For Tom Strzelecki of Peckville, a healthy lawn is a happy lawn. This former farmer started his landscaping business, Yardscapes, three years ago and drew on his knowledge to help homeowners improve their outdoor space. And while most people think of lawn care as a summer thing, Strezelecki has plenty of tips on what to do this fall to set your lawn up for success this spring.
Q: Why did you start Yardscapes and how has it changed since you first opened?
A: I started Yardscapes back in 2017 when I retired from 18 years of farming. Our farm used to grow over 60 different crops and we used to supply local grocery stores and had three stalls at the Scranton Co-op Farmers Market.
I also used to be a crop consultant for a chemical company so that has helped with the knowledge of growing lawns into perfect turf. At Yardscapes, we currently have four crew members besides me and are always looking to add more.We’ve actually seen the biggest change this year as we have gotten back to more landscaping than the hardscaping — patios, retaining walls, etc — that we have done most of in the past. We have also been doing excavation work for other contractors in the area and finish landscaping for them as well.
Q: What’s your favorite part of helping people care for and improve their lawns?
A: I really like being able to take a run down lawn and renovate it into beautiful turf. Most people don’t realize their lawns full potential with a little seed, fertilizer and lime. I have taken lawns that have been complete disasters and made them into show piece lawns.
I also really enjoy doing backyard makeovers with outdoor kitchens and living spaces. There is a ton of new and exciting products to make the outside backyard into an outside living room. From outdoor TVs to fire features to complete outdoor kitchens we have done some interesting things in yards.
Q: What are some things people overlook when they’re taking care of their lawns?
A: Lime! Our native soil PH is around 5.5 to 6 and most turfgrass prefers 6.5 to 7 PH. With the PH being off it actually hurts nutrient uptake and even makes some nutrients unavailable. Low PH can also make some heavy metals in the soil available for uptake by the plants which could stunt growth and cause toxicity issues in the plant. Proper PH helps keep all of this in check and make the right things available to the plant. Most problems I see stem from not applying enough, if any, lime in addition to a good fertility and pest control program.
Q: Now that fall is on the way, what kinds of projects should people do?
A: Now is the time to start putting your lawn and landscape to bed. Clean up dead and diseased plants, make sure beds have enough mulch to keep roots protected for the winter. Mild winters are actually the worst for plants because of the constant freeze/thaw cycles that can injure new growth and buds that set the prior year. A nice layer of mulch helps protect the root system from the freeze/thaw cycles.
Now is the best time to seed new lawns. The lawns will grow thick in the cool nights and don’t have the annual weed pressure that we do in the spring and summer.
It is also time to lime and apply a balanced fertilizer to lawns. Phosphorus and potassium (the second and third numbers of the analysis on the fertilizer bag) are best applied in the fall to help them break down to become available to the plant and for the plant to build a healthy root structure.
Perennial broadleaf weeds and winter annual weeds are also best controlled in the fall. They are easiest to kill this time of year because they do not have large underground storage built up in the roots to keep coming back. They are currently trying to build those storages and now is the time to take care of them in lawns and landscape beds.
Q: When you’re not helping people care for their lawns, what do you like to do?
A: Spending time with my two daughters is most important when I have down time, I have two girls 14 months apart and they are a handful!