Overwintering 101

Most homeowners mistakenly believe that pests simply go away, disappear, or die off during the winter months. While it is true that many insects seek shelter in buildings during the cooler months, often called overwintering, they are still around and can cause problems. Overwintering pests generally become a problem in the fall and again in the spring. Let’s take a closer look at what overwintering really means and the pests that tend to behave this way. We will also discuss some steps that you can take to prevent your home from becoming a target.

Overwintering

Conditions in New England can be difficult for survival for many species of wildlife and insects. The sub-zero temperatures, ice, snow, and limited access to food can make activity nearly impossible and survival is not a given. Many species then turn to hibernation or migration to “overwinter” in our region. The inside walls, attic, basement, or crawl spaces of your home may make for an ideal location to overwinter. Pests such as stink bugs, boxelder bugs, beetles, and even rodents spend the colder months overwintering until the climate improves. They can do this as adults or in other stages of the life cycle. In addition to your home, overwintering locations can include: inside sheds, under tree bark, or beneath fallen leaves or other plant matter on the ground, among other places. The ultimate goal is to find a location that is protective and allows for survival.

The Signs

Many homeowners do not even know that pests have been overwintering in their home until the warmer months when they start to reemerge from their winter hiding spot. Most overwintering insects go unnoticed, but there are signs that you may want to be aware of. In the late fall, be aware of beetles, ladybugs, or other insects clinging to the side of your home, especially where the direct sun hits your structure. Another sign is usually in the early spring when these insects begin to reemerge like the stink bugs. In those cases, the sign will be an actual insect or many insects in your home trying to make their way outside. They will head toward windows and light sources in your home as a way to find a way back outside.

Prevention

The best way to prevent insects from choosing your home is to eliminate access to the interior of your structure. This means doing a thorough examination of your property and sealing all openings, gaps, cracks, and utility openings. Seal doors, windows, piping, vents, chimney openings, and all the ways you can visually see that an insect could find a way into your home.

Need help with overwintering insects in your home? Call Pro-Tech at (603) 382-9644 or Toll-Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Last Minute Lawn Care Before Winter

Are you a “last minute” person? Do you put things off? Well, you are not alone. Psychology Today reports that 20% of us identify as chronic procrastinators. The number goes even higher if we take into account people who procrastinate occasionally. Well, if you have procrastinated taking care of your lawn, then you will want to use our “Last Minute Lawn Care” checklist. Here are a few things that you should check on before winter sets in for our region.

  • Fall is an important time to test the soil, fertilize, and aerate. Depending upon how late you are with these tasks, some of them may need to wait until the spring to be completed. Fall fertilizing helps keep lawns vigorous and healthy when growing seasons are long and reduces the length of a dormant period during which the lawn is an unattractive brown.
  • Mow for the last few times. Use the Rule of Thirds, where you do not take off more than one third of the height of the grass at any one time
  • Dethatch the yard with vigorous raking. Thatch can build up and choke out the grass.
  • Rake the lawn to remove fallen leaves. I know it is a chore that no one loves, but leaving the leaves means that they get wet, moldy, and block the needed sunlight, nutrients, and water from getting to the grassroots.
  • Protect tender plantings and bushes. Many homeowners find that wrapping bushes and shrubs help protect them from the cold and heavy snow that can damage branches.
  • Mulching around bushes and trees can help hold in moisture that is needed and provide a layer of insulation. It will also help with weeds and pests in the spring.
  • Care for your lawn equipment. Once you have completed the last of your yard chores for the winter, be sure to clean off and store your lawn tools and mower/trimmer in a dry area. Many people find that this is a great time for repairs and sharpening blades.
  • Clean the gutters. Make sure to clear out the leaves, twigs, and debris that has gotten caught in your gutters. This is a prime spot for pests to flourish if allowed.
  • Pick up all lawn items like garden gnomes, planters, and patio furniture.

Are you ready for winter? Need help putting your lawn to bed? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Irrigation Shut Down and Winterization

With winter right around the corner, it is important to take care of all the outdoor aspects of your home, from putting the garden to bed, to wrapping bushes and shrubbery, to probably the most important task, winterizing and shutting down your irrigation system.

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that shutting off the water pressure and draining the water manually can do the trick. Unfortunately, unless all the water has been removed from your system there is a still a chance that there could be some remaining that could freeze, expand, and then damage the pipes. Costly repairs could be necessary if there are unseen breaks, leaks and pressure issues in the spring. Irrigation winterization should be done by someone who has experience shutting down your particular system or is a professional in this area. You really don’t want to find out next spring that some of your pipes are damaged because the shutdown was not performed correctly. That would be a costly mistake!

While there are a couple methods to closing down an irrigation system, there are common tasks that should be completed, whether you are choosing the manual method or the blow out method. These tasks include:

  • Shutting off water pressure
  • Draining the mainlines
  • Blowing out or draining the entire system
  • Winterizing the entire system, including the backflow
  • Shutting off and checking all valves
  • Inspecting all sprinkler heads for damage
  • Inspecting all aspects of the system and troubleshooting for issues

Do you need help with your irrigation system? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Controlling Firewood Pests

Most of us consider sitting in front of a crackling fire as a cherished part of the winter months. However, even the joy of a warm, cozy fire can be ruined by uninvited pests!  Last week we discussed the potential pest situations when it comes to your fireplace. This week we want to take a closer look at the firewood that is piled in your yard. This area can be a serious pest hideout and haven. Here are a few suggestions to ensure that you are doing everything possible to control the pests that may be attracted to your firewood stack so they don’t find a way inside your home.

  • Location of Firewood Stack – Pest experts suggest keeping a firewood pile away from structures such as your home, garage, or shed. Keep wood away from buildings to stop pests from tunneling directly from the wood pile into the structure. We also suggest not putting your wood pile under trees that may harbor pests such as beetles that could easily find their way into your wood. Finally, keep wood off the ground to keep it from getting wet. Moisture encourages pests. Try putting the wood up on concrete blocks or pallets to allow for airflow below the stack.
  • Practice First in First Out – Use the oldest wood first, restacking the pile periodically. This will help to keep pests at a minimum as you are not allowing infestations to build up.
  • Check for Surface Pests – Before bringing any wood inside your home, check for any visible surface pests. Brush them off or bang them against the ground to shake them free. While you may not be able to see any pests that have burrowed inside the wood, at least take care of any that you can see.
  • Only take in the amount of wood you will need. Bringing heavy wood into a home is no fun chore, so some homeowners consider hauling in a large load once and using when needed. We suggest only bringing in what you will burn for the night to keep out any pests that could emerge with the heat of your home.
  • Use only local firewood. This will help avoid bringing non-native pests into our region.

 

Do you have questions about how to control the pests in and around your firewood stack? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

Fireplaces and Pests

As winter draws near, most of us begin to take our entertaining indoors. Gone are the carefree summer nights of BBQs and fire pits. However, if you still long for the sight, smell, and comfort of a crackling fire, your living room fireplace will have to suffice during the winter season. There are some caveats when dealing with fireplaces, and the large potential for pests. Let’s look at some of the facets of winter homeowners should be aware of in regard to avoid pests in and around fireplaces.

If you think a fireplace is a comfy place to gather around, especially during the depths of winter, you are not wrong. But guess who else thinks so – wildlife and pests! Fireplaces and chimneys can harbor numerous pests, from wildlife that find refuge in the dark cavern, to pests who find a ride inside on firewood. Here are some suggestions of steps to avoid pests of all sizes and shapes around your fireplace.

  • Firewood – Check all firewood coming into your house. In other words, give it not only a visual inspection when you take it off the wood pile but also give it a few good bangs to be sure there is not an infestation of any variety of pest that you may be bringing inside. Check for scratches and gnaw marks that may be indicative of rodents living in your wood pile. Check that there are no active infestations. Use the wood in a timely manner. The longer it sits in your yard, the more likely pests have found a way to live and hide inside.
  • Check the Flue – Rodents, birds, squirrels, racoons, and other wildlife have been known to build nests inside chimneys that are accessible from the roof. Shut the flue when you are not using the fireplace to be sure these pests do not have access to the interior of your home. But be sure to open each time you use the fireplace.
  • Fireplaces should also have a cover or seal that can keep pests from getting inside your home. Many homeowners like the safety aspect of a fireplace screen to keep children and pets from getting too close to the flames. It can serve two purposes – to keep pests out and protect your family from the heat of the flames.

Fireplaces can be a haven for pests of many different varieties. If you find that you have pests living in your firewood stack, talk to the pest specialists at Pro-Tech. Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Care for Bushes, Plants, and Trees this Winter

Winter is on its way, and boy can it pack a wallop when it arrives! The cold, wind, and precipitation can be pretty harsh not just on humans, but on the landscape as well. When preparing for the winter weather, it is important for homeowners to remember their bushes, plants, and trees. To care for these plantings, let’s look at the threats as well as solutions to protecting the landscaping in your yard this winter.

Winter’s Challenges

Sure, winters in New England are tough, but it is important to recognize the challenges your plantings face in order to protect them.

  • Salt Damage – Salt spray is a huge problem if your plants are near walkways, driveways, or close to the road.
  • Sun “Burning” – Dry winds and winter sun can dry out or “burn” conifer needles and broadleaf evergreen foliage, which continue to transpire (give off water vapor) during winter.
  • Animal Browsing – In this region, it is common for deer, rabbits and other animals to get desperate and gnaw at the plantings and bark that is still present during the heart of the winter.
  • Heavy Snow – When snow piles up during a storm, tender branches can break or become damaged due to the weight of the precipitation.

Winter Solutions

While each yard is unique, it may help to try some of these solutions. These help to protect your plants from the cold, wind, salt, heavy snow and, of course, the wildlife.

  • Avoid salt damage by shoveling or plowing away from the roots of plantings when possible. On dry days, sweep or remove salt build up so it does not have a chance to be absorbed into the ground. Use minimal salt around areas that have plantings. Lastly, read the packaging on deicers to be sure you are causing the least damage to organic matter while still allowing for safety on walkways.
  • Animals need to survive the winter as well, so we really can’t blame them for nibbling on trees and bushes occasionally. Covering the plantings that are most prone to animal browsing can help save them from the chewing and gnawing of wildlife. The coverings or wrappings can also act as an insulator.
  • Snow Damage – Some level of snow cover is good for plantings as it holds in moisture and heat. However, if you notice that the heavy snow is bending or damaging branches, then either remove the snow carefully or construct a small protective cover that allows the plant to be spared the brunt of the heavy snow.
  • Protect young trees from sun-scald with bark or tree wrapping that can be removed as the spring nears.

Do you have questions about protecting your trees, bushes, or plantings this winter? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Important Steps for Fall Lawn Care

There is no denying it – winter is on the way and there is nothing we can do to stop it. What can we do to prepare for the cold temperatures, whistling winds, and variety of precipitation that may come our way? For many of us these changes mean tuning up the snow blower, buying ice melt, and taking care of our lawn and garden for the last few weeks of fall. What steps do you take each fall to close up the property and clean up the yard? Here are some of our suggestions this fall for healthy lawn care.

  • Aerate – After a spring, summer, and fall of high traffic all over your yard, the soil may have become compacted. Whether it is due to entertaining or playing, most turf could use a bit of loosening up to get the water, nutrients, and oxygen to the roots. Aeration can really help loosen the ground and get all that good stuff right down to the base of the roots.
  • Fertilize – Find out what your grass needs through testing or talking to a lawn care specialist before you fertilize for the winter. By giving one last feeding, your grass will have a jump start in the spring and “weather” the winter better than without fertilizing.
  • Keep Watering and Mowing – Until your lawn and garden goes dormant after the first hard frost at the beginning of November, keep watering all plantings, grass, bushes, shrubs, and trees. In addition, keep mowing ⅓ of the height of the grass until that time. A well-manicured lawn can help prevent weeds and pests from taking hold.
  • Clean it Up – Remove all lawn and garden items such as garden gnomes, planters, and patio equipment. Rake the leaves and dispose of them properly. Make sure to get every corner so the rotting leaves do not smother the grass underneath.

Need help preparing your yard for the winter? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

 

Plantings in the Fall?

Hot apple cider, pumpkins, and crisp leaves crunching underfoot – all these things remind us of fall. But what about planting? Not usually something you think about when it comes to this time of year, right? Planting in the fall; is it even feasible? Planting isn’t just a spring and summer activity. Believe it or not, there are some species that do very well when planted in the fall. Let’s take a closer look at some plants that could actually benefit from planting this fall.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, “Fall has distinct planting benefits. Autumn’s cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. The soil is still warm, allowing roots to grow until the ground freezes. On the flip side, in spring, plants don’t grow until the soil warms up. Fall has more good days for planting than spring does, when rain and other unpredictable weather can make working the soil impossible. And there’s a lot more free time for gardening in autumn than in always-frantic spring. Plus, the late season is usually bargain time at garden centers that are trying to sell the last of their inventory before winter.”

So what could you consider planting this fall?

  • Spring Bulbs such as: Daffodil, Tulips, Grape hyacinth, Siberian squill, Allium, Fritillaria, Dog’s-tooth violet, Glory-of-the-snow, Winter aconite and Snowdrop.
  • Pansies are good to plant in the fall because the ground is still fairly warm and will allow the roots to get established.
  • Turfgrass is a good bet for fall planting as well. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass should be fertilized in early September and again in late October or early November to give a boost for earlier spring green-up.
  • Bushes and Shrubs find fall to be an ideal time for taking root and getting established. Be sure to fertilize and water before they become dormant so they will start strong in the spring.

Do you have questions about fall plantings? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

Fall Mowing

Many of us have been faithfully mowing our lawn every weekend since the growing season began in April or so, depending upon your yard and location. So at this point, some of us might be thinking, “When can I stop mowing?” or “What should I be doing different with mowing in the fall?” These are both great questions that can help keep your lawn healthy even as we begin to “put it to bed for the winter.” Let’s take a closer look at what is involved in fall mowing and how soon we can call it quits until next spring.

Slowing Growth

You may have noticed that your grass is growing at a slower rate this fall. In fact, it may seem like you really don’t need to mow it every weekend to get it to its regular height. Instead of skipping a mowing, try changing the height of the blade so you continue to remove ⅓ of the height. This will maintain a good height as well as health of the blades of grass. Usually around the beginning of November, when the first hard frost hits our area, the grass will go dormant and you can really close down the mowing for the season.

Uneven Cut

Have you noticed that the grass is not cutting as evenly as it was earlier in the spring? This could be due to your blade becoming dull and tearing at the grass rather than cutting it smoothly. Or it could be due to a buildup of debris in the undercarriage if the mower. Shut off the mower and hose down the undercarriage to make sure built-up grass clippings are not causing the problem. If that isn’t it, you may want to take the blade in this winter for sharpening and schedule a tune up for the mower in general. Any local lawn care specialist or hardware store should be able to aid with this.

Inspect

Fall is a time to take stock in what happened with your lawn this past growing season. Did you have pests, bald spots, or maybe wildlife digging at your lawn? Inspect your lawn during these last few mowing sessions and decide a course of action.

Do you have questions about your lawn or the last mowings of the season? Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.

Importance of Mulching in the Fall

Many homeowners consider mulching a spring chore, only to be completed to make the flower beds and plantings look nice. The flower beds and bushes just look complete and well-groomed when there is a fresh coating of mulch beneath. While mulching for aesthetics is one aspect of why homeowners should take part in this chore, it is not the whole story behind why mulching, even in the fall, is a smart idea. Here are some reasons why mulching in the fall is important to the health and vitality of your organic plantings.

  • Mulch is an excellent insulator. Just a few inches of organic matter over the ground around trees, bushes, and perennial plantings can keep the roots protected from the freezing temperatures known to hit our region every winter. Mulch insulates the soil, helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold temperatures. If you have tender growths or new bushes in your yard, this fall may be a good time to spread a layer of mulch to give an added level of protection for whatever Mother Nature may have in mind for us this winter.
  • Mulching around the bases of bushes, trees, and plantings also allows for retention of moisture and much needed water throughout the winter months. While snow also tends to do this, mulch provides warmth and protection, in addition to moisture retention. Keeping the roots moist is imperative to the plantings’ bouncing back next spring.
  • Mulch also helps with weeds. With a layer of mulch, weeds have difficulty growing, thus stopping the competition for growth with the roots. It is also helpful that homeowners do not need to weed as often during the growing season.
  • Compaction of soil is an issue in areas that are high or moderately high traffic areas. Mulch can help prevent some of that compaction which would require aeration and turning of the soil. In addition to compaction prevention, mulching stops damage from lawn mower or trimmer blades from reaching the base of plantings.

Wondering how you can keep your lawn healthy this fall? Continue to check back with our blog or call Pro-Tech Lawn Care at (603) 382-9644 or Toll Free: (800) 313-4733, and visit our website.