Transforming Turf

TruNorth Landscape wins Gold for bringing the green back to this grass.

By Heather Kortokrax
From the February 2024 Issue


When the opportunity arises to transform the turf of an esteemed residence in your area, the excitement is tangible, but so is the pressure. Performing well can mean a happy client, referrals, and a huge increase of brand visibility. Yet the stakes are raised even further when the once-lush lawn is now struggling to impress. Fortunately, our crew at TruNorth Landscaping in Traverse City, MI, were ready for just such a challenge and not only delivered a fantastic looking lawn, but earned a Gold Award in Residential Lawn Care from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

TruNorth Landscaping, Lawn Care
The turfgrass at this Old Mission Peninsula home had multiple issues when TruNorth Landscaping of Traverse City, MI was hired to bring it back to health. Two years later, the property earned Gold in Residential Lawn Care from NALP. (All photos courtesy of TruNorth Landscaping)


Partnering With Homeowners

In the middle of the 2019 season, homeowners of an Old Mission Peninsula home contacted TruNorth because they were unhappy with yet another year of their 44,500+ square foot lawn not performing well. The clients had built their dream home in a prominent location in the Traverse City area, and they wanted the landscape to complement the home, not detract from it.

The home is in a highly visible location, situated just across the road from the Grand Traverse Bay, but set far back. As a result, the large but lackluster lawn stood out to both roadside travelers as well as the homeowners every time they pulled in their driveway. The homeowners were also hoping to host a graduation party on their front lawn, but felt embarrassed to do so given the state of the grass.

Lawn Care Challenges

TruNorth LandscapingTruNorth faced many challenges on this project. They included:

  • Existing condition of the turf. Upon inspection, the turf itself was in relatively poor condition. The grass was thin with several varieties of weeds including crabgrass, dandelions, clover, and thistle. The existing turfgrass was a Mixed Bluegrass blend, which was the appropriate selection for the yard, however, it was not properly cared for.
  • Poor communication with the previous provider. In addition to the poor health of the turf, the client’s main motivation for seeking new lawn care services was poor communication with their provider. The homeowners had reached out several times with valid requests or questions and did not receive any form of response. In addition, the previous lawn care contractor had failed regularly and consistently to provide services that were promised.
  • Size and location of the turf. The size and location of both the lawn and the home were additional challenges. While the landscape around the home is designed with a minimalist approach, the lawn area is extremely large. In addition to its size, the turf is located in an area of the property that receives full, direct sun the majority of the day. The sandy soils of Northern Michigan already make it difficult for grass to hold moisture, and at this property, the issue was magnified.
  • Poorly functioning irrigation system. Upon inspection of the irrigation system, our team found that it had not been serviced or adjusted in quite some time. Several heads were broken, and watering times were too long in some areas and too short in others. We also encountered several drainage issues in the front area of the lawn near the road. Because of the home’s location along the Bay, winds were also impacting the function of the irrigation system.

Lawn Care Solutions

To begin restoring the turfgrass, we started with regular, weekly mowing. Turf was mowed with freshly sharpened blades at about3 1⁄2″ to 4″ long. Because of the size of the property, we used a 60″ Exmark Staris Stand-On Mower. We also performed edging, trimming, and blowing.

Lawn Care

In addition to regular mowing and trimming, we aerated the turf in the Fall and overseeded to fill in thinning areas of grass. This allowed our final fertilization to perform more effectively and the lawn to bounce back looking much better than it did when we originally took over.

We took an aggressive approach when it came to both fertilization and weed control. The following chemical applications were completed at the property to bolster turf health:

  • 18-0-45 with Prodiamine
  • 30-0-4 Slow Release Fertilizer
  • 21-0-4 with Merit
  • Speed Zone Herbicide
  • Defender Herbicide
  • Threesome Herbicide

Again, because of the overall size of the property, we used a stand-on Exmark sprayer/spreader to ensure optimal coverage.

Five applications throughout the growing season were timed approximately four to six weeks apart.

  1. The first application consisted of well-balanced granular fertilizer and pre-emergent crabgrass control applied around April.
  2. The second application included slow release balanced granular fertilizer, liquid post emergent weed control, and granular grub control applied in May.
  3. Application three included slow release balanced granular fertilizer and liquid spot treatment of weeds around the end of June.
  4. The fourth application included a slow release well-balanced granular fertilizer with liquid spot treatment of weeds in mid- to late-August.
  5. Finally, a slow release balanced granular fertilizer with liquid post emergent weed control was applied in the Fall.

Communication Solutions

Due to the lack of communication and trust with the homeowners’ previous provider, we knew we had to develop a specific plan of action so the client could feel comfortable and confident that improvements would be made.

Due to the lack of communication and trust with the homeowners’ previous provider, we knew we had to develop a specific plan of action so the client could feel comfortable and confident that improvements would be made.

Our landscape maintenance manager met and discussed a plan with the homeowners prior to beginning service. He explained our service includes regular quality inspections. He also explained the abilities of our landscape management software to the clients and added in several specific notes so no special requests would be missed. The homeowners were also given e-mail addresses and phone numbers of several team members so they could confidently contact us and get a response within 24 hours.

Irrigation & Moisture Solutions

Since the full-day sun was a major contributor to the struggling turf, our team immediately began working on the malfunctioning irrigation system. After hours of troubleshooting, our irrigation experts were able to locate and repair all broken heads.

Lawn CareThey also completed what should have been regular maintenance on the system. This revealed drains that were completely clogged in the front yard. Once these drains were cleared out, the drainage issues resolved themselves.

To combat the lakefront wind conditions at the site, we also swapped out several irrigation heads for a different model and adjusted watering times to earlier in the morning instead of late afternoon. For the first few months of service, we also watered two times a day due to the existing state of the turf.

In addition to simply repairing and servicing the existing system, we applied Hydretain, a moistening agent, to the turf. This was especially effective at this property because of the direct sunlight and high temperatures the lawn faces during the Summer months.

Today, we continue to perform regular irrigation maintenance services including adjusting watering times during warmer months.

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Award-Winning Results

With a detailed plan and careful attention, we were able to turn the turf around by the middle of the 2021 season. The clients were able to host the graduation party they wanted on an impressive, healthy, and lush lawn. They’re also now excited to pull into their driveway each day.

At TruNorth, as mentioned, we were awarded a Gold Award in lawn care for this property. By addressing the turf challenges head-on, our work at this property showcases the transformative power and importance of specialized lawn care services.

TruNorth LandscapingKortokrax is the marketing and advertising manager for TruNorth Landcaping. TruNorth Landscaping is a design-build and landscape maintenance firm serving Michigan’s Grand Traverse and Leelanau County area.

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