Tag Archives: Chicago Landscaping

A 3-Month Landscaping Plan to Get Ready for the Spring

Preparing for the spring thaw (and subsequent bloom) requires a bit of a plan. It’s important to keep up with your landscaping during the winter months – or hire a landscaper to do it for you – in order to really reap the benefits. Here’s what you should do in December, January, and February to ensure that your landscape is beautiful and bountiful this spring.

December

December often marks the first major snow for most people in the local area, so it’s important that the following tasks are completed beforehand:

  • Mulching beds and tree roots – This will ensure that frost cannot penetrate the stems of small plants or into tree roots, causing serious issues when springtime returns.
  • Moving plants indoors – If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to bring plants that are hardy but cannot tolerate long periods of cold indoors.
  • Pruning – Trim your trees and shrubs of old-growth or dead limbs so that you can make way for beautiful new growth come springtime.
  • Mow the lawn – December is also the perfect time to ensure that you’ve mowed your lawn to a length of 1” to 2” (or even 3” for some less tolerant species). This will keep the grass healthy, but it also prevents pests from calling your lawn their home.

January

January is all about keeping up with anything you did during December and the previous fall, but it also adds in a few tasks that help to ensure a better spring. They include:

  • Checking mulch depth – Every month or so, be sure that you check the depth of the mulch in your beds and around your trees. It should be at least 3” in the wintertime to provide ample insulation from the cold.
  • Watering at above 40 degrees – If it hasn’t been snowing or raining much, wait until the temperatures are above 40 degrees for a time and water your grass, trees, and plants Even though it’s cold, they still get thirsty.
  • Give your mower a tune-up – Finally, if you mow your own lawn during the warmer months, there’s no time like January to give your mower a tune-up. You can do it yourself relatively easily, but if you rely on a pro, they won’t be very busy in January – and you may even get a discount because of it.

February

February is often the coldest month, but it’s also the last full month of winter and the time when you want to make sure everything is ready for the big March bloom. You should:

  • Clean your tools – If you do your own landscaping (or even a part of it), then you likely have a collection of tools that you use for this very purpose. February is the perfect time to scrub and oil them (if necessary).
  • Plan your spring layout – The big thaw is coming, and that means it’s almost time to get your bulbs back in the ground. Take some time to look around your yard and figure out where you want various plants to go.

December, January and February aren’t quite as busy in terms of landscaping tasks, but there are still a few things that must be done. Use this handy list to keep up with them, or feel free to call a professional who will take care of it for you. In the end, a beautiful spring lawn with no dead grass and plenty of color is yours for the taking, but only if your winter maintenance is spot on.

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 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 is known as “sunscald” 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 is 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.

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.

 

Winter Curb Appeal

Want to Ensure that your Property Survives the Deep Winter? We Can Help

With winter having arrived, many homeowners will be thinking about cozy evenings by the fireplace or being able to enjoy hearty meals with family and friends. However, this is also the time for them to be preparing their yards and outdoor spaces so that they will be able to withstand the harsh winter weather conditions as best as possible. Below are some aspects that we can assist you with that will help prepare your home to withstand the cold weather.

1. Planning Ahead and Getting an Early Start

The earlier you get started with winterizing your lawn, other plants, trees, shrubs, and irrigation system, the sooner you will be able to have your yard looking good when spring arrives. Your lawn and plants will also be able to absorb more nutrients this way. Waiting until there is snow on the ground to do this could result in your lawn and plants looking less than their best later on, or even dying in some cases.

2. Finding the Right Lawn Winterizer

Your lawn and garden will more than likely not survive the harsh winter months without having the correct winterizing products applied. Although most winterizing products contain similar ingredients to those found in other lawn food products, it is essential to obtain a product containing the correct ingredient ratios for your lawn. Our professionals will be able to advise you regarding which products will be best for your lawn and plants.

3. Removing Plant Debris

When left on your lawn for extended periods of time, leaves and other plant debris will cause dead and dry spots to develop. Allowing our team to assist you regularly with raking everything off your lawn and removing it from your property will help ensure that it remains aesthetically appealing and healthy.

4. Covering Flower Beds

While preparing your lawn to survive the cold winter months, it is recommended that your flowerbeds be covered with burlap sacks or fabric. This will provide your plants with much-needed protection against the cold and if you have not already done this, you should do so right away.

5. Taking Small and Fragile Plants Indoors

Some herbs, smaller pants, and delicate bulbs may not be able to survive to be out in the cold. Our team will be able to help you move these indoors so they can continue growing. However, you will need to act quickly if any are still outdoors at this time.

6. Preparing your Irrigation System

Chicago’s winter temperatures often drop to well below freezing, meaning that any water remaining in pipes, valves and other working parts of your irrigation system can suffer substantial damage if they are not correctly drained. In most cases, they will also need to be blown out with high-pressure air to ensure that no water remains anywhere. We will be able to advise you in this regard or perform this service on your behalf.

Our team is committed to helping you to keep your lawn and garden looking beautiful all year round. If you would like to find out more about the various landscaping and other services we offer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today. We look forward to hearing from you.

low maintenance landscape

It’s Tax Refund Time: 4 Smart Ways to Invest into Your Landscaping

While the dullness of winter seems to keep going and going, it does bring with it one positive thing… income tax refund time! That check from Uncle Sam can get spent quickly if you forget to plan ahead on how best to invest it.

While some homeowners put these resources towards the inside of the home, investing into the outside can often be just as smart.
Here are four smart ways to invest tax return dollars back into your own backyard:

1. Create an Outdoor Oasis

The ultimate backyard is one which offers a sense of escape. When you combine a beautiful deck with a warming fire pit or even an electric fireplace, it feels like you just added another “room” to the home. A new outdoor oasis can be a great place to entertain with friends and family or just unwind from a long day.

2. Add a Water Feature

Waterfalls and fountains can be wonderful additions to a home’s outdoor space. Not only do these features add a relaxing atmosphere, they also can create visual interest to an otherwise boring backyard.

3. Install Quality Lighting

Installing outdoor lighting can be a great way to invest in your landscaping. Not only does it increase the security and safety of your home’s surroundings, it also can add value to the property itself. Good lighting can highlight unique architectural features of the home, illuminate a path or even be a warning sign of potential criminal activity.

4. Consider a Raised Garden Bed

Want to grow a garden but avoid some of its many common pitfalls? A raised garden bed can be a great way to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables without the constant upkeep. These types of gardens are less likely to become overgrown with weeds and less prone to animal damage. Raised gardens also offer better drainage and soil retention than the typical bed.

Ready to make 2018 the year you invest back into your own backyard? Contact the team at Martin John Company today to start planning your dream outdoor space. We are a full-service landscaping contractor specializing in custom design services as well as lawn care maintenance.

Need more inspiration? Visit our online portfolio.

Shoveling Safety

5 Shoveling Tips to Prevent Aches and Pains

Once the holidays are over, it often feels like we will be digging our way out of winter forever. Dragging ourselves outside to shovel the sidewalks and driveways is never fun. And what can make this chore even more dreaded is how we feel after we clear the snow.

Shoveling can take a toll on the body. Aches and pains from lifting heavy loads of slush can leave you worn, tired or even immobile for a period of time. For those with pre-existing issues, it can exacerbate an already tough situation making it even worse.

But luckily there are techniques you can start doing today to lighten the load! Here are five expert tips on how to prevent post-shoveling aches and pains:

1. Warm Up

You wouldn’t run a mile without warming up first. And you wouldn’t go golfing without taking a few practice swings to get loose. Approach shoveling the same way. Warm your arm and leg muscles up before you head outside for a better recovery after.

2. Use the Right Tools

If you are still using that old, beat-up shovel… it’s time to say “goodbye”. To do a job quickly and effectively you need the right tool for the job. There are many great ergonomic shovels on the market today that help reduce the strain on your back while efficiently clearing the snow.

3. Lift with Your Legs & Don’t Twist

It’s time to start paying attention to how you pick-up and drop those heavy loads. Always make sure to lift the shovel with your legs rather than heaving using your lower back. And don’t twist the torso to throw the snow off to the side! Lift first, turn your body and then dump the load off the shovel.

4. Brace Your Back

Back pain is the most common injury people experience from shoveling. If you are prone to lower back pain aches wear a brace belt while you shovel. It will help give your back the support it needs so you can finish the job.

5. Know Your Limits

Not everyone can handle the straining task of removing tons and tons of snow. Know your limits! The time might be right to hire a professional to keep your pathways clear for the winter season. They can quickly and easily finish the job before you could even clear a small section.

Winter doesn’t have to wreak havoc on the body. Using the right techniques to shovel your driveway and sidewalks can mean the difference between a pain-free season or one with aches and injuries. Martin John Company is there to help when the load becomes too much. We offer affordable and professional snow removal services and are there right when you need us. Around the clock care is how we give our customers the best service in the Chicago area. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you stay pain-free all the way until spring!

Lawn Fertilization

The DOs and DON’Ts of Lawn Fertilization

Most landscaping experts would tell you that one of the best ways to maintain a healthy, lush lawn is with good fertilization.  Being consistent in feeding your plants and grass ensures your vegetation is receiving the nutrients necessary to thrive.

While many of us have fertilized before, we often don’t consider what we can do to increase our chances of success.  In fact, there are many different ways we can either help or hurt our lawns when it comes to fertilization.  How you approach this outdoor chore can mean the difference between a flourishing, beautiful backyard and one that is just so-so.

Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts for better lawn fertilization:

DO

– DO consider a slow-release fertilizer. This type of formula breaks down nutrients more slowly allowing you to space out applications.

– DO check out your fertilizer package label. Each bag of fertilizer will have three numbers – one represents the percentage of nitrogen, one for phosphate and one for potassium.

– DO follow the directions for watering. Watering is essential for allowing the fertilizer to penetrate the soil.  Make sure to include a good soaking.

– DO overlap your application strips slightly so you have an even application.

DON’T

– DON’T fertilize too often. If using a regular fertilizer, every four weeks is sufficient.  If using a slow-release formula, you can space it out to 6-8 weeks.

– DON’T go with the cheapest fertilizer you can find. Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to your lawn care needs.

– DON’T over or under water your lawn before or after fertilization. The right amount will provide the moisture necessary to break down the granules.

– DON’T miss any areas of the lawn during application. This could result in “dead spots”.

There are few things more important to a healthy lawn than the benefits of a good fertilization.  For help in taking care of your property’s landscaping needs, contact the team at Martin John Company.  We provide both our residential and commercial customers the expert care they are looking for.  Let us help give your grass, garden beds, and flowers the attention they deserve!

landscaping design

2018 Landscaping Design Trends

Can you believe 2017 is almost over?  It seemed like just yesterday we were ringing in the New Year.    But as sad as it is to see another year gone by, we can look forward to an exciting twelve months when it comes to landscaping trends and designs.

Here’s what landscaping trends you can expect to see in 2018:

Interiorscapes

– In the Chicagoland, we often find ourselves stuck indoors for much of the late fall and winter months.  Homeowners will be looking to bring more of the outdoors inside with a trend called Interiorscapes.  Going beyond the typical houseplants, interior courtyards, exquisite container gardens and large greenery wallscapes will be joining us in the interior of the home.

Upgraded Exterior Lighting

– Standard flood and landscape lighting will be replaced this year with a more custom appeal. Homeowners will be looking to create more drama with their lighting incorporating hanging lanterns, up-lighting and more.  LEDs will also continue to become the preferred choice when it comes to our lighting needs.

Color-Blocking

– Have you ever heard of color-blocking?  Typically found in the fashion industry, color-blocking includes pairing hues on the opposite end of the color wheel together to create interesting designs.  This “look” will now be popular when it comes to flower placement too!

Rustic Chic

– The farmhouse design style will still be a sweeping trend for the coming year.  A more rustic look to your outdoor spaces will represent this design look outdoors.  Think wooden patio furniture, metal accents and lots of greenery.

Don’t wait for the New Year to start thinking about what you’ll be doing next year in your own backyard.  The time to start considering your 2018 landscaping design is now.  And Martin John Landscaping can help! We have been the North Shore area’s preferred partner for lawn maintenance, custom landscape design and more since 2001.  Contact us today to beginning planning your own outdoor (or indoor) oasis.

snow removal

Have You Put Together Your Snow Removal Plan Yet?

Whether you are a single residence property owner or manage a sprawling apartment complex, it’s always smart to have a plan for your snow removal needs.  And it’s even smarter to have that plan in place before winter arrives.

Cleaning driveways, melting the icy spots and reducing hazards are all essential components of a good snow removal plan.  You have to consider the when, how, and who when you create your own strategy for controlling the heavy loads of snow we receive in the Midwest.  Doing so helps you prepare for whatever the season brings.

To start crafting your perfect snow removal plan, it’s first important to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What worked or didn’t work last year with your snow removal?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to snow removal?
  • What tools and equipment do you have on hand to tackle the job?

Once you have considered these questions, it’s time to start planning your approach.  You can keep the process simple by addressing each individual aspect of the process.  Begin by devising a plan for these specific areas of snow removal.

When will the snow be removed?

What is your schedule like?  Are you able to run the snow blower before you head to work?  How quickly do you want the area clear?  Are there any community or city guidelines which require you to have the area cleared by a certain time?  Much of this is determined by when the snow actually comes but it can still be helpful to think of when you have time to complete this often lengthy task.

How will the snow be removed?

What type of equipment do you already have at your disposal to clear the snow?  Is that equipment in proper working order?  If you handle a large complex, do you have the manpower to run those machines as long as needed to clear the areas?  Snow removal is never easy but having the right tools for the job can help.

Who will remove the snow?

When time becomes limited or your equipment is less than adequate, you may want to consider hiring a professional team to remove the snow for you.  Partnering with a snow removal company can make creating (and following) your snow removal plan easy.  And it is much more affordable than you may think.

If you are looking for a safe and reliable snow removal team in the Libertyville area and beyond, look no further than Martin John Company.  We offer 24 hour service and a fully-staffed crew ready and waiting to help with whatever winter brings.  Keeping our customers and their properties safe is our top priority.

Contact our team today to begin putting together your own snow removal plan.

Fall Leaves

How to Prepare your Chicago Landscaping for Fall

While we may still have a few warm days left for the season, the cooler days of autumn are just around the corner.  When it comes to your Chicago home, you may already be thinking of the hours of raking you have ahead or even the mounds of snow you’ll soon be shoveling.

But don’t think too far ahead.  Late summer is a great time to begin preparing your lawn for the coming months and even for next year’s spring!  In fact, there are many ways you can enhance your current property leading up to October.

Below are a four of our best tips from the experts at Martin John Company on how to prepare your Chicago landscaping for fall.

Tip 1: Replace Your Annuals

Now is a great time to pull out the summer annuals and replace them with cool weather varieties.  Mums, pot marigolds and many types of greens are all good options.  Adding in these new plants will give your window sills and pots that much-needed color to enhance the beauty of fall.

Tip 2: Divide Overgrown Plants                                                                                                                                                           

Are your hostas getting out of control?  Or maybe you need to divide up those asters?  Breaking them into two is never a good job for a sunny, hot day.  This task is best done on cooler days with rain in the forecast.  Dividing perennials can also help rejuvenate them come spring.

Tip 3: Fill in Soil & Mulch                                                                                                                                                      

Heavy rains and windy days can make your soil and mulch seem to disappear.  You want to amend the soil in areas where there are bare spots or where you have removed annuals.  You also want to fill in mulch where it’s needed and add compost or peat moss to replace nutrients lost over summer.

Tip 4: Plant Evergreens

September is an excellent time to plant evergreens.  In fact, deciduous trees can be planted all the way until November.  If you were considering adding more shade to your yard, now is time to look into planting some larger trees and bushes.                                                                                                                             

Getting your property ready for the changing seasons is the best way to keep a healthy lawn all year around.  If you want an attractive backyard but don’t know when you’ll find the time to work on it, contact the professional landscaping team at the Martin John Company.  We provide expert lawn care services to homeowners throughout the North Shore area and surrounding Chicago suburbs.

Contact us or call 847-634-2184 for more information or to schedule an appointment.