Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Learn How to Fertilize Your Lawn with Exmark’s Done In a Weekend Video Series

Friday, April 13th, 2018

If you don’t know how to fertilize your lawn properly, you are not alone. Many homeowners don’t fully understand the importance and role of regular fertilization for their lawn’s health, according to landscape designer Doug Scott of Redeem Your Ground in Atlanta, GA.

Fertilizing your lawn is important because it provides grasses and plants with the nutrition they need for healthy growth. Even in rich soil, plants will absorb and deplete the nutrients over time. Fertilizer restores those nutrients and helps keep your lawn lush and healthy.

In Exmark’s new Done-in-a-Weekend video Fertilizing 101, Scott explains, “All plants require six essential nutrients. Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, which are received above the ground, through air and water, and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, what must be provided by the soil.” Those three essential nutrients are shown in the letters and numbers on fertilizer bags, which many homeowners find confusing.

“Every bag of plant food will contain three numbers, separated by dashes. These represent the three nutrients your plants rely on the soil to provide – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), in that specific order.”

“A bag of fertilizer labeled ’11-7-7’ is made up of 11-percent nitrogen, seven-percent phosphorus and seven-percent potassium. The remaining 75-percent consists of inert fillers designed to help properly distribute the active ingredients without burning the lawn.”

There are a dizzying array of fertilizer combinations, but it’s easier to understand if you know what the principle nutrients do for plants.

Nitrogen (N) fosters leaf and vegetation development.

Phosphorous (P) aids root development and flower and fruit production.

Potassium (K) helps regulate water and nutrient absorption, and promotes disease resistance.

The type of fertilizer you use will depend on your lawn, shrubs and plants condition, your primary soil types, and the time of year. A good general fertilizer is one labeled 10-10-10: It has all three elements in equal proportions.

You’ll want to broadcast the fertilizer evenly over the area, then water thoroughly so plants can begin to take up the nutrients. Be careful not to over fertilize, as that can burn or damage lawns and plants.

Regular fertilizing with the right fertilizer will help you achieve the lush lawn and beautiful plantings of your dreams. Best of all, this is a low-key project that you can accomplish in a weekend.

Find more Done-in-a-Weekend projects to help transform you lawn.

Done in a Weekend Project: Get Fired Up

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Once the landscaping takes shape and you’re enjoying your outdoor living space, it’s a good idea to introduce enrichment projects. These small, weekend jobs transform your yard into a place where people want to gather—an extension of your home that enhances your square footage without any major building.

And one of the best ways to do this? A fire pit. No matter what the weather, a fire pit provides comfort and a place for the whole family to enjoy. In this Done-in-a-Weekend series project, we’ll look at what it takes to create a safe and beautiful space for your fire pit.

Before you do any kind of landscaping or work on a fire pit, make sure you find out what your local safety regulations are. There may be fire code restrictions or HOA considerations, so follow the rules and always make sure you update your homeowner’s insurance accordingly.

For the easiest approach to a fire pit, we suggest purchasing the pit and putting your focus on the environment. Here’s how:

  1. Choose a Location. The location should be at least ten feet from any structures or outbuildings. It should also include room for both the fire pit and seating around it.
  2. Mark the Space. In order to get the best results (around 15-18 feet in diameter), mark the space you’ll be clearing using careful measurements.
  3. Prep the Area. This includes removing debris, grass, dirt, and/or other items in the way and also leveling the ground.
  4. Build a Border. A stone border is a great way to transition from your yard to your fire pit space.
  5. Put Down Flooring. Go simple with rocks or stone. Class it up with brick or pavers. It all depends on the look you want and the amount of money you’re willing to invest.
  6. Place the Pit. Here’s where things start to get fun. Place and secure the pit in the center of the space, and you’re almost ready to go.

Decorate. Set up chairs and tables. Build decorative accents. Put in some potted plants or and other décor to put your personal touch on the fire pit patio.

The best part of weekend projects like building a fire pit is that you can enjoy it at the end of the weekend. Sit back, grab some marshmallows, and enjoy a great new place for the whole family to come together.

Done in a Weekend Project: Walk This Way

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Walks and pathways are a great way to improve the appearance of your landscaping, and unlike planting, it doesn’t need to be done at a particular time of year. Whether you’re hoping to connect outdoor spaces like sidewalks, driveways, patios and pools, or simply want a more harmonious outdoor space, a neatly laid walkway creates both a focal point and better flow in your yard.

If you’re ready to get started on this weekend project, take a look at the video in our Done-in-a-Weekend series. Or, you can keep reading for tips and pointers on making the most of your walkway.

The most cost-effective way to create a walkway is to rely on a combination of gravel and/or mulch. Easy to lay down and without a hefty price tag, the gravel/mulch option allows you to bring your vision to life in a matter of hours.

For a more permanent and stable solution, however, you can turn to pavers. These will require a bigger time investment and will most likely come with higher costs, but you’ll increase your points of access to high-traffic areas without damaging your lawn.

The tools and supplies you’ll need for this project include:

  • Measuring tape
  • Sod cutter
  • Leveling tool
  • Sand, crushed concrete, and/or fine gravel to act as a paver base
  • Paving stones
  • Edging stones

As is always the case before you start any project that requires you to break up the ground, be sure to call 811 for safe digging. You should also walk the path several times after it is completed to ensure there are no trip hazards or loose stones.

Done in a Weekend: Liquid Bliss

Friday, June 9th, 2017

By Doug Scott, Landscape Designer
Redeem Your Ground, Atlanta, GA

Liquid Bliss

Aside from the serene and restful spaces that running or bubbling water help create, water features add interest and beauty to landscapes not only with their form, but potentially through the unique plants that grow in and around them, and the wildlife that they attract. When used strategically within a landscape design, they can also serve to anchor an inviting gathering space to create a picture-perfect focal point to be seen and enjoyed from both inside or outside your home.

Ultimately, water features help create the perfect spot to start your day off right, or to unwind by at the end of a long day . . . and really, anytime in between. Some might say they provide an element of liquid bliss.

There are a wide variety of water features to choose from that will allow you to achieve your specific goals, so here are a few general types worth considering. Hopefully, these recommendations will help you choose the one that will provide enjoyment for you and your family for years to come.

Fountains

Fountains are perhaps the most common type of water feature that can be added to your landscape. That’s likely due to a number of reasons:

  • They come in a variety of shapes, colors and styles. From classic tiered fountains, colorful urns and funky objects, to extravagant installations or a simple stone with a bubbler atop it, there’s a fountain option that will meet any design aesthetic.
  • There are options that will fit any budget—big or small.
  • There are very large fountains that you could consider (if your budget allows), as well as small options that will work within the smallest of spaces.
  • Compared to the other types of available water features, many fountain options are relatively easy to source from a number of retailers, then install yourself and maintain.
 fountain fountain fountain

For these reasons, most of the water features I’ve installed for clients have been of the fountain variety. They effectively achieve the “bubbling-water sound” objective that most people are looking for, while fitting both their space and budget constraints, as well.

Water Gardens & Fish Ponds

If you’re wanting to bring life to your outdoor spaces in the truest sense, water gardens and fish ponds do just that.

Water gardens are exactly what their name implies: a garden of plants that live in and around water. They provide you with the opportunity to include unique plants in your landscape, bringing with them vibrant colors and interesting structures. Common water garden plants are horsetail, water lettuce, water lilies, blue iris and sweet flag. Note that water gardens are best when incorporated in a more natural, lush setting.

Pond

Like water gardens, fish ponds are most often incorporated into more naturalized landscapes. Likewise, the plants used in fish ponds are the same as in water gardens. The added bonus with fish ponds, however, is that you’ll be able to enjoy the fish you’re providing a home for—koi and goldfish being the most common.

Fish

The primary difference between water gardens and fish ponds is that fish ponds must be able to sustain the fish that will reside in them. This not only adds to the cost and complexity of starting a fish pond, but the ongoing maintenance that’s involved, as well. For instance:

  • Fish need oxygen, so you must have a pump that circulates and aerates the water.
  • You must have appropriate types of vegetation, as well. That’s because plants serve three vital functions in your fish pond:
    • They produce oxygen.
    • They provide a great natural source of food.
    • They not only help beautify the space, but also provide cover from predators, as well as shade from the beaming sun. (It’s recommended that about half of the pond have some sort of shade.)

Given that both water gardens and fish ponds can serve as a ready source of water, food and habitat, they provide the added bonus of attracting all sorts of wildlife. But, this can be both a good and bad thing.

Let’s start with the bad. If you’re raising fish, you’ll have to watch out for predators that come from both land and air. Cats, possums, raccoons, foxes and birds (like herons, seagulls, and kingfishers) are known to feast on fish.

Although there’s no fail-safe way to prevent the unthinkable, a three-pronged approach to safeguard against predators is recommended:

  1. Provide your fish cover (somewhere to hide), as mentioned above.
  2. Like in a vegetable garden, place an owl decoy nearby to deter unwanted attacks.
  3. Although not very attractive, you could install a net over your fish pond.

Now, with the bad out of the way, there’s also the good wildlife that’s attracted to a water garden or fish pond. Amphibians like frogs and toads (though, they can pose a problem with fish ponds, so watch for that), birds (the colorful, cute kind, not the predatory kind), and beneficial insects like dragonflies and water spiders are sure to take up residence in this type of water feature.

For obvious reasons, adding a water feature to your yard is a much more involved endeavor than a fountain that you simply pull out of a box and plug in. However, if you’re up for the challenge, the life they will bring to you and your family outside is endless.

Streams & Waterfalls

Lastly, streams and waterfalls are another great water feature option to consider if the goal is to add natural beauty and movement to your landscape. Although they can be installed individually, waterfalls and streams are often used together, and can even be incorporated with a water garden or fish pond.

Streams

Like a garden path, streams help create a more natural, meandering setting . This provides you with the opportunity to connect the visual dots from one space to another within your yard, accentuating its curves with boulders or plant material. And, not only do streams bring a beautiful sense of wonder to a space, they can serve the functional purpose of helping you manage drainage, too.

Waterfalls are another great way to add even more sound and drama to your yard. Like streams, they work well when there is a natural grade change, allowing you to take advantage of the drop from one space to another. However, this drop can be created quite effectively with boulders, as well.

Like fountains, waterfalls and streams require a bit of engineering to recirculate and maintain the water appropriately. However, unlike fountains, I’d recommend that you consider hiring a professional for installation, as there are a number of things that could go wrong during the process.

waterfall

Whether you’re looking to add the “oh-so-soothing” sounds that only running water can provide, or simply for a unique way to enhance the natural beauty and interest of your outdoor spaces, a water feature could be the answer. Because, let’s face it—everyone could use a little bit of liquid bliss!

Done in a Weekend: Outdoor Eyesore Makeovers

Friday, June 9th, 2017

By Doug Scott, Landscape Designer
Redeem Your Ground, Atlanta, GA

Like the spaces inside your home, you want your outdoor spaces to not only be attractive, but also reflective of you, and how you want to live outside. Unfortunately, almost every yard comes with views and other eyesores that you’d rather not look at.

But, have no fear. There are ways to address these not-so-attractive yard realities so that you, your friends, and family can fully enjoy your time outside.

Below are the three outdoor eyesores that clients most commonly ask me to address:

  1. Hiding those utilitarian necessities—like trashcans, HVAC units, utility boxes, water meters and pool pumps.
  2. Blocking the unsightly or unwanted views beyond their yards—like their neighbor’s driveway, garage or backyard.
  3. Bringing back to life those wimpy patches of grass that just won’t seem to grow.

If you’re dealing with any of these eyesores (you’re not alone), read on for practical ways to remedy them.

Utilitarian Necessities

Everybody has them—those unsightly metal boxes attached to our houses or near the street that keep the lights on, our homes at the perfect temperature and communications to the outside world open. Or, a couple of garbage cans conveniently placed just outside our garage. But nobody wants to see them. So, what do you do?

As with most things in your yard, you can approach it in one of two ways (or both): screen them with plant material or something man-made.

Let’s start with plant material. When choosing plant material, you want to make sure to pick the right plant for the right place. And what I mean by that is to choose plants that will thrive in the growing conditions where you’ll be planting them and still fit the space when they mature. In other words, you don’t want to plant something that you’ll have to constantly prune or won’t look healthy over time. Otherwise you’ll just be creating another problem that will have to be dealt with in the future.

Additionally, because your objective is to hide something, you want to make sure to pick plants that don’t lose their leaves (i.e., evergreen shrubs vs. deciduous perennials). There are a number of varieties of hollies, laurels, and distylium species that will fit the bill. Again, read the labels to make sure they’ll grow to the height you’re looking for and that the growing conditions are right for them to thrive (e.g., sun exposure).

Lastly, if you’re able (and as long as you maintain the necessary access), try to incorporate your plant material with the other planting beds in that space. This will help make things visually flow better, which will keep someone from seeing what you don’t want seen.

Unsightly AC Unit

Covered Eyesore

Unsightly Pool Pump

Covered Eyesore

[For more planting tips, check out the Layer Up video I did with Exmark in their ‘Done-In-A-Weekend’ video series.]

Next, are man-made solutions. The obvious choice in this situation is to add lattice or fencing in front of these eyesores. If you take this approach, look around to see what else is going on in your yard. For example:

  • If you already have fencing, use the same or complementary material for your screen.
  • If your house has horizontal siding, install horizontal lattice.
  • Stain or paint it a color that already exists on your home or other outdoor structures.

Doing these things will make your attempts to hide something less obvious, allowing it to flow nicely with the rest of your landscape.

Additionally, you could use an existing man-made structure—like a firewood box or garden bench—to hide your utilitarian necessities.

Unsightly Compost Bin

Covered Eyesore

Note: Adding a man-made structure to hide a utility box only works if it is up against, or near, your house. In other words, if you’re hiding utility boxes near the street, then using plant material as a screen is probably your best bet.

Finally, you could utilize both lattice or fencing and plant material. If you don’t have much space to work with, plant a vine to grow on the fence or lattice rather than using evergreen shrubs that will take up a lot of room. Not only will this achieve your primary objective, but it’s a nice way to soften the hard lines of the man-made structure.

While the choice is yours, you’ll have more control by using something man-made, although plant material is often less obvious. Plants also require a bit more maintenance (at least to get established) and can always die, leaving you right back where you started. Regardless, whatever you do, the end result will certainly be more visually appealing than what you’re looking at now!

Unsightly Views

If you live in a neighborhood or more urban area, there’s a good chance that you’re looking right into your neighbor’s backyard or some other not-so-desirable view. But this isn’t just a problem for us urbanites. No matter where you live, there’s often something you want to block, or distract, your view from beyond your property.

And in this situation, blocking and/or distracting the views are the two solutions I’d recommend that you consider. Most of the time when I work with a client, they use the word “block,” but sometimes that isn’t the best option. Keep reading and you’ll see why.

Like I mentioned above when dealing with utilitarian necessities, you have two approaches to block views beyond your property: either with man-made structures or plant material. The obvious man-made solution is putting up a privacy fence.

Unfortunately, there are limits to privacy fence height, and they only block views when you’re near the fence itself. That’s why many people quickly think of a line of 30-foot tall evergreen trees . . . that’ll do the trick! The major downside to this approach is the fact that if trees like these are that tall, they’re also very wide at the base (8- to 15+ feet). This means that you’ll either have less room to enjoy your yard, or you’ll have to cut them down and start all over again once they mature and eat up everything in sight.

Neighbor’s Trash Cans / Toys

Covered Eyesore

That said, if you do choose to use tall evergreen trees (like cryptomeria, deodar cedar, or several varieties of magnolia), let me suggest that you don’t put 15 of them in a row along your property line. Not only is a 30-foot tall wall of green a bit claustrophobic, it also doesn’t look natural and will only end up drawing attention to something you don’t really want to look at. Instead, look at specific aspects of the views you want to block and place groupings of 3-5 trees in a staggered fashion to strategically fill the most unsightly ‘windows.’

If you don’t have the kind of space required to use these behemoths and you don’t need to go 30-feet high, consider the larger varieties of some of the evergreen shrubs like hollies and laurels, as well as tea olives and certain varieties of ligustrum that I mentioned previously. Your best bet is to seek advice from a local nursery, and be sure and read the labels before digging your first hole.

Another option to consider is using understory trees to distract the views you don’t want to see. When I say understory trees, I’m referring to dogwoods, redbuds, crepe myrtles, serviceberry trees, etc. A lot of times, the reason you’re focusing on what’s beyond your property is because there’s nothing else to see. So give yourself something attractive to look at by using any of these tree options.

I have to mention, though, the downside to using understory trees is that they are deciduous (a fancy word meaning that they lose their leaves), so a good part of the year the only thing distracting your views will be their limb structure. But that may be enough. Your call.

The flip side of the understory tree coin, however, is that their flowers, fruit, changing leaves, and interesting bark and trunk structure will help add seasonal interest to your yard throughout the year, not to mention attract wildlife. And that’s a good thing for everyone!

Wimpy Grass

The other eyesore that almost all of my clients ask me to address is those pesky patches of wimpy grass. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of what fungal issue might be ailing your grass, but often times ‘wimpy grass syndrome,’ as I like to call it, is caused by one of three things:

  1. It’s simply the wrong grass for the growing conditions it’s planted in.
  2. It lays within a high-traffic area.
  3. And related to #2, the strip of grass is too narrow.

So, before you pull your hair out or work yourself to death trying to keep your wimpy grass alive, it may simply be that it’s not the right grass for the sun exposure where it’s growing. So if your grass needs 6-8 hours of sun but only gets 2, it won’t thrive there. It’s also possible that your sun exposure isn’t the same throughout your entire yard, so you’ll have to make a call on where you want most of your lawn and then grow something else in those other areas.

[Note: Some grasses that do best in the sun are Zoysia, Bermuda, Centipede and St. Augustine. Shade- tolerant grasses include tall fescue, as well as certain varieties of Zoysia and St. Augustine.]

Secondly, if you’re trying to grow grass where there is a lot of traffic, you may be fighting a losing battle. Turf grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda will take more traffic than fescue. But even then, you may need to raise the white flag if you’ve aerated when you should and exhausted all other maintenance options.

Similarly, even if your wimpy grass patch doesn’t get a lot of traffic, a narrow strip of grass may still be petering out. That’s likely because it’s so narrow you can only mow it in one direction. And eventually, over time, your grass will give up, as it just can’t hold up under those harsh conditions.

So, what do you do if you have wimpy grass? Most of your options are actually quite simple:

  • If it’s not the right grass, plant the right grass.
  • For high-traffic areas where you have a turf grass (e.g., Zoysia or Bermuda), if it makes sense, consider cutting in stepping stones through the area to essentially tell those walking through the space where to walk and where not to walk. Unfortunately, bunchgrass like fescue wouldn’t thrive in this type of situation.
  • Let Mother Nature tell you where to grow grass and expand your planting beds so that the perimeter of your lawn lines only extend to where the grass will thrive. Then simply fill in the beds with plant material.

Wimpy Grass

Covered Eyesore

If none of these more obvious options work for you, you could plant a grass substitute, like dwarf Mondo. While it will give you the look of grass (though it’s not, so you won’t likely want to play football on it) it will take a good bit of time to fill in.

Whichever route you choose, I’m confident that one of the options above will help put your days of wimpy grass behind you.

Although these outdoor eyesores may be the bane of your existence today, with the right approach you can get them behind you and out of sight sooner than you think. Just make a decision and move in that direction. Hopefully these eyesore makeover tips I’ve provided will help you get on to the business of enjoying your time outside at home!

Done in a Weekend: So Mulch to Consider

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

You might not think the type of mulch you use to surround your plants and flowers will make a big difference (except in terms of aesthetics), but this is one area where you want to spend a little time making the right choice. If you’re looking for another Done-in-a-Weekend project, this is a great one.

In addition to providing an attractive touch to your home’s landscaping, mulch provides weed control and helps maintain soil moisture. Depending on which type of mulch you choose, your garden could require regular weeding and watering, or you could be able to let your flowers take care of themselves for a while.

The number one piece of advice to take away in this video is that you should always match your mulch to the plants you have growing in the area. This may mean that you will need to vary your mulch by plantings—and that’s okay. In fact, the different mulch types and textures could provide a beautiful finish to your landscape.

The main types of mulch include:

  • Pine Needles/Pine Straw – This inexpensive mulch (grass clippings are another choice) is easy to get your hands on and maintain.
  • Hardwood Mulch – More attractive than pine straw, without a lot of upkeep.
  • Dyed-Wood Mulch – The different color choices can provide color contrast with lawn and flowers, but some of the dyed options can contain additives. Always look for raw vs. recycled brands.
  • Pine Nuggets – These vary in size from mini to jumbo, so you can decide which option looks best for your yard.
  • Stone – This high-impact look requires the most upkeep and causes warmer soil conditions, but offers one of the most elegant finishes.

No matter which mulch you choose, remember that it does need to be refreshed from time to time.

Mole Prevention and Eradication

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Few things are more destructive to a gently rolling landscape than the presence of moles. These voracious pests dig tunnels through the ground (often at speeds of up to a foot per minute) to seek out grubs, worms, ants, and the other insects that make up the bulk of their diet.

In the United States, they are often cited as one of the most common backyard pest problems—and one look at a yard overrun with these creatures, and you’ll see why. Moles are also a safety hazard, as tunnels collapsing underfoot can cause falls, sprains and even broken bones.

Impact of Moles on Lawns

The first sign of moles most people discover is a mound of soil on top of the ground. As the moles construct their tunnels, the dirt has to be dislodged somewhere, resulting in the creation of molehills.

Other indications include visible trenches, feeding burrows, and dead spots where they’ve caused substantial damage to the underlying root system. In other words, these critters are destroying your lawn from underground—and all the overseeding and aerating in the world won’t help. There’s little you can do to improve the look of your lawn until you get rid of the moles altogether.

Mole Prevention

As is the case with almost all pest control, prevention is your best approach. By making it difficult for the moles to survive in your yard in the first place, you can avoid many of the costs and hazards of getting rid of them later.

  • Grub Control: Moles love to snack on lawn grubs (which are destructive in their own right), so getting rid of the grubs can help. Insecticides can work, but so can taking good care of your lawn. Seeding and fertilizing in the fall, raising your mower blades to at least two inches, and not overwatering can all contribute to lawn conditions that look great and don’t encourage grub growth.
  • Pet Ownership: Although it’s not a good idea to get a pet solely for mole control, a dog or cat patrolling your yard can help warn moles away.
  • Garden Care: Moles love gardens because they’re an ideal habitat for another of their food sources, earthworms. However, moles dislike the scent of garlic, castor beans, and chocolate lilies. By planting these around your garden or yard, you can often stave off moles.

Other options include burying a mesh fence around the perimeter of your yard or garden. These have to go about two feet deep in order to be effective, but can be worth it, especially in a small lawn.

Mole Eradication

If you’ve already got moles, you’ll need to eliminate them entirely. How you approach this task will depend on where you live, as some states ban trapping, while others have strict regulations on which poisons you’re allowed to use.

  • Live Traps: Live traps are one of the most humane ways to eradicate moles, as you are able to relocate the moles somewhere else (as opposed to killing them). This requires you to determine which tunnels are active and lay the traps.
  • Kill Traps: Like live traps, these are laid at the ends of active tunnels. The moles enter them and are either killed immediately or trapped to be exterminated.
  • Poison: Poison bait is another option for homeowners who aren’t afraid of killing their uninvited visitors. There are several different choices on the market, but be careful of what you use if there are children or pets nearby.
  • Ultrasonic Spikes: Many moles dislike the sound of sonic pulses, which are only discernible to their ears. By burying these in your yard, you can often encourage moles to move on to areas where they aren’t plagued by unpleasant noises.

Sprays and Repellants: Mole sprays and repellants work to varying degrees. Some people swear by home remedies, while others rely on industrial chemical formulas used by professional exterminators. Anytime you do this, however, it’s important to check and see if the chemicals will have an impact on lawn growth, watering, and care.

If you’re uncertain or uncomfortable tackling this project on your own, be sure and contact a lawn specialist and/or exterminator. Getting your lawn back in order might take a few extra steps, but the end results will be well worth it!

Done in a Weekend: Landscaping That Speaks to You

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Exmark’s Done-in-a-Weekend series highlights ways for you to enjoy a lush, green lawn with projects you can complete in 48 hours or less.

With spring underway, we’re all looking for those bright bursts of color that make a home feel more inviting. We’d like to introduce you to the idea of “layering up” your landscaping. Sure, your lawn looks great, and yes, you have the right mower and tools to keep it looking that way, but what about your outdoor living space? The bushes, plants and flowers you choose will define how your outdoor living will look this year.

Before you start any project to improve your landscaping, do some research. You can look online or ask at a garden store in your area. Learn what plants thrive in your specific climate, especially when it comes to your unique yard. Lots of shade means you’ll need different plant varieties than if your home gets full sun. Make a simple map of your yard, with sunny and shady spots marked, and bring it to the garden store; this will give the staff a better idea of the type of plants that will thrive in your yard.

From there, it’s all about texture and layers. It’s easy to build a landscape that looks great today, but for lasting comfort you and your family can enjoy year in and year out, it’s important to consider how the plants will mature. You want to pick the right size, the right shape, the right texture, and the right spacing for the plants once they reach maturity.

This video also includes helpful tips for the planting process. Whether this is your first time landscaping on your own, or if you’re looking for the motivation you need to get that weekend project off the ground, we highly encourage you to layer up. Your new outdoor living space awaits!

Heavy Spring Rains and Lawn Maintenance

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Anyone who’s tried to tackle lawn care in a blustery, wet spring knows that nothing can create lawn and mowing problems like heavy rain. Standing water, mud, and long, damp grasses provide less-than-ideal conditions for pulling out the mower. But it’s necessary, because heavy rain can cause an equally heavy growth cycle—a growth cycle that desperately needs to be cut down.

There are ways to maintain your lawn even during heavy spring rains. Although you’ll need to take a little more care than usual, you can make the most of the new growth without sacrificing your lawn’s appearance.

Hazards of Heavy Rain

Anytime there’s standing water on a lawn, bringing out the mower might damage the lawn. This is especially true if there was flooding, in which case you’ll need to deal with silt deposits and other damage to the grass.

Wet grass tends to be heavier than usual and may even bend over. This can make a clean cut difficult even with the best equipment. At the same time, the clippings that result are likely to be just as damp as everything else. It can clump, get stuck in the mower blades, and cause unsightly deposits all over the lawn. This may mean you’ll need to rake the clumps and clean out your equipment in addition to your regular mow cycle.

Excessive moisture can also soften the underlying dirt, which will sink when you—and your mower—pass over it. This can cause ruts and mud tracks, which often have to later be reseeded.

How to Cope with Heavy Rain

Lawn maintenance

Keep your lawn looking its best with proper lawn maintenance.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve the appearance of your lawn and even make the most of the rain cycle.

  • Wait for the Grass to Dry: Ideally, you should wait until the lawn has dried out before you mow. This doesn’t mean it has to be bone dry and all moisture gone—it simply means that if you can see water on the lawn or on the blades, you may want to wait until it’s absorbed before you mow.
  • Use the Highest Setting: Regardless of how wet the grass is, set the blades to the highest setting. This will help you avoid clogging and keep your machine in good repair. This may mean that you’ll have to mow a few more times a week than you’re used to, but your lawn—and your lawn mower—will thank you for it.
  • Fewer Passes are Better: A lawn that has been waterlogged or is showing signs of flooding is a lawn you want to walk on as little as possible. Too much foot traffic could tamp the blades down and draw the mud up—two things that are likely to make the lawn worse rather than better. Limit the amount of foot traffic and use a zero-turn mower that allows you to get the job done more efficiently.
  • Plan on Aerating: For excessive moisture, aerating the lawn might be a good way to open up the soil and speed the drying process. This has the added benefit of helping foster healthy growth in the lawn for the season to come, which is something many homeowners and landscape professionals plan on doing in the spring anyway.

You don’t have to stop your planned spring mowing due to heavy rain, but you should take extra precautions before you head out. Avoid mowing over mud and silt, take care to let the grass dry as much as possible first, and plan on being more diligent until the weather clears. Your lawn—and your clients—will thank you for it.

Noticing Crabgrass? Here’s What To Do About It

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Most people don’t notice crabgrass taking over their lawns until summer. This voracious, fast-spreading weed is at its most productive during the warm summer months, growing all throughout lawns and stealing nutrients from the grass that really needs it. By the time you notice it in abundance, chances are it has taken firm hold of your lawn and you’ll need to take an intensive approach to get rid of it.

That’s why you should start looking out for crabgrass earlier. Most of the time, you’ll see a few patches taking root as soon as the temperatures start picking up for the year. The seeds lie dormant all winter, but as soon as the ground temperature is warm enough to support them, they start awakening in earnest.

Keep your lawn looking its best with proper, planning and upkeep.

Preventing Crabgrass

If you get at crabgrass before it starts to germinate, you’ll break the cycle of growth. This means you’ll need to be vigilant as soon as the growing season begins in spring.

And the best way to be vigilant? To have a healthy lawn.

A yard that is vibrant, thriving, and well-cared for creates a difficult place for crabgrass to take hold in the first place. This includes regular (deep) watering, cutting no more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time, and regular aeration/dethatching and other turf care. A nicely tended lawn also makes it easier for you to notice trouble areas as they arise.

Controlling Crabgrass

 If you already have a crabgrass problem, it’s not too late. Depending on how far the season has progressed and how much of an infestation you have, you may want to consider the following options.

  • Pre-Emergent Herbicide: This herbicide is designed to kill crabgrass seedlings in their early stages of growth. Ideally, it should be applied as soon as the ground temperature reaches 60 degrees—which, for most regions, is fairly early in the spring (as soon as your local trees start budding). Because this herbicide can be rough on newly growing grass, it’s best not to apply this universally over a lawn that has been recently seeded.
  • Regular Herbicides: Crabgrass is pretty good at standing up to regular weed killers, including weed & feed fertilizers and anything designed to kill broadleaf weeds. And any other kind of weed killer that is strong enough to kill crabgrass is probably going to be good at killing your regular grass, too. That’s why many homeowners spot-kill crabgrass using a product that allows you to direct where you spray.
  • Crabgrass Killers: There are specialty herbicides designed to kill crabgrass. They should be used according to the exact directions on the label. In almost all cases, you want to spray this when temperatures are cooler (lower than 85 degrees) and at a time when you can stay away from mowing, watering, and walking on your property for a few days afterward. Early summer and early mornings are best.
  • Non-Chemical Options: If you’d rather avoid chemicals altogether, you can opt to pour boiling water directly on the crabgrass plants or pull them by hand (making sure you get the full root). This is time consuming—and labor intensive—and you’ll need to reseed the area afterward, but you’ll avoid using herbicides this way.

Prevention is the best cure, so come up with a plan of action to keep your lawn lush, green and healthy. By staying on top of lawn care tasks like seeding and aerating, it is possible to stop crabgrass from getting a foothold.