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09 Mar 2017

Watering Tips

Water is the most important factor that determines development of and establishment of plants in the landscape. However, requirements for water vary according to soil type, environmental conditions, and specific tolerances and needs of each plant.

Water should be applied at the rate of 1/8″ per hour to minimize runoff and Watering should be done as early in the morning as possible to allow the grass blades to dry before the sun can burn them. Watering in the evening invites fungus disease and certain insect infestations, such as lawn moths. From late May through August, an established lawn needs one inch of rainfall or more per week. This should be gradually decreased in September to harden off the turf until fall rains begin. It is best to provide one or two longer periods of watering each week rather than shorter periods each day. This encourages turf roots to grow deeper, insuring soil penetration. Shorter watering periods with more frequency are recommended for establishing newly planted grass. Newly laid sod will require long watering with a lot of frequency. For the first two weeks after new sod is installed, the sod should be soggy to touch and wet underneath when pulled up. After new sod has taken and it needs to be cut once – usually in 3 to 4 weeks, watering can be scaled back in line with normal watering.

Deciduous Trees
Watering new trees for the first through third years is most important because the root system is not fully developed. Deep-watering a tree planted in a well-drained soil will result in deep-set roots and increased stem and branch growth. New trees should be watered once a week unless rainfall of 1″ or more occurs during a 7-day period. Established trees should be watered twice a month in summer and fall under dry conditions with the amount of water depending upon the growth one wants to put on them. Particularly, keep in mind those trees planted in narrow parking strips, in raised planters and where heat radiates off nearby pavement. By decreasing the amount of water in early fall, you will decrease frost damage, enrich fall color, harden off new growth, and lengthen the stay of leaves on the trees.

Deciduous Shrubs
Newly planted shrubs should be watered once a week unless rainfall of 1″ or more occurs during a 7-day period. Shrub beds should be watered regularly to maintain vigorous growth, good foliage and color, and more profuse flowering.

Coniferous Evergreen Trees & Shrubs
Adequate watering of evergreen trees in the summer will encourage new growth and deeper color. A regular watering pattern should be established from one summer to the next, as variations in the rate of growth in one year to another will be noticeable in the plant for years. When possible during the winter months, provide watering as needed to avoid desiccation and winterkill.

Broad Leafed Evergreen Shrubs
Watering of broad-leafed evergreens should begin April 15th. Early watering is essential, except when rainfall is excessive. Early in the day (during the summer months), the foliage of broad-leafed evergreens will benefit from a light spraying. Water established plants thoroughly at least once a week, being sure to provide adequate moisture in the heat of summer but also being sure not to over water. Remember, broad-leafed evergreens will not survive long in a poorly drained soil. Also, be sure to check broad leafed evergreens under roof eaves and in pots often during winter when their moisture supply might be especially light–freezing temperatures plus dry soil are sure death to any plant!

Groundcovers require ample moisture at all times due to the fact that they are not deep-rooting and expose a great deal of foliage at the surface. This is especially true where they compete for moisture with nearby shrubbery. Groundcover will establish an even, closer coverage of foliage if they are watered thoroughly and with an even pattern.

09 Mar 2017

Mowing Tips

Mowing the lawn is just as American as apple pie, hot dogs and baseball. We all know what a freshly cut lawn looks and smells like!

Here are a few tips about mowing that you may or may not know.

How often to mow?
How often your lawn needs mowing depends on three things: how often and how much you water and fertilize, what time of year it is, and the type of grass in your lawn.

The fertilizer you apply affects the growth rate of your lawn, and, consequently, the frequency of mowing. The more you fertilize, the more the lawn needs cutting.

Cool-season and warm-season grasses need different levels of attention and respond differently to different climate changes. Cool-season grasses grow more during the spring and fall and less during the summer. Conversely, warm-season grasses are slower during spring and fall and grow vigorously during the hot months of summer.

Typically we like to mow our lawns once a week, during vigorous growth periods, more frequent mowing may be required. Conversely, when hot conditions are present, mowing schedules should be extended to avoid heat stress on the turf. Try to avoid mowing grass when the turf is wet. This causes problem with the machines clogging up and mower blades becoming dull. If and when wet conditions persist over several days, grass should be cut anyway to avoid cutting more than the recommended 1/3 of blade length off at one time.

What is the proper mowing height?
Proper mowing height depends primarily on the type of grass. Here are some common cutting heights for the a few familiar types of grass.

Cool-Season Grasses

  • Kentucky Bluegrass 2 1/2″ – 3 1/2″
  • Tall Fescue 3″ – 4″
  • Fine Fescue 2″ – 3″
  • Perennial Ryegrass 2 1/2″ – 3 1/2″

Warm-Season Grasses

  • St. Augustine 2′- 3″
  • Bermuda Grass 1 1/2″ – 2 1/2″
  • Bahiagrass 1 1/2″ – 3″
  • Centipede 1″ – 2″
  • Zoisiagrass 3/4″ – 1 1/2″

Mowing at the recommended height promotes root-shoot development and thus a vigorous growing turf grass plant.

What to do about grass clippings?
This is a common question among gardeners and homeowners alike. Leaving clippings of cool-season grasses on the lawn does not cause or contribute to thatch. It is the woody, slow-to-decompose stems below warm-season grass blades that contribute most to thatch buildup.

Grass clippings left on the turf aid in moisture retention, insulating the soil and returning some nutrients for the turf grass to use. Common sense should be used to assessing whether or not the amount of clippings left is excessive. Large clumps and heavy layers of clippings can be detrimental to the turf and should either be mulched with the mower or raked up and taken off the turf. Excessive clipping buildup usually is a result of not mowing the grass frequently enough. The use of mulching-type blades is recommended in high visibility areas so that clippings are cut into numerous smaller pieces, thus avoiding an unsightly appearance on these areas. Mulched clippings provide the same benefits, just in a neater and cleaner method than regular clippings.

Change that pattern!
Alternating mowing patterns are highly recommended to improve the quality of the cut and appearance of the lawn. Mowing in the same direction often results in wave-like ridges that develop at right angles to the mowing pattern. When lawns are cut in the same direction they become “trained” to sway in the same direction each week according to which way the mower is cutting. Alternate the mowing direction in either perpendicular or 45 degree angles to the pattern of the week before.

If you have ever noticed a professionally maintained athletic field for a large stadium, the “lines” are created by the changes in the cutting pattern. Reputable lawn maintenance firms will always endeavor to create straight and clean “lines” that make you lawn look like Shea Stadium!

Keep those blades sharp!
Dull blades create damage to the actual grass blade. The dull blade rips the grass instead of cutting it cleanly. The damaged or frayed edges are more susceptible to disease and generally give a lawn a ragged look. Homeowners should sharpen their mower blades every fourth cut. New blades should be sharpened before being used, because they are shipped dull for safety reasons.

At Environmental Landscaping and Design we sharpen our blades on our commercial machines 2 times a day!

Point recap

  • Keep blades sharpened
  • Never cut more than 1/3 of grass blade
  • Mow at recommended height
  • Raise mower height during the heat
  • Change mowing patterns
09 Mar 2017

Fertilization Tips

Fertilization should be done in early spring with an 18-5-9 fertilizer at 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. In September, October and November, one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. should be applied. The fertilizer should be watered in thoroughly after each application. Slow release fertilizers should be used whenever feasible and don’t forget the off-season feeding in late fall.

Deciduous Trees
A deep rooted feeding, using a soil auger, will mean shallow rooted plants will not be overfed in order to feed the tree and will not rob the tree’s deeper roots of nutrients. The best time for feeding is mid-October and should be applied at the rate of 1/2 pound for each foot of tree height on young trees and two pounds for each inch of trunk diameter.

Deciduous Shrubs
The optimum period for fertilizing deciduous shrubs is early spring and should be applied at a rate of 2-3 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. of shrub beds. Use a 2:1:1 ratio fertilizer, being careful to prevent fertilizer drifting into turf areas.

Coniferous Evergreen Trees & Shrubs
Like deciduous trees, coniferous evergreen trees and shrubs are best fed in mid-October. Conifers are slow constant feeders and prefer slow-release type fertilizers. Feed coniferous evergreen trees at the same rate as you would deciduous trees. Coniferous evergreen shrubs are best fed about August 1st. Rake existing mulch up and pile close at hand. Spread a well composted steer manure as follows:

One inch deep under young coniferous evergreen shrubs, which are three feet, and under.
One and 1/2 inches deep for evergreen shrubs up to ten feet tall.
CAUTION: Most conifers prefer a soil that is neither strongly alkaline nor acidic. Test soil once a year to maintain a neutral pH of 7.0.

Broadleaved Evergreen Shrubs
Broad-leafed evergreens, like the conifers, prefer a slow release fertilizer and should be applied in spring (never after early June). Fertilizers should be watered in well after each application.

Broad-leafed evergreens preferring an acidic soil should be spread in mid-March at a rate of 1/2 cup of azalea food for a 5-year-old hybrid. Spread it over the root area under the shrub and repeat this process three weeks and six weeks later.

Broad-leafed evergreens preferring a more alkaline soil should be fertilized by spreading an organic 10-3/5 fertilizer at the rate of one pound for every 20 sq. ft. of shrub bed. This should be done in mid-February and repeated in the third week of April and first week of June.

Groundcover plants respond best to an annual spring application of a 5-10-5 fertilizer at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 sq. ft of bed. Be sure to wash the foliage thoroughly with a strong spray after application to prevent burning and to flush the nutrients into the soil.

09 Mar 2017

Pruning Tips

Extreme caution and safety should be practiced in pruning trees and, often, it is more wisely done by an experienced, professional tree surgeon. Always beware of power lines nearby or actually resting in tree limbs. Notify electric company personnel immediately of any downed wires or branches lying on the wires—DO NOT try to correct the trouble yourself!

Because pruning stimulates growth, it is best done in early spring since wounds heal rapidly if made in the early part of the growing season. Avoid pruning in freezing weather. An ideal tree form is a strong, straight trunk and a strong, natural branching structure. Do not allow the tree to develop with two or more main trunks, as this will weaken each trunk. In all trees, a strong central leader is preferred. If two trunks are developing in a young tree, select the stronger upright branch and cut any rivals back. This will create a chosen leader, which will develop as a central leader. Lower branches should be pruned above head height in pedestrian areas. When trees are meant for windbreaks or screens, allow them to branch very low and more thickly. Prune flowering trees after they have bloomed. IF a tree is damaged by lightning or wind, a tree surgeon can best determine if it is salvageable or how it can best be re-shaped.

Quick action often will save a partly or wholly uprooted tree. If the tree cannot be immediately up-righted, cover any exposed roots right away to prevent root damage, using hay, wet burlap, mud or plastic sheets. Prune away shattered roots and spray an anti-wilting solution on the tree if it is in foliage. Thoroughly water the tree using only water to compact the soil (don’t tamp the soil manually). Install guy wires to hold the tree in place until the root system regenerates. Provide three guy wires per tree and leave them on for at least 12 months. Do not allow the tree to dry out for the first 24 hours after damage is sustained.

Size control is the principal reason for pruning coniferous trees. Pruning is best done after the new growth is completed in early summer. Do not attempt to change the shape of pines, spruces or firs. When an evergreen tree or shrub has a central leader, the uppermost tip is the leader and elongates year after year. Be careful not to remove this tip or the natural form will be ruined. Prune pines in the spring when the candles (new growth) appear by cutting any portion of the candles, depending on the new growth desired. By removing the candle altogether, no new growth will occur that year.

Deciduous shrubs are pruned to control their size, remove dead or weak branches, maintain their natural character and to control flowering, fruiting or branching effect. In “heading back,” branches are cut back to a healthy bud, encouraging new growth to develop. In “thinning,” a branch is completely removed either to ground level or to another main branch or trunk. With flowering shrubs, pruning should occur as soon as possible after flowering is completed. Do not prune late in the growing season. Summer and fall blooming shrubs should be pruned at any time before new spring growth begins or after winter dormancy begins.

Broad-leafed evergreen shrubs prefer pruning in late fall because more air and light are supplied to the center of the plant. After new growth appears in the spring, remove dead material due to freeze damage. Loosen dense branching to open up the foliage areas, the interior of the plant will benefit.

Occasionally, groundcover plants may become too dense, produce woody stems or tend to mound as they age. Thinning and removal of some plants and fertilizing and watering will result in a fresh, quick recovery.