20 Oct 2018

How Trees Can Improve Quality of Life

We found this article while reading through a recent issue of one of our trade magazines and wanted to share it with our readers. We are sharing it as a demonstration of how a well thought out landscape design and specific placements of trees can improve quality of life, as well as positively impact your neighborhood and the local community. We hope you enjoy!

A Cooler Canopy: An excerpt from Landscape Architecture Magazine, June 2018

Byline: Gweneth Leigh, ASLA

In Suburban Sydney, A Landscape Architect Quantifies the Variable Effects of Street Trees.

Libby Gallagher spent two years collecting data as a PhD student at the University of Sydney on how the different forms, species, and age ranges of street trees affect their ability to lower temperatures, sequester carbon, and reduce household energy costs. “It was an onerous process, to be honest,” says Gallagher, a landscape architect and the director of Gallagher Studio in Surry Hills, New South Wales.

Now, however, that hard-earned data is the backbone of Cool Streets, an initiative Gallagher created with community planners Cred Consulting. Gallagher’s modeling revealed that nontraditional street planting designs —such as using asymmetrical layouts and a mixture of species—helped keep neighborhoods cooler. However, maximizing benefits relied on trees’ reaching maturity, and survival can be tough for juvenile tree stock. Cool Streets wants to improve their chances by helping residents become better tree stewards.

The program measures the potential impacts of different street planting strategies. For instance, a young, 16-foot-high tree can save up to AU$100 on a household’s annual electricity bill. Within a few decades, the annual savings can grow to AU$400. The Cool Streets team uses this information in neighborhood workshops as a way to help residents determine planting designs for their streets.

For example, Boonderoo Avenue in suburban Glenwood, New South Wales, is just under a decade old; street trees had never been incorporated. The Cool Streets team shared multiple canopy options with street residents, each accompanied by data quantifying impacts of CO2 emissions and household power bills. Desiring the appearance of neatness and order, residents opted for a symmetrical design using small, compact trees. The option delivered few benefits in terms of cooling. So the Cool Streets team devised ways of maintaining a “neat” appearance using bigger trees that were four times more effective at cooling temperatures and reducing energy bills. The majority of residents were swayed by the data and decided to implement the alternative design.

Cool Streets has caught the attention not only of local city councils but also of residents who are keen to implement similar street planting strategies in their neighborhoods. A methodology is being developed in hopes of replicating it across the country. “Climate change can feel so overwhelming,” Gallagher says. “Being able to empower people to do something from their street and in their neighborhood opens up a dialogue to new possibilities.”

31 Aug 2018

Preparing Your Lawn for Fall

Labor Day signifies onset of the fall season. During fall many homeowners think that their lawns need less upkeep. However, this is not necessarily the case. During this time of year, grass is busily absorbing energy, moisture, and nutrients in preparation for a long, dormant winter. By giving your lawn continued attention in the upcoming months, you are ensuring a healthy and lush spring lawn! Here are some fall lawn prep tips:

The first step to preparing your lawn for fall is to drain your irrigation lines. If water freezes in the lines it could cause damage to the system. You can empty the system with compressed air or use drain valves. For best results, shut off the water to the system and drain each zone separately. Also drain the main supply line from the house. If you use an air compressor, don’t exceed 50 psi of air pressure.

Fallen leaves can be a hassle to deal with. It is important to rake them up before snow falls, as leaf buildup can lead to excess moisture and block sunlight from reaching the soil and grass. If you don’t want to rake them up, you can run your lawn mower over the leaves multiple times to chop them into fine pieces. The smaller pieces will decompose faster and help to contribute to grass health.

Fall is the key time to fertilize your lawn. Applying a good fertilizer in late fall will give your lawn a real pre-winter boost and get it ready for the upcoming cold because of fertilizers’ most common ingredients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen helps build strong, healthy roots, while Potassium helps your lawn survive the cold.

21 Aug 2018

Tips for a Beautiful Lawn

Achieving a picture perfect green lawn may seem like an impossible task. However, with the right tools and know-how, a beautiful lawn is attainable!

  • Do a soil test. A soil test kit can be bought online or in-store at Lowe’s, Walmart, or Home Depot. Doing a soil test can help you to identify what problems you may have with your lawn and help you to identify the appropriate solutions. This will prevent you from over fertilizing.
  • Choose the right grass for you. When choosing a type of grass, there are several factors you need to take into consideration: climate, amount of sun, traffic on the lawn, surrounding plants, and incline. Some grasses that are well suited for Michigan include: Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Fine-Leaved Fescues, and Perennial Ryegrasses. Having a grass that is suited to Michigan and your lawn will reduce the amount of lawn care needed.
  • Change your mowing habits. Cutting your grass short actually harms its health. It causes surface roots to become exposed, the soil to dry out faster, and for surface aeration to be reduced. Ideally, you should not cut of more than one-third of the grass at any one time. Most grasses are healthiest at 2.5” to 3.5” tall. Additionally, when your lawn is finished growing for the season, cut it a little shorter to around 2” to minimize the risk of mold build-up during the winter.
  • Water longer and less often. Rather than watering often and in small amounts, lawns do better when watered less frequently and in larger amounts. This watering style encourages your grass to develop deep root systems, which makes your lawn hardier and more drought-resistant. A good rule of thumb when watering is to “Let the lawn dry out before re-watering; as a rule of thumb, the color should dull and footprints should stay compressed for more than a few seconds.” When watering, put a cup in the sprinkler zone; it should get at least one inch (2.5cm) water. Another tip is to water in the morning to less water is lost to evaporation. It is also important to note that different types of grass require varying periods of time between watering. 12-21 Days: Bahia grass, Buffalo grass, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass. 8-12 Days: Carpet grass, Fine fescue, Kikuyu grass, Seashore paspalum, Tall fescue, Zoysia. 5-7 Days: Ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, Bentgrass.
16 Aug 2018

How You Can Help Save the Honey Bees

Why Are Honey Bees So Important?

A decrease in the honey bee population means a decrease in the number of plants pollinated, which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is about 75% of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the United States. This means that 70 of the top 100 human food crops would become scarce. Without the work that honey bees do, humans would not only lose many fresh foods but also many meat and dairy products as well. This is because without the crops that honey bees pollinate, livestock would starve. In summation, the entirety of humans’ diet relies upon the wellbeing of honey bees.

In addition to a drastic increase in food scarcity, a decrease in the population of honey bees would also lead to a large reduction in the Earth’s biodiversity and natural beauty. Honey bees are a keystone species to many habitats, such as “tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and temperate deciduous forests”. These habitats attract other insects and small animals, which in turn draw in larger animals, thus creating larger, more complex and beautiful ecosystems. Without these tiny pollinators, these habitats would collapse.

Honey Bee

What Can You Do to Help the Honey Bees?

There are many ways to help the honey bees!

  • Plant bee-friendly flowers in your lawn or garden. Examples of perennial flowers that are good for bees are: Agastache, Allium, Asters, Bee Balm, Catmint, Cone Flower, Coreopsis, Hardy Hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed, False Sunflower, Lavender, Poppy, Sedum, Tall Phlox, and Turtlehead. Examples of annual flowers include: Ageratum, Clover, Dahlias, Gaillardia, Gladiolus, Nasturtium, Pentas, Petunias, Sweet Alyssum, Salvia, Sunflower, Verbena, and Zinnia. Honey bees are also very fond of fruit, vegetables, and herbs like: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Garlic, Pumpkins, Squashes, Peppers, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary. Flowering bushes such as Honeysuckle, Butterfly Bush, Sweet Pepperbush, and Viburnum. A simple Google search will also help you find bee-friendly plants that suit your lawn or garden!
  • Make bee-friendly choices in your lawn or garden. Here are some key tips: Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen, skip the double flowers, which lack pollen, make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round, plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time, and leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bees.
  • Avoid using too much fertilizer and pesticides. Research shows that neonicotinoid pesticides linger in the nectar and pollen of flowers, where bees are most likely to come into contact with them. These treatments weaken bee immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease and infestation by pests. If you do decide to use chemicals, follow the instructions carefully on the package. People should apply chemicals early in the morning when bees and other pollinators aren’t around. Also, do not use chemicals while the plants are flowering and don’t spray them in other places where pollinators may land.
  • Create a bee bath. A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.
  • Don’t panic if you see a swarm of honey bees on your property. Swarming is a natural process that occurs when colonies of honey bees have outgrown their hive. If you see a swarm, contact a beekeeper’s association; many bee-conscious groups will collect swarms to keep or relocate them to a safer new home. Honeybees in a swarm are very gentle and present very little danger, but can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for help to arrive.
  1. Jorgenson, P. (2015, September 25). Why Are Bees Important? 33 Reasons to Care About Saving the Bees. Retrieved from http://www.lifebasicsorganics.com/blog/why-are-bees-important  
  2. 5 Ways Bees are Important to the Environment. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.pthomeandgarden.com/5-ways-bees-are-important-to-the-environment/
  3. English Gardens. (2018). Pollinator Friendly Plants. Retrieved from https://www.englishgardens.com/pollinator-friendly-plants
  4. The Honey Bee Conservancy. (2018). How to save the bees – easy ways to help the bees today. Retrieved from https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/how-to-save-the-bees/
  5. Help Honey Bees. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.planetbee.org/save-honeybees/
  6. Rossman, S. (2017, June 23). Honeybees are in trouble. Here’s how you can help. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/23/honeybees-trouble-heres-how-you-can-help/419062001/
13 Aug 2018

What is this White Stuff on my Plants?

Lately we have gotten quite a few calls about a white substance on a wide range of plants. This white substance is called powdery mildew and our recent weather conditions have created the perfect environment for this fungus to thrive. Powdery mildew thrives in hot and humid weather, especially if the weather conditions persist for more than 3 days in a row.
powdery mildew on plant leaf
Powdery Mildew
  • What does it look like and how do I know if I have it?

Your plant will have a white powdery substance on the top of the leaf. The leaves may also start to curl and twist in affected areas.

  • What plants commonly get powdery mildew?

This fungus is one of the most widespread and common diseases in plants. Some of the more common infected plants are Roses, Lilacs, Bee Balm, Serviceberry, Crabapples, and Burning bushes.

  • Are my plants dying?

No, this is purely aesthetic and only grows on the surface of the plant. Powdery mildew does not infect the tissue and is not killing the plant. With that being said, the plant my drop its leaves early if it fully covered.

  • How do I get rid of it?

Trim the areas of the plant that are affected by the powdery mildew and remove the debris from the area (do not compost this debris). Do not use overhead watering. Place the hose at the base of the plant instead when watering. There are also multiple chemical sprays that can be purchased at home improvement or garden centers that will help resolve the problem as well. For a more naturalistic approach, baking soda mixed in water may help solve the problem as well.

25 Jul 2018

Warmer Weather Means Patio Living

Warmer weather means more time on the patio with friends and family. Is your patio ready for entertaining? Check out these tips below to get your patio summer ready!

  • An attractive patio complements the house and landscape, as well as provides a comfortable living space.
  • Make sure the grade is level and stable enough to support tables, chairs, and foot traffic. Ensure smooth, safe transition areas, especially along edges and in corners. Significant changes in grade call for terracing or steps.
  • Use trees and shrubs to create the illusion of an enclosed patio away from the house. It is one of the simplest outdoor rooms you can make. All you need is level ground, comfortable seating, and the shelter of trees and shrubs.
  • Extend a patio’s usefulness with a roof or partial cover. Position the patio to be warmed by the sun; a southeast or southwest location is ideal.
  • Small yard? No problem! Good patio design works with the space you have.

Want help designing the patio of your dreams? Contact one of our landscape designers today!

01 Jul 2018

Help Your Plants Beat the Heat this Summer!

The summer sun has come out full-force recently! High temperatures can reek havoc on your plants and yard without some additional care. Check out these tips to keep your plants healthy and happy in these high temperatures.

  • Watering- Keep soil evenly moist in order to protect your plants root systems and provide moisture. Use an irrigation system or drip hose to keep the top 4 inches of soil damp. Using drip hoses or an irrigation system can help keep your plants happy and you free from watering multiple times a day.
  • Mulch- Beyond being decorative, mulch provides many benefits for your garden bed. In the summer, a thick mulch dually protects from the sun AND helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Weeding- Weeds compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients in soil. High temperatures also dry out soil, leaving it hard and robbing it of even more nutrients. Give your plants a leg up by removing as much of the competition you can and keep your beds weeded.

Shade delicate flowers and vegetables against direct sunlight- A shade shield could be all your garden needs to beat the sun’s concentrated summer heat. A protective shade should be 3 to 4 feet away from the plants to allow for airflow. Using PVC, you can create a flexible structure to hold your shade in place that can later be removed when the temperature cools down.