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

Assess Your Lawn for Winter Snow Plow Damage and Other Problems

LawnSnowDamageFlickrshaire productions

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?

Image by shaire productions under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Send a Special Valentine’s Day Bouquet Using the Language of Flowers

Some of the sentiments expressed by the flowers that are  included in this bouquet express gratitude (hydrangeas), love at first sight (lavendar roses) and admiration (pink roses).

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.

Roses

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?

Image by muffet under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Watch For Your Landscaping Contracts This Week!

ContractsAreComingFlickr24oranges.nl

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?

Image by 24oranges.nl under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Check Your Winter Precipitation Levels and Burlapped Shrubs

WinterPrecipitationFlickrdaryl_mitchell

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?

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

Watch for Signs of Trouble in Your Winter Landscape

Snow can be rough and break tree branches

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.

Broken Limbs?

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.

Frozen Puddles?

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.

Image by huipiiing under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Cutting Back Perennials

Irises can be cut back in the fall

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
  • Brunnera
  • Daylily
  • Peony
  • Phlox
  • Siberian iris
  • Veronica

Examples of Perennials to Cut Back in Spring:

  • Bishop’s hat
  • Dianthus
  • European ginger
  • Fern
  • Hardy geranium
  • Hellebore
  • Heuchera
  • 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

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

Final Garden Cleanup for the Year

WinterGardenCleanupFlickrliketearsintherain

We are only a couple of weeks away from the official start of winter. The end of the gardening season is upon us and you should perform a final garden cleanup to end the year right. This will allow you to have the satisfaction of knowing that your garden will get the best possible start in spring when the world comes alive again.

By now you should have already done fall landscaping tasks like:

Close off the gardening season with one final inspection of your yard. Walk around the perimeter and check for signs of problems like broken sprinkler heads. If more leaves have fallen, take a moment to rake them up. They can be stored for later use as mulch or placed in a compost pile. Check for any tools like shovels that have been accidently left outside and put them away so that they do not rust from snowy conditions. Throw away or recycle leftover pots.

If you have not done so in the past, this can also be a good time to take a moment to map out the current layout of your garden on a piece of graph paper. This will allow you to do some planning during the winter months of any changes that you would like to make.

Have you done your final garden cleanup of the year yet? What other tasks do you perform as part of this?

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

Are You Winterizing Your Equipment Yet?

WinterizingEquipmentFlickrtheCCLC

Part of your fall cleanup efforts should be directed towards winterizing your equipment. This is a good time to check over everything for broken parts and get it prepped for the following year. You also want to help protect them from the impending weather where conditions can be wet and freezing.

Sprinkler System

First, you should drain out all of the water that you can as any that is left has the potential to freeze and break the pipes. The system needs to be blown out using an air compressor. This step is best done by professionals since it can be dangerous. A heavy-duty air compressor is used to force air throughout the system and push the water out. Follow the safety guidelines presented on this site if you decide to do it yourself, including wearing safety goggles and not standing near the section that is being cleared out.

Lawn Mower and Other Power Equipment

Take a moment to clean it all off. Remove any grass or other organic substances. Check to make sure that all parts are functioning and change them out as needed. As this article from Consumer Reports mentions, you will want to change out the oil and either take out all of the gas or add a stabilizer. Sharpen the edges of the blades since dull ones will hack and tear grass instead of cleanly cutting it. If there is a battery, take it out and store it somewhere cool and dry. Keep the mower itself in a location with a similar environment.

Pruning Tools

Clean off the blades thoroughly. Gummy substances can be removed with a bit of citrus oil. Look the tool over to see if any parts are broken and replace them as possible. Use a sharpening stone or tool to go over dull blades. Rub oil over any parts that are metal to help keep rust away.

Image by theCCLC via Flickr CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike License