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ice melt

Ice Melt and Your Yard

“Will ice melt hurt my yard?”

We get this question frequently around this time of year, and we want to weigh-in here on the blog.

First, let’s explain: Ice melts, rock salts and road salts are all basically the same thing – they melt ice and snow by lowering the freezing temperature of water. The difference between these products is that they are made of different things.

The most commonly used product is rock salt (sodium chloride), but there is also urea (pure nitrogen fertilizer), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride – and these all range in operating temperatures from 25 degrees down to -20 degrees.

Let’s use rock salt as an example to see the impact on your yard. Rock salt’s direct effect on the environment is altering the soil pH level, which makes it more difficult for plants to obtain the nutrients needed to survive and be healthy. In extreme cases it can kill a tree, but most commonly it kills grass, and the only way to get the grass back is a soil amendment by adjusting the pH level fallowed by overseeding.

Not only can these products hurt your yard, they aren’t good for concrete.

Think of your concrete as a hard sponge. This hard sponge absorbs water, and when it freezes it expands creating micro cracks, or fractures, in the concrete. By introducing an ice melt product or salt, melting the ice, you speed up the process by thawing and freezing repeatedly. Each time this happens these cracks get bigger and eventually the top layer of concrete starts popping off.

Some products can even create chemical reactions, including magnesium chloride or potassium chloride.

The main issue with any of these products is that you’re prematurely aging the surface of the concrete. Expensive concrete jobs, like stamping, will want to steer clear of all of this.

Across the board we’re not a fan of these methods. They aren’t good for the environment and should stay away from soil and out of waterways as much as possible. The only way that can happen is by lowering the use of them.

Our alternative method to salting or ice melting is shoveling snow before it freezes and using sand for traction, or finer, crushed rock for extreme cases like steep driveways. This is safest for the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Now that we’ve established our stance on the topic, there are areas where salts or ice melts are needed, including high traffic public areas like post offices, banks, and hospitals.

If you decide you need to use any of these, Hart Property Maintenance recommends:

  • Use the product sparingly.
  • After the storm passes make sure to clean up any granules leftover; sweep or blow into a pile and get it in a garbage can.
  • Don’t let the product seep into the ground or water system.
  • Read the instructions – application rates vary depending on the product you choose
  • If you’re going to take a pet outside where they are using a product like this, or if you use one of these, clean the animal’s paws when you come back and never let them drink from puddles around these products.

And now it’s your turn – what do you think of ice melts or rock salts? Have you noticed them impacting your yard? Share your experience in the comments below!

Cleaning Roof and Gutters

Cleaning Your Roof and Gutters

Gutters have one job: to guide rainwater off your roof, straight down the drain and away from your house. Despite their importance, it can be easy to forget about them until something goes wrong.

If your gutters become clogged or broken, the results can be serious: not only could you end up with structural damage that costs a fortune to repair, the resulting dampness can cause health issues for you and your family.

While we are always happy to help clean roofs and gutters, we wanted to share our top three tips in case you want to give it ago on your own.

Word to the wise: Be safe! Go with your gut. If you’re not comfortable on a ladder or roof, stop and call a professional.

Be prepared: Have the right tools

Here’s a short list of the tools you’ll need:

  • Gloves
  • Safe ladder
  • Trash can
  • Water hose
  • Ladder
  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Blower

Once you have your tools, get started on the roof first and then clean then the gutters. While cleaning the gutter, start at the downspout and work away – rinsing as you go.

Stay Safe on the Ladder

Safety is the number one priority when you’re up on a roof. These few key things will help keep you safe while you’re off the ground:

  • Make sure your ladder has 3 rungs above the edge of the roof edge when using it to get on and off the roof.
  • Use a ladder stabilizer to protect the gutters and keep the ladder from teetering
  • Be aware of where the power lines are – and stay clear

Avoid the “NO’s” of roof cleaning

These three things are cardinal sins of roof cleaning – never do them:

  • No power washing
  • No brushing or scrubbing
  • No scraping

When it comes to asphalt/composition roofing, be careful to clean it correctly. Never power wash, scrub, brush or scrape. The use of these methods will loosen and remove the sandy layer of granules and will result in voiding your roofing warranty.

Be sure to contact a professional and always check with your roofing manufacturers for approved cleaning meatheads and chemicals.

Do you have any other roof and gutter tips to share with local property owners? Let us know in the comments below!

Fire Prevention in the Mid-Willamette Valley

As we near the end of fire season, fire prevention is definitely first and foremost in our minds and conversations. California had a tough season as well, which is a potential foreshadowing of what we can expect in coming years. And if we can learn anything from California’s recent fires, it’s that a fire can take a typical city neighborhood and reduce it to ashes it in just hours; as seen most recently in the Redding fire this year.

There are many different factors that impact fire season in our region, but one is the local people. The Willamette Valley is becoming more populated than ever, which can negatively impact fire risk – especially when some are ignorant of fire risks. We must keep basic fire prevention in mind, because the decision one neighbor makes can affect thousands of other community members.

Climate change is another important factor in fire seasons. Climate change is a very real issue to some and to others a hoax, and while we won’t weigh in we know one thing to be a fact: Oregon is in the middle of a severe drought. We aren’t in the business of debating political or environmental issues, but we need to stay aware of what we do every day that makes a good or bad impact on the environment around us – and do our best to limit the negative impacts.

aumsville oregonWhat can we do to prevent neighborhood wildfires? It starts in our own yard. Defensible Space (sometimes called “firescaping”) is a term relating to keeping your yard lean and green – and increases your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space is the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This defensible space reduces the risk that fire will spread from one area to another, or to a structure, and provides firefighters a safer access area from which to defend a threatened area. Firefighters sometimes do not attempt to protect structures without adequate defensible space, as it is less safe and less likely to succeed.

ReadyforWildfire.org does a fantastic job teaching how to “zone” your property and the basic rules of safety when it comes to fire prevention. This includes where to trim, prune, plant, remove plants, and even store firewood. They also provide diagrams of how to plant on slopes (vertical spacing vs. horizontal spacing) and share some fire-resistant plants.

firescaping

Luckily there are several steps we can take on our own property to greatly reduce the risk of fires in our neighborhoods. At Hart Property Maintenance, we believe that as a community we should always have a great respect for our environment, and that can start right in our own backyard.

Do you have other tips for fire prevention? Let us know in the comments!

roof and gutter maintenance

6 Tips for Roof and Gutter Maintenance

When was the last time you looked at your roof and gutters?

If it’s been awhile, don’t let it sit another minute! Unfortunately, homeowner’s insurance most likely will not cover damage from a leaky roof if homeowners aren’t keeping it maintained. In fact, insurers will generally require homeowners to show proof that they stayed up on maintenance.

And this problem isn’t getting better. In the past two years we’ve seen an uptick in home inspections from insurance companies, and they threaten to cancel coverage if the homeowner is neglecting to keep their roof and gutters in check with an emphasis of moss control

But don’t fear! We at Hart Property Maintenance want to make sure your roof and gutters are in good condition, and that your home is covered in a worst-case scenario. Below are the top 6 tips to maintain your roof:

1. Look Up
At least twice a year, in Fall and Spring, look at your roof and gutters from the ground for any of the following warning signs:

  • Lifting or missing shingles
  • Damaged drip edge
  • Buckling, loose or missing flashing
  • Missing or exposed fasteners
  • Sagging or broken leaking gutters
  • Piles of granules
  • Heavy debris accumulation

2. Trim Your Trees
Any good-sized storm could send branches crashing onto your roof, so you shouldn’t overlook any leaning branches that could scratch or gouge your roof materials. Look around the landscaping in your yard for any potentially dangerous branches and keep them trimmed away. Remember keep your yard out of your homes bubble.

3. Clean Your Gutter
gutter cleaningWe recommend you hire an expert to clean your gutters a few times per year (we’re happy to help!). Leaves and other elements can clog your gutters and cause water to backup into the attic, living areas or behind the fascia boards. This is especially important before an intense storm, where water can back up quickly. Also, be on the lookout for sagging gutters or damaged drain components and repair or replace as needed.

4. Look for Moss and Algae
Help avoid moss and algae growing by keeping your attic properly ventilated, removing any debris, and trimming those overhanging branches from nearby trees (see tip #2!) When you see it treat it.

5. Re-Caulk, When Necessary
This is especially important to keep in check. Caulking is used in many places on your roof and gutters and has a life expectancy usually less than the other roofing materials it is applied to. Roof warranties can be voided by not staying up in this. If you don’t know what you’re doing, we recommend hiring an expert to help you with the caulking process (another time we’re happy to stop by).

6. Check Your Insulation
Without proper ventilation, heat and moisture can cause sheathing and rafting to rot, roof materials to buckle and insulation to lose effectiveness. This will cause your overall roofing system to be ineffective. Proper insulation and ventilation in your attic will help keep your roof in good condition and reduce any moisture.

Bonus Tip: Be Safe!

roof cleaningDIY roof repairers beware! For those bold enough to attempt roof maintenance yourself, please bare in mind that it’s dangerous up there. It’s advisable to stay on a firmly braced ladder equipped with t a ladder stabilizer attached when possible. If you do decide to walk on the roof, it’s best to wear rubber-soled shoes to prevent slipping. Fall protection gear is heavily advised for that oh slip moment. Safety gear can be acquired at most large home improvement centers.

All these steps should keep your roof and gutters maintained and lasting for years to come. Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

irrigation system

Lawn Irrigation System Startup for Summer Months

As we head into the warmer months, you’ll want to make sure your irrigation system is ready for another season of efficient lawn and garden watering. A few simple steps will go a long way toward saving your water and money, as well as prevent a mid-summer landscape catastrophe. Get the warm season off to a great start with our tips below:

Test it out
irrigation system maintenanceSystems will need to be tested before you leave them to run solo. Each irrigation system is different, from time-controlled (preferred system) to manual.

Most systems have a test cycle that will allow you to run a test cycle of all stations. Run a test to ensure all heads in each zone are working properly. Most issues are very minor, assuming your system was in proper working order during the previous season.

When you test your irrigation system, be sure each head is reaching, or throwing, the proper areas. You don’t want any dead spots, so be sure the water reaches every corner and middle section.

On occasion the root system of the grass can be strong enough to prevent a head from rising, but this can be fixed with a little hand scratching over the top of the sprinkler head. If you find a clogged head, remove it to clear out the debris. Older systems will require a little more TLC, such as head replacements or head extensions. While you run this test, check to make sure tree and shrub roots are clear of the heads.

Replace batteries
Computer controlled systems should have their back up battery replaced every year. Without a battery backed up system you run the risk of losing any presets you’ve programmed should a power outage occur.

Watering

hart property maintenance irrigationYour watering should be calculated based on the soil type and general climate. Keep in mind that water is for the roots—the deeper the roots the happier the grass. Deep roots keep cool and moist on hot days, which is more forgiving if you forget to run your manual system.

That being said, water should reach at least 6 inches underneath the ground surface (how long you water should be based on this). A simple shovel test can tell you how deep your water reaches underground.

  • How often you water is dependent on the type of soil in your yard:
    Sandy soil (well-draining soil) requires watering roughly three days per week
  • Soil with clay can thrive on as little as one watering per week
  • It’s important to remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering—leading to disease and root rot

The number one rule to follow when watering? Water in the morning! 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. is the best timeframe for watering. Watering at night invites disease and rot into your roots, and watering during the heat of the day can burn your grass; not to mention day watering is inefficient because of heavy water evaporation.

Do you have any other tips or rules of thumb for your irrigation system and watering? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

crane fly larvae

Crane Fly Larvae: Everything You Need to Know

Crane fly larvae are little pests that can wreak serious havoc on your lawn or turf. Sometimes called “leatherjackets” for their tough outer skin, they are worm-like and green, white or brown in color. Crane fly larvae may be hard to find, because they hide underground during the day and surface on warm nights.

Issues you may experience from these pests include yellowing of the grass, to thinning or bare patches throughout the yard. Plus, predators such as skunks, birds and raccoons may try to dig up the ground to feed on the developing larvae.

Adult crane flies don’t bite or sting and live extremely short lives, so you should focus on eliminating the insects at the larval stage. In extreme cases of crane fly infestation, contacting a professional pest control specialist may be necessary. And we’d be happy to help!

Do You Have Crane Fly Larvae?

If your lawn looks “eaten” in parts, you may be at risk. With this kind of infestation, you are likely to find uneven sections of grass that have been completely devoured, leaving only brown soil. Affected grasses may appear yellowed and unhealthy since they’re only receiving limited, or no, nutrients.

Once a crane fly larvae infestation gets extensive enough, holes may appear in your lawn overnight. These excavations are caused by skunks and other grub-loving predators as they search for crane fly larvae and other grubs.

How to Exterminate

Triazicide oregonTo kill crane fly larvae, use a grub killer like Triazicide that contains azadirachtin to stop the infestation at the source—the soil, where they live and feed. When exposed to azadirachtin, a compound found in the seeds of neem, crane fly larvae are subjected to a natural growth inhibitor that halts their development. Even better, the azadirachtin breaks down within 7 to 10 days.

Azadirachtin or neem oil can be purchased at our local Wilco and applied directly to your lawn at the first sign of grub damage. Use according to the directions on the product label.

If you are concerned about a plant or unsure of how it will react to insecticide solutions, test an inconspicuous area of the plant and wait 24 hours before applying full coverage. Much like watering, avoid using any liquid insecticides in the heat of the day or in extreme temperatures.

Preventing Future Infestations

lawn pest controlKeep your lawn healthy! A healthy lawn can survive damage from lawn pests, as well as diseases and weeds. Following a lawn care schedule will help keep your lawn robust and lush, even if you have some crane fly larvae settle in your yard. Subscribe to our blog to get more tips on keeping your lawn healthy—and “Like” us on Facebook for monthly tips and tricks.

Have you had crane fly larvae in your yard? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

3 Things we Love about the Mom of Hart PM: Lacie Hart

On Mother’s Day we want to take the opportunity to thank a mom very dear to our hearts at Hart Property Maintenance—Lacie Hart. Owning a small business is a team effort and we want to take the chance to thank one of our favorite moms, Lacie, for providing the support and motivation to help her husband, Jeff, and our business succeed every day.

Jeff and Lacie Hart

She successfully handles many roles

Lacie is the epitome of a supportive spouse. She’s encouraged us unconditionally since Hart Property Maintenance opened. Even after she and Jeff had their first child, Alivia, she juggled both the new mom role and continued to work with Jeff to improve Hart Property Maintenance and take our business to the next level. Today, her role in the company’s day-to-day success is invaluable.

Lacie keeps the company on track. She organizes records, makes phone calls, works with accountants and clients, and makes business decisions with Jeff, all while remaining an attentive mother. As wife, mom, friend, and colleague, Lacie wears different hats in the office—and at home—every day.

She makes sacrifices for both family and business

Turning Hart Property Maintenance into a family-oriented business has required lifestyle changes for the Hart family. Some of these have been easy, but others not so much. At the end of the day, Lacie and Jeff agree that they are doing their best for their daughter, Alivia, by being present as much as possible.

In doing this, Lacie has moved from full-time to part-time in her career as a medical assistant (MA), allowing her the time to spend working on the family business and caring for Alivia. Lacie works as an MA at Neaman Plastic Surgery twice per week and tends to Hart Property Maintenance on all other days with Alivia on her heels. Jeff notes that her ability to successfully handle all three demanding jobs at once is incredibly impressive.

She rolls with the punches

mothers daySome people may think it’s fun to be married to an entrepreneur and business owner, but it comes with its own array of challenges. Running a business isn’t a 9-to-5 job and work-life balance can become tricky when it’s hard to leave “the office.”

As entrepreneurs, personal and professional lives are generally woven together. It’s natural that Lacie would have a vested interest in the success in the company. What makes Lacie different is her ability to understand all of this, while actively supporting the forward momentum of the business.

What else can we say? THANK YOU, Lacie! And thank you to every mom out there this Mother’s Day. Your support and love are invaluable to those around you. We’d love to hear about your moms and what they mean to you! Let us know in the comments below.

lawn care

Lawn Care 101: Aeration vs. Dethatching

How do you know when it’s time to aerate or dethatch your lawn? Both are common procedures in lawn care, but the purpose of each is very different. We’ve got all the details below, so read on to become an expert in your own lawn’s health.

Why is Aeration Important for Lawn Care?
lawn aerationYour lawn’s surface can become hard and compacted over time, which compresses the roots and suffocates them. Aeration is important to give the root system air and nutrients to promote a healthy, deep-rooted lawn. This is done by removing small plugs of grass and soil to de-compact the soil, allowing it to receive air, water and nutrients.

Aeration is essentially punching holes in the ground to let the soil breathe. Once aeration is completed, the plugs of turf are left on the lawn to decompose, returning beneficial nutrients to the soil so your grass roots can grow and spread.

Why is Dethatching Important for Lawn Care?
Lawn DethatchingA lawn is made up of three layers: grass above ground, roots below the soil, and a middle layer of thatch composed of leaves, grass, clippings, etc. Thatch is healthy in moderation, but a thick layer can prevent air, water and nutrients from reaching the lawn’s roots; suffocating the roots and killing the grass.

Dethatching combs out the thatch layer, so it can be removed from the lawn. A dethatching machine with blades will tear away the thatch layer and bring organic matter to the surface, where it can be raked off the lawn.

How to Know if You Need to Aerate or Dethatch
Aeration is generally recommended once per year for most lawns, usually in the Spring or early Fall. If you have heavy levels of clay in your soil, twice per year may be recommended. Dethatching is done on an as-needed basis and can be avoided altogether if lawns are properly aerated and fed; which allows the thatch to break down naturally.

But the easiest way to know if your lawn needs help is to go outside and feel the ground.

If the ground feels hard, grab a screwdriver. If the screwdriver is difficult to push into the ground, it’s time to aerate your lawn.

If the ground feels spongey and bouncy to the touch, take a close look at your grass. You should see a layer of growth between the grass roots and shoots. If you can’t easily break through this layer with your finger, it’s time to dethatch your lawn because nutrients and air won’t be able to break through the thatch either. The thatch layer should never be thicker than three quarters of an inch.

At Hart Property Maintenance, we’re always happy to help you with lawn care services like these. If you need a little more help, please feel free to give us a call. But if you have aerated or dethatched on your own before, share your tips with others in the comments below!

bark dust application

How to Apply Bark Dust

Spring has sprung! Want to give your yard an instant facelift? Or are you looking for a way to suppress weeds in your already picture-perfect yard? Bark dust is the answer. Proper application of bark dust will not only give your property a crisp, clean, manicured look, but it will also drastically reduce the amount of time spent weeding, watering and fighting pests.
Here’s a simple checklist to help you prepare your yard and apply bark dust properly:

Tools you need:

  • Gloves
  • Leaf rake for fine tuning
  • Hard rake for spreading
  • Wide faced flat shovel
  • Wheelbarrow

Key to Success: Prep the Site

prepare landscapingSite prep is key to proper bark dust application. The first step is to fix irrigation problems, if you have any. Then trim trees, bushes and shrubs, remove any leftover debris from the area (trimmings, leaves, or roots), pull all weeds, and apply pre-emergent, like Double O SPC, to help prevent future weeds. Prepping the area is the most crucial step to ensure your bark dust looks great and lasts as long as possible.

Create an edge for the bark. Use your shovel to carefully dig around the area to create a smooth continuous line. You can also create an edge by lining up stones to divide the dust from your lawn. Lawn edges should be fresh and clean before applying bark.

Buying Bark Dust
Don’t buy cheap bark—you don’t want the finished product to look like dirt! Purchase and use good-quality product from a company you trust. For those living in Oregon’s Santiam Canyon, we recommend Siegmund Landscape Supply for any landscaping supply needs; they are the only company we use. Siegmund delivers locally.

When it comes to what type of bark dust to use, it’s up to your personal preference. Hemlock is browner, more expensive (due to supply), and most known for being sliver-free; you’ll notice a difference when working with it. Fir is more red and used commonly because of its color; however the red is only temporary and after several months will look like hemlock. Fir also has a signature bark dust smell for the first few weeks after application.

Purchase enough mulch to cover the area with 1 to 2 inches for reapplication, or 3 to 4 inches for new application (no existing bark). To determine how much bark dust you need to purchase for your space, you can use an online calculator like the one found here.

Tips and Tricks for Application
Hart Property MaintenanceWhen the bark dust is delivered, or when you bring it home, have it dumped on a solid surface or tarp. This will make clean-up much easier when the project is finished.

Move the bark dust to the desired area with wheelbarrow loads. Then use your hard rake to spread these smaller piles of bark over the area in an even layer. As you need more, pour more in the area with your shovel. When the area has the desired amount of bark dust, use the leaf rake for any final fine tuning.

And voila! Your yard has an instant facelift and is better protected from the elements. Do you have any other tips or tricks you swear by when applying bark dust? We’d love to hear what works for you—let us know in the comments below.