So it’s a Saturday morning; the long work week has gotten you all twisted. Spilling the morning coffee; feeling frustrated, you have an urge to get outside and vent. You stumble out through the garage and haphazardly reach for those old loppers hanging amongst spider webs on the wall. You don’t know what your doing, you just know something needs to be hacked. Walking out in the yard with the loppers in hand, you scour over the plants and trees in the landscape with ill intent. Snipping, lunging, lopping without regard. You start talking to yourself, sweating.

You turn the corner; something touches your shoulder. Your taken off-guard. It’s your Crape Myrtle! It glistens in the sunlight, with its unmistakable smooth bark and arching branches.  smirk, your fingers tighten around the handles. Your hands are now sweating and you walk over, slowly towards that taunting evil branch. You anticipate; widening the loppers as you approach. Fellow greenery whispers in the wind… NOOOOOOO!

If this is you or someone you may know; this is a form of Crape MURDER.

Help is available. Fontaine Landscaping, in Holly Springs, NC has opened up a national help line on our YouTube channel for those affected that need help with their landscape. http://www.youtube.com/c/Fontainelandscaping

Watch the Crape Murder trailer; with the full length DIY to follow this Fall 2016.

 

januaryIt’s January. Yeah, that January. The month where it’s cold, there’s very little green outside, and you dream of summer days. Don’t despair though. There are actually things you can be doing for your yard and landscape, and there are plants that do bloom.

DSC_0067Believe it or not, you can enjoy winter blooming perennials such as hellebores, rosemary and camellias. Yes, there are plants that bloom during the colder season. While trees may be bare, and leaves brown, you still can find color in your landscape. If you don’t have blooming plants, you may have plants with berries, and the red ones really pop against the brown of the season.

The cooler weather is also a good time to prune most plants/trees/shrubs. Do not prune azalea, dogwood, forsythia, redbud and rhododendron as they should be pruned after they bloom, since they set blooms in the fall. (White spirea should also be pruned right after it blooms in the spring, and even now you may see some blooms on the plant.) Almost anything that blooms after June 1, with the exception of oakleaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars, can be pruned safely now.

Big TreeDid you know that January is a good time to plant new shrubs and trees? In fact, the winter months when trees are dormant are excellent times to plant. You will need to be careful that you do not plant them too deep or with too much soil amendment. It’s a great time for you to take a look and evaluate your landscape. Remove unattractive plants and replace them with others that you prefer. You should also browse garden catalogs for the coming season to make plans for future outdoor projects.

If you are planning on planting new bulbs, trees, and shrubs in the spring, or even laying sod, you should get a head start by getting your soil tested through the NC Extension Service. Results take a few weeks so the sooner you submit the sample, the sooner you get the results. This way you will be ready come spring, preventing delay of your new plant installations.

Winter grassCool season turf, such as fescue, is active during the winter months. However, grasses such as Bermuda and other warm season turf, is dormant. This doesn’t mean you can’t run a mower over it. In fact, a dry winter day is a good time to mow a dormant, warm-season lawn (if there is no frost, of course). Besides this grooming the lawn and removing fallen leaves and pine needles, it also allows you to inspect your yard for winter weeds. It’s best to control these weeds by spraying when the weather warms in spring.

You can and should still water your outdoor plants. Make sure to do so just before a cold snap to help plants survive bitter temperatures. For your indoor plants, many of them are in a semi-dormant state. This means you should not fertilize them and they require less watering.

Replacing, adding, or refreshing mulch is a perfect project for the winter. It helps keep your plants warm and makes your landscape look clean, especially now that there is less foliage to create a screen.

cardinalIf you love watching wildlife, you should keep your bird feeder well stocked with seed and your suet fresh. There are also other treats you can put outside to attract and feed local birds, including peanuts. Just make sure your feeder isn’t easy access for squirrels.

autumn landscape mainIt’s mid Fall and there is still much you can be doing for your yard. Just because it’s colder and leaves are falling doesn’t mean it’s time to ignore your landscape. By keeping up on your yard maintenance, and planning ahead for next year, your outdoor space will continue to look good year-round.

bulbsNovember is an especially good time to plant your spring bulbs. While these plants are referred to as spring-blooming, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses can actually start blooming as early as January. The plants do best where they do not get mid-day sun, making them a great plant for around the base of trees.

If you are planning a flower bed for spring, you will want to do a soil test first. It’s not an immediate turn-around, so the sooner you do it, the sooner you get the results and can prep your soil for planting.

AppleDo you have any fruit trees on your property? If you do, remove any mummified fruits then rake up and dispose of any leaves and branches. They can harbor disease over winter.

Fescue and other cool-season grass lawns should receive their third application of fertilizer. As the name indicates, cool-season grasses do the majority of their growing in the cooler weather, generally between September and June. This is why you should fertilize in the fall and winter and not in the summer. DO NOT fertilize warm-season grasses this late in the season. You can actually harm it by stimulating it to break its dormancy during a warm spell then causing it damage when the temps drop again.

PHOTO/Becky Griffin

PHOTO/Becky Griffin

If you do have warm-season grass and you noticed a fluffy, dandelion-like weed in your lawn during the spring to fall, you may need to treat your turf for trampweed. It’s a common weed in South Carolina, but it is starting to make appearances here in North Carolina according to the NC State Cooperative Extension. You can contact your local extension for advice and a plan of attack. Fescue and cool-season lawns should be treated for this weed in February.

Another lawn weed to treat for is wild garlic and onion. If your number of weeds is low, you can always pull this grass so long as you make sure to remove the bulbs and bublets, otherwise they will regrow. You can also use a trowel and hand dig them out of the turf. Regular mowing won’t kill the weed off, but can prevent it from seeding. There are no preemergence herbicides, only postemergence, and even those will need multiple applications to get the weed under control.

hansen irrig clockHave an irrigation system? Now is the time to winterize it and shut it down before the first freeze. Water will need to be drained from the pump and any water in the system will need to be removed, usually done by pumping compressed air to force all remaining water out. This is very important as any remaining water can freeze in the system causing a crack in the pump casing. Rainfall is usually plentiful for your turf’s needs this time of year, and if you water your lawn, you risk freezing it and that will cause it damage.

leavesDon’t slack on the leaf removal. There are many options for you when it comes to where to put those leaves. You can compost them, mulch them, till them into your plant beds, place them in the woody area behind your house, or bag them. Removing the leaves is crucial for your turf’s health as it deprives it from much needed sunlight, air, water, and nutrients. The leaves also become a breeding ground for fungi and insects. If you plan to mulch the leaves, don’t let the carpet of leaves become too thick or they won’t be shredded evenly.

There is no reason why your turf can’t be happy and healthy during the fall and winter as long as you take proper care of it.

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You have a light on the front of your house and the back. That’s enough, right? For some, maybe, but for those who want more out of their landscape and use of the outdoors, lighting is a very important thing! Not only is outdoor landscape lighting a great safety feature, it also enhances your home’s architectural features and adds a sense of drama to your landscape.

Do you have an outdoor area that gets no use when the sun goes down? This is where good lighting comes in handy. Obviously a flood light will illuminate a large area, but perhaps you’d like something more intimate? By adding lights to your deck posts, you can create a great place for dining and late night hanging out. Why should the dark send your friends home when the conversation is just getting started? And if you have a pool, not only would the lights be a safety feature, but also a way to extend the use of it well into the night. (If you’re a parent, when will you get use of it other than after the kids are in bed!)

Pool Lighting

 

Lefort 0487 with pool (Medium)

Let’s talk boundary lighting. If you find that your friends and family tend to stay close to the house, you probably have some dark spots out in the yard. By adding lights to your property’s boundary area, you expand your yard’s usefulness and will draw people further away from the house. This is especially helpful if you have another seating area in your yard, such as a pergola and bench or gazebo.

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If you have invested in a landscape design and installation, you should get the most bang for your buck. By adding lights that highlight trees and plants, you can make the most of your landscaping at all times of night and day. Instead of staring at drapes or blinds, or out a black window, wouldn’t it be nice to see your yard while having dinner or relaxing in your living room? (Do keep in mind though that you will not want too much light to seep into bedrooms, so plan your outdoor lighting accordingly.)

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Of course there’s always the aesthetic value that outdoor landscape lighting brings. Dramatic lighting can increase the appeal of certain areas of your landscape. You can focus on a fountain or pond, highlighting the water’s movement. Plants with interesting shapes, such as “weeping” branches, or colorful flowers bathed in light will bring more value to your investment. The illumination further makes your house stand out by boosting its curb appeal at night.

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It goes without saying that landscape lighting is one of the best security and safety installations you can do. By lighting up usually dark areas of your yard, you prevent prowlers and intruders from having a place to hide. A well-lit area is no friend to someone who wants to break in unnoticed. Lit pathways not only look good, but they decrease the chance of someone tripping on them. One thing a homeowner does not want is a friend or neighbor breaking an ankle on his or her property!

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With many options out there, choices can be overwhelming. To help you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Where are the dark areas of my yard?
  2. Where would I like friends and family to spend time outdoors at night?
  3. What are potential hazards for my friends, family and visitors?
  4. What would I like a focal point to be in my nighttime landscape?
  5. What architectural features of my home would I like to highlight at night?

Topdressing consists of applying a layer of soil, sand, compost, or a mixture thereof to turf grass. Top dressing is applied in layers ranging from 1/16 – 1/2 inch at a time, generally once every growing season. Lawns require topdressing to improve our clay based soils and maintain a uniform surface, which is helpful for drainage. Often times, these materials act as a soil amendment as well and are a practical method for leveling out dips and ruts.

Other benefits of top dressing include…

  • Excellent for drought conditions, and acts like a mulch to help retain moisture
  • Ideal for poor soils lacking in essential nutrients and organic matter
  • Helps diseased lawns by promoting soil organisms that fight plant disease
  • Supports seeding by ensuring good seed-to-soil contact while retaining moisture
  • Helps to control and reduce thatch by producing new soil through accelerated thatch decomposition
  • Composted top dressing provides nutrients and helps soil retain and release nutrients
  • Improves the turf root system and aids in improving poor soil structure

Ever take a shovel to your lawn or plant bed to plant that gorgeous new shrub you bought and the shovel actually ricochets off the ground and almost bounces back at you?  Welcome to clay soil, a drainage and root system’s worst nightmare.

Getting familiar with the soil you have and improving it is crucial to obtaining a lush and lasting landscape.

The soil’s makeup and its pH level will dictate how your particular plant or turf performs. Some plants like acidic soil and some plants can thrive in clay, unfortunately most plants do not thrive when the pH level is off or when planted in clay soil. Take the necessary steps to improve and enrich your soil.

If you are creating a new plant bed, till in or create raised beds using an organic rich soil like compost topsoil mix  available at most mulch vendors.

Aged leaves, grass or a compost pile of scrap raw vegetables are also very good to till in to the clay.

The condition of your soil will dictate the cultural practices of watering and fertilizing by how well the plants roots are able to develop. A few years ago, Fontaine incorporated an organic process to its lawn care options with topdressing using an aged composted soil. After the lawn is core aerated, a thin layer of composted soil is spread over it. This organic soil will fall into the holes and incorporate overtime with the clay base soil. Eventually the organics break down clay allowing for better drainage, stronger deeper root growth to aid in droughts, and creates a better environment for worms to cultivate to further enrich and aerate the soil.

Providing and establishing a better soil will improve your lawn and plantings and promote better root growth resulting in a thicker, greener lawn and a healthy, thriving landscape.

Choosing the best time to plant depends on what you intend to grow.

There is a false perception in gardening that fall is the end of the growing season and spring is the best time to plant.

Fall till first frost is the ideal season for planting any size shrubs, trees, especially large sizes. Fall is also the best time to seed or sod cool season lawns like fescue. The key is encouraging good root growth. Planting before Spring enables the root system of plants and grass to grow more before the hot summer returns.

Spring is a great time to plant small container plants and spot seed the lawn if needed.

Summer is good for seeding or sodding warm season grass like centipede, bermuda and zoysia.

Fall officially begins with autumnal equinox in mid/late September. This time is ideal to begin planting because it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes and winter sets in.

Cool to cold, wetter weather is the perfect time to plant trees while they are dormant. With an increase in rainfall and cooler temperatures in the fall, less watering is needed. As tree shoot growth halts, the trees require less water because the days are cooler and shorter and the rate of photosynthesis decreases. Stable air temperatures also promote rapid root development. Soils stay warm well after the air temperature cools, also encouraging root growth. During shoot dormancy, trees grow to establish roots in new locations before warm weather stimulates top growth.

Timely planting, proper soil preparation and installation techniques are critical. Choosing the right plant for the location is also key to ensure a happy and healthy plant for years to come.