Monthly Archives: December 2016

Can’t Wait for Spring? Plan your Garden Now!

If winter weather brings you down and you find yourself wishing for spring already then you may want to take these cold months to plan your garden for next spring. Let’s face it, half the fun of being a green thumb is planning the garden. Take these winter doldrum months to dream and fantasize about the beautiful plantings and lush, green grass that will be the pride of the neighborhood in just a few short months.

Winter, right after the craziness of the holidays, is the ideal time to plot and plan, scheme and dream – and most of all learn about the plants and landscaping that you want to cultivate in your little piece of heaven. Here are a few tips from expert gardeners on planning your lawn and garden for next spring.

  • Study the Landscape. Take pictures and make drawings of your yard. These should include a compass rose that shows what areas get the most sun as well as areas that are shaded by trees or bushes.
  • Research Online and at the Library. Start studying about the type of plantings that might work best in your area and specifically in your yard. Stay open minded about new garden ideas that you might want to try. Cut out pictures from gardening magazines and make your own “wish list.”
  • Visit the Garden Club. Your town or city may actually have a garden club that can inspire you and educate you on the species that work best in your area.
  • Create a Calendar. Believe it or not, time does fly even when snow is blanketing the area you are dreaming about. Create a calendar that marks the time that you will order your plantings and begin your project. If you need to install fencing or other items plan those on the calendar as well. Look in the Farmer’s Almanac for the last frost date so you can have an approximate time to begin your planting.
  • Try Online Planning. There are numerous online resources that allow you to sketch out your garden and plantings using a gardening app. Design Your Garden

Dodging Deer Damage

Deer are graceful, quiet and, unfortunately, herbivores. That last characteristics means that while your garden may survive drought, shade issues and pests, they may not recover from heavy deer feeding this winter. With a decrease in habitat and an increase in homebuilding, deer populations persistently push into new territory, including city neighborhoods where they eat trees, shrubs and perennials. They tend to feed heavily on their favorite winter plants -evergreens-  which can leave your yard looking damaged each spring.

Given that deer can consume about six pounds of plant material daily, you can easily imagine the kind of damage they will cause once they’ve established themselves in your landscape. Add to that the fact that they are known for carrying ticks and you will want to take action against these seemingly harmless creatures. Excluding deer from your property is probably the best bet when it comes to these animals. Here are a few suggestions that you may want to try. Keep in mind that deer adapt quickly to home remedies and can jump six to eight feet when they need to.

  • Invest in a fencing around bushes that attract deer like arborvitae. You will want to go at least 10 feet in height since they are champion jumpers. Fencing may not be aesthetically pleasing to you or your neighbors so, you may want to consider temporary fencing around only the plants they feed off most.
  • Tree and Shrub Protectors may help when deer rub themselves against the plantings and cause damage. Shrub wrapping is an affordable, quick and effective way to prevent deer damage to individual shrubs.
  • You can try deer repellents but so many of them do not work in winter cold. If you do try deer repellents, you must apply repellents in above-freezing temperatures and reapply every four to five weeks, or after precipitation.  
  • Remove other items like bird feeders and garbage cans that may be attracting deer.
  • Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care for an assessment of your deer problem and quick professional resolution.

Avoiding Salt Damage this Winter

Winter can be rough. The wind, snow, sleet and freezing rain can be not only hazardous to drive in, but also fairly treacherous to walk (or more likely shuffle) from your car to your front door, or even just around your property. Homeowners typically battle the slippery sidewalks, walkways and steps by spreading ample amounts of rock salt on hardscapes. This wondrous product can melt any form of precipitation in no time flat and may seem like a miracle cure for slick areas. Unfortunately, the melting power of rock salt also has corrosive characteristics. It is important to understand how rock salt can damage your lawn, plantings and bushes within a shovel-throw from your driveway. Otherwise, you may be facing damaged grass, bushes or shrubs next spring.

The first step to avoiding salt damage is understanding the basics of the salt products out there on the market. These materials are also often referred to as Ice Melt, Road Salt, Rock Salt, Ice Melter – depending on the brand. Rock salt is a type of sodium chloride. This compound can damage concrete, asphalt, and metal surfaces. Once the salt melts the snow and ice, it liquefies and runs off into the lawn and can spread to bushes and plantings when shovels full of snow/salt mixtures get thrown from the driveway. The salt can be very toxic to plants and bushes. If it is absorbed into the soil, it can kill the plant’s roots. Salt also affects the pH of soil and can create an unsuitable environment for grass plants to grow. Once the roots are affected, your lawn and plants have less of a chance of survival for the warm seasons ahead.

Knowing this, here are a few suggestions to both protect your lawn and surrounding plantings as well as stay safe walking on sidewalks, driveways and steps this winter.

  • Look for rock salt alternatives that are less corrosive in nature. There are various alternatives to rock salts such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. Check the ingredient list before you buy.
  • Use less rock salt. This may mean shoveling as much as possible before applying the salt or using a mixture of dirt and salt to make the slippery areas more “grippy”.
  • Use gypsum if rock salt has damaged your lawn. Gypsum helps move salt away from the roots of your lawn.
  • Shovel snow towards areas that have no grass or plantings. Avoiding piling snow on the edges of the lawn or throwing it toward bushes.
  • Try to dilute the amount of salt by adding water or snow to the heaviest salted areas.

Bush and Shrub Care

Cold weather damage of bushes and shrubs is an important lawn care consideration living in the snowbelt of New England. Winter care of trees, shrubs and ornamental bushes is critical if you want to avoid a casualty due to wind burn, broken branches from heavy snow and early death from extreme temperatures. Here are a few tips to help your trees, bushes and shrubs survive the winter and prosper in the spring and summer.

  • Watering –  Good winter care starts with thorough watering in the fall. When the garden season draws to a close, it is tempting to just forget about your plants. Instead continue to water until the ground freezes. Evergreens and broadleaf evergreens don’t lose their leaves, so they need a good store of moisture going into winter because they continue to transpire (give off water vapor) through the cold months.
  • Wrapping – Depending upon the bushes in your yard, some of them need to be wrapped to avoid windburn and the weight of a heavy snowfall on the branches. To make a windbreak around vulnerable plants, hammer four wooden stakes into the ground and staple on a burlap covering. Never use plastic, or your plants could “cook” on sunny days. Remember the greenhouse effect? (Source: Flower Gardening)
  • Wildlife Protection – If you have greenery in your yard that tends to attract wildlife like rabbits and deer, talk to a lawn care company, like Pro-Tech Lawn Care, who can advise you on the right steps to take to stop these wildlife from eating your beautiful bushes.
  • Salt Protection – Salts used for deicing pavements and walkways can cause damage to trees and shrubs. The damage may appear in the spring and early summer and include browning of evergreens, leaf scorch, branch dieback, and dead areas in turf. Salt will leach through well-drained soils, but damage can be extensive in poorly drained soils. Choose salt-tolerant species for sites where salt stress may be a problem. Try to avoid depositing snow piles near bushes and trees to ensure that salt does not get to the roots or exterior branches.

Common Winter Lawn Care Mistakes

 

Winter lawn care mistakes? It’s winter, what lawn? The grass has all but gone dormant, the temperature is below zero and there are snow flurries in the forecast. Isn’t this a time to sit back, put your feet up and wait till spring to worry about the lawn and garden? The answer is yes and no. While spring, summer and fall are the primary gardening and lawn care seasons, there are still some things that you need to do to avoid winter lawn care mistakes. Check out our list of mistakes to avoid this season so you can enjoy the next.

  • Ineffective Tree, Bush and Shrub Protection – Living in the northeast, you know how low the temperature can drop, how ferocious the wind can be and how heavy the snow can get. Knowing this, don’t forget to protect your trees, bushes and shrubs from the cold, wind and heaps of snow we are sure to get this winter. Wrap tender shrubs in burlap or protective covering from wind burn. Some homeowners build small tents over bushes that may get weighed down with heavy amounts of snow and break branches. (Check out our blog later this month on bush and shrub care during the colder seasons.)
  • Lack of Complete Clean Up – Sure those fall leaves look picturesque when they have just fallen and the air has gotten cooler, but don’t forget that wet leaves can choke out the grass and leave it mildewy and dead by spring. Leaves can also be dangerous if not raked regularly. Excess fallen leaves can hide sidewalks or walkways that are in disrepair, or can get wet and become slippery underfoot for pedestrians. Clean up should also include yard items that may cause the lawn to die underfoot such as lawn gnomes and decorative pots. Don’t forget to bring those in for the winter.
  • Not Being Aware of Salt Damage – No one wants to slip on walkways or driveways after a snow or ice storm, but excessive salt can do damage to your grass as it is shoveled onto it later in the season. (Check out our blog later this month about combating salt damage this winter.)
  • Not Paying Attention to Heavy Traffic – While the lawn may get lots of use in the spring and summer months, the winter is a time to really be aware of excessive use because the lawn has no way to repair itself. For example, don’t pile firewood on the grass, park a car on the lawn or leave mounds of snow in one area where it attracts dirt and debris.