Pruning Pampas Grass

by on Mar.06, 2015, under Ornamental Grasses

2015-03-03 11.12.25

 

Pampas Grass usually refers to the species Cortaderia, but is also used to describe both Erianthus and Saccharum ravennae (sometimes called ‘hardy pampas grass’). These grasses grow in tight clumps called tussocks and the females produce tall, feathery flowers late in the Summer. In the early part of winter, the plants enter dormancy and become a golden, wheat color.  The leaves and flowers will remain attractive through the winter, but will become problematic when new growth begins. Removing the older growth allows sunlight to penetrate to the depth of new shoots growing at the base of the plant, and it reduces mold and insect activity by allowing moisture to escape the center of the tussock. While somewhat different biologically, these species all require the same type of maintenance in order to stay healthy and beautiful.

Before & After

Before & After

As long as their appearance holds up, ornamental grasses can be left intact late into Winter.  Single digit temperatures and heavy precipitation in winter (especially snow/ice) can destroy the uniform appearance of the dried out plumes.  Those planted close to roof-lines can become damaged by snow sliding off overhanging ledges, which may necessitate early pruning. The home pictured above features several remote beds that use tall ornamental grass as a soft background for the smaller foreground plants.  These plants were in good condition for late winter, but were showing signs of new growth.  When trimming plants, it is important to look for new growth, and take care not to prune lower than the tips of the green shoots.  Trimming only to the depth of the new growth will ensure the growing leaves aren’t damaged/blunted, which can stunt growth and introduce disease. This practice also guarantees that you wont scalp the crown of the tussock, which can cause a hollow center to develop, or even kill the plant altogether.

2015-03-03 12.04.55

Rake around the base of each individual tussock to remove rotting vegetation.  This reduces insects, moisture, disease, and simply gives the plant a clean start for the Spring.  Finally, be sure to rake the top of each plant vigorously in order to remove leaves and other debris.

Remove Decaying Debris Under Plants

Remove Decaying Debris Under Plants

Rake loose debris from the center of the plant.

Rake loose debris from the center of the plant.

After pruning and cleaning out each tussock, replace the mulch that was raked away from the base.  According to information published by NC State University, fertilization (although rarely necessary) should be done in early Spring.  Fertilize established plants with a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

Leave a Comment more...

Tall Fescue Management Schedule

by on Feb.26, 2015, under Turf Management

Tall Fescue

NC State University Cooperative Extension publishes an evidence-based maintenance calendar to help guide homeowners and professionals in the management of Tall Fescue grass. Below is a simplified outline of the information presented in this schedule.   If you want more information, please view our Turf Grass Calendar, or visit NC State’s Turf Files website.

March – May

(spring)

Mowing: Cut grass to height between 2.5-3.5 inches.  Mow frequently, so that no more than 1/3 of the total grass-height is removed.  Mowing frequency can increase in late spring, as often as every 5-7 days.

Fertilization: Fertilization is strongly discouraged after March 15.  Instead, grass clippings should be allowed to decompose on the surface of the lawn. The nutrients provided by the mulched grass clippings can reduce the need for fertilizer/nutrient supplementation by as much as 25%.

Watering: weekly, 1-1¼ inches of water, all in a single application.  Indications of water loss include dark blueish/gray coloration and wilted/folded/curled leaves.  Water until soil is wet to a depth of 4-6 inches.  Soils that accept water slowly (clays, etc.) water until runoff is observed, stop, and begin again after runoff ceases.  According to the report, adequate irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer.  It is also recommended to water between the hours of 2-8 a.m., which decreases the prevalence of certain diseases.

Weed Control: Apply preemergence herbicides at this time.  This will retard the development of crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail.

Insect Control: Check for and control white grubs in April/May.

Aeration: Delay until Fall.

Thatch Removal: Generally not necessary.

June – August

 (summer)

Mowing: 3½-4 inches and before grass grows longer than 5 inches

Fertilization: No fertilizer at this time

Watering: Water to prevent drought stress, or allow lawn to go dormant.  In the absence of rain, water dormant lawns no less than every 3 weeks.

Disease Control: Watch for Brown Patch Disease, which has an affinity for high humidity and temperatures above 85° F. This disease presents as irregularly shaped patches of dead grass.

Weed Control: Use of herbicides is not recommended during this time.

Insect Control: Inspect for and control white grubs in July and August.

Aeration: Do not aerate at this time.

Restoration: Piedmont area should delay until mid-August.

September – November

(fall)

Mowing: 2½-3 inches in height

Fertilization: Test soil and supplement nutrients according to the results.  If no soil testing is performed, apply a turf-grade fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 at 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 ft².  Apply fertilizer in mid-September and again in November.

Watering: weekly, 1-1¼ inches of water, all in a single application.  Indications of water loss include dark blueish/gray coloration and wilted/folded/curled leaves.  Water until soil is wet to a depth of 4-6 inches.  Soils that accept water slowly (clays, etc.) water until runoff is observed, stop, and begin again after runoff ceases.  According to the report, adequateirrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer.  It is also recommended to water between the hours of 2-8 a.m., which decreases the prevalence of certain diseases.

Weed Control: Apply herbicides to control broad-leaf weeds like chickweed and henbit.

Insect Control: Check for white grubs in September and October, as Fall is the ideal time to control this pest.

Aeration: Aerate areas with poor soil depth and high traffic areas that can be compacted over time.  Plugs should be broken up and returned to the lawn.

Renovation: NC State reccomends the following: “Overseed thin, bare areas as weather cools (August 15 to September 1). Use a blend of “turf-type” tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet, and apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer. Keep the seedbed moist with light watering several times per day. Do not let the seedlings dry out.”

December – February

(winter)

Mowing: 3 inches and be sure to remove leaves and other debris from the lawn.

Fertilization: 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 ft² in February.

Watering: weekly, 1-1¼ inches of water, all in a single application.  Indications of water loss include dark blueish/gray coloration and wilted/folded/curled leaves.  Water until soil is wet to a depth of 4-6 inches.  Soils that accept water slowly (clays, etc.) water until runoff is observed, stop, and begin again after runoff ceases.  According to the report, adequate irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer.  It is also recommended to water between the hours of 2-8 a.m., which decreases the prevalence of certain diseases.

Weed Control: Apply broad-leaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds.

Sources

Bruneau, A. (n.d.). Tall Fescue Lawn Maintenance Calendar. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/PDFFiles/000017/Tall_Fescue_Lawn_Maintenance_Calendar.pdf

image001

Leave a Comment more...

Peaceful Fountain for a Classic Landscape

by on Feb.11, 2015, under Hardscapes, Water Features

wpid-20150211_130018.jpg

We recently installed a quiet water feature as an accent to a large trellis on the property of a historic home in Wake Forest.  The trellis area defines the front yard from the back, and is located along a short path.

20150211_085546

The homeowner took her inspiration from a fountain located on the grounds of the nearby Wake Forest Historical Museum.  The design is an overflow urn type fountain and consists of an underground reservoir (which holds the water) and a glazed earthenware piece above.  We started by excavating a hole for the fiber-plastic tub.  Once the desired level was reached, we compacted crush & run gravel in order to establish a stable base.  The reservoir was then leveled and prepped for the urn and decorative stone.

20150211_094854

20150211_112954

Our next decision was the type of stone to be used at the base of the urn.  It needed to camouflage the buried reservoir and serve as a splash diffuser for the water flowing off the sides of the urn.  We selected Tennessee River stones from Bradsher Landscape Supplies in various sizes.  The larger stones provide a nice contrast to the smaller path stones, and they can easily be removed for access to the reservoir.

20150211_104635

After washing the stones, we arranged them around the base of the urn.  The fountain will remain winterized until the spring, and at that time the reservoir will be filled and a screen will be added below the layer of stone (to prevent debris from entering the reservoir).  As a final touch, a slab of slate was added as an extension of the existing footpath.

20150211_130005

1 Comment more...

Walkway Accent for Local Restaurant

by on Feb.08, 2015, under Hardscapes, Planter Beds

 Callout Screenshot with text_2015-02-07-20-41-38

A common problem with 90º degree turns in sidewalks and walkways is that people will tend to step over the inside corner rather than walking the true path of the walkway.  This was the case at a local restaurant, and it was causing debris to be kicked out of the bed over time.  To solve this issue, we decided to add a hardscape easement which accommodates a more natural flow of traffic without compromising the appearance of the bed.

The existing straw mulch was raked back and the area dug out to prepare a crushed gravel bed.  Once level, pavers from Belgard were cut and installed.  This will allow traffic to cut the corner without disturbing the bed, and will reduce maintenance in the form of repetitive cleanup.

Screenshot_2015-02-07-20-42-49

The final result is functional and much better looking than a second pour of concrete (which would be difficult to match in color).  The plantings remained undisturbed and were re-mulched for a nice finish.

Leave a Comment more...

Topdressing for a Healthy Soil-base.

by on Feb.03, 2015, under Turf Management

Top Dressing

In addition to fertilizers, lawns also need a healthy dose of complex, composted organic material in order to thrive.  Topdressing allows the soil-bed to be built slowly, over time, which eliminates costly re-sodding.  Many homes do not have their lawn prepared properly when under initial construction, which leaves the roots close to hard-pan clay and other nutrient deprived soils.  Topdressing a few times a year can effectively replace the layer of top-soil that was removed during the preparation of the lot.

Leave a Comment more...

Wallridge – Raised Planters & Backyard Walkway

by on May.15, 2014, under Hardscapes, Planter Beds

Photo Feb 20, 12 02 08 PM

This home is well landscaped, but the homeowner wanted to upgrade the hardscape.  The existing border material was a pre-cast concrete edging with a scalloped edging (in both red and cement gray).   The border material was removed and the turf was allowed to re-grow to the drive and sidewalk.

Front View - Before Shot

Raised Beds were added in the form of stone planter boxes. These planters were added to the front and side of the home as well as around the mailbox and large tree in the front lawn. Belair Wall with “Fossil” finish was used to construct the face and cap of the walls.

Belair_Wall_Shapes

IMG_0903 - Copy

IMG_0990

The homeowner also wanted a nice looking path that led from the driveway, through the gate, and up to the deck stairs in the back yard.  Doublin Cobble

 2014-05-12 09.46.37 - Copy

Collage

 Belgard-Dublin-paver-2

Leave a Comment more...