Adjust Your Sprinkler Timing Throughout the Season

SprinklerTimingHomespotHQcom

As I mentioned last week, it is time to fire up your sprinkler system. Once you have done that, you are all set for the season….right? 

Your Lawn’s Needs Will Change

The amount of water that grass needs is definitely not always the same. After all, plants are more likely to experience transpiration (losing water from their leaves) and the soil becomes drier the hotter it gets. You won’t need to water much during the spring, but you will need to start watering a bit more during the summer. If you do not ever adjust your sprinkler timing, the grass may get thirsty and develop problems.

However, you do not ever need to water your lawn daily. This can actually be detrimental since it encourages the roots to form and stay near the surface instead of burrowing their way farther down into the soil. As water becomes scarce, it is harder for the roots to find water and the grass suffers. Instead, plan on watering less frequently but for a longer period. This will train the roots to grow downward and your lawn will be healthier.

How much will you need? Cornell University advises that most lawns will need about an inch of water added per week. Take into account any rain that you receive and adjust your sprinklers to make up the difference. You do need to test how fast your soil can drain so you can choose a rate that doesn’t leave puddles. This is called the infiltration rate and Cornell’s article talks about using coffee cans to measure your rates. You can also call us if you want help in determining the proper number.

Account for Rain and Other Weather

I cringe a little inside when I see sprinklers going during a rainstorm. It is so wasteful and potentially even harmful to the lawn if it receives too much water. When a rainstorm is expected, consider turning off your sprinklers if they are on a timer. You can also buy rain sensors that will stop or delay sprinklers if it starts raining.

Remember – don’t just set them and leave it the same all spring, summer and fall. Changing your sprinkler settings as needed will help keep your lawn healthy. The grass will thank you!

Image Courtesy of Homespot HQ via Flickr

Setting up a sprinkler system holding tank

This system requires 30psi of air pressure gets charges into the holding tank before adding water from the well

It’s Time to Fire Up Your Sprinkler System!

SprinklerSystemFlickrmikemol

The days are warming up and it is time to fire up your sprinkler system for the growing season. You need to be careful, though, so you don’t cause damage to your system.

Locate Your Sprinkler Shut Off Valves

At the end of fall every year, you should be winterizing your sprinkler system. This process clears the plumbing of all water and prepares it for freezing temperatures so that they don’t break. Now that spring is here, you are safe to turn it all back on. Find the sprinkler shut off valves and follow the process listed here to properly get your sprinklers back online. One key to this process is to not rush it all or the pipes may burst.

Once they have been started up, you need to put in your initial sprinkler settings. I will go into more detail next week, but it is important that you monitor and adjust your settings throughout the spring and summer since your lawn’s water needs will change over time. You will not need to water much at first in the spring unless it has not been raining much.

When Should You Water?

It is also essential that you set your sprinklers so that they go off between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m, according to the Cornell University Extension Service. If you water during the day, for example, most of the water will simply evaporate due to the heat. If you water at night, the grass will stay wet for longer and encourage diseases to develop. Early morning watering allows the best chances for water to reach the roots.

If you would prefer to have us get your sprinklers going again, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Image by mikemol under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Adding Annuals to Your Garden

AnnualsFlickrdaryl_mitchell

 

If you are looking to revitalize your garden, try adding some annuals.  They only last one growing season, so if you decide you don’t like how they look, you can just try different plants next year. You can include plants like tropical species that might otherwise not be able to survive the winter in your area by treating them as annuals.

Color Combinations

These types of plants usually come in brilliant colors that will instantly improve your yard. As Cornell University states, “There is no right or wrong when it comes to color in the garden.  Color choices are a matter of personal taste.” One way to choose plants is to pick annuals with complementary colors to the plants that are already in your garden. You can also try choosing all warm or cool colors.

Design Considerations

Think about your current plants when you are shopping for annuals. Check for the mature height so you do not accidentally plant a taller annual in front of a shorter one. Look at the growing facts like sun and water requirements, spacing and flowering time. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year to help extend the color show.

Suggestions to Get You Started

Not sure which annuals are the best for your landscape? There are some that will fit into almost any garden. Pansies, marigolds and snapdragons are very cheery species that are available in a wide variety of shades. Petunias add beauty and fragrance. Impatiens and coleus work well in your shadier spots.

If you would like help choosing or planting some annuals in your garden this year, call us today for an appointment!

Image by daryl_mitchell under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Spring Color Displays Are Popping Up!

Crocuses are a great addition for a spring color display

Crocuses in the snow

One of the best days of the year is when I see flowers blooming for the first time after a long dreary winter. I love the reminder that the world is coming alive again! Spring color displays are showing up everywhere. The following plants can be used in your garden to provide that effect.

Annuals

One of the easiest ways to add color to your garden each year is to plant annuals like coleus, impatiens and pansies. These species can be started from seed or you can buy plants at your local nursery. They will flower during the growing season and then die off. Next week I will go into more detail about planning and designing with annuals in mind.

Bulbs

If you’re looking for flowers that bloom even when the ground is snowy, try one of the bulbs that bloom early in the year. I am partial to crocuses, personally. You can also plant species like snowdrops and glory-of-the-snow. If you want to add these to your garden, though, you will have to wait until autumn. Bulbs meant to be planted in spring will bloom for you in summer, which can be a good way to keep colors going in your garden.

Forsythia

The cheery yellow blossoms of the forsythia are a sure sign that spring is right around the corner. This is one of the first shrubs to come alive each year. It is generally unremarkable for the rest of the growing season, however.

Fruit Trees

In addition to gorgeous flower shows in the spring, fruit trees will reward you with a bounteous feast later in the year. Make sure you get cultivars that are known to grow in your area. It is especially necessary to choose one that matches the amount of chill hours (how much time they spend at colder temperatures) or you may have blossom and fruiting problems.

Redbud

One of the lovelies little trees around is the redbud. It is so eager to bloom in spring that the pink flowers burst open even before the leaves do. I recommend the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar, which has rich purple leaves in contrast to the rosy blossoms.

What is popping up in your garden these days?

Image by Muffet under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

How Do I Control Crabgrass?

ControllingCrabgrassFlickrMattLavin

As part of your lawn care schedule, you may need to take steps to control crabgrass in your yard. It can take several years to manage the problem since seeds can stay dormant for several years before germination, so the best time to start the battle is now.

Begin With Hand Removal

If you only see a few crabgrass plants, you can try to remove each one by hand. Aim to do this before the seed heads form and make the problem worse. Larger crabgrass populations may need a chemical control.

Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide

One of the best ways to control crabgrass is to use a pre-emergent herbicide twice in the growing season. These compounds are able to kill any seeds that have recently sprouted , so the crabgrass never gets a chance to take hold. This is important because each plant produces thousands of seeds

Begin with a round in spring to catch as many of the seeds as possible. Follow up with another session right before summer to catch any that have started growing since the last treatment.

If you find some persistent plants that have still managed to grow, you can use a post-emergent herbicide that specifically mentions crabgrass on the label. Some herbicides affect all grassy plants, so your lawn grass can be affected as well. You want to especially avoid compounds like glyphosate (Roundup) since they are designed to kill any kind of plant present.

A word of warning: Do NOT use a pre-emergent herbicide at the same time that you plant grass seeds. Since it is tied to germination, your desired lawn will not sprout either. Plan these events to be several months apart so the grass will grow, but you still stop the crabgrass as much as possible.

Keep Your Lawn Happy and Healthy

If your lawn is lush and growing well, it is less likely that crabgrass will be able to compete and become established. Make sure you are doing your yearly maintenance tasks like aeration, fertilization and any reseeding needed.

Image by Matt Lavin under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Choosing Plants for Your Garden

ChoosingPlantsFlickrtracie7779

Spring is right around the corner and you may have already started planning for new landscape improvements. It’s tempting to run down to your local garden center and buy any plant that catches your eye, but you must resist that urge and do your homework. Choosing plants for your garden requires attention to the conditions present in your yard.

USDA Zones

The USDA produces a map that divides locations into hardiness zones based on the average minimum low temperature each year, with 1 being the coldest and 13 the warmest. For example, Yonkers, NY is rated as USDA Zone 7a.

Each plant has a general range of zones where is it most likely to be successful. While this is not an absolute guarantee (microclimates and other factors can affect its chances in your own garden), choosing a plant that is meant for your zone helps its possibility of survival.

Plant Life Span

Think about how much work you want to do in your garden and whether you want it to change yearly.  Annuals grow for one season, then die. Biennials last two growing seasons before the end. Perennials, trees and shrubs usually live for many years. Some people like cheery annuals like pansies that brighten up your garden, but need to be replanted yearly. Perennials last longer, but may need pruning to spruce them up.

Size

When you are shopping, make sure you look at the tags to see what the expected size will be at maturity. It is easy enough to forget and buy a plant that looks like it will work in your space based on the container size at the garden center, but turns out to spread farther than desirable over the years. You don’t want to have an imbalance where front plants tower over rear ones (thus hiding them) or end up with your plants becoming crowded from improper spacing

Planting Site Conditions

Plants do not all have the same preferences and needs. Look at the tag and see the sunlight requirements. Ask a garden center associate if your site has special needs. For example, clay soil, places that tend to be wet or acidity all require specific species that are able to tolerate those conditions.

Ensure Fruit Pollination

If you are trying to grow fruit in your yard, make sure you have enough plants available for cross-pollination. Some species are able to fertilize themselves, but many need a different cultivar (cultivated variety – think Golden Delicious and Fuji for applies) nearby. If you only have one plant, you may not get any fruit at all.

Choosing plants for your garden carefully will help you get the best possible look for your landscape and make it easier for them to grow properly. If you would like assistance in planning out your garden this year, don’t hesitate to call.

Image by tracie7779 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

What Is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass is a very common weed in gardensPerhaps you have looked at your lawn and noticed that some of the grass looks a bit different. Maybe plants have sprung up in the cracks of your walkway. There’s a good chance that what you’re noticing is a weed called crabgrass.

What Is Crabgrass?

There are over 300 pesky species of crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) found throughout the world. It is so named because it tends to sprawl out sideways from its base. Like many weeds, it is quite persistent since can spread itself in more than one way and may not be easy to control. If you are not diligent about early detection and treatment, it may produce seed heads. These will scatter thousands of seeds throughout your lawn that are able to germinate for several years. Some species also clone themselves by sending out side shoots called tillers.

Crabgrass Is Drought Tolerant

One reason that this weed is able to thrive in lawns is because it can handle summer conditions when it’s hot and dry. This ability to grow even if not much water is present explains how it can survive in strange places like spaces between paver bricks, concrete, rocks and other inhospitable places. Make sure your grass gets enough deep watering to allow it to be healthy and send down roots, making it harder for new crabgrass plants to grow.

How Is It Controlled?

A future post will go into depth about dealing with crabgrass, but in general, control is best achieved through the use of pre-emergent herbicides (which stop the seeds from sprouting), setting your mower blades higher, and keeping your lawn properly fertilized and watered. If the lawn is healthy, it is less likely for the crabgrass to creep in and spread since it cannot compete with your grass.

Have problems with crabgrass? Give us a call!

What Is Your Lawn Care Program?

Lawn care programs include mowing

There are several different tasks that should be included in your lawn care program to keep your grass happy and healthy.

Aeration

Every year at the end of the growing season, get your lawn aerated. This process removes small plugs at intervals throughout the grass. Aeration helps alleviate problems with a built-up thatch layer and improves the health of your grass, since water, air and nutrients have an easier time reaching the roots.

Fertilizing

Another task that you should do in the fall is a round of fertilizer, ideally right after you have performed aeration. This will prompt the roots to grow and anchor themselves farther into the soil. They will also add the nutrients to their storage in preparation for the coming harsh winter. If it are properly fed, grass will have an easier time and will grow better the next year.

Mowing

As we’ve mentioned before, you will need to adjust your mower blades up 25-50% as the temperature rises to protect your grass. Leave at least 2/3 of the blade there. If you cut off too much, the grass has a harder time performing photosynthesis (since there is less area available) in addition to dealing with the stress of hotter conditions.

Pest, Disease and Weed Control

Unfortunately, there are many different pests, diseases and weeds that can pop up in your lawn. Applying pesticides and herbicides at the start of the growing season can help keep them at bay.

Raking

This should be done throughout the season to clean up your lawn areas. If the layers are thick, they can prevent sunlight from reaching the leaf blades. Piles of wet leaves can also make the lawn more prone to diseases like those caused by fungi.

Watering

You will need to adjust your sprinklers throughout the growing season. You do not need to water daily; in fact, this can cause problems for the lawn since the roots will develop near the top and dry out easier. You want to water every few days for a long period to help encourage the roots to dive deeper in the soil. In times of drought, they will then have a better chance of finding water.

You also need to water at the correct time of day. If you water between the hours of 10 am- 6pm, it is quite likely to evaporate in warmer weather and never reach the roots. Watering at night can encourage diseases. Set your sprinklers to go off during early morning.

If you need help with your lawn care program for this coming growing season, give us a call!

Image by heipei under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Mulch During Your Spring Cleanup

Mulch is beneficial in the garden

When you are doing your spring cleanup to prepare your garden for the coming growing season, take the time to put down some new mulch. This practice helps your plants stay healthy and strong. It also makes your yard more visually appealing.

Some Benefits of Mulch

When you put wood chips, compost, or other common mulching materials into your garden beds, your plants benefit greatly. This layer above the soil insulates the plants better from temperature fluctuations that could freeze the roots or evaporate the water present. Weeds have a harder time pushing through to the surface and growing properly. It is also aesthetically pleasing and adds a uniform color to the base of your plantings.

Two Reasons to Mulch Every Year:

1)Mulch is often made of natural organic materials. Over time as they are exposed to air, water and organisms, it begins to break down. If it is not replenished yearly, it will become thinner and you will lose the beneficial properties.

2)Since the mulch has been through the elements and decomposition, it can look old and weathered. A fresh layer will reinvigorate your planting beds and accent the colors of your foliage and flowers.

How Much Should You Use?

Two to three inches is a good general guideline to use when applying mulch in your landscape. This is enough to cover the soil up properly and add insulation. You can figure out how much you need by multiplying the length and width of your garden (using feet) times how deep you want the layer to be, converted to feet. Three inches would be .25 feet, for example. The resulting number is how many cubic yards are needed to cover the entire area.

A warning for trees and shrubs: Make sure you leave at least six inches of space around the trunk that is free of mulch. If you have it closer, this can invite pests and diseases to invade the plant. It can also keep the bark moist, leading to rot.

Image by csessums under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License