How to Use Bark Mulch to Dramatically Improve Your Landscape

mulch1If you are thinking about ways to enhance the exterior of your home, then you should consider using bark mulch to improve the appearance of your landscape.

Once you have cut the lawn, trimmed the hedges and planted the flowers, do not forget to complete your project by covering exposed soil with mulch.

The rich color of this mulch is a backdrop that will make your lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers stand out.

After laying down the mulch, you will be able to see the difference immediately. It is one of the most inexpensive ways to improve a landscape quickly.

In many ways, mulch is like icing on the cake. Without mulch, even a well-maintained landscape is incomplete. No matter how rich soil looks, mulch looks much better than exposed soil. By covering exposed soil with mulch, you can instantly enhance your landscape because soil looks dull and mulch has an appealing color.

Whether you are in the process of selling your home or plan on living there the rest of your life, laying down mulch will help increase the curb appeal of your home. Even from far away, mulch not only helps highlight a landscape, it also helps highlight an entire home.

Before and after pictures of landscapes with and without mulch confirm how much of a dramatic difference mulch can make. Most homeowners who use mulch are surprised by how different their yards look after laying down the mulch.

By covering patches of exposed soil with mulch, homeowners can transform their entire garden in just a few minutes.

Most homeowners cover every open area of their yard with exposed soil but do not use mulch to cover their flowerbeds.

mulch2

When decorating with bark mulch, you want to spread it evenly over any areas of exposed soil and all your flowerbeds. By taking the time to cover your flowerbeds with mulch, you will be on your way to enhancing the natural beauty of your growing flowers.

In addition, you will be taking steps to protect their roots, keep them well hydrated and help them last longer. This is why so many homeowners lay mulch down on their flowerbeds.

What homeowners like most about using mulch is that it does not cost a lot of money. If you are looking for an affordable way to make your landscape stand out, then you should definitely purchase mulch to cover your exposed soil. Mulch is used by many homeowners to help make pathways and borders stand out as well. By evenly spreading mulch in strategic places, you can transform your landscape quickly.

If you are looking for ways to start enhancing your landscape, then there is no better time than the present to make plans to lay down mulch throughout your garden.

Before spring arrives, you should start thinking about ways you can use mulch to enhance your entire landscape now.

Most professionals begin laying mulch down in the spring once the temperature has warmed up a bit, so you will soon be able to transform your landscape.

Using Bark Mulch

Although there are many different types of mulch to choose from, bark mulch is extremely popular. The rich color of this mulch makes it so popular. Also, this mulch does not change after being exposed to the sun.

In addition to making your landscape and lawn look beautiful, bark mulch also helps keep soil hydrated and protects the roots of your plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. Mulch also helps cover and reduce the number of weeds in your garden.

When laying down mulch, you can use it to improve the appearance of your front, back and side yards. There are no limitations when it comes to where you can use mulch.

If you are making plans to spruce up your landscape, then you should definitely think about all the benefits of using bark mulch.

In addition to enhancing your landscape, mulch will help keep weeds at bay, keep your soil well hydrated and protect your shrubs, flowers and plants. It is one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to improve the appearance of your landscape.

Adding Color to Your Landscaping Project

When planning your landscaping most people include things like trees, bushes and grass but that can sometimes result in a very green landscape.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but many people want to spice it up a little bit with some color. The most common way people do this is by adding flowers to different areas of their landscape, but this comes with some concerns.

Many flowers only bloom for a few weeks or months per year which can put you back right where you started.

Adding Flowers for Color

colorful-flower

Of course flowers are an excellent addition to most landscaping jobs, but it is important to do it right to ensure they bloom evenly throughout the year. In most areas of the country there are hundreds of different species of flowers to choose from that will thrive.

You can choose a variety of different species of flowers which bloom at different times of the year. This will not only provide you with color throughout the year but will also give your landscaping a constantly changing look and feel.

Using Trees for Color

treeThere are some trees which have leaves which are red, purple and other colors which can add an excellent splash of color to your landscaping. Many people love the fact that they not only give you additional coloring, but also that the color is up off of the ground which can give your garden a look of additional depth.

You can even get flowering trees which will have a normal green leaf through much of the year but at particular times they will bloom with brilliant flowers. This may be something to consider when planning out your design.

Don’t Forget About the Non-Living Items

Something many people forget as an option to give your landscape additional color are those non-living items such as chairs, walkways or other things. When properly placed you can create distinctive focal points in your garden and help add flair to the entire area. Some popular ideas for this include things like:
bird-feeder

  • bird feeders
  • bird baths
  • brick walking paths
  • tree swings
  • patio furniture

There are, of course, many other options to choose from as well. When looking at your options, don’t be afraid of getting creative with what you use for your garden design.

Remember that when planning the design of your yard that the most important thing is that you’re happy with the end result. Even though landscaping as a whole can be expensive, most of the individual items used aren’t typically going to cost you too much so you can give them a try, and if you don’t like the way they look you can just remove and replace them with something new.

Landscaping should never be something that is done once and forgotten.

Continuous updates and improvements are part of the joy of landscaping and it will also keep your home and your yard looking new and exciting year after year.

The contrast between some things which last for many years like the trees and other items that might be changed based on the season give landscaping the sense of excitement that most people love.

Warm Winter Affecting Your Landscape?

Many states in the U.S. are experiencing warm winters.

States notoriously known for harsh and brutal winters, like Minneapolis, didn’t have temperatures dip below zero until mid-January. While residents may be relieved of the delayed cold temperatures, many gardeners and landscape professionals are worried about their landscape surviving the drastic temperature fluctuations.

How it Affects Your Lawn

In winter, lawns are dormant meaning they are alive, but not actively growing like they do in spring or summer months. When a warm winter strikes, your lawn continues to grow, but may tire and weaken due to the lack of real rest. The stress can be too much for your lawn since it will not be receiving the nutrients it needs. And, without the proper lawn care help, your lawn may turn brown leaving dead spots, or spreading lawn diseases.

Lawn Care Tips

When your lawn is experiencing a warm winter it’s best to water lightly and practice other lawn care guidelines.

  • Apply at least ½ inch of water, about once a week especially if your warm winter is seeing 50- 70 degree temperatures.
  • Make sure to check your local forecast to avoid watering your lawn before temperatures drop to freezing.
  • Do not mow your lawn unless you notice the grass is starting grow.
  • If you must mow, try keeping your lawn less than 3 inches in height.
  • If your lawn gets too tall during winter months it can flop over, trapping moisture and spreading fungal diseases to your lawn.

You should also avoid foot traffic on your lawn as much as possible; this goes for all seasons. If and when temperatures gradually return to their normal winter temperatures the grass should ‘harden up’ and be fine until spring time.

Take note to see if there are any spots in your lawn that hold a lot of water and/or freeze during the cold winter temperatures and make sure to develop a better drainage system for the next winter.

This will save your landscape from bare spots and other unsightly lawn diseases no matter what season you are in.

Winter Lawn

[Image Source: LawnCare.Net]

How it affects Your Plants

Plants respond to two things: temperature and light.

When the temperature rises and plants get more sunshine than they are use to in winter they can’t help but think it’s spring time and start to bloom or grow. The ones that bloom or start to bloom may be in trouble when the cold winter temperatures return.

It’s difficult to know exactly how to prepare your plants for this kind of uncertainty because of all the factors involved. For instance, you must consider: type of plants you have, how suddenly the cold temperatures return, how cold it gets, and your environment.

Nonetheless there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your landscape remains lush and pleasant looking.

Plant Tips

  • Laying a layer of mulch or leaves is a big and easy way to help your plants survive winter.
  • Mulching helps keep your plants warm and keeps moisture in the ground.
  • Adding about 1 inch to 2 inches of mulch should be enough to provide enough warmth for your plants. Mulch will act as a blanket and keep them warm for the duration of winter.
  • If your landscape hasn’t seen very much rain or snow make sure to water your plants during the warm period. They’ll have a better chance of bouncing back when spring time comes.
  • If you bring outdoor potted plants indoors, make sure to water and give them access to a window that gets adequate amounts of sunlight.

How it Affects Your Bushes/Shrubs

Shrubs or bushes have a different story when it comes to a warm winter. They typically set their bulbs in the spring so the plant itself should remain unharmed.

However, the flower buds could be killed if they bloomed or opened too much. The cold air takes away valuable moisture and warmth from the buds and dries them out causing them to die, so don’t be too disappointed if you have fewer blooms this spring.

Bushes/Shrub Tips

  • Once the warm winter has occurred it’s hard to prep your shrubs or bushes for the winter weather that will return.
  • Make sure your bushes and shrubs get a good watering in the fall time. They’ll get the needed moisture they may have lost during harsh winter weather.
  • Mulching around them won’t hurt. Remember to leave some breathing room around the stem of the plant.

Warm winters are unpredictable and it’s almost impossible to determine how exactly they will negatively impact your landscape, but with these lawn care and gardening tips you can better help your landscape survive winter and get ready to flourish for the coming spring.

Toxins Which Can Ruin Your Garden and What To Do About It

Back in ancient times victors would salt the earth of the cities they conquered to make it difficult to rehabilitate.

While you probably won’t go conquesting, it is important to know how certain chemical compounds can affect your yard and garden.

A lot of these toxins arrive by water runoff while sometimes homeowners do it to their own plants without even knowing.

Contaminant Sources for Your Yard

Rain

Salt is naturally occurring in the environment and traces of it is commonly found the soil. Rain water runs over formation and picks up minerals, salt among them, and carries them along their path.

As the water evaporates it leaves the minerals behind. Some of these can be good while others affect the pH and composition of the soil.

If this is a problem for your garden or yard, evaluate how water drains through your property.

Try to divert water away or change up soil composition in spots with dead plants. A little bit of sand mixed in with the soil will help water flow through faster. If the water does not stay, it will not evaporate and leave behind chemicals.

Pets

Have you ever noticed dead spots in a lawn or garden where pets urinate?

It is caused from the nitrogen within the urine. This might seem counterintuitive since nitrogen is used in many fertilizers, but in high concentrations it creates a chemical burn.

The best thing to do here is keep pets to an area where it will not be noticed. Also, washing the grass and plants with water after pets do their thing will help to dilute the nitrogen.

Deicers

A common source of contamination for gardens and yards during the winter is chemicals used to remove ice. It is not an easy task to remove ice and a deicer does a good job, but caution is needed.

Deicers can damage concrete, ruin soil, and kill plants.

It ruins concrete and landscaping by allowing water to melt, run into cracks, refreeze, and exert a tremendous force. This pressure will further expand the crack and chip the surface. These effect is known as concrete spalling.

sodium_deicerThe chlorides and sodium in many of the deicers are responsible for the gardening problems. These chemicals are very hard on plants and kill most. Also, when they come into contact with soil they deplete the oxygen and makes it almost impossible for plants to grow.

Try to avoid using these products.

If you do, use potassium acetate or CMA (Calcium Magnesium Acetate). These two are the least poisonous for plants and concrete. Potassium acetate works well down to minus fifteen Fahrenheit.

CMA only works to twenty Fahrenheit and is more expensive but it is best for use near plants or on concrete.

Paint

lead_paintFor older homes built before 1980, lead can be a big problem.

It makes its way into the soil from chipping paint. The area within 6 feet of a house is the danger zone. The dust and paint chips usually land here. Water dripping down the side of the house exacerbates the issue.

There are three solutions for lead:

  1. immobilize the lead
  2. mix the soil
  3. eliminate the source of the problem

To immobilize the lead raise the pH of the soil and add extra organic material on top of the soil (e.g. mulch) to protect plants.

Another task that can help is mixing the top soil with clean soil that is lower down. The last solution, which is the best but most expensive, is to remove the source of the problem. This can be difficult and expensive, but a good short-term solution is to cover it with a high quality primer and an oil-based paint.

Arsenic

Older homes have another problem; arsenic can be found in preservatives for wood. Like the lead in paint, the arsenic can be leached out from rain and makes its way into the soil near the house.

Also similar, unless you can remove the source the only solution is a temporarily cover it up.

The other possible source of arsenic, but more unlikely, is herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers used from back in the 90’s. Rain and water will slowly wash these chemicals away over time. Turning over the soil can help speed up this process.

Another solution would be to plant an elevated bed with clean soil.

Summary

Pay attention to indications your plants give you. If there are small yellow spot in the grass here and there, it is probably an animal.

If an entire bed of flowers next to the house keeps dieing, check the paint, wood preservatives, and water runoff. A test kit can be found in a local home improvement store for confirmation. Then all there is to do is determine which solution is best to remedy the problem.

Landscape Preparation for Spring

lawnIt may be hard to believe while we’re currently stuck in the throes of winter, but spring is just around the corner and that means a good amount of work getting our lawns and gardens back to their full beauty and strength of seasons past.

For months during winter your lawn, trees, bushes and gardens are covered, stressed, and pressed by snow and ice and can be damaged by deicers like rock salt.

When the snow clears and life finally begins to return, your lawn can appear patchy and many plants seemingly unhealthy, but their all most resilient than we often give them credit for.

While the amount of work needed will vary on the yard and on the severity of the winter, there is a short checklist of lawn care tips for spring that can help anyone kickstart their lawn and garden and prepare it for the rest of the year.

Take a Walk

Before you get down to work in a specific area, make sure you know the whole picture.

Take a walk around the property to get a clear idea of any damage that may have occurred and the work ahead of you. This is also a great time to do some basic clearing of dead or broken materials to clear the way for you later.

Clear Your Gardens

marigold

If you have gardens or flower beds, getting these cleaned out and planted can do a lot to improve the overall look of your yard almost immediately. Marigolds and pansies are two cold-resistant flowers that are very common and can be found at any nursery, perfect for spring planting.

Trim and clear any damaged or overgrown foliage to improve the look of the beds and make room for new, healthy growth. When pruning trees, make sure to cut no closer to the trunk than the branch collar, the raised ring where the trunk and the branch join.

The area around the branch collar is naturally capable of healing itself when a branch is shed, but improper pruning can damage the trees ability to cover the wound exposing the entire tree to the risk of decay.

Along with any waste you create, make sure to clear old mulch, dead leaves, and branches from the flower beds. While these materials can be composted and help improve soil conditions, those operations need to be kept separate. If left unattended, all of this material can build up in the flower beds and smother your plants.

Mow the Lawn

Unless your lawn suffered extreme damage in the winter months, spring fertilization isn’t essential. (For much of the country, application of fertilizer in the fall is most effective.) You lawn will undoubtedly appear patchy and flattened, but it won’t take long to fix that.

plastic-leaf-rakeUsing a plastic leaf rake, you can quickly get the grass upright, and a pass of the mower will improve the look by evening out the grass. While raking make sure not to apply any pressure – rely only on the weight of the rake itself.

Using a metal rake or applying too much pressure can pull up the grass and do major damage to your lawn. Most people have manageable lawns, but if you lack the time or have a giant lawn consider hiring a landscape company to do the basics to free up your time to focus on your garden.

Don’t Over-Water

For many of us, the simple joy of finally being outside can cause a sort of ‘spring-fever’ and actually lead to over-care for our lawns. One such common mistake comes when the water finally gets turned on. Depending on the climate and rainfall, your sprinklers may not even be necessary until much nearer to summer, but often times that spring fever (and the sad look of a post-winter lawn) can lead to an excessive amount of watering.

Check with your local lawn care for watering tips in your area. Grass is a hearty organism, and a good thirst is actually extremely healthy and advantageous in the long run. When grass is thirsty it encourages deep growth in the root system, seeking out more water.

Constant watering in the spring negates the need for such strong roots and will leave your lawn ill-prepared for the summer heat that lies ahead. Nevertheless your sprinklers will need to be turned on, consult your local sprinkler expert for your sprinkler start up.

Lawn care, specifically spring lawn care, can be a lot of work, but it’s extremely satisfying to enjoy a healthy lawn throughout the year, and a healthy lawn, trees and plants can help raise property value – all it takes is dedication, knowledge and some simple landscape tips.

If it seems like too much to handle, though, there are always lawn care professionals who are happy to help you get your yard ready for spring and keep it looking great all year round.