Spring cleanup season is now in full swing. Your next task is to do a good lawn assessment so that you can see what might need to be done.
Dethatching and Aeration
Over time, lawns tend to build up a layer of living and dead parts on the top of the soil that can make it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the roots. Every spring you should check the thickness of your thatch to see if you need to take steps to remove it.
If you do have too much thatch, one way to help remedy the problem is dethatching through raking. This action can remove some of the built up matter and allow your grass to breathe better. You can use a power rake or vertical mower to complete this process. If you do not own either of these, they can usually be rented at your local home improvement stores or you could have us come through and dethatch.
Another tool that you may want to rent or contract out is core aeration. These machines remove small plugs of grass and soil, opening up the thatch and improving the health of your lawn. You should water the ground before doing this as it is difficult to do when the soil is dry.
Raking Out Fungus
You may also have noticed that there are dead patches in your lawn that has pink or white fungi on it. These could be caused by a type of fungus called snow mold. As the weather warms up, the grass will repair itself and usually green up nicely. You can help accelerate this process by doing a light raking to help the grass dry out and get rid of the snow mold.
What else do you do as part of your spring lawn assessment?
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Spring is only officially about two weeks away at this point – huzzah! Now is the time for a good spring garden cleanup to usher in the growing season.
On a day when the snow has melted, look around and pick up any trash that may have blown in during a storm. You can also rake up any leaves that were left over from last fall. Those would likely be a great addition to your compost heap or, if you have enough, in its own pile to create leaf mulch. There are some plants like black walnuts that bear harmful chemicals in their leaves and other parts, and should not be included.
If you have not put down fresh mulch yet this year, now is a good time. It will help protect your plants throughout the year and freshen up your landscape to boot.
Look over your machines and tools to make sure they did not get rusted or otherwise broken during the winter. Sharpen them as necessary, especially if you did not do happen to winterize your equipment.
You can prune many trees, shrubs and perennials at this time. Go over your trees and shrubs to make sure that there are not parts that are dead, damaged or diseased. There are some like maples where they may bleed too much sap if they are pruned too early, so they should be trimmed later in the season.
If you are running short on time or would just prefer that someone else prep your landscape, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss a plan to get your garden into tip top shape for the coming growing season!
What do you do as part of your spring garden cleanup?
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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?
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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
- 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?
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Winter can really take a toll on your lawn sometimes. Your grass and plants are subjected to freezing temperatures and otherwise snowy conditions. Diseases like snow mold creep in. Accidents can happen where you end up with snow plow damage. Once spring hits, you may likely be able to repair the damage from all of these problems, so now is the time to make a task list of what will need to be done.
On a day when the snow has (at least temporarily) melted, take a walk around your lawn. Bring at least a basic sketch of your yard so that you can take notes. A camera can also be helpful. Check for any spots that seem to be problematic and note them on your paper, along with possible causes and the steps needed to fix it.
If you have snow plow damage, you may be able to fix it by adding in soil to make any holes level and reseeding in the spring. If you notice clumps of grass, you may have a problem with snow molds. Part of the treatment for this is a good spring raking and removing the clumps.
Once you have walked over your yard, calculate how much grass seed that you will need to sow. The exact amount will depend on the type of seed that you use (which will likely be helpfully placed on the bag’s label) and the extent of the damage.Order a bit extra to account for seed that fails to germinate and spots that didn’t survive. Another possibility is using pieces of sod if you have several spots in need of repair.
Do you have any other ways that you prepare for spring cleanups?
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Some of the sentiments expressed by the flowers that are included in this bouquet express gratitude (hydrangeas), love at first sight (lavender roses) and admiration (pink roses).
People have long attributed meanings to flowers based on characteristics like their color. This is known as floriography. During the Victorian era in the 1800s, an intricate language of flowers developed. Secret admirers, for example, could send off a bouquet that would express their ardent desire in a time that was otherwise often prim, proper and reserved. Many flowers have more than one meaning and there can be many different flowers that can express a certain emotion.
You do have to be careful in what flowers you put together under this system. The recipient could get confused if you sent along red roses (romantic love) or lavender roses (love at first sight) when you merely wanted to send someone a friendly non-romantic expression of gladness. If that’s the case, yellow roses are in order.
If you are planning on sending flowers this Valentine’s Day (or any other occasion), why not send a secret message along? Many of the meanings below are taken from our sister company Yedowitz Florists, who would be happy to assist you with your needs.
One of the most popular flowers to give to those that we love in some manner is the rose. If you wish to express romantic love, send the classic red rose. Yellow denotes friendship, gladness and joy in the platonic sense. White is innocence. As mentioned above, lavender expresses that you fell in love at first sight.
Other Common Bouquet Flowers:
- Alstroemeria = Friendship
- Bird of Paradise = Joyfulness
- Carnations = Love, fascination, and distinction, depending on the color used
- Chrysanthemums = Cheerfulness and rest, with the specific colors having their own meanings
- Daffodils = Unrequited love, great regard and respect, and chivalry
- Daisies = Innocence, purity, and gentleness
- Ferns = Sincerity, confidence, and shelter
- Gerbera Daisies = Cheerfulness
- Lilies = Purity of the heart
- Sunflowers = Loyalty, happiness, longevity and many other meanings depending on where the giver lives
- Tulips = Declarations of love
Have you sent a bouquet where you chose the flowers according to their meanings?
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If you are one of our regular customers (thank you!), you should be receiving your landscaping contracts in the near future. We like to make sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, so call us if you do not receive it within a couple of weeks. That length of time should allow for any problems due to snow and other weather conditions that may slow mail down.
As we mentioned before, it’s always a good idea to have a contract written up and signed by both parties when you have work done on your house. It helps the professional be aware of what you want done and lets them know when they can expect your payment. You can rest easier knowing that your expectations have been laid out. In the unfortunate case of something going wrong, you will have proof of what you wanted to be done and by when.
Make sure that you read over the entire contract carefully before signing. Ask us if you do not understand a part or would like to talk about making changes. It is important that you know what you are agreeing to have done in your landscape and what your part of the deal will be.
Once both parties have signed, keep a copy for your records. You may want to add dates to your calendar so that you can remember when a payment is due and when you can expect services to be performed.
Did you get your contract yet?
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Instead of staying cooped up inside and forgetting about your garden, take a minute to think about how much winter precipitation you have had so far. If you have wrapped evergreen shrubs in burlap for protection, now is also a good time to go outside on one of the milder days and see how they are doing.
Winter Precipitation Check
One task that you can do now while you wait for your garden to come alive again in the spring is to check your winter precipitation levels. You may want to place a rain gauge or weather station in your garden to help you keep track of how much precipitation you have received. You can also watch the exact amounts accrued through websites like weather.com.
We do not often think about watering our plants during the winter, but it may be necessary if the temperatures have been warmer than usual and there has not been much snow or rain. If it has been a few weeks since you have had either and the temperatures are in the 40s, give them some water. Do not leave it until later in the afternoon in case freezing temperatures set in and cause damage to the wet plants.
Burlap Shrub Inspection
Inspect any of your evergreen shrubs that are wrapped in burlap for protection. If there is snow present, you can gently shake it off because heavy snow accumulation can add pressure to the branches and cause them to break. You don’t want to be too forceful with the removal, though, or that act itself will cause damage.
How much snow or rain have you had so far?
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Even though the winter landscape is a bit quiet overall, there are still steps you can take to make sure your garden is in proper shape and ready for the next growing season. Two problems that yards may face are broken limbs and the presence of frozen puddles.
A common cause of broken tree branches is snow or ice accumulation. When the branches are weighted down after a storm, the stress can cause them to break. You have to be careful with branches that are covered with snow. If it is not frozen and icy, you could try lightly using a broom handle or other similar tool from underneath to knock some of the heavy snow off. This action can actually cause a branch to break also, so care should be exercised when doing this and avoid when possible. If it is covered with ice, it is even more likely for damage to occur and you should let nature take its course.
If you do have a tree branch that is broken, assess the situation. If it looks like it is in a dangerous position (hanging by a small bit, for example or a large branch), call a professional to help properly remove it. Otherwise, leave it alone until spring. If the damage is too extensive, you may end up needing to remove the tree, but get a consultation to see if that is a good idea before going forward.
You may not immediately think of a frozen puddle as anything more than the potential for falls. After all, it’s winter and snow, rain and slush are commonly present. Frozen puddles in a certain area, especially if they are recurring, may be a sign that there is a drainage problem present. Take note of where it is located and do a soil drainage test in the spring once temperatures warm up.
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Irises can be cut back in the fall
If you are still looking to work on your garden even after your final cleanup, you could try cutting back perennials. Many of them can be pruned either in fall or spring. This can help your landscape look more attractive if the leaves are dead and drooping. It can also keep the plant healthier since some pests and diseases tend to attack the plant or use it as a cozy home until winter is over.
First, you need to determine if you should be cutting back each perennial in fall or spring. If you have one with attractive fruit or foliage, you will likely want to leave it alone to keep the four season interest going. If it has seedheads present, these will help visiting wildlife survive through the winter.
If you do decide that you need to do some pruning, Cornell University says to “cut back most perennials to about 3 inches from the ground. Any closer may damage crowns.” Use a sharp pair of hand pruners or loppers to trim away. Clean up all of the foliage that you remove to discourage diseases and pests.
Examples of Perennials to Cut Back in Fall:
- Bearded iris
- Bee balm
- Siberian iris
Examples of Perennials to Cut Back in Spring:
- Bishop’s hat
- European ginger
- Hardy geranium
- Lenten rose
- Moss phlox
- Ornamental grasses
- Some sedums
Are you cutting back perennials in fall or spring? What has worked best in your garden?
Image by Vanessa Myers