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Friday, February 27, 2015

Your Guide Keeping Critters Out of Your Yard & Gardens With Alternative Food Options

There are a variety of non-chemical and non-lethal ways to keep these critters at bay. One option is to feed the animals cheaper, more desirable alternatives to steer them away from the plants and vegetables you don't want them to eat. Learn more from Cyclone Rake in the infographic below:

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's Not Too Late to Welcome Wildlife

Winter is far from over, and it is still a wonderful time to welcome birds and beasts to your yard. In some parts, like New England, birds and wildlife may be feeling the effects of a long, hard winter. In other places, with milder winters, it’s time to make sure your bird feeders are well-stocked to attract both the locals - and migrating birds that will soon be passing through.

Cyclone Rake yard vacuum owners often enjoy welcoming birds and wildlife to the winter landscape. Follow these tips to welcome outdoor friends to your yard as this winter winds down.

Expand the Bird Buffet

Keeping feeders well-stocked with good quality birdseed in later months can maintain bird interest and, in some areas, may attract migrating birds on their way north. Try attracting finches with niger (thistle) seed.

Suet blocks are another popular bird feed, and block feeders are easily hung from tree branches. According to Penn State University, suet helps attract woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice – as well as species not as easily drawn to feeders, like Carolina wrens and brown creepers.

Birds (and others!) are also drawn to peanuts. Shelled or in-shell peanuts may be placed on your platform feeder or scattered on the ground. When spreading bird feed on the ground, place it near bushes and other cover and rotate the spots where it is placed. Remember that ground feeding could attract other wildlife, too. Peanuts will attract squirrels, too – so you might want to keep peanuts scattered on the ground away from your other birdfeeders!

About Those Squirrels

While squirrels always appreciate a winter snack, like squirrel corn, they are legendary for invading bird feeders. If your birdseed seems to be disappearing more quickly than normal, it might not be because of the long winter. Refer to your university Extension service or other trusted resource for tips on making your feeder squirrel-proof.

Watch Your Wildlife

Winter wildlife, especially rabbits and voles, can damage trees, plants and shrubs. Rabbits find some varieties tastier than others, but heavy snow cover and lengthy winter can make most plants susceptible.

Even if you have put up the recommended two to three-foot fence to guard your plants, deep snow may put higher branches within a rabbit’s reach. Consider removing snow around some plants. For more tips on rabbit control, check out this resource from Iowa State University:

Deer will also browse your landscape in the winter. Like drought, long winters can make deer less selective as they browse for feed. It might not be too late to put up temporary fence or other barriers if you see deer roaming closer than normal to your trees and shrubs as winter ends and spring nears.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Yard Care

Winter is no time to ignore caring for your yard and landscape. Winter storms and winds can down tree branches, limbs or even whole trees; excess snow can damage plants and cause turf damage; snow and ice can damage plants and shrubs. Here are some tips to help your landscape through the winter and recover into its spring glory.

Plan, Practice Pruning

Mid-winter starts the season for pruning. The ideal time for pruning many trees, shrubs and landscape plants starts now – but remember, that timing varies by species and region. Some plants are best pruned nearer spring.

You don’t have to be a professional to prune. A first priority is removing “dead wood,” any dead or diseased branches that can harbor more disease and attract pests. Winter storms may bring down branches and snow may break down shrubs; consult with a garden guide or your local Extension office to find out the best course of action for any damaged plants. Trimming and pruning may need to happen right after the damage, as well as later toward spring.

If you suspect winter damage has killed shrubs or flowers, wait before pruning; plants are resilient, and they may surprise you by coming back. And enjoy the time outdoors while pruning – but take care, especially if pruning trees, to avoid slipping in wintry conditions.

Keep it Clear

Excess snow can weigh down trees and shrubs, and that gives you another chance to get outside this winter to gently shake branches free. A broom can be a good tool for helping free the weight of snow, according to the University of Maryland Extension service. Take care not to damage or break branches while removing snow.

Piles of snow on lawns can bring unwelcome spots later from snow mold. Gray and pink snow molds are fungi that start growing underneath snow in winter, creating unseemly lawn circles in spring. Avoid piling snow in the yard, if possible. Especially avoid throwing snow that may have salt or other ice-reducers into the yard.

It’s not too late to clean plant debris out of the corner of the garden bed you may have missed this fall. Winter winds may bring unwelcome debris or trash to your yard. Monitor your property for any excess trash and other debris.

Don’t Forget Water

In warmer zones, especially, plants may get thirsty amid freezing temperatures if the soil has dried out or remains frozen around the plants. The University of Florida advises, “Watering the area can help defrost the soil and provide your plants with an available source of moisture. Even injured plants need water.”

Find more tips about winter landscape damage and yard care from your local Extension service, or by reviewing these fact sheets we consulted from universities in Maryland, Illinois, Florida and Minnesota:

Winter Pruning
Winter Plant Damage
Snow Molds
Cold Damage

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mulching with Leaves & Pine Needles

Late fall and winter is not too soon to do something with the leaves or pine needles you have collected with a Cyclone Rake. Used properly, leaves and pine needles may provide attractive and economical winter mulch around many plants. Follow these tips to put your leaves and pine needles to use before next spring.

Use Oak Leaves and Pine Needles to Mulch Acid-Loving Plants

Oak leaves are slightly acidic before decomposing. That means they need some time to decompose to be used as garden compost, as they’ll soon rot and lose their acidity. But you can use this fall’s oak leaves to mulch and help protect your acid-loving plants - like azaleas and rhododendrons – this winter.

A University of Missouri growing guide recommends placing oak leaf mulch 4 to 6 inches deep around azaleas and rhododendrons. This helps conserve moisture and minimize winter injury to shallow roots. The mulch can be kept around the plant in warmer months, but be careful that leaves do not mat and form a layer that prevents water from reaching the soil below.

Pine needles provide slightly acidic mulch without as much risk of matting, creating excellent mulch around acidic-loving plants. Clemson University Cooperative Extension recommends a two-inch layer of pine needles. Whole pine needles interlock with each other, creating a mat while still allowing water and nutrients to reach the soil surface. Pine needles can also be scattered on top of other mulches to help keep them in place.

Consider Coarsely Shredded Leaves for Winter Mulch

Some plants can benefit from winter mulching, a layer of mulch leaves laid in late fall to insulate flowers or shrubs in winter. Winter mulching can also prevent “heaving,” when the ground rises and falls from thawing and freezing, which can damage plant root systems. Most garden guides recommend winter mulching after plants are dormant and temperatures are below freezing.

Winter mulch is meant to be removed when temperatures warm in early spring. It is important to use leaves that are not as finely shredded – like the leaves collected with the Cyclone Rake Power Vacuum Pickup – to keep the mulch from becoming matted. Having protected your plants for the winter, the winter mulch can be removed to the compost pile to break down.

If you Grow Strawberries, Use Pine Needles as Winter Mulch

Winter mulching protects strawberry plants during the harsh winter months. Straw is often used, but pine needles are ideal – especially for a smaller home garden strawberry patch. According to the University of Massachusetts Extension Center for Agriculture, the pine needles can be spread out between the rows of strawberry plants as temperatures warm. This helps keep strawberries clean when they ripen, reduce fruit rot, and cool the soil.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Leaves Fall — And Why They Don’t Fall At The Same Time

Collecting leaves with a Cyclone Rake is a great time to enjoy the beauty of your landscape and its trees. As you pay attention to your trees year after year, you’ve probably noticed that all leaves do not fall equally. Some trees shed their leaves sooner, and that timing can vary from year to year. The reasons for different leaf falls are anchored in tree genetics – especially in the leaves.

Leaves, as you probably know, contain chlorophyll – the main pigment that converts the sun’s light into sugars. Chlorophyll pigments are green. During autumn, leaf cells begin to seal off the flow of water to the leaf. That leaf moisture loss starts to reduce the green chlorophyll pigments. This process helps guard the leaf from frost damage.

As the Chlorophyll decreases, the leaves start to show their true colors. Leaves also contain over 80 different carotenoid and xanthophyll pigments, according to a Clemson University Extension publication. Carotenoids, like beta-carotene, appear as orange hues, like the sugar maple. Xanthophylls, like lutein, are more yellow, like the leaf changes of aspen and yellow poplar. Other leaf pigments include tannins, which appear as golden and brown; and anthocyanins, which appear purple or red, like red maple and sweetgum.

During fall’s shorter days and cooler nights, a layer of cells at the base of the leaf’s stem, called the abscission layer, starts to seal off the flow of water to the leaf. That “abscission layer” lets the leaf make a clean break from its branch – keeping tree sap from leaking out and tree diseases from getting into the tree. That’s why leaves fall at the stem.

A tree’s species and genetics largely dictate when the water flow starts to seal off, but weather and environment can also change that timing from year to year. Moisture, temperature and sunlight are most important. A late summer drought can delay the process. Drought in the early fall – right when the tree is starting to decrease chlorophyll production – can cause early leaf drop, according to Colorado State University. Early freezes can also kill leaf tissues, leading to an early drop.

By spending consistent time in your landscape, as you do when collecting leaves with a Cyclone Rake, you’ll start to notice the leaf fall pattern and timing of different trees – and notice how the weather from year to year can affect that timing. As you notice that, you might also take time to marvel at how each tree species has particular genetic designs and varying pigment levels that provide the ideal timing for its leaves to fall.

Websites referenced in this blog post:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cost of Landscaping in the United States: An Infographic

Did you know that homeowners in the United States spend a total of $44.7 billion on lawn care and landscape services per year? There are many ways to reduce the cost of professional landscaping services, including doing it yourself, shopping wisely, and working with what you have. Simple DIY tasks such as cleaning up leaves and mowing the lawn yourself can eliminate a need for professional services. The Cyclone Rake will not only help you get lawn care done quickly and efficiently while saving you money, but it will also eliminate any worry of injuries due to the manual labor associated with traditional lawn care tools. You can also comparison shop and time your purchase of plants and landscaping items. Even preserving your current lawn and landscape can help you save. View the infographic below to learn more.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cyclone Rake vs. Traditional Rake: An Infographic

We’ve created an infographic to illustrate the facts and to better understand the benefits of the Cyclone Rake over the traditional methods of fall leaf clean-up. The Cyclone Rake offers the benefit of eliminating the strain from constantly bending over while raking and bagging leaves, therefore making leaf removal and other aspects of lawn care much easier on your body. The Cyclone Rake turns what would normally be a back-breaking chore into an easy, efficient process. View the infographic below to understand why the Cyclone Rake is the better option for you.

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