Monday, March 31, 2014

Awaken Your Landscape

For years I was in the home building industry and came away with a lifelong fascination of noticing every application of crown molding, tile and recessed light fixture.  I can proudly name door hardware and sink faucet models.  When sitting in a restaurant, I dwell on poor grout joints and bad miters and take note of any and all details that the architect so carefully specified.

Now, after 11 years in the landscape industry, I drive down the street and see a world that needs a landscaper.  I pass tired walks, overgrown shrubs and damaged lawns.  I dwell on a lack of color, poor spacing and too many solar path lights purchased at the garden center.  The homeowner couldn’t possibly understand the power of the outdoors and have a yard so unkept. I think about providing services that treat tired souls.

Our job, no matter what role we play, is to rejuvenate, invigorate and awaken people’s lives through their gardens.  What a satisfying profession we have all chosen.  From a single container with herbs to a full blown makeover, we educate our client about the benefits of being outside and enjoying their natural surroundings.

We introduce them to the scent of flowers and colors unlike anything they have indoors. We can create textures and patterns that couldn’t be drawn with a pencil and paper and sounds from water, fire and wind.  Wildlife such as hummingbirds gather and the homeowner begins to mark the calendar by their coming and leaving at season’s end.  They begin to notice cloud patterns, newly opening buds, insects and animal tracks.  They become alive in their garden and realize the power of their own land.  Their new landscape provides serenity and a place for relationships to be nurtured and expanded.

Jane Frank
Landscape Designer
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Moving Your Indoor Plants Outside

Houseplants Love Patios:
Moving 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."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lawn Care 101: Aeration vs. Dethatching

If your lawn doesn’t seem to be greening up as you would expect, even when you fertilize, you may have other problems. If no disease or insect activity is prevalent, you should check the thatch layer and see if this is excessive (over ¾” to 1” thick). Excessive thatch is a common problem with thick, full-sun established lawns that are fertilized regularly. 

Thatch refers to the living and dead layer of organic material (grass clippings, dead sheaths, excessive surface tillers and rhizomes) which, if allowed to become too thick, can prevent proper aeration, water penetration and fertilizer uptake. 

Dethatching the lawn means utilizing a mechanical dethatcher that literally combs or rakes through the lawn just above the soil line with a reel of metal tines that pull the thatch out of the lawn. If this needs to be done, a remarkable amount of thatch can be brought up from the base of the lawn, sometimes as much as a two to three inch layer of material, which then needs to be raked or vacuumed up and removed. Dethatching has an excellent aeration value and “opens up” the lawn for excellent water and fertilizer penetration. As with all renovative procedures on a lawn, power dethatching should be completed when the lawn has good rejuvenative, recovery capability. In other words, my favorite months to do this are April, May and September. In many cases, I recommend an immediate fertilization and possibly overseeding. This is an excellent procedure to recommend if it needs to be done.       The fees for this are priced out on our lawn renovation pricing schedules. 

Aeration is a process in which the soil underneath the lawn is penetrated, either by a hollow tine that pulls out a soil plug varying in size from 3/8” to 3/4” and varying in depth from 2 ½” to 6” in the case of deep tine aeration. Aeration is sometimes accomplished with a vertical knife machine. This procedure is recommended in lawns which are typically grown in sunny conditions (not in all cases) that are suffering from over-compaction. This over-compaction might be caused by poor subsoil or it might be caused by excessive wear, such as in the case of an athletic field or golf course. In these more intensively used turf environments, it is not unusual to core aerate four or five times per year. Sometimes a light sand topdress follows the core aeration. This procedure is stimulative to the grass population as it allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate directly to the root zone. This can be thought of as a pruning of the roots. Just like pruning a hedge, the roots can rapidly regenerate – especially when the aeration (as we recommend) occurs during seasonal periods with the faster recovery. This is typically April, May and September. Following the aeration with fertilization and, as indicated above, a light topdress can also be recommended. It is always necessary to prepare the client for the appearance of the aeration. It is desirable and typical to leave the cores on top of the lawn. In many cases, we use a chain link drag to break these cores up which provides a nominal topdress of soil material on the lawn surface. Using a turf core puller to take three or four samples from the lawn and examining the subsoil can indicate the necessity of recommending core aeration. Indicators are poor root penetration toward the subsoil as well as a very dense compacted soil.

Joe Schmid
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.