female holly bush with berries

Plant Profile: Hollies

Hollies are very versatile plants that can range anywhere from only a foot high, to trees that are 70 feet tall. In ancient times, hollies were used to decorate statues of Saturn (the Roman god of the harvest), to providing medieval protection from evil spirits, and of course decorating our houses at Christmas time with them.

In Pennsylvania, hollies will have no problem growing. They are most hardy in regions 5 and 6, and in Southeast Pennsylvania we are zone 6. Zone 5 would be the Lehigh County and above.

Gender Of The Holly

When you think of hollies, you think of the bright white flowers, red berries, and the shiny prickly leaves. The gender of the holly actually plays a big role in the appearance of the plant. Female hollies will produce berries as long as they are pollinated by a bee who bring seed from a nearby male holly.

Holly Maintenance

These plants do not require regular pruning or trimming, but if you want to keep them small, or to prevent them from overcrowding, pruning is going to be required. Holly bushes are very low maintenance as well, and typically do not need to be watered unless we are in a dry spell.

We always recommend mulch for our clients for a variety of reasons. Hollies are no exception. They have a shallow root system which makes them susceptible to rot and freeze thaw damage in the winter. Mulch not only helps prevent this, but once it decomposes it adds nutrients back into the soil so fertilizer is unnecessary. Also, who doesn’t like the way a fresh garden bed of mulch looks?

How To Plant Hollies

The holly bush you purchase is most likely going to be in a pot. The size of the pot should not matter, but most likely it’s going to be in a three gallon pot. Find the spot you wish to have your holly planted, and make sure it has adequate sunlight and good drainage. All good landscapes start with knowing what your plants need.

  1. Dig a hole in the ground that is about 3 inches wider than the diameter of the holly. Do not dig the hole too deep; allow the holly to sit about one or two inches above the soil line.
  2. Remove the holly from the container and using a shovel or spade, slice about 3 or four inserts into the root ball. Don’t cut the ball in half, just about one or two inches deep. This will prevent the roots from wrapping in a circle and choking itself out. Cutting these inserts will let the ball branch out into the garden.
  3. Back fill the holly. (Fill in the space around the plant)
  4. Sprinkle compost or manure around the bush to help with water retention.
  5. Water.
  6. Add mulch around the base.

We hope you enjoyed our post on holly plant care! Visit our blog for more information on other plants and “how to’s“.

hosta garden

Plant Profile: Hostas

Hostas are an easy, low maintenance perennial that are perfect for shady areas. Most vibrant perennials require full sun, but not hostas! These plants are excellent for growing under trees as ground cover, or wherever you need to fill in space in a shady area. Hostas come in many different color variations, but the most common variation is green and white. Hostas do flower, and grow a long stalk with usually pink or purple flowers on it. While they may look tropical, they are actually native to Asia. They can withstand very harsh weather conditions are extremely durable. The only drawback for hostas: deer love them. From what I have seen, hostas are a deer’s favorite plant of choice.

How To Plant Hostas

hosta garden bed

Hosta planting is very simple and easy to follow.

  1. Dig a hole about 8-12 inches deep, depending on how long the root system is. Give ample room for the roots to spread.
  2. Fill in the hole by spreading soil around the crown of the hosta. Don’t cover the eye of the root ball when spreading soil. The eye is the part that will grow into the plant, so leave it exposed.

Dividing Hosta Plants

divided hostas

Hostas can grow very fast and begin to take over gardens. Dividing hostas is very simple as well. Gently dig up the hosta you wish to divide. Once the hosta and it’s roots are out of the ground, shake off excess dirt so you can take a good look at the root structure. You will notice that the giant root system is intertwined with other hosta roots. From here, with your hands, separate the the hosta into even parts, ensuring that both newly divided hostas have enough roots to be re-planted. Even if the division is not perfect, and one hosta has more roots than the other, it should be fine.

We recommend hostas for landscapes that will not have a deer problem. If deer are a concern, some recommend planting daffodils around the hostas to give them protection, but we personally have not tried this. Slugs can also be an issue with hostas, but they can be easily managed by sprinkling sand or insecticide around the base of the plant. At the end of the year during a fall cleanup, be sure to cut hostas down to about 2 or 3 inches in height and compost the rest of the dying plant.

We hope you enjoyed this article about hosta planting and division! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.


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iris flower header

Plant Profile: Bearded Iris (Bearded rhizomatous irises)

Iris, the Greek word for “Rainbow”, are some of our favorite flowers for a garden. Bearded iris have creeping rhizomes (like certain grass types we have discussed) that spread horizontally instead of vertically like most flowers. These flowers bloom in the late spring, and can make a great color addition to any garden.

Similar to daylilies, bearded iris require full sun (6+ hours) and prefer well drained soil. If drainage is a concern, plant Iris in a garden bed that is sloped, or slightly raised above the ground. The best part about planting Iris, is that they are deer resistant, which means you no longer have to worry about deer ruining your garden!

Planting Bearded Iris

iris rhizome explanation

The area which she is pointing to is the main section of the rhizome. It’s important that when you are planting Iris, to NOT fully cover this section of the flower.

  1. Dig a hole twice the width of the longest rhizome, and about six inches deep.
  2. Like the daylily, build a small mound within the hole which will allow the Iris to sit on. Roughly 75% of the main rhizome (pictured above) should be exposed above the surface level.
  3. The Iris has a front and back. The back is where the rhizome roots are pointing. When planting, aim the roots away from lawn or garden edges so the rhizomes have enough area to expand.
  4. Water, and add fertilizer if this is a newly established garden. Add something with a nitrogen content no higher than 10.

Iris Maintenance

Iris will require slightly more upkeep than other other low maintenance perennials. They expand quickly and will create multiple rhizomes that increase the number of Iris in a garden. Every few years they need to be divided.

Iris rhizome cluster.

To divide the Bearded Iris, dig up the roots of the flower first. In the picture above you can easily see the clump of Iris rhizomes. Simply dig up the plant, and pull off the rhizomes around the middle one, which will be the biggest rhizome. If you are going to transport the rhizome to another area, be sure that the height of the established rhizome is no bigger than 3 inches or so. Most gardeners recommend dividing Iris one month after they have flowered.

We hope this was informative and you enjoyed reading this! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.

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daylily flower

Plant Profile: The Daylily (Hemerocallis)

The daylily is one of the most reliable flowers you can grow in a garden. They are extremely insect and disease resistant, which makes them very low maintenance. The botanical name Hemerocallis is Greek, and translates in English to “Beauty for a day”. This is quite fitting for daylilies considering they often have multiple flowers that bloom for a day, and die within 24 hours of blooming.

Daylilys bloom in June, and only show their great beauty for a few weeks. Most breeds of daylily thrive in full sun (6+) hours, and don’t require fertilization. We recommend adding compost or mulch to the gardens every year to help supply them with basic nutrients.

When And How To Plant Daylilies

We recommend planting daylilies in the spring, so they have a lot of time to establish before the winter. Realistically, they can be planted almost any time of the year because they are so resilient. When planting a daylily, consider the following steps:

  1. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the size of the root system, and around 6 inches deep. Give at least 12 inches of space between each plant.
  2. Once the hole has been dug, create a small mound within the hole that will allow the crown to sit just above the surface level.
  3. The daylily’s roots should be spread out on top of the mound so they have space to grow and expand.
  4. Cover the root structure and mound with soil and leave just the crown exposed to sunlight.
  5. Water, and wait for them to bloom!
picture of daylilies in a beautiful garden

After the daylilies have been established, they will return year after year stronger than ever! We hope you enjoyed this blog topic. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.

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Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal With These Tips

How To Improve The Curb Appeal Of Your Home

Whether you are selling your home, or just want to improve your curb appeal, we have a few tips that can help. Being that we are a landscaping company, we are going to start with the landscaping basics.

Clean Up Existing Garden Beds

mulch installation garden bed full of weeds

The easiest way to enhance curb appeal is probably the most annoying. Pulling the weeds from your garden beds is the best place to start. Not only do overgrown weeds look bad, they can also be stealing vital nutrients from your flowers or shrubs. The best time to do this is in the early spring before they really start to take over garden beds. Put down a pre-emergent like Preen Garden Weed Preventer to help prevent weed seeds from germinating.

 

 

 

Install Mulch or Stone

Mulch is an easy way to enhance curb appeal. Just by laying down black, brown or red mulch you have instantly enhanced a garden bed’s look. When installing mulch, be sure not to pile it up near the base of trees or shrubs. Far too often we see homes with a mountain of mulch around the root of a tree. While this might look aesthetic, it can do a lot of harm to the tree. Black mulch is the most common and a personal favorite of ours. Red and Brown can sometimes clash with certain flowers or shrubs decreasing the curb appeal.

Stone is best for shaded areas, or used in combination with mulch. Some people choose stone over mulch because of the perceived low maintenance. Weeds will grow anywhere that water collects, including between stones, so stones are definitely not weed proof.

 

Edge Your Property

Edging is a super fast way to really make your lawn stand out. You can either buy an edger from a local dealer or use a string trimmer. If the edge is too overgrown like the first picture below, using an edging tool with a blade will be much more efficient.

overgrown unedged propertyperfectly edged property

We use a Husqvarna edger and are super happy with the results from it. We also have an Echo edger which works great too. A string trimmer can be used to keep up maintenance of a finely edged curb.

 

Maintain A Healthy Lawn

lawn stripes from a lawn mowing in new britain pa

This is the easiest of all ways to improve your home’s curb appeal. Regular mowing, and mowing at the correct heights during the right time of the year is the key to a healthy lawn. From April through July mow at a height of 3.5 inches. In August-November mow at around 3 – 3.25 inches.

Apply a nitrogen fertilizer around three times a year, starting in March or April, once during the summer, and November before winter comes. Using store bought “Weed N’ Feed” can honestly give you a tremendous lawn without using heavy pesticides or herbicides.

If you don’t have time to work on the lawn, hire a mowing service like us! (shameless plug).

 

 

Trim Hedges and Prune Bushes

trimmed hedges in pennsylvania

Pruning bushes and trimming hedges can easily improve your home’s curb appeal. Buy or rent a hedge trimmer from Home Depot and contour the hedges to it’s natural shape. Certain shrubs will have a globe like shape or a box like shape. Trim off the new growth and try to maintain the natural shape. Pruning can be trickier. Consult with an expert on how far your should prune back a shrub. If a shrub is pruned back too far, it can permanently damage the plant.

 

 

 

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What Is The Best Type Of Grass For My Pennsylvania Lawn?

The Best Grass Types For Your Pennsylvania Lawn

In Pennsylvania and other Northeast Regions, almost all lawns will have a mix of cool season grasses. Our region in particular has harsh winters and hotter summers, so a grass seed that can withstand both is what you will need. Warm season grasses like Bermuda grass are very common in the South because they are heat tolerant, but in the Northeast, a grass type like this won’t survive the winter. When you go to buy grass seed, make sure the bag has a mix of the following: Tall Fescue, Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass.

A mix is best for planting grass seed in Pennsylvania because of our sporadic weather conditions. Kentucky Bluegrass goes dormant during droughts and periods of extensive heat, while fescues and ryegrass tend to fair better. Kentucky Bluegrass is better during the colder months like April and October, while fescues and ryegrass tend to be dormant. Each grass type compliments one another. A lawn that has only one type of grass seed is more susceptible to weed takeovers during dormancy periods.

Preventing Dormancy

tall fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass in one pictureThe best way to prevent your lawn from going dormant (turning brown) is to water during times of drought, and to not cut your grass too low. Pennsylvania grasses could only be watered once a week during a drought, but make sure to really soak the ground. If the ground has become too solid and begun to crack, a deep watering is going to be needed or else the water won’t soak in properly.

Sometimes homeowners want their lawns cut below three inches in the summer, and do not realize the stress they’re putting on their lawn. Just like a shrub that has been pruned too deep, grass can be easily stressed and damaged.

Fertilizing with a nitrogen fertilizer in May is the best, but applying fertilizer during the summer is not ideal. A nitrogen based fertilizer is best reserved for May and around September. Avoid applying fertilizer to a brown patch in the summer, as the yellow spots on your lawn are most likely due to drought or disease. Fesuce, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass all are susceptible to brown patches of dormancy, and a fungicide may need to be applied.

Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass do not need excess fertilizer like we stated in a previous post. Applying fertilizer to a lawn with a fungus will only enable the fungus to spread.

Excessive Shade Areas

Fine fescue and tall fescue are your best options for shady areas. They have their limits though, and it’s hard to expect an area that gets less than four hours of sun will look as nice as the rest of your lawn. Plant a fescue blend in the fall after leaves have fallen off the trees around them, so they can get extra sunlight during their germination period. Water every day for at least 10 days and avoid foot traffic and mowing it.

Normal Sun (4+) Hours

close up image of zoysia grassRyegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescues are all great options for planting in sunny areas. In our opinion, avoid planting zoysia grass. The picture to the right is of zoysia. We dislike zoysia because of the early dormancy that it goes through in Pennsylvania. Around October the zoysia grass will become a light yellow/white color that makes the lawn look terrible. They are a creeping grass which allows them to overtake large amounts of the lawn with relative ease. Zoysia grass can not be striped, so if you like looking at the nice stripes on your lawn, plant a mix of Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass.

 

When To Plant Grass Seed In Pennsylvania

Ideally, planting grass should be done at the end of August through the beginning of October. You may also be able to plant grass seed in the beginning of Spring, but Fall is the best time in our opinion. Have the lawn aerated before you overseed for the best results. Overseeding is when you double or triple the amount of seed that is recommended per square feet of your lawn. The best practice for overseeding in our opinion is applying the regular amount of grass seed recommended for your lawn vertically, and then applying the same amount horizontally, ensuring full coverage of the spreader. If the ground you are seeding is completely bare, make sure to pick any weeds, and to mix in some composted soil or peat moss to help the grass seed retain moisture.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us and we will gladly help!

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fall leaf cleanup

Fall Leaf Cleanup

Are Trees Making A Mess Of Your Lawn?

fall leaf cleanupWe’ve written before on our blog the importance of cleaning your leaves for a healthy lawn. Fall leaf cleanup is essential for preserving a healthy lawn. Leaves, when mulched up by a mower are great organic compost. However, if left sitting on your lawn, will undoubtedly invite disease to plague your lawn next spring. Many factors affect the rate and time leaves will fall on your lawn. The two most important factors are rainfall and temperature. A drought will cause leaves to fall quicker, while excess precipitation (like we have had in 2018) will delay trees from dropping leaves.

Leaves when left on the lawn retain moisture, and we know that moisture can invite a host of problems such as fungus, rust, and insects. However, if you have a garden or garden beds around your property, mulched leaves can be a major benefit. The leaves will help shrub beds and gardens retain moisture during the cold months, which will benefit the beds unlike the grass. Since leaves sit on top of the grass, they block out sun and oxygen. Mulched leaves that sit on mulch beds will not block out sun or oxygen from shrubs. Fall leaf cleanup and some fertilizer will help put your lawn to sleep nicely for the winter.

 

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Unbiased Review of Cub Cadet 33 inch Walk Behind Mower (CC 760 es)

Cub Cadet 33 inch Walk Behind Mower Review

image of Cub Cadet 33 inch Walk Behind Mower (CC 760 es) review

 

If you are looking for a walk behind mower that takes up minimal space in the garage, and works almost as well as a commercial walk behind, the Cub Cadet 33 inch Walk Behind Mower (CC 760 es) is an excellent choice. It definitely has flaws, which I’ll address, but after using one for six years now, it’s arguably one of the best purchases we have made. Let’s start with some Pro’s and Con’s of the mower.

Pros:

  • Compact – does not take up a lot of space on a trailer, or in a storage area.
  • Strong Engine – have not had to replace any engine parts in six years and 600 hours.
  • Light Weight – easy to maneuver around tight corners.
  • Gives A Good Stripe
  • Electric Start – In my opinion, anything that is electric start is better than pull start.
  • Incredible On Steep Hills – Put the mower into the “1” speed and it will walk itself up a hill with an 85 degree slope. The Cub Cadet 33′ Walk Behind is the best mower I’ve ever seen on steep hills.
  • Very Easy Access For Any Maintenance – Easy to change belts, oil, blades, etc.
  • Good Sized Gas Tank – Can hold around 2 gallons of gas, which is CONSIDERABLY more than a push mower.

Cons:

  • Cheap Deck Welding – Have had to replace the deck twice because it randomly cracked and fell off. The second time I took it to a welder who reinforced it with a piece of steel and have not had issues since.
  • Drive Speed Change – There are five speeds on this mower, Reverse, 1, 2, 3, and 4. 1 is reserved for hills and 2 and 3 are just a little too slow in my opinion, and the 4th speed is too fast. It does not seem to have a nice middle ground speed.
  • Uncomfortable Handles – Until you have used the mower for awhile, your hands will hurt from constantly letting go and re-engaging the drive and blade handles.

Who Would This Mower Benefit The Most?

This mower has a wide range of applications. It can easily be a reliable homeowner unit that gets used once or twice a week, or it can be part of a lawn mowing service‘s fleet. We use this mower for probably an hour or two of mowing per week, for our clients who have backyards with small gates that we can not fit our zero turn mower in. In my honest opinion, I do not see why a landscaper would purchase a 32″ commercial walk behind from brands like Bobcat or Scag, when they can cost three-four times as much as the Cub Cadet 33 inch Walk Behind Mower (CC 760 es). The only exception would be if the landscaper uses it with extreme frequency. In this case, the Cub Cadet will not be able to handle such workload.

If you have a decent sized lawn (1/4 acre- 1/2 acre) and are looking for a walk behind unit, I would recommend this. I have not tried the Toro Timemaster 33″ Walk Behind or the Exmark 30″ Walk Behind, but I would like to so I can compare brands and update this.

 

 

Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to shoot me an email at boltonlawncarellc@gmail.com for any other questions you might have.

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How To Identify Lawn Rust, And How To Fix It

What Is Lawn Rust?

lawn rust discoloration on a lawn

If you look closely at the blades of grass on your lawn and notice an orange discoloration, you have identified what lawn care experts call ‘Rust’. Lawn rust can wreck havoc on lawns in Pennsylvania because Rust is found on perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and tall fescue, which are the three most common grass types.

Lawn Rust is a fungus that can easily be spread by wind, contact (blades touching one another), animals, and insects. This disease prefers the shade, but also heat and humidity. Unlike many other fungal lawn diseases, it grows well in soil that is low in nitrogen.

Rust reduces the ability of grass to undergo photosynthesis, and in photosynthesis, plants make sugar which fuels growth. When they are unable to produce the sugars necessary for growth, grass starts to die.

 

Identifying Lawn Rust

zoomed in image of lawn rust

If you have a problem area on your lawn that you suspect has rust, pick up a blade of grass and inspect it. Spotting an early rust infection is key. The grass blades will have small, yellow discoloration dots. If the disease is not treated fast, the yellow dots will rupture and spread an almost powdery rust colored substance across the blades of grass.

Severe lawn rust will make the lawn turn brown and the grass will become matted down and bunched together. Some people might confuse this with thatch, when in fact this is a fungal disease.

Preventing Lawn Rust

Since rust thrives in wet, humid conditions, having soil that drains properly is key. When we have a summer like we did this year in 2018, where it rained so much, preventing lawn rust is extremely challenging. The best way to prevent rust is keeping your lawn rich in Nitrogen, by fertilizing in the Spring and Fall. Aeration will help your lawn drain better.

Hopefully next year we do not get as much rain frequency, because consistent wet and humid conditions are a breeding ground for Rust. Ideally, your lawn should be watered once a week, for a long period that really soaks the lawn.

 

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How To Fix Yellow Spots On Your Lawn

The Yellow Spot Lawn Fix

Yellow spots on your lawn can be an eyesore. No matter how green your lawn may look, the first thing that people will notice are the yellow spots. There can be a number of causes for “dead” spots on your lawn, and they are becoming more common as we move into the late summer. Let’s look at a few reasons why your lawn maintenance may not be up to par.

Drought

We’ll start with the easiest fix first. If there has been multiple days or even weeks of no rain, lawns begin to dry up. If you take a look at the

brown or yellow spots on a lawn caused by drought

surface of the soil, you may notice cracks in the ground. Cracks are a warning sign that if the lawn is not watered soon, the soil’s ph will become unbalanced and cause harm to grass roots, causing the grass to turn yellow or even die.

The fix: Water your grass! If rain is not expected soon, you most likely need to go out and water the lawn. Water for about 10 minutes in the morning between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. This way you can hydrate your lawn before the hottest parts of the day, and the ground can actually absorb the water instead of losing it to evaporation.

 

Pet Urine

Surprisingly, dogs aren’t perfect. Pet urine is full of nitrogen, and when too much nitrogen is introduced to a lawn, it burns holes in the roots. Nitrogen is essential for ensuring a healthy lawn, but pet urine unfortunately has too much nitrogen and may cause yellow spots on your lawn.

The fix: If you can, try to train your dog to urinate somewhere else. This isn’t the most practical solution, but effective none the less. You may have to rake up the dead grass and plant new seed in that area. Don’t bother putting fertilizer down that contains nitrogen because the grass will not grow!

 

Insects

yellow spots on your lawn caused by Japanese beetles in pennsylvania

Around this time in July, Japanese beetles begin to pop up in Pennsylvania. Beetles lay eggs in the ground and the grubs feed on grass roots. The damage caused by beetles is easy to identify, and can be seen in the picture to the right. Notice the holes (where grubs eventually matured and became beetles) climbed out of. Yellows spots on your lawn caused by beetles usually mean they killed the root system. New grass seed will need to be planted.

The fix: Find the insecticide for the particular insect. Most insects can be killed by using Sevin.

 

What to do if you are unsure of the cause for yellow spots on your lawn.

If you are not sure why yellow spots on your lawn have appear, keep in mind the following:

  • Has it rained lately? Do I need to water first before taking a more drastic approach to fixing my lawn?
  • If it has rained or the lawn has been consistently watered, and you have a pet, notice where they go to the bathroom. Try to avoid having your pet go in the same spot.
  • If the grass has been watered, and pets are not an issue, take a soil sample to see if the lawn is lacking in nutrients. Soil samples are very simple. Just take a Ziploc bag and go to a local garden center and they’ll be able to do it for you. A nitrogen deficiency is most likely the reason for your lawns yellow spots.
  • If the soil is healthy, and hydrated, and pets are not an issue, pests and fungus are the last culprits. Anti-fungal treatments can be applied in the spring time, so it’s important to identify that before summer starts. Pests can easily be taken out with an insecticide, so identify which pest is the culprit, and purchase the correct insecticide.
  • Also, keep in mind that the grass is being cut at an appropriate height. While you may think “it looks better” when the grass is cut very short, it’s extremely unhealthy for the lawn. Grass should be cut around 3.5″-4″ throughout the spring and summer. If the grass is being cut by a lawn maintenance service, make sure to ask them what height they are cutting at. Burnt grass means the grass is stressed. When grass is stressed, it doesn’t grow as fast, and weeds outgrow them, and begin to crowd out healthy grass seed.
  • Dull blades on a lawn mower also can stress grass no matter what height you cut at. This is why at Bolton Lawn Care, we always keep our blades sharp. We understand lawn care, and how to keep lawns green and healthy.

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