Category Archives: Home and Garden

Let’s Learn About Winter Landscape Tips

While most landscaping tips are concerned with tending plants during the growing season, winter landscaping is every bit as important if you want to have a great-looking lawn and healthy, vibrant plants. With the arrival of fall and cold weather, it is essential to complete a few projects to keep your landscaping protected during the dormant months. Prepare shrubs, trees and grass now, and they will return healthy in the spring and leave you with a neat, well-tended winter landscape.

Winter Landscapes: Preparing Your Lawn

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Feeding the lawn early in autumn will give the roots a boost before winter arrives. A second feeding in late October will keep it winterized and strong in the freezing weather.

If your lawn has some bare patches, early autumn is a perfect time to install sod or reseed. Adding sod gives you an instantly perfect lawn that will be a pleasure when the warm weather returns. To firmly establish new sod, keep it moist for the first week after it is laid. After the first week, it can be watered as needed. Avoid having sod laid in hot, dry weather, as it will be hard for the roots to establish.

Be sure the sod contains varieties of grass that are indigenous to your region. The sod should not look dry and should be sitting on a pallet no longer than two days. It should not be warm to the touch. You can eliminate a lot of uncertainty by buying sod from a reputable grower. For types and average pricing, see our sod price guide.

Winter Landscaping Tips for Pruning Shrubs and Hedges

Pruning is very important to encourage healthy growth in spring. Most pruning should be done after the leaves turn, indicating that the plant is dormant. A good rule of thumb is to prune spring blooming shrubs immediately after flowering and to prune summer blooming shrubs in the dormant season. Pruning late in the growing season will encourage new growth that will be damaged by frost.

When pruning, use caution to make a good cut at a slight angle about 1/4 inch from the branch. You may want to hire a professional gardener to help with this delicate task.

Some shrubs need to be wrapped with burlap to protect them from frost. If you have experienced frost damage in the past, make sure to protect these plants before the temperature dips down. Spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to provide insulation for the winter. Wait until spring to fertilize shrubs and trees.

Landscaping Tips for Trees

Like most of the plants in your yard, trees need special care. It is important to keep tree limbs away from power lines and away from the roof of your house. Branches can easily pull down gutters or cause other costly damage if they are hanging over your house.

When planning to prune trees, consult with a professional arborist. He or she will know the best method for your species of trees and the correct time of year for pruning. A professional arborist will also know how to safely remove any troublesome branches without causing damage to the tree. Typically, tree pruning should be done in early autumn or late spring.

Preparing Landscape Fixtures for Winter

Winter landscapes are made up not only of plant-life, but of many other objects, as well. Just like the plants, however, these fixtures often require special care to weather the cold. Walkways and patios can take a beating in cold weather. Shifts in temperature and humidity can cause concrete and brick to heave and settle unevenly. Keeping them free of water build up and debris will reduce the chances of winter damage. If you noticed water or ice accumulation last winter, take steps now to provide proper drainage. This can be as simple as adding a small gravel drainage channel next to a walkway or fixing a gutter that drips onto steps.

Having a professional pool cleaning company winterize your swimming pool is essential. Drain the water and cover the pool to keep out leaves and animals. In winter, it is not uncommon for deer or other wildlife to walk over pool covers, so choose the strongest cover you can afford.

Hot tubs and spas will be a welcome treat in the cool weather. Make sure the heater and pump are functioning properly. If not handled correctly, water could freeze in the pump, pipes, or the hot tub itself, causing irreparable damage.

Know More About Spring Gardening Tips

hggg3One day it’s a bleak winter, the next we wake to a warm breeze and blue skies. We’re sure that spring is upon us so we run eagerly into the yard with shovel, rake and seeds, intent upon transforming the landscape into a colorful paradise.

But wait! The end product will only be as good as the foundation it’s built on. If you prepare in early spring, you’ll be rewarded later in the season.

Sharpen Tools
Beat the rush to the hardware store and get shovels, hoes and pruners sharpened to a fine edge. Splurge and buy a second mower blade so you’ll have a new, sharp blade on the mower while the second is being sharpened. Turf mowed with a dull blade injures the grass and opens the door to disease and costly corrective action.

Order Soil Testing
If you’re putting in a new lawn or plant bed or had problems last year growing your favorite vegetables, soil testing provides the feedback to help you determine what fertilizers and soil conditioners are necessary for optimum results.

Contact Landscaping Pros Early
If you need them, contact landscape professionals early in the season to avoid the dreaded wait list.

When putting in a new lawn, make arrangements early for sod delivery or be prepared to buy sod as soon as it is delivered to garden centers. Accept only moist sod rolls, rejecting any that have yellowed turf or dry roots.

Keep a Garden Journal
Make a resolution to keep notes on the garden and plantings. A small pad of paper kept in a plastic bag with the hand tools is all that’s necessary to remember just which peony needed more sun and needs to be moved come autumn.

Try to jot down some of your successes and failures from last year. This information can be an invaluable guide to this year’s garden.

Throw Away Outdated Chemicals
One last chore before you’re ready: Sort garden chemicals and discard all of the outdated or unused chemicals according to label instructions. Check the lock on your chemical storage area to assure that kids or pets have no access.

Till the Soil
Hands-on gardening starts when the soil contains no ice crystals and a handful crumbles easily. No cheating here. Walking on or working in soil that is too wet causes compaction, driving the air out of the soil and bonding particles together.

When opening a new garden bed, dig it to about eight inches, removing clods and stones as you go. Add no more than 1-1/4 inches of organic matter (compost and/or aged barnyard manure) plus any other fertilizers or supplements that the soil analysis recommends, and dig in evenly.

Try hard to refrain from planting seeds or setting in early-spring vegetable or flower transplants for an additional week. Instead, lightly rake the soil each day to dislodge sprouting weeds.
Begin Planting
When is it the right time to plant? That depends on weather, soil conditions and what you’re planting.

Bare root shrubs, roses and trees can go in when the soil is workable. While the soil is cool, their roots begin to grow. These are generally less expensive than container grown plants. Buy top grade roses, trees and shrubs. They could be part of your landscape far after the mortgage is paid off.

Cold-weather loving plants, like spinach, peas (both the decorative and edible varieties) and ornamentals such as pansies, can withstand some frost.

But hold off on putting in peppers and tomatoes without protective devices around them until there isn’t a hint of frost on the horizon. Ask at the garden center when the last expected frost generally occurs in your area.

Remember to Prune
Plan to prune early-flowering shrubs, like forsythia and lilac, as soon as blooms fade. Next year’s flowers have set within 10 days of the end of the bloom, so timing is important.
Some flowers either die completely or lose their foliage when warm weather arrives.

The same thing happens in the kitchen garden. Spinach and lettuce make way for warm season crops like squash and corn. Set a plan early to incorporate changes, and your garden will be always useful and colorful.

How to Make Your Landscape Fit for the Fall

The summer season is quickly simmering away and fall will be here before you know it. Before you head out to snatch up the first pumpkin spiced latte of the season, take a few moments to prepare your home’s landscape. Fall is a season of vivid colors and is a perfect time to spend mornings and evenings out in your yard sipping on something warm while bundled up in a light jacket. With a few great landscape ideas, your yard can become an autumn oasis.

Fall Foundation

The very first thing that you should know about landscaping in the fall is that you should focus on the colors and textures of your project. Even the smallest of spaces can look quite large with a few well placed large shrubs and small trees. Focus on layering trees and shrubs to give the impression that your yard stretches on for miles. Japanese maples are great for just this occasion.

It’s also a good idea to plant a few evergreens around the edges of your yard. They’re great for privacy and for giving the rest of your landscape a lush backdrop. One word of advice with evergreens is that it’s best that you select those that will grow to the right height for your lawn. For instance, an Australian pine only reaches about 15 feet tall and eight feet wide while a fernspray false cypress reaches ten feet tall and four feet wide.

Paint Your Home

Don’t only focus on your yard when it comes to landscaping. The fall time is a great time to give the exterior a fresh coat of paint for $1,500 to $3,600. If the paint on your home is fine, consider taking care of any areas of chipped paint that you might have and repairing your siding for $250 to $919. It would be a shame to have a spectacular landscape only to have a home that’s in desperate need of a new coat of paint.

While you’re at it, you can also add a few plant or window boxes to your home. Some of the advantages of including such boxes with your landscaping design are:

Giving texture to the exterior of your home
Bringing color to your brick, siding, or colored exterior
Adding greenery to homes that don’t have much in the way of open grounds
Develop Good Plant Habits

While you’re picking out your plant selection for fall landscaping, pay special attention to plant habits. What this means is focus on the shapes that plants have as they grow. Some have a narrow, upstanding shape while others develop a gentle downward curve. Consider mixing and matching plant habits to give your yard a hint of intrigue and allure.

If you want to add a pattern to your fall wonderland, repeating plant shapes is the way to go. If there are taller trees in the background around your yard, you can copy those shapes to blend the background and foreground together better. To break up the pattern a bit and add some interest, use repeated plant shapes but change up the colors here and there. Great options for color include blue-silver spruce, blue-green pine, and deep green arborvitae.

Don’t Forget About Hardscaping

Make sure that you leave some room for hardscaping this fall season. Sidewalks, rock formations, pavers, fountains, and stone retainer walls are all great options. If you do decide to balance your soft landscaping with hard landscaping, go for something that is functional, offers safety or security, and adds to the overall beauty of your property. Two great things about adding a fountain — which costs anywhere between $964 and $4,072 to install — is that it can make you feel more secluded and it also blocks out noise coming from nearby streets.

If you find yourself hard-pressed to make a decision regarding the type of hardscaping to include, stone is a popular choice because it doesn’t take too much work to take care of and fits in well with nearly every style of landscape. Should you be able to find a type of stone that is native to your particular area, all the better. Don’t be afraid to include more than one type of stone to add variety.

Keeping Up Appearances

No matter how much you might enjoy the sight of leaves drifting lazily through the air as they fall from the trees, that’s no excuse for you not to rake up the fallen leaves in your yard. When you go out into your yard, those fallen leaves can become slippery and pose as a safety risk to you, your family, and your guests. Something else to think about is that those fallen leaves can be concealing something that requires your attention, such as a sidewalk that needs to be repaired. Take out some time every week to rake up your lawn.

You’ll also want to make sure that you keep up with pool maintenance during the chillier months of the year. Just because you don’t plan on swimming in your pool doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep the chemicals balanced and the water free of bugs, leaves, and various debris. To make things easier on you, clean your pool whenever you rake up the leaves in your yard.

A Plant for Every Season

To save yourself some time and money on landscaping, include plants that look fantastic in your yard no matter what season it may be. Great examples include:

Hydrangeas
Pagoda dogwood
Fothergilla
Ninebarks
Viburnums
Plan Ahead

Before you throw away all of those leaves that you’re raking up, think about making them into a compost pile. Compost piles don’t take up much space and make great fuel for your plants and soil for next year. Besides ground leaves, you can also add grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, small branches and sticks, and loose flower petals.

Before you trade your shorts and flip-flops for jackets and boots, spend some time out in your yard developing your fall landscape. Rather than traveling to see the most beautiful autumn locations, you can take a look outside your window and admire the majesty of the changing seasons.

Beautiful Advantages Of Stunning Roof Gardens

hg1The thought of building a natural oasis on top of a building may seem a little odd, but the fact is that rooftop gardens have been around for centuries. Roof Gardens began in Europe a long time ago and since then have become the latest trend in gardening. Not only are rooftop gardens beautiful and unique, they are also efficient in many unique ways.

Hidden Hideaways (and Benefits)

Of course, one advantages of the roof garden is its secrecy. No more kids, vermin, and strangers tromping through your flowerbeds. Not only does their “secret” location keep them safe, but it adds a concealed privacy to your outdoor habitat. And this uniqueness can actually add economic value to your home due to its aesthetic appeal.

Here are some other ways rooftop gardens benefit you and your environment:

Energy Efficiency: Roof gardens absorb a lot of energy by being on top of a structure. They provide natural noise and thermal heat insulation, thereby cutting down on utility bills. Plus, since the foliage itself needs water and sun, they actually retain twice as much rainfall and sun. What this means for you is less water runoff, and therefore less flooding; and in bigger cities this decreases the excess heat caused by urban heat islands. Roof gardens actually cool places off to a certain degree.
Creates Space: By utilizing the space on top of a structure or building, you then have more room in your own backyard for other projects. Also, if you live in a city, roof gardens are one of your only chances to grow plant life away from the noise and pollution of city streets.
Provides for Nature: Not only do rooftop gardens add to your own peace and tranquility through their special beauty, they also improve the natural environment by providing wildlife habitats (something people in the city may lack). Plus, due to the extra foliage these gardens also re-oxygenate the air and retain harmful toxins, allowing your home and neighborhood to reap the natural benefits.
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Some Tips to Keep in Mind

Though you may be ready to start planting soon, there are some little things to remember about your rooftop garden before you begin:

First, you must have tough plants. On the roof these plants get the brunt of all the weather, year-round, so even with proper maintenance, the tougher the plant, the more productive the roof garden.
Second, make sure you have a flat or gently sloped roof. Otherwise there will be problems, not only with the plants themselves but with rainwater run-off as well.
Third, make sure everything is water tight and that your roof can handle the weight. Some roof gardens just use planters, and are therefore light. But if you’re thinking of a more extensive project with pavers and stone, then make sure your roof is suitable for the installation.The thought of building a natural oasis on top of a building may seem a little odd, but the fact is that rooftop gardens have been around for centuries. Roof Gardens began in Europe a long time ago and since then have become the latest trend in gardening. Not only are rooftop gardens beautiful and unique, they are also efficient in many unique ways.

Hidden Hideaways (and Benefits)

Of course, one advantages of the roof garden is its secrecy. No more kids, vermin, and strangers tromping through your flowerbeds. Not only does their “secret” location keep them safe, but it adds a concealed privacy to your outdoor habitat. And this uniqueness can actually add economic value to your home due to its aesthetic appeal.

Here are some other ways rooftop gardens benefit you and your environment:

Energy Efficiency: Roof gardens absorb a lot of energy by being on top of a structure. They provide natural noise and thermal heat insulation, thereby cutting down on utility bills. Plus, since the foliage itself needs water and sun, they actually retain twice as much rainfall and sun. What this means for you is less water runoff, and therefore less flooding; and in bigger cities this decreases the excess heat caused by urban heat islands. Roof gardens actually cool places off to a certain degree.
Creates Space: By utilizing the space on top of a structure or building, you then have more room in your own backyard for other projects. Also, if you live in a city, roof gardens are one of your only chances to grow plant life away from the noise and pollution of city streets.
Provides for Nature: Not only do rooftop gardens add to your own peace and tranquility through their special beauty, they also improve the natural environment by providing wildlife habitats (something people in the city may lack). Plus, due to the extra foliage these gardens also re-oxygenate the air and retain harmful toxins, allowing your home and neighborhood to reap the natural benefits.

Some Tips to Keep in Mind

Though you may be ready to start planting soon, there are some little things to remember about your rooftop garden before you begin:

First, you must have tough plants. On the roof these plants get the brunt of all the weather, year-round, so even with proper maintenance, the tougher the plant, the more productive the roof garden.
Second, make sure you have a flat or gently sloped roof. Otherwise there will be problems, not only with the plants themselves but with rainwater run-off as well.
Third, make sure everything is water tight and that your roof can handle the weight. Some roof gardens just use planters, and are therefore light. But if you’re thinking of a more extensive project with pavers and stone, then make sure your roof is suitable for the installation.

Tips and Suggestions For Spring Garden Flower

Spring is the time when nature renews itself. When spring comes around, we can begin spending more time outside and start enjoying the fresh air and new life around us. There’s no better barometer of warmer times ahead than the first flowers. Having a spring garden is one way to welcome the new season right in your yard, and proper planning and planting of spring garden flowers is an essential part of making your warm weather welcome one the whole neighborhood will enjoy!

Common Types of Spring Garden Flowers

The quintessential spring garden flowers are, of course, daffodils. Their beautiful yellow blooms beckon even the most winter weary to come outside and have a look around. Snowdrops and crocuses bloom before and after daffodils, respectively. Tulips, the ones everybody waits for, come around a little later. All these flowers are in the lily family, which is known for being hardy as well as beautiful.

If roses are your passion, there are some types that will bloom rather early. Marigold and old blush china roses are lovely spring flowers and don’t mind popping by before the rest of their family shows up. March marigold, clematis, and a few magnolias are also excellent spring garden flowers an can provide some interesting textures to your pre-summer plots.

Timing Is Key for Spring Garden Flowers

While a wide variety of spring garden flowers are out there, most find that choosing several species that bloom at slightly different times is the best way to go. Obviously, a huge blast of color soon after the snow stops falling is going to make quite an impression, but if you stagger your spring flowers so that one or two different types of blooms appear just as the previous blooms begin to fade away, you’ll have a great looking garden that becomes more beautiful as the summer approaches.

Despite its official start date, spring really comes at different times of year depending on where you live. This means that not all spring garden flowers are going to be appropriate in all climates. One of the most beneficial things you can do to make your spring flower garden as unique and maintenance free as possible is to chat up a few local gardening specialists. These professionals will have excellent advice on the early blooming plants and shrubs that are native to your area and will set your garden apart from those across the country. Using native or near-native species also reduces the amount of work you have to put into keeping your plants thriving, as such species are designed to thrive even without your help!

Spring Vegetable Gardens

Flowers might be the prettiest signs of warm weather approaching, but they are far from the tastiest! Early spring vegetable gardens are hardly as diverse as their summer and fall counterparts, but the addition of fresh produce to the table is always welcome, even if the variety is a bit limited. Many spring vegetable gardens are based on hardy leaf crops like kale and spinach, but some varieties of broccoli, onions, parsnips, cabbage and even garlic are also hardy enough to flourish in early spring’s unique environment. Though the lack of diversity in spring vegetable gardens is sometimes seen as a drawback, an extra harvest of a couple types of fresh vegetables makes a perfect opportunity for sharing the bounty with friends, family, and neighbors!

Of course, if you want vegetables to be ready to eat in early spring, you’ll have to start your seeds indoors. Though indoor vegetable gardening is something you can easily spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on, talking to your local experts will often lead you to a setup that is as effective as it is affordable.

How to Make the Most of Small Spaces with a Garden Terrace

hg2Terrace gardens come in all shapes, forms, and designs, from urban rooftop gardens to secluded suburban patio hideaways. The one thing all these gardens have in common is making the most of limited space with innovative garden and landscaping design. A garden terrace is one of the most beautiful additions you can make to any residence, provided you plan ahead and do it right. Here’s some proven design suggestions to help you get off on the right foot.

Think of your Garden Terrace as an Extension of your Home

One of the most endearing aspects of terrace gardening is the fact that these cozy little gardens come to feel like an extension of your home or apartment as much as they feel like outdoor spaces. Keep that in mind as you design and make sure that your terrace garden is a place where you can sit down, enjoy a book, a cup of coffee, or the morning paper, all while surrounded by the beautiful textures, sights, and smells of your vegetation and landscaping. Depending on how much space you have to work with, that can mean incorporating benches, chairs, and even small tables and sitting areas into your overall design.

Find a Balance between Natural Beauty and Privacy with your Garden Terrace

As you create that extension of your home, you’ll also want to take into account your surroundings and incorporate them into your planning. If you’re working with a rooftop terrace, for example, make sure you don’t block your view with shrubbery, hardscape, or garden structures such as pergolas and shades. If your terrace garden isn’t so removed from the rest of the world, however, you might be striving for the opposite effect. Many terrace garden designs are developed to exclude the outside world. If that’s your case, then think about how you can create barriers that will give you a measure of privacy. Vining plants and trellises, shrubbery, and even manmade walls and barriers can all work together to create the secluded escape you’ve been longing for.

Choose your Garden Terrace Plants Wisely

Once you’ve determined a general layout that takes into consideration an area to relax in, views, and privacy, it’s time to think about the plants you’d like to incorporate into your terrace design. Location will play a significant role as to which plants are most appropriate for your situation (a backyard terrace has far greater possibilities than an apartment terrace, for example), though there are some universals to consider when it comes to choosing appropriate vegetation. Hanging plants, plants that vine, and drooping varieties are excellent ways to soften edges and create flowing, natural spaces. Vining plants are excellent for creating privacy, as already mentioned, though they’re also an effective way to conceal concrete, ledges, and walls. Finally, don’t forget the floor of your garden terrace. There are a number of plants that you can plant in cracks, crevices, and joints between hardscape that will help to give your terrace an aged, less orchestrated feel.

Don’t Forget the Hardscape

Just as important as plants is your choice of hardscape for your terrace garden. The right stone, tile, or concrete paver can be a vital addition to any garden. Your hardscape will add warm tones and distinct lines to an area otherwise dominated by wilder sensibilities.

Talk to the Pros

If you’re interested in installing a garden terrace, or in terrace design, talk to a landscaper or garden designer about developing a terrace that will fit your personality, space, and needs. Doing so will ensure you a private, personal garden space that you can enjoy for years to come.

Tips To Landscape Your Yard with Raised Bed Gardening

Few gardening practices offer you more benefits than choosing a raised garden bed as one of your primary landscaping techniques. From a practical standpoint, you’ll have healthier plants and easier landscaping to maintain. And from an aesthetic point of view, by being creative about the materials you build raised beds out of and where you put them, you’ll add beauty, form, and texture to your overall landscaping vision.

Raised Beds Mean Healthier Plants

Perhaps the biggest payoff of raised bed style gardens is the improved health of your plants. Because a raised garden bed drains better, is filled with better soil, is easier to maintain, and generally attracts fewer weeds and insects, you can be sure your plants will be healthier and more productive. It’s the reason raised beds are so popular when it comes to vegetable gardens. By simply switching to raised bed plots, a gardener can see veggie yields improve by twice as much. The good news is that those stats don’t just go for tomatoes and squash. Raised bed gardening in landscaping means you’ll have twice the flowers come spring and summer, and that other shrubs and landscaping plants will flourish as well.

Raised Beds Make for Easy Maintenance

A raised garden bed also make for easier landscaping maintenance. Because raised beds are more defined and set off from the rest of your landscaping, they have less trouble with weeds and insects. And because they are “raised” off the ground, dealing with the few weeds or bugs that do show up where they don’t belong is a lot easier. In fact, raised bed gardening can be a godsend to those with back trouble, physical disabilities, or those of us whose joints just aren’t as limber as they used to be. A raised garden bed can be built as high off the ground as you like, accommodating backyard gardeners who wouldn’t otherwise be able.

Raised Beds Everywhere!

If you’re like most homeowners, you might have some doubts about what a raised garden bed can offer when it comes to developing an attractive landscape design. After all, a raised bed garden usually means an ugly square veggie plot set off in the back corner of the lot, right? Wrong. Raised bed gardening makes for beautiful landscaping around the base of trees, around porches and decks, as terracing on slopes, and to add form and texture to otherwise featureless landscapes. In fact, a raised garden will look great just about anywhere you can think to put a traditional style garden bed.

Material Is Everything

When it comes to raised bed gardens, using the right material to build them can make or break the design. That square plot in the back corner of the yard looks so drab because it’s usually made out of old scrap lumber, or an equally unimpressive material. Fortunately raised landscaping can be built out of stone, decorative concrete blocks, brick, landscaping timbers (railroad ties), and just about anything else you can imagine. And by using materials consisting of multiple interlocking or stacked units (i.e. cut stone or concrete blocks), it means raised beds can circle around trees, curve along fence lines, and even rise and fall with the landscape. If you’ve got a vision, there’s a landscaper out there who can mold raised garden beds to match.

When it comes to landscape design, raised bed gardening is tough to rival. In order to make the most of these innovating landscaping solutions, talk to a landscaping professional about helping you put together and install your new landscape plan. From choosing building materials to picking and installing your plants, their expertise can help you get your raised bed garden landscaping project up and running.

Know More The Suitable Type of Mulch Should You Use

Mulch is the term used for a variety of organic products which are applied to your garden as decorative ground cover, as a soil improvement, and to conserve water usage. Bark mulch is one of the most popular mulches available, and comes in bark chips of varying shapes and sizes. Besides bark mulch, wood mulch also comes in a number of other varieties that feed the soil as they decompose, improve the looks of your garden, and help retain soil moisture all at the same time.

Which Type of Wood Mulch Is Best for Me?

With a wide range of wood based mulch to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which type to lay down over your garden beds. Here’s a list of the most common types, and why, or why not, you should choose these mulches for your landscaping needs.

Bark Mulch is one of the most popular mulches around, because it looks so great once you put it down. It is also an excellent choice when it comes to water conservation, since it provides a solid barrier against moisture evaporation. The one downside of this mulch is its size. Most bark mulch comes in large chips, which decompose slowly. If you can find bark that’s been shredded, go that route. Shredded bark will not only trap moisture in your flower beds better than large chips, but since it decomposes quicker, it more readily adds nutrients to the soil as well.
Cedar Mulch is the cream of the crop. Because cedar mulch has natural oils in the wood that repel insects, it’s the perfect choice for wood mulch, especially in areas where termites are common. Cedar mulch is going to be a little more costly initially, but it’s well worth the extra expense when you consider its pest repellant properties.
Colored Mulch is another popular mulch alternative. It’s usually composed of wood chips or shredded wood that has been died a reddish color. If you are particular about the appearance of your landscaping, colored mulch is the way to go. It can’t be rivaled when it comes to appearance. Of course, good looks come at a price. If you choose colored mulch for your gardens, make sure your budget can accommodate the extra costs.
Natural Colored Mulch refers to wood based mulch that is not colored for aesthetic appeal. Many homeowners choose to go this route, since naturally colored wood chips are usually cheaper than dyed alternatives. They provide the same benefits when it comes to moisture retention, week reduction, and composting properties, but they don’t carry the extra price tag that goes hand in hand with dyed varieties.
Pine Peelings, or other wood shavings, are basically the cast of material of more intricate milling processes. They are then collected and sold in bulk as wood mulch. This variety of mulch won’t turn as many heads as bark mulch or cedar mulch, but it serves its purpose. If you’re on a tight budget, but still looking for wood mulch for your gardens, look for pine or other wood peelings at a local lumber yard or wood supplier.

Bark Mulch Warning

Whether you choose bark mulch, or another variety, it’s important that you take into consideration the prevalence of wood boring pests in your area before you purchase. Termites, for example, prefer to munch on dead wood, and wood based mulch is a favorite feeding ground. If you live in an area where termites are commonplace, it’s probably a good idea to talk to a pest control contractor or landscaping contractor before making your purchase. It can be the difference between a maintenance free landscape, and one that causes scores of headaches and larger problems down the road. If termites are not a problem in your area, wood mulch is about the best investment you can make when it comes to landscaping. You’ll be getting one of the best looking, and performing, mulches on the market.

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.