How Is Your Turf Looking?

Unfortunately there are some weeds throughout this lawn.

Unfortunately there are some weeds           throughout this lawn.

Have the hot summer temperatures taken a toll on your turf? Now is the time to be extra watchful for two problems that can crop up and harm your lawn right when it is naturally stressed.

Brown Grass?

Many lawns are made up of cool season grasses. These will green up before warm season grasses, but can struggle when things start getting hot and dry and may go dormant. You can help prevent this with syringe cycles on the warmest days. Water early in the morning so that the most moisture can travel down to the roots. The grass should perk up again as long as it is getting regular water.

Brown grass can also be a sign of insect problems like grubs. When you are assessing a lawn where some has turned brown, see if other symptoms are present. With grubs, for example, the grass can be peeled back easily since the roots have been cut.

Weeds?

In sports, they say that the best defense is a good offence. The same is true for your lawn; the best way to keep weeds at bay is to make sure that your grass is hearty and healthy. Water it regularly and don’t mow it too short. Plan on adding weed and feed in the fall when they are most vulnerable. This will help set a good stage for the following years. If there are just a few weeds, remove them by hand.

Monitoring these two situations in summer helps you keep your lawn going strong. Call us if you need help getting rid of weeds or brown spots.

Image by anneh632 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Plants That Help You Garden

One of the great things about gardening is that in some way your garden can take care of itself. Now, that’s not endorsing abandoning garden chores completely, but there are a few things that you can do to make your work a little easier. One of these things is to select plants for your garden that will help control insect pests.

Certain plants contain properties that either invite beneficial insects or repel harmful insects. Beneficial insects prey on pests that cause damage in the garden. Ladybugs and praying mantis are good examples of beneficial bugs.

Using plants for pest control not only cuts down on your workload, but it also reduces the amount of insecticides that you use in your garden. And fewer insecticides means more good bugs, which in turn means help in controlling bad bugs.

Remember that what works in one garden may not work in another. Every garden is different with its own microclimate, soil type, and pest control issues. It is important to experiment to find out what works best for your situation. With this thought in mind, it also helps to choose plants that are native to your area. This way beneficial insects will already know what to look for.

Artemisia: This plant produces a strong antiseptic, although not unpleasant aroma that repels most insects. Planted in drifts it can also deter small animals. One popular variety is ‘Powis Castle.’ Probably best not to plant in vegetable gardens because it produces a botanical poison.

basil1-1Basil: The oils in basil are said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes. Plant basil alongside any tomato plants for larger, tastier tomatoes.

Bee Balm: This plant attracts bees to the garden. It is another plant that you can grow with your tomatoes.

Borage: This plant is a real workhorse in the garden. It repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees and wasps. Borage also adds trace elements to the soil. This is an annual, but readily come back each year from seed.

Catnip: This plant repels just about everything, except for cats of course! Use it to keep 300_78968away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. Use sachets of dried catnip to deter ants from invading your kitchen. A favorite variety of catnip is ‘Six Hills Giant’ because of its proliferation of sky blue blooms.

Chives: are great herbs. Not only do they have great flavor, but their grassy foliage and round heads also add so much interest to any garden. You can plant chives to repel Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies. It has been said that chives will help prevent scab when planted among apple trees.

Chrysanthemums: When you do use an insecticide, use one made from chrysanthemums called pyrethrum. This all-natural pesticide can help control things like roaches, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, and ants. In the garden white flowering chrysanthemums are said to drive away Japanese beetles.

Garlic: A lot can be said about garlic. It’s really great stuff. In addition to its great taste and health benefits, garlic planted near roses repels aphids. It also deters codling moths, Japanese beetles, root maggots, snails, and carrot root fly.

Marigolds: The marigold is probably the most well known plant for repelling insects. French marigolds repel whiteflies and kill bad nematodes. Mexican marigolds are said to images-140offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well. If you choose marigolds for your garden they must be scented to work as a repellent. And while this plant drives away many bad bugs, it also attracts spider mites and snails.

Nasturtiums: Plant nasturtiums with your tomatoes and cucumbers as a way to fight off wooly aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. The flowers, especially the yellow blooming varieties, act as a trap for aphids.

So, let some of these plants make your garden more interesting and share the work of pest control and of attracting pollinators to your garden.

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!

Limited Space? Try a Container Garden!

Even if you don’t have room for planting beds on your property, you can still get plenty of enjoyment out of growing your own flowers, herbs and vegetables.  With container gardening, a deck, patio, balcony or even a doorstep can provide all the room you need.

Choosing a Container

Containers come in many sizes, shapes and materials. Depending on your specific tastes, you may prefer plastic, ceramic, wood or clay containers. For adequate drainage, make sure they have holes in the bottom.

The container size you will need can be determined by the type of plants you’re growing. Shallow-rooted plants (e.g. lettuce, herbs and most annuals) require a container at least 6” across and 8” deep. For deep-rooted perennials, tomatoes or cucumbers, you’ll need something larger.

Soil Type

Regular garden soil tends to hold too much moisture when used in a container, depriving the roots of much-needed oxygen. Instead, lightweight, packaged potting soil may beused, or you can make your own mix using one part peat moss, one part garden loam, and one part vermiculite or perlite. Whether you’re starting with seeds or seedlings, your container should be filled to within 2” of the top with your planting mix.

Care After Planting

Most containers need daily watering in hot, dry weather. Lighting needs will vary depending on plant type, and your container can be moved if a spot is too sunny or shady. To improve plant vigor, a slow-release fertilizer can be added every two weeks.

With just a little bit of space it easy to have your very own garden!

Don’t Forget to Make Your Beds!

It’s the height of the summer season, and the planting beds on your property can use a little help to preserve their looks and health.

  • Shrubs and smaller trees should be pruned to remove dead or damaged limbs and promote a more attractive shape.
  • Weeds should be removed by hand pulling or treating with a post-emergent herbicide.
  • A layer of mulch should be added if it hasn’t been already. This will conserve moisture, reduce weeds, regulate soil temperatures and give your beds a more finished look.
  • When applying mulch to your beds remember to distribute it evenly throughout the area. During these hot months, summer mulch is recommended to preform the functions above. Examples of summer mulch include, wood chips and shredded bark.

Whether your beds contain ornamental grasses, flowers, shrubs or trees, they’ll all respond well to good maintenance practices this summer!

Keep it Colorful with Mums

Chrysanthemums, better known as mums, will keep your garden alive with color through the end of the growing season. Drought-tolerant and resistant to insect pests and diseases, these popular flowers are one of the easiest perennials to grow.

Given the wide array of colors, form and growth habit, there are loads of possibilities with mums. Available in just about every shade but blue, they do best in the full sun and rich, well-drained soil. They can be planted anytime during the growing season, but their flowering wont be triggered until the days shorten and nights get longer in the late summer and fall.

Consider planting masses of mums for waves of color throughout your landscape. Or, if space is limited, they can also be enjoyed in containers. Either way, mums are an excellent choice for extending your season of color!

These Poisonous Plants Mean Business!

Plants really are our friends…for the most part. When it comes to poison ivy, oak and sumac, on the other hand, a better term to use would probably be, “frenemies.”

Each of these plants releases a toxin known as “urushiol,” which causes an itchy, red rash that can last as long as a month. Only a billionth of a gram of urushiol is needed to cause a rash, so it’s best to keep your distance. Whether you’re gardening or taking a hike in the woods this summer, keep and eye out for the following.

Poison Ivy- Perhaps the most well known of the poisonous trio, poison ivy has three pointed leaves with bumpy edges. The middle leaf has a longer stalk than the ones on the sides. Poison ivy grows as a climbing vine.

Poison Oak- Though it also has three leaves, poison oak can be distinguished from poison ivy because its leaves are lobed (in other words, they have deeply indented margins). Poison oak tends to grow as a shrub, but it can also climb like a vine.

Poison Sumac- Poison sumac has sharp, compound leaves (or several leaflets attached to the same stalk). It grows as a shrub or small tree in very wet areas and can reach up to 12’ in height.

Long sleeves, long pants, gloves and enclosed footwear can help to protect you from these plants and their toxins. Of course, that isn’t always practical. If you do think you’ve come in contact, you should rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove any traces of urushiol. This toxin can bond with your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so the sooner you can rinse it off, the better.

Fast Fact: Urushiol can stay active on any surface for up to 5 years!

Irrigation Systems Save Time, Money, Aggravation…and Plants!

Each tree, shrub, vine, flower and grass plant on your property needs adequate water to survive. When rainfall is scarce, keeping everything sufficiently watered can be a challenge.  We’ve all been there…dragging hoses around, trying to put the right amounts of water in the right places, and just simply finding the time to do it all can mean that some plants don’t get what they need.

Without enough water, your plants will suffer, and so will your landscape investment. The solution for more busy homeowners these days is to install an automatic irrigation system.

Today’s irrigation systems are affordable and efficient. Custom-designed for each property, these systems use underground circuits and valves to take water right where it’s needed.

Sprinkler head choices vary. Drip heads deliver water slowly and precisely to the bases of plants. Pop-up heads spray larger areas evenly. Various configurations are available depending on your specific needs.

Other benefits of an irrigation system include:

  • Controllers that automatically turn the various circuits on and off, even when you’re not home.
  • Timers that limit watering to the cooler parts of the day when less water will be lost due to evaporation or wind drift.
  • Independent station programming to provide certain portions of your landscape with more or less water than others depending on each plant’s specific needs.
  • Rain shit-off devices and soil moisture sensors to override irrigation when it’s not necessary.

An automatic irrigation system will help to keep your lawn and landscape lush and green while reducing water waste. It will mean less hassle for you, and less time spent on your watering chores!

June Update

What a spring so far…we started off with 70+ degree-days in March and it was cool and wet for most of May. Mother nature certainly is challenging us this year.

LAWN UPDATE

There may be a Fungus Among-us….

Not sure if you are seeing it, but I am. There is Red thread and Dollar spot fungus all over the lawns this year. If you see a browned out area on your green grass, it certainly could be an indication that a fungus is brewing. Look a little closer now.

Dollar Spots- circular, sunken patches measuring several inches. The patches turn from a brown shade to straw in color, they may also have small lesions on the grass blades.

Red Thread- patches that are reddish-brown in color from 1” to 2’ in diameter. When areas of grass experience more than 10 hours a day of foliar wetness (for several consecutive days) this fungus could occur.

What do you do to eradicate a fungus? Well…keep the lawn well fed. You can rake out any of the infected turf areas and throw away the debris. And heck, if you don’t want to do that…. give us a call. We can apply a liquid fungicide to your grass to help stop the infection in its’ tracks.

Fertilizers

For all of you “do it yourself-ers”…. it is time! That is, time to fertilize your lawn again.  Remember the goal is 4-5 pounds of Nitrogen per one thousand square feet, per growing season, or about 1 pound per feeding (5 times per year). So, when you see a bag of fertilizer with 3 numbers such as 20-5-20…the first number represents Nitrogen and indicates that 20% of the product is Nitrogen. If you took 100 and divided it by the first number (100/20) the result if 5, meaning you need 5 pounds of the product per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. Therefore, if your lawn measured out 12,000 sq.ft, you would need 60 pounds of fertilizer (5 pounds x 12 = 60 pounds)

It is extremely important that you calibrate your spreader prior to the application, this way, you know how much fertilizer you are applying…and remember more is NOT BETTER!

Weed Control

Spray the heck out of any broad leaf weeds that exist in your lawn. What are they you ask? Well they could be: Clover, Dandelion, Chickweed, plantain, etc…. you have about 4 weeks of cool enough weather to treat the weeds…. spray away!

IRRIGATION

If you have an irrigation system, please be mindful of the amount of water your lawn is getting from the rain. On Monday June 4th, we had temps of 59 degrees during the day and a lot of rain. What does that mean? POWER OFF YOUR SPRINKLERS if it’s raining like it is. You do not and you should not be watering everyday if it is raining daily.

So how much water is enough? At my house, I have watered once per week for the last 3 weeks, because we have had that much water. In fact, I shut off my drip irrigation in my lawn beds because all of my plant material has been adequately watered. Now, if the temperature during the day goes back to 90 degrees for 3 days in a row…I’ll be watering (and you should too)

Come July that irrigation system will be running daily…and it should be.

If you are manually watering, make sure your hoses and sprinkler heads are all ready for the upcoming summer months. You’ll need to start watering daily in a few more weeks.

PRUNING

If your landscape is anything like mine (and I think it is…) I bet your shrubs have been growing like weeds. The hemlocks and taxus (yews) have displayed a great flush of growth already this year. But they are still growing.

If you can tolerate the appearance of the new growth on the shrubs…let it grow! I believe that the plant material will continue to grow for the next couple of weeks…. and then you’ll be ready to prune them (in July).

In addition to “growing shrubs” are the growing weeds…the abundance of wet weather has led to a copious amount of weeds. Don’t let them get out of control…. keep up with their removal. And when in doubt…MULCH! Mulch is your friend. A bed with a good layer of mulch is a happy bed!

SEASONAL COLOR

You are safe…safe to plant the ole’ annuals in the ground. And take some chances by trying new plants. Have you seen Zinnia’s bloom? How about Heliotrope? Or Lantana?  The industry has done a great job creating new hybrids that are resistant to the many problems of the past. And do “super-charge” them…. incorporate a slow release fertilizer in the planting bed, as well as an organic fertilizer. You’ll be very happy with the results.

Not only is it OK to plant annuals, but you are good to go with the veggies…try some container plantings to supplement your raised gardens. Herbs grow well in planters, as do patio tomatoes. Take a bag of potting soil, make a slit or two, and plant a couple of cucumbers in the bag. It’s fun!

 

 

 

 

Compost: Speeding Up the Breakdown

Compost heaps work by generating intense heat and biological activity, breaking down all materials you include into a rich, organic substance that works wonderfully as a soil amendment. The ingredients for successful composting are pretty standard: water, air, and green and brown materials that create nitrogen and carbon. These materials include coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, corn cobs, hedge trimmings, lawn clippings, pine needles, straw, weeds and other plant debris.

To speed up the composting process, it’s important to turn the pile often with a rake or shovel and add water whenever it gets dry. It also helps to add some garden soil every now and then, and an occasional sprinkling of lime will help to reduce acidity (which slows down or stops the bacterial composting action).

For even quicker composting, you can create a homemade “accelerant.” This will increase the amount of moisture, carbon and nitrogen in your pile (the organisms that decompose organic matter need carbon for energy and nitrogen to build cell structure).

To create your accelerant, combine the following in a 5-gallon bucket:

  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • ½ cup of household ammonia (nitrogen- rich)
  • 1 can of flat, warm beer (the yeast in the beer will encourage bacterial growth)
  • 1 can of warm, regular cola (the sugar in the cola provides necessary carbon)

Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour it slowly over your compost heap. Follow this up with a few shovels full of garden soil, then turn the pile to distribute the accelerant evenly.

Once your compost turns dark and crumbly, it will be ready to use in your garden!