Certain landscapers in the surrounding area lack knowledge of common core practices and the importance of proper technique. Their company goals since starting may not have been for the right reasons. They will do anything and everything to make some extra money, regardless of the outcome. We have found out however, while by doing the right thing might be slightly higher in price our efforts will lead to increasing the green in your garden and in your pockets long term. We try our best to establish a client for life, as opposed to the client for the week. By creating lasting relationships we can guarantee satisfaction throughout the life of your landscape. Like a marriage, we bond ourselves to the garden and client, staying by their side in good times and in bad- sometimes evoking productive arguments. As a consumer this might seem like it is the last thing you want, for someone you hire to tell you no. As an educated horticulturalist it is important that I stress that this is what you NEED.
Below I will list some red flags. Next time you talk to your landscaper pay attention to how attentive they are to your needs. Our goal should not be to inflate our financial gains, but to increase your knowledge on your immediate environment; thus creating a positive interaction with your landscape.
1.Landscape Fabric (AKA Weed Fabric):
Landscape fabric is a thin sheet of material generally made with polypropylene plastics used to create a barrier in which weeds will not grow where it is laid. By far I would have to say that this is the biggest waste of time, money and landscaper energy. This practice is one of those common misconceptions of taking the extra step in the garden. Have you ever noticed that if you laid the fabric or not you somehow magically STILL find weeds? This in part is due to the porous nature of most of the fabrics; roots can still penetrate the soil profile beneath it. Even with the solid plastic liners, weeds can still proliferate in your garden. Weeds have the ability to survive with very little soil and space, this is why we find them everywhere we don’t want to. It does not matter if you lay one layer or ten, when it comes to nature she will find a way to spread life.
The Solution: Fixing the problem of using weed fabric is multifaceted and first comes with the understanding of the science of nature itself. To save you the time of research, certified horticulturalists have spent a lot of money, time and effort into studying this for. The first understanding is that nature always finds a way to enter a state of entropy. Entropy is defined, for our landscaping purposes, as a tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve to a state of inert uniformity, or simply; chaos. On a positive side, this means it isn’t just in YOUR garden’s weeds placing itself in this state of chaos. However, this means that weeds are nature’s way of reverting to a state of natural chaotic order. Evolution has designed these herbaceous plants to procreate in areas others cannot. With this said, we can only control the spread and rate as to which these plants grow, it is impossible to safely stop them completely. Understanding weeds themselves is one part of the science of your natural surroundings; the other part is with understanding the science of desiccation. It is ESSENTIAL that you keep some leaf matter in your garden, even after cleaning out what the fall season has left. Decaying plants deposit small amounts of nitrogen into your garden and most importantly is within the leaf mold. These two decayed materials together are essential to a healthier compost system and can provide better nutrients than what your trash compost can give you on its own. This is not to say it is an end all solution, just a better step towards reduction of unwanted flora.
2. Colored Mulch:
I will leave this one short and simple, dyed wood is not found in nature. If you do not know the chemicals going into the dyes you cannot truly know what you are putting around your family or know what eventually seeps into your water profiles. Naturescapes-pa.com has a great article on this and is where I will draw most of my information from. What makes up the bulk of dyed wood is recycled woods, mostly from construction sites which primarily are pressure treated (or CCA) woods. CCA stands for Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic. Yes, those chemicals leak into your soils and are POISONOUS to EVERYTHING including soil, insects, plants and us. Not only do they add harmful chemicals, they actually steal away nitrogen from the soil, thus harming plants even more.
Worse yet, some homeowners are now using recycled tires. Natureswayresources.com agrees and in an article they posted, “…As rubber mulch heats up, it releases toxic gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and another class of chemicals called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These gases have been found to cause irritation of the nasal and respiratory passages, central nervous system damage, depression, headaches, nausea, dizziness, eye and kidney damage, and dermatitis…” Even with all the benefits of using rubber compared to wood in that it wont decompose as fast as mulch and will not give pests a meal, it is important to ask ourselves is this what we want to place around us, or our children?
The Solution: use regular hardwood mulch that is not dyed from a reputable wholesaler. Ask questions as to where the wood came from and what source is it made of. You can also use decaying leaf matter from your yard; this is what nature uses and has stood the test of time in being beneficial for ecosystems.
3. Plants to Watch Out for:
I am only going to briefly touch on these plants to have as I have written a blog on “Right plants, right place.” This is mostly to discuss the knowledge of what is being planted is truly beneficial for not only you but the ecosystems around you. Planting of invasive species like Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is destructive to natural local flora and fauna. While being very pretty to the eye is terrible for any garden as it chokes out other species. If local plant species then cannot grow this impairs the ability of fauna to find food thus destroying the established food chain in any given ecosystem. Another mistake to make would be in planting toxic flora such as Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) into the landscape without understanding the nature of this plant or plants like it. I too am a fan of its splendor and aesthetic appeal, however if you have children or pets it is extremely toxic and will lead to death. To scientifically explain this specific plant’s toxic ability research has shown this plant “contains cardiac glycosides called digitoxin, digitalin, digitonin, digitalosmin, gitoxin and gitalonin. During digestion these produce aglycones and a sugar. The aglycones directly affect the heart muscles. It produces a slowing of the heart which, if maintained, usually produces a massive heart attack as the heart struggles to supply sufficient oxygen to the brain. The acceleration of the heart ahead of this, sometimes leads to it being wrongly said to increase the heart rate.” –http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/digitalis.htm
The Solution: DO YOUR RESEARCH or hire someone to plan this for you. Prior proper planning can mitigate terrible costs in the long run. Do not show up at your local nursery and simply impulse buy. By avoiding these toxic mistakes you will have a healthier landscape for all to enjoy.
4. Irrational Irrigation:
This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves in the landscape and one of the biggest mistakes we make in our home gardens. I cannot tell you the number of times I see home sprinkler systems at work during a rain fall (or immediately after), a one size fits all drip system, or even a lack thereof to provide simple hydration. Over/under watering kills plants and leaches the soil of its basic chemical properties, thus reducing success of the life of any plant. Even more important to stress is that all plants are DIFFERENT, much like how you and I are different. The usage of universal drip and sprinkler systems ignores the plant’s individuality and assumes that all floras need the same amount of hydration. In nature, plants are watered when and if it rains. Throughout millions of years plants have undergone evolution to counteract this in-balance of rain. Whether it is in its root system, cell biology or seed dispersal, all plants have found a way to cope with the stressors of water. We need not play Mother Nature and encourage this growth, unless done under strict control and adherence to the individual needs of plants. I need to stress the fact that these irrigation companies do not hire individuals who are educated in three basic principals for success; plant biology, land topography and soil structure. All three play a part in the uptake of water in the process of the transpiration stream.
The Solution: This is another portion where again you want to hire someone with a strong background in soil science and topography. If you must do this for yourself here are some keys to success. First, in our climate area (7a/7b) you should ensure there is around one inch of water a week. As it is more than likely humid in our area, plants close off stomata and retain water. Also, it is wise to water early in the morning. Plants have a process of transpiration in which water is excreted in the form of vapor throughout the day to regulate the turgor pressure within the cells themselves. Watering plants midday interrupts that process and damages cell biology.
These are essential practices a great landscaper will know. This knowledge is what sets us apart from even “good” landscapers. This is why we try to bind ourselves to the landscape; we strive to know it inside and out. With this education we can anticipate issues long before they arise and mitigate loss of flora, capital, and great client relationships. Great client relationships are the pinnacle of our work, and what lay the backbone of our success as a company. We build these relationships by educating ourselves in even the smallest detail to provide systemic solutions to homecare needs.