my lawn is green and lush as could be. I get complemented on my lawn by all who walk by, but if you get up close, I have lots of weeds, but they are green and when I mow them, they look like lush grass. The weeds and natural grasses are native so the thrive better in the local climate. I think the better lawn care is to improve the soil get as close to native grass as you can, without heavy fertilizer use, but with compost perhaps a little added topsoil each year. TruGreen overfertilizes so the grass roots stay short and when you have dry weather or a drought the grass all dies. Personally, I wish people would worry more about their health than their lawns. My backyard is now half wildflowers and wild grasses which require no care and If I choose to mow them, they would look like a lawn too. Good luck with your lawn, but I hope you can worry about more important things than bugs and dead patches. It isn't the end of the world. Leukemia and lung disease and chemical sensitivity from lawn chemical exposure could be the end of the world.


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