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Mum’s The Word But Not The Only One

How are your summer annuals holding up? Are they ready to be refreshed? At this point in the year, it may be more economical and easier to switch to fall blooming flowers. The workhorse of these flowers is, of course, the chrysanthemum, or mum.

Certainly mums are the most popular and available fall flowers but they aren’t the only fall flowers. There are a number of other popular annuals and perennials that bloom in fall. They include pansies, certain sedum varieties, and asters, to name just a few.

Pansies can be annuals or perennials, depending on the hardiness zone. As might be expected, they are annuals here in our Zone 5 climate. However, they may grow back each year like several other plants that die off each fall and grow back each spring.

The other plants listed above – sedum and asters – are perennials. You can plant them and give them the same care you’d give any other perennial. Then you don’t have to worry about the best time to plant each one for fall color.

Mums are usually sold in pots. If you plant them in the ground, they can be planted as single clumps directly from the pots or split apart and planted in separate, smaller groupings. Some property owners prefer to plant mums in containers. You can remove them from the nursery pot and replant them in your decorative container. This allows you to divide the mums so they fit your container. The alternative is to buy them in nursery pots that can just slip into your decorative containers.

There’s still another alternative. Turn the design and installation of a your fall flowering plant bed(s) over to our landscape professionals. Then all you have to do is enjoy your new planting beds right up until the snow flies. No trips to the garden center. No research. All you have to do is approve the design. If you have a favorite, we can incorporate that, too. Remember, landscapes are to enjoy, not to take all of our time maintaining.

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Selecting & Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

What an impressive sight each spring. Crocuses peer up through the snow and add color to that drab sea of white. The snow melts and great expanses of bright yellow daffodils appear. They are then followed by the iconic tulip – Mother Nature’s way of saying that spring has finally arrived.

If you wait until spring to decide to share in this colorful show, it’s too late. Such a spectacular show isn’t spontaneous. It takes planning. Planning that starts about now for next spring. That’s because spring flowering bulbs have to be planted the previous fall in order to bloom in spring.

Shipments of bulbs are arriving at garden centers now and the stores are advertising all kinds of deals. So, now is the time to make your bulb selections while there are many to choose from. But wait until the temperatures cool down and the rain returns before planting them.

Stores have bulbs in bulk and in packages. They are best planted as mass plantings rather than just one or two. It’s all that color that makes the big impression, and that can’t be achieved with one or two lonely plants.

Bulbs are packaged in assorted colors or all one color. Which you choose is simply a matter of your taste. Each bin of bulk bulbs usually contains a single color so you can create your own assorted or monochrome bulb garden.

To plant your bulbs, clear the area that you’re going to plant. Lay out the bulbs in the pattern you want them to grow. Using a trowel, dig as deeply as you want to plant the bulb (should be twice as deep as the length of the bulb). Pull the trowel toward you to open up the hole. Place the bulb in the hole root end down. The root end is the flat end with root hairs emerging from the bulb. Pull out the trowel and smooth the backfill. When finished with the bed, spread mulch over it and water.

If you’re planting crocuses in your lawn, don’t clear the area and don’t mulch. Just dig the hole, place the bulb in the hole, backfill and water. Crocuses are the only bulbs that should be planted in the lawn. They grow low enough to the ground that you can mow the lawn over them if necessary. Daffodils and tulips are too tall. You probably won’t have to mow over the top of crocuses, however. They’ll likely be finished blooming before you have to mow.

Don’t fertilize when you plant bulbs. Some people insist that you have to put a scoop of fertilizer in the hole but you don’t. The bulbs are almost entirely food made by the leaves and stored in the bulb. Next fall, it’s OK to spread a bit of fertilizer around the plants.

When your bulbs finish blooming next spring, it’s OK to cut off the spent flowers. Don’t cut off the leaves, however. They’ll continue to manufacture food throughout the summer. It’s OK to cut off the leaves after they turn yellow or tan. By then, they’ll have made all the food they’re going to make.

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Survey Your Domain

With the fall planting season just around the corner, this would be a good time to take stock of your landscape. An inventory will help you determine if there are any bare spots in your landscape that should be taken care of this fall.

Check your landscape from every angle possible to see where new plants are needed; existing trees and shrubs need pruning, maintenance or repair; or plants can be moved to a better spot in your landscape. Take photos so you can share the images and your thoughts for the future with your landscape designer.

How did your lawn survive the summer? Mother Nature can fill in small bare spots but you’re on your own if the sun damaged big sections. They’ll need repair, which includes raking out the dead grass, roughing the soil, seeding and watering.

If your family marked one or more special occasion(s) this year, planting a tree would be an appropriate way to remember the event. Your family will continue to enjoy the tree’s benefits long after you’re gone.

After looking over your domain, you may be dissatisfied with the whole thing. Our designers can present you with a master plan for updating or renovating that fits your style and budget. You can choose to have the whole transformation done this fall or spread it out over several years.

Landscapes that are phased in will be designed and installed in such a way that neighbors and passersby won’t realize that you are amortizing the job over several seasons. The existing landscape will remain in place until you give us the green light to begin that phase.

Remain the monarch of your realm and bring your landscape into the 21st century. We have just the professionals to help you do it.

Photo Caption: Upon surveying his domain, this homeowner found that this holly needed pruning.

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Time To Start Checking For Grubs

As July fades into August, lawn grubs are hatching and beginning their fall feast on your tender grass roots. This fills their bellies and sustains them as they descend below the root line to overwinter. It also kills your grass, although it may not be apparent until next spring.

Checking for grubs is easy. Using a sharp knife, cut one-foot square sections of sod from various areas of your lawn. Pull the sod back. If you see white crescent-shaped creatures, those are grubs. Count them. If each square contains six or fewer, there’s no need to treat for them. They won’t do enough damage to kill the grass or even cause it to be unsightly. If you count seven or more per area, you should treat the whole lawn.

The presence of large, brown beetles over the last two months would mean there’s a good chance that you have grubs. These beetles, commonly called June bugs, that fly into your window panes are the adult stage of lawn grubs. They’re flying around looking for a mate.

After mating, the females lay eggs in the turf. Immediately upon hatching, the small grubs burrow into the soil, stopping for a meal of grass roots on their way to the warmer depths of the soil. They grow over the winter so that they need even more grass roots when they come back up closer to the surface next spring.

In spring, grubs are larger and stronger, making them more resistant to control products. In late summer and early fall, shortly after hatching, they are smaller, weaker and more vulnerable to control measures.

Grub control materials are sold at garden centers. But you have to haul them home and spread them. Our lawn care professionals can check for grubs and apply the most effective material available.

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Get Tools Ready For Fall Maintenance

If just sitting around enjoying your landscaping is making you a little antsy, I have an idea. Put this time to good use by getting your tools ready for the fall landscaping season that will soon be upon us. If the summer to fall transition is anything like the spring to summer transition, it will be very quick.

What do you have to do? Most importantly, find all the tools you’ll need. That can be a problem. So, the more time you have, the more likely it will be that you’ll find everything you need without having to scramble at the last minute.

Plan to sharpen bladed tools like shovels, cutters, trowels or bulb planters. Get power tools like your leaf blower ready to go when needed. Have some kind of cart or wheelbarrow at the ready and make sure your personal protective equipment is ready for another season.

Personal protective equipment depends on the task you’re doing. However, the basics include safety glasses and gloves. If using power tools, also have adequate ear protection. If you’re using a string trimmer, long pants are recommended, and if you’re pruning shrubs, I recommend a long sleeve shirt as well. Don’t put the wide brimmed hat and sunscreen away just yet. The autumn sun can be just as dangerous as the mid-summer sun.

When cutting anything, remember that a dull blade is more dangerous than a sharp one. Are your pruning shears, loppers, hedge trimmers, mower blades and similar cutting surfaces sharp? If not, sharpen them. Sharpening your shovel(s) will make such autumn jobs as dividing perennials much easier than trying to use a dull shovel. Sharp trowels or bulb planters will ease your fall planting of spring bulbs.

Gas power tools should be checked before fall in the same way they are in spring. Replace dirty air filter elements. Clean and gap spark plugs if they need it. Check the crankcase oil for four cycle machines and top it off if it’s low or change it if it’s dirty. Mix oil and gas properly for two cycle machines.

For the new battery powered equipment, keep enough charged batteries to do the job. This may include buying one or more spare batteries so you can keep working while run-down batteries charge.

Wheelbarrows, wagons, carts and other conveyances roll better when their axles are greased and pneumatic tires are inflated to the pressure stamped on the sidewalls.

And you thought summer was just for sitting and watching the grass grow! Follow the Boy Scout motto and Be Prepared…now while there’s no pressure to start working against time in anticipation of the first snowfall.

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Aerate & Dethatch

Lawns, especially in areas like ours with dense, clay soil, need aeration on a regular basis. Lawns everywhere need dethatching occasionally. The one thing lawns don’t need is rolling.

Homeowners who believe rolling is necessary definitely need to follow up rolling with aeration. Rolling presses down on the soil, causing it to compact even more than it does naturally. Notice that landscape and lawn care professionals don’t own rollers and they don’t offer rolling service. That’s because they know the harm rolling can do.

Aeration is one of the best things for your lawn. An aerator is a machine with spoon-like tines that penetrate the soil, pull out plugs of sod and drop them on top of the lawn. These holes give the soil particles space to spread out, leaving wider gaps between particles for retention of the water and oxygen that the plant roots need. Leaving the soil plugs on the surface allows them to break up and return organic matter to the soil to nourish the plants.

Dethatching removes dead grass plants that accumulate on the soil surface. These dead plants form a mat that restricts the amount of water that can penetrate the soil surface. Contrary to popular belief, thatch is not grass clippings left on the lawn surface after mowing. Clippings are good for your lawn. They decompose quickly and return organic matter to the soil. Thatch is actually dead grass plants that don’t decompose fast. A special dethatching machine is used to pull the matted material up from the surface and deposit it into a receptacle attached to the machine.

Aeration and dethatching machines can be rented at equipment rental outlets. However, they are big, heavy, cumbersome machines that can really test your strength when operating them. You also need a truck or tailer to transport them to and from the rental store. When you add up the rental cost, the transportation cost, your time and the wear and tear on your body, you’ll most certainly be further ahead leaving either or both jobs to our lawn care professionals.

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A Practical Reason To Relax & Enjoy Your Landscape

Summers are so short here that it behooves us to make the most of the season. That includes doing what you really like to do – camping, boating, swimming, sitting in the shade reading – but not landscape maintenance. About the only landscape maintenance that should even be considered in summer is watering if it’s dry and mowing if it isn’t. And hiring our arborists if your tree(s) need pruning or repair.

Plants actually rest in summer. So you should, too. If the weather is dry, turfgrass goes dormant and turns brown. You can either water it or just stay off it and it will green up again when the weather moderates and the rains return in the fall. If the summer is rainy and the grass continues to grow, you’ll need to continue mowing.

Like turfgrass, annuals, perennials and new trees and shrubs need at least an inch of water a week. If that water doesn’t come in the form of rain, then it’s up to you. Other plants don’t go dormant like turfgrass; they just slow down. Plants prefer to get their inch of water allotment all at once, rather than a little spritz every day. Short of an automatic irrigation system, the most economical way to water is with soaker hoses. They are made of porous rubber from recycled tires.

Soaker hoses should be snaked through the root zone of your plants, covered with mulch and connected to an outdoor spigot. Turn the spigot only a quarter turn. Too much pressure will blow holes in the porous rubber. Soaker hoses should be left on for a half hour to an hour, depending on how dry the soil is around the plants. The water should ooze out of the rubber, mimicking a drip irrigation system.

Sprinkling is not recommended. When water is sprayed on a hot day, much of it evaporates before reaching the ground, resulting in a lot of wasted, expensive water. Watering your lawn is an exception. The only way to cover large areas is with a sprinkler. The oscillating type sprinkler works best.

With plants resting, there should be nothing for you to do, unless you are one of those rare people who enjoys pulling weeds. Forcing maintenance on your landscape plants in summer is like waking up a sleeping child or pet to feed them or give them water. If your green thumb is getting itchy, why not visit one of the fine public gardens in our area like Highland Park, Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua or Cornell Botanical Gardens in Ithaca?

Rest now; fall will be here soon, and with it will be plenty of opportunity to flex your green thumb then.