Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Lawn Care: Making your Fescue Lawn the Best It Can Be!

Although metro-Atlanta has had a taste of cool fall weather, it’s not yet time to call it quits on lawn care. Get the properties you manage prepped for winter with some last-minute tasks.

Thatch removal and raking off moldy grass clippings will alleviate disease pressure on the lawn, but better yet, try core aeration, particularly on Fescue turf this time of year. 

Since Fescue is a cool season grass, its most vigorous growth takes place from September/October through April/May. Aerating the lawn should be at the top of the list, since it opens up the soil and promotes a healthier lawn next spring. Water, air and nutrients more easily can make their way down to the roots of the grass plants, resulting in a more vigorous turf overall. The unobtrusive soil cores, scattered over the surface of the lawn, will dissolve during the rains of winter and recycle nutrients back to the soil.

The type and timing of fertilizer to be applied also depends on the type of grass. Crabapple LandscapExperts determine the best formula of fertilizer and the rates for optimizing their clients’ lawns. Proper management of Fescue provides a green turf all year long, in contrast to warm season lawns such as Bermuda or Zoysia that turn tan and go dormant during the winter. Three or four times during the cool months, about October, December, February and April, the LandscapExperts can apply a fertilizer formulated especially for cool season grasses. These products are designed to strengthen the root system and prevent winter injury to your lawn.

The late winter feeding (the end of February to early March), just before the lawn takes off for the Spring, is often an application of slow-release lawn food high in nitrogen. This fertilizer will promote a healthy green color and will feed the lawn for about two months of especially active growth. We generally apply a second application of slow release or organic fertilizer in April, but no later than May 1, to get a robust Fescue through the heat of summer.

Fall is a great time to add Lime to the soil to make it less acidic and closer to neutral, benefitting the lawn and making the nutrients in fertilizer more accessible for plant absorption.

Fall is also a great time to topdress the lawn by raking in some rich organic matter, filled with beneficial microorganisms that supply a natural boost to the grass plants, and mitigate the effects of compacted soils. 

As the wheel of the seasons turns to Fall, there is a lot of thoughtful maintenance that is required to keep the landscape on the properties you manage in top shape. Call the LandscapExperts at Crabapple to lend our expertise. 

Photo Credits: thanks to Royal Horticultural Society,, University of Florida  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

7 Steps How to Transplant a Shrub-- Root Pruning is the Secret!

Crabapple LandscapExperts know that fall is a great time to move plants that may have overgrown a space or that are not in the right location in their current landscape position. 

1. Ideally, about month ahead of Transplanting Day, plan to root prune the shrub by cutting a circle about a foot or 16 inches out from the trunk(s) of the shrub, slicing through the side growing roots with a pointed nursery spade. Do not cut underneath the root ball, but leave the shrub attached to roots growing down into the soil. Water and maintain the shrub in the following weeks, and during this time feeder roots will develop within the circle close to the trunks that will support the shrub in its move.

2.  A day or two before Transplanting Day: water heavily around the base of the shrub. 

3.  A couple of days before Transplanting Day, dig a large, shallow hole in the desired new location, and fill it with water, moistening the soil thoroughly. Keep the soil excavated from the new hole handy.  

4.    On Transplanting Day re-dig around the circle of roots, lean the tree over to one side and slice through any remaining connecting roots. Carefully pry the root ball out of the soil in one piece. Drag it onto a burlap square or place into a wheelbarrow that is standing by. 

5.  Replant the shrub in the pre-dug hole, making sure that the top of the root ball is even with (or slightly higher than) the top of the surrounding soil. Fill in with the native soil.  

6. Place soil amendments such as compost, Nature’s Helper, Mr. Natural or similar on the soil surface as a mulch, and water-in thoroughly.  

7.  In the following few months, make sure the root ball never dries out, but is carefully watered until the feeder roots grow at least one inch into the surrounding soil. Crabapple LandscapExperts know the transplant is sure to prosper with a little forethought and care. 

For an even  more exhaustive dissertation on transplanting shrubs, my friend Bob Polomski from Clemson Extension has written a treatise on transplanting mature trees and shrubs  if you would like to check it out. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

9-Inch NEEDLES, An Insiders's Guide to Pine Straw

So why do CrabappleLandscapExperts use pine straw mulch in many of the landscapes under our care? 

Advantages of Pine Straw Mulch:
- quick, simple, easy, clean
- local, sustainable, renewable

- visually appealing, uniform color
- fine texture sets off the landscape
- lightweight, pest free
- controls erosion and great for slopes
- doesn’t float away
- breaks down slowly
economical; cost per square foot is lower than other mulches
- doesn’t compact
- can be used in flower beds or on garden paths
- great for nests

Georgia’s towering Loblolly and Slash Pines are an important component of native southeastern forests and landscapes, and their evergreen needles create a soft billowing effect. Quick maturing, their wood is grown as a 20-year crop for timber and pulp manufacture. Their needle leaves, called pine straw, is another important sustainable, local, renewable resource from pines. 

1. In order to tell the different pines apart, first look at their overall silhouette. 
2.     Next, observe their needles up close. They come in different lengths and, depending on the variety, in 2- 3- or 5-needle bundles called fascicles. Instead of turning red and falling off every autumn like deciduous oaks and maples, the average bundle of needles lives two years, and this staggered life cycle is what makes them ever-green.  

When they finally do get around to falling, often times in the fall, Pine Needles turn a lovely light cinnamon color, are raked up from the forest floor, baled and sold as a mulch with many advantages. Pine straw is readily available as mulch in the metro-Atlanta area, and Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend spreading pine straw as mulch when a very fine texture is called for in a landscape design.

CrabappleLandscapExperts’ long list of satisfied customers includes homeowners’ associations, apartment communities, office sites, government agencies, commercial facilities, retail centers, schools and universities, and private homeowners. Call your Crabapple Rep now to get the landscape in shape for the upcoming three months of holidays. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pointy Side Up! Bulbs and Easy Planting Tips

A few minutes spent planting bulbs on a lovely afternoon this autumn will chase away old man winter early, ushering in a graceful spring with weeks of color and excitement before the rest of the garden wakes up. Crabapple LandscapExperts suggest that fall bulbs are best planted when the nights start to cool down. 

Just about all you need to know is “pointy side up”.

The Big Three

Daffodils make the most impact; in fact, in metro-Atlanta the earliest varieties begin blooming in January, showing their cheery faces in yellow or white. Daffodils are also known as narcissus (the scientific name) or jonquils (the flat cup varieties) and will grow in sun or shade. An added plus is that the squirrels and chipmunks won’t eat them because daffodil bulbs are poisonous to critters. If all those benefits weren’t enough, daffodils are reliably perennial around Atlanta, so once planted they will return every spring like a visit from old friends. They can be tucked next to perennials or foundation shrubbery, or planted underneath groundcovers like vinca or ivy in order to pop up through the foliage.

Tulips come in a wide assortment of luscious shades, and based on the type of flower will appear from early through late spring, for example, Early Singles, Darwin Hybrids, Lily-Flowered or Late Doubles. They come in every color except blue, and one company matches bulbs tothe house color and suggests varieties to plant. Around Atlanta, though tulips won't usually come back next spring, so you'll have the joy of choosing new ones and trying new color schemes in fall.

Hyacinths are super-fragrant and are so easy to grow that they can even be forced in a glass of water. Choose from pink and rose to blue, yellow, orange and white. March 7 is World Hyacinth day, so you see, they are pretty early bloomers. Carl Sandburg said, "Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. " 

Fast, Easy, Foolproof
Planting bulbs is fast, easy and foolproof. The Dig, Drop, Done Foundation, a consortium of bulb growers, highlights these features with amusing videos of bimbos planting bulbs and enjoying flowers. The good news is that bulbs are very forgiving, so however they get in the ground, they will bring flowers in early spring. 

Yes, you can carefully prepare a bed adding compost and organic matter, OR you can just dig some holes and drop in the daffodil bulbs, pointy side up. cover them with the soil from the holes and you're good to go. 

Yes, you can measure the designated depth to plant each kind of bulb, OR you can scoop out some soil with a hand trowel and the bulbs will find their way to beauty (contractile roots ). 

Your Crabapple LandscapExperts know that planting bulbs teaches anticipation and rewards patience, so try some this fall. What do you have to lose?