All posts by Mike Sperling

Weather Got You Down? – Try an Indoor Garden

Got cabin fever? Join the club! We think that most of New England could use a break from this dreary winter weather. Why don’t you give yourself a little pick-me-up by planting an indoor garden to get you started. Once the weather improves you can move it right outside on to a deck or even into the dirt when the ground begins to thaw out.

 

Getting Started – The first thing you will want to do before you dive headlong into indoor gardening is figuring out what kind of space you have to do this and what kind of sun exposure you have access to. This can be done on a windowsill, a table, or even just in a few pots around your home. In addition to finding adequate space, you want to decide what you want to grow.

 

Choose Light and Containers – Plants need nutrients, water and, of course, sunlight to grow. Find a good place that provides sun for a good portion of the day. Most vegetables and other plants do best with 14-16 hours of sunlight or simulated light. That means if your plants are not getting enough natural light you may want to invest in a grow light.

 

Temperature and Humidity – Obviously a garden indoors can not completely mimic the temperature and humidity of the outdoors. It is winter, after all. Most plants grow best when they are in temperatures ranging 10 degrees on either side of 65-75 degrees fahrenheit. Mist your plants daily to increase their level of humidity as well.

 

Planting Medium – Depending upon the size and style of indoor garden, you will also have to decide on what type of soil mixture you want. Or you could completely grow in water using hydroponics. The choices are endless for an indoor garden.

 

So if the winter has got you down, an indoor garden could be just the thing to lift your spirits!

 

Deer Damage

What an amazing sight it is to watch a white-tailed deer explore nature around us. These fairly gentle creatures can be awe-inspiring to watch especially after a coating of snow or when the morning is fresh with dew. Unfortunately deer can be anything but gentle to your plantings and trees. While deer need to make it through the winter too, what damage can they do to your property and how can you prevent it? Let’s take a look at deer damage. 

 

The white-tailed deer is a vital part of our ecosystem, but recently the population has exploded to the point that it is causing problems in suburban and farming areas. As the population of deer predators such as mountain lions and wolves has declined, the white tailed deer numbers have been growing steadily. The online resource Mass.gov reports that the deer population has topped at 95,000 with many homeowners noticing chewed and damaged plantings.

 

The damage that deer can do varies according to the behavior, age and, in some cases, the gender of the deer. For example, some deer can cause serious damage to newly planted seedlings and established trees by chewing on the leaves and buds. If the chewing happens regularly the deer could reduce growth rates. In addition, bucks rubbing their antlers on the stems can kill the tree entirely.

 

To prevent further damage some over-the-counter remedies include: netting or structures to surround and protect new plantings, spray repellent, and motion sensors to scare the deer away. Here at Pro-Tech Lawn Care we recommend that you give us a call to see what the deer is attracted to and find a humane and chemically responsible solution to your deer problem. Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website.

Preventing Salt Damage to Lawns

Wow! What a winter it has been so far with record breaking low temperatures, ice and, of course, the memorable Blizzard of 2018. The plows and road crews have done a great job of making roads not just passable but safe as well. Homeowners have gotten in the spirit too with shoveling driveways, walkways, digging out hydrants, and salting potentially slippery high foot traffic areas. While this is admirable, especially given the severity of the winter thus far, this salting and the use of chemical deicers could harm your lawn and plantings. Let’s take a closer look at salt damage and what you can do to prevent it on your property.

 

While sprinkling salt products along your hardscape areas such as your driveway and walkway may seem like the right solution for the weather that Mother Nature throws at us, it may be doing some serious harm to the grass and plantings along the way. When the snow and ice melt periodically over the course of the winter, the rock salt mixture washes into the soil and can quickly build up to a toxic level. The melted mixture leaves plants with ample moisture in the ground, unfortunately the plants are unable to absorb any of this because of all the salt. This causes wilting and drought-like damage, including the appearance of scorched leaf edges, yellow or brown needles on evergreens, stunted growth, and twig dieback. Salt buildup in the soil also has a negative effect on the soil structure because it causes compaction.

 

To prevent salt damage to your organic areas, try the following tricks to keep salt from damaging your lawn and garden.

 

  • Choose the least corrosive deicers you can find. Talk to your lawn care professional about what might be right for your lawn since all salts are not created equal.
  • Consider using kitty litter or sawdust in areas where deicing is not needed but you are still looking for a little traction.
  • As soon as there is a milder day (not any time soon) try washing down areas that you can access to limit the salt collection.
  • If the snow clears enough sweep up extra or residual salt and place in the garbage instead of letting it sink into your lawn.
  • Avoid piling snow around plantings and along the edges of the driveway. Spread it out as much as is feasible given the weight and type of each storm.

 

Have questions about the type and amount of salt you are using this winter? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website.

 

Where Do the Bugs and Pests Go During the Winter?

Have you ever wondered where all the bugs and pests go during the winter months? The answer really depends upon the pest that you are thinking about; some overwinter in the bark of trees, others seek shelter in places like your garage, basement, or attic, and still others migrate for the long, cold winter months. Here is a quick run down of where these pests have disappeared to during the harsh New England winters.

 

  • Flying Insects – Insects that rely on crops and flowering plantings for basic survival must figure out a way to get through the winter. These insects, such as beetles, moths, and dragonflies, migrate as the need arises, similar to the way that birds migrate south for the winter. For some insects, the timing means that the adults that migrate south are not the ones that return in the spring but rather the offspring who emerged during the reproductive season down south fly back to your area.
  • Mosquitoes – Bug hibernation is called diapause and this is what many pests, like the mosquito, do to survive the winter months. During diapause a mosquito’s metabolic rate drops to one-tenth of its usual activity, allowing the bug to enter a state of inactivity. Prior to this, insects like mosquitoes seek out shelter where they can remain in this inactive state all winter such as: under your house shingles, inside your chimney, in storm drains, and in naturally occurring places like tree stumps.
  • Ticks – Ticks also slow down and end up in a state of inactivity, and they do something special that several types of pests do during winter – they produce glycerol to stop their bodies from freezing. The glycerol serves as a form of antifreeze!
  • Ants – Depending upon the type of ants in your area, and the freeze and thaw dates, ants tend to seek out areas such as the behind the bark of trees to get through the winter. Areas such as this absorb the sunlight and allow just enough heat to help ants survive the winters.
  • Mice, Rats, and other Wildlife – Here comes the bad news. Some pests find a really great winter hideout – your home. These rodents and other wildlife seek out shelter in your attics, garages, basements, and crawl spaces.

 

If you have found that there are pests spending the winter in your home call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733 to “protect” your gardens.

 

Garden Planning

It may not feel like it, but spring is only a couple of months away. Are you dreaming about your garden yet? Do you know what plantings you will use this year in your window boxes? Have you planned out every inch of your landscape? Well, if you haven’t done so yet, here are some great planning tools and resources that we have found online. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch to get started on your labor of love – your lawn and garden. Garden-lovers rejoice because this could keep you busy until the buds have started showing on the trees. Are you ready for some garden planning? 

 

  • Fruit and Veggie Gardens – For those of you who have a green thumb and can’t wait to dig into the soil and start working on your fruits and veggies, this website, Old Farmer’s Almanac can get you started. This ultimate garden planner makes it easy to draw out your vegetable beds, add plants, and move them around to get the perfect layout. Either feet and inches or metric units are supported and any shape of garden can be created.
  • Annual and Perennial GardensBetter Homes and Garden offers an assortment of planning tools for container gardens, garden beds, rock gardens, specific fragrance or color gardens, and many more.
  • Raised Bed Gardens – Use this free online planner to get the blueprints to a super-productive vegetable garden, based on square-foot gardening techniques instead of traditional rows. This planner from Gardener’s Supply Company offers a unique way to cultivate an herb garden.
  • For Beginners – Gardening is for everyone, even for newbies! Check out this garden planning tool specifically designed for novices from Vegetable Gardening Online.

 

No matter what type or size of garden you have at your home, you will want to be sure that you keep the pests away. Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733 to “protect” your gardens.

 

Seasonal Lawn Care Cheat Sheet

Caring for your lawn to keep it lush, beautiful, and free of pests is pretty much a year-round endeavor. Knowing what to do to maintain your grass, plantings, and garden is only half the battle, and knowing when to do them is the other half. So, to help you get started right this spring and stay on track for summer and fall, here is a quick cheat sheet to let you know what actions you should take and when in order to maintain a healthy lawn all year long. 

 

Spring – Time to get the tools and mower ready!

  • Remove any debris such as twigs, branches, or left over leaves from last fall and winter.
  • Aerate if your grass looks compacted or if high traffic areas are getting bare of grass. Look for puddles during spring rains that tell you where the lawn is compacted.
  • Choose a long-term fertilizer that can nourish your grass and get it growing.
  • Begin seeding the parts of your lawn that didn’t fare so well during the winter months or the parts that died last fall.
  • Mow the lawn regularly, but not more than ⅓ of the height at any one time.
  • Have a “Start up” completed on your irrigation system.

 

Summer – Things are warming up and beginning to really grow!

  • Continue mowing the grass but avoid mowing too short as it may burn in the sun.
  • Water during the early morning hours or after dusk so that you don’t lose all the moisture through evaporation. Water deep enough and check regularly by sticking a screwdriver into the lawn and seeing how far down it can go. If it is hard as a rock, water more; if it is too wet cut back on your mowing.
  • Depending upon the type of fertilizer you used in the spring you may want a summer fertilizer and pest control treatment. Ask your lawn care provider what is best for your lawn.
  • Summer is a great time to plant your favorite annuals or start a perennial garden.

 

Autumn – The leaves are falling and the temps are slowly dropping.

  • If you have not already aerated this year, now is the time to loosen up the grass and allow the water, nutrients, and oxygen to get to the roots before a long, dormant winter.
  • Rake the leaves and be sure to get all the debris off the lawn.
  • Continue mowing the lawn while it is still growing.
  • Prepare for the first frost by wrapping bushes and shrubs.
  • Evaluate all tools and equipment that may need repairs.
  • Arrange a blow out of the irrigation system.

 

Winter – Old man winter is settling in!

  • Avoid walking on the lawn as the grass crowns are brittle and fragile.
  • Do not park cars on the lawn.
  • Be careful where you shovel piles of snow onto the lawn, especially if there is rock salt mixed in.

 

Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website.

 

Mosquito-borne Diseases – A Year in Review

Now that mosquito season is over and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has collected the data, it is time for a review of 2017 and the latest on diseases spread via mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization, “Of all disease-transmitting insects, the mosquito is the greatest menace, spreading malaria, dengue and yellow fevers, which together are responsible for several million deaths and hundreds of millions of cases every year.” Different regions are impacted by different mosquito-borne diseases depending on climate, the types of mosquitoes common in the region, and access to preventative measures and medicine. In our region of the United States there are specific mosquito-borne diseases to be concerned with including West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

 

West Nile Virus – The CDC reports that the most common way the West Nile virus is transmitted is by mosquito bite. Most people infected with West Nile virus will not show any symptoms. About 1-in-5 people who are infected will develop a fever and other symptoms. Fewer than 1% of those infected develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness. To see an interactive map of the areas most hit by West Nile click here. The CDC has compiled data for the past several decades to compare the spread and statistical data associated with the disease.

 

Eastern Equine Encephalitis – is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is a rare illness in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most cases occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states (see map).

 

Check back with our blog in the spring as we will continue to cover outbreaks and locations. Our blog will also have the latest on treatment and prevention techniques. As always, if you have any questions call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website.

Is Snow Bad for Your Lawn?

New Englanders are accustomed to snow, ice, and wind, from November through till almost April. We have learned to adapt to the treacherous driving conditions, the freezing temperatures, and precipitation that can change from rain, to sleet, to snow in the matter of a few minutes. While we humans may be able to handle the ups and downs of winter snows, what about our lawns? Do snow, wind, and temperatures damage our lawns? Here is what the experts say.

 

  • Snow is an insulating blanket for our lawns. Snow cover of four inches or more during harsh freezes acts as an insulator and  protects plants and roots from the air and drying freeze conditions.
  • Snow protects your lawn from transpiration. Transpiration is a form of evaporation from plants such as blades of grass or young plants.
  • As the snow melts in the spring it is great for the groundwater supply. That water is absorbed into the roots and the soil to help during the long, hot, dry summer months.
  • An absence of snow during the winter months when the temperatures are extremely low and the air terribly dry can be harsh on your lawn. Without an insulating blanket of snow, the frost line can penetrate deep into the soil. This could damage tender plantings.
  • Walking on the snow on your lawn can cause damage to the crowns of your grass. As young children make snowmen or sled on your lawn the brittle crowns can be broken or crushed. They may not be able to recover in the spring. Just be careful where and how often you walk on your lawn while there is a snow cover.

 

For more information on protecting your lawn and garden during the winter months, call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website.

Lawn Care Resolutions for the New Year

With the New Year rapidly approaching, it is time to think about making resolutions. Many people choose to resolve to eat better or exercise more, but here at Pro-Tech Lawn Care we suggest making some lawn care resolutions that will make your lawn look amazing all growing season. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

 

  • Soil Testing – Good lawns and gardens start with good soil. It is a smart idea to have your soil tested to see what nutrients are missing.
  • Aerate – Starting in the spring, consider aerating the lawn to allow compact soil to be loosened as well as allow nutrients, oxygen, and water to get down to the roots.
  • Weed – Take a few minutes each weekend to weed gardens and the edges of your lawn. Weeds can be invasive and can take away from the aesthetic of your lawn. Just a few minutes a weekend can make a huge difference.
  • Fertilize – Be sure to kick off your lawn care routine with a springtime fertilizer treatment that will help your lawn recover from the long winter. Talk to a lawn care professional about which type and amount of fertilizer is right for your region and grass type.
  • Water Regularly – Resolve to water your lawn correctly. Too much watering can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, too little and the lawn can dry up and brown. Monitor the amount your lawn is getting and adjust your sprinkler accordingly.
  • Pest Inspection – Consider hiring a lawn pest management company to inspect your lawn for pests that can damage your lawn, garden, and plantings. Pro-Tech Lawn Care can inspect for species that can ruin your lawn, trees, bushes, and/or gardens.

 

Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care with any questions at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website for more information.

Common New England Tree Diseases

The trees in your yard provide personality, shade, and beauty for your property. While many homeowners enjoy the trees in their yard, far too many of them do not properly care for them, including pest control, watering, and trimming. Let’s take a closer look today at the types of tree diseases that are common in New England so that you can begin to understand what threats your trees face.

 

  • Dutch Elm Disease – According arborists, Dutch elm disease has killed millions of elm trees in the U.S. since 1930. Bark beetles travel between sick and healthy trees, thus spreading the disease. It’s crucial to remove infected trees from your landscape and grind them into wood chips. This stops beetles from spreading.
  • Fireblight – Fireblight is a bacterial infection that can become prominent in wet weather conditions in the early spring.  This bacterium can cause the death of buds, leaves, flowers, and can hinder new growth. The decline in trees from fireblight in our area is usually found on Crabapple, Callery Pear, Cotoneaster, Spirea, Mountain Ash and Quince. There are chemical spray applications available, as well as Trunk Injection products which provide control.
  • Armillaria Root Rot – Armillaria is a fungal disease that can attack a variety of tree species. The fungus loves old, rotten tree stumps and dead roots.  It has been the demise of many a beautiful big Oak or Maple. Trees growing in close proximity to decaying stumps or other infected trees can become infected. There are some indications that treating the infected soil around trees with Armillaria with good fungus spores, called Trichoderma, may be helpful as the good fungus tends to eat up or feed on the bad fungus.

 

If you suspect that your trees or bushes are experiencing fungal or pest diseases, contact Pro-Tech Lawn Care for an inspection. UMass Agricultural Extension School has a comprehensive list of tree diseases that you may find helpful or otherwise interesting. Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care with any questions at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, or visit our website for more information.