How to Keep Pond Fish Alive in Winter

Northern Nevada is known for its unpredictable winters with temperatures dropping below the freezing point. So can fish survive during the winter in an outdoor pond?

The short answer is yes. But there are some important dos and don’ts.

Here are a couple of critical criteria that must be met:

  1. If pond fish are to live through winter in a pond, discontinue feeding the fish when the pond water dips below 55 degrees F. (Even if they beg.)  It’s also recommended that you reduce the quantity and frequency of feeding when water temperature drops below 60 F
  2. The surface of the pond should never be allowed to freeze over for more than a couple hours – a pond heater or stock tank de-icer is often necessary. If the pond freezes over toxic gasses from the ponds natural biologic processes may build to levels toxic for the fish.  A small area of open water, free of ice, will allow these gasses to dissipate.
  3. The pond ideally will be deeper than 30 inches with many hiding places for the fish to nestle into and hide, away from the view of predators.
  4. Pumps should be turned off – allowing the deepest parts of the water to be the warmest. If the pumps are left on too much mixing will occur and the bottom of the pond will be as cold as the surface. In very large ponds, this may not be necessary.
  5. Be prepared to go many weeks or even a month without seeing the fish – chances are they are fine. During warm spells you may see them swimming around – even pecking at rocks for morsels of food – don’t be tempted to feed them.
  6. In the spring, when the water temperature rises above 55 degrees again you can start to feed the sparingly, one or twice a week. As the water temperature moves above 65 degrees let the feast begin.

We hope these general do’s and don’ts help you decide whether to winter you pond fish outside next winter. And of course Signature is always available to answer additional questions specific to your pond.

– Andrew Peoples
Designer & Estimator
Signature’s Resident “Pond Guy”

Meet Jeff, He Speaks for the Trees

Celebrating Dr. Seuss and the Lorax

Today is March 2.  It is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  Everyone loves Dr. Seuss’ silly rhymes and illustrations that are uniquely well… Seussian.  But, landscapers and arborists tend to connect with the Lorax in particular.  You can tell that Dr. Seuss found inspiration for his whimsical trees from real life versions.

From the magical tale of the Lorax, we learn that the Lorax speaks for the trees.  Here at Signature Landscapes, we have Jeff and he too is humbled and honored to speak for the trees.The Lorax Book

Jeff discovered his affinity for trees around the third grade.   The neighbor across his street had a few big brittle cottonwood trees that he used to climb with his friends.

“I remember him yelling at us to ‘get down!’” recalls Jeff.  “Liability didn’t mean much when we were kids and having fun outside, climbing trees did.”

As Jeff grew, so did his love for trees.  He was pleasantly surprised to hear you could get paid for climbing trees.  “Why didn’t they mention this kind of work during career day in high school?” he pondered.

It must have been fate, because a few years later, after working as a dishwasher and janitor, Jeff’s dream job was going to become a reality.

One day while doing some yard work for a neighbor (not the one with cottonwood trees), Jeff was approached by the owner of a tree service start-up company.   Jeff ended up working for him for over 10 years learning all he could.  Jeff started as a ground man, progressed into a climber and ended up as a manager.   It was the perfect gig for a tree guy.

Jeff loves simply daydreaming and looking at trees.  Sure everyone is reminded to stop and smell the roses, but don’t forget to take a minute and get lost in a tree.

“They are amazing. There’s an endless variety in the shapes of the canopies and leaves, textures of the bark and growth patterns of the branches.” said Jeff.

Weeping Sequoia Trees

Weeping Sequoias line the entrance to the Signature Landscapes parking lot.

Trees can be very symbolic and inspirational as Dr. Seuss discovered.  Jeff shared some of his favorite trees that look like you can find them in the pages of a Dr. Seuss book.  He likes the coconut palm tree, the way it hangs and flows in the breeze.  The image seems like a world away at the moment (don’t worry it’ll warm up).  Another Seuss-looking tree is the weeping sequoia.  It twirls and twists and has a small frill at its crown.  More mature ones seem to sprout arms and lean toward each other as if they are talking about Brown Bar-ba-loots or perhaps Humming-Fish.

If you’re like Jeff and the Lorax and you admire and appreciate trees, take good care of them.   If you want to do more to make sure the earth is not at risk for losing real-life versions of Truffula Trees, you can participate in The Lorax Project.  The project is an initiative to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire earth-friendly action by tree enthusiasts of all ages so we can all continue to enjoy trees.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  – The Lorax

Trees make us happy and they are important.  If you are looking for someone who truly cares about trees and will take good care of your trees, you’re looking for Jeff—he speaks for the trees.


Jeff Richardson is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist and Manager of the Tree Division of Signature Landscapes.

Winter Lawn Prep Tips

Is your landscape ready to weather winter precipitation?

The time to prepare your landscape for the potential wet wonderland this year is right now, before the first rains and freezes.  Taking wet winter precautions will promote a beautiful yard once spring rolls around again.

The key to helping your lawn weather a wet winter is proper drainage.  Chances are your landscape was properly graded, sloping away from your home when it was initially installed.  Still, be sure to look out for standing water and take note of how water is flowing across your property.  A licensed landscape contractor can help design and install proper drainage if needed.  Also, keep drain swales and inlets (for water runoff) clear of debris.  Sal Perez, owner/partner of Signature Landscapes explains how to keep drains free of debris: watch video.

Water Puddle on Pavers

Backup of trapped water due to improper drainage

Remove leaves and debris now; don’t wait for all of the leaves to fall.  Keeping your lawn and planter beds free of debris will help prevent moisture retention that can create fungal disease conditions, smother the grass and attract pests.  Now is also a good time to contact an arborist to prep your trees for a wet winter.  Saturated or snow laden branches may break and cause damage to your home, vehicle or nearby powerlines.

Limit tracking over your lawn to avoid rutting and displacing your grass.  Otherwise, you may face dead spots or grass that is thinner than the rest of the yard.  Heavily worn traffic patterns will be slower to green in the spring.  Additionally, frequently trudging over your lawn during a wet winter may cause compaction.

Aerate your lawn to avoid compaction and allow for better absorption of water.  Yes, plants need water, but they also need oxygen.  Waterlogged lawns and plants can drown.  A properly aerated yard allows your lawn to receive oxygen and nutrients and it may keep your plants from becoming overly saturated and help it recover between storms.

Give your lawn a fighting chance with a winter fertilizer application, which is actually applied during the fall and assists with root development during the winter.  A good winter fertilizer can help your grass and plants better tolerate rough winter conditions and have a shot at holding up to the possible heavy precipitation.  Be sure to test your soil and apply the appropriate winter fertilizer for a green spring.

Lastly, properly winterize your irrigation system.  Irrigation systems are typically winterized by late October, but since Northern Nevada’s often has temperamental climate changes, keep an eye on the weather and winterize before soil temps drop below 50 degrees.  Also, there’s more to it than just switching off your sprinkler controller.  Consult a landscape professional to ensure that your irrigation system is free of leaks and has properly been winterized.

The good news is that turf is very resilient and in wintertime many plants are still dormant, which makes them more forgiving of saturated soil.  Also, the fungal organisms that cause rot are not as active when the soil is cool.

Still, there is risk that an extremely wet and cold winter can damage your landscape despite taking all of the right precautions.  Not to despair, just work with a landscape professional to recover your lush lawn in the spring.

Fall is the Perfect Time to Think Spring!

Tim’s Tips:  Steps to take right now for a lush lawn in the spring.

Fall is not only a good time to enjoy a pumpkin spiced latte, it’s also the best time to do some lawn care prep for a lush, green spring.  So whether you are looking to enjoy a green lawn for yourself, or if you want to really impress the neighbors, get to work right about now.

Timing is key.  Start your fall lawn care regimen when it starts to cool down (by mid to end of September).  Your last chance to get it in is usually by November or before you winterize your irrigation.  Northern Nevada’s weather can be interesting, so just keep an eye on the weather to get your timing right.

Break up thatched grass.  Thatch in your lawn is a build up of old grass clippings, dead roots and other lawn debris.  Thatching your lawn can help speed up the spring process by getting the old dead grass out of there; otherwise, it takes longer for fertilizer to get down to the roots.

Thatch can be a good or bad thing for your turf grass depending on the amount present.    Too much thatch (about an inch or more) can keep water and nutrients from reaching roots.  It can also lead to pest or fungal problems.

To break up thatch, you’ll need a good thatcher.  A thatcher has blades that run perpendicular to the surface.  The blades rotate and slice into thatch breaking up the compacted debris.  The blades can be adjusted to make sure you remove just the right amount of thatch.  Then, you can help prevent thatch with proper aeration.

Core Aeration

Core Aerated Lawn

Aerate.  I recommend a core aerator.  A core aerator removes small cylinders of turf from your lawn and leaves them on the surface.  This helps decompact soil and allows oxygen, water and fertilizer to get deep into the root system.  It also encourages deep root growth that will help your grass weather the winter and pop up green and healthy around March or April.  Another plus— healthier, stronger roots are better able to tolerate drought.  Aerating twice a year is ideal, especially in the fall.

Don’t forget the fertilizer.  Fall fertilizer assists with root development before winter sets in and can help your grass better survive rough weather conditions and become more resistant to disease and drought.

Be sure to apply fertilizer according to the instructions.  You’ve heard the expression “too much of a good thing.”  It applies to fertilizer too.  You don’t want to over fertilize or you may burn your grass.

Once you’ve applied your fertilizer, be sure to water it in so that it gets down to the roots.  Including your fall fertilizer application, I recommend five fertilizations a year for a healthy lawn.

Lastly, don’t forget to turn your irrigation system back on in the spring (late March at lower elevations and April at higher elevations).

Bonus tip:  don’t mow your grass too short for the final mow of the season.  At this time, grass is taking in nutrients to store in its roots to survive the winter and come back healthy and green in the spring.

The key thing to remember is green in means green out.  If you want to know more about how to ready your lawn for a green spring, talk to a landscape professional.


Tim Scott is a landscaping professional and is an Owner/Partner and Residential Division Manager of Signature Landscapes.


Locals vote Signature Landscapes Best Landscaper again!

It happened again and we’re thrilled! Signature Landscapes voted #1 Landscaper in Northern Nevada in the 2016 Reno News and Review’s Best of Northern Nevada reader’s choice contest (also known as the Reno News & Review’s Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada). And just in case you missed the “Best Ofs” from prior years, this is our fourth first place win!

Special thanks to our incredible employees who have a passion for perfection and all things outdoors.

Thank you, Northern Nevada!

Thanks for recognizing our hard work, we love you! There’s nothing else we’d rather be doing than serving each and every one of you all year long. Landscaping is our passion, our art and our way of life and we couldn’t do it without your business.


View other “Best Of” winners

Signature Landscapes Lands in National Top 150


The LM150 list, published by national trade publication Landscape Management, represents the top one percent of landscape industry companies.


Landscape Management has released its 2016 LM150 list of the largest landscape companies ranked by 2015 revenue.  Signature Landscapes, the largest landscape company in Northern Nevada ranked number 133 on the list of national rankings and was the only company in the Reno area to make the list.

“Being listed as one of the top one percent of landscape companies nationwide is a testament to Reno/Tahoe and all of Northern Nevada and its resiliency to get through the downturn and now, be part of a nation leading surge in growth and opportunity,”  said Lebo Newman, managing partner and CEO of Signature Landscapes.   “Being supported by all of our clients and employees and their families is what made our growth to number one locally and this national ranking possible.  We love Nevada!”

The landscape industry’s largest 150 revenue-generating firms logged a combined $9.3 billion in 2015 annual revenue—a 10 percent increase from last year’s list. Overall, LM150 companies averaged a 16 percent growth rate from 2014 to 2015.

“Congratulations to Signature Landscapes and all the companies on this year’s LM150 list,” said Marisa Palmieri, editor of Landscape Management. “The firms on this list represent the top one percent of the landscape industry.  It’s an honor to be among them.”


Listing? Here’s Why Curb Appeal is So Important

A Few Tips to Maximize Your Home Value with Curb Appeal

By Jennifer Riner

Real estate is on the rise again in our area.  If you are planning to make a move, be sure you get noticed and command a higher list price with an inviting landscape.  Most single-family homes come equipped with a basic front yard space.  What you do with the exterior says a lot about the value of your listing. Nonetheless, many sellers forgo this aspect to prioritize internal improvements.

Your landscape is your home’s first impression.  Here are three reasons why curb appeal is a pertinent selling point.

1. Curb appeal starts buyers off on the right foot

Think about it: aside from scanning images online, your home’s curb appeal is the first thing house hunters see in person. Why not make it as spectacular as possible to start showings off right? Optimistic buyers use the façade of a home to envision their futures, so playing up exterior strengths is just as important as upgrading the interior aesthetics.  Whether you opt for professionally-designed ground covers, colorful, flowering trees, manicured hedges or potted trimmings, maintained front lawns are likely to remain top of mind with potential buyers even as they continue searching the local market.

2.  Owning land is part of the American dream; use landscape to help potential buyer picture their lives on the property

Landscape design is universally appreciated, but can also inspire first-time buyers to test their green thumbs. Transitioning from a townhouse, high-rise or condo complex doesn’t provide much familiarity with exterior design. Nonetheless, new, single-family buyers often focus on owning a private patch of land. The trick is to landscape the property in such a way that it encourages buyers to envision their lives on the property; think Frisbee with the dog, bocce ball with the kids or dinner in the backyard.

3.  Exteriors help online marketing

Listing images are the foundation of good marketing in real estate. Many sellers don’t realize how important it is to lead the slideshow with a professional exterior photograph to literally provide the full picture. Plus, incorporating the term “landscaped” online adds value to your listing description and eventually helps sellers receive larger offers than expected. Zillow says entry-level listings, on average, sell 4.2 percent higher than anticipated when the word “landscaped” is incorporated.

While you shouldn’t forgo upkeep on the interiors, upping the curb appeal is just as important. Spend a little money before listing your home to increase interest in your property and potentially receive a higher resale price.


Want more?  Tim Laskowski, Owner/Partner of Signature Landscapes gave his expert take on landscaping trends featured at Zillow Digs:



Introducing Our New Owner/Partners

Signature Landscapes has expanded the leadership team and named Tim Laskowski, Tim Scott and Sal Perez as partners.

Tim Laskowski is the installation division manager and senior estimator.  He oversees all aspects of the company’s landscape construction in tandem with Sal Perez.  Laskowski is skilled in all phases of site construction from layout to survey to equipment operation, irrigation design and installation.  He has held several leadership positions in the industry and helped to create the training certificate program for Landscape Industry Certified professionals administered by the Nevada Landscape Association.  Laskowski joined Signature Landscapes in 2007.

Tim Scott is the residential maintenance division manager and also oversees the Carson City branch, tree services and Christmas Décor (holiday lighting).  Scott was serving as the head of the enhancement division of Reno Lawn and Landscape when Signature Landscapes acquired that company in 2006.  Scott brings more than 31 years of industry experience to the leadership team and has a working knowledge of all aspects of landscape management.

Sal Perez is the head of production and is the outside operations manager for the installation division.  Perez oversees a diverse group of projects from residential and commercial landscape installations to renovations and enhancements.  Perez is a certified expert in paver patios, water features and irrigation.  Perez was employee number two for the company and started out as an irrigation technician.  He later became a foreman and worked his way through the ranks to become a manager/partner.

Under their leadership, Signature Landscapes has experienced significant growth and earned a multitude of industry awards and recognition for both landscape installation and maintenance.

“Merrill, Justin and I are absolutely thrilled to bring on these long time employees as partners!” said Lebo Newman, CEO of Signature Landscapes.  “They are the backbone of the many talented employees who have helped build Signature Landscapes to the largest and most successful landscape company in the Truckee Meadows area.  We look forward to their continued growth in the company and contributions to our culture and customer satisfaction.  Their contributions have been grand and we are pleased to honor their work by having them join the ownership family!”

The three new partners join Justin Trimble and Lebo and Merrill Newman in supporting all functions of Signature Landscapes.  The six partners bring more than 160 combined years of landscaping experience to the Reno, Sparks and Carson City area.

Confused About Reno’s Temperamental Weather? So Are Your Plants and Trees.


Snow Covered Forsythia

Snow-laden Forsythia

March 28, 2016—Yesterday, you had on shorts and your flowers were starting to bloom.  Today, you have on snow boots.  Confused?  So are your plants and trees.

Reno’s temperamental weather can “confuse” trees, making them want to shut down their systems or go dormant again.  But, they won’t really have the required lack of light and the longer periods of colder temperatures to do that again, until the next winter season (hence the confusion).  This will have ramifications with trees that were in bloom and those about to bud.

Many fruit-bearing trees were not able to set their blossoms before this latest storm.  The result may be lost fruit production.  Unfortunately, there is nothing to do about that, except wait until next season and try again.

The delayed blossoming of non-fruit bearing trees will be mostly that—delayed.  Still, some new growth may be lost at the tips of these trees.  This will require non-dormant season pruning of the tips to remove the dead wood.  The good news is that it should not be a major problem, but in an area like Northern Nevada, we never like to lose any new growth as trees struggle to survive our climate every year, so they grow slower here than other moderate climates.

Another side effect of this storm that we are already seeing is that there are broken tree limbs due to the amount of moisture in the snow and the weight of the snow.

The first day of spring this year was on March 20, but no one seemed to tell Northern Nevada’s weather that.

Here’s the good news, we have an arbor department with ISA certified arborists.  So, just cozy up inside and let us take care of your trees (775-857-4333).

Tips on How to Avoid a Tree Trimming Scam

Tips from a certified arborist. 

Flowers are starting to bloom and so are the numbers of tree-trimming and other home maintenance scams.  Jeff Richardson, our ISA Certified Arborist shares his tips on how to avoid a scam and make sure you are dealing with a legitimate arborist.

  • Look for a professional tree service company that is licensed, bonded and insured (you can confirm that a contractor is licensed with the Nevada State Contractors Board).
  • A great way to correctly identify a legitimate arborist is to ask for identification (arborist ID, business card with business license, drivers license, etc.).   Look for an ISA Certified Arborist credential (International Society of Arboriculture).
  • Require a written contract agreement.
  • Do not pay cash.  Walk in or call the office and pay with your credit card or a check. 
  • Check for proper equipment that appears well-maintained and a truck identified with their logo and contact information.

It is rare that a legitimate tree trimmer will just happen to knock on a door for work.  Be aware of anyone offering their service door to door that doesn’t have any printed materials or offers an unusually low price and only accepts cash.  If you aren’t sure what a fair price is, get multiple estimates from reputable companies.

Also, being pressured to say yes to the service in a hurry can also indicate that you are being scammed.  Take the time to do your research.  Quality is important when it comes to tree service.  A poor pruning or trimming can damage your trees.

“Hiring a certified arborist will protect your trees and your money,” says Richardson.

Again, do your research (check with the Better Business Bureau and/or company website).

If you have thoughts or concerns on how best care for your trees this spring, call Jeff at Signature to receive a free consultation on steps to take.

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