Monthly Archives: February 2017

Starting a Healthy Garden

It’s just about that time that New Englanders begin to go a little stir crazy and get “cabin fever.”  Many of us combat this by planning for the spring. One of the best ways to enjoy the warmer months is by planning now for that healthy garden you always wanted – now. In fact, you may even be able to start growing some of your favorites indoors before the soil is ready for transference.  Let’s get planning!

Planning

Starting a garden from scratch or improving an existing one can seem a bit intimidating. Start by planning, planning and planning some more. A universal principal for a garden to look its best is to make sure that you provide the plants with the conditions where they have the best chance to grow. Plot out your yard and mark where the best drainage is as well as where the sun is out the longest. The more you know about how much sun and water your specific plants need the more successful it will be. 

Once you have all your notes you can start researching the type of veggies you want to grow. Decide on the veggies based upon your personal tastes and the ability of them to grow in your yard. You may also want to consider starting them indoors as we get closer to the spring. From there you will want to begin purchasing the supplies you will need including seeds, pots, sticks, watering cans, fertilizer, labels, and nutrients. If you need even more inspiration read Eating Well article about Starting your Healthy Garden. 

Are your Killing the Trees in your Yard?

Trees are a beautiful addition to any yard. They provide shade, add to the ecosystem and are a home to many critters that live in your yard. But humans have a funny way of neglecting or, possibly, over-caring for trees in their yard. Without the proper care and nutrition trees can quickly die off. Here are the top ways we “non-green-thumb” humans are harming trees.

  • Neglecting Pest Control – There are hundreds of diseases and pests that can assault our trees depending upon the region where you live and the type of tree growing in your yard. Don’t neglect inspecting and treating trees for pests annually.
  • Incorrect Planting Location – Novices usually pick a place in the yard where they want to grow a tree based on non-scientific reasons. Choose a place where the soil can drain properly as well as consider the right depth according to the type of tree it is. Usually nurseries provide the specs for where and how to plant a tree.
  • Too Much Mulch – Applying a layer of mulch is a great way to conserve moisture and reduce annual weed seed germination. One to two inches of mulch is plenty. Many people use a much thicker layer of mulch in an effort to stop perennial weed growth. But tough perennial weeds can grow right through the mulch. Mulch that is too thick prevents moisture from reaching the tree roots.
  • Too Much/Too Little Water – Newly planted trees and shrubs are often killed by kindness.(Too much water.) Only water an inch once per week for the first year or two, and then only when there has been less than an inch of rain. On the other hand, don’t ignore thirsty plants or trees. Look for signs of thirst by feeling the soil and looking for wilting leaves.
  • Lawn Cutting Accidents – Many trees get injured due to being hit by a weed-whacker or lawn equipment. When you damage the base of the tree with the lawn mower or string trimmer, you provide that entry wound that can lead to disease or pests.

Moles – A Yard Nuisance

Moles are ground–dwelling carnivores that prefer to eat insects instead of your garden plants. Okay, so if they aren’t eating your plants, then there is no problem right?  Wrong! The underground tunnels associated with these animals can ruin your garden and lawn and make for easy access to your plants for other rodents.  Since moles are underground so much you probably have not even seen them around your yard. That is why we thought it might be a good idea to discuss how to identify a mole and what to do if they have have found their way into your yard or worse yet, under your garden. 

Identification –

Moles are surprising little mammals with pointed muzzles, tiny eyes, and potato-shaped bodies. They grow to be 6 to 8 inches long and have gray to black velvety fur. Moles’ large front feet have long claws that dig much like a hoe. They are often confused with pocket gophers, ground squirrels, and voles. Moles tend to live underground so spotting them can be hard. In fact, you may never actually see a mole but rather see the destruction in the wake of the digging associated with these pests. 

Signs that a mole has made it on to your property include: tunnels with piles of dirt with ridges. Since moles dig fairly deep, the tunnels will look like raised volcano-shaped swellings in your yard. Moles prefer moist areas where the grubs and worms are plentiful. Many times the tunnels follow along a foundation, driveway or lawn boarder. You may find these any time of year as they are active all year round. 

Once you (or preferably a professional) have identified that, indeed you do have a mole, you will want to discuss options for excluding it from your yard. Home remedies are less effective than trapping by professionals and poisons can cause all sorts of problems with your health and safety if you don’t know what you are doing. Pro-Tech Lawn Care can evaluate your tunnels and see if they are gophers or moles and take the appropriate action to rid them from your lawn!

White Tailed Deer

Most homeowners think of the famed Disney character Bambi when they envision a white tailed deer. And who doesn’t love Bambi??? The majestic way that these beautiful creatures gallop or quietly feed in your yard can be quite breathtaking. Well, that is unless you are watching a herd of white tailed deer chew and destroy your garden or plantings that you worked so hard all spring and summer to nurture. With deer numbers  markedly increasing over the past few decades, it is no wonder many homeowners see deer as a nuisance.

Why Are Deer Becoming a Problem?

Humans have slowly eliminated the natural predators of the white tailed deer and suburbs have quickly encroached on formerly natural open areas, woods and farm fields. Both issues have compounded the problem for homeowners and farmers in our northeast region. Due to these two changes, deer have been estimated to damage hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of landscaping yearly and make your yard a minefield of scat. This should come as no surprise as deer can eat 6 to 10 pounds of food daily, tearing leaves from plants and bark from trees, leaving 2-inch long gouges, and weakening plants. Deer love tender new growth, but they’ll nibble on every branch within their reach, from the ground to 6 feet up.  

Deer may look graceful and serene and are many times scared easily by humans and our methods of scaring them away. Here are a few methods to try to “do-it-yourself” deer exclusion.  If you have a recurring deer problem you will want to call in the professionals at Pro-Tech to examine what is drawing the deer to your yard and how to exclude them from it.

  • If you do want to grow deer favorite food then keep those  plants close to the house.
  • Plant pungent perennials as a barrier.
  • Install fencing or tall bushes that make it difficult to enter your yard.
  • Thorny, prickly foliage tend to dissuade deer from eating in certain areas.
  • Make deer resistant substitutions for your favorite plantings.
  • Try scare tactics or homemade organic repellants.
  • In order to keep deer away from your yard and garden, it is important to choose plants that will not attract deer.  Here is a short list of some of the best and worst plants for avoiding deer problems:

    Attract deer problems:

    • Azaleas
    • Tulips
    • Pansies
    • Hybrid roses
    • Impatiens
    • Garden phlox
    • Daylilies
    • Fruit trees (apple, cherry, plum, peach, apricot)
    • Nuts (acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts)
    • Mushrooms
    • Vegetables (beans, potatoes, corn, peas, alfalfa)
    • Grasses, ferns, and clover

    Avoid deer problems:

    • Daisies
    • Tiger lilies
    • Wisteria
    • Irises
    • Geraniums
    • Dahlias
    • Wormwood
    • Boxwood
    • Scented herbs (mint, lavender, oregano, thyme)

Dos and Don’t on Feeding Wildlife

Many New Englanders revel in the joy of watching wildlife in their natural surroundings. Even in the cold of the winter, birds and deer can be seen scavenging for food and enjoying nature right in our own backyards! When proper feeding methods are followed this activity can be safe and entertaining for both the humans and the creatures. By having an area of your backyard dedicated to natural wildlife, then you can think of yourself as contributing to your local ecosystem. Here are a few tips to keep it safe and healthy.

  • Research – Sure it is lovely to watch nature right in front of you, but do your homework to find out what animals tend to visit your area. If your region has a problem with bears, coyotes or foxes you may want to rethink inviting the wildlife anywhere near your home. If you have a skunk or raccoon problem, then you will want to find out ways you can prevent those critters from eating your feeders or ransacking your garbage. Once you have done your research, you can begin planning your yard accordingly.
  • Food  – Many people decide that winter is a great time to help out the local bird population that may be having trouble finding food during these cold, harsh winter months. Decide on the right type of food for the birds that you want to attract and put the feeder in a safe place that is away from places where other wildlife, like squirrels, can access it.
  • Safety – Bird houses, martin houses, nesting boxes, and many other types of artificial structures provide shelter, cover and nesting habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. These are especially valuable in urban settings. However, when possible, consider natural cover such as thick shrubs and bushes. Creating brush piles and log piles will create habitat for wrens and other small cavity-nesting birds. The same goes for deer.  If you feel like the deer may be exposing themselves to eat your food then it may not be a smart idea for their safety. In addition to considering other wildlife when placing feeders also consider windows.

    Windows are great for watching birds and other wildlife but the annual mortality to birds in the United States from collision with windows range from 100 million to 1 billion. One study found that bird-window collisions were the second largest human source of bird mortality on earth.

    Consider these tips when deciding to feed the birds and other wildlife in your area.