Helping You and Your Landscape Beat the Heat this Summer

The month of June has been officially recognized as “Great Outdoors Month.”  With the pleasant weather and the end of the school year, many folks will begin spending a lot more time outside this month.  June is a popular time for family vacations into the “Great Outdoors” at a favorite beach or one of our beautiful National Parks.  It is also a time when we find ourselves spending more time in our own “Great Outdoors,” be it working in the garden or relaxing on the patio with family and friends around the grill.  During the upcoming summer months it is important to that you remember to take certain precautions to make sure that both you and your landscape emerge from the heat of the summer in good health and good spirits!

You can help keep your house cool and your energy costs low with strategic placement of plant material.  Large deciduous shade trees planted on the South and West sides of your house can keep your home cool and reduce your air-conditioning expenses by as much as 50%.  (By using deciduous trees, when the leaves of your trees fall off in the fall you will still get the benefit of solar heating during the winter months!)  The shady area under a large tree can be up to 9 degrees cooler than the surrounding air so they can provide a welcome respite for you too as you work in the yard.  It is also a good idea to use trees and shrubs to shade your outdoor air-conditioning unit, but be sure not to plant so closely that you restrict air flow to the unit.  Maintaining proper air flow and shading your air conditioner will ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible.

When you are working outside in your yard be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and possible heat stroke.  It is best to try to plan do your outdoor work in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler, however if you plan to be outside working strenuously on a hot day, a good rule of thumb is to drink 4 to 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes you work.  Do not wait until you feel thirsty as that is an early signal that your body is ALREADY dehydrated!  Stick to water and avoid sodas and alcohol as those can actually increase dehydration problems.  Be sure to continue drinking fluids even after you have come back indoors for the day to replenish what you lost sweating during your work.

Like you, your plants and lawn will also require more water in the summertime.  Although it is most important to make sure your plants get sufficient water whenever you can, the best time to water is in the early morning.  Afternoon watering is not efficient because so much of it is lost to evaporation before it even gets to the plant, and evening watering is not encouraged because it can create an environment more favorable for diseases that can harm your turf and plants.  Most turf and plant material will be fine if they receive 1” of water (rain or irrigation) every 7-10 days.  It is best to water deeply on a less frequent basis to make sure that plenty of moisture is reaching the root zone.  Frequent, but short watering encourages shallow root growth that is harmful to your lawn and plants over time and makes them far more likely to succumb to drought or disease in the future.  Any recently installed plant material will require even more water for several weeks while the roots get established, so pay special attention to those plantings to make sure your investment does not wither away!

Other ways to help your plants through the dry summer months include making sure you have a good mulch layer or groundcover plantings to cover your beds.  These will help retain soil moisture and also reduce the growth of weeds that complete with your landscape plants for precious water.  Spring and fall are the best times for planting, dividing, and transplanting perennials, so if those tasks are on your to-do list, you would be best off to wait until temperatures cool and rains increase in late August and September.  If you do plant now, just remember to be extra vigilant about watering.  Choose plant material that is drought tolerant so that they can withstand long periods of little rainfall without requiring extra work on your part to keep them hydrated.  Often native plants are most hardy because they have become adapted to our climate and weather patterns.  Mow your grass at a height of no less than 3” and leave the clippings on the lawn.  Unless you want to fertilize and water with the frequency of a golf course, you should not mow your personal lawn as though it was one!

One more very important tip is to protect your skin from the sun.  Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in the United States and most of these are due to sun damage and are preventable.  You can get a sunburn even on a cloudy day, if you are outdoors long enough, so always wear sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 rating.  When you are working outside, wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face and neck as an extra precaution.  Finally, seek the shade of a large tree or pergola over your patio from time to time to take a break; this will also help prevent heat exhaustion.

Spending time in the “Great Outdoors” is an American pastime; there is nothing like being outside on a sunny, warm summer day.  Whether you are at a ball game, on a boat, or just mowing the lawn, if you follow these simple tips, you can make sure that you and your landscape beat the heat this summer.  After all, you want to be sure that both you and your plants are in peak condition when it comes time for the bright colors of fall!

Beautiful Botanicals That Can Bite Your Pets!

Imagine a beautifully landscaped home consisting of attractive plants outdoors along with some fine-looking indoor accent plants. This is, of course, what we all strive to achieve with a well planned and executed landscape design and a little interior decorating. But what if you had placed living landmines in and around your home ready to explode with poison?    

We all have the desire to create a beautiful curb appeal to our homes and are willing to purchase and place certain plant products in our yards and flower beds in order to satisfy our objective.  However, some of you green thumbs out there unknowingly place certain plant species in your yards that potentially could cause harm to your pet.  

A toxicant can be described as a substance that when introduced or applied to the body, it can by its inherent chemical properties, interfere with cellular function.  When an animal encounters any toxic substance, there are general physiological consequences that may result in response to ingestion.  Some of these consequences on a histological scale include the manipulation and alteration of cell membrane integrity.  The cell membrane is composed of a lipid bilayer with various ion channels that tightly regulate specific concentrations of certain materials within the cell, allowing some substances in- while keeping others out.  It is critical to keep this membrane intact; otherwise, there can be devastating physiological consequences.  When an animal ingests toxic material, there may be disruptions in this membrane that will inevitably lead to interference with receptor function as well as fluid and electrolyte movements.  Along with alterations in membrane integrity, cellular adipocytes – or fat cells, may accumulate within the cell which can push certain cellular organelles into the cell periphery and impede cellular function.  Your pet may have altered energy metabolism along with delayed or inactive protein synthesis.  Microscopically, alterations in cell growth patterns including neoplasia – or an abnormal mass of tissue may occur.  With these modifications to the variety of cells in the animal’s body, cell death will begin to occur whether it is uncontrolled cellular necrosis, or pre-programmed cellular apoptosis. 

Physically, you may see numerous abnormalities in your pet as a result of what is going on from the physiological standpoint. Signs of toxicosis may include, but are not limited to vomiting, diarrhea, depression or excitement, dilated pupils, convulsions, ataxia – or uncoordinated movements, hyper salivation – or excessive drooling, and general abdominal pain.

According to the ASPCA and the Animal Poison Control Center, plants were included in the top 10 pet toxins of 2010 (along with human medication, human food, insecticides, rodenticides, chocolate, household toxins, herbicides and outdoor toxins).  The following list is from the ASPCA and is comprised of a variety of common plants that could potentially harm your pet.

Photo courtesy of Emily Buck Gabriel, DVM

                                                                                   Buck Gardens Animal Hospital        

1- Sago Palm (indoor plant for hardiness Zone 5 within Ohio)

a. The sago palm is a plant that if ingested by your pet can result in detrimental side effects, such as gastrointestinal    abnormalities, seizures, and liver failure.

2- Lilies (Lilium species)

a. There is quite a variety of the lily species; however, it is the true lilies, Lilium, not the commonly planted ‘Daylily’, Hemerocallis, that is highly toxic to cats.  If a cat were to ingest even a small amount of the plant, it can result in acute kidney failure and possibly death.

b. The white Easter Lily is commonly displayed indoors during the Easter Season. Use caution with indoor cats.

3- Tulips

a. Tulips contain toxins that are specifically in the bulb portion of the plant.  If the bulb is ingested, it can result in irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and the esophagus as well.  More severe cases where a high amount of the bulb is ingested may result in variations in heart rate and respiration.

4- Chrysanthemum

a. If eaten, the Chrysanthemum plant may cause excessive drooling and gastrointestinal upset that could lead to diarrhea.  If a large amount of the plant is eaten, depression may occur, as well as ataxia.

5- Buckeye

a. If our state tree’s wonderful nut is ingested by your pet, you may see signs including vomiting and diarrhea, depression or excitement, and ataxia.

6- Daffodils

a. This flower contains various properties that may cause severe vomiting in your pet.  Other signs of ingestion includes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and in some cases cardiac arrhythmias – or abnormal patterns in the heart rate.

7- Oleander (indoor plant for hardiness Zone 5 within Ohio)

a.If this shrub is ingested by your pet, you may see some physical signs including severe vomiting, hypothermia, bradycardia- or slow heart rate, and in serious cases, death.

8- Autumn Crocus

a. If this plant is ingested, consequences may result in general gastrointestinal upset including blood vomiting, bloody diarrhea, shock and multi-organ damage.  Signs of ingestion of this plant may be seen right away, but also may take a few days to develop.

b. The corm of this plant also has potential dermal toxicity. Do not let children handle the corms of this plant.

9- Azalea/Rhododendron

a. Ingestion of this plant species may produce vomiting, hyper salivation, diarrhea, and depression to the central nervous system.  If a high amount of the plant is ingested, there may be cardiovascular consequences that occur that could potentially result in death.

10- Amaryllis (indoor plant for hardiness Zone 5 within Ohio)

a. This plant is regularly found in gardens and if ingested by your pet, could cause vomiting, depression, abdominal pain, hyper salivation and lack of eating as well.

So don’t fear fellow green thumbs! This coming spring, create a masterpiece in your front yard or construct a beautiful bouquet for a loved one, but just remember – those wonderful smells that we have come to love are exponentially amplified and simply irresistible to our furry friends.  Be informed of what you are planting so you and yours, including your pets- can enjoy the natural beauty of plants!

If you want more information on these plants and other possible toxic plant materials, feel free to call Buck & Sons Landscape Service Inc.   If you witness or suspect that your pet has ingested any of the previous substances, please contact your local veterinarian.

By Aaron Buck, student – University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine

Special thanks to Dr. Michael Biehl and The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, as well as the ASPCA for the information throughout this piece.

Animal Poison Control Center. ASPCA. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <>.


Pave Your Way to Better Living

Concrete pavers can be a beautiful and durable addition to your home.  A wide assortment of styles, patterns and colors allow you to create unique driveways and walkways that can really add curb appeal and value to your home.  Concrete pavers can also be used to create a stunning array of “outdoor rooms” and patios that extend your functional living space into the great outdoors.  Within just a matter of days, your new patterned surfaces can be ready to be put into service entertaining guests, leading visitors through your landscape to your front door, and increasing your real estate value.  Though your new concrete paver areas are sturdy enough to provide you with years of use and beauty, they also are flexible enough to allow for future adaptation.

As you use your “outdoor room” you may contemplate new ideas and uses for your space.  Concrete pavers allow you to seamlessly incorporate new features such as seat walls, fire pits, built-in grills, and fountains that you may not have thought of (or wanted to pay for) originally.  You can also easily increase the square footage of your patio in order to accommodate these new uses and the increased number of guests who will want to come over to enjoy your beautiful and unique space!  With more flexibility than a wood deck, greater durability than a poured concrete slab, and unsurpassed beauty and charm it is hard to find something not to like about concrete pavers!

Limited Only By Your Imagination

The wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes make concrete pavers one of the most versatile paving materials available today.  This diversity allows for numerous choices in patterns and layouts no matter what style of concrete paver you choose.  Combining more than one style of paver can provide an almost endless number of options that will result in a unique “one of a kind” finished product.  With concrete pavers, you are truly limited only by your imagination!

Old World Charm or Bold Modern Style

No matter which style of concrete paver you choose, you can be sure that the end result will be one that adds instant personality to your home.  If “Old World Charm” is your style, choose a tumbled concrete paver to create that “lived in,” vintage feeling.  Since every individual paver is hand placed, each and every project exudes the artistic craftsmanship of the old world.  For those who prefer a clean and modern look, choose from a variety of contemporary style concrete pavers to give your home and landscape a fresh and up to date appearance.  Still others may prefer a natural stone appearance and pavers can provide this look as well.

Benefits of Patio Pavers

  • Affordable
  • Adds Value to Your Home
  • Durable
  • Low Maintenance
  • Flexible
  • Easy to Repair and Modify
  • Increase Your Living Space
  • Old World Charm and Beauty or Bold Contemporary Style

How do you Choose a Reliable Contractor?

Most of us are not handy at repairing things in and around the home. We may just simply lack the expertise to accomplish a given task or perhaps not physically capable. More complex projects require specialized equipment delivered by large trucks that need professional operators to accomplish their specific task. So from refrigerator repair to home additions to landscape renovations, how do you choose from a virtual who’s-who of available contractors? Do you just choose a local company in your neighborhood? Do you read ‘unreliable’ online reviews that could be posted by anyone? Do you take a leap of faith and select the most popular listing or choose somone who advertises frequently? Hiring a trustworthy, fair and reliable contractor is more difficult today than ever. What can you do?

One of the very best places to begin for a business or contractor referral is with family, friends or neighbors for solid recommendations. These are people that you know and trust in giving you an honest opinion of their experiences. Most every business will tell you that their best advertising is by word-of-mouth. Hopefully it is all good because just one disgruntled customer can tell multiple people about their bad experience. For some reason bad word-of-mouth experiences can become more viral than good word-of-mouth experiences. This human behavior falls under the same heading as people being quicker to complain than to praise. Be sure to ask for and to check references.

What if you can find no one that can give you a reliable business referral? As the famous line goes, ‘Who you gonna call?’ One place to begin is with professional trade organizations. Although no one at a trade organization can recommend one company over another, they can tell you if the company in question is a member in good standing. Most reliable companies will be members of one or more trade or industry related organizations. An online search should give you a good listing of trade organizations for any specific industry. This can be on a local level, state level and even national level trade organizations.

Businesses that want to be recognized within certain municipalities will be members of their local area chamber of commerce. Ask your potential business\contractor if they are a member of at least one chamber of commerce. A phone call to their member chamber of commerce could also provide information on whether or not this entity is in good standing. Don’t expect a referral but only names of participating member businesses within the chamber.

Possibly the absolute best, unbiased and fact based information that you can unearth on any given business is the Better Business Bureau. Unlike popular web based “lists” that can be convoluted with unvalidated comments, a contractor does not have to pay to be listed or to be evaluated, whether good or bad, within the BBB. You are reported on unbiased facts only. Basically the Better Business Bureau exists to ensure integrity, performance and trust of businesses in how they relate to us, the consumer.  Visit the BBB website and discover for yourself their mission statement and their values in their commitment to a better and ethical marketplace. Best wishes in finding your best and most reliable choice for your business\contractor needs!

Buck & Sons Landscape Service, Inc. is an A+ Accredited Business with the Better Business Bureau of Ohio.