Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips for Your Lawn and Garden

In the summer months, municipal water use doubles. This is the season when Canadians are outdoors watering lawns and gardens, filling swimming pools and washing cars. Summer peak demand places stress on municipal water systems and increases costs for tax payers and water users. As water supplies diminish during periods of low rainfall, some municipalities must declare restrictions on lawn and garden watering. By applying some handy tips, your lawn and garden can cope with drought conditions and you can minimize water wastage.

General Tips

Much of the summer peak demand is attributed to lawn and garden watering. Often water is applied inefficiently, resulting in significant wastage due to over watering, evaporation or run-off. Here are some general watering tips to help avoid wastage:

  • Before watering, always take into account the amount of water Mother Nature has supplied to your lawn or garden in the preceding week. Leave a measuring container in the yard to help you monitor the amount of rainfall (empty it once per week) and follow the tips below to help determine how much water to add. Also bear in mind any watering restrictions that may apply in your municipality.
  • Water in the early morning, before 9 a.m., to reduce evaporation and scorching of leaves from the sun. Water on calm days to prevent wind drift and evaporation.
  • Set up your sprinkler or hose to avoid watering hard surfaces such as driveways and patios. If you’re not careful, it’s water and money down the drain.
  • Water slowly to avoid run-off and to ensure the soil absorbs the water.
  • Regularly check your hose or irrigation equipment for leaks or blockages.
  • Collect rainwater from your roof in a rain barrel or other large container and keep it covered with an insect screen. Direct the down spout of your eavestroughs into the rain barrel.
  • Choose an efficient irrigation system. A soaker hose placed at the base of plants on the ground applies water to the soil where it is needed — rather than to the leaves — and reduces evaporation (see Figure 1). Drip or trickle irrigation systems are highly efficient because they deliver water slowly and directly to the roots under the soil surface. This promotes deeper roots, which improve a plant’s drought resiliency. If you use a sprinkler, choose one with a timer and that sprays close to the ground.

Figure 1: Soaker hoses have tiny pores that emit water slowly and directly to the soil. Place them at the base of plants on the ground.

Tips for Your Lawn

Established lawns1 generally require about 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water per week to thrive.2 If Mother Nature is providing this amount of rainfall, your lawn will thrive without supplemental watering. When rainfall does not provide adequate moisture, your grass may start to turn brown. This does not mean it is dead — it’s simply dormant. An established lawn will recover and resume its green appearance shortly after sufficient rainfall returns.

Apply these tips to save water and money without compromising the health of your lawn:

  • Apply about 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water not more than once per week and skip a week after a good rain. The correct amount can be estimated by placing an empty tuna can on your lawn as you apply water evenly across the surface. When the water level reaches the top of the can, you’ve applied about 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water which is all your lawn needs. You can time how long it takes to reach this level, then set the timer on your sprinkler.
  • Water thoroughly. Deep watering at this rate is better than frequent, shallow watering because it encourages deep roots.
  • Don’t water your lawn excessively. When it’s waterlogged, it may turn yellow and develop fungus and diseases. Oxygen and mineral uptake may be restricted on heavy clay soils. Too much watering can also lead to thatch and fertilizer leaching.
  • Check with your municipality to see if watering restrictions are in effect.
  • Avoid mowing and unnecessary traffic on your lawn when the lawn is dry or dormant.
  • Don’t cut your lawn too short. Set the blade on your lawn mower to cut no lower than 6 to 8 cm (2.5 to 3 in.) so that the roots are shaded and better able to hold water.
  • Aerate your lawn once a year in the early spring or fall to improve water penetration. Afterwards, top-dress by applying a thin layer (max. 15 mm — 0.6 in.) of organic material and rake to distribute evenly. You can overseed after this to help thicken the lawn.
  • A thick, vigorous lawn is the best prevention against weed invasions and can better withstand heat and dryness. A healthy lawn needs nutrients, such as nitrogen. Application rates, sources and timing will depend on many factors including soil type. As a rule, a healthy lawn with good soil needs about ½ kg (1 lb.) of nitrogen per 100 sq. m. (1,075 sq. ft.) of lawn area every year. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return nitrogen to the lawn, and reduce moisture loss.

1 Newly seeded or sodded lawns have greater water demands.
2 Actual water requirements depend on individual conditions, such as soil type.

Tips for Trees, Shrubs and Flower Gardens

Here are some water-saving tips for trees, shrubs and flower gardens:

  • Direct water to the root system. In the case of trees and shrubs, the roots that take up the most water are generally located within the top 30 cm (12 in.) of the soil and near and even beyond the drip line. This is the area directly below the outer tips of the branches.
  • Plants have different watering requirements at various stages of their growth. Keep soil moist in the first growing season. One rule of thumb is to water trees with a one-hour trickle using a soaker hose at least once per week, barring a good rainfall and more frequently during hot weather. Taper off watering in the fall. In the second growing season, water twice per month in late spring and summer. Once established, trees that are well-selected should require little or no watering other than that provided by rainfall, but ensure they get adequate watering during periods of low rainfall or drought. Actual water needs depend on factors like soil type and species.
  • Water perennials and vines well in the first growing season after planting. One rule of thumb is to water with a one-hour trickle at least once per week using a soaker hose for the first three weeks, barring a good rainfall, and subsequently during hot dry weather. Afterwards, perennials selected to match site conditions should need little or no supplemental watering. If you notice wilting or browning on your perennials, water to a depth of 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in.) to help restore the plant’s turgidity and vigour.
  • Apply a layer of mulch about 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 in.) deep over the soil surface of the garden to retain moisture, moderate soil temperature, control erosion and suppress weeds. Wood chips, bark and crushed rock are just a few of the materials that can be used as mulch.
  • Use a soaker hose placed at the base of plants, rather than using a sprinkler. This will help to apply water to the soil and roots — rather than the leaves — and reduce evaporation.
  • Grass under your tree competes with the tree’s roots for water. Remove the lawn and apply mulch instead which helps to retain water.

Designing a Water-Efficient Garden

You can create a lush, colourful garden, like the one in Figure 2, that requires little maintenance or water by applying the seven principles of xeriscaping — an approach to designing landscapes so that their water requirements correspond to local climatic conditions. While these are sound principals for any garden, they are particularly useful if you live in a region with low rainfall or that experiences water shortages.

Figure 2: Xeriscape design

1 — Design for your site and your needs

Sketch your lot including property lines, buildings, driveways and features that will remain. Add trees, shrub and flower beds, lawn areas, patios, decks, etc. (see Figure 3). Consider the specific conditions of your yard, taking into account that water requirements will differ in shady versus sunny spots, and slopes versus flat areas or depressions. Moisture availability for your plants will also differ according to your soil type. Sandy soils drain water whereas clay soils hold water. Some places, such as narrow side yards, may be hard to water.

2 — Group plants with similar water needs to make watering more efficient

Shrubs and perennials should be grouped together in mulched beds. Trees should also be clustered in mulched beds rather than isolating individual specimens in lawn areas. This will help to reduce moisture loss and competition.

3 — Amend the soil

First, find out what type of soil you have and improve its water retention capabilities accordingly, for example, by adding compost or other organic materials.

4 — Size your lawn area to meet your practical needs for play and traffic

Avoid many small or narrow lawn areas in favour of a consolidated lawn, to make them easier and more efficient to water. For primarily visual areas, consider water-efficient ground covers, perennials or shrubs. For foot-traffic routes or narrow spots, such as side yards, a permeable inert surface such as wood chips or natural stone requires no water.

5 — Choose plants that are well suited to your climate and site conditions

Consult your local garden centre or the references at the end of this article to find plant lists. Know your site including its soil types. In shady areas, use shade-tolerant species or consider a woodland shade garden. In sunny spots, use drought tolerant, sun-loving species or consider a wildflower meadow. Drought tolerant species should be used on rapidly-draining slopes (avoid turf grass), but you can consider moisture-loving plants in depressions or low spots. For a water-saving lawn, choose a species best suited to rainfall levels in your region. Low-maintenance lawn seed mixes are commercially available. Check your local seed companies or garden centre.

6 — Use mulch

7 — Use an efficient irrigation system and appropriate maintenance

Follow the tips listed in the previous sections.

Figure 3: Sample xeriscape with meadow and low-maintenance lawn

Other Outdoor Activities

Lawn and garden watering is not the only outdoor activity contributing to summer peak demand. You can lower your water bill and relieve the burden on municipal water supplies by doing the following:

  • Use a broom instead of water to remove debris from paved surfaces such as driveways.
  • Use a bucket and sponge to wash and rinse your car, instead of a hose.
  • Cover swimming pools when they are not in use to reduce evaporation.

Perfect rose garden

ECT has a long history of supporting group travel for florists, gardeners and horticulturists and providing a connection to the world experts in each specialism. With this in mind we recently asked you – our social network followers – if any of you had some good questions for the rose experts at David Austin Roses. We have since gathered questions together from those looking to improve technique and posed them in an interview and these are the responses we received from the best in the business. We hope this helps all the budding rosarians out there!

Why do some Hybrid Tea Roses not produce roses but only produce luscious green leaves that rocket to the sky?

DAR: Hybrid Tea roses tend to flower for many months, but they won’t necessarily be in flower all the time. After the first flush, some varieties may send up long stems that should then produce flowers later in the season. This is more likely to happen in hotter climates. Summer pruning will often be helpful – this simply involves cutting back the flowering shoots when the flowers have faded by about 18″.

How do you properly train climbers to climb trellises without damaging?

DAR: Use string or special ties rather than wire which can damage the stems. Also make sure to leave room for the stems to expand as the plant matures. In later years, you can stimulate the growth of many more flowering stems by training a few of the stems out as near as possible to horizontal. Work with the younger, more pliable stems and take care not to force stems beyond their breaking point.

When is the best time to prune back your Roses and is it advisable to prune them right down?
DAR: In warmer climates do this in January and February.  In very cold winter areas, delay until spring is just starting (a useful tip is that this usually coincides with when the forsythia flowers).

[See our tips on pruning below as these vary depending on the type of roses being grown.]

How often would you give roses Rose Food and where around the Roses would you place it to get the best results?

DAR: Feed in spring and again after the first flush of flowering. We would recommend a good slow release fertiliser. Always read the instructions and follow those as different formulations have different requirements. It is important not to overfeed – for example, too much nitrogen can encourage luxuriant foliage rather than flowers. Spread the food over an area 3-4ft diameter around the roses.

What would you do with a Rose bush that produces big beautiful Roses on a weak thin stem, therefore not been able to hold themselves up?

DAR: Roses tend to improve with age as they mature and get stronger. Make sure the roses are getting enough water and the correct amount of fertiliser. Check they are not planted in too much shade, or are being overhung by branches of trees. Pruning shrub roses too hard each year may prevent them from building up a structure of strong stems.

It is worth taking time to distinguish between weak, thin stems and a nodding habit of flower. Though hybrid teas traditionally have upwards facing flowers, this is not the case for all roses – many Old Roses have this type of flower head as do some of the most popular English Roses. In practice, roses with nodding heads are great for flower arrangers as their nodding habit makes it possible to easily create Redouté-style arrangements. Some floral designers, such as Shane Connelly, who created the flowers for the recent royal wedding, will only use roses with nodding heads as he believes these create the most natural, graceful arrangements. As roses vary, check the habit of the rose before deciding which to plant if this an important factor for you.

Winter and Summer Pruning Tips

Winter Pruning:

Pruning is very easy. In areas with relatively mild winters, January and February is the best time. In regions with cold winters, pruning should be delayed until spring growth is just starting.  On all plants, remove very weak, old and woody, dead and diseased stems.

English Roses and other repeat-flowering shrub rosesshould be cut down by between 1/3 and 2/3 (see Figure 1, between dotted line 1 and 2) but only thinned a little.

Bush Roses (Hybrid Teas and Floribundas) should be cut down harder by between ½ to ¾ and thinning out some of the older main stems.

Non-repeating shrubs should be left alone or lightly pruned by no more than ½ (dotted line 1 on figure 1) and thinned very lightly.

figure 1

Climbers – The previous year’s flowering shoots should be reduced to three or four buds or about four to six inches and the strong, new stems tied in, cutting out older ones as necessary.

Ramblers should be left to ramble at will unless they need to be constrained, in which case prune like climbers.

Dead-heading is the removal of spent flowers. It encourages repeat-flowering and makes a tidier plant. Either remove just the dead flower or cut the stems down to the first full leaf.

Summer Pruning:

In warm climates it may be beneficial to summer prune by cutting back most of the spent flowering shoots about 18″, leaving just a few inches.  This can be repeated through the season as the rose repeat flowers and will encourage more compact growth and quicker repeat-flowering.

Keep the Air in Your Home Safe

Spring is a rough time for those with allergies. The amount of pollen in the air makes it difficult to breathe, see or even stop your nose from constantly running. Accomplishing anything while dealing with sinus pain, runny nose and watery eyes is nearly impossible. You will surely hope for a simple solution to allow you to feel better in your own home. What if you could sleep through the entire night without waking up because of difficulty in breathing? There is no stopping mother nature, but there may be some solutions aside from allergy medication that will help keep you feeling your best. There are some things you can do to reduce the amount of particles in the air inside your home. Without the need for an AC repair in Mesquite, TX, these alternate methods of air cleansing should give you some relief this allergy season.

The first option does not require any AC replacement or repair, but it requires the purchase of a filtration system. The HEPA is a filtration system used by a number of health conscious corporations to reduce the number of allergy causing particles in the air. Specifically, this filtration system is used by several hospitals to make the air cleaner, therefore allowing patients to breathe easier and healthier. Choosing an air filter for your home not only decreases the amount of pollution in the air but it also creates a better environment for your heating and cooling equipment. These units have filters that cleanse the air before it enters the house. The HEPA air filter allows the air to be filtered twice, leaving less work for your heating or air conditioner which means less AC repair in Mesquite, TX for you in the long run. Another major benefit of adding an air filter to your home is the reduction of indoor air odor. Certain smells can be carried by particles in the air, and the filter reduces the number of these particles, thus decreasing the odor or eliminating it altogether.

The amount of water in the air can also have an effect on your sinus problems or allergies. Air that is too dry can allow for your nasal passages to swell which can lead to a sinus infection. On the other hand, air that is too moist can foster the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms in the air. Increased particles in the air are a recipe for disaster when it comes to allergies. In order to keep the humidity at the right level in your home, it is best to contact an expert on indoor air quality. They will be able to test the quality of air inside your home and give you a good idea of what to do to keep that level ideal for you and your family.

If you or anyone in your family has allergy, you know that even the smallest change in the wind or air can greatly affect their condition or health. Keep your family safe by purchasing an air filter or allowing for an indoor air quality service in your home. In the long run, this will also keep AC repair in Mesquite, TX to a minimum.