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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.

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Mowing Your Rejuvenated Lawn

Meteorologically, July is the hottest month of the year in our area. Now that August has arrived, the 90º days should fade to just a memory. The rain will return, the grass will grow and we’ll be back to our weekly lawn mowing routine.

Don’t be too quick to begin mowing again. Remember, your grass has been through a difficult period. What your lawn has gone through could even be described as traumatic, so be sure it’s thoroughly greened up and let it get some growth before you mow.

The lawns that took the worst beating were those that were cut short. Those that were mowed at three inches or higher fared better. If your mower was set below three inches, I recommend that you raise it to at least three inches before you mow again, and wait until the grass grows to at least four inches before mowing.

Continue to mow at three inches until the last mowing of the season. Then drop the mower deck down to two inches. Mowing at three inches exposes more green leaves to the sun so the plants manufacture more food through photosynthesis. More food means a healthier, thicker lawn, and this discourages weeds. If you mowed short, you probably noticed that weeds continued to grow during the dry period. However, mowing short for the last mowing will reduce the risk of an attack by winter turf diseases.

It’s best to be sure your lawn is well on its way back to normal before mowing. You don’t want to leave wheel tracks in the grass. This will happen if you mow while the lawn is wet or before all the grass has greened up.

Our lawn care professionals had to suspend many of their July treatments due to the dry conditions. They were only able to treat those lawns that were watered and remained green during the dry spell. We’ll work hard to make those postponed applications as soon as the weather returns to normal.

Even if you weren’t on a lawn care program, you can call us for individual lawn care services like fertilization, weed control and grub control. Who knows; you may like the service so much that you’ll want an all-season lawn care program next year.

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Proper Pruning Improves Tree Health and Longevity

You can help your trees take shape by having them pruned properly. Proper pruning helps them grow into the shape you want, especially when trees are young.

It takes a basic understanding of tree biology to prune trees in a way that promotes and maintains their health and structure. Proper pruning also improves the tree’s economic contribution to your landscape.

How tree branches are pruned influences how they stand up to gravity, wind and even dangerous ice and snow storms. Too much cutback creates stress in trees, so it’s important to exercise caution and a little common sense. You should consider two questions before pruning;

Why prune?

Trees are most commonly pruned as a corrective or preventative measure to remove dead branches, crowded limbs and potential hazards.

When to prune.

Routine pruning can be done at any time of the year. However, the benefits are maximized if trees are pruned now, as summer fades into fall.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has published these points to consider before pruning a tree:

  • Always have a purpose in mind before making a cut. Each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree.
  • Poor pruning can cause damage that lasts for the life of the tree. Learn where and how to make the cuts before picking up the pruning tools.
  • Trees do not heal the way people do. When a tree is wounded, it must grow over the damage. As a result, the wound is contained within the tree forever.
  • Small cuts do less damage to the tree than large ones. Correcting issues when a tree is young will reduce the need for more drastic pruning later.

Pruning large trees can be dangerous. It usually involves working above the ground and using power equipment like chain saws. It’s important to consider your safety, and that of your trees. That’s why your cardinal rule of tree ownership should be when you have to leave the ground, call in our professionals. Our arborists have the experience, equipment and special training to properly prune any size or species of tree.

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The Importance Of Soil

As if the word soil doesn’t have enough of a negative connotation, our slang term is dirt. What could be more negative? Yet, soil is the supporter of all life. It’s the medium in which plants grow. Animals eat the plants and wind up on our dinner table. And, the circle of life goes on thanks to soil.

How does soil, or dirt, sustain life? It holds the nutrients and minerals that all flora and fauna need to live. Many of the minerals plants need are tied to the atoms of other minerals to support them in a form that can be absorbed by plants.

When we think of soil, we usually think of it first as the anchoring medium for plants. That’s because we dig a hole in the soil, put the plant in and backfill. The ecosystem beneath the soil surface is unknown to us because we can’t see that subsurface life going on, other than digging up worms for a fishing trip.

If we could see what’s going on beneath the soil surface, we’d see billions of creatures, including fungi, bacteria, worms and more, all working together to break down fallen leaves, dead plants and other organic matter.

Most of these subsurface life forms are in the top few inches of soil – the layer we call top soil. When we remove that layer and don’t replace it with soil of equal quality, the balance of nature is disturbed. The plants that we install to make a landscape can’t absorb minerals that aren’t there or aren’t available to plants because there are no microbes to convert them into a form useable by plants. Fertilizer is one of the ways in which we reintroduce essential elements to soil. We also replenish microbes in the soil by adding mycorrhyzae.

Some people refer to fertilization as feeding plants. The late plant physiologist, Dr. Alex Shigo, said that plants make their own food through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the complex chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide, water and essential elements are converted by sunlight into carbohydrates in green plants. So fertilization is actually soil conditioning rather than plant feeding.

Summer will soon morph into fall, and you’ll be faced with the decision of whether to fertilize your landscape plants. One way to make that decision easier is to have your soil analyzed. Our Plant Health Care professionals gather soil samples and send them to a lab where the soil is analyzed, and we receive a report showing the level of all essential elements in your soil. From that we can determine whether your soil needs fertilization and the amount of each essential element that you need.

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EAB Exposure Risk Increases In Summer

eabAs the summer tourism season gets into full swing, don’t be an unwitting spreader of the “Green Menace” known as the emerald ash borer (EAB).

This pest is now in 21 states and two Canadian provinces. This means you have an excellent chance of encountering EAB, especially if you’re camping or doing something near forests or parks. You may bring this tiny insect home without even knowing it until it attacks the ash trees in your yard and your neighbors’ yards.

Here are a few precautions you can take as you travel this summer:

  • Don’t move firewood –Be sure to buy firewood near your campsite or from a firewood vendor who is certified, and don’t bring any back unless it’s certified. There’s a quarantine against bringing uncertified wood into New York State, so burn it where you bought it.
  • Recognize the signs of infestation –The EAB adult is green, skinny and about as long as a penny. Even if you don’t see these adults, examine firewood. Remove some or all of the bark. If it’s infested, you’ll see the galleries the larvae carve just under the bark as seen in photo.
  • Pre-treatment programs – There are ways to protect ash trees with a preventive treatment before they become infested with EAB. Call our office for more information.

Scientists say those ash trees destroyed by EAB create a damaging effect on the eco-system and can even impact your property value. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) says that EAB destruction has already cost municipalities, property owners and the green industry tens of millions of dollars.


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