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Why Clean Up Your Yard This Spring?

After a brutal winter like this one, the answer to the title question will be obvious now that the snow has melted. It’s amazing what kind of debris was lurking underneath that snow.

While you remove debris, keep your eyes peeled for damage to your valuable plants. There may be dead tree and shrub branches and twigs on the ground and damaged branches still on the tree or shrub. All of these branches should be removed.

Separate debris, tossing trash into the trash and organic debris like fallen leaves and dead foliage from planting beds in the compost bin. After you’ve removed all the trash, wait for a day when the ground has dried enough for you to walk on it and remove excess mulch from your beds, if you spread extra mulch last fall. Once you are down to no more than three inches, take a rake and fluff up the mulch. This will help it do its job better. If you didn’t spread any extra winter mulch, just fluff the mulch. If it has begun decomposing, you may have to add another inch or so to bring it up to the proper level.

While checking for dead and damaged plants, also be alert to animal damage. Deer damage is obvious. They chew the ends off branches at about eye level. You’ll have to look a bit to see rodent damage. Field mice burrow under the snow and nibble on bark at the base of trees and shrubs. The snow hides them nicely, but when the snow melts, their little teeth marks are very visible. Rabbits also chew on the bark, but usually on top of the snow. Given the amount and duration of our snow, we expect to see a considerable amount of animal damage.

Look down at the lawn to see if there are any fungal diseases. If there are and they are small, you can rake out the dead grass and the surrounding grass will fill in the spots. Larger dead spots will have to be reseeded after you rake them out.

Your ornamental grasses have done their job for the year, so it’s time to cut them back. Using your tool of choice, cut them back very close to the ground – usually two to four inches. The lower you can cut them, the better. You cut them back to let sunlight reach the new grass that will soon sprout up among the stubble. As for tools of choice, I have used everything from hand pruners to high quality manual hedge clippers to electric hedge clippers. As for the old canes, they go in the compost pile.

If you didn’t split your overgrown perennials last fall, do it as part of your spring cleaning. Dig up overgrown perennials and split the roots into four sections. Replant one section in the hole you just dug. Replant the others in another part of your garden or give them to friends or to a charity plant sale. We hope you don’t waste any valuable perennials, but leaves or any other debris that dropped off should go right to the compost pile.

Last but now least, neaten up hardscapes. Sweep walks, drives, decks and patios. If they are wearing a coating of winter debris, wash it off. If you put your statuary in winter storage, this would be a good time to put it back out for the summer.

Why clean up your yard this spring? Because it needs it. You can summarize this blog into a bulleted list and use it as a “To Do” list.

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How Vulnerable Are Your Ash Trees?

EAB on a leafAs spring approaches, so does the threat of emerald ash borer. As the weather warms, the metallic green adult borers will emerge from “D” shaped holes in infested ash trees and spend only a couple of weeks outside the tree. There, they will mate, the females will lay eggs and die. But, the next generation will begin its destruction of our area’s beautiful ash trees.

The answer to the title question is, I don’t know how vulnerable your ash tree is. Nobody knows. If one or more borers decide your tree is the one in which they want their children to live, your tree is doomed, unless you have taken preventive steps.

If you haven’t taken preventive steps and your ash tree continues to be healthy, say a prayer of thanksgiving and call for a preventive treatment. Your luck could run out this season.

When you call, our professionals will inspect your tree to be sure that it’s healthy and that the EAB has not set up housekeeping. If not, they will apply a preventive application. If EAB is present, they will determine if treatment can save the tree and make appropriate recommendations.

It’s more economical to prevent emerald ash borer than it is to treat it after it has established itself in your ash tree. As a preventive, the product and application method we use needs to be reapplied only every two years. As a treatment, it has to be applied every year. The product is called Treeage, and is only sold to state licensed applicators who have been trained by the manufacturer in the use of its product and application equipment.

EAB exit holeAll preventives and treatments for emerald ash borer have to be applied systemically, either as a soil drench or trunk injection. As a result, EAB prevention or treatment should not be a do-it-yourself project. Only one of the labeled products is available to consumers, but the consumer strength of this product is not sufficient to prevent or kill this insect.

Even though EAB treatments are expensive, several decades of preventive treatments cost less than removing and replacing most ash trees. In addition to preventive treatment, you can discourage the EAB by making sure your tree is healthy. This means having it pruned as needed to remove dead, dying, rubbing and broken branches. Good health practices also include mulching and/or composting to add organic matter to the soil and fertilizing if needed.

EAB in our area is not a death sentence for every ash tree. Rather, it is a wake up call to tend to this valuable tree’s health needs on a regular basis.

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Careful Maintenance Creates Healthy Landscapes

Landscaping adds beauty and value to our property. As I pointed out in a previous blog, it can ad as much a 15 percent to the value of your property. That’s why I recommend careful maintenance.

Careful maintenance doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. By careful maintenance, we mean efficient maintenance. Here are a few tips on how to carefully maintain your landscape to keep it as healthy as possible:

  • Keep It Simple. This starts right at the design stage. Don’t plant more than you can maintain. Group your plants according to type of maintenance they need, especially their water requirements. Plant in such a way that your desirable plants cover most of the ground and choke out weeds, rather than vice versa. If this sounds like a good idea, but you already have a high maintenance landscape, this might be the year to renovate to a low maintenance landscape.
  • Don’t over water. Some people overwater their landscapes while others do not water enough. Landscape plants need an inch of water a week. In our area, we seldom have to irrigate, except in the midst of a drought. We usually have enough rain and snow to keep established plants sufficiently hydrated.

    Grouping plants according to their watering needs will reduce the amount of water used. Also, you won’t be over watering some plants in the group while under watering others. You’ll know if you’re overwatering; the leaves turn yellow and drop.

  • How much maintenance do you want to do? How much time do you want to spend maintaining your landscape and how much are you willing to invest in hiring others to do the work? If you choose to do the work yourself, you will probably choose more easy-care plants. If you don’t enjoy landscaping and have the money to hire professionals, you might be able to include plants that are more labor-intensive. Remember, though, circumstances change. We aren’t getting any younger and maintenance tasks that were fun a few years ago may not be so today. One thing to remember, though, is that there is no such thing as a completely maintenance-free landscape.
  • Mulch to protect plants. Mulch your planting beds and the area around the base of trees with two-to-three inches of organic matter, such as composted wood chips. Mulch holds moisture in the soil and moderates soil temperature. Mulch can also reduce weed growth. This alone reduces maintenance. However, when mulching around trees, do not pile the mulch up against the trunk in a mulch volcano. Keep it an inch or two from the trunk.

As you can see, a substantial part of careful landscape maintenance is in the planning. It’s like the old carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, saw once.” Take sufficient time to plan the maintenance needs of your landscape and you’ll have more time to enjoy its beauty.

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What’s The Payback On Your Landscaping?

While everyone enjoys their outdoor surroundings amid beautiful landscaping, too many view landscaping as an expense. Actually, beautiful landscaping is an investment, a very valuable investment.

According to the Gallup polling people, beautiful landscaping can add between seven and 15 percent to the value of your home. This translates to a payback of 100 to 200 percent when you sell your home, according to Money Magazine.

Smart Money magazine expands on the previous statistics by reporting that you can boost the resale value of your home by 15 percent, earning back 150 percent or more by spending just five percent of the home value on a high quality, low-maintenance landscape.

Money went on to compare landscaping’s payback to other remodeling projects. A remodeled kitchen adds 75 to 125 percent; a bathroom 20 to 120 percent; and a swimming pool 20 to 50 percent.

The American Public Power Association notes that landscaping can shade windows and walls, reducing air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent. Trees can reduce temperatures by as much as 9ºF according to American Forests.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that trees can reduce traffic noise by up to 50 percent.

I hope you are as surprised as me at these figures. I had heard them all here and there before but had never seen them on a single page. However, a recent issue of Design/Build magazine gathered all of this information and published it on a single page. Very impressive, indeed.

If you weren’t planning on any landscape updates or renovations this season, I hope this information will help you rethink the situation.

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Tree Benefits

Poet Joyce Kilmer wrote, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.” You don’t have to be a romantic, however, to appreciate trees…or shrubs…or even perennials. It’s said that beauty is only skin deep. That’s true for trees, too. When you strip away the bark (figuratively, of course), you find that trees provide us with very real benefits, even the very oxygen we breathe.

Here are some of the measurable benefits trees and other landscape plants provide:

Air Quality Improvement. Obtained through the filtering process of leaves, plants…

  • Remove dust and other particulates from the air
  • Absorb such air pollutants as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide
  • Renew the air supply by producing oxygen

Climate Control. Moderating the effects of sun, wind and rain, results in…

  • Glare and reflection control
  • Wind break, deflection and filtration
  • Protection from the downward fall of rain, sleet and hail
  • Reduction in yearly heating and cooling costs

Water Conservation. Trees’ interception of water…

  • Reduces storm run-off, erosion and the possibility of flooding
  • Improves water quality through purification by slowing and filtering rain water

Your landscape is more than just an amenity to look nice and increase your home’s curb appeal. Plants play an important role in keeping our environment in balance. We exhale carbon dioxide, which plants use in photosynthesis, and plants give off oxygen that we need to breathe.

I’m not suggesting that you go out and hug a tree today, but I do suggest that you include landscape maintenance in your annual budget. Green plants deserve more than just what’s left over. And, if you would like professional help determining your landscape’s maintenance needs, don’t hesitate to call. (585) 671-5433 or visit www.birchcrestlandscape.com

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Plant Health Care Is Good For The Environment As Well As Your Landscape

These days, human health practitioners are advocating wellness care, which is also called preventive care or holistic medicine. It’s a fact that early diagnosis and treatment can often result in less aggressive treatment and a more positive prognosis. The same is true for your landscape plants. For this reason, arborists and landscape contractors have embraced Plant Health Care (PHC).

According to the International Society of Arboriculture, the organization that funded the study that first defined PHC, the basic premise behind this care is quite simple. If a plant receives professional care on a regular basis, it will be less susceptible to insect infestations and disease attacks. As a result, natural defenses can be strengthened. Energy that would have been exerted on stress factors can be applied to building up defense systems. Just like human health, plant health improves when stress factors are removed from the environment and check-ups are performed regularly.

Here’s how a PHC program works. It begins with a Plant Health Care professional visiting your home. Typically, this professional will be an ISA Certified Arborist or a Certified Nursery & Landscape Professional. He/she will ask you questions to determine your expectations and to set priorities. The PHC professional will then inventory your plant material and take that data back to the office, where it is entered into a database. This database alerts the PHC pro to each plant’s needs and any pests that are likely to attack them.

From this data, the PHC pro can formulate a care plan, prioritize with you a treatment schedule and then implement it. PHC pros prefer to treat with natural remedies rather than chemicals. Treatment depends on the severity of any attack and your tolerance for a few bugs. The best remedy may be to do nothing but monitor its progress. Sometimes such problems go away naturally.

Monitoring is the key to a successful PHC program, so expect the pro to visit your home about once a month to check for any new pests and monitor the activity of existing pests. You will receive a report after each monitoring visit.

Plant Health Care, like human wellness care, is very individualistic.  Each yard is different, every homeowner is different. Your desires and expectations are unique and not the same as your neighbors’. For this reason, every plan will be different even if you are neighbors and share the same problems.

There are a few things that you should be aware of when considering a PHC program. Natural controls may not wipe out a pest 100 percent. However, they will reduce their numbers. Hopefully, there will be more beneficial bugs to help control the bad bugs because the good bugs will not not killed right along with the bad bugs as they may be with chemical applications. Finally, the PHC pro may not apply anything during a visit. But this is a good thing. The fee you pay for monitoring visits is a professional fee, just like the fee you pay a physician. You are glad to pay the fee if he/she doesn’t find anything wrong with you. Besides, the cost of a PHC program is considerably less than the cost of reactive intervention.

Healthy plants naturally enhance their environment. A majestic, mature shade tree certainly looks nicer in the environment than a recently planted sapling. Mature plants also provide us with more oxygen, sequester more carbon, reduce more rainwater runoff, and provide more of every benefit than young plants. Maintaining healthy, mature plants is definitely less costly than removing dead, dying or diseased plants and replacing them with young, healthy plants.

Use the winter wisely to look into a Plant Health Care program to protect your valuable landscape. For more on Plant Health Care, click here.

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Trees Have More Value Than Just Looking Nice

We all know the obvious value of trees – they look nice, provide shade, supply us with fruit and nuts. However, trees also have other values that we may never think of, but they are extremely important to us, possibly even more important than the obvious values.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has identified these important contributions that trees make to our quality of life:

  • Air Filtration – Trees filter out particulate matter and absorb harmful gases.
  • Purifying Water – Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water.
  • Cost Reduction – Trees provide shade and shelter, reducing yearly heating and   cooling costs by $2.1 billion.
  • Climate Control – Trees moderate the effects of sun, wind and rain
  • Increased Property Value – Well cared for, landscaped properties are 5% to 20% more valuable than non-landscaped properties.
  • Protection – Trees protect the environment from the downward fall of rain, sleet and hail, as well as reduction of storm run-off and the possibility of flooding.
  • Glare and Reflection Control
  • Wind Break, Deflection and Filtration
  • Sound Barrier

Trees have a dollar value of their own. Tree appraisers, who are usually either Board Certified Master Arborists, consulting arborists or certified arborists, can determine the dollar value of trees and plants by applying a set of criteria agreed upon by the organizations that make up the Council of Tree & Landscape Appraisers. If a tree is damaged or destroyed, you may be able to recapture some or all of your loss through an insurance claim or as a deduction from your federal income tax if you have a valuation by one of the professionals mentioned above.

I hope the next time you look at a tree, you’ll see more than a yard ornament that shades you from the summer heat. I hope you’ll look upon it as a living organism, like us, that works hard to make our environment, and our lives, better.

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