Spring Clean Ups

Today, I would like to talk about the spring clean up.  Spring clean ups are an important aspect of lawn and garden maintenance.  They help to set the tone for the season.  I have two different ways of conducting my spring clean ups.  

    The first step to the fall clean up is to dethatch the lawn.  This is the process of taking out all of the dead grass that coats the top of the soil.  Removing the thatch allows better airflow to the lawn’s root system and also helps to curb the amount of insects in the lawn.  Most importantly however, controlling the amount of thatch in the lawn helps to thwart various fungi that prevail with high humidity and long periods of saturation.

    The next step that we take is to edge the lawn with a ground edger.  This makes all of the edges perfectly straight.  It also takes sloping edges near sidewalks and driveways that have rounded from degradation over the winter and makes them sharp edges.

    After thatching and edging are completed, we move to the flower beds.  This means that we weed all of the beds and then turn the soil.  Turning the soil increases airflow into the root systems and disrupts the stratification of nutrients in the soil bed.  It also gives the beds a cleaner look.

    Finally the lawn must be treated, this means adding seed to the bare spots and fertilizing.  If a lawn is relatively full, I try to seed as little as possible and put down Lime and a fertilizer high in both Nitrogen and Potassium with a weed barricade.  The main culprit that we are attempting to mitigate here is Crabgrass.  This method is only applicable for lawns that don't require seeding, as the weed barricade will prevent grass seed from germinating.  For houses that require a lot of seed I prefer to apply a Rye/Fescue blend which fully germinates in two to three weeks along with lime.  The fast germination rate allows me to apply a weed barricade later on but still early enough in the season to stay ahead of the weeds.

The past year

With the new year finally here a reflection on the following year is the best way to make 2017 the best year yet.  2016 gave us a perfect spring, a hot, humid summer bereft of rain and a late fall.  The biggest issue that the industry here on Long Island faced last year was fungus, namely Dollar Spot and Brown Patch.

These fungi appear when a number of situations arise.  The biggest proponent to a fungus outbreak is Humidity.  When there is a two or three day period of high humidity, fungus will show up.  Another practice that encourages fungus is evening and late night watering; when the lawn stays  saturated for an extensive amount of time it allows itself to be susceptible to fungi.  Drops in the Nitrogen level will also allow certain fungi to flourish.  Finally the length of the grass can either welcome or deter fungi.

Knowing what creates fungus is half the  battle, knowing the correct measures to combat them is the other.  Although we can not prevent humidity we can take preemptive measures to prevent them and use grass varieties that are more resilient to humidity and fungus.  I like to use an equal blend of Bluegrass, Fescue and Rye grasses in the fall while either over seeding  or aerating and over seeding in preparation for the following season.  I also encourage my customers to water between 3 and 6 am  to minimize the time that the ground stays saturated.  The next two practices fall solely on your landscaper, that is, maintaining a correct nitrogen level and grass cut height.  I found that frequent low nitrogen liquid based fertilizer applications helped deter fungus well.  This involved bi-weekly applications of low nitrogen fertilizer that was complimentary for my customers.  I found this to be very successful and fully intend on continuing the practice.  Lastly, the length of the grass depends on the height of the lawn mower blades.  I keep the grass very low in the spring and raise the height in the summer, this practice has a few benefits.  First, its height in the summer hides the midsummer browning in the post spring thatch and of the cooler season grasses that go dormant in the heat. Two, its' height prevents fungus, taller grass is better at thwarting fungus than shorter grass.  Lastly the longer summer grass is a darker green further up the blade, this provides a better looking, fuller lawn.

Schipka Cherry Laurel

After going through my blog posts, I have realized that I have neglected an issue that is all too common on our properties, shade.  There are various shade loving shrubs that are absolutely stunning, but for me, the Schipka Cherry Laurel commonly referred to as “Schip” Laurels is definitely the most remarkable.  The Schip Laurel generally grows to about 6 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide.  These shrubs are great because they flourish in the shade, filling in those areas where nothing will grow and covering them with dark green waxy leaves that produce puffy white flowers in the spring.  Schip Laurels require a medium amount of water, they will flourish in the same water schedule that your lawn needs to survive, so no special attention is needed as far as water is concerned.  The Schip Laurel is very useful for landscaping and is incredibly unique because it is a plant that prefers shade and produces color, even when not in bloom, it is pleasing to the eye.  With praise being high on the Schip Laurels end, it does have one downfall, it does regularly get a disease known as Shot Hole Disease.  This disease is commonly misdiagnosed as a insect issue but it is actually a fungus that must be treated with a fungicide.  Shot Hole Disease will not kill the shrub right away and affords us adequate time to remedy the situation.  I like to use Schip Laurels as hedges in the shady part of the yard, normally against the house or along a fence.  I also think that they look pretty in clusters where shade is the dominant condition.


Colorado Blue Spruce

The Blue Spruce, also known as the Colorado Blue Spruce is a symmetrical, conical evergreen tree.  It is a unique and beautiful grayish blue color with small clusters of brown pine cones.  Blue Spruces grow to a maximum of 45 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide.  Their growth takes a substantial amount of time as their lifespan is over 600 years.  The Blue Spruce needs an average amount of water that coincides with regular lawn watering.  These trees are susceptible to certain diseases that are easily curable, Spider Mites and Pine Needle Weevil.  Neither of these diseases are detrimental to the tree but should be resolved with the appropriate chemicals.  Historically speaking, the trees discovery is relatively new, with its discovery in 1861; writers explained it as "a finely shaped tree" and "the most beautiful species of conifer."  I can’t say that I disagree with these statements.  I like to use Blue Spruces with yellow and purple perennials around it, specifically as a corner piece in the front beds instead of a flowering tree.  It is a typical Pacific Northwest tree that looks great in rocky perennial gardens.



Today I am going to talk about a flowering shrub that is making a huge comeback in the landscaping industry, Hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas are round shaped shrubs that have large bright green leaves and clusters of flowers.  The color of their flowers differ based on the variation of Hydrangea and the acidity of the soil in which they are planted.  Hydrangeas produce blue flowers in soils that are less acidic and as the acidity of the soil increases, are more likely to produce pink flowers.  Hydrangeas also have white flowers that are not affected by the acidity of the soil.  Hydrangeas grow to about 5 feet high and five feet wide and will produce flowers for the entire summer.  These shrubs do best in relatively moist soil but will be fine if the soil can not always be wet.  Hydrangeas need full sun to partial shade to bloom successfully.  The most difficult aspect of these shrubs is trimming them, generally it is best to put them somewhere where they won’t need to be trimmed.  If they do however need to be trimmed, I would recommend June, they’re blooming schedule is less likely to be harmed then.  Hydrangeas grow very fast though and will be back to their pre-trimming size before the end of the season.  For older Hydrangeas, it is good to cut them down to the base.  I like to cluster Hydrangeas in perimeter gardens or have them in a hedge formation in front of decks or porches.


Tiger Lily

Today I am going to focus on another rightfully popular wildflower that we see all the time, the Tiger Lily.  The Tiger Lily is a bright, vibrant, orange and pink flower that grows up to be about four feet tall.  These flowers are exceptionally hearty and require very little care.  Once the Tiger Lily has established itself, it will widen out in 1-2 foot clusters.  They prefer sun but are shade tolerant.  The Tiger Lily is also very easy to split and plant elsewhere in the yard which makes them not only easy on the eyes, but easy on the budget.  Although I wouldn’t recommend it, the Tiger Lily is also known to have medical benefits, such as easing nausea and aggravation. Although these flowers are absolutely beautiful, they do have two minor downfalls; they are vulnerable to disease and slugs are drawn to them.  Although they are susceptible to disease, it is not common and shouldn’t hinder one from planting them if they like them.  I like to put them in circular beds around a specimen such as a Snowfall Weeping Cherry or smaller upright trees.  I also put them in perimeter beds with larger trees and shrubs to add vibrant color.


Vinca Minor

Today I am going to share some information on a very useful flower that is not widely utilized, Vinca Minor or Common Periwinkle.  Vinca Minor is a low lying flowering groundcover whose bluish violet flowers lay on a dense bed of dark waxy leaves.  This is a colorful solution to the shady bare spots in the yard where nothing seems to grow.  It is a great alternative to other bland and ugly groundcovers that landscapers and homeowners retreat to all too often.  Vinca Minor is a fast growing, hearty, flowering vine that grows about 6 to 10 inches tall and outwards as much as one allows.  It requires the same water schedule as your lawn and will, once established, accommodate less water should the need arise.   Vinca Minor is useful in shady areas where grass doesn’t seem to grow and the dirt obstructs the beauty of the landscape.  It will grow over the mud very quickly and provide a lush blanket of purple and green that the grass couldn’t.  I like to use this on dirt slopes because it helps prevent erosion.  I also plant Vinca Minor in shady areas where nothing will grow and hide the soil.  It is my “go to” plant for eye sore areas under trees and alongside the shady sides of the house’s foundation.


Stella D'Oro Daylily

The Stella D’Oro Daylily is a beautiful and versatile perennial that is commonly used in landscaping.  This particular Daylily grows in clusters roughly 12 inches wide and about 16 inches high.  They produce beautiful and vibrant yellow flowers on a thick bed of bright, lush green foliage from the early summer to early fall.  Its ability to bloom in the early summer makes it very desirable, it tends to jump start you into the “summer mode.”  The rich yellow color draws the eyes attention and is normally one of the brightest flowers in the garden.  The Stella D’Oro Daylily is very hearty and requires the same amount of water as your lawn but can withstand less water if the need arises.  This Daylily also attracts butterflies which only adds to the aesthetic nature of your garden.  As the perennial gains more growing seasons it will grow wider; this is useful because the Stella D’Oro Daylily is easily split and easily transplanted to provide numerous additional Daylilies in other areas of the garden.  I like to use the Stella D’Oro Daylily in the front of my landscapes anywhere on the property.  They are also great border plants or ground cover in areas such as along a driveway or the side of the house between the walkway and foundation leading into the backyard. I like to accent them with large rocks or plant them around red roses or blue shrubs, the dynamic contrast of these colors offer a unique color scheme to the landscape.


Japanese Weeping Maple

Today the Japanese Weeping Maple is going to take the spotlight.  It is a very popular tree and merits attention.  The Japanese Weeping Maple is a relatively small tree that grows more wide than high.  It typically grows to a maximum of 8 feet high and 8-10 feet wide, displaying dark Red leaves in a weeping fashion.  In the fall, the leaves will turn to a light Orange, then Brown before falling.  Most homeowners find it easily maintained at their own desired height depending on its placement within the garden.  The Japanese Weeping Maple does best in partial shade areas, this however does not remove it from the possibility of a full sun area, as it will survive with a little extra water.  Generally, when it gets too hot the tips of the leaves will burn; this is pretty common on Long Island because most landscaped lawns have a Weeping Maple in the front yard.  Fortunately most gardens will be due for a trimming when and if the leaves burn, so they will not be too noticeable for too long.  Higher salt content in the soil will also affect the tree, especially on the northern and southern parts of the island.  This is best mitigated with flushing the soil every couple of months with fresh water and maintaining a proper water schedule of about 30 minutes every other day in the peak of the summer and 20 minutes every other day during the spring and fall.  I like to put Japanese Weeping Maples in the center of the garden and in areas where a low growing but robust specimen is needed.  Generally, if I am designing a front yard landscape next to the house, I will place them under the front window because they will not obscure the view.


Carpet Rose

The Carpet Rose is a relatively new addition to the landscaping community.  This new and unique alternative to the original Rose bush grows much shorter than their predecessor, at 2 to 2 ½ feet high and up to 4 feet wide.  The Carpet Rose is a colorful solution to any bare spot in your yard as it grows rapidly and produces up to 2,000 colorful flowers in a single season.  Many people steer clear of Rose bushes as their huge thorns and susceptibility to disease makes them a burden to the gardener.  The Carpet Rose still has thorns but are smaller and more manageable when hedging due to the thinner stalks of the shrub, allowing them to easily be raked up when trimmed.  They were also engineered to be disease resistant, so Powdery Mildew and Black Spot are far less likely to emerge on the Carpet rose.  The Carpet Rose flourishes in full sun however and in partial shade, however it will produces less Rose’s in partial shade.  It’s water needs are not unique as it needs the same amount of water as your lawn, it is also drought resistant which makes it able to survive in the area’s where your sprinkler may not get to as well.  This is useful because we all have those spots where we want color but all of the colorful plants need water that we can’t provide; the Carpet Rose offers a solution to this problem.  I like to put these in the front of my landscapes because they offer a wide variety of colors that really make the garden vibrant.  Some of the colors offered are Red, Pink, White,Yellow, Coral, Dark Pink, Light Pink and multicolored.  I recently put a Red Crawling Rose surrounded by Yellow Day Lilies in a front corner bed and found them incredibly contrasting and exciting.

Blue Fescue Grass

Today I am going to focus on a grass that is “growing” in popularity.  Blue Fescue grass offer a very low maintenance perennial grass that is unique in color in maintenance.  There are a few different types but they are all very similar.  Blue Fescue grass grows to about a foot tall and a foot wide.  It’s name blurts out its color as it is a blue grass that has tan straw chutes that shoot up in the late Summer.  Blue Fescue grass is very hard and can withstand drought as it does not require much water.  It can also withstand a surplus of water, so it is ideal for any garden.  At the end of the season all that is needed is a cut back or comb out to prepare it for winter.  I like to cluster these grasses in the front of any landscape and especially by rock, particularly Blue Stone.  It helps to add some texture to landscapes, offers something different than flowers and shrubs.


Crepe Myrtle

Today I am going to share some information about a beautiful flowering shrub that has become very popular on Long Island only recently.  The Crepe Myrtle is a truly spectacular sight in any garden.  They vary in size and color which is necessary to plan for as they vary in size for three to thirty feet from white to red!  Depending on the proposed location of the Crepe Myrtle, you may want a dwarf Myrtle that grows to about five feet or you may want a massive one such as the Japanese Crepe Myrtle which reaches a height of about thirty feet! They produce a variety of colors such as white, red, purple, pink, a rose color, and show these 6-8 inch clusters as early as May and with the right care, may last late into the fall!  The Crepe Myrtle also has a beautiful bark, that peels and shows different shades of brown and cinnamon colors, making it more unique.  The water needs of the plant are also conducive with your lawn’s needs, making it ideal for any garden.  I like to place these as secondary focal points in a garden, using the dwarf varieties to add depth to a garden.  The larger ones are ideal for the backyard, maybe a free standing tree to offer shade or placed as hedges to give you privacy and beauty in the backyard.


Stella Sweet Cherry Tree

Welcome back!  Today’s plant that we’ll be getting into is the Stella Sweet Cherry tree.  This is a really cool tree because it has everything somebody could want in a tree, color, size, and above all, Fruit!  We don’t get the privilege to have many fruit trees here in New York, so in my opinion, we should jump on this one.  The Stella Sweet Cherry tree begins the season with a bang, they produce beautiful white buds just like the Weeping Cherries, only the Stella Sweet Cherry tree doesn’t weep.  It’s an upright perky tree that will grow to about 25 feet.  After the flowering part of the season the Stella Sweet Cherry tree produces green leaves, sweet, delicious, and edible cherries in June. Watering the Stella Sweet Cherry tree is also easy.  This tree needs less water than most of the other plants in your garden.  This isn’t to say that they won’t survive in an area that gets watered regularly but I would recommend putting it in an area where the sprinklers don’t reach too well.  Because of the height and width that the tree grows to, I like to place them in an area off to the side, along the back of the yard, displaying their colors as the backdrop to your yard.  It is important that after the tree bears fruit, it be picked or cleaned up after the fruit falls.  We do this because the rotting fruit on the ground will attract bees and give off a smell, nobody likes those to things, stinky and stingers.  All in all the Stella Sweet Cherry tree is a beautiful, productive addition to any landscape.

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan are a must for any wild flower garden.  They are a hardy perennial that produce bright yellow flowers in large quantities from June to October.  Black-Eyed Susans generally grow up to three feet tall and in clusters of one to three feet wide.  They produce anywhere between eight and 25 flowers per cluster with one the three inch flowers.  These flowers will do just fine with your lawns watering schedule and can handle a summer heat wave.  Black-Eyed Susan’s tend to “grow like weeds” and will sometimes overtake surrounding plants and shrubs.  Because of this, it is important to plant them in the right areas for your garden’s long term health and appearance.  I like to use Black-Eyed Susan’s as a perimeter plant against things that one would want covered up, such as a house’s foundation or old stumps.  I also like to put them in the backgrounds of my landscape’s, and pattern them with various grasses and East Friesland Salvia.  Black-Eyed Susan’s have long stalks which makes them ideal for indoor flower arrangements in a vase.  Once established, they tend to be so abundant with flowers that snipping a few for the Dining room table centerpiece will not affect your garden’s appearance.  


Snowfall Weeping Cherry

The Snowfall Weeping Cherry tree is a very popular flowering tree that has a lot of unique characteristics that make it desirable in our yards.  Weeping Cherries grow from seven to 15 feet and up to 15 feet wide.  In the spring, they produce either white or pink flowers that weep down as far as you wish to trim them.  In the fall, the leaves turn to a beautiful yellow-orange color that makes one appreciate the change of season.  Snowfall Weeping Cherries in particular are very hearty, healthy and generally disease resistant.  A rule of thumb with gardening is that the prettier the plant, the more delicate and difficult it is.  The Snowfall Weeping Cherry is the exception to this rule.  Weeping Cherries can be accommodated into your lawns watering schedule and prefer the sun’s spotlight as it is considered a full sun plant (although it will be okay in partial shade too.)  The most common spot for these are in central focusing points of a landscape.  This means the corner of the house in the front yard or the middle of a garden.  The Snowfall Weeping Cherry is not a tree that can be taken out of the spotlight of the garden, it’s beauty, color and shape will draw anybody’s eye it’s way.


Salvia East Friesland

Happy new year!  It’s been such a mild winter, I can’t help but look forward to getting back to work.  Although it has been relatively warm, I still long for the spring, I can’t wait to see the flowers and smell the grass!  I’ve decided that I’m going to use the blog to put up some information on common and not-so-common plants for everybody.  Hopefully you all find something I have to say interesting!  I’m going to start with something everybody knows and loves, East Friesland Salvia!  

This is a beautiful dark blue/purple perennial that offers a robust color to any garden. Salvia generally grows to a foot and a half but can grow taller given time.  This particular perennial is very hardy and easy to maintain.  East Friesland Salvia’s water schedule is adaptable and will do just fine on your lawn’s water schedule.  With East Friesland Salvia, you can enjoy the rich purple color from the beginning of summer to the end of it.  It does particularly well in full sun but can survive in partial shade as well. While they are perfectly suitable for anywhere in a garden, I prefer to use these as border pattern plants and smaller backdrop plants.  I think that they go particularly well with yellow and red flowers and when combined with grasses offer a really beautiful backdrop or border along a walkway or deck.  I put these alongside my waterfall in my backyard and I really appreciate how it looks.  The best part about the East Friesland Salvia perennial is the fact that butterflies love them.  Not only do they produce beautiful purple flowers, they normally have two or three butterflies bouncing from flower to flower at any given time!



The Fall

It's fall again, that means lots of leaves.  Generally in this industry most companies deviate from their weekly schedules and navigate through their customers houses by need.  This is a good time for customers because the grass does not really grow and they notice that the bill is a little  smaller.  Our goal is to make sure that the properties are kept clean and free of leaves.  I think that most leaves will be down by Thanksgiving.  I hope everybody enjoys the colors, crisp air and of course their Thanksgiving with friends, family and loved ones.  Look forward to seeing everybody at least one more time before the winter!