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Landenberg, Pennsylvania, United States
Based in Landenberg, PA PLG offers Landscape Installation and Maintenance to Southern Chester County and Northern Delaware

Friday, March 25, 2011

Designing a Pet Friendly Landscape

I am sorry I missed last week's post, just extremely busy!!!  Also please check out our newly designed website at: www.lawn-scapes.net.  Without any more pomp and circumstance lets get to today's blog.....

            When considering a formal landscape design for your yard it is important to consider a family’s furry friends.  Be it a dog, cat, or more exotic creature, their needs can be accommodated in a design.  The best policy is to let the landscape designer know that you have an animal to accommodate before the design process starts.  This information will help push their design in a direction to hide, mitigate, and accommodate a pet’s special needs.  The landscape designer might ask you for permission to observe your pet’s habits so he can tailor the design to their needs. 
            Dogs are, by far, the animal that spends more time outside than any other.  Depending on the size of the dog, considerable damage can be caused to your garden and landscape.  Dogs, by their nature, are extremely protective of their territory.  If you have a fence, and dogs, then you are sure to have noticed a perimeter worn around the entire fence line where the dog (or dogs!) patrol.  Dogs often follow the same paths over and over when fetching a ball or playing, wearing paths into your lawn.  Why fight it?  My in laws have a 110 pound lab-golden retriever mix, a very large female golden retriever, and often, play host to my dainty, female lab.  Needless to say having three hyper, very playful dogs playing fetch can wear out you lawn very quickly.  Instead of fretting over the path worn in the lawn my Father-in-Law spread fine bark mulch over the worn areas and called it a day. 
            One of the most important things, for any type of pet, is to avoid the use of poisonous plants.  Some plants to avoid are: lilies, crocus, daffodils, tulips, yew, and English ivy.  These plants can cause a pet to become extremely sick and even pass away.  The ASPCA website (aspca.org) has a list of poisonous plants to avoid.  You can ask you veterinarian if there are any other plants that he would recommend staying away from.  Cats really love to nuzzle and chew on plants and because of this they are extremely susceptible to being poisoned.  Try to curb direct the need by growing catnip and directing their attention there.  Cats will tend to find the catnip more enjoyable to chew and nuzzle then a holly bush.  Avoiding the use of plants with thorns or prickly margins are important for all animals.  Planting densely within beds is a very effective way to keep Fido from digging and nosing around.  Using river jack or other rocky material as mulch in beds, while not ideal for plant growth, is also an effective way of curbing a dog’s need to dig. 
            As any dog owner knows, a dog needs a vast area to play.  Usually this means some sort of grassy field or other open area.  I think that grass is the perfect place for a dog to play.  There are some down sides to the doggy-lawn relationship though.  The first is the well known urine spots.  Urine spots tend to show up as yellowish-brown areas where dogs habitually urinate.  One way to mitigate this is to watch your dog go and then run out to the spot and dilute the urine with water.  Personally, I do not have time to chase after my dog with a water hose.  From a puppy my wife and I trained our lab, Sam, to go in the woods and do her business.  This cuts down on the scooping of poop and yellow urine spots in our yard.  Another concern is spraying your yard with pesticides and fertilizers, which can make your dog ill.  Be sure after any type of application, to allow plenty of time to pass before allowing your puppy to play on the lawn. 
            In summary it is easy to juxtapose a dog’s or cat’s needs with your own.  A beautiful, well planned landscape and a pet friendly one does not have to be mutually exclusive.  All it requires is careful planning and an eye for detail.  Please feel free to call us to inquire about your own pet friendly design!        

-Matt Bradley, BLA 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Designing for Deer Resistance

1.      Figure out how severe your deer population is in your area.
a.      Deer Overpopulation is caused by several factors:
                                                                        i.     Increased Habitat- Deer are edge creatures that live on the border between the deep forest and open areas. By cutting down forests and creating open space we are creating more habitat for them.
                                                                       ii.     No Predators- Most of Deer’s natural predators have been wiped out by the human species.
                                                                      iii.     Reproduce Often- Deer are prolific breeders.
                                                                      iv.     Increased Food Supply- Unfortunately, the suburban landscape is a “salad bar” for the Whitetail Deer. 
2.      Choose Deer Resistant Plants
a.      Plants that are very susceptible to deer are:
                                                                        i.     Hostas
                                                                       ii.     Camellias
                                                                      iii.     Aucubas
                                                                      iv.     Daylilies
b.      Plants that are soft to the touch with a high water content will always be eaten first.
c.      I want to stress the fact that most plants are deer resistant.  When deer are hungry they will pretty much eat anything.  There should be the understanding that there will be some plant loss.
d.      Most deer stay away from plants with thorns or spiny projections such as hollies, and barberries.
e.      Deer Resistant Plants:
                                                                        i.     Red Japanese Barberry
                                                                       ii.     Inkberry
                                                                      iii.     Pieris
                                                                      iv.     Spirea
                                                                       v.     Ornamental Grasses
                                                                      vi.     Crepe Myrtle
                                                                    vii.     Cryptomeria
                                                                   viii.     Viburnum
                                                                      ix.     Lavender
                                                                       x.     Achillea
                                                                      xi.     Juniper
3.      Deer do not like to climb.
a.      If your property is steep use rocks to retain soil because deer do not like to climb.
4.      Direct Deer’s Feeding Habits
a.      Plant large masses of native plants around the border to feed deer and keep them away from more precious plantings.  This will keep deer from coming further into the garden.
5.      Control Deer’s entry and circulation patterns.
a.      Build a deer fence at least 8’ feet tall.  Deer do not like to jump things that high.
b.      Buy a dog.  The barking and their smell will keep deer away.
6.      Inter-mix Deer Resistant Plants and Plants that Deer Like.
a.      Use plants that are fragrant such as, lavender, around plants that deer like.
b.      The fragrance will discourage deer from coming closer.
7.      Try deer repellants.
a.      There are several of these products on the market.  Most are naturalistic products made with rotten eggs and several other smells that deer do night like.  Must be re-applied after rainstorms.
b.      Deer do not like human hair.
c.      Deer do not like the smell of Irish Spring soap.  Hang this from trees around the edge of your property to keep deer away.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

LawnScapes' Basic Guide to Pruning

            In this edition of LawnScape’s Blog, I want to give you the basic techniques, methods, and things to look for when pruning shrubs, perennials, and trees in your landscape.  Pruning is a very important step in promoting healthy plant growth.  There are four main tools used in pruning, most of, many homeowners already possess.
1.     Pruning Shears:  These are used for pruning small shoots, small stems, and dead heading perennials and roses. 
2.     Lopping Shears (or Limb Loppers): These are used for larger stems and branches
3.     Pruning Saw:  This is used for large branches
4.     Hedge Shears: As the name suggests these are for trimming hedge rows composed of shrubs with small leaves.
As with any tool, these will only work as well as they are maintained.  Your pruning shears, lopping shears, and hedge shears should be kept sharp.  The sharper they are, the less damage a plant will incur during pruning.  You want all of your cuts to be clean and limit the tearing and ripping of bark. 
            When shortening branches, cut just above an outward facing bud or shoot.  Never cut straight across the limb.  Always make your cut diagonally, parallel to the angle of the bud or shoot.  If you tear the bark move down to the next bud or shoot and try again.  When removing entire branches cut flush with the trunk or the main branch as you can get it. DO NOT paint the wound with sealant paint as it prevents the tree’s natural healing process.  If you are extremely worried about disease infestation then use a latex based paint rather than an oil based paint.  Shrubs need to have their dead, straggly, and weak wood pruned every year.  The best time for pruning is late in the dormant season.  The reasons for this recommendation are:
1. Leaves wounds open for the shortest amount time before new growth starts to occur
2. Easier to make pruning decisions without leaves obscuring the tree or shrub’s branching structure.
Examine the shrubs and trees in your garden one a year in the early spring /late winter to determine their pruning needs.  Things to look for are:
1.     Any dead or damaged wood, remove these by cutting back to the next healthy, outward facing shoot or bud.
2.     Remove any shoots that are obviously weak, by cutting back to a main branch.
3.     Look for straggly branches and prune in half back to a strong shoot or bud that is facing outward.
4.     Be extremely careful not to remove healthy wood.

Pruning Shrubs that Bloom on Last Year’s Growth:
            Plants such as Beauty Bush, Deutzia, Forsythia, Hydrangeas, and Mock Oranges all bloom on last season’s growth. If the shrub has lost its shape and is too crowded then it should be pruned right after the blooms fade.  This technique creates a nice form and healthy growth for the next year.
Pruning Shrubs that Flower on New Growth:
            Plants such as: Butterfly Bushes, False Spirea, Blue Beard, and Japanese Spirea all bloom on new growth.  To restrict size and encourage fewer but larger blooms prune these types of shrubs in late winter or in spring when growth starts.  At the end of the season cut all of the growth back to 2-3 buds from the base.  Do not cut into the older wood unless you are trying to change the shape and growth habit of the plant.
Pruning Shrubs in Hedges:
            New growth should be cut back by ½ to 1/3 every year until the required height is reached.  The final height can be maintained by shearing the new growth almost to its base every year.  Use a string line between two stakes (make sure it’s level) to help guide your trimming.  Taper the sides of the hedge so the base is thicker.  Fast growing formal hedges should be trimmed at least two times a year, once in spring and once at the end of summer.  Informal hedges with flowering shrubs can be pruned after the flowering is completed.  If the shrubs in the hedge bloom on the current year’s growth then prune them in the spring.  Use hedge shears to clip small leaved shrubs, like boxwoods or hollies.  Pruning shears are better for larger leaved shrubs to prevent the leaves from being cut in half.  Power trimmers work best when used on young soft green shoots but may damage shrubs with thicker woodier stems.
Pruning for Trees:
            Pruning should start when the young tree is planted.  This is the time to remove only diseased, dead, or broken branches.  Begin training the young tree during its dormant season.  When pruning, prune to shape but do not cut the leader, remove crossing branches and branches that grow back toward the trunk, eliminate sucker growth from the roots, remove rubbing branches, and prune narrow crotches.  As the tree grows remove lower branches gradually to raise the crown.  Leave the pruning of large trees to professionals that possess the now-how and right equipment.  There are three main kinds of pruning done to large, mature trees:
1. Crown Thinning:  selectively removing branches for better light penetration and air circulation.
2. Crown Raising: removing lower branches for more clearance under the tree for sidewalks and lawns
3. Crown Reduction: Removing larger branches at the top of the crown in order to reduce the tree height.  When done right the tree does not look scalped. 
 Pruning Perennials:
            Pruning perennials can help to promote new blooms to bud in plants such as phlox and delphinium.  As soon as the spring and summer flowers fade remove them with your pruning shears.  Continue doing this into the fall.  Plants with a single flower stem, like the red hot poker, prune the flower stalk to ground level.  For perennials that have leaves on the lower part of the flower stems, cut the stems off right above the leaves.  Many plants such as Candy Tuft and Dianthus form a dense mat can benefit from a hard pruning.  Use hedge shears to cut back ½ to 1/3 of their height.  This practice promotes new growth and sometimes a second bloom can occur.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I hope you learned some useful information, and get out there and start pruning!

-Matt Bradley, BLA
Designer/Estimator  for LawnScapes