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.

Outdoor hanging fire pit

Fireplaces and Fire Pits: Extend the Season Outdoors

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.

 

Harvesting Your Fall Vegetables

Fall is a wonderful time to reap the benefits of spring and summer planting.  Whether your vegetables are in container gardens, planting beds, or you incorporated edibles into flower beds, now is the time that many of these vegetables are ready to harvest.  Hopefully you have kept track of what you planted and when each is ready to be harvested.  If not, some simple examination of your plants is a good indicator of when they are ready for harvesting.

Early Fall Harvesting

October and early November are the prime time in the Washington D.C. area to harvest many root vegetables including beets, carrots, onions, radishes and sweet potatoes.  To check and see if they are ready, loosen the soil and gently pull one of them up.   Keep in mind that root vegetables are more tender when they are smaller.  As they grow large, they can become tougher and pungent.  Pick green beans just before they are full size to ensure that the seeds inside the pods are still tender.   To get the most out of your lettuce, cut the leaves while they are still tender and young and the same plant “come back” again typically three or four times.

Late Fall Harvesting

Fortunately, there are some vegetables that grow tastier after a few blasts of cooler weather. Heavy frosts can actually sweeten some crops such as Brussel sprouts.  Pick Brussel sprouts when they are approximately one inch in diameter.  The lower sprouts will be the first to mature followed by the upper ones a few days later.  Pick broccoli when the buds of the head appear firm and tight.  This is also the time to harvest greens such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard.

Local gardeners and landscapers can also provide tips and advice for fall and winter gardening. At Shorb Landscaping, our professional team is here to help with all your gardening questions.  You can call us at 301-897-3503.

Fast Growing Plants – Pros and Cons

There are times that you may want to fill your yard quickly with a landscape that looks like it has been there for years.  While adding fast growing plants can certainly provide instant gratification, they also bring on some challenges to consider.

The Upside to an Instant Garden

Whether you own a new-construction home that has minimal amounts of landscaping, or you are in an older home with a landscape in need of some TLC, fast growing plants and trees can add a much-needed dimension to your yard.  For homes in need of shade there are some trees that grow very rapidly such as Japanese Zelkova, Willow, and Birch.  Plants such as Hydrangeas, rambling roses, and gooseneck loosestrife also grow fast and spread quickly to fill empty spaces in a garden or landscape. So if you are in need of an instant full-grown look, these types of plants and trees can be of great benefit.  However, be aware of the compromises you may have to make in order to get this instant look.

The Downside to Fast Growing Plants

While your yard may look great quickly, be ready for ongoing maintenance and care for this type of yard.  Some fast growing trees such as the cottonwood has weak wood because of its rapid growth.  This can cause many broken limbs during a storm with heavy winds.  Other fast-growing trees can develop aggressive root structures that surface with age and cause damage to structures such as sidewalks.  Fast growing plants and bushes will require ongoing pruning.  This is because many of them self-seed and spread rapidly to potentially take over a landscape.

At Shorb Landscaping, our team of landscapers and designers can help you design a landscape that suits your style and preferences.  Call us at 301-897-3503.