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August Landscapes – Starting that new project!


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When is the best time to start that new landscape?

RIGHT NOW

 

I am often asked “when is the best time to install a new landscape?†What better way to answer that question on a large scale than by starting the August column with that question? When I consider when the best time to install, I look at the hottest, most stressful time of summer and try to create the largest window of time I can between install date and that hottest part of summer. That would mean that the end of summer (August) would be the beginning of prime time to install landscapes.

 

So how do you get the ball rolling? First, call a landscaper and schedule a meeting with him/her. If you don’t have a referral on one, you may want to choose to have three meetings with three different companies so you can have additional options. Before your meeting, make sure you have collected your thoughts and ideas so that you can share them with the landscaper during your meeting. If there are certain plants/trees that you would like in your landscape, make that known. If there are things you’d rather not see, make that known also.

 

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Your landscaper will walk your landscape with you and share his own ideas. This is valuable because so many times this is the first time he/she is seeing your place, so you’re getting valuable first impression feedback and will be left with lots of ideas to think about. At that point, the landscaper will go back and design your landscape, create the estimate, and send it to you.

 

You have a right to request changes to whatever plan you receive. That may sound fundamentally like a no-brainer, yet there are landscape designers out there who create designs that they refuse to alter or change. You should ask up front if there will be any design fees associated with your landscape plan. Some are free while others are not. You should not distinguish the two, as free designs and purchased designs are seldom much different in quality.

 

The estimate portion of the landscape plan package should be itemized. You should not give a go ahead to an estimate that simply reads “New front landscape – $2,500.†If you’re not provided with an itemized estimate, request one. It is good to know what you materials you’re paying for and the quantity. That also allows you to see labor costs separately.

 

If there will be any digging involved with your project, make sure the landscaper intends to have your utility lines marked prior to beginning the project. It is the law and it will help keep you from having interrupted services. There is no charge to have all utility lines marked and is made convenient because consumers can simply call 1-800-DIGTEST to submit the request. However, the landscaper will take care of that chore for you as part of the project.

 

Once installed, a new landscape must be given some extra attention. You can’t just set you sprinkler system and call it a day. I advise clients to put their eyes on the plants and trees every day for at least the first month. That way, if any of the plants take a turn for the worse, the landscaper can be called out to potentially treat/correct and resolve the issue. If a plant looks thirsty, give it extra water.

 

Very few, if any, landscape companies will offer a warranty on plants and trees. When they arrive with your plant stock, they’ve simply saved you the trouble of selecting and buying the plants and trees yourself. Landscapers typically buy from wholesale nurseries and growers which allows them to sell them to you for less than retail, in most cases. Nurseries and growers do not warranty their stock.

 

 

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The Lawn in August

 

August brings us the dog days of summer, but for the landscape its a key month, particularly with the lawn. So this month, we’ll examine each of those items one by one to hopefully end up on the right side of happy landscaping when the month is over.

 

All of the tireless work put into the lawn can be taken down in days this month as Chinch bugs will be making their annual appearance this month. In fact, they’re early this year, we’re already running into some of their damage in lawns around Dallas-Ft Worth.

 

Chinch bugs prefer a dry, hot environment so they’ll seek out places that fit that criteria, such as near concrete curbs, sidewalks, driveways, or stone bordering – all materials that will absorb and retain heat during a summer day. So naturally, this is where they will feed, eventually extracting all of the moisture from sections of turf. This will turn the turf totally brown and depleted of moisture in small sections, eventually growing to larger sections as the colony grows in size.

 

Other than observing their damage, how can I know when I have Chinch bugs present? There’s an old trick that is true and reliable and will enable you to detect the presence of Chinch bugs. You can take a used coffee can, . . does not need to be a big one, and eliminate the ends (top and bottom) using a can opener. Sink one end of the can into the turf where you suspect the Chinch bugs are located. Push it into the turf about a quarter-inch. Then, fill the can about half way or so with soapy water. If Chinch bugs are present, they will float to the top in seconds.

 

Products such as Bifen or Triazamide can be used to kill Chinch bugs. While it may not be necessary to treat your entire lawn, you do want to treat well beyond the dead areas in all directions.

 

Treatments this month

 

Due to the mild winter we had a few months back, everything in the landscape seems to be a step ahead of pace this year. So we respond by treating our lawns for things a little sooner than we normally would. I recommend that you get your third pre emergent application of the season down in the second and third weeks of this month. I also recommend that you go ahead and put down your third fertilizer (or weed/feed) treatment down at the same time.

 

I am no climatologist, but knowing Texas weather trends only requires that one live here long enough. lol I believe we’re in for an early fall and a colder than usual fall. So getting the pre emergent and fertilization down early will pay dividends for your lawn. Both products are time release in most cases, so early application won’t hurt anything if I’m wrong on the timing/early fall prediction.

 

What is pre emergent anyway? Pre emergent serves one purpose only – to sterilize soil so that weed seeds cannot germinate. It will also stop winter rye grass from germination so do not apply if you intend to sew winter rye in October.

 

Speaking of Fall . . .

 

If you’re like me, you really enjoy and appreciate the colors of fall. Now is the time to start feeding your Maples, Pistache, Red Oaks, so that your fall color will be the best it can be. You also want to make sure they get plenty of water this time of year as fall color is not only dictated by climate conditions, but also the amount of water and nutrients its taken in during the previous weeks/months.

 

During February, well before the trees and perennials have come out of dormancy, I begin feeding them. I want them to have the nutrients they need as they come out of dormancy and then of course, throughout spring. The stronger specimens you can create through spring will dictate how well they perform during the hot part of summer.

 

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What to feed? I like using water soluble products that aren’t likely to burn or cause stress. One example is Jack’s 10-30-20, a granular product that is mixed with water and can be poured around the base of a tree or plant. Regularly applying this way will make great things happen. You can even feed during the heat of summer, albeit at a reduced ratio. You can also add other products, such as Superthrive, a plant hormone supplement widely available. You can even combine the two products in the same mixture. You can also add Epsom Salts from time to time to get some extra lushness in your plants/trees.

 

However, an elderly lady once advised me to use “manure tea.†Manure tea is simply taking a few dried cow patties and putting them in a bucket of water. Let it sit in direct sun for a couple days then pour around the base of your plants. I highly recommend this method as its helped many of my trees grow at an optimum rate. If you have pets, make sure your bucket of tea is not accessible to them as they will sometimes want to drink when its hot and you’re not looking.

 

 

Bird Baths

 

Make sure you are regularly changing the water in your bird baths. We want to try to deter the ability of mosquitos to reproduce in standing water and regularly changing the water can help prevent that. You may also want to clean your bird bath this month as in most cases, algae and fungi form on the bottom of the bowls because of abundant sun/heat/water in one place. You can use bleach to clean them pretty effectively, but you want to make sure you rinse it out thoroughly to remove as much bleach residue as possible.

 

And on that note, I’ll open up the forum for questions. If you have one, simple or complicated, fire away!

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Thanks Mike.

 

I'm not having any luck getting the July thread replaced with this one. I don't know if this means HS doesn't want this feature any more or what. So this may be my last one, I don't know.

Thanks Mark, I appreciate your presence on the board. I consulted multiple arborists on my carpenter ant issue and they all advised that the ants were not dangerous to the trees. I decided to attack them on my own and I have been successful thus far. I have a wooden half barrel decorative planter which I found out the ants absolutely loved! That and a dead spot on a tree harbored the nest and I blitzed them with the DM and spray and I haven't seen them in about a week. I need to clear out the area and then make sure the colony is really gone; I read it can be hard to get the queen if she is deep in a nest and may need more treatments. Trees look healthy so the arborists said that no need to call them unless that changes. Thanks for your input, consulting the arborist was helpful.
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Thanks Mark, I appreciate your presence on the board. I consulted multiple arborists on my carpenter ant issue and they all advised that the ants were not dangerous to the trees. I decided to attack them on my own and I have been successful thus far. I have a wooden half barrel decorative planter which I found out the ants absolutely loved! That and a dead spot on a tree harbored the nest and I blitzed them with the DM and spray and I haven't seen them in about a week. I need to clear out the area and then make sure the colony is really gone; I read it can be hard to get the queen if she is deep in a nest and may need more treatments. Trees look healthy so the arborists said that no need to call them unless that changes. Thanks for your input, consulting the arborist was helpful.

 

 

I'm glad you did. I always listen closely to what they have to say, hopefully to learn whatever I can.

 

Another option you have is employing some orange oil. Take a generic spray bottle, mix one teaspoon of orange oil with water. It will look like milk. Spray directly into the area you suspect the queen may be hiding.

 

Ants cannot withstand orange oil. We dilute it to protect the tree or whatever plant may be close by or involved directly. But even the vapors/fumes from the orange oil will drive out ants. All kinds of ants. Orange oil runs about $15 a bottle. A bottle will last about a year for the average homeowner. You can use it indoors, too. It has the scent of orange, of course. Do not get the product on your skin as it will burn. Wash it immediately if you do. But otherwise, orange oil is harmless to people and pets. Deadly to ants. It literally cooks them.

 

Carpenter ants are a threat, but not nearly the threat that termites are. They can cause the same type of damage, but it takes carpenter ants about 10 times longer to cause the same kind of damage.

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SHA, thanks for posting your monthly insight. I had been wondering why a small part of my lawn was brown even though I watered. Must be Chinch bugs. Luckily I work for a Ranch supply company and we have Biffen. Thanks again!

 

 

Since you're going to buy the product any way, once you do and have treated your lawn take a look at any Crape Myrtles you may have. If they have the white crust on the limbs or tiny bugs along the mid to lower sections of the trunk – spray with your Bifen. That is Scale and Aphids. Bifen will knock them out.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Just a reminder . . . Switch your sprinkler settings so that your cycles will begin during the morning instead of the evening. You want to get this switch made by Labor Day.

 

Doing so will help prevent fungus from appearing in your lawn this fall. In Texas, we have hot late summers all the while the nights are becoming longer and cooler as Fall approaches. For example, sunset today was at 8:14 pm here in DFW. By this time next week, sunset will be 8:04 p.m. At the same time, the sun is retreating back to the south in the day's sky. So not all of your lawn and landscape are still receiving direct or as much sunlight.

 

LABOR DAY – BEGIN 5 a.m. SPRINKLER CYCLES!

 

 

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