The Winter of 2015 is Over! Now to Get Your Yard Back in Order

There’s no denying that the Winter of 2015 was horrendous.

As the nine-feet of snow in many yards finally melts, homeowners and gardeners are now confronting the full impact of this historic winter’s repeated snowstorms and extreme cold. As they venture out to inspect their gardens, they are finding sobering sights of winter devastation.

The bad news…

  • As happens with any severe winter, snow and ice has broken tree branches and shrubs. Unfortunately, this winter has been worse than most.
  • The winter kill (caused by the weight of the snow and falling icicles) to ornamental bushes and plants is significant. Some plantings did not survive and will need to be replaced.
  • Salt on roads and driveways has destroyed the edges of lawns.
  • Some yards are seeing snow mold.
  • South and west facing plants and trees have suffered excessive winter burn.
  •  Snow blowers and snowplows have sometimes overshot the pavement and dug up lawns and plantings.
  • The freeze-thaw-freeze conditions have been bad for grass roots, which may have been killed.
  • In order to survive, hungry deer and other wild life have been eating the bottom foliage off garden plantings and bushes.
  • Tree stakes may have be broken, become unstable or are girdling from being connected to the tree too long.
  • A garden’s hardscape (paved areas, pools, fountains, fireplaces) may have suffered from heaving caused by melting snow and then freezing temperatures This may have resulted in structural damage.
  • The extreme cold has placed many plants and trees behind schedule for spring blooming.

The good news…

The damage from the Winter of 2015 is completely reversible with time, effort and expertise. For more then two decades, PrincetonScapes has dealt with winters (yes, including the previous record-holding winter of 1996).

No matter how harsh the season or how intense Mother Nature’s impact, PrincetonScapes has the expertise to return your yard and gardens to their previous beauty. From hardscape repair to spring planting to mulching to simple cleanup, we offer complete landscaping and property care, as well as construction services.

It’s been a difficult and challenging winter, but it’s now behind us. Now it’s time to restore to your ground to their former elegance – or even better.

Lawns under stress

We have all seen the brown lawns this year…. For those of us who take great pride in our lawns it is not a pretty site. The weather pattern this year is again challenging for growing and maintaining a healthy, weed and pest free lawn.  Mother Nature is conspiring against us, between the excessive rain in June, to draught like conditions of July, to a record long and intense heat wave, to humidity consistently being as high (OR HIGHER) than it ever gets here, the weather is creating the perfect storm for our lawns to struggle.  And struggle they are.

So, what do we do? The best answer for that is to first look at what we need to guard against. Fungus is prevalent due to the humidity. Crabgrass is prevalent due to both the rain in June and the draught/ heat of July. The grass is already stressed because it is a cool season crop growing in rainforest like conditions, so pests such as grubs are able to take off.

Many of these afflictions look like draught or heat stress. While it may be those issues, you must look closer and if you have a lawn service call them that is what they are there for. And remember, you see your lawn every day, they see it once a week or maybe once a month depending upon the level of service that you have. So you are an important part of the early detection which will help to avert a total collapse. If you do not have a lawn service contact the expert at your local garden store, they can help.

Unfortunately (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) what you think of as heat or draught stress, can and often times is grub or fungus damage. Caught early and you can save it, BUT if you decide without looking further to add time to your irrigation, you can create a problem with fungus that is much like adding gas to a fire.  The fungus feeds on water. SO if you have brown spots or areas of your lawn and you have increased the watering and the spots are growing. STOP the watering and figure out your problem ASAP. If it is grubs (or other surface insects) or fungus, they are treatable. The sooner the better.

The crabgrass, nut sedge and other broadleaf weeds are extreme this year. Even in turf grass areas where we have put down 2 rounds of pre-emergent control. The best advice here is to again let your lawn service know, but also realize that you are in great company. Some of the finest lawns that we see (whether we or a competitor have serviced them) have some level of weeds this year. Depending on the severity of the weed problem, most reputable lawn services will be able to knock them back. And for those of you who do this on your own there are controls you can buy.

There are cultural practices that can be done proactively to the lawns that will help, they include aeration, topdressing, adding microbial nutrients etc. These can cost more than conventional lawn care and on their own are not going to produce a perfect weed free lawn. But they will make the soils and environment more healthy which in turn will make the turf (and all living landscape) more healthy which will make them less susceptible to pests and disease.

I hope this helps.

Turf grass in spring

I recently saw an ad looking for an experienced landscape professional.  In the ad the poster put “mowing a lawn does not make you experienced in landscaping.”  I reference that because I need to remember as I advise my clients that they may have some common misconsceptions regarding landscape. 

One of those is regarding turf grass seeding.  Seeding your turf in the spring is actually not a great time.  This is because here in the Massachusetts our turf varieties are cool season crops, meaning they grow best in cool weather.  On the other hand our most voracious weeds in the turf are typically warm season crops (ie- crabgrass, dandelions, ground ivy etc.)  What happens is your grass seed which germinates when the soils temperature is above 59 degrees for bluegrass and as hi as 68 degrees for rye-grass just barely starts to grow when the stronger better adapted weeds start.  To put that in context crabgrass will germinate at approximately 60 degrees.  The weeds now are going into their optimum growing season as the turf-grass is leaving its season. 
So what do you do?  The short answer is seed in late August, the end of most warm season weeds growing season.  Your grass now will germinate very quickly and within a month will have very little if any competition.  Also the grass plant will continue to grow and thrive well into November.  And in fact it’s root system will continue to grow well into December in Massachusetts.  As an aside late November is the single most important time to fertilize your lawn.  That is because virtually all of the nutrients are going to strengthen the root system.

To put this in perspective, you can obviously plant a lawn in the spring, but it will be a struggle for that seed to become thick lush turf, while if you can wait or plan for a late August planting your turf will be healthier and easier to care for right away. 

If you have any thoughts or questions on this.  We are always available to chat about your landscape.

What type of Landscape Company are you looking for?

Summer Time!!

There are many types of landscape companies out there.  There are people who operate like a one man band. There are landscape companies who concentrate solely on maintenance, lawn care or design build.  There are national firms (the Walmarts of Landscapers) who can seemingly do it all.

Then there companies like ours who are small enough to understand you individually, yet big enough to be able to handle whatever your needs.  We have professionals (yes professionals) dedicated to  building and caring for landscapes.  Our mission is to provide you with peace of mind while creating and caring for your property.  Our staff consists of Licensed Landscape Architects, Certified Mass Horticulturists, Certified Mass Arborists, Licensed Lawn Care technicians. 

We have these designations because this is a profession to us, not just a job until the economy turns around.  You would be hard pressed to find a more talented caring Landscape Architect than ours.  She can turn a pile of rubble (if you look on our site at the lake house) into an exquisite, interesting place to enjoy the serenity of lake living.   

Likewise our certified horticulturists love tending and caring for plants.  We care for many of the areas finest perennial gardens and our annual displays are awe inspiring.  We cultivate and tend an organinic vegetable garden for The Harrington Farm Restaurant and event facility.   

The picture for the heading of this blog is a lawn that we have taken care of for over 10 years.  When we took over the lawn it was more weeds than grass and went dormant annually.  With our stewardship this lawn clearly thrives! Believe it or not this lawn is not irrigated or over treated with chemicals.  Drop us a line and we can tell you how.

I have yet to mention our crews who actually build our landscape projects.  They consist of people who have years of experience in grading, masonry, planting as well as just being great people to be around.  Many of our clients tell us they wish the project could go longer as they will miss having the contact with our staff.  I think that speaks as much to the quality of our team as the pictures on our site speak to the quality of our work.

There are many great landscape companies to choose from.  I obviously think ours is the best!  So if you are in the need of landscape services this year, give us a call so that we can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with hiring a group of caring professionals to be in your yard building, enhancing or caring for it.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management or IPM is an environmentally responsible way to manage pests. In this Blog I will be strictly dealing with IPM and how it relates to Lawn Care. Over the years our clients have increasingly asked us if we offer Organic Lawn Care. Our answer has always been yes, but that if they are looking for a healthy, vibrant lawn it is extremely difficult to achieve with strict organics. There are many reasons for this and would constitute an entire post on it’s own.

So what is IPM- at its core is a method of pest prevention that focuses on having a strong healthy lawn that is resistant to pests. One of the most important aspects is monitoring of the lawn. Monitoring the soils available nutrients, the soils PH or if there are pests present. We monitor the available nutrients to see how much of which nutrients to enhance. We monitor the PH (acidic level) to see if we need to ad lime to reduce the level of acidity in our lawns. As an aside most soils in our area are more acidic than alkaline, lawns do best in a slightly acidic soil. If a ph of 7 is neutral then 6-6.5 ph is what we are looking for. We also scout to see if pests are present. It is not necessarily a bad thing if they are present. There are thresholds where pests become a problem. So for example if you see a grub in your lawn, it may not be an issue. First you have to identify what type of grub it is, and then see how many are tolerable per square foot then how many are actually present per square foot. At that point and only at that point can you devise a plan to deal with them.

In terms of the Nutrients, there are many ways to ad nutrients to the soils. There are conventional Water soluble or insoluble fertilizers, there are organic pellitized materials, there is also topdressing with composts or sand. All of these methods have there place in an IPM based approach and all should be utilized.

When dealing with pests whether fungus, disease or living creatures there are a host of options that we can use to control the issue. We can of course use chemical treatments, in many cases cultural practices such as when and how much to water can control slight outbreaks of disease and fungus. In some cases we can remove and replant.

Cultural practices (or the practices that we use to maintain and care for our turf), is as important as how much fertilizer we use or don’t use. Watering to a proper depth at the right time is critical to turfs health. Also compaction is a serious problem that can be affected by shade, watering practices as well as foot traffic. All of these things are manageable under an IPM approach. Conventional lawn care programs work and work quite well, but an IPM approach can work and work better. It also works in a way that can be more environmentally friendly than either a pure organic method or a more conventional approach. What you must understand is that it comes at a price, the price in terms of dollars is more than the conventional programs. But in terms of your personal environment the benefits are priceless.

We welcome your thoughts or questions at info@princetonscapes.com . We have provided peace of mind to our clients since 1992. We would love to help you as well.

Time to seed the lawn

This has been a really tough year for turf!  Between the extreme heat and the general lack of rainfall our lawns are suffering.  We have seen an abundance of fungal disease, crabgrass and clover infestation and a host of other issues affecting the lawns. 

The good news is that if your turf has suffered this year, we are coming upon the very best time of year to establish new turf!  Late August is the perfect time to try and establish a lawn in our area.  This is because the grass types that we use in our lawns are cool season crops.  As the summer heat winds down and the evenings are getting cooler, the weeds that have run rampant are coming to an end to there season.  Sowing grass seed now will allow your lawn to grow all fall in close to perfect conditions and then again next spring when it comes out of winter dormancy and before the warm weather crops (or weeds) can even begin to grow! 

So if you are thinking of enhancing your lawn, now is the time to aerate, top-dress and slice seed!  If you need help, as always, we are here!

Lawn fungus

There has been an explosion of lawn fungus from the extreme heat and humidity in the last week or 2.  Be careful as the fungus looks like drought or heat stress/ summer dormancy to the untrained eye.  If you suspect that you may have a fungus, call a professional to help guide you.  There are many cultural practices that you can try, but if it is bad enough it could “melt out” and severely affect the health of your lawn. 

As always we are here if you need help.

summer dormancy in turf

Well, after years of timely rain in the summer it looks as though this will be a hot dry year.  If you do not have the ability to irrigate your lawn with approx 3/4 to 1″ of water per week, it is better for your turf to allow it to go dormant.  Giving the lawn just enough water occasionally to tease it out of dormancy can and will do serious damage to the turf.

People with irrigation systems should also keep in mind that less frequent deep watering is better for turf as well as plants. 

Keep in mind as the weather gets cooler and the rains start the lawns will come out of dormancy for the fall growing season.  At that time any pest (grubs, chinch bugs etc) damage will become apparent.  You are well served to scout for these pests while the lawn is dormant as they will cause serious damage to the turf. 

Enjoy summer and if you need help with your lawns and or gardens we are here for you.

Tips on Crabgrass prevention

Crabgrass can be one of the most visible – pesky issue for your lawn.  Crabgrass is an annual, which simply means that it self seeds itself on a yearly basis.  It is also a warm weather crop.  This is important in the fight against an invasion.  Our typical turf-grass in Massachusetts are cool weather crops.  The Fescues, Bluegrass and Rye-grass typical to our lawns do really well in Spring and even better in Fall, while they can actually go into heat dormancy over the summer depending upon how hot and dry our season is.   Crabgrass on the other hand thrives in the dry heat.  For germination, the soil temperature needs to be above 58 degrees for approximately one week.  The recent summer temperatures did in fact start the process of germination for the crabgrass, but in most cases this cool weather has slowed the process down.

The best prevention of Crabgrass is to have a healthy thick turf.  This should be done with a comprehensive IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach.  You would start with simple cultural practices- Cutting the lawn at a proper height, keeping trees properly pruned to allow enough light, keeping the turf aerated, top dressing with compost/ organic matter and or sand.  The turf system also needs nutrients- organic tea, synthetic fertilizer, or organic based fertilizer.  And of course a healthy lawn needs water.

If you can keep your lawn thick and healthy with cultural practices, nutrients and adequate water, crabgrass will typically not be an issue.  If however your lawn is stressed by excessive heat, cutting it to short, improper watering then crabgrass can and will be an issue.

This process is of course easy in theory, but it typically takes a concerted effort to acheive.  As always, if we can help give us a shout, if this has helped already, tell your friends!