Monthly Archives: September 2015

6 Necessary Fall Landscaping Chores

Tips from Blue tree LandscapingFall is here, and along with it comes stunning colors, crisp air…and landscaping chores. Prepping your garden design and yard for winter is critical for gardeners and landscapers looking to get a jump on spring beauty—and their neighbors.

To help your yard and garden design keep up with the Joneses, perform the following fall landscaping chores:

1. Get in the Gutters

Cleaning out your gutters is a time-honored (and, unfortunately, somewhat time-consuming) fall activity. So get the ladder out, climb up there, and empty out all the leaves and debris. Be careful on the ladder though, and move it often to avoid overstretching (the biggest cause of home ladder accidents). Once the gutters are clean of debris, run water from the hose through them to clean out any small remnants. While you’re up there, check for holes or misalignments that could cause dangerous ice patches around your home during the winter.

2. Mow Until you Can’t Mow Anymore

Leaving your grass long over winter can cause it to mat, which encourages growth problems in the spring. You also leave your lawn vulnerable to snow mold. Don’t mow the grass too short (about 3 inches is ideal), but continue to mow it for as long as it keeps growing.

3. Do a Soil Test

Fall is a great time to do a soil test. By determining your soil’s pH, you can correct any problems and get a leg-up on your spring lawn and garden design.

4. Aerate and Reseed

Aerating your lawn now will help water and seeds borough further into the ground (giving them a better chance of thriving). It will also increase needed oxygenation and build a better profile of healthy microorganisms. Once you’ve aerated, reseed your lawn (with about 3lbs of grass seed for every 1,000 square feet of lawn) to fill in any trampled, bare, or thinning areas.

5. Plan your Perennials

Fall is the perfect time to plan and plant perennials for your spring garden design. Look at which currently planted perennials can be divided and relocated to other parts of your garden. If you have more space than sections of divided plants then head to the store to pick up perennial seeds. While you’re at it, you may want to consider pulling out any annuals that have passed their peak and swapping them for fall-friendly plants like mums and pansies.

6. Pruning

Trees and large shrubs should ideally be pruned before winter. A heavy pruning is generally preferred, however you may want to check recommendations for each bush. Pruning them will help give you the size you want in spring while also deterring snow and ice-induced damage. Be careful not to (over) prune your flowering plants (such as lilacs or hydrangeas), or you could spoil your garden design’s spring blooms.

For more seasonal landscaping and garden design tips continue to follow our blog!

Fertilizing: A How-To Guide for the Philadelphia Homeowner

Fertilizing with Blue Tree LandscapingFertilizing can be a surprisingly difficult aspect of landscape design—just ask anyone standing in the Home Depot fertilizer aisle staring with glazed eyes at the different options.

To help demystify the process, here’s a guide to fertilizer for our warm-to-cool landscape design seasons here in Philly.

 Why Fertilize

Healthy, green grass needs specific soil nutrients that aren’t always available naturally and that change seasonally. When you use the right amount of properly balanced fertilizer, you provide your lawn and landscape design with the energy it needs to make it through our hot summers and cold winters (during which grass lays dormant so that it can revive in the spring).

In addition to helping grass grow in an enviable shade of green, fertilizer will also: encourage leaf and root growth in other plants and trees, help all plants recover from pest scourges, and control weeds.

Selecting the Right Fertilizer for Your Landscape Design

Back to those glazed-over eyes in Home Depot…fertilizers should be chosen based on your location, the grass type, and the season.

  • Grass Type
    Here in Philly we lay right on the cusp of cool season grasses and transitional grasses. This means that either grass type is possible, and thus determining your grass type is important to fertilizer selection.While you’re checking your grass type, you’ll also ideally want to find your soil’s PH level. A soil test will indicate how well your grass can utilize nutrients, and therefore which fertilizer is best for your landscape design. A PH range between 6.0 and 7.0 is ideal, which is another reason to opt for the right fertilizer—to bring your soil back into balance.
  • Size
    While lawn size isn’t indicative of the fertilizer type you should choose, you’ll use it to determine how much you’ll need to purchase. Measure or approximate how many square feet your yard is (measure in feet and then multiply width by length). Since fertilizer is sold in square foot measurements, this will help you determine the quantity to buy. Ideally, you don’t want to buy too many doses at a time, in case the fertilizer loses efficacy with seasonal changes.

Application

Proper fertilizer application (or ‘broadcasting’) relies heavily on the appropriate spreading of the granules. A ‘broadcast’ or ‘rotary’ spreader puts the fertilizer onto a spinning disc that covers the lawn evenly. Be careful in your application though, because if you apply it in ‘stripes,’ instead of evenly, you’ll get uneven grass.

While using your spreader, you’ll want to ensure that both the fertilizer and spreader are dry, and you’ll need to be careful not to distribute too quickly (less is more with fertilizer). Ideally, apply half of the recommended amount in a criss-cross pattern for even distribution.

Overwhelmed?

By now you might understand the confused look of those shopping for fertilizer. If you need help selecting the right fertilizer strategy for your lawn, contact us here at Blue Tree Landscaping. Our professionals are devoted to yard care of all kinds. Call us today for a no obligation chat about what’s best for your yard!

Aerating and Overseeding for Winter

Aerating and Overseeding for Winter from Blue Tree LandscapomgThe early bird truly does get the worm when it comes to lawn landscaping in Montgomery and nearby counties. Our hot summers and cold winters mean we need to think seasonally: how does one season relate to the other when it comes to landscape design and elbow grease?

In late summer and early fall, the landscape design ‘early birds’ are already getting the worm. In fact, their hard work leads to those beautifully landscaped Philadelphia yards that many of us are jealous of. So—what are they doing that you aren’t? Well, one thing they may be doing is aerating and overseeding for the winter months to compensate for the damage caused by summer heat, insects, and foot traffic.

Over Seeding for Philadelphia Winters

Overseeding is best done in late summer or early fall, as this gives seeds enough time to germinate before winter hibernation. If you’re unsure if overseeding is worth the time, effort, or cash, consider some of its benefits:

  • It will fill in thinning lawns and lawn patches.
  • It improves the overall appearance of the lawn, adding thickness and evenness.
  • It improves the grass’ ‘immune system’ by increasing its ability to fight diseases and insects.
  • It reverses heat-induced stress.

So, overseeding improves the overall quality of next year’s lawn…but why practice aeration?

Why Aeration Should be Combined with Overseeding

Planting seeds through overseeding in the early fall depends vitally on their germination. And since germination is dependent on seed-to-soil contact, aeration is key.

Aeration is important for a number of reasons:

  • It helps build up a sturdier profile of healthy microorganisms.
  • It assists in the absorption of soil fertilizer.
  • It helps water borough further into the soil (to the root area).
  • It increases oxygenation, required by seeds for survival.
  • It improves overall landscaping irrigation.
  • It reduces soil compaction.

Aeration and overseeding aren’t just about keeping up with the Joneses. They’re about having a lawn that you can be proud of and entertain in proudly. They also provide a play area for children and pets.

How It’s Done

Overseeding and aeration should be completed by your landscapers in Montgomery county. They can help build your lawn up for the next year and maintain it healthily over the coming years. Landscaping isn’t just about mowing—it’s a science, and it’s an investment in your home and yard.

If you don’t have a relationship with landscapers in Montgomery county, then give us a call here at Blue Tree. Our holistic professionals deal with your yard and landscaping both scientifically and aesthetically!

 

Animal-Friendly Ways to Keep Critters Out of Your Petunias

crittersCritter deterrent needn’t be a toxic affair. Whether you want to keep your garden design chemical-free for your children or for your pet, there are ample all-natural approaches.

Many of the non-toxic animal repellents are critter-specific, so begin by making a list of the specific animals that you want to keep out of your garden.

Deer—Garlic

Deer love munching on plants and veggies in gardens, which, while it looks majestic, can really throw off your landscape design. But as it turns out, deer have something in common with vampires: they hate garlic. So to deter these majestic overeaters, create some garlic ‘tea’ and spray it over the plants you want to protect. The process is simple…boil a couple mashed garlic cloves in 4 cups of water to release the oil in the garlic. Let the garlic ‘tea’ cool, and then pour it in a spray bottle. This method also works for rabbits!

Chipmunks—Soap

Chipmunks (as well as deer and rabbits) don’t like the smell of soap, for some reason. Pick a strongly-scented soap, like Irish Spring, grate it or cut it into thin slices, and then place that at the base of the plants you want to protect. You can also use dish soap. Put a few small squirts into a spray bottle filled with warm or hot water and spray it on the desired areas of your garden.

Mice, Rats, and Squirrels—Urine

Urine is an extremely effective animal repellent…although not most people’s favorite choice for obvious reasons. Don’t worry about popping a squat in your yard though—you can purchase coyote or fox urine at a sporting store (or online). It doesn’t have the smell that human urine does. Most yard critters, including deer, mice, rats, and squirrels will all stay away as it alerts them that there’s a dangerous predator nearby.

Frequency of Use

The biggest downside to using natural, non-toxic methods to deter animals from your garden design is that they don’t tend to last as long as their toxic counterparts. However, if you feel strongly about non-toxic alternatives, you hopefully won’t mind reapplying them regularly.

Natural critter deterrents generally need to be sprayed again after each rainstorm, as they wash away more easily than chemicals.

Any Critter—(Humane) Trapping

One way around replacing the natural deterrent time and time again is to get rid of the critter permanently. By purchasing a humane trap or using a humane trapping service and relocating the animal to another location, you can create a more permanent solution to small pest problems.

No Time for That?

If you want a natural, non-toxic critter repellent but don’t have the time to make one yourself, you can also order it online here.

How to Plan an In Ground Pool for Next Year

Blue Tree Landscaping PoolIf you spent half of your summer at your neighbor Bob’s pool (and slightly begrudge him for it), start planning your pool for next year!

A pool isn’t just a summer’s worth of entertainment for your children (and as parents know—that alone is worth the investment); it also adds tangible value to your home, improves your entertaining space, and provides you with a much-needed personal sanctuary.

But, of course, not all pools are the same. In ground pools win the competition for quality, which is why they require thoughtful planning.

 How to Plan a Pool for Next Year

 Step 1: Select a Look

Your first step is to decide what type of pool you want. Ideally, you’ll install a pool that matches your home’s overall architecture. For example, if you have a modern home, then modern in ground pools, such as infinity pools, should be your goal. If your home has Greek-inspired architecture with columns, then go for a Grecian-style pool.

Step 2: Find a Professional that Matches your Goals

In ground pool installers span the style gauntlet. Some offer more basic pool installations, while others cater towards high-end yards and properties. Find a professional with an extensive portfolio of projects that match the look you want, because the proof is truly in the pudding. Have ideas in mind, but also make sure to take their professional ideas to heart.

Step 3: Make a Financial Plan

While the main purpose of installing an in ground pool is entertainment (and beauty), it is also a major financial decision. When planning your pool with us here at Blue Tree, we’ll provide you with pricing that works with your budget—and your home value. Ask your realtor what adding a pool at your desired look and quality will do for the value of your home. Try to keep the cost in line not only with your desires, but also with your budget and the value the pool adds to your home.

 Step 4: Make some Decisions

Once you’ve spoken with us here at Blue Tree, it’ll be time to make some decisions. Pick the shape that goes with your lifestyle, add desired water elements (like fountains or waterfalls), and then plan the area around your in ground swimming pool. A pool isn’t an island—it’s a concept. You’ll likely want an accompanying patio, lounge area, and/or plants.

 Take Action

Great pools don’t materialize. They take planning and action. If you’re in Montgomery, Chester, or Buck counties, take the first step by contacting us here at Blue Tree. Our portfolio of high-level swimming pools can offer you inspiration, and our professionals can plan a smooth installation process.

 

Outdoor Audio: A Design Concept

Outdoor audioWe’ve all been to BBQs where someone brings out a pair of portable speakers and hopes the batteries will last at least as long as the party does. But…there are better options.

Outdoor Audio: A Design Concept

Playing ambient or other music outdoors needn’t be a messy affair, and it doesn’t need to disrupt the landscape design visuals of your backyard. By using aesthetically-pleasing outdoor sound equipment, you can have better sound, remove the need to setup a sound system outdoors each time you entertain, and enhance your overall backyard design.

Design

While looks aren’t everything, the design of your speakers is extremely important. Finishes and shapes that don’t blend in with your overall landscape design will stick out like a sore green thumb. Choose shapes that match your landscaping. So, if you use rocks in your landscaping architecture, consider using speakers that resemble rocks in shape, color, or size. If you have a lighter backyard, then go with a brushed nickel or sand color, and if you have darker tones and stained woods then opt for a copper color.

Function

The main point of designing an outdoor audio concept is to have beautiful sound for your backyard. So choose high-quality speakers that have an output that matches the rest of your sound system. An outdoor, cleverly-designed subwoofer can help make your sound much richer.

Placement

Your placement should ideally support both design and function. Subwoofers should generally be somewhat hidden in a spot that isn’t entirely conspicuous, like near shrubs or ferns. Speakers need to be placed so that they are pointing in the right direction (like towards your patio or swimming pool), but also spaced evenly apart so that you don’t create sound pockets or ‘battling’ sounds. Ideally, you want your speakers to surround your common areas, creating an outdoor surround-sound experience.

 Execution

Creating a sound concept and design is easier said than done. And that’s where our professionals here at Blue Tree Landscaping come in. Our full-service offering can sculpt the entirety of your yard, from inground swimming pools to hardscaping, all the way to a sound concept and garden lights. Our expert eye for design can help you incorporate an audio concept that is both unique to your yard and suited to your overall aesthetic.

Here at Blue Tree we’ve partnered with one of the most beautiful—visually and audibly—outdoor sound companies, Coastal Source. Click here to view some of the stunning outdoor audio system options available.

Beautiful sound components combined with our designer eye and expert installation professionals (and affordable pricing) means your eyes and ears (and wallet!) will be happy.

End of Summer Yard & Lawn Care

End of summerWhile the end of summer might come with a melancholy-inducing feeling that encourages you to relax and recall moments of the summer days gone by, there’s still some landscaping work to do. To help ensure that all of your hard landscaping work continues to pay off next year, get your yard cleaned up and ready for the seasons to come.

 The end-of-summer lawn care tips below will help ensure that your yard and lawn regrow to show the hard work you’ve put in after the winter hibernation.

Check for Pests

Pests are the most common cause of lawn spots and garden damage. And if a plant is damaged before the winter, there is a very little chance of it recovering in the spring. If you have dead spots in your lawn, pull up a small patch and check the roots. If the roots are damaged, then it is likely pests. If the roots are intact, then it is likely improper watering that caused the damage.

 Seed

Dead spots in your lawn won’t regrow in the spring, so take care of them now. Seed any dead spots, and water them sufficiently for the roots to take hold. When the temperature drops in late summer and early fall, the grass will thrive enough to be lush in the spring. The cooler temperature will also help prevent weeds and garden pests from damaging the area.

 Mow in a Low Rider

Depending on the length of the warm season, you’ll want to think about mowing lower. Specifically during the last two weeks of the warm season you’ll want to mow at a ‘low rider’ setting so that the sunlight can reach the ‘crown’ of the grass. Don’t put the mower settings too low though, as cutting off more than a third of the grass at any given time could kill it. So, if you’ve accidentally let it grow too long, cut it short across multiple mowing cycles.

 Aerate

Aeration during the last couple weeks of summer and/or the first couple weeks of fall is ideal. Aeration will help much needed oxygen, fertilizer, and water reach the roots—which will help plants hibernate in a healthier state. If you don’t have an aerator (which most of us don’t!) you can rent one for under $100 per day, and you could split that with a neighbor or two to help defer the costs.

 Fertilize & Weed Control

Late summer is a great time to apply one final round of fertilizer and weed control. Using an herbicide now will help keep weeds from springing up in early spring.

 Design & Other Help

If you’ve grown weary of lawn and garden care and just want to enjoy your final summer moments—or you want to get a leg up on landscaping next year—give us a call here at Blue Tree Landscaping. We can help ensure that the benefits of your hard work this year carry into next year.