Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall for a Great Lawn

Did you know that fall is a great time to improve your lawn? By fertilizing now, you'll see a noticeable improvement in your lawn next spring. Winterizing protects grass during colder months and gives it a head start after the first thaw for a lusher, greener lawn next season.

Fall is also the best time to start new grass from seed. Whether you're filling in a few bare patches, overseeding for a fuller lawn or starting a new lawn from the ground up, grass seed does well in fall for a number of reasons:

1. Heavy dew and cooler temperatures make it easy to keep seeds and new sprouts moist, without constant watering.

2. Daytime temperatures won't scorch the seeds, but keep the ground warm enough overnight to promote healthy germination and growth.

3. Weeds, which can easily choke out young grass, are usually under control by fall, if you've taken the proper steps during the spring and summer.

Here are also a few tips for giving your seed a good start:

1. Till the area as young roots can't penetrate heavily compacted ground; this will also help with proper drainage.

2. Add 2-3 inches of screened top soil and level it with a landscape rake.

3. Using a broadcast spreader, sow seeds that are well suited to the area; there are varieties specifically for sunny and shaded yards.

4. Using the same spreader, apply a starter fertilizer. Grass simply won't grow as well without this, and you need it with winter on the way.

5. Cover the soil and new seed with a light layer of hay to prevent wash-out.

6. Water well and continue as needed through fall.

After a few warm autumn weeks, grass will be strong enough to survive the winter and thrive in spring.

Just two words of caution ...

Weeds Happen! Tiny, resilient weed seeds are already in your soil, and more will find their way to your lawn by way of wind, bird or other modes. There WILL BE weeds growing along with new grass, but don't try to treat them yet: you'll kill them AND your new grass. Be patient and tackle them next spring; it's worth the wait!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

IPM Update ...

Don't Leaf It Alone - Our Specialists Are Here To Help!

Lately our team has been talking with a number of clients who are saying "there's something wrong with my maple tree!" Chances are, the tree has a common fungal disease called TAR SPOT. Fortunately this problem rarely seriously impacts overall plant health and is primarily only an aesthetic problem. However, in conjunction with the drought and the fact that some trees have been quite heavily infected repeatedly over the last 4-5 years, Tar Spot is quickly becoming cause for concern. This disease cannot be treated now, in fall. If treating with fungicides, it must be done early in the spring – the first application is applied at bud break so now is the time to schedule this service with your David J Frank representative.

What is of the utmost importance in controlling this problem now and throughout the fall is that the fallen leaves of these trees must be collected and removed (or properly composted to kill the spores). The most commonly affected species is the Norway Maple, so if you have this tree on your property, be vigilant about raking leaves as they fall and doing a thorough fall clean up before the snow files. If left over winter, the spores will re-infect the trees next spring. Also, as is always the case, proper care and watering will help keep the plants as healthy and resilient as possible. Below is more detailed information if you're interested, or simply call us for assistance.

EUONYMUS SCALE is also very noticeable right now. There are many scales and this particular kind affects evergreen Euonymus like Boxwood Bittersweet, Burning Bush, Pachysandra and more. It is another problem that is hard to effectively control (chemically) right now based on the life cycle of the pest.

The problem is usually detected after high populations have develped and damage has already occurred. Stressed plants, like those near buildings where there are high temperatures and low moisture are most prone to attack. The first symptoms appear as narrow yellow or white spots on the leaves, which are males. Closer observation reveals female scales (dark brown and oyster-shell shaped) along the stems and leaf veins and sometimes on the leaf undersurface. The scales overwinter as mature, fertilized females. In spring, eggs are laid under the scale covering and hatch over a period of 2-3 weeks. The tiny orange-yellow "crawlers" then move to other parts of the plant or are blown to other susceptible hosts. There may be 2-3 generations per year, but the newly hatched crawlers are the easiest to control with contact insecticides. Because they hatch over a long period and feed on sap inside the plant tissue, contact or systemic insecticides are the preferred treatment.

Dormant season application of a narrow-range or horticultural oil is effective against scales overwintering as adults, but eggs will still need to be treated several times in spring at 10 - 12 day intervals with appropriate pesticides. Because there are so many varieties of scale and several application options, the best approach is to seek professional help with properly identifying and treating this problems before the plant becomes defoliated and you risk the death of valuable ornamental plantings.

The Doctor Is In!

We are fortunate to be one of only a handful of landscaping firms in the whole Midwest that has an IPM specialist (integrated pest management) on staff with a Ph.D. in entomology. Dr. Alfred Bezhani is available to to help with this or other insect problems and works closely with our team of horticulturists, arborists, certified landscape technicians, licensed applicators and maintenance professionals to ensure the complete health of your landscape, now and for seasons to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Impatiens In Danger: Mildew Alert!

New Plant Disease Attacks Annual Impatiens ...

Production manager, horticulturist and plant pathologist Kurt Bartel of David J. Frank has identified our first case of the much publicized plant disease called Downy Mildew on some bedding impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) at a location near a job site. Impatiens are the nation's most popular annual bedding plant so there is a lot of concern about this new (to impatiens) disease that has caused problems in the United States, Europe and South Africa. Our crews have been alerted so they can take necessary steps to control its spread when possible, but here's what you can look for too:

Symptoms of the disease include leaves are chlorotic or stippled and become completely yellow over time. There may be subtle gray markings on the upper leaf surfaces and white, downy growth (fruiting bodies) on the underside of the leaves. Plants affected by Downy Mildew will not produce an acceptable floral display. As the disease progresses, leaf drop occurs and stems become bare. The stems may then become soft and the plants simply collapse.

If the disease is found, remove the plants and the leaf debris and dispose of the material offsite. Debris should be put in plastic garbage bags and disposed of in a dumpster, NOT a compost pile! Impatiens walleriana should not be planted back into the same location for at least one year. Spores overwinter in the soil – making sanitation and crop rotation very important. Chemical treatments cannot be relied upon for control for a variety of reasons, but we can help you with control and other options for beautiful displays for upcoming seasons.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

High and Dry: Drought Alert

New Plants Need More Water

Due to recent high temperatures and dry conditions, your annuals and new plants could be dying of thirst! It takes trees, shrubs and perennials one to three years to send out and re-establish their root systems so they need extra water while young to survive a drought. Please remember to water all plants thoroughly during dry spells, and follow these recommendations for new and young plants:

- Groundcovers, deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees, as well as lawns, should receive a thorough soaking once every week. This is accomplished by watering slowly at the base of the plant, so that the entire root system gets a much needed drink. For lawns, a sprinkler can be left in place for one to two hours.

- If your lawn has been installed this spring, it requires watering every other day when there is no rain.

- Annual flowers and new perennials should be checked for moisture and watered daily during the first month. During the second month, every other day is appropriate and thereafter, twice a week. This recommendation can be adjusted in accordance with weather conditions. Annuals and perennials tell you they are thirsty by wilting; if this occurs, the plant has already been severely stressed but it can often bounce back if it gets a thorough soaking right way.

Free Estimates on Irrigation

The summer months are already busy, so consider an automated irrigation system that takes care of the watering for you - even while you're at work or on vacation. Call us for a free estimate on a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that will protect against drought damage and ultimately save time, water and money.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Isn't Always Improved... Some Hybrids Don't Live Up To The Hype

It's easy to be tempted by slick ads for new flowers and hybrid plants but buyer beware ... new varieties aren't always better. The beautiful specimens you see in pictures have enjoyed expert care under ideal conditions, and those young plants at the nursery or garden center have yet to prove themselves. While we don't want to discourage creativity or trying new things in your garden, we also don't want you to be disappointed. Wisconsin is far from ideal and presents a number of challenges for even the hardiest of plants - from harsh winters and hot, dry summers to poor soil conditions and a variety of voracious insects and wildlife. Unless a new plant has consistently performed through several seasons here, we caution you to take all promises by the grower with a grain of salt.

Dr. Laura Jull, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Department of Horticulture, says it well: "I personally do not endorse or promote any new plant without at least growing it for 3 – 5 years (shrubs and vines) or 10+ years (trees and evergreens) in Wisconsin ..."

Here at David J. Frank, we take a similar approach: We won't risk the health and appearance of your property by installing unproven plants. In other words, we don't believe the hype. Instead, we make our selections based on experience and promise that our recommendations are in the best interest of your overall landscape, now and for years to come. We know what grows, and for this reason, we can make the best possible selections and guarantee that they will do well in the long run.

This doesn't mean you are limited in your choices, because we work with a palette of literally thousands of proven plants – durable trees, shrubs and flowers in a full range of sizes, shapes, textures and colors. This also is not to say we won't include certain plants if a customer specifically requests them, but our plans always begins with the strongest choices for the needs and style of each individual landscape.

So before you choose something new over the tried 'n true, ask these questions:

1. Where did the plant originate?

2. Where and for how long was it trialed?

3. Does it fill a need that can't be satisfied by a proven variety of that same or similar species? (For example, is it worth trying a new hybrid hydrangea when there are already so many sizes and colors of proven performers?)

4. Will the plant be available in a few years? (Keep in mind that, as new hybrids are introduced, older varieties are often phased out, making it difficult to match/replace in the future.)

5. What is the availability and cost?

We hope you will always be excited about new plants and ideas for your landscape, but we also encourage you talk to an expert before making any big decisions or purchases. We have a great team of landscape architects and horticulturists on staff and available to answer your questions so don't hestitate to contact us. Happy landscaping ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Houseplants Love Patios: Moving Your Indoor Plants Outside For The Summer


After being inside all winter, there's nothing like sitting outside on a warm day. Even houseplants enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and change of scenery but you'll need to take a few steps to insure a smooth transition. Timm Hahn, CLT and interiorscape specialist at David J. Frank offers the following advice for moving indoor plants outside for the summer ...
"Houseplants can be a great addition to a deck or patio, and most appreciate their time in a more natural setting. However, if you take a plant from an indoor environment and expose it to outside elements too quickly, the plant can very easily become stressed and go through varying degrees of shock ... or worse. Rather than rushing your houseplants into the great outdoors, help them adjust to their new environment. A gradual acclimation to outdoor conditions is the best way to lessen the stress and give plants a welcome summer vacation.

Light is one of the biggest factors contributing to plant shock. In fact, the intensity of outdoor sunlight is far greater than that found in the home, even in the sunniest of rooms. Although most houseplants are used to some natural light, it's difficult for them to go from one extreme to another. In order to make this relocation more successful, with the least amount of plant stress, you should not place any houseplant outdoors in direct sunlight. Instead, choose a nicely shaded area on your patio or under a tree, and allow your plants to take in the fresh air for a few hours each day. Then gradually move them to an area with a little sunshine and slowly increase their outdoor time and exposure a bit each day. After a couple of weeks, your houseplants should be well adapted to their outdoor setting and comfortable for the remainder of the season.

Once your houseplants have been fully acclimated to the outdoors, there are still a few considerations to bear in mind. First, houseplants will need more water and nutrients during the warmer months, so you'll have to increase their watering and feeding intervals. However, be careful not to over do it. Too much water or food can be just as bad for houseplants as too little. Secondly, they might be pestered by any number of pests. Inside, there are far fewer opportunities for insects to bother your plants, but be familiar with and prepared to take action against common insects if you move them outdoors.

The last and often greatest factor to consider when moving plants to a patio or deck is the wide range of summer weather conditions. Wind can be a huge stressor for houseplants as they are not accustomed to strong or sustained motion. Wind can also dry plants out, toss them about or knock them over at times. To prevent problems associated with wind, place houseplants in a well-protected area, such as near a wall. Rain is another potential hazzard: a light drizzle can provide a welcome drink, but downpours can have devastating effects on houseplants, beating their leaves, washing soil out of their containers and drowning their roots. Finally, remember that outside temperatures can vary greatly and change quickly, so be mindful of the forecast. Most houseplants originate from tropical-like regions so they will need to be brought in on cool nights or whenever the thermometer threatens to dip below 55 degrees.

Just like us, houseplants appreciate the fresh, warm air of spring after a long dreary winter. If you take the time to make their move outdoors a gradual one and protect them from extreme elements, they will thank you with healthy, vigorous growth and more beautiful blooms throughout the year."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time for Tree Care!

Winter Pruning is Prudent!
Winter is winding down but there's still time to trim trees before spring. Check out our "top ten" reasons to prune this winter, then call David J. Frank for a free estimate on arborist services for protecting this valuable part of your landscape.
1. Pruning is to a tree what mowing is to grass – visually appealing. Shaping enhances a tree's overall appearance and value on your property.

2. Crowding due to an overabundance of branches may result in unbalanced growth and a crooked trunk.

3. Removing lesser branches leaves more nutrients for the remaining ones, so their leaves, flowers and/or fruit will be more vigorous.

4. Removing unhealthy limbs helps prevent the spread of disease or bacteria to other branches.

5. Dead trees and branches become brittle and will eventually fall down - on someone or something! Remove them now to avoid accidents and injury to people and property.

6. Thinning a large tree canopy reduces weight and wind resistance. Once pruned, air flows more easily through the tree so there is less pressure on the root system to hold it steady.

7. Winter pruning is best for most trees because they are dormant. Sap flows very slowly when it's cold so the tree won't "bleed" much.

8. There will be much less debris and an easier clean-up when there are no leaves, plus little or no damage to your lawn if we move a stump grinder or bucket truck over frozen ground.

9. Without leaves, it's easier to follow the natural growth of primary branches and identify potential problems. (Don't worry – an arborist can easily tell the different between dormant and dead limbs, and will only remove live branches when necessary for the overall good of the tree.)

10. Finally, winter pruning can be more cost effective. With lighter, off-season work loads, many landscape service quotes are more competitive.

Trees won't be dormant much longer so call a David J. Frank arborist now and see a healthy difference this spring - 262.255.4888.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Landscaping Trends for 2012

Every spring, our staff compiles a list of new ideas for outdoor living. Here are our top ten recommendations for improving your landscape and your lifestyle.

1. Green Walls

Define your outdoor space and enjoy privacy without confinement. Whether it's a line of arborvitae or a pergola covered with climbing vines, use live walls of plants to create structured "rooms."

2. Animated 3D Design

Realistic, animated 3D designs mean you can renovate your landscape with confidence. "Walk through" a computer-generated model of your new backyard and see, in real space and color, exactly how your new landscape will look.

3. Organic Fertilizer

Something new is brewing in lawn care: Geo-Tea is a liquid organic fertilizer that can dramatically improve soil quality for healthier grass and a healthier environment for people and pets.
brunnera jack frost
4. The 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year

This year's top perennial is Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'. This clump-forming perennial has attractive light blue flowers with yellow centers in spring, plus attractive silvery white and green foliage that adds texture throughout the growing season.

mixing vegetables in flower pots5. Edibles in Containers

Flower pots are on double-duty this season, with the best potted arrangements featuring edible fruits and vegetables mixed in with annual flowers. It's a satisfying combination for both the eyes and the appetite!

6. Rain Water Harvesting Systems

The grass is always greener when it's properly watered, and what could be greener and better for the environment that rain water? Most of today's irrigation systems can incorporate a cistern for collecting and redistributing rain water, with the added benefit of reducing run-off and erosion on your property.

gas starter for fire pit7. Got a light?
Home owners are lighting up the easy way, with gas starters for their outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. No messing with lighter fluid or starter logs; just ignite and leave the gas on until the wood catches, then enjoy a natural fire with ease.

outdoor pizza oven wood fired pizza
8. Going Out for Pizza

Wood-fired pizza ovens are giving new meaning to going "out" for pizza. Adding a pizza oven to your patio kitchen delivers a great al fresco experience, and a welcome break from traditional grilling.

9. Bright Ideas

Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming obsolete so update your landscape lighting to include energy efficient LED fixtures that come in great new designs and finishes. Look for creative styles that can be built right into brick patios, deck railings and steps, water features and more.

10. Staying Connected
The best for last: stay connected with all that's new in gardening and landscaping products and services by following an expert. Make a favorite, sign up for our free e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linked In for news you can use, right in your own back yard!