In Review – July

July 2010 – PDF Download

Welcome to June’s edition of “Landscape Talk.” Those of you who read my article monthly know that I cover a wide range of topics. Last year, because of the concerns about water restrictions, I did a survival series that covered water smart products such as nozzles and timers, proper drip installations, lawns that require only once weekly irrigation, rain cisterns, and other related topics. I started this year explaining why run-off from our properties is a concern, the effect of synthetic fertilizers, and the reason we should start incorporating more “bridge” product fertilizers. These may contain some synthetic fertilizer for a quick start, but also have organic fertilizer with beneficial soil micros that improve the plant’s environment without harming our own.

Looking back on the subjects covered, I have realized it would be useful for readers to have a kind of summary of the information. There are so many ways to improve our gardens and gardening practices that it can be difficult to tackle them all at once. Also, as the saying goes, “Life happens.” We mean to do something, but we get busy or distracted by something else. So what I want to do with this edition is to review the topics we’ve discussed and provide a brief summary of the key points. You will be able to use this as a quick reference tool or for setting your gardening goals. It will also give new readers an idea of what type of information is available. The full articles can be found on our website, www.executivecareinc.com or on www.homeimprovement-magazine.com.

February and March 09 explored landscape design, emphasizing the importance of determining a theme. The plant kingdom is so vast that unless we group plants into their natural regions, we can easily end up with a landscape that is visually confusing because it has no flow or logic to it—much like my grandmother’s garden. Grandma would get a plant as a gift, or take a slip of a neighbor’s plant and stick it in any available space. The result was a glorified mess! By staying true to a theme we avoid this common mistake, and end up with a landscape that is creative and pleasing. This February (2010), we looked at the importance of a theme once again, and expanded the discussion with more notes. Both March 09 and February 10 also talk about my education and background.

April 09 and May 10 dealt with regular landscape maintenance, including sprinkler and drip checks, aphid injections, and preemergent applications to prevent weeds. These articles also provided pruning tips. This maintenance list is the kind of thing you want to tape to your refrigerator because it will help you avoid or minimize potential problems. I see so many landscapes stressed in the summer, and have replaced many plants because of improper care. Plants want to live, but with insufficient water and/or nutrients, or with improper care, they will eventually succumb to disease and/or pests and die. A well-maintained garden will thrive.

May 09 was interesting research for me. I wanted to see what we could do to help our lawns maintain more moisture in the soil profile, aside from aeration. For a number of years, polymers that retain water have been used as a soil additive for potted plants. These would be cost prohibitive for large areas like a lawn. While researching, and with the help of my sales rep for chemicals, we came across a product called Turface. It is fired clay, the same red clay used for the pitcher’s mound. In agriculture it has a different form, but in essence it’s the same stuff. This is an inexpensive product that has great benefits. Many years ago, Granite Bay Parks and Rec used it in its ball fields and parks and saved approximately 50% off their water bill while maintaining the health of the grass. I would call that an impressive result.

June 09 required some special research. I attend trade shows in the winter, and one in particular had lawns that were quite amazing. Once established these lawns could be irrigated only once a week and do just fine—even once every two weeks once the lawn is about a year old. Anyone with a traditional turf lawn knows this means incredible water savings. To get information for the article, I met with the salesmen for both lawn varieties and even called the breeders to get full descriptions of these super lawns. All sources were helpful. When I felt I understood them well enough, I wrote the article. The lawns are about three times the cost of normal lawn installation. The seed is more costly to produce, but it is definitely a “green lawn.” As already noted, they need far less water. These lawns also cut the need for fertilizer by as much as 50%, and generally do not need pesticides/fungicides at all. The cities are using these lawns in large areas such as parks and baseball fields, where a return on investment is realized much sooner than on smaller residential lawns. Even so, I am confident we will see more of these lawns in the residential market as the movement to reduce contaminated runoff from our properties gains momentum. Also, as water costs rise or become metered, there will be greater demand for this kind of lawn.

July 09 looked at water efficient sprinkler nozzles. This is one of those improvements that everyone should make, especially since several water districts are giving rebates for installing water efficient products. If you have the conventional sprinkler nozzles, which most likely you do, you should change them out with these more water efficient nozzles. Both Hunter and Toro/Irritrol have their version, and I like each product for different reasons (Rainbird has their version, I just have not used it yet). If you have a slope and have good pressure (30 to 40 psi), I like the mp rotor nozzle. If you have poor pressure, less than 30 psi, then the precision nozzle is better. If you have a level lawn and are willing to adjust your timer (doubling your watering time initially), the mp is great. If you are not one to work in the garden, use the precision nozzle which, for the most part, will not require you to change your timer settings at all. With either selection, you will get better coverage while using about a third less water. The article only covers the mp rotor nozzle because the precision just became available last Fall. So if you want more information about the precision nozzle, you can go on their website or visit one of the specialty irrigation stores, Ewing, Horizon, Normac or John Deere.

We’ll continue our article review next month, covering the rest of the year. In the meantime, I hope you find it useful to have this snapshot. For me, it is like looking in a two-way mirror. From one side I see me talking about the things I am most passionate about: creating beautiful landscapes, helping the garden thrive, and using products and practices that protect the environment. From the other side of the mirror, I can see many clients with the same desires and concerns. Looking back also reminds me that good landscaping and good environmental practices don’t happen by accident. They are the result of knowledgeable planning and conscious effort. It is my fond hope that by sharing knowledge with you, you will feel equipped to make a difference in your garden and for the environment. As always, I thank you for spending this time with us. Please be patience, we are super busy. I think all the work in Spring which did not get done because of the rains, and the normal busy work in summer have all come at once. Lastly, and I will cover this in more detail in next month’s article, but don’t let the heat of summer keep you from your landscaping plans. The plant is going to live either in the nursery or in your yard, and the ground is much cooler, especially with bark over the top, than the plastic can it sits in while in the nursery. Until next month, good gardening! If you are a do-it-yourselfer please use this article as a guide. If you need help, please do not hesitate to call at (916) 765-9040 or visit our website www.executivecareinc.com. Executive Care Landscape Management, Inc. is a local full service residential and commercial landscape company. We specialize both in commercial (H.O.A.s, etc.) landscape maintenance and residential custom installs and re-dos. If you have missed previous articles, they can all be found on our website under publications. To schedule an at-home consultation click on “contact” then fill out the form. Lastly we appreciate the support of the community, and ask that if we do not return your call in a couple of days, that you would recall. I am not always able to understand the message. Thank you for reading and until next month, good gardening!

Plant Talk

Welcome to this month’s Plant Talk. Our featured guest today is a little known ornamental with a very long name: Brunsfelsia pauciflora Floribunda, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. I’ve chosen the Brunsfelsia because there is no other plant in our zone like it. It is an evergreen shrub that blossoms between mid-April and early May and blooms for three to six weeks. The name Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow comes from its multi-colored flowers. When the flowers first open, they are violet (yesterday), then they fade to lavender (today) and finally to white (tomorrow). So at one time there can be three different color flowers, giving the plant a very showy appearance.

Brunsfelsia is easy to grow. It will take full sun, but the blooms are softer and showier if it has some afternoon shade. It needs medium moisture and can handle some dryness, but does not like wet soils. So if you have heavy clay, as in South Sacramento, you should prepare a mound of soil to plant it in. You will also need to control your watering by watering thoroughly, then allowing at least a couple days for the soil to dry.

Brunsfelsia responds well to fertilization. I feed them just prior to the first Winter rain and again in March. It does not, however, like the cold. Its leaves will turn purple and may even drop. Although the leaves will come back, you should protect the plant, especially when it is young, with a frost blanket or you can plant it against your house so it can benefit from the radiant heat.

Brunsfelsia is a medium grower— not fast but not slow. It matures at 3′ – 4′, but I have seen it at 8′ in more tropical climates (So Cal). Here, they can easily be kept as a 2 1/2′ by 2 1/2′ bush. You do not want it much smaller than this because the size helps shelter the interior of the plant from the cold. Also, the bigger the plant gets, the longer it will bloom. No pruning after March 15th until it has finished flowering.

This is a wonderful ornamental with soft colors and profuse blooms. So find a place in your garden to enjoy it and, as always, Blessings to you.

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