Spring Cleaning Tips for Nashville Lawns and Landscaping

You may think we are jumping the gun a bit talking about spring cleaning in February, but we’re not. If you are serious about getting your lawn and flower beds off to a great start this spring, you need to do some planning. What better time to plan than when the ground is still frozen and winter has put all your plants to sleep?

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading source of landscaping services, we don’t do much in the way of lawn maintenance in the winter. What we do is work on maintaining our equipment and plan landscapes for clients in the spring. Brainstorming before you actually tackle a spring cleaning will make the project go smoother and save you some cash as well.

5 Tips on How to Do a Nashville Lawn Spring Cleaning

So let’s take a look at this project with an eye towards what you are going to do and when.

  1. Get inspired. It may be a gloomy day outside, but you need to be thinking about how you want your lawn looking when the warmer days of spring arrive. What shrubs, flowers, or landscape features do you want to add and where? Are you planting perennials or annuals or both? When? For inspiration, you can turn to magazines, scour the internet, or simply walk down the aisles of your favorite home improvement store. Write down what you are going to add, where (sketch a map), and when.
  2. Visualize the end product. Your landscape should complement or contrast with your existing exterior colors and themes. Keep the color and architectural style of your home in mind when you are picking out blooming shrubs and flowers. When thinking about the placement of new shrubs, make sure you are not crowding walkways. Also, is that shrub a shrub or a small tree? Most plants will come with a tag that describes mature heights. You don’t want to block windows.
  3. Ready for some exercise? When the smell of mud is in the air, it’s time for lawn maintenance. Grab some leaf bags, heavy gloves, scissors, a pooper scooper, and your trusty leaf rake and dive in. Scissors are often more efficient in cutting stalks from perennials than pruners. Your rake is your main tool. A good thorough raking will collect all the debris, trash, and feces that have accumulated over the winter. A solid raking will also reduce thatch. This up close and personal time with your lawn will also allow you to spot lawn problems that may have cropped up over the winter months.
  4. Stake out your plan. Use the sketch you made and place stakes to plot out the areas where you will be planting new additions. With stakes in the ground, you’ll be able to better determine the number and placement of plants that you will actually need.
  5. The heavy lifting. Now the real work begins. You’ll want to prepare garden beds by breaking up the soil and adding mulch. If you are creating a new bed, you may want to consider using garden fabric to create a barrier designed to minimize weeds. If you are a believer in chemical fertilizers, apply a weed and feed solution that includes a pre-emergent weed killer.

Give Us a Call

Your next step might be a call to us. Rather than doing the digging and planting, give the tree experts a call and we will be happy to get it done for you. Either way, you’ll be off to a great start for spring 2018.

 

Why Pine Straw Makes a Great Mulch for Nashville Landscapes

We all know that mulch plays an important role in protecting gardens, tree bases, and shrubbery. Mulch comes in a variety of materials and colors and each has its “best application scenario.” However, one that we think goes largely unconsidered is pine needles.

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service, we think that the sustainable pine needle, or pine straw mulch, is underutilized. On its face, pine straw is more expensive than other mulches, but when you consider its benefits, it is likely the better value in the long run.

Why Pine Needle Mulch Makes Sense for Your Nashville Landscaping Needs

In Nashville, we have an abundance of pine trees. Pine needle mulch is “created” simply by raking up the needles that fall from the trees. Not a single tree is harmed in the gathering of pine straw mulch. It’s light, it spreads easily, and pine needle mulch has a unique “interlocking” capability that holds it in place. These are the qualities that make this mulch desirable from a maintenance standpoint; let’s see what else it can do:

Soil protection. Like all mulches, pine needles provide important insulation for the soil, protecting it from extreme temperatures. Pine needles also soften the impact of rain, minimizing soil compaction and erosion. Because they “interlock,” pine needles stay in place and do not float away like wood-based mulch. This means you are unlikely to find mulch on your walkways and you won’t have to “top off” as frequently as wood mulch.

Improving soil. If you have acid-loving plants like azaleas or roses, pine straw creates a chemically balanced soil to ensure that these plants thrive. While the needles themselves have little nutritional value, they encourage helpful microbes as the mulch degrades.

Visual appeal. Pine needles are finely textured and have a uniform neutral color, unlike chunky, brightly colored wood-based mulch that says “look at me.” The pine needles tend to set off the bright colors of your flowers and shrubs. Pine needles also prevent rain from splashing mud on your plants.

Value. As mentioned, pine needles look to be about three times as expensive as wood mulches when they are placed side by side. But in reality, they’re cheaper. A study by Texas A&M determined that a single round bale of pine straw mulch covers a 10-foot-by-10-foot bed to a depth of 2 inches. To achieve the same coverage with pine bark, pine nuggets, or red mulch would require over eight bags. So a single bale of needles is more expensive than a bag of mulch, but you need 8 times as much bagged mulch to equal the bale.

In short, pine needle mulch is an effective, efficient, and overall better value for your mulching needs. This spring, you should give it serious consideration when planning the protection of your garden and flower beds.

Not surprisingly, the Parke Company does more than tree trimming, tree removal, and other affordable tree services – we also provide mulch. Give us a call today and we will be happy to explain why pine straw may be the perfect pick for your landscape.

Mulching in Winter: The Benefits of Fresh Mulch in Colder Months

the parke company winter mulching

It’s winter in Nashville, and tending to gardens and shrubs is probably the last thing on your mind. “That would be a mistake,” say the experts at the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service company. Dry winter winds and the occasional winter warm spell can do real damage to your dormant and evergreen plants.

While Nashville winters are relatively mild, when the temperature drops below 25 degrees and the last of the hardy annuals turn brown and crumble, it’s time to do winter mulching. Why mulch in winter? Unlike spring mulching, which is done to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and warm the soil, the principal reason to mulch in winter is to insulate the soil and prevent damage from dry winter winds.

Insulating the soil to keep it frozen prevents dormant plants from sprouting during brief warm spells in winter. Changes in air temperature can also cause expansion and contraction of soil. Left unchecked, this soil movement can push a plant’s roots above the surface, where they can be damaged by cold winds. Keeping the ground frozen through mulch insulation minimizes the risk of this occurring.

Mulching in Winter

What to Use as Winter Mulch?

Remember last fall when you were raking leaves and doing a major leaf pick up? If you stored those leaves in a leaf bag, now is the time to break them out to be used as winter mulch. You can use any loose insulating material, keeping in mind that you will need to remove it in the spring.

Here are a few ideas for mulch material:

  •        Pine needles
  •        Straw
  •        Shredded leaves
  •        Shredded bark
  •        If the first freeze comes after Christmas, you can use boughs from your Christmas tree – great material because they are easy to remove in the spring.
  •        Snow is actually an excellent insulator, but you can’t count on that in Nashville.

What and How to Mulch in the Winter

We’ve already discussed insulating your flower garden, so let’s talk about other areas to protect.

If you have a fallow vegetable garden and you didn’t plant a cover crop, you can use a layer of leaves. If your vegetable garden is fenced, you can use it to “store” all of your extra leaves. In the spring you’ll have a ready supply of mulch material.

Evergreens and semi-evergreens, like rhododendrons, can become dried out by winter winds. You can protect them by covering the plants/shrubs in burlap. Make sure the burlap is not resting on the shrub or it will freeze to the bush. Stuffing leaves between the burlap and the bush will prevent that.

Another option is to spray the shrub with an  anti-desiccant, like Wilt-Pruf. As an aside, an anti-desiccant will prolong the life of your Christmas tree and also makes a good covering for carved pumpkins.

When to Remove Winter Mulch

The short answer is after the thaw, but that can be tricky. Easter snowstorms are not totally unknown in Nashville. Basically, when the smell of mud is in the air, it’s safe to remove the mulch.

If you have questions or need assistance with winter mulching, please don’t hesitate to call us at the Parke Company!

Safe Salt and Mineral Options for Your Walkways This Winter

We are fortunate in Nashville. While winters can bring some nasty weather, our cold months are relatively mild compared to our neighbors to the north. That said, we still get ice and snow and have our fair share of slip and fall accidents as a result.

So how do Nashville homeowners wage the deicing war? Unfortunately, many attack the ice with rock salt (sodium chloride). Rock salt has one redeeming characteristic: it is dirt cheap. But if you take a hard look at what rock salt can do, it quickly becomes obvious that repeated use can cause serious, expensive damage.

Rock salt is an abrasive and a corrosive and will wreak havoc on concrete walkways and driveways. At the Parke Company, Nashville’s premiere landscaping service, we are concerned about how sodium chloride affects our clients’ landscape. Not surprisingly, rock salt is not plant friendly.

How Rock Salt Damages Your Landscape

There are a number of ways that sodium chloride can damage plants, trees, and grass. Salt spray either from the road or from traffic on your driveway can burn stems and buds of deciduous woody plants, plus stems, buds, leaves and needles of evergreen plants.

Run off is another sneakier way that sodium chloride does damage. When diluted with water, sodium chloride splits into separate ions. These ions can prevent absorption of other nutrients like potassium and phosphorus. Chloride can make its way to leaves and interfere with chlorophyll. When this process is disturbed in deciduous shrubs and trees, the plant can die.

None of the signs of sodium chloride in the soil will become evident until the spring when the plants and trees begin to renew. If the concentration is high enough, a homeowner could be looking at replacing shrubs or even a tree removal.

Safe Alternatives to Rock Salt

There are a number of chemical and non-chemical substitutes for rock salt that are safe (or safer) for your plants. They all have different characteristics but what they all have in common is they cost more than rock salt.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Potassium chloride: This is perhaps the friendliest deicer for plants. It is only effective down to 25 degrees but that covers most of Nashville’s cold weather.
  2. Magnesium chloride: Works down to 1 degree and is plant friendly. It may leave a residue on driveways and sidewalks that will need to be washed off once the risk of icing is over.
  3. Calcium chloride: Kind of overkill. This works down to -23 degrees. If Nashville gets that kind of weather, your plants are in serious trouble any way you look at it. Calcium chloride works fast, which means it melts the ice and creates water, which is subject to refreezing.
  4. Heated Driveways: The ultimate solution. Without question the most effective way to prevent ice from forming or melting it if it has. Exceptionally convenient and also exceptionally expensive. Installation involves digging up your existing driveway.

Managing ice is a serious concern. There is the obvious risk associated with ice but you have to consider the consequences of the way you fight it. As a leading tree service, we have seen trees, bushes, and perennials that have been sufficiently damaged by deicers so that they needed to be removed. Nothing is sadder than seeing a tree cut down or removing a tree simply because the wrong kind of deicer was used.

No Winter Break for This Nashville Landscaper

There may be snow on the way or snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean the folks at the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping services organization, are kicking back and taking a winter break.

While it’s true, we do take advantage of the reduced workload to perform maintenance on our equipment, winter is actually an ideal time for an important tree service.

Tree, Hedge, and Shrub Trimming

When cold weather hits and trees shed their leaves, tree structure is easier to see. Winter is an excellent time for trimming trees. When trees are bare, it is far easier to locate failing or dead limbs.

Unless you have extensive tree pruning experience, it’s best to rely on professional tree pruners to remove the damaged limbs. Done correctly, pruning will improve the health of a tree and eliminate the risk of a falling limb.

Almost every type of hedge and shrub that grows in Nashville can be safely trimmed or pruned during the dormant winter months.

When people think “trimming,” they usually think in terms of deciduous trees only, but evergreens are also safe to trim. In fact, evergreens can represent an even greater “falling object” threat because it’s easier for snow to pile up on an evergreen than a naked deciduous limb.

The One Service We Only Do in Winter

There is one business operation that the Parke Company only provides in winter: ice and snow mitigation.

That’s just another way of saying deicing of walkways, driveways, parking lots, porches, and any other surface that might represent a slip and fall risk.

We use a magnesium chloride formula for our application, not a salt based material. Using magnesium chloride eliminates the potential damage to concrete, painted surfaces, and of course, green growing things that salt is responsible for.

Our residential customers appreciate the safety and convenience that clear walkways provide. Commercial clients are sensitive to their liability for slip and fall accidents. Employees and customers of those businesses appreciate the ease of maneuvering an otherwise icy landscape and the minimal risk of a fender bender in the parking lot resulting from spinning tires.

There is one other service that we will be doing this year. The Parke Company has been selected to help decorate Tennessee’s Holiday Tree at the state capitol!

Nashville Winters: An Excellent Time to Plan

A perfectly landscaped space doesn’t happen by accident. At the Parke Company, our specialty is installing and renovating landscapes. Before the first piece of field work is performed, every aspect of the landscaping and hardscaping is plotted out.

That means that every type of tree, shrubs, flowers, hardscaping pieces, and sod has to be selected and located on paper.

In a way, installing or renovating a landscape is similar to building a house. Our skilled landscapers follow a blueprint to create the finished product.

Creating that blueprint takes time, a lot of time. A client meeting takes place to establish the client’s goals and specific preferences. Time is required for the actual design. Another meeting with the client for approval of the concept is required to get the project off the drawing board.

Time is something that is in short supply for us during the warmer months. Winter is ideally suited for planning.

So while we won’t be out installing landscapes in the snow, we won’t be taking a break either. Winter is just another season of work for us.