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!

Pests in Christmas Decorations?

Yes. There are pests in your stored (and maybe fresh) Christmas decorations. A huge part of keeping your home pest free is never letting the pests get into your home. The squirrel scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation never gets old, and it’s a perfect example of how a pest can hitchhike into your home. Maybe it’s a little dramatic for comedy’s sake, but there are plenty of simple ways for pests to come into your home. The easiest is the boxes of Christmas decorations!

Blame it on the kindergarten teacher!

As you unpack those precious ornaments your children made long ago, do you notice they have been nibbled on? Maybe your ice cream cone Rudolph is missing his cinnamon candy nose this year…that’s because pests have been feasting for the past 11 months on your decor. Pests enjoy the edible ornaments children make every year. Candy cane reindeer, candy covered snowmen, and even some ornaments that we might not consider to be edible, pests do!

It’s not just the ornaments…

The packaging for your Christmas decor can prevent or promote pest invasion. Cardboard boxes are not an option, invest in air tight plastic containers. As you lug those boxes to and from your attic, basement or storage rooms, consider how mice, roaches, termites and more can get in the box. It’s not hard to get into a cardboard box if you are a pest. When you bring that box into your house, you are bringing ALL of the contents into your house.

Squirrel!!!

In that infamous scene, Chevy Chase is attacked by the squirrel living in his tree. It could happen. It could also be prevented. When you bring any living things into your home, even a simple potted plan, you are risking bringing “other” living things inside. A simple shake out or inspection will be that ounce of prevention we are always talking about. Now, let’s talk about the day AFTER Christmas.

That’s a wrap.

Whether you take your Christmas decorations down the day of (I had a neighbor who did just that) or you choose to wait until Valentine’s (guilty) or later (guilty, again) putting away day is as important as decorating day. If you have an artificial tree, wrap it up tightly in plastic. In this video, learn to wrap up tree, lights, ornaments and all in one quick wrap. If you have hung artificial wreaths or garlands outside, shake them out and wrap them just as tightly. At the very least, store them in an air tight plastic tub until next year. 

It’s never too late.

You may have already put your tree up and hung the edible ornaments. You may have noticed the little missing pieces and the droppings in the boxes as you unpacked your decorations. You can redeem yourself when you put them away.  Remember what Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Now you know better. 

Maya Angelou wasn’t talking about pest control when she said that, but it applies to most everything in life, right? Whether you are about to hang the lights or are already tired of your Christmas decor, keeping pests away is important. Starting with a basement, attic, storage room and home that are already pest free helps keep pests away year round is something we can help control.

Being careful about what you bring into your home at the holidays is something only you can control. Let Lawn and Pest Solutions in New Albany, MS help you prevent pests year round. We have licensed technicians who are trained to thoroughly inspect your home and treat them for your specific needs. We service Memphis, TN and all over North Mississippi and would be glad to provide pest services for inside and outside of your home. Contact us here to begin your pest free holidays. 

Rake the leaves or leave the leaves?

If you are home for the holidays, you may be asking your self “should I rake the leaves or should I leave the leaves?”  If you are planning to couch surf this holiday, you may want to close your ears. Jack Nicholson may have said it best in “A Few Good Men” when he said “you can’t handle the truth!” 

If you have been doing things properly, you have already mulched your leaves and allowed them to become a great source of nutrients for your lawn. If you have been doing this all fall, your lawn will thank you properly this spring. A mulching mower chops up leaves and allows maximum contact  of the leaf parts and pieces. These bit give your lawn air, water and nutrients over the winter and spring months. But, you didn’t do that, did you? 

It’s okay.

Your holiday couch surfing just got replaced with some great exercise. This isn’t going to be easy, but you need to rake the leaves. If you don’t rake up those wet leaves now, they will smother the grass blades underneath. Wet leaves keep the soil under your grass from warming up in the spring. If the soil doesn’t warm up enough, the grass will take longer to exit dormancy. 

Dormancy, what’s that?

Dormancy just means your lawn has gone to sleep. It does this in the cold winter months. You can tell a lawn is dormant when it turns brown, that because it is conserving water and nutrients. Sometimes your lawn does this in the summer when it gets too stressed from intense heat or drought. It isn’t dead, it’s dormant.

Let’s remember for next year…

Ideally, you should mulch your leaves regularly in the fall. Don’t wait until they are piled up thick and wet. Just run your mulching mower over the leaves every few days and think of it as giving your lawn a vitamin. If you don’t have a mulching mower, rake them up and compost them. You can add the decomposed leaves to your flower beds or garden later.

It doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore.

You will achieve pure joy just by watching this one minute video of a dog jumping in leaf piles. Make leaf raking a family activity, get exercise and possibly become YouTube stars all at once! Drag out the rake, gather the big trash bags and convince your family “this will be fun.” And hey, maybe asking for a mulching mower for Christmas isn’t the worst idea ever…When you are still searching for answers about lawn care and services, know that we at Lawn and Pest Solutions are always there for you. We service the Memphis, TN and North Mississippi areas with lawn treatment and pest services for lawns, homes and businesses. Our licensed technicians are available to consult with you about how we can best serve you. 

What are occasional invaders?

The term “occasional invaders” sounds somewhere between a piece of fancy furniture and an early 80’s video game. You might not think of pests in your home when you hear that phrase. What is the definition of “occasional” anyway?

oc·ca·sion·al

/əˈkāZHənl/

Learn to pronounce

adjective

adjective: occasional

  1. occurring, appearing, or done infrequently and irregularly. “the occasional car went by but no taxis”

Why do some of the occasional invaders have to be so cute?

In the South, many of us think of Herbie the Lovebug when we hear “doodlebug”, and even play games when we see Volkswagen “beetles” on the road. But…

According to the Illinois Department of Health occasional invaders are pests that aren’t really that bothersome until they infest your home. One or two occasional invaders like a doodlebug or a ladybug don’t send us up on the sofa with a rolled up newspaper. The same may not be said for a spider, and a single cricket has been known to cause a sleepless night for many. However, as with many of the pests and issues that involve home pest control, it’s all about the numbers. You know it, that dreaded word, “infestation”.

Here is a list of reasons to avoid an infestation of occasional invaders

Some secrete foul odors (that’s enough for me right there)

Some cause damage and/or staining to your fabrics inside

They can damage your indoor plants

They may bite or pinch you or your pets

When they die, their bodies can attract other pests

Sometimes their dead bodies and skins that have been shed (plus their droppings and such) can cause some people to have allergic and/or asthma issues

Who are these occasional invaders?

  • Centipedes (usually found in shower drains)
  • Earwigs (usually found in moist areas)
  • Pill Bugs (aka Roly Polies or Doodle Bugs)
  • Crickets
  • Beetles (check out our previous blog on beetles)
  • Silverfish (attracted to paper like wallpaper, books and envelopes)
  • Ladybugs (check out our previous blog on ladybugs) 
  • Spiders (check out our previous blog on spiders)
  • Cluster flies
  • Stink bugs

Occasional invaders aren’t mysterious pests that suddenly appear in the winter, they are active year round. Most of the time they are outdoors and we don’t notice them until they start getting inside our homes for the winter. As with almost every pest we battle, keeping them OUT of your home is most of the war. Paying attention to cracks around windows and doors, tears in screens, piles of leaves or branches around the home helps. Repair any possible entryway for pests so they can’t get in your home. Remove piles of leaves and sticks and overgrown vegetation. Eliminate areas where water can collect. Check under your sinks for leaking pipes and repair. 

If all else fails, know that you can count on Lawn and Pest Solutions to help you wage war against the “occasional invaders” . We are also here to protect your home from termites, roaches, ants and more. Our licensed pest technicians will thoroughly spray inside and outside of your home on a regular schedule to ensure this problem is taken care of now and later. Contact us here to learn more about our #pest360 program. 

Of Mice and Rodents

“Of Mice and Men” didn’t come to mind immediately upon reading the subject for this blog, it was when I said “Mice and Rodents” out loud that my brain was triggered.  Were you made to read “Of Mice and Men” when you were in junior high like me? If you don’t remember the book, here’s a clip from the 1992 movie. But don’t worry, this blog shouldn’t make you cry. 

Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck, but the title was taken from a line in the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. The simplest interpretation of that line is, 

“The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.”

Supposedly the poet wrote it immediately after plowing over a mouse nest in the field. That’s a pretty tender hearted reference, especially when blogging for a pest control company! Homeowners today are not interested in composing poems about the mice and rodents in their homes, they just want to get rid of them!

Did you know rodents are the largest group of mammals in the world? In Mississippi, we have 22 kinds of rodents including mice, rats, voles, and squirrels. While rodents have a bad reputation, they do have a few positive attributes. When they dig and burrow under your lawn they are helping to aerate the soil. Aerating the soil helps the lawn grow and absorb water. Rodents are also a food source to other animals. Not surprisingly, the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to rodents.

The first of the bad news…

Rodents gnaw on electrical wires inside and outside of your home. They also like to chew on the wood and insulation in your walls and attics. Rats and mice can carry diseases and parasites that are harmful to humans and pets.

The worst of the bad news…

Mice and rodents like to reproduce, and they are really good at it. They have several litters a year! Mice are especially “active” and can start having babies at just a few months old. Even though they typically only live 8 months to a year long, one female can have 8 litters of babies. One mouse can have 50-60 babies in less than one year. You must be wondering by now how to keep mice and rodents out of your home.

This would be easier if you never let them in.

Mice and rodents need food and a nice house, just like in the Robert Burns poem. If someone mows down their mouse house in the field, they will be looking to move in with you. If you have gaps around your windows, doors, siding or brick, caulk those gaps. If you have plants or trees leaning on or against your home, trim those away or remove them. Branches, limbs and vines give mice and rodents an easy path to your home. 

We say this almost every week…

Keep pet food in air tight containers and don’t leave pet food sitting out at night. (This is a huge draw for roaches, too!) If you are providing access to the inside of your home AND leaving food out for pests, how can you blame them for moving in with you?

Don’t let your “best laid schemes go awry”

If the poem, book or even movie softened you to mice and rodents, this is worth repeating. One mouse can have 50-60 babies in less than one year.  Our licensed pest technicians know exactly what to do when dealing with mice and rodents. Contact us here and we will be in touch with you ASAP. We service the Memphis and North Mississippi areas with trained and trustworthy employees. 

Perhaps we can try to be nicer to humans and still keep the mice and rodents out of our homes. Maybe this will balance out the world as we know it.

“Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love……Try to understand each other.”

— John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

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”.