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.

Spring Start Up of Irrigation Systems

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The weather is changing in Nashville, and soon homeowners will want their winterized irrigation systems watering lawns, trees, shrubs, and flower beds again. To do that, you have to charge the system with water, and if that’s not done correctly, you could end up with a new “water feature” in your landscape powered by a burst irrigation line.

Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service, the Parke Company, provides comprehensive irrigation system services as well. Our advice on re-energizing an irrigation system is to have a trained technician do the job. You’ll save time, avoid serious damage to your irrigation investment, and eliminate a bucket full of frustration that often accompanies the inexperienced who tackle one-off projects.

At the Parke Company we design, install, service, winterize and re-energize irrigation systems in spring. While different manufacturers have different procedures and automatic systems are obviously different from manual watering systems, the steps listed below will give you a general idea of what is involved.

How to Start Up an Irrigation System in Spring

When done right, and if the system wasn’t damaged over the winter, recharging your system should take less than an hour.

  • Spare parts. You hope everything survived the winter, but in case something didn’t, you want to have a replacement part ready to go. Before the recharging process begins, be sure to have extra fittings, risers, and sprinkler heads. Extra lengths of PVC plus primer and cement are also handy items to have available.
  • Test the ground. Don’t become overenthusiastic on the first warm day of spring. Before you attempt to recharge the irrigation system, take a spade and probe at least ten inches down in the ground to ensure there is no frost. Putting water in the lines when the ground is still frozen is a sure-fire way to burst a pipe.
  • Avoiding the “Air Hammer.” The biggest risk to the system is over pressurization. There’s air in the lines and if precautions aren’t taken, the incoming water will push that air until the system can’t contain it. If you hear a “hammering” sound, you are risking blowing a sprinkler head off the line. If your system has air pressure relief valves, open them before charging the line. If you don’t have the relief valves, remove the sprinkler head at the highest point in a zone. Then fill the lines by zone slowly. When the water comes out without bubbles, close the relief valves or replace the sprinkler head. Repeat the process for each zone.
  • Test the system. Once you have recharged the system, run it for two minutes and make adjustments in spray direction if needed. Make sure there are no leaks and that sprinkler heads are level with the ground. If everything is working, open the main feed valve all the way. You’re ready to go. Reset your automatic timer if necessary.

Get an Expert Opinion

Why not take care of this important spring landscaping chore by giving us a call and having us do it for you? We are best known for our tree trimming and tree care services, but we also have clients all across the Nashville area who count on us to service their irrigation systems. Check us out and call today!

Firepit Placement and Use to Avoid Damaging Trees

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Are you considering adding a firepit to your lawn? Firepits have become increasingly popular in Nashville. They are a great way for a family to share a “campfire” experience without actually having to sleep in a tent out in the woods. They also make great entertainment centers for more sophisticated gatherings.

One of the reasons firepits are enjoying such popularity is the wide range of choices offered by manufacturers. Firepits come in both portable and fixed installations. The price range runs from $200 for a simple steel bowl, wood fueled and portable, to thousands of dollars for a copper bowl, combination gas and wood fuel, permanent installation.

Regardless of the model or type of firepit you select, installation will be easier and safer if you use a professional landscaping service like the Parke Company. Known for our landscaping and tree trimming service, we also have extensive experience in “hardscaping,” or the installation of firepits, water features, gazebos, and more.

Considerations When Installing a Firepit

There are obviously aesthetic considerations when choosing a firepit. You want one that is sized appropriately for your lawn. Too big and your firepit will look like a pagan sacrifice altar. Too small and it will look like a misplaced Weber grill. If you are installing a permanent pit, it’s best if it is constructed from the same materials as your house, if possible.

But there are other, more serious concerns to address, including safe operation of the firepit. In fact, if you live in Nashville there is a regulation that says:

  •        Firepits must be constructed of steel, concrete, clay, or other noncombustible materials;
  •        They must be kept at least 15’ from the dwelling;
  •        They must burn wood or other solid fuels;
  •        The firepit must be attended by a responsible person equipped with a means to immediately extinguish the fire.

If you live outside of Nashville, call your local fire department to see if there are any restrictions.

More Safety Tips for Firepits

Then there are the obvious issues. In Nashville the pit has to be 15’ away from your home, but if that 15’ puts you under a tree or a tree’s overhanging branch, you have to move the pit. Trees represent the biggest threat of fire. The pit will be built on concrete, gravel, brick, or slate, so it won’t overheat and catch fire. However, a spark from a wood log can travel (particularly on a breezy night) and catch a tree on fire.

People like to buy firewood as fuel because you get the crackling, smoke, and aroma of a fireplace fire. Wood fuel comes with its own set of problems, though. Avoid using softwoods like pine and cedar as they have a tendency to “pop” and send embers flying. A hardwood like oak makes the best firewood. Obviously, you’ll need to keep a supply of split wood nearby and feed the fire when needed. Lastly, you need a plan to safely remove and dispose of ashes when the gathering ends.

Seating should be three feet back from the pit, constructed of a non-flammable material, and definitely not include any cushions. A concrete or brick sitting wall is a nice alternative to chairs.

Contact Us!

If you would like advice on planning a firepit, don’t hesitate to call the Parke Company now. We are happy to help!