Friday, March 17, 2006

Pruning Trees

Pruning Trees
By Paul Burke

Pruning your trees and shrubs is a very important part of any maintenance program for your landscape. By pruning on a regular basis you can avoid excessive pruning on plants which have become overgrown.

Why prune:

Five of the most important reasons to prune are as follows. Pruning increases light and air circulation within the canopy. Pruning also can be used to increase the amount of fruit or flowers on a plant. Removing unsightly suckers or water-sprouts is another reason to prune. Returning a plant to its natural growth habit is needed in some cases, certain plants need to be pruned when overgrown. One example of this is the lilac. Pruning can also be used to maintain the size and shape of a plant within the landscape.

When should I prune:

Some plants can only be pruned at specific times of the year. Most plants can be placed into categories based on some of their characteristics. Plants that flower in the spring should be pruned after flowering and before setting buds for the next season. Because they flower early in the spring, buds will develop on the previous year’s growth. Pruning before flowering will not generally injure the plant but you will usually see a reduction in the amount of flowering. Plants that flower in the summer should be pruned during the months in which the plant is dormant before new growth appears. Because the buds occur on current season’s growth, pruning after growth begins could decrease floral development. Cedars and junipers may be pruned at anytime of the year. Spruce and pine can also be pruned at any time. Shorten shoot length (candling) during growth in early summer for best results on these conifers. Deciduous trees can be pruned at almost anytime. Avoid spring pruning as bleeding may occur. Generally this will not harm the tree but can be unsightly to the homeowner.

Pruning tips:

When pruning a tree or shrub, never leave a stub after making the cut. Cut back to a bud or just outside the branch collar. Never remove more than 1/3 of the canopy when pruning. Never make your cuts flush, these cuts remove the closing off mechanism of the plant and will have a hard time healing. Ensure your tools are of the proper size and are sharp.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta, Canada. He has over 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.
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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Moving Houseplants Outside for the Summer

One of the happiest moments in a houseplant’s life is when it gets to go back outside for the summer. The increased sunlight and fresh rain act as major growth stimulants for tired houseplants. And, it is very fashionable to incorporate houseplants and foliage plants into garden design. Having said that, every gardener has to follow a few simple rules for successfully moving houseplants into the garden.
Houseplants can be moved outdoors during the day after all danger of daylight frost has passed. The temperatures for these first few days should at least be in the low 60’s F or greater than 15 degrees C. to avoid temperature shock. A windless site is also important as a cold wind will quickly chill a houseplant into shock. Leaving a plant outside for only a few hours a day for the first few days is optimal rather than leaving it outside from morning until night.
Plants can be left outdoors at night after all danger of night frost has passed and after a week of daytime acclimatization. Again, do not leave the houseplant outdoors if night temperatures are going to plunge or if there is a cold, raw wind. If you wouldn’t want to be outdoors, neither would your plant.
The key to successful acclimatization of indoor plants to outdoor gardens is slowly acclimatizing the plant to increased levels of sunshine, cool winds and natural rains. Usually a week of moving a plant outdoors in the morning and indoors at night will serve to harden off the tender indoor plant so it will survive and indeed, thrive in its new outdoor location. While we all want to rush the season in seeing our gardens fully leaved out, rushing or pushing indoor plants into cold gardens will only set them back.
Doug Green, award winning garden author of 7 gardening books, answers gardening questions in his free newsletter at
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Monday, March 06, 2006

Choosing the Right Mower

Choosing the Right Mower
By Paul Burke

Nobody is really sure how much time we spend mowing our lawns, but on the average it is about 40 hours per season. With that much time spent pushing these machines along keeping our lawns well manicured you think we would know more about them. In actual fact the mower you are using right now might not be the right machine for the job. Lawn mowers come in two types, rotary and reel and each type has its strengths and weaknesses.


Reel mowers have been around for a very long time and in recent years have for the most part been replaced by the rotary type mowers. The reel mower is better suited for a small lawn, generally in the 1,000 to 2,000 square foot ranges. Some of the advantages to a reel type mower are that they are quiet, non-polluting machines that provide a better quality cut from the scissoring action they produce. Today's reel mowers are considerably lighter in weight, generally in the 16 to 20 pound range. Improvements in the gears ball bearings, and axles translate into a rolling action that is smoother. These mowers come in a variety of blade patterns but for general lawn cutting a 5-blade pattern is your best bet.


This type of mower was developed in the 1950's and for the most part replaced most reel type mower for a homeowners lawn. Several of the advantages of a rotary mower include a faster cut, adjustments to height are less difficult, and are better at cutting grass at higher heights. All rotary mowers use power to make them operate whether it is electricity or gasoline. They come in a variety of designs such as push, self-propelled, walk-behind or riding mowers. The cutting decks can vary in size from 18" to 24" for most push mowers and up to 36" for a riding mower. The advantage of a riding mower is simple; they mow considerably faster than a push or self-propelled model. Because of their size I would recommend this type of mower for a lot 1/2 or more in size. Any smaller and lack of maneuverability will cause you to go over areas with a smaller mower which the ride-on missed.

A mulching mower is designed specially to re-cut the grass clipping several times to reduce its size, which in turn decompose quickly eliminating the need to bag or rake. There are many after market blades you can purchase to convert your conventional blade to a mulcher. These blades do a fair job but are not as effective as a true mulching mower as it has specially designed baffles underneath the deck which keeps the grass clippings suspended until they are cut several times.


By doing a little research you will purchase a mower which best suits your lawn. Is the equipment powerful enough and has a wide enough cutting deck to match your lawn? By saving money and buying something smaller and cheaper you run the risk of additional time spent cutting your lawn. One example of this is purchasing an 18-inch push behind mower to cut a 1-acre (42,000-sq.ft.) lot. Using this machine it will take an average person 2 1/2 hours to complete the job. On the other hand a riding mower with a 36-inch cutting deck can usually finish the job in 30 minutes. Buy the highest quality mower you can afford.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta, Canada. He has over 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How to Build a Waterfall for Your Garden Pond

How to Build a Waterfall For Your Garden Pond
By Hugh Harris-Evans

Building a waterfall is easier than you think and will add a new dimension to your pool.

When building a waterfall, as with any garden project, you must first consider the design and make a plan. The biggest mistake that people make when planning a pond waterfall is to err on the large side. For a pond measuring 12 ft x 14 ft you should think in terms of a fall of 18-24 inches. The width of the waterfall should be in proportion to the size of your pond. The important point is to make sure that the scale of your construction fits in with the surrounding features and does not spoil the balance of your overall garden design.

The next question that has to be answered is the type of construction you wish to use. There are two basic choices. You can either use a liner and place rocks to form the fall or you can save yourself the trouble and buy a fibreglass unit. Either way you will still have to use your shovel to form the site of the waterfall.

The other requirement is a pump which will be sited in the pool to transport the water to the top of your waterfall. The size of pump that you will need depends on the height and width of the waterfall and also the length of pipe from the pump to the top of the fall. Once you have finalised your plans, consult your
dealer and he will be able to supply you with the correct pump.

To maintain a healthy pond environment with crystal clear water usually involves installing a biological filter. Again your dealer will be able to advise you as to the correct type and size. The filter should be placed at the top of the waterfall so that the water is cleaned before issuing out on to the fall.

Once you have assembled all the equipment it is time to get out your shovel. If your site is level and the soil from excavation of your pond is nearby this can be used as the mound on which to place the waterfall. If you are using a liner you first dig out the channel and then fit the liner. Next place the rocks so that the water can flow over them. It is helpful if you observe a natural waterfall to give you some ideas as to how the rocks can be placed for the greatest effect. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, use black waterfall foam to seal the rocks to ensure that the water flows over and around them and not underneath. If you have chosen to use a fibreglass preformed model, you will avoid the problem of placing the rocks and will just have to dig out sufficient soil to allow you to fit the unit.

To complete the installation fit the pump, filter and hose and connect to the electricity supply. Providing all is working to your satisfaction, now is the time to relax and enjoy your handiwork.

If you have read this far and are wondering whether it would be just too much like hard work, then consider this. Water soothes and relaxes, inspires reflection, and is a source of beauty. A cascading, bubbling stream adds interest and serenity to the garden, while a waterfall can create a dramatic centerpiece. Building a pond waterfall really is worth the effort.

Hugh Harris-Evans is the owner of The Garden Supplies Advisor where you will find further articles, gardening tips and product reviews.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Planting Trees and Shrubs

How well your new tree or shrub does is dependent on planting your new addition to your landscape properly. By using the following steps you will go a long way in ensuring the future health of your new tree or shrub.

STEP 1: Choose the right plant for the right location. Ensure soil, moisture, and shade requirements match the plant you have chosen

STEP 2: Care for the plant before planting. Keep the tree or shrub cool and moist as well as shaded. When handling the root ball, be careful.

STEP 3: Ensure the removal of all wires, labels, etc from the plant’s stem.

STEP 4: Dig your hole as wide as possible. The hole you use for your new tree or shrub should be at least 3 times the diameter of the root ball. Make the hole saucer-shaped and as deep as the root ball is high. Make sure the root collar is level or just above the surrounding soil.

STEP 5: Remove wire baskets, burlap, or pot from the root ball. By removing these materials you minimize root system disturbances. If you find it difficult to remove the burlap, cut and peel it back for better watering.

STEP 6: Use soil from the hole you dug. Do not mix in fertilizer, sand or any organic material such as peat moss.

STEP 7: Once the new tree or shrub has been planted in the hole and back-filled using only soil removed from the hole, you can prune any broken or dead branches. Because the tree or shrub is so young do not cut back any of the health branches to reduce the crown.

STEP 8: Water the root zone once a week for the 1st year or two. Do not over-water. The majority of new tree or shrub roots are in the 1st 6-12 inches of soil. Water slowly to decrease the amount of runoff. By watering deeply and infrequently you will encourage deep root development which will aid in stability and strength in later years.

STEP 9: Aside from watering, the next most important thing you can do for your new tree or shrub is to apply an organic mulch such as wood chips, grass clippings or tree bark. This mulch reduces compaction, aids in moisture retention, and helps keep unwanted weeds from utilizing the bare space beneath the tree. Use a circle of mulch approximately 3 times the size of the root ball and increase this as the tree grows.

By following these steps you will help ensure a good start for the newest additions to your landscape.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta, Canada. He has over 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.
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Friday, February 17, 2006

Transplanting New Trees

Transplanting Trees
By Paul Burke

Problems with transplanting:

Once a homeowner decides to add a new tree or shrub to their landscape there are several factors to consider when doing this. Three of the most important factors are selection of the plant, where they will plant, and the actual process of planting the new addition. Trees and shrubs not planted correctly will show signs of slow growth, poor colour, decline and or may grow too large for the location you have chosen.


Many times a homeowner will be tempted to use a lower priced tree or shrub. Often these plants will have an underdeveloped root structure that is unable to support the plant. The root structure may be overgrown from being in a container too long. It may have broken branches or damaged bark. Ensure the plant is suited for the hardiness zone you live in. Check with a local nursery if you are unsure of which zone you live in. If you choose a tree or shrub that will outgrow the location you have chosen, move it to another location. Try to imagine what the plant will look like in 15-20 years, this will aid in your selection of location. By doing this you will cut down on the need for excessive pruning in later years. Generally trees and shrubs of poorer quality will be slow to establish themselves, they will exhibit signs of reduced vigor, die-back, and poor growth.

Choosing your site:

Characteristics of a location will also contribute to transplant problems. Almost all trees and shrubs need a well-drained soil that is moist. Many areas within an urban environment are poorly drained. The soil pH level may be unsuitable for the tree or shrub you have selected. Most trees and shrubs also require a specific sun and shade schedule. A poorly chosen site will affect a tree or shrub in many ways. Poor growth, and or poor colour will occur. Generally speaking trees and shrubs in poor locations will also not respond favourably to a good fertilizer program or good cultural practices.

How to plant:

By planting incorrectly you dramatically increase the chance of your new tree or shrub failing. Several things that can go wrong are as follows. Many times the homeowner will plant too deep or too shallow. By planting too deep you have a good chance of suffocating the roots. This is caused by oxygen deprivation. Planting too shallow can cause exposure of the root structure. This will cause drying out of the root system and kill the plant. Watering improperly is another problem encountered by the homeowner.

By watering too much you run the risk of root decay or you have the potential to drown the roots. By watering too little the plant becomes stressed and could eventually die. Leaving wire, string, rope, or burlap on the plant can encourage girdling which can eventually kill the plant in later years. Improper staking can cause the plant to be blown over in severe weather. If you leave the staking material on too long you once again run the risk of girdling.

Solving the problem:

When you are planting your new tree or shrub ensure you correct as many of these problems as possible. Do not purchase plants with poorly developed root structures. Ensure the plant is compatible with the zone in which you live. Solve any drainage and pH problems before you transplant your new addition. Remove all burlap, wire, string, or rope that has the potential to cause girdling in later years. Make sure you plant at the proper depth. Generally you do this so the top roots are just covered by soil. Water deeply and infrequently. This will encourage your new plant to develop deep roots that will aid in stability in the years to come. Water slowly as this will enable more moisture to be taken in by the plant. Watering quickly causes run-off and is just wasting your time and money. Stake your plant if it is in an exposed area to wind.

Remember to remove the stakes and wire in the second year to prevent girdling. Use a good fertilization program throughout the life of your new additions. Water and prune correctly. By alleviating these problems you will ensure the good health and appearance of your new trees or shrubs.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta, Canada. He has over 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dog Damage

Many homeowners have dogs, and one of their most common questions is how can I have a beautiful lawn as well as a dog? If your dog is using your lawn to urinate on, then the simple answer is you cannot. Dog damage to lawns creates circular spots caused by urine burns. Generally it is the female and young males, which cause the greatest damage. This has nothing to do with the fact they are female, or young males, urine is urine. It has more to do with the way in which they urinate. Adult male dogs will urinate on shrubs, or areas around power poles, playground equipment or fence posts. They do this to mark their territory. Females tend to squat while urinating, causing a greater concentration on one area. Because of the high concentration of salt and urea, it causes a circular dead spot. Normally a ring of healthy grass will surround the dead patch. This is caused by nitrogen in the dog’s urine, which acts as a fertilizer.


Having one certain area such as a graveled dog run goes a long way to keeping the majority of your lawn green and healthy. If you are unable to provide such an area, watering immediately after dilutes the urine and may prevent the damage from occurring. This must be done soon after the dog urinates, or this is ineffective.


Areas of grass, which have been damaged by dogs, have a very high concentration of salts, nitrogen, and urea. Generally if you put down seed in these areas, it will not germinate. You must first water the damaged areas to leach out as much of the chemicals as possible. Roughly rake out the dead area, and then add appropriate seed to the damaged area. Top dress with approximately ¼ of an inch of topsoil and keep the seed slightly moist until germination. Do not fertilize these areas until the root structure has a chance to become established. Generally 4-5 cuts are sufficient for this to occur.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta, Canada. He has over 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.

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