Controlling Crabgrass and Dandelions Without Chemicals

Walt Whitman once wrote about weeds as “plants whose virtues have yet to be discovered.” We’re pretty sure that most Nashville residents are still waiting for those virtues

to be uncovered. Crabgrass tops the list of lawn complaints, while dandelions have both admirers and detractors.

Weed control is a lawn maintenance issue that affects all homeowners, and many of those homeowners want what seems to be an impossibility.

Homeowners often want to control weeds but not use chemicals. At the Parke Company, our 30 years of experience delivering superior landscaping services to the Nashville community tells us that a “natural” solution is possible.

The problem, of course, is that a natural solution takes time, possibly years. In an age of pre-emergent herbicides, few homeowners want to pursue a far slower strategy. But that may be changing. Where there is a consumer need that is not being met, entrepreneurs smell opportunity. That may be at play here when it comes to controlling crabgrass.

Crabgrass – Super Weed?

The best defense against crabgrass, or any weed, is a thick, healthy lawn that chokes out weeds before they can gain purchase. For crabgrass that means a healthy, thick lawn, and soil with the proper pH balance (7.0-7.5). Perennial ryegrass is the best competition for crabgrass. It also provides some insect control, as it emits a natural poison that gives some pesky bugs a lethal dose of natural insecticide.

And now, Iowa State University has studied an all-natural material that has amazing crabgrass stopping powers. Corn gluten meal, a product of milling corn, turns out to be a highly effective herbicide. Some manufacturers are adding potash and nitrogen to the meal to give the soil a boost as well. A systematic application of corn gluten meal results in 60% reduction in weeds of all kinds the first year, 80% the second year, and a weed free lawn the third.

Pretty powerful stuff.

Dandelions – Exotic Flowers?

When Walt Whitman was musing about weeds, he probably wasn’t including dandelions in that class of vegetation. The fact is, dandelions were intentionally imported to North America in the 1700s by colonists from Europe. Back then, they enjoyed a much better reputation and had a higher level of appreciation.

If you examine the “virtues” of a dandelion compared to crabgrass or chickweed, dandelions look downright attractive. Consider the following:

  •        Dandelions make a tasty wine
  •        They can be dried, ground, and used as a substitute for coffee
  •        Young dandelion leaves are used in salad
  •        They are a natural source of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin A
  •        They are a natural diuretic

 

Still not buying it? Then get a weed fork and cut these rascals out of the lawn. Make sure you get the root, which can grow to 5 feet long. A dandelion has a two-year life cycle and you have to get rid of it before the end of the cycle. That’s when the flower is replaced with the fluffy white bloom that spreads seeds on the wind.

To prevent the growth of dandelions, fertilizing in the spring and fall are the best defense. Again, the thicker the grass, the less opportunity for weeds of any kind to thrive.

Contact The Parke Company

Another option, of course, is to let us take care of the issue. We provide a full line of lawn services including lawn mowing, shrub pruning, and tree trimming. Contact us today and let’s plan your “weed abatement” strategy together.

Winter is Coming: Getting Your Lawn Ready

icy grass in winter

As more and more pages are torn from the calendar, we get closer and closer to winter. Recently on this blog we have been discussing the importance of getting things prepared for the impending season of cold winds and snow, but there is one area that we really haven’t discussed: lawn care. When combined with the harsh heat the Nashville and Middle Tennessee area receives right before the winter, the grass outside your home or office is really going to take a beating in the coming months. There are several things you can do to minimize the hurt, however. With that in mind, here are some tips for taking care of your lawn as the seasons change, brought to you by the professionals here at the Parke Company.

Getting Low

The first and one of the most important things to do is to start lowering the blades more and more each time you mow the yard. Lowering the blades while mowing helps the grass get acclimated to a shorter length, so it’s not all happening at once when winter comes. You don’t want to have high grass during the winter months for several reasons. For one, the longer the blades of grass, the more surface area each individual blade will cover when it gets tramples. Have a lot of these and it will choke out what is underneath all the more. For another reason, small animals such as mice like to hide in tall grass during the winter months, and the little critters love to eat the roots and otherwise damage your plants.

It is for these reasons that it is important to rake the falling leaves right away. Leaves that are left alone too long will kill the plants underneath them because they block all the sunlight and have a tendency to absorb the water that should be going to the grass. Instead, bag the leaves up and leave them for a leaf removal service or keep them and create a nutrient-rich additive that will be extremely beneficial when introduced to the plants. Also keep in mind that anything left on the lawn after the first snow is going to leave dead spots, so make sure to remove any larger logs or dead trees first.

Prepare Yourself

Grass loses a lot of nutrients during the late summer months thanks to that scorching heat, so it is a great idea to add fertilizer before the first freeze of the year. The nutrients will stay in the soil all winter long, feeding the grass and helping things stay healthy until spring rolls around again. This is probably one of the most important things you can do, because otherwise when the snow melts for the final time, your grass will be yellow and dead and generally gross looking.

It can be difficult to remember all of the things that need to be done to keep your lawn in tip-top shape, but that is why we are here to help. Let the pros in grass health and lawn care here at the Parke Company help ease your burden by taking care of it.

Late Bloomers: A Guide to Late Summer Planting

scarecrow

No one can question that the world moves quickly. It seems like not that long ago, the area was on the brink of summer, but here we are, with the kids already complaining about back-to-school ads taking over the airways. The point is, if you were thinking about planting new flowers, time is running out if you want to take advantage of what summer has to offer. Some of you might be worried that it’s already too late for that kind of talk, but luckily that is not the case. There remain a lot of options, including several types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers you can plant and enjoy before winter ruins pretty much all chances of having a little green in your life – something the garden professionals here at The Parke Company are firm believers in.

Flowers Forever

It has always seemed that flowers are something to be planted in the early spring, to be appreciated throughout the summer, before failing in the fall as all growing things begin to die. That is not the case however, as there are several types you can plant in the coming weeks that will bloom and you can enjoy late into the year, depending on when the first frost hits. It seems like the world is getting hotter every year, so there is a good chance you can look out your window and still see something lovely, like a chrysanthemum or a peony, growing nicely. Perennials in particular do well under these circumstances, as do some other plants you might not expect: tulips, daffodils, and other typically spring plants can be planted until September to great effect. All it takes is the usual amount of sunshine, water, fertilizer, and love.

Herbs and Veggies

Of course, flowers are not the only things that grow, and in some cases, flowers are actually the most difficult to grow later in the year. Herbs and vegetables, on the other hand, do pretty well late in the year. After all, autumn is the time of the year when most crops are harvested, so it stands to reason they might be able to handle a little frost here and there, not that it’s usually a problem here in Nashville, at least for another couple of months. As far as vegetables go, you can still plant most squashes, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, carrots, and radishes with no problem, if you have the space for it. On the herb side of things, look at planting cilantro, parsley, and basil, as those plants will have the highest chance of success.

It goes without saying that the longer you go without planting these plants, the lower your chances of success become. Do not lose hope! All you need to do is make a plan and stick to it, as soon as possible. If you have questions about what you can grow at this stage in the summer, it might be time to contact one of the professionals here at the Parke Company, as not only will we be able to help you find something still capable of blooming, but also something that looks nice and the best place to plant it.

Fighting the Invaders: Tips For Dealing With Weeds and Vines

kudzu

It seems like once you have a garden or a landscape that you like, you will spend far more time taking care of it than you will enjoying it. Of course, that’s part of the fun of watching your garden grow and prosper; it’s not as satisfying if you don’t put a certain amount of sweat and blood back into it. One of the most annoying tasks that many come across is the process of removing unwanted plants, such as the invasive vines and weeds that can choke out an otherwise perfectly healthy area in no time flat. There are a variety of herbicides and other harmful chemicals one can use to make this an easier task, but we here at the Parke Company believe in a more natural solution, which is why we have compiled a list of some eco-friendly ways to take care of those pesky plants.

Identifying the Enemy

Identifying the problem plants at hand is pretty easy. All you need to do is drive away from Nashville proper and look at the roadside, and you will see entire trees, poles, and more taken over by a particularly invasive and fast-growing plant called Kudzu, also known as “the plant that ate the south.” Another commonly seen invasive plant is the several subsets of the honeysuckle bush, which is not necessarily a bad thing as many people like the smell it produces, but it is not always welcome, and can easily take up valuable resources like sunlight and water. Other plants include the winged burning bush, wintercreeper, and the purple loosestrife. As far as vines go, which are more troublesome considering how quickly they tend to grow, be on the lookout for various types of ivy and creeping charlie.

Taking Action

Once you know what you’re looking for, the problem then becomes what to do about it. Doing something is the first step, as the more you wait the more the problem gets out of hand. It is important to come up with a plan of attack, working from the outside in, and from the top down. Hacking away at the vines and getting to the root of the problem (so to speak) is a great strategy. Do not rip them up right away, as this could damage the roots of any nearby plants. You have to remember that the vines will sprout again soon, but cutting them down to size will have immense benefits for the next phase. For a lot of plants, the answer is to remove the shady coverings as much as possible, which helps them grow, and expose them to the sunlight so they wither and die. Another strategy is to smother the offending plants with a thick liner, although you have to be careful to avoid smothering the good plants, and to work a high-in-nutrient fertilizer into the soil afterwards.

Removing offending vines and weeds is a hard job, one that requires a lot of elbow grease and constant vigilance to make sure they do not return. If they do, you need to be prepared to step in right away or the problem will present itself again. If this seems like a lot of work, you could always give the professionals here at the Parke Company a call and we can help you with your landscaping needs, including maintaining these problematic plants.

Seeding For the Future: Tips For Your New Grass

green grass closeup photo

Regardless of whether your lawn is in need of a small patch of grass or a complete overhaul, laying down new sod or planting seeds is a lot of work. In theory it should be pretty easy, right? I mean, grass grows pretty much everywhere except on rocks or sandy beaches, so just how difficult could it be? The truth is that it’s usually easy to make it look alright, but pretty intense to make it look really nice. Since a lush, green lawn is one of the easiest ways to make your home look nice, it really is something you want to do the right way.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to get the fullest potential out of your new grass.

Too much of a good thing?

One of the trickiest parts of new grass is figuring out just how much water is needed. That is especially true during a hot summer like the one currently scorching Nashville and the rest of mid-Tennessee. The type of soil you are working with is going to affect how much water is needed on an average day. For example, in a place that has a more clay-like soil, like much of the area does, water is slow to be absorbed by the soil, since clay is harder than sandy or more loam-like soil. That being said, clay holds water better than the others, allowing the new grass seedlings to take their time. A good rule of thumb is that an average size lawn needs about an inch of water a week to survive, so if it’s not raining regularly (which tends to happen in this area) you need to set up a watering schedule. Remember that the hotter the weather, the more water will be lost to evaporation, so water early in the morning or later at night and avoid watering during the middle of the day.  Having too much water will also damage the grass seedlings, as it can lead to washing away the seeds or flooding them, not giving them a chance to grow.

When to cut

After your new grass has started to sprout, you might be wondering how long you need to wait before you start mowing that area. Again, this is a tricky balance to find. Mow too soon, and the individual plants don’t have enough time to take root and grow strong, and most likely will be torn from the soil. Wait too long, however, and you end up with a shabby looking lawn, something that we here at the Parke Company try our best to avoid. With most new seeding efforts, wait about a month before mowing for the first time. Another thing to keep in mind when mowing is to allow the new grass to dry before mowing, as doing it while the grass is still damp or wet can lead to complications.

Growing new grass is not something a lot of people have experience with, as it is usually a once-every-decade-or-so experience, not something you do every season like with certain flowers and other plants. We at the Parke Company understand this; after all, maintaining lawns is one of the the things we excel at. Why not put our years of expertise and knowledge to use by letting us help you plant the lawn of your dreams?