Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Composting, LandscapExpert Style

The Compost Poem
(Sung to the tune of “The Worms Crawl In, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout . . .”)
 The green goes in, rhe brown does too;
This is something we all should do.
Just give it a spin. just give it a toss.
Show your garden waste who is boss. 
-by Lynn Anne, from Doug Green’s Blog

Did you know Crabapple recycles more than 2,000 cubic yards of green waste per year? 

Whether during routine service or specially scheduled renovations, Crabapple LandscapExperts often remove quantities of brush, clippings, leaves, fallen branches, spent mulch and weeds. Although this cleanup process makes clients’ properties orderly and neat in appearance, it also results in a large volume of green waste.

While other companies might haul this waste to a landfill, your LandscapExperts have put in place recycling program that demonstrates our commitment to the environment.

All landscape green waste (organic matter) is trucked back to Crabapple facilities where it is separated for size, shredded and ground, then screened. It is either used in the production of energy, or naturally composted to produce organic mulch and rich organic compost.

Afterward, this nutrient-filled organic mulch is recycled in landscapes across metro-Atlanta, conserving moisture, maintaining even soil temperatures, offering a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers, increasing beneficial micro-organisms that help to ward off plant diseases in the soil, and providing a unifying visual element in these landscapes. 

Further composting results in rich, black humus that is recycled during soil prep and enriches flower beds, added to Crabapple's  beautiful containers, window boxes and hanging baskets, or used to top dress areas planted with flower bulbs. This all-purpose soil amendment is the “complete multivitamin” for plants, adding nutrients, trace elements as well as humic acids that improve the soil structure and create good tilth. 

Crabapple LandscapExperts carefully make the best compost going, and we use it in the landscapes under our care! 

Photo Credit, Humus: University of Florida

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Benefits of Sharp Mower Blades: Research Update

Crabapple LandscapExperts know all about the value of keeping mower blades sharp! Dull mower blades:


● reduce the visual quality of turf because they shred the tips of the grass blades, producing a discolored cast
● increase disease susceptibility of the lawn, due to the creation of entry sites for pathogens at the tattered leaf tips
● cause growth to slow
● decrease water usage(!) Nebraska researchers Drs. Don Steinegger and Robert Shearman found that turf cut with a sharper blade actually used 33 percent more water than the turf mowed with a dull blade. They think this is due to the slower growth rate of the turf mowed with a dull blade. The researchers caution that using a dull blade isn’t the most pragmatic way to conserve water, noting that reduced visual quality, greater disease and slower growth more than offset the benefits of lower water use.
 ● most surprising, Steinegger and Shearman found that sharp mower blades cut fuel consumption by 22 percent. It makes sense that a dull blade would produce more resistance, but this study shows that the difference in fuel consumption is more than a theoretical consideration.
What this research means to Property Managers
By keeping their equipment in top condition, Crabapple LandscapExperts provide the best possible treatment for lawns and golf courses under their care. Mowing is accomplished efficiently, allowing us to concentrate on other aspects of the landscape, and overall cost savings. For more information, contact your Crabapple Rep. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Passive Solar: Planting for Shade and Cooling

Planting for Shade
The idea of using plants to shading a building in summer for coolness is called passive solar and can be both practical and beautiful. In summer, sunlight during the first and last few hours of the day is a major source of building heating, so planting trees and shrubs on the east and west sides is a great way to reduce this heat buildup. Trees  provide shade during all but the middle few hours of the day. A canopy of trees with a lower level of shrubs and bushes, or a wall or fence, to block low-angled rays is most effective. If deciduous trees are selected, they will drop their leaves in fall, thereby avoiding blocking sun during the winter.

Your Crabapple LandscapExperts will use winter and summer sunrise/sunset points to determine the appropriate length and placement of tree lines for your buildings. Best is to stay a little north of the winter sun points and choose deciduous trees for the southern end of the tree line, so that some early spring and late fall sun can reach the building. Evergreen trees are also very suitable for the eastern and western sides of a building.

From an aesthetic point of view, ask Crabapple LandscapExperts for their recommendations for nearby trees. Clearing the lower trunk of branches so that winter sunlight reaches window glazing underneath the branch canopy is an option. Your LandscapExperts can provide a solar site survey to determine what height the branches should be, since the clearance height depends on both winter sun angles and the distance of the tree from the building.

Trees very close to buildings will need to have lower branches removed to above eave height. Trees further away are cleared much higher. An understory of shrubs and hedges can provide privacy if required. [See related Blog on tree clearance of valuable buildings.]

Landscaping as a Natural Air Conditioner

In summer, air brought into buildings for ventilation and air conditioning is an important aspect of passive cooling. Landscape choices can cool outside air before it gets inside, increasing the cooling effect and decreasing the amount of energy needed to reach an optimum temperature – a kind of natural air conditioning.

Plants cool air temperatures in two ways:  
● Leaves cast shade, so air beneath them is cooler because it is not warmed directly by sunlight.
● Leaves transpire moisture– release water from pores on the leaf surface – which cools relatively dry air by evaporative cooling. The US Dept of Energy  states trees can reduce air temperatures around them by up to 9°F (5°C). Directly underneath trees the cooling is even better – up to a huge 25°F (14°C) cooler.

Solutions for Passive Solar Cooling with Plants:
● Crabapple will design ventilation pathways – the pathways that air travels into a building  –  to pass through a garden belt, a mix of trees and shrubs. If space is limited, vines grown vertically on trellis or on wires can produce a similar air conditioning effect.
● Take advantage of the air-conditioning effect of plants within courtyards. The courtyard can be linked to the building it serves in such a way that the cool air from the courtyard is sucked inside.
● Water features such as small ponds or fountains further enhance cooling through evaporation. This can be especially effective in the confined area of a courtyard or entrance patio.
● Finally, consider ground covers in passive solar temperature controls. Common paving materials – asphalt, stone, brick, cement or ceramic pavers, gravel – have significant thermal mass. They accumulate heat while the sun shines, and radiate that heat back at night. Crabapple LandscapExperts choose to keep pathways and drives shaded to limit the heating of the air surrounding them. 

Investigate the benefits of Passive Solar Cooling with your Crabapple LandscapExperts Rep. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Value of an Irrigation System Renovation

Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend updating irrigation systems for the greatest cost savings. A thorough irrigation system renovation will pay for itself within a few years.

Quick Tips:
● Efficient irrigation requires a quality sprinkler system design, excellent water management skills and regular system maintenance by your LandscapExperts.
● Tune ups and renovations of sprinkler systems greatly improve water coverage resulting in both better plant growth and water savings.
●Seasonal adjustment of irrigation controllers yields substantial water savings and better plant health.
● New technologies will likely result in improved water management. An irrigation audit can point to where water savings can be achieved.

Water sensors are a good upgrade, and shut off the equipment when enough water has been applied. While manual overrides can achieve the same result, rain sensors are another reliable method of eliminating redundancy or overwatering. Soil moisture sensors are still another option and will shut off the irrigation when the soil is moist and irrigation is no longer needed.

New Advancements in Technology
New technology has the potential to revolutionize landscape watering. Evapotranspiration (ET) controllers adjust run times by calculating the correct amount of water to apply. This takes the guesswork out of programming watering times. ET controllers use broadcast or online-transmitted data based on current weather station information(!). If current data is not available, normal (historical) ET information can be programmed into the controller for the calculations. Ask Crabapple LandscapExperts about these devices that will likely become more common over time. 

Horticultural tests for a new and efficient method of irrigating lawns and planted beds are underway at several agricultural experiment stations. One method uses subsurface (buried) drip irrigation lines, eliminating water loss through wind drift and evaporation waste. Your LandscapExperts are watching how this technology will develop. Ask about cutting edge technologies as you are installing new or renovating old sprinkler systems on the properties you manage, and save both water and money.