Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winterize Irrigation Systems After Thanksgiving

Did you know?  Metro-Atlanta and surrounding areas have among the highest water pressure in the country. Add to this another piece of information, The Farmers’ Almanac has issued their winter forecast for thesoutheast,  predicting mild, wet weather for the upcoming 2011/2012 winter in the Deep South.

Crabapple tells Property Managers and HOA Reps what this means to them:
  • Even though most areas of Georgia may not be at risk for freezing and burst pipes, shutting down your irrigation system and bleeding out static pressure in the lines will relieve pressure on both the valves and the PVC or pipe and will extend the life of your sprinkler system.  
  • With a wet winter predicted, sprinklers likely will not be needed for watering landscape plants.  Deciduous plants have lost their leaves and lose less moisture through transpiration, needing less watering.

It is important to give your drainage system a professional once-over, and early winter is the perfect time, when other landscape maintenance demands are reduced.  
 Options to Clear the Irrigation Lines: Crabapple LandscapExperts will  
  • Manual Draining

Shut off all water to the system and manually open drain valves (or install them if they do not already exist) situated at the low point of each line, and allow gravity to clear the lines of water. Dry wells with gravel are a good idea for these low points. We will turn off the power to a well- or pond- pump if applicable to the individual client.

  • Blowing Out

Contact Crabapple LandscapeExperts to blow out your irrigation lines using an air compressor to force water out of the system. This process, known as “blowing out” can damage your components if not done professionally because the amount of pressure needed to blow out the water will vary from one system to the next. Our technicians will attach the compressed air hose to the blowout connection for each zone and blow out all the water (applying less than 35-40/psi of pressure), finishing up by draining the valve that prevents backflow and the shut off valve.

Crabapple’s key to winterizing irrigation systems is to be patient and thorough. Letting the lines drain a few days until they dry out completely will make a big difference next spring when we recharge the systems.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forcing Bulbs Indoors for the Winter Holidays: 2 Key Rules

One of the easiest and most successful forms of winter gardening is forcing tender bulbs into flower. Bulbs are packages of energy surrounding a flower bud, all ready to go, and all they need is some moist potting soil or water-and-pebbles to start the process. Now is the ideal time to start them for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Years decorating, for home or office.

Those in the know follow 2 Key Rules for Forcing:
  1. Buy the largest bulbs you can find/ afford because they yield the most and largest flowers
  2. Grow bulbs in a bright, sunny window with direct sunlight so they do not stretch too tall    

The two best known types of tender bulbs are Amaryllis (6 to 8 weeks to force flowers) and paperwhites (3 to 5 weeks for blossoms). These evolved in warm climates and do not need chilling like some of the hardy landscape bulbs do.

Amaryllis are huge bulbs with large showy red, pink, white, orange or bicolored  trumpet flowers, best planted in rich potting soil. Each bulb will throw two flower scapes with 4-8 flowers, and sometimes a lucky third. They are not inexpensive but can be treated like a houseplant, spending summers outdoors, and will usually bloom again each following winter.

Paperwhites are small-cupped white daffodils that have a delicate beauty and an intense fragrance.  If you buy a couple of dozen bulbs, you can start sequential batches every couple of weeks for blooms through February or March. Put at least 7 in each pot or bowl. These can be forced in pots of potting soil or in decorative bowls filled with water and 2-3 inches of pebbles for ballast. After bloom, plant them outdoors and in the metro-Atlanta they typically bloom in December in following years.  

If success with forcing tender bulbs has whetted your appetite for more, check The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center for lots of information on bulbs and how to chill outdoor bulbs like hyacinths, crocus , grape hyacinths or mini-daffodils indoor blooms. 

Photo Credits, Geri Laufer, White Flower Farm and

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Honk if You Love Your Landscape: Canada Goose Control Tactics

Certainly you can recognize Canada Geese; they are large, aggressive, birds, taupe in color with pale breasts, black necks and heads, and distinctive white chin straps. You may have seen them in the sky on their way to somewhere else in a flying V- formation. But many flocks of geese become unwanted permanent residents in populated landscapes, and this is where Crabapple LandscapExperts can help. 

Historically, due to intense hunting pressure and habitat loss in the last two centuries, the goose population faced a serious decline. But with new game laws, quotas for hunters, habitat restoration in the form of man-made lakes and water features (e.g. on commercial developments, subdivisions, planned communities, public parks and golf courses), and the decrease in natural predators, Canada Geese populations have skyrocketed in occupied areas.

On top of that, due to 
metro-Atlanta’s mild winter climate large flocks of the geese have become tenacious permanent residents in places such as retention ponds in apartment complexes or detention pools in commercial properties. They have reached the point where property managers and HOA reps consider them to be pests (because of their messy droppings, harmful bacteria related to their droppings, loud nasal honking and noise pollution and confrontational behavior).

Turn to Crabapple LandscapExperts to remove birds, avoid property damage and decrease liability, while eliminating costly cleanup of droppings and the spread of disease, all without toxic pesticides.

Some humane strategies that can be employed by Crabapple LandscapExperts:
Physical exclusion
            low fencing
bird spikes
Turf grass repellants to make grass unpalatable (waterproof / reapply)
Sticky gels to hamper their feet
Harassment by 
            Border Collies
            Trained Hawks
Visual scare tactics
coyote decoys
owls decoys
eagle decoys
flashing lights
buoys with flashing lights
Laser beams in ever-changing patterns
Audio repellants
sonic repellants
gun sounds
cannon sounds
Hatch control

So give us a call at 770-740-9739 and we can evaluate your goose control needs.

P.S.  Canada Goose Hunting Season is November 19-27 and December 10, 2011 - January 29, 2012. Pick up your waterfowl hunting license and migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps from the Georgia Department of Fish and Wildlife before you go.

photo credits: and 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Retention Pond Care and Maintenance by the LandscapExperts

Homes, developments and commercial buildings alter the land, and the natural permeable system of forests and grasslands gives way to hard surfaces like roads, roofs, sidewalks and parking lots that increase rapid rainfall runoff. Erosion can be a problem, and pollutants from sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous, oil or gasoline off of roads, bacteria from pet waste and plant litter can all impact metro-Atlanta water systems and their native wildlife.

As a result, retention ponds are a Best Management Practice (BMP) for storm water and are designed to reduce the impacts of excess water and pollutants caused by increased building and development of new construction.

In Georgia, Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) and Property Management Companies are required to maintain retention and detention ponds to make sure that rainwater is collected without disturbing the surrounding land. Ponds are subject to annual or semi-annual inspections. However, these retention basins last longer when they are properly maintained. For the best in maintenance help, turn to Crabapple LandscapExperts, a full service maintenance company equipped to handle all aspects of retention pond maintenance and restoration.

A retention pond is self-enclosed and depends on evaporation and percolation to remove water, and differs from a detention pond that has an outlet such as a neighboring storm sewer or creek to accept excess rainwater and storm water after a rain event. Count on Crabapple LandscapExperts for regular inspections and maintenance of your pond in order to: 
  • Protect life and health 
  • Minimize property damage 
  • Protect water quality 
  • Maintain a functional storm water system

Inspection of riprap (large rocks used to slow the flow of water) and replacement when clogged with sediment or debris

Vegetation management including elimination of invasive species and increase in native plant diversity

Embankment and outlet stabilization, where we establish permanent native vegetative cover on eroded slopes

Debris and litter control and routine inspections for trash or debris that could block inlet or outlet pipes, grates, culverts or emergency spillways

Wildlife and insect control, for example, use of natural predators that are encouraged by wildlife enhancements, by physical means such as low barriers to stop nuisance geese, or by state sanctioned West Nile Virus control for mosquitoes (through local city and state health departments)

Sediment removal and dredging may be required, typically once every 5-10 years

Maintenance of a 15-25 foot no-mow and pesticide-free zone, eliminating herbicides, insecticides or fertilizers around pond, and burning off vegetation once each spring

Recycling of yard waste such as grass clippings, leaves or brush that is carried away and recycled to rich mulch at the Alpharetta Crabapple facility

Make it easy on yourself and call the LandscapExperts Contact your Crabapple Rep to establish a maintenance program for the retention or detention pond on your property for longer life and increased efficiency. . 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bring Houseplants Indoors for Winter

Did your houseplants “vacation” on the back porch or in the garden this summer? If you haven’t already moved them, now is the time to get them back indoors before frost. The LandscapExperts at Crabapple have some tips on Best Practices for safely moving plants back indoors when cold temperatures threaten, including potting up and organic pest control if needed.

Just as the move outdoors was traumatic for plants because of the big differences in light and humidity levels, bringing them back indoors can result in yellowed leaves, dieback and wilting. Try for a gradual reintroduction to the indoors before temperatures dip below freezing. (Basil growing outdoors is a good indicator plant, and ours is still green and fresh, so it is not too late this fall!) 

First, inspect plants for insects and diseases, and wash with a dilute solution of Ivory Liquid and water, then rinse thoroughly (outside or in the shower). Another option is to spray with an organic pesticide like Safer Soap before bringing plants back inside. 

Check the outside of the pot for dirt or signs of unwanted inhabitants.  Submerging the entire plant and pot in a tub of room temperature water for about 15 minutes will force insects out of the soil. Snails, earthworms or other insects have got to go. A soaking will also help you scrub the pot clean using a stiff scrub brush. 

Second, evaluate your plants from an interior design standpoint. Did they get too big and outgrow the space this summer?  Can they be cut back, or divided and shared, to maintain an appropriate size?

Have on hand some fresh potting soil containing slow-release fertilizer, a few large size pots and saucers to choose from, and a long serrated bread knife for root pruning or dividing.  

   1.    Knock the plant out of the pot and evaluate how crowded the roots are. Is there a solid mass of white roots, or can you see some potting soil along the sides?  

   2.    Decide
        a.    to pot up to a larger size pot 
        b.    to root prune and return the plant to the same pot with some fresh soil (after scrubbing the pot inside and out) 
       c.    to divide in half and replant each half the plant into a pot with some fresh soil (two pots will be needed).

If potting up, add fresh potting soil to the bottom and sides of the larger container and pop in the plant.

If root pruning, slice away about an inch of the solid mass of roots from sides and bottom all the way around, using the long serrated bread knife. Then pot up as described above. Cut back top growth to the desired size using sharp pruners or utility shears.

If dividing the plant in half, shake some of the soil off of the roots and hunt for a natural division through the center of the plant. Use the long serrated bread knife to help saw the crown in half. Then pot up each half as described above, placing each new plant in the center of the new pot and adding fresh potting soil as needed. 

Clean your windows (perfect timing for Thanksgiving, too) to ensure that plants will get adequate light through the glass this winter. 

Place plants on waterproof saucers in your living space. The key will be to water appropriately, after the soil surface gets dry to the touch for a day or two. Beware! Overwatering is the #1 cause of death of houseplants. Indoors they won't need as much water as they did outside during our dry summer, but after the furnace kicks on, they will dry out a little more quickly.  Water succulents and Phalaenopsis moth orchids even less often, when the soil has been dry for several days.  Don’t water during dark, cloudy days or rainy weather because plants won’t get sufficient light indoors to dry out.

Of course the other option is to treat houseplants like cut flowers instead of like old friends, and toss them out (or into the compost pile) this time of year and start with fresh, vigorous nursery stock. Which way do you prefer? Let Crabapple know.