The Landscape Design Process

Not all landscapes require a plan. Having a well thought-out design, however, will ensure a successful end result. Not only will it effectively translate the vision of the property owner to the install team, but the materials will be given a fighting chance to perform their duties effectively within the site parameters. This may sound a little pretentious and dry. All it’s really saying is: ‘garbage in- garbage out”, “measure twice- cut once” – pick your cliché. At Barrett Lawn Care, we utilize a tried and true method to achieve a quality product while maintaining a very personalized experience.

It starts with a meeting – a very important meeting. This is where we get to know one another and begin to forge the details of our project. This may be your dream, but for it to work, we have to take ownership along with you. We will discuss your needs and wants as we stroll around the property. What materials (i.e. plants, stone, mulch color) do you like or hate? What is your budget range? Is this project functional or purely aesthetic?

Landscape1

If it is determined that, yes, you really do want to move forward, it will be time for the designer to start the site analysis. Everything having to do with the design specifics will be documented. We will analyze what kind of light and soil conditions are present on your property. The placement and measurement of structures, utilities and other landmarks need to be recorded. This goes hand-in-hand with photos to be used as reference while in the design studio. All site-lines need to be noted along with soil grades and drainage issues. Special observance of the surroundings should be addressed as well. The style and color of structures both on the site and on neighboring properties, along with material, are important things to take into account.

Landscape2

After packing the equipment back into the truck, I will take the documented data, notes, and photos back to the design studio. For me, having an accurate base map is critical. If everything sits on the page as it does in reality, then scale of soft and hardscapes are not an issue. Things will make sense when physically standing in the final product. The material count will be accurate as well, making life much easier for everyone!

Once the base map is completed, an initial concept plan can be designed based upon the discussion and observations taken at the meeting. This is where, as a designer, I can do what I truly love doing. I create. It really is like putting a puzzle together. There are always parameters to work within. I comb over pictures, notes, plant ideas, etc. I try to come up with the most logical, yet creative solution to this multifaceted problem. Keep in mind, we have four seasons in Minnesota. Within those seasons we have different blooming and dormant times based upon the plant type. There are many things to consider even above and beyond the basics!

Landscape3

A second meeting is scheduled to look at and digest the first concept. An initial bid is usually put together as a good reference tool to go along with the plan. This is a meeting to get ourselves on the same page. It is extremely rare for a property owner to take one look at the design and say, “That’s it!” We don’t expect that. Revisions are expected, even if you were to decide to get on the calendar and sign that day.

There may be more discussion of materials in this conceptual meeting. Along with the design, a catalog of plant pictures will be provided with the plant list for scrutiny. It is from this dialogue that I, as a designer, will walk away confident about what final revisions will be needed.

Landscape4

The final plan will be finished implementing the changes discussed. All alterations will be reflected in the revised bid and a follow-up meeting will be scheduled. It is from here that the final decision will be made. After signing on and getting a spot on the calendar, any further revisions may be approved via email.

During installation the design process may continue. As a designer, it is my job to be on-hand (or not too far away) during the implementation of the project. As an observer, it is my job to be able to aide in any issues that may arise. For instance, on a project last summer, a large river birch tree had to be removed in the middle of installation because it had finally succumbed to disease and the homeowner wanted it gone. He wanted it replaced with two crabs to match the one situated in the other side of the yard. We created a berm with outcrop boulders for height and interest, and a tree on either end. The homeowner is an avid gardener and wanted to populate the bed with plants of his choosing at a later date. All this was done on-the-fly without having to do a formal revision on paper.

Landscape5

At Barrett Lawn Care, we try to take every project and make it a personal experience. If a design doesn’t “feel right”—I, as a designer, cannot in good conscience, present it to the home or property owner. As a client, you should not expect any less.

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Why do we Fertilize?

Why do people invest their time, energy, and money into their lawn? The answer is simple. A well-maintained landscape usually serves the owner in his or her own way, whether it is social functions, kids play area, relaxation, or, most important of all, it is visually stimulating to anyone that looks at it. Think about it: you’re walking down the sidewalk noticing a person’s lawn that is patchy, has weeds, and is fairly unsightly. As you move on to the next lawn, the turf is thick with a vibrant green color, and when you step on it it’s soft. Most likely a simple fertilizer plan is the difference between these two lawns.

Beautiful grass

Fertilizer is used to boost nutrients in the soil that are lower than what grass needs to thrive. There are 16 nutrients that turf uses. Most of these are found naturally in the soil and at the necessary level for the turf to grow. Most of what we add through fertilizer is nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, the state of Minnesota does not allow any application of phosphorus to commercial or residential properties.

In the spring, the first application typically has higher amounts of nitrogen to get that early “green up”. During the fall application, a higher amount of potassium is added to the soil for better root development in preparation for the winter. All the fertilizers Barrett Lawn Care uses have small amounts of micronutrients as well. We offer 2-4 applications a year depending on your personalized needs, plus a wide range of other services from our fertilizer department.

Grass

There are many factors that play into why your turf may not be healthy including drainage, sunlight, traffic, etc. An established fertilizer program can start to alleviate some of these problems, but is not a cure all. The best bet for your lawn becoming as healthy as it can be is to contact a professional and get an honest opinion on what is happening in your yard.

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

Tree Diversity and Diseases

Tree Diversity and Diseases
Presented by, Dr. John Ball, SDSU

We sure have some issues at hand with our trees getting diseased, don’t we? How did we get to this point, and where do we go from here?

If we think about this a bit, in simplistic terms, it quickly starts to makes sense, and perhaps illustrates the error of our ways, or lack of creativity.

Disease affects trees at the genus level, not the species. This quickly multiplies the volume of trees that can rapidly be affected. We know that all things native to a region play well together, for the most part. The trees in this case that are native to the Upper Midwest have resistance to the pests that coexist with them. This theory can be applied across the globe.

So how does this happen to our trees? Since we know that pests and diseases affect trees at the genus level, and for the most part things that are native to a region can coexist successfully, we can narrow down the options. The pest that is causing the problem is likely not native to the region where the issue occurs.

If we accept this theory we can look at the globe and reasonably deduce where other species of any genus could live. This other region of course has its own pests and diseases, like we have ours. What happens if and when those pests are introduced to our environment? Those pests integrate with a different species of the same genus that they were coexisting with in their native region, and we have an outbreak.

We cannot prevent this from happening in our global economy, but there are things we can do to reduce the quantity of trees that could be susceptible to diseases by being more diverse in our new plantings. The American Elm became diseased and most died. We opted to replace those trees, for the most part, with Ash. Now we have an abundance of mature Ash trees and Emerald Ash Borer was discovered. The Ash population is falling as the Elm before it. What genus are we mass planting now? How about the Maple? There has already been abundant Maple in use, and since EAB it has ramped up even more. I think we can agree on what is going to happen when a pest or disease is introduced here that affects Maples.

Here is an approximate breakdown of what we’re planting in Zones 4-5: We often use 65 species of trees that are derived from 30 different genera comprised of only 12 families.

In 1990, Frank Santamour, Jr. published a document speaking of his idea for new plantings. This was the 10-20-30 rule. He believed we could slow down the spread of disease dramatically if we planted no more than 10% of any species, 20% of any genus, and 30% of any family. This of course is not a permanent solution, but surely it can’t hurt to consider it as an option.

There are a handful of candidates native to The Upper Midwest that, per this theory, have some high odds of success. The Katsura, Hardy Rubber, and Osage Orange trees are all monotypic which greatly reduces odds of disease. The Blue and Manchurian Ash surprisingly are showing signs of some EAB resistance. The Kentucky Coffee, Cork, and Hoptree are others that should have a high rate of success long-term.

Some people are of the thought that we can also only plant male trees to help with disease spread. I suppose this can work to a point, but nature is a fickle beast. The male Gingko, for example, has been known to randomly become a female for a year and then return to its male form.

Unfortunately, there’s likely never to be a solution to pests and diseases affecting our tree population, but I feel this is some “food for thought,” and worst case we create a more diverse Landscape.

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Low Mow Grass

Is it low mow grass, no mow grass or low input turf?

You can pick which term to use, but they all mean the same thing. For sake of argument let’s call it low mow grass. What is it? Is it grass that you have to mow really low or mow differently from regular grass? No, low mow grass has to do with the maintenance of the grass. Low mow means it only grows to a certain height and refers to the number of times you have to mow it (not many!).

The push for this type of grass is increasing and there are several reasons why. Environmental reasons are the biggest. Your regular lawn needs to be cut at least one time per week and most people cut their lawn with a gas powered mower, which puts out gas emissions. You must water your lawn regularly, and if you want it nice and healthy you need to fertilize regularly. All of these items have an effect on the environment, and usually not in a positive way.

Low mow grass, on the other hand, is much easier on the environment. You will still have to mow your lawn, but maybe only a couple of times per year, thus reducing emission from your mower. Low mow grass is also very drought tolerant, so your watering needs basically go to zero. Your low mow lawn also requires no fertilizer throughout the season.

So if low mow grass has so many benefits why aren’t more people switching to this for their lawns? Simple: it doesn’t look like regular Kentucky bluegrass. If you want golf course looking grass, low mow grass will not be an option for you. I know that some cities in the metro also require you to get a permit to install low mow grass because it doesn’t look like regular turf.

This is an example of low mow turf.
Low mow grass 2
This picture is of regular Kentucky blue grass from one of our properties.

 

You can also find more information from the University of Minnesota extension.

~Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Irrigation Start-Up

It’s springtime again…and that means it’s time to schedule Barrett Lawn Care to come and start up your irrigation system. With spring on the horizon you want to make sure your sprinkler system is in top shape. Having a professional come and start-up your system can accomplish this, as well as save you money and time.

Irrigation

During this start-up, we will go over your entire system, answer any questions you may have, and make sure everything is in working order and that your system is not wasting water. We will adjust all your sprinkler heads, check for leaks, check water coverage, and check for any other problems that may have occurred over the winter. After that we will adjust your controller to keep your grass healthy without over watering.

Once we are finished, your system will be fully operational and ready to start watering your lawn. You will not have to worry about adjusting the controller, the heads, or any other component of your system. You can sit back and watch your lawn become green and healthy again!

Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

2015 Green Expo

During the second week of January the Green Expo takes place at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I enjoy this experience every year with the variety of seminars, new products, and new people you get to meet. This year’s hot topics included maximizing granular fertilizers, fungicide chemistry, and pollinators.

During the summer a pesticide applicator can expect 3-4 rounds of fertilizer to be applied and 2 rounds of broadleaf herbicide sprayed. Through research and technology there are fertilizers now available that can last up to 12 weeks versus the typical 3-6. This essentially comes down to only 2 applications a year of fertilizer applied. With these advances, applicators could hypothetically double their customer base without spending any more time at work.

The chemistry of fungicides has been evolving for many years and ties directly into advances in fertilizer. With a growing public concern for safety with pesticide use, many steps have been taken to ensure a safe environment. Signal words such as “Poison, Danger, Warning, and Caution” can be found on any label that contains chemicals that are hazardous to humans or the environment. With most chemicals bought now, only “Warning” or “Caution” are found within the pesticide spectrum. These two signal words indicate the lowest form of toxicity.

The last subject covered heavily at The Expo was pollinators, mainly honey bees. There is definitely a growing concern in the public eye with the decline of these insects. This year all pesticide chemicals including fertilizer bags will have a red diamond with a bee in the middle of it if the chemical is hazardous to bees. Since bees are such a large contribution to our food source, I am happy to see us (the public) starting to move in the right direction and thinking about the best course of action to restore their population while continuing to do our job.

Bee warning label

Overall, the Green Expo was very informative with a lot of new equipment to see and a lot of excellent speakers to learn from. Hopefully next year is just as good.
~Chris Reifsteck, Application Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care

Early Snow in 2014 Prevents Fall Clean-Ups from Being Completed

It is late October 2014 and we are making good progress on our fall clean-ups for the year – not thinking about anything other than finishing them. I come home from work and see that there is snow in the forecast about a week and a half away. My first reaction is that this cannot be right and it’s just the weather forecasters trying to make a story! As the days go on and we get closer and closer to finishing our clean-ups, SNOW is an actuality. I look at the remaining properties that need a clean-up and there is no way we are going to finish. My heart sinks and then goes into panic mode. I try and rationalize why this is happening. We worked every day we could, including a couple of weekends, and didn’t take any unnecessary extra time on any property….how is this happening? I called several of our vendors to see if other companies also did not finish. They initially laughed at me and said, “Of course! There are a ton of companies that did not finish this year!”

The snowfall wasn’t much, but it was enough to stop fall clean-ups. The other factor that was not in our favor was the temperature. After the snow fell, the temperature was not going to go above freezing for several weeks. This is when we realized that clean-ups were not going to be finished for the first time in 16 years at Barrett Lawn Care. I have been working here for six years, and I remember the day I started we were just finishing clean-ups, and it was past Thanksgiving! What is my point of all this rambling? …how are our customers going to react when they see several inches of snow on the ground and their clean-ups have not been completed?

It is all about customer service. I will tell you that we had about a half and half mixture on how our customers reacted to the situation. It ranged from “What kind of company are you?” to “Well, you will have to do the fall clean-up during the spring clean-up then.” It is all about how you handle the situation. Laura, our Operations Manager, handled it perfectly. We came up with a plan on how to discuss this situation with each property and then she executed the plan. It’s about forming a relationship with your contact on the property. Do you remember all of the things that happened at that property during the past year, both good and bad? If you don’t, I guarantee they do. How did you handle that situation? Were you professional or did you give them the cold shoulder and poor customer service?

What I am getting at is this: how you handle your customer service all year is going to dictate what may happen during a situation like this. The people that were upset with us initially did calm down and see the big picture after we spoke with them and provided good customer service. They even requested a proposal for summer work during many of these conversations. Everyone is always watching what you do on a daily basis. My advice is to always be professional and provide good customer service throughout the year, so that if a situation as dramatic as this ever happens again, you are more prepared and can communicate more effectively.
~Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness

Emerald Ash Borer has been an invasive insect problem for several years now in Minnesota. We are at risk of losing over 900 million Ash trees in Minnesota. Across the nation, federal and state agencies have made this problem a priority making this insect the most destructive forest pest in United States history. An estimated billion dollars will be spent trying to eradicate this pest.

Emerald Ash Borer is a small wood-boring beetle that hitchhiked its way here through infected wood. This pest was first discovered in Michigan in 2002; by 2009 the beetle was confirmed in Minnesota. The larvae and adults both impact the trees’ health. The larvae tunnel through the tree behind the bark feeding on the sap of the tree. When the larvae molt into the adult stage, the insect emerges through the bark, creating a small D-shaped hole about an 1/8 of an inch wide. Adults are shiny green and about the length of a penny. The adults then move to a different tree (up to 100 miles away) and continue to lay eggs and perpetuate the cycle.

A close-up of an adult Emerald Ash Borer.
A close-up of an adult Emerald Ash Borer.

Symptoms of Emerald Ash Borer usually start at the top of the tree with thinning of the canopy. The canopy will continue to thin and drop all the way down the branches until the tree is dead. Woodpecker damage, bark splitting, and S-shaped patterns under the bark are other symptoms that are visible.
Homeowners have been encouraged to participate in the eradication of this pest. Preventative measures are preferred to curative measures since by the time symptoms are showing it’s usually too late for your Ash tree.

EAB tree damage
The underlying damage done by these invasive insects.

 

EAB-Damage_000
Visible holes in a tree affected by EABs.

 

At Barrett Lawn Care we are incorporating the treatment of EAB into our pesticide program. We feel that this service could be valuable to our customers in preserving their established trees at home or at their place of business. Not only are mature trees not replaceable, the removal cost of infected trees is much higher than the EAB treatment. We use an insecticide called TREE-age® manufactured by Arbor-jet. This liquid formula is injected into the live tissue of the tree (right beneath the bark) during the spring. When spring arrives this is the most active time of year for the tree pulling up water and nutrients for new growth. TREE-age® treats Emerald Ash Borer but also treats a wide range of other insects including Tent Caterpillar, Sawfly, Pine Beetle, other wood borers, and leaf miners. The insecticide is also effective for 2 years.


Many people are concerned with safety especially for their children and pets. TREE-age® is extremely safe considering that the liquid is injected into the tree so there is no exposed liquid, odor, or runoff to worry about. Ash trees also soak up the liquid very fast, minimizing the risk of any leaking out.
More information on the Emerald Ash Borer can be found at emeraldashborer.info, the University of Minnesota, or Arbor-jet.

~ Chris Reifsteck, Application Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care

Meet the Barrett Lawn Care Team

Our team is comprised of many key roles; from the field to the office, each person on our teams plays a huge part in delivering great service and keeping our properties looking beautiful!
Most commonly our customers will work with one or more of our leadership team, and many of the field staff on a regular basis.

                                                Derek Tweten, Landscape Manger

Derek - for Laura blog
Derek has knowledge in all areas of landscape installation with extensive experience on hardscape projects.

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager

Mike - for Laura blog
Mike leads our lawn division and delivers superior customer service. As a division, they strive for green grass and straight mowing lines, which creates beautiful visual appearance at the properties we service.

 

 

 

 

Chris Reifsteck, Application Specialist

Chris
Chris has a Horticulture Science bachelor degree and holds commercial pesticide applicator license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He has expertise in turf management and diagnosis.

 

 

 

 

Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer

Chad
Chad works with our customers to design their dream backyard. Chad is a MNLA certified professional and enjoys continually learning.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician

Bob
Bob works with both our commercial and residential customers to ensure their irrigation systems are functioning correctly. He is responsible for trouble shooting irrigation systems and finding and correcting problems to guarantee the grass and plants have adequate water.

 

 

 

Eric Barrett, Landscape Sales

Eric
At one point or another in Barrett Lawn Care’s history Eric has worn all hats on our team. Eric’s current role is working with our customers prior to the landscape installation to determine scope of their project.

 

 

 

 

 

To meet with one of our team to discuss your lawn care needs, please contact us!

Seasonal Care Plan

Barrett Lawn Care is pleased to announce that we are going to start offering a Seasonal Care Plan for our residential irrigation customers! What will the plan do for you? It will include a spring start up, mid-season check, and a fall winterization. The program will also offer discounts for any repairs that may need to be made during these visits.

Each visit will provide different services.

Spring Start-Up:
During the spring start-up we will get your water turned on, run through the system, make any necessary repairs, and set-up your controller for the upcoming season.

Mid-Season Check:
The mid-season check will be basically the same service with the advantage taking a look at how your system has been running based on the health of your grass. This will allow us to make any adjustments that we need to and make notes for next year to save you water and time.

Fall Winterization:
In the fall Barrett Lawn Care will come out to blow the water out of your lines and make sure that your system is ready for spring!

Sprinklers

One payment for three great services that will get your sprinkler system running great, save water, save money, and save you some time!

~Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care