Monthly Archives: August 2015

Groundcovers – Make Sweet Spots in Your Yard

GroundcoverDo you have an area in your yard where grass will not grow? Or a slope that seems to be eroding with every rainfall? If so, then a groundcover may be the solution. These low-lying plants can grow where grass and other more delicate plants cannot.

Low Growing, Spreads Easy

The definition of a groundcover is a low growing plant (less than 24 inches) that spreads easily by producing rhizomes or stolons. These plants form dense vegetation, which chokes out weeds and makes them virtually maintenance free.

Why are groundcovers so useful in your yard?

  • They help prevent soil erosion. Root systems mat together and hold soil in place.
  • They help prevent weeds. Their matted roots and dense growth patterns keep weeds from taking hold.
  • They define a space. They also provide a transition between lawn and flower beds.
  • They soften hardscapes. Walkways, steps and driveways look less severe.
  • They fill awkward spaces. They are great to place between pavers or rocks.
  • They grow where grass will not. Many groundcover plants can survive in poor soil conditions and shady areas.
  • They are drought tolerant. They need less water than traditional grasses.
  • They mostly withstand foot traffic. Groundcovers such as moss, thyme and turfgrass don’t mind a little walking.

5 Types of Commonly Used Groundcover Plants

  • Vines – woody plants with slender spreading stems
  • Herbaceous – non-woody plants
  • Shrubs – low-growing varieties
  • Moss – the larger, coarser types
  • Ornamental Grasses

Pick Your Spot – Make Your Selection

Determine the area you want to plant groundcover. Is it shady or in full sun? Does the ground drain well or stay moist? This will help you decide what types of plants to select. Herbaceous plants will lose their leaves in the winter so if you are trying to cover a bare area then go with evergreen plants.

Creeper, Carpeter or Clumper

Ground covering plants can be creepers (vines and fast spreading plants), carpeters (like moss or turfgrass) or clumpers like Hostas. If you are trying to fill in a large area quickly, then maybe a creeper type is what you need. For variety, try mixing together all three types. Just determine each plant’s maximum growth range and space them out accordingly.

Stagger Your Plants

As with all plantings, starting with good healthy soil is important. Prepare the bed by adding compost or organic material. Arrange the plants you’ve selected in a staggered or diamond pattern to allow them to fill in faster. Space out your plants. Give creepers more room to spread out than the clumping types. Remember that a fast spreading creeper may become invasive if not kept in check. Just keep an eye on them.

Mulch for Protection

After planting be sure to cover with a thick layer of mulch to keep the weeds under control until the groundcover can fill in. The mulch will also provide protection during the winter months. Groundcover plants will take a couple of growing seasons to establish and completely fill in the area.

Most Popular Groundcovers

  • Ajuga
  • Bishop’s Weed (good for slopes)
  • Brass Buttons (evergreen)
  • Creeping Speedwell
  • Dead Nettle
  • Hakone Grass
  • Hen & Chicks
  • Irish Moss
  • Juniper
  • Lamb’s Ear (evergreen)
  • Lamium
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Mondo Grass (evergreen)
  • Periwinkle
  • Scotch Moss
  • Sedum
  • Spurge
  • Sweet Woodruff (loves shade)
  • Thyme

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Groundcovers are an easy solution to most landscape challenges. They can also be used to create some very interesting focal points in your yard. Mother Nature has provided you with every texture and color you can think up for your garden palette. Let your imagination run wild.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Advertisements
Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Ready for Fall Part 3: Pampering the Grass

Prep Your Garden for Fall - Dethatching, Overseeding and AeratingHas your lawn had its share of foot traffic this summer? With outdoor activities in full swing, it’s a sure bet your grass is a little stressed. It may be a toss-up as to which of you is more excited about the kids going back to school – you or your lawn! A little lawn pampering may be just the ticket. It will love you for it (and you will love how it looks next year).

Adjust Your Mower Height

Once the summer heat is gone, lower your lawn mower to a regular height of about two inches. Cutting your grass shorter will help prevent matting under leaves and snow. Avoid cutting it too short though, otherwise weeds can take over if the grass thins out too much.

Continue Watering Schedule

Don’t slack on watering just yet. Until temperatures really begin to cool, continue to water your lawn as you have been. A general rule is to give your lawn about an inch to an inch and half of water a week. This will vary depending on where you live, the condition of your soil and the type of grass you have.

Check for Thatch

Check your lawn for thatch – a thick layer of dead organic matter mixed with living plant parts that builds up at the surface of your grass. Over-fertilizing and watering too frequently can cause thatch and lead to disease and insect problems. A dethatcher has powerful blades that pull the thatch to the surface. After using the dethatcher, rake up the thatch debris and compost it.

Pesky Weeds Be Gone

Fall is also a great time to attack those pesky weeds like dandelions, clover and other broadleaf weeds. Applying an herbicide spray that contains glyphosate, 2 4-D or MCPP is best. The weeds take these chemicals down into their root system, effectively stopping their chances of returning in the spring. The herbicide needs to be applied when temperatures are more moderate and the soil is moist.

Fall Lawn To-do List

Now that you have thatched your lawn and treated for weeds, improve the condition of your soil and grass using these to-do’s.

  1. Aerate the soil. This reduces thatch, improves drainage and loosens the soil. Using a plug type aerator is best since there is less chance of compacting the soil.
  2. Apply a top dressing. This is a mixture of loam, sand and peat, which will help amend the soil. Put a thin layer over the grass and plug holes. Avoid smothering the grass.
  3. Work the top dressing into plugs. Use a stiff brush to push the mixture into the plugs.
  4. Repair dead patches in grass. Reseed any thin spots. Use a mulch product that is embedded with seeds and fertilizer to help fill in these areas. Keep spots moist to allow seeds to germinate.

I See Dead Patches

If your grass has too many dead patches, try over seeding the entire lawn. Many over-seed warm season grasses with ryegrass to help thicken up thin or patchy yards. Cisco seeds has a variety of different types of seeds available. One is sure to do the trick for your lawn.

Quick Fix with Sod

Sometimes starting from scratch is the best option. Sod is the quickest way to bring your yard back to life. Now that summer heat is on its way out, it is the perfect time to install a new lawn of cool season grass. Keep the new sod moist for a quick start. It will have plenty of time over the winter months to build a strong root system.

Fertilize Cool Season Grasses

Finish up your yard work by fertilizing your grass. For cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, a late summer feeding in September and then again in October/November will help them green up earlier and look better in the spring. Don’t fertilize warm season grasses in the fall because they are dormant. Only fertilize them if they have been over-seeded with ryegrass. You fertilize these types of grasses in the spring.

Mulch those Leaves

Be sure to remove any fallen leaves from your yard before they can mat down and smother the grass. Using a mulching mower will help with this. Also, don’t forget to drain your irrigation lines before the first frost. Shut off the water to the system and then drain each zone separately to make sure there is nothing left to freeze.

A little lawn pampering may be just the thing to improve your stressed out grass. Your hard work will pay off when your grass comes back greener and healthier next spring. Now, if we can just figure out a way to keep the kids and dog off your beautiful green lawn…

Want more information on fall lawn preparations? Check out our blogs, What Everyone Ought to Know About Lawn Aeration, Aerating/Plugging and Slice Seeding and Essential Fall Tools for Your Lawn & Garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From detachers and aerators to mulching mowers and over-seeders, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Ready for Fall Part 2: Time to Till It Up!

Prep Your Garden for Fall - TillingThe school year is just beginning, summer flowers are dying off and vegetable gardens are winding down. Signs that summer is drawing to a close are everywhere. With fall on our minds, what needs to be done in our yards and gardens before temperatures cool down?

Start Improving on Next Year

The first thing you should do is assess your yard and garden. Take stock of all the plants that didn’t succeed this summer and why. Check out your lawn and determine if you need to re-seed or plant new sod. Think of ways to improve things for next year, such as:

  • Identify plants that are overgrown. They may need to be divided.
  • Check for diseases on your plants. Treat or remove them so they do not infect plants around them.
  • Replace summer annuals. Add fall color with plants like Chrysanthemums.
  • Dig up bulbs. Unearth bulbs that may not be able to survive the winter in your zone and store them.
  • Fertilize turf grass. Add a slow release, all-natural fertilizer to your turf grass.

Soil Preparation is Key

Preparing your garden for next year is easy. The more work you put in now, the easier your task will be in the spring. The key to a successful garden is soil preparation, and fall is the perfect time to do this, since the ground is still warm.

  1. Clean up dead plants and remove debris – Make sure you remove weeds so they are not tilled back into the soil where they can spread their seeds.
  2. Work compost into the soil – Tilling the compost into the soil helps distribute the nutrients throughout. It will also oxygenate the soil and help keep diseases at bay.
  3. Protect the soil – If you aren’t going to plant in this area until next year, cover the ground with straw to protect it from harsh winter weather.
  4. Mulch – If you are planting fall flowers or if you just want to protect your evergreens, then mulch. Mulch will help keep plant roots protected and the soil healthy.

Fall Tilling is Easier

Because the ground is warmer in the fall, it is much easier to till deep enough to provide a good medium for root growth in the spring. Tilling is a great way to get your soil ready for next year.

  • It opens up the soil allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers of the ground.
  • It relieves compaction – plant roots have to work too hard to get through packed soil.
  • It allows for amendments to be distributed through the soil.
  • It improves drainage.

Give Soil Time to Develop

By tilling compost into your soil in the fall, you are giving it all winter and spring to become biologically active. Organic amendments take time to interact with the earth and render their benefits to plants. It can take weeks or months for amended soil to work at peak levels, which is why fall tilling is so much better than waiting until spring. The soil has time to develop.

Rough it Up

If you are not planting in your garden until spring, rough till your soil in each direction and leave it. The ground will flatten out before spring when you can go back and fine till it. Some of the amendments you can add to your soil now are bone meal (for nitrogen) and rock phosphate (for phosphorous). Add a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form when you till. This is an easy way to add nutrients and will cut down on the amount of compost you need in the spring.

Leave Something for Pests

For your vegetable gardens, consider letting some of the plants linger. Plants like spent cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and radishes act as pest magnets. In the spring, these plants release a cyanide compound when decomposing that can kill nuisance pests like wireworms. Just till the decaying plants into the soil before planting next spring. Instant compost!

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done

Fall is when you should think about ways to enjoy your garden during the cooler weather. If you enjoy bird watching then leave a few flowering plant stalks in your beds to attract birds. The birds will feast on the seeds and use the stalk as a perch. Remember, garden life is year round and a gardener’s work is never done.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tillers and shovels to wheel barrows and mulch, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Getting Ready for Fall Part 1: Tree Trimming – A Seasonal Sport

Prepare for Fall - Tree Trimming

Lying in your lawn chair, you look up and realize, “Man, my trees need a little shaping up.” Before you end your relaxation and start cutting away at your trees, take a deep breath. As with all things, timing is important. We have the how, when and whys of tree trimming to help you plan for the months ahead.

Why trim a tree?

  • To promote plant health – cut dead or diseased branches keeps it from spreading
  • To maintain a plant’s shape for landscaping purposes – like hedges or topiaries
  • To improve a plant’s appearance – control the plant’s size, shape and thickness
  • To protect people or property – remove branches that fall and injure people or property
  • To improve security around a property – remove unwanted growth blocking the view of entries or windows

Keep Your Trees Healthy and Looking Great

A little year-round maintenance (light shaping) is fine to keep your trees healthy and looking great. If you want to really prune a tree back, be sure to do it at the appropriate time during their yearly growth cycle. This way, you can encourage the plant to grow fuller and produce more flowers and fruit. An arborist can help you make the right decision on which branches to cut and which to save.

Trimming Promotes New Growth in Spring

So when is the best time to trim a tree? Winter months are when the tree is dormant. Pruning during this time will promote a generous burst of new growth come spring. Just wait until the coldest weather has passed and you should be fine.

Corrective Pruning

If you want to do some corrective pruning to a tree then do this in the summer months. By cutting a tree limb back during the summer part of their growth cycle, you are helping to slow the development of new branches. This is the time to take out low lying limbs so they will not readily return.

Fall – Enjoy Football Instead

Wait until after the fall to do any tree trimming. Because fungi spread their spores profusely during the fall, cutting a tree limb in the fall will make them susceptible to these diseases. Trees also heal slower during these months. Enjoy some football and wait.

Save Major Pruning for Winter

Winter is the time when you should do the most drastic trimming if needed. It is when you should cut branches that overhang your home or fence. The best rules of thumb are the 1/4 and 1/3 rules:

  • Never remove more than 1/4 of the tree’s crown in a season
  • Don’t prune more than 1/3 of the way up from the bottom on deciduous trees

Trimming Flowering Trees

For flowering trees, if they bloom in the spring then you should prune them after they finish blooming. If they bloom mid to late summer then trim them back in the winter or early spring. This will help you avoid trimming off any buds that the tree is forming for next year.

Use Sharp Tools

Some good tips for pruning any time of the year is to always use sharp tools. They will make cleaner cuts on the trees and will help the tree heal faster. If you have high branches use a pole pruner instead of trying to climb on a ladder. It is too easy to tip over when sawing a limb. Chain saws can help you take down many of your branches, but for large overhead branches play it safe and call in a professional. Check out our blog, How to Cut down a Tree, for more helpful suggestions on using chain saws.

Stress-Free Tree Trimming

As summer winds down, don’t stress over trimming back your trees. Make small adjustments here and there and save any major trim work for the winter months. Enjoy the dog days of summer and the wonderful shade your trees provide.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From tree pruners and nippers to chain saws and wood chippers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Build a Backyard Pond in 10 Simple Steps

how-to build a backyard pondOne sure way to add a beautiful focal point to any landscape is to introduce a water feature. What about building a backyard pond? It will not only add diversity, it attracts beneficial wildlife. Adding a small pond with trickling water is an easy weekend project, plus you and your family will enjoy it for years to come.

Keep it Close

To get the maximum enjoyment from your pond, keep it close to your home. You want to see and hear it from your windows or patio area. Because you need electricity for the pump, keep the pond within close proximity to an outdoor outlet. Most pumps come with a 24-foot power cord; any further than that and you will need to extend your power lines.

Not Too Much Sunlight, Please

Ponds need sunlight to support beneficial wildlife and they prefer partial daily exposure. Too much sun can warm the water too much and allow algae to thrive. Avoid positioning your pond near large trees. Roots can damage your lining in their quest for moisture. Besides, fishing leaves out of your pond all the time is no fun.

Habitat for Fish?

Do you want a fish pond? You and your family may enjoy taking care of fish. However, they will need to be fed daily and the pond filter will need to be cleaned or changed regularly. It’s a decision to make before committing to be “fish parents.” If you commit, build in water depth to the pond, which is more critical than circumference. You need to dig a minimum of 18 inches for goldfish and three feet for koi in order for them to survive the winter.

The Soothing Sounds of a Waterfall

Consider adding a waterfall to your pond. Keeping the water moving and aerated helps keep algae in check and prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs. Flowing water also attracts birds and other interesting wildlife. Plus you benefit from the soothing sounds yourself.

Time to Start Digging

Now that you’ve decided where and how large of a pond you want, it’s time to call 811 to have someone come out and determine where underground gas and electrical lines might be. Once you’re clear of that, it’s time to start digging.

  • Mark the outline – form the shape you want with twine or landscape paint.
  • Excavate the area – if you are going for a lovely large water feature you may want to consider using a Bobcat or an excavator to make your digging easier.
  • Terrace the pond
  • Create a 3-inch wide area around the outside of your outline for the stone border.
  • Create a 1-foot wide shelf around the inside of the outline for aquatic plants. It should be about 8 inches deep from the edge of the pond.
  • Dig the bed of the pond a minimum of 18 inches deep, sloping slightly in creating the walls.

4) Dig a trench back to the power supply – this should be close to the deepest part of the pond since that is where the pump will go.

5)   Add an overflow trench at one end of pond – It should be about 6 inches wide and 1 inch deep to help channel overflow caused by heavy rains away from your pond.

6)   Prepare the Base – Add a 1 inch layer of sand followed by a 1/2” layer of newspapers around the entire base of the pond and terrace areas. The newspaper will help protect the liner from punctures.

7)   Line the Pond – Use a polypropylene flexible liner that can withstand UV rays, freezing temps, and is rated “fish friendly”. Cut the liner about 4 feet wider and longer than the pond dimensions. Center the liner in the pond and press it down, pushing tightly into the crevices.

8)   Fill the Pond – Begin adding water to the pond using a garden hose. While the pond is filling up pull the liner tightly to help remove creases. Get someone to help with this so that the extra liner you’ve left over the pond edge will not shift.

9)   Install the pump – Thread the power cord through a PVC pipe and place it in the trench leading back to exterior outlet and backfill. Place the pump in the deepest section of the pond while holding onto the other end of the hose.

10) Create a Rock Border – To hide the liner edge place rocks around the perimeter. The rocks need to interlock so they will not be loose and cause a safety hazard. Create easy access for wildlife by extending some of the rocks into the shallow water.

Jump Start Your Pond’s Ecosystem

Landscaping inside and around your pond is important for completely the look of your water feature. It helps to attract wildlife like birds and butterflies, and looks pretty to the human eye, too. To jump start your pond’s ecosystem add a bucket of water from a nearby natural water source. It will introduce millions of organisms and help keep your pond’s health in balance with nature.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your landscaping projects. From Bobcats and excavators to shovels and wheel barrows, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: