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Landscape Thread April – Time to get outside!


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April is here and it marks the real beginning of spring. It is indeed one of the busiest months on the calendar for landscapers and is an exciting time of year to be outside. Let’s jump right into this as there is much to talk about this month.

 

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FERTILIZATION

 

Go ahead and plan to fertilize now that April is here. A couple of notes for you folks out there staring at the Home Depot and Lowes shelves wondering what to buy.

 

If you have St Augustine turf, you want to buy a fertilizer or weed/feed product that is designed for use in St Augustine turf. You folks who have Zoysia or Centipede lawns, you will want to buy the St Augustine turf products as they are also safe and effective on your turf. This is important because the weed killing ingredients in Bermuda weed/feeds will have adverse effects and/or kill a St Augustine/Zoysia/Centipede lawn.

 

I’ve tried a lot of products in my time and the one I keep coming back to on the St Augustine side is Fertilome’s St Augustine Weed & Feed. It’s a slow release product that employs a high grade of Atrazine (the weed killing ingredient) and a touch of acidic content that St Augustine loves. I’ve found Scott’s BonusS to be a bit harsh.

 

Do not apply a weed/feed that says (on the label) that it can be applied to ANY turf grass. The weed killing capability in these products is practically non-existent.

 

St Augustine turf, along with Zoysia and Centipede, do not respond well to fertilizer products that are high in nitrogen. All fertilizer products have a three-number sequence that informs the buyer of the type of fertilizer inside. The first number in the sequence is always nitrogen. St Augustine responds best to fertilizer products that are 15-20 nitrogen and no higher. Products specific to St Augustine turf will have the 15-20 nitrogen content.

 

Those of you who have Bermuda turf, again you want to buy a fertilizer or weed/feed product that is made specifically for Bermuda. Avoid applying products that are made for St Augustine as they will have an adverse effect on Bermuda. Bermuda is also a turf that responds best to a higher nitrogen fertilizer, anywhere from 25 to 33 on the nitrogen. I’ve found on the retail side that Scott’s Turfbuilder is about as good as they come. There are several variations of Turfbuilder so make sure you’re only buying the version that has both fertilizer and weed killer included. Avoid buying the version with the insect killer included.

 

No matter what type of turf grass you have, read the label before you apply. Many fertilizer products will list a number of spreaders on the market on the back of the bag and will include the appropriate spreader settings for you to go by. Make sure you water immediately after applying your fertilizer.

 

Make sure to clean out your spreader after use using a water hose. Spray it down inside and out to remove the fertilizer residue that would otherwise deteriorate the plastic/metal on the spreader.

 

 

HEADS UP! SNAKES!

 

As you go back into the garden and landscape this month, make sure you look before you step, look before you reach. Snakes are out of hibernation and are moving about. The mild winter will surely have their numbers up this year.

 

Our crews typically run into one or two per week during the peak season. However, we're already seeing that number despite it being early spring.

 

 

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SPRING FLOWERS

 

I am often asked what the key to success is for having beautiful spring flowers. They all look so nice when they’re in the nursery waiting to be sold. But sometimes we get them home and a couple weeks later they begin declining. So for me, the secret (if there is one) is soil preparation.

 

Most spring flowers do not do well in our black clay soils. We have to manipulate the planting soil by mixing our native soil with other soil products, such as planting mixes, compost, and mineral supplements such as Muriate of Potash. You start by breaking up the native soil, the first 3-4 inches. Then add planting mix, compost, other ingredients that you might prefer. Mix them together well, making sure that your end result is a thick, fluffy, soil mix that rises above the surrounding soil area to provide drainage for your flowers. Once completed, you can plant. Water immediately after planting.

 

Some popular choices for annual flowers are Petunias, Begonias, Perriwinkles (vinca), Impatiens, etc. In Texas, Petunias will most often peak out by early summer and begin decline. The “Wave†Petunias will make it through a Texas summer, however. Begonias and Perriwinkles provide great staying power and blooming all summer as well.

Perennial flowers are also a popular choice for many gardeners. These types will return each year after winter dormancy.

 

There are so many perennials that do well in Texas, there are too many to list. But some popular choices include Day lilies, Gerber Daisies, Shasta Daisies, Black Foot Daisies, Purple Salvia, Autumn Sage, Homestead Verbena and Lantana. Perennials will endure Texas heat and sun much more effectively than your annual flowers.

 

MOWING SEASON BEGINS!

 

Before you give that mower its first crank of the season, make sure you’ve checked it over and provided proper maintenance. A homeowner’s mower should have its oil changed at least once a season. You should also change your spark plug and air filter (if applicable) at this time. And finally, you should sharpen the blade on your mower. If you don’t know how to do these tasks, you can have a lawnmower shop do it for you.

 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a sharp mower blade. A dull blade will “tear†grass instead of cutting it, causing stress to the plant which can be enhanced by other stresses such as heat and lack of water. A sharp blade “cuts†the grass and the plant is able to heal itself faster and more efficiently.

 

If possible, water the lawn after mowing. When you cut your lawn, the cut causes a wound to the grass. Watering the lawn helps speed up recovery and maintains growth.

 

Homeowners who mow their own lawns will typically fall into a repetitive mowing routine, meaning, they will mow the same way, same direction each time they mow. It’s actually better for your lawn if you will mix that up, reversing the way you mow every other time, mowing diagonally and then reverse diagonally and then crossing the entire lawn back and forth are some options for your mowing routine. All provide a nice, unique and clean look to your lawn.

 

For now while we’re in Spring, it’s fine to keep your mower height short. But as temperatures rise, so should your mower blade. By June, your mower blade should be set on a 3.5†cut, especially if you have St Augustine turf. We’ll go into the benefits of high turf/high temperatures later. For now, keeping the lawn short through end of April will help heat up the soil and root zone and spur growth and further emergence from dormancy.

 

 

 

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Copper Canyon Daisy in full bloom.

 

 

PLANT OF THE MONTH!
The Copper Canyon Daisy

 

While not native to Texas, the Copper Canyon Daisy ((Tagetes Lemmonii)) performs like it was meant for this state and it’s often harsh climate conditions. A native of northern Mexico and named for Copper Canyon there, this plant is so drought tolerant it could almost live without water. It is a tough plant that will grow in thin or poor soils and once established requires no watering or fertilizer.

 

While it’s flowering habit is truly a spectacle in Fall, one of its attributes is the aromatic scent its foliage provides. It smells much like spearmint and is as strong as rosemary. They will grow 3-ft high and up to 5-6 ft wide. This plant blooms when the days are shorter, so look for its show in spring and fall – but particularly fall. The flowers become so abundant that you can’t see the plant’s leaves. It prefers full sun but will grow in partial shade.

 

It is also known by other names such as Mt. Lemmon marigold, mountain marigold, and Mexican bush marigold.

It is named for John Gill Lemmon and his wife Sara, who collected the plant in southeastern Arizona in the early 1880s. Descendants of plants the Lemmons took to California were introduced into the nursery trade.

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Mark

 

How difficult is it to find the Copper Canyon Daisy?

 

 

I have not seen them in retail nurseries in DFW. However, I can get them from a wholesale nursery I deal with and can sell to you.

 

I do see them in Austin nurseries. The Natural Gardener has them as does Shoal Creek Nursery.

 

How many do you want? The 1-gallon size is readily available to me.

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I can't remember where you're located, but I'd be willing to meet you somewhere with them.

 

The place you have . . is the direct sun during the last part of the day by chance? I have one that gets only 1/3 of a day's sun, but its the last part of the day. Its done fine for me.

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Direct sun from about 11 to 3. I live in Huntsville but come to the Dallas area fairly often and could come to your place as I did once before for the horse Herb. I'm just not sure when.

 

 

Ok, well I don't get that far south. Just give me a couple days notice and I'll make sure to have them for you.

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To add on to the Landcsape Thread with something I should have included . . . 

 

You should be watering now at least twice a week. We're in the 80s again, combined with the March winds that have arrived in April this year – it can dry your landscape out quickly.

 

If you have pots, water them during or right after a windy day.

 

Wind is just as hard on a landscape as heat is. When the two combine, it can dry things out fast. This is particularly important to know if you have recently installed a new landscape. If so, you want to add some manual watering to those plants in addition to what the sprinkler system provides.

 

 

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Lots of folks will be pulling over on the shoulder of Texas highways and seizing the moment to take photos of their loved ones amidst the fabulous Texas Bluebonnets. It's become a tradition in this state.

 

However, before you make such an outing with your family, take a moment and remind that them they must watch before they step or reach while in these fields beside our highways. Snakes are out already and fields of bluebonnets provide them with concealment they want. Be careful!!

 

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Lots of folks will be pulling over on the shoulder of Texas highways and seizing the moment to take photos of their loved ones amidst the fabulous Texas Bluebonnets. It's become a tradition in this state.

 

However, before you make such an outing with your family, take a moment and remind that them they must watch before they step or reach while in these fields beside our highways. Snakes are out already and fields of bluebonnets provide them with concealment they want. Be careful!!

 

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My daughter stepped on a cactus, so watch out for those as well! My son then retaliated against the cactus by throwing a large rock at it, but my daughter's right ankle took the punishment. Family pictures always a painful process with my family!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mark, please refresh my memory when it is OK to trim Crepe Myrtles.  Thanks!

 

 

You can "trim" them now if you like, but that would be if you're trimming them like a regular tree. If you intend to knub them, then it's too late to do that. You would want to do that in February, before they come out with their spring growth.

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