Late Winter and Early Spring Landscaping Tips

grass with landscaping of flowers and trees

Late Winter and Early Spring Landscaping Tips

Although winter seems to linger long in the Midwest, spring often blossoms abruptly. Are you ready to perform your late winter and early spring landscaping chores? Getting your landscape ready for the growing season may involve a wide range of tasks from cleaning up debris to dividing perennials. To achieve a beautiful healthy landscape, keep the following garden prep work in mind.


Clean It Up

Winter weather typically leaves behind a mess of downed branches and twigs. In late February or early March, it’s a good time to assess your landscape, removing any debris you find. Clean out your containers and window boxes to ready them for the season ahead. If your perennials still contain stalks from the previous growing season, remove them to make way for new growth. This is also the time to remove any stray leaves and pinecones from your lawn and flower beds.


Prune Trees and Shrubs (Carefully)

Early spring is a good time to prune your fruit trees and berry shrubs. However, many tree experts recommend that landscapers avoid pruning their spring-flowering trees. On the other hand, if you note that these trees have winterkill on branches or dead wood, you can carefully remove the affected limbs. Avoid removing healthy limbs or you’ll see less flowering later in spring.


Transplant Perennials, Trees, and Shrubs

Early spring is a great time to transplant perennials or small trees and shrubs to other areas of your landscape. Perennials such as daylilies can become overcrowded. Divide them so that they have more room to grow and thrive. While you can divide most perennials in spring, some are better left alone until Fall such as irises, foxglove, lavender, and peonies. You can also move young trees and shrubs to better locations in your landscape at this time, providing that the ground is soft enough for replanting.


Apply Pre-Emergent Weed Deterrents

Although some gardeners prefer to wait until weeds emerge to treat them, others swear by pre-emergent weed treatments. Although mulch and landscape fabric can help protect your flower beds from weed invasions, herbicides are typically the solution for lawns. Early spring is the ideal time to spray for crabgrass and other weeds that infiltrate lawns. Not sure when to apply the herbicides? A good rule of thumb is to wait until you see the first lilacs around town beginning to bloom.


Mulch and Hardscaping

In early spring, you’ll want to replace old, decaying mulch with brand new mulch in your flower beds or around trees and shrubs. As mentioned, mulch helps prevent weeds growth and keeps your landscape looking neat. Also, inspect your garden paths, sidewalks, and other hardscape features as salt and rough winter weather can do damage. Spring is the ideal time to make these repairs. It’s also a good time to shop for decorative stone or other hardscape materials for your late spring projects like new patio additions or decorative flower bed borders.

McCarty Mulch & Stone features a wide selection of mulch, topsoil, and stone for landscaping and gardening needs. Purchase these materials in bulk or in smaller quantities for your upcoming spring landscape chores. McCarty Mulch & Stone offers wholesale pricing for landscapers and delivery service for our Central Indiana customers.

Dark mulch with plants in front of house

Should I Mulch, Use Stone or River Rock Around My House?

Did you know that our ancestors are a great source of landscaping solutions? 

In the history of farming and gardening, over the last several thousand years, your ancestors found a use for rock and stone. They placed it around their gardens to minimize weed growth, and to keep rodents and small animals away from their gardens. Their innovation would later become one of the most popular ways to decorate–and optimize–landscapes everywhere.

Have you been debating using mulch, stone, or river rock for your property? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you settle mulch vs rock.

Continue reading to determine whether you should use mulch or stone in your project.

What Are the Benefits and Disadvantages of Mulch?

If you’re planting or remodeling a garden or decorative landscape, mulch is a great contender. With its easy installation and minimal upkeep, mulch keeps nutrients in your soil and hides imperfections.

Hardwood, dyed mulch, and color-enhanced mulch are also wonderful for harsh winters, keeping your plants warm and safe through cold weather. 

Mulch is a common addition to landscaping projects to add something extra and to tie everything together. Available in natural bulk and color enhanced options, mulch is a great organic option to finish your project with.

Mulch is the byproduct of trees such as cedar, pine, and oak, mulch offers nutritional value to your soil and to your plants. 

By spreading mulch throughout your area, you’ll reduce erosion, conserve water, regulate plant temperature, and prevent weeds from poking through. 

Unfortunately, mulch does not last more than a few years at a time. Even though its natural decay is good for your soil, mulch will lose its color due to sun exposure. It will also suffer through rain and wind, causing you to have to completely replace your mulch periodically.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of River Rocks

River rock is a great solution for a low-maintenance, quality appearance. Since it is durable and long-lasting, river rock doesn’t need to be replaced. It serves as a great decorative aspect to your project and will stand the test of time and weather.

When considering river rock, take into account where you’re placing them. These suit areas around buildings, swimming pools, and fire pits.

Due to their heavy-duty qualities, river rock and stone are long-lasting solutions and require some upkeep to maintain their shine.

These rocks are fireproof, which is great for areas that are prone to heat and wildfires. River rock and stone can also prevent soil erosion, ensuring that your land is safe from fungi and rot.

However, river rocks don’t keep weeds at bay. You’ll have to manually remove weeds and other pesky plants growing underneath your river rocks or use a manufactured weed barrier or weed stopper. 

Choosing What Works for Your Landscape

Depending on where you live and what purpose you’re considering mulch, stone, and river rock for, these factors will play into how you proceed.

Still wondering “Should I use mulch, stone, or river rocks?” We have experts on our team who are here to help you decide whether river rocks, stones, or mulch is the right landscape spread for you. 

Interested in solutions for your yard? If so, contact us today.

spring landscaping

5 Essential Tips on How to Prepare Your Home for Spring Landscaping

Are you looking forward to a beautiful spring filled with flowers and a lush lawn? Then you may want to start preparing now rather than later. Spring landscaping for your home will strengthen your home’s curb appeal if you’re looking to sell, or it can encourage you to spend more time entertaining outdoors.

No matter your reason, here are our top five recommendations to prepare your yard for spring landscaping the right way!

1. Start Cleaning Your Lawn

It’s normal to ignore your lawn during the winter when plants are dormant. However, if you start cleaning it bit by bit today, you won’t have as daunting a task ahead of you once the snow finally thaws.

Periodically cleaning debris during the winter can also help you get a head start with mulch. Natural debris such as leaves, twigs, and more can be recycled into mulch to help your plants grow in spring.

2. Do Your Research

It’s important to prepare for spring landscaping now, especially if you believe you’ll be making extensive changes. For instance, if you’re hiring a landscaper, they’ll have an easier time taking a look at your yard while it’s still winter. This is because they’ll have an unobstructed view of the landscape.

One of the main benefits of spring landscaping ahead of time is that you’re ensuring the plants you want are in stock. You’ll be able to order plants from nurseries during the off-season, ensuring that they’ll be available for you right on time.

3. Choose Your Mulch

Once you have some idea of the layout of your landscaping as well as the plants and shrubs you’ll use, the next best step is to choose your mulch. Mulch comes in a variety of colors, allowing you to match the current aesthetic of your home or take the landscaping in another direction. There is also mulch in different textures and sizes available for areas like walking paths or dog runs.

4. Seek Inspiration

If you’re finding it hard to prepare ahead of time, remember that you have a variety of resources available to you. You can find spring landscaping ideas online or even seek advice from neighbors who you’ve seen have many spring yards. You can also seek the help of landscaping companies that can give you an idea of the latest trends in your local area.

5. Remember Maintenance

Last but not least, you’ll need to remember that maintaining your spring landscaping will be easy or hard depending on the plants you choose. Consider your daily schedule during the spring and keep in mind how many hours you’re able to devote each week to maintain it. You can also see if it’s within your budget to hire a company to take care of the landscaping maintenance for you.

Spring Landscaping the Smart Way

Preparing for spring landscaping will make it easier for you going forward once the snow begins to thaw. You’ll have a clear idea of the plants you want to purchase, the layout of your yard, and the mulch you want to purchase. Even better, you’ll be creating a lawn that’s easy for you to maintain.

Ready to begin your search for quality mulch? Take a look at our offerings today!


snow on pine tree

How to Protect Your Trees and Shrubs This Winter

Unlike humans, trees and shrubs can’t take off and add layers depending on the temperature. Luckily, they have you.

There are certain things you can do before harsh winter temperatures come, and even during the cold snaps, to care for your trees and shrubs so they don’t succumb to the winter blues.

Make sure you’re taking precautionary steps before the cold arrives. Read on to find out how you can protect your trees and shrubs this winter.

Prune Trees

Not only does pruning trees keep you and your neighbors safe in winter storms, but it also helps their root systems.

If your area is prone to wet winter seasons (this also applies to wet summer months), the ground around them can become soggy and the roots can lift.

This should be considered for trees of any age, but especially large ones with vast root systems. It’s rare, but sometimes the ground simply can’t handle the root systems, causing the tree to fall over.

Any unnecessary weight off the tree can help.

Add Mulch and Soil

Mulch, soil, rocks, and finished compost can also help protect your trees and shrubs through the winter.

Adding mulch adds a layer of protection that is going to get absorbed into the soil, but still works to warm the soil and keep it from freezing. It can also help absorb excess moisture.

Adding soil or finished compost enriches the soil around your trees and shrubs, working to prepare them for new growth in the spring.

Landscape rock is a more permanent top layer to place around plants. It won’t get absorbed into the soil, but it will provide an extra layer of warmth and insulation while remaining safe for the environment.

Know When to Water

Did you know that water acts as a sort of insulator? Watering before a freeze is, therefore, key to any plant’s survival.

Moist soil stays warmer than dry, so watering early in the morning on dry days before snow or rain comes is best. Focus on the roots when you’re watering, though.

Commercial growers and farmers will sometimes freeze the foliage on their crops, but it takes a constant stream and very specific circumstances.

Also, take into account that your trees and shrubs most likely won’t need to be watered as much during the winter.

Provide Support

Providing temporary rope, twine, or cable supports around your trees — especially the younger ones — can help them stay standing during the winter.

Support your shrubs by building a-frames in order to keep heavy snow and ice off the plants. This works especially well with shrubs near the house.

Protect Your Trees and Shrubs With These Tips

The winter can be a harsh time for your trees and shrubs, but it doesn’t have to kill them. Utilizing these tips and tricks can make the difference between a lively period of growth in the spring and you planting new trees and shrubs.

Luckily, McCarty Mulch & Stone is here to help! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us today.

mulch and stone

Spring Landscaping Ideas with Mulch and Stone

Mulch and stone are a winning combination for Spring landscaping.

Mulch most likely comes to mind when you think of making your garden look pristine and pleasing to the eye.

Using it to cover the soil of your flowerbeds or to fill up empty space in your yard are classic ideas, but there are so many creative and original options in landscaping that will make the outside of any home look professionally designed.

Mulch isn’t the only great looking material you can add to your yard; stone adds a touch of sophistication when paired alongside it. The best thing about stone is that there are so many textures, colors, and shapes. Pebbles, river rocks, flagstones, and boulders accent mulch of all types especially when you’re able to find a unique way to beautify your yard with them. One of the hardest parts of landscaping is creating an amazing and personal style for your house, taking your gardening skills to the next level, and making your neighbors jealous. We’re here to make all of that a lot easier.


If you prefer to keep your stone use minimal, perhaps adding a path of pebbles through a larger mulch patch would assist in guiding the eyes (and feet) to the most pleasing parts of your landscaping. A simple detail like this gives the area character and even a sense of organization in your design. If your backyard is more elaborate, mostly covered in vegetation, or densely wooded, additional paths would nicely accentuate the ground between the densest areas.

If the maintenance of pebbles seems much too exhausting, slabs of stone lay nicely on flat land, and they arrange into simple yet delightful patterns. There are endless colors and cuts to choose from that complement the traits of your space.

Maybe you would rather stick to walking on grass, but you still notice plain, empty areas between your flowerbeds. An easy idea for giving any green path a bit of a facelift is to line the edges with river rocks or any stone with a consistent color. Decorating this way will give your eyes a breath of fresh air, for it is the simplicity in this design that reduces any attention towards the rough edges.


If you have a large strip of garden that lays around the outside perimeter of your house or sidewalk, you have a great opportunity to give these areas a bit more style. Close the gap between the grass and mulch with an even border of stone. Slabs or bricks work brilliantly and even help to keep the mulch from spilling out all over your lawn. If your driveway or walkway is lined with plants or mulch, bordering those sections is a good idea as well.

Stone Types

Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices that lay before you, the first thought that may run through your head is, “There are so many kinds of stone to work with, what will work best for my situation?” Worry not, we have compiled a list of common stone used in landscaping and simple garden decoration.


Pea gravel or crushed gravel refers to tiny, smooth pebbles of varying color that are appealing to the eyes of both minimalists and lovers of extravagant yard displays. Gravel is possibly the most versatile rock out there and is certainly worth the small amount of upkeep involved. It can also be used as an alternative to wood mulch as it doesn’t retain heat like larger stone and therefore will not overheat your plants due to its small size.


These wide, flat rocks make beautiful pathways because they are the perfect stepping stones. If you come across an abundance of them, you could create a whole patio just out of flagstone. They can cover a great amount of ground space in large numbers and make an even surface for outdoor furniture and garden-loving guests.

River Rock

River Rocks are very smooth, round stones that are mined close to river beds here in Indiana. They are usually dark and shiny in appearance and are seen as quite classy and refreshing when placed around garden areas. They are ideal for mulch replacement when that is sought. As river rock is affordable and long-lasting.

Lava Rock

Think this is just a clever name? Guess again, the lava rocks most commonly sought after in the dry climate of the Southwest are mined from volcanic lava domes. It is generally reddish or brown and has a very coarse texture, so don’t lay it down anywhere you expect people to be walking around barefoot. Gardens covered in this beautiful, intriguing stone are very easy to maintain because they minimize the need for watering.


The use of boulders as “anchor points” or “eye catchers” in landscaping is highly effective. Is there a bland, empty section of your yard that you have yet to adorn? Putting down a boulder or two and planting various tall-growing flowers around them will maximize the sense of style with minimal effort involved in the planning or labor. Boulders truly make amazing focal points in larger, open gardens and can be decorated nicely with less thought than any other natural art piece.

As far as mulch goes, there’s no end to the options in sight. From dyed wood mulch to natural mulch, cypress, cedar, and pine you should choose what looks and functions best according to your land, vegetation, and home. If you want to use landscaping stone and mulch together, make sure you plan based on ideal combinations of texture and color. Take everything into consideration, but most importantly, have fun and be creative. Landscaping is a fantastic way of expressing yourself or your home in a fashion that everyone can see. Be original in your designs or draw inspiration from experts online or in catalogs.

There isn’t a better way to impress guests than showing them around a professional-quality backyard full of life. Even if you’re doing it just for yourself, you’ll always be able to gaze outside and know that your efforts paid off this Spring.

front of house landscape

Four Ways to Prepare Your Garden for the Winter

Your annuals are nearing the end of their lifespan and are starting to feel the cold grasp of the first frosts. After all your hard efforts in the spring and maintenance throughout the summer, it’s tempting to put away your tools and let nature take its course. After all that hard work, it’s time to relax, right? What more is there to do now that fall is here?

The answer greatly depends on how smooth you want everything to be next spring. A little effort now could save you a lot more work in the long run. If you want to reduce the amount of work facing you next spring, consider the following suggestions to prepare your garden for winter’s rest.

Soil testing and cultivation

If you read our earlier blog post about soil, You’ll know how to test your soil for soil type and pH levels. Now is a great time to retest your soil since you’ve had a full growing season to see what amendments may be needed for next year. Understanding the effect your plants have had on the soil will give you great insight into the best ways to prepare your soil. Pay the most attention to pH levels as they are more likely to change than soil type from year to year due to the plants and fertilizer you chose.

Wait to cultivate!

One of the main reasons soil feels loose and crumbly toward the end of the year is because it is saturated with summer’s growth of fungal hyphae and mycelium which will slowly decompose through winter, along with any roots from your flowers, veggies, and weeds. Digging up and turning the bed now without a good reason (such as preparing for an early spring salad garden) would ruin nature’s own efforts to build the soil for you. In fall it is more beneficial to mulch over beds without cultivating. Save it for the spring! It is, however, both acceptable and recommended (as needed) to disturb the soil to dig out those nasty perennial weeds.


For many of us, mulch is as standard in our gardens as the plants themselves since covering the ground with it is one of the easiest ways we can beautify, protect and enrich the health of our plants. The reasons we mulch, and the type of mulch we use, however, changes with the seasons. We use mulch in the spring to feed and warm the soil, retain moisture in the soil, and to suppress weeds. We mulch in the autumn, in preparation for winter, for different reasons, though it does help suppress the hardy weeds that brave the cold. In areas where the temperature drops below freezing, any soil that is left exposed to the weather will be subject to the fluctuation in temperature that occurs mostly at the beginning and end of winter. These temperature changes cause movement in the soil that can heave out shallow rooted plants and expose delicate root systems to damaging freezes.

As strange as it may sound, the main reason for winter mulch is to protect the soil from the sun’s warmth. This is to keep the ground frozen and keep your plants in a state of dormancy. If there were a brief warm spell, it could trigger new growth which would only die again when the temperature drops.

If your garden is on a slope, mulching for the winter also prevents erosion and compaction of the exposed soil from heavy rains.

For proper insulation, build a layer two to four inches of mulch. For fall/winter mulching, you will want a course, textured mulch that will allow enough air and water to flow through while still being able to insulate effectively. Wood mulch is the best choice since it serves as a food source for beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms and can be cultivated into the ground once spring rolls around. For best results, apply over a layer of compost.

The best time to apply mulch depends on what type of plants are grown in your garden. Annual beds should be mulched in the fall before the first frost. For perennial beds it is better to wait until after the first “killing” frost, but before the coldest temperatures set in. A “killing” frost is typically when the temperatures fall below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Mulching a perennial bed too early can cause stress to the plant, weakening it and making it more vulnerable to the frost coming in the near future.

Be sure to leave a one to two-inch buffer between the mulch and the plant to prevent stress, six to twelve inches from the bases of trees, and three to four inches for shrubs.

Sheet composting

Also known as sheet mulching is a technique that has been used for generations which involves introducing layers of organic material to the soil surface only. All the compost you’ve been collecting over the summer is likely finished and ready to be used and your garden which will be sitting empty until the spring could benefit from a thick surface layer under a cover of winter mulch. By the spring, the compost will be actively decomposing and releasing nutrients into the soil.

Clean up rotting and finished plants

Besides looking unkempt, dead or dying plants can harbor funguses, disease, and pests. Add them to your compost pile for next year. Because many plant-eating insects lay eggs on your plants, removing them from your garden can prevent those insects from getting a head-start next spring.

Now is also a great time to remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season.

Follow as many of these suggestions as it applies to your garden and your soil and plants will love you in the spring!


Backyard Pond

3 Easier Alternatives to a Backyard Pond

Your yard needs water. Of course, if you have grass and plants, requires a nice sprinkling on a regular basis. But you also could enhance your home by using water as an aesthetic. According to HGTV, ponds, fountains and other water features are still popular among homeowners.

While a pond can be a lovely addition to your backyard, it can also be a lot of work. Aside from the labor involved to create the pond, it requires ongoing maintenance. Problems that may develop include algae accumulation, a leaking pond liner, and predators or parasites killing fish.

If you want a water feature without the hassle of installing and maintaining a pond, the following ideas may be good alternative.

Make a bubbler fountain

Bubbler fountains that gently move water through a small pump are easy to make. You can make a bubbler fountain out of boulders, pots or anything else that can hold water. They use only the water within the fountain, so they don’t require in-ground reservoirs.

McCarty Mulch sells inexpensive bubbler pumps, which you can use to turn a large stone pot or bowl into your fountain. We can also custom drill a boulder for you here at our location or you can choose from many of our pre-drilled boulders. Another option would be to drill a hole in the bottom of a container or pot for the electrical cord, but you don’t have to hard-wire electricity to the fountain – pumps plug into an outdoor outlet, and you can hide the cord under mulch, or in vegetation. Once the pump is in the pot, place it on a bed of decorative rock and add water to the pot, and your fountain is finished.

Create a water wall

Making a water wall is a bigger project that requires the use of a table saw and compound miter saw. If you have the tools and the time, a water wall is a nice way to add some visual interest to a patio.

A basic water wall is made of a trough that, with a surrounding frame, supports panels that water runs down. Some people use tempered glass to make water walls, but you could also use galvanized steel or any material that can tolerate water.

Put a pond in a barrel

Using a pot or barrel, you can make a smaller, freestanding version of a pond and still enjoy the perks of having fish and water plants. To ward off mosquitoes, you would need a pond pump, which adds a lot of expense to an otherwise inexpensive project. If you don’t want to buy a pump, put mosquito dunks in the water.

Add some large rocks or decorative rocks to the pot to serve as underwater plant stands (the rocks elevate plants, so they are at least partly above the water line). Add goldfish a few days after you add water, because tap water contains additives that may harm fish, but those additives evaporate after time.