Landscape Tool Organization and Storage

Posted by Rachael Monico on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 @ 11:45 AM

After your fall clean-up is complete for the year, it is time to winterize your tools so that they are sharp, sanitized, and easy to find come spring.


  1. Clean all soil and debris off tools.
  2. Sanitize tools, especially those that have been used on diseased plant material.
  3. Sharpen blades of hoes, pruners, spades, loppers, and saws.
  4. Make any necessary repairs.
  5. Organize tools and equipment so that it is easily accessible for spring.

Remove soil or vegetation from all tools using a wire brush, scraper or a strong stream of water. Wire brushes marketed to clean grills are handy because they usually include a scraper. Once everything has been cleaned and dried, lubricate all tool pivot points and springs. Finally, spray all bare metal parts and cutting edges with penetrating oil such as WD-40 to prevent rust.

When sanitizing garden tools, the usual ratio is a 10 percent solution or 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Using a 1 cup measuring cup, this would be 1 cup bleach to 9 cups water. Use a heavy solution of 3 parts bleach and 2 parts water to disinfect tools used on plants that are known to be diseased. Sanitizing once per year for tools such as shovel and hoes is sufficient, but tools such as pruners and loppers should be sanitized after each use. This process with help prevent the spread of fungus, disease, insects, and insect eggs.

Check all tools thoroughly for loose screws or nuts and tighten them accordingly. Replace or repair broken handles and other bent or broken parts. Wheelbarrows, carts and wagons may also need some attention before winter. Clean them thoroughly and touch up paint chips with spray paint to prevent exposed steel from rusting.

With your array of garden tools and supplies, the key to great garage storage and organization is getting things off the floor and onto the wall. A pegboard attached to a wall is a great place to store garden tools when not in use. Hardware stores and home improvement centers have a variety of hooks and wall brackets for tools of all shapes and sizes. Don’t forget the hoses and other watering aids. Before storing hoses, nozzles and other sprinkler attachments away for the winter, drain all the water from them and store in a dry location. Hose supports or reels prevent sagging and kinking. Regardless of your preferred storage method, having tools ready to go in the spring will make those early season chores that much easier.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Rachael and Tobias

Topics: CMs A Cut Above, General, Best Practices, gardening, do-it-yourself, landscape, bed maintenance, winterization

Put Your Landscape Beds to Bed

Posted by Rachael Monico on Tue, Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:44 AM

The telltale signs are here. First comes football season. Then the weather is absurdly amazing (we can dream that every autumn always starts out beautiful). Leaves start to fall. It is nearly time to give our landscape beds some attention.


After several hard frosts:

-Cut perennials back to soil level and remove debris.

-Consider which plants performed well and which did not. Make a note of any changes to be made it the spring.

-Remove debris from any annual plantings in the landscape.

-If we have a fall with limited rainfall, give the landscape a deep soak to prevent stress on the plants as they go into winter.

-Add a one inch layer of mulch to help conserve soil moisture and protect the root systems, especially for newly planted landscapes.

Removing debris such as leaves and other dead plant material from the landscape will prevent the spread of certain fungi that can overwinter on dead plant material and then continue to spread and infect new leaf tissue during the following spring. Taking the extra step to remove debris will also eliminate potential nesting areas created by unwanted critters.

You may want to consider leaving ornamental grass, coneflower, and black-eyed susan in the landscape over the winter months. Not only do they add structure and interest to the winter landscape, but they are also a food source for some native birds. If you decide to wait until spring to cut these perennials back, this should be done no later than mid- May to allow for the new growth to emerge.

Enjoy the Fall!

Rachael and Tobias

Topics: CMs A Cut Above, General, Best Practices, gardening, do-it-yourself, bed maintenance, winterization

Planting a Garden for Cut-Flowers

Posted by Rachael Monico on Fri, Jul 01, 2011 @ 11:41 AM

No centerpiece is as lovely as a vase of freshly cut flowers.  Sure, you can pick up a bunch at most grocery stores, but who knows how long they've been sitting in that tub of water.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to walk into your own garden and cut a beautiful bouquet?  Here's how...


Site Selection: Choose a site with well-drained soil, plenty of sun and easy access to water. Prepare the soil by clearing the garden area of grass and weeds. Work organic matter, such as compost, into the soil.

Plant Selection: Decide on a color palette. It is best to include plants with different textures and of different sizes. Don’t forget the greens! Add foliage plants for color and texture.

cut flowersHarvesting the Flowers: Harvest flowers in the morning if possible. Cool air is better than hot afternoon sun for preserving fresh flowers. Use sharp scissors or cutting shears. If possible, choose flower stalks with a few buds that have not yet opened to prolong the life of your arrangement. Once you harvest your flowers, it is a good idea to give each stem a fresh cut just before placing them in the vase. It is best to make the fresh cut under running water to prevent air bubbles from getting into the vascular system of the stem and blocking water uptake. Cutting the stems at an angle will help them absorb more water. Remove any foliage that will be below the water line and place in warm water.

Caring for your Arrangement: The arrangement should be placed in a cool location, away from heat sources such as direct sunlight from a window, an oven, a heat vent, etc. The cooler the temperatures, the longer your bouquet will stay fresh. Using a floral preservative solution similar to the packets that come with flower arrangements can also help prolong the life of your arrangement. It is important to keep the water free from any leaves or plant material. Decaying plant material will clog the vascular system of the flower stems and cause them to wilt very quickly. Keep an eye on the water level of the vase. Fresh cut flowers can take up water at a surprisingly fast rate. Refill the vase before it runs out of water.

Common Cut-Flower Plants:                           cut flowers2                               Primary flowers: sunflowers, gerbera daisies, spider mums, roses, hydrangea, lilies.                                                                    Accent flowers: alstromeria, delphinium, mini carnations, larkspur, asters, gladiolus,goldenrod.                                                               Greenery: Lamb’s Ear, lavender, Bells of Ireland, ornamental grass.

Enjoy your cut flowers!

Rachael and Tobias

Topics: CMs A Cut Above, Best Practices, gardening, do-it-yourself, landscape, bed maintenance

A Pinch to Grow an Inch

Posted by Rachael Monico on Thu, Jun 02, 2011 @ 11:39 AM

describe the imageOuch! Just like when you are pinched, pinching plant material is done by using your thumb and forefinger. In this case, it doesn’t hurt. A clean, sharp pair of hand pruners will also work. You can either pinch off just the new leaves or you can take off several inches. Both will encourage branching. Most herbs are grown for their foliage. By increasing branching you will increase leaf production, making the plant more productive for you.


By pinching off the flowers on a young annual, you will encourage the plant to develop a better root system. This will lead to a healthier plant that is more drought tolerant and disease and insect resistant. Pinching of annuals is usually done very early in the season by growers when the plants are still growing in the greenhouses. However, if you are growing annuals from seed, you may want to pinch off the first several flower buds.

Pinching back perennials such as mums and asters will increase branching and flower production, making it a more compact, attractive plant. Asters and mums can both be pinched back several times before July 4th, or they can simply be cut in half around early June pinch afterand will still flower in the fall. Beebalm is another perennial that will benefit from pinching. It can be cut back by one half in early to mid- May to encourage a more compact, full shape. This will delay the bloom period, but only by a week or two. ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum is another perennial that will appreciate some pinching. This plant tends to flop over quite readily before its flowers open. By pinching back before July 4th, you will help the plant to stay standing throughout the season.

Other plants that benefit from pinching: Herbs such as basil and rosemary will increase branching and leaf production after pinching. Some perennials that will benefit from pinching include chrysanthemum, tall garden phlox, yarrow, and Russian sage.

Not all plants will appreciate pinching. Leave columbine, astilbe, delphinium, daylily, coral bell, hosta, iris, foxglove and dianthus to their own devices and they will be fine.

Have a great day in the garden and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Rachael and Tobias

Topics: CMs A Cut Above, Best Practices, do-it-yourself, bed maintenance

Dividing Ornamental Grasses

Posted by Rachael Monico on Fri, May 06, 2011 @ 11:37 AM

After several years, some ornamental grasses have a tendency to thin or die out in the middle or outgrow their space. When this begins to happen, it is best to split the grass into two or more clumps. The best time of the year to split grasses is early spring as growing conditions such as soil temperature, sunlight and precipitation are optimal for successful transplantation and regrowth.

Before you begin, think ahead to cleanup and transplant. Tie off the plant every eight to ten inches so the debris is easily gathered for disposal. Prepare the transplant sites by digging holes and adding appropriate soil amenities such as compost and fertilizer. Trim the grass to a height of four to five inches. Dig around the entire plant with a shovel and pry it out of the ground. Once you have the plant out of the ground, lay it on its side. Next, determine the number of clumps you need or want. Using a sharp shovel or hand saw, divide the plant into the desired amount of clumps. Replant one clump back in the original spot and plant the other clumps in the prepared locations, making sure the crown of the plants are at or slightly above ground level. Water in thoroughly and cover with about three inches of mulch.

If splitting produces more grass clumps than you need, share the plant with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. To maintain plant viability, the roots should be covered with soil and kept moist until replanted.

If you’re looking for another spring project, check out our May newsletter’s DIY section on planting spring bulbs. A small investment in time and bulbs now will yield beautiful benefits this summer.

Happy planting!

Rachael and Tobias

Topics: CMs A Cut Above, Best Practices, gardening, do-it-yourself, bed maintenance, ornamental grasses

The Importance of Mulching

Posted by Matt McMaster on Mon, Feb 07, 2011 @ 11:32 AM

What is mulch?

Mulch in itself is material that is spread out over and around the roots of what you have planted. Two types of mulch are organic and inorganic mulch. Organic mulch includes grassMulch1 clippings, leaves, bark mulch, newspaper and straw like pine straw. Inorganic mulch includes various types of rocks, stones and gravel. The advantage to using organic mulch is that overtime it breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil, thus making the soil richer. However, because it eventually decomposes, organic mulch will need to be replaced from time to time. 

Why Use mulch?


Mulching is one of the most important ways to protect and maintain healthy landscaped plants, shrubs and flowers. Some

- it prevents weeds from coming through
- organic mulches add to the nutrient base of the soil making the soil richer
- helps to hold water and moisture in your plants and gardens, therefore you don’t have to water as much
- helps the roots maintain an even temperature
- protects your soil from erosion
- adds to the aesthetic appeal of your landscape by making it look more finished

Applying Mulch


When applying mulch you want to put a layer of it 2-4 inches as close to the roots as possible. Remember to replace the mulch as needed if using organic materials. Make sure you don’t use too much as too much of it will be a bad thing possible causing the roots to suffocate. You also want to make sure you keep any mulch away from tree trunks. Organic mulches are very beneficial but they can wind up being a habitat for insects. Most of these insects will not harm your plants but they may become a nuisance for you. Keep this in mind when using organic mulch close to your house. Pavement ants are known to love bark mulch. If put too close to your house you may have unwanted guests. Some people like to spread out a layer of plastic underneath before they apply mulch. This isn’t a good idea because it dries out the soil underneath defeating the purpose of maintaining proper moisture for the root system. The best time to apply mulch is in late Spring once the ground starts to warm up.

As a final mention on using mulch I can’t emphasize enough how it can improve the aesthetics of your landscape. Whether you use colored bark mulch or beautiful colored rocks, it will really make your yard pop. It is well known that beautifully landscaped yards add to the value of your home.

Article from www.LandscapingIdeasOnline.com

Topics: landscape, bed maintenance, mulch

Divide and Conquer - 5 Easy steps to dividing and transplanting peonies

Posted by Rachael Monico on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 @ 10:52 AM

September - the harbinger of fall. The chores start to add up while the days get shorter and cooler.

Dividing Peonies 001 It is time to start cleaning out landscapes and cutting back fading summer plants. It is also the time to give your peonies some attention. Labor Day is the signal that it is time to cut back peonies for the year. Did you know the peony is one of the few perennials that actually prefer to be transplanted and divided in the fall? Not to be confused with daylilies and hostas that perform better when transplanted in the spring, transplanting peonies just after Labor Day is usually the ideal time to complete this task.

There are several reasons for dividing and transplanting peonies. Peonies prefer a good amount of sun, but can tolerate some shade. If the peony’s location is heavily shaded by a tree or large shrub, the flowering can be reduced. Transplanting the peony to a spot with more sunlight will increase flowering. Another reason to transplant and divide peonies is overcrowding. Sometimes older, more established peonies can become overcrowded and as a result will produce fewer flowers. Dividing the peony will refresh and invigorate the plant.

After the stems have been cut to near ground level, begin digging around the plant. It is best to dig Dividing Peonies 006straight down, about 6 inches from the plant using a sharp spade or shovel. If you are transplanting the entire plant, make a few passes around it, digging deeper with each pass (to about 14 inches) and at more of an angle. If you are dividing the plant, determine how much of the plant is to be removed and dig through the plant, segmenting the portion to be divided.

Dividing Peonies 007Now you are ready to begin prying the plant upward. It is normal hearthe snapping of the roots at this point. After all roots have been cut or snapped off, the plant can be lifted out of the hole with a shovel and carefully turned over so that it rests on its stems

Carefully loosen and remove as much soil as possible by either rinsing with water or using a sharp Dividing Peonies 011stick or screwdriver. If you have an assistant like Tobias, the paws come in handy for this step! Once soil has been removed, the plant can be cut and divided into sections with at least 5 “eyes” each. The eyes are the small pink nodes along the roots that are the stem buds for the next season’s growth.

Each section is now ready to be planted. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the root mass to beDividing Peonies 019 planted. (This is another task that Tobias is quite helpful with!) At the end of this step, the eyes should be planted at a depth of just 1-2 inches below soil level. If they are planted too deep they will fail to bloom for a few years. Peonies prefer well drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Adding peat moss or compost to the soil that is removed during this step is a good idea, but is not required. Place the root mass in the hole and begin to backfill the soil. Once the eyes are covered with soil, add a 1-2 inch layer of mulch to protect the plant from extreme freezing and thawing through the winter. In the spring the mulch can be removed after the threat of a hard freeze has passed.Dividing Peonies 023



Even if the peony is planted at the correct depth, poor flowering should be expected for the first year. After two seasons the plant should be back to full flowering potential.

Love peonies, but disappointed in the short bloom period? Tobias suggests planting several different varieties of peonies. Selecting early and late season peonies can lengthen the bloom period to about 6 weeks!

Now that your peonies have been put to bed for the season, it is time to start thinking about bulb planting. Be sure to check back in October for more on planting tulips and other spring-blooming bulbs. Tobias can't wait to dig in the dirt!


Happy Gardening!


Topics: gardening, do-it-yourself, landscape, bed maintenance, peonies

Ask the Arborist - Pruning an Unruly Lilac

Posted by Rachael Monico on Fri, May 28, 2010 @ 10:49 AM

Rachael's been so busy lately that I thought I'd give her a little break this month and tell you a little bit about pruning lilacs. Time is of the essence with these beauties. The health and vigor of a lilac depends on regular maintenance of the shrub. Regular pruning an care encourage a good overall shape and prolific blooms. If your lilac has been neglected for many years, the process of regaining control will take a few seasons to complete, but is certainly do-able.

It is important to prune the lilac as the blooms begin to fade. The next season's buds are set almost immediately after blooming. By pruning as the current season's blooms are fading, you can avoid pruning off next season's flowers.

Essential tools for lilac pruning are loppers and hand pruners. Before making your first cut, make sure all blades are sharp and clean to avoid spreading disease. Remember to always wear your safety glasses when pruning. It is easy to get poked in the eye when examining and pruning shrubs.

Start by removing 1/3 of the oldest, largest canes by pruning them all the way to the ground. You may not need to remove 1/3 of the plant every year. the goal is to have 8-12 stems of various ages, but all stems should be about 1"- 2" in diameter. Remove all pencil-thin, weak stems.

Remove any branches that are rubbing against each other or are rubbing against a fence or structure. rubbing causes open sores on the branch, making the shrub susceptible to insects and disease.

Another step in the pruning process is deadheading. While deadheading spent blossoms can be very helpful for younger shrubs, it is not necessary for older, larger shrubs. Not to mention, it is nearly impossible to remove every spent flower head on a mature lilac!

Time is limited but lilac pruning can still be done this season. If you have any questions on pruning lilacs or would like us to tackle your overgrown lilac for you, give us a call today.

Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for more DIY posts from CM's!

Tobias and Rachael

Topics: gardening, do-it-yourself, landscape, bed maintenance, pruning, lilac