Category Archives: RESIDENTIAL

Plants for Chicago Winter

How to Keep Your Landscaping Looking Nice Even During the Winter Months

During the spring and summer, landscaping is a big focus for many home and business owners. However, once winter sets in, this seems to change. You might think that making your landscaping look nice during the winter is impossible, but the tips below can do just that.

Don’t Stop Raking

If you stop raking for the season after the first snowfall, you certainly aren’t alone. However, even though there aren’t quite as many leaves on the ground during the cold of winter, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist at all. When snow piles on top of those leaves and dead plant matter, the resulting environment can breed mold and fungus. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to rake your lawn now and then – especially where you can readily see the buildup.

Wrap Trees with Thin Bark

Trees with an especially thin bark are susceptible to damage in the winter. This applies not only to certain species of trees, but also to saplings and very young trees. A phenomenon known as “sun scald” is a very real thing, and it occurs when there are large temperature fluctuations during the late fall and early spring. Use a light-colored wrap – even burlap – to prevent it.

Cover Shrubs to Protect from Salt

If your home or business is close to the road, and if any of your shrubs or plants are in what are known as “high-traffic” areas, it is worth your while to cover them with a tarp or sheet to protect them from road salt. In fact, if you are going to apply salt to a sidewalk or walkway near your plants, be sure to use it sparingly, and avoid using it near tree roots unless there’s no other choice for safety reasons.

Mulch Your Beds (And Check Them Often)

Mulch is much more than just a means to make your flower and plant beds look pretty. In fact, it can go a long way toward preventing frost from reaching plants’ roots. You can choose mulch in any color you prefer, or, if possible, you can even use the leaves you collected during the fall as mulch. Make sure your mulch is at least three inches deep to really protect the plants.

Keep Your Grass Cut Short

If you haven’t already mowed your lawn for the last time this season, now is the perfect time to do it. Just be sure that you lower the blade on your mower so that grass is no more than 2” tall – and ideally 1”. Grass can get frostbite just like your fingers and toes, and this results in dead patches or brown grass in the spring. What’s more, keeping your grass short through winter can also prevent pests like field mice from calling your yard home.

As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your landscaping looks nice all winter long. Though many of these tips aren’t directly aesthetic, they will protect your trees, shrubs, plants, and flowering plants so that when spring rolls around, everything blooms as it should and nothing appears brown or dead.

Winter Curb Appeal

Landscaping Mistakes Homeowners Make During the Winter Months

Homeowners have the best intentions when it comes to winter landscaping. In some cases, they just don’t want their lawns to look desolate and bare, but in others, they’re willing to accept a less-than-attractive winter lawn in exchange for bright green and beautiful blooms this spring. Below are five landscaping mistakes that many homeowners make during the winter months and some tips for doing the right thing instead.

Failing to Water the Lawn and Plants

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your plants won’t dehydrate. While they don’t need as much water through the winter months, they do still need at least some. Whenever your area isn’t getting rain or snow, and whenever the temperature is above 40 degrees, make sure that you are giving your lawn and your plants a good soaking water. They will thank you for it come springtime.

Skipping out on Raking

Homeowners think that once all the colors of fall have disappeared, they no longer need to rake. This is simply not the case. Though it may be tedious, and while it may not be your favorite job, it must be done. Mold and fungus can grow rather easily under leftover leaves and other debris, so be sure that you’re raking them up whenever you have the opportunity. Better yet, save them, and you can use them as free mulch! If you don’t feel like raking, you can always hire a professional to do it for you.

Not Checking Mulch Depth

Many plants struggle to tolerate subfreezing temperatures, and once frost hits the base of the stem or the roots, they may never recover. Building up mulch around these plants to a depth of about 3” is ideal. Though, between winter storms and wind, and thanks to your neighbors’ pets, you need to check your mulch throughout the winter, to make certain the depth is still correct. If it isn’t, just add more – or use some of the leaves you raked up! If you have a professional landscaper, this is something he or she should check for you regularly, too.

Forgetting About Pests

Homeowners mistakenly believe that when the cold air sets in, pests are a thing of the past. This isn’t the case, especially for rodents like mice, who rely on your lawn and, ultimately, your home to stay alive when it’s freezing outside. Keeping your grass cut short (1” to 2” – or a maximum of 3” for certain varieties) can prevent mice from nesting in your lawn. It will also keep them off your property altogether, so they are less likely to make their way inside.

In short, failing to water your lawn, skipping out on the raking, skimping on your mulch, or forgetting all about the existence of pests like mice can really wreak havoc on your landscaping. The best way to avoid these issues is to call a professional landscaping service who can handle these tedious tasks on your behalf and provide you with the peace of mind you need and deserve.

Don’t Wait for a Snowstorm to Worry About Your Multifamily Unit – Find a Solution Now

Do you own or manage a multifamily residential unit, like an apartment building? If so, winter probably presents some very specific challenges for you- especially snow and ice. Waiting until that snow and ice is already on the ground to figure out a removal solution is not beneficial in any way. Finding a solution now – long before the first snow hits – truly is.

Reduce Slip-and-Fall Injuries

Every single year across the US, there are a staggering 12,000 deaths due to slips and falls caused by ice and snow. Many of these are among older adults. Fortunately, there are things everyone can do to reduce it. When Mother Nature decides to come, in full force, at your multifamily complex or building, make sure you have a plan in place to keep things under control. Preventing slips and falls before they happen is always better than reacting to them after the fact, and your tenants will undoubtedly thank you for it.

Reduce Auto Accidents

If your apartment building or multifamily complex is served by a parking lot for residents, then this presents a brand new set of challenges. Parking lots are notorious for wintertime accidents, especially with snow and ice on the ground. All too often, property managers fail to prepare their parking lots for the incoming snow and ice. Ideally, you should keep close watch on the weather, anticipate wintry precipitation, and prevent accumulating ice whenever you can. For large snowfall events, hire a professional snow removal company to keep things clear.

What Professionals Can Do for Your Multifamily Buildings

Whether you own just one apartment building, or several buildings spread across the city; there are numerous advantages in hiring a professional right now to help you when the snow starts to fall. Some of the services they provide include:

  • Salt Application: Apply salt to parking lots, walkways, and sidewalks in anticipation of a winter weather event. Your tenants will be more comfortable, and safer without that accumulation of salt and ice. Your employees will also be grateful.
  • Plowing: Removing snow from parking lots and curbsides can be time-consuming. Yet hiring a company once the snow is on the ground can put you in a long, long queue. This means your tenants will likely be waiting a while before they can go anywhere. The earlier you find a solution, the better off you will be in this case. Did we mention your tenants will be happier, too?
  • Snow Removal: Sometimes there simply isn’t enough room on your property for the piles of snow that result from a professional’s plowing efforts. Make sure that the company you choose also offers complete snow removal.

Hiring a company that will salt, plow, and remove snow from your multifamily property this winter is a good idea. But you should not wait until Mother Nature unleashes frozen fury. In fact, doing it right now will help you ensure that your property is a priority – and that makes your tenants and your employees a priority, too.

Protect Plants and Bushes for the Upcoming Nightly Frosts

With frosty weather just around the corner, now is the time to think about protecting your plants and bushes from the cold. There are numerous tips for doing just that, but the ones you will want to use depend on the exact species of plant and the materials you have on hand. Below are some guidelines you can use to provide your plants with a home in which they can thrive.

Why is Frost Bad for Plants, Anyway?

Plants, like people and animals, are comprised of living cells encased in cell membranes. For these plants and bushes to survive, their cells must remain intact to allow for the movement of water and other nutrients through the leaves and stems. Frost is nothing more than ice crystals that form on plants. Depending on how cold it gets, the plant itself could also freeze, resulting in ice crystals both on the plant and inside the plant. These ice crystals have jagged edges that pierce through cell membranes. If frost has damaged a plant in your care, you will likely notice leaves that look shriveled and darker than usual. Eventually, the leaves will die.

Understand Your Plants’ Classifications

Plant classifications can help you determine which plants are more resilient to frost and which ones are most susceptible. If a plant is labeled as “tender,” this means it will suffer a serious injury or even die if left out in freezing temperatures. If a plant is labeled as “hardy,” it can tolerate some frost as long as it is short-lived. Because it gets incredibly cold for long periods of time during Chicago winters, it is crucial that you bring your tender plants inside to protect them before the first freeze.

Tips and Tricks for Defending Against Cold and Frost

When there are plants that you cannot bring inside for protection, there are a few steps you can take to help them survive the frosts.

  • Keep the soil watered. Wet soil is better at retaining heat than dry soil. By keeping your plants watered, you can keep the roots protected.
  • Cover vulnerable plants. The coverings don’t need to be fancy. You can use a drop cloth, a blanket, or even a sheet of plastic. Do what you can to ensure the material does not touch the foliage. By leaving space between plant and covering, you effectively trap heat, giving plants a better shot at surviving the cold.
  • Use an anti-transpirant spray. Coat the leaves to seal in existing moisture. It won’t prevent the formation of ice crystals, but it gives plants an extra boost to help them live.
  • Move plants in containers to a sheltered part of your home. Container plants will retain more heat when they are placed closer together. Bunch them up and put them in a part of your home that gets more daily sunlight and retains more heat than areas always in the shade.

Chicago’s frosts are tough on plants. The best option is to bring them inside for the winter whenever you have the option. When that is not an option, the tips above can absolutely help you keep those plants alive for much longer – and in some cases, they may even thrive.

mulching trees fall autumn frost

Why You Need to Mulch the Base of Your Trees in Early Fall

Mulch is a staple in many Chicagoland gardens and landscapes, but the real purpose of mulch is often incredibly misunderstood. If you think mulch is utilized as weed control, or perhaps as a way to make landscaping look more appealing and refined, you will be surprised to learn these facts. The real uses and importance of mulch are much different than these. Below, you can learn more about mulch and why you should apply it to the base of your trees in early fall.

What Mulch Is Not

Despite the common belief that mulch is used to prevent weed growth, this is not the case at all. There’s a very good chance that you (or your landscaping company) spend some time fighting weeds that grow between gaps in your driveway or sidewalk. If weeds can grow in those locations, they can surely grow through soft organic matter, like mulch.

It would be incorrect to say that mulch is not a decoration, because it very much is. Numerous colors can be found at your favorite home stores; including red, brown, green, black, blue, and various other hues. This can create focal points in your yard, separate individual flowerbeds, and much more. With that said, mulch is not designed to prevent weed growth, but it can improve aesthetic appeal a great deal. This is not mulch’s primary use, however.

What Mulch Is Meant to Do

Three outstanding benefits of mulch for trees and shrubs include:

  • Providing Protection to Roots: When gazing upon a tree, you can tell what’s happening above-ground. You can observe the tree through its many stages, watching it grow from a sapling to a towering giant. What you cannot see is the root system. Now, imagine years of soil compaction around the tree’s roots, and you can easily see how a tree may not get the nutrients it needs. By removing the soil above the roots and laying down loose mulch instead, the entire root system – and therefore the tree – is protected.
  • Providing Protection to Tree Trunks, Bark, and Stems: Mulch can damage tree bark over time. Be careful not to make a huge pile around the base of a small tree. Tree mulch retains moisture, and it will ultimately cause the bark, stems, and trunk to rot. Piling mulch on top of a tree’s root system is no different than planting the tree far too deeply in the ground.
  • Defining the Edges of Beds: Finally, mulch is important for defining the edges of planting beds, as it allows excellent definition without incredibly deep cuts and edging that can cause lawn “scalping” during mowing season.

The Most Important Reason for You to Mulch Trees in Fall

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a revered expert in tree care, proper mulching offers five very important benefits. First, it insulates the soil around the tree, which protects the roots from the cold of winter. Second, mulch retains rainfall and any moisture that may fall during autumn. This will supply a tree’s roots with moisture, even during the arid winter. Third, mulch slows the growth of weeds (to a degree), which reduces competition for nutrients and moisture. Finally, mulching your tree or garden will prevent the soil from being compacted and choking out the roots. It can even help you avoid damage to your (or you landscaper’s) lawnmower. (We appreciate it!)

As you can see, mulch is a highly misunderstood landscaping tool that is crucial to the health and longevity of trees in more ways than one. Mulching your trees in early fall will provide all of these benefits, and provide some aesthetic appeal on the ground – at least until the snow begins to fall.

September Landscaping and Gardening Tips for Chicago Homeowners

September is upon us, and that means the temperatures will soon start falling, the cool breezes will blow, and homeowners across the Chicagoland area will need to start their early fall landscaping and gardening. Below is some information that can help you prepare your lawn and garden for fall to ensure its health and beauty all year round.

Lawn Care

Early September is the best time of year to seed your lawn with an appropriate mix of grass seed. You may choose to fill in any bare or thin spots, but you might also want to seed your entire lawn depending on your unique needs. If your lawn is brown and lifts off the ground easily, this is a sign that you may have grubs, which look like white larvae in the shape of the letter “C”. Be sure to check for these and use the appropriate treatment early in September or wait until the middle of June to use a pesticide called imidacloprid. Application during the fall will prove ineffective since the cool forces the grubs down into the ground and out of reach of any chemicals you might apply.

Caring for Plants in General

If you’ve been thinking of starting a compost pile but haven’t yet gotten around to it, there is no time like September. Things like dead leaves raked from your lawn and grass clippings make a great start, but be sure to add some soil, fertilizer, and water to get things moving along. September is also the perfect time of year to have your soil tested. Remember that you shouldn’t add anything to your soil until you know exactly what it needs; otherwise this can negatively affect the plants during the winter months and prevent growth come spring. 

Trees and Shrubs

If you want to plant or relocate trees to improve or change your landscaping, it is important that you wait for them to change colors or drop their leaves completely. This means they have gone dormant and they will not experience the same level of shock during the transplant process, which helps to ensure their health. You should remember to water all of your larger trees and shrubs until the ground freezes completely, and this is especially true for evergreen trees and shrubs prone to winter burn due to lack of moisture.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Late summer is one of the most abundant times of the year for your herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Keep close watch over your garden and check it every single day for ripened produce that needs harvesting. If crops like tomatoes or peppers are still ripening when the first frost threatens, you can prevent damage by covering them with light blankets until the frost has passed. Wait until after the first frost to harvest your leafy green vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts for a better overall flavor and harvest your second crop of cool-weather produce like peas, spinach, and radishes that you planted last month. Finally, continue to snip herbs, but don’t harvest any that have gone to flower or seed.

Fall landscaping is important not only for improving your home’s aesthetic appeal during the fall months, but also for ensuring a healthy spring season filled with color. These September landscaping and gardening tips will help you keep your lawn, plants, trees, and shrubs healthy while improving the harvest from your fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Garden Tips

Expert Tips on Growing a Home Garden

If you’re interested in growing a garden at home, there are several interesting directions you could take. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers are excellent choices, but only if you know what to plant, when to plant them, and how to care for them. Below are some expert tips on growing a home garden that you can use, regardless of what sort of garden you prefer.

Start Composting

If there’s one piece of advice you should follow, it’s this: start composting. Compost is one of the best all-natural food sources for fruits, vegetables, and flowers; and, it’s easy enough to get started at home. Start a compost pile in the backyard with a tarp over the top, or buy an indoor compost bin from any number of retailers, that will keep odor under control, and make composting much more convenient.

Learn Which Plants Work Best Together

Think about the sorts of plants you would like to have in your garden. Then, do some research so you can figure out which plants work best with one another. A few examples include:

  • Tomatoes and basil: Tomato and basil go together in sauce like peanut butter and jelly, but the truth is that basil and tomatoes are essential garden partners. The basil repels flies and other bugs that can have a significant impact on your yield.
  • Lettuce and mint: If you plan to grow any sort of lettuce, be sure that you plant some mint alongside it. The mint repels slugs and other common critters that might make a meal out of your crop.
  • Corn and green beans: This veggie-duo works for a number of reasons. The beans can grow alongside the cornstalks and use them for support. And since beans help maintain nitrogen levels in your soil, the corn, which is nitrogen-dependent, will flourish.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Hire a Pro

If you’re afraid to hire a professional to help you with your home garden, here’s something to consider: if you start everything off right, it will be that much easier for you to maintain it as it grows. This is true whether you plant an entire field of strawberries, or just a few cucumber and melon plants. Professionals can do the work, and give you some valuable advice for helping fruits, vegetables and flowers thrive throughout the season.

Don’t Allow Fruits and Veggies to Over-ripen on the Plant

Last, but most certainly not least, one of the most common mistakes made by garden beginners is letting fruits and vegetables get too ripe while they are still on the plant. Though any food can attract insects and other pests, overripe fruits and vegetables are practically magnets. In prime harvest season, you should be checking your plants daily and removing anything that is ripe. Some foods, like tomatoes, can be plucked while they are still slightly under-ripe, since they will continue to ripen at room temperature.

Growing a home garden is incredibly rewarding, no matter what you choose to grow. If you can’t decide what to grow, consider mixing things up. Just remember that hiring a professional to help you get started is always a great idea; a good, early start on some compost will help with your yields; and, regularly plucking ripe foods from plants will keep pests at bay.

Landscaping Trends for People that Live in Chicagoland Area

Over the past few years, landscaping trends have shifted considerably. Although aesthetically appealing layouts have always been popular, more property owners than before are realizing that this is no longer the most important aspect to consider. Here are a few new urban landscaping trends that are being seen more and more often in the Chicagoland area.

Multi-functional Spaces

With property sizes becoming smaller in many areas, optimal utilization of all available space is a must. Instead of having only a lawn in the backyard, property owners are including comfortable outdoor living areas that include fire pits, outdoor furniture and kitchens and even TVs in some cases. This enables them to make the most of their outdoor spaces for entertainment or even working from home.

Native Plants

More homeowners than ever before are realizing how much their actions affect the environment, and as a result, they are choosing to use drought-tolerant and/or native plants. In fact, several lawns are being replaced with native plants nowadays because they will require far less watering and general maintenance over time than non-native plants and grass. Common plant options these days include various succulents and cacti.

Low Maintenance

Homeowners – especially those with young families – are busier than ever, meaning that they have less time to spend on yard work and maintenance. This has resulted in many of them not only choosing perennials instead of annuals; plants are being grouped together in yards according to watering and maintenance needs, enabling them to save time on yard care. Trees or shrubs that provide little to no ecological benefit are also being removed, especially if they require a lot of care, and automatic irrigation systems are being installed to save time, effort and water. All of this enables homeowners to enjoy their yard space instead of always having to work in it.

Growing Food

Homeowners are quickly discovering that it’s possible to grow surprising amounts of food – even in the most limited of yard spaces. Pots are being added to porch areas, while planters are hung by kitchen windows or from eaves. Vertical planters are being mounted to indoor and outdoor walls to grow a variety of herbs. Possibilities are endless in this regard.

Apps

Apps are used in almost all aspects of people’s lives nowadays, and landscaping is no exception anymore. The app called iScape can be used to help property owners visualize how plants or trees will look in their yards before buying and planting them. A photo is taken of the yard pace, uploaded to iScape and different pavers, plants and other landscaping elements can be added to see what the end result would be if used.

The above-mentioned trends prove that even yards and gardens in the Chicagoland area can look fantastic all year round. If you would like to learn more about landscaping your outdoor space, contact us today.

 

5 Plants that Look Great in Any Residential Landscaping Project

If you’re a homeowner, you know that it can be tough to find time to do your own landscaping. Hiring a residential landscaping company is often an easier option than trying to handle it yourself. Because of this, it is a good idea to invest in plants that look amazing and provide plenty of color throughout the year. Below are five plants that you can use to make your home look amazing.

#1 – Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas, sometimes called “snowball bushes” depending on where you’re from, are an excellent choice for residential landscapes. They grow quickly, they thrive in part shade areas, and they can even provide screening if you want to separate the property of your home from the surrounding properties. Birds love hydrangeas, too, which means you can listen to their songs while you’re sitting on your porch. Your family will appreciate the ambiance, and the pop of color will add some serious curb appeal. 

#2 – Chokeberries

Chokeberries are another shrub that grows exceptionally well in the Chicagoland area. They are interesting in every single season, and they are perfect for full-shade areas that seem to be missing color. They bloom in spring, turn a deep shade of green in the summer, and display their gorgeous colorful berries in the fall. The best part is that they retain their berries even into the winter months, and they look amazing against a backdrop of snow.

#3 – Salvia (Garden Sage)

Salvia is a perennial that will continue to provide you with excellent foliage whether you plant it in the ground or in a container. It grows to about two feet tall and two feet wide, which makes it excellent for lining up under windows, too. It’s especially fragrant, which can be pleasing coming in and out of your homes open windows. Garden sage is best planted in areas that get full sun, and while they do best with regular pruning, their size and shape make maintenance simple.

#4 – Topiary Trees

Flowers, shrubs, and foliage are beautiful, but topiary trees offer a different interest that you simply cannot get any other way. They’re great for containers, too, so you can even choose species that need to come indoors during the colder months. Topiaries are available in balls, spirals, cubes, and any other shape you can imagine so you can give your home’s property some serious personality.

#5 – Peruvian Lily

The Peruvian lily is an excellent choice for Chicago, especially if you plant it in areas where the soil tends to stay relatively cool. You can find these lilies in several unique shades of purple, and the dark flecks toward the center leaves make them incredibly interesting. They grow to three feet tall, and you can keep the blooms coming for weeks on end if you twist off the shoots at the base when they begin to wilt.

As you can see, landscaping your home does not have to be a difficult task, and there are many excellent plant choices that require very little in the form of maintenance. If you do not have the time to plant, trim, shape, and prune on your own, call us, and we can help.

Spring Is Here! 5 Plants That Will Thrive Through the Summer

The arrival of spring brings with it many signs of new life, especially for gardening enthusiasts who want to keep their yards looking attractive. If you have been keen to start working in your garden, but haven’t been sure what to plant, the list below will be a great help in getting you started.

1. Common Foxglove

Although these will require two full growing seasons before flowering, the Common Foxglove’s stunning and vibrant petals will add a flamboyant appearance to what could otherwise be a dull and mundane garden. They will thrive in soil that has a high pH level and require partial shade to bloom at their full potential. Flowers may be yellow, white or purple and they reach heights of between 18 and 60 inches on average.

2. Yellow Sundrops

Sundrops will add a brilliant splash of yellow color to a garden and added bonuses include the fact that they are able to tolerate relatively poor soil and they are quite drought-resistant. However, it is crucial to ensure that the ground they are in can drain well and that they will be planted in an area that provides them with full sun exposure. These flowers grow between 18 and 23 inches in height and they are known to keep deer out of gardens – definitely an advantage in some areas of Chicago!

3. Knock Out Roses

Not only are these lovely and fragrant, they are also fast growing and extremely hardy. Knock Out Roses are also resistant to disease and able to thrive in areas where full sun is experienced. When fully grown, they will be approximately 4 feet tall and there are several different colors to choose from such as purple, pink, peach, yellow and white.

4. Yarrows

These flowers start blooming during late spring and will continue doing so throughout summer and they are known to attract several species of butterflies. A distinct advantage of yarrows is that they can tolerate poor soil and they will also bloom at their best in areas where full sun is experienced.

5. Salvia

This is part of the mint family and it works well in gardens or containers because it only reaches about two feet high and two feet wide when fully grown. Regular pruning will be needed to keep Salvia looking beautiful and it will thrive in areas of full sun. Some of the more common colors of these flowers include scarlet, purple, light pink and lavender.

Planting even a few of these flowers in your Chicago garden will not only provide your yard with a splash of color; you will be able to feel good knowing that butterflies and other insects will make themselves at home among the plants as well. If you would like to find out more about how you can have a summer garden to remember, contact our offices today. We have several team members who will be most willing to assist you with choosing the right plants and caring for them afterwards.