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Time To Check For Lawn Grubs

Lawn grubs have long been a scourge for area property owners. These white, crescent-shaped insects eat turfgrass from the roots upward. Consequently, you don’t know you have a problem until it’s too late, unless you are on the lookout for grubs.

The best method for determining if you have grubs, and the method our lawn care professionals use, is to cut one foot square sections of sod at different locations around your lawn. Fold the sod back to expose the underside of your sod, as well as the soil just below the sod. Count the number of grubs in each section. Six or fewer per section are not cause for concern; your lawn should be able to successfully fight them off. Action should be taken if seven or more are present.

Big, brown beetles flying around in June, slamming into your house’s doors, windows and siding were the adult grubs. They may have been European chafer beetles, Japanese beetles or even the Bluegrass billbug. The beetles are lawn grub adults. If you saw or heard them flying around your yard, you probably have grubs in your lawn right now.

As with many insects, the adults’ lifespan is very short. Their only task is to reproduce. Once they do that, they die. These pests lay their eggs in sod. When the tiny grubs hatch, they immediately burrow into the sod, below the surface, and begin feasting on your tasty turf roots. As the temperatures cool and lawns go into winter dormancy, the grubs burrow further down into the soil to overwinter.

This is the best time to treat for grubs. They are young, small and weak, so treatment doesn’t have to be as aggressive as it does in the spring when the two-inch, nearly full-grown grubs return to the surface to begin eating your lawn once again.

There is another pest that likes our lawns, but its larvae aren’t grubs. It’s called the sod webworm and its larvae live in the thatch instead of burrowing into the ground.

Gray moths flying around just above your lawn earlier in the summers was a good sign that your turfgrass is now hosting the sod webworm. Their flights were reconnaissance flights looking for a suitable place to lay eggs.

Like tree and shrub insects, each lawn insect has its own lifecycle and food preference. Treating for them within the window of opportunity can be a challenge. This is why it makes sense to hire a lawn service. For one modest fee, one of our lawn care professionals will visit your home, check for the presence of pests and take appropriate action. He’ll leave a door hanger explaining the action he took. The only other way you’ll know that we’ve been there is by the little yellow signs that the state requires us to post.

Even though the growing season is winding down, you can still use our lawn care service. Just call to schedule a meeting with one of our representatives.

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Time To Take It Easy & Enjoy Your Landscape

Do you fidget, walk around your property, and feel guilty about not having any gardening tasks to do in the middle of summer? There’s no reason to; you should be doing nothing right now. It’s summer; you’ve done all you can to give your landscape tender, loving care. Now it’s time to enjoy it.

Take a page from southern gardeners. Slow down and smell the roses, or any other flower that’s in bloom right now. Summer is the time to sit outside with a cool lemonade and just enjoy the results of your work.

Plants shouldn’t be fertilized in the summer, so you can’t do that. The only thing we recommend at this time is to deadhead spent flowers and help Mother Nature provide sufficient water for your plants. If we have more than a week without rain, your plants may need water. They need an inch a week, and it’s best for them to get it all at once. You may also need to weed your planting beds.

With the cost of water these days, you may want to prioritize. Water those plants with droopy, curled leaves that look like they need watering first. Then prioritize according to value. Young trees may need water but most mature trees don’t. Their root structure is sufficient to find water. Shrubs are valuable so they should be second on your priority list, followed by perennials.

Annuals should be low priority since they’re inexpensive and may be changed out several times a year anyway. Turfgrass turns brown because it has the ability to go dormant under extremely hot, dry conditions and then green up again in the fall when cooler weather and rain return. It doesn’t appear that we have to worry about that this year.

Trees, shrubs and perennials are best watered with drip irrigation, rather than spraying. A significant amount of sprayed water evaporates before it reaches the plants. If you have an irrigation system, ask your irrigation contractor to install drip emitters for your trees, shrubs and perennials. If you use a hose, invest in soaker hoses and snake them around the plants you want to water. Soaker hoses are made from recycled tires, so you’ll be helping the environment as well as your plants. You will also be saving on water since you only open the tap a quarter turn.

While sitting on the deck or patio enjoying your landscape, you may want to read a book on how you can enjoy more time like this and less maintaining the garden. I’ve written about Slow Gardening by Mississippi garden writer Felder Rushing, and I just heard about a new book, entitled Gardening from a Hammock by Canadian garden writer Dan Cooper. I haven’t read the latter book yet, so I can’t vouch for it.

Take my advice and enjoy your garden without fretting. It’ll show your kids or grandkids that gardening really isn’t as much work as they’ve been led to believe. Sometimes you can just relax and survey your work.

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Pruning Evergreens

Summer is the ideal time to prune most evergreens. This includes both conifers like pine and spruce and broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and boxwoods. The reasons are twofold.

First, the buds that produce new growth formed last fall on the old wood of many evergreens. New growth is the light green needles that appear at the ends of branches. If you prune while the new growth is still light green, it will grow back and you’ll have to prune again. If you wait until the new growth turns its natural shade of green, you’ll only have to prune once.

Second, pruning now gives the wounds sufficient time to heal before it’s time for next year’s new growth buds to form.

Most evergreen trees do not need as much pruning as deciduous trees. Evergreen trees are usually pruned to control size and to remove dead, dying or broken branches. Pruning evergreen trees is not a do-it-yourself job. Besides evergreen trees’ height, their branches are very “springy.” They can break easily if you try stepping on them. Leave pruning to our professionals. We value you as a customer and don’t want you to become a statistic.

Confine your pruning to evergreen shrubs. If you have coniferous shrubs like yews (taxus) or junipers, I recommend that you selectively prune, removing one branch at a time rather than shearing. When selectively pruning shrubs, follow the same rules as you would for a tree. Don’t leave stubs. Cut branches all the way back to a fork. If you can see a branch collar, leave it rather than cutting flush to the trunk or bigger branch.

Selectively pruned shrubs look better when they have a natural shape, rather than the tight geometrical shapes that result from shearing. Shearing also may leave ragged cuts because branches are too big around for shears to make a clean cut.

Save your shearing for such broadleaf evergreens as boxwoods. Boxwood branches are smaller so shears will leave cleaner cuts. I do caution, however, that shearing can become more difficult to maintain as the plant increases in size.

You don’t have to prune your own shrubs. Our professionals can care for them, just as they do your trees. By turning it over to the pros, you don’t have to make decisions like whether to shear or selectively prune. You also won’t have to dress in a long sleeve shirt, long pants and gloves on a hot summer day to keep from getting scratched by the needles and branches.

Evergreens look nice and add color to your yard, even in the dead of winter. However, their biology is very different from deciduous trees and require different care. To be sure they receive the proper care, leave the work to our professional arborists.

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Should Hardscape Complement Greenscape Or Vice Versa?

Balancing hardscape and plant material has been an ongoing discussion among landscape designers, as well as property owners. The simple answer is that the two elements should blend into a single environment. The next step in the equation has to do with taste. Which do you like more? Hardscape? Or greenscape?

Design according to your taste, but coordinate so that it flows naturally. Too many plants can make your yard look like a jungle and hide any hardscape elements. Too few plants and a glut of hardscape will look like a concrete jungle. Instead, balance them so that one element doesn’t overpower the other.

The trend to outdoor living has resulted in a higher percentage of space devoted to hardscape. However, outdoor living space is concentrated in one area of the back yard. In the ideal design, the outdoor space is close to the house so that it forms a room that’s an extension of the indoor space. Depending on the amount of space available, plants can extend from the outdoor room to form a landscape of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and even lawn.

In an effort to reduce maintenance, an increasing number of people in our area are opting for smaller back yards. If your outdoor room takes up most of your back yard, you may be able to use plants to accent or soften the perimeter of the outdoor room. Containerized plants can be placed strategically within the outdoor room to break up the large areas of concrete, bricks and other building materials. Containerized plants can also be used to define the different outdoor living spaces, such as sitting, kitchen or dining area.

The smaller your space, the more carefully you have to choose plant material since fewer plants have to provide all the green support for the area. Never loose focus, however, of the mantra “right plant, right place.” This is just as true in a small space as it is in a large space. You wouldn’t want a large tree, for example, to grow into and over your outdoor living space, especially a tree that drops stuff like pollen, flowers and seeds.

Striking the right balance can be challenging for many, so more and more families are turning over to our professional designers the task of blending hardscape and greenscape into a beautiful outdoor extension of their living space.

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Keeping Your Trees Healthy This Summer

Now that your trees are all leafed out, how do they look? Nice and green? Plenty of foliage? This is a good sign that they’re healthy. To be sure, though, I recommend that you call for a tree inspection by one of our 10 Certified Arborists.

We’ll check the trunk, branches and roots to be sure they’re healthy. We’ll be on the lookout for insects, especially those that bore into the wood to do their damage. We’ll also examine your trees for diseases like rot that attacks branches, trunks and roots.

Our arborist will make long term recommendations for keeping the trees healthy. If they need immediate attention, you’ll be made advised of the action needed to repair any hazardous conditions that can cause injury or property damage.

Your trees may just need pruning to thin and lighten the crowns and reduce the chance of a branches breaking in a windstorm. Treating for insects and diseases may be needed. If dead branches have to be removed due to insect or disease damage, aesthetic pruning may be called for to restore the tree as close to its natural form as possible. In extreme cases, a tree may have to be removed if hazardous conditions endanger people and property. Removal is a last resort, however. Our arborists are a creative group. They are able to save many trees that a non-professional would cast on to the woodpile.

Trees are landscapes’ skeletons. They give it structure. They also take a long time to grow to the point that they can assume that awesome role. During their growth, families often form an emotional bond with their trees. Cognizant of this relationship, we don’t take the decision to remove a tree lightly. Even if you aren’t emotionally attached to your trees, you should be aware of a financial consideration. You can heap a great deal of professional care on a tree for the cost of removing it. And, in the end you’ll still have your tree, rather than a bill for removing it and another for replacing it.

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Moving Away From Only Native Plants

Good news! The pendulum is swinging from strictly native plants to include some non-natives.

Until very recently, many garden purists would only plant U.S. native plants, believing that introduced plants were responsible for a host of environmental woes. Many would limit their plant palette to only those that were native to their own locale. Those who dared plant introduced plants were often vilified.

Today, many native-only advocates are moderating their stance to, “It’s OK to plant suitable non-native plants along with natives.” I believe that most gardeners are now approaching the middle ground. More garden communicators are suggesting that a plant be judged on specific characteristics and suitability for a particular location and not its point of origin, so long as it’s not a plant that is potentially invasive. This has been my attitude right along, and I applaud the gardening community for seeing the benefits that many non-native plants can bring to a landscape.

It’s easy to point to invasive insects and diseases as the culprits that wreaked such havoc as decimation of the American elm and the current scourge of our native ash trees. It should be noted that pests like these weren’t purposely introduced to our shores. They hitchhiked here. On the flip side of this argument, scientists are experimenting with crossing imported varieties with our native varieties to reestablish our elm and ash populations.

The key words when determining whether to plant an introduced plant is “potentially invasive.” No matter how attractive a plant is, if it can take over your landscape, don’t plant it. It’s not worth the extra, sometimes futile, maintenance required to keep it under control.

If we removed every introduced species from our urban forest, our landscape would look barren indeed. Many non-natives are suited just fine to our climate and growing conditions. Few garden centers would carry a plant that is knowingly invasive. It’s poor customer relations.  Native and non-native, plants undergo extensive field trials before being introduced into the nursery trade today. The chances are very good that any undesirable traits will be discovered before a new plant ever reaches your local garden center.

So, take it from me that, contrary to what you may have heard, you can use non-native plants and still be a good, eco-friendly gardener. Just do your homework and be cautious until a new introduction, native or not, proves itself in the field.

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Still Time To Start A Lawn Care Program

Now that the sea of yellow has disappeared from your lawn, are you wishing you had contracted for professional lawn care? If so, you still can. Dandelions aren’t the only weeds that will live in your lawn this growing season. Remember, weeds are what we call “adventitious” plants. When they see an opening, they fill it.

A nice, thick lawn discourages weeds. One way to encourage a thick lawn is to mow high – no less than three inches. Another way is to fertilize. Fertilizer is the backbone of a lawn care program. If your turfgrass has all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, it will grow nice and thick, and will discourage weeds.

Sure you can spread fertilizer and weed control yourself, but when you calculate the cost of materials and the value of your time, is it worth it? Then you also have to remember your application times throughout the season. If you forget, you can be sure the weeds will be happy to live in any square inch of empty real estate.

We don’t know what the summer will bring. Our weather now may be a prelude to a hot, dry summer. A healthy lawn now has the best chance of springing back in the fall. Turfgrass has the ability to go dormant in hot, dry weather, thus the brown color. You can water it all summer, but few people do, what with the cost of water and all. When the temperatures moderate and the rain returns in fall, healthy lawns green right up.

Here are a few reminders if your lawn does brown up this summer. Avoid walking on it. The crunch underfoot is blades of crispy grass breaking. This means no mowing; it doesn’t need it. It also means no fertilizer; the plants are dormant.

I’ve written about the annual gardening surveys, which this year have concentrated on Millenials and the time constraints that prevent them from working on their lawns and landscapes. We’re here to help.

New lawn care customers can start now and we’ll prorate the annual fee so they won’t be billed for the spring applications they didn’t receive.


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