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. 



 

 

Aeration-The Most Beneficial, Least Expensive Thing Your Lawn Needs

You have probably heard that aeration is good for your lawn, maybe you’ve seen it done, or maybe you have seen the process done at a golf course, you may have even aerated your own lawn. But did you know that for what it costs to do it, or even to buy an AERATOR to do it with, that it’s the most beneficial and least expensive thing that you can do for your lawn?

First, what is aeration? It’s the process of taking small plugs of soil out of your lawn and depositing them on top of the lawn. Why does this help? Depending on if you have a normal home lawn, a commercial lawn that maybe gets a little more traffic, a school lawn, baseball field, football field, soccer field, or even a golf course, the problems that aerating fixes, will be more severe with more foot traffic, and even some vehicle traffic.

Aerating is similar to taking a house plant that has become root bound and repotting it. The same principles apply. Taking the house plant out of its confined pot and giving it more room to grow is what happens to turfgrass roots when you aerate. The holes that are poked in the ground give the roots more room to grow.

Thatch is a combination of decaying grass clippings, miscellaneous lawn debris, stolons and roots that build up at the crown of the grass plant. Over time this thatch acts like a barrier and keeps water, air, fertilizer and lime from getting into the root zone of the grass to do its magic.

Thatch in grass

Thatch layer in turfgrass

By aerating (making thousands of holes) the lawn, you will help to reduce this thatch layer and allow fertilizer, lime, water and air to get into the soil and the root zone of the turfgrass. The plugs that are left on top of the ground (when using a core aerator) will decompose over time and through microbial activity help to keep the thatch in check.

The picture at left shows the soil with some roots growing in it, the thick thatch layer, the crown of the grass and the grass blades.

As you might imagine from looking at this picture, this thatch layer can get so compacted that it is similar to having a sheet of plastic laying on your lawn. When it does rain or when you water, the water would run off instead of soaking deep down into the lawn. The compacted root zone also restricts the growth of the grass plant leaving your entire lawn looking lethargic, weak and yellowish.

Core Aeration

Core aeration is the best type, this is when the machine actually makes a plug (core) and pulls it out of the ground and deposits it on top of the ground. We prefer the core aerators over the spike aerators for this reason. The spike aerator still will poke holes in the ground and allow space, but they actually do a little compacting of the soil at the same time.

What happens is the spike goes into the ground and makes a hole, but since it doesn’t pull a plug of soil out of the ground, it just pushes the soil to the sides and makes the hole. This compacts that portion of soil while making the hole. This is a small disadvantage, so if you are short on available cash to buy an aerator, the spike aerator is better than nothing, and this one is less than $100.00.

A good core aerator can be bought for anywhere from $141.00 for this lesser expensive Precision Brand plugger to over $390.00 for this better built, better quality Agri-Fab Brand 40″ plugger This is another case of “you get what you pay for”. But, from experience, we have learned that the plugger type aerator does a better job, and if the extra bucks that it’s going to cost doesn’t kill you, then get the plugger.

There is one advantage to this particular spike-aerator. That is that you can seed and aerate at the same time with this one piece of equipment.

You will first need to run over the lawn a couple of times with this aerator being sure that you cover all spots of the lawn without leaving any blank spots in the lawn where you skipped. Then fill the seed hopper, and being even more careful, cover the entire lawn until you have applied the required amount of seed. How much seed you will need to put down will depend on the type of seed, and whether you are trying to just fill in a little bit, or if your lawn was nearly all gone and you’re trying to re-establish it. Look at our seeding page for more information about how much seed to use and how much fertilizer is needed, and what type of fertilizer.

You can also buy an aerator that you just simply push like a push mower. This would obviously be a lot of work for anything more than the smallest of lawns, so it’s not going to be a popular type of aerator.

If you want to get a little exercise or you don’t have a riding lawn mower to pull a tow behind type aerator, you can even buy a set of aerator shoes that will put holes in the lawn with every step you take.

 

So, you can kill two birds with one stone, or (let’s not kill any birds) get two jobs done at once, simply by wearing these.

If you are a serious lawn care fanatic and you have a small tractor that you use for various lawn and landscaping chores around the property, you can get a three point hitch type commercial grade aerator that you can use your tractor to aerate with. This is the type that we use in our Landscape Company. They will do the best job of any that we have shown you so far. However, the disadvantage is the cost.

This unit will run you over $2,100.00 plus shipping to boot. That’s a lot of money to spend for a piece of equipment that you may not use more than a half dozen times a year. But, let’s say that you and your brother, good friend, cousin, etc. go in together to buy one. Then the cost is cut in half and it’s not like the unit is going to be used by one or the other of you each time the other wants to use it. It should be available for either of you when you need it. Of course, one of you will need to own a tractor.

If you are a volunteer at your kids Little League or school, you might find this is just the tool you need to help them keep the fields in good shape.

Renting Equipment to Aerate

Still another option is to rent an aerator. You can rent a tow behind aerator for $50.00 to $75.00 from most rental stores. But, just do a little math and you can see that it wouldn’t take too many rentals and you could have bought one of your own. Plus not having the aggravation of having to drive to the rental store, load it, haul it back, etc.

Many rental stores will also have a walk-behind gas powered aerator. These are plug type aerators and do an excellent job. However, they will work you hard. If you’re not in good physical shape, we don’t suggest attempting one of these. You can buy one like this, Husqvarna 25.5″  for around $3,300.00

There are many options for equipment to aerate, here is another. A three point hitch type aerator for your tractor, in a spike type. Basically, it’s a large drum with spikes welded to it that you can use with your tractor.

Again, your tractor must have a three point hitch and be large enough to lift this unit weighing almost 400#. With this aerator and the 3-pt. hitch plugging aerator listed above, you can’t use just a small lawn and garden mower “tractor”, you will have to have at minimum a small Kubota/John Deere/Kioti tractor that would accept a front end loader, tillers, and other small equipment. You won’t be using what Sears calls a “Lawn Tractor”. Those are just lawn mowers.

And finally, one more option is a hand held plugging aerator. It’s simply a tool with two hollow spears on the end of it. Operating it is plain and simple, raise it up, push it down. Repeat this a few hundred times and you’ll be done. Again, for the person that doesn’t mind some vigorous exercise, or for those that have the smallest of postage stamp size lawns, this might be for you. This one sells for only $24.00 and you can even get replacement tines for it when you wear out what comes on it.

The bottom line of aerating is that it doesn’t matter what type of aerator you use, they will get the job done. The only difference is which type you use, how much money you want to spend and how much work you are willing to do. Aerating is the least expensive thing you can do to your lawn and will give you more benefits than some other lawn maintenance services you could have done.

Benefits of aeration

The benefits of aeration

And of course, if you’re all fired up to get your lawn aerated and you don’t want to buy or rent the equipment, don’t have the time or energy to do it anyway and would rather just have a nice lawn without the sweat, then call your local Lawn and Landscape Company to get it done. It will cost you anywhere from $45.00 to as much as a few hundred depending on the size of your lawn and the market you live in.

The timing for aeration will depend on a couple things. Usually when the soil is soft enough for the tines to go into the ground is the most important, for the equipment to work right. If you have an irrigation system, then this is not an issue. You can simply water enough to make the ground soft, and go to work.

If someone asked I can do this once a year, when should I do it? I would say Fall. The next best time would be Spring. But, remember, golf courses, pro football and baseball fields, soccer fields and other turfgrass areas that get a lot of foot traffic or vehicle traffic will aerate several times a year. It’s one of those things that won’t hurt anything to do it even monthly.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us and we will try to answer for you. If you have found this post helpful, please share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. We wish you greener grass and lush lawns!

Related Posts at LawnMasters

Aeration and Overseeding

 Aerating/Seeding

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.

 

 

The 5 Top Ways to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

We all want our property to be worth more, and as the years go by and you do remodeling jobs or home improvements, some of these projects add to the value, and others don’t.

The National Association of Realtors recently surveyed their members to ask what items added the most to the perceived curb appeal of the home the buyer was looking at. These are the top 5.

  1. A Lawn Care Program – Seventy five percent of those surveyed said that having a lawn care program to keep the grass green and weed free helped to close the sale. They also stated that with the average cost for a 6 application lawn care program being $330.00 that the return on investment was 303%. Or worth approximately $1,000.00 at the time of the sale

    Lawn Spraying

    Lawn Sspray Technician Making a Lawn Application

  2. An Overall Landscape Upgrade – A front lawn / landscape renovation consisting of an average of adding stonework and a flagstone or paver walkway, at least five flowering shrubs, one large deciduous tree and some stone planters added more than monetary value to the home, but also added Homeowner Bliss. The homeowners surveyed stated that they had the desire to be home more. This type of project is more costly than a simple lawn service, but it was described as “guaranteed to have a full return on investment”. The average renovation costing $4,750.00 and had an average return on investment at sale time of $5,000.00 or 105%
  3. A New Patio – New flagstone or paver patios are not as often recommended as
    paver patio and fire pit

    paver patio with sitting wall and fire pit

    much as landscape renovations, due mainly to the fact that not all homes need a new patio. Those that did install new paver, flagstone or concrete patios say that it increased their enjoyment while being at home. The average cost for adding a patio was $6,400.00 with a return on investment of 102%, or $6,525.00

  4. A New Wood Deck – Only 4% of the realtors surveyed reported that a new wooden deck helped to close the sale, but 77% of homeowners said that it made them
    Treated Deck

    Treated Deck

    happier while at home and made them want to be at home more. This was the most costly of the projects listed, at $9,450.00 but realtors reported it packed the most value punch. The average return on investment was $10,000.00 or 106% of investment recovered.

  5. Landscape Plantings Upgrade – 25% of the realtors reported that adding landscaping greenery (plants, shrubs, and trees) would elevate a simple yard’s curb appeal. On average, their description of adding an upgrade to landscaping plants consisted of adding 25 shrubs, 60 perennials, some natural edging (stone) and adding a boulder accent.
    New landscaping

    New Landscaping

    While each renovation will vary based on the size of property, location, and the current value of the property, there is no doubt that upgrading your home’s landscape plantings will go a long way to improve the curb appeal.

There are lots of ways to improve the curb appeal of your landscape, these are just the top five that the National Association of Realtors survey found the most helpful. Other things can help that are not so costly. Simply pruning the shrubs back to their proper size, mulching and edging the beds, pressure washing the home, driveway and walks, and keeping the lawn mowed will instantly improve the curb appeal.

If you need some help giving your home a curb appeal boost, give us a call for free estimates 731.642.2876


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.

Your Choice in Variety of Liriope Could Haunt You

Liriope (monkey grass) is a very common landscape plant all across the US. It is generally used as an accent plant or a border plant, but many times is used in a mass planting under trees or on hillsides that are difficult to maintain.

It’s very important to choose the right variety for each purpose because different varieties have different growth habits. The picture below shows a variety of Mondo grass that the homeowner planted in a strip along the driveway and sidewalk maybe 15 years ago. Now it has grown out from the concrete 6 to 10 feet in places. They thought it would stay in a clump.

mondo grass taking over a lawn

Mondo grass that has spread out of it’s original space into the lawn

This Liriope is commonly called Mondo grass,Ophiopogon japonicus.  There is another variety closely related to this one that is Dwarf Mondo. Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’

These liriopes are dark green in color, no variegation and are hardy in zones 6-11.

These are best suited in locations where their crawling growth habit is not a problem. Remember that they spread by sending out an underground shoot, or rhizome, which will surface a few inches away starting a new plant and new roots.

As you can tell by these pictures, they will take over a lawn choking out the original turfgrass. This section of mondo grass is so thick that weeds will barely grow in it. If you have an area on a hill, under trees or any area where regular turf grass won’t grow, but you don’t want to have shrubs in those areas, this may be a good choice.

mondo-grass2

Mondo grass spreading over a front lawn. It used to be right against the driveway, but over the years has taken over.

The regular mondo grass will grow to a height of approximately 8″ to 10″. The dwarf variety will only reach 2″ to 3″. The two can be used in closely related areas of the landscape for a contrast in size and texture.

This type of mass planting can be an inexpensive way to cover up wide areas of a landscape to reduce maintenance and mulching expenses later as the landscape matures. Once the bed grows in full, weeds are not much of a problem. Keep the area fertilized and weed control granules applied during the grow-in period. You can find more information on weed control in the beds on our website here.

One of the most commonly used liriopes is “variegated Lilly turf” or Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’. It is a variety that will stay in it’s assigned space when planted and will not crawl. It also has a pretty purple/blue bloom that is a bonus throughout the Summer.

varigated liriope, monkey grass

Variegated liriope or variegated monkey grass is one of the most commonly used border plants/accent plants in landscaping.

This variety is commonly used as a border plant, lined up along the edge of the landscape bed, often running alongside a driveway, walkway or other hardscapes. It can also be used in the middle of a landscape as an accent plant. It will not crawl but will get larger and thicker as it matures. It can be used as a mass planting however, large landscape beds look very nice when an evenly spaced planting of variegated liriope is planted over a hillside, slope or other areas that require reduced maintenance.

There are hundreds of varieties of liriope available from growers across the United States, many can be ordered online and will arrive in a box with moist paper wrapped around it. The plants will be smaller, maybe plug size up to 2 to 4 inch containers, depending on the grower. These can be purchased for anywhere from .20 cents to $1 each, again, depending on the size.

Compare that to $6 to $8 dollars a pot for a mature 1 gallon pot, you can save yourself thousands on larger landscape projects where as many as hundreds of pots, or even thousands, could be needed.

We often say that if you have more patience than money, buy small and keep them fertilized, watered, mulched and weeded, and you will have a full bed within a couple of years. If you are impatient and have the money, by all means, write the check and plant the big plant!

Black Mondo Grass / Lilly Turf

Black Mondo Grass

The Black Mondo Grass in the picture to left, is an interesting choice as it’s not used as often and can provide a striking contrast in color and texture for a change.

In addition to the look of the plant, as you choose what color, height and spread of the plant, also look at the rest of the horticulture information on the plants you are buying. Just because the plant is only 4″ tall right now doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way, or that it will stay in it’s planted spot.

Many times a year we receive calls from customers who have let their landscapes get out of control from lack of pruning, or just simply planting the wrong plant in the wrong location.

Average homeowners don’t have a lot of landscaping knowledge and often choose a plant based on simply what it looks like in the nursery or garden center, and not based on its horticultural specifications. We routinely cut out, pull out or otherwise remove overgrown plants that were poorly chosen. In the long run, this was wasted money.

Try to resist impulse buying while in the garden center, if something catches your eye and you would like to have it, think about where it will grow best in your landscape based on its size, growth habit, mature height and spread, color, foliage habits, sun requirements, and even water requirements.

If you’re not sure if it will work or not, you might want to go home and look at the location and consider all of the possibilities of having that plant, in that location. Choosing the wrong plant can come back to haunt you later.

For more information about lawn care and landscaping tips, check our website. For a free landscaping estimate or lawn care analysis and estimate, give our office a call at 731.642.2876 or at 888.664.LAWN

Segmental Retaining Walls-Not for Beginners

8" segmental retaining wall block walls

A set of tiered retaining walls with landscape beds behind them

Segmental Retaining Walls (SRW’s) are concrete block retaining walls that use a complicated system of gravity, wall setback, geogrid, proper drainage, compacted base gravel foundation, and other factors to complete a structurally sound, efficient and very appealing retaining wall for commercial or residential purposes.

These walls are difficult to build, requiring lots of labor, lots of equipment, and lots of knowledge to properly build one. Trusting your property to someone who doesn’t have the knowledge, and any combination of the other things can put your investment and property at risk. These walls are quite expensive to build, and if one of them comes down due to improper construction, it could cost you twice as much to have it cleaned up and rebuilt.

 

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

SRW’s are on the average more expensive than a poured concrete wall, that has not been faced with brick or stone but have a much better appearance, having several textures and colors available.

Most of the time, they are built with no concrete foundation, using a compacted base gravel instead, this allows the foundation and the block to move slightly with any frost heaves or movement from hydraulic pressure from ground water. Most poured retaining walls will crack at some point, SRW’s will not crack since they are not mortared together.

Retaining walls can make use of previously unusable land you may have on your property. They can take a steep slope and turn it into several level areas that can then be used for landscape beds, turfgrass, or flower beds. They will add value to your property, in some cases partially or completely paying for themselves in increased property value.

These structural walls can be built at the shore level on most lake properties as a sea wall alleviating erosion and gaining usable land behind the wall once it is backfilled. They can be built virtually unlimited in height, with the right conditions and materials.

Sea Wall on Kentucky Lake

This wall we built on Kentucky Lake to level this property, gain usable land and allow the summer water level to splash against the wall.

LawnMasters Lawn and Landscape has been building these walls for 26 years, we have the experience, knowledge and equipment to build any type of SRW on your property, commercial or residential.

If you need an estimate or a second opinion on how to construct a wall on your property or what type of wall to construct, we are happy to assist. Just contact us and we will take a look and give you a free lawn and landscape analysis for your needs.

Lots of homeowners and quite a few contractors think that any block that you can stack up that has a lip or another method of creating “set back” can be used to easily build a wall. After all, all you do is stack them up, right? Nope….. This is where the situation starts going bad.

Having the knowledge of which block should be used, what type of base foundation, how many feet of geogrid for stablilization, and how many layers of it, how much drainage gravel, etc. all combine to equal what it takes to be able to build a wall properly. This post is primarily a warning to property owners to ask questions of the person or Company that is giving you a retaining wall estimate or proposal.

Things to ask:

  • How long have you been building SRW’s
  • Where are some you can go look at
  • What type/size block would you recommend for this job
  • How much Geogrid will be used
  • Explain how you will address the drainage issues around the retaining wall
  • What will be done at the finish grade to address drainage on top of the wall, to prevent water from running over and down the face of the wall
  • Does your price include excavation and removal of spill
  • Will you provide a stamped engineered drawing of the project
  • What is your warranty for the wall

These are all items that you should ask and get an answer for, that you understand. A structural retaining wall is as important as the foundation under your house and should be given the same professional attention.

Do you have retaining wall questions or issues? Contact us at 888.664.LAWN or email us here EMAIL US

Winterize Your Irrigation System to Prevent Damage

Winter is going to be here before you know it, now is the time to plan for winterizing your sprinkler system (irrigation system). Most irrigation systems will retain a small amount of water in the lateral lines, even if you have automatic drain back valves installed. And the valve boxes are all

irrigation system automatic drain back valve

An automatic drain back valve in an irrigation system. It helps to eliminate water from standing in the system

susceptible to freezing because they are exposed to the elements except for a thin plastic lid. If a valve freezes and breaks, it is usually an expensive repair.

 

Winterizing your system is usually going to require having the installer, or a qualified Landscape Professional, that has knowledge about the operation of an irrigation system, pumps that pump out of the lake for water source, and all of the different timers, valves and related systems that make up an irrigation system, to do it for you. A properly installed irrigation system is quite complex and needs the expertise of someone that has done it for years to service it for you.

LawnMasters has been installing and maintaining irrigation systems for 26 years. One of the first systems we installed was on Kentucky Lake for a nice lady who had recently lost her husband. He had started building an irrigation system, but passed away before he could complete it.

We completed the system for her in 1990, and it is still being used today.

Winterizing an irrigation system involves hooking an air compressor up to the system, utilizing a couple of different options, then charging the system with air pressure to blow the water out of the system.

Winterizing an irrigation system

An irrigation head blowing out any water in the line during winterization

Two problems can surface during this action, one is the system can be damaged if too much air pressure is applied to it. Or second, the system can still be damaged by freezing water if all of the water is not purged from the system. Again, knowledge is king when servicing a system that costs thousands to install.

Once we have the system winterized, we turn it off and put it to bed for the season, ready to be started when needed in Spring, protecting your valuable irrigation system and your investment.

When Spring comes, the system should be ready to just turn on the water, adjust your automatic timer and let it take off again.

When should you have your irrigation system winterized? It depends on what part of the US you are in, when your expected first freeze will be, and if you are doing Fall seeding.

Obviously, the farther North you are, the sooner you will have to winterize your system, an easy rule is to have it done prior to the expected date of your first freeze. If you are done using your system for the year, go ahead and schedule to have it done, or do it yourself if you are able. There is no benefit in waiting, and, if you wait until the last minute before the first expected freeze, you may not be able to get on the schedule to get it done in time.

New Sod, Irrigating

New Sod Being Watered

If you are doing some Fall overseeding, aeration and seeding or have installed sod, you may need to wait until the last minute. Still, if you are planning on waiting right up until the last day or so before freeze is expected, go ahead and call to get on the winterizing schedule and you can still get it done.

The first freeze usually isn’t the killer freeze that damages a lot of water pipes. The first time it freezes, the ground is still above freezing and the temps usually don’t drop that far below freezing, and most components will not freeze.

But after the ground gets cold enough, and the daytime temps stop getting warm enough to keep the ground warm, a moderate freeze can do major damage to the system.

If you have the knowledge and equipment, you can winterize your irrigation system yourself. If you don’t, or you’re not quite sure how to go about it, give us a call, it’s not that expensive and can save you hundreds of dollars in repair bills come Spring time.

If you need help with winterizing your system, you can contact us a number of ways

Call us at 731.642.2876 or 888.664.LAWN

Email us

Or stop in and see us at 124 Whitlock Rd., Puryear, TN.

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A Great Lawn Doesn’t Just Happen By Itself

You’ve seen the beautiful lawns in your town, and maybe said “I want that”! Then maybe you go home and do a little work in the Lawn until you get tired or bored with it and go inside. Next week, the lawn still doesn’t look like a Great Lawn. That’s because the Great Lawn you seen last week didn’t just happen by itself. It takes a lot of work.

Even if you hire parts of your Lawn Care out to a commercial Company, it still doesn’t happen by itself. Unless you pay a Company to do  everything for you it isn’t going to just happen. Even then, you will have some things to do yourself. A great Lawn is a partnership between you, the Company doing part of your maintenance and your lawn. Each one has to do it’s part. You still have to diligently do what your chores are; mowing, watering, aerating, weed control, fertilizing, overseeding, dethatching, lime application, mulching, pruning, tree care, hardscape maintenance, leaf collection and removal.

A beautiful lawn takes lots of work

can you stripe your grass?

How many of these things do you do, and how many does your maintenance do? Don’t expect to have a first class lawn if your not holding up your end of the bargain. When your Lawn Care Company comes out to Spray your lawn the grass will look better, but if you don’t mow it properly the lawn will not look great. If you don’t water when it gets hot and dry, the lawn will not look great.

Make a commitment that this year, you are going to do what it takes to have a Great Lawn! Your lawn care company has it’s hands tied if you do not. Work together with them, make a plan, set goals for what you want to see happen in your lawn this year, and be realistic. You cannot make your lawn look like the 18th hole at Augusta in one year. Have patience and set yearly goals progressing each year until you reach the pinnacle of a Great Lawn.

Stop by our website at www.lawnmastersllpc.com for more information and tips on how to achieve the Great Lawn. Also check out our Facebook page for hundreds of pictures of projects we have done over the years.