Our newsletter pertaining to Winter Landscapes. There are 3 pages to this article and we hope you enjoy it!
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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with plentiful spring rain on schedule. Now is the time to be sure your sprinkler system is ready to take up the slack.
Restarting Your Sprinklers
Before you actually start needing your sprinklers, you should take the proper steps to be sure your irrigation system is functioning properly and efficiently.
- Check that the ground is not still frozen.The deeper parts of the soil are the last areas to feel the warm kiss of spring, and before you begin work on your sprinkler system, you want to be sure your buried pipes aren’t still in frozen ground. Use a spade or shovel to check that the soil is fully defrosted at least 12 inches below the surface, otherwise you may damage your sprinklers and pipes when you start them up. If the soil is still frozen, wait another 5-7 days before checking again, and do not start your sprinklers until defrosting is complete.
Adjust your automatic controller as needed.
The times and durations of watering cycles you used last fall are not likely to be the same that you will want to use this spring. Furthermore, your timer may not be set to the correct time depending on Daylight Saving or power adjustments, so now is the time to double check that your controller is properly adjusted and timed for spring use. Reread instructions if necessary to refamiliarize yourself with how to change the settings appropriately.
Recharge the sprinkler lines slowly and carefully.
When you open the main line to your irrigation system, do so very slowly and carefully, staying alert to possible leaks or problems. It is crucial to allow the line to fill slowly, otherwise the air pressure and water pressure surge could damage pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, leading to costly repairs and landscaping damage. Once the main line is recharged, do the same for each individual sprinkler zone, but keep the pace slow and gentle. It may take up to 30 minutes to recharge each zone, but use that time to watch for leaks or other indications of damage, particularly at valves or sprinkler heads where even slow leaks can add up to hefty water bills.
Run each zone briefly and adjust coverage if necessary.
Once your system is fully charged and ready to be operated, run each zone for a few minutes to check the efficiency and coverage of individual sprinkler heads. Frost heaving, snowblower incidents and even inadvertent kicks from pets or children can all misalign sprinkler heads, leading to more water on sidewalks or driveways than on the lawn. This is also the time to remove any dirt or debris that has built up on the sprinkler heads, and check that the overall coverage is adequate for each watering area.
If you find damage in your sprinkler system, you can make the proper repairs on your own or hire our company to repair and inspect the system thoroughly. You may also want to consider upgrading to better or more water-wise sprinkler heads in the spring, which can save you money all through the watering season.
Is It Time to Start Watering?
Just because you’ve fired up your sprinkler system, that doesn’t mean it’s time to set the automatic timer and let the sprinklers take care of themselves. The actual time you will start using your sprinklers will vary based on your lawn’s condition, local climate, recent precipitation and your fertilization schedule. While you will want to get your sprinklers ready to go 2-4 weeks before regular watering begins in case there are repairs to be made, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t start watering your lawn until the grass starts to grow naturally. At that point, more water will be needed to nourish a healthy root system and keep the grass lush so weeds do not take over. You will want to schedule your sprinklers to provide two inchs of water to the lawn each week, using 1-2 watering cycles to reach that total. When Mother Nature does oblige with a good spring shower, you can use your sprinklers less.
It is officially spring now and that means blooming roses are just around the corner if they haven’t started already! In order to get them ready for the coming growing season, start pruning roses now so they have time to produce new growth.
What Kind of Pruning Cut Should You Make?
When you make your cuts, do them on a 45 degree angle. If you do a steeper angle, more of the stem is exposed and it’s possible that diseases or insects could strike. Make your cuts right next to the node, which is a section where the leaves are connected to the stem. Buds are produced at these junctures. If you cut higher and leave more of the stem, it can also be a source of pests and other problems.
Making your pruning cuts near the leaf node also keeps the appearance tidier. This method can also be used later when you remove dead flowers (deadheading) as the blooming season progresses. This cleans up the rose bush and can possibly prompt it to blossom again.
How Much Do I Prune?
As a general rule, it is a good idea to prune up to one-third of a shrub at a time. Some kinds of roses like the hybrid teas can take more drastic pruning; in fact, you may want to prune out a lot on that type especially to help encourage the plant to produce fresh new stems that are long and good for putting in a vase, for example.
Study the plant before you start chopping away. Look for any parts that have died, become damaged, or are diseased. You always want to remove them for safety and the health of the plant. Once those have been taken out, look for the strongest canes (branches) on your rose bush. Use these as your foundation. Think of where they are located and make sure that you do not leave large gaps.
When do you prune your roses?
Image by words under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
As plants start to awaken after a long winter slumber, you may notice that one or more of your trees do not have leaves or blossoms yet. The thought that they may have died from exposure to the harsh weather comes to mind. How can you check to see if the tree is still alive or not so that you can replace it if necessary?
Know Your Species
Some kinds of trees will send out leaves and flowers earlier than others, so it is important to keep that in mind when observing the stragglers. You can ask your extension office or garden center worker, or do a search online to see if this is the case for your specific species.
Check for Buds
Look at the branches for signs of flower and leaf buds. Once you find them, inspect to see if you can see signs of swelling or if they are green. That is another sign that the tree is doing fine. If they look small and dry, it is still possible that they could swell and open soon, though.
Do a Thumbnail Scratch Test
Take your thumbnail and gently scratch the trunk (young trees) or a branch hard enough to remove the top layer of bark. If you reveal green underneath, the tree is still alive. If it is brown, check a different branch to make sure that it’s not just that one branch. If that one is also not green, there’s a good chance that the tree has perished. For large trees especially, calling in an arborist for a definitive answer would be prudent.
Remove if Necessary
If you determine that the tree is no longer living, now is a good time to remove it and work on planting a replacement if desired. Spring is a good time to put in new trees, as well as fall for many species. Depending on the age, species and size of the tree, you may need to call in an arborist company so that it is taken out safely. These companies have the equipment and training to help ensure that you don’t run into problems like a tree falling on your house or injuring people.
Image by Shamanic Shift under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
The garden world is starting to come alive again. Early bloomers like forsythia and redbud have burst into bloom and the ground is not always covered with snow. Unfortunately, it also means that weeds tend to pop up. If you do not take action in a timely matter, you may look one day and realize that your landscape is overrun. It is best to start weeding as soon as they appear and keep up on it.
Do Your Weeding While They Are Young
One of the key parts of weed control is early removal. When they are small, they are easier to remove. You can also prevent future weeds if you take them out before they have had a chance to flower and produce seeds. Plan on walking through your landscape at least weekly (more if you have the time) to scout out new weeds and remove them promptly. If you choose to use a herbicide, pay attention to the weather and follow the directions on the bottle. The efficiency of the chemical can be lessened if you use it on days that are hot and/or windy, for example.
Use a Preemergent Herbicide
Another way to keep weeds at bay is to use a preemergent herbicide. These chemicals work by keeping the seeds from germinating in the first place. This does mean that you have to be careful where you use it, as it doesn’t discriminate and would also work on grass or vegetable seeds, for example. Use this early on to catch as many weeds as you can before they sprout. You may want to do another application later in the season to combat any weed seeds that may have drifted in since the first treatment.
Have you started weeding your landscape?
Image by tuchodi under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
One way to keep working on your garden until the temperatures warm up again in the spring is to order garden seeds and plants. You can send off for a catalog, shop online or visit a local garden center or nursery.
Know Your Zone and Growing Conditions
If you ask a gardener about it, chances are many of them have fallen in love with plants at the store and bought them, not stopping to consider if it would actually work within their garden. They get planted and it’s really too hot or too cold, too acidic, too small of a space or a host of other potential problems. When you order garden seeds and plants, make an effort to research each potential candidate and see if they really will work in your landscape.
Plant catalogs and tags will have basic info listed on them to help you know how this species will grow and if it is indeed suitable for your landscape. Some to consider include:
- USDA garden zone
- Height and width
- Light requirements
- Soil requirements like pH, sandy, clay, etc.
- Water requirements
- Flowering season
- Fertilizer need
Shop Local When Possible
In addition to supporting your local economy, shopping at your neighborhood garden center can give your plants an edge when it comes to surviving and thriving in your landscape. Many grow their own plants and thus they are already acclimated to your specific environmental conditions. They may also sell native species that will flourish since they are naturally adjusted to your area.
You do still want to check over the requirements for each specific plant. I sometimes run into plants that do not do well in the area, like orange trees. Plants that belong in warmer regions can often be used as houseplants, of course, but they aren’t always labeled as such.
Where do you like to get your seeds and plants?
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As an avid gardener, winter seems to make the time pass slower. The world around me is often covered with a blanket of white snow or otherwise stark and bare. I long to see pops of color creeping up again. If you are also wishing that you could see plant growth sooner rather than later, place one of these plants for early spring color.
These little bulbs are one of the best choices for blossoms that come early on in the year. The leaves will push their way up through snow and produce flowers that can be shades of purple, yellow, white and striped mixes.
If yellow is your favorite color, one option for blossoms in this color is produced by the forsythias. When these start blooming, you know that spring is right around the corner.
Glory of the Snow
For blue, pink or white flowers that are shaped like stars, look for the glory of the snow. These plants will start blooming for you in February.
If you want a groundcover for a shady spot, consider planting the Lenten rose. It will produce flowers that can be red, white, yellow, pink
A favorite shrub for many (myself included) is the lilac. Clusters of sweetly perfumed blossoms will help brighten up your garden. Purple is the most common color, though you may also come across some in white, yellow, pink or burgundy.
These annuals do great in cooler temperatures. In some cases, they are able to overwinter after placement for fall color and bloom again in the spring.
This little tree is so eager to flower that the blossoms will appear on the branches before the leaves do! In addition to the standard green heart-shaped leaves, look for ‘Forest Pansy’, which has purple foliage.
Another bulb for early spring color is the snowdrop, with blossoms possibly starting off the year right in January. There are double flowering varieties available.
Do you have any of these in your garden? Which is your favorite?
Image by FutureLight Studios under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License