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March Landscapes – Comes the rain, we must drain

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The Rains are Coming, Is Your Property Ready For It?


I’m going to talk about drainage this month. I’m doing this now because the spring rains are just over the horizon now and hopefully talking about it now will help you later in the month and beyond.


Some may be thinking – “why do I need to read about drainage? I’ve been in my house 5 years and have had no problems.†While that may be true, the only certainty in life – and landscapes – is change. Drainage problems can be caused by a number of things but most often its simply time and changing terrain or added/removed features in the terrain. Nearby construction, erosion, all types of things can change the way water behaves, and where it goes.


For instance, I developed a drainage problem on the south side of my home about five years ago. This happened after I had been in the home about eight years. But suddenly one rainy day, I have a lake on the south side.

After investigating the “why,†I discovered that my neighbor had moved some things around in his back yard that was now forcing water over to my property. So just like that, I needed to do something to correct the problem.







Before you build a drainage system, you need to closely study what benefits you can gain from one and build it accordingly. You can tie-in gutter downspouts directly into a drainage system, which reduces the amount of surface water that needs to be collected and drained away.


By installing a drainage system you can improve your turf’s health, improve landscape plants and trees’ health, reduce the amount of mud tracked back into the home, and in general be able to enjoy more of your property.


For more serious drainage issues, a section(s) of perforated pipe may be used to create a “french drain†whereby the perfed pipe is sunk into gravel and collects water that is forced by gravity to drain into it. The pipe is covered with a cotton sock which the water is easily able to drain through, but keeps the silt/soil/mud out of the pipe. These types of drains can be created where they are not visible from the surface.


You will want to consult with you landscape professional to best determine what type of drain your property would require.



A clogged section of black corrugated drain pipe.





The most common drain pipe you see used is the corrugated black plastic pipe. They are installed on new homes everywhere and are sold in many hardware stores. And I am here to tell you they are complete trash. We at Green Thumb will not install them.


They will work semi-well for a short period of time. However, they crush easily under the surface, sometimes with simple foot traffic. And when they crush a blockage of the drain begins. Later, someone will spend a great deal of time trying to located the blockage to correct the problem. This plastic also rots fairly fast and due to its corrugated design, it naturally collects soil and debris in those corrugated pockets.


What we prefer to use is the 4†PVC (both solid and perfed) and 6†PVC when the situation calls for it. It will last many years and is far easier to clean and maintain. It is also smooth inside so debris doesn’t get hung up so easily inside the drain.






Drain boxes are used for central collection of water and provide a number of benefits. They allow for better routine maintenance by making more sections of pipe accessible for you. Debris and trash also naturally collect in the basin from the flow going through it. The grates can be removed for this purpose. Metal grates are available and recommended for driveway drains while plastic grates are often a better option for drains located in turf.


In some cases, a small 4†surface drain is sufficient and can be installed by simply putting a “T†in the line.

Do not underestimate the value of a drain system. They can save your home and belongings from disaster. Have your property evaluated now if you think you have an issue. That way something can be done to remedy it before the spring rains come.





Don’t forget, for about three weeks this month we’re all going to hate Live Oaks. lol This is the time when they will shed their leaves while growing new ones. They are never without leaves this way. But those of you with Live Oaks know the sheer volume of leaves produced by them can be overwhelming.


It grows almost everywhere in this state. It is treasured not only because of its looks, but because it’s an evergreen and can be used as a year-round visual barrier.


For 11 months a year, I love this tree. But during the month of March, the Live Oak molting season takes place. This is when the tree replaces each and every leaf. Slowly. Gradually. Over weeks.


Live Oak leaves are not very large. They are rather small in comparison with other Oak leaves. Because of this, they are able to finagle their way into the darndest places.


The molting usually takes about three weeks to complete, sometimes four weeks. It’s a frustrating experience because the leaves can pile up fast, especially if your Live Oaks are large and mature. It seems only hours after you’ve cleaned them all up, the leaves begin accumulating again.


Nevertheless, it is very IMPORTANT that you keep the leaves picked up. They can become a fire hazard, clog up drains, provide habitat for emerging insects, and slow down the growth and emergence of lawn turf from dormancy.





It sure looks like spring outside. Everything you see says “SPRING IS HERE.†However, it is March 1 as I type this. We’re not safe from freeze until April 1 here in North Texas, a little earlier farther south. Mark my words . . . old man winter will make a final appearance before he goes away.


That said, do not be tempted to plant spring flowers early. One freeze and your investment is gone or severely damaged. Same goes for most veggies for you gardeners.


Again, do not be tempted . . to fertilize your lawn until April 1 or after. While daytime temperatures may seem quite warm, we’re still having cool nights which can produce ideal conditions for fungus. When you add Nitrogen (from fertilizer) to that mix, the fungus goes crazy. So hold off if you can until that April 1 safe date.




Right now is a great time to prepare your beds for spring plantings. Take your planting areas and remove what clay or undesirable soil you can and replace with compost and a planting mix containing some perlite.


Many planting mixes contain tree material/waste that is not broken down. Once you plant using this mix, it will draw in nitrogen to help break down the tree waste in the planting mix. Unfortunately, this robs the plant of the valuable nutrient nitrogen.


To counter this, mix healthy doses of compost into your planting mix so as to provide more nutrients to compensate for the loss of natural nitrogen. I highly recommend cotton burr compost but there are numerous types that are great to plant with.







Since everything seems to be coming out early this year, you’ll notice that the Redbud trees have already started or are finishing their blooming period. They are spectacular, are they not? I love them so much that I planted a Forest Pansy Redbud in my own landscape a while back.


– Those of you who have redbuds that were planted in just the last year or so, yours may be a little later coming out (blooming) this year. The more mature ones are already going but the young ones are usually late.


– We don’t have a lot of Cherry Trees in Texas, but they are blooming where you see them here and there. And they are just awesome, especially the weeping cherries.


– The Texas Mountain Laurels, which grow naturally throughout Austin and the Hill Country, will be blooming early this year as well so don’t be surprised if they’re already going in the southern half of the state. They produce grape-like clusters of blooms that are medium blue in color. If you rub your hands on the blooms, they will smell like grapes.


– I am seeing some Pear Trees start to bud out. I expect they’ll be in full display in the next few days. This is the time when you remember what a great idea it was to plant a Pear Tree.


Believe it or not, I am hearing that Cannas are blooming in Houston right now. Thats crazy.


While this is crazy warm weather, its not as strange as it has been in the past. DFW has seen 100 degree temperatures in February in the recent past. We didn’t even get close to that this year.


A friend of mine who was a self-described “Texas climatologist†once told me that while we (Texas) may go long periods of time with either rain or drought, we almost always recover and it almost always comes in big doses that end up being damaging, i.e. floods after droughts, etc. While we’re not anywhere close to a drought right now, we have been rather dry for the past three months. I fear we’ll catch up fast within the next one or two.



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Hornsports staff . . . some members and guests are contacting me offsite to get the landscape thread. For some reason, they're unable to view that particular thread each month, but can view any other thread on the site.


Popdaddy has been having this problem for some time and had to PM me for me to copy and paste it to him.


I'd appreciate it if you could help them with this problem as it seems to be creating some frustration on their end.






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Are there any special requests as far as topics go for the April landscape thread I'm about to write?




Could you address your beliefs on synthetic fertilizer vs organic.  Also since most of the orgainic products have much lower N content, does that mean you must use considerably more of the product & if so how much more?  How about mixing the two?

thanks for your continued contribution.


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