Spring is finally here! This month is the prime time to get the ball rolling on spring landscaping projects as well as upgrading exterior features of your home and property to improve its overall curb appeal. Whether your vision for your property includes simply adding some color or a few improvements, or you’re gearing up for a larger scale endeavor with an extensive to-do list or complete landscape installation, it’s a good idea (even for the most talented do-it-yourselfer) to at very least pass your ideas by an expert first to ensure you’re taking everything necessary into consideration for the best end results. As many of us have found out the hard way, it’s not always as easy as it seems to get from winter barren to spring beautiful!
“Spring is always a time of renewal,” says Andrew Campbell, Manager of the Landscape Department at Campbell’s Nurseries and Garden Centers. “We come out of winter tired of the cold and snow and everyone seems a bit happier once temperatures warm and we see the first signs of new growth in our landscapes. The fun comes when temperatures get warmer and everyone wants to start planting in March and on into April. Sometimes the most important thing to remember is to work on Mother Nature’s schedule. For example, lawn seeding should wait until soil temps are warm enough, which is typically not until the middle of April at the earliest, and general planting shouldn’t occur in tender plants until we see growth on existing plants. Working on cleaning beds of winter trash, trimming back any perennials not trimmed last fall, applying weed pre-emergents, and thickening mulch are all great tasks for early spring while we wait for Mother Nature and true solid warm weather.
While there really isn’t a difference between spring tasks to accomplish at a residential site versus a commercial site, sometimes the timing can be different. Most commercial sites are comfortable with our crews coming out earlier than many residential sites. This timing allows us to complete the larger commercial sites before transitioning to the residential. We also can potentially avoid damaging turf by working at commercial sites off of concrete. Ideally we all should avoid lots of foot traffic on our lawns until the ground firms a bit as frost recedes.
One of the key changes we are seeing already this year is the increased use of dyed mulches with our clients. Five to ten years ago dyed mulches were usually ground up pallets dyed red. The mulch was chunky, the color a bit weird, and you could see the difference from a long distance compared to traditional mulches. They just didn’t look or feel right to many. Over time though the dyed mulches have gained traction by moving to environmentally safe dyes, coloration closer to traditional mulches, and a process that in most cases keeps the dye on the mulch versus washing off. The dyed mulch also will keep its color much longer. While the color will fade over time, the coloration generally will be similar to when first installed for up to six to twelve months compared to traditional mulches that will fade over a month or two. While we install mulch in beds to help prevent weeds and to hold moisture around our plants, for many mulch is really installed for the aesthetic more than the plant benefits, thus mulch that will hold its color longer can be a great benefit for the beauty of the landscape.
Although we aren’t seeing a ‘silver bullet’ in plant material to use, we are seeing improved varieties every year. Whether it is increased blooming, better disease or insect resistance, or even plants better suited to drier conditions, every year brings improvements to trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials, and annuals. So while many existing landscapes can be beautiful and grow well over time, for many situations there may be a better plant to use compared to when the landscape was originally planted. So whether you are working on a new landscape or a renovation we always recommend considering the use of newer plant varieties. It can also mean keeping an eye out for plants struggling in an existing landscape and then discussing it with one of our team of designers or garden center staff about new options to consider. Sometimes switching an old plant out for a new one can make maintaining and enjoying your landscape a lot easier.”
He adds, “The best tip we can offer is to always work with a plan. Whether the plan is designed by a landscape designer, by working with the staff at a garden center or good research on your own, by preparing the plan before planting you can usually avoid issues down the road. Many times as designers we get called onto landscapes where the plants have been planted too close together, where only spring blooming plants have been installed, or even where plants have been planted where they really shouldn’t have been. By crafting a landscape plan your odds of success increase dramatically. A plan will be an investment now in your success years after planting. No landscape can be designed that won’t need maintenance and assistance over time, but using the right plants in the right locations, and choosing plants that offer interest over the whole growing season, you can be assured that your landscape will work for you and it should be easier to maintain to give you the beauty you desire.
In addition, while many projects around the home, such as a new roof or a major addition, must be completed in one-step, landscaping is a perfect project to install in phases over time. By working with a designer we can craft a long-term plan that can be installed in pieces over time. This allows you the ability to work the project into your budget; both in time and money, and after installing the phases still end up with the landscape you desired when you began. Any project for your home or business can be daunting but when it can be split up into smaller pieces it should end up being one that is a lot easier to accomplish.”
With a fresh start in the spring, it’s important to assess the overall state of affairs of your property’s exterior features prior to getting started with your projects. “The first thing you should do is to take a walk around your lawn and make a quick survey of the effects the winter had on your property,” advises Lee Schumacher of TDK Lawn Care. “Remove any leaves that are still scattered across the lawn as this will help the grass to breathe and absorb the sun and moisture.
This is also a good time to schedule your lawn to be aerated. Aerating your lawn is a great way to help loosen compacted soils, which allows water and nutrients to penetrate the soil and helps promote root growth, creating a healthier lawn that’s less susceptible to fungus and drought. If you found any bare spots in your lawn or if it looks thin, right after aerating is a good time to overseed your lawn with drought and fungus resistant seed. You will need about 5-8 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. which can be purchased for around $3.00 per lb. If you are doing this you will need to use starter fertilizer and wait on crabgrass preventer until the new grass is up and has been mowed at least two times.
With all of that in mind we usually like to start our fertilizer schedule on or around April 1st with a crab grass preventer included. This is where the majority of home owners meet most of their challenges. Working with a certified lawn care company is important because all lawn care specialists applying fertilizer must be state certified and have the proper knowledge of what works best in our climate, so they can effectively tailor a program that meets your lawn’s needs.”
He also advises, “To grow and sustain a healthy lawn it’s crucial to water your lawn at the correct times, early in the morning, and with the correct amount of water for your type of grass. DO NOT START TOO EARLY; this will cause your lawn to become dependent on your watering as opposed to Mother Nature’s schedule. Blue grass requires ¼” every other day and tall, fine fescue can get by on 1” per week. Varying the heights of your mower throughout the year is also very important due to the varying climate here in Nebraska. During the warmest months, the mower height should be between 3” – 3 ½”.
TDK Lawn Care, Inc. (Timely, Dedicated, and Knowledgeable Lawn Care) can help you create the best lawn possible. For over ten years we have been taking care of our clients by providing a complete, honest, and professional lawn care service that includes lawn mowing, fertilizing, aerating, overseeding, yard clean-ups and snow removal. Our mission is to create an annual lawn care program that focuses on your corporate and individual needs. TDK Lawn Care offers several different options giving you the lawn you deserve at a price you can afford.”
“As far as grounds maintenance in the spring, property clean-up is our first priority,” says Roger Berte, owner of 1776 Grounds Maintenance. “Picking up and clearing out debris in a timely fashion will ensure that your landscape is able to begin its renewal process right away when the weather becomes ideal, and without the growth of perennial plants and healthy lawn being impeded by all of the junk that’s collected on your property over the winter. The process of landscaping in the spring is very detail oriented and you can’t get started with installation if everything isn’t properly cleaned up and prepared first.
The beginning of spring is a great time to have a professional come out and assess your property before you move forward with planning and executing your vision. Consistency is incredibly important to the health of your lawn, plants and shrubs. You’ll want to set up a schedule for lawn treatments as opposed to just ‘one and done’; this will ensure that your grass is thicker, healthier and easier to care for with less weeds and problems over the course of the spring and summer. Combined with proper watering and mowing practices, you’ll be set up for success. It’s important to have a good irrigation professional as well as someone with grounds maintenance expertise to ensure you’ve covered all of the bases, especially to alert you as to the elements you might have missed. There are so many advances in our industry from year to year that it’s common for people to be unaware of many products and services that could make a huge difference in the success of their landscaping endeavors.
Overall, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of hiring contractors for lawn care and landscaping who are established and who you can trust. Check references and past jobs whenever possible; as professionals we take pride in our work and successes and will be happy to show you examples of our past projects. You’ll want help in making informed decisions so you don’t run into costly or unfortunate issues that put a damper on the enjoyment of your property.”
“Spring is definitely the time to clean up and get the landscape ready for the season,” agrees Kristin Hain, owner of Land Escapes. “You’ll need to remove any remaining leaves and plant debris as well as removing last year’s leaves or stems from perennials such as Peonies, Salvia, Dayliliies and others that regrow from the ground each spring. It is also important to cut ornamental grasses down so they’re 4-6 inches tall. Roses should also be pruned now; shrub roses can be trimmed to 2ft tall and any dead (black or brown) stems should be removed completely. Hybrid tea roses may also be pruned but there is a more specific way to prune. Ask your local landscaper, nursery or Google how to prune this type of rose. Spring is also a great time to add fresh wood mulch to your landscape beds. Mulch should be 2-4 inches deep and will help control weeds, maintain even soil temperature and moisture, add organic matter to the soil as it breaks down, and is excellent for the health of most plants.
As far as trends this year, using natural stone for patio’s, walkways and walls is always popular and will continue to be as they offer a nice, clean look. For someone who wants the sound of water in the garden, but not the maintenance and expense of a pond, consider installing a boulder bubbler. These have been popular with our clients for a few years now and we can install them in just a few hours. A large basin is sunken in the ground (or can be installed above ground and surrounded with dry stack stone) with a sturdy grate covering the top. Then a pre-drilled boulder is set on top of the grate and cobblestone is used to hide the grate so all you see is stone with water bubbling up through the boulder. They’re beautiful, easy for a homeowner to maintain and provide the relaxing sound of water in the garden without all of the headaches that come along with ponds or large water features.”
Hain also emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. “Landscaping companies start booking spring jobs in winter, and sometimes even the previous fall. So if you want a project done in spring, don’t wait until May 1st to start calling and getting estimates. Also, make sure you hire a reputable company with experience in the type of project you want to do. Make sure the company you work for is a licensed Nebraska contractor, is a licensed nursery dealer (if you’re installing plants), and don’t be afraid to ask for references or ask to see photos of their past work. Looking at pictures of other work the company has done will give you an idea of their style and if they’ll be a good fit for your project. Most companies will have a website and/or Facebook page, which are great places to look at photos. Land Escapes has both, Website: www.LandEscapesOnline.com and Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LandEscapes. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to use more than one contractor for a project if it involves a number of different aspects. Land Escapes specializes in plants, design, installation and maintenance of ornamental landscape beds. We know our plants and will make sure that the plants chosen for your landscape are appropriate, sited correctly and meet the ongoing maintenance needs or visual appeal that you want. Plus, after planting we are able to come back for routine maintenance throughout the season if that is something you don’t want to keep up on yourself or don’t have time for. This ensures your plants are cared for properly and we can notify you of any pest or disease problems that you may not be aware of.”
“In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. When it comes to spring landscape projects it’s all about timing, timing, timing,” explains Ken Svoboda, owner of Ray’s Lawn and Home Care. “My best advice is to contact a professional landscaper immediately if you’re anticipating a 2015 project. Ask for references and a list of completed projects similar to what you’re dreaming. Make sure your landscaper is fully insured and by all means have them provide evidence that their employees are not independent contractors as any accident on your property will more than likely become your liability. Most importantly, be patient. The more information you can provide a prospective landscaper as to your needs and your likes and dislikes the better.
The strong trend toward outdoor living spaces continues to grow every year. Outdoor kitchens with pizza ovens, fireplaces and grill inserts were only seen in lavish million dollar homes ten years ago. Today those same design features are more moderately priced and because of modular construction can be incorporated in nearly any landscape and patio space. These modular units are generally one or two pieces and can be installed with small to medium equipment. Their affordability has made them one of the most requested and popular items. For the more ambitious customer, Ray’s Lawn and Home Care can design and construct a custom unit to meet their needs and their budget.
The other popular trend is outdoor lighting. Architecturally designed cast aluminum path lights and spots with a variety of finishes can enhance the nightscaping of any landscape. Like the modular constructed kitchens and fireplaces, lighting systems have been transformed from the do-it-yourself plastic fixtures whose bulbs burn out what seemed like weekly to attractive LED units whose bulbs last fifteen to twenty years with a properly designed system.
These are features that can be planned in advance, budgeted as necessary and constructed as needs and budgets allow. Ray’s Lawn and Home Care is a locally, family owned lawn and landscape firm that is celebrating our 49th year of providing the highest quality services to their customers in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska. We offer a complete array of landscape services including all hardscape such as patios, retaining walls, water features, outdoor kitchens, and of course, live plants. Our design team will work with each customer to create their dream oasis.”
If you’re considering adding a new outdoor living space or upgrading your current space, now is the time to get started so you can enjoy it for the rest of the year! Nebraska Outdoor Living Center, Inc. specializes in projects that will transform your property from a little-used deck or patio into a comfortable, useable outdoor living area. “We strive to make outdoor living COMFORTABLE and to help our clients choose a design that fits their tastes and personalities,” says Bill Budler of Nebraska Outdoor Living Center. “We’ve been helping customers re-design their yards for over a decade, and we’re always happy to help with any outdoor project endeavors as it’s our specialty. We have plenty of items to choose from, whether your vision is to incorporate a pergola, awning, gazebo, fire pit or fireplace, patio furniture or even a solar screen. Through a full selection of brands, quality service, and thorough knowledge of outdoor living, we have everything necessary to bring your backyard to life.”
Your garage door is another prime example of a prominent feature of your home’s exterior that adds to its overall curb appeal. “Like a good landscaping job, garage doors add a lot of style to a residence’s curb and house appeal,” asserts Jacob Hiatt of Raynor Doors of Nebraska. “For an average home in America the garage door accounts for around 33% of the exterior appearance. Since this is a large portion of the house, a lot of eyes are directed to the looks of the door and if it’s in sync with the rest of the details of the residence. It is pretty hard to find a house that we cannot match a garage door design or color to.
When it comes time to consider a new garage door, insulation factors are a huge part of your decision. There is a large range of insulation R-values that can be chosen based on your garage interior needs. If you have a room above the garage, have a heated garage, or have nicely insulated interior walls, you would want to opt for a higher R-value door. Keep in mind that a nicely insulated door will keep the heat out in our warm spring and summer months as well as vice versa in the winter.
In today’s modern world, garage doors have improved tremendously in both construction and style making it easy for you to make an educated decision. With people using their garage doors more than ever for an entrance into their house, instead of the front door, you want to be confident that your door is going to go up and down safely and in correct working order. Come spring time and summer time, garage doors get used twice as much than in the winter months. We all want to be outside enjoying the weather. Now is a great time to have a technician from Raynor Doors of Nebraska come take a look at your door and tune it up for preventative maintenance as well as diagnose any problems, before the spring/summer fun starts!”
You’ll also want to take pest control into consideration as soon as spring arrives—we all know the warmth of spring invites ants and other pests into our yards, homes and businesses. Be on the lookout for spiders, aphids, wasps, ants, fleas, ticks and “pantry” pests (insects and mammals). Here are a few things you can do in the spring to ensure that you eliminate the risk of pests making their homes on your property:
• Keep soil away from wood and siding to reduce pest access. If there must be wood or soil contact, such as on a porch or deck, use pressure-treated wood or material that is insect resistant.
• Eliminate damp conditions, increase ventilation and replace decayed wood. Focus especially on cellars, crawl spaces and under dirt-filled porches.
• Add crushed rock around flower or shrubbery beds instead of mulch or discuss with a professional what type of mulch is best for deterring pests and eliminating potential food sources and habitats.
• Keep gutters in good repair and make sure they are clear of debris from fall/winter.
• Reduce plant coverage around the foundation.
• Remove leaves and other debris under decks, in window wells, and behind bushes to eliminate decaying organic matter that may provide food sources and habitats for pests.
Whether you are excited about upcoming spring landscaping projects on your to-do list or it’s not your thing but you still want to have a nicely landscaped yard, consult the professionals and see what your options are before you make the commitment to moving forward with your plans. This will open your eyes to all of the possibilities so that you have a clear idea of your expectations and how they match up with an expert assessment. We’re back to living in color thanks to the recent arrival of spring, and now it’s time to get your landscaping done so that you have plenty of time to enjoy it!