Posted on December 16th, 2010 No comments
With the bone-chilling temperatures and icy conditions of winter, we are often asked what products we recommend to melt ice or improve traction on stoops, steps, walkways and drives. Many of the items on store shelves are harmful to concrete, mortared areas, pets and the environment.
Sodium chloride, commonly known as rock salt is inexpensive, readily available and works at temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is the most harmful de-icer to plants and animal paws. Potassium Chloride, which is also used in fertilizers, will not harm plants but works more slowly than rock salt. Both are harmful to concrete, mortared areas and other natural products such as bluestone. Calcium chloride melts faster than the others, works down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit and is one of the least harmful salts to concrete, but is damaging to plants. One of the newer products on the market is magnesium chloride. This is your best bet if you want a de-icer that works quickly, won’t harm your concrete and paved areas, and is effective to 13 degrees below zero. It is important to remember to use each of these products as directed.
Environmentally friendly skid-proofing agents such as sawdust, peanut hulls, ground bark, ashes, gravel and sand can be used in conjunction with de-icers. They don’t dissolve in water and can be swept up for re-use, or swept into the lawn or planting beds without harm to plants. Owners of pets are particularly concerned about the toxicity of de-icers and their affect on sensitive paws. Pet-friendly products such as Safe Paw is considered to be pet, child and environmentally safe. This and similar products are chloride-free so it won’t harm your concrete, paved areas, lawns or plants.
In general, don’t over-apply salts. Used in excess, they may harm your plants and can damage concrete, mortared areas and natural stone products. Avoid shoveling snow from salted walks onto plants and know the ingredients in the de-icer you buy. Use gypsum calcium sulfate for areas where salt accumulation is heavy in the fall and the following spring. Irrigate well in order to wash away the salt and decrease the potential damage to your planting beds. Finally, keep salt away from sensitive plants such as azaleas, crabapples, dogwoods, forsythias, hollies, maples, rhododendrons, and yews.
Posted on November 20th, 2009 No comments
Preparing your garden for winter
As the season draws to a close there are a few basic things that we recommend be done prior to “putting your garden to bed” for the winter.
- It is important to clear the leaves from your lawn. Leaving the leaves on your lawn can smother the turf and encourage disease.
- Cut down perennials after they have turned brown and died for the season. Like the leaves on the lawn, leaving dead perennials standing could harbor disease. When they have been turned brown and killed by frost, cut them back and remove the debris. This gives them a fresh start in the spring.
- Cover your perennial beds with a 2” layer of compost. Hybrid roses and blue hydrangeas should also have a compost mound at their base. This covering will protect them from a harsh winter.
- Put your hoses and pots into your garage, shed or basement. This will protect them from freezing and cracking over the winter season.
- Make sure all your outdoor spigots are turned off ,and if possible, the water to the spigot is turned off inside the house.
- If you have an irrigation system, be sure to have it properly shut down and drained.
- Water features, if not heated, should be drained, and the pump removed and stored where it won’t freeze. If you have any outdoor landscape features that you can’t remove, cover them with a tarp.
- Cover your outdoor grills and furniture if needed.
- Clean your gutters. Leaving leaves and debris in your gutters can lead to ice damming and damage to your roof. Check that your downspouts are clear and working properly. If you have debris filters for your downspout, be sure the are also cleared of any debris.
Posted on September 15th, 2009 No comments
Trying to figure out why you have brown, dying patches in your lawn? It’s possible that you have a white grub infestation. White grubs are insect larvae that feed on the roots of sunny, well-watered lawns during the spring and fall months. They do considerable damage to the root system, causing large, brown areas of dead grass. Untreated lawns will never recover from a severe infestation.
Grubs are the C-shaped larvae of various beetles. Fully-grown larvae are one-half to three-quarters of an inch long. Early indications of grub infestation are irregular patches of dry grass, flocking birds, or entire areas of turf being torn up by raccoons, possums and skunks looking for a tasty treat. Damage can be witnessed by tugging on the grass surface. If grubs have been eating the root system, patches of turf will come up easily from the soil surface, like pulling up a corner of carpeting, and the soil will be full of grubs.
White grubs eventually turn into beetles, e.g., Japanese beetles. If you treat for grubs when they’re smaller, in late summer to early fall, they’re easier to eradicate. White grub life cycles are simple. During summer, adult beetles fly around. Some species (like Japanese beetles) buzz about during the day, while others (like chafers) fly around at night. After these adult beetles mate, they head down into the soil to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the tiny grubs start to feed on your lawn. This is when they’re so small you often don’t see them or their damage. During September and October, grubs continue to feed and grow. In November, grubs stop feeding and burrow down 3 to 12 inches and make winter cells.
Once spring comes around, the grubs work their way up to your fresh springtime grass to feed on your turf’s tender roots. By this time the grubs have matured, so they can really do significant damage.
What should be done to stop these insects? Typically we recommend a grub-specific insecticide applied as soon as damage is noticed. We recommend following up with a second application at the appropriate time. An organic approach would be to apply beneficial nematodes prior to any infestation. This is not a curative option, but can be used preventively.