April 2017 – Tips from the Landscape Architect

Composting

Create a windrow of natural debris consisting of greens, nut shells, wood chips, small branches, leaves, egg shells (cleaned and dried), fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds, banana peels, weeds, some grass clippings, and just about anything that is natural. The debris that you compost will break down about 10 to 1 as your finished compost develops. The more consistent in texture, size and shape of the mixture materials, the quicker your compost will mature. The process takes 3 to 12 months depending on what you put in the mix and needs to be turned every 2 to 3 months. Ideally you want to a have a nice mix of debris consisting of 1 part green material and up to 20 parts brown material.

We like to recycle our plastic containers with lids by using them to collect our compost materials within the house. This is made up of fruit and vegetable scraps, nut shells and anything else we keep in the house. As the containers fill, we take them to our compost pile and begin the process. The empty containers are washed and recycled over and over until they wear out.

Mulching

Everyone likes to freshen their landscapes this time of the year by mulching.  I like to use shredded hardwood and pine bark as they break down and add natural materials to your soils.  The hardwood weathers to a brownish gray color and can be periodically raked to maintain a browner look.  It works well on flat and sloped surfaces.  The pine bark comes in several sizes from chunks down to mini chips.  This product will wash if used on slopes but is best for color gardens, perennials and areas within your landscape where you will be working the soil as well as in areas where a cosmetic look is needed.

Mulches should be applied as follows as they breakdown approximately 1” per year.  If you are mulching a new bed where the soil is visible, apply 2” to 4” over the soil keeping all mulch away from the trunks and stems of your existing plants.  On existing beds, apply 1” to 2” over the beds and smooth out again keeping the mulch away from the plant’s trunks and stems.

You will sometimes see cypress and cedar mulches available.  These are not good mulches for our area as they do not breakdown quickly and are known to attract insects.  The dyed mulches are generally produced from hardwood and pine bark mulches.  The mulch is sprayed with a color and mixed.  If the weather conditions are not correct then the dye will wash off the product and permanently be dis-colored.  The dye will stain all surfaces that it comes in contact including concrete, asphalt, clothing and hands.  Protect yourselves and your property when using any of the stained mulch products.

 

Co-Existence with Weeds

I dis like weeds growing in my garden and landscape but …..I co-exist with them.  The first thing to do is identify an invading weed and decide if it is good or bad for your garden and landscape.

There are annual weeds that germinate in the fall and winter and are in their full blooming glory during the spring.  These are going to seed right now and will be sowing seed as the flowers mature.  If you want to rid your landscape of these kinds of weeds, now is the time to remove them.  They generally pull easily or if you prefer, they can be hoed as the roots are shallow.  Clean up the debris so the seeds don’t have a chance to germinate and throw it on your compost pile.

Perennial weeds are a lot harder to get rid of as they have survived at least one or more winters and the roots are deeper.  To remove these invasive weeds and you want to be organic, digging is a sure fire method.  If it is not practical or you are physically unable to do the work, I will use a non-selective organic product called Avenger G.  It is a citrus based product that burns anything green.   Again it is non selective, if you use it in the middle of your lawn, your desirable grass will also be burnt along with the weed.  This product is best used in beds, sidewalk cracks and gravel drives.  The perennial weeds will not be killed with just one spraying.  I often need to apply 3 to 5 more times to completely kill the tough perennial weeds.   You will have the best results when Avenger G is applied on sunny days with the temperature above 75 degrees.

Not all weeds are bad.  Dandelions produce a beautiful yellow flower in the spring.  The leaves are used as salad greens and can be cooked and served as you would spinach.  The roots are ground and used for teas which we use to aid digestion.  It serves as an aid by helping your body break down fats during the natural detoxification process.

So in conclusion, is it really a weed?