Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tips to Know When to Hire a Gardener

In these economically uncertain times, everyone is always looking for that really great deal. The ongoing hunt for the ideal gardener for landscape maintenance is no exception. The services offered by different gardeners vary greatly and the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best deal. Value and peace of mind, as well as price, are important factors to consider when selecting a gardener.

The value of a gardener is ultimately determined by the overall day-to-day appearance of the yard he maintains. When interviewing potential gardeners, ask what he will do for you each month (i.e.: mow, blow, prune, fertilize, etc.) Good communication is very important. Make sure you tell your gardener what services you expect to be done each month. Remember, it takes more time to provide full service than it does to just “mow and blow” each week, so expect to pay more for complete care.

Evaluate Your Garden

Before you meet with a gardener it’s important for you to evaluate your lawn and decide what you are looking for in a gardener. For instance, do you need just basic maintenance, lawn-mowing and pruning, for example? Or, do you need a gardener who has a strong horticultural background to tend to your formal English garden?

Some things to consider:

– What style is your garden? What would you like it to be? English, Oriental, Woodland, Formal or Informal are all types to consider. And, remember you can also just incorporate elements from each to create your own look. Either way you will want to hire someone with some experience or knowledge in these areas.
– What do you use your garden area for? Will you have garden parties? Is this a place of solitude for you? Will your children play in this area?
– Are there other special considerations? Do you have or want Xeriscape? Would you like this to be an organic environment with no pesticide use?
– Do you want to be part of the gardening process? Gardening is an art. Will you want this to rest fully on the hands of your gardener? Or, would you like this to be a mutual collaboration of ideas? Either way good communication will be the key to ensuring your garden is exactly as you
want.
Interview Gardeners

It’s helpful if your gardener has a general knowledge of horticulture, pesticides, weed control, fertilizing
and sprinkler system and timer repair. Without this knowledge and experience, mistakes are more likely to occur.
Doing a little questioning at the point of hire could save some big disappointments (or disasters) down the road.

After you’ve evaluated your garden, you should have a better idea of what you are looking for, so be sure to address
those topics in the interview. A couple of other things to ask:

– Are your ideas realistic? Does the gardener have other suggestions? Remember you are hiring this person for their experience and knowledge.
– How much does he charge? If you haven’t already talked budget, you better now.
– Does the gardener carry his own liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance? Otherwise anything that happens on your property is your responsibility. (Remember, an insured gardener will likely charge a bit more, but is worth it in the long run.)
– Can he provide references?

More Information About Winter Flower Gardens

For garden enthusiasts, winter is generally thought of as the “off season”. This is especially true for the gardener who delights in growing flowers. It is a common belief that winter flowers are only grown commercially and that a winter flower garden on a residential scale isn’t feasible.

It is true that in very cold climates, winter flowers are a rarity. Very few flowers are hardy enough to poke their way through frozen earth and snow. It should be stated, however, that there are many species of flower that can survive in “cool” conditions, and a few that can live in down right “cold” ones.

How Cold is too Cold?

Is the ground frozen? Then yes, it’s too cold. Next comes the tough one. Will the ground freeze again? If the answer is definitely “no”, then there are some flowers you can plant. It is, however, nearly impossible to say when the ground will stop freezing.

Shrubs

The easiest way to have a winter flower garden is to plant some very hardy shrubs. Now, in mid-winter, we’re lucky to get much color at all. So some suggested winter shrubs will have brightly colored berries, and a few will have actual flowers.

Witch hazel is one of the most common flowering shrubs. It is extremely hardy and will produce winter flowers in the months of December and January. Japanese pieris is another good choice and will produce flowers in the very late fall or early winter. In slightly milder climates, rosemary will bloom during winter months.

Holly, with its beautiful and festive berries, will add color to your garden. Callicarpa and photinia, related species of shrub, will produce bright purple and dark red berries, respectively, that can last all winter long.
Winter Flowering Plants

There are a few flowers that, though there are no guarantees, tend to do better than others in cold conditions. Helleborus, snow drops, and winter jasmine are very hardy and some of your best bets. Some roses and lilies are also quite tough. Iris, hollyhock, poppy, and carnation have been known to thrive in cold conditions as well.

Those looking for a great variety of blooms, however, should either stick to summer months or invest in a greenhouse. There are some greenhouses on the market that are very affordable and will make it possible to grow a vast array of different flowers no matter the season.

Admittedly, the amount of species of winter flower pales in comparison to the number of flowers that bloom in other seasons. Maybe that’s what makes them so special. Seeing flowers when the snow is still falling is a thrill even indoors. Imagining how hard those little blooms and berries have to work outside in the cold just to brighten your day makes their rarity almost uplifting.

Tips to Create a Small Garden with Difficult Soil

Don’t blame yourself if you’re having trouble sustaining your yard. It doesn’t mean you lack a green thumb or can’t keep the simplest of species alive. The number one problem in any kind of landscaping is soil. Unless you live in a fertile part of the country, there’s a good chance you’ll run into difficult soil that will hinder you in growing even the most maintenance-free flowers or plants. There are several reasons why plants have a hard time growing, but when nature seems to be stacked against you, these soil solutions can make the difference between a garden that’s great, and one that’s nearly non-existent.

Causes of Difficult Soil

All yards run into difficulties at some point and a lot of it has to do with the ground it’s growing in. So the first line of attack is a good defense: identifying the setback.

pH Balance: the most troublesome dilemma is your yard’s chemical composition. Dirt has a pH level which is measured using a scale ranging from 0-14. Since plants need a nice balance of several chemical elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.) in order to effectively grow, you need to make sure its pH level is balanced as well. It should always stay somewhere between 5 and 7. Below that it’s too acidic, and above that it’s too alkaline; too much in either direction and you have a problem.
Salty Soil: If your plant leaves are discolored, if brown crust is surfacing, or if a powdery material is dusting the top of your small garden, then you may have saline or sodic soil. In other words, sodium levels are high and it’s stressing your yard.
Soil Species: Soil structure could also be causing some obstacles. Clay can hold too much water at times and then suddenly dry out and get hard (hardpan). Sandy dirt can’t hold water at all, and therefore nutrients simply slide away with the irrigation.
Lucky for us, the modern gardener has the benefit of decades of science and research that can be used to modify whatever dirt we’re dealing with. Contemporary garden planning and soil additives are the key elements in keeping our plants healthy, and easy to manage.

Common Soil Additives

Before you can find a suitable soil solution, you must understand your specific soil problem. Therefore, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to test it. Take a dirt sample from the plot and a water sample from the irrigation source, and give it to a testing facility who’ll quickly diagnose the difficulty.

Once you know what your dirt is lacking, you can improve its structure with soil additives like organic compost, top soil, and activation products that can help to thicken sand, calm down clay, and dilute salt. Soil additives are often a necessity when balancing pH levels. If you want to keep it organic, however, make sure to read labels carefully. You may even want to consult a gardening specialist in your area for suggestions on what soil additives will work best.

Drainage Solutions

Soil additives are only one element in making your garden grow. When it comes to small gardens, raised garden beds, or entire lawns, another common predicament is drainage. Soil could be draining too fast, which washes away vital nutrients and creates puddles (causing root destruction and rotting). But if it’s not getting enough irrigation, it could become hardpan and barren. There are different solutions to improper drainage (some that you can to do on your own and some larger projects which may take the hand of a professional), but there’s only one overriding philosophy: moderation and proportion.

– Compost: Once again, soil structure is essential. Add compost to thicken sandy dirt, but beware of overfilling: it causes settling and the compost could waterlog.
– Dry Dirt: Adding dry dirt, such as limestone and silica sand, could help soak up the moisture from clay, but watch out for overdoing it because it alters pH levels as well.
– No Tilling: We love to feel like we’re doing something, so sometimes gardeners over-till the earth, which only aggravates the soil and upsets natural drainage systems.
– Grading: It’s crucial to have proper surface drainage, which means your yard must be appropriately sloped so water doesn’t collect. Underground tile and subsurface pipes can’t do it alone: you have to actually move around and correctly grade the topsoil.
– Low spots: Backfilling low spots help to avoid water buildup, but you’ll have to get a backhoe, dig up the ground, and add new dirt (of the same species) until it is leveled.
– Irrigation: To make sure the yard is getting just the right amount of water, you may want to hire a landscape contractor to install a sprinkler system for $1,800 to $2,500 to control the exact amount of irrigation your lawn receives.

Best Tips for Building the Perfect Garden

The landscaping around your home is more important than you may think. Properly done landscaping helps to protect your home from the dangers of excess water runoff, and well-done landscaping can increase the value of your home. There are some elements of your landscaping that you can do on your own, and then there are those tasks that are best left to professionals. There are also seasonal landscaping activities that can become traditions in your family that will go on for many years. The more effort and resources you put into landscaping your home and developing your garden, the more you will get out of it.

Your garden has to be placed in the right part of your yard if you want to get the best possible results. You cannot put your garden in an area that will be shaded from the sun for most of the day because that will inhibit the growth of your plants. You can always block the sunlight with a covering if you need to, but you cannot create sunlight where it is blocked by a building or a tree. Your garden should be in an area exposed to the sun and in a place that is easy to access with your water hose and sprinkler. Some people get very elaborate with their garden designs and add a multitude of colorful flowers. If you want to bring in a variety of flowers to your garden, then it is best to keep the garden away from your house, as some flowers tend to attract large insects.

To protect your garden, you can put up a fence that will keep out smaller animals. If you have problems with animals burrowing into your garden, then install your fence at least one foot below ground level to prevent burrowing animals from getting in. To keep out smaller birds that may try to feed on your plants, you can put reflective tape around your garden fence to help confuse and deter plant-eating birds. If you are having major issues with smaller birds dive-bombing your garden, then put up large owl boxes and other homes to attract predators that will keep the smaller birds away from your garden. The larger predators will not be interested in your plants, and the boxes may add some color and interest to your garden as well.

Your landscaping needs to be sloped away from your home to make sure that all runoff water goes away from your foundation. It is best to bring in a professional contractor to look over your landscaping and make sure that it is graded properly to protect your home. You can facilitate proper water runoff by mowing your lawn regularly to create pathways for the water to travel through. Mowing your lawn regularly will also help it to stay healthy and keep weeds and crabgrass from growing as well. A mowed lawn also enhances the look of your landscaping and gives more curb appeal to your home.

Landscaping lights powered by solar energy will enhance your lawn without adding to your monthly energy bill. You can also add small touches such as mulch and low fencing around the trees and shrubs on your lawn as well. The mulch will absorb and retain moisture that will keep your shrubs and trees healthy. Remember to have a professional tree-trimming company take care of your trees at least once a year to prevent the branches from growing too close to your home. Healthy shrubs and trees can also accommodate holiday decorations that add color and fun to your home during the holiday season. If you do notice that one of your trees is no longer growing leaves, then that tree should be removed immediately to prevent damage to your home and the possible spread of pests.

Your landscaping and garden are the first home elements people see when they visit you. When you take care of your landscaping and work hard to create the perfect garden, you will have a lawn that is worth bragging about. A professionally designed landscape can protect your home’s foundation from damage while keeping your trees and shrubs healthy at the same time. The regular maintenance you do to your garden and lawn are well worth it when you step back and take a look at the results you get.