Landscape Tips for Fall

Get Your Landscape Ready for Fall

Most people focus more on their lawns and gardens during the seasons when there’s a reason to showcase a beautifully mowed yard full of flowers or veggies. You’re more likely to want to mow the lawn or garden when the weather’s nice, as well. But the leaves will fall soon, so what steps can you take to keep the health of your lawn up during a chilly season?

 

Get Ready to Rake

Fall arrives in late September, but leaves will be falling throughout October. Clean the yard of leaves to prevent the vegetation beneath from dying. Rake them into bags for composting down the line. Composting can improve soil health and conserves moisture. This is especially important during cold weather.

Mulch is an option, as well. The two are used interchangeably since both serve similar purposes. Compost is decomposed organic matter and mulch is usually made of dry bark chips from trees. Both are packed tightly at the base of plants and are great for protecting rich soil and can be replaced as little as annually.

However, raking leaves for compost matter your chance to create a natural, self-sustained gardening system every year that will keep your lawn tidy-looking in the process.

 

Lay Down Some Fertilizer

Prior to the first frost is the perfect time to do a little proactive care as the sun disappears and the first frost arrives. Once it does, vegetation will need to survive for months on end.

The first frost is an average estimate of the day of the year when there is a 50% chance of the temperature falling below freezing. Historical evidence of such occurrences is monitored by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. First frost dates can occur as early as late August, so check your local area for dates.

Fertilizer is more so for plants than the soil itself, making it different from mulch and compost. It should be laid before the ground freezes, particularly 2 to 3 weeks prior.

 

Prep Your Perennials and Annuals

Your lawn’s transition from Summer to Fall is an important time. It has undoubtedly suffered from the summer sun. Most gardeners opt for perennials because of their longevity, while annuals are restricted to a single growing season. Early fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, and shrubs because the cooler weather allows for them to grow a strong root system before next spring. You will not want to plant these too long after the first frost, so timing is definitely important.

Annuals will undoubtedly die unless moved to an inner area, like a garage or greenhouse before the winter. We suggest grouping them for warmth. Apply mulch and cover with an inch of water (to the soil only) to trap heat. Additional methods like covering your annuals will protect them from an expected frost that day.

 

Water the Lawn Up Until You Can’t

Late October is when it’s usually time to unplug the sprinkler and irrigation system. This is so that you can maintain access to the pipes and spigots as they will freeze over during the chilly weather. Until then, continue to take good care to water the lawn until the time arrives to unplug the hose and flush the irrigation system out.

Well-watered soil may be the best defense against the first frost than the best efforts with mulch. Soil can hold heat much longer than mulch, which is bound to lose the heat it provides at some point. You want hardy plants that will survive in nutritious soil year-round, and with these tips, you will.

 

 


How To Test Your Soil at Home

When growing a garden, it’s essential to know what your soil lacks so that you can amend it correctly. Fortunately, you don’t always have to rely on an expensive laboratory test to create healthy growing conditions that keep plants thriving. Here’s what you need to know about performing soil tests at home with or without a test kit.

Testing Your Soil Without a Kit

The following DIY soil tests are simple, inexpensive, and will give you fast results and a basic idea about the type of soil you’re dealing with.

Testing for pH

Before testing, it’s important to collect samples from different areas of your garden. Mixing these samples and extracting a composite sample helps to give you more accurate results. Once you have the sample, the next step is to determine if the soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.

 

  • Test for alkaline soil. Add about 2 spoons of soil to a bowl, then mix with a small amount of distilled water. Then add ½ cup of vinegar. If the mixture in the bowl produces bubbles or fizzes, that means you have alkaline soil.
  • Test for acidic soil. Add about 2 spoons of soil to a bowl, then mix with a small amount of distilled water. Then add ½ cup of baking soda. Again, if the mixture in the bowl produces bubbles or fizzes, that means you have acidic soil.
  • Test for neutral soil. If nothing significant happens when you add either vinegar or baking soda, your soil is neutral

 

This test is based on the chemical reaction between acidic and alkaline solutions. The more strongly the mixture fizzes, the higher the pH. Once you have an idea of your soil’s pH, do your research to find out if the plants you have are more suited to an acidic or alkaline environment.

 

If you have alkaline (sweet) soil, you can adjust the pH by adding ground sulfur, and if you have acidic (sour) soil, you can adjust the pH by adding limestone.

Testing for Organic Matter

The presence of earthworms in your soil can indicate whether your soil has enough organic matter in it. Earthworms boost your soil’s health because they not only aerate the soil and increase water infiltration, but their castings provide the soil with plant nutrients and enzymes.

 

The best time to check for earthworms is when the soil is moist - not too dry or wet. Simply dig out about 1 cubic foot of soil and look for earthworms. Five is a good number of earthworms to find, but ten is even better.

Testing Your Soil With a Kit

You can get a soil test kit from various companies that sell landscaping supplies. Generally, a test kit is handy if you want more precise measurements. For instance, it can give you the exact pH of your soil, and most test kits can test phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen levels.

Testing pH Levels

When using a soil test kit, it’s also important to collect samples from different garden spots, so you end up with a composite sample.

 

  • To begin with, you’ll need a spoon’s worth of soil, which you add to the appropriate chamber of the pH test container.
  • Add the test power that comes with the kit and mix it with distilled water.
  • Cover the container with a lid and shake thoroughly.
  • Let it sit before reading the results
  • Compare your sample’s color with the color chart on the container to determine if the soil is acidic or alkaline.
  • You can also read the instructions that come with the test kit to get a better idea of how this process works.

Testing N-P-K Levels

When testing N-P-K levels, it’s essential to mix your soil sample with distilled water, then let everything settle down for a few hours.

 

  • When it’s time, fill the different chambers of your testing containers with water from your sample.
  • Typically, the different containers have color codes. For instance, everything purple is associated with nitrogen.
  • Add the test powder to each container, cover with a lid, and then shake.
  • Use the color chart on the containers to interpret the results as seen.

The Bottom Line

Testing your soil at home can help your plants thrive and flourish. One last thing: Remember, amending your soil is a continuous process, so you may need to do several tests before achieving perfect, healthy soil.

 

 

 


Landscaping 101: Spreading Mulch

Spreading mulch is relatively easy if you know how to do it. It also comes with several benefits. However, it can be a little complicated if you are new to it, and there is also a wrong way to do it.

 

Let's explore some tips that can help you spread mulch properly.

 

Getting the Timing Right

When it comes to mulch, the question about timing is quite common. Well, the quick answer is, you can do it either in spring or fall. Most people prefer to do it in the spring so that it looks fresh throughout the summer. If you wait for the colder months, it can look a bit faded at the end of winter.

 

In spring, wait until the ground has thawed before you get to spread your mulch. However, avoid waiting too long otherwise the ground will dry up. You need to do it whilst there’s still some moisture in the soil.

 

If the area has plants, wait until they have grown, then apply the mulch. Mulch can suppress growing plants the same way it prevents weeds from growing, so be careful.

 

What About the Thickness of the Mulch Layer? 

It is recommended to keep the mulch layer at a thickness between 2-4 inches deep. If it’s below that, you lose all the protection from weeds. Anything above four inches will prevent water from getting in. It will also bury the base of the plants which can hinder their growth.

 

How to Properly Spread Mulch

Believe it or not, there is a correct and incorrect method of spreading mulch. If you fail to do it right, you might end up with some undesirable results.

 

If you are applying mulch to an area that doesn’t have plants then you might be in luck, it’s not too complicated. All you need to do is spread it evenly to get a nice layer of the right thickness. If, however, there are some plants, you need to be extra careful.

 

One of the most common mistakes made by new gardeners is laying heaps on mulch at the base of the plants. This is not good for the plants at all. If you bury the stems of plants and the trunks of trees, you can end up dealing with lots of pest-related issues, plant diseases, and rotting stems/trunks.

 

It is therefore important to ensure that there is some distance between the mulch and the base of the plants. This allows adequate air circulation around the stems and trunks. You can use your hands to spread it out and ensure that none of it reaches up to the stems. Leave about three inches of space from where the mulch ends to the base of the plant.

Supplies Needed

Apart from the mulch, there are several tools and supplies that can make your job easier. Please note that some of them are optional so if you don’t have them it’s not a total train smash.

  • Garden fork
  • Scoop shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Bow rake
  • Weeding tool
  • Gloves

 

Below is a quick list of the steps that you must follow when spreading mulch:

  • Do away with established weeds
  • Renew the edging on the garden beds
  • Spread the mulch

 

That’s it, now you know how to properly spread mulch. Simple right? You can go ahead and enjoy all the benefits of mulching and get that award for the best landscaped home that you have always wanted. One last thing: Don’t forget to freshen the mulch regularly.

 


Best Practices: Mulch!

There are a number of advantages to adding mulch to your landscape. When mulch hardwood bark mulch is applied and cared for correctly, it prevents erosion, protects plants from extreme temperatures, improves soil structure by adding organic matter, conserves soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and adds beauty to landscape plantings!

Prep Work

  • Kill weeds: spray all weeds with weed killer 1-2 weeks prior to mulching. This allows them to completely die, making them much easier to pull when you are ready to get to work.
  • Trim trees and bushes: Because of the debris produced, be sure the trim trees and bushes before applying your new mulch.
  • Clean out mulch beds: remove all dead leaves, weeds, trimmings, and wood build up with a rake.
  • Cultivate: Use a roto-tiller or hand cultivator to loosen any compacted soil or mulch. This allows moisture and air to pass through the mulch easier.
  • Edge your beds: Landscapes with clean edges enhance the appearance and give a professional look. Use an edging shovel or power edger to accomplish this. Tip: Use your garden hose as a guide to create nice, flowing curves!
  • Rake Smooth: Use a stiff rake, such as a mud rake, to smooth all surfaces to be mulched. Otherwise, your mulch may look lumpy.
  • Apply a pre-emergent: This is the time to prevent weed seeds! Apply the pre-emergent before mulching. A second application later further ensures protection from weed seeds. Always read the product directions before application.

Installation

  • It’s time to mulch: Using your hands or a rake, apply new mulch over the cultivated mulch or soil. Spread evenly approx. 3 inches thick.
  • Say no to mulch volcanoes: Mulch volcanoes occur when mulch is piled around the trunk of a tree or shrub. These are detrimental to the health of the plant by encouraging disease and decay, and preventing proper root development.

After Care 

  • Mulch Maintenance: After a month or so, check the mulch for compaction. If its compacted, use a garden claw or cultivator to loosen it. This allows for air and water to pass through, which helps prevent the growth of fungus and restores a fresh appearance.
  • In the event of fungus: Remove it and the surrounding mulch. Rake existing mulch to cover the area. Fungus is a sure sign of too much moisture in a compacted area.

 


Starting a Box Garden

If you don’t have an old-fashioned garden where your plants can thrive, you can still flex those green fingers by starting a box garden. Right off the bat, box gardens offer the following benefits:

  • Conveniently located – It’s up to you where your box garden goes, whether that’s over concrete or any soil type.
  • Beautiful to look at – A box garden is a great landscaping feature that can make your environment more appealing.
  • Provides fertile soils and good drainage for your plants – You can add fresh, high-quality, fertile soil in a contained bed, so your plants won’t have to grow up in a subpar environment. It’s also possible to use gravity to your advantage, so your garden box has optimum drainage to reduce root rot.
  • Weeds are not much of a problem – If your garden box is lined, your plants won’t have to compete with the as many weeds that pop up on the ground. Because of the loose soil, it’s also easier to uproot any weeds that show up.

So, what are you waiting for? Get the lowdown on how to build your box garden now and start enjoying these benefits.

Steps to starting a box garden

Starting a box garden involves two major steps:

Installing the garden box

You can build your garden box from the ground up or by purchasing a pre-fabricated garden bed. It all depends on whether you’ve got time to burn or the expertise and tools to set things up properly. Another thing to consider is to what extent you need to customize your garden box to suit your outside area.

In any case, you can find all the materials you need from stores that sell landscaping supplies. Garden boxes are typically made from wood, recycled timber, corrugated iron, stone, or brick, whether you’re constructing on-site or buying a kit.

Filling the garden box

When setting up the soil for your garden box, you can mix different soils, such as compost, hay, manure, fertile native soil from your yard, or soil and mulch, or one of our specifically designed growing medias. Make sure the soil mix is not too dry or moist. It should easily combine when molded and quickly loosen when poked.

Once your garden box is lined and filled up, the next step is watering and then it’s planting time.

Consider planting annuals, perennials, or even a square foot vegetable garden.

Other things to know when starting a garden box

  • If you’re renting, consider building a portable garden box. For instance, you can use a trolley or wheelbarrow to contain your plants. This gives you the added benefit of being able to move your garden box to wherever there’s a sunny spot.
  • Make sure to water the soil when at least the top 5 inches of soil is no longer moist. The best time for watering is in the morning. This gives the water plenty of time to drain or evaporate, which reduces root rot.

The bottom line

Now that you’ve got the 101 on starting a garden box, up next is actually growing your favorite plants. Be sure to invest in the right landscaping supplies, so your plants thrive in the best available environment.

For instance, using the right type of mulch can be the difference between poor quality soil and healthy, aerated, and fertile soil


Building Perfect Planters

Following these simple steps, you’ll be able to plant container after container with the perfect balance of petals.

First thing’s first- you can plant a container garden in almost any kind of container with some sort of drainage hole. You are not confined to the generic clay or plastic pot found in most garden centers. Get creative — antique vessels or even drawers will bring the charm to your arrangement.

Pick your plants

We recommend a ratio of 1:3:1. One thriller (taller grass or floral focal point), 3 fillers (shorter flowers or foliage to fill out the container), and one spiller (longer, droopy plant to add interest). Consider whether your planter will be in the sun or shade when selecting your plants.

Fill your planter

To aid in drainage and add weight, fill your planter with a layer of haydite or similar aggregate in the bottom. Add soil on top, and mix in a tablespoon or so of Soil Moist to the upper layer of soil. Leave one inch without soil at the top of the pot.

Design

Think about where you will be placing your planter and where you would like your thriller (focal point) situated. This could be in the very center, or in the back of the planter if the container will be placed in a corner. The placement of your thriller is the most important aspect of your planter design.

Plant

Ruffle the roots, then insert into the soil. Cover the roots with a fresh soil layer. Introduce your thriller first, then plant your fillers surrounding your thriller. Lastly, plant your spiller where you would like to add additional detail and interest!

Water

Once you have your planter perfectly placed, be sure to water the new plants in very well!

Fertilize

For the best planter results, consider purchasing a granular, slow-release fertilizer and follow the specific instructions to keep your creation blooming all season long!


7 Simple Ways You Can Improve Curb Appeal

7 Simple Ways You Can Improve Curb Appeal

Keeping your lawn well-maintained is a great way to boost the visual appeal of your yard. Following a few tips can improve the appearance of your lawn while also keeping it healthy. Taking the extra time to care for your property is always well worth the effort, and it will keep your yard looking great at all times of the year.

Here are a few things to consider to help you boost the visual appeal of your lawn.

Remove Weeds and Debris

One of the first steps in taking care of your lawn is to always remove weeds and other debris. It’s important to pull weeds out by the entire root to avoid them coming back or spreading to other areas. You can also use various weed killers to save you time and effort. Raking up dead leaves and removing debris is also an easy way to give your lawn a much neater appearance.

Add Mulch

Adding fresh mulch is a fast and relatively inexpensive way to tidy up the yard and add an attractive detail to the overall appearance of the outside of your home. This will give your plants and flowers a pop while also protecting the soil from the sun and keeping much needed moisture from evaporating. Choose a colorful mulch to accent your landscaping if you are looking for a pop of color.

Aerate Your Yard

Another way to keep your lawn lush and healthy is to aerate your yard every two to three years. Aeration involves poking holes into the ground to allow air, water, and nutrients to go much deeper into the soil and improve root development. Over time, this will cause your lawn to become much thicker and healthier. You can also aerate your lawn on a yearly basis in high-traffic areas or if you have heavy clay soil.

Trees and Hedges

If your garden includes natural features such as trees or hedges, have these trimmed back by a professional or a skilled amateur. This not only makes it neater, but if nature seems to be taking over your yard, a buyer could suspect that deeper problems may be hidden within.

Paths and Driveways

Next, make sure your paths and driveways are clean, free from weeds, and not suffering from any obvious damage. No buyer wants to consider replacing these hard features within a few short months or years of moving in, so make sure they look their best. Using a pressure hose to remove moss and mold can work wonders.

Dress Up Your Mailbox

If you are a rural resident, you probably have a mailbox at the end of your driveway. If you drive down any road in the country, you will probably see row upon row of mailboxes–all with a similar size and shape.

Those mailboxes might be functional, but they are certainly not attractive. If you want your own mailbox to stand out, a bit of landscaping is in order. You can start by adding a bracket for a hanging basket to the side of your mailbox, then filling it with an ever-changing variety of fresh flowers and colorful plants.

You can also landscape the area around your mailbox, surrounding it with colorful stones, interesting rocks and other accents. This type of landscaping will also help to protect your mailbox from erosion and other damage. When the spring rains come, the rocks and stones will help keep the soil where it belongs and possibly prevent your mailbox from being washed away.

Your Home Itself

The final points to check are all found on the exterior of your property’s structure. Is the paintwork clean and fresh-looking, or would it benefit from a new coat? Is the color nicely neutral, or quirky and unusual? Although a little character is a good selling point, anything too outlandish will significantly reduce the breadth of your home’s appeal. Are the windows clean, and do all the external doors look in good, secure condition?


Mulch In The Fall

Mulch In The Fall

The need to mulch your landscape in the fall largely depends on climate. Here in central Indiana specifically, we are no stranger to extreme swings in temperate and freeze and thaw cycles (you’ve seen the potholes!). Mulching around plants, especially precious perennials in autumn protects against these changes in temperature and precipitation, prevents erosion, and enriches your soil throughout the winter months.

When your annuals are dead, any vegetables have produced their last bounty and every last weed has been plucked after the first frost, it’s time to prepare for the winter ahead with more mulch. Consult with your local supplier to identify the product for you. As we always say—bark is best. This means you should be looking for a high bark content in your mulch choice because as it breaks down (which quality mulch is supposed to do) it is going to restore the most nutrients to your soil for the next growth cycle of your plants.

Here are a few more things to consider when it comes to mulching in the fall:

  • Mulching is hard work- do it when the weather is more tolerable and refresh with a thin, cosmetic layer in the spring
  • Plant growth this time of year is slow and perennials are well established- you won’t have to worry about suffocating or damaging new growth in the spring
  • As always, spread a thick layer—anywhere from two to four inches is perfection!

We are not oblivious to the fact that most people just don’t love to mulch as much as we do, and most certainly not enough to do it twice per year. But, your landscape is an investment- in need of maintenance and proper protection like anything else in and around your home. As always, if you need help identifying the right landscaper to do the heavy lifting for you—give us a call.