Wednesday, March 28, 2018

You can almost smell the fresh-cut grass in the air.  Spring is around the corner and we will be getting our mowers ready to go to work.  The gas you put in your mower is an important part of keeping your lawn looking great.  A new study reveals that you need to be careful what you put in your mower's tank. 

A recent Harris Poll notes that manufacturers of outdoor power equipment have warned consumers that most products are designed and warranted to run on E10, which is fuel with 10 percent ethanol or less. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it’s also illegal to use fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in any outdoor power equipment.
“Higher blended fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol can phase separate and damage the equipment,” explains Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, an international trade association of representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. If damaged, Kiser says consumers may have to pay for costly repairs or replace equipment.
“What goes in your car or truck may not be safe to put in your lawn mower, and consumers are not paying attention and making unintended mistakes,” Kiser continues. “Yet pump labeling and consumer education are inadequate. As ethanol continues to be subsidized, more stations sell it. We’re concerned about consumer safety and choice.”
According to Poll, researchers have found that Americans are now more likely to believe higher ethanol blends of gasoline are safe for any gasoline engine (38 percent in 2018 versus 31 percent in 2017, 31 percent in 2016 and 30 percent in 2015).  In the Peoria Area, we have found that the Phillips 66 stations are the only options for no ethanol gas.
“We believe this lack of knowledge is due to consumers blindly trusting that gas stations will only sell fuel that is safe,” says Kiser, citing that the poll found that nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) assume that any gas sold at the gas station is safe for all cars, as well as boats, mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, generators and other engine products.
Other findings from Harris Poll include:
  • Only one in five (20 percent, down from 25 percent in 2017) say they notice the ethanol content at a gas pump, with more saying they notice advertisements for specials inside (24 percent).
  • More than half (51 percent) fill up their portable gas tank with the same fuel used to fill their vehicle.
  • Roughly two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans admit they will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible.
  • More than one-third of outdoor power equipment owners (35 percent) may be using stale fuel in their equipment as they admit to not running the tank dry or not draining the fuel out before storing it.
Source: Total Landscape Care

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Some Dos and Don'ts For Your Plant Beds

Nothing says spring like a freshly mulched planting bed. Mulch protects tree trunks from lawn mowers, suppresses weed growth in flower beds and helps retain moisture for plant root systems. But improper mulch use can harm your landscape. Too much mulch disrupts airflow and may encourage insects and disease.

Plants will benefit from mulch in any season as long as they have the right amount. Tree rings and shrub beds do well with 3"-4" of mulch. Don't allow mulch to be piled on trunks or bury branches. Both perennial and annual flowers only require a 2" layer of mulch during the growing season, but a thicker 6" layer in late fall will protect them from winter cold.  We recommend a pre-emergent herbicide, like Preen, to reduce weeds in your plant beds. 

The desire for longer lasting mulch color has given rise to the use of color-enhanced or dyed mulches. Buyer beware, all mulches fade. It is merely a matter of how quickly. Hardwood mulches are naturally dark in color because they come from hardwood trees. They do break down more quickly, but add nutrients to the soil.

Color enhanced mulches often come from shredded lumber or pallets. The dye not only fades, but also can stain hands, tools, and sidewalks. We recommend shredded hardwood mulch for its added nutrient value and natural appearance, but personal preference still rules the day here. Choose the mulch that compliments your home or business best.

Did you know that we provide both mulching and bed maintenance services?

Call us if we can help at 309-303-0919.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bee Vision and the Color Purple

Pantone named “Ultra Violet” its Color of the Year for 2018 and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) predicts this shade will be prevalent in the landscape this year in response.
While this is great news for any who are passionate about purple, it also presents perks for pollinators like bees.
Bees have impressive eyesight and it was more than 100 years ago that Nobel Prize-winning scientist Karl von Frisch proved they could see color.
Like humans, bees have trichromatic vision, meaning they have three different photoreceptors in the retina that distinguish three certain primary colors. These primary colors are the basis for any color combination they see.
The primary colors for humans are red, blue and green and all other color combinations created from these three shades, but for bees, their primary colors are blue, green and ultraviolet light.
Humans can see more colors because they can see light in the wavelengths from around 400 to 700 nanometers (nm) spectrum while bees can see from the 300 to 600 nm range. Ultraviolet light has a wavelength from 10nm to 400 nm, which means although bees can’t see red, they make up for it by perceiving UV light, which cannot be detected by the human eye.
They can still see reddish hues such as yellow and orange, along with shades such as blue-green, blue, violet and “bee’s purple,” which can be found as a combination of yellow and ultraviolet light.
According to Bee Culture, the most likely colors to attract bees are purple, violet and blue.
A study of nine bumblebee colonies in Germany found that those who favored purple blooms were greatly rewarded for their preference.
“In the area we studied, violet flowers produced the most nectar – far more than the next most rewarding flower color (blue),” Dr. Nigel Raine from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences told ScienceDaily. “Inexperienced bees are known to have strong color preferences, so we investigated whether the bumblebee colonies with a stronger preference for violet flowers foraged more successfully in their local flora.”
Raine found that the bumblebees developed their favorite color over time, corresponding with the most nectar-rich flowers.
However, this doesn’t mean red flowers are left out to dry. Thanks to ultraviolet patterns on flowers that direct bees to where the nectar and pollen are stored, bees are able to follow these UV bull’s-eyes straight to the sweet stuff, regardless of the color of the petals.
There have been many attempts to mimic a bee’s vision, and you can click here to see examples of how flowers create UV targets for bees to find.
It is believed that flowers that are dependent on attracting insect pollinators evolved over time to have the distinctive ultraviolet color patterns to be increasingly eye-catching to bees. Also, bees’ preference towards purple helped increase their chance of survival to pass the trait on to its own offspring.
Some hypothesize this is why many native plants tend to have purple blooms, such as blazing star and coneflower. - By Jill Odom Total Landscape Care