How to Choose the Right Trees for Your Yard

There are thousands of different types of trees, and each has its own unique set of attributes and benefits. So how do you choose the right trees for your needs? Read on to find out.

Consider the Weather

Some trees thrive in colder climates, while others prefer warmer locales. Think about the weather in your area and make sure that your preferred tree is equipped to handle the changing of the seasons.

Location, Location, Location

Where you plan on placing the tree can have a major impact on what type of tree is most appropriate. If you have power lines going over your yard, a tree that will grow very tall is not the best option. If you are looking to create an element of privacy in your yard, you’ll want to look for trees that are thick and lush around the base.

Take Soil Conditions into Account

As with the weather, the type of soil in your yard can greatly influence what types of trees will flourish there. Discuss this with the experts at your local nursery to ensure that your preferred type of tree will be able to get enough water and nutrients from your soil.

Trees for Decorative Purposes

If your main goal for a tree is to provide an element of beauty in your yard, look for a tree that flowers or bears fruit. You’ll want this tree to look great throughout the year, so try to choose one that maintains its flowers and leaves for as many seasons as possible, rather than only flowering for a brief period of time.

Get the Equipment You Need

Here at Ralph Helm Inc, we offer a broad selection of gardening equipment to help you keep your trees looking great year after year. Browse through our selection to find what you are looking for, or fill out our online contact form for more information about our products and services. We’ll be happy to help!

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How and When to Prune Your Trees for the Best Results

Tree pruning is the process of removing branches from a tree to enhance its growth or aesthetic value. However, improper pruning can damage the tree, potentially resulting in stunted or dwarfed growth the following season. Read on to learn about the best practices in tree pruning to keep your yard looking great year after year.

The Pruning Process

When it comes time to prune your trees, start with any obvious damage, like branches that have been broken due to storms or areas where you see evidence of rotting. Be sure to cut at the base of the branch, not in the middle. In many cases, this is all that needs to be done to maintain the health of the tree. However, if you are trying to guide your tree to grow into a certain pattern, you’ll want to continue by trimming off any branches that grow outside of that pattern to encourage the tree to grow back the way you want it to. Always take into account the natural growth pattern of a particular type of tree to make sure that you are not going against its nature. Step back periodically to inspect your work to ensure that you are not over-pruning.

When to Prune

The appropriate pruning time depends on the type of tree, but typically, the optimal time to prune is in late winter or early spring, before new growth starts. Wait until after the coldest part of winter has passed to preserve the health of the tree. For most trees, it is inadvisable to prune them during the fall, as they may not be able to withstand the winter. This practice is likely to damage the health of the tree and inhibit its growth.

Get High-Quality Pruning Tools

Here at Ralph Helm Inc, we carry a variety of pruning saws for you to choose from. Peruse our selection today to find the one that is best suited to your needs.

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Late Summer Lawn and Garden Tips for Homeowners

Maintaining a fresh, vibrant landscape and garden is a year-round process. So what does it take to keep it looking its best in the late summer? Here is a list of chores you need to add to your list.

Seed and Weed

If you have some dead patches or bare spots in your lawn, late summer is the time to start seeding. Combined with quality fertilizers, new seeds will have time to take hold in the ground, bringing your lawn back to life. This is also a good time to add some anti-weed solutions to your yard, to prevent the spread of weeds. In spring, weeds are likely to grow quickly, unless your lawn is treated in advance.

Plant New Trees & Shrubs

Given the temperate weather and soft ground, late summer is the time to plant fruit or decorative trees and shrubs in your yard. The hardware you’ll need for the process is minimal, usually consisting of a shovel, a bucket and a rake. It’s important, though, to add mulching when planting trees, along with making sure the root structure is exposed properly in the ground.

Keep Watering

Yes, summer is winding down, but there are still plenty of hot days ahead of us. Water evaporates very quickly this time of year, so make sure you’re keeping your plants hydrated. Your best bet is to water early in the morning before the hottest part of the day kicks in — this gives your plants the best chance at retaining the moisture.

Dig and Divide

End of August, early September is a good time to start dividing up your perennials. Anything that has stopped blooming should go. This will help keep them safe from pests and lawn diseases.

These lawn and gardening tips will go a long way towards keeping your landscaping fresh throughout the year. For additional information on yard maintenance and equipment, please contact us.

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Maintenance Tips to Make Your Yard Look Amazing this Summer and Fall

In early summer, many families are still scrambling to finish up school and after-school activities and may not be able to fully enjoy the beauty of their backyard. By the late summer and fall, however, people are headed back outdoors to enjoy the bright sunshine and warm weather before wintry winds set in. Wouldn’t it be great to keep your yard barefoot-worthy in the later summer months without becoming a slave to your grass? Check out our great maintenance tips that are sure to make your home a showplace this late summer and fall season.

Keep Soaking

Long, deep soaks are best for your lawn during the active growing season. Intensive watering is much more effective than frequent sprinkling, which can promote shallow root growth.

Raise it Up

While you may love the look of a close-cut golf course, clipping your grass too short can have a negative effect on growth patterns. Leaving your mower blade set to around 3 inches leaves a little more grass in place to push out the weeds.

Stay Tidy

Mulching is good, but large clumps of grass underneath your mower can cause rot, which can morph into diseases which will quickly spread across your lawn. Regular sharpening of your lawn tractor’s blades ensures a clean cut and good distribution of grass.

Filling In

Fill in any bare spots in your grassy carpet by first breaking up the soil and then sprinkling in grass seed. Top the area with some grass clippings to maintain moisture and water often until the seed germinates.

Raking Leaves

While well-spread organic material is great for your lawn, large clumps can cause your soil to ferment, which then causes gaping holes in your grass coverage. Keep leaves raked up and other debris mulched. Add some fertilizer if you’re in the northern part of the country so your lawn will be tucked in and ready for spring.

Keeping your lawn looking good can be very simple if you have the correct tools! Keep everything in good working order with services from battery testing to blade sharpening to mower service and more from Ralph Helm, Inc. Contact us today to learn more about our service options or to update your lawn maintenance equipment.

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Prune Like a Pro: Top 5 Tips for Amazing Shrubs

Things can quickly get dicey when it comes to proper shrub and hedge maintenance — too much fertilizer and you risk burning the delicate leaves, too much pruning and you’ll end up with something that looks like an 80s haircut gone horribly wrong. Well-maintained shrubs can’t be beaten as a way to edge your property and keep unwanted visitors and pets out of your space. But how can you keep things looking neat and trimmed without taking a class as a master landscaper?

1. Disease Prevention

Fungus can take hold before you know it and spread quickly through your evergreens, causing them to drop leaves, turn yellow or get unsightly spots. Prevent many diseases by limiting how much you water the leaves and water the roots instead.

2. Timing is Everything

See those light green delicate buds? That’s new growth, and you don’t want to prune when you’re seeing it! Pruning when your ‘greens are growing can damage the plant and cause it to take longer for the hedge to fill out.

3. Internal Cuts

Pruning should not just occur on the edges of the plant. instead, you should prune a few branches from the interior as well to keep the plant from getting too thick. Allow proper ventilation throughout the plant and let light reach the interior by using hand pruners to shear off a few interior branches at a 45-degree angle.

4. Choose the Right Plants

Selecting plants that grow to approximately fill your space is crucial. If you get an evergreen that naturally is bushy and you’re trying to fill in a narrow space, you’re going to be frustrated with constant pruning and the plant will never thrive as it should. Instead, find plants that are similar in size and shape to your desired location.

5. Cleaning Up

Once you’ve trimmed all those hedges and shrubs, you’re going to be left with piles of leaves that need to be cleaned up. Keep your leaf blower in great shape with a tune-up, and you can easily blow the leaves into a pile to be raked up.

Maintaining your shrubs doesn’t have to be a painful or intensive process. Just keep them trimmed and appropriately watered and you’ll be fielding compliments from the neighbors in no time! Ralph Helm, Inc. Lawn Equipment Center can provide you with the battery testing, maintenance and replacement parts that you need to keep your lawn equipment running smoothly and your yard looking good. Come by one of our Illinois locations today to learn more!

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Benefits of a Installing a Lawn Irrigation System

A well-maintained lawn highlights the home in a beautiful frame of green while providing additional space for children’s games and summer parties. One of the keys to good-looking expanses of green is proper watering, and one of the easiest ways to ensure proper watering is through a lawn irrigation system. Here are some of the benefits of installing an irrigation system.


The routine for hand-watering quickly becomes tiresome. Once or twice a week, you have to get up before sunrise so the sun’s heat doesn’t make the moisture disappear. You need to take the hose from storage, uncoil it, and attach it to the faucet in front. After you turn on the water, you need to stand in different places in the front yard to ensure that you cover all of the lawn and plants. You must then repeat the process for the backyard before recoiling the hose and storing it again.

With a lawn irrigation system, the only time you have to set it up is during the installation. You specify when and how often you want irrigation to happen, and then the system conveniently and automatically waters your lawn with no further intervention from you. Some systems even contain a rain sensor that shuts off the sprinklers when it rains so you don’t waste any water.


When you’re standing with a hose in your hand, how do you know how much water to use on a section of your lawn before moving on? You may underwater or, in most cases, overwater. A lawn irrigation system dispenses the right amount of water that you specify each time, which conserves the precious liquid. If the system contains a smart moisture sensor, it can dispense the right amount of water based on the wetness and dryness of the landscape.

Increase the Home’s Value

A beautiful lawn increases the curb appeal and value of your home. In addition, potential home buyers prefer the convenience of a properly installed lawn irrigation system over having to water the lawn by hand.

If you have questions, need more information, or are looking for equipment to keep your garden growing, please contact us at Ralph Helm, Inc. We’re ready to help you get the best out of your outdoor spaces.

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Summer Lawn Care Tips for a Beautiful Yard

Summer grants fairer weather and longer daylight hours, bringing everyone outdoors and offering the best-growing potential for grass and other garden plants. The season represents an opportunity to enhance front yards so they increase curb appeal and turn backyards into enjoyable play areas for kids. Rely on these tips to increase the beauty and utility of your lawn.

Water Regularly

Because summer excels as the prime growing season, regular hydration is essential to keeping your lawn green and healthy. Cover your grass with at least an inch of water either through manual methods with a hose, automatically through a sprinkler system, or with Mother Nature’s occasional blessings. Water during the early morning hours to give the soil enough time to absorb the liquid before the drying rays of the sun appear.

Mow at the Correct Height

A beautiful lawn does not require short grass. In fact, during the summer, taller grass can shade the soil to prevent weeds from appearing, reduce water consumption, and encourage deeper roots. Adjust the height of your lawn mower, which depends on grass type, and mow just enough so you don’t remove more than a third of the leaf surface at any one time.

Reuse Clippings

If you’ve been throwing your grass clippings into the yard bin to be taken away, you’ve been wasting a useful and free resource. If your mower collects these clippings in a bag, spread them out across the yard after each session. Otherwise, allow the mower to spread the clippings across the grass. These freshly cut blades provide additional shade while adding necessary nutrients.

Watch Out for Your Pets

Your four-legged friends enjoy a good lawn as much as anyone in your family. But cats and dogs are likely to use those expanses of green as impromptu or regular toilets. Pick up any waste as soon as it appears and dispose of it correctly. Brown spots may be due to your pets affecting the grass with their urine. Flood the area with water to dilute the urine in the soil and train your pets to use a pebbled or mulched area for their business.

When you need more information about lawn care or want a professional to take care of your green, please contact Ralph Helm, Inc, so we can help you.

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Stay Safe While Caring for Your Lawn this Summer

Most home and business owners don’t consider lawn care to be a dangerous activity, but the statistics prove that it definitely can be.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSM), more than a quarter of a million people are injured annually from lawn and garden tools such as edgers, lawn mowers and trimmers. With the summer months in full swing, here are several lawn care safety tips to keep you injury-free while landscaping and gardening.

Lawn Mower Safety

Whether you have a walk-behind mower or a zero turn riding mower, there are several hazards that you’ll want to insure against. Mowers have fast-spinning blades that can cause direct injury or loosen debris in their paths. Never remove safety guards from lawn mowers or tamper with shut-off devices. Remove obstructions and obstacles in the yard before you begin mowing, and be aware of the location of such things as tree stumps and sprinkler heads. Always mow back and forth across a hill instead of up and down. Finally, wear protective clothing and follow the operator’s instructions for your particular mower.

Power Tool Safety

Electric and gas trimmers and edgers are responsible for thousands of injuries each year, many of them eye injuries. If you don’t follow any other safety tips, at least wear eye protection! Otherwise, remove debris from areas that you’ll be working on ahead of time. Again, you should wear protective clothing and pay attention to extension cords and exposed wires that could pose an electrical hazard.

Lawn Chemical Safety

If you use natural or synthetic chemicals for lawn care purposes, you’ll want to use extreme caution in both their use and storage. Chemicals are used in insecticides, fungicides and herbicides to treat plant diseases, weeds and control insects. Keep the chemicals stored in a well-ventilated area that isn’t subject to extreme temperatures. When using the chemicals, wear skin and eye protection and closely follow the instructions provided for each application.

Part of staying safe is having the right landscaping equipment on your side. Contact us to learn about our lawn care equipment and about our variety of services.

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Follow These Tips to Enjoy a Fun and Safe Summer

Summer is here, and that means more outdoor time, fun in the sun and, unfortunately, an increased potential for accidents and mishaps. Not only can extreme heat be life threatening, but some of the activities we like to do in the summer months bring a heightened risk of injury. Here are just a few safety tips to keep you, your family and your property safe in the coming months.

Stay Hydrated

Summer heat can drain the body’s energy quickly, and the effects can hit you unexpectedly. In fact, dehydration and heat stroke can be life-threatening if left untreated. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated.

Wear Sunscreen

Sun damage is not only bad for your skin in the long-term, but a severe sunburn can also be quite dangerous and require a trip the hospital. No matter how long you plan on being outside, even if you’ll be in the shade, wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15. Consider also wearing a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes.

Fire Safety

Extreme heat can bring fire hazards to your home. Fire departments report that they are responding to more than 8,000 home fires each year that involve barbecue grills. To reduce the chance of a fire, keep grills at least 10 feet away from your home, place them on top of a non-flammable pad and never leave a lit grill unattended.

Lawn Care Safety

As you work on your lawn this summer, protect yourself from injury and heat-related illnesses. Work outside during the coolest parts of the day and always wear protective clothing and footwear. Finally, follow instructions for operating landscaping equipment and keep children and pets out of the area while you work.

As your lawn care and gardening activities pick up, you’ll want to be sure that you have the best landscaping equipment on hand to do the job right. Contact Ralph Helm, Inc. to find out how we can help.

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Grass Types That Will Thrive in Your Yard

It might be tempting to pick up the bag of grass seed that is either the most affordable or has the prettiest picture on the label, but this could turn out to be a mistake. Lawn grasses are very climate dependent, and certain types of grasses thrive in different areas of the country.

Let’s face it, Northern Illinois isn’t the most friendly of climates year-round, so you’ll need to find a grass that can hold up to the elements. Here are the three most popular varieties of grass in our area and a few lawn care tips to keep your yard looking pristine.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is by far the most popular type of grass found in Northern Illinois. It’s a cool-season grass that is a beautiful dark green color. Kentucky Bluegrass is perfect for both residential and commercial applications, and it can tolerate very cold winters as well as warm summers. If you experience drought conditions in the summer, it can sustain this as well and will usually rebound when watering resumes. When performing lawn care, mow the grass to 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height and water it at least weekly.

Fine Fescue

Fine Fescue is another grass that does well in colder climates and has one advantage over Kentucky Bluegrass. Fine Fescue does well in shade areas while the other does not. Fine Fescue can mix well with other grasses, has a good drought tolerance and will recover from everyday wear. Mow this grass to 1 to 2 1/2 inches and water it once or twice per week.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial Ryegrass also tolerates cool climates and is a good choice to mix with other grasses. It is similar in form to Kentucky Bluegrass but does tolerate some shade. The grass is easy to maintain and is often used as turf for sports fields, so you know it’s quite hardy. For lawn care, mow the grass to 1 to 2 1/2 inches and water twice each week.

Contact Ralph Helm Inc. to discuss the right type of grass for your lawn and find out how our equipment and services can help you create the perfect backyard.

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