Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Landscape Maintenance

Sometime in the next 4 weeks it will be time to cut that lawn for the first time. For those of you lucky enough to have a service like ours, what do you need to do? Nothing.... Sit back, relax, and watch the Spring Clean-Up, First applications of fertilizer and weed control applied at the perfect times, and the first cutting of the season scheduled and completed when it needs to be. Watch mulch and soil amendment applied, annual flowers installed, and all of this perfect by the end of May.

But for those of us that are not so on.

If you have to complete these maintenance tasks yourself, what needs to be done over the next few weeks? Well, first things first. If you want the best looking lawn and landscape in the neighborhood, you will need the following in the next 4 weeks.

1. Spring Clean-Up
2. Lawn Cutting
3. Fertilization of turf areas(covered in the last blog)

Lets address the first two items and when they should be completed.

1. Spring Clean-Up.

Ok, you want to get in your beds and start to rake and cultivate and work that soil, right? Don't. These next few weeks your beds can be significantly compacted by walking on them. Not to say you can't go around and pick up sticks, branches, debris blowing around. It's time to do that. But you will want to wait until that soil has warmed up below the surface before any heavy bed work is completed. I would say April 15-30th this year will be the time to get in those beds.

Then get in there and cultivate down 3-6". It is a good time to prune any dead or broken branches off of plants, trees, etc. Cut to the ground any ornamental grasses, and amend mulch to maintain a nice 3" mulch layer if you have mulched beds. For topsoil beds, adding in compost or soil/compost mix to amend to 3" will be beneficial for those plants or future annual flower planting. For rock or gravel beds, leaf and debris should be blown, raked, or picked out and any weeds pulled out that may just be starting to emerge. Pull any weeds that you see in all beds for that matter. Any weeds you can pull prior to those weeds going to seed will help keep the beds weed free.

Turf areas can be raked or blown to remove any leaf or debris on top. Heavy raking especially in shade areas should be avoided until grass plants take proper rooting and begin to grow. Otherwise the existing grass plants can be raked up and areas will need to be reseeded.

Are there any bare turf areas from snow plowing, dog damage, thin areas from the prior season? Mix up some seed with compost and topsoil or a bag of garden mix. Use the highest quality sun or shade seed depending on your conditions and you will have a great patch mix for these bare areas. 2 shovelfuls of soil and one baseball sized handful of seed should do it. Topdress with this mix of soil and seed.

That should cover it for the Spring Clean-Up. This can be a gradual process over the next 60 days so it is completed prior to June 1, or all done at once. Remember that mulching done in early Spring will have to contend with heavy rains in May so may fade and not look as fresh in June and July. Delaying mulch amendments to later in the Spring may look better aesthetically for the rest of the season.

Lawn maintenance should be completed the first week that 1" of the grass blade can be cut off. When will that occur to your lawn? Somewhere around the 2nd to 4th week of April this year. Is your lawn equipment ready?

Now is the time to get that mower, trimmer, and blower in for a tune up. Drain out old gas and refill with fresh. Replace the spark plug and change the oil. And don't forget that every mower needs a sharp blade and scrape out all dead grass and stuff from underneath the deck. This can spread fungus and disease if old grass is not removed. I recommend for a residential home to sharpen the blade once in the Spring and once in the Summer. The mower should not be tearing the grass blade. You can look at the grass blade after the lawn is cut and assess if it is being cut or torn. Our company sharpens blades daily and this is necessary to get a great cut.

So, are you ready for Spring. Get out there and get those lawns and beds in top condition.

And remember that if you need any help with these services, or it seems like this will be too much work this Spring, give us a call.

For more information or to receive an estimate for lawn maintenance services go to:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wait to Fertilize until Next Month

So the back of Winter is broken and Spring is coming. Time to look at that sad, yellow, thin lawn and get to work on it, right? No! You can wait like a month!!

Please sit back, be a bit lazy, and listen to the 28 year veteran..............., me.

It really gets me when I see those National fertilization companies out there in March getting the first chemical application down and flying all those flags in the front lawns. Then the Radio ads start on how you need to dump down this and apply that for Grubs and Weeds and Crabgrass and whatever else will be the disease of the year you need protection from.

Well, stop, and listen for just a second. In the Chicagoland area, your lawn needs nothing for the next month, got it? If you applied nitrogen late last season, it is available now for your lawn. Whether organic or chemical, the nutrients are already there and ready for the turf to use this Spring.

The first application of nutrients need to be applied when the soil temperatures warm up a bit. The best time is right around that first cut of the season. for 2010 this will be around late April. The soil temperatures will be 60 degrees, the initial uptake of nutrients has occurred, the turf is growing and ready for the first application.

Now, if you can't keep yourself off of that lawn right now, let me give you something to do that CAN be beneficial. Seed. Lets look at that snowplow damage along the driveway, the holes that the squirrels and birds poked in the lawn and anywhere you see thin areas. Go to the store and buy 2-3 pounds of the highest quality seed(that's right, the expensive stuff). Get full sun or full shade depending on the areas to be repaired. Mix it up with a little topsoil. There is probably a bag of it sitting in the corner of your garage from last year. Then just sprinkle it in these bare areas like Parmesan cheese. The wet and muck and warmer soil temperatures in the next few weeks will get those seedlings up, quickly filling in any bare areas at the beginning of the season. That will keep you busy enough to not think about fertilizing(remember, wait a month!!)

We can recommend the best types of fertilizer products for this Spring and are offering an organic alternative for the 2010 season. So listen to me, do nothing right now, wait until the right time, and then lets get that lawn looking its best.

Think Spring,

Eric Hansen, President

For more information or to receive an estimate for lawn maintenance services go to:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Propane Engine Fuel Summit

I just arrived in Washington DC for the Propane Engine Fuel Summit. Many speakers will be here representing all areas of the propane industry and the use of propane in equipment and vehicles. It will be interesting to see what new ideas and technologies will be available for fleet managers as well as for my interest, the landscape and lawn maintenance industry.

Anyone that wants to listen can log in to the propane engine fuel summit and see the agenda and the video webinar of the speakers on the web.

Today I got a call from a contractor in Michigan. We both spoke a few months back and he was asking questions about the Roush/Ford F350 and if he would be able to switch over his company to propane. I gave him a few tips then to pursue.

His update after he worked on this for a few months sounded familiar. As he went out into the marketplace to find a distributor of propane, and a manufacturer of equipment, he was stopped in his tracks. Many in the propane industry told him that propane would not work well for trucks and maintenance equipment. Propane companies that delivered propane to homes and farms didn't want to help him in his quest. Equipment dealers aren't interested in selling equipment if it is not gasoline. Even when he said that his goal was to use 5000 gallons this year, they still were not interested in the hassle of finding all of the different pieces involved in converting and put them together for him.

He finally found a distributor that was willing to put in a fill station. He found a lawn equipment dealer willing to order two machines for him this Spring that he could purchase, and he is going to add a truck to his operations as well.

This process was all done with frustration and lack of help and knowledge from the groups that should be the experts. Landscape maintenance contractors are interested in switching over but the majority of them will quit before they get going. Having 1 or 2 machines in an entire fleet and occasionally using them to market green initiatives, or used during ozone days will not allow expansion of this alternative fuel. It will be a temporary use of propane and never catch on.

On Thursday I will be describing the contractors perspective on switching from gasoline to propane. We have been working on this for 2 years and are still not there yet.

Will we get there ? I believe that the answer is yes if we keep working with the truck and equipment manufacturers, propane distributors, and the propane industry and lobbyists that are working to promote propane as an alternative fuel.

I will update you on the progress.

Eric Hansen, President Competitive Lawn Service, Inc
630-964-3100 Fax

For more information or to receive an estimate for lawn maintenance services go to: