Gutter Cleaning

5 Ways to Keep Your Gutters From Weighing You Down

Cleaning gutters is one of the easiest do-it-yourself maintenance projects around!

Clearing autumn gutter blocked with leaves by hand

When a leaf falls and no one is around to see it, you can bet that gutter gets clogged anyway (darn!). Fortunately, our tips on cleaning, preventative care, and winter preparation make this chore a snap. Take that, philosophy.

 

Check it out:

1. Stay ahead of the shedding

You’d be amazed how quickly leaves accumulate. While it’s tempting to pretend there’s an invisible force field around your roof, let’s face facts: those trees are dropping foliage like crazy. And they’re somehow penetrating your magical shields.

Regular gutter maintenance is key, too. Unless you remove those trapped leaves and spiky seed pods, cascades will start forming from your roof. These waterfalls aren’t the kind that attract honeymooners, either. Instead, you’ll have drowned grass or— worst case scenario— a soaked foundation.

 

But here’s the good news: by cleaning your gutters regularly, you’ll never have to worry about expensive landscaping repairs or flooding. Wondering how to tackle this chore? Take a look at …

 

2. Pro tips for cleaning gutters

Getting started is easy and inexpensive. Who knows, you might already have these appliances:

  • rubber gloves
  • dust mask
  • safety goggles
  • ladder with extensions and— for gutter protection—standoff stabilizers
  • plastic shovel: see if your local dollar store has cheap ones in the kids’ section
  • tarp: spread it below you for easy clean up!
  • garden hose

 

You’ll probably want to wear a long-sleeved shirt, too. Once you climb the ladder, see if your gutters have covers. If so, remove them. Then remove that gunk with the plastic shovel!

Next, flush away remaining leaf debris with the hose. While you’re at it, check for clogs, too. Increase pressure on the hose and see how much water escapes the downspout. Low volume means you’ve probably got a blocked gutter. If that’s the case, remove the nozzle and feed it down the spout. You can also buy a shop vac with a special attachment or get an extension rod with tongs.

 

3. Preparing for Old Man Winter

Water collects in gutters. If rain gets trapped by clogged leaves, it could turn into ice.

Here’s why you want to avoid a frozen gutter:

  • Ice acts like a barrier, which diverts water into your house.
  • They can pull away from your roof and fall without warning.
  • Heavier gutters shift, exposing siding and trim to rot.

Insider’s tip: If you really want to make sure Santa can visit this year, keep your gutters clear even after leaves stop falling. His lawyers just sent us a memo.

4. Going pro— hiring a landscaping company

Gutters-2015Not sure you want to get your hands dirty? Professional landscapers can do all the gutter maintenance for you. Plus, you won’t have to worry about scaring Santa away.

Prices for gutter cleaning varies, no matter where you live in Virginia.  Landscape companies charge more for cleaning castles, gabled mansions and fortresses. Not surprisingly, smaller homes with fewer gutters cost less. Expect to pay anywhere from $125-$350 per visit.

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5. Gutter guards— pros and cons

It seems reasonable, right? Just slap a cover on that gutter, and you’re home free! Unfortunately, gutter guards don’t keep everything out. Even the best, most expensive ones won’t prevent you from dodging this chore.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Gutter guards raise cleaning costs, since they’ll have to be removed individually.
  • Pine needles, seeds, and buds can still fall into gutters.

On the other hand, gutter guards prevent large clogs from forming. Ask a landscaping company if it’s worth having them installed on your house.

Adios for now! Feel free to grab an instant quote from the ‘Cow!

Leaf Removal

How to Rake Your Lawn: A Leaf Removal Guide for the Perplexed

So you want to rake your leaves, huh?

Rake lying in a pile of fall leavesCrimson, burnished gold, rust, and mottled green— entire forests put on festive displays, just for fall. If you’re a die-hard “leaf peeper,” you probably make weekend drives to Appalachia, where hardwood trees are especially vibrant.

But then you come home and discover that your backyard is swamped with fallen leaves— and tourists snapping pictures for Instagram. (It could happen.) Suddenly, Mother Nature isn’t so cool anymore.

Sound familiar? If foliage is mounding into backyard pyramids, act quickly before neighbors start thinking you’re worshiping some sort of sun god. Don’t worry, though. We won’t let you struggle in vain.

Check out these handy lawn maintenance tips:

Get the kid to do it

If you’re a proud parent, odds are you’ve thought about arming Junior with a rake and asking him (or her) to do the dirty work. Seems reasonable, right? After all, the benefits of youthful servitude include:

  • Energy
  • On-site installation
  • No lawyers attached

 

kid helps rake leavesBut bribing kids into raking and bagging leaves has its down sides, too. For example, five-dollar bills and bubble gum are no longer valid forms of payment. And if Sally and Johnny catch you lazing around watching The Game, expect a sit-down strike or peasant revolt.

Having second thoughts?  A professional lawn care company can save you time and grief. What’s more, landscapers will rake your lawn without cutting corners, shoving leaves into a corner, or leaving tools around like booby traps.

Do-it-yourself lawn maintenance

But if you’d rather manage things yourself, that’s great, too! For easier cleanup, we recommend the following do-it-yourself strategies:

  • Avoid leaf accumulation. Grass needs the sun for energy and nutrients, even in autumn. In fact, it’s storing up reserves for spring. Wet leaves are even more problematic; thick, sopping mats suffocate grass and— unless you act quickly— kill lawns.
  • Rake weekly. Trust us, frequent maintenance saves so much time. And it’s much easier to complete end-of-season fertilization without all that accumulation, too. A good rule of thumb: start raking once 25 percent of your trees start casting leaves.
  • Use a tarp. Raise your hand if you’ve raked leaves into gigantic, disheartening ziggurats … and then realized you created a whole new chore. This time, pile yard waste onto a leaf tarp! You won’t believe how much easier it is to bag that foliage.
  • Become a mixed-media yard artist. No painter uses a single brush, so why should you limit your landscaping efforts to a rake? Invest in an electric leaf blower (it’s kinder on the environment) for managing dry leaves. For wet foliage, use a wide-angled rake with thin prongs. Voila!

 

Leaf Management 101

Leaf Removal“OK,” you think, “Surely in this day and age there’s something I can do with all of these leaf leftovers.” While you can’t eat them (sorry to disappoint you), there are some earth-friendly yard tips out there, like …

Composting! Your lawn mower might even have a “mulch” setting, so check it out. If so, wait until your lawn is lightly covered with leaves. Then mow ‘em down! You’re really doing 2 chores at once (you eager beaver you), so give yourself a pat on the back for trimming the grass, too. And guess what? Clippings help decompose shredded leaves, so mix everything together.

What’s more, composting provides nourishment for the grass, deters pests, and balances soil pH. It also acts like mulch by preventing excessive evaporation.

Of course, leaf disposal is what most of us do. It’s probably the happiest moment of your autumn yard work, right? Right.

Many folks in northern Virginia ask their counties to haul bagged leaves away. Most have a weight limit (typically no more than 40 pounds per sack), but ask ahead of time.

We also recommend paper bags for leaf collection. For one thing, they’re biodegradable. For another, machines at the landfill don’t have to remove the plastic— a step that saves time, labor, and taxpayer expense. Who knew?

Your county dump is another handy resource, too. Depending on where you live, there’s usually a fee for hauling leaves over and dropping them off.

Lastly, does your property have woods? You’re allowed to scatter your leaves in the forest (if you’re lucky enough to own them; otherwise, you might have to explain yourself to an irate neighbor). Hey, if you got it, flaunt it.

Aeration Lawn Care Seeding Watering

Maximize Seed Growth with H2-Mooow

Double or triple your grass coverage with an easy watering routine!

After those boiling Virginia summers, our lawns are parched. We bet yours are, too! But recent rains, coupled with crisp autumn weather, mean there’s no time like now to grow some grass.

 

Harmonize with Nature

Scenario: Mr. Jones, your neighbor, knows grass can take anything. It’s tough, just like him. He struts around his lawn, chucking handfuls of seed everywhere. By the time spring rolls around, his lawn will be so green, everybody will have to wear sunglasses. Yeah, it’ll be that bright.

Chuckling to himself, Mr. Jones walks away after a few more minutes of tossing seeds. That was easy. And rain will take care of everything else.

Ah, but he forgot that his lawn is already stressed from summer. New grass will definitely have trouble getting established on such dry soil.  Months from now, Mr. Jones will wonder why his yard looks so frazzled and wimpy.

You don’t want to grow grass like your neighbor, right? No way!

We’ll show you how to avoid frustration and save money. All you have to do is work with nature. If that sounds even more difficult than throwing seed around, trust us. It’s simple. Take a look:

  • Get sprinkling. Grass seeds require daily watering. Rainfall alone isn’t enough for thirsty turf, but guess what? Sprinklers are even better. In fact, watering 2 times a day can double or triple your crop!
  • Keep track of shade and sun. Turf seed grows best when soil is damp. If your garden is mossy and dark, however, you probably don’t need too much water. On the other hand, bright yards with no shade require much more sprinkler time.
  • Thwart the blow dryer. Grass seeds easily dry out, and gusty weather makes them even more vulnerable. If your yard is like a wind farm, then you’ll need to water more frequently.

 

Water, and They Will Grow

You’re probably thinking, “I get it already!” But we really can’t emphasize the importance of daily watering. It’s the difference between you and Mr. Jones. Well, OK—regular watering prevents you from buying more seed and starting over next year.

Still, you need to have a watering routine. Without one, you’ll be just as bad as your sloppy, fictitious neighbor.

Here’s how we water seeds:

  1. Water early in the morning, before the sun evaporates all the moisture.
  2. Water 15-20 minutes at a time.
  3. Right before your lawn completely dries out, water for the second time.
  4. To ensure all seeds get watered, rotate your sprinklers for maximum coverage.

Wondering what happens if you overwater?  It’s easy to get distracted and leave a sprinkler on for much longer than you intended. Or, maybe a storm arrived the second you wrapped up the hose. Regardless of the reason, it’s easy for seeds to get washed away. Bummer, right?

Fortunately, MowCow customers are covered.  Whenever we seed lawns, we leave behind Headache Bags for this very reason.  Tip: check your doorstep after we leave—you’ll find your very own sack of extra seeds! And guess what?  If those get washed away, we’ll come back and reseed at no charge.

Extra Credit

For those overachievers out there (we know who you are), there are even more ways you can encourage seeds to grow.  So, let’s dig a little further!

To really, really improve your lawn:

  • Check your sprinkler(s). Sometimes, they lose efficiency from age or damage. Is yours slacking off? Here’s a quick test: grab empty tuna or soup cans and scatter them around the watering zone. Later, check them and see how much water is inside. Pro tip: it helps when you’ve turned off the sprinkler first.
  • Get a timer. That’s right, you don’t have to hang around the house while the sprinkler does its job. Timers are easy to buy, too. Most box stores have them for about $20-$40.
  • Harness the power of earth, wind, and fescue. We’re talking about aeration, a MowCow specialty. Our Aeravator opens passageways in the soil for fresh oxygen, nutrients, and water. Add new fescue (grass) seeds to the mix, and you’ve given your yard an excellent start!
  • Install an irrigation system. Automation saves water and reduces utility costs. Plus, every corner of your yard gets covered. If this sounds good to you, let us know and we’ll happily explain the installation process. We think you’ll be thrilled by the benefits.

 Have fun with your new lawn and seeds!  Have any remaining questions or concerns?  Feel free to call us!  It’s grass season, and we know you want to start off on the right foot. We can help with that! 

Get my lawn started

Uncategorized

Wait! You Might Want to Dethatch First

Starting a Yard Project? This Task Saves Seeds and Sanity

Remove the thatch monster, and your turf will be ready for anything.

You’re armed with new seeds, fertilizer, and plans for a fresh new lawn. Little did you know that thatch gobbles all of these up—including your gung-ho confidence. Fortunately, these tips will turn you into a grass-saving hero.

Thatch: A Brief History

There’s no need to be ashamed. Every yard has it—including the Jones’. In fact, you’ve probably seen some yourself.

We’re talking about thatch, a layer of organic debris that rests just above the soil. These matted strands of decaying leaves and roots form naturally and even prevent evaporation. But when they accumulate beyond 1/2 an inch, you’ve got a problem.

When Thatch Strikes

At this point, you’re probably wondering if your lawn needs rescuing. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to toss some seeds on your lawn, sip a cold one, and call it a day?

We hear you. But trust us, the Johnny Appleseed approach just holds you back.

Here’s why you have to remove thatch first:

Grass Cartoon sad that the lawn wasn't dethatched by MowCow Lawn & LandscapeSeeds won’t sprout.
Since thatch forms above the soil, it prevents seedlings from getting any nutrients and water. Those that do sprout, perform poorly.

Poor root development.
Even if seeds penetrate the thatch layer, they’ll grow into thin, skimpy blades. With such shallow roots, they’ll suffer from drought during the summer.

You’ll have an uneven lawn.
It’s really difficult to mow over lumpy, snarled layers of thatch. Trust us, we know. Even worse, your yard will look like a rumpled, unmade bed. Not cool.

Less quality control.
If water has trouble penetrating the thatch layer, imagine how fertilizer will do! The same thing goes for other lawn treatments.

Like any villain, thatch gets worse over time. Soil microorganisms don’t like to eat lignin, one of the compounds found within the layer. As a result, thatch just grows faster and thicker.

Put your lawn to the test

At MowCow, we have a simple way of checking for thatch. It’s so easy, you can do it without any professional training whatsoever.

We call it the “Fingernail Test.” Drop to your knees, rake your hand over the lawn, and inspect your nails. If you don’t see any dirt, that means your turf is under siege.

But don’t worry, help is on the way!

Dethatching to the Rescue

Ready to take back your lawn? All you need is some grit, elbow grease, and a dethatcher.

For layers less than 1 inch deep, grab a rake. Feel free to call it a dethatcher if it makes you feel more imposing. Regardless, the sharp tines should help clear things up. Just rake normally; you should see hairy thatch rising to the surface with each stroke.

But if your turf has dense, aggressive bunches of thatch, you’ll need to get serious. A real dethatcher—also called a vertical cutter—slays organic matter with mechanized tines. What’s more, you can adjust the blades for precise control.

MowCow to the Rescue

Not everyone’s up to manhandling a heavy dethatcher, even if it’s easy enough to rent one. You’ll also need a truck to haul it back to your house.

If you’d rather sit back, drink a lemonade, and watch us do the heavy lifting, no problem! Our yard care services will make your lawn a blank canvas, ready and primed for your next project.

Get in touch, dethatch today!

Aeration Seeding

Top 10 Reasons to Aerate and Seed, Pronto!

Boost your lawn’s growth with an autumn aeration and seeding!

As fall approaches, grass roots spread and flourish. If you’d like to have a lush, thick lawn for spring, plan ahead! Cooler temperatures, fall rain, and less weeds are just some of the reasons to focus on your home turf. Want to know the whole story? Let’s take a look!
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Aeration: What’s the Big Deal?

Before we get too carried away, let’s quickly talk about aeration.

For a variety of reasons, soil gets compacted. Maybe your dog is really active, or you’ve had too many luau parties over the summer. Regardless, grass roots get squeezed over time. It’s much harder for them to get oxygen, nutrients, and water as a result.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: aeration! We have two great options available for you. First up—our special Aeravator. The metal tines on this baby vibrate vigorously to break up thick thatch, Northern Virginia clay, and dense soil.  Second, our dependable ZTS Core Aerator extracts soil plugs so the elements can reach deep.  Both aeration machines work wonders—it all depends what your unique lawn asks for.

Aeration literally gives lawns a breath of fresh air. And now’s the best time to seed your yard.

Here’s why:

  • MowCow's mascot "Bester" using our dependable core aeratorWake up call. Cool, crisp temperatures aren’t just invigorating for people; plants feel the difference, too! Now’s the time turf really starts growing, so aerating soil further invigorates the lawn.
  • Spreading some roots. Aeration breaks up all that compaction, so growing grass won’t get root bound.
  • Microorganisms will thank you. Soil is more active than ever during fall. Aeration delivers life-saving oxygen to crucial microorganisms, which help turf by removing toxins.
  • Autumn rain. If your lawn is compacted, water has trouble soaking into thick clay and soil. Aerate your lawn and let those sweet, invigorating rainfalls revive those roots!
  • Beat the competition. Aeration promotes soil nutrition, which results in a thicker, healthier lawn. This means weeds will have a much harder time getting established in spring.

Start seeding!

Autumn is perfect for sowing grass too. Combined with aeration, fall seeding guarantees your lawn will be a springtime showstopper.

Take a look:

  • Our mascot seeding with GrowCow’s exclusive Pennington Supreme MixtureCold above, warm below. Believe it or not, soil retains summer warmth through autumn. Grass seed loves nothing better than crisp fall days and cozy soil.
  • Morning dews and damps. Autumn’s gentle but generous moisture is great for seeds. Scatter some on bald spots, and let Mother Nature do the rest.
  • No need to be crabby. Garden villains like crabgrass aren’t a problem during autumn. Give your young grass a head start!
  • Beat Old Man Winter. Grass grows quickly. If you plant seeds now, they’ll be ready for frost, ice, snow—all that fun stuff.
  • No sunburn. Less sunlight, cool days, mild nights—autumn is kind on young grass. Your seeds can say goodbye to drought and dryness!

 

If these reasons sound good to you, give us a call! For every client, we’ll generously over-seed your lawn with GrowCow’s exclusive Pennington Supreme Mixture, our special blend of drought and heat-tolerant seeds.

Call us if you’d like to give your lawn the autumn advantage!

Aerate and seed, please!

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Uncategorized

High Heat & Humidity Impact on Lawns

 

Heat and humidity will have some negative effects on your lawn. Why?

In Northern Virginia the turf grasses in most lawns are “cool season” grasses, a name that reflects their preference for cooler temperatures. When cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues and perennial ryegrass experience temperatures in the 90’s they stop growing, lose color and are prone to diseases and insects. High heat, humidity with little air flow unfortunately creates a terrific environment for fungal diseases to flourish.
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What can you do to help your lawn during high heat?

Drought stressed lawn versus healthy watered lawn#1 Water only in early morning.
This will give time for turf to dry, and help decrease the chance of the turf diseases.

#2 Keep your mowing height on taller side.
This helps keep your grass cooler. Our crews adjust mowing height to….

#3 Adjust expectations.
Your lawn will be stressed while hot weather continues. Cool season lawn color and vigor will return, once the soil cools and humidity drops.
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Lawn Care

5 Misconceptions about Lawn Renovation

I have to rototill my lawn to make it grow better

Lawn-Renovation-TillerWhile rototilling your lawn can help level out very uneven soil and open up air spaces, it is not necessary to sustain a healthy lawn. Tilling can bring buried weed seeds to the surface and cover up essential topsoil. Microbes, essential for breaking down thatch and organic material, reside in this top layer. Top dressing with compost or topsoil, as well as aerating and seeding will give you good results with much less effort.
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If I use sod rather than seed, the lawn will be better

Lawn-Renovation-Roll-GrassSod may look better when initially laid down, but the health of the soil is what determines the long term health of the turf grass. You can choose the optimal seed blend for your location and you’ll not have to deal with transplant issues. Developing stronger roots when planting, increases the likelihood you’ll have healthier and deeper roots over time.The effort put into healthy soil preparation is the most important determination.
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If I add extra fertilizer, my lawn will be healthier

Lawn-Renovation-Happy-GrassTurf grass will only use what it needs. Too much fertilizer applied at the wrong time can burn your turf. Excess fertilizer can wash off lawns into storm drains and local waterways causing BIG algae problems. Always test your soil first to see what it actually needs to support healthy turf.
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I always need to put down lime when I add seed.

Lawn-Renovation-SeedDon’t guess. Soil test. Lime raises the pH of your soil. You only know if soil pH is low by testing the soil. Soil test kits can be picked up at your local Cooperative Extension office.

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Once I remove these weeds they will never come back

Lawn-Renovation-WeedsWe wish this were true! Weeds are opportunists, and will rapidly colonize any thin or bare areas. Commonly overlooked ways that weed seeds move into yards is by birds, animals, and vehicle tires.

Many backyard birds eat weed seeds and ‘deposit’ them. New weeds are frequently seen sprouting below tree branches, along fence lines and on the ground under roof gutters. House sparrows for example, weave nests from dried grass seed stalks and line them with fluffy dandelion seeds. New dandelions can sprout up on the ground below the nest or perch.

Lawn-Renovation-BirdsDandelions may be more abundant as birds drop seeds while moving in and out of their home. Additionally, crabgrass and other weed seeds may be picked up on the road where they routinely sprout in pavement cracks. These are carried home in tire treads and wash into lawn edges during rain storms.
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Nature

Will deer eat liriope grass?

We wish our answer could be “NO, deer NEVER eat liriope!”

 

liriope-0
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liriope-2Typically, this clump forming groundcover, also known as lily tuft, ranks low on our Deer Yum Yum list, especially if tender tasty tidbits are growing nearby.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension categorizes liriope as seldom severely damaged, but our clients living along the Occoquan River would STRONGLY disagree!

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liriope-1Unfortunately, in their yard, the deer eat absolutely everything (except oregano). Even during this record setting wet summer, with loads of lush vegetation bursting forth, the deer are choosing to repeatedly snack on their new tender liriope shoots.

In the picture below you can see the crisply cropped tufts encircling the tree. At this point in the summer, liriope should be much taller and wider, pushing up flower stalks. A few clumps were ripped out by feeding fawns, whose tiny footprints are peppered throughout this mulch bed.

One bright spot for this deer decimated landscape is that our clients don’t have to trim their lily turf back in the spring, because the deer neatly groom it for them.

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