Posted by & filed under Flowers, General, Landscaping .

Annual FlowersWith all the warm spring weather, it’s tempting to pick up some flats of those brightly colored flowers at the nursery and plant them into your flower bed. Annual flowers are true to their name, meaning they survive just one season and do not come back year after year as perennials do. I like perennials, for this very reason, that you don’t have to be continually planting new stuff every year. However, annuals do have their place in the home gardens of Oklahoma, so here are some recommendations for those.

You’ll pay more for purchasing annual flowers in packs that are growing rather than trying to establish from seed. It’s much easier and faster though, so I usually go this route. There are some popular flowers such as Pansies that can be planted in fall or early spring, and they are really nice. With the summer heat though, they’ll be gone by June. So at this point in the spring, I’d recommend going with more of a summer annual that grows and produces flowers up until the first frost of fall. Proven and new varieties of Marigolds, Periwinkle, Petunia, Snapdragon, and Begonias are hard to beat. Lantana and Melampodium will thrive in our Oklahoma heat. And consider Ornamental Sweet Potato for an easy, fast-growing vine that fills in gardens with green foliage, just no flowers.

We are still two weeks away from the frost date, so I’d wait until after April 15th and allow the soil to warm up a little more before planting annuals. And don’t forget that some old varieties such as Zinnia and Marigold can easily be established from seed, which is much cheaper than planting small plants rooted in cell packs. For more information, CLICK HERE for an OSU Factsheet on Ornamental Flowers.

Posted by & filed under bermudagrass, lawn care, mowing, Uncategorized, weather .

ScalpingWhat a “winter” we’ve had! In 32 years of caring for lawns in Oklahoma, I”ve never seen as much green bermudagrass in mid to late March as I’m seeing now. Seems that with all the global warming talk, it’s being verified here right before our eyes with pushing the lawncare season up by weeks. With the warm spring weather, many folks are firing up their mowers and out scalping their lawns. We always discourage this due to the higher likelihood of winterkill on bermudagrass.

It’s Oklahoma, so if it’s 90 degrees today, it could be freezing a few days later. That’s our concern. Typically, we can still have a hard freeze before April 15th, and we are still over 3 weeks away from being there. So don’t let this warm spring fool you, we could still be in for cold weather. And if the bermudagrass is too green and growing then, an April freeze even in the high 20’s could severely damage or even kill bermudagrass.

Bermudagrass is a warm-season turf, and goes dormant in late fall through winter to protect the crown and topgrowth from cold damage. As the weather warms the soil, new growth will grow from the crown at the base of the plant, sending new green stems and leaves up from the ground. The root system is also re-generating at this time, sending new roots into the soil. By scalping the turf down with mowing at a very short level, the soil is exposed more and warms up quicker, leading to more shoot growth. And scalping also removes that thick insulating layer of brown grass, which protects the crown and root system from sudden temperature drops.

Therefore, we strongly advocate waiting until after the freeze date of April 15th before scalping your lawn in Oklahoma. It’s fine to mow at a 2″ level or so just to clean it up or remove any weeds. Just don’t take it down the ground. Leave that “blanket” of turf on until the chance of a freeze is over. I’ve experienced a few years when the bermudagrass greened up early like now, only to have a hard freeze during early April whack it back so much that the turf really did not fill in until late May. So if you’re anxious to get out and enjoy the warm weather, go ride a bike, plant a tree, plant your garden, anything other than scalping your bermudagrass now. And never scalp fescue, or you may just kill it!

Posted by & filed under Environmental benefits, lawn care .

St. Patricks DayDid you know that there really is gold in your grass! Not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but every day your lawn and landscape is healthy adds value to your home and our local communities in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas.

According to Smart Money Magazine, a nice lawn and landscape adds up to 11.3% to the value of a home. Money Magazine states that: “attractively landscaping your yard can be one of the most cost-effective ways to boost your home’s curb appeal.” And for businesses, greening of business areas increases price and draws customers to the businesses. A study in Boulder, Colorado neighborhoods showed that property values decreased by $4.20 for each foot away from a greenbelt.

LawnAmerica provides great jobs to 65 families, so we have a personal vested interest in caring for lawns and landscapes in the areas we serve. We are just a small part of growing industry though with tremendous economic benefits. According to a recent USDA-funded research project, the green industry provided the following benefits:

  • $147.8 billion in output
  • $64.3 billion in labor income
  • $6.9 billion in indirect business taxes
  • $95.1 billion in value added

Green spaces and healthy lawns and landscapes benefit us in so many other ways also. Environmental benefits of healthy lawns and landscapes include oxygen generation, soil erosion prevention, cooling or urban areas, and carbon dioxide absorption just to name a few. And then there is the aesthetics and physiological benefits that green spaces can provide.

So if you’ve not done so yet, make an investment in your lawn, by becoming a partner with LawnAmerica, and allow us to help you find some gold in your grass.

 

Posted by & filed under bermudagrass, fertilization, lawn care, Soil .

Future Lawn

Will this be your future front lawn?

I took this picture of a new housing sub-division being built in the Broken Arrow area as I drove home yesterday. What was once a cow pasture with some scattered trees and such, has been scaped down with huge dirt graders in an effort to prepare the land for streets and houses soon. To get the area all graded out and somewhat level, it looks like over a foot of the topsoil was removed, as you can see where the natural grade was at before at the top of the little dirt piles. So what is at the surface now is sub-soil, mainly Oklahoma clay, with almost no organic matter in the “soil”.

So in a few months, construction will begin on the new home. In about 9 months or so, as the home is almost done, a tractor will simply smooth out the front and back lawn areas, mixing in a few bricks, concrete blobs, nails, wood scraps, even an empty QT cup or something into the coming lawn. Workers will lay out bermudagrass sod, shoot some water on it, and turn the lawn over to the homeowner.

If the new homeowner is smart, they’ll then contact LawnAmerica, we’ll come out for the estimate, and start our service a day later. The problem is that we are then expected to provide a thick, healthy, green lawn on turf that is actually growing on sub-soil! This can be a challenge, to say the least. But it happens way too frequently with new home construction.

What should have happened is for the builder to haul in the topsoil that was there and/or bring in new sandy loam topsoil before final grading and sod installation. While some may do this, my experience is that many do not. Then it’s expected for the lawncare company to maintain this to the satisfaction of the homeowner, and that’s very tough. Sub-soil is not intended to be able to support plant growth, with almost zero organic matter and compacted clay.

So what can a homeowner do in this case, short of hauling in loads of good topsoil and starting over? These are not ideal, but the following will help, and it will take some time to see improvement:

  • Aerate the lawn annually, and topdress with good sandy-loam soil.
  • Mulch grass clippings back into the soil to increase organic content.
  • Apply organic soil ammendments, such as our Soil Builder product, to increase soil biology.
  • Fertilize lawn consistently, even using  a blend of organic fertilizers.

Plants were meant to be grown in topsoil, not sub-soil. A lawn established in a situation like this will never be as healthy and look as nice as one growing in good topsoil, plain and simple. Time and money invested on the front end, during establishment, will payoff big time for years to come if done properly.

Posted by & filed under Gardens, Landscaping, Tree and Shrub Care .

Crape Murder

A bad case of “Crepe Murder” spotted after committed by “professionals”.

Every year at this time of the season, I cringe at the sight of the “bad haircuts” on what should be large, beautiful Crepe Myrtle shrubs. Homeowners, and even “professional’ landscapers whack back the stems on Crepe Myrtles at the same point they were pruned last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. What’s left is an ugly,  twisted clump of stem at the tops of the shrub. This picture on the left is really bad. It’s even worse because it was a bad pruning cut, looking like it was just ripped off with a weed-eater or something, rather than a clean, sharp cut.

We call this practice of pruning Crepe Myrtles every year in the same place, just to give one something to do, as Crepe Murder. It does not actually kill the shrub, but it it does take away from the natural growth, health, and beauty of the shrub. These shrubs can grow quite large, with colorful displays of flowers all summer, especially in the more southern states. Oklahoma is on the northern fringe of climates where Crape Myrtles will thrive. With the warmer winters we are having, I can’t remember one where they were damaged by a hard freeze, which can happen. In that case, then yes, some pruning may be needed.

Otherwise, we recommend just to let them grow with minor pruning just to keep a nice shape and prevent from becoming too dense. If space allows, let them grow to 8, 10, even 12 feet or more. And if pruning is needed, don’t take out every stem at one time, but selectively prune for shaping.

For a good video on Crepe Murder, and how to properly prune these shrubs, visit here. And if you really want to do something at this time of year to help your Crepe Myrtle, apply a systemic insecticide and dormant oil. This will help prevent aphids and scale later on in the season, which are two pests which can harm Crepe Myrtles.