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The Importance of Mulching


What is mulch?

Mulch in itself is material that is spread out over and around the roots of what you have planted. Two types of mulch are organic and inorganic mulch. Organic mulch includes grassMulch1 clippings, leaves, bark mulch, newspaper and straw like pine straw. Inorganic mulch includes various types of rocks, stones and gravel. The advantage to using organic mulch is that overtime it breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil, thus making the soil richer. However, because it eventually decomposes, organic mulch will need to be replaced from time to time. 

Why Use mulch?


Mulching is one of the most important ways to protect and maintain healthy landscaped plants, shrubs and flowers. Some

- it prevents weeds from coming through
- organic mulches add to the nutrient base of the soil making the soil richer
- helps to hold water and moisture in your plants and gardens, therefore you don’t have to water as much
- helps the roots maintain an even temperature
- protects your soil from erosion
- adds to the aesthetic appeal of your landscape by making it look more finished

Applying Mulch


When applying mulch you want to put a layer of it 2-4 inches as close to the roots as possible. Remember to replace the mulch as needed if using organic materials. Make sure you don’t use too much as too much of it will be a bad thing possible causing the roots to suffocate. You also want to make sure you keep any mulch away from tree trunks. Organic mulches are very beneficial but they can wind up being a habitat for insects. Most of these insects will not harm your plants but they may become a nuisance for you. Keep this in mind when using organic mulch close to your house. Pavement ants are known to love bark mulch. If put too close to your house you may have unwanted guests. Some people like to spread out a layer of plastic underneath before they apply mulch. This isn’t a good idea because it dries out the soil underneath defeating the purpose of maintaining proper moisture for the root system. The best time to apply mulch is in late Spring once the ground starts to warm up.

As a final mention on using mulch I can’t emphasize enough how it can improve the aesthetics of your landscape. Whether you use colored bark mulch or beautiful colored rocks, it will really make your yard pop. It is well known that beautifully landscaped yards add to the value of your home.

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Tools of the Trade - Snow Plows

Welcome to our first installment of Tools of the Trade.  Periodically throughout the year we will highlight some of the tools that we use in our industry with pics, what it is, what it's used for, the importance of the task that it is used for and any pros/cons versus using a different tool.

If you have any questions about the tools we are highlighting or you would like to see us do an article on a specific tool, please leave a comment and we will answer it.

Not much landscaping going on during this time of the year, however snow removal is in full swing.  What better tool to talk about than a snow plow.  There are two types of plows that we use- straight blade and v-blade.  Both types can be mounted to the front of a truck in about 5 minutes (once the mounting frame is "permanently" attached to the frame of the truck)

Straight blades are the old trusted stand-by.  They are great for clearing large parking lots where you can windrow the snow to one side ofPlow Straight Blade the lot or the other.  They are also ideal for back-dragging snow away from buildings or residential garages.  Some straight blades have a small secondary blade on the back side of the plow to aid in back-dragging.  With both straight blades and v-blades you can either get them in the standard steel or polycarbonate material.  With the poly blade, you don't have to worry about rusting and they are a little bit lighter.
Plow Loader

Straight blades are also made for larger equipment as well.  We haveseveral bigger pieces of machinery that we run either blades or snow pushers on.  The snow pusher looks similar to the attachment on the right.  It is essentially a box with one side missing.  The pusher is great for clearing large sections of parking lots as it holds a lot more snow than a v-blade can.

The v-blade is a better option for "containing" snow than the traditional straight blade.  With

Snow Plow V Bladethe v facing fully to the front you can collect snow and leave less of a trail as you plow.  This is ideal when doing final clean-up on a property or when you are needing to clear snow straight from one end to another.  The v is very versatile as it can also be used as a straight blade for wind-rowing larger lots.  With the v fully retracted back, it works well to make the first pass through a deep snow as it acts just like a cattle pusher on the front of a train.  It clears the snow off to both sides of the truck.  

Snow Plow Controller

describe the imageRegardless of the plow used, they are controlled by some type of hand controller inside the vehicle.  The two controllers to the right are the two most common for v-blades.  It comes down to personal preference on which type snow fighters use.  The top one can be mounted to an armrest, center console, or straight to a seat.  The bottom picture is one that straps to your hand or when partially dis-assembled can be mounted to your dashboard or leg with a few modifications.  If you zoom in on the picture you can see the various functions they control.  The control for a straight blade (not shown here) is much simpler.  It is typically a small box that can be mounted just about anywhere.  It is a small joystick that controls left, right, raise, lower.

This was a very brief run-down on the snow plows that we use.  There are many variations of these blades as well as accessories that you can purchase that can aid in snow removal as well.  If you have any questions in regards to snow plows, please leave a comment below and we will answer it. 

Winterize Your Landscape Equipment

The temperatures are getting colder and the days of rain will soon be turning in to days of snow.  Time to put away the lawn equipment and pull out the shovels and test out your snow blower.  Before you put away your landscape equipment, it is a good idea to winterize them to ensure a longer life and make sure they are ready for your return next spring.  Here are some helpful tips/ reminders brought to you by John Fech, a UNL Extension Educator.

Clean and sharpen garden tools before putting them away for winter to minimize rust and ensure that they are ready for use in the spring.

Remove soil, rust and other debris with a wire brush or steel wool.  It may be necessary to dissolve accumulated sap and resin on some pruning tools with a solvent, such as kerosene, and to loosen the pivot bolt and separate the blades.  Position the tool, using a bench vise or clamp if needed, so you can put the proper bevel on the cutting edge with a flat file or whetstone.  Remove any metal burrs from the backside of the cutting edge with 300 grit wet/dry sandpaper when sharpening is completed.  Finish with a light application of good quality oil to prevent rusting.

As you prepare your lawn mower and other tools for winter storage, don't forget to winterize your sprayers and fertilizer spreader.  Smooth, dependable pesticide application next summer depends largely on the care and maintenance that sprayers and spreaders receive over the winter.  Since the "pest season" is about over for this year, this is a good time to winterize your equipment. 

Apply oil to the bottom of the hopper and all moving parts.  Store the spreader with the shutter or gate fully open.

Compressed air sprayer tanks should be filled one-fourth full with mild dishwashing solution.  Shake the sealed tank to loosen any spray residues.  Pressurize the tank and spray out the water.  Drain the tank upside down until thoroughly dry.  Once dry, place a few drops of oil into the top of the pump cylinder.  Pump the cylinder several times to coat the cylinder and valves with an oil film.  Reassemble the sprayer before storing.

Nozzle tips and screens should be removed and cleaned with soapy water.  Clogged nozzle tips should be cleaned with a sliver of wood or other soft object, not with wire.  An old toothbrush, properly labeled as being meant for pesticide use and stored with the sprayer, works very well to clean spray residue and other deposits from nozzles.  Store nozzle tips and screens in diesel fuel or kerosene to prevent corrosion.
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