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Posts Tagged ‘Homeowner Advice’

christmas house Are you planning to host a festive gathering this holiday season for business associates or family and friends? Set the tone with a few special touches for your indoor and outdoor holiday decor. Check out the gallery below for some decorating ideas from the pros, appropriate to our Boston-area climate and classic New England style. (See more on our “Winter Wonders” Pinterst page.)

Between shopping, cleaning, and managing the food, beverages, and guest list, it can be hard to round up fresh greenery and decorating supplies. Let us help check decorating off of your to-do list with delivery and installation of:

  • Wreaths, evergreen roping, and swag
  • Outdoor lighting for trees and houses
  • Christmas trees and kissing balls
  • Patio pots and hearth baskets
  • Candle rings, mantlepieces, and indoor arrangements
  • Poinsettias, amaryllis, and paperwhites as decorations or gifts

If you don’t fancy sending a family member up on a ladder to hang lights, or having your hands sticky from wrapping pine garlands at the last minute, schedule a free estimate for holiday decorating.

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purple crocus in snow

After a record-breaking winter of snow, many Boston-area gardeners and homeowners are wondering what they will find when the snow and ice melt. Here’s a glimpse into what you can expect for spring 2015, and how to repair winter damage in the landscape:

  1. Hardscape cracks – Paved surfaces like driveways, walks and patios may have cracked concrete and popped up paving stones. Pavers and stones can easily be re-leveled, but concrete may need to be patched or replaced. If you are replacing a driveway or walkway, consider using concrete pavers, which are easy to shovel and to repair after winter. And if you’ve had it with the snow blower, invest in a snow-melting radiant heat system under your paving — works for concrete, brick, and pavers!
  2. Frost heaving – Newly-installed plants can heave out of the ground if left unmulched, so make sure to replant these to their correct depth as soon as the ground can be worked. Water regularly to compensate for root loss due to exposure.
  3. Salt damage – De-icing salts from roads and walkways burn the leaves and needles of nearby evergreens. Prune out any serious damage, and provide extra water to these plants in spring, as salt accumulated in the root zones may cause ongoing dehydration.
  4. Broken branches – Heavy snow from roofs and shoveling damaged many shrubs and even the lower branches of small trees. Prune broken branches back to the nearest branch union, making it easier for plants to recover.
  5. Winter burn – Unless covered by a protective layer of snow, evergreen plants such as rhododendrons and boxwoods can be damaged by cold, dry winter winds. Often, leaves die while the branch remains viable, so observe plants for new growth, then prune out any dead branches.
  6. Lawn damage – Lawns and plant roots were well-insulated by the snow, which should minimize cold damage. However, the snow made a nice burrow for voles and other small mammals, leaving holes in lawns and nibbling the bases of woody plants. Edges of lawns may also have been harmed by salt and plow trucks. Plan to rake out clumps, add compost, and reseed bare areas in spring, but wait for late summer for complete lawn renovations.
  7. Weeds – Moist conditions from melting snow combines with warming spring temperatures are going to create perfect germination conditions for weed seeds, so consider applying an organic preemergent such as corn gluten to minimize the number of weeds in the lawn. Mowing high and overseeding regularly are also important to inhibit weeds.
  8. Insects – The extreme cold may reduce hemlock wooly adelgid, but will not have a significant impact on winter moth, so schedule treatments as normal for maples, crab apples, and other favorite foods of winter moth caterpillars. Also, ticks thrive after winters of heavy snow, so use good gardening practices to keep ticks out of the yard, and begin checking yourself and your children as soon as snow melts and temperatures are above freezing.
  9. Bulbs & Perennials – Friends have asked, “Will my spring bulbs still bloom when they’re covered by 2′ of snow?” Yes! Bulbs respond to light and temperature, so even early bloomers like snowdrops and crocuses will stay “asleep” until uncovered and exposed to warmer spring air temperatures. Likewise, perennials will thrive after a winter well-insulated under the snow. Before new growth starts to emerge from the ground, cut back the messy crowns of grasses, coneflowers, and other plants that you may have left standing in fall to provide winter interest.
  10. It’s all just a mess! – Squashed plants, lumpy lawn, rubbish poking out of melting snow… We know. Breathe. A proper spring clean-up, some grass seed and a fresh coat of mulch are going to make everything look 100% better. Add some pots of pansies and narcissus, and you’ll be ready for spring!

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Rhododendron leaves curling in cold

Rhododendron leaves curling in cold

When winter temps drop below 0, Boston-area gardeners may need to exercise special care to protect plants. As average temperatures have warmed in recent years, the USDA has shifted its plant hardiness zones, so that much of eastern Massachusetts now falls within zone 6b, where it was 6a in the 1990 edition. In layperson’s terms, this means that many of the “hardy” zone 6 plants sold by local nurseries may only tolerate an average winter low temperature of -5 to 0 degrees. In addition to marginally hardy plants, newly-planted material may have tender growth that is more open to damage.

Frequently planted zone 6 cultivars include:

  • Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ (Japanese Holly)
  • Acer palmatum ‘Red Select’, ‘Sereiyu’, Orangeola’ (Japanese Maple – other cultivars may be hardy to zone 5)
  • Cryptomeria japonica
  • Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood)
  • Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum)
  • Cornus florida (American Dogwood)
  • Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush)
  • Magnolia virginiana (Southern Magnolia)
  • Hydrangea macrophylla (Hortensias – varieties that bloom on old wood may lose flowers next spring)
  • Buxus spp. (Boxwoods – depends on cultivar, most not hardy)

If you have any of the above, particularly planted in an exposed or north-facing spot, take steps to protect them to prevent casualties. Damage may include bud loss, stem and twig die-back, or even complete death. Snow will provide some protection to the root zone, but you may also consider applying 4-6″ of mulch over the root zone. More importantly, wrap above-ground parts with floating row covers, burlap, or light blankets (not comforters or plastic!), secured against wind using bricks or large stones. Old-fashioned incandescent lights can also add heat around branches.

Remember that plants in containers are two full zones more susceptible to cold, so unless you have planted things for zone 4 and below, insulate pots or bring them indoors. Wrap pots with bubble wrap, blankets, or haybales, group plants along heat-reflective patios or walls, and cover exposed soil with evergreen boughs.

After temps warm, hold off on pruning branches that appear dead. Pruning too long before plants “wake up” in spring may invite further damage. Your landscape professional can help asses the extend of damage in late winter/early spring, to avoid removing more of the plant than necessary.

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ice dam

A little preparation during the final days of fall can prevent many headaches and chilly emergency repairs. Here are some tips to prepare your yard and landscape for winter:

  1. Last winter, rapid accumulation of heavy snows damaged many flat roofs. If your house has a flat roof, make sure that you purchase a roof rake ahead of time, or contract with a snow removal company that offers roof clearing services.
  2. Disconnect and drain any rain barrels to prevent freezing and cracking. The empty barrels can be very lightweight, so make sure that they are secured so they don’t blow away in heavy winds.
  3. Inspect and clean the gutters and drainage systems. If you have a basement sump pump that drains into a dry well or exterior drainage system, it should have an overflow in case the system freezes up.
  4. Before the ground freezes, check the grading of soil around house foundations and behind retaining walls. When heavy spring rains come, you want the water to flow away from your house, and not to get trapped in a low point behind a wall.
  5. Inspect trees for cracked, dead, or broken branches that might damage your house or vehicles.
  6. Shut off water to outdoor faucets, then open the faucet so that any remaining water can drain out. Drain and store garden hoses and drip tubing. Have irrigation systems drained.
  7. Stock up on ice melt, selecting one that meets your family’s needs. Salt will damage concrete, so read labels carefully to select the appropriate product. Ice melt with magnesium chloride or magnesium acetate  as the active ingredient will damage plants less than salt or calcium chloride, though chloride can accumulate in soils and water supplies, and damage plants over time. Chlorides will also irritate pets’ paws and stomachs.
  8. Shift seasons for your maintenance equipment. Drain gas from the lawn mower. Fuel up the snow-blower, add oil, and check rotor blades, belts, and spark plug. Put away gardening tools, and have snow shovels at hand.

Our crews are available to help with your winter preparations. Drop us a line to schedule a free estimate.

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Lawn at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, being topdressed with compost. (Photo: SafeLawns.org)

Is your lawn looking patchy? Mid-August to mid-September is the optimal time to renovate or establish lawns from seed. Here’s how:

  • Shade? Add shade-tolerant seed such as fescue to thin areas under dappled shade.
  • Crabgrass? Rip out crabgrass and add a blend of bluegrass and rye seed for heat and sun tolerance.
  • Moss or rock-hard dirt? Aerate (poke little holes in the soil), add compost, and seed.

If you’re facing tougher problems like grubs or Japanese Knotweed, have we got the post for you!

In general, any lawn will benefit from core aeration, compost application, and overseeding at this time of year. Adding this treatment you your annual maintenance will improve your soil, thicken turf, and reduce weeds over time.

 

 

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Frost Warning for the Boston AreaTonight – Tips from Mahoney’s Nurseries:

The weather forecast is calling for overnight temperatures in the low 30’s (possibly upper 20’s) and the probability of frost for many Massachusetts towns.

If you have purchased and planted any tender plants, you’ll want to protect your investment by moving them inside if at all possible, or covering them if they’re already planted. It’s always best to move plants inside (especially tender plants like veggies and annuals) because frost damage can still sometimes occur event if a plant is covered.

For covering plants, most anything will work, but old sheets, blankets or burlap sacks work best in preventing frost from forming on flowers and foliage. When covering plants, drape them loosely and secure the cover with stakes, rocks or bricks. If necessary, use stakes or wire to support the weight of the cover to prevent the plants from being crushed. For taller, more fragile plants, an upside down trash barrel can be placed over the plant. Just be sure to secure it or weigh it down so it doesn’t blow over and crush the plant. Also, remember to remove the covers when the sun comes out the next day.

Fruit Trees: Fruit trees that are currently in bloom should if possible be covered if you are planning on harvesting their fruit later this year.

Flowering Shrubs: Recently purchased or planted any shrubs with tender new growth should be protected. Also, if you purchased any shrubs this spring that are in bloom right now, covering them may help preserve their flowers.

Please note that few flowering shrubs actually have flowers on them right now. If you leave them uncovered, the plant will be fine. Only the flowers that are on the plant at this moment could potentially be damaged.

Perennials and Roses: Any newly purchased or planted perennials or roses that have tender new growth should be protected.

Final Note: If you are concerned that a plant may be damaged by frost, it is probably best to be safe and protect it.

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Gardening, done well, is at least 50% preparation. Once you realize what you should have done, it’s probably too late for this year. So, having a garden journal is invaluable to for successful planning for next year.

Here are a few things to look out for this spring, and steps to make next year even better:

  1. A Blank Slate – By fall when the bulb catalogues arrive, it’s easy to forget where you planted what. Take photos and use inconspicuous plant markers to remind yourself where you have clusters of daffodils or where you meant to add that globe allium. (Geek tip: If you use Evernote to capture random ideas on your smartphone or tablet, the Skitch app lets you easily annotate photos right on your device.)
  2. Color Me Beautiful – Love it or hate it, flowering shrubs give spring in New England a distinctive palette. Yellow forsythia, mauve ‘PJM’ rhododendrons,  lilac magnolias, scarlet quince, and a range of cherry-blossom pinks. If you have mature flowering shrubs on your property, take note of the color and bloom time, and build bulb and perennial planting around a similar color family. For instance, forsythia could take tulips in loud, saturated reds and oranges, or contrast with more subdued purples and blues of scilla, hyacinth, and periwinkle.   tulips, hyacinth, squill and forsythia forsythia, parrot tulips, hyacinth, ranunculus
  3. The Grass Is Always Greener – After doing a spring clean-up and seeing bare patches where last year’s crabgrass died out or there is too much shade, one’s inclination is always to want to rip up the whole yard and start from scratch. Don’t. Spread some compost and grass seed now, but wait to do major renovations until late August, when  the grass seed will stand a chance against weeds. The one exception: if you have a shady area where grass is patch, and you are ready to develop it into a planting bed, its easiest to do it in spring while you are edging and mulching beds.
  4. Seedy Characters – Want to start a veggie garden, but don’t want to wait to buy expensive seedlings at the farmer’s market? Plan ahead next winter so that you can start your seeds in time. Here’s a nifty seed starting calculator from Margaret Roach at AWaytoGarden.com to tell you when and how to start what in your zone.

toddler & mom planting seeds

What did you remember to do this spring? What do you want to remember for next year? Let us know in the comments!

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