Do’s and Don’ts for DIY Holiday Lighting Outdoors

Please Note: The Parke Company is not offering installation services this season. 

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service organization, we know our way around decorating outdoor trees. In fact, this year it was the Parke Company that cut and helped decorate the 35-year-old, 35-foot Norway spruce used for the State of Tennessee’s Christmas tree at the state capitol in Nashville.

Decorated Christmas Tree

When done right, outdoor Christmas lighting can be awe inspiring, creating the perfect backdrop for the season’s spirit. It can spread that spirit to the entire neighborhood. But all it takes is one home to drag that seasonal joy down.

You know which one we mean. It’s the house with the fuse-busting display of 10,000 multicolored lights that blink in time to Christmas carols, and has the giant, inflatable Santa Claus on the front lawn. It’s the homeowner who strongly believes that “more is better,” and who measures the success of his display by how fast his electricity meter spins rather than the actual appearance.

With a little common sense, and a few tips from Nashville’s tree trimmers, you can avoid becoming your neighborhood’s Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation.”

LED Versus Conventional Christmas Lights

Technologically, LED lights have come a long way. Originally, LED bulbs gave off a blue tint, a “cool light” that most people didn’t care for. Today, if you select LED lights marked “warm” you will receive bright, full colored light that rivals any form of incandescent lighting.

Of course, they are environmentally friendly, using next to nothing in electrical power. They are also more reliable than conventional lights and last significantly longer.

The downside to LED lights is their cost. The initial outlay will be significantly higher than conventional lights. Over time, however, LEDs may prove to be the better investment.

The big advantage of traditional lights is cost. Prices have dropped significantly over the past decade. Because you are not terribly concerned if a string of conventional lights is damaged, taking them off trees becomes easier. If you use a professional to decorate and take down decorations, cutting the traditional string of lights rather than trying to unwrap it from a branch will save you a significant amount of labor costs.

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Outdoor Lighting

There are some basic “rules of the road” to consider when decorating outdoors. Follow these and the odds of a successful decorating project increase substantially.

  • Do: Have a plan before you begin. Check your inventory and the location of your power sources to ensure have enough of both to carry out the plan. Also consider how you are going to take down the display after the holidays.
  • Don’t: Mix LED and conventional lights. They don’t give off the same hue and will stand out like a sore thumb. If you do use both, use them on different sections, i.e. house and trees.
  • Do: Use more lighting if your house sits back from the road to enhance curb appeal. You don’t have to go “Griswold” but if you want people to see it, you need to go a little heavier with the lighting. If you use LED lights you won’t need as many. Their extra bright light will help you keep down your tree trimming cost.
  • Do: Leave at least a foot of space between the edges of your driveway and any staked lighting you are using to outline it. This will avoid problems if a car goes off the edge while trying to back out in the dark.
  • Do: Outline the architectural features of your home. Roof lines, peaks, gables, and porches can help give depth to the display. Electric candles in windows add a classic touch and a little variety to just string lights.
  • Do: Use pre-lit garland and wreaths on doors.
  • Do: And this should have been number two on the list, get your spouse’s agreement on the plan before you begin.
  • Don’t: Use all green or red lights. This is your home, not a commercial enterprise.
  • Don’t: Use as many lights if you are decorating with LED bulbs. LED lights are significantly brighter than conventional.

With a little planning you can make this year’s tree trimming project the best ever.

Winter is the Perfect Time for Debris Removal and Cleanup

At the Parke Company, we are known by our Nashville clients for our landscaping services, tree service, installation of irrigation systems, sourcing shrubs and flowers, and other traditional landscape tasks. Of course, most of those tasks take place when things are growing. Spring and fall are our busiest seasons.

But when winter arrives, it brings its own set of lawn problems.

Nashville is a southern city, so we don’t get much snow compared to our neighbors to the north. In fact, Nashville only averages about 7 inches of snow in any given winter. We get rain, and the temperature drops to an average of about six degrees above freezing. That limits the amount of outdoor activities that the fine folks of Nashville are willing to participate in, and it creates a problem for lawns and other outdoor spaces.

Too Cold to Do Much of Anything?

While driving on a freeway or even a residential street during the winter months, you’ll probably notice that the landscape looks a bit trashy.

Culverts will have filled up with windblown leaves, trash and debris. Lawns may appear to be unkempt because they are littered with debris. Our Nashville winter scenes rarely consist of pristine snow-covered lawns, but rather cluttered spaces with mostly grey skies up above.

Why do our winters look like this? In part it’s because it’s just considered too cold for many homeowners or even state road maintenance to be out raking and cleaning debris. It’s not that there is some “extra” supply of winter trash that somehow hits our landscape, it’s just that the usual trash is not picked up.

While a debris-filled lawn is not attractive, it can actually do harm as well. If left unattended, the debris can damage the grass under it when the first thaw hits.

Our early springs tend to be wet and muddy. Leaves, twigs, and other “yard trash” can hinder the growth of the grass when it comes out of dormancy. This can leave yellow patches or off green patches unless the debris is removed.

If you have done a good job of mulching, you may be inviting another, smaller, threat to your lawn. Field mice love mulch. If you see narrow yellow trails coursing across your lawn, these are the rodent freeways to the mulch bed. Raking out the trails will help the trampled grass and give it a chance to survive when spring arrives.

Clean Up Winter Debris

Obviously, the way to avoid yellow spots in the spring is to clean up debris during the winter. If your lawn is fenced, has hardscaping or drainage ditches, finding the debris will be easy. Winter winds will pile up the debris in these areas.

The trusty leaf rake can do leaf collection, but for most of our clients with large lawns, this will be a full weekend project. A leaf vacuum mulcher can handle most of the task. Large items (twigs, branches, trash) will need to be collected and bagged manually.

Of course, if you don’t have the time for a winter lawn cleanup, you can always call us at the Parke Company, and we will be happy to handle the job. We have the crews and the equipment to make quick work of transforming your debris-littered lawn into a clean winter landscape.

Let’s all hope for an early spring.

Cold Weather Care for Your Trees

It might seem a bit odd, but even with the cold weather and all of the leaves on the ground, now is the perfect time to work on the trees and bushes that line your lawn or business’s property. Not only is the cool weather – like the kind that is rapidly approaching the Nashville area – the perfect time to plant a new tree, since it promotes root growth, but the ideal time to get things ready for the harsh realities of the oncoming winter. We here at the Parke Company spend a lot of time getting things ready for winter and planting new trees. In fact, it is one of the busiest times of the year for us because of the small window to get things done and take advantage of the weather while it lasts. To really take advantage of the timing, here are some things you can do to make sure your trees last through the cold weather and come out of their hibernation in the spring looking healthy and hale.

Eating Healthy

Much like yourself, one of the most important things you can do for your trees is to make sure they are eating healthy. While for you that might mean cutting back on greasy burgers and adding more fruits and vegetables, for trees that primarily means mulching. Mulch, in its simplest form, is any organic (and sometimes, inorganic) material laid down on top of the soil as a cover. It helps the soil retain moisture and in most cases adds nutrients. In addition, the mulch acts like a blanket for the tree’s root system, keeping it warm and healthy during the extreme cold months. The nice thing about mulch is that it can be created using the materials you already have at home, namely, leaves. Instead of shipping them away in a leaf bag, save them, add water and let them sit for a couple of weeks. The resulting mixture makes for a wonderfully nutrient-rich drink for the trees. Now is also the time to monitor the water intake of trees, because a winter water drought can be almost as harmful as a summer one. Water them appropriately when the temps are still above freezing and you won’t have to worry about it later on.

A Little Off the Top

This is the perfect time to prune your trees. Pruning and trimming are practices that should be carried out through the entire year, but autumn is the perfect time to do so for several reasons. For one, the trees are dormant in hibernation, making any cutting you do potentially less harmful. For another, you can actually see the structure of the tree, so you will know where to make the cuts. Pruning relieves stress on certain parts of the tree, something that might be exacerbated by snow and ice, so do not neglect it. If you don’t feel comfortable making these kinds of cuts, trimming and pruning are just a couple of the many tree services offered by the professionals here at the Parke Company.

Autumn is coming to a close, but it is not over yet and now is the time to make sure things are in order when it comes to your trees. By ensuring they have a healthy diet and are properly trimmed, you can count on happy and healthy trees, and it never hurts to have a step up on the competition come spring.

Cleaning Things Up: Easy Tips to Make Your Lawn Look Better

colorful flowers in yard

While the weather is nice, you might be taking advantage of it by spending more time outside. Not necessarily doing yard work and the like, but just resting easy and appreciating what you have. Of course, you might be on the opposite side of the equation, which finds you inside looking at everyone else’s wonderfully manicured and generally better looking yard. You might be experiencing a sense of regret, or maybe the desire to do better next season. Luckily for you, making the lawn look nicer is a very easy thing to do, and taking a nice looking lawn to the next level (both metaphorically and in some cases literally) is something that the professionals here at the Parke Company are skilled in. We are happy to share our knowledge of ways to make everything look a little bit neater and nicer, and hope that you think of us the next time you have landscaping design work available.

With that in mind, here are a couple of things that you can do to make your yard look amazing.

Managing the Numbers

One of the easiest ways to make things look nicer is to plant the same kind of flowers in greater numbers. This goes against the school of thought that says you need to mix several different types of flowers together for visual variety, and while there is some truth to that, having a lot of one type of flower makes for a better punch. Think about the field of poppies scene from The Wizard of Oz. It makes things look bigger and bolder. If you then apply this principle on a larger scale, by alternating large swathes of the same flowers or plants across your lawn, things are going to look pretty great. You don’t even have to employ the exact same plants; if you want to change things a bit, make sure you are repeating something. People like repetition. It is just one of those things that stands out to the human eye, so take advantage of it. If you are concerned about the late season and planting new plants, worry not – the Parke Company has access to a lot of plants, including perennials, that will still grow.

Clean it Up

One of the easiest things one can do is to make sure everything looks neat. Do you have trees, or large patches of bushes? Trim them. Cut them to different sizes to give the eye new levels to look at. A well groomed bush is something everyone likes to see. This advice can be applied to the rest of your lawn too. Leaves are falling, so make sure you are raking the lawn on a regular basis, and either use them to make a healthy, nutrient-rich mulch to then apply to the grass, or bag them up and use a leaf removal service. The point is, putting in just a little bit of effort will make a world of difference.

If the idea of some yard work is enough to make your throat close up, then maybe you should think about using a service. The Parke Company is skilled in a lot of areas, including tree services, landscaping design, maintenance, and more. We are happy to help in any way we can, and everything will look amazing when we are done with it.

Composting: Taking the old and making it new

Autumn is getting close in Nashville – you can practically smell the pumpkin pies baking and hear the sounds of backyard football games. That means you can probably smell the aroma of rotting leaves and see the buildup soon to overtake your lawn as well. What should you do with the leaves falling aimlessly to the ground, and if only there was a way to deal with them in a helpful and environmentally friendly way. Luckily, there is. While we here at the Parke Company are happy to take away anything you might have stored in those heavy leaf bags, by saving them, you can create something infinitely more useful: a compost area.

Reuse, Reduce and Recycle

At its simplest form, a compost garden is just a collection of food and yard waste, kept moist and allowed to aerate. After a period of weeks or months, depending on the type of composting used and the materials involved, the waste will break down into a handy substance that can be used in a variety of ways, including as a soil additive, a conditioner, or a fertilizer. Since the project can take as long as six months, if you get started now, your compost will be ready for the spring planting and growing seasons. While the products of your fall cleanup are probably going to be the most common ingredients, you can also throw in the clippings from mowing the lawn, scraps from the table (just not meat or bones), and even things such as cardboard and wood chips. The important thing is to get a mix of nitrogen and carbon based materials, as too much of either will throw off the balance of the compost. The other main ingredient is oxygen, which is why a compost pile needs to be turned regularly. The oxygen provides a fuel for the breakdown process, as does the moisture from a regular watering, although you can always let the natural rainfall handle that aspect.

Reaping the Benefits

There are several types of composting available to you. The most common one involves an enclosed area, usually a chicken-wire fence covered with a tarp. When constructing it, start on a bare patch of dirt to allow microorganisms and other decomposers an easy way of reaching the materials. You should layer wet and dry materials, and look into breaking up some of the tougher materials. For instance, corn cobs take a very long time to decompose, so you might want to cut them into smaller chunks to aid that process. Additionally, larger, flatter objects, like cardboard or a large pile of leaves, need to be shredded before getting added.

If you do end up with a large amount of leaves, you might want to look into several leaf-only composting options. For one, you can create a compost pile made only of leaves, which includes a layer of dirt between every couple of inches of leaves. This will take the longest amount of time to fully compost, and won’t provide the same number of nutrients as a normal compost, but it still has its benefits as a soil additive. You can also use the leaves to make a sort of tea bag, which you can then steep in a barrel of water for a couple of days. After that, remove the bag and the water has now become a healthy, nutrient-rich drink you can use to water your plants with.

If the idea of composting is something that intrigues you, or you just have more yard waste than you know what to do with, you can always call the Parke Company to help you get started