Outdoor hanging fire pit

Fireplaces and Fire Pits: Extend the Season Outdoors

Moisture or Water in your Basement?

Having problems with moisture or water in your basement? Here are some useful tips:

1. Check the gutters:

 Overflowing gutters are the most common source of wet basements. 

2. Extend the downspouts further away from the foundation. 

We prefer to use 4” PVC pipe. It is smooth walled so it rarely clogs. PVC pipe can be painted.  We suggest a clean-out port on all downspout extensions.






3. Avoid corrugated black pipe – it easily clogs because the interior wall is not smooth like PVC.

There are many reports of mosquitoes laying their eggs in the pools of water trapped in the ridges. If you are using a Mosquito Control company, consider eliminating the pooling water first, and start with corrugated drain pipes.






4. Do not use window well covers

It is almost impossible for enough rain to enter a window well to cause damage. Window well covers actually hold in moisture inside the window well area, which is never a good thing. Flat and thin window well covers can also lead to a false sense of security. A thin layer of dust or leaves easily conceals these punji-like hazards especially when they are tucked behind bushes and plants. We have had a number of employees who have accidentally stepped on them and fallen through.




5. Check the grading (slope) of the soil around your foundation

It is important to remember that “soil” is the operative word here. We see many cases where the mulch or gravel around the building was sloped away from the foundation, only to discover that the soil beneath was sloped towards the foundation. Since mulch and gravel are much more porous than soil, water simply passes through them and will follow the slope of the soil beneath.

Most water intrusions are caused by improper surface grading as evidenced by cloudy, or sediment laden water. If the water is crystal clear, then the house may be sitting on a spring. An important point: always use a vapor barrier before adding soil to a brick or stone foundation. Mortar is porous, and the moisture in the soil can “wick” through mortar especially if the inside of the house is dry (think de-humidifiers.) While these machines remove humid air from the room, they are also creating a dryer room, which in turn “pulls” moisture from the surrounding soil. Grading the soil away from the foundation and extending downspouts a few feet away are the simplest ways to deal with water intrusions.

In summary, if you keep on top of these simple tips, you should be able to keep your basement dry for years to come. If , however, you are still having issues, you have two options:

  • Worst Option: There are “dry basement” companies who are selling a “de-watering” system. The theory here is to allow water to enter the foundation into a gravel and pipe-filled trench cut into the basement floor, and then eject the water with a sump pump. This is an expensive, and usually unnecessary process that relies on electricity, and hopefully a back-up battery that can outlast a power outage. A better solution is to keep the water out of the house in the first place rather than relying on pumps and batteries.
  • Best Option: Attack the problem from the outside by waterproofing. This is the most foolproof option and requires excavating the foundation, installing waterproofing compound, and a sump pump for good measure. While this too can be an expensive proposition, it is an investment which can save a lot of money and stress in the long run.

Contact Shorb Landscaping today for a consultation and to find out more about our waterproofing services.

Is Irrigation Necessary?

Do I need an irrigation system for my existing landscape?

Trees and shrubs have different watering needs than lawns and flowers:

– Established Trees, Shrubs and Perennial Flowers: Probably NOT Necessary

Established Flowers         

– Newly installed Trees, Shrubs & Perennial flowers: YES, Irrigation is Important

Most trees and shrubs that have been established for over 2 years will probably be just fine without an irrigation system. Trenching for the irrigation lines may damage the roots and should be avoided. Over the decades, we see lots of problems with overwatering the landscapes. This is “operator error” and blame should not lie with the irrigation system, but with the programing of the controller.  Every site is different, but in general, if you have an established landscape, we suggest that the trees and shrubs be irrigated 1 or 2 times a week.

Some plants, like hydrangeas, will “flag” when they are too hot, usually if they are exposed to afternoon sun. Adding water may help the plants look better, but we also run the risk of over-watering them. One option is to move them to a location that avoids afternoon sun.

Newly installed trees and shrubs need consistent supplemental watering for 2 years, and there is nothing more reliable than an automated irrigation system, which is why almost all of our newly installed landscapes incorporate some type of irrigation system. We typically program these systems to run “every other day” for 2 years, then we dial them back.

– Lawns : YES Irrigation is Important (regardless if they are established or new)


Established lawns (usually tall fescue) will go into a dormancy during the heat of the summer. This is normal, and the grass will green up when the weather cools down. An irrigation system, however, will keep the lawn green all summer. It will also help the lawn to crowd out weeds, be less susceptible to insect infestation, and more resilient should an outbreak occur. Over-seeding a non-irrigated lawn can be frustratingly ineffective. If you want the lawn to be thick and full, with fewer weeds and fewer pesticides used on it, an automatic irrigation system is the single most effective tool. 

New lawns require a lot of water that is frequently applied. We program our irrigation on new lawns to run every day for 2 weeks, then every other day for another 2 weeks. Once established, lawns should be fine with watering every third day.

What’s the best system?

We have found little difference between the major manufacturers of the heads and valves (Hunter & Rain Bird). They are both great brands that also make very good controllers, both of which can link to your wi-fi system and be controlled and re-programed with an app. All systems have a rain-sensor function which prevents it from running if the sensor detects rain, or is still wet from a recent rain. If wi-fi connectivity is an issue, try Weathermatic as it communicates directly with the internet and does NOT piggyback on your wi-fi

While this system costs a bit more to install, and has a subscription for the cell service, we have found it to be well worth the investment.

Contact Shorb today, to find out more about the best irrigation system for your property!

Workers using electric lawn care equipment

Transitioning to Electric Lawn Care Equipment

Gentle on the Environment. Easy on the Ears!

Has the sound of a noisy leaf blower, chain saw, or lawn mower woken you up in the morning? Have you gotten caught in the gas fumes behind gas powered lawn and other maintenance equipment? Gasoline-powered lawn maintenance and outdoor power equipment such as mowers, leaf blowers, edgers, trimmers, and chain saws are clearly pesty, unhealthy, and cause negative environmental and climate impacts. Fortunately, there are viable new battery-powered options that are improving quickly.

Thanks to advances in battery technology in recent years, Shorb is now making the transition to electric lawn and maintenance products! This new equipment provides a quieter, healthier, and cleaner alternative to gas-powered equipment. There are also now electric rototillers, power washers, and snow blowers. This equipment is cost competitive, the technology is comparable or better than gas powered equipment in terms of performance, and electric equipment offers added features like the ability to program and connect to the machines, and to charge them with renewable energy. Some electric maintenance equipment is even autonomous.

Interestingly, there’s a fairly wide coalition of people, organizations, and officials interested in electric lawn care and related maintenance products. Why? Because electric equipment is quieter, cleaner, safer and easier to use and maintain. Electric equipment also saves money at the town, institutional, and even individual homeowner level. These products return the additional cost of investment, and then provide a return, compared to gas equipment by eliminating the need to purchase fuel and to pay for the increased maintenance and parts associated with small combustion engines.

We’re investing in the future

All this new equipment is a major investment for us, but it’s well worth it in many ways. Top benefits of electric lawn and other maintenance products include:

Environmental/Climate Benefits

  • No greenhouse gas emissions on site, and lower energy consumption due to greater efficiency
  • No chemical spillage to pollute water or soil
  • No chemical cleaners, solvents and degreasers required for combustion engine maintenance
  • Reduced solid waste due to filters, spark plugs and other combustion engine parts that require repair and replacement

Immediate Community, Environmental and Health Benefits

  • Less noise
  • Lower air pollution
  • No chemical spillage

Cost Savings

  • Lower energy use/costs
  • Less maintenance

Safer and easier for the operator to use

  • Easier to use and maintain
  • Lighter weight
  • Less vibration
  • Lower noise levels
  • More efficient
  • Avoid fumes
  • Avoid working with gasoline and other toxic solvents

Clearly, lower emissions and greater energy efficiency provide environmental and climate benefits. What may not be as clear in the above list are the more direct pollution and health impacts to communities where these products are used, and especially to the people who operate the equipment.

A switch to electric equipment is clearly a step in a more sustainable direction, and it makes financial sense over time as well. However, it’s worth noting that the topic of more sustainable lawn care and maintenance is a much wider discussion, one in which we also hope to engage and help educate more widely. Options to reduce noise, energy, and chemical use aside from “going electric” also include converting to “people power” by using manual tools such as rakes, brooms, ground sweepers, hand pruners, hedge shears and reel mowers. Best maintenance practices also include mulching, composting, and organize fertilizing weed and pest control.

It’s clear that there are many reasons to stop using gas powered equipment, as choosing electric lawn and garden equipment is a better choice for the crew, the neighborhood, and the planet. It seems that what might currently seem like a more cutting edge, alternate choice will one day be mainstream.

Tired of noisy and pollutive lawn care services around your home? Contact Shorb today, and request an “All Electric” maintenance crew!

Plants to Help Deter Deer from your Spring Garden

Whether you are a gardener or not, spring is a season to love and appreciate. Temperatures warm up, days grow longer, and many of the local flowers and trees are in full bloom. However, we aren’t the only ones who appreciate the spring flora. Hungry deer can venture into our yards to feast on newly planted flowers. So, how do we keep them out?

There are several ways you can deter them. One way is to incorporate deer-resistant plants into your landscape design. There are plenty of options that work well in your garden and that will not attract deer.

Keep in mind, however, that these plants are not entirely deer-proof. If a deer is hungry enough, it will eat whatever is available. But, these plants can help reduce the chances of deer destroying your flower beds.

Deer-Resistant Plants and Flowers

Flowers that grow well in the DC area and detract deer include Black-eyed Susan, Bleeding Heart, Foam Flower, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Purple Coneflower.

Some of the best shrubs to plant that deer will generally stay away from are American elder, Arrowwood, Button Bush, Fetter Bush, Inkberry, and Mountain Laurel.

Local trees that the deer will avoid include American Holley, Bald Cypress, Black Gum, Flowering Dogwood, Honey Locust, Sassafras, and Sycamore.

And grasses that deer do not like are Bluestems, Indian grass, Sea Oats, and Switchgrass.

Other Ways to Deter Deer

There are also natural repellents that you can use to detract deer. Some of these include scented soaps, human hair, baby powder, and even hot sauce. Spray or sprinkle these around the yard and on plants to help keep the deer away.

Or, you can use motion-activated sprinklers. When the deer trigger the sprinklers, it will startle them and they will run off. If you use this option, just remember to turn them off during the colder, winter months.

At Shorb Landscaping, our team of landscapers and designers can help you design a deer-resistant landscape for your yard.  Give us a call at 301-897-3503.






Landscaping Spring Checklist

With spring around the corner, you may be looking forward to planting new greenery and flowers. However, it is important that your yard is in good shape before you begin. Why? Because it will improve the conditions for planting. Plus, you will enjoy it much more.  As we approach spring, here’s your checklist of things to consider over the coming month to get your yard in shape:

  1. Prune flowers, shrubs, and trees.

If your trees or shrubs experienced cold damage, they will need to be trimmed back to the live part of the stems.  Shrubs that bloom in the spring should not be pruned until after they flower. However, summer-blooming shrubs can be pruned in the spring.  And flowering perennials should be cut back to four or five inches in height.

  1. Clear and edge garden and flower beds.

If flower beds still contain leaves and debris from winter, they need to be cleaned out. Also, pull up any dead plants and remaining mulch from the previous year. Fertilize the garden and flower beds and edge them before planting new plants or laying fresh mulch.

  1. Grass and lawn maintenance.

Sometime in early spring, the sod’s pH level should be tested. Also, any damaged turf should be removed. The yard may need to be reseeded in some areas. Spring is also a good time to fertilize the yard and treat it for crabgrass. And while you may not have had to cut the grass much over the winter, it will soon grow rapidly (if it hasn’t already done so). So, it will need to be cut more frequently again.

  1. Clean and refresh hardscapes and outdoor living spaces.

This is also the time of year that people begin utilizing outdoor spaces more. Are yours in good shape? If they still look tired from winter, spruce them up. Clean dirt and debris from hardscapes. Wipe off tables, chairs, and outdoor kitchen surfaces. And set out fresh, bright seat cushions and pillows for a new spring look.

At Shorb Landscaping, we can help you get your yard back in shape for spring. Give us a call at 301-897-3503.

Man Watering Plants

When Should I Water My Plants?

Man Watering Plants

How do I know when it’s time to water my new plants?

A better question is “How do I know when the soil that my plants are growing in needs to be replenished with water”?

There are 2 important terms to understand in order to answer this question:

  1. Evaporation: Water loss* from the soil and surface
  2. Transpiration: Water loss* that passes through the plant tissues.

*we are referring to water loss that occurs from the conversion from liquid to vapor.

Together, they create a phenomena known as “Evapotranspiration” or “ET” for short. The optimum time to water the plants ( add water to the soil) is BEFORE the “ET” is high. The second best time to water is when the ET is high.

3 top factors that affect the Transpiration Rate:

  1. Temperature: Higher temperatures from sunlight causes the plants cells ( stomata) to open more, which allows water vapor to be released from the plant at a faster rate. The inverse is also true: colder temps cause stomata to close, restricting water loss.
  2. Humidity: If the air is dry, water loss through the plant is faster. If the air is humid, water loss is restricted.
  3. Wind / air movement: Wind displaces the water vapor from around the plant as the dryer air moves in.

If the moisture in the soil is saturated, “Field Capacity”, then no additional watering is needed, regardless of how hot and dry it is. When the soil moisture level drops below the “wilting point”, the plants will react by closing their stomata. This helps them to conserve moisture and reduce transpiration.

The trick of knowing when to water your plants is to check the existing moisture level of the soil. Clay soils tend to hold more water than sandy soils. Somewhere between Field Capacity and Wilting Point is the time to water.

The trick to know how much water to apply again depends on the water holding capacity of the soil. In other words, when the soil cannot absorb anymore water (Field Capacity), then it’s time to stop watering.

If the weather forecast calls for a low ET, then the plants can tolerate a lower soil moisture level. Conversely, a forecast of a high ET, it would be wise to bring the soil to Field Capacity, and check it again frequently.

To summarize, it’s all about the soil. Plants use the most water when it is:

  • Hot & Sunny
  • Dry / Low Humidity
  • Windy / Good Air Circulation

If one criteria is changed, then the plants will use less water. Make sure that the soils are saturated before and during these weather patterns.

If you have any questions about watering, or any other landscaping  need, feel free to contact Shorb Landscaping any time!

Watering newly installed plants

Watering Tips for Newly Installed Plants


Lauren here with Shorb Landscaping. Your newly installed plants will need to be properly watered. Please don’t let them dry out, and don’t drown them by overwatering. When your plants were harvested from the nursery, many of their roots were removed, and that’s why new trees are more susceptible to drying out than those that are well established.

Now, let’s review a few watering guidelines for your new plants. Remember, every situation is different, and some sites may require adjustments. Please call your Account Manager at Shorb Landscaping to discuss site-specific details. The goal is to add enough water to soak through the top 8” of the soil. This is where all the roots are. Remember, It is better to give your plants water BEFORE they show symptoms of drought stress.

  • Soak soil and roots, so that the top 8” of soil is moist. No need to spray foliage
  • For most trees, 5 gallons of water should be enough, and 5 gallons should be good for 2 or 3 shrubs.
  • For larger areas, it is ok to use a sprinkler. If you apply one inch of water, that should be enough to soak into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep
  • In the spring and fall, water your new plants twice a week
  • In the Summer, water them 3 times a week, allow a day or 2 to between waterings. This allows the roots to breath.
  • If you’re not sure if it is time to water again, simply check to see if the soil is too wet or too dry
  • Do not water the plants every day. Allow some time for the water to percolate through the soil, so that the roots can breathe.
  • Most plants will become established in 1 year. Trees may take 2 or 3 years. Afterwards, supplemental water is needed only during drought conditions.

We hope that you will enjoy your new plants and that they will grow and thrive in your landscape. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help!

Spring Pruning is All About Timing

While it is beneficial to prune your flowering shrubs and trees on a yearly basis, the time of year that you prune them can have a big impact on how well they flower. So, it may be tempting to cut them back as part of your spring maintenance routine, however, you should know which ones to prune early in the season, and which ones are better left alone until the end of the season.

Early Spring Pruning

The best time to prune plants is dependent upon when they set their flower buds. Trees and shrubs that are still dormant are okay to prune in early spring because do not set their flower buds until after they have begun their new spring growth.

Some popular flowering shrubs and plants you can prune in early spring include the Butterfly Bush, Honeysuckle, Hydrangeas, and Potentilla.

Flowering trees that you can prune in early spring are the Bradford Pear, Crepe Myrtle, Dogwood, and the Flowering Plum.

Late Spring Pruning

For some flowering trees, shrubs, and plants, it is best to wait until after they have flowered for the season. Once their flowers begin to fade, you can proceed with late spring pruning, but make sure to do it before they begin to set buds for the next season.

Shrubs that should be pruned towards the end of spring (or even early summer) include Azaleas, Beautybush, Lilacs, and Rhododendron.

Some flowering trees that benefit from late-season pruning include the Magnolia, Mountain Laurel, Serviceberry, and Hawthorne tree.

If you need help determining what to prune, or would like to leave it to a professional, contact your local landscaping company. At Shorb Landscaping, we can take care of all your pruning and gardening needs this spring. Give us a call at 301-897-3503.

Spring Pest Management – Grasshoppers

In the spring, you will find many beautiful blooming trees, shrubs and flowers. However, along with these come the bugs. Insects, such as grasshoppers, lay their eggs in late summer or early fall. And if they survive the winter, they will begin hatching in mid to late spring of the following year. One female grasshopper can lay up to 40 eggs. So, what does this mean for you?  Hundreds of hungry, tiny grasshopper nymphs in your yard that will eventually turn into adult-sized grasshoppers over the course of the next several months.

How Do Grasshoppers Impact Your Yard?

Grasshoppers will feed on just about anything, flowers, grass, fruits, vegetables, and even weeds. And they are transitory. So, they will move from location to location in search of foods that they like. This can be a source of frustration because you may get rid of one group of grasshoppers, then another comes along.

They make holes in plant tissues and leaves, and leave behind droppings on plants. Grasshoppers prefer to feed on flowers and garden vegetables, however, if the population is high, they will also feed on shrubs trees, and grass. Large trees generally recover from this defoliation; however, grasshoppers can have a detrimental impact on small trees and shrubs.

What Can Be Done About Them?

It is best to treat a grasshopper infestation in its early stages (when they are less than one-inch long) because they tend to stay concentrated in the areas where they hatched. During this time, it is possible to wipe out more of them. Some common hatching areas include ditches and tall, grassy or weedy areas along the perimeter of the landscape.

As summer nears and grasshoppers continue to grow, they will disperse. While it is still possible to treat them, the more mature the get, the more difficult treatment is. At Shorb Landscaping, our team of expert landscapers can help you manage grasshoppers and other unwanted lawn and garden pests. Give us a call at 301-897-3503.