Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring and fall are great times of year to plant trees and other landscape plants. Before digging in take time to select the right tree for the right location to ensure your planting is a success.

10 steps for planting a tree:

1. Transportation: Carefully transport your tree from the nursery by covering the canopy to avoid windburn. Do not bounce or drop the root ball to avoid damaging fragile roots. Keep the root ball moist if you’re not planting immediately.

2. Dig In: Dig your hole twice as wide as the root ball and just slightly shallower than the height of the root ball. Scuff and roughen the sides of the planting hole. Compact the bottom of the hole so the tree won’t settle lower.

3. Remove the container: Remove the plastic container from the tree before placing it in the hole, separate and loosen circling and dense roots. For balled and burlapped trees cut and remove the top of the burlap and twine away from the trunk.

4. Planting height: Find the trunk or root flare where the roots meet the trunk, generally where the trunk becomes wider before going into the soil. You may need to scrape the soil back to find the root flare if it buried inside the root ball. Set the height of the tree to be approximately ½” to 1.0” above the surrounding grade. If you must add soil to the planting hole be sure to compact it before installing the tree.

5. “Face” the tree: Orient the preferred side of the tree to a prominent viewpoint – such as a patio or window of the house. When moving the tree lift from the container or root ball and not from the trunk or branches.

6. Plumb the tree: Once the tree is in the hole ensure that it is standing upright. Adjust the root ball until the tree is plumb and then pack soil under and around the root ball to secure it.

7. Improve the soil: Improve the native clay soil in our area with soil amendments like compost or SweetPeet. Mix one part amendment to three parts native soil.

8. Backfill: Pack in the soil as you backfill around the tree by compressing the soil every few shovels of soil to remove air pockets which will help to stabilize the plant.

9. Water: Water only after back filling is completed and the soil is compacted. Create a berm around the base of the tree larger than the root ball so water is concentrated around the tree and does not run off. Water more heavily with the first watering. Then continue monitoring the tree for water, adding generally 1 gallon of water per caliper inch plus one gallon. A 2.0” tree will need three gallons of water one or two times per week depending on the season and soil conditions.

10. Mulch: Cover the planting area with 1.5” to 2.0” of bark mulch, but keep it away from the trunk of the tree. Mulch moderates the soil temperature, helps to maintain moisture, reduces weed growth and prevents a hard crust from occurring on the soil which prevents water from getting into the soil.

Before you plant a tree know where your utilities are located. Call Ohio Utility Protection Service (OUPS) at 8-1-1 or (800) 362-2764 at least 48 hours before digging to have utility lines marked.

Visit http://www.lawnlad.com/ , http://www.treesaregood.com/ or http://www.arborday.org/ for more information.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hardscaping in the Heights

Many homes in the Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights area are now will be soon a century old. Many of the older landscape designs do not mesh with the lifestyles of today’s families. Updating your yard and garden can be accomplished in “extreme make-over” fashion or can be tackled in more modest increments. The foundation of any well conceived and executed design is a functionally and aesthetically pleasing hardscpe.

Hardscape is an integral part of a landscape and can range from a couple of strategically placed boulders to fire places and outdoor kitchens with grills, sinks, cabinets and refrigerators. Hardscape in the landscape industry is the use of stone, brick or concrete (hard material) products incorporated into landscape to help the environment feel more natural or to create more living space.

Hardscape, or "hardscaping" consists of the inanimate elements of landscaping, especially any masonry work or woodwork. For instance, stone walls, concrete or brick patios, tile paths, wooden decks and wooden arbors would all be considered part of the hardscape. But by extension, anything used in landscaping that is not part of the softscape can be considered a hardscape element, including home accents such as water fountains and, yes, even pink flamingoes!

Patios are a great way to entertain guest or just relax by yourself with your favorite beverage. Your project is a reflection of your priorities, lifestyle and values. Your back yard paradise does not have to be featured on the cover of Home and Garden or MTV’s Cribs to enjoy a built in fire place, landscape lighting or other amenities that integrate your yard and gardens with how you want to live in your home. Installation methods have improved over the years making hardscape installations more economical for home owners. A common misconception is that you need specialty trades people to build a fire place, fire pit, or built in grill. Many of these amenities can be installed from kits providing a custom look and can cost effectively be installed by a professional or a very skilled DIY’er.

To begin the conversation about how we can make your yard the envy of the neighborhood – call (216) 371-1935.

[Special internet offer: Receive $100.00 off landscape design consultation services when you mention code LLB0410]

Written by:
Drew Cobb
Lawn Lad, Inc.
Design/Build Supervisor

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lawn care in Cleveland Heights & Shaker Heights reflects our lifestyle

Our yards and gardens are reflections of our personalities lifestyles and beliefs. When I drive through different communities, both local and afar, I find it interesting to note how lawns are cared for and the role they play in peoples’ lives. Locally I’ve either worked on or visited thousands of lawns over the last twenty odd years and I’ve seen the range from neglected pastures to manicured trophies.

 It ‘s funny how the importance of a healthy, functional lawn became a greater priority to me once we put up a swing set for my son. I suppose it’s only natural that as we go through life stages our lawns shift in accordance with these priorities.

 When I get called out to visit a homeowner about their lawn, it’s not surprising anymore when I hear they don’t mind the weeds. Growing up in Cleveland Heights and working for many of my neighbors I learned at an early age that a “weed” in one person’s garden is welcome in another. A weed can quite simply be defined as a plant out of place. Whether we choose to accept or reject these plants in our yards and gardens is a personal choice. What most people want, like me, is a healthy lawn.

Weeds, or other pests, in and of themselves are not necessarily unhealthy for the lawn. The problem becomes when weeds, or pests, take over in greater quantity than is acceptable for the homeowner and either the lawn becomes unsightly in their opinion or even worse potentially unhealthy for the turf because the weeds compete for the same available water and nutrients.

For those of us with lawns we can almost all agree that we want a healthy lawn. Disagreement may come in the form of how we go about creating a healthy lawn and whether or not some amount of pesticides (e.g. herbicides for weeds, insecticides for insects) will be used. Controlling pests in the name of a healthier lawn is necessary at times, but ultimately the homeowner will decide their comfort level. 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies focus on long-term prevention of pests by building a healthy ecosystem, using methods that are least harmful to the environment. Pesticides are applied in such a way to pose the least possible hazard by targeting the selected pest and are only used as a last resort when other controls are inadequate. The focus is on building a healthy lawn by using all other means available, and balancing this with their tolerance for pests, their vision for the lawn and their budget.

Practically speaking achieving a healthy lawn is more about the overall management strategy and less about controlling pests. Often pesticides are thought of as the silver bullet to make a lawn healthy, when in fact they only remove the pest that is most likely present because the lawn is not healthy to begin with.

 A healthy lawn comes from a blend of activities and this spring is the ideal time to get your lawn into the desired shape that meets the needs of your lifestyle. Get started with a spring clean up so the lawn can dry out and breathe. Healthy soil is the building block for your lawn. Adding and replacing organic material, like you do in your gardens with compost, is vitally important. Aerating will help to alleviate compaction and get air into the soil helping roots to grow deeper and make for a more robust and drought tolerant lawn. Proper watering, fertilizing and mowing play important roles Spot seed thin and bare areas to prevent weeds from taking over.

With the demands placed on our time it can be challenging to keep up with the needs of our lawns. Like many things in life, waiting only makes it worse. Get out early this spring and focus on the building blocks of a healthy lawn.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Snow mold in your lawn this spring

Snow mold is a fungal disease that appears in the early spring when temperatures are cool and the ground is wet - first visible when the winter snow melts. There are two types of snow mold - pink snow mold and gray snow mold.

Snow mold damage looks like circular patches (2"-12") of dead and matted grass - often mistaken for dead or dying patches of grass.  Depending on the severity of the outbreak, the circles can grow together and become a large mass. It is not uncommon to find both gray and pink snow mold together in the same lawn.

Pink snow mold (picture below) is distinguished by the pink color of the web-like mycelium growing on the grass surface (see picture below). While the grass is wet, the mycelium looks like cobwebs, as it matures it turns its pink or salmon color.  Pink snow mold infects the crown of the plant and can cause more severe injury than gray snow mold. 
Gray snow mold (picture below) is similar to pink snow mold except that its mycelium remains whitish-gray and only infects the blade of the turf grass plant. Gray snow mold is also distinguished by the presence of tiny black mycelial masses on the grass blades and leaf sheaths of infected plants which pink snow mold does not produce.

The cause of snow mold:
Snow mold can occur even when there is no snow, however, it is generally  more severe when snow increases the amount of moisture, reduces sunlight and prevents the lawn from drying out.  Thicker layers of leaves can have a similar impact as snow cover on the grass creating a more ideal environment for snow mold. 
Good cultural practices will help to reduce the appearance and impact of snow mold:  
  • Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilizers in the fall
  • Mow the lawn in the fall until it stops growing
  • Thorough fall clean up removing leaves and debris from the lawn
  • Manage thatch to avoid accumulations of more than 2"
Repairing snow mold damage: 
Fungicides are available for both curative and preventative treatments of snow mold. However, they are not recommended due to the temporary damage snow mold inflicts on the lawn.

Even though a lawn infected with snow mold can look horrible in early spring, most snow mold damage will recover as temperatures warm and the grass begins to grow out. Once the area has dried, the infection will cease and the turf will grow out and renew itself making snow mold damage practically disappear.

To speed the recovery process it is best to lightly rake the infected area to increase air flow to the grass and encourage drying. Some overseeding may be necessary if there is extreme damage and recovery is slower than desired.

Written by:
Eric Johns, Lawn Care Specialist
Adam Perkins Sr, Landscape Industry Certified

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Growing Degree Days and your garden

Temperatures this week will remain consistently warm in the Cleveland area. The weather forecast from the National Weather Service and a consulting meteorology service we subscribe to points to a seasonably warm March. Not that we can't get a "surprise" March snowstorm, the closer we get to April the less likely it is.

What does warm weather mean for your lawn and garden? As the temperatures warm plants will begin to come to life in your yard and garden. There is a programmed sequence that repeats itself each year. Obviously plants can't use a calendar to know when they should bloom, instead they follow their que in the sequence of flowering trees and shrubs based on Growing Degree Days (GDD). Plant phenology follows a predictable pattern each spring season, although the start of the spring season may be earlier or later based on the temperatures. This March is forecast to be more on the mild side as was last year, while March 2008 we had cold temperatures and over 30" of snow delaying spring.

At The Ohio State University OARDC Growing Degree Days and Plant Phenology website you can input your zip code to see what the current GDD reading is and compare to a chart of expected plant and insect activity.

While the ground is still too wet to do much work in the garden, now is the time to begin fertilizing and preparing for work in the yard.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dormant pruning improves plant health

It certainly is refreshing to have sunny days after so many days of snowy weather. Now is a great time to get out into the garden to get some dormant pruning done before spring arrives. Your plants will thank you.

Pruning your ornamental bushes, shrubs and small trees this time of year is beneficial for many reasons. Once plants leaf out it becomes more difficult to see the shape and structure of the plant. With bare plants it is much easier to see the dead, diseased and damaged wood to be removed and identify good structural and corrective pruning cuts.

Dormant pruning will redirect growth to create a more natural looking plant while revitalizing the plant by directing new growth to healthier branches.

You can learn more about dormant pruning from the Heights Observer article here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Save the Date: NCSL plant sale

The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes will be having their annual plant sale on Saturday May 15, 2010. (http://www.shakerlakes.org/)
Come join the plant sale to help support the mission of the Nature Center - connecting people with Nature!