Category Archives: Seasonal Yard Maintenance

Tips to Enjoy a Pest Free BBQ

Who doesn’t love to sit out by the grill and enjoy the company of friends and family? Summer is just around the corner and that means BBQ’s and outdoor entertaining is just weeks away. Memorial Day Weekend is traditionally the kick off to summer and outdoor activities, so here are a few tips to make all of your get-togethers pest free!

  • Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care to have an estimate done for treatments that will keep mosquitoes, bees and ticks at bay during the warm weather months.
  • Mosquitoes tend to be most active at dusk and dawn, so if you are planning a barbeque around sunset or after, plan on having plenty of insect repellant containing an EPA-registered active ingredient like DEET, picaridin or IR3535 available for you and your guests.
  • Wear long sleeves or pants to avoid bites and encourage your guests to cover up.
  • Use tightly sealed containers when preparing BBQ fare. Ants and flies are attracted to food so take steps to keep food safe by using tightly sealed containers or coolers.
  • Clean crumbs and spills from patio tables immediately and keep food that is out – covered.
  • Store all trash away from the party and always keep your garbage bins covered.
  • Yellowjackets and other stinging insects are attracted to fragrances from shampoo, perfume, and candles, so avoid using these scented items beforehand.
  • Provide covered cups for your guests as aluminum cans and plastic bottles are good hiding spots for stinging insects.
  • Prior to the party, check screen doors and repair any holes. Once the guests have arrived, remind them to shut the door behind them in order to keep pests from entering your home.

 

Spring Gardening Tips

Is it time to get out your trowels, gardening gloves and seeds? For those of you who are “green thumbs” you are probably excited to get started. For novices you may be wondering where and when to even begin? Here are a few spring gardening tips for the newbies who will one day be experts!

  • Clean it Up – Your garden area, if you already have a spot that needs to be cleaned out from debris, branches, leaves and other organic matter that will get in the way of growing seedlings. Rake up everything you can as well as take out any visible rocks.
  • Revitalize the Soil – It is always a good idea to give the soil some TLC this time of year including: turning it, having it tested, adding nutrients via compost or other methods and adding moisture. We also recommend having the soil tested.
  • Plant and Bush Pruning – If you already have mature planting or bushes near your garden, you will want to prune excess growth. Be sure to study up on what you are pruning so you do not inadvertently cut off blooms or trim to short!
  • Fencing and Pest Control – As a gardener, nothing is worse than planting and nurturing all season only to have pests or wildlife ruin your garden. Take steps now to fence in the area. In addition carefully watch and treat for pests.
  • Plan the Garden – Planning the garden is half the fun of having a garden. Decide on what you are going to grow and find out when you can plant each item. You may want to consider starting some plants indoors before transplanting them to the outdoors. Be sure to consider where the sun is during the day and what items need the most sun and water.

 

Spring Lawn Checklist

Finally we are moving into the warm weather! That means outdoor activities and the start of the yard maintenance season. Do you have everything you need to have the lawn and garden that you hope for this year? Here is a checklist of items to look for as the spring growing season begins.

Lawn – How does it look after the winter?  Are there areas that need to be re-seeded or are there large areas that would benefit from hydroseeding? Are there damaged areas due to salt or compaction due to snow? Should you consider aeration to loosen the soil and allow for needed nutrients to get to the roots.

  • Shrubs and Trees – Look for damage to branches due to heavy snow or frigid temperatures.  In addition look for pest damage that may need to be treated this spring. Add to the list of “Things to Do” any trees or shrubs that need to be trimmed or pruned.
  • Pest Activity – thoroughly inspect your yard including the grass, garden and plant growth for any signs of pests. Start early with pest control to attain a healthy lawn.
  • Irrigation and Water Issues – Check all sprinkler heads and components to the irrigation system to be sure there are no worn, broken or bent valves or heads. In addition look for areas of the lawn that may be puddling or excessive moisture.
  • Garden Area – Look to see if any garden fencing needs repairing and send a soil sample out for testing.

If you need assistance with aeration, hydroseeding, pests control and other lawn issues call Pro-Tech Lawn Care today.

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.

Four Seasons of Lawn Care

 

Like many other aspects of life, lawn care is cyclical. Reaping the benefits of a healthy lawn means staying on top of the maintenance that needs to be done at certain times in this cycle. Since we all love that sense of satisfaction stepping onto a lawn that is thinkc, lush, green as well as pest and weed free here is a quick guide to “barefoot worthy” lawn from season to season.

Spring

  • Clean up the lawn after a long cold winter. Rake up any leftover leaves and debris that may have accumulated.
  • Tune up your mower and trimmer including sharpening the blades.
  • De-thatch your lawn to improve water uptake.
  • Aerate the lawn. Winter is a time when lawn can be compacted due to snow or human traffic. Aerating your lawn can allow for oxygen, nutrients, water and fertilizer to reach the roots.
  • Decide on fertilizing. Both spring and fall are great times to fertilize depending upon the type of grass and climate you live in.
  • Repair bare or brown patches in the lawn.
  • Begin mowing the grass. Remember the ⅓ rule of mowing. Never cut off more than ⅓ of the height at a time. Also keep in mind that grass should not be wet when mowing.
  • Consider pest control.  Did you have difficulty with weeds or pests on your yard?  Did your trees suffer because of this?  Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care to discuss the spring maintenance you may need in your yard.

Summer

  • It is pest and weed control time!  Grubs may be attacking the roots of your grass, mushrooms may begin to grow or you may have pests beginning to destroy your garden.  Now is the time to act.
  • Aerate dry soil if you did not do this step in the spring.
  • Continue mowing and trimming during this time. Many homeowners find it helpful to use the mulch component on the mower to add nutrients back into the lawn.
  • Water appropriately. Water at dawn or dusk to avoid evaporation. Check to see if your lawn is getting enough water by sticking a screwdriver into the lawn.  If it slides in easily then you are ok. If the ground is hard you may have a problem.

Fall

  • Fall (as well as spring) is a great time to overseed.  The days are cooler and tend to have more rainfall than the summer.
  • Clean the yard thoroughly during the fall.  Clean up all leaves and debris.
  • Mow the lawn less often as its growing has begun to taper off. Trim the grass a bit shorter on your last few times mowing but not too low.

Winter

  • Winterize your irrigation or sprinkler systems.
  • Avoid walking or parking on the grass.
  • Avoid over salting on driveways and walkways.
  • Plan your garden for next year

Fall Lawn Diseases

There is so much to look forward to each Autumn. The spectacular show the trees put on for us here in the New England region, the perfectly sunny and cool days, and of course the harvests of fruits and veggies are just a few of the things to anticipate annually. Unfortunately, there are also some not so wonderful things to be aware of in your lawn every fall – lawn diseases. Learn to recognize, prevent and to know when professionals need to treat lawn damage and diseases.Here are just a few of the diseases you should be on the look out for this fall.

 

  • Brown Patch – Circular area of dead grass. The circle may be small or large. The outer portion may be a “smoky” color. The leaves can be easily pulled from the stem. Affected areas may have a sunken appearance.
  • Dollar Spot – Small (silver dollar-sized) spots of tan/brown grass appear over the lawn. The spots may merge into large affected areas. Grass blades will have tan/brown areas on them.
  • Fairy Ring – Dark green circle or semicircle of grass. Area next to it may be a lighter-colored area of dying grass. Mushrooms may or may not be present.
  • Leaf Spot – There are leaf spot infections that attack warm- and cool-season grasses. Grass begins to appear gray, tan or brown. Upon closer examination, tan, red or purple spots are evident. Can severely thin or kill turfgrass.
  • Powdery Mildew – Common in shady areas, the infection resembles white dust. Blades eventually turn tan to brown. The damage can be permanent.
  • Red Thread – Red or faded patches, reddish or pink threads reach from leaf tips to adjoining leaves.
  • Rust – Distinctive orange rust-like appearance. The spores will attach easily to tools and clothing.

Fall Lawn Care

Now that the weather has cooled and the leaves are just beginning to change color and put on a beautiful display, you may be thinking that your outside chores are done. No. No. No. That could not be further from the truth. Your lawn and garden need care during this transitional time heading into the harsh cold and precipitation that is sure to assault us this winter. Fall is the ideal time to make preparations for next spring’s promise of a lush and healthy lawn. Here are some steps that all homeowners should take to care for their lawn this Autumn.

 

  • Mowing Techniques – If you are still mowing after this summer’s record drought for our region, be sure to drop the mower’s blade to its lowest setting for the last two cuttings of the year. That will allow more sunlight to reach the crown of the grass, and there will be less leaf to turn brown during the winter.
  • Watering Techniques – Continue watering your grass as allowed by any watering restrictions by your local or regional water companies.
  • Raking and Cleaning Up – Be sure to rake all leaves and remove all debris from your lawn including decorative pieces in the gardens. Leave that are left to collect morning dew will become a mat that will block out the sun – thus smothering the grass below it. So when the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are bare, continue raking out the corners where the wind piles leaves up. If you don’t, come spring the grass under that soggy, decaying mat will be dead.
  • Soil loosening and Aeration – Does your lawn soil look compacted from a summer of patio parties and children running around? You may need to consider aerating and seeding certain areas before the winter sets in.
  • Irrigation Systems – If you have any sort of irrigation system you will want to have it drained properly and possibly cleaned professionally, if you aren’t quite sure how to do it yourself. Check for all sprinkler heads to be sure that there was no damage done to them over the summer months.
  • Pest Patrol – Do an inspection of your landscaping and garden areas for pests and disease that may need to be treated before the next planting and growing season.