Liquid Ice Melt Experiment

Liquid Ice Melt Experiment

The winter of 2016-17 is upon us! This year, we have decided to conduct an experiment in the area of liquid ice melt.  We have been reading and hearing a lot about this topic, as salting in general is always under contention!  We are doing this experiment for many reasons, but for the most part we want to be educated and up to date with all our options and materials that are available. There are many benefits to this process, so hopefully we can reap the rewards and our customers will benefit the most!

We will start the process with a few experiments on the sidewalks first. We will try pre-treating the walks on the first go-around. Have you ever seen the lines of liquid on the roads a day before the storm? That is the exact principle we want to try. This helps keep the snow and ice from bonding with the pavement, thus making removal easier and more complete. We will also try post-treatment. This means we will shovel as normal and instead of putting down treated rock salt, we will put the liquid down and see how it performs.

                  Roads pre-treated before a snow storm.

We have purchased a LES-TL80SS spreader from Site One Landscape Supply in Burnsville along with 5 gallons of liquid ice melt.  Check it out here: www.siteone.com/marketing/LESCO_Spec_Sheets/16.105947_LESCO_Walk-Behind_12gal.pdf

This unit is similar to a fertilizer spreader except it dispenses liquids with a battery-operated pump and adjustable nozzle. This should help with conserving the amount of salt that is used along with increasing efficiency.

I will post our updates and results as we move forward.  Check back soon!

 

By Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Fall Clean-Ups

Fall Clean-Ups

It’s time for fall clean-ups again and you’ve got your rakes and bags ready to go. The leaves have dropped and you start the process. You get the leaves off the lawn but what about the beds? We traditionally would remove those leaves in the beds, but with new information/observations comes better practices. What if instead of removing all the leaves from the beds, we left some there? Why would we do that?

The answer is: to keep some habitat for small critters and birds that overwinter here in Minnesota. Leaving some leaves and seeded plants gives a winter food source for animals, as well as a potential resting place. So before you bag all your leaves this fall, take some time to decide if you want to leave a little for the birds and the winter critters.

By Eric Mitchell, Lawn Care Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

The Fall Debate: To cut or not to cut?

The Fall Debate: To cut or not to cut?

Every fall we have the debate around our office….should we cut back the perennials or leave them until spring?

This really is a personal choice, but more often than not our practice is to cut them back in the fall, especially at our commercial properties. Some perennials, such as grasses, offer winter interest and some gardeners believe leaving the perennials through the winter will protect them from the cold.

We opt to cut perennials back so the plant is ready to grow in the spring. Once the new growth begins in the spring it is difficult to cut back the old growth from the previous year. Below are photos from a commercial property (not maintained by our team). These plants were not cut back last fall and have started to grow in the spring. The photo shows how unsightly the old growth looks and how difficult it will be to remove the old growth without damaging the new growth.

We put a lot of time and thought into servicing our customers and this service is another example of our dedication!

By Laura Barrett, Operations Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Hop To It: Hops in the Landscape

Hop To It
Hops in the Landscape

The last couple of decades have seen an explosion in craft beer, all stemming from the popularity of home brewing and vice-versa. The beauty of home brewing is in how far you want to take the hobby. Purists, like myself, have embraced the idea of going further and continually strive to learn more about the history of beer and the techniques, (both old and new), used to create this ancient beverage. It didn’t take me long to venture in to all-grain brewing and from there I wondered about growing my own hops…hmm…

The hop plant is a vine that grows about 12’-15’ high by about 3’ wide. The female plant has a cone-like flower which produces aromatic and bitter oil. This oil has been implemented in a number of different uses; medicinal, culinary, and functional. Since I am both a landscape designer and a home brewer, the focus will stick to the obvious.

Hops have a number of uses in brewing. They affect the aroma, flavor, and bitterness of beer, and since beer is in itself very sweet, it is generally complimented by the offsetting bitterness of hops. This, however, is not the most important reason hops have become such a staple ingredient in the brewing process. The flower (which blooms mid-summer) contains a couple of chemicals known as humulone and lupulin, which can kill bacteria. Because of this, hops are an excellent preservative. The British, back in the day, found that by adding an excessive amount of hops to their beer, it could last the months-long voyage to the far reaches of the empire – namely India – without spoiling. Thus was born one of the most popular beer styles in the world: India Pale Ale (or IPA for short).

As a designer, I can utilize hops in the landscape a number of ways, both for function and aesthetics. The vine can be used to block eyesores, as a pergola covering, a privacy screen, or even a ground cover. The flowers can be a nice accent, creating a unique aroma while aiding to fun conversation!

To begin with, you will need to purchase some rhizomes (root parts). These can be acquired from a brew store like Northern Brewer or Midwest Supplies here in the Twin Cities. Cascade, Centennial, or Columbus hops are good starting varieties and can be used in beers such as pale ales or IPA’s. Plant varieties such as Nugget may also be acquired from garden centers. Just remember when buying rhizomes that you need to refrigerate them until you are ready to plant.

Find a sunny site in your yard with good air movement. Make sure the soil is weed-free with good drainage. Keep in mind that the roots need plenty of room to spread, so places near trees and other plants should be avoided. Plants should be spaced about 3’ apart, making sure to keep differing varieties at least 5’ from the each other. Place the rhizome about 4” below the surface and provide some sort of structure for which the vine to climb. The first year is critical for the roots to establish, so water often at the base of the plant. Allow for some drying since these roots can be susceptible to rot. The use of mulch is advisable, as is a small amount of fertilizer. Just give your hop plants every chance to get going!

Harvesting is usually done around August and September. There are a few ways to tell if the hop flowers are ripe for the picking. Generally, the hop cone should be springy, dry, and papery on the tips, and the lupulin should be thick, yellow, and sticky. Pick by hand the first year and cut down the vine there on. Your first-year yield will be small since most of the energy used by the plant will have been spent establishing roots instead of flowers. Just bear in mind that year two will be better and year three – even more bountiful!

From this point you have a couple of options. The flowers can be thrown directly into a brewing or fermenting batch of beer. They can also be dried, sealed, and frozen for future use. Keep in mind that oxygen, heat, and time are big enemies to hops when it comes to producing beer. Act fast and prepare efficiently!

 

Need a little help selecting a place in your landscape for some hops? Barrett Lawn Care has some pretty knowledgeable folks who can both point you in the right direction and get you going on the right path! There are actually a few of us here with some brewing knowledge to boot!
By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/731/#b
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/use-hop-humulus-lupulus-plant-landscaping-76810.html
http://www.engledow.com/green-scene/2013/03/hops-part-1-growing-hops-in-your-garden/
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/how-to-harvest-prepare-and-store-homegrown-hops/
http://www.growinghopsyourself.com/growing-hops/fuggle-container-hops/

Green Industry – Government Affairs

Green Industry – Government Affairs

There is a multitude of things evolving in the green industry right now, both in the private sector and in the Minnesota State Legislature. As we know, this is a very interesting and impactful time in the green industry. These changes, regardless of the outcome, will impact nearly every profession in the lawn care business.

The MNLA (www.mnla.biz) hosts an annual event called Green Industry Day on the Hill, and has a Government Affairs Committee. Both of these are operated on a volunteer basis and each of their functions is to be a liaison between the industry and the MN State Legislature. These two entities are very similar, and yet they’re also quite different in the way they are performed.

The Government Affairs Committee closely monitors potential issues and opportunities in the green industry. This industry is constantly presented with evolving technology, chemicals, regulations, legislation, codes, etcetera. The Committee then determines which items are deserving of MNLA involvement, and the appropriate course of action. The Committee works closely with the MNLA Executive Director, the MNLA Regulatory Affairs Manager, the MNLA Legislative Affairs Manager, and a Legislative Consultant.

The Green Industry Day on the Hill is a volunteer effort orchestrated by the MNLA that brings green industry professionals face-to-face with MN State legislators for a discussion on predetermined topics. The Government Affairs Committee selects a handful of current, pertinent issues and compiles information on all of them for each volunteer. This aids in keeping involved parties on the same page, and provides a congruent message from Industry to legislator. All appointments with legislators involved are organized by the MNLA, keeping the day very well organized.

It would be understandable to be intimidated by the thought of interacting with people of this prominence. I can personally relate to those feelings and inhibitions as I just began getting involved on this level a year ago. An important thing to acknowledge is that these legislators are regular people, too. Sure, they hold positions of great authority, influence, and responsibility, but at the end of the day they are just professionals as we are, each in our individual roles.

The ventures these groups engage in can easily go unnoticed and unrecognized as they happen behind the scenes, so to speak. However, the impact of their efforts is tremendous on all of us as citizens, employees, and business owners.

Getting personally involved and taking action certainly isn’t something fitting for everyone out there. For those of us who are apt to enlist in this activity, it’s imperative to do the research and get involved. Our continued success as an Industry rides in part on the accomplishments of volunteers like these. Our elected officials author the legislation that we all must abide by. The better they are kept informed, the better the possible outcome. I can speak firsthand; sure it can be intimidating, but it’s also rewarding.

Being involved at this level can be very beneficial for a business. This allows true industry knowledge to be expressed in potential legislation, or in amending existing legislation. This also provides a great avenue for personal development and growth. I am very passionate about this industry, so this is something I truly enjoy!

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

More than just a Summer Garden

More than just a Summer Garden

Stop and think of what a beautiful garden looks like to you. Is it packed with colorful flowers and loaded with leafy texture? Maybe it’s a natural woodland garden with a ground covered in ferns and sedges brightening up the shady forest floor. Or your mind may wander to an English cottage garden complete with boxwood hedges, roses, hydrangeas, and a lush green lawn complementing the structured space. What do most typical beautiful garden images all have in common? They are only imagined in summer! That doesn’t do much good for us here in the North Star state. We have a potential for six full months of snowy weather which can be depressing for us Minnesota gardeners just dreaming of lush green summer gardens.

But wait… what about a beautiful winter garden? Why not design gardens for year-round color, texture, structure, and interest? No, I’m not talking about using fake plastic plants. There are many Minnesota hardy trees, shrubs, and perennials that pack a punch throughout the winter season along with adding structure, food, and cover for wildlife, and even colorful cuttings for your winter flower arrangements.

There are hundreds of varieties of evergreens including pines, spruces, arborvitaes, hemlocks and firs that have foliage of golds, blues, silvers, and greens. You can incorporate a Weeping White Spruce for a green pillar reaching straight as an arrow to the sky or a stout Mops Falsecypress to add some golden glow to a semi-shaded space. There are even evergreens with glossy leafy foliage such as the Green Velvet Boxwood or the Cannadale Gold Euonymous which add structure to even the most informal space. Evergreens are the easy go to for a winter garden, but many times these look the same no matter what the season, leaving gardeners wanting more variety for their snowy landscapes.

That’s where some of my favorite plants come into play. There are a multitude of shrubs and perennials that not only flower and add color in the spring, summer, and fall but also pull double duty by bringing interesting and colorful berries, bark texture, and seed heads to the winter landscape. One of my favorites is the Autumn Magic chokeberry with white spring flowers, glossy green summer foliage, bright red and orange fall color, and clusters of persistent black berries throughout the winter. Rugosa Roses are a great choice packed full of summer flowers which then turn into showy bright orange and red rose hips adding much needed color to the frigid winter months. There are dogwoods with red and golden stems in the winter which can be pruned and used for winter potting arrangements. Even flowers like Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ and Rudbeckia hirta can catch the snow on their upright stiff seed heads adding structure and interest in a snowy winter scene. Don’t forget about the Minnesota hardy ornamental grasses that extend fall color right into the snowy season like Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurescens’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’.

With all this winter color, texture, and interest, it’s hard to not consider the cold snowy months when designing a beautiful Minnesota garden. Once you incorporate some of these seasonal beauties in your garden, those drab winter days tend to be just a little bit brighter.

Photo credits:
https://arboretumnaturenotes.wordpress.com/page/7/
http://www.capadiadesign.com/2014/01/fluffy-cotton-snow.html#.Vp5b8_krKUk
http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/2013/11/garden-bloggers-bloom-day-november-2013.html

By BLC Landscape Sales and Design

Join the Band

Join the Band
Paver Accents

Paver patios and sidewalks hold a lot of potential when it comes to accenting and making your home “pop”. The use of soldier courses to accent a surface is standard. Taking it a step or two further can really add a powerful aesthetic feel if done well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The use of complementary colors and textures is becoming ever more popular in creating excitement within the paver surface. Playing off of elements in the yard or on the home not only ties the patio walkway to the rest of the landscape, but also lends a strong touch of class to the overall look and feel.

Paver Patio using Flagstone

The type of design you choose can be very simple or extremely technical. The sky is the limit—but so is the price when leaning toward the extravagant! The amount of cutting and labor that goes into the design will always play a role in the final bill.

With all that said—design and pattern is something that should be considered when pondering a new paver project. There are so many options. The skilled people at Barrett Lawn Care will gladly help you along the way. From the designers to the installers, we are experienced in helping you realize your vision.

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Shade Garden – Update

Shade Garden – Update

After three years in the making, my shade garden is complete. I had thought I finished it in July of 2014, but I just had to push it a bit more! Of course I will always be “tinkering” with it! I realized that about halfway through the project that the concept was evolving.

With all of the plant varieties available to us in Zone 4, I really ended up constructing a pollinator garden as much as a shade garden. I started trending that way as I stated half way through the project, but I had no way to know the ultimate success or failure until everything was mature.

Monarch Larvae

As the summer of 2015 progressed, the bulk of the plants in this space were maturing nicely. I soon began to notice a few butterflies and some bees in the garden, but nothing too dramatic. Seemingly out of nowhere this all changed rapidly. I went for a walk on a Saturday afternoon through my gardens and noticed a couple Monarch butterflies. This was VERY exciting as I had never spotted them on my property before! Within days I was able to spot anywhere from 6-12 Monarchs in my gardens every day. By this time the volume and variety of bees had significantly increased too!

The pollinators continued to thrive the remainder of the summer season. The plants had now mostly matured so they reached new heights and filled in the space as planned. As intended, the unoccupied space was now small so weeding was down to a minimum. This alone is cause to celebrate!

Butterfly & bee

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the summer was having numerous Monarch larvae on my plants. Having finally lured them to my property and being able to watch them grow and evolve daily was amazing!

It’s a great feeling to have completed the project and realized such success! We are looking forward to many more years of great plants and growing populations of pollinators all while having it in a very low maintenance setting.

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Link to the original blog: http://barrettlawncare.com/blog/?p=1516

Earthworms

Earthworms

When was the last time you thought about worms? Perhaps for fishing maybe? That is a memory of mine; going out and picking them out of the soil with my dad so we could go fishing. Do you ever walk around your yard in bare feet and feel the bumps in the soil? Yes, those are worms coming to the surface on their way up looking for food.

I read a recent article in the Scoop regarding worms entitled, “Be on the lookout for jumping worms”.

So I knew that we have jumping carp, but now we have jumping worms? The article explains that the earthworms we are used to seeing are not native to this region. They are European in descent and actually have a negative impact on the ecosystem of the forested areas of the United States! (I had no idea!)

Earthworms

Here is the link to the article:
http://issuu.com/minnesotanla/docs/mnnla_jan16_escoop_final?e=1692511/32160831
This was a very interesting article written by Dr. James Calkins, Research Information Director, MNLA Foundation.

By Mike Fritsche, Lawn Care Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Front of the Border Grasses

Front of the Border Grasses

Ornamental grasses add seasons of beauty and interest to a garden. Many times as designers we use grasses to soften a walkway’s harsh edge or to add movement and give the garden a natural look that is very refreshing to the senses. One of my favorite grasses is Sporobolus heterolepis, otherwise known as prairie dropseed. This is a warm season grass, which means that it is slower to break dormancy in spring, has a higher drought tolerance, and tends to flower in later summer and fall.

Prairie dropseed is a shorter mounding grass, only reaching a height of about 2-2 ½ ‘tall. It prefers full sun and can handle dry soil and being planted right up close to its neighbor. Prairie dropseed is perfect for a dramatic mass planting, especially noticeable once the round, bread-like seed heads ripen and wave in the wind, creating a sea of soft color in the landscape. This beauty mixes well as the front of a border along a walkway with Echinacea purpurea and Liatris spicata adding height, drama, and color behind. If you’re looking to add a short front-of-the-border texture plant, consider massing this natural beauty.

By BLC Landscape Sales and Design
Hockenberry Meyer, Mary. Ornamental Grasses for Cold Climates. University of Minnesota. 2004