Simple Tips to Trim your Hedges

One of the main aspects associated with the American dream is to have a garden and yard that is not only functional, but that also looks as aesthetically appealing as possible. While homeowners and property caretakers may think that hedge trimming is a job that is best left to the professionals, this may not always be necessary. In fact, keeping these tips in mind will help ensure that you’ll be able to trim your hedge to absolute perfection. 

The Right Equipment is Crucial

Before attempting to trim hedges on your property, ensure that you have these items on hand:

  • Thick gloves made from either leather or another extremely sturdy material. You’ll certainly be grateful for these after seeing the number of thorns that some hedges have
  • A large piece of tarp. When laid down around the area that’s going to be cut, it will make cleanup a lot easier because most of the trimmings will land on it
  • Safety glasses or goggles. These will protect your eyes against flying wood chips that could cause serious eye injury
  • Hand clipper. This should have a good grip and feel comfortable in your hand. If it’s too big or too small, it can cause blisters to develop
  • Electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer. This will save a lot of time, especially if you’re trimming a hedge that’s larger than a few feet long. It can also help get into those spots that are difficult to access by hand

Prune before Hot Weather Arrives

In most cases, it’s recommended that you trim hedges in late winter because they will not have produced new buds as yet. If you trim off buds that have formed, it will cause the hedge to take a lot longer to fill out again. If your hedge is of a flowering variety, it’s recommended that you hold off on the pruning until the day after its blooms have started turning brown. 

Trim Narrower at the Top 

After being left unattended for a while, most hedges will become wider at the top than the bottom because they receive the most sunlight on the top. However, this causes them to grow in a “V” formation, which will not only look unsightly; it will also cause the rest of the hedge to produce less foliage and look scraggly. When trimming hedges, ensure that the top is left narrower so that sufficient sunlight can reach the lower sections as well. 

Practice makes Perfect

Although your first few attempts at hedge trimming may not look overly fantastic, bear in mind that you’ll get better at performing this task over time. Patience and persistence are the two main factors to consider when performing this task.

If you’re a homeowner or property manager who isn’t keen on attempting to trim hedges that have grown out of control, we have professionals who can perform this task on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our professional landscapers. 

How to Prep your Flowerbeds for Spring Showers

Are your garden’s flowerbeds your pride and joy? If so, you’ll want to ensure that they are as protected as possible before the arrival of the spring rains that could see delicate blooms being damaged or even washed away. Below are some handy tips that will provide just that little bit of additional protection to your flowers. 

Remove any Dead blooms and Debris

Over time, debris such as twigs, leaves, and dead flower heads will accumulate among your prized flowerbeds and these can cause a fair bit of damage when the heavy rains arrive. Ensuring that all accumulated debris is removed will help prevent it from becoming tangled among your flowers and damaging them or worse – uprooting them. 

Ensure Adequate Drainage is Available

Water that accumulates around your flowerbeds can quickly cause plants to drown, so proper drainage is essential. Ensure that there is proper runoff available that slopes away from your flowerbeds and that nothing is blocking it. 

Support Taller Plants

If you have taller plants among your flowers, it’s strongly recommended that these be given a little additional support before the spring rains arrive. This can involve pushing items such as metal supports, wooden stakes or virtually any other long, sturdy item into the ground next to these plants and tying it onto the longer stems. Doing this will prevent the longer plants from being washed over and causing damage to the flowers below them. 

Provide Root Protection

Your flower’s roots will need to be protected during heavy downpours and one of the best ways to do this is by mulching around them. Mulch should be approximately two to three inches thick, but at the same time, it must be kept away from the flower heads and leaves. 

Turn Off Sprinkler Systems

If you have an automated sprinkler system throughout your yard and garden, you may want to consider turning it off before the heavy rains arrive. Flowerbeds that receive too much water will result in plant roots becoming waterlogged – which will cause them to die. 

Enlist the Help of Professionals

If all of the above advice is leaving you feeling overwhelmed, there’s no need to worry because professional help is at hand. We have experienced gardeners and landscapers available who will be able to prep the flowerbeds at your home, condo block, or office park and ensure that they remain looking attractive all year round. 

Our team of professionals will not only be able to help you prepare small and large flowerbeds for rainy weather; they can perform a host of other gardening and landscaping services at residential and commercial properties as well. 

If you would like to learn more about ensuring that your flowerbeds are adequately prepared for the upcoming spring rains, get in touch with our team today. We’ll be able to provide advice regarding the best types of flowers to plant on your residential or commercial property and if required, a long-term care and maintenance contract can be drawn up for you as well.

These 4 Flowers are Great for Chicago Springs

As a Chicago homeowner, chances are that you’ll want your garden to look as pretty as possible by the time spring arrives, and what better way to do this than by planting flowers that are not only attractive, but that will also be able to withstand the weather conditions associated with being situated in hardiness zone 5. A few examples of flowers that will do well in this region are mentioned below. 

What does Hardiness Zone 5 Mean?

Various hardiness zones are basic guidelines released by the USDA with regards to the types of plants that will be able to survive and even thrive in a specific part of the country. Chicago is classified as zone 5, meaning that plants in the area will be able to withstand winter temperatures that are no lower than -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants that are deemed to be hardy in zones 5 through 8 can be grown in zones 5, 6, 7 and 8, but would most likely not survive the colder temperatures experienced in zone 4 areas or lower.

Creeping Phlox

These flowers produce a colorful display of various pastel shades and very little expert knowledge is needed to care for them. If you’re looking for a cascading plant option or something that can act as a groundcover, look no further because Creeping Phlox can be grown over rockeries as well as in challenging soil conditions. 

Wild Violets

This is another plant that will virtually be able to care for itself after being planted and watered occasionally. Although the most common of these plants has purple-blue flowers, some varieties are known to have yellow or white blooms as well. In some areas, wild violets are considered as being annuals or biennials. However, they are known to self-seed and come back in various unexpected locations throughout your garden.

Hollyhocks

These pretty flowers have been known to reach heights of up to 9 feet tall, so they have the ability to provide a unique vertical element to the rest of your garden. Hollyhocks are a fairly short-lived perennial flower, so most varieties will only be in your garden for about two to three years at most. However, if they are thriving in your garden, they will easily reseed over time. 

Coral Bells

If a splash of vibrant color is what you’d like to see in your garden, these flowers will help you achieve this quite easily. Also referred to as alumroot, coral bells can be found in a number of colors such as pink, white, deep red and light coral. After being established, these flowers require little maintenance with the exception of being watered from time to time.

If you would prefer to have your garden set up by professionals, our team will be able to assist you – regardless of whether you’re a homeowner or you’re in charge of managing and maintaining a larger apartment or office block. Contact us today to learn more about the landscaping options we can provide.

What Types of Grass are Great for the Illinois Climate?

Is the grass around your home or commercial property looking less than its best? If so, this could be due to a lack of care and maintenance, or in some cases, the incorrect grass varieties may have been planted in your yard. With Illinois being classified as a zone 5 growing area, it’s essential that the correct grasses be planted if you want them to look lush and green. Below are some of the best types of grass to plant in the Illinois area. 

Kentucky bluegrass

This is by far one of the most popular grass varieties being used in many parts of Illinois, mainly because it’s extremely hard, highly appealing to the eye and it recovers quite quickly. Most varieties of Kentucky bluegrass will however require fairly high levels of maintenance over time in the form of fertilizing and regular watering, and while many varieties of this grass prefer full sun, a few of them have been known to tolerate light shade.

Buffalo grass

Buffalo grass forms quite a dense turf and thick sod and it is known to spread quite extensively by means of its horizontal, root-forming stems. One of the main advantages of this grass is that it requires very little watering and fertilizing – too much of either of these will in fact encourage weeds to grow. Although standard Buffalo grass often has a fairly short growth period in zone 5, newer varieties have since become available that are able to establish themselves quicker.

Perennial ryegrasses

These are bunching varieties of grass that are compatible with bluegrass, don’t form thatch, are considered to be drought-resistant, and have quite good tolerance to heat. Although these grasses are best suited for full sun areas, they have been known to tolerate small amounts of shade. Perennial ryegrasses provide an aesthetically appealing dark green color to yards and its fine texture makes it easy to mow and maintain.

Purple Love grass

This native bunchgrass forms tight, neat clumps and it spreads by means of underground rhizomes and the sheer amount of seeds that it drops onto the ground. Purple love grass is finely textured and remains green throughout spring and summer while becoming covered with purple seed-containing plumage. When fall arrives, its leaves change color to purple and the flowers to white. This grass prefers full sun exposure but has been known to grow in partial shade as well. 

Caring for your Grass

Most grass varieties will require watering and fertilizing from time to time, and property owners who aren’t sure how to best maintain the grasses they have should consult with a professional gardener or landscaper. This will help ensure that they receive the correct advice, which will in turn provide them with the beautiful gardens and yards they desire. 

 

Are you a homeowner or property manager who is keen to learn more about caring for the grass and plants that have been entrusted to you? If so, contact our team today. We will be more than happy to assist you in any way possible.

 

Want Something Different on your Lawn? Try a Rain Garden

If you’ve been living in your current property for more than a few years, chances are that you’re becoming tired of seeing the same old garden and lawn year after year when looking out of your windows – but you may also be at a loss as to what else can be done to provide a little extra natural beauty in your yard. One option that can provide a fabulous focal point on your lawn is a rain garden.

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is that which consists of various native perennials, shrubs and flowers that have been planted in a small depression and it is usually formed on a naturally sloping part of a lawn. It’s designed in such a way that it can temporarily hold and soak in rainwater runoff from driveways, roofing, lawns and patio areas.

Rain gardens have the ability to remove up to 90% of chemicals and 80% of sediments from rainwater runoff and when compared to a regular lawn, this enables as much as 30% more water to soak into the ground than before.

Types of Rain Garden

Three types of rain garden can be created in your yard, namely simple, intermediate or advanced.

Simple

On the average residential property, a simple rain garden can be something as plain as a depression in the ground where plants and grass grow and help filter any water that accumulates after it has rained. A low-lying area in a yard with lawn that isn’t growing too well can be converted to a rain garden by choosing a few native plants that will thrive in either extremely dry or highly swampy conditions.

Intermediate

Larger rain gardens can often look like detention ponds, with the only difference being that it is effective at absorbing and filtering runoff. Once again, choosing the right combination of plants will help create a rain garden that can also act as a natural habitat.

Advanced

When a water quality system is incorporated into a rain garden, it allows it to become functional piece of green infrastructure that can be linked to a property’s current storm water system. For instance, it can be constructed with a settling area that has a natural filtration system to capture trash and sediments that would otherwise end up in a city’s drain system. In some cases, these setups can include a collection bag that will need to be emptied out at regular intervals.

Benefits of Rain Gardens

  • They prevent rainwater runoff from going into sewer systems
  • They can filter runoff before it reaches waterways and sewers
  • They can increase the flow of groundwater
  • They can create various natural habitats for wildlife, butterflies, birds and insects
  • They beautify neighborhoods, public parks and yards

There’s no need to think that creating a rain garden is going to take too much time and effort or be too expensive. Simply contact our team of experienced landscapers and an appointment can be set up to discuss the options that will be best suited to your yard.

Insects that can Actually Help your Landscaping

Believe it or not, not all bugs and creepy crawly critters are harmful to garden plants, shrubs and bushes. Several insects can in fact be highly beneficial to have roaming among your favorite flowers, and a few examples of these will be mentioned below.

Ladybugs

Although these are usually quite attractive looking insects and often depicted in children’s storybooks as friendly characters, ladybugs are in fact quite predatory. Before their pretty colors start showing through, they start out as rather ugly larvae and their primary food source is aphids. The average ladybug larva can eat as many as 40 to 50 aphids per hour, making them an excellent visitor among your rose bushes.

Praying Mantises

While praying mantises may not look like the prettiest bugs around, they sure deserve their place in virtually every garden. They are not only able to devour those pesky grasshoppers that destroy your plants; they have been known to make short work of some species of moths, flies and beetles as well.

Keep in mind though, that while praying mantises may eat grasshoppers, they have also sometimes been know to attack butterflies and bees.

Hoverflies

These flies may look like miniature yellow jacket wasps, but they are missing the stinger completely. Hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen and as such, are considered to be important for pollinating the plants in your garden. The larvae from these flies are also rather predatory in that they kill caterpillars, aphids and some types of beetles.

Honeybees

Honeybees are by far one of the most beneficial insects to have living in your garden – regardless of the types of plants and flowers you have. These busy little visitors are known for pollinating several of the plants that are responsible for producing the food we eat, so it’s crucial that they be protected in any and every way possible.

Some plants and trees that bees are responsible for pollinating include apples, broccoli, asparagus, cranberries, various types of melons and many other types of fruit. It has been suggested that humans would be without most sources of grown food within as little as four years if honeybees were to die out completely.

If you’re keen to attract bees to your garden, the first step is to provide them with a variety of flowers and plants that they can obtain pollen from. Popular offerings include poppies, clover, oregano, zinnias, marigolds, asters and geraniums.

To ensure that bees become regular visitors in your garden, you’ll need to provide them with a source of fresh drinking water along with the plants. A shallow birdbath with a little fresh water in can provide the ideal rest stop for these visitors while they’re hard at work gathering pollen in your yard.

If you have insects in your garden and you’re unsure whether they are beneficial to your plants or not, it can help to speak with an expert. Contact our experienced landscaping team today to find out more about attracting useful insects to your yard today.

How to Protect Landscaping for the Harsh Chicago Winters

Many homeowners think that winter is too challenging of a time to bother with gardening, but the truth is that this is the ideal time to start taking the necessary steps that will help protect your trees and plants against harsh weather and freezing temperatures. Keeping the following tips and advice in mind will help ensure that your plants are as protected as possible during this time of year.

Watering is Still Essential

Despite the fact that Chicago winter temperatures often drop to extremely low figures, it’s still essential for plants to be watered from time to time. To ensure that your plants will be able to use the water as effectively as possible though, you should wait until temperatures have climbed above 40°F. This will ensure that the ground will be warm enough to absorb the water.

Fertilize your Lawn

Providing your lawn with fertilizer will help ensure that it grows as rich and green as possible when spring arrives. It’s recommended that the fertilizer you use is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

During this time, your grass should be cut to a height of between one to two inches shorter than normal. This will not only help prevent the development of frostbite and snow mold; it can even help prevent mice and other smaller critters from digging nests in your grass as the cold weather approaches.

Keep Small Plants Covered

Smaller plants can be extremely vulnerable to frost and cold overnight temperatures. As such, these should be covered with anything that will be able to offer them protection against the cold. Items that can be used to place over them include old flowerpots, plastic bags, plastic bottles that have been cut in half or even that old fruit basket that is no longer looking that great on your kitchen counter. Some gardeners even go as far as using old quilts or blankets to cover fragile plants at night.

Protect Plants from Road Salt Exposure

If you have any trees or small plants that are close to a sidewalk or public road, there’s a strong chance that they will be exposed to road salt – which can cause irreparable damage to them. Be sure to exercise extreme caution when applying road salt near any tree roots or fragile plants – cover these if necessary to protect them.

Observe Climatic Conditions

Consider placing a thermometer and/or barometer at a strategic point in your yard so that you can track weather patterns and potential changes. This will help you to detect exactly when to expect sudden temperature drops or the arrival of rain and/or snow so that you can take the necessary precautions ahead of time to protect your plants.

Ensuring that all of the necessary precautions are taken to provide your garden with the protection it needs in winter can seem like an overwhelming task to tackle alone. If you’d like to learn more about preparing your lawn and garden for the harsh Chicago winters, speak with our team today.

 

Now’s the Time to Start Thinking about your Plan for Spring Landscaping

Although it may still be winter in Chicago, this doesn’t mean that it’s too soon to start making plans to prepare your lawn and garden for the upcoming spring in a month or two. After all, a beautiful garden doesn’t grow by itself – a fair amount of planning and work will be needed to have it looking the way you want. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Get Started with Cleaning Up

The first thing you’ll need to do before making any specific landscaping plans is get your lawn and garden bed cleaned up. Start by picking up larger branches and twigs and then raking up smaller bits of debris and leaves that have accumulated in garden beds and the rest of your yard during winter.

Debris that isn’t picked up and removed will not only get stuck in your mower; it will prevent fertilizers and other plant foods from being able to be thoroughly absorbed by your lawn and plants.

2. Don’t Dig or Walk on Wet Soil

Soil should never be worked when it’s wet because this will cause it to form extremely hard clumps over time – and this can take several seasons to rectify properly. Even if soil appears to have thawed at the top, chances are that it could still have a hidden layer of ice lower down.

The easiest way to determine if soil is dry enough to work is to take a handful and squeeze it. If it crumbles through your fingers easily, it can be worked safely. However, if it forms a solid lump after being squeezed, you’ll need to wait a few days before doing anything.

3. Sharpen those Mower Blades

Although several avid gardeners diligently service their mowers by changing the oil and sparkplugs annually, many forget to deal with one of the most important parts – the mower blade. A blunt mower blade will not only make cutting your lawn more difficult; it will tear your grass instead of cutting it cleanly. This can cause your lawn to turn brown and also result in the development of fungus over time.

Various hardware stores offer mower blade sharpening services, but it is possible to sharpen it yourself in some cases. If you intend performing this as a DIY project, be sure to remove your mowers sparkplug before taking the blade off.

4. Mulch is your Friend

Once your garden beds have been cleaned, it’s time to apply a layer of mulch. This will not only help protect delicate plant roots; it will help prevent weeds from springing up between your prized plants. If any weeds make an appearance, pull them up gently by hand to prevent any damage from being done to the plants you want to keep.

Getting the basic preparation work done in your yard now will help ensure that you can go ahead with those landscaping plans you’ve been thinking about during winter. If you would like to enlist the help of professional landscapers in the Chicago area, contact us today to schedule an appointment with our team.

Protect your Plants against Winter Temperatures in Chicago

As a Chicago homeowner, you’ll want to ensure that your plants and garden are as well protected as possible against the harsh winter temperatures. While it makes sense to initially choose plants that are as hardy and resilient as possible, there are a few other steps you can take to ensure that your garden turns lovely and green again when spring finally arrives.

Be Extremely Generous with the Mulch

Although many gardeners don’t give mulch a second thought, the truth is that placing a generous layer of it over the surface of the soil in your garden will help to keep the plants at a consistent temperature throughout winter. This will also keep plants dormant and prevent them from starting to grow prematurely, especially during that time when temperatures fluctuate wildly before spring officially arrives.

Cover Delicate Plants before Dusk and Overnight

Ensuring that delicate plants are properly covered before nightfall will keep as much stored heat around them for as long as possible. Items that can be used to cover plants include cardboard boxes, plastic bottles that are cut in half, plant containers or even old household linens that may no longer be good enough to use indoors.

When covering your plants, ensure that whatever is being used is large enough to cover the soil on all sides of the plant as well. Once the frost has thawed, you can remove the covers.

Don’t Wrap Trees

Although it used to be a common practice to place paper tree wrap around the trunks of small trees, this is no longer recommended because it can cause more harm than good. Wrapping tree trunks can cause excess moisture to become trapped between the bark and paper, which can cause the tree to crack during a freeze cycle. In most cases, frost cracks on tree bark will heal themselves over time.

Protect against Salt Exposure

In many cases, shrubs end up turning brown and dying on the side that faces the sidewalk, driveway or street and this is caused by the salt that is used to melt ice and snow.

One option for protecting your road-facing plants and shrubs during winter is to erect a temporary fence that will help prevent salt spray from reaching them. An effective and affordable way to do this is to plant a few poles in the ground and stretch burlap sacking between them. Keep in mind though, that the plant itself should not be wrapped in the burlap.

Although it can seem tedious and time-consuming to implement the above-mentioned measures so that your plants can be protected against harsh winter weather, your garden will definitely reap the benefits when spring arrives.

If you would like to find out more about ensuring that your plants will be able to survive the upcoming winter or you’d prefer to enlist the help of a professional residential landscaper to assist with this project, contact our team today to set up an appointment.

Points to Consider when Planning your Next Landscaping Project

Freezing winter and often scorching summer temperatures can wreak havoc on plants, gardens, and landscaping in general in the Chicago area, especially if they haven’t been adequately prepared ahead of time. Below are a few tips that will help ensure that your next landscaping project is a tremendous success.

Choose Plants that are Best Suited to the Chicago Climate

If you intend having your plants blooming and looking good for many years to come, ensure that you choose varieties that are best suited to the specific planting zone you live in. Chicago is usually classified as zone 5, meaning that plants will need to be able to withstand temperatures that run as low as -20°F.

Plants available at most garden centers and hardware stores will carry a label indicating that it will be, “Hardy up to zone x.” Always pay attention to this, as plants that have higher zone numbers on will not usually survive or even grow.

Consider the Amount of Sunlight your Yard Receives

It’s crucial to determine how much sunlight each part of your yard receives every day and how much of it will be required for the plants you’ve chosen to engage in photosynthesis. While some plants won’t require much direct sunlight, others may only thrive upon receiving several hours of it each day.

When searching for plants, be sure to check their labels. They should indicate whether full sun, medium to low sun, partial shade, or even full shade would be required for them to grow and thrive.

Determine your Desired Level of Privacy

Most property owners spend time in their yards as a way of relaxing, decompressing and spending time in nature, and while some individuals want their yards to be as open as possible, others prefer to enjoy a higher level of privacy while outdoors.

You may want to enhance the view of a lovely pond that’s close to your property or even create an outdoor oasis where you, friends and family can enjoy some time outdoors without being spied on by nosy neighbors. If you’re unsure of the type of plants you’ll need to create additional privacy, it may be an idea to enlist the help of a residential landscaper.

Consider your Budget

Although it may seem tedious, it’s essential to determine how much you’ll be able to afford to spend on your upcoming landscaping project. This will help you choose plants, trees, shrubs, and other required items that will fit into your budget.

While you may think it’ll be cheaper to purchase all the plants you need yourself, it can often be more cost-effective to work through a professional landscaping company. In many cases, landscapers will obtain larger discounts because of the amount of plants they are purchasing at a time.

If you’d like to have landscaping performed in your yard, but feel too intimidated by everything that will be needed, our team of professionals will be more than willing to assist you. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

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To contact a landscape company who raises the bar of service and design, you can call Martin John @ 847.634.2184 .
MARTIN JOHN COMPANY

507 East Park Ave.
Libertyville, IL 60048

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847.634.2184