Horticulture Tips

Recycling Leaves

Recycling leaves for mulching lawns and gardens is becoming increasingly popular with homeowners, and here's why. Recycling leaves reduces the amount of leaves collected and sent to landfills and can help stop the burning of leaves in our neighborhoods. Both methods are time consuming, wasteful and costly to our environment.

Leaves can be used as a beneficial mulch with no cost and saves hours of leaf raking and bagging. All you need to do is rake the leaves from under shrubs and mow over them to chop them into fine pieces. The shredded leaves can then be scattered over lawns and into shrub beds. From there, they will quickly decompose into compost, adding nutrients and attracting microorganisms to the soil.

We can feel good about helping to keep our water and air clean by returning our composted leaves back to our gardens and home landscapes.

Spring is a great time to plant

In northern Indiana, we are fortunate to have a wealth of plant material grown right here and suitable for our region and climate. And now is the best time to plant. If you enjoy gathering on a patio, deck or porch, consider planting fragrant flowers and shrubs nearby. Fragrant viburnums, dwarf lilac and roses are good choices. For those Hoosiers who love to bring birds to their backyards, there are many fruiting trees and shrubs which will attract a variety of songbirds. Locally grown dogwood, serviceberry and viburnums offer native birds food and shelter, as well as giving seasonal color to your garden.

Now is also a good time to think about your fall plants because you will want to get them planted this spring. Light up your view with brilliant yellows and oranges in the fall with the unrivaled color of the sugar maple. If your home has a spacious southern or eastern lawn, the sunlight will enhance its glorious color from this vantage point.

Reseeding your lawn

Mid-August through mid-September is the ideal time for reseeding your lawn. If you need to eliminate grassy weeds, apply a non-selective herbicide before reseeding. If a broadleaf herbicide is necessary, then you will need to delay seeding in those areas for about four weeks. Keep the newly seeded area moist until new seedlings become established. It is important to water lightly and frequently each day, preferably two to four times daily. Resume mowing when new grass reaches 1 1/2 inches. After three weekly mowings, apply a light application of nitrogen (1/2 lb. per 1,000 sq.ft.) to the new grass. Repeat this nitrogen application in six weeks. It is important to mow at a correct height and not remove more than one-third of the grass blade per mowing. Mowing lawns too short invites weed seeds to germinate and become established within the lawn.

Solutions for 5 Common Lawn Problems for Homeowners

  1. DRY SHADY AREAS - A fine fescue turfgrass is a good solution for this problem. Using organic fertilizer is beneficial as well.
  2. DAMP SHADY AREAS - A tall fescue turfgrass will perform well in this situation. In dense shade, a groundcover may be the best solution. Organic fertilizer is beneficial as well.
  3. LAWNS BURNED FROM DOG URINE - Try to keep pets off the most visible areas of your lawn, and restrict areas where they can void. Where a dog has voided, dilute the area using a watering can to help eliminate lawn spots.
  4. MOLES - There are new mole baits designed to look like earthworms that are an effective solution. These are best used in cold months when insects are not prevalent. Trapping moles is also a reliable method but requires patience and persistence to succeed.
  5. SNOW MOLD - This is a minor fungus problem. Lawns will benefit from hand raking areas of matted turf and overwintering leaves. This should allow air and sunlight to penetrate the infected areas. Core aeration will also benefit the rejuvenation of the lawn in early spring.

Visit Purdue University Turfgrass Program for more information.

10 steps to hiring a qualified landscape professional

  1. Visit LandcareNetwork.org to learn more about the value of landscaping and lawncare.
  2. Decide how a landscape professional can help you by making sure you know and understand all of the services offered.
  3. Ask how long the company has been in business. Ask about their experience, education and if they are active members in national or state landscape associations.
  4. Select a landscape company that is licensed or certified and insured.
  5. Decide what you are looking for in a landscape design and what your budget is. If you are unsure about what you want, a qualified professional should be able to turn your ideas into a final landscape design.
  6. Make sure proof of insurance is available to you and that the company has an active safety program to minimize accidents.
  7. Visit a job in progress and make sure the company does good work and reflects professionalism.
  8. Ask the company to provide a written plan and/or contract.
  9. Tell the company if you want to care for areas of the landscape yourself.
  10. Know which services are provided in ongoing maintenance.

Do it yourself or hire a professional?

When it comes to lawncare and landscaping needs, there are things you can do yourself and then some that you might want to consider hiring a professional. At the beginning of spring, take a look at your plants, trees, shrubs and lawn and make sure they look green and healthy. If your lawn is patchy and brown or you think you might have diseased plants, trees or shrubs, this may be a situation where you will want to call a professional to do an assessment and provide solutions. If everything looks healthy, you can save some money by doing some spring cleaning yourself. Clean out the leaves from under shrubs and bushes, mulch and plant annuals in flower beds and pots. Those needing landscape design and installation, new lawn installation or major repairs, or irrigation, aeration and lighting projects, may want to contact a professional.

Compacted Soils and Drainage

If you are taking on the challenge of adding new landscaping to your home or commercial property, soil conditions and water drainage are important issues to examine before beginning to landscape. As a homeowner or commercial property owner, you should examine soil conditions to establish water retention, even on sloped ground. Surface water drainage does not necessarily indicate drainage underground where problems can occur at the root zone if water is not moving through the soil. Be sure and check the color of the soil underneath the surface - a gray clay indicates high water retention. A clear plan for a path for water to drain away from plants is a must before installing any new plants. Tiles and trenching can help solve drainage problems. The proper use of irrigation, knowing the soil conditions and choosing plants adapted to the site will go a long way in ensuring a successful landscape installation and survival of plants for years to come.

A professional landscaper can help assess the soil conditions of your property and provide ideas for plants that will work well in your specific area.