In Landscape Design, Uniqueness Matters

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If you think back on some of your favorite films, art, or experiences, you’ll likely notice a common theme, uniqueness. The introduction of a new, uncommon experience etches a stronger response in our minds which may create a greater enjoyment. So, it stands to reason that in most cases a unique landscape is often received as more enjoyable.

At Belknap Landscape Company, we’ve been fortunate to design and install some of the most unique landscape features in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. We’ve received dozens of awards, and have had countless happy clients who enjoy the unique landscapes we created for them, and we’d like to share what we’ve learned.

In designing a landscape, the function should always be the primary consideration. What is the use of installing a landscape feature if it cannot be enjoyed for it’s intended purpose? Next, the form should also be given strong consideration. The most memorable and best-enjoyed landscapes are both functional and beautiful, yet the ones that truly stand heads and shoulders above the others uniquely deliver form and function.

Unique landscapes can be accomplished through the way a landscape features are designed, the construction methods, the materials used, and/or the details. There are methods for every budget and taste, but the common theme in execution is creativity.

In the example below, the unique attribute of this fire pit was achieved through creative design. The fire pit was installed below ground level, as a sunken feature with stone seating and the firebox in the center. It plays off of common themes and shapes of many fire pits, but the design is unique creating a point of interest for the rest of the outdoor space.

In the following example, construction methods played a role in creating a unique landscape feature. This project, currently still under construction, required a way of entering the home across a depression in the landscape. As is common, a bridge was determined to be the most logical conveyance. Bridges in residences are overwhelmingly constructed of wood, occasionally of metal, and sometimes of stone masonry. This bridge is unique because it was constructed of stone, utilizing one large slab as opposed to the more common methods expressed. This has given an unexpected and unique attribute to this feature, providing greater appeal to the bridge, surpassing its functional role.

This next example illustrates how creative materials choice can attribute a unique quality to a landscape. When it comes to construction of fire pits, stone masonry is a common choice. Stone is both functional and beautiful and can be installed in a variety of ways. While this fire pit is stone, a common material, the scale and method of material use is uncommon. In this instance, the firebox was chiseled out from the stone material instead of the firebox being built out of the stone material. This transitions a familiar material into a focal point because of the way the material is used creating a unique point of interest.

Finally, and often most affordable is the use of creative details in landscape features to create a unique experience. This is where creative use of plant life, accent pieces, or lighting can make a significant impact. In this stone stairway pictured below, the construction methods and materials are relatively common, but the introduction of plant life creates a natural, long-lived appearance that differentiates this install from similar properties. This gives the stairway a different feel to the viewer providing a different experience.

When creating a unique landscape, it’s important to think about what outcomes you’re looking for, and then seek inspiration on how to achieve those outcomes. Looking through landscape magazines, websites, and social media is a good place to start. Just remember being unique means finding inspiration from others, not copying them.

Another option is to seek help. Our designers have decades of experience finding unique and creative solutions, of which an exceedingly small representation is illustrated in the photos above. They specialize in helping you find, express, and realize your unique dream. Check out our gallery for more photographs of some of their work to help you find your inspiration here, or give us a call for a partner to help you in this process.

Caring for your Hardscapes-Cleaning and Sealing

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Many of our clients and property owners throughout the Lakes Region have chosen to install hardscape features as part of their landscape. Features like patios, walkways, driveways, walls, and firepits are wonderful additions to most outdoor spaces.  Typically, these features are constructed using concrete, pavers, brick, or natural stone providing them with both beauty and durability, but this durability does not mean they don’t require proactive maintenance.

All hardscape features, regardless of material are susceptible to mold growth, staining, and cracking if they not properly maintained. This is due to a few factors. First, all of these materials are to some degree porous. Water and contaminants can seep into the surface and create problems like cracking and staining. Next, the accumulation of organic materials like leaves or grass on the surfaces often encourages mold and moss growth. Finally, inorganic materials like oils and rubber will wear onto the surfaces and accumulate as grime while attracting other pollutants.

At Belknap Landscape we take pride in installing and maintaining these features, and as a result, we have adopted a hardscape care process that is designed to help reduce and eliminate these effects.

We start our process by inspecting and testing your hardscapes to see what types of materials were used in the construction, and what specific staining or problem areas may exist. We do this to create a treatment plan designed to remove any existing problems, while also taking care to not harm the materials used in the construction.

Once we have completed a plan of service, the next step is to thoroughly clean the hardscape feature. We do this using specially formulated cleansers applied a minimum of two times, pressure washed into the surface and rinsed off. They will remove staining and pollutants from hardscape surfaces and are specifically designed for use on materials including pavers, bluestone, granite, brick, and concrete masonry.

After cleaning, it is important to let the surface dry completely. Based on weather conditions this may be several hours, to over a day. This step helps ensure that when the sealer is applied it will adhere to the hardscape fully and create a lasting bond.

The final step is applying the sealer. Sealers are designed to both protect the hardscape surface as well as return the luster and color to the surface. We typically use a matte sealer for it’s more natural appearance, and we apply two coats to ensure coverage and thickness is adequate to protect the hardscape material for a minimum of 2-3 years. Once the sealer has been applied the hardscape surface may be walked or driven upon after 48 hours of curing time.

Clients who clean and protect their hardscapes enjoy many benefits. The removal of stains and contaminants restores the uniform, attractive look of the materials, giving them a fresh “just installed” look. The sealing process protects against future staining and water or material infiltration which will reduce the likelihood of cracking or damage in the winter. Finally, they receive the peace of mind knowing that the significant investment in this landscape feature is best protected against wear and tear, and mother nature.

We have invested significant time and resources into gaining the capability of providing hardscape cleaning and sealing services because we know it’s an important part of maintaining the features we install and the properties we maintain.  Our specially trained technicians look forward to answering any questions you have regarding hardscape care and making meaningful recommendations on if this service is right for you. Please give us a call to find out how to best care for your hardscapes.

Top 5 must-know things for caring for your trees

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When is the best time to prune your trees?

Most trees can be pruned anytime! There are exceptions of course and BLC’s certified arborist is happy to advise the best course of action. Generally, flowering trees should be pruned either right after flowering or during dormancy. Disease prone trees should not be pruned during disease activity. Just about all of our native shade trees and evergreens can be pruned at your convenience.

Do your trees need nutrients?

Yes! Most trees have evolved in a forest environment where organic matter falls and decomposes on the forest floor creating a nutrient-rich soil. On most properties, this organic material is removed before it decomposes. Also, trees on your property likely need to compete with grasses or plants which absorb nutrients quickly, often before they can reach a trees root system.

That’s why a slow-release fertilizer, sometimes applied in with deep-root delivery method is one of the best ways to assure the health of your trees.

When do trees need to be removed?

Dead or dying trees should be removed to prevent potential hazardous conditions on your property, to reduce habitat for pests, or curb the spread of diseases or insects which may infect other trees on your property.

Hazardous trees should also be removed. This can include unstable trees, leaning, too close to your home or other buildings, not structurally sound, or have significant unrepairable damage.

Trees may also need to be removed if their root systems are creating problems for your foundation, driveway, or other features of your property.

Finally, the strategic removal of select trees can reduce overcrowding and encourage the health of other trees on your property.

We strongly encourage property owners to enlist the help of a professional for the removal of trees. Tree removal is inherently dangerous, and should only be undertaken by someone with the training and equipment to do it safely.

Are my trees safe and healthy?

Checking on the health of your trees should occur every year. While some conditions which illustrate the health of a tree are easy to see and understand such as; missing foliage, cracks or damage to the trunk or limbs, missing bark, or some types of diseases, others may be subtle. Check out our tips here for tips on checking on the health of your trees.

Why hire a certified arborist?

Trees are some of the largest, most complex, and potentially hazardous plants on our properties. They also provide significant benefits to the comfort, beauty, and ecosystem of our properties. They represent a significant asset, and in most cases investment which is best cared for with professional assistance.

A certified arborist is someone who is specifically trained in tree science, care, and health. Similarly to how a medical doctor received training to care for humans, or veterinarians receive training for animals, certified arborists are the best-equipped professionals to care for trees.

It is important to ensure the arborist you hire is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). This is the best way to ensure they have received the appropriate training, and have a demonstrated knowledge of the science. It is not uncommon for individuals to claim they are arborists, yet not possess the training or skills to care for trees correctly. Hiring an ISA certified arborist is your best assurance of hiring an appropriately skilled professional.

Mulch Matters

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Once spring clean-ups are completed, one of the first things that occur on landscapes across the Lakes Region is the application of mulch. Red, black, brown, organic, inorganic, there’s a surprisingly wide variety of choices in mulch, and not all choices are right for every application. Here’s some must-knows about why mulch matters.

Mulch, in general, provides many benefits. Mulch is an excellent method of controlling weeds and containing moisture around trees, shrubs, and plant beds. It can add a finished look to a landscape and may provide color or accentuate points of interest. In some instances, mulch may also provide a protective barrier against fire dangers in high-risk areas.

Organic vs Inorganic

Organic mulch in New Hampshire is typically comprised primarily of wood, while other mulches contain grasses, straw, leaves, or other plant material. These mulches are typically dyed to provide a universal appearance, with the most common colors being red, black, or brown.

The primary benefit of organic mulch is that it will decompose into the ground providing nutrients, or if removed it is biodegradable.  In some instances can also be a disadvantage. Organic mulches need to be refreshed every year to maintain their appearance and benefits.

Inorganic mulch is relatively uncommon in our area. It is typically made of shredded or particle rubber, plastic, or textiles and may even be comprised of stone or other aggregates. It can come in a wide variety of colors and is installed similarly to organic mulch.

A benefit of inorganic mulch is its durability. Because it does not easily decompose, it may last several years without significant changes to its appearance, though it does require annual maintenance and some refreshing. It may begin to fade over time, and this may result in an unkempt appearance. In addition, as it begins to eventually degrade, inorganic mulch may introduce chemicals and unwanted particulates into the soil or water through runoff.

We typically stick to the installation of organic mulch in his area. Inorganic mulch can be significantly more expensive than organic mulch, and we’ve found our clients prefer the look and feel of organic mulch. This paired with the environmental considerations and plant life benefits provided by organic mulch make it the most popular choice.

What color to choose

We think every color of mulch looks great, but we also know not every color looks great everywhere. When choosing a mulch color, it’s important to consider the colors it will be adjacent to or complimenting.

Black Mulch works best in areas with a lot of green space and subdued colors. It’s ideal for mulching around evergreens, gray-colored homes, and in areas where there will not be a lot of flowering plants.

Brown Mulch is an excellent contrast to homes constructed of red bricks or have red brick contrast. Brown mulch does well with muted colored flowering plants or if you’re looking for a more natural appearance.

Red mulch works well as a complement to bold colors. It creates an eye-catching contrast against most lawns or green areas and if a great choice for areas that will have bright flower blooms or where you’d like to draw attention.

Stone mulches like pea gravel, river rocks, or bluestone add a variety of texture and color as well. When using stone pay close attention to the existing stonework on your property, and the color of your home. As stone tends to be a more permanent solution, we recommend utilizing samples of the stone to see how they look on site before ordering your stone delivery. For example, while a reddish stone may match a brick home, a bluestone may have a better complimentary appearance.

Installing Mulch

The installation of mulch may appear to be a straight forward and simple process, and in many cases it is, but we see some common mistakes all of the time.

To achieve the desired benefits of weed control and moisture retention, mulch needs to be 3-4 inches deep. While a nice appearance can be achieved with less mulch, the benefits will be short-lived. When purchasing mulch, determine the area that needs to be mulched in square feet, and multiply that by 0.3. This will give you a good approximation of how much cubic feet of mulch you need to purchase. Note: 1 cubic yard will typically cover 100 square feet t an acceptable depth.

Before installing mulch, remove all weeds or plant life that you do not want to continue to grow through the mulched area. At this point, many choose to install a weed barrier to further discourage weed growth. This is also the time to create or reestablish the edge of the mulched area. This can be accomplished with a shovel or manual edger. Create a crisp edge 2-3 inches deep and remove all plant material as previously mentioned. Do not reintroduce the used soil or organic matter into the area to be mulched as this can encourage weed growth.

Do not mulch too deep in areas around trees and plants. The base of trees and shrubs, in particular, need to have access to air. Piling mulch around the base and creating a “mulch volcano” will suffocate the plant. Instead, clear space around the base of the trunk allowing for 3-4 inches of exposed area completely around the circumference, creating a “mulch donut” which will allow the plant to breathe.

Keep organic mulch hydrated on dry summer days, especially if it’s old mulch. As mulch ages it will lose moisture in the event it has not rained or received moisture for a long time. As mulch becomes drier a reduction in its effectiveness in retaining moisture for our plants and discourage weed growth occurs, it is more likely you be blown out of place by the wind, or worse it becomes increasingly flammable. The best way to prevent these occurrences is to refresh your mulch annually or to water your existing mulch periodically during dry spells.

Mulch Isn’t Magic

While mulch is a valuable and appealing part of a good landscapers repertoire there are limits to what mulch can do and how it should be used.

Organic mulch should not be used in an area with drainage concerns. The most common type of mulch used is wood. Wood is easily washed away and it breaks down in water easily. Mulches made of rubber or plastic may be carried into waterways if used in drainage areas, polluting them. Peastone and other rock type mulch works well for drainage bust should be used in conjunction with a stone designed for the purpose in conjunction with a drainage program.

While mulch does an excellent job of discouraging weeds, it’s likely the occasional weed will poke its way through your mulched areas. This is normal and common. Weeding by hand, similarly to how a garden is weeded is the most effective and preferred way to manage weeds in a mulched area.

Finally, as mentioned in this blog, mulch does require maintenance. While mulch is durable, and low maintenance, all mulches need a rework or refresh annually. This is a common DIY project for many property owners, but most quality landscapers also provide a mulching service. Landscapers are often a better option for property owners who utilize a landscaper for total property care, the scope of work is particularly large, or they prefer to spend their time enjoying their property as opposed to working on it.

As always Belknap Landscape is available to provide a wide variety of landscape services, mulching included to property owners throughout the Lakes Region.

Survey Says: Americans Love their Yards and they are Important to a Home’s Resale Value

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April is National Lawn Care Month so it is a great time to think about what your lawn and landscape do for you. Even in the age of the smartphone and T.V. show binge-watching, the love affair with the American yard is not over.

According to an online survey commissioned by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and conducted by Harris Poll in May 2015, eighty-three percent of Americans think having a yard is important. Here are a few insights about the value of our lawns and backyards.

Your neighborhood’s landscaping is important. Americans (91%) want to live in an area where they can see or walk to nice landscaping. So if you want the best chance of increasing the home prices in your neighborhood, make sure the landscaping looks good.

Nice landscaping helps to sell your house. Eighty-four percent say that the quality of a home’s landscaping would affect their decision about whether or not to buy. Great neighborhood landscaping helps, but it isn’t enough; yours needs to look good too.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Novak and the National Association of Landscape Professionals

Your neighbors care what your yard looks like. Seventy-one percent think it is important that their neighbors have well-maintained yards. Perhaps “good landscaping makes good neighbors” should be the new adage.

We want to enjoy our yards. Seventy-five percent of people feel that it is important to spend time outside in their yards.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Novak and the National Association of Landscape Professionals

Despite common misperceptions, even Millennials want to spend time in their yards. Seventy-five percent of Millennials (18–34-year-olds) think spending time outside in their yards is important.

People want help with their landscape. A large majority of Americans (67%) agree that professional landscape help would allow them to have a nicer yard.

So, this April, don’t take your yard for granted: make the most of it and it will return many financial and emotional benefits.


The information contained in this article is courtesy of and The National Association of Landscape Professionals.

5 Ways a Landscaper can help Brick and Mortar Retailers

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The retail landscape is changing at a breakneck pace. Online retailers, safety concerns, and an ever-changing marketplace are some of the many challenges faced by brick and mortar retailers. Those who service these retailers must work toward helping overcome these challenges. Here are 5 ways a good landscaper can help the brick and mortar retailers they service.

Landscapers Can Design and Build Properties That Attract People

The addition of landscape features that allow people to congregate and socialize has long been a staple of restaurants, hospitality, and entertainment venues. These spaces encourage patrons to stay longer, which typically translates into more dollars spent at the business. Retailers, especially multi-unit brick and mortar are realizing similar successes when they develop these types of spaces. Common additions include seating areas, patios, playgrounds, and garden spaces.

Plantlife and color have also proven to be good investments for retailers. The addition of color is an especially powerful tool to bring attention to a property while also making the property more attractive. These enhancements create an environment that is appealing and eye-catching to shoppers. Utilitarian shopping areas can be transformed into places where people want to be, and as a result where they’d like to shop.

Lighting Matters

Landscape lighting serves both a safety and an aesthetic purpose. While it is common for a retailer to have overhead and pathway lighting, landscape lighting can help illuminate hazards on the property, and guide shoppers to follow a specific path, increasing safety. This type of lighting feature can also reduce the likelihood of crime and burglaries by eliminating dark places where crime may occur.

Lighting for aesthetics can create an atmosphere or make a statement, attracting attention to the property. Much like adding plant life and features, lighting can create dramatic shadows, appealing imagery, and accentuate an environment where people want to be, translating into more opportunities for sales.

Holiday Lighting and Décor

The holiday season is the most important time of year for retailers, and brick and mortar locations have a unique ability to differentiate themselves during this season. For many, an important part of enjoying the holidays is seeing, sharing, and enjoying the festive nature of the season. The addition of Christmas lights, wreaths, bows, garland, and other décor is a tradition for many businesses, and consumers enjoy the experience.

Many landscapers provide holiday décor services which range from designing, providing the decorations, to installation and storage.

The ability to decorate and attract customers based upon holiday atmosphere is an advantage brick and mortar retailers have over their online competition. The use of a landscaper to support these efforts allows the retailer to focus on their business and servicing their clients while reaping the benefits of the decorating services the landscaper provides.

Proactive property care

While traditionally a landscaper focuses on aspects that may be different from that of a property management company, a good landscape services provider will be able to assist in many maintenance and management issues.

Landscapers service a property regularly, and they frequently cover large swaths of the property. Additionally, they are often on-site more frequently than a property management service. As a result, landscapers will typically notice concerning situations sooner and can assist a client in awareness before a bigger problem is realized. Landscapers also frequently work alongside other service professionals and can help with recommendations for service providers should a concern be beyond their scope of practice.

If you have a landscaper who has failed to bring a problem to your attention that they were likely aware of, it’s a good idea to reexamine that relationship. While landscaping is a profession it is also a service, and service should include advocating for the best interests of the client.

Keep it crisp. Keep it clean

Finally, and perhaps most commonly, landscapers can help ensure your outdoor space retains its welcoming aesthetic. Overgrown plant life, damaged walkways, or a general lapse in maintenance will turn potential customers away. These conditions also can create safety hazards and should be proactively managed throughout the year.

Customers want to shop in areas where they feel comfortable. At a minimum, the retail space inside and out should feel well maintained and safe. Retailers sell goods and services, and they are most successful in focusing on their business, not maintaining their property. A good landscaper can allow a business to focus on what brings them income, by taking care of the property.

We’re here to help you succeed

At Belknap Landscape we understand that external appearance influences a shopper’s decision on where to shop. In supporting our retailer clientele we provide all of the services mentioned above. We are committed to the viability and success of our clients, and offer programs and approaches to meet the needs of most businesses.

Please call us at 603-528-2798 to see how we can help you focus on growing your business.

COVID-19 Update-Our Status as an Essential Business

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To our valued clients and community,


We want to give you an update on our standing regarding the recent COVID-19 response in New Hampshire.

Beginning on March 28, New Hampshire is under “Stay at Home” orders intended to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This order prevents businesses from opening or conducting general operations unless deemed as an essential business. Belknap Landscape, based upon services provided, is an essential business under the current state designations.

The following statement by the National Association of Landscape Professional explains some reasons why landscaping is essential.

Landscape professionals maintain and protect the living environments around hospitals, government facilities, housing areas, parks, schools, and more; protecting public safety by:

  • performing regular maintenance to mow, prune control weeds, and inspect for safety and security issues;
  • performing essential treatments to reduce the spread of dangerous and deadly diseases through pests like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas;
  • removing fallen trees and mitigating overhead hazards from wind effects;
  • providing maintenance and plant removal to assist in fire abatement;
  • managing invasive species; and
  • keeping public and private pathways free from obstruction and potential risk.

Additionally, in many instances our operations include the construction or repair of properties to remove hazardous situations, improve egress, reduce standing water, address flooding or erosion concerns, and proactively address conditions that influence the safety and wellness of our clients and community.

Being an essential business carries a responsibility we take seriously, with safety being the paramount consideration. We are following OSHA guidelines in addition to those from other government and professional organizations to ensure the safety of our employees and the community. Fortunately our work enables our employees to maintain social distancing, utilize tools assigned only to them, and regularly sanitize themselves, their tools, and work area.

OSHA’s Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 states “Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers.” p.20.

We will also maintain the spirit of openness and collaboration with our employees that we’ve followed for decades. These values will facilitate employees bringing safety concerns to our attention while enabling us to best support one another. These values include the behavioral agreements below that encourage our employees to advocate for themselves and their peers.

  • We commit ourselves to treat each other like we treat our customers.
  • We celebrate each other’s successes, bear each other’s burdens, and collaborate by working with the perspectives of others to create better outcomes
  • We are proactive in bringing concerns forward in a positive manner so that they can be examined, discussed, and resolved.
  • We focus on business values, standards, and agreements, not on personal disagreements and/or frustrations
  • We are all resources for each other, and from that standpoint, we work together regardless of title or position.

Through working together, our team will hold one another accountable to the processes that will keep them safe and curb the spread of this virus. This will allow us to best serve our clients and communities in following through on the functions which make our work essential. Our efforts and behaviors will continue to evolve as new guidance and best practices become available.

Finally, we feel it is important to consider ways that together we at Belknap Landscape, and those reading this message may show support for one another and our community. These quick messages from and are great things we should all consider to help one another as we progress through this difficult time.

Please know we value your wellness and are here to help. Should you have questions, concerns, or need our assistance we will be available for you. The best way to reach us during this period is via email at [email protected], or you may call our office for urgent matters at 603-528-2798.


Stay Safe,

Everyone at Belknap Landscape Co.

Update on COVID-19 Response by Belknap Landscape Co.

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To our valued clients and community,


Here at Belknap Landscape we are concerned for the well being of our staff, clients and community during this trying time COVID-19 has presented us all. I’d like to update the efforts we’ve taken to continue to provide the Belknap Experience our clients expect, while helping to curb the spread of this virus.

Fortunately our work is typically conducted outside, which affords our staff the opportunity to maintain a safe social distance as outlined by the CDC. You may notice some differences while we service your property, and I wanted to take the time to share some of these changes as we utilize some best safe practices for our staff and clients.

Our staff is disinfecting their trucks and equipment on a daily basis. We also have limited the number of employees per vehicle to one person. As a result you may experience more vehicles at your property than you are accustom to seeing.  We will be mindful of where we park in order not to create an inconvenience to your or your neighbors. This allows us maintain a social safe distance with our staff.

If we need to gain access into your home for irrigation services, or other reasons, the service technician will be wearing a mask and gloves as a safety precaution. In the event you are under home quarantine, or prefer we do not enter your home for one of these services, kindly call us at 603-528-2798 and we’ll schedule an alternative service time.

We do understand that you may be working from home more frequently in these coming days, and we will do our best to not interrupt this time.  If there is something that you would like from us while you are spending more time at home, please do not hesitate to reach out to us, and we will do everything that we can to meet your requests.

As you know, this is uncharted territory for all, and we understand that things could be changing as we move forward. Our goal here at Belknap Landscape is for you not to see any change in the high level of service which you are accustomed to receiving.

We are examining and working towards changing other procedures that we do on a daily basis, in order to continue the service that you value from our staff.  We appreciate your patience, and we hope that you do not experience any disruptions in the servicing of your property during these challenging times.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the timing of your services or the staff while on your property, please do not hesitate to contact your account manager, project manager, sales professional, or contact our office and we will do everything we can to address them.

Again, Belknap Landscape is committed to the safety and well being of our staff, clients, and community. I do wish you the best for you and your family as we move forward through these difficult times, and I share a wish that things may return to normal as soon as possible.

We hope to continue a high level of communication with you as always.


Thank you,

Hayden McLaughlin

Principal , Belknap Landscape Co.

4 Ways the Spring Thaw Can Impact Landscapes

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The Lakes Region will soon be well into spring thaw. Ice out will be called on Winnipesaukee, Gunstock will stop running the lifts, and there will be slush, mud, and water everywhere. As a result, this season can have a significant effect on your property. Here are some things you should know about the spring thaw.

Standing Water and Ice

Melting snow and Ice introduces significant water to our properties in the Lakes Region. In ideal situations, this water can naturally find its way into existing manmade or natural water drainage areas. If you have standing water on your property, there can be a few causes.

In some cases, there isn’t a natural way for the water to drain. This is common in properties where a low spot seems to flood annually and the ground becomes too saturated to remove the excess water. A common way to know if this is occurring on your property is to note if this situation occurs year after year, or after heavy rains. Solutions for these instances may include the addition of material to raise the low spot, the addition of drainage channels or swales, and even drains or pumps.

If a natural or manmade drainage system exists, something is preventing the movement of water to, or through the system. We find the most common causes are the accumulation of ice, snow, or debris. A good way to know if this is the cause of your standing water problem is to note if this is an uncommon occurrence. Does it typically only occur in the spring thaw season? Is there noticeable build-up near the deepest areas of the standing water or around a drain?

When ice, snow, or debris is causing standing water the removal of these items should allow drainage to occur. It is important to address the causes of the build-up to prevent reoccurrences. You must be mindful of keeping drainage areas clean of debris. Take note of how water drains off of your property and ensure that snow is not plowed to amass in that area. If you have catch basins or manmade drains ensure they cleared of debris regularly.

Regardless of the cause, standing water on your property should be addressed provided it is not a protected wetland. Standing water creates a hazard on your property which could leave you liable should someone get hurt. Standing water is a breeding ground for pests like mosquitos. Standing water creates adverse conditions for the growth of many plants including turfgrasses and trees. Standing water problems will lower the value of your property.

Melting snow and Ice can carry pollutants

When snow and ice melts it flows over and through your property, it invariably absorbs different things. Salt, Sand, oils, sediment, and other pollutants the water picks up will either make their way into our watershed or end up in areas on your property as water is absorbed. This sediment and chemicals often have damaging effects.

Water carrying things like salt or chemicals onto your property can lead to the loss of plant life due to a change in soil conditions. Salt, for example, can change your soil Ph levels, or even how your plants can absorb water and conduct photosynthesis. Sand and sediment can change the soil consistency and water retention properties. Oils and chemicals can poison both plant and animal life.

This water can also make its way into our watersheds and ultimately into lakes like Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Squam and Newfound to name a few. The introduction of these contaminants harms the lake ecosystem and the viability of the lakes we enjoy and depend on. There are ways property owners can help mitigate these problems.

Reduce the amount of salt, ice melt, and sand used on your property. By reducing less of these items to your property, less will be absorbed into the seasonal thaw. It’s exceedingly common for property owners and untrained service providers to over-treat ice to remove it. Overtreatment serves no real functional purpose, is not cost-efficient, and of course, is bad for your property and surroundings. We suggest you utilize only SnowPro certified snow removal experts, or for DIYers to treat sparingly over a few applications. You can always add more, but you cannot easily remove the product once it has been applied.

Next, be mindful of spills, drips, or accumulated sediment on your property. If you can clean up oils, sweep up sands or ice, and generally remove any contaminants before the that has generated water runoff, those items will not be introduced to other areas.

Finally, whenever possible encourage the water from spring thaw to follow pathways where contaminants may be filtered out. This could include municipal stormwater treatment area, or swales and catch basins on your property where the contaminants can be collected and isolated from other areas.

Potholes and Heaves

Potholes are caused by water beneath the ground surface freezing and thawing. As water freezes, it expands, and when the ice melts it contracts. This causes outward, and in the case of potholes vertical pressure and movement of the ground. If you have pavement, concrete, pavers or any sort of solid ground cover, this movement will cause cracks and heaves, while the shifting of material and water will introduce voids, leading to potholes.

The solution to potholes is removing as much water from beneath the immediate surface of the ground as possible and using materials that can help absorb the pressures created in the freeze-thaw cycle. This means utilizing good construction and drainage practices in the construction of hardscaped surfaces. If a driveway, walkway, or patio is to last, the subsurface needs to be prepped appropriately. In many cases, this means the removal of some existing material to allow for the addition of drainage solutions and aggregate as a foundation for preventing potholes, heaves, or cracks.


Be on the lookout for budding life

The thaw coincides with the time when much plant life will begin to “wake up” from winter dormancy. Sometimes this encourages property owners to uncover their plants by removing the accumulated snow thinking this will hasten their growth. Resist this temptation.

In our area snow can help protect budding plants from evenings that are still bitterly cold. Removing the snow will expose these plants to these conditions early, which is detrimental. Simply let nature take its course, and allow the thaw of your gardens to occur naturally. The only time you should take significant action during the thawing season is if there’s clear abnormal and damaging conditions.

You may notice some “early risers” begin to grow in March. Check out this article from the UNH Cooperative Extension to learn more about these plants

Spring thaw is a wonderful time in New Hampshire, and we hope you’re looking forward to spring as much as we are. As always, if the thaw has created problems or needs for your property we’re here to help.

The Top 3 Landscape Winter Damages to Look for This Spring

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It may not seem like it, but spring will be here soon. One of the most important things you can do as we transition to warmer weather is to inspect your property for winter damage. Finding problems and resolving them is step one in proactively caring for your outdoor spaces. Here are some things to look for as the seasons shift.

Ice Damage

Ice damage is often the most apparent and destructive type of winter damage. Common Ice damage can include broken or fallen limbs of trees or shrubs, areas where poor drainage allowed for standing water and ice to accumulate, or even damage caused to your home from ice accumulation along the gutters or roof.

Upon finding ice damage, the first thing to do is to address the immediate area of deterioration. Pruning, removing limbs, or felling trees or shrubs is common, as is regrading or repairing roadways. In many cases, a professional should be consulted or hired to resolve these issues. In this event, should ice still be present before the expert can diagnose the problem, take several photographs to help illustrate the issue.

Once the immediate damage is corrected, property owners are best-served by assessing the underlying cause of the ice damage. A proactive plant and tree health and management program will identify at-risk plant life and resolve potential issues before next winter. Standing water and icing can be resolved through effective drainage installation or repair, and many structural problems can be repaired through proactive maintenance or thoughtful repairs.


Pest Damage

In New Hampshire, common pests that can cause damage in the winter include deer, squirrels, mice, moles, and voles. As these animals prepare for and survive the winter, their activities may be damaging to your property. While squirrels and mice are commonly known to damage structures, moles and voles may harm landscapes and landscape features such as irrigation systems and even areas of the lawn through their burrowing and feeding behaviors.

Upon finding pest damage, the repair should occur only after the pest problem has been addressed. A quality landscape company can either address most pest problems or recommend a company for this problem.

In many cases, proactive measures can help mitigate pest damage for future winters. The location of wood and brush storage, food sources, the types of plants on the property, overhanging tree limbs, and even how a lawn is mowed in the fall are all factors that can influence pest damage in the winter.


Frost Heaves Damage

The expanding force of freezing groundwater causes frost heaves. This powerful force can disturb the soil, cause pavement or crack and create potholes, and damage landscape features. It is also a primary cause of the failure of retaining and rock walls.

Frost heave damage can be the most intensive to repair and prevent. As a result, unless there is a safety concern, we recommend that these repairs only occur after the underlying cause has been addressed. Causes can range from poor underwater drainage to shoddy construction practices.

When a landscape feature like a patio, driveway, or retaining wall is installed, the footing and back-fill are installed to allow for both water drainage and to allow the base material to absorb movement and pressure. If these aspects are absent in the construction, it needs to be addressed, or the damage from frost heaves will continue year after year. In these instances, prevention involves hiring a qualified contractor to follow industry best practices in repair and installation. We recommend utilizing certified contractors.

Regardless of the cause, winter damage is an indication that something on your property needs attention. The way you respond to, and proactively prepare for winter damage will have a large influence on the chances the damage will repeat next winter. Consulting a landscape or property management professional for damage repair and prevention is a good first-step to protecting your property.