By Rusty,

Now that we have made it most of the way through the dark days of winter and our plants are brown and damaged from cold snaps, it's time to plan your spring pruning for rejuvenating your landscape.

There are four major reasons for pruning a plant:
1. To improve flower or fruit production
2. To direct the growth and shape of the plant
3. To change the size of the plant
4. To promote plant health

With spring just around the corner, it's the pruning season for many Florida landscape plants. You can spring new life into a plant by letting it flush out from rejuvenation pruning.

But, what is rejuvenation pruning?
Rejuvenation pruning is the removal of old or overgrown limbs so that the plant can grow new, healthy branches in their place. Plants that require rejuvenation can be “hard pruned” or pruned gradually.

Why is rejuvenation pruning done?
This type of deep pruning is done to “rejuvenate” the health of shrubs. Without regular pruning, shrubs can get crowded, look messy, produce fewer flowers, and leave the plant looking really unhealthy.

When is rejuvenation pruning needed?
This radical form of pruning is used when shrubs are overgrown, leggy, dying in the interior and/or have slowed flowering. This typically happens to fast-growing, multi-stemmed shrubs if they haven’t been properly pruned for several years.

Rejuvenation pruning gives these shrubs a fresh start. After stems have been removed down to the ground, the shrub quickly begins to regrow. Flowering shrubs produce more blossoms in following years and shrubs with colorful stems, such as dogwoods, tend to grow back brighter and more colorful after rejuvenation pruning.

What time of year should rejuvenation pruning be done?
Rejuvenation or renewal pruning is usually done in early spring before new growth emerges. Pruning in this way during a later time of year can cause excessive stress to the plant.

Which Gainesville Landscape plants can benefit from rejuvenation pruning?
- Perennials
that grow very fast have flowers that get frozen back to sticks
(examples: Firespike, Lantana, Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Plumbago…all of these need to be cut back every year to cut off the frost damaged to grow from base (Crape Myrtles as well)

- Spring blooming plants after they are finished flowering. Many Southern shade garden plants such as Azaleas and Camellia in the spring blooming category. You can prune spring bloomers any time after flowering, but before the Fourth of July as these plants begin to set next year’s blooms from mid-summer to fall. If you prune too late in the year, you will not experience blooms the following spring.These plants may look dead but they may very well have life in them. Never prune this set of plants until after they flower.

- Ornamental Grasses such as Flax, Muhly grass, and Pampas Grass will need rejuvenation pruning after hard frosts. This ensures the dead and frost-damaged leaves do not remain along with the new growth from spring, leaving the plant healthier and more appealing.

- Leggy looking plants such as Knockout and Drift Roses when they are overgrown and in need of rejuvenation pruning. If a plant gets too much growth on old wood-then sometimes old branches will start restricting the nutrients that go to those limbs and the rejuvenation pruning will allow more growth and fill back out without all those dead “leggy” limbs.

Pruning at the correct time of year can improve structure, control growth, and encourage beautiful blooms. If you are happy with the size, shape, and blooming of your plants, you have it easy. You may not even need to prune at all!

If you would like more information on pruning, check out a few of our Youtube videos on the topic:

What can be done with Muhly and Pampas Grasses to keep them appealing?
Spring Pruning for Golden Cassia Trees
Spring Pruning in your Gainesville Landscape
3 Tips for Pruning Crape Myrtles in Gainesville, Florida

If we can be of help with your spring rejuvenation pruning Gainesville landscape maintenance chores - or the surrounding areas of Alachua, Jonesville, and Newberry - please don't hesitate to reach out to us at (352) 378-LAWN or fill out our form at the top of the page!

By Rusty,

A lush, well-manicured lawn adds to curb appeal and enjoyment of your home. But lawns are susceptible to diseases and pests, especially if they're left vulnerable from poor cultural practices like underwatering or being scalped too low. Here are five common things your Gainesville lawn is trying to communicate to you, and how to spot and fix each before they get bad.

Problem #1
Problem: Brown Spots

brown spot in grass

What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: There are several causes of brown, or even dead, spots in your turf. Some are obvious, like a dog peeing in a certain area, but others require a little more detective work. It could be  weeds dying off from a lawn weed treatment, the soil pH could be too acidic, or even an area having too much shade or not enough water. How do you know? It may have a couple causes like the ones listed in the tips below, but I would start out looking to see if it's too shaded or not getting enough water - as that is most often the case.

If it's in full sun, check your sprinkler coverage by testing the system; you may need to adjust sprinkler head orientation to get full coverage. If it's in the shade, you need 4-6 hours of sunlight to grow a healthy Gainesville lawn. You may want to prune some tree limbs up. 

Problem #2
Problem: Grass Is Wilting or blades are folding up

wilted grass

What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: It probably needs a deep watering. Most lawns have a mix of different types of grass, and some types will start to wilt or turn brown before the others. In our area, Zoysia is the first to decline in dry weather due to it going dormant. (I know, it's weird that the drought-tolerant grass shows drought stress the qucikest - see our YouTube videos for more on this)

The folding grass blades, even when mixed with healthy green blades, are early indicators that the lawn is starting to suffer from a drought. The photo above is a St. Augustine lawn with bad drought stress. 

If you haven't increased your watering in the spring, this is the time. Check soil moisture by sticking your finger in the soil. If the soil is dry, it will feel like sand and know you need to increase your irrigation settings. You will need to water for longer periods of time to allow the water to sink deeper into the soil, and water a minimum of 2x per week.

"You want to water infrequently but longer to encourage the roots to go deeper," our irrigation manager Chuck says. "Watering light everyday is not as good as a deep watering two or three times a week." The ideal time is between 4 and 6 am. Cooler temperatures limit evaporation, but the grass will dry during the day. Watering at night leaves wet grass, which can promote Gainesville lawn fungus and disease. 

Problem #3
Problem: Circles Pop Up in the Grass

circles in grass

What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: The circles, are the result of a fungus in the soil and presents itself as Large Patch or Brown Patch Fungus.

The fungal threads in the soil will initially cause the grass in the circle to appear orange in the outer circle  because that is where the fungus is most active. As it grows, the middle will turn brown and the outer ring will expand to take over more and more of your lawn. This disease stays in the soil year-round, but typically pops up in Gainesville grass in Fall and Spring Seasons as we transition between cold and warm weather and there is excess moisture to make it activate.

Reducing irrigation and applying fungicide is your first line of defense against the circles. You only have to treat the affected area, but lawn fungus applications aren't inexpensive. Cutting back irrigation should be a priority, and whatever you do - do not fertilize when you have large patch in your lawn. It will feed the fungus instead of the lawn. 

Problem #4
Problem: Grass Won't Grow Under a Tree

grass not growing under tree

What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: Large trees can block the sun, while pine trees drop needles around the trunk, which also can kill the grass.

To be perfectly honest here: let it go. Trying to maintain healthy turf under the tree can be a constant challenge. You'll have to trim back branches to let the sun shine through, or continually rake up leaves and pine straw. Even then, the grass may struggle due to the fight for water and nutrients with the larger and stronger tree roots. 

You're better off not having the competition between the tree and the turf. Instead, we recommend putting mulch around the base of the tree and shade-tolerant landscaping like Hydrangea and Agapanthus to add color and create an attractive bed rather than a receding Gainesville lawn. 

Problem #5
Problem: Patchy dead spots by sidewalk, walkway, curb

patchy spots in grass

What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: Chinch Bugs can take up residence in your Gainesville lawn quickly and cause all kinds of problems. A lawn suffering from disease or heat stress from lack of water is most vulnerable, and typically they love to attack near concrete, driveways, or walkways (such as the photo shows). The trick is to identify it quickly and treat them before they damage more of the lawn. 

Common lawn pests include chinch bugs, army worms, webworms, and spittlebugs - but the most common this time of year are chinch bugs. These ant-sized bugs feast on drought-stressed grass and typically start by the concrete. But they overwinter in your lawn, and the larva emerge there, eating and killing turfgrass roots.

You can treat infestations with insecticides, but be careful. "Knowing what you're going after is the key," Chuck said. "It's important to use an insecticide that is labeled for that insect on not just any big box store product." If you aren't experienced in this area, hire a Gainseville lawn pest control professional. 

We hope these 5 tips about what your lawn is communicating are helpful to keep your Gainesville landscape looking top notch. If we can be of service, cal us at (352) 378-5296 or email

By Rusty,

Here are a couple tips to avoid frost damage in your Gainesville turfgrass. Regardless of if you have St. Augustine, Zoysia, Centipede, or Bermuda - these are great tips to help keep your grass protected on those chilly evenings in Northern Florida. 

  • Wait for the sun to rise to melt the frost from your lawn before stepping, driving, or applying impact pressure on your grass.
  • Give your grass a deep watering the night before an expected frost. The watering allows moisture to slowly evaporate overnight, causing friction and heat around the grass blades. As the night air drops below freezing, you turf will have a slightly higher temperature from the evaporating heat process, allowing your grass to not reach the freezing temperature that causes plant cell wall damage.
  • Move the mower blades up .5 inches, allowing longer leaves to help shelter grass crowns from future frosts.
  • Refrain from mowing right before a frost. Mowing creates a wound on the plant, making it more susceptible to frost damage.

If your lawn has already endured frost damage and you would like help in repairing it, The Master's Lawn Care offers sod replacement and fertilization programs to help renovate your lawn. Feel free to give us a call at (352) 378-5296. 

Tips to Avoid Frost Damage in your Gainesville Lawn
By Rusty,

All across Gainesville we are seeing substantial damage to plants and landscaping thanks to the cold weather. With weeks still to go before the danger of more frost passes and cold weather returning as soon as later this week, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how to prune, and when not to prune, the plants in your yard.

Ideally, we would wait until late February to prune plants, but realistically, many of us do not want to have unsightly looking plants in our yards until them. There are some things that you can do to make sure your yard looks neat now, while looking out for the over all health of the plant. In Gainesville one of the biggest concerns is that our weather patterns tend to fluctuate, getting warm enough to start tender growth, then cold enough again to cause damage. Care must be used to protect plants from these cycles, as the frost and freezing temperatures are more damaging to new growth.

1. Prune back to the ground.

frost damaged lantana

In this image shown of a frost-damaged lantana, you can see that cold has damaged the plant throughout. There is no green growth underneath these twigs, however we do expect this plant to return in the spring. This dying back and regrowing in the spring is normal for this plant in our Gainesville, Florida landscape zone 8. We recommend pruning back to just a few inches off of the ground. It will look much neater and flush out with new growth when warmer temperatures return.

2. Avoid cutting into live growth.

frost damaged plant

In this example, you can see there is some cold damage to leaves, but there is plenty of green (pink in this plant) growth as well. In this case, we recommend leaving the plant untouched and waiting until early March to do heavier pruning. Cutting back this plant will leave more of the live plant exposed and at risk for further injury in cold weather. The previously damaged leaves, while unsightly, actually help offer some protection from cold, acting as insulation. 

3. Take the middle line.

frost damaged flax lily

Here we have an example of some flax lilies in a clients lawn that have been heavily damaged by frost due in part to their unprotected location. If you have plants like these, the best thing would be to wait, but that definitely leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically. In this case, I would recommend a neat trimming to bring the plant into a tight ball shape, leaving approximately 6-10" of leaves still in place for insulation, but greatly improving the landscape's aesthetic appeal until regrowth occurs in spring. 

4. An ounce of prevention.

plants covered by fabric during a frost

This old adage holds true with frost damage to plants too, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's important to take a couple precautionary steps to protect your lawn and landscape during a frost warning -  cover tender plants in advance of cold weather, protect your irrigation's backflow preventer, and shut off your irrigation system.

A question that comes up often this time of year is about using irrigation to insulate plants from frost, and I have to note that this is not something that we recommend for the average homeowner. While this is a technique that some farmers do to protect their crops, there is a bigger risk for most of us that we may get the timing off, and wind up with plants that suffer worse damage from running sprinklers during a frost. 

I hope these tips help you decide whether to prune, or not to prune, your frost damaged plants. If you have specific examples that you would like some feedback or direction on, we welcome your emails at

If we can help replace some of your frost-damaged landscaping, repair your Gainesville sprinkler system, or help your lawn recover from the cold - don't hesitate to call us at (352) 378-5296!