Friday, 26 July 2013

Tips for Garden Pruning

An essential gardening skill that homeowners must learn is pruning. The what, where and how questions regarding ways to prune your garden is a must know to encourage healthy growth in trees, flowering plants and also in enhancing their look. It helps to prune plants at the right time and in their seasons as some are best prunes right after flowering and some during the winter. There is however no other gardening chore that strikes fear into the hearts of gardeners than the idea of pruning plants. But if done correctly, pruning can be one among the most satisfying of gardening tasks because the effort which comes out of the results will be spectacular. Pruning will definitely yield good results like lush foliage, abundant flowers and healthy looking fruits and vegetables. 

For whatever type or variety of plants you have in your garden, the first thing to do is to determine if you have the best tools for the pruning job at hand. Clean and sharp tools are crucial for the health of the plants and also make it easier to prune. For the job of pruning right, there are four basic tools which are required. They are saws, shearers, hand pruners and loppers. 

Even if the process of pruning appears to be difficult, the underlying fact is that they may not be as complicated compared to other gardening tasks. It’s all about learning the right techniques and methods for each type of flowering plant. Good gardeners will always know the distinct differences in pruning each type of plant and what it needs for proper growth. The factors that must be taken into consideration are the right lighting requirements, the amount of nutrients and the quality of soil. The whole trick lies in knowing what to prune when. If pruning is done at the wrong time of year, it may lead to less production of fruits and flowers, but rarely harms the plant in the long run. Pruning done during the late season will encourage new growth of tender shoots which will get killed back during the onset of the cold months.

You can take the mystery out of pruning your plants by following these simple tips and tricks for each type and variety:
  • Remove dead and damaged stems as soon as you notice them. They will attract insects and invite diseases to develop in the plant.
  • Prune spring flowering trees and shrubs right after they finish blooming which is usually during late spring. If you prune them during the onset of winter, then amount of spring bloom will be reduced as the flower buds are removed. You can remove some of old shoots all the way to the ground to keep the plant flowering vigorously.
  • Prune summer blooming trees and shrubs during the winter as they will be in a dormant condition or during early spring when they start to push out new growth. They will bloom in summer even if you cut them all the way to the ground. You can save time and effort to remove stems all the way to the base of the plant by using a pole pruner with a rotating head. This particular method will save you from a lot of bending and leaning over for each cut.
  • Hedges should be sheared frequently during the early stage of the growing phase to maintain a solid wall of green. You need to keep the top half of the hedge narrower than the base so that the upper branches don’t overlap and shade the lower ones. Shearing can be stopped at least six weeks before your region’s first frost.
  • Prune roses and climbers only after they finish blooming. If they overgrow, you can always cut them back during early spring. You can also remove winter damaged canes during that time.
  • Prune shade trees during the winter when they are dormant as it’s easy to see the branching structure and also prevent the spread of diseases a result of the pruning wounds. Trees called the bleeders produce a heavy amount of sap flow in winter and may look unsightly, but won’t cause harm to the tree. You can wait until the leaves are fully expanded during summer to avoid the bleeding while pruning these species.
  • Prune fruit trees during mid winter to allow in more light and get maximum fruit even if some of the flower buds are removed and the blooming is reduced. For some trees, dormant pruning is important as pruning wounds got during the growing season will expose the tree to bacterial diseases. You can control the spread of diseases by dipping the shears in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water or by rubbing alcohol before pruning.
  • Prune broadleaf evergreen in early spring just before you can see the growth spurt. A good way to save on holiday decorations would be to snip off a few branches for winter greenery in your home.
  • Prune needle-leaf evergreens early in the growing season. You should avoid cutting back wood that has no green needles as it may not sprout new growth. During mid winter you can trim a few branches for some holiday greenery indoors.
  • Prune pines only during the candle stage when the new shoots turn woody and the needles have fully expanded. Only a portion of the new growth must be pruned by removing upto half of the expanding candle.
  • Prune perennial flowers when they have become faded. This process is called deadheading as many perennials will produce another cycle of blooms during this time.
  • Prune annual flowers by removing the old ones and preventing them from setting seed. This allows the plants to put more energy into another cycle for fresh blooms.
  • Prune berries based on the type like cane berries and bush berries. All three have stems that maintain a constant supply of wood. The old ones need to be cut off at ground level after they completely finish bearing fruit as they won’t produce again. Grapes on the other hand need extensive pruning throughout the year to keep them productive and growing vigorously. Prune them close to lateral arms every year during the dormant season so that it produces the best fruit.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Questions to ask your Landscaping Contractor

The biggest decision you can ever make in regard to renovating your landscape is whether it is feasible and worthwhile to hire a landscaping contractor for the job. Selecting a professional and reputable contractor can be quite a daunting task as there are so called landscaping companies that promise to offer quality landscaping services just because they have the equipment, but only fail to deliver resulting in loss of money and disappointment for you. You may even spend more than you bargained for.  

Before taking the giant leap into a full fledged project, you need to ask yourself some questions to help you determine if you are really serious about landscaping your outdoor space.
  • Firstly, will the company be willing to take a landscaping project within my budget and justify my needs however big or small?
  • Secondly, what would be the kind of landscaping required based on my lifestyle?
  • Thirdly, what kind of services will the company offer in terms of technical expertise and initiation of the project?
If you feel that you can go ahead with the renovation project after finding suitable answers to the above questions, you can start thinking in terms of whom to hire, project’s size, complexity of design, timeline and the stipulated budget. You also need to know if the contractor is receptive to your project schedule, ideas and goals. It’s important to establish communication with one another with respect to getting to know the space for landscaping, how it is used, the kind of things you like and the personality it should evoke at the end. 

Even if you are incredibly skilled as a gardener and possess a green thumb, it’s better to take expert advice from a landscaping professional before you start tearing up your garden or yard. Only an expert can create a master plan with the design and budget to suit your requirements without making it too complicated. Creating the perfect landscape is a back breaking effort and calls for more effort than just planting a flower bed. A landscape contractor will possess artistic vision and a decent level of expertise. 

Some of the questions that you can ask a landscape contractor before commencing work on your residential or commercial property are listed below:-
  • Is the contractor licensed?
Licensed contractors are subject to laws that are created to protect the consumer. Even if an unlicensed contractor quotes a low bid, the risks of legal or financial consequences far outweigh any benefits. Unlicensed contractors are also not held to the state’s high standards and the contractors’ board may not be able to offer assistance for any complaint from your side.
  • Does the landscaping contractor carry Workmen's Comp?
If a crew member suffers an injury or has an untoward accident while working at your site, a Workmen's comp will protect you. It is like an insurance which will not put you or your assets at risk, so make sure your contractor carries one.
  • Do you have protection for your property?
In the unlikely case of property damage, you need to make certain that the contractor carries a policy that has a general liability aggregate limit of $1,000,000.
  • Is the contractor a member of the Association of Professional Landscapers (ALPD) and the respective state’s contractor association?
Landscape companies with high standards are the only ones allowed to be registered with the respective associations and qualified to participate.
  • Is the contractor registered with the Better Business Bureau?
Only if the contractor is confident about his services will he will be registered with the Better Business Bureau. This is because no one will be part of an association that makes complaints by consumers visible to anyone who inquires. This will be a vital step that protects you as a consumer.
  • What other types of jobs has the contractor worked on?
Make sure that the contractor and his crew show their portfolio as proof for any projects done previously. You will definitely not want to take their word for it.
  • Will there be a guarantee in writing on materials used?
You need to follow up with the contractor to make sure that the yard and materials will last well into the future.
  • Does the contracting firm commit itself to Code of Ethics for the safety of your property and its assets?
This is where you can get referrals from someone who has recently done a project and has positive feedback about the work done.
  • Will you be getting a thorough breakdown of what you will be getting for your money’s worth like the quantity and quality of materials used, clean-up after the work, etc.?
This is very critical as you want to make sure that you are paying good money for what you are getting and not some cheap materials and shoddy workmanship.
  • Does the contractor know the region’s soil type?
It’s important that the contractor does some soil analysis before commencing work as if there is any lack in this area, you can be certain that the materials and plants used for the project will not survive for long.
  • Is the contractor well qualified?
You need to make sure who will design and install the project. Don't mistake and compare a contractor’s number of years in the business to his expertise. Take steps to find out what the contractor and the crew have specialized in. This will help you in avoiding any fu ture problems that may occur.