With spring comes.. Mulch Madness

Spring is finally here – birds are back, the days are warmer & longer and new growth is .. almost here! 

This is the time of year when us landscape professionals experience mulch madness – over the next two months we’ll experience the joy of installing more mulch than seems possible – but boy does it look awesome once we are finished!

Premium chocolate dyed bark mulch.

Premium chocolate dyed bark mulch.

If mulch is part of your spring agenda consider these few recommendations and warnings – you can improve plant life, help beautify your property and save some money by doing your home work first.

Plant life benefits

Mulching around the base of trees, perennials, shrubs and even annuals is beneficial for multiple reasons – it protects the root systems from hot and cold temperatures, holds moisture which keeps plants hydrated and if applied thick enough keeps the weed pulling this summer to a minimum.

Be careful not to smother new growth – your perennials are getting ready to bloom and the last thing you want to do is block out there sunlight by covering them with 3 inches of fresh mulch. Either lightly (very light, see through) cover them or make another circle around your perennials so they have room to sprout!
Don’t forget to mulch your trees!

We always recommend mulching around trees – but be careful at the same time. Don’t allow the mulch to touch the trunk of your tree – this can cause insect problems along with rot/mold and diseases to form at the base of your tree – which is the exact opposite of the overall goal! We normally pull the mulch back at about a 3 inch circle formed around the base of the tree. The easiest and honestly best looking way is to form this circle by hand.

Protect your foundation!

Always be sure to build up your landscape beds so they slope away from your foundation. Be sure to do this with the soil before applying the mulch. If the soil slopes toward your home, you can bet your going to have moisture problems down the road!

Spend the extra few dollars and purchase a premium dyed mulch.

Unless we receive a special request for non-dyed bark mulch we always use premium dyed colors – chocolate is our favorite. Red is nice if you like the look. We try to stay away from black. No matter the manufacturer black always fades out rather quickly. If you select the right mulch, instead of looking at a light brown/faded out landscape bed a month down the road you will actually be surprised at the fact you may not need to remulch in the following spring – it makes that much of a difference! 

Depending on the size of your landscape the cost to apply new mulch every year can add up quickly – even spending the extra money up front is way cheaper than a full mulch every year!

Don’t waste money on weed barrier.

As a professional landscaper I can tell you that weed barrier products simply do not work. Actually, weeds will take root directly in this fabric.. they will also grow in the mulch as it breaks down. The only true way to have a weed free bed is to use geo textile fabric underneath a decorative gravel – but since we are talking about mulch we are not going to get into gravels with this post.

If you really have your mind set on a fabric underneath your mulch look for a product similar to geotextile fabric. It is used during hardscape installations. Be sure to cut holes for water drainage at certain areas (maybe even at random) depending on the pitch of your bed – this stuff is so thick water will run off of it vs run through!
Hopefully these few tips and warning will help during your spring landscape refresh process. If you need a hand we are always available!

Battery Operated Lawn Equipment

When you think lawn and landscape company you think large – heavy duty gas powered equipment, at least I always did. But is it always necessary? There are jobs that require gas powered engines, but for the day to day mowing – does it all need to run on gas?

We are giving something new a try this year. Battery powered leaf blowers for day to day lawn care services. We still need our large back pack blowers for leaf clearings of course, but to clear off sidewalks and driveways it always seems like over kill. The goal is to cut down on gas usuage, save some time (pull a trigger and go vs start a gas engine, and we all know sometimes they don’t want to start) and reduce noise (ever heard a br600 Stihl blower?). 

What did we notice so far?

The noise difference is night and day. You barely hear the battery powered blower compared to a gas model. Large back pack blowers are being banned in certain cities due to noise – this could be a game changer for day to day operations.

Quick and easy — you literally flick a switch and go vs pulling a string, priming, choke etc. It saves about a minute on each job. The weight difference is great too – no more shoulder pain at 5pm.

Maintenance cost savings. There no fuel filter, no spark plug, no air filter – just a battery. We normally tune up gas equipment twice a year for around $30 each time, so that’s $60 a year per machine (we have 10).. big savings there!

What is growing in your landscape mulch?

Mulch Mushrooms

Mulch Mushrooms

As with nearly all other organic matter, wood and bark decompose over time. The primary organisms involved with the decomposition are bacteria and fungi. The fungi involved in the decomposition of mulch are natural components of the mulch environment. Some fungi, such as the artillery fungi, are ‘recyclers’ and break down woody tissue directly. Fungi-like organisms, such as as slime mold, consume bacteria and other organisms living in the mulch.  These molds are normally found from April through October, weather dependent.

This article describes the four common types of organisms found growing in mulch throughout Pennsylvania.

Mushrooms, Slime Molds, Bird’s Nest Fungus, and the Artillery Fungus.



Common Names: Mushrooms, Toad stools. Scientific names: Many different fungi produce mushrooms.

Mulch Mushrooms

Mulch Mushrooms

What do mushrooms look like? They come in various colors, shapes, and sizes ranging from less than an inch to several inches tall. Some are soft and fleshy and disappear soon after they emerge: others may remain in mulch for a few days, weeks, or an entire growing season.

The only serious issues that mushrooms produce? They may poisonous if eaten. While I highly hope that no one is eating mushrooms from there landscape mulch, take caution with children and pets.

What should be done? Appreciate their beauty, ignore them, or remove them. Anything you want – do not worry about spraying an anti-fungi as this can cause more harm then the mushrooms themselves.



Slime Molds

Common Name: Slime Molds, “dog vomit”. Scientific Names: Species of Physarum, Fuligo, and Stemonitis.

Slime Mold

Slime Mold

What do slime molds look like? They start as brightly colored (yellow, orange, etc.), slimy masses that are several inches to more than a foot across. They produce many tiny, dark spores. These molds dry out and turn brown, eventually appearing as a white, dry, powdery mass.

What kind of problems do they cause? None. These fungi-like organisms are ‘feeding’ on bacteria growing in the mulch. They are normally a temporary nuisance confined to small areas.

Slime Mold

Slime Mold

What can you do about Slime Mode? Slime molds may be left in place to decompose. If their appearance is offensive, discard the fruiting bodies in a compost pile, household garbage, or a spot in the yard away from existing mulch.




Bird’s Nest Fungus

Common Name: Bird’s Nest Fungus. Scientific Names: Species of Crucibulum and Cyathus.

Bird's Nest Fungi

Bird’s Nest Fungi

What does Bird’s Nest Fungi look like? They resemble tiny, gray to brown bird’s nests or splash cups with eggs. The nest is up to 1/4 inch in diameter.



Do they cause problems? No. These fungi may grow in large areas of mulch, but they are not a problem. The ‘eggs’ are masses of spores that splash out of the nest when hit by a raindrop. These spores occasionally stick to surfaces, as do the spores of the artillery fungus, but they are easily removed and do not leave a stain.

How can you remove Bird’s Nest Fungus? These naturally occurring fungi decompose organic matter and do not need to be removed. They are interested to look at – show them to your children! Removing them is nearly impossible because of the size and amount. If they really are visual unattractive to you then the best bet will be to mulch over them.



Artillery Fungus

Common Name: Artillery Fungus. Scientific Name: Species of Sphaerobolus.

Artillery Fungus

Artillery Fungus

What does artillery fungi look like? They resemble a tiny, cream or orange-brown cup with one black egg. The cup is approximately 1/10 inch in diameter. Areas of mulch with artillery fungus may appear matted and lighter in color than the surrounding mulch.



Artillery Fungus Damage

Artillery Fungus Damage

Do they cause problems? They may be a problem, yes. The fruiting body of this fungus orients itself toward bright surfaces, such as light-color houses or parked automobiles. Weird, I know. They artillery fungus “shoots” its black, sticky spore mass, which can be windblown as high as the second story of a house. The spore mass sticks to the side of a building or automobile, resembling a small speck of tar. You may also find them on the undersides of leaves on plants growing in mulch areas.

Once in place, the spore mass is very difficult to remove without damaging the surface to which has become attached. If removed, it leaves a stain. A few of these spores are barely noticeable, but as they accumulate, they may come very unsightly on houses and cars.

What can be done about Artillery Fungi? Penn State researches have recently discovered that blending 40 percent used mushroom compost with landscape mulch greatly suppresses the artillery fungus. Mushroom compost, or mushroom soil, is the pasteurized material on which mushrooms are grown. After the final crops of mushroom are picked, the used compost is pastuerized a second time and removed from the mushroom house. This valuable by-product (sometimes called ‘Black Gold’, or ‘Mushroom S***’. Yes, I know but I have heard this before!) is often made available to gardeners and home-owners. Used mushroom compost has physical and chemical characteristics that make it ideal for blending with landscape mulch to enhance growth of horticultural plants. In addition, mushroom compost contains beneficial microbes that compete with, or actually destroy, nuisance fungi such as the artillery fungus and bird’s nest fungi. Homeowners are increasingly interested in controlling nuisance fungi without the use of chemicals. Blending used mushroom compost with landscape mulch offers a “green” and environmentally friendly solution to reducing the harmful effects of the artillery fungus.


What is the Emerald Ash Borer?

The Emerald Ash Borer Beetle

The Emerald Ash Borer Beetle

The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, a beetle native to Asia, was first detected in Michigan in 2002. Evidence suggests that the beetle was established in Michigan for years prior to its discovery. Emerald ash borer (EAB) has since been detected in several states including Pennsylvania. In addition to spreading by natural means, EAB can be transported to new areas in infested firewood, timber, and nursery stock. This beetle has been responsible for the loss of millions of ash trees in North America.

The Ash Tree

The Ash Tree

Host: In North America, EAB is known to infest all species of ash. Ash can be recognized by the presence of compound leaves which are arranged opposite of one another on the branches.

Biology: Eggs are laid between layers of bark and in bark crevices. Larvae hatch in about one week and bore into the tree where they feed on the inner bark and phloem, creating “S” -shaped galleries. Larvae go through three feeding stages, and then excavate a pupal chamber in the fall, where they will overwinter as prepupae. Pupation occurs in late spring, and adults begin to emerge through “D”  shared exit holes in May and early June. Adults will remain active until the end of summer.

Symptoms and Signs: New infestations are difficult to detect, as damage to the tree may not be apparent for up to three years. Symptoms in the upper crown, excessive epicormic branching on the tree trunk, and vertical bark slits. Woodpecker damage is sometimes apparent.

Ash Borer Damage.

Damage from Ash Borer Beetle.


Protecting our Forests and Trees in Pennsylvania:

  • Use Local Firewood.
  • Do not bring firewood into PA. This is banned under order of quarantine currently.
  • If you have already transported firewood, do not take it home, do not leave it – BURN IT.

Reporting Ash Borer Beetle to PA Department of Agriculture:

The PA Department of Agriculture is scheduling spray treatments for the beetle. If you discover or think you have found the Emerald Ash Borer, report it by contacting:

PA Department of Agriculture: 1-866-253-7189 or report your sighting by e-mail at: Badbug@state.pa.us

This information is directly from the Penn State Cooperative Extension. Please consult at: http://www.paemeraldashborer.psu.edu


Facebook Giveaway. Like us on Facebook to enter.

Starting 3/6/2014 Lego Services will be running a Facebook giveaway promotion.

Three free gifts will be given to three random entries on Easter 2014. To enter simply Like our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LegoServices and share this post: https://www.facebook.com/LegoServices/posts/721558974531445?stream_ref=10


The giveaway items will be the winners choice from one of three items:

  • Gift card for Home Improvement Store
  • Gift card for Lego Services / Credit
  • A small flowering shrub or similar plant (Local followers only)

Good luck!