Monday, March 12, 2012

Create more Color - Deadheading and Fertilizing

Vibrant color, healthy plants!

Creating more Color
Adding color to your landscape is one of the most satisfying results a gardener or landscaper can have. As the weather is warming up, your flowers are in the prime of their production ... especially if you deadhead your flowers and small shrubs and feed them nutrients.

First, some people wonder, "What is deadheading?" Well, it's not following the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia in this case! In this case, deadheading refers
to removing the spent flower from the plant so it produces more flowers. When you take away the opportunity for the plant to create seeds, the plant will produce more flowers to ensure the continuation of its species. When you remove the spent head of the flower, besides making the plant look attractive again (see picture to the right), you make the plant work hard to reproduce.

 There are several ways to deadhead a plant. Dianthus, for example, you can shear back all at once. It won't take long for them to recover. For flowers like pansies,
petunias and snapdragons and most other annuals, you should be more proactive and cut, or pinch, them as often as possible. This will ensure you don't have a lack of color (like the plant to the left) and you can enjoy the beauty that you wanted when you planted them. Spending some time in the garden to promote healthier plants and adding color is a benefit you'll enjoy throughout the growing season!

Another beneficial thing you can do for your plants and flowers is to fertilize them, also known as giving them nutrients. A complete fertilizer will contain the three macro-nutrients of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). It may also have other trace nutrients. Feeding a plant at least these three basic nutrients will ensure a healthy, vibrant plant capable of producing flowers without weakening, or stressing, the plant.

Plants need to be fed, just like people and animals, and making sure you give them nutrients to plants  pays huge dividends for the gardener or landscaper; they have the energy to produce more flowers and remain healthy. Click on the links to get more information if you want to delve deeper. Remember, the bottom line is a beautiful garden or landscape, and that's just some of the basics we want to make sure you are aware of! Enjoy your color!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Training in the 21st Century and the landscape contractor

Many landscape companies thrive on people's lack of knowledge. They count on it! Training is just not their strong point. "Grab a blower and go!" seems to be the ruling methodology.

At Ground Effects Landscaping (merging with Horizons West Landscape Contractors), training has played into the bottom line since J. D. DiMegglio. Steve Bidwell and Norm Farmer continue on with this mantel with enthusiasm.

Having well educated personnel ensures the best possible job being done. Sustaining our permaculture (indefinite sustainability) in the landscape adds value to our homes, businesses and even aesthetic value. The University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences reports over 2 million acres of land has changed from 1982 to 1997. Their Cooperative Extension discusses the impact on sustainability as being crucial to our community. (Click on the link for more information.)

That means we need educated, trained individuals who care about the value of  your landscape, whether it is being designed, installed or maintained. Landscapes like the one to the right don't happen accidentally. The personnel doing the work must be trained in the nuances of best practices to ensure a permaculture that lasts and adds value to the changing uses of land.

Water, of course, is a hot button topic in our region. We've started touching on water usage with our blog on "Xeriscape to Oasis" that impacts your choices. We'll be doing more of these.

What does all this have to do with our orientation?

GEL believes it's important to start our new employees off properly. Whether they work in construction or maintenance, our people will know the proper way to take care of your properties. We will be partnering up with other contractors, builders and developers to give you options that will benefit you, your family, your clients, or your tenants. Being aware of how you can be in charge of our our environment by knowing more is vital; that's at the heart of our blogging and informing you of all your options. We want you to know about projects like TROT's (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson) installation of native plants, pathways and gardens on their property, or organizations such as The Drachman Institute and their numerous projects to enhance the environmentally sensitive development of our communities.

It all comes from knowing what to do and how to do it right. Our orientation is the beginning building block for our personnel to do it right.

We will bring your more information about our training programs, and the organizations and companies that share our vision of a beautiful Metropolitan Tucson and surrounding communities.

If you would like more information, please don't hesitate to call us. If you would like a consultation, we would be honored to share our expertise to benefit your needs. You can always call us at (520) 751-0232 for more information, check our website, Ground Effects Landscaping, or find us on Facebook at Ground Effects Landscaping.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February plans for your landscape

The warm weather is coming ... but, will there be one or more last freeze(s)? That is one of the major questions that landscapers and gardeners deal with in this region. There are still some things that must be done to prepare for the growing season.

It's time to consider rejuvenating your formal flower beds. Depending upon your budget, you can plant pansies, poppies, daylillies, dahlias, petunias, bachelor buttons and other colorful flowers to add great color to your landscape. The summer flowers will be ready for planting around April or early May. Once again, it depends upon your budget and time allowance as to what type of planting you will undertake.

Another consideration is planting a natural wildflower garden. You can add seed mixes that can be obtained at nurseries that will produce color year round. Seed mixes should include some of the following flowers in different percentages: Gallardia, Asclepias, Aster (Daisies), Columbine, Calendula, Chrysanthemums, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Delphinium, Dianthus, Dyssodia, Echinacea, Poppies, Desert Sunflowers, Baby's Breath, Sunflowers,  Impatiens, Morning Glories, Mallows, Alyssum, Dusty Millers, lupine, Desert Rockpea, Forget-Me-Nots, Primrose, Penstemon, Salvias, Gazanias, Phlox, Bluebells, Deseret Marigolds, Mexican Hat ... these are just some of the suggestions you have available to you. Considerations must include location, reflective heat, ground contours, shade/full sun.

The advantage of gardens such as these are low maintenance and year round color. Thinning and deadheading spent flowers are optional to a degree; it depends on how much time or what kind of budget you have.

Another major event to consider is pruning your trees. The non-native deciduous shade trees and fruit trees are just about ready to start their growth for the new season. With the lack of leaves, you can see the structure more easily and start your pruning "artistry."

For native trees, wait until the start of summer to prune.

One important consideration is to prune the dead, decaying and damaged branches (the three D's) first. The next part of the approach is to consider where the growth of the remaining branches will be. Will it grow into other trees, awnings, walls ...

The proper way to prune is shown in the illustration to the left. The first cut is to ensure the branch doesn't tear the bark due to the weight of the branch being pruned. The second cut will take off the bulk of the branch. The last cut, outside of the collar or swelling of the branch from the next larger branch or trunk that it is being removed from.

Make sure you don't prune more than 25-33% of the tree. Doing more can cause stress and lessen the ability for the tree to properly photosynthesize. It can also cause sunburn to the inner tree branches and trunk. Don't leave stub or make flush cuts. These inhibit the tree's ability to properly heal the pruning wounds.

If you have any questions about formal or natural gardens,  or about pruning, just drop your questions or comments on the blog or on the FB page. I'll be glad to answer you or find a consultant for you! Happy gardening and pruning!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Xeriscape to Oasis: Transitioning your landscape pallette

Xeriscape in the landscape provides great beauty; it also saves water usage. Xeriscape comes from the Greek word, xeros, meaning dry. The basic way of xeriscape is by using different adaptive plants and native, low water use plants. It is more efficient from a maintenance standpoint, and is more easily sustainable with the choices you have available. Transitioning to an oasis landscape takes careful consideration. Oasis comes from Greek or Egyptian, meaning where the water table approaches or reaches the ground surface.

Here are some thoughts to consider for your project that need to be addressed.

Planning and Designing maximizes the efficiency of your project. You may go with all xeriscape or you may want to transition to an oasis setting as well. Transitioning takes planning, and the plant palette becomes a critical element for development of a beautiful landscape.

Some people use xeriscape throughout the yard (see the top two pictures), but you have options! A good plan design will ensure your maximum usage of water. There are numerous Irrigation choices based upon water usage needs. There are numerous types of irrigation, from "drip" water systems to broadcast water systems. Depending upon your choices for your plant palette, ensure you have the most efficient

Soil samples are necessary to determine pH levels, how much amendments are necessary for plant choices (vegetable or herb gardens, bulb gardens, native plants, etc.); sandy, loamy, or clay are the three basic soil types. Each has its own properties that impact plant choices and water retention. Mulch, whether it be decomposed granite, rock, wood chips, bark, shredded wood, or different types of ground cover (grasses, myoporum parviflora, dahleas, etc.) may help your decision for what type of  water retention methods you choose to use.

Space utilization and aesthetics will play a major role in your plant selection. The size of your yard helps to determine the Practicality - do you have children, do you have/want a pool or water features - that need to be considered when planning your project. With oasis options, you open up a large choice of high-water use plants like water lilies, iris, lotus, water hyacinth, reeds, oxygenators ... the list is vast and colorful! With a xeriscape or transition palette, your practicality needs may include Maintenance, how much time you want to invest in your yard ... what you want! A good consultation will present  your choices in an effective manner.

Color will also be incorporated into an effective plan within a transition from xeriscape to an oasis. Plant selections can provide year round color, and the choices come in annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. Once again, this is all part of the planning and designing that should be taken into affect to impact your landscape choices. Flower beds mix well with desert shrubs very effectively if designed well.

These are just some of the areas of consideration for your landscape. Xeriscape, Transition, Oasis ... all play an important role, and we would be glad to answer any questions you might have. Call us at (520) 751-0232 for any further information, or would like a consultation. Check out our GEL website for services we offer; we'd be glad to share our expertise with you!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Design and Construction - Making Your Place a Refuge of Beauty

Our next blog is about the construction side of Ground Effects Landscaping. Our design team has great talent, so we'll be talking about some of the design elements of a good landscape. We'll also provide some different looks for you to consider what might be right for you. These are just examples of what is available for your choice from the archives of my photography.

We need and desire beautiful surroundings; they add value to our homes. A properly design and installed landscape can also provide emotional and physical well-being. GEL implements a full range of the elements of the landscape design to provide this emotional and physical well being.

Linear, Small Spaced Oasis
As demonstrated by the pictures to the left, small, linear spaces, when properly designed, can add color, intimacy and softened lines that provide a aromatic yard with hummingbirds, butterflies and if desired, herbs that can be used for teas or cooking. Depending upon the budget, your haven can be the refuge that best suits you.

As you can see by clicking on the images, this can be a very useful for outside entertaining, to relax while looking at butterflies and hummingbirds, or the aromatherapy of your garden. The barbecue grill built into the retaining wall just adds value to the backyard oasis.

Turf accent is water-wise, yet provides a luxuriousness that provides a sense a mini-oasis provides. Using a rye grass over-seeding in the winter provides year-round greenery. The roses are an excellent example of a type of plant that can be used for creating wonderful scents for your backyard.

Native, Spacious Yards
Water features are also a wonderful addition to your backyard, patio or common area. The examples to the right are examples of xeriscape and water features. The beauty of a low water use area combined with cacti and succulent vegetation is another example of a soothing backyard. Seat walls around a fireplace, a water pond with coy and water lillies ... this mix of natural areas with a water feature provides for an effective, beautiful perspective of Southwestern entertaining.

The aesthetic concepts and practical designs for improved outdoor living that blends into the Sonoran Desert is one the GEL specializes in. Water harvesting can be incorporated, native stone to blend in with the surrounding vegetation or topography, and the color that can be accented throughout the yard leads to numerous opportunities. A spacious back yard provides a very natural setting opportunity that provides different plant groupings.

Both examples need to have their irrigation systems designed specifically to their needs; both have radically different water needs that can be fine-tuned to maximize water usage. Doing soil samples will also allow the best choices to be determined.

We can also add low-voltage lighting to this wonderful design mix, and you have the foundations of a beautiful yard. Landscape lighting enhances the beauty and serenity of either choice; it transforms the beauty of your landscape into wonderful evening entertainment.

For more information, please feel free to contact us at 520-751-0232. We'd be happy to consult with you, or build you a design.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gladiolus - Preparing to Plant Bulbs and Corms

With January half way through, it's time to start preparing your dirt to plant your bulbs and corms. This foresight will give you beautiful spring and early summer color. I have chosen to focus in on one specific plant, the Gladiolus. Native to South Africa, the Gladiolus flower signifies remembrance. It also expresses infatuation, telling the receiver that he or she pierces the heart. It also stands for strength of character, faithfulness and honor.

Gladiolus do well in a wide variety of soil types, but the pH of the soil should be between 6.2-7. Choose a location that is mostly sunny, with late afternoon shade to protect against the heat and sun. Prepare your soil with amended soil, much like you would a vegetable garden, then water your bed. Ensure it drains well. (Note: Glads are great tall plants for your flowerbed, due to the fact they grow 2-6 feet tall.)

As soon as the last frost has occurred, you can start the process. After roto-tilling or plowing your soil, you can add a fungicide to protect against disease. You can also add fertilizer if needed. Call us for more details.

Plant your corm/bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep, 4 to 6 inches apart. To maximize color, plant more corms/bulbs every two to three weeks. To keep weeds to a minimum, add two to three inches of mulch around your glads to help keep them moist. Glads are very poor competitors, and weeding must be done by hand or light cultivation.

Glads need to be well watered without being over-saturated. Start a watering regime when there are five leafs on the plants.

Thrips are a major pest for Glads, so an insecticide should be considered. Thrips are sucking insects and will deform your flowers. An all purpose insecticide

Remove the faded/dead flowers to ensure continuous growth. Once all the flowers on a stalk have gone, cut off the stalk.

It takes approximately 90 days for the gladiolus to root, grow, produce flowers, store energy for the next season, and be mature for reproduction for the next growing season.

If you have anymore questions, please ask in the comment area. We would love to help add this beauty to your landscape to come home to! You can always call us at (520) 751-0232 for more information, check our website, Ground Effects Landscaping, or find us on Facebook at Ground Effects Landscaping.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rose Maintenance 2

Pruning roses to maximize flower vitality and production is both a skill and artistry, like all pruning is. The way a plant is shaped comes down to effective pruning, the amount of flowers it produces, and the type of rose bush/shrub you have.

With Shrub roses, having the maximum number of healthy blossoms can produce a stunning display of color and beauty, especially if you have fragrant roses. 45 degree pruning cuts, right above the lateral bud on the stalk, produces bushes like the one below. 1/3 to 1/2 of the new growth, dead and damaged canes, and spindly branches are your targets. Proper nutrients are also necessary! This also controls the shape of your shrub.

Spreading roses should have more shape pruning, due to the fact they produce blooms on both old and new growth.Cut back to make the shrub uniform above the buds on the branches is the most effective and healthy way to produce a vibrant plant.

With climbing roses, you must determine if it is a spring blooming plant, or one that blooms almost year round. Most blooms come from the lateral canes, so pruning out the weaker canes allows a vibrant cane to grow. Shaping occurs within this context as well.

Pillar roses produce tall, somewhat flexible canes - a cross between the bush and the climbers - and produce flowers on a consistent basis with minimal lateral training. Pruning should be much like the shrub rose.

Tree (standards) roses should be pruned much like the shrub rose; they probably need staking to bear the weight of the canopy.

Old Roses are usually divided into two categories,

  • species native to Europe and western Asia (spring flowering)
  • species native to eastern Asia (repeat flowering plants)

Old Roses are noted for their fragrance. Many of the modern roses (see the last blog) are the foundations of hybrids coming from Old Roses, working at making them more "landscape friendly."

Remember, now is the time to spray weeds, clean and sharpen your tools and reduce your watering. A deep watering once a week helps establish a strong root system. There are numerous organizations to help with more detailed information.

If you are buying a new shrub, here is a link from the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society for roses that do best in Arizona: Roses for Arizona.

You can always call us at (520) 751-0232 for more information, check our website, Ground Effects Landscaping, or find us on Facebook at Ground Effects Landscaping.