When Should You Plant Late Summer Perennials?

summer-perennialsAs summer winds to a close, new perennials take the place of old ones. The day lilies that were so robust and beautiful during the warm days of July are now done, and, of course, the lovely spring daffodils, tulips, irises, and bleeding hearts are only a memory now.

Many novice gardeners tend to focus on adding or replacing the bright spring flowers, and will be purchasing more bulbs to plant, but late summer landscaping can be just as beautiful and inspiring, and its worth the investment to keep the beauty of your own garden beds going into early and even late fall.

August is a good time to examine your garden and make notes. Are there empty or dead spaces that could be improved? Do some of your plantings need thinning or moving? Are you disappointed with how certain flowers have developed or failed to thrive? Now is the time to make those decisions, and, happily, many greenhouses begin discounting their perennials now, so changing things up does not have to be too expensive.

Fall is a great time to plant or replant. While this summer in Michigan has been mild and rainy, typical summer weather is too hot and dry for planting. Trees, bushes, and flowers need developed root systems to survive this time of year. But falls cooler temperatures and more plentiful rainfall are just what new plantings need to settle in and get comfortable. So what are the perennial choices for fall?

For summer-into fall-color, add false sunflower, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower, hibiscus/rose of sharon, yarrow, hyssop, and goldenrod. The purples and yellows will complement each other and add the illusion of continuing sunlight as the days grow shorter in late summer. For after those have peaked and for the rest of the autumn, good perennials to add would include: aster, sedum, salvia, Russian sage, and chrysanthemum  These are only the most common, more hardy varieties of flowers to consider. If you like the unusual and are willing to do more hands-on gardening, there are so many other wonderful perennials to choose from.  As always, soil type and sunlight exposure will affect how well anything will grow, but a good gardener or landscaper can help with that as well.

PROCARE is always happy to answer your landscaping questions or advise you on plantings or garden planning. Call us today if we can be of further help to you and your lawn and gardens.

How Much Water Does A Lawn Need to Grow and Thrive?

lawn-waterIn most years in Michigan by July the average homeowner is waging a war against yellow grass, not because of disease, but because of heat and drier conditions. The sprinklers go on, the kids get wet, the water bill goes up, and the grass lives through another summer. This summer because of abnormally wet conditions, everything is still lush and green, but how much water does a lawn need to grow and thrive?

During hotter conditions, your lawn needs much more water because much of the water evaporates before your grasss roots can absorb it. This is why it is better to water during cooler parts of the day like early morning – temperatures are lower then, and plants can slowly soak up what they need. Grass, in particular needs that luxury of time because, compositionally its about 85 percent water itself. Whats more, grasses root systems are comparatively shallow, so once the water has filtered through the first inch or so of topsoil, its out of reach for good. Plants with deeper roots and more water storage capability are less stressed by temporary heat and drought.

Soil type matters as well. Water filters through sandy soils very quickly and will pool in soils with high clay content. But no matter the soil composition, a pattern of slow steady soakings with periods in between to allow for drying out is best. Everyday watering will produce grass with very shallow root systems that are then more vulnerable if watering does not occur for some reason.

On a hot, sunny day, an average lawn requires 125 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet. The same lawn might need only 10 gallons on a cool and cloudy day. To test whether your lawn currently has adequate moisture content, push a long screwdriver into your grass. If it pushes easily in, your lawn has enough water. When your lawn is dry, test how long it takes for different parts of it to get moist enough from the time you start sprinkling. Then you will have a good idea of the amount of time you need to water. For the mathematically inclined, there are formulas available multiplying total square footage by .623 and dividing the result by gallons per minute (on average, 12). Either way will give you a good idea of how much water and time you need to invest in keeping your lawn alive and beautiful.

PROCARE is always happy to answer your lawn-related questions and assist you in caring for your lawn. Call us today if we can be of further help to you and your lawn and gardens.

Landscaping with Michigan Drought-Resistant Native Plant Varieties

Summer in Michigan is always a bit hard to predict, just like most of the other seasons. While true drought is pretty rare, strong, unrelenting heat in July and August can mimic it and its effects on our lawns and gardens. While excessive damp can wreak a different kind of havoc.

drought-resistant-plantsPreviously weve discussed the attractiveness and usefulness of rain gardens for dealing with runoff water. Many flowers and plants incorporated into rain gardens also have the ability to filter out road contaminants and other pollutants, making them an important bio-remediation tool. If salt, metals, oil, and other automobile fluids picked up by runoff rainwater never make it into the watershed because plants absorb and process them, our potable water supply is that much safer for all of us. The City of Grand Rapids was so impressed with the ability of ordinary plants to deal with toxic pollutants, that they implemented the construction of seven bioretention islands along the Plainfield corridor in 2012.

Some native plants that thrive in swampy environments will also do well in urban environments, once they are established. Native plants, that is, plants that occur naturally in the region, will often be hardier and require less hands-on maintenance than annuals or transplants from different regions. While gardeners are drawn to long-lasting color, its disheartening to watch flowers, shrubs, or trees wither and die because they are not acclimated to this climate. And no one wants to get out and water every night during that regular hot streak we have nearly every July to keep plantings from death.

Not all native plants will magically thrive in any soil. Its important to consider the type of soil the plants you choose flourish in and try to reproduce it, if you want them to do as well in their new setting, but native plants are more likely to be both summer and winter hardy and will be better at attracting butterflies and birds.

The best part about planting hardy perennials is watching them come back year after year, taking whats thrown at them summer and winter, and thriving in spite of it. The resilience of plants is frankly inspirational.

PROCARE, as always, offers a complete range of landscaping and lawn care services. Contact Dirk today if you would like to place the care of your trees and plants into our hands.

Why is aerating your lawn helpful for good growth and a green lawn?

One of the best ways to give your lawn a good start for this years growth is to aerate it now that the weather is beginning to get nice. In a typical spring your lawn starts out a bit waterlogged from both snow melt and spring rains. We in West Michigan had a great deal of snow that needed to melt this year, but fortunately the rains held off in March and April, and most areas were able to avoid flooding. Its also been much colder this year, and our vegetation is weeks behind the usual schedule of growth and blossoming. Under these conditions, while the soil is drying out, its best to lightly remove thatch with a gentle raking, but avoid walking too much on the lawn itself as too much weight can compact the soil and impede growth.

aerating-your-lawnNow that spring has sprung, you can take more proactive measures to make sure your lawn is green and lush all summer long.

Without proper soil aeration, the roots of your grass will remain shallow as they will have a limited exposure to the nutrients, water, and oxygen they need to grow and develop. Soil types do vary, and the type of soil you have will affect how often you need to aerate it. Clay soils are very dense and need regular aeration, whereas sandy soils do not need as much intervention. Any area of lawn that gets heavy traffic will also need to be aerated more often.

Grass type makes a difference as well. Its best to aerate right before your grass period of most vigorous growth. For warm weather grasses like Bermuda grass or Buffalo grass, this will be in the spring. For cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass or ryegrass, aerating in the fall is best, but aerating in the spring can also be helpful.

aerating-preperationPrepare your lawn by raking it thoroughly and getting rid of any debris like sticks and bark. Then aerate either with a power or manual aerator when the soil is still moist but not wet. This will allow your aerator to better penetrate the soil. The most effective kind of aeration is core aeration, the kind that pulls plugs of soil and thatch out of your lawn. Do not worry about these little plugs – within a week or two they will be break apart and be reabsorbed into the lawn. Finish the job by watering and fertilizing your grass. It will respond with vigorous new blade and root growth! Then sit back in a lawn chair and enjoy your greenery.

PROCARE offers full landscaping and lawn care maintenance services. Wed be happy to take the work and worry out of spring lawn care for you.  If you have questions about lawn care, contact Dirk at PROCARE today.

How To Create Sustainable Landscapes w/ Rain Gardens

Sustainable landscapes can take many different forms and mean completely different things to people.For people who live in arid regions, xeriscaping is a beautiful solution to the challenges of natural conditions. For homeowners who live in the Great Lakes State, which seldom experiences drought, rain gardens can be similarly lovely and functional.

The purpose of a rain garden is to retain water that has run off from a building or structure. The footprint or size of the garden will determine how much water will run off. A functioning and properly sized rain garden will be able to contain all the runoff water. If positioned and planned correctly, the rain garden location can not only be functional but also beautiful, a wonderful addition to any landscape. There are so many perennial plants that thrive in this environment, simultaneously thriving and preventing pollutants from entering the water supply.

RainGarden-300x186Water that remains on site rather than filling storm or waste water drains does not need to be treated or filtered by municipalities. In colder climates rain gardens keep melting snow runoff from refreezing on drives and parking lots which enhances safety and reduces de-icer use. Rain gardens usually replace turf making them more sustainable in terms of reduced irrigation, fertilizer and weed control use. Another most important benefit is the sheer beauty of these perennials in season!

Rain gardens are a great additional to your property. For more information about rain garden construction, contact me at or 616-583-9820 or check out Rain Garden Network for ideas on how to create your own.

What is That Residue on My Lawn? After Winter Lawn Care

Now that the snow is finally melting and we can see some evidence of grass again, it’s important to assess your lawn for any problems. Michigan experienced a long, brutal winter this year, and your landscape has likely been through some trauma as well, with the sub-zero temperatures and the regular exposure to chemicals from county or municipal salt trucks or homeowners’ applications. It’s better to be proactive in dealing with any damage so the beauty of your landscape will not be marred.

The first thing you may notice is a filmy residue left over after the snow disappears. This is what is left over from the salt trucks and will disappear, but make a note of it when you see it because salt, while necessary for winter driving, is an enemy of grass. Spray it down with a hose and apply a gypsum soil conditioner to help your turf heal from salt exposure. Then carefully look everything over for damage.

SnowMold-300x238In addition to salt damage, bleached out or rusty patches on your lawn are evidence that a fungal disease called snow mold has developed. The most commons kinds of snow molds are gray snow mold and pink snow mold. Pink snow mold is more of a concern because it spreads from the grasses’ blades to their root systems. Prevention of snow molds has to occur in the fall, before snow has fallen, with timed applications of fungicide and fertilizer.

It’s also important to rake leaves and other detritus from your lawn before the snow flies. As our leaves fell late last year and snow fell early and is receding slowly, we may see more lawn damage this spring and more need for reseeding.

When all the snow has melted and your ground is no longer soggy, clear away all remaining leaves and debris and give your lawn care with a gentle raking to improve aeration. When the ground is thoroughly dry, you can give it a more vigorous raking to remove thatch, a light brown layer of decaying vegetation, and encourage deeper rooting. Then mow off the dead tips of the grass. Hold off on fertilizing until later in the spring – too much fertilizer can lead to more vigorous weed growth and other lawn problems.

If you would like help with your lawn care, PROCARE would be happy to provide advice and assistance about the proper timing of herbicides and fertilizers or any other questions you may have about landscape care. It’s our area of expertise, so contact us today.

Are Cold Winters Actually Better for Seasonal Flowers and Plants?

poor-mans-fertilizer“Poor man’s fertilizer” – this is what people used to call a heavy layer of winter snow, and particularly a late spring snow. You may be concerned that the bitter cold and heavy snows of this winter have killed your perennials, but in fact, we may have a vigorous blooming of bulb flowers and perennials this summer because of it. A deep layer of snow acts as an insulator, keeping the ground at an even temperature and protecting plants from sub-zero temperatures and icy winds. In a more typical winter we would see a pattern of cold and snow then a thaw, cold and snow, then a thaw. While periodic thaws make it easier for us to remove snow, drive, and otherwise get around, fluctuating ground temperatures cause movement in the soil which can expose plants’ roots, bulbs, or rhizomes – leading to plant death due to cold or exposure to animals. Since we have had snow covering the ground since early December (or before; snow fell all over West Michigan before Thanksgiving this season) we can be fairly certain that plants are where they were in the fall and have been protected by a generous snow mulch.

Snow also contains nitrogen, a greater amount now than in the past because of air pollution. When precipitation comes down in the form of rain, it passes through the topsoil too quickly to fix the nitrogen and can leach nutrients out it, but the melt of accumulated snow lasts longer and can be absorbed by lawn plants that need more nitrogen than what’s generally available to them.

One final way that a cold winter is better for plants than a warm one is that many plants require a cold period of dormancy followed by a warm up to germinate well. That’s why a late spring snow can be a blessing – it’s like a second wake up call for seeds that might not germinate otherwise. Bitter cold will also lessen populations of plant predators including insects and rodents.

While it may seem that winter has taken large toll on Michigan this year, good things may come of it, if we have the patience to wait for and observe them. Deep winter is a great time to start planning changes to your landscape and garden. Get out your catalogs and start dreaming!

Will My Lawn Come Back after the Snow and the Salt of Winter?

It is certainly a question landscapers and snow removal companies deal with as the winter months start to set in…will the snow plow ruin my lawn. As a company that deals with both the landscaping (warmer months) and plowing (colder months), we will give you the synopsis of what to expect!

The dirty truth about snow plowing:


The good news for home owners:

Grass is amazingly resilient when cared for properly throughout the year.  For example, if a plow has done damage, as in the picture above, one thing you can do to be proactive is check and see if the sod is still there, replace it as you would if you were laying new sod.  Take care to fill the space properly or the new soil will depress over time and you’ll end up with a noticeable low spot in your lawn.  Flood the area with water and lay the sod so it sits high in comparison to the surrounding area.

If there is no sod nearby to replace the lawn damage, you can try taking a piece from a healthier, remote section that isn’t as aesthetically important.  This lets you avoid the near impossible task that comes along with getting new sod: matching the rest of the lawn in shape and color.

If you have dirt driveway it’s important to rake off the lawn as soon as the snow melts and it starts to get warmer so you don’t interrupt the new growth of grass in the Spring.

If your grass suffers from salt damage (usually around the edges, as seen below) in the early Spring, flood the affected area to wash the salt or ice-melter off the grass and leach it through the soil away from the grass root area. After two or three heavy waterings, plant seed and apply fertilizer to speed up recovery. Unless the salt levels are unusually heavy, this procedure will correct the condition and you won’t need to replace the soil.


Lastly, if you are fortunate not to deal with large amounts of snow you may still deal with frost.  For more on frost damage, no one really says it better than Lawn Dawg.

Finding a Better Solution for Green Waste in Landscaping

When you hire a lawn service in Grand Rapids, MI, you are able to put out of your mind a number of things such as maintaining your lawn equipment, purchasing topsoil, fertilizer, and mulch, and disposing yard waste.  Your lawn service does all of this for you.  But have you ever wondered what your yard service company does with that lawn waste?  Over the course of one season one property can produce truckloads full of grass clippings, branches, roots, and other dead plant materials.  Where does it all go?

In the past PROCARE disposed of its green waste by loading 40-yard dumpsters to be hauled away.  This was expensive, energy intensive, and wasteful, so when PROCARE moved to a larger site, we did a significant amount of research in order to find a better solution for our green waste.

Currently all of our tree service wood chips and landscape management pruning materials are mixed and piled for the entire season. In the spring of the year we hire a firm to bring in a large tub grinder which turns our chips, waste logs, tree trimmings and pruning debris into wonderful mulch. We sell it as PROCARE Arbor Mulch to our customers. The mulch has an attractive color and consistent size that clings together well. This is important during rain storms that can wash out other products. This all natural product decomposes into a good growing medium for our landscape plants.

The rest of our green waste such as ornamental grass tops, perennial tops, grass clipping and fall leaves are piled. The compost is turned regularly until decomposition is complete. The last step is to put the soil through a screener to filter out unwanted stones and debris. The final product is excellent topsoil to be used by our landscape department.

If you have questions about lawn care, tree service or mulching, contact Dirk at PROCARE today!

What Snow Plow Operators Wish People Understood About Snow Plowing

Snow plowing looks simple, right? Big truck, bunch of snow, zooom zooom, all clear, done.

While it may look like a breeze from a distance, it’s actually something of an art, especially during challenging weather. Snow often changes as it’s falling, making the conditions of the roads subject to change as well. Wind can alter the way snow needs to be plowed as well. And, let’s face it, anyone driving heavy machinery, in the dark, in the cold, in low visibility, on slippery roads, surrounded by other stationary and moving objects (and people) is pulling off a real feat of balance and timing. So, please, be patient with us as we work to clear your roads and driveways and get you there on time.

Another thing to remember is this: snow plows can’t turn or stop on a dime. Even with driveway markers, it’s a trick to get the plow’s blade to lay just right and clear things as requested, especially when conditions are bad. So if you have special requirements, please tell your snow removal company up front what you require. Choose carefully where you want the excess snow piled and where you do not, keeping in mind that snow piles up over the course of the winter, sometimes in abundance. You may be able to maneuver around a small pile there, but will you still be able to get around a large pile later? Once it’s frozen solid, it’s staying there.

It’s much harder to plow a great deal of snow than just a small accumulation This seems obvious, but on blizzard days, remember that each job takes longer and is more complex to do well, and factor that into your planning. This will lead to less frustration on everyone’s part.

If, knock wood, our plowing is off and we damage something on your property, please contact us right away so that we can address it immediately. Taking pictures of the damage is always a good idea so that we can determine responsibility and cost

Winter roads and driveways can be daunting, but if we work as a team and communicate our needs and challenges, keeping the above in mind, everything will go much more smoothly.

Finally, don’t forget to get out and enjoy that white stuff too! It’s beautiful, and it’s great for snowing, sledding, ice skating, or just walking in a winter wonderland.

If you have questions about lawn care, tree service or mulching, contact Dirk at PROCARE today!

Ala Carte Services


*Basic Plan includes: Spring Cleanup, Mowing, & Fall Cleanup