Take your pick……… Choosing the best snow plowing and ice control contract for a Chicago winter!

The winter’s in Chicago and it’s surrounding suburbs have become very unpredictable to say the least.  Even though meteorologists do their best to provide “forecasts” of anticipated winter weather, we just never know for sure.  As property owners we must prepare well in advance for winters worst to ensure our residential, commercial or industrial properties are kept clear of snow and ice.  Even though every property is different and service expectations vary, here are several common ways to purchase snow and ice management services .

  • Unlimited Seasonal Contract: Any/all snow plowing, shoveling, ice melt applications, etc. will be performed for a fixed non-fluctuating seasonal fee.  Normally invoiced in full at beginning of season or monthly (November – March).
  • Limited Seasonal Contract: Limited number of snow plowing, shoveling and/or ice melt applications will be performed before incurring an additional predetermined fee (per service, per accumulated inch, per hour, etc.).  Normally if service exceeds specified limited contract quantities (number of service visits, applications, snow accumulation, etc.), client will be invoiced for additional predetermined fees at the end of a calendar month, season, etc..
  • Per Inch: Snow plowing and/or shoveling services are performed and depending on actual snow accumulation at time of service (determined on-site or by third party meteorologist), client is invoiced for each individual snow clearing visit at the predetermined contracted rate (i.e. 1″-3.9″ = $10.00, 4.0-7.9″ = $15.00, 8.0-11.9″= $25.00, etc.)
  • Per Application: Ice melt applications are made before/during/after winter precipitation has occurred.  Client is invoiced for each individual ice melt application property visit made.  Depending on site conditions, budget, temperatures, etc. multiple ice melt materials are commonly used (sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, etc.)
  • Per Event: Any/all snow plowing, shoveling, ice melt applications, etc. are performed and invoiced at the end of a snow event.  Usually each “event” is defined as continuous snow fall beyond 2″ and within a 24 hour period)
  • Time & Materials: Any/all snow plowing, shoveling, ice melt applications, etc. are performed and invoiced according to predetermined hourly and/or material rates.
  • As Needed Only: Any/all snow plowing, shoveling, ice melt applications, etc. are requested by the client normally after winter precipitation has occurred.  Pricing for needed services are normally provided just before work begins on-site.  In my opinion, this is the most unpredictable and most expensive way to purchase snow and ice management services.
  • Any combination of the above
As always, our team at Pacocha Landscaping Services, Inc. remains at your complete disposal 24/7/365.  Be sure to let us know if we can provide winter related service information for your residential, commercial or industrial property.  

 

Sod Webworm: Weakened or drought stressed lawns beware!

If you maintain a lawn that happens to benefit from full sun exposure (not shaded) and has become weakened from heat and drought stress you need to be aware of sod webworm and the damage it can cause.  This small sod webworm caterpillar (5/8″-1″ in length) can chew off leaves and stems of your cool-season grasses including Kentucky bluegrass, most fescues, perennial ryegrass and bentgrass.  It will cause general lawn thinning, followed by small patches of brown and finally leaving behind closely cut/cropped areas.  A lawn that is healthy and well irrigated will often tolerate and recover from sod webworm scalping.  Weak or drought stressed lawns that have been clipped short by sod webworm may be killed via sun exposure to the crowns of the plant.  Adult sod webworm moths (lawn moths) are small whitish, dull gray or tan colored moths that hover over turfgrass at dusk.  As these small sod webworm moths flutter across the lawn females drop eggs during flight that settle in the upper thatch layer of your lawn.  As many as 500 eggs are laid during a life span of usually less than 14 days.  Depending on temperatures, eggs hatch in 4 to 20 days and the larvae develop through usually 6 to 8 larval stages in 4 to 7 weeks.  The larvae are beige, gray, brown or a greenish color (depending upon species) with a brownish head.  The older larvae chew down foliage around their burrows mainly at night.  Most sod webworm have two generations per year.  Sod webworm are fairly easy to control on a curative, as-needed basis.  Insecticide controls are directed against the feeding larvae, not the moths.  A healthy, vigorous turf, balanced fertility and adequate irrigation during dry periods will enhance your lawn’s tolerance to sod webworm feeding.  As always, be sure to contact a local lawn professional to help identify sod webworm, evaluate treatment options and analyze if lawn repairs will be needed.

Poison Ivy………… Leaves of Three, Leave Them Be!

If you ever came in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac you know exactly the type of painful skin irritation one can experience.  It begins with severe itching of the skin.  Next the skin becomes inflamed and blistering occurs.  In extreme cases oozing sores develop.  Normally poison ivy rash can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks.  With awareness and the ability to properly identify these noxious plants you can avoid direct contact and thereby prevent the inevitable skin rash.  Poison ivy, oak and sumac are among the plants that produce a resin called urushiol which is the cause of the annoying allergic rash.  Direct plant contact is needed to release the urushiol oil.  Be sure to stay away from forest fires, direct burning, or anything else that can cause the oil to become airborne such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc.  Urushiol oil can stay active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years.  Poison ivy is not contagious and will not spread if rashes are touched or rubbed.  However, since urushiol is sticky and resin-like it can be spread to other parts of your body or other people if left on your hands, clothing, gear, etc.  Poison ivy and oak have 3 leaves per cluster and poison sumac has 7-13 leaves on a branch.  Since poison ivy and it’s rash causing relatives commonly grow within other vegetation, it is very difficult to notice.

Often times it is only shortly after the rash has started on your skin that you realize recent contact was made.  Since poison ivy is a very persistent plant, it is difficult to completely eradicate.  Be sure to protect your skin with appropriate gloves, long sleeve shirt, pants, etc. when manually removing poison ivy, oak or sumac.  Pacocha - Poison Ivy Vine Attached to Wood Fence Growing Along BaseOne proven way to eliminate poison ivy is to apply a non-selective herbicide (Glyphosate) per labeled application rate to completely kill this unwanted plant.  As always, be sure to contact a professional to assist in plant identification and removal of poison ivy, oak or sumac by manual or chemical means.

Your Lawn is Under Severe Water Stress!

When watering your lawn, you should really strive to water enough to wet the entire root zone.  The most common error committed by people is light irrigation.  Too little water too often encourages a multitude of problems such as shallow root system.  The ever changing need for watering depends mainly on your soil and of course, the weather.  Determining the type of soil you have is really helpful when determining beneficial watering schedules.  If you have a clay based soil watering to 1.25″ +/- is just about right.  However if your soil is more sandy or loam than anywhere between 1/2″ – 3/4″ is fine.  Try to remember that rainfall is no guarantee and should not be relied on as the single source of moisture for your lawn.  Light showers merely wet the surface.  Short down pours do the same.  Most of the water is lost in runoff before it can soak in to the soil.  A lawn will use as much as two inches per week in hot, dry weather – a fraction of that when it is cooler.  If you decide your lawn needs water, you should put on enough to wet the entire root zone as specified above.  If you can, avoid late afternoon or evening irrigation.  Grass that stays wet for a long time favors development of diseases.  However, do not avoid watering at these times if this is the only time you can water.  The important thing is water.  Avoiding late afternoons is secondary to providing the needed water to your turfgrass.  In heavy clay soils prevent watering to the full recommended amount at one time, frequent watering may be necessary to avoid surface runoff.

Types of Herbicides: Non-Selective VS. Selective

You need to know the difference between a non-selective and a selective herbicide before you perform or authorize any herbicide application on your property.

A non-selective herbicide kills all actively growing vegetation by contact or by a systemic mode of action (chemical transported throughout plant). As an example Round-Up (Glyphosate) is commonly used to kill all existing unwanted vegetation growing in a poorly maintained landscaped area before planting or installing desirable seed or mature plants shortly after. Residual weed control (pre-emergent herbicide, soil sterilants, etc.) should be considered when choosing the correct non-selective herbicide needed for a particular site specific vegetation control task at hand.

A selective herbicide kills only certain target plants (as specified on product label) and leaves behind all other plants virtually unscathed (dosage and timing of application dependent).  Most selective herbicides used on turf (in particular) are systemic in nature (chemical transported throughout plant).

A decision will need to be made if only a select few unwanted broadleaf weeds, grasses, vines, etc. need to be eliminated or if everything growing in a particular target area will need to be controlled.

As always, please consult an industry professional for proper target plant identification and best available control options (organic, synthetic, contact, systemic, dosage, mechanical, cultural, etc.) before any/all pesticide applications are performed.

The stubborn grassy weed with a strange name………….. Quackgrass!

Quackgrass is a perennial grassy weed that is very difficult to eradicate from a lawn.  This persistent grassy weed can take over your lawn or invade open soil spaces rather quickly if left alone.  Quackgrass grows from seed and underground rhizomes (roots) that lie dormant overwinter but quickly revive each and every spring.  In the spring time (in particular) this problem weed grass usually grows faster and taller than other surrounding grass plants.  The reason this weed is so difficult to control is due to its resistance to selective herbicides that are routinely used in seasonal lawn care programs.  Even though we can quickly eliminate other unwanted grassy and grass-like weeds in lawns like crabgrass, barnyardgrass, foxtail, nutsedge, etc….. just not quackgrass – It lives on!  The best way to eliminate quackgrass is by applying a non-selective liquid herbicide like Round-Up (glyphosate) directly to the unwanted weed grass when it is actively growing (spring or fall).  Please keep in mind that this non-selective herbicide needed to eliminate quackgrass will also kill any/all desirable grass, plants, etc. that are allowed to come in contact with the herbicide.  It is a good idea to choose the right applicator (small paint brush, hand sprayer, back pack sprayer, etc.) that you can easily control to lessen the amount of excess turf damage.  If the quackgrass outbreak is very small in overall size than a paint brush (very tedious) or small hand sprayer (faster but expect grass damage as well) will do the trick.  However, if quackgrass has spread across your entire lawn than a larger back pack or tank sprayer should be utilized to make the application (please consult a professional for best results).  As you can imagine a lawn replacement/repair plan must be in place before making the decision to apply Round-Up to your quackgrass plagued lawn.  After waiting generally 14 days or so (post round-up application) you can repair the dead previously treated lawn areas by seed or sod to complete.

Would you like to apply a crabgrass preventer to your lawn or plant grass seed……… please pick just one!

The challenge we turf grass managers face every spring season (in particular) is that in order to prevent the annual unwanted grassy weed called crabgrass from growing in a lawn we either need to maintain great turf grass density to stop undesirable crabgrass (seed) from ever germinating in open soil or we need to apply a preventative herbicide to create a short lasting “barrier” that will stop any/all crabgrass seed from growing or fully maturing.  Even when we have decent overall lawn density and have applied a pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide there is still a strong possibility that crabgrass will grow in weakened lawn areas like those found in heavily compacted soil areas, lawn areas cut too short (usually along curbs, roads, walks, base of trees, etc.), areas that are exposed to extreme heat for long periods of time or lawn areas that were simply left bare (not repaired) from growing seasons past.

When a granular pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide is applied it will generally provide between 6-10 weeks of crabgrass protection.  The life of this synthetic “crabgrass barrier” is dependent on the amount of rain or irrigation following the application and the amount of possible soil disturbance that takes place (post application).  The lower the amount of soil surface disturbance or lessor water applied will extend the life and effectiveness of a crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide application.

No grass seed should ever be planted in a lawn that recently had a pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide applied (+/- 6-10 weeks post application).

The majority of crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides will not allow desirable grass seed to germinate over the course of its effective 6-10 week life span.  The crabgrass herbicide has no way to distinguish between unwanted crabgrass seed and desirable grass seed.  We highly recommend applying a crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and planting grass seed mid-August through September especially in full sun exposed lawn areas where crabgrass is more prevalent.

Shatter your soil for a better lawn!

A great way to increase air, water and nutrient flow to your lawn’s root zone is by performing core aeration.  Core aeration is a mechanical lawn improvement process where motor driven cylinder-like spoons are plunged into and shatter the soil thereby relieving compaction and reducing thatch build up.  Half inch diameter or so plugs of thatch and soil are actually pulled from the ground during this process.  The soil cores are normally left atop the lawn to simply decompose over time and to return great organic material back into the soil.  It is very common to core aerate heavily trafficked lawn areas twice per growing season (spring and late summer/early fall are recommended).  Plan on aerating your lawn before over-seeding for improved grass seed to soil contact.  Promote deeper and healthier turf grass roots by incorporating core aeration into your seasonal lawn management program.

Plant a fence!

Wood, metal and vinyl are all common materials to construct a new fence from but there are many limitations you should consider.  Many cities will specify a maximum fence height (3’-6’), limit the areas of your property where a fence can be installed and further limit the type of materials that your fence can be constructed of.  In case you are not aware of these city specific fence installation details, they will be explained to you when applying for a fence installation permit or easily accessible when researching the zoning regulations/municipal code for your area on the internet.

I understand that there are many times when a conventional hard material fence is the best choice.  A wood, metal or vinyl fence is best when you have young children to protect, pets to retain or even a swimming pool to secure.

However if your goal is to shield a nearby neglected adjacent property from view, create a formidable impassable barrier or to further enhance a line of sight view from a point on your property than consider planting a live screen instead of installing a fence.

Here are a few additional benefits and details to consider when planting a live screen on your property.

  • Live screen plant material can be trained, trimmed, pruned, supported, etc. to occupy precisely the right area in need of physical or visual shielding.
  • Depending on the budget and planting space available, a visually complete live plant screen may take several years to grow and fill in.
  • Choose multiple evergreen plants (foliage remains green year round), deciduous plants (loses foliage at end of growing season) or a combination of the two for best site specific results.
  • Be careful to choose the correct plant material that will not likley outgrow the limited space available (under low hanging power lines, near driveways, along sidewalks, close to neighbor’s property, etc.) for best long term results.
  • In most cases there are very few (if any) height, choice of plant material or planting location restrictions from local zoning/municipal authorities.
  • Be sure to remember that the larger the plant is at time of installation, the more expensive it will likely be (greater material, delivery and installation costs).
  • Neighborhood metal, wood or vinyl fences are easily duplicated and are very common.  A well thought out plant material screen is very unique and will increase in value as time passes and as plants have a chance to mature.
  • Maintenance on either a hard material fence or a live plant screen varies greatly (heavily dependent on environment, installation and selected site specific materials used) and should be scrutinized during the beginning planning stage to determine the right choice to satisfy your long term needs.
  • Visit a few reputable local nurseries to see the various types of screen plants available (upright arborvitae, spruce, upright juniper, privet, viburnum, cotoneaster, honeysuckle, etc.).

Hopefully this information will prove useful to you when determining your property specific screening or fencing options.

Is it only snow plowing that I need?

There are many properties that require more than one form of snow removal to achieve the best results.  As many of us know, snow can be mechanically plowed, pushed, lifted, blown, hauled away or even instantly melted as conditions dictate.  It is very important to understand that each of these snow removal methods requires a degree of site specific knowledge and operational expertise to be effective at just the right time.

Here are just a few factors that help us determine the best method to clear snow at your residential, commercial or industrial property.

  • What is your tolerance for snow accumulation before clearing must begin?  Will snow need to be cleared instantly as it falls or only after a predetermined amount of snow accumulation has occurred (1”+)?  Is speed of snow clearing paramount to all other service factors?
  • Is there enough physical space on your property to retain cleared snow until natural melting has occurred?  If not, plans will have to be in place to relocate or elevate cleared snow higher to further maximize any space that remains.Commercial snow removal
  • Do you have a special paved surface that will be damaged if a standard steel edged snow removal machine is used?  It is very common that brick paved, stamped concrete, epoxy coated concrete or even regular asphalt paved surfaces will become scratched due to repeated passes from steel edged snow removal equipment.  One should strongly consider using a specialized piece of snow removal equipment(plow, blower, bucket, pusher, etc.) that has a rubber or polyurethane cutting edge to avoid this problem.
  • Is your site open for business 24 hours a day/7 days a week or only during select times during the week?  This site specific detail along with your tolerance for fallen snow accumulation will further determine the necessary equipment and snow clearing approach needed to meet or exceed your expectations.
  • Will snow piles have to be placed or relocated near existing storm sewers or drainage retention areas to safely carry away excess water as snow melting begins?  Often times specialized machines will be needed (loaders, skid steers, blowers, etc.) to relocate existing piles of snow to alternate on-site or off-site areas best suited for the excess drainage water that melting snow creates.
  • Will it be a problem if snow piles become just too large in size on your property?  Some of the reasons that existing piles of snow may need to be reduced in size are that they block the safe view of an adjacent road way, block the sight path of a critical sign, ongoing melting of snow may cause a reoccurring refreeze/ice situation atop adjacent pavement, take up needed parking spaces, etc.  Again, specialized snow relocation equipment may be needed to handle this task.

Please be sure to keep Pacocha Landscaping Services, Inc. in mind when evaluating your present and future snow and ice management needs.

Since 1993, Pacocha Landscaping Services, Inc., building long-term satisfied client relationships, one important detail at a time!

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