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The Right Mulch for Your Northern Virginia Landscape

Northern Virginia landscape mulching by Sunrise Landscape and Design

Spring is the perfect time to begin mulching in Northern Virginia. But where to start? It seems like every year there’s a new type of mulch sitting at the home improvement store. From colored varieties to chips and shreds, it can all get very confusing. Each mulch has its benefits and its drawbacks, so it’s best to make an informed decision before you make the investment. Sunrise Landscape and Design’s spring clean-up services include the application of high quality mulch to prepare your landscape for the coming months.

Why is Mulch Important?

Mulch plays many roles in your landscape. Its most crucial features are the ability to hold in heat and moisture, which protects fragile roots from temperature fluctuations throughout the entire year. It also prevents the growth of weeds and helps to inhibit erosion. Without mulch, your garden is completely exposed to the elements – and that is not only bad for your plants, it’s also bad for your curb appeal.

Mulch Types and Details

  • Shredded Hardwood
    1. The most common mulch you’ll find around Northern Virginia is shredded hardwood. It has a natural look and blends well into any landscape. It also works well on slopes.
    2. Shredded hardwood should be spread one to three inches thick and can last up to three years when the beds are refreshed annually.
    3. Colored mulch is a popular trend. Colored versions tend to decompose more slowly than normal mulch.  Be careful of the actual color selected. Some colors clash with the natural landscape and are not appealing to most people.
  • Wood Chip
    1. Wood chips are wonderful at retaining water, and because they break down faster than shredded mulch, they boost the amount of nutrients in your soil.
    2. Wood chip mulch can last up to four years. It is also weed-free and doesn’t blow away easily.
  • Stone
    1. When talking about stone, we are usually speaking about medium to large sizes. Smaller pebbles tend to end up in your lawn, creating a projectile hazard when you mow.
    2. Stone is great for trapping heat into established perennial beds and can essentially last forever. It is also good for controlling erosion in problem areas.
    3. The downside of stone is that because of its ability to trap heat, it also makes water evaporate quicker – which means you may need to water your plants more often.
  • Pumice or Lava Rock
    1. With a vibrant color, many people like that pumice is lighter than regular stone and can retain a lot of water. It can also last forever.
    2. While it doesn’t hold as much heat as stone, it does help somewhat.
    3. Pumice is full of sharp edges, so make sure that it is only placed somewhere that doesn’t require frequent garden attention.
    4. Its weight can be a liability in areas prone to water run-off, so make sure that it’s in a flood-free area.
    5. Because of its ability to trap water, you will need to water a little longer for the water to reach your plants.
  • Living Mulch
    1. Why not use a living mulch instead of a dead one? There are many ground covers that work well as mulch; just remember to add compost to them annually to nourish them.

There are other mulch options, like straw, compost, chopped leaves, and even grass clippings, but these are generally suitable for vegetable gardens and not curb-front landscapes. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t incorporate any mulch into your soil unless it has been thoroughly composted. Importantly, don’t use any mulch that has been treated with herbicides or pesticides on your edible plants.

Mulch Application Tips

The easiest way to tell if you Northern Virginia landscaper knows what they are doing is by looking at how they apply your chosen mulch. You can also follow these mulch application tips when applying mulch yourself.

Mulch should be:

  • Placed against edging that is two to three inches deep
  • Clear of tree trunks or plants. Your mulch shouldn’t be touching your plants directly; this is unhealthy and can actually hurt them. Those “mulch volcanos” that you see around tree trunks are a perfect example of incorrect mulching.
  • Smooth and even, with no large hills
  • Distributed two to three inches deep and free of clumps
  • Treated with a pre-emergent weed controller
  • Applied after cutbacks, leaves, twigs, and debris have been cleared from the area

Contact a Professional for Help

If you’re not sure what kind of mulch to use or how to apply it, contact our Sunrise team today. Our Spring Clean-up services include removing all debris from mulch beds, edging and cultivating beds, applying pre-emergent weed control, and distributing a shredded hardwood bark mulch. We’ll prepare your Northern Virginia landscape to encourage plant growth and keep it looking beautiful throughout the coming seasons. We’d love to give you a landscape that you’re proud of this spring!  Contact us today!

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The Best Time for Tree Trimming and Pruning

woman trimming pruning plants in Loudoun County

Winter is a great time for tree trimming and pruning in Northern Virginia. Believe it or not, there is a benefit to your trees being bare and desolate this time of year: your dormant trees are gathering up strength to put on a spectacular show when spring finally arrives. Now is the time to lend a helping hand by trimming trees to encourage new growth. Winter is also a good time for tree trimming because bare branches are easier to see and handle, and the harder ground allows for easier access to trees.

When to Trim in Northern Virginia

February through March is the best time for tree trimming. Though you should usually wait until the coldest part of the winter has passed, you can trim outside of this window. For flowering trees, it’s critical that you trim while the tree is still dormant. If you trim after blooms have started to form, you could limit the tree’s blooming potential in the spring. Some species, such as maple, walnuts, and birches may excrete sap. While this is not dangerous to the tree, it can be unsightly, so it’s best to trim or prune when the weather is colder and the sap is not as likely to bleed.

Trim with a Plan

When trimming trees, you should remove every branch for a reason. Each cut has the potential to change the shape of the tree substantially and affect the ability of a flowering tree to bloom, so you should always trim and prune with a plan. Dead, diseased, and damaged branches should be removed as soon as possible, both to prevent the spread of potential disease and for safety. Dead branches can easily fall in the slightest wind and cause personal injury or property damage. Any branches that interfere with visibility on your street or driveway should also be cut. Take time to access where issues will arise once leaves begin to grow again. Have a critical eye as you walk among your trees and determine whether tree trimming is necessary. Remember that thinning for the sake of it does not necessarily improve the health of a tree.

Benefits of Trimming

Trimming isn’t just beneficial in encouraging bloom growth in the spring, it can also save you money and time by managing insects and disease. Removing dead branches can help prevent disease-carrying organisms from entering your branches and spreading disease. Thinning a tree’s canopy can increase the amount of sunlight and air to your tree and landscape, also resulting in less disease.

Professionals at Sunrise Landscape and Design are carefully trained to trim trees according to advanced trimming and pruning techniques, with the uniqueness of each tree species in mind. Hiring Sunrise for your Northern Virginia tree care will leave your trees healthier, structurally sound, and beautiful for years to come!

Contact us for a tree trimming quote or to discuss other Northern Virginia landscaping needs. For more information on our tree trimming and pruning services, visit our Tree Trimming and Shrub Pruning page. 

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How to Prepare Your Landscape for Winter

Northern Virginia Landscape Sunrise Landscape and Design

Winter in Northern Virginia can be brutal on your landscape. Between snow, ice, wind, and cold, it seems like you never know which plants will make it until next spring. With a little planning and preparation, though, it is possible to winter-proof your lawn, trees, shrubs, and other plants. All it takes is a little ingenuity – and some burlap. Follow these tips to prepare your landscape for winter:

1. Fertilize your lawn

Give your lawn one more mineral boost so that it has all the nutrients it needs during the cold winter months.

2. Cut your lawn one last time

There’s a lot of debate on how short you should cut your grass for the winter. In Virginia, anywhere from two to three inches should be short enough to avoid issues with snow mold, but it’s best to ask a professional what works best for your turf type.

3. Remove debris from your yard

No one wants to run over a stick or other debris while sledding! It’s also good to get rid of sticks and branches now so that they don’t deteriorate and turn into tiny bits of shrapnel when you run the mower over them next spring.

4. Prevent animals from snacking on your plants

The lack of growth in the fall sends animals like deer and rabbits on a rampage through your garden. Cover young tree trunks with hardware cloth or fencing with very small openings to prevent nibbling. If animals have decided to snack on other plants, you can either cover them with mesh or garden fabric, or you can try an animal repellent spray.  If deer are a problem, Sunrise Landscape and Design is trained in the proper use and application of DeerPro, the only deer repellent that is approved by the EPA.

5. Prep trees for the weight of snow

Hire a professional to prune dead or broken branches from your trees; they will know what pruning works best for different tree species. Also, you can ask the professional whether or not any trees need bracing or cabling to make it through the winter.

6. Water plants, especially evergreens

Continue watering your plants until the first freeze. After that, try to water your young and broad-leaf evergreens at least once every couple of weeks throughout the winter if it’s dry.

7. Fertilize trees after the first hard frost

Once the first big freeze has made your trees dormant, fertilize them so that they are ready for growth when spring comes around.

8. Consider spraying evergreens with an anti-desiccant spray

Anti-desiccant sprays are often used on broad-leaf evergreens like holly, rhododendrons, and boxwood, to slow water loss and prevent winter burn. Make sure to read directions and avoid contact with narrow-needled evergreens, however, because anti-desiccants can poison them.

9. Spread extra mulch for insulation

For perennials that need extra protection, spread an additional layer of mulch two to four inches thick in November.

10. Wrap shrubs in burlap

Burlap also can serve as an excellent wind barrier for evergreens.

11. Protect fragile plants

If plants are extra vulnerable, create a teepee out of bamboo sticks and burlap to shield them from snow and harsh winter wind. Burlap is great because it blocks the wind, but is breathable. Wrap the trunks of thin-barked trees, like maple and cherry, with cardboard tree wrap or plastic to avoid frost cracks. Lastly, for some extra stability, try tying together branches of trees that are prone to splitting (like arborvitae and boxwood) with hosiery or another soft fabric.

12. Move some plants indoors

When in doubt, bring it indoors – or at least into the garage. Most perennials that hang out in planters during warmer months need a little extra protection from the elements.

13. Plan your snow piles

Make sure you won’t be piling snow on top of delicate plants. If you can, spread snow out after shoveling to avoid compaction in certain areas of your lawn.

14. Consult a professional about salt and deicing agents

Whatever you plan to use on your driveway and pathways will inevitably end up in your yard – and may end up poisoning your plants. Try to use calcium chloride, potassium chloride, or calcium magnesium acetate if you must use a melting agent. If not, try sand or cinders.

15. Refrain from shaking snow and ice off branches

Once the snow has landed, the damage is done. Don’t shake frozen limbs because they are brittle and prone to breaking. Allow the snow and ice to melt naturally.

Ice, wind, and snow can do plenty of damage to your landscape during the winter. It may sound like a lot of work, but a few hours spent preparing your landscape for winter may prevent days worth of replanting in the spring. If you need some help prepping your Northern Virginia Landscape, contact Sunrise today. We will make sure that all your hard work this fall is rewarded when spring rolls around.

Sunrise Landscape and Design is Northern Virginia’s premier landscaping company offering a full range of landscaping services. Our landscape and design services include hardscapes, landscape lighting, irrigation, and water features. Our property maintenance services will keep your landscape vibrant year-round with mulching, lawn mowing, tree pruning, garden cleanups, edging, and mosquito/deer control.

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What are those bumps on my branches

Bumps on branches, leaves or stems, that may be a range of colors and sizes, but certainly don’t seem like they are part of the plant, can be concerning when looking at your landscape. Many people mistake this condition for a fungal disease. It’s more often actually a type of insect known as scale.

There are over 150 individual types of scale insects present in the state of Virginia. Some have little to no impact on plant health. Others can severely damage or even kill valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees. Scale causes damage by attaching to the plant and sucking water and nutrients from its bark or leaves. This takes away from the resources available to support the growth and health of the plant. A heavy infestation can even kill an entire shrub or group of shrubs if left untreated.

Scale insects often have a very specific plant they prefer, others are more open-minded and will attach to a wide range of different groups of plants. One shrub that has drawn attention for being prone to infestation and damage by scale insects in our region is cherry laurel. This versatile evergreen plant has several forms that are common and beautiful in many applications, and it is seen all over, in large hedges for screening, and more compact foundation plantings. It’s a great plant. But yet, it is prone to a scale that attaches to the stems and in many cases causes die-back or death of plants.  Another common landscape shrub affected by scale is Euonymus. This scale is particularly unsightly as it can cover the leaves as well as stems of the plant. Both these and other common scale insects in our region do NOT have to be viewed as a catastrophe for your garden. If observed and diagnosed in a reasonable amount of time, each scale can be treated and controlled to prevent frustrating and expensive losses.

Treatment of scale varies widely depending on the type of scale and time of year. Soft scales have a soft covering over their bodies that can be penetrated by appropriate chemical controls. Armored scales secrete a hard covering over their bodies as adults that protect the scale while it feeds on your plants. This armor is impenetrable to certain common pesticides; therefore one must approach treatment in an intelligent and informed manner that is appropriate to the situation. Identifying the specific pest that you have and knowing its unique life cycle and vulnerabilities will enable you to successfully treat your problem. You can use resources provided by the Virginia and Maryland Extension services to help identify your pest and also recommended treatment. Many effective products are available for purchase and application by homeowners.

You can always count on us at Sunrise Landscape and Design to monitor your property and treat for any potential issues, such as scale. We offer a range of options to provide you with Integrated Pest Management services. Our garden visits, and IPM treatments are both aspects of care that help monitor, identify and treat problems in a timely manner so that you won’t have to worry about those strange bumps turning into big issues. We work with you year-round to protect your investment in your home and landscape. Contact us to get a landscaping quote today.