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Alternative landscape materials – Winter’s coming.

1It’s always neat to see an unusual product effectively used for something it’s not conventionally used for.

Examples are reusing broken concrete pieces as stepping stones, automobile tires converted into planters or mulches, etc.

We just did a sod job for a client in Gibbstown. Around five years before that, we remedied their barren side yard that was occupied by many mature Sweet Gum trees and barren soil by planting English ivy there. The ivy bed was lush, full and beautiful with a meandering pathway through it.

What caught my eye was the paths base. The client used the yards monkey balls from the Sweet Gum trees. They were compacted, tight and weed free. Would have never thought of this great repurposing idea had I not seen it with my own eyes.

When the balls are fresh, they’re a little spiky so not a great option if it’s a path frequented by bare feet. The balls tight compaction seemed to keep things pretty weed free as the tree’s seeds are initially contained in the balls.

I wouldn’t recommend this for a bed mulch as seedlings may be a problem. But for a compacted path, may be worth a try.

With that landscape thought, winter and its weather are not far away. A few basics will help ease into this phase of New Jersey’s “wonderful” fourth season.

  1. Snow shovels: We wax the faces of shovels, and often. You’ll be amazed at how the snow easily releases from shovel.
  2. Snow Blowers: These fall into two main categories, single phase and dual phase. Single phase units are more used by homeowners than dual phase due to their lighter weight and maneuverability and less initial cost. The paddles on these units are made of rubber and often need replacing.

Manufacturers often put a small hole in the rubber as a wear indicator. When the hole is worn away, time to replace the paddles. You’ll be amazed at the performance difference after a changeover.

These units also have a scraper blade at the base that is often made of plastic. Its replacement is often recommended when you replace the paddles. Other than that, a silicon spray lubricant to the working joints, wheels and cables.

Most importantly, see if unit starts. If it does start, and you left fuel in it from last year, run that stale fuel out. Fresh fuel and two stroke oil is critical. Spark plugs are not always necessary to replace due to the reality that most blowers won’t see much more than 10 hours of use a season.

Dual phase units are a little more complicated and heavier. Same idea regarding fresh fuel but these unit’s motors are generally larger four cycle units meaning it is good to change the crankcase oil every year or two and to check the oil level before every use. These units also tend to have grease fittings on their auger assemblies that will benefit from a yearly lube. These units also usually have inflatable tires you will need to keep up to recommended pressures.

Lastly, a little ice melter on hand for those shady spots and areas that downspouts will drip water that refreezes is always good. Calcuim and magnesium chlorides are popular concrete melters due to their being less corrosive to concrete than conventional rock salt. Rock salt is good for asphalt as its cost is less than half of the calcium and magnesium chlorides.

If the thought of putting a potentially etching melter on your concrete gives you the eebie geebies, a little sand helps to give bite and it can usually be reswept and reused between icemelts.

— From Randy Marcucci of Green Acres Landscaping

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Swedesboro NJ
July 6, 2022, 5:58 am
real feel: 76°F