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Posts Tagged ‘maintenance’

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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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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garden seating area in springTwo-plus months in to the year, how are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions? Luckily, the gardening year in the Boston area is just starting, so you have a chance to start off on the right foot with your outdoor plans. Doing a thorough and careful spring clean up lays the groundwork (no pun intended!) for a year of trouble-free gardening:

  1. Prune dead and broken branches from ornamental trees and shrubs, repairing any snow damage.
  2. Prune roses and renew over-grown shrubs before new growth starts. This will ensure vigorous growth, and improved flowering and shape for the rest of the year.
  3. Remove leaf litter from around trees and shrubs to prevent the spread of disease.
  4. Rake lawn areas. Assess bare areas, and either overseed or plan new planting beds if lawn is not the best choice. If possible, postpone new lawn installations until late summer.
  5. For a clean look, hand-edge beds before mulching. This keeps mulch from spilling out onto the lawn, and discourages grass from rooting into the beds.
  6. Add compost to planting beds. If you shredded and piled leaves last fall, this is the time to add that good organic material back to the soil.
  7. Add well-composted mulch to planting beds, to a depth of 2-3″. This will reduce weeds and add organic material to the soil. Do not use mulch that has a sour smell, as it may harm your plants.

For more maintenance tips, see our Yard Maintenance Owner’s Manual (PDF).

Get more inspiration for spring gardens on our Spring Forward Pinterest board.

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team member pruning with loppersIn addition to choosing us for installation of beautiful patios, long-lasting driveways, and colorful plantings, many of our design-build customers turn to us for their regular landscape maintenance. What sets our maintenance service apart as a complete Outdoor Lifestyle Management program is the attention our maintenance customers receive, and the way that they are connected to a multitude of valuable services.

A dedicated account manager is on-site with the crew, and serves as liaison to coordinate all of your landscape maintenance, construction, and planting projects.  He or she makes sure you get priority service – preferred scheduling for a pre-party garden spruce-up, emergency tree removal, or landscape improvements by our own experienced construction & planting crews.

Our standard year-round maintenance contract includes:

  • Spring clean-up
  • Mulching & hand-edging
  • Lawn mowing
  • Organic lawn fertilization
  • Ongoing hand-pruning of shrubs & small trees
  • Perennial bed maintenance
  • Fall leaf clean-up
  • Winter plant protection (mulching, wrapping, etc.)

Additional services on request :

  • Compost pile maintenancesummer vegetables
  • Vegetable garden planting and maintenance
  • Container planting and seasonal color
  • Irrigation start-up, check, and winterization
  • Rain barrel set-up and winterization
  • Low-voltage landscape lighting maintenance & installation
  • Carpentry and fence installation/repair
  • Holiday decorations and lighting
  • Special event garden clean-up and decoration
  • Interior plantscaping
  • Pond maintenance
  • Vacation watering

Horticultural Mentoring – Want to do your own vegetable gardening, hand-pruning, or annual containers? Let our Master Gardener teach you!

Sustainability audit and landscape improvement plan – recommendations to reduce your energy and maintenance costs, improve health and safety, make your outdoor space more pleasant and usable, and increase the value of your home; along with a plan for phased implementation by A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative.

Interested?  Fill out a short questionnaire to arrange a free estimate.

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Download a free organic maintenance checklist

When do I prune this? How high should I mow my lawn? Can I cut back my perennials after they turn brown?

Get answers to these and other basic organic maintenance questions by downloading this simple checklist. Then, go deeper with landscape tips and design ideas from our bi-monthly newsletter. Enjoy!

Something we forgot to answer?  Give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll try to help.

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Mid summer is the true test of your landscape’s heath. Are layered planting beds, mulch, and turf thick enough to shade and cool the soil, withstanding drought and out-competing weeds, or are pests proliferating? If pests are getting the better of your lawn or garden, here are emergency and long-term solutions:

  • Crabgrass is an annual weed that grows from
    crabgrass in lawn

    Crabgrass may be the only green thing in the August lawn

    seed each year. It loves hot, dry weather, and picks up steam just as fussier lawn grasses are giving up. It will take advantages of bare patches, especially hot areas by paved driveways and walkways.

    • Quick fix: Hand-pull or spot treat with an organic herbicide. Cover bare areas immediately with sod.
    • Management: Mow high – 3″ or more – from spring on. Taller grass shades the soil and keeps it cool, minimizing germination of weed seeds. Overseed any bare patches in fall, and fertilize with corn gluten in spring, which has been shown to have some pre-emergent benefits.

New Japanese Knotweed shoots look similar to asparagus

  • Japanese Knotweed is a perennial weed on the invasive list in Massachusetts.  It can spread by seed, but it also  develops a deep root system and will resprout from root pieces left in the soil.  Eradication usually requires several seasons, even with the use of chemical herbicides.
    • Quick fix: Cut or mow repeatedly to keep from flowering and spreading. Cutting also weakens the plant by keeping it from photosynthesizing (making food for itself).
    • Management: Timing is everything.  Do your final mow/cut in late June.  Allow plants to resprout until early August.  Then, when the plant is at its weakest after flowering, cut to 12″ and inject trunks with organic herbicide.  Repeat for 3-5 seasons.
Japanese beetle damage in lawn

Damage caused by digging predators in search of grubs

  • Grubsare the larval lifestage of certain insects, including Japanese beetles.  They feed on plant roots, including the roots of turf grass.  With serious infestations, predators digging for the grubs may do more damage than the insects themselves.
    • Quick fix: Application of beneficial nematodes (tiny worms that attack the grubs) in mid-late August can substantially reduce populations. Read label instructions carefully or hire a trained applicator.
    • Management: A healthy lawn maintained organically can withstand a few grubs, whereas a stressed lawn will show damage quickly.  Mow high, water deeply but infrequently, fertilize organically.  Note that synthetic pesticide treatments for grubs tend to also reduce the numbers of beneficial soil life and predators, so may hurt the lawn more than they help.

If spot treatment is not enough for your lawn, keep in mind that mid-August through September is the ideal time to establish a new organic lawn.

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