Hometown Landscape & Lawn Service
P.O. Box 4727, Silver Spring, MD 20914
17 Nov 2017

Preparing for the Winter

It may only be the middle of November but it is time to start thinking about snow!

Making sure your home is ready for the winter is very important and can help save you from a lot of headaches…see some tips below:

Get Your Home Winter Ready

  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment
  • Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing; Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts)
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work
27 Oct 2017

Planting the Fall

Why Fall Planting?

why plant in the fall?

Air temperatures are dropping, but the soil is still quite warm – perfect for root development. Fall temperatures are also more pleasant for the gardener, so grab your favorite spade or trowel and get ready to dig.

Create a Spring Garden this Fall

create a spring garden in the fall

Planting the seed for a beautiful spring garden begins in the fall. Some of the most beautiful plants and flowers to emerge under the warmth of the sun include lilies, hostas, peonies, irises, ferns and ornamental grasses. If you dream of coloring your yard next spring, fall is the time to get started.

  • August through September is a great time to begin shopping and planning.
  • Late September through early November is the time to plant.
  • Spring is the time to watch amazing color bloom from the ground.

Choose from a Selection of Beautiful Flowers

choose from a selection of beautiful flowers

Lilies
Imagine how wonderful lilies will look once the chill of winter leaves and the refreshing breeze of spring rolls in. If you love lilies, the best time to plant lily bulbs is usually from mid-September through mid-October. They don’t need much care and can grow into a large arrangement of eye-catching beauty.

Hosta (or Plantain Lily)

August is a great time to plant hostas. Once they peek through the ground to greet you this spring, you may notice that some are funnel-shaped, some are bell-shaped and some offer a fragrance while others don’t. You can expect to see hostas in purple, blue, green, yellow, white and white with lavender stripes. They can bloom anytime from June to October.

Peonies

The best time to plant peonies is in early fall as this allows feeder roots several weeks of growing time before the ground freezes. Peonies are unique in that they can be grown in any garden, and they don’t need much care. Once they’re planted, they only need partial to full sun. Another great feature is that they can live in a variety of climates and soil.

Irises

When it comes to garden plants, irises are simply great. They grow in a range of climates and bloom in a variety of colors, including blue and purple, white and yellow, pink and orange, brown and red, and even black, so it’s not surprising that the name iris means rainbow. Make sure your irises receive light.

Ferns
Ferns are also gorgeous in the spring. When it comes to planting them, keep in mind that it’s important to keep them away from direct sunlight.

Loosen soil to a depth of 12 inches and amend the soil with organic material such as leaf mold.
As you plant the ferns, make sure the roots are covered with about 2 inches of soil.
Make sure there’s at least 15 inches of space between the ferns (24 inches for larger varieties.)
Cover your ferns with leaves or evergreen boughs to protect them from snow and ice. Leave them covered until the threat of frost has ended.

Ornamental Grasses

Many gardeners consider ornamental grasses a favorite. That could be because they come in all colors and sizes and don’t require much work. Another great thing about ornamental grasses is that they attract birds, which can add an accent to any garden.

Bulbs

Blooming bulbs are a symbol of spring, but fall is the time to plant them. Hardy bulbs such as tulip, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, anemone and iris are cold-tolerant and can easily spend the winter underground .For a great spring-blooming bulb garden, plant several varieties with different bloom times. You’ll enjoy bulbs all throughout the spring season.

https://www.lowes.com/projects/gardening-and-outdoor/fall-is-for-planting/project

20 Oct 2017

Picking the best tree for fall foliage

If you’re looking for a tree with great fall foliage colors- you are in luck! Maryland is a great place to grow beautiful trees!

Maryland is a good state for nine of the 10 most colorful fall trees, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Each species has different characteristics. Bald cypress is unique because it looks like a pyramidal evergreen when green. Sugar maples are famous for their colors, but really only happy in colder Western Maryland. Sourwood (Oxydendron) and sassafras are smaller trees. Tupelo, red maple and sweet gum all display a range of hues, including brilliant reds. Sweet gum reportedly lasts the longest. All of the top 10 are U.S. natives except Japanese maple, only some of which display good fall color. Be sure to consider shrubs with great fall color and berries that last into winter, such as winterberry, blueberry or spicebush.

06 Oct 2017

Why do leaves change colors?

Why Leaves Change Colors
If you are lucky, you live in one of those parts of the world where Nature has one last fling before settling down into winter’s sleep. In those lucky places, as days shorten and temperatures become crisp, the quiet green palette of summer foliage is transformed into the vivid autumn palette of reds, oranges, golds, and browns before the leaves fall off the trees. On special years, the colors are truly breathtaking.

How does autumn color happen?

leaf 1For years, scientists have worked to understand the changes that happen to trees and shrubs in the autumn. Although we don’t know all the details, we do know enough to explain the basics and help you to enjoy more fully Nature’s multicolored autumn farewell. Three factors influence autumn leaf color-leaf pigments, length of night, and weather, but not quite in the way we think. The timing of color change and leaf fall are primarily regulated by the calendar, that is, the increasing length of night. None of the other environmental influences-temperature, rainfall, food supply, and so on-are as unvarying as the steadily increasing length of night during autumn. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Nature’s autumn palette.

Where do autumn colors come from?

A color palette needs pigments, and there are three types that are involved in autumn color.

sumac leaves
  • Chlorophyll, which gives leaves their basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food. Trees in the temperate zones store these sugars for their winter dormant period.
  • Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange, and brown colors in such things as corn, carrots, and daffodils, as well as rutabagas, buttercups, and bananas.
  • Anthocyanins, which give color to such familiar things as cranberries, red apples, concord grapes, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums. They are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.

Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. Most anthocyanins are produced in the autumn, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within leaf cells.

During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As night length increases in the autumn, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed. The carotenoids and anthocyanins that are present in the leaf are then unmasked and show their colors.

Certain colors are characteristic of particular species. Oaks turn red, brown, or russet; hickories, golden bronze; aspen and yellow-poplar, golden yellow; dogwood, purplish red; beech, light tan; and sourwood and black tupelo, crimson. Maples differ species by species-red maple turns brilliant scarlet; sugar maple, orange-red; and black maple, glowing yellow. Striped maple becomes almost colorless. Leaves of some species such as the elms simply shrivel up and fall, exhibiting little color other than drab brown.

The timing of the color change also varies by species. Sourwood in southern forests can become vividly colorful in late summer while all other species are still vigorously green. Oaks put on their colors long after other species have already shed their leaves. These differences in timing among species seem to be genetically inherited, for a particular species at the same latitude will show the same coloration in the cool temperatures of high mountain elevations at about the same time as it does in warmer lowlands.

How does weather affect autumn color?

leaf 4The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. The countless combinations of these two highly variable factors assure that no two autumns can be exactly alike. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.

What triggers leaf fall?

In early autumn, in response to the shortening days and declining intensity of sunlight, leaves begin the processes leading up to their fall. The veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaf gradually close off as a layer of cells forms at the base of each leaf. These clogged veins trap sugars in the leaf and promote production of anthocyanins. Once this separation layer is complete and the connecting tissues are sealed off, the leaf is ready to fall.

What does all this do for the tree?

treesWinter is a certainty that all vegetation in the temperate zones must face each year. Perennial plants, including trees, must have some sort of protection to survive freezing temperatures and other harsh wintertime influences. Stems, twigs, and buds are equipped to survive extreme cold so that they can reawaken when spring heralds the start of another growing season. Tender leaf tissues, however, would freeze in winter, so plants must either toughen up and protect their leaves or dispose of them.

The evergreens-pines, spruces, cedars, firs, and so on-are able to survive winter because they have toughened up. Their needle-like or scale-like foliage is covered with a heavy wax coating and the fluid inside their cells contains substances that resist freezing. Thus the foliage of evergreens can safely withstand all but the severest winter conditions, such as those in the Arctic. Evergreen needles survive for some years but eventually fall because of old age.

The leaves of broadleaved plants, on the other hand, are tender and vulnerable to damage. These leaves are typically broad and thin and are not protected by any thick coverings. The fluid in cells of these leaves is usually a thin, watery sap that freezes readily. This means that the cells could not survive winter where temperatures fall below freezing. Tissues unable to overwinter must be sealed off and shed to ensure the plant’s continued survival. Thus leaf fall precedes each winter in the temperate zones.

 

Credit: USDA

22 Sep 2017

Why you should hire a professional for your leaf removal

Consider hiring a lawn care company for leaf removal if you have trouble raking leaves in your large yard or do not have the time.

Autumn can be a nice change of pace after a long, hot summer. In many areas of the country, the benefits include cooler, more comfortable weather, apple picking, football and, of course, the leaves changing colors from greens to beautiful reds, oranges and yellows.

But when those leaves begin to fall, fall lawn care can turn into a chore.

Raking leaves is a time-consuming task and can leave many with sore backs and blisters on their hands. There is a solution- bring in a professional for a quick and painless clean up.

Leaves left to sit can kill your lawn

Experts say it’s important not to let leaves collect on the ground for too long.

Excess leaves block sunlight from getting to your grass- they also spawn mold and can spread disease that can wipe out your lawn. You may have noticed a brown patch after you rake leaves into a pile- the leaves slowly choke the grass beneath until it dies.

Professional leaf removal can save you time and resources.

Hometown Landscape offers leaf removal in the Silver Spring, MD area and would be happy to provide a free quote!

301-490-5577 sales@hometownlandscape.com

08 Sep 2017

Do you need to lime your soil?

Like most things in nature, the soil supporting your lawn (technically called turfgrass) must be in balance. In this case, the balance is a measure of pH or acidity. If your soil is too low on the pH scale, adding lime can help restore the balance and promote a healthier lawn. A quick understanding of the basics of pH, how to test your soil and when and how to apply lime are all you need to get started.

Why Use Lime?

Adding lime is the most common method of changing pH of the soil. Soil PH is a measure of a soil alkalinity or acidity. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Anything below 7.0 is acidic, and anything above is alkaline. Most turfgrasses grow best with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. If a soil tests lower than 5.5, it likely will benefit from added lime.

Soils can be naturally acidic but can also be acidified over time by natural leaching, the use of some nitrogen fertilizers, excessive rainfall or irrigation, and acidic water sources. Low pH affects microbial activity in soil, making nutrients less available to grass and other plants. As a result, turf declines. Common symptoms of low pH include loss of color, reduced vigor and diminished ability to recover from heat and drought.

Types of Lime

The lime you apply to a lawn is limestone or chalk. The main component is calcium carbonate. There are several types of lime, and a good soil test should tell you which type of lime you need.

Lime with a high calcium content is referred to as calcitic lime and has the benefit of adding calcium to the soil. Some limestone contains a significant amount of magnesium and is referred to as dolomitic lime. Dolomitic lime adds magnesium to the soil and could be used if soil tests indicate a magnesium deficiency.

Most types of lime can be applied with a standard lawn spreader.

How to Test Your Soil

You can buy DIY soil test kits at garden centers and hardware stores. A good kit costs about $15 to $20 and tests for pH as well as nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The accuracy of the results is difficult to predict, and the information may not tell you how much lime your lawn needs. For the same amount of money (and a little more time, perhaps 2 to 3 weeks), you can have your soil tested at a local extension service. Most university extensions test soil for about $10 to $20 and usually offer a much more detailed analysis of your soil’s composition and pH level.

Follow the extension’s instructions for gathering the soil sample. It’s usually best to gather multiple samples from each large lawn area and mix the samples for each area together before bagging it for testing. Be sure to let the tester know that you want to learn about liming your lawn. They will likely perform an SMP buffer test on your sample(s) to indicate how much lime to add.

When to Apply Lime

Lime can be applied to a lawn any time of year that soil isn’t frozen, but it is typically done during spring or fall. It’s best to apply lime after aerating the lawn.

This aids absorption and allows some of the lime to reach deeper into the soil.

 

Don’t want to do the work yourself? Call Hometown today for a complimentary consultation for core aeration and liming! 301-490-5577

01 Sep 2017

Aeration and Overseeding- how to fight weeds

What is aeration?

Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn. This process is done by using an aerator. At Hometown we have both walk behind mechanical aerators and tow behind aerators that we attach to lawn tractors.

How does it work?

Ater a dry, hot summer and into the fall season, you will notice a layer of thatch that builds up just below the grass blades. Thatch is a tightly interwoven layer of living and dead tissue existing between the green vegetation and soil surface. At this time the roots of the grass blades will typically be shorter which is not ideal for the health of your lawn. Beneath the thatch layer you will find compacted soil. The more compact the soil the easier for thatch to develop.

When aeration is completed, plugs are pulled from the ground leaving 2.5” – 4” holes in the lawn. Don’t be alarmed this is part of the process! The holes allow nutrients and water to go deep into the soil and this is the stage where overseeding is applied (discussed below). The final stage is when the new grass plants grow with deep roots and the lawn becomes more dense and healthy.

What are the benefits?

The following benefits are a result of the aeration process:

  • Increases the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch
  • Improves fertilizer uptake and use (within 7-10 days)
  • Enhances water uptake and use by soil (immediately)
  • Reduces soil compaction (immediately)
  • Increases oxygen movement between the soil and atmosphere (immediately)
  • Enhances infiltration of rainfall or irrigation
  • Helps prevent fertilizer and pesticide run-off from overly compacted areas

Overseeding

The perfect time to add new varieties of turf grass to the lawn is right after the soil has been aerated.  The seed falls into the holes left behind by the core aerator and germinates. This process allows for the lawn to thicken up and for bare spots to fill in over the course of time.

Grass seed in the Northeast United States blended for use on home lawns contains three different species: Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Leaf Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass.

The ryegrass will germinate first and provide satisfactory cover on bare soil preventing erosion. The better cultivars of rye are a handsome, dark green with a shiny appearance. Contrary to their name, Perennial Ryegrasses aren’t all that perennial. Lawns established for a few years have little of the original ryegrass remaining in them. That isn’t problematic, that’s what’s supposed to happen. They did their job and retired.

The Fine Leaf Fescues will predominate in areas of low sunlight and low maintenance. That’s not to say you won’t find them in full sun, my front lawn is almost exclusively fescue, but since the ryes and blues cannot compete with the fescues in the shade, they predominate.

Kentucky Bluegrass is the turf with which we are most familiar. It is the grass of which sod is composed. It will do best in full sun with moderate to high maintenance. There are great differences in the characteristics of the various cultivars available to us. Some have excellent, deep green color, but have poor resistance to disease. Some cultivars are exactly the opposite – the color is not pleasing to the eye but they are otherwise rather resistant to disease.

 

For a complimentary consultation and quote for core aeration for your yard, please email hometown at sales@hometownlandscape.com or call us at 301-490-5577

18 Aug 2017

How landscaping your yard can put dollars BACK in your pocket

It is no secret that a landscaped yard can cause envy in the neighborhood, but did you know it can also mean money back in your pocket at the time of sale?

Did you know, in a recent University of Michigan study, landscape updates were shown to boost property values up to 11 percent. That means that if you’re looking to boost your home’s rates on your next evaluation, your best bet may be to head to the backyard.

But sophistication counts, researchers found. Homes that featured a curated, professional look scored significantly better among buyers.

Meanwhile, landscape updates perform well on cost-versus-value reports as well. Decks, in particular, fare well along these measures.

Installing a deck or paver patio can recoup you 75% of your investment at the time of sale- that is higher than most kitchen or bathroom remodels!

Here are a couple of projects that will do the most for your home’s bottom line.

 

  • create an outdoor oasis- make your yard an extension of your home
  • outdoor kitchens
  • paver patios and walkways
  • well landscaped gardens
  • firepits and seating walls

 

If you’re looking to landscape your Howard or Montgomery County home, call us today! 301-490-5577

 

11 Aug 2017

Five tips to keep your lawn green

5 Tips to add More Green your yard!

Every gardener loves to earn the reputation of having a green thumb. However, there are eco-sensitive steps you can take that will make sure you are a green gardener, regardless of how gifted you are at getting the most from your plants.

Five Tips:

It only takes a little extra effort to ensure you are making your garden as environmentally friendly as possible. Here are five things you can do to make your special space as attractive to Mother Nature as it is to you and your family:

1. Select your plants with your locale in mind. Find plants that are native to your area and resistant to your local animals- ask an expert if you’re unsure! You can choose plants accordingly and achieve a sustainable lawn and garden with less ongoing effort and maintenance.

2. Repurpose your lawn clippings, leaves, and plant trimmings. These items offer a good alternative to some fertilizers, and a little composting will create excellent potting soil.

3. Recycle household items as gardening material. Old cardboard and newspapers serve as good weed mats, and adding a little Styrofoam to the bottom of a pot will aid in proper drainage. You can challenge family members to come up with creative ideas, such as using egg cartons to start your seedlings.

4. Minimize your use of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. Runoff from gardens is one of the biggest pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay, and you can find many natural ways to control some of your worst bugs. However, understand that many insects are actually beneficial to your lawn and garden, and you often eliminate them when you over spray or treat with too many chemicals.

5. Think out of the box when it comes to your home landscaping. In today’s environment you’ll find a lot of options that differ from the traditional “perfect landscape.” Your local landscaper can help you select different concepts, designs, and plants that will make you home stand out as both beautiful and environmentally sensitive. Hometown Landscape & Lawn Service can help you out with an array of services to suit your needs.

Get into the frame-of-mind that you can have a green thumb and make a statement with your lawn and garden – you’ll have a whole new appreciation for your living space. Plus, you may well serve as an inspiration to others to make their spaces more sustainable.

 

Hometown Landscape & Lawn Service

PO BOX 4727 Silver Spring, MD 20914

301-490-5577

sales@hometownlandscape.com

04 Aug 2017

Planting a vegetable garden in August

August is a fabulous month in the vegetable garden for many of us. The summer crops are overwhelming us with their productivity (hopefully!) and the crops we sowed last month are coming along beautifully. But August need not be a time only to harvest the mid-season crops. You can still plant in August. For many northern gardeners, the focus now will be on planting fast-maturing cool season crops that will mature in a few weeks for fall harvest.

It is also a time to plan what you will grow for winter gardening, if you happen to a gardener who will extend the season with row tunnels or will be using a greenhouse. Southern gardeners, though they are still dealing with high temperatures in August, can start looking forward to some relief in fall, as well.

If all the space in your garden has been planted already, now might be the time to clear out some of the early season crops that have faded to make space for some August plantings. If you do, pay some attention to the nutritional needs of what you are planning to plant–and add soil amendments as needed. Some of the early crops may have depleted the soil of key nutrients, which may need to be replaced before the second round of crops.

Or you can defy the heat of August and dig in some new garden space for this round of late summer planting–you will certainly appreciate the additional space next spring.

Finally, some gardeners might choose container-friendly vegetables for this round of August planting. Containers have many advantages, such as being able to move them around to take advantage of sunlight patterns that may change as the fall progresses.