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Sirhornsalot

February Landscapes – Outdoor Living Space plans

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Outdoor living space anyone?

February is the month to start planning that backyard paradise

February in Texas is the time when folks begin thinking about their outdoor time. Outdoor living spaces are becoming more and more in demand as people discover the ability to have their private retreat right there in their own back yards. This year in particular, with winter seemingly MIA, people are pursuing their dreams of their own back yard space early in the year.

I get called a lot to consult and design back yard living spaces. It always seems to start with a patio of some sort. We will discuss the different types of patios that can be built, but first lets talk about what a patio can represent.

If you stand at the back of your home at least a good distance away so that you can see the whole back side of the home, you will notice the shapes on the house. They included 95% or better of hard angles, such as windows (rectangles and squares), doorways (rectangles), even the brick on the home is rectangles. Its a collection of these hard angles. Subconsciously, this creates a very formalized, structured look.

A vast majority of the patios we build will not have a hard angle. Building a patio with curves and no corners will go very far in softening up the whole look of the back living space. It reduces that formalized look and becomes more open and free flowing. So unless you have a contemporary styled home where a squared or rectangled shaped patio might be a desirable look, pursue the opposite of what your home has if it is heavy on the hard angles.

Concrete – Most homes come with some sort of concrete patio and concrete works well if appearance really isn’t important to you. Lets face it, concrete is gray. Its look factor has limited potential to start off with. However, you can stain an existing concrete patio or for a new concrete patio, you can stain and stamp a design into it. In clay soil areas of Texas where shifting occurs, you will likely see a crack or cracking develop over time. This is normal, but unsightly as it gets worse, but can be remedied.

Flagstone – Flagstone makes for a beautiful patio in that its a completely natural material that adds color and contrast to the living space. Stone lasts forever so it will remain for years. There are numerous choices for flagstone to use on patios. Some are very colorful. Some are single color. However, it is wise to stay with a stone that either goes with the home’s brick, or is the same as whatever stone was used on the home itself.

With flagstone, the costs will be dependent on the stone you choose. For example, if you select a Arizona flagstone, you will pay much more for it than you would an Oklahoma flagstone. This is because of the longer distance that must be traveled with that stone before it reaches the place you purchased it from.

Man-Made Stone – Numerous companies manufacture and sell man-made stone, such as Pavestone, that can be used in a patio application. There are types that are specifically made for this application and offer an abundance of choices.

These stones sit on a sand base that is level. Sand is then forced into the joints to complete the installation. There are no adhesion-type properties at work so some resettling of the stones can occur over time. Nevertheless, the man made stone is a very attractive look and can be complimented with other products of the same make, such as retaining walls and steps.

Decomposed Granite – Decomposed granite is a material that is used for ground cover purposes, xeriscaping, and in landscape pathways as well as – patios. The pros are that its very affordable and easy to install. It can be done by most homeowners. The cons are that it tends to scatter during foot traffic or taken back into the home via shoe tread.

There are products on the market that suggest that you can “harden” the decomposed granite by spraying the clear liquid product over the granite, but I have found those to be inconsistent, at best. Nevertheless, a decomposed granite base will pack in over time and with consistent foot traffic.

Patios can be complimented with or have adjoining outdoor kitchen, fireplaces, pergolas, fire pits and other features that make the outdoor life so much more enjoyable.

 

Crape Myrtles, Not Crape Murder

This is the month when you want to trim back your Crape Myrtles. One thing the state of Texas has plenty of is Crape Myrtles. A majority of folks choose to trim theirs while others do not. Consistent annual trimming can produce a more structured and more beautiful Crape Myrtle tree.

I will again this year preach against the practice of Crape Myrtle hacking. It is pointless to do this as it creates an unhealthy situation for the tree as well as a very bizarre look overall. There’s no rhyme or reason with hacking so I won’t try to explain how its done and when it started.

Frankly, I’m not real sure about either. It looks almost alien.

Instead, a Crape Myrtle should be trimmed in a way we describe as “knubbing.” That entails trimming the limbs at a 45 degree angle cut at approximately six inches above what we call a “knuckle” or where the sub-limbs flair from (see diagram) the limbs.

This type of trimming is not warranted for all Crapes, however. The larger Crapes, such as the Natchez (white blooms), will grow upwards to 40 ft high. In trimming these large Crapes, they should be approached much like you would trim a regular tree, with cuts at the collars.

If you contract with a landscaper to perform Crape trimming this month, make sure you gain an understanding of exactly how they will trim your Crapes.

 

The Season’s First Cut

For folks in the southern half of our state, your first mowing may well take place in the latter part of this month. For those of you who have Bermuda tuff, you will want your first mow to be very short. DO NOT SCALP your lawn, but mow it shorter than you would normally mow it. This is for the first mow only. The same holds true for St Augustine and Zoysia turf, except we don’t mow it as short as we do Bermuda.

Why do we do this? Mowing very short the first time allows more sunlight to hit the surface of the soil, which heats up the first few inches of soil and causes the turf to come out of dormancy faster than it otherwise would.
You will want to get rid of as much of the thatch as you can as it will hang around and help defeat the purpose since it would cover the soil surface.

Sprinkler changes

Make sure you add a day to your settings this month. The days are a little longer in February than they were in January, plus, it is a strange month to begin with where we often see summer-type weather followed by winter-type weather in a matter of hours. So most of us should be watering twice a week during February at about 10 minutes per zone (sprays).


Pre Emergent

There’s still time to get down your pre emergent application for spring. Get it done before the third week of the month begins. Timing is everything with pre emergent and since we’re having some rain and warmer weather, our window of opportunity has grown narrow. Get it done asap.

Fertlization
Do not be tempted to put down an application of fertilizer during February or March. April 1 is your safe date in Texas. After that, we’ll likely not see a freeze again until next fall.


Feel free to ask any questions you might have. There’s no question too simple or too difficult!

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28 minutes ago, Bitterwhiteguy said:

Is there any reason to pick a preemergent other than Dimension? That seems like the consensus pick in my research.

For spring, yes. Thats when your broadleaf germinates and Dimension works best on broadleaf, when compared to Barricade (Prodiamine).

You have three applications each year (Jan/Feb, Aug, Nov). The current application is where I use Dimension. The other two applications are Barricade. Barricade works best on grassy weeds, which is what germinates most in late summer and fall.

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For you folks in North Texas and other places that have been betrayed by Mother Nature this winter (lack of rainfall), you should be watering twice a week right now.

Make sure you're hitting next to the foundation, too.

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We have two dogs, that love to play in our backyard and as a result, have pretty much worn out the bermuda turf in a section of the backyard.  Because of that and areas in the yard that get a lot of shade, I'm looking to replace the bermuda for a turf that can stand up better to the dogs and also grow in the shade areas.  Do you have any suggestions?  I'm in the Georgetown area.

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1 hour ago, Texequis said:

We have two dogs, that love to play in our backyard and as a result, have pretty much worn out the bermuda turf in a section of the backyard.  Because of that and areas in the yard that get a lot of shade, I'm looking to replace the bermuda for a turf that can stand up better to the dogs and also grow in the shade areas.  Do you have any suggestions?  I'm in the Georgetown area.

Grow in shade areas – limits you to St Augustine or Zoysia grass.

The problem with both of those types though is that they do not recover as fast as Bermuda does. So the Bermuda in your back already should be your best bet.

Your REAL problem is the compacted soil caused by your dogs. No grass type will grow very well in soil thats been compacted, in this case by traffic. 

I advise you to aerate your back yard, then put down some cotton bur compost on top after you aerate. The aeration will put vital oxygen back into the soil and the compost, because its cotton burr, will soften up your clay soil and provide nutrients for the turf.

For the shade areas, you might consider just laying river rock on top of landscape cloth. Its permanent, you don't have to water it, and it looks nice every day of the year. Your dogs shouldn't mind it, since its river rock and has rounded edges.

You can try going with ST Aug or Zoysia grass in those shaded areas, but it doesn't recover so fast from the dog traffic.

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Thanks, I'll try doing that.  For the spots that are bare due to the dogs, but in direct sunlight, should i aerate and put the cotton burr....and then should i seed or use plugs/sprigs?

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1 hour ago, Texequis said:

Thanks, I'll try doing that.  For the spots that are bare due to the dogs, but in direct sunlight, should i aerate and put the cotton burr....and then should i seed or use plugs/sprigs?

Yeah, that works. I would go with sod though. Seed is fine, but you have to pay close attention to it for several weeks and water like crazy. Sod only needs a lot of water when its hot and dry. Any sod you buy right now is probably going to be dormant, but don't let that discourage you. Lay it out and it will come out of dormancy just like established turf will.

Sod is cheap. Its 12 x 18 in size and runs about $1 or less a piece.

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I need to put down some soil and then grass in some bare spots in my yard (North Austin area), all under live oaks (still think the oaks have something to do with that). I was going to ask you what type of dirt would be best (ex: dillo) however you mention cotton burr compost above. So based on that, would that be better for the new sod I plan to lay? I also planned to due this early to mid March, is that a good time?

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1 hour ago, tejasrulz said:

I need to put down some soil and then grass in some bare spots in my yard (North Austin area), all under live oaks (still think the oaks have something to do with that). I was going to ask you what type of dirt would be best (ex: dillo) however you mention cotton burr compost above. So based on that, would that be better for the new sod I plan to lay? I also planned to due this early to mid March, is that a good time?

IMO, yes, go with the cotton burr compost as a base. 

Its full of nutrients your new sod will love. Mid-March is a good time although you could do it right now if you wanted.

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You don't often see this, but we're experiencing "thunder sleet" right now. I'm about 10 mins north of DFW airport.

We had five inches of rain yesterday and an inch the day before. We've exceeded the norm for February already and made up for what we missed in January.

January is the driest month of the year for most of Texas.

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I live down in the Houston area.  Per NWS, my subdivision go ~54-56 in of rain in Harvey and then we have had at least two more heavy rain events this winter (+4 in of precip).  In addition, we had separate snow,  sleet, and then freezing rain events.  Needless to say, my yard is a disaster.  It has literally sunk/washed away due to the flood and a significant amount of my sod is gone.  The preemergent I got down in August was washed away and that which I applied in November likely got washed away as well.   My neighbor and I were planning to have a company come in and put down top soil in the areas that we both have mud now or where it is significantly puddling water then re-sod.  Based on above, should we change plans to the Cotton Burr and how would we get such large quantities?  Do we put some Cotton Burr on top of the new sod as well (without suffocating it)?  and for the new application of preemergent, should I only put on top of the new sod or mix in with the new soil / compost?  Lastly, with all the rain, I suspect what yard is left is depleted of any nutrients, I know you said wait until April to fertilize, so any suggestions on how to replenish the yard? Sorry for so many questions, but i have quite a job ahead.  

Respectfully,

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3 hours ago, Earl Nobis Jefferson said:

I live down in the Houston area.  Per NWS, my subdivision go ~54-56 in of rain in Harvey and then we have had at least two more heavy rain events this winter (+4 in of precip).  In addition, we had separate snow,  sleet, and then freezing rain events.  Needless to say, my yard is a disaster.  It has literally sunk/washed away due to the flood and a significant amount of my sod is gone.  The preemergent I got down in August was washed away and that which I applied in November likely got washed away as well.   My neighbor and I were planning to have a company come in and put down top soil in the areas that we both have mud now or where it is significantly puddling water then re-sod.  Based on above, should we change plans to the Cotton Burr and how would we get such large quantities?  Do we put some Cotton Burr on top of the new sod as well (without suffocating it)?  and for the new application of preemergent, should I only put on top of the new sod or mix in with the new soil / compost?  Lastly, with all the rain, I suspect what yard is left is depleted of any nutrients, I know you said wait until April to fertilize, so any suggestions on how to replenish the yard? Sorry for so many questions, but i have quite a job ahead.  

Respectfully,

 

Thanks for the question, you have an interesting situation.

So you're going to re-sod the low lying areas where water accumulates. Here's what I would do.

– Completely remove the turf in those areas. Take the first inch of soil with it.

– Put down cotton burr compost as your base, but add into that some Expanded Shale. Ex Shale comes in bags, is the size of pea gravel or smaller. Mix into your compost. It will create natural aeration beneath the surface and at the root level.

https://www.amazon.com/Soil-Mender-Expanded-Shale-lb/dp/B00AAJ214E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519771519&sr=8-1&keywords=expanded+shale

EA will help make the lawn more drought tolerant, helps drainage and keeps the soil from compacting because it naturally expands and contracts throughout the year.

– Before you sod, sprinkle a couple of products into your base.

1. Azomite. Its basically volcanic ash and has a ton of trace minerals and nutrients to bring your soil alive again.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JRNY4DU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

2. Endo Mycorhizae. Its a fungus that helps plants become and stay healthy. They attach to the root system and colonize, taking over a whole area. It works with the plant (grass) by enabling it to intake more nutrients, thus providing a healthier plant. This works with 95% of the plants on earth.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HVKKOEE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

– You can get products like cotton bur compost from places like Living Earth or large nurseries. Your landscape contractor should know of sources. Its very common here in Texas. They should also handle inventories of expanded shale and perhaps the other two products I've shown you

– You cannot fertilize at all if you're going to be putting down new sod. It just won't result in what you're wanting. Once you sod,  you'll need to wait at least 90 days before putting fertilizer on it. That takes you to the mid-June application. It should be ready by then, given the set up we are providing it.

– You will not need to top dress your lawn with CBC until next February. Do it early in the month because you want to put pre emergent on top of it. Weeds germinate here in late Feb so down there it will be sooner. You might consider doing it in late January instead.

Your landscape companies down there should be willing to follow whatever plan you ask of them. Just make a list and print it out for them, and do so before they go to bid it.

 

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