August 25, 2014

Don't Dig Up the Sprinkler System

If you are planning on doing some landscaping, either this fall or next spring, there is plenty to think about.

Here’s one good tip: Avoid digging up the lawn sprinkler system.

This might sound silly on the surface, but it happens. And when it does, it can be expensive to fix. The key is, be smart and know where things are around your yard.

Before any work begins, go over any plans or drawings given to you by the company that installed your lawn sprinkler system. The plans may located on or near the controller box in your house or garage. If you cannot find any drawings, reach out to your installation provider before any work is done in or around the yard.

Get some graph paper and make a sketch of your yard. The graph paper will help with the measurements. Graphic paper has small squares, each of which will indicate one square foot.

Find the backflow device. This is a device that looks like a pipe with a handle similar to that of a water faucet. Include this and other landmarks on your sketch.

Find where a line should be at the edge of the map that crosses the area where will be taking place. Mark this area with a flag.

Turn on your sprinklers and look for any possible leaks, no matter how small. Also look and see where the water is coming out of the sprinkler heads. Measure the distance from an existing landmark to each sprinkler head and draw the heads on your sketch in the corresponding locations. This should give you an accurate idea of where the water lines are located.

If you are doing the digging yourself, wet down the areas of digging with a garden hose. This will make the digging in the area a little easier.

Oh, important reminder, if you smell gas during digging, call 911. Right away.

August 18, 2014

Fall is Planting Time

Summer is the time to enjoy fun in the sun. Fall is the time for planting.

Why fall? Many of you might think spring is the best time to plant. That’s not entirely untrue. There are plenty of things you can plant in the spring but fall is a great time to plant things like shrubs, bulbs and trees. We’re talking about things like turfgrass, perennials and cool-season vegetables.

There are many benefits to planting in the fall. The cooler air is easier on plants. It’s also easier to work in your garden in the fall, when those dog days of summer are just a memory. Yet, while the air might be a bit cooler, the soil should still be warm. This means roots will still be able to grow until the ground freezes. In spring, you have to wait for everything to thaw before you can really begin to plant in earnest.

Another positive reason to plant in the fall is rain. Many areas typically see a healthy amount of rainfall in autumn. Combine this with a regular watering program and your lawn and garden should get plenty of water.

So why plant trees and shrubs in the fall? Trees and shrubs will have the autumn months to develop root systems. This will help accelerate their growth in the spring. If the trees and shrubs are planted in the fall, they can use the winter season to rest and recover.

It’s a good idea to conduct a soil test on your lawn in the fall. This will help determine what, if any, amendments your soil needs before winter. It’s also a good idea to apply fertilizer in the late fall. This autumn feeding will help protect your lawn during the harsh winter months. You can also overseed areas of the lawn during late fall. This will help with the spring growing process.

August 12, 2014

A Sprinkler Audit

August is here and lawns will be feeling the summer heat for at least one more month.

Now is as good a time as any to perform your own irrigation audit on your lawn sprinkler system.

One good place to start is by determining how much water your lawn and plants are receiving. A good rule of thumb is one to one-and-a-half inches of water per week. Your lawn sprinkler system can certainly help you achieve this goal, especially if it is equipped with a timer. Yon can check those water levels by inserting a screwdriver or wooden paint stick into the ground and check for moisture. Another way to check water absorption is by placing plastic cups in various watering spots on your lawn an in your garden. Turn the lawn sprinkler system on and let it run for the normal amount of time if possible.  After the watering session is done, check the cups and see if the amount of water from the various cups is roughly the same. Record the water amount for each section of lawn.

Check your lawn sprinkler system timer. If you have a sloped lawn, consider using a lawn timer that can have different start times for different zones. A sloped lawn means water from one zone may slide down to another section of the lawn. Staggered start times can help alleviate this situation.

You also want make sure your lawn sprinkler systems is working across all zones. You want to check nozzles and sprinkler heads.

You can also opt for a professional irrigation audit of your lawn sprinkler system. A professional irrigation audit will typically consist of collecting data from the irrigation system and measuring things like precipitation rate and other metrics. This is done to make sure you are getting the most out of your lawn sprinkler system.

August 6, 2014

No Brown Lawn Fines

Used to be if you lived in California and let your lawn dry out and get brown, you could have been looking at a fine.

That’s no longer the case.

California governor Jerry Brown is now ok with brown…lawns that is. California has been dealing with dreadful drought conditions for months and the governor recently signed a bill that allows residents to let those lawns go brown.

The desperate drought conditions have called for desperate measures. Back in January, Governor Brown called for a 20% statewide reduction in water usage. That meant a lot of lawn sprinkler systems were going to be shut off. Unfortunately for the Golden State, we are now in August and not much has changed. One local TV station reports that a survey conducted last month shows the state has failed to make good on the goal of a 20% reduction.  And we are in the heart of summer, when grass is certainly more susceptible to drying out if the sprinklers are turned off.

The bill signed by the governor is now in effect. It prohibits cities, counties and homeowner associations from delivering fines for failure to water lawns.

These are obviously tough times in California. Lawns will obviously suffer, sacrificed for the greater good in a state desperately trying to conserve water.

If you are fortunate enough to have no restrictions on your water usage, this still serves as a reminder of the importance of water conservation. This is another reason a lawn sprinkler system can be so effective for your lawn and for your bottom line.

The timer and sprinkler system allow you to set the time your lawn gets water and for how long. Remember, over-watering your lawn is not healthy for your lawn. It can lead to breeding grounds for lawn disease. Plus, over-watering means you are wasting water. This means a higher water bill.

Smart watering pays off your you and your lawn.

July 28, 2014

Curbing Fast Grass

Is your grass growing too fast? It’s not a silly question (well, not usually). Grass that grows too fast can be difficult, but not impossible, to maintain.

First thing first: If your grass does seem to be growing at a rapid rate, keep up with the mowing. You’ll need to stay consistent with your mowing schedule and not let the grass grow too high. You may even need to mow more than once a week.

Raise the setting on your lawn mower. This seems counterproductive. It’s not. Mowing actually encourages lawn growth, especially if the lawn is cut closer to the ground. Grass that’s left a little higher tends to grow a little slower.

Leave the grass clippings on the lawn. This will provide nutrients to the lawn that it would get with fertilizer.

Want to slow down your rapid lawn growth? Add slower-growing grass. Zoysia grass is an example of a grass that grows slower than most. 

Cut down on the fertilizer. This is especially true if you've been nitrogen fertilizers. This does not mean the lawn should go without nutrients. Every lawn needs food (or it won’t be a lawn for too long). Use smaller amounts of fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer.

Don’t overwater your lawn. Keep the watering to once a week, including rainfall. Also water in the early part of the day. A lawn sprinkler system with a timer can help you regulate the day and time you water the lawn. This safeguards against forgetting when or if you watered the lawn during the week.

Be careful using chemical inhibitors. You can usually find chemical inhibitors at home and garden stores. These products are designed to inhibit growth but you need to be careful with them or you could do damage to your lawn. Be conservative in the application and follow directions.

July 22, 2014

Start Planning for Fall Lawn Care

It’s late July.  We still have plenty of summer left to enjoy. Most people are not ready to think about fall just yet.

Yet if you are a homeowner with a lawn, now is a good time to think about what needs to be done to you our lawn once the leaves turn and a chill seeps into the air.  Think of this as a pre-fall planning guide for your lawn.

If you also have a garden, this is the month to begin those fall garden preps.  Some plants that were planted in the early part of spring may need some attention. If you need to harvest plants, the best time to do so is early in the morning. Any produce that’s been basking in the summer heat should be soaked in cool water.

Back to your lawn. Fall is a great time for a feeding. Fertilizing in the fall is great for turf grasses. A slow release, natural fertilizer will be perfect for delivering much-needed nutrients to the lawn. And don’t forget the watering. Your lawn will need water after the fertilizer. This is where a lawn sprinkler system comes in handy.

It’s also important to keep mowing in the fall. Mow the lawn with the blades at the same height as they've been throughout the summer. In the late fall, adjust the mower blades to their lowest settings. This will allow sunlight to reach the base of the grass before winter.

Rake the leaves or mow them with a mulching lawn mower. Wet leaves that accumulate on the ground can be a breeding ground for fungal diseases. This is why it is so important to remove the leaves while they are still dry and easy to rake or mow.

Remember not to water at night, especially in the fall. The nights are cold and the water will take much longer to reach the roots in the soil.

June 30, 2014

Cleaning Up After a Storm

Summer is here and while that means ballgames and trips to the beach, it can also mean thunderstorms. Depending on where you live, some of these storms can be severe and cause quite a bit of damage.

Your first inclination will be to check for damage. The second inclination will be to clean the yard of any debris. These are good thoughts, but you want to make sure you clean up correctly.

Remember, these storms can damage trees and shrubs and leave behind a trail of debris. You need to be careful when doing such cleanup work.

Strong storms can bring down tree limbs and power lines. The first thing you want to do is make sure none of those fallen tree limbs are resting on power lines. If this is the case do not, under any circumstances, try to remove them. You must contact your local utility company to have those limbs and branches removed.

Most of the fallen branches will be branches that have already died.  Some limbs may have been ready to come down and were just waiting for a good, stiff wind.

Don’t try and lift any limb that is too big for you to carry. Consider cutting large limbs into smaller pieces, using a hacksaw or a chainsaw for larger limbs. Do not cut the damaged limb in the middle. Instead, choose a cutting location just above a lateral branch.

If large parts of a tree have come down and are in a difficult position, do the wise thing and call a professional. A tree pruning company can help with the removal.

Check your lawn sprinkler system. It’s possible it could have sustained damage in a rough storm. Check all the zones and make sure the sprinkler heads are not damaged. This should be done before you try and use the system after a storm.

June 25, 2014

Solving Those Lawn Problems

We all want a great looking lawn. We also know that a healthy, green lawn takes some work.

Luckily, we live in a time when the hard labor of heavy-duty lawn work has been eased somewhat by the creation of lawn sprinkler systems and timers. Those timers, properly connected to a lawn sprinkler system, can save you money and time.

Yet, there still remain some common lawn problems that can put a damper on your plan for a green, lush lawn.  The good news is, most of these common lawn problems can be overcome:

Common Problem: Lack of Sunlight

Shade is cool, except when you want to cultivate green grass. Then that lack of sunlight becomes an issue. There are shade-tolerant versions of turfgrass. Check out blends like bishop’s hat or sweet woodruff.

Common Problem: Crabgrass

Crabgrass is no friend of the healthy lawn.  It’s a problematic and pesky weed, but it’s not invincible. If you want to be rid of crabgrass but are not crazy about herbal pesticide, why not give something corn gluten meal a chance?  Using it early in the spring can help contain the crabgrass.  Then, it’s time for fertilizer. Couple that with a healthy supply of water to your lawn. When you mow, mow high. If you do decide to use a pesticide, wear gloves, take other safety precautions and carefully read the instructions.

Common Problem: Lawn Mushrooms

These are NOT the kind of mushrooms you eat. Your lawn won’t find them very appetizing either. To permanently rid your lawn of the mushrooms, try to get rid of any decaying organic matter. Grind down stumps, rake up grass clippings and replace old mulch.

Common Problem: Bald Spots

No, not the kind on your head. These kind of bald spots can be unsightly on your lawn. Find the bald patch and dig up the damaged area, plus six inches of the surrounding healthy law. Dig about two inches deep. Leave the soil and add a small amount of soil amendment. Then add some starter fertilizer.

June 18, 2014

Different Types of Sprinkler Timers

Sprinkler timers are a tremendous tool for making sure your lawn is getting the right amount of water.

A great lawn sprinkler system takes much of the guesswork out of wondering when to water your lawn.  Too much water will just cost you money and hurt your lawn. Too little water and you’ll be looking at a lot of brown grass.

The timer on a sprinkler system can act as the brains of the system. A timer sends a message to the valves in the lawn irrigation system. The valves regulate the flow of water to the sprinkler system. The timer will switch the lawn sprinkler system on and off and pre-determined intervals. This will help regulate a specific team for water to go to the lawn. You won’t have to worry about forget to turn on the system or wonder if you forgot to turn the system off. The timer will take of those things. This creates a seamless watering system that will nourish your lawn on a regular basis.

Sprinkler System Store features several Orbit timers for water sprinkler systems. These timers easily connection to irrigation systems. There are timers for systems big and small. The Orbit 12 Station timer has a touch screen and can be duel-programmed. The Orbit Super-6 controller is a timer that comes with a remote control. The remote control allows specific zones to be watered without interrupting the timer’s set program.

These timers are energy-efficient and also help conserve water. There are timers with mounting kits that can be set up indoors or outdoors. In addition to the remote control timers, there are also dial control timers. Touch screen timers, like the dial control timers, are easy to use and are reliable. All the Orbit timers are built to last and are available at affordable prices.

June 10, 2014

Dandelion Debate

For many of us, it’s been something of a foregone conclusion that dandelions are bad for our lawns.

Yet some lawn experts say it’s time to rethink our thinking about those no-good dandelions. Maybe it’s time for a dandelion debate.

So what’s so great about dandelions? Those lawn experts who are pro-dandelion point to the fact that the dandelion is an important part of our ecosystem. They are often an early source of nutrients for honeybees during the early days of spring.

Dandelions are also a great pollinating plant. Again, this goes back to those honeybees. If honeybees go away, the pollinators go away and the food cycle suffers.

Dandelions are also one of the weeds that attract and provide food for butterflies? Everybody likes butterflies, right? When butterflies find food, they are more likely to lay eggs in that area. This could result in more butterflies in your garden.

There is also thought that dandelions are good for lawns because of their roots. Dandelion roots are wide-spreading and help loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the ground and reduce erosion.

Still, if dandelions are not your thing, put some thought into how you are going to get rid of those dandelions.  And think about planting other types of plants or flowers that will attract the bees and the butterflies.

Instead of spraying pesticides to get rid of the dandelions, try an herbicide instead.

Don’t try and “dry out” the weeds. Remember, your lawn needs water to stay healthy, so don’t deviate from your watering schedule or alter the time on your water sprinkler timers.

You can also dig up dandelions by hand, but it can be difficult to remove the entire root of the dandelion. If you decide to go this way, it’s probably a good idea to incorporate a screwdriver or dandelion weeder as part of the root removal process.