Mulching 101: Choosing and Applying the Right Mulch for Maximum Growth

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As much as many of us would simply like to let nature takes its course when it comes to tending our property, the fact of the matter is that lush landscapes do not grow themselves and often need to be helped along.

Incorporating mulch is a time-tested method for maintaining a beautiful landscape design, but with the myriad options available for mulching, choosing the best one for your particular property can be challenging.

First and foremost, the type of mulch you select depends heavily on the project you have in mind. When people hear “mulch”, brightly colored wood chips often come to mind. While this may be an appropriate aesthetic choice, the harsh dyes and chemicals in this material do not foster growth; they would be much more appropriate to cover parts of your landscape that only need visual improvement.

Furthermore, once you have carefully selected the type of mulch you’ll use, ensuring optimal growth means more than just heaving bags of compost over the top of your garden or along the edges of your property.

If you want your landscape to be the crowning glory of your neighborhood, properly incorporating mulch is key. Here is everything you need to know about choosing and applying the right mulch for maximum growth.

Mulching How-Tos

Choosing the right kind of mulch may require a visit back to high school environmental science class.

What you want out of mulch is decomposition. Decomposition pulls nitrogen from the soil, which plants love.  

Nitrogen is vital to plant growth because it is a primary component of chlorophyll, the necessary chemical for photosynthesis. Even if you slept through science class, you probably still caught that photosynthesis is how plants use sunlight to grow.

Many mulch varieties boast of their nitrogen content, but the best mulch for your next project may depend on the specific plants you are trying to grow.

Gardens

For a garden growing fruits and vegetables, organic and inorganic mulches can be effective. In some circumstances, mulches like wood chips can still promote growth, but in a garden they are more likely to be a nuisance since you will be digging up that area frequently.

When selecting an inorganic mulch for gardens, choose ones that will help defend against weeds while still protecting the soil.

Using plastic mulch can be good for gardens with temperature-sensitive plants. A dark plastic sheet will retain heat overnight and keep your more delicate vegetation warm. These sheets can ward off weeds and also prevent too much rainwater from soaking through the ground and overwatering your plants. When applying this kind of mulch, be sure to bury or weigh down the edges of your sheet and make holes in the sheet to allow for growth.

Organic mulches both cover and nurture soil in gardens. As mentioned previously, an organic, decomposed mulch enriches the soil because of its nitrogen content.

Additionally, hay and straw can be effective mulches to help retain moisture in soil and well as offering nutrients during decomposition. It is vital, however, that the hay is seed-free so that you are not inviting any unwanted plants into your garden. You should also be careful not to lay the hay or straw too close to the stems of your plants. This can attract slugs and other pests.

Trees

Mulch can also be a helpful tool if you’ve planted a tree and want to boost its growth. Mulch can be helpful for maintaining moisture in the soil around a tree’s roots, adding nutrients, and reducing damage to roots caused by lawn mowing (and damage to lawn mowers caused by tree roots!).

When it comes to these hardier plants though, the type of mulch used is less important than how the mulch is applied.

Much like garden plants, it is vital to avoid laying your mulch too close to the tree’s roots. This “volcano effect” occurs when mulch is piled high around a tree trunk and it can often result in too much moisture buildup which leads to root rot.

To avoid this pitfall, follow these few steps from The Arbor Day Foundation for the best tree care when laying mulch:

  • Remove all grass from around the base of the tree within a three to ten-foot radius (depending on the size of the tree).
  • Pour your mulch (they do recommend organic) within the circle about two to four inches deep
  • After pouring, double-check that the mulch is not touching the tree’s trunk.

From hardy oak trees to dainty tomato plants, incorporating mulch into your regular landscape maintenance could be what helps you achieve the lush property you’ve dreamed of. If you’re reticent about adding a new practice to your landscaping techniques, fear not! The certified arborists and landscaping professionals at The Parke Company are knowledgeable and experienced in how to cater to your property’s specific needs.

Give us a call (615-350-6033) or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

6 Signs It’s Time for Tree Removal

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Trees, like any other plant, are living organisms. This means that they will die someday. Proper removal of dying trees is necessary, not only for the general health of your landscape, but also for the safety of your home.

Unstable, sickly trees are a serious safety risk. If their instability progresses too far, an unhealthy tree could fall into your yard or on your home. Even if a tree is not completely dead, a weak tree could easily be brought down by a storm.

The best way to circumvent this safety risk is by being proactive in maintaining the trees on your property. Always keep a close watch on your older trees to check for symptoms of illness. Here are six signs that it’s time for tree removal.

1. Lack of Leaves

Most property owners are aware of the fact that trees shed their leaves in fall and remain barren until spring rolls around again. You may notice, however, that the regrowth of leaves on your trees is a bit different from years prior. This could be one of the first signs of a tree’s failing health.

If you observe that a certain area of your tree has few or no leaves, this could be a signal of illness. A tree lacking or sparse in overall leaf coverage is likely dying and should be evaluated by your landscaping service provider.

2. Mushrooms At the Base of the Tree

Mushrooms and other fungus-like organisms grow easily along the forest floor, but this is bad news for your trees. When large colonies of fungus grow on your trees, they infect the roots and trunk, causing damage that can result in serious instability and significant safety risks.

Unfortunately, if the growth of the fungus is progressive, little can be done to salvage infected plants. Many invasive organisms that commonly attack trees (such as honey fungus) cannot be removed with a fungicide.

Any trees that have not been seriously damaged by the fungus can be transplanted after careful examination, but many will have to be removed to prevent the spread of further infection.

3. Dead Branches

If you’ve noticed fungus growing at the base of your tree, you are likely to find collections of dead branches on the ground as well. Sickly trees often drop these fallen branches, which can then contribute to the spread of disease.

According to Tchukki Andersen, a certified arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association, when trees are sick or dying, they tend to shed branches to become “smaller” so that there is less of an organism to feed. This is not unlike when the human body cuts off blood flow to appendages to redirect blood to the heart and brain if necessary.  

Falling branches present a risk of falling and causing damage to your property or loved ones. When unattended, falling branches compromise tree stability, resulting in a potential fall.

4. Find Branches Without Buds

It is possible, however, to catch signs that branches may be dying before they even fall.

Carefully observing your trees’ branch health can help you spot early indicators of tree illness.

Tree limbs that lack buds where they have typically been present could be dying. If these same branches are also fine and brittle, snapping easily, this could also be a sign poor health.

Careful observation of branch health will help you avoid the larger risks that result when illnesses reach the trunk of a tree and compromise its stability. Be proactive and monitor your trees’ branches as a part of your regular landscape maintenance.

5. Bark Health

Like human skin, the bark of a tree can be a visible indicator of its overall health.

If bark has fallen off of a trunk leaving deep cracks and gouges, this could be a sign that the tree will need removal. These cracks in bark are often referred to as “cankers” and trees are likely to break or split in those areas, posing a serious threat to safety.

Evaluating a tree’s bark can also reveal its health status. This evaluation is known as a “scratch test”. To conduct a scratch test, simply peel away a small section of the bark from the tree’s trunk. If the underlying flesh of the tree is green, the tree is alive. If the bark underneath is brown and dry, this is a sign of decay.

When conducting a scratch test, make sure to test multiple branches since a sickly tree could still have a healthy branch or two.

6. Trunk Heath

While you’re conducting a scratch test, it can also be helpful to evaluate the health of your tree’s trunk as a whole.

If your tree’s trunk lists heavily to one side as a result of strong winds or a storm, this is a sign of weak roots and warrants removal.

A cavity or “owl hole” in your tree’s trunk may seem charming, but it can also signify a dying tree. Hollow portions of a tree trunk are never a good sign. These holes are typically the result of a fallen branch leaving a cavity behind and they tend to appear in old, dying trees. If you notice these types of cavities in your tree, have it inspected as soon as possible to avoid a costly disaster.  

It is important to note the difference between a sick tree and a dying tree. While dead and dying trees cannot be saved, sick trees can be helped if quickly diagnosed by a certified arborist.

From tree planting to tree removal, the care of your home’s landscape should be handled by experienced professionals. The certified arborists at The Parke company have the precise set of skills to properly evaluate the health of your trees and to help you take the next steps toward tree removal.
Give us a call (615-350-6033) or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

Building a Treehouse: Choosing the Right Tree

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Nowadays, most children are heavily exposed to screens before the age of three and spend overwhelming amounts of time indoors rather than creating outdoor memories to last a lifetime.

People who grew up without the ubiquitous presence of screens are likely to recall one of childhood’s most nostalgic inventions – the treehouse. For parents who want to enrich their children’s upbringing and combat the negative social and physical effects of excessive screen time, installing a treehouse in your backyard may be the key.

If you’re thinking about adding a treehouse to your landscape design, strategy is key to ensure both safety and sustainability. Here are a few things you need to consider when choosing the right tree for your treehouse.

Location

Everyone knows the first rule of real estate: location, location, location. The same is true for choosing the perfect tree for your treehouse.

It is important to consider your specific needs when deciding where to build a treehouse. For a family of younger children, a treehouse close to your home may ensure that your kids do not stray too far on their adventures and remain in your line of sight. Be sure, however, not to locate the treehouse so close to your home that it presents a potential safety risk or disrupts the rest of your landscape design.

If your children are older and can handle a grander excursion, you may be able to build  your treehouse on a tree further back on your property, allowing your children to embrace a little independence and grow their developing imagination.

Age

Once you have determined the ideal location for your treehouse, consider the age of the trees in that area.

Safety is a top priority when building your treehouse and tist can be directly influenced by the age of the tree you choose. Older, weaker trees should be avoided when selecting a tree for a treehouse, but even young trees should be approached with caution.

Trees are (obviously) plants, so they continue to grow over time. When building around a tree that may continue to grow significantly, be sure that you have built your structure in such a way that allows for growth as you exercise regular tree care. The last thing you want is for a treehouse to burst at the seams after a few years’ growth.

Supports

There are a number of different factors to consider when ensuring that your tree will offer sufficient support for your treehouse.

The first option is to choose not one, but two trees between which to build your treehouse. If there are multiple trees near enough to each other, building across two trees may allow you to build a larger treehouse with double the support.

Regardless of whether or not you have the capability of building on two trees, the thickness and disbursement of the branches will be important for ensuring stability. Be sure the branches are sturdy and convenient enough for building a treehouse. Removing extraneous branches can be done easily with proper landscape maintenance, but it’s a much more difficult task to grow the right branches.  

Height

The internet is full of opulent photos of treehouses tucked away in the highest reaches of Amazonian canopies. While a sky-high treehouse may make for a scintillating Instagram post, treehouses placed far off the ground may not be the best idea.     

Especially with younger, more rambunctious children, treehouses placed in a tall tree may increase the risk of injury in the event of a fall. Generally, it is advised that treehouses for children should be about 10 feet from the ground.

Height can also be a risk factor when combined with risk factors from weather. When a treehouse’s center of gravity is higher from the ground, storms can present unforeseen danger. When subjected to high-speed winds, treehouse can act as a sail and multiply the stress put onto branches during a storm. Ideally, a well-built treehouse will be able to endure the weather typical of your area, but keeping a tree house low to the ground may be a simple step to ensuring stability.

Treehouses are a classic feature of landscape design that are often forgotten today. In an age when kids need time outside more than ever, incorporating a treehouse may be what helps to combat “tech-brain” and encourage imagination in ways that only outdoor play can.   

From tree planting to treehouse installation, The Parke Company is available and qualified to ensure that your treehouse is safe and artistically incorporated into your current landscape.

For more information on how to safely incorporate the whimsical delight of a treehouse into your landscape design, contact the certified arborists at The Parke Company and let their superior lawn services transform your property.
Give us a call (615-350-6033) or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

4 Ways Landscaping Can Be a Natural Sound Barrier

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The right landscaping is key to creating the perfect environment for your residential or commercial space. The visual element of your property, however, is only one factor in developing the aesthetic you seek. Even the most beautiful space can be tarnished by noise pollution.

Modern life is filled with noise. Between traffic, phone notifications, music, and chatter, it can seem impossible to escape the constant noise and find solace. Don’t let your property add to the noise. Here are four ways that your landscaping can also act as a natural sound barrier.

Water Features

In some circumstances, adverse sounds may not be severe. While the noise of distant traffic or neighboring properties may not dramatically affect the mood of your property, they can be easily mitigated.

Incorporating water features into your landscaping is a simple way to add the calming sounds of trickling water as a way to counteract moderate (but still inconvenient) noise pollution. Certain water features can also attract birds whose song can cancel out the din of less melodic noise.

Not only do water features offer a unique auditory serenity, they can also dramatically improve the visual quality of your property. Check out this article to learn more about the value of water features and find out if this is the right choice for you.

Vertical Barriers

If the sound disturbance is greater, a vertical barrier may be the best solution. Rather than adding sound to counteract noise pollution, these barriers act as a wall to block out noise from ever entering your property.

A tall fence can double as a property outline and a defence against noisy neighbors, perfectly maintaining the solace of your outdoor environment.

If a fence doesn’t fit within the pre-established aesthetic of your landscaping, consider a natural border to combat noise. Dense, tall hedges and trees can also act as an effective sound barrier and line the perimeter of your space in the same ways as a fence.

Sinking

When properly combating noise pollution, it is not enough to only consider what you incorporate into your landscape design. You must also consider where it is installed.

When deciding where to place hardscapes like walkways and pavement, sinking these spaces where possible can be an effective way to mitigate unwanted noise.

By setting these features lower to the ground, you create spaces that are insulated and protected from irritating noise. The only sounds heard are those intentionally created within your own environment.

This intentional sound barrier has the same effect as an amphitheatre and can perfectly maintain the serenity of your property, especially when combined with dense hedges or another natural sound barrier.

Pest Defense and Maintenance

Creating natural sound barriers within your landscaping doesn’t have to mean incorporating any new features to your property. It can be as simple as regular landscaping maintenance.

When the natural landscape of a property is not sufficiently maintained, it can leave you vulnerable to unwanted pests and wildlife. A pile of decomp at the corner of your property may seem initially inconsequential, but it can act as a homing beacon for pests.

Not only can unwanted critters cause damage to the natural beauty your property, but they can also be a source of unwanted noise. While chirping birds may offer welcome solace, chattering raccoons are far from calming.

Regular maintenance of the landscaping on your property is a straightforward way to ensure that no unwelcome guests pay you a visit and disrupt your space with noise.

Developing the visual quality of your space is certainly important, but even the most beautiful environments can be made less inviting by unwelcome noise. Get the most out of your landscape and ensure that it sounds as beautiful as it looks.

At The Parke Company, we operate with our motto in mind: “Make it pretty. Make it right.” We are dedicated to ensuring that your landscaping is not only beautiful, but also meets your unique needs. If noise pollution affects your property, or you simply want to improve the overall aesthetic of your landscape through natural sound barriers, let the trained professionals at The Parke Company do the work for you.

For more information on how to install natural sound barriers, contact the certified arborists at The Parke Company and let their superior lawn services transform your property.Give us a call (615-350-6033) or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

Emergency Tree Service: How Fast Response Times Will Save You Money

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Nashville has more than its fair share of wind storms. In fact, in 2016, Nashville was cited as the windiest city in the country, with 11 serious wind-related events. Inevitably, when the wind seriously kicks up, some Nashville trees will be knocked down. Snapped limbs and uprooted trees can create seriously dangerous situations and destroy property. When that happens, you are going to want a qualified tree service to be able to respond quickly and stabilize the situation.

For more than 30 years, homeowners, businesses, and even municipalities have been calling The Parke Company for emergency tree service. We have the resources, and more importantly, the specialized staff to rapidly respond to tree emergencies. Rapid response can defuse dangerous conditions and prevent or minimize additional damage to property.

Operationally, emergency tree service presents the most challenges to a professional landscape services. The need is immediate, and more importantly, not everyone is trained in how to safely drop a split bough or an entire tree. At The Parke Company, emergency tree service has become an important part of our business, and we are staffed with the experts to handle the task.

What Rapid Response Means for Municipalities

When bad weather hits, it doesn’t discriminate. Homes, businesses, and communities alike all take a hit. But for municipalities and counties, the challenges that fallen trees and dangerous limbs present can have a wider effect on the safety and economy of the community than any individual house or shop. If streets are blocked, if power lines are threatened by dangerous trees, or if storm drains are clogged by wind debris, a town can experience serious issues.

Clearing roads is a priority. A community can have excellent emergency services, but if their vehicles can’t reach where they need to go, it’s the same as if those services didn’t exist. The net result leaves medical assistance, fire departments, and police severely restricted in the services they can render. While not a municipal emergency service, repair crews from utilities are also essential to mitigating dangerous conditions and hastening recovery. Like emergency services, they can’t do their job if they can’t get to where they need to go.

And there’s another cost for the community. After the event, the municipality’s ability to get things back to normal will be evaluated by the residents. A town with a responsible, well-executed emergency response plan will gain a positive reputation, while one that doesn’t may be looking for new management.

At The Parke Company, we are exceptionally proud to have been selected by several communities, including Belle Meade and Forest Hills, to provide landscaping services. Those services include emergency tree service, storm damage, brush clearing, and leaf bag pickup. Our reputation, proven work quality, and ability to work within fixed budgets has made The Parke Company a go-to resource for municipalities.

What Rapid Emergency Tree Service Means for a Homeowner

If a storm has created a need for emergency tree service at your home, a fast, professional response by trained experts can end a potentially dangerous and damaging event. Minimizing damage, and most importantly, rendering a home safe, can save significantly on the potential cost of the event.

The biggest challenge facing a homeowner needing emergency tree service is, well, the fact that it’s an emergency. You need help now. If the wind event was areawide, there are going to be plenty of your neighbors with the same need. Demand for tree service may outstrip supply. If you don’t already have a relationship with a qualified emergency tree service, you may find yourself waiting and paying a premium when the crew does show up.

At The Parke Company, we believe the best way to save money on emergency tree service is to minimize the need for it before a storm hits. We’ll talk about that more later.

Keeping Emergency Tree Service Affordable

The way we keep our emergency costs competitive is our triage approach to emergency tree service for our customers. We send out teams that deal with threatening or blocking trees. They deal with trees that are leaning on structures, across utility lines (with coordination of power company), or blocking access. Then they are off to the next call and will return with the equipment and crew needed to do a cleanup.

Using this triage technique allows us to provide our customers the immediate assistance they require to remedy an unsafe condition or access to their property. The follow-up visit takes place when things are calmer and a full complement of equipment can be deployed.

While we are there, we highly recommend that one of our certified arborists evaluate the condition of any remaining trees. If a tree is a likely candidate for removal, we can accomplish that while we are onsite. When we are done, all of the tree debris will have been removed or chipped into mulch.

Not surprisingly, we have a lot of experience with insurance companies, and we are happy to assist you in submitting your claim. We have worked with most of the companies who write homeowner insurance in the Nashville area.

Common Mistakes Made in Emergency Tree Service Situations

Storm damage can be unsettling. Many times, a home represents the largest single investment a family has, and their desire to inspect and protect their house after a storm is understandable. However, many times that desire to protect the castle overrides more effective thinking. Here is just a small sample of bad behaviors and actions to avoid during an emergency tree service event:

 

  • Be a witness, not a victim. Trees that appear solidly supported, or stuck fast on the ground, often shift or roll, causing personal injury or worse. Don’t attempt tree removal yourself. Let our expert arborists check it out. Stay clear and keep passersby clear as well. If you have a downed power line, report it to the power company immediately.
  • Beware the expert with a chainsaw. Unfortunately, when there is a big demand for emergency tree services, some people represent themselves as qualified tree experts because they own a chainsaw and a pickup truck. Before you engage anyone who is soliciting you, ask for a business license and a certificate of insurance.
  • Avoid insurance feuds. Insurance coverage is complicated, and it can get even more complicated if your neighbor’s tree blows over and damages your covered property, or vice versa. The key to coverage is the health of the tree. If a tree was healthy, the policy that covers the damaged property will pay for the damages (less the deductible) regardless of who the tree belongs to. However, if the tree was diseased, the question of liability is not clear. A report from a certified arborist can provide an accurate evaluation of a tree.

How to Minimize the Cost of Emergency Tree Service

At The Parke Company, we are ready to respond to your need for emergency tree service, but we are also ready to help you minimize the odds of you ever needing it. The best way to avoid the expense, danger, and inconvenience that storm-damaged trees can bring is to take preventative steps before the storm hits. For more information on those steps, check out our emergency tree service blog.

The bottom line is this: Your landscape is an investment, just like your house. It requires maintenance to keep its value. If your carpet is getting thin, you will replace it. If the exterior paint is peeling, you will be on the phone with a painting contractor. The reason you take these actions is because you can see the problem and you want to protect your investment.

With trees, you often can’t see the problem until nearly all the value is gone. Trees get old, they get sick, and they get wounded. Often you don’t notice these problems until a strong wind blows them over, or a piece simply falls off.

If you take advantage of the tree and landscaping services that we provide, you can rest assured that your outdoor investment is being maintained as well as your home investment. Call us today and let’s talk about ways we can get your outdoor assets contributing to the overall value of your property.