It’s time to work on your Lawn !

It’s time to think about Lawn Quality

Many of us think of spring as the prime time for rejuvenating our yards and landscapes, but did you know that FALL is really the best time to work on improving your lawn quality. Why…you ask?? In this part of the country, we grow cool weather grasses. These varieties of grass typically take 3 weeks to germinate from seed. When planting grass seed in the fall (Late August, beginning of September), they will begin to germinate and actively grow during the end of September, all of October, November and even some in December…..that’s approximately 12 weeks of growth. The new grass plants go dormant for the winter and then begin to grow the middle of March, April, May and June (now 22 +/- week old plants) before getting stressed out with the Summer heat and humidity.

Compared to seeding in the Spring and putting new grass plants (10 +/- weeks old) through the summer stresses, the older fall grass plants will stand a better chance of surviving. The moral of the story? Always, always, seed in the FALL !!!

So what should you do this fall?

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Time to aerate

Start by Aerating your lawn. Aeration is the process of producing holes in your lawn (that look like plugs). Aerating your lawn will allow oxygen and water to get down to the root zones of your grass plants. This is a great preventative maintenance service for your lawn. And yes….leave the plugs alone. They will eventually break down and go away.

Next, apply lime to your lawn. I like pellatized lime…..it takes a little longer to break down but it’s basically un-noticeable when applied to your turf. Lime is an essential mineral for lawns. Lime will sweeten up the pH of your lawn, thus allowing the grass plants to more efficiently process the nutrients of the lawn application (fertilizers) that are made each year.

Seed into your existing lawn…..A slit-slicing machine will drop a pre-calibrated amount of seed in front of vertical slicing blades (which plant the seed in the soil). The benefit of slit/slicing your lawn with grass seed is that it will introduce new varieites of grass into your lawn and in time will help thicken up your lawn. And once you are done introducing new grass seed into your lawn…be sure to water. In fact, if it’s warm, you may have to water 2-3 times per day. It is imperative to keep the seed bed (the soil) moist during seed germination.

You may need to do a lawn renovation at the end of the growing season

Bare spot caused by fungus

If you have a bare spot in your lawn….scratch the spot out, add a light layer (1/8″-1/4″ of compost) and plant some grass seed in the spot. Make sure the seed is in contact with the compost…..seed needs to make contact with soil to germinate. Cover lightly with some straw and water away !!!

Fertilize your lawn. Did you know that you should be applying 4 pounds of nitrogen (fertilizer) per 1,000 sq.ft of grass per growing season to keep your lawn healthy and green. Many of us take supplements to keep our bodies strong….why deprive your lawn? The spring (May), Fall (September) and late fall (October/November) are the BEST times to fertilize. So this September apply a nice application of slow release fertilizer to your lawn.

Fertilize your lawn to keep it growing in the fall

It’s time to Fertilize your lawn

Work on weed removal during September and October….that right, get rid of the weeds !!!! The “nasty” looking crab grass plants can manually be removed. And some of the more tender broadleaf weeds can be removed with the use of “selective herbicides”. A selective herbicide application can help remove the weed from your lawn while not effecting the surrounding grass. So go ahead and remove those weeds.

In summary…..after the residual effects of a six week stretch of high temperatures, high humidity and intermittent rainfalls we are seeing declines in lawn quality, outbreaks of weeds, and yes a lot of fungus. It’s been a tough summer on lawns. There is a lot of wet, hot soil out in our yards creating havoc on your lawn. Start making your plan NOW for a thorough lawn rejuvenation.

If you have any questions about any of the above information, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 914-377-9039.

 

IPM (Integrated Pest Management)….Watching for problems

IPM – Start Scouting for Problems in the Landscape 

Keeping a sharp eye on your landscape is a key part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). By quickly noticing changes that could indicate problems such as invasive plants, unwanted pests, poor soil quality, inadequate drainage or other issues, you can more quickly take steps to solve those problems with the least invasive method necessary.

How to Scout Your Landscape

Scouting your landscape means you need to be in intimate touch with the changes in your yard, whether it is the growth and health of turf, the bloom and blossom cycle of flowers, growth patterns of evergreen plants or life cycles of insects. All landscapes have natural life cycles and seasonal changes, and you need to be aware of their usual changes in order to spot something different that may indicate a problem. When watching your yard, take careful note of…

Foliage color, shape and condition

  • Budding and growth patterns
  • Turf density, growth and color
  • Bloom density, size and quality
  • Fruiting cycles and produce sizes
  • Water issues, including standing water or drainage
  • Wilting plants
  • Plant damage or injuries
  • Insect populations and their life cycles

Not all changes are necessarily problems, and the more aware you are of seasonal changes, the more easily you will be able to spot unwelcome issues. It can be helpful to keep records about your landscaping, noting dates of typical blooms or garden progress and other seasonal changes. In time, you will become very aware of the natural cycle of your landscaping, and you will quickly note unusual changes.

When You See a Problem

Seeing a problem is the first step in correcting it, and if you’ve scouted your landscape regularly, you are more likely to notice problems when the solutions may still be simple and easy. When something unwanted happens in your landscape…

  1. Identify the Issue
    To treat a problem effectively, you have to know exactly what that problem is. If you see a new weed or unwanted bug appearing in your yard, for example, identifying the exact pest will help you plan how to control it with the fewest chemicals or least effort so the rest of your landscape is not affected.  You may need to do a lawn renovation at the end of the growing season
  2. Define Your Tolerance
    IPM is all about tolerating a natural landscape, and that occasionally means some pests are allowed in your landscape when they don’t adversely affect the entire yard or garden. A single bug or weed may not be a problem at all, and if it doesn’t take over the landscape, the best action may be to leave it alone. Learn about the potential problem, and decide if it is worth reacting to before taking any action. This could mean scouting the landscape more regularly to note the pest’s progress rather than reacting right away.
  3. Research Multiple Solutions
    There are many ways to react to different landscape problems. Some unwanted bugs, for example, could be hand-picked off your plants, or they may vacate your landscape by themselves if you plant different vegetation. Adjusting your watering schedule may make the landscape less inviting, or you may need to try a selective pesticide. Study all the solutions to each problem to understand your options, and how each of those options may affect other parts of the landscape. Will changing your watering cause other plants to wilt? Could a pesticide take away more beneficial bugs? You need to know the answers.
  4. Implement the Solution
    Once you understand your options, it is time to take the appropriate steps to keep your landscape in top condition. In some cases, this may mean doing nothing at all if the pest is not a big problem, or else you will need to implement the appropriate solution. Be patient with the results, as it can take some time before the problem is corrected. Keeping records of the changes in your yard can help you see whether your first solution is effective or more aggressive steps may be necessary.

Never Stop Looking

The most important part of scouting your landscape as part of IPM is to never stop looking. Your landscape will change on a daily basis, and you need to be aware of which changes are normal and which may be early indications of problems. Weekly monitoring may be adequate for a healthy, robust landscape, or you may need to carefully check your landscape 2-3 times each week during stressful periods, such as during a drought, after a severe storm or when many plants are young or transplanted. The more aware you are of your landscape, the more easily scouting will help you spot any problems that need care, and the more easily you will be able to keep your landscape healthy and vibrant.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 914-377-9039.

Joe Yedowitz, CLT

How Important Is It to Feed Trees and Shrubs – Really?

We tend to pamper our gardens, lavish care on flowerbeds, closely supervise containers and even be scrupulous with lawn care, but one of the most prominent parts of our landscape is often overlooked. Trees and shrubs of all sizes, shapes and cultivars also need proper feeding to stay strong and healthy. Spring is the ideal time to feed them a nourishing meal just as they need more energy and nutrients to grow lush buds, blossoms and foliage.

Why Trees and Shrubs Matter

Trees, shrubs and bushes are an important part of any landscape. They help define borders, create different levels of growth and form a living backdrop for more dramatic plants and flowers. Trees and shrubs also help serve as windbreaks and provide shade in the yard, creating microclimates for other plants to thrive. They are also important shelter for wildlife, including birds. These plants can be long-lived with very little maintenance, but proper feeding is essential to help them resist insects and diseases. Well-fed trees and shrubs will more easily reach their full growth potential, showing all their beauty for years of landscaping enhancement and enjoyment.

To Feed Your Trees and Shrubs

Different trees and shrubs – evergreens, conifers, flowering, fruit, berry,  etc. – all have different nutritional needs. For the best feeding, it is important to meet those specific needs, or else excess nutrients and minerals will go to waste. To feed your trees and shrubs properly…

  • Learn Your Plants
    Properly identify any trees or shrubs in your yard that you may not be sure about, and study their nutritional needs so you can provide the best food. Many plants have similar needs but may have specific requirements for better blossoming, larger fruits or broader leaves, and you can adjust the nutrition the plant receives to help it grow just as you want to see it.
  • Get a Soil Test
    You won’t know what nutrients your soil is already providing if you don’t have it tested. Trees and shrubs need adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and other minerals for strong growth, and a reputable test can help determine what your soil already has to offer your plants. When nutrients are noticeably missing, you can choose the right fertilizer and feeding regiment to replenish the soil.
  • Check Your Plant Growth
    Mature, well-established trees and shrubs may not need feeding every year if the soil is still richly nutritious. Check how much plants are growing, including how large and lush leaves, buds and blooms are. When growth seems much too slow or may be lacking altogether, it is time to give your trees and shrubs a good meal. Also note the conditions of your plants’ growth – very stressful years, such as after a hard winter or during a drought period, may require better feeding.
  • Determine the Best Food Type
    Not only should you choose a fertilizer that will meet the nutritional needs of your trees and shrubs with its chemical additives, but you want to choose a fertilizer that meets your needs as well. Even though some fertilizers may have the same nutrient composition, there are different formulas to choose from – quick- or slow-release fertilizers, liquid compounds, feeding spikes, pellets and more. Read usage instructions for each one and choose a fertilizer you feel confident applying correctly.
  • Apply the Fertilizer Properly
    Your trees and shrubs won’t eat well if you don’t feed them properly. Follow the fertilizer’s instructions meticulously in terms of when it should be applied, whether watering is necessary, amounts to spread on different ground sizes, etc. The best way to feed your trees and shrubs will vary depending on the plants’ size, age and general health, as well as your local climate and moisture levels. Make adjustments as necessary to help the fertilizer do its best work.

After the Meal

Just feeding your trees and shrubs isn’t quite enough to be sure they are as healthy and thriving as possible. Continue giving them the best possible care with appropriate pruning, a proper watering schedule, staking young saplings against strong winds and mulching plants to preserve water and discourage weeds. Along with the right nutrition, these steps will make sure every tree, shrub and bush in your landscape looks its very best.

Weed Management in Lawns

Weeds can quickly take over a yard and before you know it, your formerly lush lawn is filled with dandelions, clover, crabgrass, foxtails, thistles, sheep’s sorrel, ragwort and other unwelcome intruders. With proper management, however, you can keep weeds away with ease.

Know Thy Enemy – Identifying Weeds

To properly control weeds, you need to know what you’re trying to control. There are hundreds of different types of weeds, from weedy grasses to broadleaf weeds to invasive plants. In fact, any plant – even a lovely flower, bulb or tree sprout – can be considered a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it.

Because many weeds look similar to popular grasses and groundcovers, you need to identify them carefully in order to choose the most effective control methods. Look at unwanted weeds carefully, noting the leaf, stem, bloom or blade shape and size, as well as the plant’s overall size, color, texture and growth habit. Compare your observations to gardening books or websites for weed identification. If you aren’t sure, take several photos of the plant and consult with a gardening center or landscaping expert for proper identification.

Your Lawn Is Your Best Defense

A rich, healthy turf has no room for weeds, and a well-managed lawn is your best weapon against weeds. When your lawn is stressed, it will become thin and poor, leaving much more room for weeds to flourish. To keep your lawn at its very best.

  • Choose the proper type of grass for your climate and soil condition. This includes considering season lengths, high and low temperatures, moisture levels, drainage and soil pH so grass can grow well.
  • Use the proper watering schedule for your lawn, giving it a deep, thorough drink at longer intervals rather than shallow sips too frequently. Deeper, less frequent watering encourages stronger, deeper roots so the turf can resist weeds.
  • Feed your lawn as needed with appropriate fertilizer, adjusting nutrient levels and application densities to be appropriate to the time of year. This will help the lawn grow thicker, minimizing space for weeds.
  • Patch bare spots in the lawn as quickly as possible. You can opt for patch mixtures, sod patches or grass seed, but don’t give weeds a chance to take root. If the entire lawn is thin, overseeding may be necessary.
  • Remove excessive thatch and aerate the lawn to help the grass grow more productively. Too much thatch or compact soil will nurture weeds with its dense base, while preventing grass from growing effectively.
  • Set your mower height for the optimum length for your grass type. If the grass is longer, it will shade and cool any weed seeds, decreasing their germination and minimizing how many weeds can take root in the yard.

Controlling With Chemicals

Even a lush, healthy lawn can occasionally see a weed or two, and careful chemical use can manage those weeds before they get out of control. There are two general types of weed control chemicals…

  • Pre-emergent: These herbicides are applied to the lawn before weeds appear to stop germination and keep weeds from getting started. These herbicides are often available in weed-and-feed combinations that include fertilizer that will nurture the lawn at the same time weeds are discouraged. Pre-emergents are first applied in early spring, and there may be several applications throughout the summer to catch new generations of weed seeds.
  • Post-emergent: These herbicides are used after weeds appear and will slow their growth and eventually kill them. Both liquid and granular varieties are available, depending on how applications will be made. Selective herbicides kill only the weeds they are formulated to attack, while non-selective chemicals will kill all plants, including grass, flowers or gardens. Never confuse the two types, or you may have a bigger problem than just a few weeds!

Weed-killing chemicals should always be used carefully. Read all instructions before use, and follow them meticulously or else you may do your yard more harm than good. Ideally, use chemicals as sparingly as possible to avoid possible overuse or environmental contamination, and dispose of any unused or unwanted chemicals responsibly.

Pulling Weeds

A little elbow grease can also help you manage the weeds in your yard. When just one or two weeds may be appearing, it can be quick and easy to remove them by hand. Weeds will pull out easier if the soil is damp, and it is critical to remove the entire root if possible. If the root breaks off and some is left behind, new weeds can sprout from the old root. Because of that difficulty, it may be best to only pull roots by hand from very loose soil, such as in a garden, flowerbed or mulched area where they will pull out easily.

It’s not impossible to manage the weeds in your lawn, and if you take care of your turf from the roots to the tips, you’ll soon be weed-free.

Adding Hardscape Features to Your Garden

When I think of a garden, I typically imagine plants first. However, there are a number of different non-living objects that you can add to your landscape to improve it. These are collectively known as hardscape.

Pergolas and benches are examples of hardscapes

Benches

Seating can be very appreciated in your landscape, especially if it is large. This will allow people to sit and admire the beauty or otherwise rest as needed.

Curbing

We traditionally think of sidewalks when it comes to curbs, but it can also be used in the landscape to help create specific areas like flower beds.

Fire Pits, Pizza Ovens and Chimeneas

If you like the idea of cooking outdoors or sitting around a fire as part of entertaining, one of these structures may be just the ticket. They create a safer space for you to

Patios and Decks

Want to hold a gathering but not worry about your guests getting dirty from standing in the grass? Patios and decks allow you to have a solid surface that is perfect for patio tables, barbecues and more.

Pergolas, Arbors, Trellises and Other Structures

If you want to add shade to parts of your garden, these structures can be very lovely indeed. Vines like wisteria and trumpet vine can be trained to cover them, adding additional color to the landscape.

Sheds

If you have a big enough lot,. consider adding a shed to have easy access to all of your gardening tools and equipment without having to take up space in your garage.

Steps and Walkways

These are very useful for keeping the rest of your garden from trampling and allowing people to move around the spaces freely. Potential materials are concrete, wood and stone.

Water Features

Ponds, waterfalls, pools and fountains are some of my favorite types of hardscape features. Water can create a feeling of peace and tranquility in your garden. Do consider the ages of your children and their safety when thinking about adding one of these to your yard.

If you are interested in improving your garden with some hardscape, give us a call and we can help you make your landscape shine.

What hardscape features do you have in your landscape?

Image by Field Outdoor Spaces under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Are Your Spring Flower Bulbs Emerging?

SpringBulbsEmergingFlickrArtotem

Spring is finally just around the corner! I went to my parents’ house today and saw a few variegated bearded iris blades peeping through the soil. It won’t be too long before they fully emerge and proudly display their gorgeous purple blooms.

This is one time of year where it can be a little nerve-wracking in your garden. Some of your bulbs, trees, shrubs and other plants may start putting out leaves and even flowers, but the threat of frosts is not over. If the temperatures fall too much, the plant could be damaged.

Thankfully, many of the spring-flowering bulbs are naturally adapted to lower temperatures. Think about how you sometimes see the earliest-blooming flowers like crocuses peeping up through a blanket of snow. As long as it isn’t prolonged or especially severe, they will usually be fine overall, especially if you mulched as part of your final fall cleanup.

You might have a little more to worry about if they have already put forth their buds or blossoms, since these are more easily damaged. You could add some mulch as part of your spring garden prep. In a pinch, you could make a shelter out of household items like milk jugs (cut off the bottom) or sheets. For the latter, only use them when it’s currently cold and remove during the day if it warms up past the 40s (Fahrenheit).  Nurseries and garden centers also sell protective devices like row covers.

I hope that your spring flowers emerge soon if they haven’t yet. They seem so hopeful after a long dreary winter, don’t they?

What kinds of bulbs did you plant? Are they up yet?

Image by Artotem under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Tidy Up Your Flower Beds This Spring with Mulch

springMulchemily @ go haus go

I get more and more excited each week as spring draws closer. One of my favorite days of the year is when I am out and about in winter and suddenly see that the buds on the trees have begun to swell. It’s marvelous to discover that it’s almost time for everything to really start growing again.

One task that should be on your spring cleanup list if you have flower beds is adding mulch. This is especially useful if you have laid wood chips before. They tend to turn gray and otherwise become dull looking over the course of a year due to conditions like rain and snow. Putting a fresh layer down can really make your flower beds more eye-catching in a jiffy.

There are a few different types of mulch available to the home gardener. The ones that are the most aesthetically pleasing include:

  • Cacao (cocoa) hulls
  • Rocks or pebbles
  • Rubber
  • Straw
  • Wood chips

Adding one of these to your flower beds does more than just make it look more presentable. It will also help protect the plants from wild fluctuations in temperature, help stop weeds from being so problematic and keep water from evaporating away so easily.

You need to figure out how much mulch to purchase by calculating the area of your flower beds and multiply by how deep you wish the layer to be. You can use this handy calculator from Cornell University if you aren’t feeling mathematically inclined at the moment. You would then see how many cubic feet are in bags of the mulch of your choice and divide by that number to see how many you would need to buy. You can also buy it by the cubic yard if you have a large area to mulch. 

Once you have brought the mulch to your yard, spread it evenly over the top of the soil or existing mulch. Do not work it into the soil. Keep it a few inches away from the trunks of any trees and shrubs since having it too close can cause fungal and other problems.

What is your favorite type of mulch?

Image by emily @ go haus go under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Live Holiday Trees

LiveHolidayTreesFlickrMSVG When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a dumpy basement apartment. It seemed pretty glum to me sometimes since there wasn’t much light and we didn’t have a yard of our own. When our first Christmas came, I decided that I wanted to have a live holiday tree. I ended up picking out a small Norfolk Island pine and it did make the place more cheery. Live holiday trees are slowly becoming more common, though they are still not used as much as cut or artificial trees. You can purchase them at your local garden center or order them online. There are even services that will allow you to rent one. Some take care of details like delivery, setup and pickup. Some Advantages Are:

  • You can plant it outside or use it as a houseplant afterwards. They are perfect if you only have a small space.
  • You don’t throw it away after the season is done, like a cut tree.
  • It is not manufactured with toxic materials, like artificial ones are sometimes.
  • You get at least a little more oxygen added to the air in your household.
  • It feels even more like nature since it is still living.

Some Common Live Holiday Trees:

  • Aleppo Pine
  • Fir Trees
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Palm Trees
  • Rosemary Topiary
  • Southern Red Cedar
  • Spruce Trees

You can use any tree, though, for a short period of time as long as it fits into the space inside and you have somewhere to plant it afterwards. Things to Consider:

  • Have you been working out lately? Tall potted plants can weigh a lot. Think about how much you really want to be moving around.
  • Make sure you have a spot all prepped for planting (hole dug, etc.) if it will be moved outdoors. This is especially important if you expect the ground to freeze.
  • You really only have about a week to work with if you live in a cooler area and intend to plant the tree outside. It will start to come alive again from its winter’s nap, which will be very confusing and detrimental when you take it back outside.
  • Make sure that you water it. It won’t dry out as fast as a cut tree, but it is living, after all.

Have you had a live holiday tree? What kind? Image by MSVG via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Color Planning for Your Garden in the Fall

Cotoneasters have great fall foliiage and fruit

            Fall color on a cotoneaster

Fall is a great time to do some color planning for your garden. You can look at other people’s yards and see ideas for plants that are blooming and changing foliage color at this time. If you decide that you want to add some new trees and shrubs for fall interest next year, many can be planted successfully at this time; in fact, for many, this is the ideal time instead of spring. This is also the time to start considering what spring flowering bulbs you will want to plant soon, which we will cover in a subsequent post.

Three Types of Trees That Provide Fall Colors

Maples are likely the first trees that come to mind when we think of autumn foliage. The palm shaped leaves come in a wide assortment of shades like red, orange, yellow, purple and brown. Depending on the species you choose (some produce better than others), you can also tap them in late winter to make maple syrup.

Oak trees also put on a good show with their leaves in hues of red, yellow, brown and orange. The acorns can also be used to make fall decorations for your house.

Aspen trees have foliage that turns yellow in autumn. Since these are often found in higher elevations where evergreens live, the pop of color is especially lovely. This can work for your garden too as a focal point.

Three Types of Shrubs That Provide Fall Colors

Cotoneasters are sturdy shrubs that will brighten up your landscape with their scarlet foliage and fruit. Two to look for are the rockspray cotoneaster and the willowleaf cotoneaster.

An underused shrub is the redvein enkianthus, which provides several seasons of color. In the spring it produces gorgeous clusters of white flowers with pink veins. In fall, the foliage becomes orange, red or yellow.

Serviceberries have white flowers that turn into edible fruits. In autumn, the leaves will turn to orange and red.

What are your favorite ways to add color in the fall?

Image by Roberto Verzo under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Try Native Plants in Your Landscape

Eastern redbud in bloom

The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is native to New York.

If you want to try something different in your garden, consider adding some native plants. These are ones that originate from your area and can offer some potential benefits not shared by ornamental plants from outside the region.

Preserve Diversity

Gardens can be repetitive and boring if everyone uses the same standard favorites. When you use plants that come from your area, you are helping to ensure the continuation of that species. This is especially important as invasive species have been introduced over the years that can take over and choke out everything around them.

Less Water Needed

When you try to bring in plants from other areas, they may be used to more water than often found in your area. If you pick natives, you will usually be able to irrigate less, conserving water.

Attract Beneficial Insects and Animals

Many plants have evolved to form a positive relationship with insects and animals found in their area. For example, planting the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis – pictured above) will entice visitors like butterflies and bees.

Less Maintenance Overall

Since the plants are adjusted to the growing conditions in the area, they will most likely require less care than other plants. This could include amending the soil to make it more acidic or alkaline, fertilization or pruning.

If you are interested in adding some to your garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has prepared a list of New York native plants that you may be able to find at your local nursery or garden center. A link to a local supplier list is also included on that page. You can call the local Extension office for additional recommendations.

Image by Cranbrook Institute of Science under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License