Proper installation of bark mulch. How to avoid common mistakes.


mulchMulch installation is one of the best ways to instantly enhance the look of your Grand Rapids area lawn and landscape. However, if applied wrong, you can damage or even kill plants, encourage pests, and create a larger problem down the road.

Here are some of the things NOT to do when applying mulch this season in west Michigan:

  1. Do not put landscape fabric or plastic under mulch. If it’s already there, remove it before adding your new fresh layer. Mulch is biodegradable and therefore it is suppose to slowly become compost in the soil. When you place weed barrier down, you prevent this process from occurring and instead end up with a think layer of composted mulch where weeds easily germinate. Mulch will also build up over time and begin to choke out plants. 
  2. Do not apply mulch too thick. If a little is good than a lot is better, right? No! Three to four inches is plenty. When mulch gets too thick then water can’t get to the soil. In this case, rather than holding moisture for the plants, we are preventing moisture. Also, mulch that is too thick invites unwanted insects and rodents as well as molds. On the flip side, the right amount of mulch encourages the healthy insects and will not increase mold and mildew. Mulch applied correctly does not cause insect problems as some people claim. Finally, mulch doesn’t break down very fast. If you add mulch every year make sure to only top dress and keep watching the thickness of the mulch. If it’s getting too thick either skip a year (turn it over to help give a fresh look) or remove some old mulch to the compost pile before applying the new layer.
  3. Chose the right color and type of mulch. Your home has a color and character and the mulch you apply should match that. Just because your neighbor’s home looks great with red mulch doesn’t mean your red home will also look great with red mulch. Make sure it contrasts and looks good for your yard.
  4. Don’t put down large wood chips. Wood chips are not a mulch. Wood chips are more similar to stone in that they don’t retain water and they don’t prevent weeds. If you really like wood chips, then get a good weed barrier and treat them like you would stone.
  5. Don’t get cheap mulch. Mulch shouldn’t look like dirt. At least not if you are using it to aide your landscape’s appearance. I strongly recommend the color enhanced mulches because they a) retain their bright colors mulch longer; b) decay a little slower meaning you can apply them every other year, or only apply just enough to top dress each year. If you don’t like the “colored” look of mulch, such as bright reds, oranges, gold, or black, then you can use dark or light brown color enhanced. This product looks very natural, but unlike the “dark hardwood” mulch, it holds it color and does not have the faded look after the first month.
  6. Finally, don’t buy mulch by the bag. Unless you have a very little amount to apply, the best option is usually to buy it by the yard from a local nursery. They will even deliver it for you and with a wheel barrow and a scoop shovel you can spread your mulch out in no time.

If you need help with prepping your landscape and applying your mulch, we offer a 15% discount for anyone who mentions this blog when they order. Email or fill out a request for an estimate today by clicking here.

Lawn mowing service at a premium

How do you determine which lawn mowing and lawn care companies are premium lawn service providers?

Starting a lawn and landscape maintenance service requires little more than a mower and truck. There is almost no required training. So how can consumers feel confident that the person caring for their lawn knows his or her stuff? Here are some things to check.

How long have they been in business? Not how long have they been mowing lawns (I’ve mowed since I was twelve, but I haven’t been in business that long.) Why should you be the guinea pig?  A business that’s been around should have plenty of reviews.

What do their reviews look like? If they’ve been servicing customers for 20 years but don’t have any reviews or very few, then what exactly have they been doing for 20 years? A bad review doesn’t make a bad company, but multiple negative reviews, too few reviews, or reviews that are all dated close together should send up red flags.

Homeowners should also check that the firm is insured.  Make sure they have liability and workers compensation insurance so that the homeowner isn’t liable for injuries or damages. Far too many lawn care providers do not carry workman’s compensation. Not only is this illegal, it places a high risk on the unsuspecting homeowner. If the employee gets insured and finds their employer doesn’t carry insurance, the location of the injury is the next step. If that’s your yard you may have an unexpected issue.

What experience does this company have mowing lawns? Will they mow your lawn too short? Short cut lawns may look nice for a day, but soon this damages the lawn and invites weeds.  Also, many companies line trim along edges the mower can’t reach but cut way too short or uneven with the string trimmer. They may also damage your mailbox post or other wood posts and play equipment. Quality companies know how to use the equipment correctly. Do they use the correct size mower? Too many companies don’t want to use a smaller mower when it’s the best choice because they are more concerned with getting in and out quickly. If a small push mower works best, then that’s what should be used over the larger heavy mowers.

Landscape Mulch – Did you know some companies put down low quality mulch with foreign products (rail ties, treated wood, nails, plastic) These lawn companies save big bucks getting low grade cheap mulch and charge you like it’s premium quality. If you care about having a premium landscape and are at all concerned about the environment, then make sure you choose a company that shares those values, not one that cuts corners.

Visit and let us help you keep your lawn and landscape looking great this season.

Why you should NOT power rake your lawn this spring.

Every spring people looking for lawn care in Hudsonville, Jenison, Byron Center and the surrounding Grand Rapids area ask about power raking their lawn.

Typically this is a bad idea. The grass has gone dormant during the winter and hard raking can damage the crown. The most important part of the plant’s structure is the “crown”. It is the center of the plant’s life and the point where grass growth originates. This is located just below or at the soil level.grass crown

The grass may appear to you to be damaged or in desperate need of raking, but in reality, what you see is simply what nature has left behind: dead or damaged grass, Vole damage, snow mold, and debris.

What should you do?  If you have matted grass or snow mold, you can LIGHTLY rake to provide air flow to the crown more efficiently. You ought to remove debris such as branches and leaves. Most people need to do nothing. I know…you are eager to get out and do something after the winter months, but hard raking the lawn should not be one of those things.

What about power raking? Why do lawn care companies offer this service?

Power Raking is for lawns that are very thick and have thatch below the grass plant. YOU CAN NOT SEE THATCH without digging. If you see it, it’s not thatch.

Thanks for reading
We provide Hudsonville Lawn Care as well as lawn care for Jenison lawn care, Allendale lawn care, Byron Center, Kentwood, and many surrounding areas.

Spring Clean-up Jenison MI

Jenison MI Spring Clean Up

Jenison MI Spring Clean Up

If you live in Jenison MI, then you may have a spring clean up problem that you may not even be able to see right now.

With the early snow this past fall we have several homes and yards that are going to be at risk of losing large portions of their lawn! Replacing a lawn is very expensive, but if you live in Jenison MI, then you may be in luck with our spring clean up services.

Our crews are ready to go once the snow melts, but even with all of our preparation, we anticipate a large influx of calls after the snow melts for Jenison residents seeking spring clean-up help.

We suggest that you sign up TODAY. We can offer you sight unseen prices based on hourly rates.

Spring Clean-up Hudsonville MI

Hudsonville Spring Clean Up

Hudsonville Spring Clean Up

If you live in Hudsonville MI, then you are most likely going to need a great deal of spring clean-up this season. Last fall we had such an early snowfall that many homeowners never had the opportunity to get their yards cleaned up properly.

One foreseeable problem is the lack of service providers able and ready to get to these jobs before lawn damage will occur.

It would be good to sign up with a provider now! Even if the extent of work is under all of that snow, we still can schedule based on hourly service times.

Efficient Lawn Maintenance has been gearing up this winter to be ready to address the spring clean-up needs in Hudsonville and surrounding areas. We have the equipment and the employees ready to go as soon as weather permits and we plan to help as many Hudsonville home owners as we can fit into our schedule, but we expect it to fill up fast once the snow melts.

Plan ahead and beat the rush! Sign up today!

Lawn care and child labor laws. Did you know it is illegal for me to….

When I began Efficient Lawn Maintenance, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help teach young people the value of a good work ethic and how to work. When I grew up, I worked from 11-years-old and up. There wasn’t a single summer I didn’t have a job making money and working. I didn’t get an “allowance.” My allowance was called work.

ILLEGAL. Child labor laws do not allow me to hire this teen to mow.

ILLEGAL. Child labor laws do not allow me to hire this teen to mow.

Did you know I can’t hire a 15 year old to push a 21″ residential lawn mower?

It’s true. If it has a motor attached, it’s too DANGEROUS for a 15 year-old to touch. Not if he or she is mowing their own lawn, or the neighbor’s lawn, but since I am incorporated, I can’t hire a 15 year old to do common yard work if a motor is involved.

When I was at college I worked in the cafeteria. As a junior I was training new freshman how to do their jobs. They were pathetic! They just stood around and waited to be told every detail before they did anything. Finally, in frustration, I asked, “What did you do for a job before you came here?” Answer….”This is the first job I ever had.”  I almost fell over. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I started to interview freshman only to find that most of them NEVER WORKED A JOB IN THEIR LIFE yet!  Wow. Culture shock!

Illegal. Child labor laws do not allow me to hire this teen girl to blow leaves.

Illegal. Child labor laws do not allow me to hire this teen girl to blow leaves.

Did you know, I can’t hire a 15-year-old to blow leaves with a leaf blower? That’s right…it has a motor, so it’s too dangerous.  Has our world gone insane? How can I train young people to work if getting out of bed is apparently considered a work hazard?

After my college experience and when I started my lawn company, I determined to help young people learn how to work…before college. I was shocked to find out what rules and regulations were in place to prevent me from doing just that. 

I remember in Chicago in the 1990’s a story about “Midnight Basketball” to keep youth off the street. Well, here is an idea, give them a job! Nothing keeps kids out of trouble better than responsibility and good hard work. Oh, but wait, We can’t do that because they might stub their toe and it’s just cruel to “force” children to work.

Well, this is my idea of child labor.

Images of real child labor.

Images of real child labor.

That’s right, actual children working long hard hours in poor conditions. That is what people envision when they hear “child labor laws.” But that is NOT what we are stopping. We are stopping able bodied ready to work young people from getting jobs they can do because of out of control child labor laws.

But will a politician take the cause of rolling back those laws? No! It’s political suicide. Why? Because “the children” will be harmed. Forget that the reality is, 15 year-olds are not little children being forced to work in horrible conditions. Just the phrase, “child labor” creates an image in voters minds like those above. Then to add to it self-serving individuals who will insist that any politician who wants to reduce child labor laws is really wanting 8-year-olds to work in sweatshops again.

Did you catch all of that sarcasm? Because I was laying it on thick!

The truth is, child labor isn’t productive. I doesn’t help my bottom line by hiring a 15-year-old even at lower wages. I need to train that young person and help them develop work habits that are going to help him or her for the rest of their life. Then, once trained, he leaves and some other employer is really happy they can hire someone who understands hard work. I view my role as a teacher and trainer to help one or two young people a season. But, the state of Michigan and our Federal government prevent me from offering this service to young people.

Why wont grass grow in my yard? A common mistake homeowners make when putting grass seed down.

Grass seed will not grow. Why?

Grass seed will not grow. Why?

It’s a common problem. There is a small area in your lawn that has a bare spot or needs more grass to come in. The solution is to over seed that area, but year after year, the seed never seems to come up. You’ve spent money on the best of the best seed/fertilizer mixes, but still nothing.

What is going on?

This past fall I had the all to familiar conversation with a Hudsonville homeowner who’s considering changing to a large landscape are because his grass seed never comes up in that section.

“When do you put your seed down?”, I ask.
“Every spring.”
“And do you do your own fertilizing or have a company do it?”
“We have such-and-such company do our fertilizing.”
“Did you tell them you were seeding?”
“Well, there is your problem. They are putting down pre-emergent weed control which stops seeds from germinating.”

Even if you use a five step program yourself, the first step includes pre-emergent. You can’t put that down in the areas you plan to seed or overseed.

Other reasons grass wont grow in your west Michigan yard can be numerous. Light, water, soil nutrients, type of soil, and on and on. But too many times, everything else is right, except for the pre-emergent application.

Don’t forget to communicate with your fertilizer or lawn care company when you plan to add grass seed to your lawn.

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Worst case of Vole damage I’ve seen yet.

Vole damage and how to prevent it.

Vole Damage in Jenison, MI


This is the worst case of Vole damage I have yet seen.

Being in the lawn care business I get calls about vole damage every spring. I drove by this Jenison, MI house in early April this year and got a good look at the situation this family was dealing with. I was quite surprised as most people with Vole problems have landscapes that are great hiding places for the critters, but at this house, they didn’t have anything even close to good hiding places that I could see. In fact, they didn’t have any landscape at all.
By the time I am called in, the Voles have long gone. Without the snow the Voles have been forced out because they have no place to hide from predators. Voles are only interested in three things. Eating vegetation, breading, and hiding from predators.
Damage to lawn by voles

A Vole repellent applied in the fall will help.

As for the damage already done, the home owner will most likely be happy to learn that Voles don’t generally damage the crown of the grass and therefore all of the lawn will come back just fine in a few weeks. No evidence of their activities will remain. If, however, the grass crown (the growth point) is damaged, they will need to re-seed.

When re-seeding, it is very important that you do not put down the first application of fertilizer without telling your fertilizer company to skip the pre-emergent weed control as this will prevent you from growing grass from seed. If you do your own fertilizing with Scott’s five step, you need to skip step one and put down fertilizer only in its place (Scott’s step one will have pre-emergent.)
Now for next winter. The only thing I see working for this family next year is to put down a mole/vole repellent. This is sold at Hudsonville Farmers Coop and probably Gemmens Hardware as well as other places. Vole repellent is a granular form of Caster Oil. It is completely harmless to other animals and children as well as harmless for the environment, but Voles and Moles have a very strong sense of smell and they hate the stuff enough to drive them away into the neighbor’s yard, or back into the woods. You will need enough to cover your whole yard and don’t be stingy. All it takes to put this product down is a simple spreader.
I have never seen Vole damage this bad, and certainly not in a yard with no hiding places. My guess is that the new development disturbed the habitat in a way that drove out Vole predators and left this rodent to multiply…but I may be wrong about that.
Outdoor cats are great at control too, in case you want a pet that has a job.
Not satisfied with my pictures? See a video of the lawn here.

Lawn problems from this winter. Unique issues to be aware of.

Every spring we deal with snow mold, voles, and clean-up issues. If you are reading this and it’s not 2014, please visit our post on basic “Do-It-Yourself Spring Lawn and Yard Inspection.

The winter of ’13 – ’14 was particularly unique for our west Michigan lawns not so much because we had such a large amount of snow, but because of the way it came about.

Lake Michgian in winter. Yes, this happens every winter.

Lake Michgian in winter. Yes, this happens every winter.

On Dec. 21st, 2013 there was a major ice event in West Michigan. We, at the time, had little snow coverage over the lawn and were treated to a half inch of freezing rain. This rain formed a thick layer of ice over the lawn. Since Dec. 21st, much of the lawn has been blanketed with a bottom layer of ice which can suffocate the lawn. It is possible that in some areas of the lawn this could kill off the grass. There is also the potential of toxic gas accumulation trapped in by that layer of ice.

What to do? Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do until the snow melts. We have not experienced this type of situation before in our area to my knowledge. We have had this much snow and we’ve had really hard winters, but the thick layer of frozen rain just prior to the heaviest snow is what is unique.

Use this type of rake to lightly provide good air flow. You are not trying to remove anything.

Use this type of rake to lightly provide good air flow. You are not trying to remove anything.

Grass needs air flow to survive. What you can do after the snow and ice melt away is lightly rake. I stress LIGHTLY rake the areas to open up the matted down areas so air can get into the soil. The worms and insects will do the rest. The lawn is fragile in the spring, so avoid heavy raking which can rip out the roots or damage the crown of the grass.


The crown of the grass, the white area just below the service, is where all the growth happens.


The crown of the grass plant is the most important part of your grass. Once damaged, it is almost impossible for it to survive. All of your green blades you love so much will emerge from the crown, so even if your lawn looks like a disaster, it may still be very healthy if the crown of the plant is intact. Provide it some air by lightly raking and wait….wait for it to grow and for the first cutting or two. At this point, you will really know the health of your lawn. Most spring clean-up can be done by simply waiting for the grass to grow through two cuts. Those people who vigorously rake the dead grass off the lawn from the winter are wasting their time and harming their lawns.

What to remove: sticks, leaves, and anything else that will prevent the grass from getting air flow and sunlight. If you have a leaf blower, this is a good tool to use for leaves without damaging the crown of the grass. If you left a pile of leaves over the winter, you will need to re-seed in spring, so rake them up as soon as possible.

What to leave: Grass that looks dead or looks like “thatch.” It’s not thatch. (See this post about thatch.) All of this grass, even if dead, will simply help provide nutrients for the lawn as it does grow. Leave it to decay in place because it’s more helpful than harmful, just as long as it’s not smothering the lawn preventing air flow.

May spring come upon us soon…

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Hudsonville spring lawn care, Jenison spring lawn care, Allendale spring lawn care,. Grand Rapids spring lawn care. How to fix spring lawn damage Grandville MI.

Hudsonville Lawn Care Services

Lawn Care Hudsonville

Hudsonville Lawn Care Services

Hudsonville Lawn Care services provides all of the lawn care and landscape management for Hudsonville, MI and the surrounding areas.

If you need bark mulch applied in Hudsonville, we can help. We do more than just fill a blog post with keywords, we actually provide tremendous customer service and professional results. Over the years, we have had to re-install bark mulch in Hudsonville because someone did the job wrong. Check out our post on “Common Mistakes when Installing Mulch” to learn how it should be done.

But, more than just lawn care services and landscape services, when we apply bark mulch to your Hudsonville yard, we check the landscape for plant health and vitality. Spring is a great time to inspect the health of your landscape and shrubs.

Many vole trails are running through the lawns in Hudsonville. Check out our post on what to do about voles. (Note: most people think these are mice, but the rodent that leaves trails in the lawn after winter is actually a vole.)

Hudsonville Lawn Care can help you with all of your lawn care and landscape maintenance needs. Visit us at

Virtual 3D landscape design.

Walk through your new landscape before you even approve the design.

As landscape designers we tend to visualize a newly designed landscape as if it were already installed, growing, and enjoyed. The problem comes when trying to communicate that vision to the customer. Sure, we can sketch it out on paper, provide architectural blueprints, we can describe plants and colors verbally, we might even have some photos of other projects to help convey the full impact of the new landscape design, but does that really communicate the full affect to home owners? Not always.

In this post I highlight a home in East Grand Rapids, MI, where the existing landscape is so cumbersome that trying to visualize it removed and replaced became nearly impossible. The goal of landscape design is first and foremost about delivering to the customer exactly what they want, even if they didn’t know it until it was designed for them.

Take this backyard as an example…

Backyard Before photos

The home owners no longer used the pool enough to justify the cost and repairs needed. They decided to have it removed, but what would their backyard look like when renovations were done? There were large river rocks, double stacked existing wood deck, flower box, and of course the pool.

They wanted a place that would work well with entertaining and they wanted to have an area of grass as well. Their back yard offered good views and neighbors didn’t over look their yard. It was important to leave the yard open and create space that maximized the view.

Almost anything can be experimented with before settling in on a final approved plan.

With the initial line drawing and verbal explanation approved, we set out to recreate their home and landscape on the computer. You can see in the photos below that our 3D virtual world gives a very realistic, if not somewhat cartoony, view of the landscape plan. Not only can we show this backyard in still photos, they can literally walk through the yard, look around from any angle, fly over the landscape or approach from any side. We can incorporate virtual people as well to provide perspective if needed or to demonstrate how the yard can be used.

3d Virtual landscape design

But what will the landscape look like in spring or fall? What about in five years, how large will the plants be? What does the lighting look like at night? All of these we can show in the virtual world.

How about a different patio design or retaining wall block? What if we went with different plants or added a flower box. Almost anything can be experimented with before settling in on a final approved plan.

Do you have a landscape needing help or re-design? Maybe you just need small changes and don’t need the virtual demonstration, or possibly you’re building a new home and want to see all the possibilities. In either case, we are eager to help you accomplish your goals.

Visit for more information and to set up consultation.

We’ve helped home owners, realtors, rental property owners, and commercial businesses meet their needs with landscape plans, new or revitalized all over the Grand Rapids community. We may be located in Grandville, MI, but we’ve served Wayland, Ada, Hudsonville, Allendale, and places all across the West Michigan area with lawn and landscape needs.

Most home landscapes are very basic and predicable. What many home owners tend to believe is that a nice landscape will mean lots of maintenance and upkeep and they simply are not the gardener type. The truth is that most landscapes can really pop and stand out in west Michigan while still remaining low maintenance. In addition, Efficient Lawn Maintenance can provide the little amount of maintenance you do need to keep a great looking yard without busting your budget.