Stay Safe When Landscaping

Landscaping is typically viewed as a chore by homeowners, many of who enjoy doing some work on their lawns and gardens in Chambersburg & Shippensburg, PA. But only few homeowners may recognize the potential dangers of lawn maintenance.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that more than 230,000 people per year are treated for various injuries resulting from lawn and garden tools. Common injuries include loss of fingers, lacerations, broken and dislocated bones, eye injuries, and burns. Many of these injuries are entirely preventable if homeowners prioritize safety when tending to their lawns and gardens.

Understand the equipment

Homeowners should not assume they know how to use all of the tools necessary to maintain lush lawns and bountiful gardens. Familiarize yourself with the proper operation of manual and motorized equipment by reading the owner’s manual thoroughly, making special note of recommended safety guidelines. Take some time to locate the power buttons and other parts by comparing them to illustrations in the guide. Once you feel comfortable handling the equipment, then you can begin to use it.

Wear appropriate protective gear

Failure to wear protective gear can lead to injury. Personal protective equipment includes gloves, eye protection, ear protection, boots, and a hard hat if necessary. When working during visibility conditions or at night, wear a reflective vest. Other protective items include a hat to shade your eyes from the sun’s rays. Sunscreen will protect the skin from UVA and UVB radiation. Long pants and sleeves can guard against flying debris.

Watch your surroundings

Thousands of injuries occur to children and pets who get hurt around mowers. It’s best if children and pets remain indoors when homeowners are mowing or using other power equipment that may kick up debris. Children under the age of 12 may not have the strength or ability to operate lawn tools. Also, never make a game of riding a child on a riding mower. Nobody under the age of 16 should operate riding lawn mowers.

Get approval before digging

It’s difficult to know what is beneath the ground without having a property surveyed and marked. Digging without approval can result in damage to gas lines or water/sewer pipes. Always check with the utility company before digging trenches or holes.

Unplug or turn off all equipment

When not in use, keep lawn equipment off. Do not try to repair or fix a snag or obstruction in equipment while it is on. Don’t modify the equipment in any way, such as removing protective guards.

Exercise caution with chemicals

Follow manufacturers’ safety instructions when using pesticides or fertilizers. Avoid application on windy days or right before a rainstorm, as this can spread the product and damage the ecosystem. Keep people and pets away from treated areas. Maintaining the yard is both a necessity and a hobby.

Homeowners who prioritize safety can greatly reduce their risk of injury by contacting the landscaping professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape LLC. We can take care of all of your landscaping needs in Chambersburg & Shippensburg, PA. Contact us today!

Tips When Planting Shade Trees

Beautiful landscaping can add instant curb appeal to a property in Shippensburg and Chambersburg, PA. But beauty isn’t the only thing that makes idyllic landscaping attractive to homeowners. Some landscaping features, such as shade trees, save homeowners money while adding aesthetic appeal.

The U.S. Department of Energy notes that shading is the most cost-effective way to reduce solar heat gain in a home. Shading also cuts air conditioning costs, which tend to be expensive in areas with warm, humid climates. In fact, the DOE notes that well-planned landscapes can reduce unshaded homes’ air conditioning costs by anywhere from 15 to 50 percent.

When planting shade trees, one of the first decisions homeowners will need to make is which type of tree, deciduous or evergreen, they want to plant. Deciduous trees are those that seasonally shed their leaves, while evergreens are trees that keep their leaves throughout the year. Deciduous trees can help keep homes cool in the summer by blocking sun, and those same trees can be beneficial in winter after they shed their leaves by letting the sun in and keeping homes warm. But evergreens also can be beneficial in winter by blocking wind, potentially preventing cold air from making its way into a home through cracks in walls or around windows.

When planting shade trees, techniques vary depending on which type of tree homeowners ultimately choose to plant.

Planting deciduous trees

The DOE says that deciduous trees that are between six and eight feet tall when planted will begin shading the windows of a home within a year of being planted. Depending on the species of the plant and the home, those same deciduous trees may begin shading the roof within five to 10 years of being planted. When planting deciduous trees, homeowners should keep these tips in mind.

Plant trees to the south of the home. When planted to the south of the home, deciduous trees can screen between 70 and 90 percent of the summer sun while still allowing residents to feel summer breezes.

Consider sun angles. Homeowners who want to shade their homes from low afternoon sun angles should plant trees with crowns that are lower to the ground on the west side of their homes.

Cool air before it reaches your home. Shrubs and groundcover plants can be planted to cool air before it reaches a home.

Evergreen trees

Planting evergreens to block wind is known as “windbreaking,” which lowers the wind chill near a home. Wind also can be used to cool a home in summer. But these benefits can only be realized when evergreens are strategically planted.

Location, location, location: The DOE advises planting evergreen trees to the north and northwest of the home to stop wind. In addition, to get the most bang for your windbreaking buck, the distance between the home and windbreak should be two to five times the height of the mature tree.

Plant trees on either side of the house. Planting trees on either side of the house will direct cooling winds toward the home in the summer.

Shade trees can help homeowners reduce their energy bills, making them valuable and attractive additions to any landscape in Shippensburg and Chambersburg, PA.

Contact the landscaping professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC for expert tree planting advice in Shippensburg and Chambersburg, PA.

How to Protect Your Yard from Deer

With more than 60 different species of deer worldwide, there’s a good chance individuals will have some sort of interaction with these majestic animals at one point during their lifetimes.

Deer, which live on all continents except Antarctica, can survive in everything from mountainous areas to wet rainforests to suburban neighborhoods. These herbivores are voracious eaters that will search far and wide for their meals. Home landscapes tend to be easy pickings for foraging deer.

Many people are excited to see deer in their neighborhoods and yards in Shippensburg, PA because they can be such graceful creatures to behold. However, once deer start to munch on ornamental trees, annuals and flowering shrubs, the novelty of these animals may wear off. Furthermore, deer also can be covered in ticks that spread illnesses like Lyme disease. Here are some tips to keep deer at bay.

Avoid tasty morsels

Deer like English ivy, lettuces, impatiens, pansies, and hostas. Fruit trees also are targets. Choose other plants to grow, and wait until after early spring, when deer aren’t as concerned with regaining weight lost during the winter, to get them in the ground.

Use fishing line to deter deer

Put a few stakes in the ground and then run fishing line at a height of about three feet. Deer can sense movement but do not have keen vision. As the deer approach your garden, they’ll brush against the “invisible” fishing line and then get spooked off.

Plant plants that produce strong aromas

The experts at Good Housekeeping suggest planting lavender and marigolds, which emit strong aromas. Deer will be reluctant to walk through because the smell can interfere with their ability to find food and assess their environment via their sense of smell.

Stock up on soap

The tallow in soap helps keep deer away, according to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science. Scented soaps like Irish Spring may be especially good at warding off deer.

Plant in levels

Raised beds and sunken gardens can discourage deer from coming into the yard because they aren’t avid climbers, offers the home and garden resource This Old House.

Employ harmless scare tactics

Deer are skittish, and any unfamiliar movement or sound may scare them away. Cans hung from strings, sundials and lights can keep them at bay.

Deer will seek out an easy meal, but homeowners can take steps to safeguard their trees, flowers and shrubs. If you need landscaping work done in Shippensburg, PA, contact our expert team at Locust Ridge Landscape. We can help you achieve all of your landscaping goals, so contact us today to schedule an appointment or receive a free quote.

How to Level an Uneven Yard

Many things can cause a yard to be uneven. Drainage problems, leaky pipes beneath the grass and pests can wreak havoc on a yard, resulting in uneven turf that can be both unsightly and unsafe.

Addressing an uneven yard might be homeowners’ ultimate goal, but the home experts at BobVila.com note that homeowners should first figure out what’s causing the problem and make fixing that their first task. Fixing uneven ground above leaky pipes will only be a temporary fix if the leaks themselves are not addressed. Professional contractors might be necessary depending on what’s causing the problem. However, once the underlying issue has been addressed, many homeowners can handle the task of leveling an uneven yard on their own.

• Get the right tools and materials. Leveling an uneven yard may require various tools. Thatch will likely need to be removed from the lawn before it can be leveled out, so homeowners will need a thatch rake or dethatching machine to get this task started. Dethatching machines are generally necessary for especially large lawns, and these can typically be rented from home improvement retailers. A shovel, bow rake and push broom are other tools homeowners will likely need. Materials such as topsoil, compost and sand will be necessary as well, and these are typically sold at local garden centers.

• Fill in areas beneath the grass. Areas beneath the grass can be filled in with a mixture of sand, topsoil and compost. The experts at BobVila.com advise using two parts sand, two parts topsoil and one part compost. Each of these components plays its own role in restoring the yard to full health. Sand helps the ground stay level, while the topsoil and compost provide the grass with valuable nutrients. If the low spots are not especially deep, this mixture can be applied without removing the grass. However, before filling in holes when addressing spots that are deeper than two or three inches, remove the grass then place it back in place once the hole has been filled. To dig up the grass, put the blade of the shovel at the outside of the low spot before sliding it under about two or three inches so you do not upset the grass roots.

• Spread the top dressing. Once the holes have been filled and the grass has been placed back on the ground (if it was removed), spread the top dressing mix with a shovel. The mix should be spread evenly with the back of the bow rake at a depth of no more than half an inch. Make sure the mix is worked into the low spots and that it’s not completely covering the grass, as that will suffocate the lawn. If necessary, use the push broom to work the mix into the soil.

• Water the lawn. Finally, water the lawn to help the top dressing settle into the grass. If necessary, repeat the process of applying top dressing and watering until the lawn is even and has returned to full strength.

An uneven lawn is an eyesore and potentially harmful. But fixing an uneven lawn is simple once homeowners discover and address what’s behind the issue.

Do you need help with your yard in Chambersburg, PA and surrounding Franklin County, PA areas? uneven yard the professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC today! We are equipped to handle all of your landscaping needs.

How to Recognize When You Can Stop Mowing

Each weekend in spring, summer and fall, millions of homeowners fire up their mowers and cut the grass in their yards. A few hours spent mowing the lawn can be a great time to get some sun and some exercise in the great outdoors.

As fall gradually transitions to winter, homeowners may wonder when to stop mowing their lawns. Each lawn is different, and when to stop mowing may depend on a host of factors, including local climate and the type of turf. In addition to climate and turf, homeowners can keep an eye on these conditions to determine when the time is right to put their mowers away for the winter:

Frost

Warm-season grasses typically go dormant after a couple of significant frosts. Homeowners can jot down each frost during fall. Frosts are most noticeable in the early morning hours, so be sure to check lawn conditions each morning as the weather begins to grow cold. Frost may be noticeable without even going outside, but homeowners may need to go outside to check on chilly mornings or on days when the previous night was especially cold. If you must go outside, stay off the grass to protect it. Two or three frosts might be enough to make warm-season grasses go dormant for the winter. Cool-season grasses may keep growing and require moving even after a few frosts, so it’s imperative that homeowners determine which type of grass is in their yards.

Soil temperature

If it’s hard to determine if frosts have occurred, homeowners can try checking the temperature of their soil to decide if they need to keep mowing. The lawn care experts at Pennington recommend homeowners continue mowing warm-season grasses so long as they keep growing. Lawns may not grow as quickly in fall as they do in spring or summer, and growth may not be as visible to the naked eye during this time of year as it is in other times. Homeowners can routinely check soil temperature to determine if their grasses have stopped growing. Warm-season grasses tend to stop growing once the soil temperature is consistently at 55 F or below, while cool-season grasses tend to stop when temperatures are 45 F or lower.

Falling leaves have long been a barometer used by homeowners to determine if they need to keep mowing their lawns. That’s not necessarily a reliable metric, as grass can still keep growing even if leaves have been falling for weeks. In addition, using a mulching mower when leaves begin falling is a great way to provide the lawn with nutrients it can use throughout the winter. Some trees shed their leaves more quickly than others, but it’s a good rule of thumb that lawns will need to keep being mowed if trees are still retaining more than half their leaves.

A host of factors can help homeowners determine when it’s safe to put their mowers away for the winter.

Do you need help mowing your lawn in Greencastle, PA and surrounding Franklin County, PA areas? Contact the professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC today! We are equipped to handle all of your landscaping needs.

What to Do About an Over Fertilized Lawn

Lush lawns are not achieved without a lot of hard work. That hard work often involves some trial and error, and one of the simplest errors a person can make is over fertilizing a lawn.

Over fertilization is an easy mistake to make, but it’s a mistake that can have long-lasting consequences. According to the lawn care experts at Scotts’, over fertilizing a lawn can damage grass. Over fertilized lawns are subject to excessive leaf growth, which may require more maintenance, like extra mowing, in the interim. Over time, an over fertilized lawn can develop a sponge-like feel and may be increasingly vulnerable to fungal disease.

Of course, homeowners can only address an over fertilized lawn after they learn to spot signs that the lawn has been fed too much fertilizer. Brown and patchy grass is one of the telltale signs that a lawn has been over fertilized. This can occur because too much nitrogen has made its way onto the lawn. Scotts’ notes that nitrogen greens up grass and helps it grow, but too much nitrogen can scorch the lawn, making it brown and patchy.

Minimal growth after fertilization is another indicator of over fertilization. Some lawns that have been over fertilized may not grow at all afterward.

Blackened or limp grass and crusting of fertilizer on the top of the soil are other symptoms of over fertilization.

When fertilizing a lawn, it’s important that homeowners recognize that many products are now slow-release fertilizers. Packaging will indicate if your fertilizer fits this mold, and if it does, don’t be surprised if results are not immediate. Slow-release fertilizers can help with lawns where the soil does not drain especially well. Give these fertilizers time to do their job and resist the temptation to apply more fertilizer.

If a lawn has indeed been over fertilized, homeowners can remove any fertilizer they see on top on the soil. Once the fertilizer has been removed, water the lawn heavily, which can wash any remaining residue away. Watering daily in the ensuing days can remove any lingering fertilizer and reduce the likelihood that a lawn will develop issues with fungus.

Fertilizing a lawn involves carefully adhering to manufacturer instructions. If a lawn is over fertilized, removing fertilizer on the soil and heavily watering the lawn can help restore it to health and reduce the risk for disease.

Do you need help dealing with your over fertilized lawn in Carlisle, PA and surrounding Franklin County, PA areas? Contact the professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC today! We are equipped to handle all of your landscaping needs.

A Lesson in Building a Backyard Retaining Wall

Flat, even landscapes are often coveted in backyards. However, flat backyards are not always so easy to find. Fortunately, varied terrain does not mean that certain landscaping plans are entirely off limits, especially for homeowners willing to build retaining walls.

Retaining walls help turn steep slopes in a yard into terraced focal points. They also can reduce soil erosion in hilly areas and can be used for aesthetic purposes, like raised planters, or to create more usable space within the yard. When an inground pool or pond is cut into a backyard hill, a retaining wall helps keep the remaining portion of that hill from collapsing into the cut-away area.

When contemplating retaining wall projects, a lesson in physics and engineering may be needed. A sturdy and long-lasting retaining wall needs to be built in a way that will take into consideration the force of the soil and the point at which the soil will begin to slide away, advises the experts at The Family Handyman. If these calculations seem beyond the scope of your ability, installation of a retaining wall is a job best left to a professional. If you are ready to forge ahead, these tips can get you started. However, it’s important to note the potential benefits of working with others who have already built a retaining wall.

  • Safety first: Call to have underground utilities plotted and marked before beginning any excavation.
  • Map out your trench and begin to dig. The trench should have a level, compacted base as it will be the foundation for which the retaining wall materials, be they blocks, bricks or wood, sit in. A crushed stone base will help anchor the courses and serve to promote drainage. The Family Handyman says to bury the first course of the retaining wall one-tenth the height of the wall to prevent soil behind it from pushing the bottom out.
  • Check for level. When placing blocks or timbers, make sure they are even with the first and periodically check for level as you go, advises the home improvement retailer Lowes®.
  • Stagger and set back. The next row of blocks or material should be positioned so that the joints are staggered for blocks, bricks or wood. A masonry blade will be needed to cut the harder materials; a circular saw will cut timber. Also, work against gravity by setting the second course slightly back from the first to help push back against the soil that is trying so hard to push forward. Repeat the process as each level is placed. Many retaining wall products are made with a lip to create this set back.
  • Go with the grade. For especially steep slopes, a gradual step-up design may be more secure and more appealing than a very tall retaining wall. Each level of a stepped design should be done like the first.
  • Backfill with stone for drainage. Using a layer of stone behind the retaining wall can help successfully direct water away so it will not increase the weight of the soil behind the wall and push against the retaining wall, advises The Home Depot.

Retaining walls serve different purposes in a yard. Building such a wall requires planning and careful execution to ensure the job is done correctly.

If constructing a retaining wall is too large of a project to handle, or you simply do not have the time, contact the professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC today!

We are skilled and experienced in constructing retaining walls as well as a number of other hardscaping projects in Chambersburg and Shippensburg, PA as well as other surrounding areas in Franklin County including Greencastle, Fayetteville, and Carlisle, PA.

Mulching Mistakes to Avoid

Landscape features vary significantly from house to house in Greencastle, PA. Some homeowners may prefer water features on their properties, while others focus on flowers that would be the envy of a botanical garden. Regardless of those preferences, lawn and garden enthusiasts who want to make their properties as idyllic as possible may eventually look to mulch to help them accomplish that goal.

Mulch helps soil retain moisture, which promotes strong, healthy flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs. And because soil beneath mulch retains more moisture than soil that’s not protected by mulch, homeowners won’t have to spend as much time watering mulched landscapes. That saves time and conserves water, which can be a big benefit in areas prone to drought and/or especially hot summers. Mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, which can ensure all that hard work needed to create an eye-catching garden won’t be compromised by the presence of unsightly, thirsty weeds.

Mulching seems like a simple task, and it can be. But that does not mean homeowners cannot make mistakes when mulching. The following are some common mulching mistakes to avoid as lawn and garden season hits full swing.

Not enough mulch

Mulch is ineffective when spread too thin. The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University recommends applying mulch no less than two inches in depth. Anything less than that will prove ineffective at preventing weed growth and helping the soil retain moisture, and that means you will need to water more often.

Poorly located mulch

Mulch should not be placed too close to plant stems or tree trunks. When it is, tissue is so wet that it makes for a perfect environment for disease and insect infestation.

Failing to mulch to the drip line

The drip line of a tree refers to the outermost circumference of the tree’s canopy from which water drips onto the ground. The VCE recommends mulching to the drip line of a plant or tree, which ensures the plant or tree will get the most out of the mulch. Mulching to the drip line also minimizes competition from the grass, leading to stronger plants and trees.

Failing to weed before mulching

Weeds should be removed prior to mulching. If they’re not, the mulch can provide the same growing environment for weeds that you’re trying to create for your plants and trees.

Mulching benefits a landscape in myriad ways, especially when homeowners avoid some common mulching mistakes. Need help? Contact the landscaping pros at Locust Ridge Landscape to tackle your next mulching project in Greencastle, PA.

Improve Soil Quality for a Better Lawn

A lush, green lawn can vastly improve a home’s curb appeal. Thick, healthy grass indicates that homeowners care enough about their properties to invest the time, effort and money to make them beautiful.

According to the landscaping tool company Troy-Bilt, soil fertility is the foundation of healthy lawns. In fact, the quality of the soil is essential whether one is growing acres of grass, potted plants or vegetable garden beds. No matter which type of soil a homeowner is working with, there are various ways to make it better.

Remove thatch

Thatch is a tightly knotted layer of leaves, grass roots, stems, and other debris that accumulates between the grass blades and the soil. Too much thatch can hinder the movement of water, air and nutrients into the soil. According to organic fertilizer company Organo-Lawn, thatch often occurs if the production of dead organic material in the lawn exceeds the ability of the microorganisms in the soil to break down that organic matter. A half-inch of thatch is normal. If thatch gets too thick, it will need to be removed. The home improvement resource DIY Network says dethatching can take place in the summer, fall and winter using a thatching rake.

Aerate

A lawn aerator will create holes in the soil. This can improve drainage and encourage worms and helpful microorganisms that require oxygen to thrive in the soil. The Briggs & Stratton Company says the best time to aerate a lawn is during the growing season when the grass can heal and fill in any holes, such as spring and fall. Aeration can help develop deeper grass roots for a healthier lawn.

Test and amend soil

A great lawn has loamy soil, which has a key ratio of clay, silt and sand. Silt is a granular material of a size between sand and clay that originates from quartz and feldspar. It is the most fertile of the three types of soil components. Sand does not retain water, but it helps to create spaces in the soil that permit air to circulate. Clay particles are small and bind together tightly, but clay is naturally nutrient-rich. The home improvement site BobVila.com says loamy soil should have equal parts sand and silt and half as much clay.

If the lawn is not yet established, loamy soil can be created and then the grass seeds planted. For established soil, after removing thatch and aerating, top-dressing the lawn can help. This involves adding a thin layer of soil over the lawn. It can improve the soil without killing the existing turf. Ideally, it should be done in early fall or spring, as this gives the grass time to grow through three to four more mowings before severe heat or cold sets in.

Healthy soil is vital to a lush lawn. It takes a little work, but improving soil can create vibrant, healthy, green grass.

If you need help improving your lawn’s soil quality and improving your overall landscape, contact the landscaping professionals at Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC today! We offer the best landscaping and lawn care services in Greencastle, PA and surrounding Franklin County, PA areas.

The Differences Between Organic and Inorganic Mulches

The benefits of mulch are widely known among lawn and garden enthusiasts. By insulating soil from extreme temperatures, helping soil to retain moisture and preventing weed growth, mulch can help plants, trees and gardens thrive, even during periods when Mother Nature can make that very difficult.

Novice gardeners may find themselves a little confused when visiting a lawn and garden center to purchase mulch. That’s because there are various types of mulches. One of the ways to simplify that is to break mulches down into two main classes: organic and inorganic. Learning to distinguish between these two classes can help homeowners in Chambersburg and Shippensburg, PA choose the best mulch for their properties.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulches are made up of materials that decompose over time. The experts at BobVila.com note that, because they decompose over time, organic mulches must be replenished on a regular bais. Hardwood and softwood chips are among the most popular and recognizable organic mulches. Evergreen needles, leaves, grass clippings, and compost mixes also fall under the organic mulch umbrella. Many gardening enthusiasts prefer organic mulches because they help soil retain moisture, improve soil fertility and help to deter weed growth.

Inorganic Mulches

Inorganic mulches are permanent because they do not decompose over time. Gravel, brick chips and crushed stone are examples of inorganic mulches. Homeowners who do not intend to plant after laying mulch may lean toward inorganic mulches, as they won’t require much work, if any, after being laid. However, the Chicago Botanic Garden notes that inorganic mulches do not improve soil quality. In fact, because inorganic mulches like rocks and stones absorb heat, they can be detrimental to plants in areas where weather tends to be very dry and hot.

The right mulch for a given property depends on a host of factors. Understanding the differences between organic and inorganic mulches is a great first step toward finding the right mulch for your landscape.

Locust Ridge Landscape, LLC can help determine the most suitable mulch for your landscape in Chambersburg and Shippensburg, PA. Contact us today!