Spring Clean Up-Exactly What is That?

Spring is here and it’s time to give your lawn and landscape a Spring Clean Up, but exactly what is that? For a lot of homeowners, it means picking up a few sticks and mulching up the fallen leaves. There is much more to do though, to have the lawn and landscape truly cleaned up and ready for the growing season.

spring clean up

Time to clean up the lawn and landscape

 

These Lawn and Landscape maintenance items need to be done in the Spring. Mulching, pruning, aerating, fertilizing the lawn, fertilizing the shrubs and trees, lawn clean up, weeding of the beds, seeding (for some grass types, in some parts of the US), and more.

Are you planning on doing this, or part of it yourself? Some homeowners think that they can jump in and do a quick Spring Clean Up in one Saturday afternoon. Many times they quickly realize that there’s more to it than meets the eye to do the tasks correctly. Our office will get calls from people every year that start projects then decide that it’s too much work for them to do themselves. That’s OK, that’s why we’re here. Let’s look at what is needed to do a real Spring Clean Up, and what’s most important.

Cleaning up fallen limbs, twigs, and leaves

The debris that has fallen over the Winter really needs to be picked up before Spring arrives, but if you haven’t already done it, this is the number 1 job that needs doing first. The leaves that fall and lay on the lawn will add to the acidity of the soil and in some cases smother out some of the cool season grasses. Heavily shaded lawns will often have moss growing on the surface of the lawn due to the high acid content, heavy shade, leaf drop and lack of moisture in the Summer due to the tree roots sucking all the moisture out.

Clean up all of the debris and dispose, then take a look at the lawn. Do you have bare spots? Do you have any sunken spots or ruts in the lawn that could use filling in with soil? Do you have a mole problem? Winter and Spring is a very active time for moles in the Southeastern part of the US, now would be a good time to do some mole control if so.

If you have any of the problems listed above, now is the time to get them addressed, before the season kicks off and you forget to do it or run out of time. Also, some of these problems cannot be corrected in the Summer, so Spring is the best time to do them.

Aerate and Overseed The Lawn

While Fall is the best time to seed cool season grasses, in some parts of the US you can get a fair stand of grass in Spring by doing a simple aerate and overseeding. If you have some low spots that need filling in with soil, do that now and just sprinkle a little seed over those spots.

If you have cool season grasses (fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass) you can do these seeding projects in the Spring, if you have warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, bahiagrass) you need to wait until the end of April or first of May to do it. The temps need to be averaging 85 degrees or so consistently to get germination of warm season grasses. Cool season grasses only need 55 to 60 degrees, and moisture to germinate. (remember, it’s called “cool season” grass)

Lime Applications

If you have noticed any moss growing on the lawn, that’s a sign that you need lime. Actually, it’s a sign that your soil is acidic. And lime is a solution to that problem. If you are aerating, applying lime afterwards is a great time to do it, this lets the lime fall down into the holes and get into the root zone of the grass. It takes 6 months for agricultural lime, (powdered lime) to get busy changing the soil ph, so don’t be expecting immediate results.

 

Pelletized lime or dolomitic lime goes to work much faster and is easier to spread. It’s much like the consistency of fertilizer so it spreads from a fertilizer spreader much easier. Ag. or powdered lime is hard to spread from a push spreader, and will sometimes tear them up. We much prefer the pelletized lime.

Fertilizing and Weed Control for Lawn and Landscape

Spring is a great time to put down weed control for the lawn and landscape. If you put it down early enough, you can catch many of the pesky annual grassy weeds like crabgrass, goosegrass, barnyard grass and others that trash up the look of the lawn later in the year. They will also cause a ton of labor to have to be done in weeding the landscape beds if you don’t control them now. You can use a granual pre-emergent crabgrass preventer on the lawn, and a liquid bed weed preventer in the landscape beds. We prefer the liquid weed preventer for beds because it’s easy to mix up in a hand sprayer and spray the mulch, gravel or ground cover to make the applications.

Pruning of Shrubs and Landscape Trees

Most homeowners do not properly prune their landscape shrubs and trees. Typically, we get calls several times per year from people that are crying for HELP with their shrubs and trees that have become overgrown. If you only prune the tips of the longest limbs off of all the shrubs and trees, you will gradually let them get larger and larger each year until all of a sudden you notice that they are covering your windows and even growing above the eves. Pruning your shrubs twice a year, and cutting them back enough to remove all of the previous growth you will keep them in a proper size. The two best times to prune are in the Fall, after the growing has stopped, and during your Spring clean up.

Shrub Pruning

Proper Shrub Pruning

Shrubs growing gradually are similar to watching your kids growing, you know it’s happening, but all of a sudden you  take notice of how much they have grown. If you let the shrubs get too large, then all there is left to do is cut them back drastically down to a small version of what they were, and let them grow back out, if they will.

Cutting shrubs back drastically, where you are cutting them back to only a couple of feet tall should only be done in the Fall, Winter or Spring. Giving them a cutback in the Summer will often kill them.

If you don’t know how to properly prune the shrubs and trees, you may be best off to hire a professional Landscaper to do it that knows the different plant types and how each should be prune. Not all plants get cut back the same way, at the saem time of the year. Improper pruning can either kill, disfigure or ruin some of the nicer ornamental shrubs

Mulching of Beds

During the Spring Clean Up, iff your beds have hardwood or pine nuggets mulch, now is a great time to touch that up or add a fresh coating of mulch. Weed the beds, prune the shrubs, and then mulch the beds. This order of doing these tasks will eliminate your having to clean up the fresh mulch if you do them in the wrong order.

If you have gravel for mulch, take a look for thin or bare areas where some of it may have washed out, gotten knocked out by a pet, or where the bed may have settled. Now is the time to do this too. It’s much less of a job to do it now in the cool weather than to wait until Summer and do it in the heat.

Get out there and get these Spring Clean Up chores done before it gets hot, and when you can help your grass get a good start for the season. Waiting will only delay the Spring green up of your lawn. Have a great Spring!

For more information on Lawn and Landscape tips for having a great lawn, check our website for monthly lawn and landscape tips.

For more information about our Lawn and Landscape Maintenance services see our website. 



 

 

Proper Crape Myrtle Pruning

Crape Myrtle Pruning Does Not = Topping

Proper Crape Myrtle Pruning is all too often not done. But “Crape Murder” is being committed on an almost daily basis. When asked why someone cut their Crape Myrtles back to a stub, many times they will say, “because that’s how everyone does it”, or “my friend told me that’s how to do it, and he’s been doing it that way for years, so it must be right”.

Crape Murder

Crape Murder Topped Crape Myrtle

Well, NO, it’s not right. Very rarely is it “right” to top, hat rack, or cut back to a stub any Crape Myrtles. As a general rule, for the taller variety of Crape Myrtles, the proper way to prune is to thin out the canopy so you can see through the tree, not over it. If you have a Crape Myrtle that is getting too tall for the location it is planted in, it shouldn’t be topped, but rather it should be replaced.

There are hundreds of varieties of Crape Myrtle, and you can find the proper size plant, in a color that you like, for the location you need it. This might take a little research work or several stops at some Nurseries to gather information and see what varieties they have on hand and if they can get the right plant for the right spot for you.

Crape Myrtles can be found in varieties that range from a dwarf variety that will only be 3 or 4 feet tall at maturity, to a large variety that will reach 3o to even 50 feet tall, depending on where you live. This is one of the most common mistakes made by homeowners that are landscaping their own property, putting the wrong plant in the wrong spot. Then 5, 10 or 15 years later, they have to be pulled out to replace them with the correct plant.

Dwarf Crape Myrtle

A purple dwarf variety crape myrtle 4′ to 5′ Tall

The proper way to prune most varieties of Crape Myrtle is to NOT TOP, but rather to clean up the canopy from the base of the trunk, all the way up through the canopy. Cut out any branches that are rubbing on each other, diseased, or have broken branches. Down at the base of the plant, cut out any sucker growth or again, any branches that are rubbing or diseased or broken. We like to leave 3 to 5 of the largest trunks to be the foundation and main part of the tree to grow out. If it has any more than this, it turns into a bushy shrub-type plant rather than a tree-form plant.

Using a set of loppers and hand pruners you can properly prune any Crape Myrtle, and keep it looking good for years to come. Actually, there really isn’t that much maintenance to do on a Crape Myrtle that has been planted in the right location, considering the variety of plant.

The biggest piece of advice we can give someone about Crape Myrtle Pruning is to first, use the right plant in the right spot, and if this wasn’t done when it was planted, then strongly consider taking it out and replacing it with the proper variety. Other than that, follow the instructions above and thin the canopy, but do not top.

Starting with the right variety is the most important thing, the Crape Myrtles listed below have the size at maturity listed, this is just a starting place as there are hundreds of varieties.

Natchez Crape Myrtle

The Natchez  Crape Myrtle is a White blooming, tall, tree-form Crape that will grow an average of 20′ tall. Average meaning that some will only reach 12′ and others will reach 25 to 30. It just depends on the location where planted, the amount of sunshine, what zone you live in, etc. I have seen these grow to 50′ tall in the Southern areas.

Natchez Crape Myrtle Tree

Single Trunk Natchez Crape Myrtle

This is a variety that if planted beside a house, it needs at least 6 to 8 feet of space between it and the house, with nothing over it so it can grow to the height that it wants to. Cutting it back or topping it is not recommended. Again, plant the right plant in the right spot. If you don’t have room for this to grow, pick a different variety.

The Natchez also has a very interesting exfoliating bark that gives the landscape a little interest in the Winter.

This variety will not require much in the area of crape myrtle pruning, given its growth habit.

Natchez Bark

Natchez Bark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sioux Crape Myrtle

Sioux Crape Myrtle

Sioux Crape Myrtle – Pink color

The Sioux Crape is one of the favorites of many. It’s full pink blooms make a striking show through the Summer blooming period. The one shown is a multi trunk. These can be pruned up to be a single trunk or multi-trunk depending on the individual plant you select.

The growers will often start pruning them to be either a single or a multi-trunk as it is gaining height in the Nursery.

This variety of Crape Myrtle will grow 13′ to 20′ tall, again depending on the area where it is planted. We are in the Northern part of zone 7 and we rarely see this plant reach more than 10 to 12′. This plant is said to grow best in zones 7 – 9.

USDA ZONE 7 - 9

USDA Zone 7-9

Reading up on any landscape plant will give you the USDA hardiness zones that are recommended for each plant. This doesn’t mean that it won’t grow North of the zones shown, only that it’s not recommended, and it wouldn’t grow to the heights in Kentucky that it would in Mississippi.

The same is true for landscaping foundation plants like Boxwood, Holly, Azalea, and any other plant you might want to use in your landscaping. The labels are suggestions and averages, that doesn’t mean that you can’t plant a Boxwood next to the house that says it will reach 10′ by 10′. With regular pruning, you can keep a Boxwood at whatever height and spread you want. This is different from having a tree that doesn’t need to be topped that would have to be pruned regularly to keep it in the spot.

Acoma

The Acoma Crape Myrtle is a variety that will be in the medium range. 6′ to 10′ height, and again, depending on the hardiness zone you are planting it in. The farther South you are, the taller it will grow. Your “micro-climate” where you plant this in your own lawn will also affect the height and spread that it is able to reach.

Acoma Crape Myrtle

Acoma Crape Myrtle

 

The USDA Plant Label says that it likes full sun. So if you plant it in an area of your lawn that is shady, it’s not going to reach that labeled height. Use care and planning when planting any plant in your lawn so it can grow to its full potential without being whacked back constantly.

Dwarf Varieties

Dwarf Varieties are god for spaces that won’t allow the taller Crape Myrtle to be planted. Remember that your goal for a Crape should be to plant it, and prune it very little, and NEVER top it. These listed below will be the smallest available. Always refer to the USDA hardiness zone map and label information for the plant you are considering to be sure it will be suitable for the location where you want to plant it

Pokomoke

The Pokomoke is one of the smallest Crape Myrtles growing only 2-4′ tall. It is more of a shrub type crape and not a tree-form like the Natchez or Sioux.

Pokomoke Crape Myrtle, pink

Dwarf Crape Myrtle-Pokomoke variety, pink

This is one that can be planted in large planter boxes, or used as landscape border plants, foundation plants or used to create a border along a driveway or fence. This variety has bright, beautiful pink blooms.

Cordon Bleu

The Cordon Bleu is another of the smallest, the Cordon Bleu, growing to only 2′ tall with a lavendar color bloom.

Cordon Bleu Dwarf Crape

Cordon Bleu Dwarf Crape Myrtle

These can be planted out in the lawn by themselves, as shown in the picture to the right, or planted in a line along a property border, along a driveway or fence. or even in the landscape beds by the house. They should be given 2-3′ for adequate growing space so they have room to grow.

This is another “shrub-type” crape that won’t require much pruning. Again, NEVER top crape myrtles. If this one gets too big for its spot, just shear it like a Holly or Boxwood. With a shrub-type, shearing is basically topping, but the idea is that you are cutting off the top growth all over the plant in this case, and not cutting the top out of the main trunk of the plant, creating a “hat rack”.

With any plant you are thinking of planting, refer to the label instructions to be sure you plant it where it will grow best, without having to be cut back, or pulled out later. You will save yourself lots of work in less pruning, and money in the long run not having to have the plants replaced.

What are some of your favorite varieties of Crape Myrtle?

For more information about our Lawn and Landscape Maintenance services see our website. 


Lawn and Landscape Maintenance-Hire it Out or Do it Yourself?

Lawn and Landscape Maintenance can be a hard job. Physically taxing at the least, but there are also other issues to consider. Do you have the proper equipment to do the job right? Do you have the time to invest in the job to do it properly? Do you know how to do it, properly? Will you really save any money by doing it yourself?

Let’s examine these points.

Equipment For Lawn and Landscape Maintenance

The equipment to do Lawn and Landscape Maintenance costs thousands of dollars for professional grade equipment. Although you don’t have to have professional grade lawn and landscape equipment, you usually get what you pay for.

Some landscape jobs can be accomplished with lesser expensive equipment and if you use it properly, you can still get good results. But even with the lesser expensive equipment, you may spend hundreds more on equipment than what you could get the job done for you by a qualified Lawn and Landscape Maintenance professional.

For example, you can buy a pretty good tow-behind, core type aerator that can be used for aerating and overseeding/aerating jobs, for around $250.00. That’s not bad for a core aerator (the best kind) that will probably be good enough for home owner use. A professional walk behind type aerator will set you back over 3K.

Even mowing your own grass should be examined. Again, ask yourself the same questions about equipment, time, physical ability, and just plain old “want to”. We have people that will hire our company to cut their grass because they can pay us to mow it for a few years for the price it would cost to buy a good quality commercial style mower.

Commercial Lawn Mowers

Commercial Lawn Mower

Others have said that they only have 2 days available on the weekend, and they don’t want to spend them cutting grass or pruning shrubs. We get that, that’s why there are commercial Lawn and Landscape Maintenance Companies in business.

Some people absolutely love to mow, and plant flowers and prune shrubs and do all sorts of Lawn and Landscape Maintenance items, and that’s great! It’s good exercise, it gets you out of the house in the fresh air and gives you a sense of satisfaction. But, it’s not for everyone.

Let’s round out what it would cost to stock your garage with the equipment you would need to take care of all the Lawn and Landscape Maintenance items you would need to do throughout the year. These will be “middle of the range” in price for equipment you could buy, not the most expensive and not the cheapest. Just examples for you to evaluate.

This meager stash of Lawn and Landscape Maintenance equipment will just get your lawn mowed, trimmed, the walk and driveway blown off and your shrubs pruned. You will still have to have all of the usual shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, and miscellaneous had tools to do what you need to. These could easily add up to over another $1,000.00

So you can see that depending on the size of your property, you may be able to hire it out cheaper than you can buy all the equipment you might need. Of course, most of us have a little equipment to start with, but still, it’s expensive to buy and maintain equipment, as well as time consuming.

Buying Vs. Hiring

Should you buy equipment, or hire it done

Another cost of doing your own maintenance is the cost of fuel, oil, maintenance, grass seed, fertilizer, weed and feed products, etc. that you would buy to do your work. These items alone sometimes add up to more than you can hire the particular chore out for.

So the choice on equipment comes down to, can you afford it, how much do you want to spend, and of course, do you want to do it yourself to start with?

Should You Take the Time to do it?

Having the time to do the Lawn and Landscape Maintenance chores is another thing. Many people like to do the work themselves, but simply do not have the time. If you look at the average Family of 4, there is work, school activities, baseball, soccer, basketball, plays, dancing and all of the 100’s of other activities the kids get into that will take up your time.

Many of our customers are young business professionals who choose to spend their time honing their business skills and let someone else handle the physical work, equipment maintenance, and all the headaches that come with owning equipment. This is something that each person will have to weigh themselves to factor into this decision. Some of our young professional customers make more per hour for their own work than what it would cost them to hire it out, so for them, it’s an easy choice.

Do You Know How to Do it?

Lawn Care is Hard

Lawn Care Is So Hard!

Knowing what you’re doing is very important for some Lawn and Landscape Maintenance and installation projects. More so on the installation side than the maintenance. Let’s face it, anyone can get on a mower and drive it around in circles until there is no more grass standing up. But there is a difference in a well manicured, freshly cut lawn, and a lawn that just got “mowed”.

Some tasks that you should absolutely not attempt if you don’t know how are: installing a retaining wall, installing an irrigation system, grade work on your lawn, electrical work, pesticide application including weed control, insecticide or fungicide applications. There are others, but the idea is if you are unsure about whether or not you should cut that ornamental tree in half, then don’t. Call someone in to at least advise you.

Small Retaining Wall Block, Too small for the job

This pile of small landscaping blocks is all that’s left of an 8′ tall retaining wall a contractor “thought” he was going to build with them. Needless to say, the wall didn’t survive, it never even made it to completion before it fell

Pruning ornamental shrubs and trees is an item that is best done with a little knowledge under your belt. Some shrubs need to be trimmed in Spring, some in Summer, and some in Fall. It is also a little more difficult to prune a row of American Boxwoods all to the same size than you might think.

Keeping your shrubs and trees in check is also an important issue. If you don’t cut enough off at each pruning, the shrubs will slowly grow out larger and larger to the point that they are so large that they either have to be cut down drastically or pulled out altogether and your landscape renovated.

Paying someone to prune your shrubs is less expensive than paying someone to prune and keep them in check.

The bottom line on deciding will usually fall on your own opinion, desires, and whether you consider Lawn and Landscape Maintenance a hobby or a pacifying activity that you enjoy doing, or a chore from hell.

Will it save you money, that you will also have to put a pencil to. For some of you, without a doubt, I could say you could hire it done for less than you could do the job yourself. For others, it would be less expensive to do the work yourself.

But, do you want to? Can you? Do you have a couple of kids that are sitting on the couch that need something to do? In the end, you will decide, but don’t be afraid to call a professional in for an estimate, most are happy to give you and estimate, and probably a little free advice to boot.

Happy gardening in 2017!


Lawn Care Calendar = a Great Lawn This Year

Plan Your Maintenance Schedule Out Now

You know that you will have certain lawn care items to do this year on your lawn and landscape to have a GREAT ONE! So why not sit down with a calendar now and plan it all out?

Lawn Care Calendar

Plan your lawn care calendar out now for 2017

Depending on how great you want your lawn to work, you will have a certain number of fertilizer and weed control applications to make, you will have to mow the grass a certain number of times, prune the shrubs so many times, mulch, weed the beds, clean up the leaves, aerate, overseed, apply lime and possibly much more, or less, depending on your level of Lawn Care Ninja.

Some things that you will do for your lawn won’t actually show up for weeks after it was performed, so planning gets those tasks scheduled and you get them done, before they are forgotten or it gets too late in the year.

If you want a fantastic looking lawn that is weed free and knock-out green for Memorial Day, you can’t just kick it up a notch the week before, you need fertilizer down weeks before, weed control down starting in Feb, or Mar, and the grass cut regularly. Then it all comes together at the end of May.

Fertilizer and Weed Control Applications

Depending on your type of grass, and how much of a lawn geek you are you could do anywhere from 1 to 8 applications. Some people only make one application a year, that is usually done in the Fall if you only make one application.

If you do two applications, put one down in the Fall, usually a Winterizer that will prepare the grass to over winter better and grow deeper roots so it will be hardier next Summer. A Winterizer fertilizer will have a higher ratio of Potash to Nitrogen and Phosphate. Something like a 6-12-12 or 3-10-30 are some I have seen sold. The Nitrogen isn’t needed that much in the Fall for most grasses, and for warm season grasses, you don’t want any nitrogen down. And then put another application of fertilizer and a pre-emergent weed control down in the Spring. If you don’t fertilize, at least use a pre-emergent weed control to help keep out the weeds.

Applying Fertilizer and weed control products with a spreader

Applying granule fertilizer and weed control products

Then put another application of fertilizer and a pre-emergent weed control down in the early Spring, around Feb in the South, or Mar. farther North,  for a two application per year program. The Spring application would be something like a 32-3-10 with pre-emergent and/or post-emergent weed control products.

About 2 months later, April/May,  if only applying 4 applications, use a fertilizer and broadleaf weed control to control dandelions, and other broadleaf weeds. This will have an analysis of something like the 32-3-10 or similar again. The first number is nitrogen and provides the majority of your green in the grass.

A lot of people that use the four application program each year will schedule them like this. Using the major Holidays for reminders, apply around Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.

If you want a little more green, and fewer weeds, and you don’t mind mowing a little more often, plan for 6 applications. You will take the 4 application program I just described, but move the dates around so you start earlier in the year with your first fertilizer and weed control application, end the year with your winterizer application a little later in the year, and then scoot the dates closer together to have an equal amount of time between them.

Your Lawn Care Calendar will look something like this:

  1. February Pre-emergent weed control and Fertilizer for cool season grasses. Pre-emergent only for warm season grasses
  2. March 15 Pre-emergent weed control for Southern areas where the weed germination period is longer, with fertilizer and broadleaf weed control. Northern climates will get broadleaf weed control and fertilizer.

    fertilizer and insect control

    Fertilizer with insect control added

  3. April 30 Broadleaf weed control and fertilizer for both cool season and warm season grasses. If you have an insect problem with army worms, fleas, and ticks, or a mole problem that is exacerbated by grub worms, you might want to use a fertilizer with insect control in it.  If you have Fescue grass and you live in the transition zone or further South, be watching for fungus. Mainly Brown Patch fungus. It starts at the end of April to early May and continues during hot and humid weather. If you see spots that look like the picture to the right, you could have a fungus. A fungicide will need to be applied
    Brown Patch Fungus on Fescue Grass

    Brown patch fungus on Fescue grass

    immediately.

  4. June 15th Fertilizer and broadleaf weed control. Monitor for insects, apply insecticide as needed
  5. July 30th Fertilizer and Broadleaf weed control, again monitor the lawn for insects. Armyworms can attack in the Summer and move quickly across the lawn causing a lot of damage in just a
    Army Worms in lawn

    Armyworms invading lawn

    week or so. If you see mysterious dead or yellowing spots on the lawn that look like the picture to the right, you may have armyworms.

  6. September 15th apply the Winterizer fertilizer with weed control if you like or if you are still having broadleaf weed problems. Some people will apply a Fall Pre-emergent weed control which will control any Fall and early Winter weeds that may germinate.

Mowing, Edging, and Trimming

Depending on a few things like if you water or not, how much fertilizer you are using, and where you live and what type of grass you have, you will have to mow anywhere from every 5 days to 10 days.

This is one of the harder things to keep on a set schedule due to things like rain,

Lawn Care is Hard

Lawn Care Is So Hard!

equipment issues, and life. But it’s important to keep the mowing on a close enough schedule that you don’t cut more than 1/3 of the grass off in one cutting. Cutting more than that off at one time will yellow the grass off, and possibly stunt it. I prefer to cut more often and cut just a little off. But then again, I enjoy mowing, it’s my “quite time”.

Edging of the hard edges, sidewalks, concrete drives, patios and anything with a hard, straight edge will need to be done at least once a month with a stick or blade edger. Normal string trimming (weed eating) is done each week as you mow. Some people are good enough with a string trimmer that they can turn it up on it’s edge and clean up the edging without having to get the blade edger out. If you don’t own a stick edger or blade edger, they do a fantastic job of keeping a nice straight and clean edge on your hard edges.

Other Lawn Care Items needed

Aeration and overseeding, if needed for cool season grasses will need to be scheduled for late August or early September. The earlier you get the seed in the ground, the faster it can get germinated, start growing and be tall enough to be mowed a couple of times before Fall sets in.

Lime applications are best done in the Fall and are usually helpful for most lawns. Very seldom do we find a lawn that does NOT need lime. One bag of lime per thousand square feet of lawn area is what we apply. This is a general rule of thumb for lawns that are on the clay side of the soil structure spectrum. Better quality soils wouldn’t need as much, and a soil test will tell you exactly what you need. With a little experience, you will know what to apply without repeated soil tests.

These are not all of the lawn and landscape chores that will need to be done on your property over the year, but this article is meant to be more of a scheduling primer to get a lawn care calendar set up for your lawn.

For more information on lawn care items subscribe to our blog for weekly lawn care tips and landscape maintenance tips and landscaping ideas. Also, take a look at our monthly lawn care tips pages on our website with monthly lawn care tips.

Great Landscape Plants For Winter Color and Interest

Many landscapes might be beautiful in Spring, Summer, and Fall but be lacking in color and interest in the Winter time. Winter color can be addressed in the planning stages of your Landscape Design, or by adding some plants that are selected specifically for their Winter color or structural interest.

Miscanthus ornamental grass

Ornamental grasses

Winter color in the landscape can come from foliage color, berries, and a few blooms. Just because it’s Winter doesn’t mean we can’t have color. And structural interest can come from the bark on the trees and shrubs, leaf shape, the shape and structure of limbs, twigs and overall shape of the plants.

Depending on where you live in the United States, you may or may not be able to use these plants, this is not an all-inclusive list, but just a means of getting your mind working to generate some landscaping ideas and help you find some plants with Winter color and structural interest to liven up your landscape for the Winter.

You may need help in deciding what plant to place where in your landscape. Reading the labels on each plant will help with that, based on their size of mature growth and horticulture habits. If you need more help, there are some great books available to help you in Landscape Design.

 

Plants With Winter Color

Winterberry

Winterberry is a deciduous Holly, that grows in  zones 3-9, 6-8′, it has white blooms in June-July, and grows best in full sun to part shade.

When people think of Holly, they usually think of a green leafed NON-Deciduous plant (keeps its leaves) shrub with pointed leaves that will stick you if you touch it. First, not ALL Holly have pointed leaves, and not ALL Holly are NON-Deciduous.

Winterberry, a great plant for Winter Color

Winterberry Holly, a deciduous Holly with bright red berries

This beautiful shrub is all the more showy because its lack of winter leaves, its berry display is the money in this shrub.  After the leaves have turned yellow and have fallen off, you are left with a breathtaking view of thousands of brightly colored berries clinging to every stem.  What a joy to have such color in the middle of winter.

This variety from Proven Winners is  “Ilex verticillata” it has a great geographical range, growing from Michigan in the North, all the way down to Florida, and West to the Western parts of Missouri. It also grows well in low areas, wet areas or wetlands. If you are looking for a smaller plant, ‘Red Sprite’ is a fantastic low mounded selection that matures at 3 to 5 feet. It has attractive, clean, dark green foliage, and tight branching right down to the ground. This plant makes a great low hedge or mass planting.

For those looking for something a bit different, try ‘Winter Gold’. This is yellow-berried

Ilex verticillata Winter Gold

Winter Gold Holly Ilex verticillata

variety of ‘Winter Red’.  The berries are not really gold, but instead and attractive pinkish-orange that lighten up with age. The name is a bit misleading since the berries aren’t exactly “gold”.

With these two varieties of the same plant you have two different colors to add to the Winter Color of your landscaping.

It’s important to remember that when you are adding a certain plant for a certain purpose, in our case we are trying to add Winter Color to the landscape, don’t over use any one plant. These are the types of plants that you would want to use for a splash of Winter Color, and not use them as a foundation planting with 4, 5 or even 8 in a row against the house.

A better use for a plant like this would be to use it in an isolated area away from the house. Or in a spot in the landscape that requires one plant, because of the spacing or placement of other shrubs next to it, you need one plant to fill a spot. This is a great place to add something like the Winterberry Holly.

Witchhazel is a plant that will grow to the areas of zone 5 and grows 20 to 30 feet tall with a slightly narrower spread. It grows in full sun to part shade but blooms best in full sun.

Winter Color for your landscape, witchhazel

Yellow and Orange Witchhazel

Flowers: Bright yellow flowers bloom along the old wood.

Bloom Time: Late winter – February into March

Foliage: Green in the summer turning bright yellow in the fall

It is available in yellow and orange blooming varieties. This is another plant that should be used sparingly for accents of Winter Color in your landscape. These types of plants look best with used by themselves, or in a grouping of 2-3 off to themselves in their own landscape bed, or on the edge of the property, maybe in a bed on the corner of the property to help mark and designate your property lines.

Coral Bark Japanese Maple

The coral bark Japanese maple is a great plant for winter color, mainly for its bark color.  The previous year’s growth is a bright red color in the winter.  So the effect is that the branch tips are a bright red while the older stems are duller.   As with all colored stem, the closer the plant is to the house the brighter its color will appear.

Winter Color of Japanese Maple - Coral Bark

Coral Bark Japanese Maple Winter twig color

This is another great plant for Winter Color that you might not think of. Most homeowners are usually thinking about blooms for color. This is a great example of color, combined with a structural interest in a single plant. In this case a tree.

The Japanese Maple family makes up a great group of interesting plants for your landscape, most of them for their foliage color, stem color or shape in the Weeping Japanese Maple. It is also one of the few non-purple leafed Japanese Maples as it has green leaves in the Summer. This alone makes this variety of Japanese Maple interesting.

This tree should be pruned in late winter or in the spring.  This is so you don’t cut off the colorful part of the stem with summer or fall pruning.  The Coral Bark Japanese Maple is hardy in zone 5-8 and growths to 15 to 20 feet tall and wide.

Arctic Fire Red Twig Dogwood

Another great plant (tree) that will have red colored twigs or branches in the Winter is Red Twig Dogwood. This one shown is the Arctic Fire variety. This one grows in a smaller

Arctic Fire Red Twig Dogwood for Winter Color in the Landscape

Arctic Fire Red Twig Dogwood

clump type growth growing 3 to 4 feet tall and has green leaves during Spring and Summer. Its showiness and Winter Color comes from its stem color. Since it grows sort of low and wide it looks more like a large shrub than a tree.

The Artic Fire variety that is shown, needs pruning regularly to keep it cleaned up and kept from getting too unruly, even though it will only get around 3 or 4 feet tall. Again, when pruning, don’t cut it back in late Fall too much because you’ll cut off all of the red colored twigs which is what we are after for the winter color. It is a fast growing shrub that can be used in combination with several others for a border plant along a property line. They look impressive when bunched together to form a hedge along a border.

Pink Dawn Viburnum

A showy shrub that will bloom in late Winter to early Spring, depending on where you are located. It has beautiful pink/white blooms, and will grow 6′ tall and spread 8′ wide. The height and width growth habits on any plant are all subject to exactly where it’s planted.

Winter Blooming Pink Dawn Viburnum

Pink Dawn Viburnum, Winter Color with its blooms

One plant may reach this height and width if planted in its perfect cultural conditions on one landscape, when planted in another landscape with different conditions it may only reach half that height. This is a common theme with any plant. Just because the horticulture information on a tag says that a plant will reach 10′ tall, doesn’t mean it’s going to every time. What determines the ultimate height and width of a plant will be determined by it’s location planted, the zone it’s planted in, and your own pruning practices. When the tag says it will be 10′ tall, that is assuming it is planted in a perfect condition for that plant or shrub, and it never gets pruned. There are several boxwoods that are kept at 3′ tall as a foundation planting that have cultural tags on them saying they will reach 10′ tall.

Mahonia Underway Holly

This variety of Holly is planted for it’s unusual looking leaves and bloom color. This one will have yellow blooms with leaves similar to the Mahonia Beliegh and will bloom from

Winter Blooming Color from Mahonia Underway

Mahonia Underway, great plant for Winter Color

January through March. It can grow 6 to 9′ high and wide, but again, your results may vary according to the location its planted in. They are grown for their attractive foliage and fragrant, showy winter flowers. They provide an invaluable source of pollen and nectar for winter colonies of bumblebees and other pollinators.

This variety is a compact mahonia with an upright habit. It’s bright yellow, fragrant flowers are produced in late autumn, earlier than other mahonias, followed by blue-black berries.

Mahonia x media ‘Underway’ looks particularly good at the back of borders. For best results grow in moist but well-drained soil, in partial shade.

Burning Bush “Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus”

Burning bush is a great plant for Winter Color in late Fall to early Winter. It’s foliage is a deep green through the year, then as the cooler weather comes the foliage starts turning red. Depending on where it is growing and the conditions, exposure to sun, etc. it will turn

Burning bush for winter color through it's foliage.

Burning Bush for Winter Color through foliage

a very bright red color. Another bonus you get from Burning Bush is the shape and interest of the limbs when the foliage drops. The stalks that grow out of the base have an interesting shape with a raised “fin’ on the sides of it. This plant looks stunning in the snow when snow sticks to the plant and highlights the structure of the shrub.

It can grow 6 to 8′ tall and looks great planted by itself or planted in rows on a border of the property or a favorite is to use groups of 3 in a  triangle  as a property marker or as a principal plant along both sides of a driveway. It grows best in full sun, but will grow in some shade.

You can buy 10″ tall bare root Burning Bush here. They will be small, but they grow very fast. If you have more patience than money, get these and grow your own!

Mount Airy Fothergilla

Mount Airy Fothergilla is a deciduous shrub with deep blue-green leaves has attractive fall color. Honey-scented, brush-like flowers appear before the leaves. It is a beautiful addition to shrub borders or for background in semi-shaded borders. It looks good planted in combination with Burning Bush. Get them here

Fothergilla gives white blooms for Winter Color

Mount Airy Fothergilla

This is another plant that shouldn’t be used right along the house as a foundation planting. It is deciduous, and will grow rather large, 5 – 6′ tall and wide, although it is a slow grower. The Winter Color from this plant will be in late Winter when it flowers before the foliage comes on. It has curly white flowers that are very interesting.

Fothergilla also has a very showy fall foliage. It will turn from green to yellow, burgandy as the cold weather comes in. This plant is

Fothergilla in Fall, foliage provides early Winter color

Fothergilla in the Fall

one of those that gives us some bonus benefits through foliage, bloom and stem interest.

There are only a handful of plants, trees, perennials that will give you the trifecta of landscape benefits. Fothergilla is one of them. It is also a plant that will take over the space it’s planted in, so it’s best planted off to by itself on the edge of the planting, or as a border, or part of a multi-layer border or landscaping where it doesn’t have to be the anchor plant. It is best used as a special plant to add a burst of color, interest and a change of pace from the usual round green shrubs.

Globe Blue Spruce

Is a great “focal point” plant to use as a showy piece in a landscape. It could be placed as a focal point next to a doorway, step, or by itself in a cove or indented brick area along the house. It is a slow growing plant but is also a hybrid, so it will need a little “special” care.

Globe Blue Spruce, winter color from foliage

Globe Blue Spruce for Winter color from foliage

To keep the globe shape it will require a bit of pruning through the year. A pair of hand pruners is the best tool for this, You will selectively cut just a little growth off of the longest of stems.

This plant is hardy down to 50 below, so it will grow in most areas of the US. This variety is grown from the Colorado Blue Spruce, which grows to 50′ tall or more. This hybrid will only be around 3′ tall. Cold weather won’t hurt it, but it will have trouble growing South of the Transition Zone.

This is another shrub/tree that is meant to be a focal point and be planted alone. It isn’t one that would make sense to be planted in a row or grouping. Besides, the cost of these would probably deter most of us from planting more than one.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses provide a few different benefits for the landscape. Winter color is provided by the colorful foliage of some varieties. The shape and flowing nature of the tall foliage provides some movement and a different texture to the landscape. It’s good to

Ornamental grass for winter color

Miscanthus Purpurascen a purple fountain grass

have as many contrasting colors, textures, and plant structure as you can in the space you have to work with. If you only have the front of a small house to landscape, you won’t be able to fit many varieties of plants in to start with, so your plant selection will be limited and possibly, more important to get the most bang for your buck with each plant selected. Available Here

The maintenance for most ornamental grasses is fairly simple, just let it grow through the year, then in Spring take your hedge clippers and cut the whole thing down to 6″ to 2′ tall, depending on the variety of the plant. They are easy enough to prune that even a set of battery powered electric hedge clippers will cut them back.

Flame Grass Miscanthus purpurascen

“Flame Grass” will grow 4 to 5′ tall and 3′ to 4′ wide, it grows in zones 5 through 9. It has green foliage that starts to turn reddish pink as the Summer turns to Fall, the white plumes appear in Fall and stay through the Winter for a nice show of Winter color. With the pink/reddish foliage coupled with the white plumes this plant is another of the trifecta plants that gives your landscape more than just one benefit. The tall, thin, flowing grass givs movement to the landscape as a bonus to the colors.

This one works great in a triangle spacing in certain spots in the landscape. A good use is for bordering, screens, or in a water themed landscape.

There are hundreds of varieties of ornamental grasses, each with similar habits that can be used for Winter color, flowing movements in the landscape, and interesting structure. These are some favorites

Pampas Grass

One of the taller of the ornamental grasses. It has one of the coarsest stalks of the larger grasses also. It can grow to 6′ tall with flower plumes extending a few feet up past that. It will spread up to 6′ also, so placement is critical when deciding where to put it.

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass

This is one of the more common grasses planted in landscapes, especially when homeowners are planting themselves. It has a common name that most people know, so when they go to a Nursery they see this and recognize it and buy it. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you want to be a little different. Step outside the box in your landscape design and choose something a little more showy, and different.

Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass is a variety of ornamental grass that has a great Winter color for the landscape. It’s flower plumes are pinkish to red and very showy. Available Here

Pink Muhly Grass for winter color

Pink Muhly Grass

The grouping in the picture to the right is a great way to plant this ornamental grass. It’s height can reach 10′ tall with the plume, so they will need to be planted somewhere that they don’t block your view of your property from your house, (your personal view) but because of that height, they make a great plant to use as screen block, to specifically block someone else’s view of your property, (the public view) to give you some privacy on your deck or swimming pool.

Switchgrass for Fall and Winter Color in the landscape

Panicum Switchgrass

The ornamental grass to the right is Panicum Switchgrass. It is another ornamental grass that has a different look in it’s leaf color and the flowers it has. It also has been used in research for using it to make biofuels. Extensive studies have been done to determine if there is a value for the biofuel market.

For landscapes, just like the other ornamental grasses, it’s value is it’s color, shape, size, motion and interesting structure.

This selection of plants to provide Winter color is just a small sample of what is available. Simply go to Google, and search for Winter blooming plants, or plants with Winter color, and you will get enough suggestions to keep you busy through the rest of this season.

Planning ahead is one of the keys to a successful landscape, so don’t expect to rush out and buy a plant now and plant it for a beautiful plant this year. But, get your plan drawn out this Winter, then next Spring put it into action and start planting some of these in great spots. It will take some thought on your part to find a great spot for each plant. One plant may work in one spot where some of the others would not.

Get started and have confidence, you can do it. For more information on Landscape design drop by our Landscape Design Page on our website.

 

 

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Harvesting Rainwater to Combat Drought-Your Garden Thanks You!

Each year that goes by seems to bring more drought problems. Reservoirs are dwindling, rivers are drying up, forest fires are popping up in places that they haven’t been in years. There just might be something to this “global warming” business.

In the meantime government regulations are putting the damper on watering your lawn and garden with city water, some areas even restrict watering your lawn and garden with well water. So how do we keep our beloved plants alive? There might be an answer in harvesting rainwater.

 

rainwater harvesting barrell

Rainwater Harvesting Barrell

Lots of people are already catching rainwater to use in varying amounts now. Some simply catch a 35 gallon drum full to water their potted patio plants. When that runs out, they go back to using their city water, but even then, that’s 30 gallons of water that were saved. If all of us saved just that much each month, we would collectively save millions of gallons of water a year.

Where to start? First, you need something for rain water to run off of to catch it, usually your roof. Then, you simply catch that rainwater at the downspouts and send it to a collection barrel, tank or cistern. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you can do this without even having any electricity involved just letting gravity work to use the collected water.

In the simplest of systems, a barrel is placed under a downspout to catch the water, and a rain diverter is attached to the downspout, then  a  hose spicket is attached to the bottom of the drum to access the stored water for watering your plants. Keeping the drum up off the ground a couple of feet allows gravity to work for you.

rainwater collection system

rainwater collection system

 

In more elaborate systems, in-ground storage tanks are used to store the water and electric pumps are then needed to lift the water out to pump it through hoses to use it. These systems can run into the thousands of dollars to build. What your needs will be will most likely fall somewhere between these. The diagram below shows a simple system with a couple of plastic barrels placed under a downspout. The two drums are connected by a piece of pipe that allows both drums to fill up with only one being under the downspout. You could feasibly connect as many barrels together as you want to increase your storage.

Rainwater can even be collected, filtered and run through an ultra-violet sterolizer that will make the water potable. These systems can get into several thousands of dollars, but if you live out in the middle of nowhere, and “off grid”, then it is a viable source for water.

The University of Arizona has a good article on building rainwater collection systems.

No matter how elaborate you want to get, collecting rainwater just makes good sense! Reducing your water bill is just the beginning, helping to conserve water and being able to grow plants when you couldn’t before because of lack of water are just bonus reasons.

Some municipalities, States and Fed. governments will allow credits for installing certain systems that meet minimum criteria. Here is some more information from the National Conference of State Legislatures .

Here are a few products that will get you up and running to collect some rainwater and keep your plants happy.

 

 

Gifts for The Turfgrass Lover in Your Life

Do you have someone in your life that loves turfgrass? Someone that cuts the lawn twice a week, notices the nice lawns in the background in the movie you’re watching and loves the Green Grass Yankee Candle? Then here are some unique turf gifts they will love.

  1. How about a set of handmade golf turfgrass coasters?  $20.00
Turfgrass Golf Coasters

Turfgrass Golf Coasters

 

 

 

 

2. Or, if football is your thing, here is a set of printed football turf coasters $13.95

 

3. When you need a piece of artificial turf to rub your feet on, or maybe hit golf balls off of, this 2′ X 3′ Artificial Turf Rug is $33.80 Several sizes available

Artificial Turfgrass Rug

Artificial Turfgrass Rug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. If Soccer is your thing this set of grass and soccer ball printed rubber coasters will run you $13.95

 

5.  A piece of artificial turfgrass for a doormat will let everyone know what you’re interested in. This one is 24″ X 18″ for $21.97, or a 24″ X 48″ for $44.97

 

6. For the person that can’t get enough turfgrass, a set of Grass Blade Ink Pens should be OK. This gift pack of 12 pens is $7.50

Grass Blade Ink Pen

Grass blade ink pen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Start your baby out loving grass, this Artificial Turfgrass Baby Bottle Drying Rack will do it. $16.99

Baby bottle drying rack

Baby Bottle Drying Rack

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not park on the grass sign

Please Do Not Park On The Grass

8.  If you have managed to get that Perfect Lawn and want people to stay off of it, LET THEM KNOW! This sign will tell them you are proud of your lawn, and they need to stay off of it! Please Do Not Park On The Grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Having a party outside, or inside and you want to keep that “grass theme” how about a Grass Table Cover? Only $6.00

Grass Table Cover

Grass Table Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. And of course everyone needs a Grass iPhone Cover, fits iPhone 6 for $13.99

 

iphone 6 phone cover

iPhone 6 grass cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just use the search engine on your favorite browser to come up with hundreds of gift ideas for the turfgrass and outdoor lover in your family.

Gifts for the Gardener in Your Life-the 12 Days of Christmas

Are you trying to think of something great for the gardener/lawn and landscape fanatic in your life? It’s an easy bet that getting them something to help them do the hobby they love will be loved as well. So, what to get? We have scoured the Lawn and Garden sections of Amazon, and these are some of the must hmust-have, best sellers for someone that loves gardening, lawn care, landscaping, and outdoor living in general. Take a look, for more information on each item, just click on the picture.

How about solar powered Christmas lights? No extension cords to run, no fuss, easy setup.  LED String Lights Solar Christmas Lights 39ft 100 LED 8 Modes Ambiance lighting for Outdoor Patio Lawn Landscape Fairy Garden Home Wedding Holiday waterproof Colored lights


Help them be Patriotic, with a new flag and pole mount. American Flag 3×5 ft. Tough-Tex the Strongest, Longest Lasting Flag by Annin Flagmakers, 100% Made in USA with Sewn Stripes, Embroidered Stars and Brass Grommets. 


A set of “retro” looking patio lights. Spring and Summer will be back before you know it, be ready to enjoy your lawn and patio with some cool looking lights.
Hyperikon Weatherproof String Lights with 15 Dropped Sockets, 2W LED S14 Bulbs included, 48ft, Linkable – Durable Decoration for Party, Event, Patio, Backyard, Garden, Café, Holiday


Everybody needs work gloves, here is a new kind that are comfortable and bright, so you don’t lose them. Bamboo Gardening & Work Gloves (2 Pairs) Ultra-Premium Quality for Men & Women. Breathable to Keep Hands Dry & Textured Grip to Reduce Slipping by Kamojo


Zeka got you worried? Get your own mosquito fogger. Powered by a propane bottle, these will fog your entire lawn in minutes. We have used them for years around our greenhouses and garden center. Burgess 1443 Propane Insect Fogger for Fast and Effective Mosquito Control in Your Yard


Need a place to hide all of those lawn and garden tools out of sight? Beautiful Most Popular Top Seller Large Capacity 99-Gallon Weather Water Proof Indoor Outdoor Deck Pool Patio Laundry Linen Lightweight Portable Patio Storage Basket Bench Box Container Mocha Brown


Keep your flag lit up at night with this solar powered light. Solar Powered FLAG Pole Light LED Mount No Wiring Illuminate Bright Top Selling Item


Every serious gardener or landscaper has a pair of hand pruners. Gardening Shears- Razor Sharp Blades Perfect for Cutting Bushes,Shrubs & Hedges-8″ SK5 Steel Ergonomic Bypass Pruning Shears/Garden Shears


Solar powered mosquito killers, no electricity or cords required, a great idea for any patio. Solar LED Outdoor Mosquito Killer Lamp Larger Bug Zapper Light, Whole Night Protection


Patio umbrellas don’t seem to last too long. They either fade and tear due to sun exposure, or get blown across the lawn and get torn. Here is a replacement, with solar lights underneath it.


Everybody needs a little red wagon! Helpful for everything from hauling fertilizer, weed killer, tools, potting soil, plants or anything you need to carry out into your lawn and landscape. Outdoor Wagon All Terrain Pulling w/ Wood Railing Air Tires


A solar powered, (no electricity needed, put it anywhere) LED, motion sensored flood light. Extremely handy to put where it’s dark and you need light at night walking to the house or the garage.

These are just 12 items that are extremely useful and top sellers for gardeners, landscapers and lawn care enthusiasts. Do you know of an extremely handy tool or lawn and landscape item? Post it below in the comments, we will pass it on.

OH, I almost forgot, any lawn care enthusiast can use our book Establish a 1st Class Lawn Like a Pro, download it free from 11/24/2016 through 11/29/2016

Happy gardening in 2017!

Leaf Removal: Necessary or Not?

With the arrival of Fall comes the inevitable blizzard of leaves. These leaves cause lots of work, but also can cause damage to your lawn. So should you rake them, vacuum them, mulch them up, what’s the best option?

Fall Leaves

The Leaves of Fall, Pretty to Look at, Harmful to Your grass

What is best to do will depend on how many leaves you have, what type of grass you have, and even where you live.

If you just have light leaf cover over the grass, simply keep mowing them and mulch them up, if you have a larger lawn. Or, if you have a small lawn, you might just rake them up. That would ultimately be best for the lawn. The less leaf litter that works its way into the lawn, the better.

If you have a larger lawn that would be difficult to rake, or if it’s just more work than you want to get into, I would put some mulching blades on the mower and just keep mowing weekly. It’s important to keep doing it weekly and not let an entire blanket of leaves get built up on the lawn before you mulch them. Too many leaves on the ground makes it much more difficult to mulch them.

deep leaf litter

Deep leaf litter on lawn

If you have a lawn sweeper or vacuum either of these would be ideal. No leave litter at all on the lawn would be best. That way you don’t have the additional drain on the nutrients in the lawn from the decomposing leaf litter.

Leaves that are left on the lawn, mulched up, will find their way into the surface and begin decomposing. The process of decomposing requires nitrogen, so while the leaves are doing their thing decomposing, they are robbing the grass and soil of fertilizer that you are putting down, stealing a little bit of green from the grass. If you are going to mulch up your leaves, that’s OK, if there isn’t too many, just put down a little extra fertilizer.

Mulching leaves with a mower

Leaves being mulched with a mulching blade on the mower

Leaves steal Lime too. One of the first nutrients to leach out of the soil is lime. Even without a heavy leaf load, the heavy clay soils we have in our area of West TN will require regular lime applications to keep them stable. Adding leaf litter to the mix will only make the problem worse.

Your grass type will factor into your decision whether to remove the leaves too. Fescue, Ryegrass, and Bluegrass are cool season grasses and are more tender than Bermuda and Zoysia. These warm season grasses are going to be growing in lawns without too many trees anyway since they don’t grow well in the shade. Fescue and other cool season grasses will die out much easier than Bermuda or Zoysia from leaves being on them. Bermuda and Zoysia won’t be affected much from leaves being on the ground because those grasses are dormant when leaves are falling. So leaves on warms season grasses are not as big of an issue. But the lawn always looks much better if it’s kept clean.

The cool season grasses need to be kept leaf free, as much as they can. If the leaves are left on the grass long enough, they will mat together and form a blanket over the grass and choke the grass out. These leaves matted together is similar to you taking a big blue tarp out and laying it out on the lawn. Both will have the same results.

Regardless of what method you choose to handle the leaf drop, it’s important to take care of them, otherwise, all your work you have put in throughout the year creating a great looking lawn might be for nothing.

Fall is Bulb Planting Time – For Some Varieties

Flowers from bulbs can make a very beautiful bed, or can be a royal pain in the A**! Things have to be just right or the mountain of bulbs that you chose from a pile of catalogs, and finally ordered in the middle of Summer, will wind up being a waste of time and money.

Daffodils Blooming

Daffodils blooming in a mass planting landscape bed.

Often, 100’s of bulbs are planted in a bed, then you wait patiently for next Spring to see your bounty, and…..nothing, or very little bulb activity and lots of disappointment.

Bulbs are a little different than planting fresh live Spring Bedding plants. They are planted in Fall, for Spring bloomers, or in the Summer for Fall Bloomers, or planted in Spring for Summer bloomers. Live bedding plants are bought as a growing baby flower and planted to grow through the Spring, Summer and into Fall until the first frost.

Bulbs also like a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. So that means in soil that doesn’t stay saturated with water and isn’t mostly clay. In our area of West TN, that means we have to amend the soil with organic material, mulch, potting soil, compost, or some other organic material that has completely decomposed.

Using a “green” material, (organic material that hasn’t completely decomposed) will cause more problems for your bed than good, so don’t use piles of fresh sawdust, wood chips, or fresh mulch that isn’t already very decomposed. As these materials go through the process of decomposing, they actually use nitrogen from the soil for their own use, and will create heat in the process. This is where the term “it’s too hot” comes from, when referring to mulching materials.

compost

Fresh compost from a home composter

Use only bagged goods that have already reached decomposition, or compost that has reached complete decomposition. Till the soil in these beds that bulbs will be planted in, using shovels or power equipment, if you have enough room. Till the soil first, then pour the amendments on the soil, till again to mix into the soil. Then plant.

Some common questions, and the answers to them are the following, from three bulb wholesale operations. If you need to know how to grow something, go to the source, someone who has been doing it for years. These three account for a major portion of the annual bulb sales in the US each year.

How can I keep daffodils blooming as perennials for a lot of years?

Plant them in full sun in well drained soil.

Before planting, add compost to the soil and top dress with more compost each fall. The addition of organic matter keeps the soil healthy and enables the bulbs to absorb the nutrients they need in addition to the nutrients acquired through photosynthesis.

Wait to cut the leaves when they begin to turn yellow when the photosynthesis is finished, which usually happens about 8 to 12 weeks after they finish blooming.

Keep artificial irrigation away from the area during the bulb’s summer dormancy. Hot weather makes the soil warm; adding water to warm soil around dormant bulbs can cause some to rot.

I have a garden that I want to continue blooming during the growing season, from spring through fall. How can I accomplish this?

Plant in layers:

  • Tulips, lilies, large alliums, camassia – 10 inches deep
  • Daffodils, Hyacinthus, Hyacinthoides, Leucojum, Muscari – 6 inches deep
  • Crocus, Anemones, Ipheion, Chionodoxa, Scilla – 3 inches deep

Plant companions on top of the bulbs; don’t worry, the bulbs will work their way around them.

  • Hemerocallis, Echinacea, Monarda, Phlox, Achillea, Asclepias, ornamental grasses – full sun
  • Lobelia, Thermopsis, groundcovers like Vinca minor, Ajuga, Lamium – part shade
  • Add long blooming annuals “under the arms” of the perennials in early summer.
  • Portulaca, marigolds, petunias – full sun
  • Geranium, Osteospermum – part shade
  • Begonia, caladium, coleus – shade
Fall bulb planting schedule

Fall Bulb Planting Schedule

Layering the bulbs, planting perennial companions in the same bed and adding long-blooming annuals for the summer will ensure a colorful garden for most of the growing season.

What are some flower bulbs for my spring garden. I haven’t worked with flower bulbs before and I don’t know where to start. What should I do?

We’d suggest that you map out the garden beds, and determine the color palette and general ambiance you would like for the garden: Is it more formal or informal? We usually recommend planting 80 percent of the garden with perennial flower bulbs and 20 percent with tulips and hyacinths, which will need to be planted each fall. Tulips and hyacinths have the broadest rainbow of colors available, and by replanting them every fall, you can keep the garden’s look fresh and exciting by changing their colors.

The primary perennial flower bulbs to include are narcissi, allium, fritillaria, lilies and herbaceous peonies, all of which may be planted either in clusters for a more orderly look or in drifts for a more natural look. Finally, finesse the garden with plantings of smaller bulbs like Muscari, Scilla, Chionodoxa and Anemone blanda. Tip: To help keep clients really happy, plant a cutting garden with varieties for the future and bring them spring preview bouquets before placing their fall bulb orders.

I want flower bulbs in our woods, and want them to look like they’ve always been there. I’ve only ever planted tulips before and we have major deer issues. Are there any other bulbs that I can use?

There is a whole range of deer and rodent-resistant naturalizing flower bulbs that can be planted in drifts to sparkle in woodlands from early to late spring. In early spring, Eranthis hyemalis, the winter aconite, adorns forest floors with 4-inch-tall, bright yellow flowers, while Galanthus, the snowdrop, charms us with 6-inch-tall milky-white flowers. One of the most prolifically planted woodland dwellers is the Narcissus, usually planted in loose groups with no apparent design. Hyacinthoides non-scripta, the English bluebell, yields breathtaking seas of 18-inchtall, shimmering violet-blue flowers. Scilla, Erythronium pagoda, Geranium tuberosum and Ornithogalum nutans Silver Bells are also lovely planted in seemingly haphazard drifts. Camassia, a northwest U.S. native, is perfect in irregular drifts in the dappled sunlight of the edge of woods. In just a few years, any of these flower bulbs will appear as if they are age-old woodland inhabitants.

bulb planting depth

How deep should bulbs be planted?

Also, be sure to plant your bulbs at the proper depth. Some are deep planted, while others are to be barely covered with soil, the difference can be having a bare bed or having one that is covered with beauty.

We have a house still under construction. There is only fill where the gardens are going to be. We don’t have the go-ahead on foundation plantings, but want something in bloom next spring. What can we do?

This first phase should focus on laying out only the bare minimum, mandatory beds around the foundation of the front of the house. The soil must be amended so that these beds have good neutral pH garden soil, close to a sandy loam, with reliable drainage. Determine the square footage and the color palette pleasing to the homeowners. Select earlier blooming tulip bulbs and hyacinth bulbs that will create a prominent, yet economical, display, but that can be treated as annuals. You’ll need about five bulbs per square foot for a somewhat dense planting. When the flowers start to die back in the spring, they can be removed, bulb and all, so that work may proceed with any hardscape, foundation plantings and other beds.

We have serious animal issues — both deer and rodents. What are my options?

Flower bulb eating squirrel

A bulb eating squirrel

Deer and rodents can wreak havoc on bulbs, as they can on any other type of ornamental plant. The strategies for dealing with these uninvited guests:

Plant bulbs that animals can’t or prefer not to eat. This is the easiest and most affordable option. It also means telling your client that she can’t have tulips or crocuses. So what can she have? Daffodils, first and foremost. All daffodils are toxic to mammals and will not be eaten. The same applies to other members of the amaryllis family: snowdrops (Galanthus) and snowflakes (Leucojum). Beyond that, there is a small group of bulbs that deer and rodents may sample but generally avoid: crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis), glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) and winter aconite (Eranthis), among them. Deer and rodents don’t necessarily have the same taste in bulbs. Deer, for example, steer clear of the ornamental onions (Allium), but rodents have been known to eat the bulbs.

Bulb beds can be rewarding, or as we said, dissappointing. Do your homework, choose the right variety, get soil amendments in the bed, plant, and be patient.

Too big of a job for you? Give us a call LawnMasters can take care of hauling the soil, amendments, bed prep, planting and let you do the waiting.