Fall Composting Guide to Keep Your Garden Looking Fantastic Year-round

fall composting

As summer comes to an end, the leaves begin to hit the ground and the temps dip, we embrace what some might call the best season of the year. Fall brings sweaters, football games and if you want your garden to thrive year-round, fall composting.

Whether you’re brand-new to gardening and have no idea where to begin or an experienced pro in need of a fall composting refresher, the lawn care specialists at Spring-Green compiled (pun intended) the composting tips you need to get started!

A No-Brainer Guide to Fall Composting:

Fall Composting Basics – Composting is a natural way of making your soil richer through the process of adding recycled material such as leaves and vegetable scraps to the garden. Compost has a positive impact on your soil – enhancing the ability of the soil to retain nutrients and moisture. It’s great for the environment and an effective way to help your garden thrive.

The Perfect Mix For My Fall Composting – When the leaves begin to fall, keeping up with raking can be a full-time job. That’s why fall composting is a win-win; it can make your life easier and your garden looking amazing. Leaves are carbon-rich and small enough to be easily added into your compost. Fresh grass clippings are also a great addition to your fall composting pile because they are nitrogen-rich. Another ingredient for your fall composting is the dying plants from your garden such as annuals from your vegetable garden or flowers that contain many nutrients.

Here are a few tips for using leaves, grass clippings, plants and flowers to your fall composting:

  • Deciduous leaves work best.
  • Avoid using evergreen leaves such as holly, laurel and conifers.
  • Wait until your leaves start turning brown before adding them to your composting pile.
  • Add thin layers of grass clippings to your compost to avoid matting.
  • Avoid adding plants that have disease or mold problems.
  • Leave thick stems and branches should be left out of your fall composting pile.

Everything You Need To Know About Your Fall Composting Pile – Your fall composting efforts do require more materials than just the ones you find in your own garden such as leaves, grass clippings and dying plants. A few basic provisions and best practices should be top-of-mind as you begin.

What you’ll need to keep in mind for your fall composting pile:

  • Cover your fall composting pile or use an enclosed container. Your compost pile should be kept moist but should not get drenched by fall rains. Using a tarp or enclosed container, known as a composter, you can protect the contents of your fall compost pile from the elements. This will also deter pests from setting up home inside your compost pile.
  • Go slow to avoid matting. Composting can easily become matted. Be sure your materials are blended well by adding small batches of leaves at a time. Too many leaves thrown in all at once will cause matting and hinder the progress of your fall composting.
  • Add to the mix. Controlling moisture in your fall composting pile can be challenging because lawn clippings and food scraps are about 80 percent water. You can add with straw, woody waste or cardboard to keep your pile to soak up some of the excess moisture.

Some frequently asked questions about fall composting.

  • Should I go with DIY vs. Store-bought composting? To DIY compost or head to your local garden store, that is the question. The choice is truly up to you and can hinge upon your budget, your time constraints as well as space limitations you have at your home. Either fall composting is a great way to keep your garden looking stunning.
  • What’s the difference between fertilizer and compost? It’s easy to be confused about this, but the difference is fairly simple. Your fall compost nurtures and feeds your soil while fertilizer feeds the plants.
  • Why should I use composting? It’s an easy effort that can energize the soil in your garden. Composting has been shown to enhance the ability of plants to fight common diseases and helps the soil retain moisture. Composting is like recycling that offers a win-win for your garden.

Now that you’ve gotten a primer on fall composting, it’s time to get to planning. Have the leaves started falling in your yard yet? When you’re in need of total lawn care services, your local Spring-Green lawn care professional is standing by to help. Since 1977, we’ve been providing a full range of professional lawn care services to fit any budget.

For more information on caring for your lawn and landscape, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional today at Spring-Green.

Why Do Leaves Change Color In The Fall?

leaves changing color

What time of the year do you like the most? Is it the winter when everything is covered with a blanket of white? Is it the spring when many trees and shrubs show off their beautiful flowers? Is it summer when lawns are green and flowers are blooming everywhere? Or, is it fall when the air turns cooler and the leaves on the trees take on their fall colors in shades of yellow, red, orange and brown?

All seasons have their pluses and minuses, but fall is a very colorful time as the trees and shrubs change from different shades of green to various hues of yellow, red, orange and even brown. It is first important to understand why leaves fall off.  All deciduous plants, or plants that lose leaves in the fall have a layer of cells that comprise the abscission layer.

As these cells begin to breakdown at the end of the growing season, the leaf will eventually break off and fall away. How long the color lasts mainly depends on how long it takes for the abscission cells to breakdown and fall away. The longer the process takes, the longer the colors lasts.

How do leaves change color?

The process starts when sunlight time shortens and air temperatures cool down. Less daylight and cooler nights work together to produce more pigments in the leaves. Chemicals and nutrients start moving out of the leaf and into the stem of the leaf. Trees and shrubs use different processes to break down the sugars produced in the leaves into carbohydrates and other foods that lead to the change of leaf color.

Yellow color occurs during this breakdown period. As the production of chlorophyll in leaves stop, two pigments, carotin and xanthophyll, which produces the yellow color, become visible. The pigments are always there, but are masked by the green color of the chlorophyll.

Red colors depend on bright days and cool nights to become visible. Bright light increases sugar production within the leaf, but the cooler nights prevents the sugars from leaving the leaf.  When sugar content increases within the leaves, a red pigment, anthocyanin, is produced. Orange is the color that comes from mixing red and yellow together.

Weather plays a role in Fall Color

Depending on the amount of red or yellow pigments produced in the leaves determines the shade of orange the leaf becomes. If the nights get too cool or the days are overcast, you end up with an “off year” for tree color. And a killing frost ends the show completely by killing all the pigments in the leaves no matter what stage they’re in.

The intensity of the colors, especially scarlets, oranges and golds, the weather must be almost perfect along with plenty of soil moisture.  The sooner a hard frost occurs, more leaves are killed off before having the opportunity to change color. The color that the leaves turn in the fall depends on the plant’s genetic makeup.  If it is important to you to have plants with a nice fall color, inquire about the plants fall color before purchasing.

Trees are a great source of leaf mulch.  Instead of raking your leaves, grid them up with your mower and recycle the nutrients back on to your lawn.  Leaves do not significantly add to the thatch layer. When leaves start turning color is also a great time to root feed the trees and shrubs in your yard and landscape.  Contact your local Spring-Green to add this important service.  Your landscape will appreciate it.

Deep Root Feeding Your Trees and Shrubs This Fall!

deep root feeding

Just as your lawn requires regular fertilization for overall health, vitality and beauty, so do your landscape trees and shrubs. Why? Because trees and shrubs are plants, living organisms, which require food in order to live and thrive. This is why a comprehensive maintenance program will include tree and shrub care in addition to scheduled lawn care visits. The key nutrients are the same—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—as are the issues with organic versus synthetic fertilizers (efficacy and absorption rates differ between the two). Despite these similarities, however, we don’t feed trees and shrubs quite the same way, nor do we need to feed them as often. Let’s take a closer look.

Deep Root Feeding Trees and Shrubs

When we feed a lawn, we apply fertilizers evenly across the lawn’s surface. The fertilizer materials reach the soil where they are absorbed and made available to the grass plants via their root systems (even more so if the lawn has been aerated at least once a year). By comparison, trees and shrubs tend to have larger, deeper root systems. Because not all nutrients are as mobile in the soil as others, surface fertilization may not be sufficient to reach those tree and shrub root systems. In addition, surface feeding trees and shrubs with the necessary fertilizer quantities may adversely affect the surrounding turf, whether by causing excessive growth or outright damage. A better way to feed trees and shrubs is to put the nutrients deeper into the soil. There are several methods commonly used to for this purpose, some easier than others to carry out. Spring-Green accomplishes this through a process called deep root feeding.

Using specialized professional equipment, we inject liquid fertilizers into the root zone of targeted trees and shrubs. The most effective way to do this is to make intermittent grid patterns of pressurized soil injections beginning about a foot away from the base and ending within the perimeter of the “drip line” or canopy of a given tree or shrub. The individual injection sites are about two feet away from one another and six inches deep. Smaller shrubs receive injections equally spaced around the perimeter, as close to the base as is practical. This pattern of hydraulic injections places the nutrients right in the root zone, where targeted trees and shrubs can access them.

Which Trees and Shrubs Should Be Fertilized?

Deep root fertilization is most beneficial to ornamental trees and shrubs, as opposed to mature shade trees, which are much larger and tend not to require supplemental nutrition. These smaller trees and shrubs will take up the injected nutrients and utilize them for enhanced growth and vigor above ground as well as better root development below. They will become healthier overall and more resistant to disease and insect infestation.

Spring-Green recommends deep root feeding twice a year, once in spring and again in the fall, as prescribed in our 2-Step Tree Program, which incorporates additional benefits as well. Customers may schedule an individual root feeding or opt for this comprehensive two-step program. When homeowners consider the investment they have already made in their landscape plantings, especially in light of the cost of replacing ornamental trees and shrubs, our tree and shrub care services prove to be of real value.

While reading this post, you may have developed a few questions of your own. Which of my trees and shrubs need deep root feeding? We can explain which plants should be targeted and why. Should I schedule a single service or a full program? We can discuss both options. Can I start in the fall? Yes, absolutely, whether you opt for a single service or full program. We would love to hear your questions concerning any aspect of tree and shrub care or lawn care for your home. Please do not hesitate to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We look forward to hearing from you.

Fall is a good time to fertilize cool season grasses!

fertilize cool season grasses

Right now many of us are wondering how it could possibly be fall already, but it’s a fact. The autumnal equinox has passed, football season is underway, and pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages are all the rage. If your lawn contains types of cool-season grasses, like Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fine Fescue or Tall Fescue, the fall season also presents some fantastic opportunities to improve the overall health, vitality and beauty of your lawn. Performing core aeration in the fall loosens the soil, breaks down thatch and allows air, water, and nutrients in. Overseeding immediately after aeration allows more seed to reach the soil as well. But perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do for your cool season lawn is feed it!

Grass is a seasonal plant whose growth rates fluctuate at different times of year. During the fall season, lawns are recovering from the stresses of summer, such as heat and drought. Early fall is a period for vigorous growth in cool season grasses, which take advantage of the milder temperatures and more consistent moisture levels. This new growth and recovery uses up nutrients, which must be replenished. A fall application of a controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer provides the necessary nutrients to keep your turf green and growing longer into the fall season.

Fertilizer For Fall  Applications

Here’s an interesting fact about cool season grasses: as growth above the ground begins to slow, the grass plants are putting more energy into root development, which is essential for winter hardiness and ensures greater turf density the following spring. As you might guess, all of this also requires nutrients. This is why fall fertilization is such an essential part of an effective cool season lawn care program. Depending on where you live, there may be enough time to apply a second, late fall application of fertilizer. We recommend that the applications be 4 to 6 weeks apart. In late fall, when the grass plants are no longer using the nutrients for growth, they begin storing the nutrients in the stems and rhizomes (the root system), which keeps the plants healthier not only over the winter season but also into spring.

What type of fertilizer is best for fall applications? There is no universally correct answer to this question because the nutritional needs of turf grasses vary by region based on predominant grass types, soil composition, and climate as well as when the product is being applied. It should most definitely be a lawn fertilizer, as opposed to a general purpose garden fertilizer. All bagged fertilizer products are required by law to display the guaranteed minimum percentage (by weight) of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Of these, nitrogen is the foundation nutrient essential to any fall feeding program. Nitrogen products can be formulated for quick release, where it becomes immediately available in the soil, or slow release, which becomes available over a longer period of time. Many lawn-specific fertilizers will contain both.

Preparing Cool Season Grasses For Winter

A few cultural practices will also help your cool season lawn prepare for its winter nap. As late fall approaches, begin to gradually bring the cutting height down on your mower. Do this in steps, over the course of several mowing, so that you are never removing too much of the grass blade at once, which would damage the turf instead of helping it. Also never adjust the mower so low that you are scalping the lawn all the way down to the soil surface. If you have a blanket of fallen leaves or other debris on the lawn, rake them up. Leaves can also be ground to a fine mulch with repeated mowing, though it is important to ensure that the resulting pieces have been finely ground. Both of these practices—gradually lowering the grass height and keeping the lawn’s surface breathable by controlling leaf cover and removing debris—will help prevent diseases like snow mold from taking hold.

Have we given you enough to think about? No worries! The easiest way to ensure that your lawn is receiving the correct balance of nutrients, in the proper amounts and at the right time, is to call on your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green and let us take all the guesswork out of it. We will be happy to answer any questions you have, too.

Don’t Forget About Your Trees and Shrubs This Fall

trees and shrubs

Many landscape plants that are growing in your gardens and flower beds are plants that were brought in from other countries over the last 150 years or so. Being that many of these plants are not native to the US, they may require extra care to maintain them in a healthy and vibrant condition.

As we slowly move towards the cooler weather of the fall, most insect and disease activity starts to slow down except for the warmer parts of the country. In those areas, insect and disease activity can occur all year long. Here are the maintenance tasks and fall tree and shrub care that should take place during this time of year.

Watering Trees and Shrubs

Rainfall usually increases during the fall, but there are areas where drought conditions persist. Smaller trees and shrubs still need to be watered to survive the winter months. This is especially true for evergreen plants, like yews, junipers and pine trees. Broadleaf evergreen plants like azaleas, boxwoods and rhododendrons also need water in the fall. These plants will still lose moisture through transpiration, even when the ground freezes. The best way to water individual plants is to place a hose without a nozzle at the base of the plants and turn the water on at a slow trickle, leaving it in one location for 20 to 30 minutes. For plants growing in a cluster, use a sprinkler, but be sure it is elevated to provide water to all the plants.

After the plants have been watered, add 3 inches of mulch to the planting bed to keep the soil from drying out. Do not pile the mulch up around the base of the tree or shrub, forming what are called “mulch volcanoes.” This practice can lead to an increase in insect and disease development.

Inspecting, Shaping and Pruning Shrubs

Inspect your plants for damage from summer storms and prune out any broken or cracked branches. If you plan to shape any shrubs, remember this simple rule – if the plant flowers before June 15, prune it shortly after it flowers. If you shape spring flowering shrubs using a hedge pruner now, you run the risk of removing the flower buds that are already formed at the end of the branches. Cutting off individual limbs with a hand pruner to improve its shape will reduce the number of flowers for next year, but not to the same extent as using a hedge pruner.

Fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs as it allows the root system of the plant to grow in the cooler, moist soil. It’s also an excellent time to root feed trees and shrubs, but be sure to wait until the plant begins to harden off in the fall. In other words, when the leaves start to turn color and drop is a good time to root feed landscape plants. Landscapes plants will look better next spring if time is taken now to make sure they are ready for their “winter nap”.

Contact your neighborhood lawn and tree care professional at Spring-Green to have your landscape checked for problems and schedule the important fall root feed service.

Dog Stinkhorns: Have You Seen Them?

Dog stinkhorns showing up in your yard

One of my coworkers sent me a picture of some weird looking growths in her garden areas. They rose quickly, arising with a red stalk and a brown tip and they stink. The common name for this organism is a Dog Stinkhorn.

Fall is the traditional time when Stinkhorns will push up in gardens, landscape beds and even in lawns. They are in the mushroom family, but instead of relying on wind to carry its spores, this species produces a thick slime at the tip that attracts insects, including flies that carry the spores to other locations.

Stinkhorns are common to North America. They sprout from an egg-shaped bulb that develops at the ground level or slightly below. It slowly pushes up the slender stalk that can be white, pink or orange in color.

The slime that is produced at the tip smells like rotting flesh, which is a big attractant to many insect species. If your gardens or lawns are displaying Stinkhorns, take comfort in knowing that they have a very short life span and will mostly be gone the next day.

Stinkhorns are not poisonous and I doubt any person or animal would be enticed to eat it due to the smell. They are fascinating to look at, but you have to be quick as they don’t last very long.

There really isn’t any control for Stinkhorns.

Stinkhorns are a fungi and actually serve a purpose by feeding on organic material and producing food for the organisms that live in the Soil Food Web of amoebas, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, ciliates, nematodes, etc. All these organisms are working together to develop a healthy soil for the plants.

In doing some research on Stinkhorns, There is a great video of the life of a Stinkhorn. It is less than a minute long, but it shows how quickly it will develop and die. I found it fascinating and I hope you do as well. Check it out!

If you have questions about things growing in your yard, contact your local Spring-Green for more information.

Fall Webworms: Have You Seen Webs In Your Trees?

little girl jumping into a pile of leaves

During a recent trip to meet with our Franchise Owner in Springfield, MO, I got to witness an amazing amount of damage from Fall Webworms. This caterpillar is a gregarious feeder on the leaves of over 100 tree species, but it prefers mulberry, oak, hickory, walnut among many others.

fall webworms showing up in your trees

As many people are familiar with the Eastern Tent Caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of crabapples and other fruit trees. Both of these, Fall Webworms and the Eastern Tent Caterpillars will create webs in trees.

The webs for Eastern Tent Caterpillars are created in the forks of branches whereas the Fall Webworms make their webs at the end of the branches. Also the Eastern Tent Caterpillars leave their nests to feed on leaves whereas the Fall Webworms remain within their webbing.

tree with fall webworm making its web

The Fall Webworm constructs ever-increasing webs or ”nests” that can contain several hundred caterpillars. Once they finish feeding on one branch, they move on to the next branch. The nests can become as large as two or three feet across. They will fill with dried leaves, cast skins and excrement. They will display a defensive movement where they all raise themselves at the same time in an effort to frighten off a predator, such as a bird.

Although the damage may look severe, rarely will feeding cause any major problem with the tree. By the time September rolls around, the tree has produced enough carbohydrates for the year. Plus, as the weeks go on, the leaves will start to drop with the onset of fall.

As the caterpillars reach maturity, they will move down the tree and find a protective place to pupate, usually under fallen leaves or other protected areas. The adults will emerge the next year and the female will lay her eggs on the underside of leaves.  In late summer, the eggs will start to hatch and the whole process will start again.

As we drove around Springfield, we saw nests at the top of trees that were 60 feet high and we saw entire small trees covered with webs. Smaller trees can be treated with a number of insect control products, but many people choose not to worry about the nests. For the most part, the webs will be destroyed by normal wind, rain and snow. In some cases, the webs may remain until spring.

tree full of fall webworm webs

When asked by a customer what could be done to treat the tree, the Franchise’s Team Member suggested that the customer place a decorated pumpkin under the tree and call it her Halloween Tree. It does look like it is covered by spider webs and looks very creepy. The customer liked the idea and plans to make it a Halloween tree.  Lemonade out of lemons.

For more information about tree care contact your local Spring-Green.