Urban Landscaping Ltd.

65 Marr Road

Rothesay, NB
506.849.4124
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Chinch Bug Checkup
by Urban Landscaping on 

Mid summer in the Maritimes can be the best of times, and the worst of times.  Sunny skies, warm weather and vacation time for many make summer one of the most anticipated seasons of the year.  Warming temperatures, however, also give rise to the common nuisance pest, the chinch bug.  The chinch bug is an invasive pest which appears and reproduces in large numbers on lawns.  The baby chinch bugs, or nymphs, are the most aggressive feeders on the lawn and cause damage by sucking sap from the stem of the grass, then release a toxin that causes brown, dead patches on the lawn.  Damage can occur quite quickly when left unchecked.  It is in the best interest of all concerned parties that the chinch bug be controlled as quickly as possible once their presence in your lawn is detected.  Our technicians are trained in the detection and control of chinch bugs and are just a phone call away if you are suspicious of the lawn damage you are seeing.  


A good clue to the fact you may have active chinch bugs on your property is the appearance of small brown patches that rapidly increase in size and number on sloped or sunny areas of your lawn.  This evidence of chinch usually appears in the hotter months of July and August and will dissipate by early to mid September.  If you begin to see these brown patches in the summer months, you can try checking out the situation by kneeling down on your lawn and gently pulling apart the turf just at the edge of the brown patches.  You may discover either small red & black or black & white bugs that scurry away from your inquisitive search. If so, you've got chinch and now you need to deal with them!  If the invasion is quite limited, control methods such as heavy watering or applying diatomaceous earth can help keep numbers down.  If the invasion is moderate to severe, then the most practical approach is to apply a pesticide.  This method will wipe out the problem while it's still just in a small area, therefore reducing the overall exposure of your lawn to pesticides.  

One of the most effective preventive practices for keeping chinch bugs in check involves regular fertilization and mowing of your lawn at 3" - 3.5" to shade the root and crown area of the grass.  The chinch bugs do not prefer to be in shade and the lawn will be in better health to be able to sustain and camouflage any damage that does occur.  Consider planting a shade tree or two on areas that have intense sun exposure and topdress sloped areas with compost to help the soil retain moisture and nutrients.  The healthier your lawn is, the better it can go to battle with these pesky little creatures!  

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The A,B,C,D,E's of Pruning
by Urban Landscaping on 

Shrub pruning is a garden chore which most of us have tackled at least once, some more successfully than others.  It is a relatively easy task, provided one has the right tools, the right technique and the right timing!  There are always exceptions to every rule, but in general there are some simple guidelines to follow when taking on the pruning task around your home.  


A - Prune annually.  Letting shrubs and hedges get out of hand for several years before pruning leads to a messy looking landscape which can be difficult to get back under control when left alone too long.  Plants flourish when no more than 1/3 of the branch is removed in any one pruning session.  Conversely, they can show signs of great stress (or even die) when too much of the plant is cut back at once.  The first branches that should be pruned are those that are growing abnormally.  That is, branches that are growing inward toward the trunk or which are misshapen should be removed.  

B - Consider bloom time when you are scheduling pruning.  Do not prune shrubs that bloom in early spring, such as Forsythia, Lilac and Rhododendron in the Fall months since they set their buds in the latter part of the garden season for the following Spring.  Also, do not prune too early in the season since many blooms can be inadvertently cut off of mid season bloomers.  Pruning too early in the season when the plant is forcing all its efforts into producing branch growth and flowers means that even more growth will be pushed into the branches that were just pruned in order for the plant to complete its desired goal - maximized reproduction through flower generation.  In general, the ideal time for pruning the majority of shrubs tends to be in the mid June - late August timeframe.  

C -  Crossed and crowded branches should be removed when pruning so that the "strong may survive" without their health being compromised by fungal and other infections.  

D - Remove any dead and diseased branches that have no chance of survival and which are only detracting from the look of the shrub.  By removing diseased branches, they will have a reduced chance of spreading the infection to the rest of the plant.  

E -  Evergreens require a slightly different pruning technique from flowering shrubs since most of their growth of foliage happens at the end of the branches.  Very little leeway is available for pruning too far into the branch or the result will be an ugly bare branch for several successive seasons.  However, the plant size can be diminished by selectively cutting out branches as needed, especially for horizontal growers.  Annual pruning / trimming is best for evergreens such as cedars since that will help maintain a dense outer growth and not allow the plant to get out of control in size.  

S - Always remove suckers from the base of a shrub or tree when pruning so the nutrients can be received and utilized by the main plant, maximizing its health.  Remove water sprouts from tree branches (small branches growing vertically off another main branch).  Water sprouts are especially prevalent on fruit trees such as Crabapples.  Pruning should always keep in mind the natural shape of the plant and its natural growth pattern (i.e. upright, horizontal, spherical, loose, conical) and seek to mimic that pattern when pruning.

So, sharpen up your hand pruners, your loppers and your hedge trimmers and get ready for some great pruning results!  Don't forget, if you're still a bit timid to tackle this project on your own, we've got the expertise and the tools to do the work for you.  We're just a phone call away and would love to help out!

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Proper Water Flow Around Your Home
by Urban Landscaping on 

Whether one believes that global warming is creating warmer temperatures in our region or not, one thing is true for sure:  when we do have weather events, they are far more severe than in the recent past.  Ice storms, hurricane winds, and rain storms mimicking monsoons all have had an impact on us in one manner or another recently.  When it comes to our property, one of the most damaging forces is water; be it in the form of a flood, or more commonly, lack of sufficient drainage away from your house foundation and off your property.  Have a look around your property to identify areas where water is not draining sufficiently and is taking an extraordinary amount of time to dry up.  There are measures that can be taken with the help of a professional landscape crew to reduce or eliminate the amount of stagnant water on your property, such as a dry creek, swale, french drain, or drip edge.


A dry creek bed is a ditch like area which is lined with natural rock and stone of various sizes to aid with heavy water flow. It is attractive in the middle of summer when it is dry, but is very functional when a large flow of water appears with rainstorms.  If the flow of water is not as heavy, but direction needs to be given to the water so it does not flow in unwanted areas of the yard, a swale can be constructed.  The swale is a shallow, contoured ditch-like area that directs the water on a specific course, ususally as part of the lawn.  French drains can also be constructed for areas that require drainage of a reasonably heavy flow of water, which are in the parameters of a lawn and need to be easily maintained. A french drain consists of a ditch that has been filled with drainage stone and piping and which is finished at the same grade as the surrounding lawn.  Often a french drain is installed where water flow is coming from eavestrough pipes and is contributing to washouts in the lawn or shrub beds.  French drains are often finished with sod to camouflage their existence.   Around the foundation of a house or other structure, a "drip-edge" consisting of drainage stone can be helpful in allowing water to drain easily down into the subsurface layers of subsoil and gravel and down into the water table rather than sitting close to your foundation wall.  Coincidentally, a drip edge can also be an attractive way to deal with areas that are particularly dry and do not promote good plant growth or grass growth next to a foundation.  
Make a note in the coming months of what areas in your yard appear to hold water for longer than one day.  Have a look at the grade of your property as it relates to your house.  Does the land flow toward your house, or away?  Do you have washouts every Spring or every rainstorm in a particular area?  Is one part of your property consistently soggy?  Don't assume there is nothing you can do to prevent water damaging your biggest investment.  Talk to a certified, professional landscaper (like Urban Landscaping!) about what options you have to protect your home and keep your property looking beautiful and free of water damage.  You'll be amazed at the results when we gently nudge Mother Nature in the right direction!

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Benefits of Topdressing and Aerating Your Lawn
by Urban Landscaping on 

In each landscaping season as I visit many customers' homes to assess the state of their lawn and what can be done to help the look and health of it, generally I see a problem with either the depth of soil and/or the quality of the soil structure.  Both issues play a huge role in what happens to the state of the lawn's health, colour and growth.  When a lawn does not have a sufficient soil depth under it, (ideally at 4" or more), the roots of the grass find it difficult to tap into enough moisture to keep the top of the lawn green and growing steadily.  As well, without enough organic matter in a soil structure, any nutrients or moisture that do land on the lawn tend to dissipate quickly and do not give long term benefit to the lawn's health.  Or, conversely, if a soil is too "tight" it does not give up water quickly enough so essential air pockets in the soil are lost and the soil becomes compacted.  When air pockets are diminished in a soil the fine, feeder roots of the lawn have a difficult time developing and the topgrowth of the lawn becomes thin and weak.  


There are two key maintenance services which can assist in reducing the negative effects of limited soil depth or difficult soil structure:  topdressing and aerating.  

TOPDRESSING:   Topdressing is a service in which a compost based material, either in loose soil form or in pellet form, is applied in a thin layer to the lawn area.  The compost contains organic matter which is crucial in the retention of moisture and nutrients in the soil layer under the grass.  By allowing more moisture to be available to the roots, growth can be better stimulated.  As well, by having a more complex nutrient food web available through the organic matter, the growth can be better sustained.  The end result is a greener lawn for a longer period of time.  Topdressing is especially helpful for lawns that have a sandy soil underneath that is not retaining moisture, or for lawn areas that are on a slope where water can easily run off.  

AERATING:  The practice of aerating a lawn is one in which a machine is guided across the lawn to dig multiple small holes in the soil, called "plugs", which are then extracted and left on the lawn to decompose.  By pulling plugs of soil out of the ground, an aeration is reintroducing pockets of air in the remaining soil for the fine roots of the grass to develop.  When small grass roots develop, so does the density of the lawn.  As well, aeration helps to encourage a deeper root growth, thereby strengthening the grass plant and helping it tap into a better moisture supply.  Since ratios of air and water in the soil are in constant fluctuation, it only makes sense that an aeration should be done annually to bring those components back into balance.  Without an annual aeration, the grass will not have its growing conditions maximized.  Annual aerations are especially helpful for soils that contain a lot of silt or clay which easily compacts and loses essential air pockets.  

 

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Mulching How To's
by Urban Landscaping on 

Adding mulch to shrub and perennial beds is an annual rite-of-passage for most homeowners in getting ready for the gardening season.  Mulch can come in many styles, ranging from organic wood related products such as ground up bark, cedar chips and pine nuggets to inorganic products like coloured stone and peagravel.  Regardless of the product used, most homeowners prefer to complete their mulching chore just after their spring clean up is done in the yard, or at least before the first day of summer arrives!  However, there is no real "right" time to add mulch to your gardens, BUT there is a "right" way !


Mulch depth should be kept at approximately 2" or so in order that moisture can still penetrate easily down to the plants' root systems.  One of the key roles that mulch plays in garden bed maintenance, besides weed suppression, is moisture retention so the sun cannot easily evaporate needed moisture away from the plant roots.  However, when mulch is applied at too great a depth, moisture does not easily penetrate to the soil and roots may begin to grow up toward the surface in an effort to gain access to the moisture.  This can compromise the plant's health during dry weather and for winter endurance. So, take note of how thick the mulch is on the gardens before you add more. If you feel your gardens need a fresh layer of mulch to boost the colour, ensure the new layer plus the existing layer gives you a depth of about 2"-2.5", or just rake through the existing mulch to freshen it up.  If the existing layer of mulch is 3" or more, remove some mulch before adding more, for the sake of your plants' health.  

One other important technique when adding mulch is to avoid "climbing" up the trunk or stem of the plant/tree when adding new mulch.  Thin out the mulch considerably near the base of each plant to ensure adequate moisture can be delivered to the base of the plant and to ensure the stem or trunk does not begin to rot from mulch sitting right up against the stem.  You may not notice the effects of the rot for several years, but it will significantly shorten the lifespan of the plant and they may begin to look "sick" for no apparent reason after a few seasons of mulch suffocation.  
 
In recent years, some homeowners have been leaning toward adding gravel products (like brownstone, whitestone or peagravel) instead of bark mulch to save having to top up the mulch each year due to colour  loss or product loss (from decomposition).  As well, being inorganic, the gravel products give piece of mind to homeowners concerned with combustibility of mulch.  (more on that topic in another Turf Times!!) The advantage bark mulch has over gravel is the release of nutrients into the soil during the decomposition process.  Regardless of which type of mulch is used, the benefits remain the same:  improved plant health from added moisture retention and reduced garden maintenance duties with added weed suppression.  

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Summer Lawn & Garden Tips
by Urban Landscaping on 

Summer.  What a glorious time of year.  The frenzy of Spring gardening activity has subsided somewhat and it's mostly just the mundane mowing routine that reminds us there are still things that need attention in the lawn and garden.  


First things first...the LAWN.  Double check the height of your mower blades.  They should be cutting high enough so that there is about 3"-3.5" of grass height .  Keeping the mower blades slightly higher will not only help protect the crown and the roots of the grass, but it will also help promote deeper root growth. As well, those pesky chinch bugs do not tend to like lawns that are mowed higher because of the shade provided to the ground area.  So, the benefits are twofold; a greener looking lawn that tolerates both drought and chinch bugs better.  

Next, check the garden surface for the correct thickness and placement of bark mulch.  Mulch should really be no thicker than about 2" and should be kept away from the base and stem of the plant.  Too many times I have driven by homes and businesses that keep piling too much mulch at the base of the plants and I shake my head.  Although the issues are not readily apparent, over time the trunk will begin to rot and the shrub or tree will go into decline and die prematurely.  Also, when mulch is too thick it prevents adequate moisture from penetrating down into the soil to be available to the roots.  However, a correct amount of mulch does just the opposite and allows adequate moisture to remain in the soil for the roots rather than being subject to evaporation.  Mulch also acts as a deterrent for high weed activity, saving you time and aching back muscles!  There are a number of different colours and textures of bark mulch available as well as interesting substitutes such as coloured stone.  Have a look and see what suits your fancy!

Finally, the summer and fall months are great for getting pruning done on the shrubs and trees in your gardens.  Although Spring pruning is not harmful to shrubs, due to the nature of the growth patterns of plants, it promotes more "sucker" growth when pruning is done in the Spring.  So, even though some flowers may be sacrificed in the pruning process, the plant can maintain its "pruned" look much longer after the Spring growth flush has finished.  Pruning should be done on an annual basis (more often for some types of shrubs) to keep the gardens looking their best. When plants are allowed to grow for several years without being pruned, it may be difficult to cut them back enough to regain control of the plant.  This is especially true of cedars.  Since their foliage grows almost exclusively at the end of the branches, it is difficult to cut too much growth off without exposing ugly old, bare wood.  So, a word to the wise.  Take a bit of time now to prune...it will save a lot of frustration with your gardens down the road.  

So, have a quick check of your lawn height, your mulch depth and placement, and assess what shrubs need a haircut.  Then go back to enjoying the wonderful summer weather.  Happy gardening!    

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Common Spring Lawn Issues
by Urban Landscaping on 
  In the early part of the growing season, while the grass is just starting to grow and green up again for another year, many lawn issues are more noticeable than at other times of the year.  Such things as moss, bare spots, and yellow grass splotches are irritatingly evident and many homeowners would prefer to deal with the issue now so they can enjoy a beautiful lawn all season long. 

 

Moss:  Moss is a common problem in lawn areas which experience excessive shade, but moss can occur just as easily in the middle of lawns also.  Generally speaking, it enjoys the type of acidic, compacted, moist soil that grass has a difficult time sustaining itself in and therefore it starts taking over the area.  Moss is not really a "weed" and therefore does not respond to traditional methods of weed control.  However, since moss does not have much in the way of a root system, it is easily raked off the surface of the soil.  In doing so, you will be left with bare soil spots that can be topdressed and seeded.  Take care to choose a seed that enjoys shade or you will quickly run into the same difficulty of a non-flourishing grass that again gets taken over by moss!  One other method of moss eradication is apparently the use of Ultra Dawn liquid dish detergent mixed with water.  Although I haven't tried it myself, its effects are supposedly successful by burning/drying up the moss.  Approaches to avoid moss are to thin trees in the area causing shade, aerate the soil to reduce soil compaction, and lime the lawn annually to keep the pH of the soil more balanced.    

 
Bare Spots:  The reasons for the appearance of bare spots in lawns are many and varied, but there are a few common threads that could lead to this issue.  One is old lawn damage from insect activity that might be many years old and if it was never reseeded, the old thatch has finally disappeared and left nothing but bare earth.  Another reason could be that the bare spot(s) was once occupied by a dense weed or moss that suffocated the lawn in that area.  Once the weed was killed off or removed, it left a blank spot where it once occupied space.  The grass did not grow in that area, but it was not as noticeable because the foliage of the weed was green like the surrounding lawn.  There may be other reasons that contribute to this phenomena of bare spots on lawns.  However, it is rectifiable through either a topdressing and overseeding service or, in more extensive cases, a tilling and lawn renovation service.  It is wise to consult a landscape professional to get their experienced opinion on your issue and how to fix it.  

Yellow Spots:  The reasons for yellowing grass are probably even more extensive than for bare spots on lawns.  They can range from dog urine problems to winterkill damage to subsurface insect activity.  Dog urine spots, in theory, can be controlled by training your dog to do his/her business in a specific area off the lawn if at all possible.  However, as we all know, some dogs listen better than others!   If you know your dog has pee'd in a certain spot on your lawn, you can try to dilute the effects of the urea by watering it thoroughly.  Some practices also include mixing some sugar in the water before watering.  The yellowing effect comes about essentially because of a nitrogen burn.  If the burn was not too severe, the grass in that spot might green up considerably instead of turning yellow.  A blotchy yellowish area that is larger than a dog urine spot might be winterkill especially in a winter that saw a lot of snow and/or ice buildup.  More than likely those winterkill areas will be seen in parts of the lawn that held the snow/ice the longest into the spring.  Sliceseeding or overseeding may be needed to reintroduce grass in the damaged area. Finally, yellowish spots that grown in size or number quickly or that other creatures have a great interest in as they pick at the sod could be an indication of insect activity.  Grubs are becoming more prevalent each year and chew on the roots of the grass.  They are most active in the Spring and Fall of the year and heavy populations should be controlled by a chemical control designed for subsurface insects.  If yellow spots appear in the middle of summer in sunny, dry areas of your lawn, it is most likely chinch bug activity.  Again, large populations should be controlled with a spray before the majority of your lawn is destroyed!  

Most lawn issues can be kept to a minimum with a little bit of vigilance, a little bit of effort and a little bit of patience!  If reseeding some problem spots on your lawn is in your future, the ideal time is from mid-August to mid-September.  However, if you can't wait that long, then May is also a good time.  Just remember to water, water, water.  It is the key ingredient to a successful seeding effort!  
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Benefits of Enriching Your Home's Landscaping
by UrbanLandscaping on 

   As Spring quickly approaches and we wave goodbye to winter, many homeowners eagerly await the sight of emerging landscapes so they may once again venture into their yards to dream of how to enrich their outdoor living spaces.  For some, the enrichment comes in the form of a new lawn and shrub beds as the final stage of their new home construction project comes to fruition; for others, it is in the form of an existing landscape renovation.  Whatever the scope of the project, homeowners today are becoming more keenly aware of the benefits of a well developed landscape surrounding their home.  


The benefits of completing and enriching a home's landscape begin with enriching the lives of the individuals who live there.  A landscape is meant to provide an extension of the indoor living space and become an expression of one's tastes and decorative style.  Just as interior designers capture a homeowner's traditional, contemporary or modern style in furniture, paint and accessory selections, so too can a homeowner's style be captured in the outdoor landscape.  Formal styles can be represented with a great deal of symmetry and structure not only in plant material selections and placement, but also with hardscape elements such as patios and walkways.  Other "organic' styles may include more unstructured elements such as perennial gardens, water gardens and natural stonework that weaves its way around the property.  Many homes lend themselves to a combination approach in landscaping.  Consider formalizing the front yard while allowing the backyard to have various elements of whimsy and freedom.  Whatever your style, experiment with your landscape to make it truly a unique reflection of the people that live there.  

Another more economic reason to consider the development and enrichment of your home's landscape is in the resale value of the property.  According to industry experts, a well designed and installed landscape can increase the value of a home by as much as 20%.  However, keep in mind that it depends on how well the landscape plan was developed and executed.  A landscaped home with drainage issues or improperly placed plant materials or hardscape items such as walkways and patios can provide a negative impression to a potential buyer.  They do not see the home as a "turnkey" purchase and that will drag the resale value down.  It is important to utilize the expertise of certified, professional landscape designers and contractors who will be able to help you maximize your home's value with proper planning and installation of landscape elements beneficial to your environment.  Look for companies which are members of the provincial landscape association and who have landscape industry certified professionals on staff.  Spend your money wisely with a company that can help you avoid costly mistakes down the road.  It will be well worth it both in the enjoyment of your property now and with the financial gains realized in resale value in the future.  

- Lorna Pond, CLP
Urban Landscaping Ltd.

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Winter Preparations for Lawn & Garden
by UrbanLandscaping on 

Winter Preparations for Lawns and Gardens

 

Going into the winter, your lawn should be cut relatively short (about 2" - 2.5").  This is the only time you will be excused from not cutting the grass at least 3" in height!  Also, it's a great idea to have at least a couple of fertilizer applications on the lawn to allow nutrients to be stored in the roots for use early in the next season.  Leaves should be raked up so they don't smother the lawn over winter and so there is not a breeding ground for mold and fungus activity which can cause damage to the grass. 

 

Have a look at your gardens before the snow flies to see what newly planted evergreen shrubs you have.  It is a good idea to protect those new evergreens so that they are not subject to the severity of the winter winds that really dry out the needles.  Also, water all your evergreens well so they have enough moisture in their system to handle the drying winter winds. 

 

Hopefully you have planted any bulbs like Daffodils or Crocus that you want to see bloom in Spring.  If planting bulbs is still on your to-do list, it's not too late, but hurry! 

 

Perennials in your gardens can be cut down in either the Fall or the Spring.  Some perennials such as Sedum have a lovely seedhead on them that is a beautiful accent in the winter with a light dusting of snow on it.  Believe it or not, beauty can still be found in gardens even in winter!  If you are cutting your perennials back for winter, cut them down to within about an inch of the ground which will leave lots of space for new growth in the Spring.   

 

Good luck with all your fall clean up chores and don't forget that if you run out of either time or desire to finish your fall clean up "to-do's" you can always give us a call at 849-4124 .  We're here to help! 

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Dandelions - Sure Signs of Summer!
by UrbanLandscaping on 

  SURE SIGNS OF SUMMER! 


As Spring approaches its transition into Summer, we once again enjoy the sights of trees in full leaf, the sounds of green grass being mowed, the feel of warmer temperatures on our skin and the unending vision of DANDELIONS! 

 

I think this year since the bright yellow orb in the sky has been significantly absent most of the Spring, the sunny yellow dandelion faces have felt the need to overcompensate with their abundance of numbers on lawns, roadsides and in gardens! Perhaps it was the appealing agronomic conditions of moisture rich soil last fall combined with a sufficient snowfall to protect the seeds that has allowed their numbers to seemingly increase exponentially this year.  Nonetheless, for lawns we have treated with our OrganiCare program over a number of successive years, the dandelion population explosion has not been particularly explosive at all more like just a rumble!   

 

Although in many eyes dandelions are an eyesore, they are not necessarily one of the most invasive or destructive weeds in existence in lawns.  Usually one taproot can produce up to 10 stems, so the removal of each plant can significantly reduce the amount of yellow bloom on your lawn.  Also, dandelions are one of the easiest weeds to remove manually from the lawn, even without the aid of an herbicide.  A large number of dandelion pulling tools exist in stores, most of which do not even require the homeowner to have to bend down when extracting the weed.  The dandelion pullers are quite effective at grasping onto the taproot and pulling all of it out of the ground.  The most effective timeframe to extract the dandelion is before the yellow flower goes to seed and blows away since the dandelion is reproduced from seed only.   

 

The most prolific times of the season when dandelions are at their height of growth and

visual prominence is in the May/June timeframe and again in the September time.  Seeds which blew away in the spring and successfully germinated are those which appear in the Fall.   Alternatively, those seeds which successfully germinate from the Fall crop of dandelions appear in the Spring. 

 

Our OrganiCare program does help in the control of the dandelion population both with our control spray as well as manual help from our customers, but Im afraid the dandelion will always be a part of the seasonal landscape since the seeds can blow from quite a distance away and stealthily acquire a home on your lawn.  With the upkeep of our regular fertilization program, the lawn is generally healthy enough and dense enough to limit the number of dandelion seeds which can successfully germinate.  Fertilizing the lawn is one of the most effective ways to aid in dandelion control (before it goes out of control!) since a healthy lawn is usually quite successful in outcompeting most other plant species. 


If you have any further questions about dandelions, or other turf related issues, please feel free to talk to your lawn care technician or call the office (849-4124).  Were here to help!

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