Empire Yard Maintenance

Gardening Tips

Planting Shrubs, Trees, Ornamental Grasses

When planting plants such as above remember these easy steps to help your plants to have a better survival rate, grow faster and survive longer:
1. Dig hole 2 times as wide and deep as container.
2. Mix equal parts of potting soil with native soil.
3. Place plant in hole so top of the root ball is equal to or slightly above ground level.
4. Backfill around plant with soil mixture.
5. Apply a root stimulator.
6. Water and apply 2" layer of mulch around plant.
7. After 2 weeks feed with an all purpose fertilizer.

Fertilizing

The most important thing you can do for a lawn is to provide it with proper nutrition. A well-fed, healthy lawn has a better root system to combat heat, cold, drought, mowing, foot traffic and other stresses.
A quality, granular, controlled-release fertilizer allows grass plants to grow evenly, without starvation periods or heavy growth spurts. Controlled, even growth also minimizes grass clippings.Lawns wake up hungry from the winter months. A spring feeding strengthens roots and gets lawns off to a good start before the heavy growing season. In most regions, it is wise to apply a combination fertilizer with a pre-emergent to control weeds. Summer and fall fertilizing are also equally important to keep nutrient levels where they should be and to keep weed growth to a minimum. A healthy lawn and landscape keep property values up and your neighborhood beautiful.

How to Prop erly Water Plants

It seems pretty straight forward, but one of the biggest problems gardeners have, and one of the most frequent questions they ask is, "Am I watering properly?" Because it is such a widespread problem, relax, because you're not alone, and the good news is that with a few rules of thumb, you won't have to worry about how to water ever again.

Some Bad Advice:
A lot of times gardening books will tell you that a general guideline for watering is 1 inch (2.5 cm) per week.There are a lot of problems with that guideline because it doesn't address different climates and different times of the year, and while that 1 inch (2.5 cm) may be good for a warm summer day, it may be too much for a plant on a cool spring or fall day. It also doesn't address if you get rain, or what your soil type is.More bad advice is when you're told to water, then wait for a day or two, and then dig down 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) and test the soil moisture around the root zone. Yea right, like every time you to want water you're going to dig around to check. Get real!

Some Good Advice:
There are three main things you want to keep in mindThe type of plants you have: Plants with deep extensive root systems, or those that are able to store moisture (likebsucculents), are able to survive on less water and are drought tolerant, as opposed to non drought tolerant plants that need lots of water to survive.

The moisture retaining capacity of your soil: 
Plants growing in fast draining sandy soil are going to need more frequent watering than plants grown in heavier or well mulched soil that holds water better. If you have sandy soil, you would be wise to consider mulching.

Your climate:
Do you live in a desert or do you get periodic rain, etc.

A Good Rule Of Thumb:
The best rule of thumb is to water as deeply and as infrequently as possible. Watering to make sure the soil is moist to at least 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) deep is best because it helps the plant grow its roots deeper into the soil. 

A note here: 
We don't mean to flood your plants! Just a good deep watering, don't get carried away. Frequent light watering in not good for your plants because it only wets the surface ofthe soil which encourages roots to grow upwards in search of moisture. The water evaporates quickly and the soil dries out, leaving the roots in hot, dry soil.

The Best Time Of Day:
The best time of day to water is always in the morning. This gives the plant time to absorb the water and get ready to handle heat, cold, or just the energy it takes to produce chlorophyll, grow, and move nutrients around. If you water in the late afternoon or evening, the problem is that the plant is now wet and the air temperature is cool. Those are the best conditions for mildews, molds, and all kinds of disease problems. Keep life simple, water in the morning.

How high should you mow your grass?

Well for some purists, they would say it's more a matter of mowing at the recommended height for your grass variety. They would be correct, but come on, isn't there some general rule of thumb we can use?The answer is yes, there are some general guidelines: Cool season grasses like Kentucky Blue Grass, Rye and Fescue are recommended to be mowed high.Warm season grasses like Bermuda are recommended to be cut low.

More Specifics:
Cool season grasses like Blue Grass, Fescue, and Rye should be mowed as high as possible. The best is around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) and no higher. If you cut any taller than that, the grass can flop over, and if you cut it too short, thegrass is more susceptible to weeds, it dries out faster, and over all does poorly.The last mow of the year can be around 3 inches (7.6 cm).Warm season grasses like Bermuda should be cut around a height of 3/4 to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.5 cm) tall, which may require mowing one to three times per week.Mowing at this height will encourage a dense, thriving turf that naturally blocks weeds. Healthy turf shades the soil so sunlight can't reach weed seeds ready to germinate, and a thick turf also minimizes the physical space available for weeds to become established.If Bermuda is cut any taller than 1 inch (2.5 cm), it will be thinner and straggly looking which isn't what you want. A good healthy lawn of Bermuda should look like a big, green, dense mat.

Mulching, how much and how thick?

During the fall-winter and summer months the topic of mulching tends to pop up quite frequently, and for good reason.
Mulch is a wonderful help to keep plants warm and snug in the winter, and cool in the blazing hot of summerIt saves water, keeps plants from freezing, cuts down on weeding, and depending upon what kind of mulch you use, it can add nutrients to the soil.While this is all interesting, the most common question received is, "When mulching, how much do I use?."Well, how thickly you lay mulch depends on the size of its particles.Thin, fine particles like compost or finely shredded bark are best laid only 2 inches (5.1 cm) to no more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) deep around most plants and trees. If you put down a thicker layer than that, you risk reducing oxygen to the roots.If the particle size of your mulch is larger, like straw, pine needles, chunks of bark, or rock, they can be applied up to 4 inches (10 cm) deep. The larger spacesbetween the chunks allow more air and light in, so you will need a thicker layer for effective weed control, water conservation, and protection from cold.We can install mulch for your plants at a very reasonable cost. Give us a call today and save water and your plants for the blistering heat.

Got Weeds?

So often when you want to start a garden or plant an area, the ground you have available, or want to use, has been neglected for some time and is covered in weeds. Well, that isn't a problem. You can get a new area ready for planting without any weeding or digging first!

Instead of cutting the weeds away and then digging or tilling, just put down a layer of cardboard over the weedy or grass-covered ground. You can get cardboard at the recycling center, or you can also use newspaper. If you opt for newspaper, use a thickness of 3 to 4 sheets.

Here's what to do:
1. First, cover the ground with the cardboard and then wet the cardboard thoroughly. You don't want dry cardboard, or else it will wick moisture from the soil we are going to put on top.2. On top of the wet cardboard, spread a 2 to 3 inch (5 to 7.5 cm) layer of organic mulch, or a weed-free potting soil that has lots of good organic material in it.3. Wait for at least two weeks to allow the grass and weeds under the cardboard to decompose.4. When you're ready to plant, using your trowel, just push through the mulch and cardboard down into the moist soil underneath. Dig a hole and set your seedlingsin place.5. When you're done planting, you can put more mulch on the cardboard as needed.The cardboard will break down fairly quickly and worms love it.Depending upon the time of year, and the climate you live in, it will only take a couple of months, sometimes up to a year, for the cardboard to break down and decompose completely.The good news is that once the cardboard is gone, because the weeds haven't had a chance to grow or get established because the cardboard stopped them, the area stays fairly weed-free. Just keep adding mulch as you continue your garden and you'll be just fine.

Aphids

I was out in my back yard the other day when I noticed a lot of sap on the ground under my arbor vitae bushes. I instantly knew what it was Aphids!! After taking a closer look at the branches I noticed a pretty large infestation.

Do you ever check your plants for bugs such as aphids? It is good to watch out for different types of bugs when you are out in the yard. Early detection of them could save your plants from lots of damage and even save the plant from dying off completely.

There are a couple easy ways to get rid of aphids. The first way is to purchase a bag of lady bugs from a local nursery such as Osuna Nursery. You can get 1750 lady bugs for something like $10. The lady bugs will hang around in your garden as long as their food supply is available (aphids and other bugs). Then they will fly away to someone elses garden. Second is a simple solution of soapy water. Usually a couple table spoons per gallon of water is enough. Just mix up your solution or use your dirty dish water. Spray or through the soapy water on the affected plants until you notice that the aphids have disappeared.

I hope that you don't have any bugs in your garden but if you do the solutions above should help.A quality, granular, controlled-release fertilizer allows grass plants to grow evenly, without starvation periods or heavy growth spurts. Controlled, even growth also minimizes grass lippings. Lawns wake up hungry from the winter months. A spring feeding strengthens roots and gets lawns off to a good start before the heavy growing season. In most regions, it is wise to apply a combination fertilizer with a pre-emergent to control weeds. Summer and fall fertilizing are also equally important to keep nutrient levels where they should be and to keep weed growth to a minimum. A healthy lawn and landscape keep property values up and your neighborhood beautiful.

Are your plants or grass yellowing?

Do you have plants or grass areas that seem to be yellowing for no reason? This could be for a couple of reasons: One of the problems is that you may be over watering the plant.If the soil seems soupy or too mushy you want to cut back on the watering until the soil is damp but firm. The other reason could be that there is an iron deficiency in the soil. An easy way to add iron to most soils is by adding ironite. Ironite can generally be found at your local hardware store or nursery. Make sure to follow the directions on the bag and if you are putting it on your lawn be sure to not get any on the concrete that surrounds the lawn as it will cause rust stains. If it does get on any concrete surface you will want to sweep it off right away. A quality, granular, controlled-release fertilizer allows grass plants to grow evenly, without starvation periods or heavy growth spurts. Controlled, even growth also minimizes grass clippings.Lawns wake up hungry from the winter months. A spring feeding strengthens roots and gets lawns off to a good start before the heavy growing season. In most regions, it is wise to apply a combination fertilizer with a pre-emergent to control weeds. Summer and fall fertilizing are also equally important to keep nutrient levels where they should be and to keep weed growth to a minimum. A healthy lawn and landscape keep property values up and your neighborhood beautiful.

Time to dig and divide perennials

This coming autumn you may want to take a close look at your perennial plants such as:
Iris's
Agapanthus
Daylily
Penstemon
Coreopsis
Aster
Bee Balm (Monarda)
False dragonhead (Physostegia)

You'll want to look for:
1. Overcrowding - or a tight mass of roots and stems
2. Die off in the center of the plant
3. Overall appearance, if the plant lacks vigor or looks shabby
4. Smaller or no recent flower production
5. Plants that are simply getting too big.
If the above is happening, the cooler fall months are a good time to dig and divide your plants.

The General Rule of Thumb:
The general rule is to divide spring and summer-flowering perennials in late summer or fall, and to divide fall-flowering perennials in early spring. Division rejuvenates perennials, increasing flowering, and improving the overall appearance.If you live in a very cold-weather climate, make sure you do this early enough, about 6 to 8 weeks before a hard freeze, so that the plants have time to root and get established before it gets too cold. If you can't do it early enough, then wait until spring.

What To Do:
1. Simply dig up your perennials
2. Separate them into healthy sections
3. Get rid of any plant material that looks woody, dead, or diseased
4. Replant the pieces
5. Water them in and keep moist until they are rooted

Fall is in the air

Is it just me or does the weather seem to be changing really quickly. Just the other day it was cloudy, kinda rainy and I shouldn't say this too soon but I was cold for the first time in months. If you are anything like I am, I HATE WINTER! And I'm sure you can imagine the reasons why. But if anything good comes out of the cooler weather, it's the gardening you can go during this time.

I'm sure that you have heard the phrase "Fall is for planting". That's exactly what fall is good for. What to plant you ask? Bulbs for one. Spring flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall in order for them to bloom in the spring. If you wait until spring to plant spring flowering bulbs you will have to wait a full year to get any flowers from them.

Fall is also a great time to split up your perennials that have gotten too big over the summer. You can split flowers like iris's and shasta daisies. If you need more plants in your yard split one plant into 3 or 4 plants. It may take a little longer for them to get to size that you want but you will be able to fill empty spots in your yard for free. If you don't need any more plants but still need the ones you have to remain a certain size you can split them and give the second half to a friend that could use more plants in their yard.

As fall gets closer I will continue to send more gardening ideas on what you can do in the fall to eliminate sooo much of the work in the spring.

Save those seeds...

As it gets colder it is important to start saving the seeds from your annual flowers. Saving the seeds is a good way to save money next year and if your really like a certain flower this year you can assure yourself that same pretty flower next year. Today I will be telling you how easy it is to save seeds from your favorite warm-season annual flowers such as:
Petunias
Marigolds
Zinnias
Impatiens

Saving seeds is one of those gardening activities that really makes you take notice of how great nature is, and how complete and perfect the annual cycle of seed is.

Simply by looking for a few key elements, you can save just about any
flower seeds you want and grow them the following year, and that's pretty fantastic.

After all, just consider how little we have to do - while the flowers, with such a complex process - naturally grow and produce their seed. All we have to do is harvest the seed, save it, and then sow it the next year. So our job is very easy, and in the next steps below, you'll see how easy!

1. Find a dead flower
2. If not super dry allow to dry
3. Split open
4. Remove seeds

Fall Fertilizing

It’s time to have your lawn fertilized for fall by Empire Yard Maintenance. Fall fertilizing is VERY IMPORTANT for the health of your lawn over the harsh winter season. It provides vital nutrients for a lawn to grow a healthy, strong root system to get through the winter months. Fertilizing in the fall doesn’t only give your lawn all it needs for the winter it also helps your lawn to stay green longer into the winter and turn green earlier in the spring.
Early in September, grass is recovering from a long hot summer and may be coming out of a drought-induced dormancy, so you’ll want to give you grass a shot of nitrogen to get the blades growing again. Fall fertilizing provides the necessary nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Don’t you want your lawn to be healthy and disease free next year?
Call us TODAY and don’t leave your lawn to starve all winter long.

Do you have dead spots in your yard?

Sometimes it is hard to tell if you have grubs in your lawn, but there are some tell tell signs. 
If you have random dead patches of grass there is a good chance you have grub worms in these spots.

One way to find out for sure is to 1, call us or 2, pull up the grass in one of the dead spots and see if there are any visible grub worms.

The adult of the white grub is the Japanese Beetle, May beetle or June beetle. The larva, which is "C"-shaped with a white body and tan or brown head, produces damage to lawns and gardens. The larvae feed on grass roots causing yellow spots and patches on lawns. The adult beetles feed on over 275 plant species including roses, other ornamentals, all deciduous fruit trees, many smallfruits, vegetables, grasses and weeds.

A fully-grown larva is 20 to 25 mm long, and dark-colored. Two rows of minute hairs on the underside of the last segment distinguish white grubs from similar-looking larvae. White grubs overwinter as larvae and are ready to start feeding on roots as the soil warms up in the spring. Depending on the species, a life cycle may require one, two, or more years. Damage results from larvae feeding on roots. The most obvious and significant damage occurs during the spring and summer.

Its never too late to treat the grubs so that they don't end up killing your yard. CALL US and we can take care of the problem for you for only $45.00 per treatment.
Dedicated to keeping your yard beautiful.

Dry Sites in Your Yard

This week we are going to talk about trees in dry areas. Not only dry to due to climate but for other reasons also. This is called a dry site.

A dry site is one in which a tree's water deficits are likely to be more frequent, severe, or longer than is normal, for the local climate.

Sites become dry due to:
1. Insufficient rain (drought), or irrigationDrought, quite obviously, can be caused by less than normal rainfall, but it can also be caused by hot or cold temperature extremes where the top several inches (cm) of soil may freeze, and roots may be unable to take up water. Reduced water uptake in the winter can make trees, in particular evergreens, more vulnerable to drying out. Be sure to water in the winter if the ground is dry, including soil in containers and raised planters.

2. Not enough soil volume in the planting areaMost trees, and especially urban trees, and trees in containers, become stressed when they have a disproportionately small volume of soil for their roots. Reduced soil volume leads to soil that dries out rapidly as the root system absorbs moisture, often causing a chronic water deficit for the trees.
3. Various soil texture characteristics 
Sandy soils tend to drain rapidly making the soil drier than silt loam soils. Clayey soils tend to have dry to very wet moisture extremes depending on rainfall amounts. Depending upon your climate and soil type, you can have very dry soil conditions.

General signs of water stress include:
Reduced growth
Poor flower or fruit production
Limp, slightly curled or scorched leaves
Abnormal changes in leaf color

How Trees Adapt to Lack of Water:
To survive prolonged water stress, trees must be able to prevent or reduce water loss from certain tissues.

Common leaf adaptations include:
1. Thickened waxy layers on leaf surfaces, increases in leaf thickness, and coverings ofshort hairs (pubescence).
2. Some trees reduce moisture loss by closing their leaf pores (stomates) or decreasing leafsurface or size of new leaves, both of which decrease the amount of water loss.
3. Narrow or spiky leaves of conifers enable them to survive not only the droughts of hotsummers but also the cold induced droughts of winter.
4. An extreme form of dealing with water deficits is leaf drop.
5. Some trees adapt to dry conditions by developing massive, spreading roots, or deep roots,either of which can enable the tree to absorb larger volumes of water.

Winter Gardening

Thinking about growing plants during the fall and winter? It can be done!

An obvious pick for winter gardeners is to grow plants in greenhouses, cloches, or cold frames. These structures can help you grow a variety of plants in a controlled environment. There are greenhouses and other structures for a varietyof budgets. Find out everything you need to know about growing plants in greenhouses at this excellent greenhouse guide.

Fall and early winter is a great time to plant bulbs. Bulbs can often be the first flowers to bloom in late winter and early spring. Some of the best bulbs for planting in the fall and winter include daffodils, day lilies, iris, and tulips. Get out and get your hands dirty planting bulbs so that you’ll be rewarded with color in the spring!

Growing house plants and windowsill gardens is another way to enjoy the winter months with plants. To properly grow plants indoors, you should have a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. You can use a variety of containers for your plants. Terrariums are also an excellent way to enjoy plants and gardening indoors. 

To enjoy plants outdoors in the cooler months, try growing them in containers and raised beds. A lot of plants that wouldn’t ordinarily survive in the winter can grow well in raised beds. Why? Because the soil heats up quicker in the small space of a raised bed than in a large garden plot, so the roots are less likely to freeze. The soil also dries out quicker, so plants will not be sitting in wet soil for extended periods of time, attracting plant diseases like root rot.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves

It seems to be unseasonably warm this year doesn't it? The warmer weather has most of the trees hanging on to their leaves still. As the leaves fall you may find yourself overwhelmed with tons of leaves.

If you have trees like mulberry or ash, most of the leaves tend to fall all at one time. If you find yourself buried in leaves now is a good time to fill up your compost pile or add some good filler to your garden. Leaves add much needed nutrients to the soil when they are rototilled in.

If you don't have a garden or a compost pile and have no need for all the leaves then you are stuck with a decision with what to do with all the leaves. Of coursethat's where we can help! Now that all the leaves are steadily falling (or blowing in from your neighbors trees) it's time for a good fall cleanup.

Cleaning up your yard during the fall and winter helps to keep up with your curbappeal and keep all your neighbors jealous. A little jealously never hurt anyone right? Also don't forget about all the holiday guests that your gonna have over that will see your dirty yard if you don't get it cleaned up.

As the leaves fall and the season changes it always the right time to keep your yard beautiful.

Dedicated to keeping your yard beautiful!

Proper dead heading of roses

Most roses fall into 2 groups:
1. Floribundas and hybrid teas
2. Repeat flowering roses.

To dead head hybrid teas and floribundas you would remove a spent flower and the cane beneath it back to the first outward-facing leaf with leaflets. Dead heading back to a leaf with fewer leaflets often results in non-flowering new growth, cal "blind wood".

To dead head repeat-flowering roses like shrub roses and climbers, this can be more variable. New flowering wood can be produced from a bud at the bract beneath a flower or from buds at any leaf axis. On these roses, it is better to dead head back to the bract beneath the flower and observe whether new flowering wood grows from this point. If flowers are not produced, prune back to the first leaf and start the observation process again.

Properly composting leaves

Leaves are often referred to as "Gardeners' Gold". Their bright green appearance in the Spring is a harbinger of the beginning of a new life cycle. Their presence in the summer provides much needed shelter from heat and rain for wildlife and humans alike, as well as being the vehicle through which trees produce their own food. Their dramatic beauty in the Fall can beunparalleled. In addition to all of this, properly used as mulch or compost they provide outstanding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Unfortunately, to use leaves effectively as mulch and compost they still must be raked or blown from your gardens and lawn so that you have control over where they are used. Leaving a thick layer of leaves on your lawn or garden can create conditions that lead to rotting of the grass or perennials beneath. So, to start with rake the leaves up into a pile. 

Once your leaves have been gathered, you have a choice between using them undecomposed, as mulch, or composting them before you put then in your garden. Regardless of how you are going to use them, the first step is to chop or shred your leaves. This will save space if you are placing them in a bin, it will minimize their blowing around and matting if you are placing them in the garden, and it will hasten their eventual decomposition into composted organic matter.

Leaves can be used more effectively as a component in a compost pile that contains a variety of organic matters. A good balanced compost pile contains materials rich in nitrogen and others rich in carbon. Leaves can provide the carbon component of your pile. Other good carbon components include straw, non-glossy paper, wood and bark chips. Good nitrogenous materials include grass and plant clippings, uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Use your shredded leaves and other carbon materials to layer between your nitrogenous materials in a bin. Turn the pile occasionally to aerate it, and make sure that it is moist, but not soggy. It is not necessary to add commercial compost starters or fertilizer to a compost pile to start it "cooking" but doing so may hasten the process. The amount of time it will take to produce compost depends upon its size, composition and conditions. The process can take anywhere from three months to one year. My small suburban compost bins take 6 to 9 months to produce a fully composted product. I cut the materials I am placing in the piles into small pieces, and I turn the piles about once every 3 to 4 weeks.

Is your lawn ready for Spring?

Spring is just around the corner and if you don't give your lawn the attention it needs this month you may be missing out on the great potential your grass has to offer as well as setting yourself up for costly repairs or replacement in the future. Power raking, aerating and fertilizing are the three vital spring services that make a world of difference in the health and appearance of your lawn.

Power raking, also known as de-thatching, is the removal of all of the grass clippings that didn't get picked up by your mower that have built up over the last year. It also removes of all the grass that has died off over the winter months. When you de-thatch your lawn you are essentially removing the layer of dead build up that is the breeding ground for fungus and pests that could potentially destroy your lawn in a couple of weeks if gone untreated.

Aerating is when we bring in a large machine that punches holes in your lawn letting oxygen into the root system. I always like to think of aerating like the re-potting of plant. When a plants root system out grows its pot you need to either plant it in a larger pot or dig up the plant and remove some of the roots so they have room to grow. Your lawn is similar. When the root system becomes too tight and compact it affects the root systems ability to absorb water and nutrients thus smothering your grass and making it more susceptible to pests, fungus and drought.

Fertilizing your lawn is one of those things that, if not right, can ruin your lawn. I don't know how many times I've been called out to a customer's house to find them in a panic because their lawn has been completely burned from using too much fertilizer and they want me to fix the problem. The only solution is to wait until some of the fertilizer has been absorbed and then we have to go through the whole process of reseeding, which isn't cheap! The simple solution is to call us to take care of the fertilizing before you are in the same situation. Besides, we can usually do it for less than it would cost you to go out and purchase a spreader and a bag of fertilizer. 

Fertilizing is very important to your lawns health. Over time your lawn sucks up all the nutrients from the soil leaving the soil completely dead. Fertilizing replaces these nutrients giving your grass food that it needs to be healthy and beautiful. Fertilizing regularly builds a strong root system which defends it against drought and foot traffic. 

As you can see, performing these three services can lead to a healthy, 
happy, lawn and a happier you because you don't have to worry about all the issues that others who don't take care of their lawn have to worry about. We have made it as simple as it comes to taking care of your lawn this growing season with our "Get Your Yard Back in Shape Special". When you purchase this special for only $150.00 we come out and perform all three services for you and we also give your lawn its first mowing of the year. You'll be amazed at how fast your lawn greens up and is ready for all of those spring and summer events. 

Call me today to set up your "Get Your Yard Back in Shape Special", pair it with our regular maintenance and be yard work worry free for the whole year. I guarantee your lawn will love you! Just think how great it"ll be, you can be shopping or golfing instead of doing yard work. 
Dedicated to keeping your yard beautiful!