Lawn Care Tips & Advice
Get It Growing – Partnering with KGAN
We’re proud to partner with KGAN CBS2/FOX28 on “Get It Growing,” a biweekly segment on our local morning news! Look out for Geoff Wilming every other Thursday morning in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City! Most Current 7/20/2017: Strange Landscape Encounters 7/6/2017: Wildflowers and Japanese Beetles 6/22/2017: Summer Challenges 6/8/2017: Soil 6/1/2017: Wild Parsnip Warning and All About Bugs 5/11/2017: Mother’s Day Bouquets 4/27/17: Happy Arbor Day! 4/13/17: Easter Lilies
Your Thirsty Lawn
Keeping Your Lawn and Landscape Green All Season Long Like any plant in your garden or window box, your turf grass needs water to survive. While Iowa’s frequent rainshowers often fit the bill in spring, in summer it’s not so simple. With temperatures in the 80s and 90s, Iowa summers can be sweltering, and dry spells are common. While it’s normal for your turf grass to go into dormancy during this time, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a great-looking lawn and landscape! Keep your lawn ready for a summer cookout all season with these lawn care tips. Lawn Health Care in Summer Some of our friends have asked us whether they should stop their fertilization and weed control applications if the grass isn’t growing. On the contrary, since our fertilizers are slow-release, water-activated granules rather than a spray, your lawn will get the feeding it needs with the morning dew and summer storms, without the risk of burning. We also adjust the amount of fertilizer we put down. This will help your lawn rebound at the end of the season when temperatures cool down. Also, weeds take advantage of stressed lawns; leaving off your applications now might mean sacrificing your weed-free lawn or losing ground to tenacious weeds. Our technicians spot-spray in these conditions, meaning we target your weeds where they are, when they arise. When Should I Water? A period of dormancy during the hottest part of the summer is normal and natural for your grass — however, more than a month with scant rainfall means the ground around the grass roots is drying out and may result in some die-off. During very dry periods, water your lawn to about half an inch twice a week. However, don’t waste your water! If you water between 4 and 9 am, you won’t lose it to evaporation under the sun. I Have an Irrigation System… Excellent! Set your timer for that early morning time. There are rain-detector devices available for irrigation systems so your system will recognize and not turn on after a storm, or if your lawn has sufficient moisture, and we offer water-saving irrigation heads to keep money in your wallet and protect our natural resources! We also offer a full service irrigation maintenance program! This includes: Irrigation Start-Up: In the spring we will re-attach your backflow prevention device (if removed for winter), turn water on for your system, run through each zone to check for broken heads, adjust sprinkler coverage, and make repairs as needed. At the same time, we help you customize your program so your system runs the desired amount of water and time. Backflow Certification: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law! City code requires yearly testing of your backflow prevention device to ensure that it’s working properly and protecting your city water supply. Our state-certified technicians perform mandatory backflow prevention tests as required by city and state regulations. Midseason Checks: We offer midseason checks to help manage your irrigation system. This includes running through the system midseason to check for broken heads and leaks, adjusting sprinkler coverage and making repairs as needed. We can also help you adjust your controller to run the system based on weather needs– typically this is a drier time of the year when your irrigation system is required to run more often. This is helpful because irrigation systems typically run early in the morning when you might not see it run– therefore, you might not be aware of issues that need repaired. Irrigation Shut-Down/Winterization: In autumn, after your water is turned off to the system, we will blow out all remaining water in the system with compressed air to prevent freezing damage. If your backflow device is located outside we will remove the device and leave it with you to store in a heated area over the winter. If your backflow prevention device can be removed, it’s a very good idea to do so and keep it somewhere that will not freeze. Even if all water has been blown from the device, the plastic inner parts are subject to freeze damage and can break over the winter– and are surprisingly costly to repair! Repairs: We can make repairs to irrigation systems– as soon as you notice something looks wrong, give us a call! The sooner your system is in good repair, the better your lawn will look and the less money you will spend on wasted water. What About My Flowers, Trees and Shrubs? Mulch! If you didn’t take advantage of mulch for your landscaping in the spring, it’s not too late. Mulch helps protect your plants from the dry conditions by creating a moisture-retaining buffer, and slowly breaking down to enrich the soil. It’s also a good idea to mimic the conditions of the average rainfall, same as for your lawn — a half inch once or twice a week. A good way to test the amount of water reaching your plantings is to place an inexpensive rain gauge in the area and stop at the half-inch mark. Also, keep an eye out! Make sure all your plants are receiving that water. For trees, try placing a hose on the ‘upstream’ side of your trees and set to trickle for a few hours. This slow, deep and heavy watering, once a week, should help protect your trees from stress. We Can Help! We can supply mulch for your landscaping and we can start up, maintain and repair your irrigation system. Should a severe drought set in, we’ve done it before and we can do it again: our watering trucks are ready and waiting to protect your lawn from die-off. We’re happy to answer any questions that you have!
Grubs in Your Lawn
Understanding and Preventing Grub Damage An established lawn is an investment into your home and community. Not only is a well-maintained lawn aesthetically pleasing, the grass plants filter storm water and reduce erosion of topsoil, which is good for everyone! It makes sense, then, to protect your investment. Grub damage is devastating to your grass and irreversible except through re-seeding. Preventing damage is easy, though, with the right information and tools. What are grubs? Grubs are, in a general sense, the larvae of beetles. White, small and thick, they have little better to do than eat from the moment they’ve hatched to the moment they begin to metamorphose into adults. While some beetles are actually fairly good for your lawn and garden, since they help dispose of decaying plant matter, the white grubs in your lawn are highly destructive. What should I look out for? The most telltale sign of grub damage is unfortunately the final stage of damage: after the roots of your grass have been completely eaten away. If you see patchy dead spots that can be pulled up like a rug with little resistance, with or without the white grubs still present underneath, you have had grubs. Other signs can be increased raccoon, mole or bird activity in certain areas of your lawn, as these all feed on grubs among other things. Preventing Grub Damage The healthier your lawn, the more attractive it is for beetles to lay eggs in it. June and early July are the pre-hatching season for these beetles – so if you’re going to put down preventive grub control, that is the time to do it! Preventive grub products keep the beetle eggs from hatching and do absolutely nothing once the eggs have hatched. After hatching, only insecticide can stop the grubs! Quality Care can help! We offer an affordable, annual Preventive Grub Control application that prevents beetle eggs from hatching and a Grub Curative application if the damage has already begun. Drop us a line for a free estimate. Preventive grub control is like an insurance policy on the investment you’ve made into your lawn, your home, and your community. A beetle may never lay a single egg in your lawn – but prevention that isn’t needed is far less expensive and time-consuming than curing and repairing the damage done.
Gain Time and Peace of Mind: Call the Pros Autumn is upon us again, and with it a season of preparation. Putting snow tires on the car, making sure the heater is in order, cleaning out the chimney for a merry fireplace later… and when you have an irrigation (sprinkler) system, now is the time to get your system cleared out and winterized to avoid costly freezing damage. What is winterization? Air temperatures cool much faster than the soil, but when the ground freezes, so does the water in your irrigation pipes. Water expands when it freezes, so even a little water left in your system can cause hundreds of dollars’ worth of repairs to broken pipes, cracked heads and worse. Winterizing your system means having all the water blown out and replaced with air, and removing your backflow prevention device (if it can be removed) to be stored in a warm, dry location so its delicate inner parts aren’t damaged by the freezing temperatures. You won’t be able to use your system again until spring. Can’t I do this myself? Yes you can! You can rent an air compressor, haul it home, get it set up, get your system cleared, take off your backflow prevention device if it can be removed, haul the compressor back to where you got it, and hope you got your entire system taken care of. What you might save in money, you spend in gas, time and energy, and in a worst-case scenario, extensive repairs in the spring at start-up time. When you call a professional, you’re paying for the know-how of a trained and state-certified technician to ensure you get the job done right the first time, and we already have the equipment available so you don’t have to drive all over town! It got below freezing last night! Am I too late? Not to worry. Air temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit much sooner than the soil and groundwater do. Even morning frost and flurries don’t necessarily mean you’re too late to winterize your system. Soil temperatures take longer to change than air temperatures, meaning buried pipes take longer to freeze than dew on grass. Another reason to trust the professionals — we watch the weather like a hawk to ensure all of our friends and neighbors are cared for. What else can Quality Care do for me? We offer a full service irrigation maintenance program! This includes: Irrigation Start-Up: In the spring we will re-attach your backflow prevention device (if removed for winter), turn water on for your system, run through each zone to check for broken heads, adjust sprinkler coverage, and make repairs as needed. At the same time, we help you customize your program so your system runs the desired amount of water and time. Backflow Certification: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law! City code requires yearly testing of your backflow prevention device to ensure that it’s working properly and protecting your city water supply. Our state-certified technicians perform mandatory backflow prevention tests as required by city and state regulations. Midseason Checks: We offer midseason checks to help manage your irrigation system. This includes running through the system midseason to check for broken heads and leaks, adjusting sprinkler coverage and making repairs as needed. We can also help you adjust your controller to run the system based on weather needs– typically this is a drier time of the year when your irrigation system is required to run more often. This is helpful because irrigation systems typically run early in the morning when you might not see it run– therefore, you might not be aware of issues that need repaired. Irrigation Shut-Down/Winterization: In autumn, after your water is turned off to the system, we will blow out all remaining water in the system with compressed air to prevent freezing damage. If your backflow device is located outside we will remove the device and leave it with you to store in a heated area over the winter. If your backflow prevention device can be removed, it’s a very good idea to do so and keep it somewhere that will not freeze. Even if all water has been blown from the device, the plastic inner parts are subject to freeze damage and can break over the winter– and are surprisingly costly to repair! Repairs: We can make repairs to irrigation systems– as soon as you notice something looks wrong, give us a call! The sooner your system is in good repair, the better your lawn will look and the less money you will spend on wasted water. Like many of our programs, any of these services are also available individually. Contact us for your free estimate!
Rejuvenate Your Lawn and Prepare for Winter Summer brings a host of challenges to your lawn. Hot and humid summers like we’ve had are a breeding ground for fungi like ascochyta leaf blight and dollar spot, and weeds take terrible advantage of this season to try and take control of your lawn. Fall almost seems to fly by, sometimes– but in fact, autumn is a great time to help your lawn bounce back from the summer before winter hits. Quality Care is here to help, with our Fall Tune-Up! Like putting on snow tires or cleaning your chimney, there are great ways to prepare for winter on your lawn, too! Our three-faceted package is great for your grass plants, good for the environment, and you’ll see an effect not only in this fall, but next spring! How Does It Work? Aeration, a practice we always recommend highly, loosens compacted soil and breaks the thatch layer in a healthy way, allowing your healthy grass to breathe and take in moisture. The soil conditioner adds valuable organic matter with essential minerals to your soil, and the winterizing fertilizer encourages root growth, locking in those vital nutrients for a great bounce-back in the spring. The result is a thick, healthy lawn with a strong root system that is more disease-resistant and durable. Help your lawn recover from summer stress and prepare for dormancy this fall and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lawn earlier next spring! Three Services, One Spectacular Effect! Aeration: Aeration will reinvigorate your lawn by allowing nutrients, water, and oxygen to reach the root zone quickly. It will encourage new growth and strong root development by loosening the soil, reducing thatch build up and “pruning” the grass roots. Soil Conditioner: Soil Conditioner adds valuable organic material, trace minerals, and natural microorganisms to the root zone that will improve the durability of your grass this fall and promote a faster green up in the Spring! This organic product contains humic acids similar to those that are used on professional athletic turf and works by allowing the soil to retain moisture longer and encouraging grass roots to metabolize nutrients faster. Late Fall Winterizing Fertilizer: When the grass blades start to go dormant as winter approaches, turf allocates more energy and nutrients into root development. A Late Fall Winterizing Fertilizer will supply your turf with the necessary nutrients to build a vigorous root system with a more durable and disease resistant turf grass for the next growing season! “This may be the most important fertilizer you apply to your lawn” – David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Get the Jump on Winter… We Can Help! Get a Free Estimate Today! [Revised – original post 8/5/15]
Soil Quality Restoration
Giving Life Back to Your Soil Iowa soils have been significantly altered by tillage for farming and grading practices associated with urban development. Years of tillage and soil erosion has caused the loss of more than half of Iowa’s topsoil. The organic matter content has been reduced from a healthy, sponge-like 10% to less than 2%. Often remaining topsoil is completely removed during development for urban growth. Little to no organic matter remains and the graded soils are compacted, leaving a near-impassible barrier to grass root growth. Compacted soils with no organic matter cause nearly all the water to run off during rainfall. When this happens, storm-water runoff flows untreated to storm sewers, and washes associated pollutants directly into nearby streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. A compacted, nutrient-poor soil with low organic matter content also requires more time and money to stay green! However, there are ways to fight soil erosion, and we are proud to offer Soil Quality Restoration (SQR), one of the highest recommended solutions — a completely organic three-step process that enriches the soil and reintroduces vital organic matter and micro-organisms to your soil. The cities of Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty subsidize SQR costs up to 100% — contact your community for more information! Step 1 – Deep Tine Aeration: Aeration helps to improve soil quality by facilitating the movement of organic matter into the soil profile. Perhaps you already get your lawn aerated on a regular basis, which is an excellent practice! Aeration reduces compaction and breaks the thatch layer, which can result in increased availability of nutrients in the root zone, so you can enjoy a healthy turf under your feet and lower long-term maintenance costs. A typical aeration pulls cores that are about three inches long from your turf. However, for Soil Quality Restoration we use a deep tine aerator designed for athletic field maintenance and high quality residential lawn restorations, which pulls 4-inch cores. That extra inch makes all the difference! Our deep tine aeration machines will reduce the compaction of your soil and leaves room for us to add organic compost material. Step 2 – Addition of organic compost material and seed: Soils rich in organic matter support an entire ecosystem of microorganisms that contribute to the soil health. After your lawn has been aerated, we will return to add a topdressing of organic compost mixed with high-quality grass seed to create a favorable soil profile for your lawn. Compost improves lawn and landscape health by increasing porosity and organic matter content, breaking down nutrients and making them available to plants, improving plant hardiness and vigor, and retaining more water in the landscape, while the seed we use is common for turfgrass in the area and will mix well with any existing lawn. Step Three – Next Steps: After we have made our final Soil Quality Restoration visit and your lawn is growing at a healthy rate, remember to leave the grass clippings on your lawn to increase the organic matter content. Grass clippings do not contribute to thatch in yards with active soil microbes and healthy soils. Remember to follow the watering instructions included with your estimate for Soil Quality Restoration to maximize newly-applied seed germination! If you’d like to take a look at our watering instructions, visit our Watering Instruction Page. Call Quality Care today, or request a quote online, and we can make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood! For more information on Soil Quality Restoration: Soil Quality, Better Lawns Made Easy New construction often has compacted soil with low topsoil content. Soil Quality Restoration loosens the soil and reintroduces what your plants need. New sod on clay soil in North Liberty. It didn’t take very well because roots couldn’t penetrate the dense clay soil. We added organic matter to the soil profile with a Soil Quality Restoration, and visited this home a handful of times throughout the season to suppress weeds and fertilize existing turf! Guess which neighbor hired us to add organic matter to their clay soil profile this season… The newest lawn on the block is the healthiest thanks to Soil Quality Restoration! We welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you have about Soil Quality Restoration and your lawn! [Revised 8/2016 – original post 11/2014]
Little Bugs, Big Damage
Understanding and Treating Spider Mites and Aphids Sometimes it’s the little things you have to watch out for. Certainly this holds true in the case of aphids and spider mites, common summer insects. Knowing what to look for and how to take care of your plants can mean the difference between beautiful summer greenery and plant damage, disease or mold. What Are Spider Mites? What Are Aphids? Spider mites are very small arachnids that primarily live on the undersides of leaves. They can be found in- or outdoors, and feed by sucking the contents out of plant cells. Two common mite species to the area are the spruce spider mite and two-spotted spider mite. The spruce spider mite is active during spring and late fall when it’s cool, going dormant in the hot summer; the two-spotted spider mite is most active in the heat. Aphids are small green or brown insects. There are many species of aphids; most species only eat one kind of plant, while some feed on many kinds of plants. They feed on the sap of the plant, which can stunt growth, leave the plant vulnerable to fungus or spread viruses. Are My Trees or My Garden Plants Infested? How Can I Tell? Because spider mites are less than a millimeter in size, smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, it can be difficult to tell whether your plants are affected with the naked eye. A convenient way to check is to put a sheet of white paper under a plant you think may be affected, and tap the stem and leaves lightly. If a dusting of tan, green-yellow or red spots fall onto the paper, these are spider mites. You may also see a fine webbing on a plant (much finer than a typical spiderweb) or shiny spherical spots on the undersides of leaves, which are the mites’ eggs. Light damage can look like small speckled brown spots on leaves, while heavier damage could cause the plant to drop leaves altogether — on evergreens affected by the spruce spider mite, damage may not be seen until the mites go dormant. Aphid species common to Iowa are usually smaller than an inch, though easily visible to the naked eye, can be many different colors, and distinguishable by paired ‘tailpipes’ (cornicles) on the back of their abdomens. They can affect plants ranging from farm crops to ornamentals in your lawn. Aphids excrete a substance called ‘honeydew’ which other insects, like some species of ant, feed on — the substance also creates a breeding ground for black sooty mold, which can kill your plants. Also, since they feed on the sap of your plants, which acts like blood does in animals, plant growth can be stunted or cause leaves to curl and die. What Can I Do Myself? How Can Quality Care Help Me? Light mite infestations can be treated with a steady, forceful stream of water, like from a hose (or from the shower, for indoor plants) to wash away the mites. Otherwise, there are miticides available for retail sale. There isn’t really a good form of control for aphids that’s retail-available. The damage can be mitigated by keeping the plant watered, fertilized and otherwise healthy, and by keeping an eye out for mold. We offer commercial-grade treatments for mites and for aphids that are not available in retail stores and certified, trained technicians to take special care of your landscaping and trees. Request a proposal online or give us a call! Having concerns about your lawn and landscape? We’re happy to help! Let us know!
They’re Here! Japanese Beetles
Protect Your Landscaping From Hungry Beetles! Summer is here, and with it the invasive Japanese Beetle. These insects are devastating to your trees and shrubs – take action NOW with Quality Care! What are Japanese Beetles? These metallic green and copper chafers (flying beetles) are invasive pests – as adults they devastate the fruit and foliage of trees and shrubs, while as larvae (grubs) they can cause irreversible damage to your lawn. Japanese Beetles feed primarily on linden, crabapple and birch trees, as well as flowering shrubs like roses, hydrangeas and grape plants. These beetles are active from early summer (late June to early July) and feed, mate and lay eggs for about eight weeks before dying off. Why Should I Protect My Trees and Shrubs? Because Japanese Beetles feed on leaf tissue, they can swiftly strip a tree or shrub of all its leaves, ruining its good looks for the entire season! If you have a birch, linden, crabapple or flowering shrub you want to save, then now is the time to take action – before it’s too late! Will Treating Japanese Beetles Get Rid of Grubs? While Japanese Beetles are one of the sources of the ‘white grub’ which can be disastrous for your turf grass, their flight ability means we can’t control where they feed or lay their eggs. If you have Japanese Beetles, you do not necessarily have grubs – and grubs don’t always mean you should expect Japanese Beetles. However, the healthier your lawn, the more attractive it is to these pests, so that is important to keep in mind. We do offer a Preventive Grub Application which keeps beetle eggs from hatching into grubs – this insurance can help protect your lawn and is far more affordable than repairing grub damage. What Can Quality Care Do? Quality Care is here to help! We offer a curative application to save your trees. If you see beetles now, contact us immediately, and we will get you scheduled for a treatment to cure the infestation. We understand this is an emergency and we treat it like one! The curative lasts four weeks – if you see beetle activity afterward, you may need another treatment. I saw a collection bag at my hardware store. Can’t I use that instead? Please don’t – those bags are made to deal with beetle populations over large areas like parks, golf courses and acreages. They’re intended to attract swarms of beetles to an area far from their feeding grounds and trap them there. An urban or suburban lawn simply isn’t big enough to keep the bag from acting more like a beacon than a solution, and may cause irreparable damage to your landscaping and trees. We’re here to help! Contact Us or Request a Proposal Today!
Protection from Pests!
Mosquito Control and Perimeter Pest Control As temperatures become consistently warm, bugs of all kinds become more active. Already you may have seen flies, ladybugs, and spiders in your yard and around buildings. We certainly have! Reduce Mosquito Pressure Are you or your kids outside on warm summer nights? West Nile Virus, spread by mosquitoes, is common to the state of Iowa, and can be deadly. Protect yourself and loved ones from disease and discomfort with Mosquito Control! This application is a spray applied to your grass up to 3 times over the course of the active mosquito season. If you live near water, woods, or other mosquito breeding grounds, you will love this treatment! Like all applications, we would recommend that you keep pets and kids off the lawn until it dries, but after it’s dry the only ones that have to worry are the mosquitoes. Be Proactive – Keep Bugs Outside! Do you find your home plagued with ants, spiders, centipedes, ladybugs or box elder (potato) bugs? Once they get in, they range from annoying to impossible to get out. Be proactive this year with our Perimeter Pest Program. This spray is applied up to four times from spring to fall to the foundation of your home, three feet up and three feet out, forming a protective barrier that discourages many-legged invaders from entering your home. You will notice an immediate effect! Contact us with questions, or request a proposal today!
Your Grass In Spring!
Soil Temperature and Your Grass As we’ve seen this spring, air temperature can be very volatile. One day it can be 70 degrees, and the next, 40! March and April in Iowa can be a trial for your lawn and garden. This can be very confusing when it comes to deciding how to care for your lawn. Lawn care is highly weather-dependent, after all. It was below freezing last night! What should I look out for? Even as soil temperatures slowly rise, the air temperature rises and dips, which is hard on newly-budding plants and the crowns of your grass. Was it close to or below freezing last night? Take care to wait until the sun has been on your lawn for a few hours before going out on your lawn. The top part, or crown, of grass blades are vulnerable to breakage, which stunts or even halts their growth. Should I seed in spring? Grass, like all plants, need water, light and warmth to survive. If you have a lawn shaded by trees, spring is an excellent time to seed with shade-tolerant grasses, as the trees haven’t yet leafed out, allowing for maximum sun exposure. You can also seed in spring if you have not put down crabgrass pre-emergent, like what is present in our Early Spring and Spring Lawn Health Care applications. Have a Spring application upcoming and you’re planning to seed? Let us know and we can change your application to fertilizer-only. Though a weed, crabgrass is an annual grass that grows from seed, just like the seed you want to put down – pre-emergent unfortunately doesn’t know the difference between the two! If you’ve already put down pre-emergent, either you can seed in the fall, or break the pre-emergent barrier by breaking up the soil with an aeration, seeding machine or hard rake and seed where the barrier is broken. But is it too cold to seed? Not at all! As the world emerges from winter, there is a much more dependable indicator of when to seed, and that is soil temperature. The temperature of the air can rise and fall quickly, but soil and ground water retain and lose heat much more slowly than the air, and soil temperature is a major factor in cuing your grass seed to germinate, or sprout, along with moisture and sunlight. The most common turfgrass species in this area are Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, both cooler-climate grasses, often mixed in your lawn and mostly indistinguishable from each other. Kentucky bluegrass germinates between the soil temperatures of 59-86 degrees and takes 20-30 days to germinate, while perennial rye needs a range of 68-86 degrees and 5-10 days to sprout. This means that in spring your lawn is already beginning to green up as soon as the soil warms to spring temperatures, even if the air is still cold. How can Quality Care help me? We’re your neighborhood experts and we’re here to help! We offer overseeding with aeration in the spring and fall depending on your lawn’s needs, which is great for filling in thin spots or making your healthy lawn thicker. We have seeding machines for bare spots, or if you’ve already put down pre-emergent for crabgrass. Not sure what your lawn needs are? Drop us a line! Update 4/13/16: Wow! Thank you! We are completely booked for spring seeding this season.
What’s Popping this Spring?
It can be very exciting to see the winter’s weather fade into the background and spring emerge. Landscape beds have early spring season perennials that are starting to pop. Now is a great time to make note of which perennials, shrubs and trees are early bloomers so you can make planting plans to be the first one blooming next season. Below are some examples of common early spring bloomers. As always, review each species to make sure it is the spring bloomer. Crocus Crocuses are low-growing, colorful, cup-shaped flowers. Because the plants flower so early, crocuses can actually adapt well to planting in lawns and will multiply over time to cover large areas. Select varieties that mature at different times to extend the bloom season. Flower colors include blue, violet, striped, yellow, and white, and height ranges from 3 to 6 inches. While most crocus flower in the spring, the saffron crocus is a fall flowering crocus that is planted in spring. Crocuses are very easy care and low maintenance. Hyacinth The Victorians revered hyacinths for their sweet, lingering fragrance, similar to that of the familiar Lilac. The flowers are closely packed with tubular-bell-shaped, single or double flowers. As well as growing in the ground, colorful hyacinths are excellent for forcing in containers and some are available for early flowering indoors to get started EXTRA early. Daffodils Daffodils are hardy and easy perennials to grow. Their attractive flowers usually bear showy yellow or white flowers with six petals and a trumpet-shape central corona. Leafless stems bear between 1 and 20 flowers! Daffodils are suitable for planting between shrubs or in a border, or for forcing blooms indoors. Daffodil flowers are excellent for cutting. Tulips Tulip bulbs come in virtually all colors, including a purple so deep that it looks black! And by planting a selection of varieties of this perennial, we can enjoy their beauty from early spring through early summer. Tulips do best in areas with dry summers and cold winters – just like our Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor area! The brightly colored, upright flowers may be single or double, and vary in shape from simple cups, bowls, and goblets to more complex forms. They are excellent in beds and borders, many types are good for forcing into bloom indoors, and most are excellent for cut flowers. Phlox Phlox are perennials and a favorite choice among wildflowers. These plants sport many star-shaped, colorful flowers when in bloom. Because there are so many varieties, you can find a type of phlox for almost any garden. They are easy to care for, low maintenance, and carry a wonderful fragrance. Lilac Who doesn’t love lilacs in the spring?! The ideal lilac shrub has about 10 canes and produces flowers at eye-level – all the better to enjoy that sweet, haunting fragrance. Lilacs do come in seven colors but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris. There are also early, mid and late-spring season blooming lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks. Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies. Forsythia Sunny splashes of bright yellow flowers are forsythia’s calling card, announcing the return of spring. To nurture forsythia’s graceful case shape, careful pruning is required. The toothed leaves will deepen into purple tints just before they drop in late fall. To encourage the best flowering, plant forsythia in full sun and provide plenty of water during the growing season. For a spring spectacle, train forsythia against a warm wall. Redbud Tree The Redbud tree is a relatively small tree with spreading branches and a small short trunk. The tree is one of the earliest flowering trees and is often used to add color to gardens. The purple-pink flowers of the eastern redbud appear all over the tree in early spring. The flowers are even produced on large trunks. Redbud has a yellow fall color and is shade-tolerant. We hope this is enough inspiration to get you excited for the spring. Remember, for bulbs, you should go with what you like most, now, so you’re prepared to plant this fall. Happy hunting and happy spring! Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas are happy to help with any questions you have. Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319)366-7822 Iowa City area: (319)354-3108 email@example.com [Revised – original post 4/15/15]
Spring Has Sprung
Now that the snow has melted, here are some tips to help your lawn and landscape recover from a long winter and to have a healthy spring and summer. We’re happy to offer these services and more as part of our Spring Clean-Up! Leaf Cleanup If you didn’t have a chance to clean up your leaves in the fall, or your old pin oak is just now dropping its leaves, it’s crucial for the health of your lawn to remove that debris now. Wet, matted leaves can leave dead spots in your lawn, creating an opportunity for weed seeds to germinate. Also, the act of raking your lawn allows sun and air to reach the crowns of grass plants, encouraging new, healthy growth. Grass that has been buried under deep snow, especially drifted areas, is vulnerable to snow mold, which can kill areas of your turf. Simply raking your lawn to stand the grass up and allow it to “breathe” is the best antidote to snow mold. Tine Raking For large areas of snow-flattened turf, or areas with excessive thatch accumulation, a tine rake mounted to a mower with a bagging attachment can revitalize struggling lawns. Excessive thatch accumulation usually occurs in lawns where large amounts of grass clippings have been left after infrequent mowing, in quantities that can’t be broken down by natural processes. Removing thatch in these circumstances will encourage grass plants to grow stronger and healthier, and to spread out into bare areas. Tine raking, like hand raking smaller areas, is also the best defense against snow mold. We offer a tine rake, mow and bag service to remove the thatching debris from your lawn. Cut Down Perennials Trimming perennial plants to their die-back point, usually at ground level, gives your garden a tidy appearance, and allows plants to thrive in the warmth of the early spring sun. Removing last year’s plant debris can also help to mitigate any fungus, disease, and insects that may have been present. Want to do right by your perennials with a professional touch? We can make it part of your Spring Clean-Up! Mulch Installation, Bulk Pick-Up and Delivery We always tout the benefits of mulching your trees and landscaping beds, but in spring you can take advantage of the moisture, protection, nutrients and natural weed barrier that mulch provides before the weather heats up. We’re proud to be your source of high-quality hardwood mulch at a bulk rate, for installation, delivery, or pick-up at our office in Coralville. Questions? Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas are happy to help! Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319) 366-7822 Iowa City area: (319) 354-3108 firstname.lastname@example.org [Revised 3/2016 from original post 3/2015]
Prepare for Spring with Mulch from Quality Care
As we prepare for spring, we can’t help but to think about our gardens and how soon we will see our plants and flowers start to bloom. A fresh layer of mulch will conserve moisture, improve soil structure, suppress weed growth, and enhance the visual appeal of your garden. Our premium double-processed mulch… well-stocked from spring to fall! What can we do for you? Bulk Mulch Sales for Pick-Up or Delivery Mulch Installation We offer premium, double-processed hardwood mulch, in natural and dark-brown-dyed varieties. We’d love to be your source for high-quality mulch, or request an estimate and we’ll come out to take care of installation too! Our dyed mulch looks black here, but lightens to a beautiful chocolate brown once installed. Why buy mulch in bulk? We offer mulch by the cubic yard – and one yard of mulch equals about thirteen bags of mulch from a hardware or garden store! When you buy in bulk, you save money, time and packaging. It’s a great bang for your buck and better for the environment! Call or email to place your order today! How do you know if you need mulch this season? In your planted beds, spring is the time for a spring clean-up to remove the remains of last year’s perennials, and to clean out any leaf accumulations. Cultivating (lightly raking) mulch in your beds will refresh the color, and let you know if you need to add any more. A mulch cover of about two to three inches in planted beds will help to preserve moisture, enrich the soil as it breaks down, and help to suppress weed competition. Let us know if we can help you do right by your landscape and garden! [revised 3/2016 from original post 3/2014]
Manage your Lawn Care Online!
Manage Your Lawn Care – Online! Spring is on its way! We’re looking forward to the start of the growing season. Flowers and weeds alike are going to be popping up soon so now is the time to get on board with your lawn and landscaping goals! One way to do that is to prepay your Lawn Health Care program and other renewing services! Why Prepay your Lawn Health Care Program? Prepaying for your program means you don’t have to concern yourself with monthly invoices and statements. We’ll drop a service letting you know we were on your property, but you’ll save paper and postage over the year. Prepaying isn’t a contract! It’s convenient, secure, simple and it saves you money; we offer a 5% discount for every service eligible for prepay — not just your lawn applications, but also your aeration, irrigation maintenance, and more! You may have already experienced the benefits of Lawn Health Care. Our state-certified and trained technicians use top-of-the-line products to care for your unique needs. We use granular fertilizer that works with Iowa weather to feed your lawn over weeks. Rather than blanket-spraying your lawn for weeds, we target problem areas directly. With a full season’s coverage of four applications or more, we can guarantee that any stubborn or lucky weeds will be treated for free — just let us know. We’re your neighborhood experts and we are at your service. If you don’t have the letter we send out in the winter or you’re not sure what you would need to pay, not to worry! You can call our office or log into your account manager (or click “log in,” above) and take care of everything from the comfort of your own home! Your Lawn Care, Made Easy! We’re proud to offer a simple and convenient way to manage your lawn care, online! With Personal Account Management, you can: Prepay for services View your balance and make online payments through our secure payment gateway Set up auto-payment See your current, active services and schedule additional services Request estimates and service calls Review service and maintenance tips customized to your lawn’s needs Refer friends and neighbors Log in and see what we can do for you! If you have never logged in before, you will need: Your customer (account) number Your house number Your five-digit ZIP code, and An active, valid email address If you need help, feel free to contact our admin office and we’d be happy to assist you!
How does the soil temperature affect your landscape? Soil Temperature is the factor that has the strongest impact on plant growth, and its transition into dormancy. Due to different regional climates, soil temperatures will warm and cool as a delayed reaction to the atmospheric temperature. The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree, F zones, with a total of 26 zones in the United States. In Iowa, we cover 3 different Hardiness Zones, 4b, 5a and 5b. Locally, Linn and Johnson County are in zones 5a and 5b, respectively, with an average annual minimum temperature of -20 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Soil temperatures are measured at a depth of 4” below the surface. The surface temperature of the ground will be cooler, or warmer than the measurement at 4” below-surface temperature, depending on the time of season. In other words, at 4” below surface, the temperatures are warmer than ground levels in the cold season (winter) and cooler than ground levels in the warmer season (summer). As seen in the map below, our homes in Linn County and Johnson County are currently sitting at a temperature in the range of 28 to 30 degrees. Though temperatures in our region tend to fluctuate with drastic highs and lows, the ground temperatures maintain more of a gradual change as the seasons change. How do the soil temperatures affect the turf? In Iowa, the most common type of turf is comprised of cool season grasses. Cool-season grasses are grass species that thrive in areas with cold winters and hot summers. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? These grasses grow best when temperatures are between 65-80 degrees F, which is why they do most of their growing in the spring and fall. The most common grasses are Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and fine fescue. You’ll often see these seeds blended together for different microclimates and uses, such as high-traffic areas or lawns with sun and shade. This practice also offers a diverse turf stand to ward off diseases and pests that thrive in monocultures. Here are some common characteristics of how soil temperatures affect cool season grasses on both the high and low end of the soil temperature spectrum: Cool Season Grasses (all temperature measurements shown in Fahrenheit) 90° Shoot growth ceases. 77° Root growth ceases. 70° Maximum temperature for root growth. 60-75° Optimum temperature for shoot growth. 50-65° Optimum temperature for root growth. 40° Shoot growth ceases. 33° Root growth ceases. 20° Low temperature-kill possible if temperature subsequently drops rapidly below 20°F See where last year’s soil temperatures were during the calendar dates from April through December in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last year HERE. That late April to late May timeframe was optimal for growth last year. We’ll see what nature brings us this spring, and hopefully it’s a lot of GREEN! Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas are happy to help with any questions you have. Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319) 366-7822 Iowa City area: (319) 354-3108 email@example.com
What’s the all the fuss about Snow Mold? Snow mold is a type of fungus that damages or kills grass after snow melts. Damage can come in a circular form with multiple spots, or over a widespread area. Snow mold comes in two varieties: pink or gray. Snow mold can manifest based on a number of different criteria. The most common are: A large amount of snow cover over an extended period of time Your lawn was not mowed short enough last fall Your soil is wet and holding moisture Your soil lacks good biology to combat the fungi that causes snow mold. There are some sound cultural practices that can be done first thing in the spring when the snow melts away which are beneficial for the turf, and specifically, the areas damaged by snow mold. Your lawn should be raked (de-thatched) to remove any leaf debris and also to fluff-up matted down patches of turf, improving the air movement around the turf. Debris should be removed for ideal exposure. Aeration can help to break apart excess thatch and help to increase air flow and provide beneficial water and nutrients to the grass roots. An application of fertilizer in the infected patch can also help to boost recovery. A lawn care program with consistent fertilizing and weed control throughout the season will help to keep this area as green as possible, while eliminating weeds that tend to thrive in thin turf areas. De-thatching Aerating Fertilizing Your Lawn If no recovery is seen, reseeding is likely needed. You’ll want to rake away matted down grass so that seed has good contact with the soil below for ideal germination. And as always, don’t forget to water after seeding! Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are happy to help with any questions you have. Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319)366-7822 Iowa City area: (319)354-3108 firstname.lastname@example.org
Protecting your trees from the Emerald Ash Borer
The Emerald Ash Borer has arrived and municipalities are formulating their action plans. Some Cities, like Coralville, have a large number of Ash comprising their urban streetside tree canopy, while other communities have a larger issue in their parks. Whatever the case is, it’s hard to plan for this type of infestation when developing the streetscape of a community, let-alone what to do when this type of outbreak strikes. There are a number of different directions that each municipality is considering, including saving or extending the life of, or removal of, the tree. See the approach that the City of Cedar Rapids is taking HERE. It is sad to think about the number of trees that will potentially be wiped out by this invasive insect. The EAB has been identified in 19 Iowa Counties, and it won’t stop there. It is believed that almost all counties in Iowa are currently affected, or will be in the very near future. This begs the question, what should be done? There are a number of options. They range from treating trees with a preventive insecticide, to removal of the trees that are in decline before they become a safety hazard. The decision about what to do depends on many factors. How big is the tree, where is it located, how healthy (or unhealthy) the tree is … etc. Bottom line, you will need to check with a professional. The recommendation may vary depending on these factors. Your local professionals at Quality Care, the Nature Care Company in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are happy to help! Contact us today! Cedar Rapids area: (319)366-7822 Iowa City area: (319)354-3108
For as long as we’ve existed, we’ve been trying to tell everyone about the benefits of winter pruning, and we’re not going to stop now! That’s because wintertime is the best time to do many types of pruning. The time between November and March gives us an opportunity to prepare our trees for healthy lifetimes through selective pruning. After autumn’s leaves have fallen, we can examine your trees for damaged or diseased areas that may be vulnerable to bad weather in the future. Young trees can be pruned for shape and strong framework, as they will mature with the structure we help them to develop when they are young. And don’t forget, Iowa’s state trees, the beautiful, majestic oaks, very much appreciate being pruned during winter dormancy, as they’re less susceptible to disease at this time. Shrubs can be pruned in the winter also, except for flowering shrubs that should be pruned after they have bloomed in the spring or summer. Contact us for your free estimate!
Leaf Pickup Schedules: Cedar Rapids; Iowa City; North Liberty
The light snow cover can make it difficult to gather leaves for your municipality’s pickup date. We want to remind you that our final opportunity for this service is just around the corner! Iowa City – From City of Iowa City Public Works: Route #1 was completed at 10 a.m. today, Tuesday, Nov. 18, and leaf crews have moved into route #2. It is anticipated that crews will remain in route #2 for the remainder of the day. Visit www.icgov.org/leafvacuum for more information or to view a route map. North Liberty: There is one more round of leaf pick ups scheduled in North Liberty for next week, November 24th. http://northlibertyiowa.org/city-services/leaf-pickup/ Cedar Rapids: In Cedar Rapids, one final leaf pickup round will be starting next week, November 24th. Cedar Rapids crews are back on schedule, which can be found online at – http://www.cedar-rapids.org/resident-resources/utilities/solidwaste/yardwaste/Pages/LeafCollection.aspx —————————————– If your city doesn’t offer a leaf pickup program, or you miss the final pickup, we also offer a leaf vacuum service to residents in the South Corridor region. Let us know if you need any help removing your leaves this Fall!
Cold Weather and Your Lawn
Last Winter, many Iowa lawns experienced desiccation, or dehydration, from extended periods of exposure to high winds and subfreezing temperatures. Aside from golf courses and athletic fields, many desirable turf areas in Iowa don’t get any extra protection, like sand top dressing, before the cold winter weather arrives. In fact, some applications of sand top dressing have shown to slow the Spring green-up process. Desiccation is only one of many potential Winter lawn problems unique to The North Central United States. To learn more about desiccation, and a variety of other cold weather-related challenges for your lawn, take a look at this article published by Professors Zac Reicher and Roch Gaussoin at The University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Understanding winter-kill of cool-season turf-grasses