January 2016

I trust everyone had a nice holiday. Christmas is one of few holidays that families make an effort to get together and enjoy each other’s company. It truly is a special time. 

 I look forward to meeting many of you at the Home and Landscape Expo coming soon (1/29- 1/31). We will be in the Pavilion building sharing a booth with Patio Perfections, very close to the middle exit doors on the south side of the building. We would enjoy visiting with you. And for those of you who took the time to call or email me or the magazine expressing your appreciation for last month’s article, “The God Myths,” thank you. It means a lot.

Each January I like to start the New Year off by reviewing landscape care. It makes no sense to spend money on a landscape and not know how to care for it. I want to discuss overlooked tasks that make a big difference to the overall health of the yard and hence, your enjoyment of it. Though I will be speaking in “big picture” terms, you can find more detailed information by clicking on the tab titled, “Landscape Tips,” on our website. 

The topic of landscape can be broken down into three general categories: trees, plants and lawn. Trees are often the most neglected in the landscape. We tend to not water the trees deep enough, therefore surface roots develop seeking the shallow water that comes from the lawn. These roots make cutting the lawn difficult. Worse, the roots become a threat to cement borders, patios, driveways etc. Now is the time to cut those surface roots whether your tree has leaves right now or is dormant. Cutting the surface roots will allow you to keep the tree and prevent further damage. Cut the roots four feet from the trunk. Do not cut more than four per year. If the tree leans, be cautious cutting the roots on the opposite side of the lean. You could destabilize the tree. Normally by the time the tree has surface roots that are causing problems it has developed many more roots below the surface. However, if the tree has just started to lean it is a red flag that may signal root disease. If this is your concern, call us. We will put you in contact with an arborist that I work with.

With or without surface roots, trees need to be thinned. The tree canopy is like a huge sail. Strong winter winds put stress on that sail that can potentially cause breakage or force the tree to lean, even with deciduous trees. Thinning the tree allows the wind to pass through the canopy without the threat of these concerns. It also allows for better circulation and sunlight during the growing season. Also remove all old stakes and make sure the guides (ties) are not cutting into the trunk.

Plants: In proper combinations they bring so much beauty to the landscape. Unfortunately, most of the landscapes we do are “re-dos.” They consist of the same eight to ten plants, just in a different order. These plants tend to be aggressive growers, which need frequent pruning. However even these need proper care. During the next few months these large growers can be pruned —up to 50 percent. This will make them more manageable. In pruning them this hard there is one rule. Never leave the plant without leaves. Do the top first or the sides, but not both. Let the pruned portion leaf out and then do the other. Even if you are not pruning, fertilizer should be applied. My preference is an organic fertilizer with mycorrhizae (fungi).  These beneficial fungi help the plants with nutrient uptake and drought tolerance. The organic fertilizer feeds the soil, which in turn feeds the plants. This is nature’s way. Many nurseries and some irrigation stores are now carrying organics. Be generous with the fertilizer as if you are heavily salting your food. Once you have broadcasted the fertilizer, scratch it into the ground if possible. I know with bark this step is not do-able. In either case the rains will help carry the fertilizer and fungi down to the plant roots. And since this is rain sensitive, do this sooner as opposed to later.

 Next check your drip emitters and make sure you have two per plant and at least one gallon per hour. With mature landscapes, I prefer two gallon an hour emitters. For trees I prefer three drip bubblers evenly spaced encased in a 3- or 4-inchpvc pipe about 8 inches deep backfilled with gravel, close to drip the line. This enables the water to soak into the ground as opposed to running off.  Lastly, remember to check the emitters and bubblers from time to time. Emitters can get clogged and bubblers on occasion need adjusting.

If you sink when you walk on your lawn, it is time to dethatch it. Dethatching removes the dead lawn matter that interferes with irrigation and fertilization. More than ¾ inch of thatch starts costing more money in irrigation and fertilizer use. To find out how deep the thatch is, cut a wedge shaped piece and with the spade of the shovel, lift it leaving the back side intact. Measure the distance from where the soil ends to where the blades of grass emerge. That will give you a good indication of how thoroughly you need to thatch the lawn. Aeration is also recommended, especially for lawns on slopes. Remember, thatching the lawn is going to “beat it up” so a good application of fertilizer two weeks before would be helpful. Mid to late February is a good time for this.

Finally, remember to check your sprinklers for leaks, plugged nozzles or buried heads. If the lawn is on a slope and you are using conventional nozzles you may want to consider the water miser nozzles, though I also recommend them for level lawns. See your irrigation stores for more information on this. They minimize run-off and allow the water to soak into the lawn better. The alternative is to water less but use multiple cycles with conventional nozzles.

This wraps up our review. If you would like assistance with any of these tasks, please give us a call or you can request an appointment through our website. Also, we continue to landscape. In winter the plastic container is very cold, chilling the roots. Planting the plants in the ground and adding bark afterwards makes the ground a much more root friendly place for the plant to be. Until next month,  Good Gardening.