All posts by Mike Sperling

Preventative Maintenance for your Masonry and Hardscape

This past winter was a long one. Some days, it doesn’t even feel like it’s been over for three months now! We had some pretty heavy snowfall and, in preparation for the ensuing cleanup, many Americans used corrosive deicers, and now we’re paying for it. No, we’re not talking about damage to your lawn and garden. In this case, we’re talking about damage to your hardscape. I, too, am at fault in my de-icing methods; the rock salt I used throughout the winter effectively ate away at the concrete walkway leading to the front door of my house. It loosened the top layer of concrete until it was nothing more than a sand-like substance, ground down evermore with each footstep or sweep of a broom when I tried to clean up the mess. I recently had to get a new walkway installed, this time with higher-grade concrete. In hopes that this doesn’t happen again after the next winter season, let’s take a look at preventative maintenance for your masonry and hardscape:

What Is a Hardscape

First, we should define the term “hardscape”. A hardscape is the man-made aspect of landscape architecture, including walkways, paths, walls, patios, fire pits, steps, and so much more. It’s important to choose the right material, depending on your climate. At Arrowhead Landscaping, we typically work with patio pavers. We choose Techo Bloc and Belgard for our best brands, as they hold up better than other brands. We can take matters into our own hands and help you choose the right material based on hardscape design and the local architectural style of your area.

Winter in New England

Assuming your home or office is in New England, you know very well how messy the winter season can get. There’s snow, rain, slush, ice, and everything in between, not to mention all the rock salt and other deicing chemicals. Any combination of these can damage masonry work over time, so choosing the right material all depends on how much of a beating your hardscape will be subjected to (e.g., will it be a frequented walkway that sees lots of traffic every day, or will it be a wall in your backyard that’s rarely ever physically touched?). Patio pavers are very durable and can typically survive heavy snow. It’s persistent rain, however, that you have to worry about, as running water can wear down and even erode these otherwise durable blocks. It is not recommended that you use chemical deicers on patio pavers, as they can easily eat through the seal and damage the underlying concrete. Use salt instead, as it doesn’t scratch. It’s advisable to salt before water gets a chance to freeze. This is because salt lowers the freezing point of water.

Summer Is Nearly Here!

The heat and humidity in New England during summer is another extreme to be weary of. Furthermore, the sun can damage the aesthetic and integrity of pavers over time. For these reasons, it’s recommended that you seal your hardscape after installation, before the heat and sun have a chance to damage it. You should also clean your hardscape annually by power washing or using cleaning solutions to remove built-up dirt, oil, and rust. Reapply the seal every few years or as needed, as sunlight, heat, built-up substances, and the annual cleanup cause the seal to wear. Regular preventative maintenance keeps your hardscape and masonry looking like-new for years to come.


At Arrowhead Landscaping, we understand that your hardscape serves a double purpose: both functional and aesthetic. We also know that you want your hardscape to last. This is why we use only the highest-grade materials, as well as created this helpful guide to make caring for your hardscape as easy as possible. If you’re looking to install a new hardscape, or if you want to touch up and reseal your current one, contact Arrowhead Landscaping by phone at (978) 774-4487, or visit our website at http://arrowhead-landscaping.com/.  

Protecting your Landscape from the Ravages of Winter

It’s the dead of winter and as the temperature drops and the snow accumulates, you might be worried about your garden and landscape. Winter weather can cause lasting damage to the plantings you so carefully tend to during the warmer months. Let’s take a look at steps you can take to prevent broken branches, damaged soil, and water loss:

  • Heavy snow and ice – While snow-kissed branches may be a common sight in a winter wonderland, too much of it can damage your trees. To protect against the weight of snow and ice, tie weak branches together carefully. Brush – don’t shake – snow off of tree limbs and branches. If you have an inkling that branches are going to break under the weight of snow, remove them, as damaged trees are more susceptible to disease.
  • Corrosive salt – While salt may be a great way to melt ice effectively, it is so harmful to plants due to the simple fact that it erodes soil and can create a soil crust when the area dries. Choose a less harmful alternative to beat the ice; before it snows, use materials like gravel, straw, or wood chips to provide traction. If Old Man Winter beat you to the punch, however, use sawdust, kitty litter, or even bird seed on top of ice for traction. Sand is another alternative to consider, just be sure to clean it up afterward so it doesn’t clog storm drains or get into your garden.
  • Preventing water loss – You may be surprised to learn that plants, specifically their leaves, “sweat”, called transpiration. Use an anti-transpirant to aid against water loss. Another method is to wrap your evergreens in burlap to protect against salt and the howling winter winds.

How have your garden and landscape fared thus far this winter season? With spring only a couple months away, your garden will soon blossom after it’s deep sleep. For all your landscape needs and more, contact Arrowhead Landscaping at 978-744-4487, or visit our website.

Tips for Ice and Snow Removal

Salt is an amazing little thing, isn’t it? Roman soldiers were paid in salt, which is where we get the term salary. Salt adds flavor to virtually any dish and even some cocktails, like margaritas. But salt can also be bad for you. And during the winter, rock salt can be a downright hazard to you, your loved ones (pets included) and, yes, even your concrete and pavement. So, now that winter has reared its ugly yet majestic head, how can you clear the ice and snow without resorting to the use of toxic aids like rock salt? Let’s take a look at cleaner, more environmentally-friendly ways to rid the ice this winter:

  • One of those other -ium chlorides – Alternative deicers to keep in mind are potassium chloride and magnesium chloride. Potassium chloride will not harm vegetation and it is okay if it comes into contact with skin. The lowest temperature at which it will work as a deicer is 15° F. Magnesium chloride is another great choice for the environmentally conscious. It will still prove to be an effective deicer, even when the temperatures creep down to -13° F.
  • Soak up the sun – I apologize for the tacky Sheryl Crow reference, but hey, it’s winter time. I’m thinking warm thoughts. Anyway, another method to remove ice and snow effectively is to make use of our most abundant resource: the sun. It’s best to wake up early and get right to shoveling, so by the time you’re done, the sun will be able to melt the ice a little more quickly as the temperatures creep up throughout the day.
  • Hot water should do the trick – For those particularly vexing ice patches, a good method of treatment might be to boil a pot of water and pour it right on the ice. Follow through with a few good whacks with an ice pick or shovel and it should start to break apart. Remember to brush away or soak up the hot water with a cloth, or else you’ll just create more ice, thus prolonging your deicing project.

This winter, beat the ice with these techniques and others. Remember to stay up-to-date with news and weather forecast, so you know when snow will hit and how much of it. Don’t let ice get you down. Avoid damage to your pavement and concrete walkways with harmful and hazardous rock salt. Use an alternative deicer like potassium chloride or magnesium chloride. Or you could take advantage of waking up early to tackle your driveway and let the sun do the rest throughout the day. Or, even still, you can just pour some hot water on problem spots and tackle it further from there. Remember, Arrowhead Landscaping is here for you and your landscape and hardscape. Give us a call at 978-744-4487, or visit our website

How to Winterize your Garden

In last month’s blog post, we discussed the various vegetables you can harvest in the autumn. As fall draws to a close, however, how do you “put away” the garden in preparation for next year? Once spring arrives and all the snow has melted away, your green thumb will surely grow back through ‘til the end of fall. Here are our best practices to close down your garden for winter, ultimately leading to an easier spring cleanup:

  • Remove and Compost old Plantings – The first step toward winterizing your garden is to remove any old plant matter from the garden bed and put it in the compost bin. Otherwise, plant diseases will have an open invitation to wreak havoc throughout your garden. Keep your compost in a bin until springtime to protect it during winter.
  • Test your Soil – Another step to prepare for spring is to test your soil’s pH level. If the pH is too low, consider adding lime. If such is the case, you should add lime early as the effects don’t present themselves for quite some time. You can buy a basic soil testing kit at any garden center or, if you prefer to go about testing without one, there are alternative, more natural ways to do so.
  • Protecting the Topsoil – Winter’s wrath is brutal and can severely damage your garden and soil if they’re not properly winterized. The next step in the winterization process is to cover the top layer of your garden, the soil. There are two ways to do this: for larger gardens, you can plant what is called a cover crop. For smaller beds, however, mulching is a better and more efficient approach.

You should prepare your garden for every season of the year so it can continue to flourish for years to come. Winterizing is especially important because the severity of the winter season, at least in New England, is like no other. Winter brings a period of dormancy to most plantings, so they can “rest up” so-to-speak in preparation for their spring awakening. Call Arrowhead Landscaping at 978-774-4487 for all your landscaping needs, concerns, and questions. From all of us at Arrowhead, stay warm and we wish you a Happy New Year.

Fall Vegetable Planting Ideas, Tips, and Tricks

Did you know you can plant in the fall? And, furthermore, there are some added benefits to doing so. Planting season is not restricted to springtime, as you can plant different crops throughout the year, depending on the season. The cooler temperatures during the fall season are more gentle on both the plants as well as the gardeners. In the earlier part of the season, the soil still has some retained warmth, which allows for sufficient root growth. This continues until later in the season, when the ground begins to freeze. It can also be economically savvy to buy plants and seeds in the fall, as garden centers will offer more deals while they try to sell the last of their inventory before the impending winter season. If you’re worried about pests in your garden, you’ll be pleased to hear that these pesky creatures and critters usually ebb during the fall season. It is good practice to stop fertilizing by late summer, as the harsh winter season will thwart the growth progress that fertilizer enhances and encourages of your plants. With these facts in mind, let’s take a look at which vegetables will thrive during the fall season, and when to plant them:

 

  • Lettuce, spinach, and radishes – It is best to plant these between four and eight weeks before the first frost hits. The ideal temperature range is between 45° and 75°F, and with a good mix of both full sun and some shade.
  • Kale – Similar to lettuce, kale should be planted about six to eight weeks before the first frost hits. The leaves of the kale plant are sweeter when they receive a healthy dose of cold weather, and you can even harvest it after a good-sized snowfall of about a foot.
  • Cabbage – Cabbage should be grown indoors at first, usually from six to twelve weeks before the first frost hits. This may change, however, depending on the specific type of cabbage you choose. After three to four weeks, it should be ready to transplant to your outside garden. Cabbage requires full sun, and will taste sweeter when grown in the cold.
  • Carrots – Carrots are a hardy bunch. As they take between 70 and 80 days from seed to harvest, you should plant your last crop between two and three weeks before the first frost hits. Carrots should receive a healthy dose of partial-full sunlight.
  • Brussels Sprouts – Brussels Sprouts differ from their other autumn buddies in that they should be planted earlier, during the summer, about 85-100 days before the first predicted frost will hit. In cooler climates, it is advised that you plant the seeds in your outdoor garden, whereas in warmer climates, it’s better to start them inside and transplant outside once they’ve had time to establish roots. In either case, Brussels Sprouts should receive a healthy dose of full sun.

 

 

The beginning of fall is the perfect time to plant vegetables just in time to harvest for Thanksgiving. Give some of these seasonal vegetables a shot, and enjoy them with friends and family over a nice, wholesome Thanksgiving dinner. Growing your own food is a sustainable practice which everyone should try at some point in their life.

Fall Yard Maintenance and Cleanup

It’s that time of year again. The kids are back in school. The leaves are starting to change, and with that change comes the dreaded fall cleanup. You reminisce about the fun you had as a kid jumping into a freshly-raked pile of leaves. When did playtime become work? It’s not all bad, though. Fall is easily my favorite season; the temperatures cool down just enough to sport my favorite sweatshirt and break out the winter wardrobe. The various scents of classic fall foods and desserts fill the air. And don’t forget to make time to go to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch. These things will all come in due time, and completing your annual fall garden cleanup will make it worth the wait. Check out our Fall Yard Maintenance and Cleanup checklist:

  • Water – Make sure all your plants are well-hydrated, as their roots require a higher moisture content to survive the impending cold winter months.
  • Lay Seed – You should lay grass seed early in the fall season so that come springtime, the grass will grow and show greener, earlier.
  • One Last Mow-Around – Mow your lawn one last time and at a shorter length. This way, leaves won’t get stuck on the tall blades of grass, which adds to the cleanup. Be careful not to cut it too short, as grass produces most of its food toward the top of the blade.
  • Rake the Leaves – This should be a no-brainer for most everyone. Deciduous trees lose their leaves as winter gets closer. Rake the fallen leaves onto a tarp to make transporting them easier. You can also use fallen leaves as compost; be sure to aerate them weekly by tossing them around the compost bin with a small rake. By springtime, your compost pile will be ready to nourish your lawn, garden, and other plantings.
  • Plant Evergreens and New Shrubs – Planting shrubs early in fall encourages roots to grow in the cooler soil.
  • Just a Trim – Dead tree limbs can pose a threat if they experience heavy snowfall. For bigger branches, you would do well to call a professional, but you can easily remove smaller dead limbs yourself using a garden trimmer or shears. Be sure to cut close to the trunk, but not at the trunk. You should leave the wounds to heal in the open air.
  • Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter – Don’t put off cleaning your gutters. With the start of the fall season, leaves are beginning to change color and fall from the branches. While most leaves may land somewhere on the ground, there are those pesky few that get trapped in your gutters. Gutters direct rainwater off your roof and onto the ground, and they can’t function properly if leaves are causing a serious blockage.If you don’t clean your gutters regularly, about once a month, then your home may be subject to rot, issues with foundation, and even pests. While it may seem unimportant and something that is easily overlooked, cleaning your gutters should be a priority.
  • Empty Hoses and Turn Off Outside Water – As you may remember from science class, water expands as it freezes. Be sure to turn off the external water valve inside your house. This will keep your pipes from freezing and possibly bursting. You should also remove and dry out your hoses and store them for winter.

With the fall season in full swing, it’s a good idea to start checking these tasks off early. Don’t wait until the last few weekends of fall when it’s unbearably cold and you’d rather be curled up on the couch or by the fire. Keep up with the yard work. You’ll be glad you did when your plantings bloom and you can enjoy the vast array of colors in the spring.