Winter’s Here! Hire a Landscaper

Just because the leaves are now falling, all the flowers are gone, and the air is developing a notable chill, don’t think that the landscaping challenges can be put aside until warm weather returns. As experienced gardeners and professional landscapers know, there are meaningful and productive projects that should be performed during the colder months.

Many homeowners are unaware of the threat to their investments that not preparing for winter weather can pose. Professional landscapers understand that approaching cold season can be as busy as any other.

Here are some critical areas of concern for protecting people and properties from winter weather challenges:

  1. Clear Away the Leaves

Accumulated fallen leaves, particularly on properties where leaf bearing trees are abundant, can clog gutters and damage roofs. Also, clearing wet leaves from the lawn in the fall will allow the lawn to have a fresh start in the early spring.

  1. Prune Away

For most trees, bushes, and shrubs, pruning is best done in the late fall when leaves have fallen and the plant or tree structure is more visible. Shaping and reducing the growth will restore the desired shape as the plant becomes dormant. In the spring, new growth starts the process over again. Many homeowners do not know how and when to properly prune, while a professional can produce the best results for the long-term health of any plants or trees.

  1. Winterize Outdoor Irrigation

In colder climates, irrigation systems must be blown out and moisture free for the coming freezing weather. Professionals with the right equipment should execute the winterization process before the first hard freeze to keep the system in good working order when the spring thaw arrives. A properly maintained irrigation system should last for many years.

  1. Rework the Lawn

A professional landscaper takes advantage of late fall weather to rake and clear the lawn of all debris. Any bare spots can receive new soil to allow grass seed to spread in the spring. Any depressions can be filled and leveled during this time.

  1. Clear Away Snow and Ice

Even in mid-winter, a professional landscaper can ensure the safety of occupants and visitors by clearing away accumulating snow and ice. Winter storms create dangerous footing and cause substantial damage to property. Having snow and ice removal services is vital for private homeowners and businesses as well.

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Preparing Perennials for Winter

Landscapers know that preparation in the fall and early winter can make a big difference in the coming spring and summer. The right preparations for perennials will assure homeowners that these plants will be back in full and beautiful glory in the new year. Poor management may stunt or kill many perennials.

When Do You Prepare Your Gardens for Winter?

The answer to when to prepare depends on the climate and location. When pruning is involved, one suggestion or rule of thumb, according to Urban Cultivator, is to prune based upon when the plant typically blooms in the following year. For example, if the plant is likely to bloom in early spring through June, then pruning should be performed in the late fall. If the plant is a late bloomer, preparation in the early spring is preferred.

Start by Clearing Out the Dead Annuals

All the plants that have died after the first frost should be cleared out and discarded to prevent these from developing diseases and harboring insect eggs during the winter. The soil does remain active beneath the surface until it entirely freezes as earthworms continue to produce organic material and bulbs continue to develop their root systems. Mulching beds at this time can be very beneficial in keeping the soil temperatures steady during the winter months.

For perennials, there are several steps that landscapers practice that support future development. Below are some of these:

  1. Eliminate dry stems to ground level to prevent disease and certain spores from developing.
  2. Consider composting the dead materials. Active compost enriches the soil and prevents diseases from developing.
  3. For evergreens shrubs and plants, remove any sickly or potentially diseased growth. Discard these as they may not be a proper addition to a composted mixture. Clear away the old mulch that may have deteriorated over the summer.
  4. Spread new mulch or organic materials around the perennials. However, it is best to wait until the ground freezes substantially before applying the winter cover. Waiting until freezing prevents rodents from nesting in the mulch while the material is still loose and penetrable.

Snow protects the plants by keeping the temperatures stable beneath the surface. Until a hard freeze establishes, the soil remains active by continuing to process organic material that promotes further root growth for plants that bloom in the springtime.

 

Tame the Great Outdoors with Beautiful Evergreens

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Evergreens bring a glorious element of constancy to homeowner lawns and landscaping. While other types of plants and trees bud, bloom, and eventually drop their leaves, evergreens provide a backdrop of continuous greenery and texture.

Evergreens furnish privacy and may provide an effective windbreak and sound barrier. They can also be a source of food and protection for various types of wildlife.

However, evergreens do require care and attention during planting and early growth to maintain the desired shape and health.

Site Plan, Placement, and Selection

Landscape designers usually allow ample space for each tree and shrub to reach maturity without overcrowding. Too often, homeowners place them too close together, which will limit growth or eventually impose upon outdoor living areas, walkways, or buildings.

Sufficient space must be allowed for root systems to reach their optimal depth and breadth. Limiting growth will cause the evergreen to die prematurely.

Before creating a plan, an initial site survey should locate existing plants, trees, and human made features as well as drainage, soil types, topography, and view points. Corrections may be needed to improve soils and drainage before planting begins.

As for placement, understanding the growth limits and rates of each plant is essential. Varieties of evergreens may grow out instead of up; some will grow slowly and some quickly. In the case of some varieties of spruce, for example, leaving sufficient room to grow without excessive trimming will allow the tree to attain its ideal shape.

Note which type of evergreen needs or tolerates sun exposure. While many, like arborvitae, thrive in direct sunlight, others tolerate light shade or even full shade. Hemlock and Japanese Yew do not require significant sunlight to thrive.

Planting and Watering

The best seasons for planting balled-and-burlapped evergreens are spring, summer, and early fall in most climates. Planting in late fall does not allow the tree or shrub to sufficiently acclimate to the new location before the first freeze.

During the first year gently apply water directly over the root ball under the limb canopy. The following year, after the roots have grown and spread, soaker hoses spread around the perimeter of the canopy will be sufficient.

Proper Handling with ProLine™ Equipment

Heritage Oak Farms has developed the best equipment for lifting, transporting, and replanting evergreens of all types and sizes. For more information, call Heritage Oak Farms at 888.288.5308.

 

Tree Irrigation: Doing it Right

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Professional landscapers use different tree watering strategies for each stage of growth. The root system is intended to grow deep and wide to support the tree as it matures. Believing that tree roots naturally grow toward water is false if the soil surrounding them is dry. For proper growth, water should be sufficient to travel downward beneath the tree to a depth that encourages the roots to grow into a system substantial enough to support the developing tree.

Providing sufficient water during the early years increases the likelihood that the tree will thrive.

How Much Water?

While there are many variables in determining how much water to use, keeping the soil moist to a depth of 18 inches is a great starting point. The type of soil, temperatures, season, and the variety of tree are all factors to consider. Newly planted trees require more water to encourage root growth to help them become accustomed to their new surroundings. Soak the root ball and surrounding area thoroughly in the early weeks after planting.

Note that watering a young tree lightly, as with a typical lawn sprinkling system, does not allow for sufficient soaking to reach deeper roots. The water tends to run off or be absorbed before it reaches the thirsty roots.

Frequency and Proper Drainage

Trees, small plants, and grassy lawns have very different watering needs. Trees require a far greater quantity of water applied less frequently than with smaller plants. Deeper soaking can only be achieved with a slower yet longer application.

However, overwatering can be extremely harmful and “drown” the tree by preventing the roots from absorbing the oxygen they need to survive.

Also, if the water accumulating around the base of the tree does not appear to be flowing into the ground within seconds, clay soil could be the problem. Correct drainage is essential for the roots to receive the proper amount of moisture. Test the soil before planting. If the composition contains too much clay, mix with coarse compost to improve drainage.

Mature Trees

As a healthy tree develops and its root system spreads, direct watering at the trunk is no longer necessary. The better approach is to employ drip systems that encircle the tree, approximately at the drip line. The tree absorbs necessary water at the end of the roots and is encouraged to spread further as the tree grows.

 

Turn a Backyard into a Paradise

Landscape Equipment Tree Spade

Turning a backyard into an inviting and comforting oasis away from the noise and stress of the outside world can be a rewarding adventure for a homeowner. Not only can owners benefit from color changing seasons, but each new year is an opportunity to blend new with the old in their backyard landscape design. Plants grow and spread as the design blends into to an ever more beautiful environment.

Nursery professionals are the best resource for advice to achieve the desired effect. They understand how plants complement each other aesthetically, but also growth rates and compatibility among different types of vegetation.

Budget

A beautiful landscape does not require a massive investment. However, a starting budget can be a guide for what is accomplished that season and more can be added each year. Landscape designers can create an outstanding starting plan and “phase-in” new elements each year.

Collaboration among the homeowner, the landscape designer, and the nursery can yield magnificent results at a reasonable cost.

Creating a Backyard Landscape Design

Begin with a sketch. A landscape designer makes topographical measurements and uses a property survey as a starting point. With this information and a target focal point, a series of sketches will show the major elements of the backyard plan.

Whether using a computer program or staying with drawings on graph paper, plot the underlying grid of the area. According to hgtv.com, National Gardening Association supplies tips for creating a workable landscape plan.

  1. Set fixed features, such as the back of the house, garage, fences, trees, entryways, sprinkler systems, and so forth.
  2. Identify the directions, east and west, to understand where the sun will track.
  3. Try out all your ideas. Experiment with pathways, shrub and tree placement, planting areas, water features and additional fixed elements. If sketching, use tracing paper over the basic sketch to try out various ideas. With a computer program like Google Sketchup, several designs can be tried and saved.
  4. Add patio or seating areas and items like a fire pit as the focal points.
  5. Consider practical matters such as wheelbarrow access, electrical outlets, irrigation, water faucets, and lighting.

Final Backyard Landscape Design

Plan plantings to provide the amount of color, contrast, and privacy you desire. Sketch in the types of plantings and planting areas to provide the shade, color, and seasonal change that keeps the area attractive throughout the year.

 

Pests and Weather Can Destroy Your Trees

While we enjoy the shade, beauty, and environmental contributions of trees and plants, they do have their share of enemies. Adversaries like insects, freezing weather, deer, and gnawing rodents can seriously harm them. Mourning a dried and drooping skeleton is more than a sentimental response when your livelihood depends on supplying healthy plants.

Protecting Your Trees

How do we protect them from this diverse brigade of attackers?

Experienced nursery workers know that the care of healthy trees and plants is a year-round job.

Many nursery managers, tree farmers, and home gardeners have experienced the devastation of extreme winters. Tree and shrubs suffer mightily with the effects of early and late frosts, variable temperature ranges, blizzard-like winds, and sub-zero temperatures that accompany winters.

According to gardeners.com:

  • Early cold spells can damage tissues before they can harden for the coming winter.
  • High winds can dry out plant tissues and evergreen foliage.
  • Frozen soil prevents trees and plants from replacing the water they lose through evaporation.
  • Midwinter thaws cause plants to leave dormancy to grow new shoots, which die quickly with the next cold period.
  • Variable and alternating temperatures literally “heave” new plants out of the ground.
  • Deer, rabbits, and mice gnaw the base of plants when other food sources have frozen.

Preparation for Winter

  • Healthy trees and plants are more likely to survive winter than ones that struggle because of limited sunlight, water, or nutrients. Make sure they have enough of each.
  • If insects have had their way in the summer, the plant is ill-prepared for winter. Protect them from insect infestation.
  • During late summer, it is a good idea to stop pruning. New growth stimulated by pruning will delay dormancy and cause damage.
  • Stop fertilizing six weeks before the earliest frost date.
  • Keep watering until the ground freezes.

Deciduous Trees

Deciduous trees lose leaves and go dormant for the winter. While these tend to withstand typical winters well, young ones need extra care. Gardeners.com suggests:

  • Add a 3 – 4″ layer of mulch to protect shallow roots of young trees.
  • Surround trunks with tree guards to discourage deer and rodents.
  • Add a wrap to young trunks for protection.

Conifers and Evergreens

  • Provide a windscreen in case winter winds become substantial.
  • Remove excessive snow from overladen branches.
  • Wrap young shrubs with burlap to discourage deer snacking.

Be prepared this winter. It may be another rough one.

 

The Best and Worst Pots for Your Garden

Selecting the right pots for a micro garden is not as simple as grabbing last year’s collection, adding soil, and planting whatever you want. Considerations such as product life and durability are important factors when deciding what goes where.

According to MicroGardener, there are positives and negatives to consider when deciding which pot is right for a specific plant or application. Some factors are:

Economy

Price and value are important. It may not make sense to invest in an elaborate pot that will be concealed by other plants or structures.

Making your own containers from available or discarded material can be rewarding and save money. Be careful that the materials you use are not harmful to the plants. Metal containers such as old coffee cans can work, but these heat up substantially in direct sunlight.

Product Life

Considerations like product life and durability are important factors. If the pot will be sitting in a dominant position for years and years, investing in a more durable and attractive pot may be the best course. If the use is short-term, than cheaper ones can do the job.

Environmental Considerations

Some retail pots require a considerable amount of fossil fuels and minerals to produce. Environmental sustainability is another good reason to consider making your own pots or reusing old ones.

Plant Health

Five elements are necessary to create the right environment for each plant. These are:

Drainage: the pot should have holes at the bottom to allow water to escape to keep from drowning the plant. Plants also acquire oxygen through their roots.

Porosity: porous containers like uncoated terra-cotta, compressed paper, wood, and other natural materials allow water and air to move through them. Moisture escaping through the sides is helpful for the plant and keeps them cool. However, plants will require more frequent watering.

Weight: the overall weight including the pot, plant, soil, and water can add up to a heavy load when you are trying to move the pot.

Food Safety: metals and plastic pots can affect the taste of edible plants, vegetables, and herbs. Better to stay with natural components.

Insulation Properties: plants are susceptible to temperature variations. It is important the soil and roots are insulated as the weather cools. A good thermal pot should have positive thermal properties and be dark in color to attract and hold heat.