Save $: Give those plants a job!

On-site climate conditioning via utilization of landscape vegetative material
Save $: Give those plants a job!

We’ll start with some figures:

• A well planned landscape can reduce an air-conditioning bill from around 15% all the way up to 50% and cut fuel costs by up to 40%!
• Shading the air-conditioner can increase its efficiency by 10%.
• Trees can reduce the surrounding air temperature by up to 9% while the ground can get up to 25% cooler than near the blacktop!

These few facts alone can be inspiration for any property owner these days given what it costs to cool and heat a home. A number of considerations have to be looked at in order to best utilize plant material. This underscores, once again, how important a well thought-out plan can be when taking on projects in a yard.

The size, shape, kind, and placement of plants are key details that need to be addressed, along with what function is trying to be achieved.

Deciduous trees and shrubs (the ones that leaf out in the spring and fall off in the autumn) will let wind in but reduce solar radiation in the summer and let it infiltrate in the winter. Conifers (evergreens) not only cool the ground, but also act as wind breaks, stopping snow and the cold winter winds. Depending on the size, both conifers and deciduous trees can shade heat-sinks like driveways in the summer time.

Contrary to popular belief, placing trees on the south side of a house is not the best spot when considering shade. Typically the shade will fall directly under the tree in the summer and do little, while casting a long shadow in the winter letting little solar radiation to reach. Make the first priority for placement of a tree or large shrub due west of any west windows, with the second priority placement due east of east facing windows. Plant these trees about twice their mature height from the wall.

Consider that a 6’-8’ deciduous tree planted near the home will begin shading the window the first year. Depending upon what kind, it will eventually shade the roof in 5-10 years.

If you are going to plant wind-break trees, place them a distance two to five times their height at maturity from the house. Don’t block the sun on the south!

It is also advisable to put foundation plants like shrubs and perennials near the house about 1’ away to create a dead space to insulate the home in both the winter and summer seasons.

Vines on a trellis or on the side of a house are another option to consider. Just be mindful that there may be some additional labor associated with these.

It’s never too late to get started! The next time you are strolling through your yard, focus on if there are things you can do to improve the heating and cooling efficiency of your home from a landscape stand point. Barrett Lawn Care has a trained and professional staff which can guide you in the right direction. Whether it be a design plan or a full installation, you don’t have to be alone to get it right!

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Sprays vs. Rotors

Sprays vs. Rotors

When designing an irrigation system we need to decide which type of sprinkler head to use. There are many factors that go into the decision of head selection, including area to be watered, plant material, amount of sun, water pressure, and water drainage. Taking all these components into account allows us to determine an educated solution as to which type of head to use.

Let’s go over the difference between a few of the sprinkler heads that are out there. The two main varieties of sprinkler heads are spray heads and rotary heads. The major difference is that spray heads have a constant stream of water and rotary heads rotate over the area they are watering. Spray heads are designed for smaller areas, like along a house or in smaller landscaped areas. Spray heads pop up out of the ground between 2 and 12 inches. They have a constant stream of water between 2 to 20 feet. These heads put out about three times as much water as a rotary head, and for this reason it is usually not a good idea to put these heads on the same zone. Rotary heads are able to cover greater distances and are more beneficial to large areas of lawn.

When we come across areas where it would be much easier to use a spray head on a rotor zone there is an answer. Using a stream rotor can cover many of the same areas that spray heads do, but at a water distribution rate of a rotor. So utilizing these heads on our rotor zones will help to conserve water and make for a healthy lawn.

Both of these types of heads are necessary in designing irrigation systems. Hopefully this helped to clear up some questions you may have had about why certain types are used in some areas and not in others.

By Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

Planning for a Designer

Planning for a Designer

These shrubs are completely overgrown and nasty! Why is water getting into my basement at that corner of the house? There is absolutely no curb appeal here. I can’t look at this yard anymore! How much does landscaping cost? I don’t want to deal with another unreliable contractor. Where do I even start?!?
It can be very frustrating when you realize that you simply work too hard to live with a problem landscape, but you just aren’t sure what to do!

Many homeowners push off problem landscape until it is so overwhelming that they have to do something. Problems can be compounded over time until a complete overhaul is required in order to save the home’s appeal and the homeowner’s sanity. Other times the issue is a simple fix but has been put off due to lack of knowledge, time, and budget. Much valuable time can be consumed by meeting multiple contractors who all say different things, getting multiple estimates in different price ranges, and still being unsure of what steps are the best for you and your home.

This is where a professional landscape designer can help to save your sanity. Most professional designers will offer a complimentary initial consultation in order to meet you at your home and really get a feel for the site and your needs, wants, hopes, dreams, and budget. This consultation is vital for your project and is the foundation as to how the designer can best help you make sense of the problem landscape. It is important to prepare for the consultation and make the best use of your time by considering a few key things. You’ll want to list out your priorities and the “must” fixes. Consider how you want to use the space and be sure to convey the reality of how you plan to take care of your landscape. Think about how long you really plan to stay in your home. What is your high end and low end of your budget? What does your ideal dream landscape look like?

A landscape design plan
                         A landscape design plan

A good professional designer will gather all of that important information from you in order to come up with the best solution to your landscaping needs. Depending on the scope of your project, a simple estimate, a sketch plan, or a master landscape plan will need to be completed in order to best illustrate to you, and eventually the install crews, exactly what should happen. Landscape plans vary, but typically run between $300-$600, which is small investment when considering the long term cost of poor design or no design. In the end you need to decide if you can trust your designer to meet your goals, solve your problems, stay within a reasonable budget, and have a great install crew and to come do the actual work.

If you look out your window and see a problem landscape but aren’t sure where to start, give us a call and ask for an initial consultation with our designers. We’d love to help you learn how to solve your problems and start seeing the potential in your landscape!

By BLC Landscape Sales & Design

Drip Irrigation

13Drip Irrigation

There are many benefits to installing or retrofitting your sprinkler system into a drip irrigation system. Today we will go over some of the reasons why it is a great fit for watering your planting beds.

When we are trying to move water to your plants from the lawn sprinkling system we don’t always get the best coverage, or even adequate water, to all the plantings. Whether it is because of plants growing too large and blocking the sprinklers or that your plants are tucked away in a corner where the water cannot reach them, the best way to make sure all of the plants are getting watered is to install a drip irrigation system.

The drip system allows a sprinkler line to be run in the planting beds and can have each plant individually watered. This helps us to avoid any wind or water evaporation that might occur from top watering sprinkler heads, and thus will save you water and money. We are also able to run these drip zones while the sun is out because we are not worried about burning the plants. This allows the plants to be watered at the time they need water the most, creating healthier plants. Below is a photo of a drip system in the process of being installed. Once completed, the lines will be covered by mulch or rock depending on the landscaping.

Drip Irrigation photo

Stay tuned for more drip irrigation information!

By Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

It’s All Natural

It’s All Natural

One of the most versatile hardscape elements comes in many different sizes, colors, and shapes, and has a multitude of uses. Retaining walls, erosion control, seating, fire tables, steps, and water features are just a few. The best part is that this element is not a man-made concrete product but an entirely natural product extracted straight from the earth. What is this wonderfully versatile component of the landscape you may ask? Why, the boulder, of course!

Imagine a beautiful set of cut boulder steps carrying you from your back door down to your backyard fire pit, like we created for a local Richfield resident. Or a halved boulder with a fire bowl carved out as your patio coffee table as a staple to your entertaining space. The inside of a cut stone, like the boulder, has much beauty often not enjoyed when just viewing the stone from the outside.

Boulders can also be core-drilled and used as water features with water bubbling and trickling over its irregular edges, enhancing the colors and textures of this garden centerpiece. Many times a feature boulder like Rio Bravo or Iron Range Rainbow is a good choice for this application. You can even do a boulder water feature with fire raging out the top!

Next time you’re caught thinking “my backyard really could use something unique,” be sure to consider a feature boulder as part of your next outdoor project.

By BLC Landscape Sales and Design



Are you the type of person that enjoys learning and trying new things in the kitchen? Do you like fresh mozzarella cheese? It is DELICIOUS, and the fresher the better!

It turns out that making mozzarella is actually quite easy, fast, and inexpensive.

You need water, citric acid, rennet, milk, and salt. It’s just that simple. The citric acid coagulates the milk and the rennet sets the proteins in the milk enabling it to form curds. You can use 2% or whole milk, but it must NOT be ultra-high temperature pasteurized (UHT). UHT denatures the proteins in the milk, which prevents it from being able to form curds.

Starting supply
The process is pretty simple. The milk and citric acid are combined and heated to 90°F. After 90°F is reached, it’s pulled from the heat and the rennet added. The solution then needs to rest for about five minutes. After this rest, the kettle should contain a large curd with a layer of whey on top. The curd needs to be cut into an approximately 1” grid all of the way to the bottom of the kettle.

The mixture then needs to be heated to 105°F while stirring gently. Once 105°F is reached, the heat needs to be turned off and the mixture stirred gently for approximately an additional five minutes. Now the curds are to be ladled from the whey.

The finishing step is to heat the curds to 135°F to stretch and fold the new cheese. The salt is also added in this stretching step. Once the cheese becomes glossy in appearance, stop stretching it and form it into whatever size balls you prefer.

For exact details a quick search will provide details on different sized batches.

Final 2

Fresh. Warm. Mozzarella.

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Hiring and Firing – A Northern Green Expo Education Class

Hiring and Firing – A Northern Green Expo Education Class

This winter the BLC team attended the Northern Green Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. We go every year as a team building event and for our continuing education in the industry. One class I attended was “Hiring and Firing,” presented by attorney Patrick McGuiness. Patrick is a great speaker; not only was he funny, but very informative!
I just want to hit on a couple of key points of the presentation. In regards to an application, you can no longer ask about the applicants’ criminal record. When it comes to interviews, always conduct two interviews. We have been practicing this for quite a while, and it is a requirement for us. The first point of contact is always a phone interview. You will save yourself A LOT of time by doing this first, as it helps to weed out those individuals who embellish their resume. If they make it past that, then it’s time to bring them in for an in-person interview.

Once the applicant is hired, be sure to document everything, and I mean everything. All of the good, the bad and the ugly; it will save you a major headache down the road if you ever have to produce this documentation. If there is a termination involved, there are several rules to follow so you don’t put yourself or your company in jeopardy.

For more information, check out Patrick McGuiness’ articles here:

By Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

How to choose hardscape materials

hard·scape noun (härd ‘skãp ): The part of a building’s grounds consisting of structures, such as patios, retaining walls, and walkways, made with hard materials.

 What do we know about hardscapes?  They’re expensive?  They’re difficult to install?  Both of these thoughts can be correct at times, however if you approach a hardscape properly it can be a pain-free experience.  Adding hardscape(s) to your outdoor space is one of the most important things you can do to change the aesthetics and functionality of your area.  Also, if done correctly, you may have a great return on the investment which is always an added bonus.

Unless you’re quite handy in a variety of trades it may be a good idea to consult a professional to assist with all phases of adding or replacing a hardscape in your outdoor space.  The next step would be to decide what you want to install and where.

Materials:  Choosing the appropriate material can be an overwhelming task.  There are many different brands of hardscape materials and each brand has many different products within them.  There are a lot of good quality manufacturers out there and unfortunately many lesser quality manufacturers.  I won’t voice my opinions on any brands, as to not cloud your judgment.

It’s not always easy to “throw cost out the window”, but often times with these situations you really do get what you pay for.  Some of these material options can be fairly expensive and some are quite inexpensive.  This differentiation is mainly to do the manufacturing process, the tolerances, and quality standards that it entails.  The cheaper materials have looser manufacturing standards and thus less dimensional consistency.  Of course this then means that the more expensive materials have much tighter manufacturing tolerances, thus much greater dimensional consistency.

It might not seem like dimensional consistency is all that important.  After all it is just a bunch of pieces of concrete or stone, right?  Let’s take a deeper look.  How many of these pieces must work together to complete the structure?  Consider a patio, driveway, retaining wall, etc.  There could be hundreds, or thousands or more pieces working in conjunction with each other to complete said structure.  So now that we know that, things start to make more sense.  The looser the consistency the more gaps there can be in the finished structure.  The more gaps you allow in your finished project the less structural integrity you will have, and vice-versa.  Aside from the structural aspect of all of this you will also have looser lines in your project.  This too may seem irrelevant, but the straighter the lines, the better the flow, the better the end result.

A few samples of hardscape projects installed by Barrett Lawn Care:

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~ Suggestion by Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care.  Derek has years of experience installing many different types of hardscape materials. For more information, Derek can be reached at 612-866-7522 or


The Dirt on Compost

The Dirt on Compost

We’ve heard about it. We know that it has something to do with the dirt and garbage. But what’s it good for and why do it? What the heck is it?

“Composting” is basically taking some carbon material (brown) like dead leaves, branches, twigs, etc. and some nitrogen-rich material (green) like grass clippings, fruits, vegetables, etc. and some water to create a medium, that when introduced to a garden or plant bed, has extremely positive effects. There is nothing magical here—though it might seem far-fetched that you can make fertilizer as good or better than a product you purchase at a store. The secret is in the technique and in your patience to see it through.

Let’s first look at the benefits of composting. Why do it to begin with?

• Enriches soil and acts as a soil conditioner
• It retains moisture and suppresses disease and pests
• Compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers
• It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi
• It’s good for the environment because it promotes recycling and reduces landfill waste
I could actually go on about the positive reasons for composting, but I think you get the picture!

The tried-and-true way of creating compost is just placing your material in a pile. Putting equal amounts of each material into layers and periodically turning it over. Nature takes over from here. Now, this can take some time. There are some commercial alternatives available which can speed this up, such as a barrel design, which allows you to simply turn the crank and churn the batch as you go. Whatever method you choose to use, the end results are identical. The material decomposes and produces nutrient-rich humus which can be added to any soil.Compost-Bin-6275-B







This isn’t rocket science and should not be looked at as a complicated activity that only master gardeners are able to achieve. The science of what takes place may be involved. That’s fine. You need not worry about that. Chances are that you are already recycling—why not add just an extra step and get more bang-for-your-buck while doing your part for the environment at the same time!

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care


2016 Northern Green Expo

2016 Northern Green Expo

The Green Expo was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center once again this year with many attractions including new products, trending topics, and continued education in the horticulture industry.

Super Tuesday kicked off the Expo with a day of discussion focusing on trees. Treatment of disease, pruning, and young tree care were the three leading topics. Proper pruning and diversity in the landscape is key to a healthy landscape of trees. Pruning promotes good structural development of the tree while diversity of species ensures we do not create future problems for ourselves. For example, the overabundance of Ash trees in Minnesota with the now booming Emerald Ash Borer problem.

A tree with Emerald Ash Borer damage
A tree with Emerald Ash Borer damage

Many different pests are starting to emerge in Minnesota that we have not had a problem with before. Some insects that are already a problem and some that are coming into the state would include Emerald Ash Borer, Mountain Pine Beetle, and Gypsy Moth. Also, the Varroa parasite is a huge problem with Bee colonies. Some diseases we are worried about are the spread of Oak Wilt, Thousand Cankers Disease, and Heterobasidion Root Rot.

The following days at the Expo were consumed with networking and going to classes that covered tick control, microclimates of turf grasses, and pollinator updates.

Every year is an exciting opportunity to meet new people and make new connections while continuing to grow individually with educational services. All of this with new products and environmentally safe practices give us a very good reason to visit the Green Expo.

For more information on emerging tree diseases, pollinator updates, and other horticultural services please visit the links below.

By Chris Reifsteck, Chemical Applicator/Emerald Ash Borer Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care