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.

Ground Cover: Right or Wrong for Your Yard?

Ground cover

For homeowners, a lawn is both a blessing and curse. When a lawn is lush and well-maintained it greatly increases the property’s curb appeal. But if left unchecked for too long, a yard can quickly devolve into a warzone. Weeds, dead grass, tall grass, fungi, and other unwanted guests can infest this space at an alarming rate. It takes a lot more effort to undo the damage of these lawn problems than it does to prevent them from occurring. One way to protect a lawn from such chaos is by planting ground cover. But is ground cover the cure for every yard?

What is Ground Cover?

Ground cover refers to several species of plant that grow low to the topsoil, including grass. These plants help keep the soil hydrated and cool while warding off unwanted weeds. Though grass is a type of ground cover, people often categorize it separately because it is the most common type of cover for lawns (i.e. when we think of lawns we think of grass). Ground cover comes in many varieties, including the succulent Stonecrop, colorful Creeping Phlox, and darker Brass Buttons.

Which Yards Benefit from Ground Cover?

In truth, just about any yard can use some ground cover. It’s partially an aesthetic decision, though it also makes a big difference in terms of lawn maintenance. The majority of ground cover plants don’t rapidly grow upward like standard grass. This means that lawn mowing isn’t necessary over these spots. Some species will require a little trimming here and there, but for the most part, ground cover is extremely low-maintenance.

Yards that often experience bare spots and/or weed growth are prime candidates for ground cover. Since these plants help maintain the topsoil, they can often grow in these otherwise barren locations, filling out one’s yard while adding new texture and color. Ground cover, as previously mentioned, also stops weeds from growing, essentially maintaining itself. Those who enjoy gardening can also make good use of groundcover. With so many options, you can create patterns and outlines using groundcover to create a border or fill in a garden and protect it from unwanted weeds.

Is Ground Cover Ever Wrong for a Yard?

In short: no. It’s really a matter of taste and practicality. If you don’t have time to maintain your lawn and can’t afford to hire lawn services, installing ground cover makes a lot of sense. It will save you time and money on every aspect of yard maintenance. However, many homeowners would rather have grass fill their yard. This simply requires more effort in terms of watering, weeding, mowing, and fertilizing. Most people opt for a combination of traditional grass and ground cover. This way, bare spots and problem areas can be addressed with minimal effort, and the lawn as a whole still retains that classic look.

Everyone wants a beautiful, healthy lawn. If you’re struggling to achieve or maintain this, The Parke Company can help. We provide customers with complete landscaping services, including irrigation, maintenance, tree removal and trimming, stump grinding, and more. Whether you want to try some new ground cover or simply fix up a damaged lawn, give us a call today at (615)-350-6033.

Controlling Crabgrass and Dandelions Without Chemicals

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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.

Summer Grass Care Tips for Nashville Lawns

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Summer is coming, Nashville, and it’s time to brush up on a few simple lawn maintenance tips to keep your grass looking lush and beautiful. The combination of hot

temperatures and heavy rains can do damage to your lawn. This is particularly true if it is planted with cool weather grass like  Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue.

The key to keeping your lawn healthy in the summer revolves around two simple tasks: lawn mowing and watering. Done right, a properly mowed and irrigated lawn can stay lush and green throughout the summer. Done wrong, roots could be damaged, and the blades can be exposed to disease.

At the Parke Company, we have been serving the Nashville metro area as a premiere landscaping service for over three decades. We know the most common mistakes that homeowners make in their summertime lawn care. To avoid unintentional damage to your lawn, we are offering simple guidelines to keep your lawn healthy, lush, and green.

Mowing – Buzz Cuts are Not in Fashion in Nashville

Mowing can be a hot, sweaty chore. It’s not surprising that some people give their lawns a buzz cut thinking that they won’t have to repeat the process as many times because it will take a while for the grass to grow tall enough to need another mowing. Unfortunately, if they do that often enough, they won’t have to worry about mowing at all because the grass will most likely turn brown and go dormant.

Taller grass is healthier grass. When grass is allowed to grow to 2.5” to 3”, it actually shades the soil, lowering the temperature and slowing evaporation. Here are a few tips on correct mowing.

  • Tune up your mower. Inspect/replace the spark plug and check for oil or fuel leaks. Most importantly, have the blade sharpened. A dull blade does not cut the grass, it tears it. Ragged tips on the grass invite disease.
  • Set the lawnmower to a 2.5” cut. If you are uncertain of the height, just set it as high as it will go.
  • Change up your mowing pattern. Mow north to south and then east to west on your next outing. Changing up patterns keeps the lawn looking level.
  • Using a mower with a bag or a mulching mower will minimize thatch buildup. Deep raking or thatching should not be attempted until the fall.

Watering – Giving Your Lawn a Tall Drink of Water

The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service says that typically lawns need 1” to 1.5” of water per week. That’s a flow rate equal to 630 to 945 gallons of water. Infrequent, deep watering is far more effective than daily light irrigation. Ideally, the watering session will reach 4” to 6” into the soil.

The Extension Service advises that the best time to water to minimize evaporation and the possibility of watering lingering on the surface of the grass is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. If that’s not possible, try 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

So, the takeaway is to use a sharp blade, don’t cut your grass too short, and give your lawn a deep drink instead of sprinkling daily.

Contact The Parke Company

Or, if you don’t have the time, contact us today. We offer a full line of lawn services including maintenance of shrubs and tree trimming.

How to End Standing Water in Your Nashville Lawn

leaves in water

Did you know that Nashville gets over 47 inches of rain each year? If you have an area in your lawn that always seems to attract standing water, you’re probably well aware that Nashville gets its fair share of precipitation. We are also pretty sure that you are not looking forward to May, Nashville’s rainiest month.

Standing water is more than just an inconvenience, particularly if it is gathering along or near your foundation. There is a solution for standing water, it’s just not what most people think it is.

The water is standing because the ground is a low spot, right? So, to correct that, all you need to do is add topsoil and build the ground up. That’s a popular belief, but unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problem. The topsoil eventually will be washed away, and the standing water will return.

Short of grading your entire lawn, the water that lands on the lawn is still going to drain to what is your “low spot.” What you need is a way to move that water to another location. What you need is a French ditch.

Ditch Digging Your Way to a Dry Landscape

At the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service, we are no strangers to lawns with standing water. Water seeks the lowest level and if you put something in the way of that natural flow, like the foundation of a house, it will backup, saturate the soil, and become standing water. The solution is to capture that water and move it someplace else. And that’s just what a French ditch can do.

The French ditch has been in use since the mid-1850s, usually as a farm drainage system. While the materials have been upgraded since then, the concept remains the same. Essentially, you dig a ditch through the standing water area and to an area that can either absorb or disburse the moisture. The ditch uses a perforated pipe that allows water to percolate up into it and carries it away. Sounds like a simple lawn maintenance issue, right?

Well, if you’re planning on doing it yourself, here’s a quick list of equipment and materials that you will need:

  • Flat edge spade or rent a Ditch Witch
  • A pick
  • Perforated pipe and connectors (if required)
  • Dry well (if required)
  • Washed gravel (lots and lots of washed gravel)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Enough garden fabric to cover the length of the pipe

Installing a French Ditch

Putting the ditch in takes a lot of physically challenging work. But before you break the first sweat, there are steps you want to take:

  • First, call your local utilities and find the location of any buried lines on your property. If you have an irrigation system, you’ll want to determine if the line or control cable runs through your projected ditch.
  • Stake out your ditch.
  • Start digging. The depth and width of the trench will depend on the size of the pipe you use. The ditch should be graded to lose 6 inches over 100 feet.
  • If you are going to use a dry well as a collection point, dig a hole for it at the end of your ditch.
  • Start pouring a gravel base into the ditch. Dump the gravel into the ditch and use the spade to spread it.
  • Lay the pipe and snap the end into the dry well (if applicable).
  • Cover the pipe with gravel and then cover with garden fabric to keep dirt from entering the perforated pipe.
  • Cover with dirt. If you were careful about saving the sod when you started digging, add the sod and tamp down.
  • Wait for a good rain to see results.

Contact The Parke Company

Of course, if you want to skip this exercise, give The Parke Company a call. Our lawn services are not limited to lawn mowing and tree trimming. We can solve your “standing water” problem fast and professionally. And if you take into consideration your time, material, and equipment costs, Deep Heat rub and aspirin expense, we can probably install your French ditch for less than you can. Call us today!