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Kill Weeds Before They Go To Seed

Ever notice how certain weeds like dandelions pop up in spring before almost anything else? Nature has equipped these plants with a very simple mechanism for doing that. They produce seeds late in the season, which fall to the ground and lie latent during the winter. They’re all ready to germinate as soon as weather conditions are just right in spring.

You can short circuit that cycle by killing these weeds and their seeds this fall. Apply a broadleaf weed killer before they go to seed. To be sure there are no latent seeds lurking in the garden or on your lawn, also apply a weed preventer. Some products include both a weed killer and preventer in the same package.

Be careful of what product you buy and how you apply it. Herbicides may be selective or non-selective. Selective products will kill only the weeds for which they are labeled. Non-selective herbicides will kill any green plant. Products like Glyphosate (Roundup) are non-selective so you have to be very careful applying it, especially in flower beds. Spot treat in flower beds by applying the material only to the target weeds. Glyphosate can also be purchased in a formulation that includes a weed preventer.

If you prefer not to use a chemical pesticide, there are natural products on the market. They contain active ingredients like clove oil and vinegar. These products don’t provide long term control, however. They only kill the leaves because the material doesn’t make its way to the roots. There are also recipes on the internet for making a natural herbicide using salt, vinegar and dish soap.

As with any pesticide, it’s important to read the label carefully and follow its directions and warnings to the letter.

If you want to eliminate the fuss and bother of having to read all that tiny label print, you can call us and one of our Plant Health Care professionals will be happy to check your property and take appropriate action to get rid of the weeds and keep them away.

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Fall Planting Includes Dividing Perennials

A few weeks ago, I reminded you why fall is for planting. Fall planting includes transplanting, and dividing overgrown perennials qualifies as transplanting. Most perennials, especially woody perennials, exhibit the characteristics that makes fall the preferred planting and transplanting time.

The same weather conditions that make this such a good time to plant or transplant tree and shrubs also make it a good time to divide perennials and give each new perennial that you create an opportunity to become well established before winter sets in.

If you’ve never split perennials before, it’s easy. Dig up the whole plant with as much root as possible. Shake the soil from around the root on to a tarp. Lay the plant on its side on the ground and, with a sharp tool, cut it in half and then quarters. The tool you use is a personal preference but be sure it’s sharp.

Replant one quarter in the hole from which the plant was dug. Backfill and water the same way you would a nursery-fresh plant. Plant the other three quarters in nursery pots and give them to friends for their gardens, plant them in different gardens on your property or donate them to a plant exchange.

If you have lots of perennials that need splitting but don’t have the time or interest in digging them up and splitting them, give us a call and one of our professional landscape technicians would be happy to do the job for you.

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Don’t Forget That Spring Flowering Bulbs Have To Be Planted This Fall

After the hot, dry summer we’ve just endured, it’s hard to imagine that cold, bleak days of winter are just around the corner. By February and March, we’ll be scanning the snow drifts for the first color of an approaching spring, and the appearance of colorful crocuses pushing up through the snow can signal that spring is coming soon.

Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths will make their appearance soon after the crocus. While these are all spring flowering plants, their bulbs need to be planted in the fall. Fall planting allows bulbs to become acclimated to their new home before the ground freezes and to get a head start on spring.

Garden centers now have displays of every color and variety of bulbs. You can buy mixed packages with different colors, packages in a single color or even single bulbs so you can plant them according to your own design.

It’s a good idea to sketch out what you want your bulb garden to look like before shopping for bulbs. This holds true regardless of whether you buy packages or single bulbs. If you don’t have a plan, you’re apt to be disappointed with the results.

Leave the bulbs in the ground and they’ll re-bloom spring after spring. If you’re disappointed with the garden design after the first blooming, however, you can dig the bulbs up and replant them. Your plan will direct you to where you planted each color. When you replant them, sketch out another plan to show each bulb’s new location.

All you really need to plant bulbs is a trowel, although garden stores also have fancy bulb planting tools. Just thrust your trowel into the ground and pull it back toward you until you have a hole about the diameter of the bulb and twice as deep as the length of the bulb. Drop the bulb into the hole and backfill. You don’t have to put any fertilizer in the planting hole. Bulbs are made up almost entirely of the starches the plants need to live through the winter, push through the soil, leaf out and flower next spring.

Be sure to plant the bulbs right side up. The root side (flat with small hair roots) faces the bottom of the hole. After backfilling, tamp the area lightly to eliminate air pockets and then water the newly planted bulbs.

You can plant right up until the ground freezes but I recommend planting bulbs as soon as you buy them, giving them the maximum amount of time to acclimate.

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My Annual Reminder That Fall Is For Planting

We’ve just been through a summer that was difficult for us and for our plants. Now that the temperatures are starting to moderate and the rain is returning, it’s time for me to remind you that fall is for planting. If you’re planning to add trees, shrubs or perennials to your yard, many are best planted in fall. Besides weather conditions that plants prefer, fall planting also gives them an opportunity to become established in their new location before they have to withstand an unpredictable winter.

There are only a few trees and shrubs that would prefer that you wait. That list includes some slow to establish species, like bald cypress, American hornbeam, ginkgo, larch, magnolia, hemlock, sweetgum, tulip tree and willow. Also, broadleaved evergreens, such as rhododendrons, and narrow-leafed evergreens, such as yews, prefer spring planting. In general, plants with shallow, fibrous root systems can be planted easier in the fall than those with fewer, larger roots. The fall planting list includes pines and spruces as well as most deciduous trees.

I can assure you that Fall is for Planting is sound plant biology, not a scheme by the nursery industry to get rid of their nursery stock that suffered through the hot, dry summer. Many nurseries and garden centers order new plants for fall planting. This year, you should have no trouble differentiating the new stock from the old. If you’re looking for a bargain, you may be able to negotiate deep discounts on the survivors. Personally, I don’t like to do that. I rather pay list price and get new stock.

Right Plant, Right Place, the other arboricultural axiom, holds just as true for fall planting as it does for any other time of the year. You also plant the same way as I’ve discussed in past blogs, all of which are listed by month and year on the right sidebar. If you don’t want to select the plants, haul them home and plant them yourself, call us. We have landscape professionals who will do it for you.

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Plant Mums For A Head Start On Fall Color

Pot of MumsFall color is one of the scenic attractions to our area. However, leaves aren’t our only fall color. Flowers provide us with fall color as well. The chrysanthemum, or mum, is the first plant that comes to mind.

Mums are beginning to arrive at your favorite garden center, and everywhere else that sells plants. They’re available in a rainbow of colors and sizes. The color palette includes fall colors like orange, brown and purple. Cultivars are available in different shapes and sizes, too. You can buy them in nursery pots for transplanting into the ground, or you can buy them in hanging baskets and in decorative patio pots.

The original annuals you planted at the beginning of summer are probably long gone. In fact, you may have had to change them out at least once during the summer, especially if they fell victim to the hot, dry weather we just experienced.

Mums are long lasting. If you keep them watered and deadheaded, you could enjoy flowers all the way to the first killing frost. There are hundreds of cultivars. For our area, however, it’s best to choose those that are labeled “Hardy Mums.” These can be planted in the ground or in containers and, as long as you keep them watered and deadheaded, you’ll continue to enjoy flowers.

Mums like full sun and well drained soil. They like plenty of water but not wet feet. In some places, mums can be grown as perennials. Here, most are treated as annuals. One reason may be that areas of full sun aren’t sheltered in winter. If you want to try growing them as perennials, fertilize them with a high phosphorous (middle number) fertilizer and spread up to 4 inches of mulch.

Those mums growing in containers need special preparations for winter. They can be brought inside or, if you don’t have room for them in your home, try overwintering them in a cold frame with mulch around the container to help keep the roots warm.

Mums are very versatile plants. Having been hybridized since ancient times, you have so many sizes, shapes and flower colors to choose from that you can take advantage of their versatility to maintain a colorful garden right up until winter.

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Time To Check For Lawn Grubs

A good offense is the best defense. That’s why I’m offering my annual reminder to check for lawn grubs. Even if your lawn is greening up beautifully after its summer dormancy, grubs may still be at work beneath the surface.

Grubs are the larval stage of the European chafer or Japanese beetle. They are crescent shaped and white in color with a brown head, and their favorite diet is turfgrass roots.

In June and July, you may have seen big, brown insects flying around. Most people first notice them when they fly into their closed windows and make a big noise for such a small creature. These are the adult European chafers and Japanese beetles. When they hit your window, they’re actually flying around looking for a mate. After mating, the female lays her eggs in turfgrass. As soon as the grubs hatch, they burrow into the ground and begin feeding on grass roots.

Grubs are quite small at this stage of their lives, and relatively easy to control chemically. However, they will soon grow as big as two inches. As the weather gets colder, they burrow deeper into the ground. The bigger grubs grow and the deeper they burrow, the more difficult they are to control. This is why I recommend checking for them now, while they are still small and vulnerable.

As I wrote last week, the way to check for grubs is to cut 12 inch squares of sod at various spots in your yard. Roll back the sod to see if there are grubs present just under the surface. If they are present, count them. Six or fewer grubs won’t hurt the lawn enough to warrant treatment so just put the sod back in place. If there are seven or more, plan to treat your lawn for grubs now. Don’t wait until spring to treat or the grubs will have grown too big over the winter for treatment to be effective.

Garden stores carry several brands and formulations of grub control material. Check the labels to be sure they aren’t harmful to birds or bees. Birds feed on grubs, so you definitely don’t want to use that material. The same holds true for those master pollinators, the bees.

If you would rather leave this task to the experts, call us and one of our lawn care professionals will come to your home, check for grubs, make recommendations for controlling them, and apply the control material for you. The time to act, though, is now.

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Check Your Lawn For Brown Spots

Now that August is here, our hot, dry summer should soon begin to wane. Rains will return and your lawn should green up. But what can you do if there are brown spots?

First of all, don’t panic over a few brown spots. Let the rest of the lawn green up completely. As the lawn rejuvenates itself, the smaller spots will probably fill in by themselves, and some of the larger spots may fill in by the natural spreading of grass plants.

Brown spots that remain after the grass has returned to its natural condition will have to be repaired. Before repairing, however, you may want to check to be sure the grass was killed by the drought and not grubs. To check for grubs, cut a 12-inch by 12-inch square of sod on each side of the bare spot and fold it back. If there are zero to six grubs present in any of the squares, the damage was probably caused by the dry weather. If there are seven or more, grubs probably caused the damage and should be treated before repairing the lawn.

Begin the repair by raking out all of the dead grass using a steel rake. Use the same rake to loosen the soil and rake it level. You can choose one of several methods for the next step – traditional seeding; sodding; or a mixture of mulch, fertilizer and seed that’s similar to hydroseeding.

To seed. buy a seed mixture that’s close in color and texture to your original grass. Spread seed and fertilizer in the prepared areas. With your iron rake, scratch the mixture into the soil, smooth it out and apply a spray of water. If the sun is hot, cover the freshly seeded area with burlap or straw.

To sod, cut a square that extends about an inch beyond the damaged area and remove the old sod. Dig out soil to the depth of the new sod. If you usually fertilize your lawn, or have it fertilized, spread some fertilizer in the prepared area. If you have compost, you can use that instead. Then, just lay the sod in place and walk on it so it makes good contact with the native soil. Finally, water the repaired area.

If you decide to use the repair kit containing seed, fertilizer and mulch, follow the directions on the package.

Whichever method you choose, you’ll have to keep the area well watered until the grass is established.

For those who don’t want to personally perform any of the repair tasks described above, our lawn care professionals can make the repairs for you.