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

Not too late for Spring Color

Spring Color

Nothing announces spring with as much color and life as the early blooms of crocus, the brilliant trumpets of daffodils and the elegance of tulips. Spring-flowering bulbs of all kinds are an important part of maintaining year-round color in any garden, and now is the season to begin or expand your plantings.


It’s important to check the different blooming times of bulbs.. Tulips, for instance, can be broken into as many as five or six periods periods ranging over several months.

Mixing purple giant crocus and white mid-season tulips for instance, and then expecting them to bloom together can be disappointing. On the other hand, mixing early and late varieties in your plan greatly extends your blooming season.
Besides keeping shorter growing kinds in front, avoid mixing plants with extremely different heights to maintain a balanced look. Also very tall varieties should be avoided in windy areas to prevent damage to the blooms and stems.

Another consideration in planning is the possibility of damage by rodents. Moles and ground squirrels (chipmunks) love to discover a bed of tulips and can virtually destroy your display before you get to enjoy it. Daffodils, on the other hand, are poisonous to rodents and will not be bothered. If your location is likely to attract these underground feeders, either protect the bulbs in baskets or stick with the variety’s they won’t eat.

 A final thought on planning bulb displays is maintenance!

Tulips must be dug up and separated at least once every several years or they will decline and produce fewer and fewer flowers.. Daffodils can continue to multiply and produce excellent displays without being replanted. This feature makes daffodils and narcissi popular for naturalizing. Another maintenance note is that the bulbs draw  their nutrients for the following year largely from the dying foliage, which, must be left in place until it completely withers. This is an especially important factor in rotating mass plantings.

Spring Feeding: Yes or No?

“Do my trees and shrubs really need to be fertilized?” We hear this question time and time again from our customers, and the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Construction activities when homes are built lead to soil that is heavily compacted, poorly aerated and poorly drained – not the best conditions for tree and shrub growth. Consider too that in their natural forest habitat, trees and shrubs have a constant supply of nutrientsimages-75 from decomposing layers of leaves and other organic matter on the forest floor. But in our lawns and landscapes, we regularly rake away leaves and other organic matter before it has a chance to decompose.

What Fertilizer Does

Fertilizer ensures that your trees and shrubs have the essential nutrients they need for healthy growth: nitro- gen, phosphorus and potassium. When they’re fertilized regularly, your trees and shrubs will exhibit deeper color, denser growth and better blooming. Plus, they’ll have an improved ability to fight off insects and disease. Fertilization also helps roots to branch out and grow in size, making it easier for your trees and shrubs to survive drought and other stresses.

What if They’re Not Fertilized?

Without fertilization, your trees and shrubs won’t be able to reach their true potential. And over time, they may begin to show signs of nutrient deficiency, including:

• Poor leaf color

• Reduced leaf size

• Premature fall coloration and leaf drop

• Reduced twig and branch growth

• An overall reduction in tree growth and vigor

By having your trees and shrubs fertilized regularly, you’ll be rewarded with healthier, more beautiful trees and shrubs that you can enjoy for many years to come.

Have Three Seasons of Floral Beauty

Did you ever consider having three full seasons of color on your property? You can, and it’s fairly easy! By using early to late bulbs in spring, annuals in the summer and mums in Pansy_Atlas_Mixthe fall- plus your flowering trees and shrubs- you’ll have non-stop color almost year-round. Here are a few tips that may make your personal “flower show” more successful.

There are two basic ways to plan floral displays. You can go for the maximum visual impact or “wow appeal” by having a few massive beds of one or two types of flowers. The challenge with this approach is that in trying to keep the gardens fresh, you need to eliminate the spring bulbs before planting the summer annuals. And then do the same again in the fall when the chrysanthemums are ready to become your focal point. This process is more work and can be more expense, but you can really knock the socks off your guests and neighbors with massive flows of color.

The second basic approach is to plant your flowers in a border-type bed of mixed types of mixed_bulb_flowers_1plants. With this approach, you will mix all of the different kinds of flowers through the season, so that as your bulb foliage dies down your annuals begin to thrive and help cover the browning bulb leaves. Many gardeners find this approach more enjoyable for the variety it delivers year round. And you can include small shrubs and perennials as well. Planning a great mixed garden takes careful planning with consideration of blooming times and height of the different plants chosen.

The hardest part of creating a floral show comes first- improving the soil. As with all kinds of gardens the old saying also holds true for flowerbeds, “for every dime you spend on plants, put ninety cents into the soil.” Incorporate organic materials and lots of it. You can use compost, rotted manure, peat moss or any combination of these. Just be sure it’s mixed in really well and deep.

Once the soil is ready, the fun can begin! In selecting your spring bulbs, the choices are enough to boggle the mind. And since most bulbs bloom either early spring, mid-spring or Unknown-17late spring, you can have a succession of beauty and enjoyment just from the bulbs you select. It’s good to be aware that some bulbs (like daffodils) continue to multiply and stay vigorous from year to year while others (like tulips) tend to dwindle in quantity and quality if not pulled out and separated each year. A great feature of bulbs is that most get planted in the fall, so all winter you can imagine the show you’ll have in the spring.

There is also an abundance of summer annuals from which to choose. Be sure to select annuals that will work well in the amount of sun your garden gets and how well you’ll be able to water during hot, dry periods.

Even though most annuals will keep blooming until cold weather, extending the fall with one more change is exciting. Like all the plants we’ve been talking about mums come in a variety of size, color and texture. The standard garden mum is a good performer almost every year. From rust to deep reds and bright yellows and whites, grouping of three or five plants (or more) add a vast burst of color to an almost-finished season.

The great thing to remember is that you can “jump onboard” during any season and enjoy the wonderful feeling of watching something you’ve planted grow!

Mulch- More Than Just “Pretty”

Much more to mulch then what meets the eye

images-11Mulch- most of us think of it as something there to make the ground look good.  And a clean edging job and fresh mulch does just that. The consistent color and texture do improve the looks of your shrubs and flowers. In fact, dark colored mulches even widen the pupil of the eye, making bright plants stand out even more. Mulching also cuts down a lot on the amount of time and effort it will take to keep your beds and your whole property looking better throughout the entire season. Here are some of the advantages of spring mulching.

Some of the things you can count on mulch to do for you:

  • Prevent many weeds and grasses from sprouting by blocking sunlight from the soil
  • Keep up to 21% more moisture in the soil around the root zone
  • Help soil stay up to 10 degrees cooler in summer, which reduces stress on the plants

mulching-794901What is the best mulch to use? There is a huge variety of mulch materials available and you can have “bulk” or bagged mulches. Your choice will probably depend on what’s available and your personal preference for color and texture.

Whatever type of mulch you prefer, it’s best to get an early start for the most benefits. So mulch now for an easier season later on.

Make This the Year Crabgrass Loses!

It doesn’t have to be an uphill battle

Scientists have recorded 50-year-old crabgrass seeds sprouting after being brought to the surface from deep in the soil! They are very tough seeds, and a challenge when it comes to controlling this grassy weed.

A Very Prolific Producer

Just one mature crabgrass plant can produce from 4,000 to tens of thousands of seeds, which are then brought into your lawn by birds, on the shoes of your mailman or other images-75visitors and blown in by the wind. Once these seeds lodge in your soil, they don’t need much to germinate, grow and begin to spread. Because crabgrass is an annual, it grows quickly to a circular plant 12 inches in diameter. It defeats your slower growing turf and leaves large holes or voids when it dies in the fall.

A Two Prong Attack to Win Against Crabgrass

  1. Crabgrass needs bare or nearly bare soil in order to germinate. It has trouble getting a hold in thick and healthy lawns. So the first step is to keep your lawn healthy and thick. That means a good fertilization program: keeping up with pests and being sure the lawn gets enough water and is mowed properly.
  2. Use a combination of both pre- and post- emergent herbicides to directly control crabgrass.

A pre-emergent herbicide is applied in the spring or late fall to set up a barrier in the soil. As weed seeds just begin to germinate, they are eliminated by the pre-emergent.

A post-emergent herbicide can be used to treat any established crabgrass plants in your lawn. This type of herbicide will kill off the crabgrass without harming your established lawn.

Crabgrass and other annual weed seeds will keep coming into your lawn. The best solution is to remember the “two prong” attack- healthy lawn practices and a combination of herbicides- to get any that slip through and make sure you win this year!

Decide Early for True Spring Landscaping

Spring is a time when most of us turn our attention to the outdoors. The idea of seeing flowers and shrubs in bloom and trees leafing out gets us all excited. It’s also a great time Unknown-15to arrange for some landscape projects around your property. Installing a new patio or building an outdoor fireplace or just renovating your entry can really make a change to your enjoyment of your outdoor living “room.”

But a problem comes up sometimes, because everyone feels the same way. They want to see and use their new spring project right away. As a result, contractors often get so loaded with projects that they have to start booking jobs to be done as much as several months later.

But there is a Solution!

Decide and act before the rest of the “crowd” does. Get your plan and specifications drawn up before most people are even thinking about it. This gives you several advantages. First you’re getting more time to put into your plan, and secondly, your project will be done before the others even take the first steps! So call today and make your spring and summer a lot more enjoyable in your new landscape!

Snowing Outside

It’s snowing outside right now…..but that hasn’t interfered with my bulbs coming up.  Spring is in the Air !!!!!emergingBulbs

Landscape Questions…

As spring is approaching there are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to lawn care; here are a couple tips that can help you to ensure your landscape is ready for this season!

When is the best time to prune flowering shrubs?

Pruning is a regular, important part of keeping your flowering plants healthy, contained and looking their best. The right time depends on when the flowers appear.

Plants that bloom in early spring on old wood (or growth from the previous season) should be pruned a week or two after flowers drop. Those that bloom in late summer on stem growth from the current growing season shouldn’t be pruned until they’re dormant.

It’s good to keep after your shrubs, because pruning removes diseased and damaged plant parts, helps air circulate and sunlight get in, and stops structural problems in future plant growth. Flowering plants, in particular, pro- duce more flowers and fruit when pruned at the right time.

What should I do about lawn disease?

Fungus disease organisms travel by foot, water and air, and every lawn has them. They tend to thrive especially well in the cool, moist conditions of spring.

While fungicides are available for suppressing lawn diseases, they aren’t a permanent solution. The best way to ward off and reduce these diseases is to keep your lawn healthy and growing. Even if you have a variety of fungus diseases present in your lawn, those diseases will have a lot more trouble infecting your turf if it’s strong, well-fed and unstressed. Here are a few easy ways to keep many fungus varieties under control:

Control watering. Most fungus spores spread in water, so water less often and more deeply – during the warmer times of the day when your lawn can dry more quickly.

Fertilize regularly. Scheduled fertilizer applications throughout the season encourage steady growth, discouraging unhealthy growth spurts that can invite disease.

Mow with sharp blades. Dull mower blades shred grass blades, leaving open wounds through which fungus spores can enter.

Aerate. Aerating breaks up the thatch layer, a natural breeding ground for fungus spores.

How to Hire a Contractor

It is hard to believe that February is coming to an end, and that Spring season is just around the corner.  If you are anything like me, I have started to make, and review, my “Spring Project List”.  Some of the projects on the list I may do myself….and some of the projects I may contract out to a professional contractor.

So you may be asking yourself, what do I look for when hiring a professional contractor?

  1. In most states, especially New York State for sure, if a company has any employees (even just 1), they are required to have a workers compensation insurance policy covering each and every employee they employ.  Ask your contractor for a copy of their declaration page.
  2. Liability insurance is a must.  God forbid a job goes bad and/or there is damage to your property as a result of an accident.  A contractors liability insurance policy might help you recover from an accident.  Ask your contractor for a copy of their declaration page.
  3. Contract, Contract, Contract.  In todays fast paced world, why take a chance with mis-communications.  If all aspects of the job are detailed in a contract, as well as payment plans, then there is little room for mis-communications, which lead to conflict.  And if the scope of work changes, ask the contractor for a “Work Change Order”, which simply changes the scope of work in writing.
  4. Does the service professional have a “Home Improvement” license?  Most municipalities have a consumer protection department that advocate for consumers.  Many times during a dispute with a job, the consumer may reach out to their local consumer protection department to help remedy any conflicts.  .
  5. Start date….agree on a start date, or at a minimum a date range to begin the work.
  6. Ask for a list of references.  Every professional that I have dealt is more than happy to provide me with a list of references.  And check social media…..you’ll typically find ratings, pictures, and write ups on line describing the quality of work of a contractor.
  7. And lastly, I want to know how the contractor stands behind his/her work.  Is there a guaranty? If yes, for how long?  Is the guaranty in writing? If not, ask for it to be.

With unemployment rates being as high as they are these days, I find that there are a lot of people “claiming” to be a professional….and consumers hiring these “unqualified” individuals could end up having problems that come back to bite them later on. So if you are in the market for a new service professional, please do your homework.  Don’t be afraid to ask the questions and review the documents listed above.  You will be happy that you did!