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Fall Is For Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

Ever wonder how spring flowering bulbs like crocus, daffodils and tulips get the energy to wake up and flower so early in the spring? They go to bed with a full “stomach” before the other flowers do.

For this to happen, though, you have to plant bulbs in the fall. Those nice, fat bulbs are loaded with starch, the food that powers plants. And they’re all ready to go dormant as soon as the soil temperature tells them that winter is right around the corner. Meanwhile, they become acclimated to their new environment.

Then, come early spring, the bulbs are well nourished, well rested and ready to begin poking their heads above the ground. Crocuses, for example, wake up so early that they often begin poking their heads up through the snow. Crocus’ short stature and early blooming schedule give you more planting flexibility than taller bulb plants that bloom later.

You can even plant crocuses in the lawn. They should be finished blooming by the time you need to start mowing. If they’re still in bloom when you need to mow, they are short enough to not get cut off by the mower blades if the blades are set at the recommended three-inches.

Spring flowering bulbs are arriving at area garden stores now. They are packaged in bags and boxes in a wide assortment of bloom colors, and are also sold individually in bulk. You’ll be happier if you decide on how many bulbs you need and in what colors before you go to the garden store. Take the plot plan, color list and quantity with you so you can refer to them when making your selections.

When making your plot plan, remember that bulbs look best in mass plantings, rather than just individual plants. Bulbs are affordable enough that you can put on a spectacular show.

You can plant your bulbs as soon as you bring them home. Lay the bulbs on the ground where you want them to grow. When you’re satisfied that they are in the right place, plant them by plunging a trowel into the soil and pulling it toward you. If you have one of those fancy bulb diggers, by all means use it.

The hole should be about the width of the bulb and twice as deep as the bulb’s length. Drop the bulb into the hole right side up. The top is pointed and the bottom has visible root hairs. Backfill, tamp the soil down lightly and water well to get rid of any air pockets.

Don’t worry about fertilizing the first year. The bulb is made up almost entirely of starch. This is enough to provide the new plant with sufficient food until it leafs out and begins making its own food through photosynthesis.

With your bulbs planted this fall, you can go about your fall and winter life and forget all about them until that first crocus makes its quiet appearance in spring.

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Lawn Grubs Are Back

It happens every year in late summer and early fall. A new generation of grubs hatch in many area lawns and begin their feeding frenzy. But, they are small, weak and near the surface, making them vulnerable to pest control efforts.

Grubs are the larvae of European chafers and Japanese beetles. They are white, soft and crescent shaped. The adults are big and brown with a hard shell, Around here, they’re called June bugs. You may have seen, and heard, them hit your windows during June and July. The number of these beetles you saw flying around and smacking into your windows can give you a rough indication of how bad the grub infestation will be this fall

The most definitive way to confirm the population living in your lawn is to cut one foot squares of sod at various places in your yard. Roll the sod back and count the number of grubs feasting on the grass roots. If there are six or fewer grubs in each patch, they won’t do enough damage to warrant treatment. If there are seven or more per patch, your lawn needs treatment.

Fall is the best time to treat. The grubs’ small size and position just under the surface results in very effective control. As the weather cools, the grubs burrow down into the soil to overwinter. When they return to the turf root zone to begin feeding again in the spring, they are much larger and stronger, and it takes stronger pesticides to control them.

These large grubs pupate in late May or early June and morph into adults, reproduce, lay eggs in the turf and die. When the eggs hatch, the little grubs burrow down into the turf and the cycle begins all over again.

If you are a Birchcrest lawn care customer, grub control is included in our service. If not, we will be glad to send one of our turf professionals to inspect your lawn, report our findings and treat if necessary.

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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.