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Don’t Forget To Store Equipment Properly

Outdoor power equipment makes landscape management a lot easier. Without these machines, maintaining your own landscape could be very challenging. So, after a summer of helping you keep your yard attractive, they deserve some tender, loving care and a winter of rest.

By outdoor power equipment, I mean your lawn mower, cultivator and handheld equipment like your string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer. The place to start is with the manual that came with the machine. That will give you the manufacturer’s recommendations for winterizing. Follow it to maintain your warranty. If you don’t have the manual, here are some generic recommendations.

All equipment needs to be cleaned. If you let dirt and grass clippings build up, they begin to corrode the metal. Tip your lawn mower on its side so you can remove clumps of grass stuck to the underside of the deck. If there are clippings still sticking to the deck, spray the deck with the high pressure setting on your hose nozzle. If there’s still some dirt after that, scrape the deck with a putty knife and spray it again.

While you’re spraying and scrubbing, you might as well include your manual equipment like shovels, trowels, rakes, pruners, loppers and weed diggers.

Fall is a good time to change your mower’s oil. Get all the dirty oil out and replace it with nice, clean, new oil. Be sure you do replace the oil now. Don’t wait until spring or you may forget. Have you ever run a mower without oil? The engine seizes right up.

You’ll probably need to change the spark plug in the spring so you might as well change it now while you’re working on the mower.

If you have a little rotary tiller, officially called a cultivator, clean off the tines using your hose and a kitchen scruffy or wire brush. Don’t be too aggressive with a wire brush, though. You probably won’t need to change the oil since most of these engines are two strokes (you mix the oil and gas).

You can probably clean the handhelds with your hose. You may also need to give it a light once over with the scruffy. Be sure all engines are cold when you spray. Cold water and hot engines can result in cracked engine blocks. You also don’t have to worry about changing the oil since most of these engines are two strokes, which don’t have oil in a crankcase.

You should also remove any fuel remaining in the tank or stabilize it with a stabilizer that you can be buy an outdoor power equipment or auto parts store. This is recommended because sitting idle for some time, especially in the cold weather, can cause “varnish” to form in the fuel, which can then gum up the carburetor.

I purposely didn’t include chain saws in this discussion because I hope most of you don’t have one. They’re dangerous tools that are best left to the professionals. If you do have a chain saw, you probably use it year round so it requires ongoing maintenance, and that could be material for another blog.

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Winter Precautions To Protect Your Landscape

You’ve taken all the precautions we’ve suggested in these blogs, but there’s a nagging feeling that you can still do more to assure the health and safety of your trees and shrubs this winter. Here are some added precautions you can take.

The snow in your driveway is full of road salt and grime. Even if you never salt your driveway, it will still have salt carried on to it from the road. Surely, you’ve noticed the dirty snow that can solidify underneath your car and in the wheel wells. This can drop on to the driveway.

Dirty snow is very damaging to both the plants and the soil. You may not be able to completely prevent salt and grime from getting on your driveway but you can minimize the amount that gets on your plants and the soil in your planting beds.

Shovel snow carefully to prevent the grime and salt from dropping into your planting beds. When you see dark grime on your shovel, throw it away from your beds. You can use the same caution with a snow blower by manipulating the chute near planting beds and trees. If you have a “plow guy,” instruct him to put snow in designated spots away from your plantings.

Another precaution is to be careful where you walk. Avoid walking on soil or lawn that doesn’t have a layer of snow to act as a cushion. If the soil isn’t frozen, you can compact it when walking over it. If it doesn’t have snow cover, that melted snow is most likely in the soil and stepping on it is like stepping on a wet sponge. Your weight displaces the water in the soil pores and the particles are pushed together. If the ground is frozen but not covered with snow, you can break grass blades when you walk over them. When this condition exists, walking on frozen grass has the same effect as walking on dry, burnt grass in a typical summer. It breaks the blades.

Winter can be trying for all of us and we have to take extra precautions when walking, when driving and even when clearing snow. When those recommended steps above seem like an extra effort you don’t want to take, just remember that you can go inside your warm house when you finish. Your plants, on the other hand, can only stand there and cope with winter in the way nature equipped them. Making life easier for them is an inexpensive way to maximize the return on your landscaping investment.

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Plant Trees; It’s Good For Your Health

For years, the medical profession has known that trees contribute to health and well being. Research conducted in the 1970s by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich found that surgical patients recovered significantly sooner when they could look out at trees than when they could see no trees outside their windows.

Dr. Ulrich’s research was, arguably, the go-to reference when discussing trees’ contribution to health and well being. More research has been done in the intervening years and, today, there’s an expanded body of knowledge on the subject.

Now, the medical profession is teaming up with the tree care profession to look into how trees and natural settings can contribute to the reduction of such health problems as obesity, heart disease and nutrition.

ISA offers these statistics on how trees improve our health:

  • 100 trees remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of other air pollutants from the environment each year. (Courtesy: USDA)
  • Neighborhoods with trees experience fewer incidents of domestic violence and are safer and more sociable. (Courtesy: USDA)
  • People who use public parks and open spaces are three times more likely to reach recommended levels of physical activity than those who don’t participate. (Courtesy: NIH)
  • A national study in the United Kingdom showed that people exposed to the greenest environments have lowest levels of health inequality related to income deprivation. Physical environments that promote good health are important to reduce socioeconomic health inequalities. (Mitchell and Popham, 2008)
  • Residents in the Netherlands with only 10% green space within 1km of their home had a 25% greater risk of depression and a 30% greater risk of anxiety disorders than those with the highest degree of green space nearby. (Maas et al., 2009)
  • A worldwide review of scientific literature showed that an urban park was on average 34°F cooler in the day than the surrounding urban area, making warm days more tolerable. (Bowler et al., 2010)

While this information centers on trees, I believe that a well designed and maintained landscape contributes significantly to our well being. Trees are the backbone of any landscape, so trees are still the most important factor.

Before it’s covered in snow, I invite you to take a tour of your yard. Take time to sit in your favorite spot. Does your landscape relieve stress? Can you relax in your landscape? Do you feel better when you sit and enjoy the scenery? If you answered no, now’s a good time to start a transformation. Remember, Fall is for Planting.

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Birchcrest Honored Once Again As Top 100 Company

Top100logo_2015Once again, Birchcrest Tree & Landscape is one of Rochester’s Top 100 fastest growing, privately owned companies. For that, we thank each of you who put your trust in the 120 professionals who are part of the Birchcrest family. We also thank Rochester Business Alliance and KPMG, LLP for sponsoring this recognition.

To be eligible for this honor, a company must have earned at least $1 million in revenue in each of the three most recent fiscal years. In Birchcrest’s 34 years, we have enjoyed steady growth through the years. Qualifying for the Top 100 list for the past two years reminds me of the old adage: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Much of the credit for the company’s success can be attributed to the dedication, education and creativity of our staff. Birchcrest employs 13 ISA Certified Arborists, two ISA Board Certified Master Arborists, eight New York State Certified Pesticide Applicators and nine NYS Certified Nursery & Landscape Professionals.

On behalf of the more than 100 members of the Birchcrest family, thank you for your business, and we look forward to serving even more of you in 2016.

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Store Pesticides And Fertilizers Properly This Winter

Have you applied pesticides or fertilizer this season? If so, where is the leftover material stored? On the floor of your unheated garage or garden shed? Where are you going to store them for the winter? Same place? Bad idea!

Pesticides and fertilizer should be stored, preferably in their original containers, in a cool, dark, dry environment. They should be kept from freezing and away from open flames and excessive heat. For specific storage instructions, read the package label.

Keep pesticides and fertilizers that were sold in bags or cardboard cartons away from moisture. This means up, off dirt or concrete floors. Also make sure all opened packages are well sealed and stored away from children and pets.

You may be able to make your storage job very easy. Check the packages to see if they have expiration dates. If a product is out of date or you have been storing it improperly for years, it’s best to get rid of it and start fresh in the spring.

Disposing of pesticides and fertilizer is easier said than done. It’s on a par with electronics, prescription drugs and batteries. First check the label for disposal instructions. Pesticide labels have to be approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) before products can be registered. State and local laws, however, may be more restrictive than the disposal instructions on the product label.

Our home county – Monroe County –  has a procedure for disposing of pesticides, fertilizers and other hazardous wastes. All the details are at monroecounty.gov/ecopark. If you live outside Monroe County check with your town or county to find out how to dispose of these materials.

Pesticide selection, use and disposal is serious business. It isn’t just some “stuff” that you buy to try to take care of a problem. It has to be handled properly to be effective and to protect you and the environment. If you’d prefer to not have to deal with handling these products, we have a full staff of lawn care and Plant Health Care professionals, licensed by the state, who can take that chore off your hands.

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Mow Your Lawn Until It’s Completely Dormant

By this time most years, you would have mowed your lawn one last time, breathed a sigh of relief, winterized your mower and pulled out your snow blower. Not this year. As I’ve written here several times this season, this isn’t a normal year. You still have to mow at least one more time. Sorry.


If you didn’t mow your lawn before this last, frosty weekend, you should lower your mower to two inches and give it one last mowing. It isn’t good for the grass to go into winter dormancy long.


If your grass is long when it goes into winter dormancy, it will hold more moisture than short grass. This can lead to various turf diseases and unsightly, matted grass that will be exposed when the snow melts in spring. Think about the difficulty drying long hair versus short hair after a shower.


You may be able to combine two tasks into one – mowing and leaf mulching. Unless you have mountains of leaves on the grass surface, you can use the mulching feature on the mower to chop leaves up finely and let them fall on to the lawn. There, they’ll decompose over the winter and fertilize the lawn. If more leaves fall, there’s no reason why you can’t run the mulching mower over the lawn again, unless it has been unusually rainy, in which case you’ll have to rake or blow.


Whatever you do, though, don’t let the leaves stay on the lawn. Like long grass, leaves will retain the water from melting snow and provide the perfect climate for fungal diseases to infect your valuable turfgrass.


A little preventive maintenance in the fall can go a long way toward assuring a lush, green lawn in the spring.

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Is There A Hazard Lurking Overhead?

Trees form our landscape’s canopy. Their lush, green foliage relaxes us and keeps us cool in the summer. As winter approaches, deciduous trees lose their leaves and gird themselves for whatever Old Man Winter brings.

Your trees may look perfectly healthy to your untrained eye. However, dangerous conditions could be lurking just below the bark, in the center of the trunk, the roots or anywhere else in or on the tree.

Before the snow, ice and winds of winter put their annual stress on your trees, it would be a good idea to have a professional inspection by one of our arborists. As living organisms, trees are subject to internal diseases and breakage while the outside looks as normal as ever.

A tree health inspection should be an annual practice, especially if you have tree limbs hanging over your house, car, pool or other parts of your yard. A high wind gust could break weak limbs and drop them right where they can injure people or damage property.

Besides checking for weak limbs and branches, the arborist will check for rot in the center of the tree or in the roots. He will also check for radial cracking. A previous wind storm could have caused one or more weak limbs to twist, resulting in internal cracking that makes a cross section of the branch look like it had been cut like a pie. These limbs are very weak and susceptible to breakage in subsequent storms.

The arborist will check for insect and disease activity. He’ll pay special attention to boring insects that do their damage beneath the bark. This is damage that is difficult to see unless looking closely, and most of the signs occur high in the trees.

The inspection findings will be detailed in a report that includes a prioritized list of recommendations that will be presented to you. Recommendations can range from just monitoring the tree health to pruning, pest treatment or bracing and cabling. In some extreme cases, we may have to remove the tree,

Very strong winds can buffet our area. Last winter, we witnessed the added weight that unrelenting snow can put on tree limbs, and many of us still remember the mighty ice storms that crippled our area several times during the last quarter century. Our more mature trees also witnessed these events. Some survived while others weren’t so lucky. A tree inspection will give you the peace of mind of knowing the odds that your trees can continue to survive.


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