Saturday, June 24, 2006

Emergency Mulch Services Available Now

To help our clients protect their landscape investment during this drought, we are offering Emergency Mulch Services (EMS) the week of July 3-7th. We will offer EMS again in the fall to be completed mid-November, and again mid-February during our regular winter maintenance. If the drought persists we will continue to offer EMS 3-4 times per year; when it ends, we will resume our regular 1-2 times per year schedule. Please contact me ASAP if you would like EMS this July and I will begin putting together a schedule. I can't confirm an exact date or time until I have compiled all the RSVPs and addresses.

For 1-5 cubic yards:
  • $34 per cubic yard
  • $50 delivery
  • $150 labor
  • Example: 4 cu yds x $34 = $136 + 50 + 150 = $336 + tax
  • For 'delivery only' of 1-5 cubic yards, $34/cu yd plus $75 delivery fee. We will shovel into a pile on your driveway.

For 6-12 cubic yards:

  • $34 per cubic yard
  • $75 delivery
  • $250 labor

For 13+ cubic yards:

  • $34 per cubic yard
  • $75 delivery (per truckload)
  • $350-600 labor (approximately 1/2 day to full day)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News about watering

This morning I attended a breakfast hosted by North Texas Municipal Water District and partners Dallas Irrigators Association and Texas Nursery & Landscape Association. Representatives from local municipalities were present, as were landscape contractors and irrigators, among others. The focus of this meeting was to educate our industry reps about watering restrictions outlined in various 'stages' of drought contingency plans. Our job, then, is to educate you, the homeowners and businesses -- we're all in this together.

Currently North Texas is in Stage 3. Lake Lavon -- our water source -- has receded more than 10 feet. TEN FEET. Cooper and Texoma are low, as well. MOST of our water consumption occurs in lawn and landscape areas. The good thing is, if each of us were to make 'water-wise' choices in those areas we CAN affect change. Empowered, each of us has the ability -- some might say the obiligation -- to protect our natural resources and the overall health of our communities. And if you are reading this, you are already on board. Whether you're here because you want a low-maintenance landscape, to save money spent watering and maintaining a 'traditional' landscape, or you're an eco-minded person interested in leaving only a light footprint, you've come to our 'site with a bit of knowledge about these issues.

However, if you're new to this approach, here are a few suggestions to help you help your lawn and landscape survive the drought:
  1. Visit Take the quiz!
  2. Apply 4-6 inches of mulch (previously we recommended 2-3" but the rules of the game have changed, therefore so should our recommendations.) We recommend fine shredded hardwood mulch because it feeds the soil, retains enough moisture for the plants, but not enough to become a termite buffet.
  3. Hand-water all plants that are less than 1-year-old, especially trees, shrubs and other large plants. Check the soil first by inserting your index and middle fingers 3" deep. Dry? Hand-water 20-30 seconds at the base of the plant. Wet? Skip a day (or more). Only water when it's dry.
  4. Manually run your irrigation system once-per-week, approximately 20 minutes (or 1"). Ideally, you would run it only 10 minutes-per-day, twice-per-week, but this might violate your community's watering guidelines.
  5. Consult your community's website for detailed information about the watering restrictions. A list of websites is available on the WaterIQ 'site.
  6. Wait until fall to resume plantings. Not all communities have banned new landscape installations -- again, check your community's 'site -- but unless you have time to hand-water, it just makes sense to wait until our reservoirs have been restored and temperatures have begun to cool (a bit.)
  7. Make a plan to convert your lawn and landscape to something beautiful AND water-wise. (August is a FABULOUS time for designs, hint-hint. ;-)
  8. Begin implementing drought-resistant plants and grasses in fall.
  9. Cut back perennials and some grasses in winter (usually around Valentine's Day) 2-4" above ground. Add another layer of mulch -- 2-3" should suffice. Check back in January for updates.
  10. Incorporate water-wise principles into your long-term plans, not just to survive this drought.

Monday, June 19, 2006

New Clients--Please Read

This year we've met with countless friendly new clients and had the privilege of working with several long-time supportive ones. We're working on several designs that will be implemented in fall, as well as subsequent installation phases of previously completed designs. Looks like our fall schedule is filling up already. So another update to our schedule seems in order.

June -- no appointments available.
July -- no appointments available.
August -- no installations; beginning August 14th we will be available for designs and consultations.
September -- limited availability for installations; available for designs and consultations. Time to think about holiday gift certificates!
October -- available for installations, designs and consultations. Gift certificates!
November -- no installations; available for designs and consultations. Gift certificates!
December -- no installations; 1st through 15th only available for designs and consultations. Gift certificates!

We are infinitely grateful for the multitude of referrals and tremendous support of our long-time and recent clients. It has been our pleasure to help so many people synthesize their landscape goals into a cohesive plan.

A Sip, Not Quite a Drink

Rain, finally. We might not have received enough rainfall to restore the lakes or cancel watering restrictions, but thunderstorms last weekend were welcomed by gardeners all over North Texas. The air cleared, we had bluer skies than we've had in a while. It almost looked like early spring ;-)

Our gardens needed the rain -- and we could use a lot more. Watering restrictions are still in place in many local communities, so please continue to supplement your irrigation schedule with hand-watering, as necessary. Don't forget to hydrate yourself, as well.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Simple pleasures

As our season winds down, the knots in my stomach and muscles are beginning to relax. Sometimes spring consumes every aspect of our life, and we do not make time for exercise, relaxation, or personal interests. Gardening professionally, I assure you, is entirely different from gardening as a hobby. It's not always zen-like and therapeutic; there are more details to coordinate than meets the eye. Fortunately we love what we do...

So as we're preparing for our summer winding down I've begun to take time to look around. Literally. During the height of spring I'm focused on the road ahead of me but my mind is making to-do lists and checking off completed items. My mind races all day, into the night, and only now have I noticed changes around me. Things like, the new building being erected at Custer and Parker -- is that a Home Depot? I remember when I was a kid there was a grocery store where the World Gymnastics headquarters is located now. Hirsch's meats was just to the east of the Safeway store, then a drug store, Sassafras (women's clothing store), and the studio where I took dance lessons was upstairs and to the right. Upstairs and to the left was the chiropractor's office where my mom went for adjustments occasionally. Years later I worked for a company that set up office a few doors down from the dance studio which had changed ownership multiple times. Downstairs, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings went on all day and into the evening. Over 25 years I have been connected to products and services offered by various companies located in that shopping center.

Most of the center was demolished earlier this year -- in winter, maybe? I remember driving past that intersection at various stages of the tear-down. The old Woolco building, which eventually became Payless Cashways, Super 1 Foods and Rainbow Foods over the years, was gone. I felt a bit nostalgic, odd that a building I never really paid much attention would evoke such a feeling. So many changes have occurred over the years in our community and I guess part of me wondered where the time had gone. (I sound like an oldtimer.)

Anyway, another change I've noticed has brought me great satisfaction. Entrances and commons areas in many local subdivisions are rapidly transitioning to native and adaptable plantings. A popular plant this year seems to be Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea), which is native right here to the Blackland Prairie. Everywhere, I see spikes of blue. Gregg's Sage (Salvia greggii) has become popular among landscapers, especially as the availability of colors expands. Grasses -- the backbone of any landscape on the Blackland Prairie -- are popping up in these gardens, as well. Mostly there are several species of Miscanthus, a non-native but very adaptable. We'd like to see more Little Bluestem, Big Muhly and Gulf Muhly, to name a few, incorporated into these areas.

The deconstruction of the shopping center brought back memories of my childhood and its rebirth represents our community's ideas about 'progress.' Just as that intersection is getting a facelift, so are the HOA areas. They are progressing, they are using more and more native plants. In the midst of a drought and mandatory watering restrictions, it is imperative that we convert our landscapes to plants that will survive whatever nature throws at us. More people are beginning to understand this, and this, quite simply, pleases me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

URGENT: Mandatory watering restrictions

No rain. Lakes are dropping rapidly. Municipalities all over North Texas have implemented mandatory watering restrictions this summer. Some went into effect June 1st; Plano's policy kicks in June 19th. Check with your city's utilities department for your community's specific policy.

So what does this mean for you? A little extra effort. Frisco residents, for example, are permitted to water 1-inch-per-week via their in-ground irrigation system beginning June 1st. This means residents must hand-water to supplement their irrigation system.

In an effort to assist our customers and prospective clients, we will list tips here that will help to keep your plants hydrated this summer. Follow this plan whether your garden is well-established or brand-spanking-new. This plan should be followed until Labor Day, when restrictions are likely to be lifted.
  • Add mulch. Not just any mulch, mind you. We use exclusively Fine Shredded Hardwood Mulch from Living Earth Technologies. There are other good brands: one sold through Home Depot and Lowe's called "Black Diamond" and Plano Pure's hardwood mulch. Whatever the brand, just be sure it's not cedar or cypress mulch, or pine bark nuggets. The Living Earth product retains moisture which will help your plants stay hydrated in summer, insulated in winter. However, we prefer it because it also feeds the soil as it decomposes.
  • Test soil surrounding your plants. Insert your index finger approximately 2-3" into the soil. Is it wet or dry? If wet, don't water. Test each day until the soil is dry, then proceed to the next step.
  • Deep-root water each plant individually. Lay a garden hose at the base of the first plant and turn the faucet until water streams lightly from the hose. Allow the water to permeate the soil and root ball for 20-30 seconds, then move your hose to the next plant. Repeat this step for every plant in your garden, young or mature. Even well-established plants will be affected by lack of rain and irrigation, so it's important to protect your investment. Deep-root watering will encourage roots to grow downward in their search for moisture. If you water on the surface only you are training the roots to grow outward, creating a shallow root system which is weaker than a deep-root system.
  • Operate your irrigation system once-per-week. Ideally you will do this manually, but if you must, set your system to automatically spray one time, up to 1-inch-per-week. Check with your lawn maintenance company, irrigation installer, or irrigation box manufacturer for instructions on managing your system.
  • Cross your fingers! Perhaps we will have rain again someday, returning lakes to their normal levels and eliminating water restrictions. When that happens, test the soil before you resume your watering regimen.

Remember, even low-maintenance gardens and landscapes need extra attention this summer. It might seem at times you are working too hard to keep plants hydrated but if you help them during this unusual season, they will be stronger and more likely to survive future exceptional weather. And you will be protecting your investment!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sneak Peek at a Few Upcoming Changes

Several readers have asked about these impending changes I've mentioned in previous posts. Most I can't speak about yet, not for legal reasons (LOL). It's a time issue, really. David is out on jobsites all day, I'm split between office, meetings, plant pickups and dropoffs -- we're not in the same place at the same time. So, frankly, we won't finalize these changes until July. However...

One big change you will see is the layout of our website. Over the past three years it has morphed and evolved, sometimes reverted in terms of complexity. As the other changes fall into place our website will reflect them. And finally we will upload new photos. Several of them. We'll also have an online store via eBay to tempt you native plant aficionados. Information related to us, our services, and our projects will be easy to find -- not buried under a bunch of greenspeak in our blog. The blog will remain, as it has become an essential element of our 'site. I'm always impressed and awed by its popularity, though I don't know exactly who is reading. Whoever you are, David and I appreciate your continued interest in and support of us and our mission.

Another change relates to scheduling. We will be scaling back some of our services to focus on others that support our mission more directly. Of course, we wish we could be all things to all people, but that would be impossible. The great thing is, we have cultivated (nice gardening reference, eh?) relationships with other companies who will supplement our efforts. You will still receive superior products and services that you have come to appreciate.

In July we will make final tweaks and changes and post them here. Actually, to the new website. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Back to Work

So we're back, y'all.

While we were away, we tried to focus more on kayaking than plants, but if you know us, that was short-lived. After a family event in Houston we made the trek to Corpus Christi for a quick 3-day camping/kayaking trip. Usually we set up directly on the Gulf-side beach, but the sand was too powdery, too soft for others in our party to drive on without 4-wheel drive. The wind was brutally strong, too. Instead, we explored the bayside at Bird Island Basin, arguably the best windsurfing spot on the continent (or so we were told.)

Weather conditions were perfect: sunny, warm, slightly breezy, calm waters. Of course, the windsurfers were a bit disappointed but we kayakers were stoked. Camping accommodations are primitive and, being part of the Padre Island National Seashore, the natural beauty is almost pristine. As far as the eye can see there are only native vegetation, dunes and the Laguna Madre.

What are some of the native plants, you might ask? One of my favorites is Sea Oxe Eye, or Borrichia frutescens. It looks like a mini-sunflower with silver foliage. So cute. Like our ecoregion, the Texas Gulf Coast is home to Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella.) Grasses, too, line the coastal areas and sway gently in the breeze (or lay flat in the brutal wind!) Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata) are indicator species of coastal areas, and look very similar to Inland Seaoats (Chasmanthium latifolium) which find their natural distribution right here on the Blackland Prairie, among other places.

Our vacation over, today we're returning calls, emails and working on a few designs. Beginning tomorrow through the next few weeks we will be finishing up a few large installation projects (and one small one) before we transition into 'design season' which kicks off officially the last week in June. Already we're meeting with several new design clients next week...I'll post updates to our availability as things change. Until then...stay cool and be well.