Posts Tagged ‘landscaping’

Lawn & Landscape reflections, planning for 2012

Published by JKeefe on December 6th, 2011 - in Lawn Care Companies, Misc.

Lawn & Landscape relections

With the passing of Thanksgiving and December now underway, now is a great time to reflect back over the past growing season.  As you reflect, write down known problems or areas of success while they are still fresh in your mind.  Doing so now will give you an opportunity to formulate a new strategy for 2012.  For instance, you may have had great success improving turf along a new walkway but failed to achieve a level of desired weed control.  Perhaps you never got to plant that colorful crabapple out front by the light post but really want to in 2012.  Make a list of your top 6 goals for 2012 as it relates to your landscape.  Keeping a short list will provide greater focus of resources, time, and ultimately your ability to achieve the goals once spring arrives.  I have found many homeowners with great intentions tackle too many projects simultaneously only to become discouraged due to poor results.  Creating simple, realistic goals will help you achieve real success and at the end of the day allow you to enjoy the fruit of your hard work.

Maybe you want to plant a new tree out front for color, or your back lawn is a disaster and you simply want something green to look at versus bare ground.  Whatever the goal, write down your thoughts so you can think the process through before implementing any changes or new tactics.  Some projects are best done before others such as planting a new tree or shrub, then finishing off the area with new grass.  Why waste time seeding a lawn area only to dig it back up again to create a flower bed or a mulched space for new ornamental trees?  Thinking through your goals sooner rather than later will allow for a better game plan and easier execution when it comes time to implement your new goals.

Improving your outdoor green space can be a very rewarding experience and provide years of enjoyment during our short growing seasons in New England.  After working on thousands of lawns and landscapes, I can summarize and share some of the most common improvements where professional help might be considered to save time and achieve a specific outcome.  The list below consists of the most common exterior green space home improvements I have encountered but is certainly not limited to just these types of projects.

  1.  Lawn renovation/restoration (lime, fertilizer, compost tea)
  2.  Tree & Shrub pruning
  3.  Tree & Shrub removals
  4.  Tree & Shrub new plantings
  5.  Perennial garden renovation/installation
  6.  Flower garden renovation/installation

Lawn renovations or restorations are what I deal with on a daily basis and many folks don’t realize most lawns can be improved “as is” without starting from scratch.  Most clients are looking for improved turf color, density, and less weeds or bugs.  While the prescribed treatments will vary, most lawns can be dramatically improved in just one year with diligent and professional care.  Tree and shrub pruning is an often neglected area either not being done at all or done incorrectly and may cause future growth and (structural) damage.  Pruning done by a professional on a routine basis is actually less expensive than waiting numerous years not to mention the tree may be injured thereby predisposing it to insect, disease, and ice/snow damage.

Tree or shrub removals usual involve overgrown or dead/damaged plant material that may be a hazard to your home or yard.  Removals can improve a view or add sunlight to a damp, shady location.  Planting new tree or shrubs is a very common activity and usually is on the spring “to do list”.  Be aware however that problems with planting can occur when the planting depth is improper and/or the wrong tree or shrub is placed in the wrong location.  While the job may look sweet and seemingly be destined for years of enjoyment, I am called in (sometimes years later) to diagnose a declining plant for the reasons I just mentioned.  Another fun green space project is the renovation, creation, or expansion of either flower and or perennial beds.  These types of projects can be very enjoyable as the plant material is generally small, readily available, and easy to plant.  While most of these types of goals can be successfully achieved by a homeowner with the patience, research, and time – most will opt for professional advice if not assistance at some point in time.  The key to improving your outdoor green space is keeping things simple and planning out your projects over the winter so when spring arrives, you have a strategy already in place.

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Review your lawn contract before renewing

If it seems to good to be true- you may be right

Did your doctor ever tell you to get a second opinion?  Hundreds of commercial lawn care contracts will be mailed out shortly to residential homes in remote parts of NH and VT.  Even more lawn contracts will be mailed out to commercial customers in the hopes that those in the appropriate position will sign, mail, or simply fax it back with no questions asked.  I propose that each contract deserves not only a second opinion, but a thorough examination line by line item.  The national and larger regional lawn care companies typically roll your program over from year to year.

Most lawns are not being examined to determine true needs but rather recycled in archives from prior years like a CD player on repeat.  While this automated process may approach adequate at best, I sincerely doubt you are receiving a turf care program worthy of your hard-earned dollars.  Furthermore, I doubt most existing clients even understand what they are receiving and why versus what is available in their market area.  Let me expand on this theme.

Many remote lawn accounts are labeled and classified as ”commercial”, with most customers unaware of this practice.  These kinds of accounts are processed at a high volume utilizing heavy machines called Turf-Trackers or even tractors.  These machines do a decent job on large properties or fields but are anything but light and are not ideally suited to home lawns or smaller settings.  An inexperienced operator can easily cause damage while running the machine over frost covered lawns, shaded locations, and especially slopes.  Turf can be easily torn, compacted, and ripped up without careful attention from the driver.  These machines make it easy to operate at an aggressive speed as they work to achieve the goals set for them by the larger corporate office.  If these facts don’t cause you to raise an eyebrow, please read on.

Unfortunately, many of these “commercial” contracts are recycled revenue without any fresh investigation data to support the renewal.  In fact, I would wager that most if not the majority of these accounts are seldom looked at beyond the production dollars they represent each year.  Simply put, the large national chains are usually too far away and their attempts to service remote regions often severely stress their limited staff and outsourced customer service centers.  Most national lawn care companies utilize lawn programs like McDonald’s “Happy meals” except without the toy because you get a few fertilizer visits, grub control, and a lime treatment.  Who would question that?

Does your phone call get forwarded to a call center or does a real person answer your call?  Are you able to reach your lawn care office or do you even know where it is?  Are you supporting your local economy or something much larger?

How can these large lawn care services claim and advertise to be local when they drive nearly 2 hrs to service lawns in remote areas of NH beyond their primary service market?  Is that local service?  Again, any company that pre-mixes fertilizer in a liquid medium and then applies it to every lawn in a single day is doing their clients a basic injustice as outlined in my blog post (http://mrgrassblog.net/2010/04/22/price-and-the-…awn-treatments/ ‎).  Mixing concentrated fertilizer into a liquid is an easy and inexpensive way to administer a lawn program.  As I said before, yes it works well for some lawns but not all lawns.  You get exactly what you pay for with this type of treatment, a quick buzz of green.  There are lots of natural and organic alternatives to this kind of turf care.

Before you sign on the dotted line, before you pre-pay for your entire year upfront- get a second opinion from a local lawn care company.  I welcome the questions and the challenge to take your property to the next level.  If you are not in our service area, I have companies I can recommend to you- just leave a comment to this post.  Even if you decide not to make a change, doesn’t it just make sense to get another opinion like a car or house repair?  Don’t just sign without thinking about what things could be like in 2011.  I know it’s easy to just send the lawn contract back, but a free second opinion from any other turf health care company is time well spent.  Make this winter the time where you decide to explore what has been going down on your lawn in the past and why!  Support your local economy and research who services your town for lawn treatments.  Exploring new options can be educational, fun, and you might even receive better results!

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Early Spring and My Lawn Looks Like &*#@!

Published by JKeefe on March 23rd, 2010 - in Lawn Care Companies

Go look out a window, how do you feel?

March and early April provides a most distasteful view of a seemingly dead landscape highlighted with brown turf, leafless trees, plow damage, and randomly scattered debris.  Speaking of yuck, what are those pink blotches or patches in your lawn?  As the pictures below illustrate, you have snow mold!  No, I’m not making this up; snow mold is really a disease and comes in many colors with varying degrees of damage.  But wait, there is more?  What do you see now?

Tunnels on the surface of your lawn with random grass piles means mice were feeding and most satisfied with your grass.  This is not mole activity, but past mice activity- like a buffet of turf- these mice are dining on your landscape!  If that is the extent of mice damage, consider yourself fortunate because they love small trees and shrubs- often causing girdling and subsequent slow death.

What can you do?  Lightly rake up the snow mold- give your injured lawn some fresh air and allow the air to reach the growing points to encourage new growth.  The sooner your lawn begins to break winter dormancy, the better.  While snow mold may thin, stunt, damage, or even kill sections of your lawn- never give up hope.  Sunny April days can do wonders to assist in recovery.  Don’t apply pre-emergent crabgrass controls or broadleaf weed controls- these products will only stunt, thin, and impede recovery due to their chemical properties according to the label- and the label is the law!

You should apply a granular, slow release fertilizer or some other non-chemical product to help supply your lawn with some energy to jump start growth and begin the recovery process.  Some snow mold recovery can last into late May depending upon the severity and weather conditions.  If the damage is significant, aeration and overseeding may be warranted in May or June.

Turf care is like watching the stock market, it goes up and down.  Key rules dictate doing as many positive actions to gain an edge as possible, knowing that bad things follow like drought or high heat.

Leave me a comment or question- I am here to help.  Knowledge is the key to a super lawn and overcoming the abuse of winter.

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