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April Landscapes – Let The Show Begin!


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Hello Growing Season!

 

April is here and that’s a big deal in the landscape business. Everyone wants to get outside and enjoy the mild weather and get their landscapes in order. And that’s what we’ll talk about in this month’s edition of the Landscape Column.

 

Let’s start with those of you who have spent the winter inside or have avoided the landscape through the winter until now. I would suspect you have a major clean up due.

 

Get rid of those leaves! You’ll see piles of leaves blown into corners of the landscape, around your shrubs and low growing perennials. They have to go. While it would seem they make a great mulch, they aren’t much to look at and are great habitat for snakes.

 

If you haven’t mowed by now, do so. Your first mow of the season should be a short cut. We do this to enable the sunlight to hit the soil surface and warm it up. This will induce the turf grass to come out of dormancy. While some of your turf may already be out of dormancy, a short cut will get the rest of it going.

 

Before you do that first mow, get your mower blade sharpened. Change your mower’s oil and spark plug. Do those three things and you should be ready to go.

 

Shrubs need to be trimmed. Its quite common for most types of shrubs to abandon a branch here and there and die it off. Go ahead and trim those off so the shrub can focus itself on growing new stuff. Ditto for your trees.

– Remember – if you have an Oak tree, do not trim it until after June. They are vulnerable to Oak Wilt disease during this time and Oak Wilt is actively pollinated in the air during this time. Trimming them creates entry points for the disease.

 

– You can now put your hummingbird feeders out. We discourage having them out when there is a threat of freeze as that will kill hummingbirds. Hummingbirds will often times stick around if their food source is plentiful.

 

Time to Fertilize!

 

Part of getting things in order in the landscape is feeding your turf for the first time this spring. As of you April 1, its okay to proceed with that. If you’re in DFW and fudged by applying in March, you should have waited.

 

One of the things I go by (besides a calendar) are the night time temperatures. When they are consistently above 65 degrees, we can fertilize. In North Texas, that hasn’t been the case until now. Fertilizing early can cause stunted growth and lawn fungus. Wait until your turf is actually growing before you put it down. By April 1 each year, St Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda normally begin growing.

 

I was recently asked to explain the differences in organic fertilizer compared to chemical fertilizers.

An organic fertilizer must first break down before its nutrients are available for your turf to use. The most popular is corn gluten, because it contains about 7-9% nitrogen and can be applied using a common spreader. It may take weeks for the product to break down enough that the turf can put it to use. The pro here is the entire contents will break down and become part of the soil and improve it.

 

Chemical fertilizers are most often sprayed upon a “carrier†pellet. These pellets allow us to spread the product using a spreader. The chemical is dissolved from the pellet upon contact with water and can immediately be used by the turf. Some products are designed to dissolve slowly, hence the term “time release†used in its marketing. The objective there is to disperse a little bit over a longer period of time, which is most often three months. Other products are water-based, meaning they will dissolve more thoroughly upon contact with water and is not considered a time-released product. Those often last only a month.

 

Another primary difference in the two types is the organic fertilizer is low in nitrogen (7-9) while chemical varieties can be as high as 35. With fertilizer, too much is always a bad thing. Stay with the ratio recommended on the back of the bag of fertilizer. Adjust your spreader accordingly.

 

My advice is – if you’re going to go organic, stay organic. Organic principles dictate that everything you do must be in harmony with everything else you’re doing in the landscape. Spraying weeds with a weed killer won’t disrupt your organic harmony, at least not that I’ve found. There are no organic answers though for treating grub worms or chinch bugs.

 

On the chemical side, it is important to stick to the recommended ratios and apply at the correct times. April 1 is merely the first of three fertilizations during the year. The other two are in June and late August. We do not endorse a fourth application in the fall, as dormant turf does not require feeding.

 

I’d like to emphasize that there is such a thing as too much on the chemical side. You can have no more than one application every 90 days. No sooner. Too much fertilizer can cause fungus or stunt growth or if its warm enough, burn turf.

 

Be careful not to get lawn fertilizer into your beds. If necessary, apply by hand near beds as to not get the product near bedding plants. Also, any fertilizer that gets overcast onto cement surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks, etc., will stain the cement/concrete. The product should be blown back into the lawn and off those concrete surfaces.

 

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Periwinkles or “Vinca.â€

 

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Begonias

 

 

April Flowers

 

One of the more popular questions I hear this time of year is what type of annual flowers would be best to plant. That always depends on the criteria of the homeowner.

 

For example, if you’re looking for a big splash but only for a short period of time – go with Petunias. Petunias are great for this purpose as they will continue to bloom through early summer. The heat of summer will knock them down, however. But for a spring time display that all the neighbors will talk about, I highly recommend you start with Petunias. They’re also great when you have a special occasion to “dress up†for, such as family visitors. And they’re usually available throughout the summer in nurseries.

 

If your primary focus is keeping expenses to a minimum and need flowers to last the summer, there are two options I can recommend. Periwinkles would be the first option as they are very durable and are champion bloomers. They do need to be cut back from time to time, but they will stay with you all summer.

 

Another option would be Begonias. They aren’t as flashy, but what they lack for individually they more than make up for collectively. They can be very showy when planted in close and in mass or when combined with something taller, such as a Tropical Hibiscus. All they really need is a soft, organic and aerated planting soil, sun, and water.

 

Prepping your bed is the most important aspect of your flowers. Break up your soil, then pour some fresh planting mix over it (in abundance). Then mix the two together and start planting!

 

Contractor locator services

 

There are some things going on within the landscape industry – from outside the landscape industry, that are becoming detrimental to the industry and it's markets.

 

What I'm about to describe are more or less scams, an attempt to put themselves between YOU and any landscape service you might be seeking in the name of making a buck on you. Angie's List, Home Advisor, and several others have popped up on the scene in the last 10 years. So what do they truly offer you?

 

Supposedly, they're to be able to seek out the best of the best in order to remove hassle from your lives when seeking these contractors. But are they?

 

I was contacted on behalf of my landscape company by several of these services. All they really wanted from us was some basic information. No pictures. No referrals. No testimonials. No visits to project sites. Nothing. With the limited amount of information they requested, how could you even make an educated guess at the task of doing the "leg work" for potential customers?

 

Another service has recently moved into the DFW area within the last two years. All they do is act as a broker, obtaining people who want lawn service and then going out and contracting various lawn services to provide lawn service to them. They take a percentage of each service (which means the price goes up). They are eager to refer our service and have begged and pleaded for us to participate with them – yet they know absolutely nothing about us.

 

I would recommend that those seeking lawn service or landscape services – go by the tried and true method – real life referrals from people you know. With that you get an example of the work from a real customer (someone you know), real feedback and critique, and you're likely dealing with a company which lives and dies by the quality of their work. It's hard to go wrong there.

 

 

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Common Purslane

It can’t be a weed! lol

 

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One of the “plants†that some call a weed in Texas is Purslane. It grows here naturally and is incredibly resilient. It can grow in the craziest of places, most often in the nooks and crannies of concrete seams as well as the lawn.

 

Early on during my career, a friend of mine from Mexico laughed when he noticed that we were spraying this “weed.†He explained that Purslane is a very popular plant in Mexico and is used quite often in salads. It’s leaves have a crunchy texture and a lightly sour taste.

 

It also contains more Vitamin A than all the other green, leafy vegetables that we commonly find at the supermarket. For those concerned with heart health, Pursaline is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. It also contain protein and carbs, so its great for those who watch their diets.

 

You can harvest this plant a little bit at a time, so that the plant continues to produce for you throughout the season. Its cousin, Portulaca, is sold in most nurseries and is valued for its flowers and drought tolerance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm battling annual bluegrass (pua annua) in my Tif bermuda lawn. Any recommendations on controlling that crap. It seems to spread quickly

 

 

There are about 80 varieties of Poa Annua. You can have anywhere from 10-20 different types in one lawn at the same time. So yes, this is nasty stuff.

 

We spray it with SpeedZone with some success. Any product that uses R4D as the weed killing agent will take most of it down.

 

Poa Annua doesn't like heat, so it will begin to fade away as temperatures get hotter.

 

In the meantime, make sure you're doing at least three applications of pre emergent per year, and at the right times. That will go far in preventing the little eruptions of growth. Also, you may need to mow your lawn even before your Tif comes out of dormancy. If you let the stuff seed out (which takes about two weeks), then it will multiply in your lawn and your mower will actually assist in this. Gotta mow and not let it seed out.

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I had always thought I had crabgrass, which I probably still do. But, I've now found out it is rescue grass. What is the best way to control it within my lawn? 

 

 

Celsius WG is the product we use. However, you really can't use it until temperatures are consistently above 80-85 and not so cool at night. The active ingredient is heat activated.

 

You can get on amazon and some other websites. It is expensive, but goes a long way. 

 

For a more effective spray/kill, you will want to combine with a surfactant in your tank. The surfactant will hold the chemical on the weed, making it difficult to wash or wipe off, giving you a more thorough kill. Surfac 820 is one good product on the market and you can get on amazon.

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