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December Landscapes – Ho Ho Mistletoe!


Sirhornsalot
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Wow, time flies when you’re having fun in the garden! We’re in the middle of fall now with Winter in site and the weather finally reflects that. The leaves on our deciduous trees are beginning to turn. What an exciting time to be outside!!

 

800px-MistletoeInSilverBirch.jpg

 

MISTLETOE – THE SLOW TREE KILLER
Mistletoe is a historic, fun Christmas tradition which men and women have used for ages to score kisses from their significant love interests. It’s engrained into American Christmas culture. In my opinion, it’s a good ending to a very bad thing.

Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant which attach to and penetrate the limbs of the host plant and absorb water and nutrients through the host plant. This is much like a leach will do to an animal or human. However, Mistletoe will grow larger and spread throughout a canopy of a tree and eventually kill it.
Prior to death of the host plant, the host plant will experience reduced growth and will kill the branches that it grows on. Once infestation sets in, the host tree will die in most cases.

Mistletoe is most easily seen in tree canopies of deciduous trees during the winter months when one can look into the canopy and see that the only thing green in the tree is the Mistletoe growing on it. This is the best time to remove it. Removing it entirely can be a difficult exercise, however, as it often grows on the ends of limbs which can be hard to get to in the upper canopies. A professional service is usually required to do this in medium to large trees. The Mistletoe must be removed totally, including the small rooted part that has grown into the limb. Failure to remove the part grown into the limb will mean the Mistletoe will return over time in the same location.

If you are not comfortable in a tree, do not attempt this.

Mistletoe is spread from tree to tree by birds which feed on its seeds. Many trees are resistant to Mistletoe but some that are vulnerable include Elms, Cedar Elms, Junipers and Pecan Trees.

 

Mistletoe is toxic, so do not consume it in any way.

 

One season winds down, another begins

Your mowing duties are slowing now as turf grass growth has begun the dormancy process due to the cooler temperatures. In a matter of weeks now, it will be dormant. The homeowner/landscaper’s duties will now change but are no less important than they are in the middle of July. You no longer worry with keeping the turf cut and watered. Now, it’s leaf collection through end of December, especially if you have mature adult deciduous trees near your home.

There are several ways of handling leaf collection. I’ll elaborate on a few of them.

 

1. Mulching your leaves. This is my preferred method of dealing with leaves. We basically blow out the beds and turf to where the leaves are in a single line pile. We then mow over them several times until the leaves are a fine mulched state. We then disperse this back into the turf with rakes.

 

2. Collect the leaves, bag them, take to an organic composting center near you. A materials (stone, soils, etc) vender near me will accept all the organic material I bring them. They turn it into compost.

 

3. Collect and compost the leaves yourself. When composting, remember that you need a good balance of dead and green matter to create a good decomposition rate.

 

4. Collect, bag and dispose via city collection.

Why do we need to collect and dispose of our leaves? Because they can become a fire hazard when left next to the house and around wood sources near the house.

 

If you’re bagging your own, here’s a tip on how to do it with more ease. Instead of picking the leaves up and placing them into a bag, lay the bag down beside your pile of leaves and push the leaves into the bag while holding the bag opening up with one hand. Much faster.

 

NOW IS THE TIME FOR THE TULIPS!

Get those Tulip bulbs planted now! Remember, the fat side of the bulb goes on bottom, at least three inches down! Make sure you use a soil with a heavy organic content to plant with. You’re at the end of the planting window, so don’t wait any longer.

 

 

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Cover your vulnerable plants with freeze blankets to protect them during icy weather.

WINTER WEATHER IS COMING

Plan right now on how you’re going to protect your stuff! If you have potted plants on your patios, get them inside. Potted plants have the same issues going on as a highway bridge does in cold weather. Three sides are exposed to the elements so the root systems of the plant inside will take a real beating.

 

Plan to run your sprinkler system a nice long cycle the day before the cold front arrives. This will get your turf and beds very wet and thus they’ll be protected during the cold as it takes much colder temperatures to freeze soil when it’s wet than when it’s dry.

 

IF you have a XERISCAPE, then forget the previous paragraph. lol  Desert-type plants have an instinct to absorb as much water as they can when water is made available. So having them fill up on water right before a freeze would cause the plant’s foliage to actually freeze easier. So do not water a xeriscape before a cold front arrives. Cover these plants if an ice storm is expected.

 

Once you run this cycle, turn your system off IF your system does not have a freeze sensor.

 

For plants you really don’t want to see at risk, employ the use of a freeze blanket to protect them. Make sure you secure the blankets down well as cold fronts are usually accompanied by high winds. They now make freeze blankets that are designed specifically for this purpose and are able to keep temperatures below the blanket at least five degrees warmer than on the outside.

 

LAVA SAND INSTEAD OF SALT

If we get ice - try opting for lava sand to put on driveways and sidewalks instead of salt. Salt kills. And after the ice is gone, it will end up in your turf and in your beds. Lava sand on the other hand will enhance your soil and turf. Your plants and grass will thank you. Lava sand gives great traction in ice. It can be purchased from Home Depot and Lowes.

 

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Thanks as always! Here in Houston the weather has been relatively pleasant for the most part (upper 60s to mid 70s) and looks like we're going to even get up to near 80 this week. I've kept my sprinkler running twice a week since early Fall but is that overkill? Can I cut back to once per week and then shut it off completely once we have a period of sustained temps under 60?

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Thanks as always! Here in Houston the weather has been relatively pleasant for the most part (upper 60s to mid 70s) and looks like we're going to even get up to near 80 this week. I've kept my sprinkler running twice a week since early Fall but is that overkill? Can I cut back to once per week and then shut it off completely once we have a period of sustained temps under 60?

 

 

Yes, you can. Just increase the time a little bit for that one day.

 

It's overkill because you really don't have anything actively growing right now. They're slowing down for the winter.

 

I would not shut it off completely because you really don't want your stuff going long without water, even in dormancy. 

 

If you get rainfall at least once a week, you might be able to go without the sprinkler. Those weeks that you don't, however, you'd want to water at least once.

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The below is a heckuva read. My company stores our equipment and trucks at a facility about 1/4 mile from the dam. So I am now actively seeking a new place to store our stuff. This could happen at any time now.

 

http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2015/lewisville-dam/

 

The Dam Called Trouble
The Army Corps of Engineers will need millions of dollars to repair the Lewisville Lake Dam, one of the nation’s most dangerous. A breach could put 431,000 people in harm’s way.

 

The problem — one of many — first appeared as last May’s record rainstorms quickly filled the region’s reservoirs. An instrument at the Lewisville Lake Dam showed pressure building under the downstream side.

Jason Vazquez, dam safety program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at the time, collared another engineer, and in pelting rain they raced to the affected area, officially known to the Corps as “Seepage Area No. 1.â€

Even during the seven-year drought, the area had looked like a swamp, covered with chest-high cattails and weeds. Corps technicians sometimes encountered water moccasins and alligators as they measured seepage. This time, Vazquez and his partner, wearing rain slickers and rubber boots, spotted something far more disturbing: water and sand bubbling up from a tiny hole in the ground.

Such a “sand boil†indicates that increasing seepage has created a passage under the base of the dam. If not stopped, it could lead to a rupture of the dam.

Vazquez remembers standing in the middle of the swamp, soaking wet, wondering whether the dam he nicknamed “Trouble†was about to become a regional disaster. The 35-year-old engineer called his bosses at the district’s Emergency Operations Center in Fort Worth.

 

From bad to worse

Even before last spring’s rains, the Lewisville Dam was listed by the Corps as the eighth-most-hazardous in the country. Recent rains have made it worse, the Corps says.

The dam is so unstable now that the Fort Worth District is considering asking Corps headquarters to upgrade its risk classification to the highest: “critically near failure†— that is, “almost certain to fail under normal operations … within a few years without intervention,†according to a Corps document.

The Corps finished building the dam in 1955 and is responsible for its safety and upkeep.

Only 34 miles upstream from Dallas, the Lewisville Dam holds back 2 million acre-feet, or 2.5 billion tons, of water when the lake is full. If the dam failed, the magnitude of all that water unleashed from Lake Lewisville down the Trinity River would dwarf the worst dam disaster in American history.

That would be the Johnstown, Pa., flood of May 31, 1889, which occurred after several days of pounding rain breached the South Fork Dam. The flood killed 2,209 people and devastated the city. The Lewisville Dam holds back 125 times as much water as the South Fork Dam.

 

 

‘Very high risk’ to cities

The public hasn’t been told the full story about the Lewisville Dam. Internal documents make clear that the Corps has known about its “high risk of failure under an extreme event†for many years.

In 2008, a group of Corps engineers and analysts from outside the Fort Worth district performed an in-depth assessment of the dam and discovered some hair-raising defects: seepage under the foundation was creating pressure and uplift conditions at one end of the dam.

There were signs of embankment instability during “extreme loading conditions†— Corps-speak for a rapidly rising reservoir. The emergency spillway suffered from erosion and structural distress.

The team of Corps analysts concluded that “the likelihood of failure from one of these occurrences ... is too high to assure public safety†and that the dam posed a “very high risk†to the population centers downstream from the dam. That is, Lewisville, Coppell, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas, Dallas and points south.

The analysts’ findings were corroborated by another study the following year at the Trinity Regional Project Office of the Corps adjacent to the Lewisville Dam. This new team of engineers and analysts identified “significant potential failure modes … with respect to the project condition and the potential downstream consequences,†according to a Corps document.

But what the Corps tells itself about the Lewisville Dam is different from what it tells the public. “We want to get the message out that there’s a potential for something bad to happen, but we don’t want to unduly panic the public,†says an official involved in the communications. “So we sugarcoat the message a bit.â€

 

For example, starting in 2010, the Corps began holding public meetings with residents and officials from the communities downstream to discuss the Corps’ plans “to improve safety†at the Lewisville Dam. In public meetings and press releases, Corps officials stressed that the dam was not in imminent danger of failing and was operating as designed.

At a public meeting at the Medical Center of Lewisville in 2013, Corps officials acknowledged the uncontrolled seepage, the potential instability of the emergency spillway and embankment and other “areas of concern.â€

But they assured the public that the Corps had implemented a number of temporary risk-reduction measures to address the problems while pressing ahead with further studies to determine the best methods to fix it.

“Dam failure is not likely, not at all,†Anita Branch, a project engineer for the Corps’ Fort Worth District, reassured the gathering in Lewisville.

‘Indicators of distress’

Tell that to Jason Vazquez. During the height of the record rain storm last May, as floodwaters began filling the Lewisville reservoir, Vazquez and his field operations team spent days and nights, flashlights in hand, walking up and down the dam, looking for what the Corps calls “indicators of distress.†Four other dams in the district were also placed on a 24-hour watch for about six weeks in May and June.

The higher the water rose in the reservoir, the greater the pressures on the Lewisville Dam. Vazquez and his operations team knew that the structural integrity of the dam was already compromised.

Under the intense loading on the dam, the unspoken question among the team of inspectors walking back and forth along the rain-soaked contours was, Would it hold?

Vazquez thought it would, but he and his operations team had to be prepared in case it didn’t.

So when an instrument reading showed pressure rising at Seepage Area No. 1 — the same area where Corps specialists had worried for years that excessive seepage could cause a rupture or blowout — Vazquez and another engineer dashed to the boggy area.

That’s when they spotted the sand boil. Clearing away tall cattails and weeds with a weed-whacker to get a better view, Vazquez was shocked. It looked like a small whirlpool spinning and spouting from underground.

Now he had a major emergency on his hands. Once a sand boil starts, it’s hard to stop. A sand boil indicates that excessive seepage is starting to erode soil material from the downstream slope or foundation of the dam through to the upstream side to form a pipe, or cavity, to the reservoir.

The condition, called piping, often leads to a complete failure of an earthen dam.

After he called his bosses at headquarters, Vazquez directed his field operations team to place a one-layer ring of sandbags around the sand boil, allowing the pool of water inside to rise about six inches. The method is supposed to equalize the pressure and prevent the water and soil particles from expanding.

By now the entire Corps was on high alert. Corps officials notified the Texas Division of Emergency Management, a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, as well as emergency officials downstream.

Emergency coordinators prepared to begin evacuations in their communities. “We had our Swift Water Rescue Team ready and had staff on hand to deal with everything,†says Jason Carriere, Irving’s emergency management coordinator. “The sand boil was just one of many emergencies we had to deal with during that period of heavy rains and flooding.â€

The Corps also informed the water departments in Dallas and Denton that depend on Lewisville Lake for drinking water that if the boil progressed, it would have to conduct an emergency draw-down of the lake to relieve the pressure.

Evacuations called off

The sandbagging worked. The boil, which had surfaced May 17, subsided in a matter of days. And the evacuations were called off. Vazquez credits the Corps’ exhaustive training programs — which emphasize that a rapid response to a sand boil can prevent piping from progressing into a breach — for his operation team’s success in dealing with the potential catastrophe.

But the troubles at the Lewisville Dam were far from over. On June 23 some of the same members of the operations team who dealt with the boil spotted another disturbing sight: a giant hole on the upstream face of the embankment, 160 feet long and 23 feet wide.

It looked as if someone had detonated a bomb. Giant boulders covering the embankment, called rip-rap, had come tumbling down, along with a section of the asphalt road along the crest of the dam.

The Corps calls it, simply, a “slide.†But there are two very different types of slides. One, a shallow slide, is typically a few feet deep to as much as 40 feet deep. The other is a deep-seated slide, typically 50 feet to 100 feet deep and sometimes extending down into the foundation of the dam.

The massive slide at the Lewisville Dam, which is not yet repaired, is adjacent to an earlier major slide that happened in 1995, suggesting to engineers instability within the embankment. And as wave after wave of pounding rainstorms sweeps across North Texas, some engineers say the new slide could develop into a deep-seated slide, threatening even the dam’s foundation.

Adrian Espinoza, a 52-year-old construction worker, had heard about “the giant hole in the side of the dam†from fellow fishermen who had finagled a way to get their bass boats launched on the lake even with the boat ramps closed by high water. Their stories about the slide sounded like fish tales to Espinoza. But when the boat ramps reopened about two months later, he decided to see for himself.

The stories, it turns out, weren’t myth. “It’s a monstrous hole that’s awfully close to the reservoir,†says Espinoza, who maneuvered his 18-foot bass boat to shore to get a closer look. “Somebody’s covered it with plastic tarps, sandbags and wooden crates. But if we get another round of heavy rain and the reservoir fills up, the dam could go.â€

The Corps maintains that the slide doesn’t pose an immediate risk of catastrophic failure. Right now, the hole doesn’t extend into the foundation. Moreover, the Corps says it has devised a way to repair the slide even if rainstorms fill the reservoir again.

The solution: a cofferdam, a watertight enclosure pumped dry to enable heavy-duty construction work below the reservoir’s waterline. The cofferdam “will prevent any further damage to the dam,†says Sarwenaj Ashraf, who was recently appointed the district’s dam safety program manager, succeeding Vazquez.

The Corps has awarded a $6.4 million contract to repair the slide. The work will begin in early January, and the repairs are expected to be completed in the spring.

Preventing a slide

Yet preventing another massive slide at the Lewisville Dam may not be as easy as fixing the last one.

For one thing, engineers say that the 13.2 million cubic yards of fine-grained soil and clay used to build the 6.2 mile-long embankment shrinks during droughts and swells during rains, reducing the slope’s shear strength. In layman’s terms, that means the embankment is brittle when it’s dry and spongy when it’s wet.

Corps engineers also say the embankment is more unstable since the May flood because cracks have spread along the 20-foot-wide crest of the dam. In fact, the Corps believes that “desiccation cracking†at the crest of the dam caused the earthen slope to collapse and slide.

The Corps says heavy rains in mid-May and early June filled the 1- to 3-inch-wide cracks, saturating the soil underneath and vastly increasing its weight. Gravity took over from there. “That mass [of saturated soil] sitting on top got heavier than the material next to it, and that’s when that mass slid,†says Ashraf.

Dramatic shrinking and swelling of the embankment during the rapid drought-to-deluge cycle may also account for another deformity that the Corps spotted on the upstream face of the dam after the May rains: a large, bowl-like depression in the slope across from Seepage Area No. 1.

The depression would be hard to spot without the bright orange cones the Corps put out along the top of the dam to mark its location and to see if it progresses into an active slide. Corps engineers say the same soil properties that make the Lewisville Dam’s embankment susceptible to slides provide a level of resiliency against catastrophic erosion through the foundation, a situation that threatens other dams around the country.

Workers deploy sandbags and tarps to temporarily prevent further erosion along a 160-foot-long slide in the Lewisville Dam. Corps engineers say the embankment is more unstable since the May flood because cracks have spread along the 20-foot-wide crest of the dam.
Workers deploy sandbags and tarps to temporarily prevent further erosion along a 160-foot-long slide in the Lewisville Dam. Corps engineers say the embankment is more unstable since the May flood because cracks have spread along the 20-foot-wide crest of the dam.
Taken together, the increased seepage, the boil, the piping, the progression of cracking, the slide, the depression and other signs of serious distress since the last flood have convinced Corps safety officials that it’s time to consider asking national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to reclassify the Lewisville Dam.

It is currently ranked as Dam Safety Action Class 2, with “very high†risk and “failure initiation foreseen.†But the Corps is weighing whether to raise this to Class 1, the category for dams that are “extremely high†risk and “critically near failure†and require immediate action to avoid catastrophe.

431,000 in harm’s way

For the last four years, while Vazquez served as the district’s dam safety program manager, avoiding catastrophe at the Lewisville Dam has been at the forefront of his mind. He studied the inundation maps and consequence data for all the district’s dams. If they failed, where would the water go? How many people would be flooded out? How many killed?

When he looked at the data for a breach at the Lewisville Dam, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It showed 431,000 people in harm’s way. The Corps has prepared maps of the inundation area and casualty estimates but won’t release them to the public on orders from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Corps also will not release a list of its top 10 high-hazard dams in the country because it might “open the public to security risks from those that could use the information to do harm,†according to a spokesman.

Standing atop the crest of the Lewisville Dam last February, his eyes fixed on the Dallas skyline, Vazquez grew silent as he thought about the catastrophic consequences of a breach. “I think about it a lot,†he says.

With a full reservoir behind it, a 65-foot-tall flood wave traveling 34 mph would quickly inundate a wide swath of Lewisville, Coppell, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas and other communities bordering the Trinity River.

The wave would sweep everything in its path — the Lewisville dump, water treatment plants, LBJ Freeway, the Bush Turnpike, Interstate 35E, the State Highway 121 Tollway, Love Field, the Hospital District, office complexes, senior citizen centers, shelters, schools, playgrounds and 53,000 other structures.

Like a tsunami, the wave would submerge downtown Dallas in roughly 50 feet of water, the Corps estimates, causing more than $21 billion in property damage, before continuing south down the Trinity River toward the Gulf of Mexico. “It would be a much bigger magnitude to the Dallas area than Hurricane Katrina was to New Orleans,†says Vazquez. “It’s a nightmare scenario.â€

Dhruv Pandya, assistant director in charge of the city of Dallas’ flood control system, peers at a photograph of the lake’s inundation area that he keeps atop his desk as a reminder of what would happen if the dam breached. “That keeps me on my toes all the time,†he says, pointing to the apocalyptic image.

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Mark, I have a patch of dollar weed (looks like round clover, assume it is dollar weed) in my St Augustine lawn. I have treated it twice with weed and feed treatment and it continues to thrive. Any thoughts? Any spray product that is appropriate here vs granule based product? Thanks!

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Mark, I have a patch of dollar weed (looks like round clover, assume it is dollar weed) in my St Augustine lawn. I have treated it twice with weed and feed treatment and it continues to thrive. Any thoughts? Any spray product that is appropriate here vs granule based product? Thanks!

 

 

Mike, I don't know where you are located. But with St Augustine there are basically two weed killing products that you can use without damaging your St Aug turf. And wouldn't you know it? Both chemical products are heat-activated. They will not work unless it's 85 or higher outside.

 

You can spray it with Atrazine but I doubt you'll get a kill unless its warm where you're at.

 

Dollar weed loves growing in moist areas and will grow up in St Aug turf in areas where it stays wet the longest. If you dial it down in that zone (watering) you'll at least slow the stuff down.

 

When it is warm enough to be effective, Atrazine is one product (which is what was in your weed/feed product you applied) and is sold under many brands. Another is Celsius WG, which you can order on Amazon. The Celsius is pretty expensive, but it works like a champ. The Atrazine is cheap but may require more than one treatment. The Celsius and Atrazine both will kill other weeds in your turf. The Celsius will kill broadleaf crabgrass while atrazine will not.

 

If you do spray, mix in a product called Surfac 820 (also available on amazon). Add it to your weedkiller/water mix. It's only function is to make your weed killer stick to the weed leaf, which will make it rainproof/waterproof and will stay there long enough to get a complete kill. Surfac is a surfactant and is relatively cheap. Makes a world of difference though.

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Mike, I don't know where you are located. But with St Augustine there are basically two weed killing products that you can use without damaging your St Aug turf. And wouldn't you know it? Both chemical products are heat-activated. They will not work unless it's 85 or higher outside.

 

You can spray it with Atrazine but I doubt you'll get a kill unless its warm where you're at.

 

Dollar weed loves growing in moist areas and will grow up in St Aug turf in areas where it stays wet the longest. If you dial it down in that zone (watering) you'll at least slow the stuff down.

 

When it is warm enough to be effective, Atrazine is one product (which is what was in your weed/feed product you applied) and is sold under many brands. Another is Celsius WG, which you can order on Amazon. The Celsius is pretty expensive, but it works like a champ. The Atrazine is cheap but may require more than one treatment. The Celsius and Atrazine both will kill other weeds in your turf. The Celsius will kill broadleaf crabgrass while atrazine will not.

 

If you do spray, mix in a product called Surfac 820 (also available on amazon). Add it to your weedkiller/water mix. It's only function is to make your weed killer stick to the weed leaf, which will make it rainproof/waterproof and will stay there long enough to get a complete kill. Surfac is a surfactant and is relatively cheap. Makes a world of difference though.

Thanks Mark, I guess I will enjoy my dollar weed until it warms up. Thanks for the info!

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