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Schedule Lawn Repairs This Fall

This summer has been very kind to our lawns. We’ve had plenty of moisture and very few scorching days, making it an ideal summer to grow grass. That’s a far cry from last summer when drought and heat damaged many lawns.

Most homeowners repaired their lawns, or had them repaired, last fall or this spring. A few held out, hoping that Mother Nature would make the repairs. That happened for small bare spots but bigger spots didn’t fill in. If, however, you leave large, bare spots, they will fill in with weeds.

After Labor Day, the days should remain warm but the nights will cool down. There should be plenty of rain, making it an ideal time to grow grass. The earlier it’s done, the more time it has to get established before going dormant for the winter.

Take a small plug of sod to the garden center so they know what blend of seed you need. While there, pick up a bag of balanced fertilizer, too. The agronomists or horticulturists at the garden center should be able to advise you on the best fertilizer for the seed blend you’re planning to use.

When you get home, start your lawn repair by removing any weeds that are growing in the bare spots. Rough up the soil in those spots with an iron rake. Sprinkle fertilizer and work it into the soil with the rake. Spread seed and rake it into the soil and water thoroughly. Rainfall should be adequate to keep the soil sufficiently moist for the seed to germinate. If we go a week without rain, water thoroughly as you did when you initially seeded. In a week or two, you should see little green leaves poking up through the soil.

If you don’t want to go through the work of raking the dead grass, roughing up the soil, fertilizing, planting the seed, raking it into the soil and watering it in, our lawn professionals can take care of all the repairs for you.

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Refresh Your Flowering Plants

As you sit on your patio surveying your kingdom (see last week’s post), check out the annuals you planted in the spring. Are the flowers still colorful and plentiful? They should be if you’ve kept them watered and deadheaded. Those that don’t look so perky can still be changed out for new plants.

You may be able to find some spring/summer flowering plants to replace your faded annuals but most garden centers are starting to receive their fall plants, including fall-blooming annuals. Planting them now and watering and deadheading should keep your yard vibrant and colorful right up to the first hard frost.

Chrysanthemums are, arguably, the most popular fall flowers, but they aren’t the only ones. Pansies like cool weather so they can be planted as fall bloomers, as can marigolds, fall blooming cabbage and kale, nasturtiums and violas. All of these annuals will grow just as well in containers as they do in the ground. As always, read the nursery tag to be sure the variety you’re buying is fall blooming.

You might consider planting fall flowering perennials now, too. Your garden center may have a bigger selection of fall flowering perennials than annuals. They include aster, heather, anemone, sedum, toad lily, turtlehead, fall crocus and monkshood, to name a few.

If you already have fall flowering perennials, you can divide them when the weather cools in September. This will enable you to increase the fall flowers in your beds without spending any money for new plants. If you don’t need any more flowering plants, you can share the divided perennials with friends so they, too, will have as colorful a fall landscape as you.

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Take Time To Smell The Roses… And Other Flowers

Spring held on for dear life this year, causing summer to come late. As a result, there’s been plenty of rain. So, all’s well in the landscape, right? Then why not take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and Mother Nature’s gift?

This year’s weather conditions gave you plenty of time to get all your maintenance tasks done early. Now you can take some time to enjoy your landscape before fall arrives and you have to begin preparing for winter.

Sitting and relaxing can be difficult for some, especially the ardent gardener or workaholic. But try. So many people don’t stop to smell the roses until it’s too late. Besides, I’m not suggesting that you let your landscape go completely. You’ll still have to mow, weed and water when they’re needed. But you don’t have to do heavy work like planting and pruning this month. That can wait until September or later.

If you have an emergency situation like a broken tree branch, the recommended thing to do is to have us send our arborist out to remove it before it can do any damage. I can’t emphasize enough that tree pruning, and all tree work for that matter, should be left to professional arborists. We have the specialized knowledge, experience and equipment to do it safely and correctly.

Let’s get back to your chilling out. Next week, I’ll start writing about fall landscape jobs that await you. But that doesn’t mean you have to jump right up from your patio chair and do them. They are fall jobs so wait until after Labor Day. You can put them on your calendar now for completion then.

My hope for you is that you’ll take my advice, make like a king or queen and gaze out with pride upon your kingdom.

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How’s Your Mulch?

Organic mulch like wood chips does multiple duty. It protects the soil by moderating temperature and meters water absorption. It adds the finishing touches to a planting bed or a tree’s root zone. As it decomposes, wood chip mulch returns organic matter to the soil. That’s why mulch is an important part of your landscape.

Earlier in the spring, I advised you to remove any extra mulch you had added last fall to protect your soil over the winter. You should have returned the mulch to a depth of no more than three-inches.

We had a lot of rain over the spring and this can speed up decomposition. Check the depth to see if that’s the case with your beds. If the mulch level is below two-inches, it’s time to add another inch or two.

Most of our customers prefer buying mulch in bulk because it’s more economical. We’ll deliver and dump it in the driveway or any another accessible place you would like. It’s much less expensive to buy in bulk than to buy it in bags at the garden center. And, you know you’re getting a quality product and helping protect the local environment. If you don’t want to spread mulch, our crew will do it for an extra fee, which is better than lugging heavy bags from the garden center.

The mulch we deliver starts as tree pruning waste, which would end up in landfills if we didn’t mulch it. After grinding into uniform chips, the mulch is aged until it turns the natural brown color we want.

There are other types of decorative mulch but we recommend wood chip mulch, unless there’s a compelling reason to recommend a purely decorative material. Our purely decorative mulches include natural stone like river rock, white marble chips and ground brick.

Mulching is the sure way to give your landscape a neat, finished appearance while helping to preserve the environment.

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Expand Your Outdoor Living

Patios can be so much more than a few folding chairs and a grill. Today, they are complete outdoor living rooms or three-season rooms. Check out home and garden magazines or television programs and see what’s going on in outdoor living.

Today, patios are extensions of a home’s inside living space with complete kitchens and living rooms. Many also have creatively-designed bars, pergolas, fire pits and water features. Those that are three season rooms have retractable shelter that can disappear in the summer and reappear in the shoulder seasons when the evenings are cool.

Outdoor kitchens have monster grills and refrigerators and, in some cases, wood-fired pizza ovens and even electric ovens for baking. Draft coolers for beer are also popular for those who like to entertain. The only limitations are your imagination and your budget

Outdoor living rooms have morphed into luxury areas with furniture that looks very much like your indoor living room. The furniture is upholstered and very comfortable. Some patios even have indoor/outdoor carpeting, sound systems and large, flat-screen TVs. Although the upholstery looks similar to that found in your indoor living room, it’s more rugged and treated to shed water. You’ll need a place to store this furniture in winter.

Although we are already into July, you could still have an outdoor room for the remainder of the summer and into the fall. Our design/build process makes it possible for our installation professionals to begin construction while our designers are still completing design details, which saves you a lot of time and money.

If you know, or even think, you want an outdoor living area, give us call to schedule an appointment with one of our designers. Their job is to make your ideas a reality. If you aren’t sure exactly what you want your outdoor living space to look like, meeting with a designer can help you decide. From their vast experience designing backyard oases, they have many ideas they will share with you to assure that your results are exactly what suits your taste and your budget.

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Aerifying & Dethatching Your Lawn

You may have heard about aerifying and dethatching lawns. But what do those terms mean and is it something your lawn needs? Aerifying reduces soil compaction so critical water and oxygen can reach plant roots. Dethatching removes dead grass plants so new ones can grow in their place.

Compact soils like clay have few spaces between soil particles for water and oxygen, which are essential for plants to live. Even roots have a difficult time growing through compacted soil. The fix for this problem is aerifying.

A special aerifying machine pulls plugs of sod out of your lawn at regular intervals, providing “wiggle room” for the spaces between soil particles to expand and make room for nutrients and oxygen-laden moisture to reach the roots.

Aerifying machines can be rented at rental stores for the do-it-yourselfer but most property owners prefer to call us than to spend a hot, sweaty Saturday wrestling with this cumbersome machine. A couple of tips for the would-be d-i-yer: If you decide to do your own aerifying, leave the plugs right where they are discharged. They will fall apart and the grass will decompose in a couple of days and return organic matter to the soil. Also, don’t succumb to the old wive’s tale that you can aerify by mowing your lawn in golf shoes. The spikes on the shoes don’t go deep enough and they won’t pull plugs out like the hollow tines on an aerifying machine.

Dethatching is often mentioned in conjunction with aerifying. However, few lawns actually need dethatching. Many people believe thatch is mower clippings that fall to the ground and get tangled up in the grass leaves. Thatch is actually dead grass plants. Grass clippings will decompose rather quickly. Dead grass plants won’t decompose nearly as fast.

If your lawn does need dethatching, consider having it done professionally rather than doing it yourself. Our lawn care professionals will check your lawn to be sure it really needs dethatching, and they’ll look closely to determine the cause of the problem and recommend the best way to repair it.

Summer is a good time for both aerifying and dethatching if your lawn needs it. Give us a call to schedule a complete landscape inspection to determine if your lawn needs help.

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Watering Necessary Despite Wet Spring

When you see the results of May’s rain storms still being felt along the shores of Lake Ontario, it’s hard to believe that you’ll have to water your lawn and landscape plants this summer. However, you should be prepared to do so, especially if you have new plants.

Rain water soaks deeply into the soil. Older plants, especially established trees, have no problem reaching down to the water. But younger plants have not yet developed roots that reach down that far. As a result, they have to depend on recent rain for their water. This means that, when Mother Nature turns off the faucet later this summer, it’s up to your to turn it on

Even if you don’t have recently planted trees, shrubs or perennials, you probably have annuals and containerized plants, and they need watering to supplement rain.

The best watering method for all your needs, except containers and grass, is the use of soaker hoses. You just snake as many hoses as needed close to your plants, connect to the faucet and turn it on a quarter-turn. Turn it on any more and it can blow major holes in the porous hose. Soaker hoses are the next best thing to a drip irrigation system.

Plants need at least an inch of water a week, and it’s best to apply it all in one session. The water slowly “oozes” out of the soaker hose’s porous rubber, so it can take an hour or more to apply an inch.

Many people are re-growing grass that was overseeded to repair the damage from last summer’s drought. New seeding has to be moist all the time. This often means daily watering, sometimes even twice daily. Soaker hoses are impractical for turfgrass so you have to rely on sprinklers. I suggest you water early in the morning or in the evening. If you sprinkle in the heat of the day, much of the water will evaporate before it reaches the ground.

Hand holding a hose and nozzle isn’t recommended. It takes some time to thoroughly soak a lawn. You’ll get tired and sunburned before you apply enough water. Limiting your watering to a surface coating will result in grass plants with weak, shallow roots. If you apply enough water to soak into the soil, you’ll encourage roots to grow deeper and stronger.