Consider Adding a Rain Sensor to Your Irrigation System

Rain sensors can conserve water in your landscapeOne of my personal pet peeves is hearing or seeing sprinklers go off during a rainstorm. It seems like such a waste both environmentally and financially. It is also potentially harmful to the plants since the extra water can lead to root suffocation or fungal problems. If you don’t want to run outside to manually turn off the sprinklers each time it rains, a rain sensor may work very well for you.

A rain sensor is mounted somewhere on or near your house (such as a fence or gutter) and can be either hard wired or wireless depending on the type and how much your budget allows. Many use a part called a hygroscopic disc to collect any rain that happens to fall during the day. These discs are designed to expand when water hits them. When they reach a certain size, they flip a switch. The system sends a message that overrides the sprinkler system and causes it to stop watering or not turn on at its normally scheduled time.

You do not need to worry about resetting your sprinkler system after the rain sensor is triggered. They are designed to dry out once the moisture stops and then your regularly scheduled sessions will continue as normal unless rainfall is again detected.

An additional feature found on some of these rain sensors is the ability to stop the system if freezing weather sets in before you have winterized your system for the year. If the pipes are full of water when the weather gets too cold, they can burst. Installing one of these types of sensors can stop this from happening.

If you are interested in adding a rain sensor to your current irrigation system, give us a call. We would be happy to help you choose the right one for your landscape.

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Get Your Irrigation System Ready for the Growing Season

Tune up your sprinkler system this springSpring is here in all its glory. Plants are coming alive again and the temperatures are creeping up. There are still days here and there that are colder, but it’s definitely on the upswing. For much of spring, rain is enough to take care of all of your landscape’s watering needs. However, you should work on getting your landscape ready now for the rest of the growing season.

Can You Turn It On Yet?

Even if the air temperatures are above freezing, the ground can still be frozen for a little while more. Find a spot where you can easily try to dig down and see if the soil has thawed yet. You want to be able to reach at least one foot down.

Get Your Irrigation System Back Up to Speed

You properly winterized your sprinklers last fall and shut them down, so they should be ready to go, right? The freezing temperatures in winter can be harsh, possibly dealing damage to your watering lines. There could also have been damage from snow plows or other garden equipment. Sprinkler parts also fall apart over time from normal wear and tear.

Before you turn it on, walk around your yard and physically inspect sprinkler heads, valves and other parts of your system to see if they show signs of problems. Make sure that the water pressure is not too high. According to Rainbird, a sprinklers manufacturer, this range should be within 40-65 PSI (pounds per square inch). We can help you measure this if needed and otherwise check over your system.

Turn It On Carefully

As Hunter Industries mentions, you should start turning things back on slowly. If you switch the valves on full blast, the surges can damage the pipes and cause problems. Make sure the timer settings are appropriate for the time of year; you need less water in spring than in summer, so start out lower. Once you have turned everything on, walk around again and see how the various sprinkler heads are doing. Note if there are areas that are especially wet, since this can be a sign of a leak.

Has your ground thawed out? Give us a call if you want to get your irrigation system ready to go.

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Drainage Problems in Lawns

Sometimes lawns have drainage problemsYou may notice spots in your lawn that are especially wet after the sprinklers have gone off or a rainstorm passed through. This can be normal at first since it takes time for water to travel down into the soil. If it seems to take especially long, though, it could be a problem with how your lawn drains.

Why Should You Worry About Poorly Draining Lawns?

Did you know that too much water can drown roots? It seems strange since they are built to take up liquids. However, they also need to have access to air. If there is constantly water present, the roots won’t be able to process the air and die.

Too much water can also cause the roots and other parts to catch fungal disease or rot, since both are more likely to occur in wet situations.

It is also a safety issue since someone could slip and fall when they are walking across your yard.

What Causes Drainage Problems in Lawns and How Can They Be Fixed?

There are several reasons why water is having a hard time draining into the soil. Investigate around your landscape to see if you can find signs of the following:

  • A common problem is thatch since the thick layer can make it hard for liquids to move down. Aerate your lawn to help alleviate this problem.
  • You could have clay soil. The particles in this type are closer together and it is notorious for not letting water through in a reasonable timeframe. Add organic matter like lawn clippings over time and the soil composition will change.
  • One of your sprinkler pipes may be broken. You can test out the system to see if that is the case and work on repairs.
  • The ground may have sunk down and created a depression. Depending on how deep it is, you can either add a top dressing or use a shovel to dig up the sunken area, fill, and add the grass back on top.

There are other problems that would be harder to alleviate, like if the natural level of the groundwater is high or your yard is underneath a slope. 

We would be happy to come out and assess why you have drainage problems in your yard, so give us a call.

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Apply Your Pre-Emergent Weed Control Now

PreEmergentWeedControlFlickranneh632One of the best ways to control weeds, of course, is to never let them get started. A good dose of pre-emergent weed control will keep seeds from germinating and dominating your lawn.

When Should You Apply It?

One of the main weeds that you are trying to avoid is crabgrass. You want to apply just before that starts germinating. If you do it earlier than that, it is quite likely that rains and snows will lessen the concentration or even wash it all away. If you wait until too late, you risk the possibility of crabgrass germination starting robustly and the chemical does not have a chance to affect the seeds, wasting the opportunity.

As Cornell University mentions, crabgrass germination is usually most successful when the ground temperatures are in the range of 59F to 65 F. You want to do your weed control just before this happens for the best results.

What About My Grass Seeds? Will They Be Affected?

This kind of herbicide works because it affects seeds during the germination phase. Grass seeds are not immune to this process and they will fail to sprout if you try to grow them when a pre-emergent has been applied. You should have at least a few months time in between reseeding and pre-emergent weed control. Fall is another good time to try patching up your lawn.

You could seed your lawn a few weeks before your herbicide application in the spring. Cornell also mentions that parts of your landscape with little or no plants will warm up sooner since they have one less layer protecting it. Patch up your lawn first and there should be enough time before the crabgrass starts that you can have a successful grass germination rate.

Why Do a Split Application of Pre-Emergent Weed Control?

If you try to do only one application, you may still have problems with crabgrass and other weeds. Seeds may be blown or carried into the area and germinate after the herbicide has been washed away. When you do a second application a few weeks later, you can catch these stragglers and keep weeds at bay,

Call us today to get your applications set up. We can help keep those pesky weeds away from your beautiful lawn.

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Dormant Oils

Dormant oils will help control problems like scales.

This plant is infested with scales, which is one type of pest that you can use dormant oils on. You would want to spray while the plant is in its winter slumber.

You may have seen tips that a round of dormant oils is useful at this point in the year to help control pests. What are they and why would they be useful?

What Are Dormant Oils?

Dormant oils are usually formulated using petroleum as a base. It is called a dormant oil because of the time when you are supposed to apply it. Some types are now able to be used at other points in the year due to advances in manufacturing. They are used on a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs.

When you spray it on an insect or mite, it coats their body and keeps them from being able to breathe. Some formulations directly damage certain insects, further leading to their demise.

What Pests Are Affected by Dormant Oils?

These oils are typically sprayed on plants to fight pests like aphids, caterpillars, mites and scales. I had to use some horticultural oil when my container peach tree was attacked by red spider mites. I have also used it to try and fight a double dose of aphids and mealybugs on a banana tree houseplant. If I had used a dormant oil on the peach tree at the right time of year, it may not have had that problem.

Some pests can be harder to control than others. Scales can be especially difficult sometimes since some have an armored exoskeleton that is difficult to penetrate. You may need to apply more later in the growing season when the insects and their young larva may be more susceptible.

Why Do You Use It While the Tree is Dormant?

You are trying to catch any insects that made the plant their home during the winter. Some plants do not do well if dormant oils are used while they are actively growing since the oils can damage their leaves and other parts. When the plant is dormant, there is no foliage present, so it is safer to use.

What plants do you use dormant oils on? What type of pest?

Preemergent Weed Control for Lawns

Use preemergent weed control to prevent more weeds from showing up

A good preemergent herbicide can help keep new weeds from appearing.

When you are doing your spring lawn assessment, note whether there are any weeds present in your lawn. In addition to removing these, you may want to use some preemergent weed control before the growing season really gets into full swing.

What Is a Preemergent Herbicide?

Lawn chemicals are formulated to be able to affect plants in different ways, so it is important to read the label to make sure that you are buying the right kind. In the case of a preemergent herbicide, it is applied early in the growing season and stops weed seeds from germinating. If there are already weeds present, they will not be effected and will need to be removed using another method.

You also need to make sure that you sow any new grass seeds before you put down this type of chemical. It will be able to affect any seeds that are present and your hard work would be for nothing. Make sure that you do your lawn reseeding and preemergent applications a few months apart from each other for the best chance of success.

When Do I Use Preemergent Weed Control?

Now is about the right time to start putting down your herbicides. You want to do it once the temperatures have started to rise a bit (mid-50s to 60s or so), but not too much farther past that since seeds present will start to sprout. You can also do some in early fall, which will help keep down the weeds in the following growing season.

Give us a call if you need help with applying a preemergent herbicide in your lawn. We would be happy to assist you!

 

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It’s Spring Lawn Assessment Time!

Spring Lawn Assessment Including Raking

Spring cleanup season is now in full swing. Your next task is to do a good lawn assessment so that you can see what might need to be done.

Dethatching and Aeration

Over time, lawns tend to build up a layer of living and dead parts on the top of the soil that can make it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the roots. Every spring you should check the thickness of your thatch to see if you need to take steps to remove it.

If you do have too much thatch, one way to help remedy the problem is dethatching through raking. This action can remove some of the built up matter and allow your grass to breathe better. You can use a power rake or vertical mower to complete this process. If you do not own either of these, they can usually be rented at your local home improvement stores or you could have us come through and dethatch.

Another tool that you may want to rent or contract out is core aeration. These machines remove small plugs of grass and soil, opening up the thatch and improving the health of your lawn. You should water the ground before doing this as it is difficult to do when the soil is dry.

Raking Out Fungus

You may also have noticed that there are dead patches in your lawn that has pink or white fungi on it. These could be caused by a type of fungus called snow mold. As the weather warms up, the grass will repair itself and usually green up nicely. You can help accelerate this process by doing a light raking to help the grass dry out and get rid of the snow mold.

What else do you do as part of your spring lawn assessment?

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Start Your Spring Garden Cleanup!

SpringGardenCleanupsFlickrDick Howe Jr

Spring is only officially about two weeks away at this point – huzzah! Now is the time for a good spring garden cleanup to usher in the growing season.

On a day when the snow has melted, look around and pick up any trash that may have blown in during a storm. You can also rake up any leaves that were left over from last fall. Those would likely be a great addition to your compost heap or, if you have enough, in its own pile to create leaf mulch. There are some plants like black walnuts that bear harmful chemicals in their leaves and other parts, and should not be included. 

If you have not put down fresh mulch yet this year, now is a good time. It will help protect your plants throughout the year and freshen up your landscape to boot.

Look over your machines and tools to make sure they did not get rusted or otherwise broken during the winter. Sharpen them as necessary, especially if you did not do happen to winterize your equipment.

You can prune many trees, shrubs and perennials at this time. Go over your trees and shrubs to make sure that there are not parts that are dead, damaged or diseased. There are some like maples where they may bleed too much sap if they are pruned too early, so they should be trimmed later in the season.

If you are running short on time or would just prefer that someone else prep your landscape, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss a plan to get your garden into tip top shape for the coming growing season!

What do you do as part of your spring garden cleanup?

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Are Your Spring Flower Bulbs Emerging?

SpringBulbsEmergingFlickrArtotem

Spring is finally just around the corner! I went to my parents’ house today and saw a few variegated bearded iris blades peeping through the soil. It won’t be too long before they fully emerge and proudly display their gorgeous purple blooms.

This is one time of year where it can be a little nerve-wracking in your garden. Some of your bulbs, trees, shrubs and other plants may start putting out leaves and even flowers, but the threat of frosts is not over. If the temperatures fall too much, the plant could be damaged.

Thankfully, many of the spring-flowering bulbs are naturally adapted to lower temperatures. Think about how you sometimes see the earliest-blooming flowers like crocuses peeping up through a blanket of snow. As long as it isn’t prolonged or especially severe, they will usually be fine overall, especially if you mulched as part of your final fall cleanup.

You might have a little more to worry about if they have already put forth their buds or blossoms, since these are more easily damaged. You could add some mulch as part of your spring garden prep. In a pinch, you could make a shelter out of household items like milk jugs (cut off the bottom) or sheets. For the latter, only use them when it’s currently cold and remove during the day if it warms up past the 40s (Fahrenheit).  Nurseries and garden centers also sell protective devices like row covers.

I hope that your spring flowers emerge soon if they haven’t yet. They seem so hopeful after a long dreary winter, don’t they?

What kinds of bulbs did you plant? Are they up yet?

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Tidy Up Your Flower Beds This Spring with Mulch

springMulchemily @ go haus go

I get more and more excited each week as spring draws closer. One of my favorite days of the year is when I am out and about in winter and suddenly see that the buds on the trees have begun to swell. It’s marvelous to discover that it’s almost time for everything to really start growing again.

One task that should be on your spring cleanup list if you have flower beds is adding mulch. This is especially useful if you have laid wood chips before. They tend to turn gray and otherwise become dull looking over the course of a year due to conditions like rain and snow. Putting a fresh layer down can really make your flower beds more eye-catching in a jiffy.

There are a few different types of mulch available to the home gardener. The ones that are the most aesthetically pleasing include:

  • Cacao (cocoa) hulls
  • Rocks or pebbles
  • Rubber
  • Straw
  • Wood chips

Adding one of these to your flower beds does more than just make it look more presentable. It will also help protect the plants from wild fluctuations in temperature, help stop weeds from being so problematic and keep water from evaporating away so easily.

You need to figure out how much mulch to purchase by calculating the area of your flower beds and multiply by how deep you wish the layer to be. You can use this handy calculator from Cornell University if you aren’t feeling mathematically inclined at the moment. You would then see how many cubic feet are in bags of the mulch of your choice and divide by that number to see how many you would need to buy. You can also buy it by the cubic yard if you have a large area to mulch. 

Once you have brought the mulch to your yard, spread it evenly over the top of the soil or existing mulch. Do not work it into the soil. Keep it a few inches away from the trunks of any trees and shrubs since having it too close can cause fungal and other problems.

What is your favorite type of mulch?

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