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mulch

5 Helpful Summer Landscaping Tips

Now that they hustle and bustle of spring has slowed down we can relax and enjoy our yard…well almost.  Here are a few summer tips to keep in mind to keep your landscape looking it’s best!

1. Now that you’ll be out there mowing the lawn, be on the lookout for turf problems.  Here are 3 of the most common ones to look out for:

Red Thread: If you notice a pinkish-reddish tinge to areas of your lawn you more than likely have read thread.  The reddish color is actually a fungus on the grass blade.  Although it is pretty harmless it can be unsightly.  A fertilizer application will quickly remedy this disease by pushing out new growth in your lawn.

Dollar Spot: Named for it’s silver dollar sized “spots” it leaves on the turf as it grows.  It occurs after prolonged wet spells on nitrogen deficient grasses.   Controlled irrigation times and a fertilizer application should do the trick!

Brown Patch: Brown patch is one of the more common diseases in the lawn when it is hot and humid.  It appears as a roughly circular shape that is tan to brown in color. They range in size from 6 inches to several feet in diameter.  Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers and reduce irrigation in affected areas.  There are chemical preventives if necessary.

2. As the temperatures rise in summer and the grass begins to slow it’s growth be sure to raise your mower blades and reduce your number of mowings.  You want to prevent stress to the lawn, making it more resilient to heat and drought.  In extreme temperatures and drought scenarios most lawns will go dormant (the turf in our area is a cool season grass), no point in mowing and cutting grass that isn’t actually growing.  Instead of focusing on the lawn you can now focus on other areas of the landscape.

3. Now that your spring shrubs have completed blooming, early summer is the best time to prune them.  Don’t wait til fall, otherwise you’ll end up cutting off those spring flowers for the following season.

4. So you never completed that to do list from spring, as in edging and mulching.  Well these tasks are not spring only or fall only, they can be completed all season.  Be sure to mulch your plants as it helps to retain much needed moisture during those hot summer months.  It also helps to keep the weeds down, we don’t need weeds competing for the same life giving water and nutrients.  You want to give your plants the best chance of survival.  Edging will help keep the mulch within the planting beds.  As a bonus it also looks nice and manicured!

5.  Lastly inspect your landscape for potential problems.  Be on the lookout for things that don’t look right, such as: spots on leaves or curling leaves, browning needles or needle drop, etc.  If it doesn’t look right it probably means it’s not healthy.  Tackle the issues head on before it’s too late.  Disease problems? call your local landscape professional. Drought problems?  Turn up your irrigation or get out those sprinklers!  Insect problems?  Know which ones are good and bad, treat the problems as necessary.

Now sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the fruits of your labor, or contact us and let us do the work for you!

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Bugs and Garden Thugs

Pests large and small and how to protect your defenseless plants

Let’s face it, it can be a war zone out there for all those expensive plants we invest into our landscape beds to establish color, form and texture.  We are battling many factors working against us as gardeners.  There are many competitors, mostly in the form of weeds and then larger, more established plants in the landscape such as larger shrubs and shade trees, that are competing for available nutrients and water.  We are fighting soil conditions; pH levels, moisture content, soil compaction, microorganism activity and fungal growth that all may have an effect on how healthy a plant is going to be.  We are battling larger insects and airborne pests in the form of; larvae, ant, caterpillar, beetle, fly or moth, all of which have the ability to feed upon a plant’s susceptible parts and weaken it, allowing disease to become present. Finally, we have our larger predators to be concerned with, which consists mostly of 4 legged furry creatures such as rabbits, deer, skunk and other smaller mammals that are feeding directly on the plant, or digging for larvae in the ground and tearing up the surrounding landscape.

How to defend your garden from these pests.

So how do we best equip ourselves to go into battle against all of these plant killers?  We arm ourselves with not just tools, organics and chemicals, but with the knowledge to know when to dig, when to spread, when to spray and when to fortify your defenses.  A good offense is the best defense against most of these pests. I say that in reference to being proactive in maintenance practices so that none of these factors get too far out of control.

Weeds are one of the first things to pop up in your landscape beds and getting into those beds early after coming out of dormancy and physically removing the new shoots of weedy species before they spread is an important step in making sure your landscape plants are taking advantage of the available moisture and nutrients in the soil early in the growing season.  Application of a healthy layer of mulch will serve multiple benefits for you as well as your plants.  Mulch will help with soil moisture retention, and at the same time, give organic matter and micronutrients to the soil and thus the surrounding plants.  Mulch will help the caretaker of the garden by reducing the amount of new weed germination, cutting the amount of time needed to keep the landscape weed free.  Mulch also helps to balance a soil’s pH and gives a nice finished, consistent look to all of your landscape beds.

Fighting naturally occurring insects  can be a challenging task because of the essential element of timing involved.  Additionally, with all that has become known about pesticides and their overuse and harmful affects on our health, many are reluctant to use any sort of pesticide at all in their garden.  In general, we believe that the organic choice is always the best choice, if available.  However, sometimes, in order to prevent the use of more harsh chemicals at a later time of year when a problem has turned into an outbreak, it is necessary to apply preventative chemicals so that larvae cannot form in the first place, and turn into a leaf eating beetle.

How to ID pests in the landscape.

There are so many small pests to identify that it can take years to understand the intricacies of IPM (Integrated Pest Management).  One of the best resources available can be found on the Chicago Botanic Garden website.  Here you get excellent identifying characteristics for the pest or disease, timing and treatment options.

Google images also does a great job of helping to identify pests through their descriptive characteristics.  There are many resources out there on best horticultural practices and how to swing your maintenance approach and pest control practices to a more organically balanced solution.

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Make your bed!

Soil amendments and bed preparation for display garden results.

What is your soil made of?

The structure and make-up of what our plants grow in is of utmost importance.  Before we expect our perennial favorites to put on a dazzling show we must make sure we have the proper conditions available for the plants.  According to the Horticultural staff at the Chicago Botanic Garden:

The physical composition of ideal garden soil may surprise you. It should be 50 percent physical matter (45 percent soil aggregates like clay, silt, or sand and 5 percent humus/organic matter, meaning decaying plant and animal waste/remains). One quarter (25 percent) should be water. And the remaining 25 percent is—here’s the surprise—simply air.

This breakdown may change your view of the ground/soil that you expect your plants to perform in.  It illustrates the importance in not just fertilizing your plants for performance, but creating a sub-surface micro climate that allows these elements to be present.

Good Garden Practices.

How does this translate to real garden practices?  Get into your beds and dig around!  When you are weeding, get a little aggressive in not just getting the deep roots of the weed with a trowel or spade, but cultivate the earth around to allow more air to enter the soil structure, more water to penetrate and the organic soil amendments you add later will leach into the lower layers more readily.

Dig and divide perennials every 3-5 years to break up hard pan soils that may have developed over a number of years around established plants due to a lack of tools hitting the area for a proper cultivation.  A true gardeners soil structure is built up in layers over a number of years from frequent activity and aeration, or is professionally cultivated on an annual basis. Typically the best performing gardens in our Midwestern soil, which can be clay heavy in many areas, are those that have hand and tools in them many times a year weeding, planting and adding organic matter to the top for continual addition of nutrients.

What is Vermicompost?

Speaking of organic matter, Vermicompost, which has been mentioned here many times before, is one of the best sources of concentrated organic matter on the planet. We even have sample packs or both Vermicompost and Vermi extract we make available to you if you schedule a landscape consultation with one of our Horticulturalists or Landscape Architects at your property. If you want to purchase this amazing natural organic soil amendment for your own gardening purposes, it is available for pick-up at our Wadsworth location; from bags of compost, to bulk orders and services for applications of Vermi extract, we can get feed your plants like they are the kings of the neighborhood landscape you always envisioned them as!

Check out Terra One Organics for more information.

In summary, feed the soil, not the plant for the best results in your own garden.  Continually monitor the elements of the soil structure you are building and make sure that you are not just adding chemicals to the beds expecting results, but giving the soil the air, water and life it needs to allow the plants to grow in the most important place of all, below the surface.

Feed the soil, not the crop   -Robert Rodale

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Spring to do list…

Now that the days are getting longer, that only means one thing…spring is around the corner!  So let’s take a minute and plan out our spring to do list.

First things first you’ll want to do a thorough clean up of the planting beds and lawn.  This means removing leaf debris, cutting back perennials and removing dead plants.  After the beds are clean this is also a great time to edge the planting beds from the lawn.

Now you can focus on the living plant material.  You’ll want to prune shrubs and ornamentals of any crossing, broken, dead or diseased branches.  Just this small step leads to a healthier more robust plant.  It’s also a great time to divide some perennials.  You’ll know it’s time to divide when a clump has overgrown its space, has diminished flowering, or the clump starts to die out in the middle.  Spring flowering perennials are best divided after they flower, but most other later flowering perennials will be just fine divided in the spring.

As you are surveying your landscape be sure to pull any weeds you see, it’s amazing how fast they pop up so best to keep on top of them.  A final finishing touch to the garden is to add a layer of mulch to the beds.  This will help prevent new weeds from growing and protect your newly divided perennials as they begin to grow.

Next up is the lawn.  Spring is a great time to fix it up.  As it begins to dry up it’s a great time to dethatch the grass, this is the method of using a rake or a dethatching machine to gently remove the layer of dead grass (thatch) that has built up in the lawn.  You’ll want to do this before the lawn really takes off.   Be sure to patch up any areas of bare/dead spots with some grass seed.  The final step is to fertilize your lawn and while you’re at it you can hit those planting beds as well.

The last and final touch to the landscape is to add some fun colorful early annuals (to learn more about early annuals check out this blog).  Just a sprinkling of pansies or some forced bulbs in planters can really brighten the landscape!

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Polar Vortex 2

Yup I said it, if the weather predictions are correct we may be looking at another Polar Vortex this winter in the Midwest. So what can you do to protect your plants?

Mulch! A layer of mulch insulates the ground therefore allowing it to stay frozen, protecting plants from winter freezes, thaws and winds. A steady temperature will keep the plant in dormancy and prevent it from triggering new growth during a brief warm spell. Tender, new growth too soon will just result in more winter die back. Mulching now will also help conserve whatever water is in the soil, remember to water your plants well into the fall.

For further info on mulching contact Van Zelst Inc.

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Putting a little makeup on the landscape.

Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose.

Organic mulch will decompose and have to be replaced more frequently, however in the process it will also improve your soil’s fertility and, of course, its organic content. Generally the dryer and woodier the mulch, the slower it will decompose and the less nutrients it will give to the soil.

We mulch our gardens in the spring to suppress weeds, retain moisture and feed and warm the soil. The mulch that we use is a blended mulch of 100% organic recycled material which includes recycled leaves, twigs and grass that is processed then screened into a fine dark leaf mulch.

Not only is mulch good for your soil it appeals to our aesthetics.

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