Winter pruning

Is winter pruning a good idea for shrubs and trees? Before you go hacking away at everything in your landscape, do a little research. For some plants, winter is the very best time to prune. 

Winter is when plants go into dormancy, which appears to be death to the unknowing observer. Dormancy is really when plants go to sleep. Plants in dormancy are preparing their insides for freezing weather and lack of water and nutrients. Dormancy is like hibernation for plants. Before deciding on an across the board winter pruning for your plants, keep reading.

What does temperate mean?

In temperate climates like ours, most of our plants go into dormancy. Temperate is a word that is used a lot, but I decided to look it up.  The regions between the middle latitudes of the Earth are considered temperate. That means our temperatures can span greatly throughout the year. We have distinct seasonal changes unlike more tropical areas. In the South, we joke that our four seasons can all appear in one week!

What happens in dormancy?

Plants that are in dormancy may appear to be dead, but they are really just saving energy until the weather is right for them to grow. For some plants, this is the best time to prune. While they are in dormancy they may not have any leaves and it is easy to see their true shape. It is also a good time to prune because when they come out of dormancy, they can focus all of their energy into new growth. 

Are you feeling artsy?

As usual, researching a topic about anything can lead you down a “rabbit hole” of information. When reading about pruning the art form “espalier” caught my eye. For the daring gardener, espalier is an extreme form of pruning which leaves the tree (typically fruit trees) as a two dimensional form. Read more about espalier here, and let us know how it works out for you!

How do I know which plants to prune?

Here are a few suggestions, but it is really worth a few minutes of your time to google specifically the plant or tree. This link to the Farmer’s Almanac has a through listing of many plants and trees and when it is best for you to prune. 

  • If your shrub or tree blooms in the spring, it is best to prune it in the spring right after the blooms fade.
  • If your shrubs are evergreen, prune them in the winter while they are in dormancy.
  • If you are thinking of pruning your trees, it is worth hiring a professional tree trimmer once every three years. Chain saws and ladders are not a good idea for amateurs. 

Plant health care is important to us a Lawn and Pest Solutions. Our trained and licensed lawn technicians are always willing to listen to your concerns and advise you on ways to improve your landscape. Contact our office here and let us schedule a visit! We serve the Mississippi and Tennessee areas with lawn and pest control.

Is now the time to mulch my flower beds?

If you have too much time on your hands and your yard is looking a little too wintery, you may be wondering if now is the time to mulch your flower beds? The answer is yes! To be honest, you can mulch your flower beds all year round, according to many, now is a really good time to mulch.

What is mulch?

Though mulch is a rather odd sounding word, it is simply material used to cover the surface of soil. Mulch can be organic or inorganic, and as discussed in this article from Mississippi State Extension, “Nature’s Mulch”. Whatever you decide to use, it should be porous enough to let air and water through, but dense enough to keep weeds out.

Organic mulch such as shredded wood products, compost from leaves, pine needles and grass clippings will eventually deteriorate but they also add nutrients to your soil. Organic mulches need to be reapplied yearly to maintain the health of your plants. Inorganic mulch includes rocks and recycled rubber products. These types of mulch don’t have to be replaced every year but they also don’t add any nutrients to your flower beds.

Why mulch now?

 Many people prefer the cold climate for mulching, ideally before a deep freeze. Mulching at this time of year helps prevent from winter burns and from frost heaving ( Definition: the uplift of soil or other surface deposits due to expansion of groundwater on freezing.)

Why mulch at all?

Mulching is inexpensive, it is easy and it doesn’t take long to do. This video shows great tips on the mulching experience. 

Other benefits of mulch include:

Reduces evaporation of moisture

Moderates the temperature of soil

Helps control weeds

Adds beauty to landscape

Protects shrubs and trees

Tips for mulching:

Apply mulch 2-4 inches thick, this may seem like a lot, but remember it will settle into the ground over time

Remove weeds before mulching 

Don’t make “mulch volcanoes” around trees

At this time of year, there aren’t many things a homeowner can do around the yard. As always, we like to remind our customers that having a beautiful and healthy lawn is a year round job. Your landscape is an investment and it adds to the value of your property. A simple task like mulching is something that will pay off for the rest of the year. If you have questions about mulching or any other concerns with lawn care, give us at call at Lawn and Pest Solutions. Our licensed lawn technicians serve Tennessee and Mississippi and would love to help you with the beautification of your lawn. 

Winter prep for spring lawn

Remember the childhood candy, Now and Later ? Minus the dental work issues, this candy is a great synonym for winter to spring lawn care. The year round process of lawn care is truly that, year round. Now that winter is here, there is work you can do to prepare your lawn for the winter ahead and ensure a healthy lawn once spring arrives. Here are seven things you can do to prep your lawn for winter:

  1. Remove debris from your lawn

Get those heavy limbs off of your lawn. Piles of sticks and branches cause compacted lawns, patchiness and dead grass. They also create great hiding places for pests that are waiting to get into your home. Now is a good time to get that fire pit up and running!

2.  Rake your lawn

If you haven’t started already, get to work on the fall raking project. If you have started…finish! Rake up the leaves and remove them from your lawn. Anything piled up in your lawn is a hiding place for pests or a great way to kill a healthy (though probably dormant) lawn.

3. Aerate your lawn

If you haven’t already aerated your lawn, winter isn’t an excuse. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can aerate. Breaking through “thatch” is what allows air, water and nutrients to get down into the roots of your lawn. Thatch is the thick layer of living material and debris between the top layer of lawn and the soil beneath. About one inch of thatch is normal and healthy for a lawn, anything more is not. Whether using plugs or spikes to poke down through thatch, this process increases airflow and helps with drainage.

4. Water your lawn

Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean your grass isn’t thirsty. Cold air and wind can dehydrate your grass. Give your lawn a deep watering if it needs it, but don’t water if it is below 40 degrees out.

5.  Weed your lawn

It is really easy to see fresh green weeds in a brown, dormant lawn. Remember dormant lawns aren’t “dead” they are just “asleep”. Don’t let weeds take over just because your lawn doesn’t look pretty. The rainy and mild winter days usually result in a fresh batch of weeds, so watch out for them! This is also a good time to apply pre-emergent weed killer, our guys are pros at when/where/and how much to apply.

And just to review:

Dormant

adjective (of a plant or bud) alive but not actively growing. 

Similar: asleep, sleeping, slumbering, resting, reposing,
drowsing

6. Repair your equipment

Things may be busy now, but once you survive Christmas and put all of that away, drag out your mower and get to work. Now you can clean it up, repair it, replace parts and sharpen the blades. Think about your lawn mower blades like the scissors or blades a hairdresser or barber uses. If using a dull mower to cut your grass, the grass blades will be ripped and torn, this opens your lawn up to all sorts of issues in the spring. While you have the mower out…

7. Mow your yard, one last time

As long as the grass is dry, you can mow it one last time if you haven’t already. You want this last cut to be a little shorter than your summer cuts. This helps to keep rodents away, especially voles. It also helps with other issues and will give your spring lawn a better chance.

Remember “now and later”

To wrap it all up, your lawn is a year round job. There is always something to do. Preparing your lawn for winter in the fall turns to preparing your lawn for the spring in the winter. It never ends. A little bit of work and prep year round will result in a healthier lawn come spring. A lawn that has been cared for over the winter is not as much work in the spring, so that’s the good news! 

Call us if you have any questions or concerns about aerating or applying a pre emergent for your lawn. At Lawn and Pest Solutions we have licensed lawn technicians who know exactly how to help you. This winter is a great time to set up a consultation. We can schedule a program for you that will simplify your year round lawn care routine. We serve the Memphis, TN to North Mississippi areas and would love to assist you with your lawn and pest needs. Contact our office to set up a visit!

Why bother with fall plant care?

What’s the use? Why bother with fall plant care? Boat owners don’t leave their precious investments floating in cold waters all winter. We protect our new cars in garages. We make sure the roof isn’t leaking before the rain comes. Just like boats, cars and homes, our landscapes are an investment.

Oh, I never thought of it that way.

When we walk around our property this coming spring, we can have a healthy and well protected lawn to boast about. Or…we can look back with regret that we didn’t protect our investment over the fall and winter seasons. All of the time and money spent on planting, nurturing, watering and fertilizing shouldn’t be wasted.

A beautiful lawn is a year round job

At Lawn and Pest Solutions, we offer a plant health care program that focuses on keeping your landscape and shrubs insect and disease free. Our licensed technicians will visit you four times a year with either a very broad service, or one that is tailored to the specific needs of your lawn.

Pests, irrigation and fertilization

If you have invested a great amount of money in a landscape, you want to protect everything there from pests like crape myrtle bark scale, lace bugs on azalea, scale on hollies, camellias and euonymus. In addition to pest control in your lawn, our techs can give you feedback on irrigation as well as fertilization (another service we offer). 

We can make your life easier.

We can spend a lot of time and money guessing what is wrong with our landscape and even trying to fix it ourselves. Many times, you can spend less money and very little time by leaving it up to a professional. Contact our office today to protect your investment. Don’t let those long, hot days of mowing, watering, fertilizing, pruning and planting go to waste over the cold months. Let the professionals at Lawn and Pest Solutions in North Mississippi help you. This spring you will be glad you did.

What are the benefits of spraying my lawn in the fall?

Spraying your lawn in the fall more than likely means applying a pre-emergent treatment. What is a pre-emergent you ask? Pre-emergent doesn’t kill weed seeds. Instead, it stops the growth process of weed seeds. I imagine it to be a sort of thin barrier between your soil and the weed seeds below. There is one key “ingredient” in treating your lawn in the fall. Timing is everything. For pre-emergent treatment to work, it needs to be in your soil at not only the right time, but when the temperature is right. 

Timing is Everything.

When you think about timing, lawn care may not be the first topic to pop in your brain. As a fan of stand up comedians, I have great respect for timing in comedy. But timing in lawn care doesn’t boil down to one great pause or a punch line. Lawn care is about year round timing and care. You can’t wait until “the spring” to get your lawn looking good. It is a commitment that involves planning and attention to detail.

Timing your pre-emergent treatment means applying it at just the time when weeds begin to sprout. We want the weeds to hit the barrier created by the treatment. Even with the most thorough treatment, there are always some weeds that won’t be harmed by the treatment. This is why a year round plan is the only plan that really works. 

Let us do the timing for you.

Lawn 360 is Lawn & Pest Solutions’ premium, year-round, scheduled lawn service with treatments tested and proven to give you a healthy, green lawn. In between scheduled treatments, technicians provide month-to-month strategies, as needed, to keep your lawn at its thickest and greenest year round. 

Our Lawn 360 plan includes 7 treatment stages that include pre-emergent  AND post-emergent treatments. In addition to those visits, we fertilize your lawn multiple times a year. This may make you think of the late Billy Mays and his “but wait, that’s not all” sales pitches! But really, that isn’t all. When you sign up for our Lawn 360 plan, know that every time we visit your lawn, our licensed technicians will spot spray for weeds. The benefits of spraying your lawn in the fall will pay off when you are eating your lawn year round.

Good bugs and Bad bugs

It’s hard to use the phrase “good bugs and bad bugs” without it sounding like you are saying “good cop bad cop”. The phrase “good bug bad bug” doesn’t have the same meaning, but it does have the same flow. And what’s a blog about good bugs bad bugs without a slight detour into the number four “good cop bad cop” movie which is Beverly Hills Cop? Other than the allure of Eddie Murphy, I am not much of a cop movie person, so honestly, I had to look up the definition of good cop/bad cop. If you have read any of my blogs about bugs and lawns, you know I would try anything to parlay this into a conversation about pop culture. It just didn’t work this time.

But what about his laugh?

Sorry, guys. I had to do it. 

Back to good bugs and bad bugs. In Mississippi, people are always saying that every bug has a purpose, that every bug does something good. But there’s always that one exception. The mosquito. The jury must still be out on what good a mosquito does, but there are good bugs. Good bugs are protecting our gardens and crops and lawns.

Some of the best “good bugs” in our area include:

  • Lady Bugs or Lady Beetles, they eat aphids and rescue our beloved Crape Myrtle trees from bark scale when they can.
  • Green Lacewing, their larvae eat aphids and other insects that destroy our lawns.
  • The Brachonid Wasp lays eggs on the very destructive Tomato Horn Worm. When the eggs hatch, they eat the horn worm. If a horror movie writer hasn’t used that visual yet, they are missing out.

When you are looking over your lawn and garden, be aware that not all bugs are bad. Don’t go stomping and spraying everything that crawls and flies. Do a little research before you kill the one thing that may be saving your tomatoes! This quote from https://www.gardentech.com/blog/pest-id-and-prevention/identifying-good-and-bad-bugs-in-your-garden-infographic says it all, “Some insects are destructive and should be controlled, but of the more than 1.5 million known insect species in the world, more than 97 percent are beneficial to gardens, or simply benign. “

Now, for the bad bugs. How do you tell if they are bad?

While it is easy to just call the experts like Lawn and Pest Solutions, you could do a few quick things.

  • Is the bug eating your plants, grass, garden? Does the eating appear to be doing damage to the plant? Probably “bad bugs”.
  • Is there one bug or is there an infestation ? Probably “bad bugs”.

Who are the “bad bugs”?

For our area, the bugs that are considered to be “bad bugs” include chinch bugs and white grubs . These insects attack our lawns and cause damage there. Insects that we are probably more familiar with are those that attack US like fire ants, wasps and ticks. How is it that no one mentions mosquitoes in these lists of bad bugs? If bad bugs have made their way into your lawn, we are just a click away. Good bugs are abundant, bad bugs get all of the attention. Let us help you get rid of the bad bugs and we will leave the good ones alone. Our licensed professionals know good bugs versus bad bugs and are glad to come evaluate your situation. You can spot our trucks all over North Mississippi and in the Memphis area. See for yourself, the “Lawn and Pest Solutions Difference”.

Fire ants, the connections are endless.

Buckle up folks, this blog on fire ants goes all over the place. From fine art and movies to music and poetry. Who knew fire ants would be so heavily covered in pop culture? But first, just know this… according to the Wikipedia page on fire ants, “Due to its notoriety and importance, the ant has become one of the most studied insects on the planet, even rivaling the western honey bee“. Rivaling the honey bee??? Wow. Let’s dive in to this intriguing pest, the fire ant (also known as the Red Imported Fire Ant, aka RIFA). 

In addition to this very easy to read list of fire ant facts from Mississippi State University, these were among the top four most interesting and least scientific (entertaining):

  • Fire ants are among the worst invasive species IN THE WORLD.
  • Fire ants are native to Argentina.
  • Fire ants invaded the US via the seaport of Mobile, AL by cargo ship sometime between 1933 and 1945.
  • Fire ants are about half the size of a pencil eraser and are really reddish brown in color. 

Before we get to the bad news, let’s have a little fun with fire ants.

Let’s go shopping for fire ants!

It’s just so hard to talk facts and science and stuff when there is so much material out in the Google bubble. First, fire ants as art. We have already covered the art of aluminum casting of ant and fire ant hills. Did you know you could purchase those fire ant hills as beautiful sculptures? What a conversation that would be in your lovely foyer. For just $321.07 this sculpture could be yours. Perhaps an aluminum sculpture is out of budget for you, here is a really cool handpainted vintage travel case in the theme of fire ants (Christmas is just around the corner, folks). 

Speaking of painting fire ants, did you take notice of the amazing fire ant illustration as our cover photo? It was created by Mississippi artist, Joe MacGown who works for the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University as a Scientific Illustrator/Curatorial Assistant. Here is a really cool article about Joe and how he came to be an artist who of all things, draws fire ants for a living. Well, he does more than that, but how cool is that for an artists’ resume? 

Moving on, but there’s still two more pop culture references that can’t be missed.

  • First, the giant ant scene in Indiana Jones, 4. If you have ever seen it, I don’t need to remind you. If you haven’t seen it, please click here. Please. You will want to contact Lawn and Pest Services immediately to remove any and all ants for now and forever. Promise. 
  • Second, this song about fire ants. Please watch it for at least one minute. If you are entertained and also wondering, “what the heck did I just watch?” Here is the backstory on the fire ant song, and it involves the Christian standup comedian Tim Hawkins and a poem his son wrote about fire ants. 

OK. OK. Here’s the real blog about fire ants.

Fire ants are dangerous and sometimes deadly to those who are highly allergic. Though they are tiny and pretty easy to spot with their unsightly mounds in your lovely lawn, they can cover you up in the blink of an eye. Before you even realize you have disturbed their nest, they are all over you, your child, your grandchild, or your pets. The venom of a fire ant stings and turns into a white blister the next day (don’t pop it, it can spread infection). 

If you get stung, wash the area with soap and water, put some ice on the area, watch for swelling and redness. Those who are allergic should be extra careful and keep a close eye on the stings. There really are cases of hospitalization and even death from fire ant stings. 

Someone who steps on a fire ant mound will typically get a lot of stings at once. This is because the ants all live together and have been disturbed. Some mounds are small and fairly unnoticeable, so you can easily step on one and not even see it! Each sting starts as a red bump and will turn into an itchy white blister the next day.

Fire ants are better as art, not deadly pests in your lawn. 

Remember this quote, “fire ants are one of the most studied insects on the planet” ? That’s because they painful, dangerous, deadly to a few. Their unsightly mounds can sneak up on you or can stand out in your otherwise lovely lawn. There are plenty of examples of how they destroy property and crops. 

There are plenty of at home, do it yourself “treatments” for fire ants. As one Lawn and Pest employee said, “you are just chasing them around your yard with those products”. You may get rid of a few fire ant mounds for a while, but you really just made them move a little. They will be back. Our licensed lawn technicians can treat your lawn and win the battle against fire ants. Contact us here and let us help you ASAP so you can get back to that Indiana Jones movie. 

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, it’s still here!

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) is still a “thing” here in North Mississippi and the surrounding areas. Just because we aren’t currently talking about “Crape Murder” (also still a “thing”) doesn’t mean this especially ugly and pretty gross scale insect isn’t making its’ presence known around here.

First of all, what is a “scale insect”?

Oh, you didn’t know either? Well, I googled that for us. If you just want a one click answer, here it is. The easy explanation is that they are insects that suck on a plant, they have a waxy and protective outer coating. They don’t have wings, so they can’t move and their outer coating eventually turns to a matted felt like texture. They secrete a fluid (called honeydew) that is sticky and attracts other insects like pests. The CMBS is tiny and about the length of the thickness of a dime. Once it lays eggs on your Crape Myrtle, it dies. 

So what’s the harm?

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale isn’t as harmful as some of the other things that might be lurking in your lawn, that’s the good news. But let’s be honest, the reason we all love a Crape Myrtle is that it is a beautiful tree. It is pretty tough, it grows back even when you try to murder it and it just exudes Southern charm. So, we don’t want our lovely Crape Myrtle to be covered in this gross, sticky, layer of life sucking scale insects, right? Not only does CMBS make the trunk and limbs of your tree look and feel yucky, it also tends to exude a black or gray sooty mold. This mold makes your tree dark and it also falls over everything under your tree. You may have noticed the black mold that appears on driveways, sidewalks, garbage cans, children’s toys, etc. 

Sooty mold isn’t the only problem.

Again, we planted this Crape Myrtle for the beautiful flowers…right? When the trunk and limbs are covered in scale insects that are slowing sucking life from the tree, guess what happens? It is going to affect not only the quantity of your flowers and blooms, but also the quality. It won’t kill your tree, but your tree won’t be living its’ best life covered in this pest. This expert from Oklahoma gives us a great up close view of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale and discusses ways a homeowner can treat it. Oh, and one last really gross issue with CMBS, when you crush it, a pink blood-like liquid is exuded. I couldn’t let that go without being said.

What can be done?

One of the zillion cool things about nature, is that sometimes, nature can try and take care of itself. In this instance, it’s the lady beetle . If you are so lucky to be visited by her, she can attack and eat up lots of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale. Before the Lady Beetles pupate, they can clean up a lot of problems, so if you see these friends, leave them alone! Let them do their job. Here’s a cool and short video of a lady beetle feasting on Crape Myrtle Bark Scale. 

If you like to think of yourself as a “Do it yourselfer” 

As mentioned above, you can wash off the trunks and limbs that you can reach. You can also cover the tree in dormant oil for the winter to kill off any remaining scale. You don’t have to commit “crape murder” and you don’t have to cut down your trees. If you decide to do just that, please be careful in the removal of the cuttings, as this can easily spread to other healthy trees and lawns if not handled properly. 

We can help you.

Climbing ladders and scrubbing your trees may not be in your fall plans, but saving your trees and lawns, it’s what we do.If you have determined that you have a tree or trees that are infested with Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, give us a call. These scale insects are laying eggs now, and now is as good a time as any to handle this problem. If you want the pros to help you, click here to leave a message with our office. If you call during regular office hours, we always answer the phone. If you want to get in touch with us after hours, leave a message on our easy to use Podium link (the photo of the girl in the bottom right corner) and you will be not be missed.