Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Best Size for an Outdoor Deck

Building a deck, and wondering what is the best size?  Crabapple LandscapExperts suggests planning ahead and consider how it will be used, the number of people that will be sharing the deck, and the size of the existing grill and patio furniture. Is the deck going to be used for entertaining or is it only an entryway? Will cooking and dining be done on the deck, or primarily relaxing?

1. Install a deck that is in proportion with the house. Too large a deck can dwarf the home, while a deck that is too small feels crowded. And although no one wants the biggest deck in the subdivision, no one wants the smallest either. "I wish I had a smaller deck," said no one, ever. The typical 10' x 10' builders deck is useless.

As a rule of thumb, start with 16' x 16' as a minimum size. An average deck size is between 300 and 400 square feet.

2. Generally, a deck should be wider (dimension along the house) than it is deep (dimension sticking out from the house).

3. Larger decks can be multi-level in order to designate areas for different activities such as relaxing, dining, conversation.

4. Decks can be rounded or a geometric shape like an octagon or triangular.

5. Consider the entry points and number of steps needed. A deck should be 2 inches below the floor of the house.

6. Deck hand rails are an important design element. Consider the view through the railings and plan accordingly.

Ask your Crabapple Rep for some advice when building a deck in order to get the right size for your home and needs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

8 Tips to Bring Bees to Your Garden

Cover of Time Magazine

Pollinators of all types are under attack, in part due to the uneducated over-use of pesticides by home owners, and even mainstream Time Magazine is discussing this problem.

Crabapple LandscapExperts offer 8 tips to bring bees into the garden.

1. Plant all shapes and sizes of flowers

2. Plant every color of flower

3. Group flowers together for a bee-alert

4. Native pollinators prefer native flowers, but introduced honeybees like flowers from Europe, so plant a wide assortment

5. Because of metro-Atlanta's long, mild growing season, make sure to stagger bloom-seasons throughout the year. Provide the earliest bloomers in Jan-Feb all the way through the late bloomers in Nov-Dec. to provide pollen and nectar in all four seasons 

Bee with loaded pollen sacs 
6. Locate beds and containers of flowers in sheltered, sunny spots for bees' ease

7. Add some shallow drinking puddles or trickling water for bees to drink

8. Decrease the use of pesticides! Many of them indiscriminately kill beneficial bees as well as harmful pest insects that are supposed to be the target

Digging Deeper
The University of Georgia Entomology Department offers a lot of info on honey bees, including "Establishing a Bee Pasture". 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mowing Wet Lawns - Pointers from Crabapple LandscapExperts

 Is it OK to mow the lawn if the grass is still wet? This question is coming up because of the amount of rain metro-Atlanta has been getting. Crabapple LandscapExperts prefer to mow when the turf is dry, but sometimes it is inevitable that the lawns we care for must be mowed when they are wet. Crabapple does think it is better to mow (even if wet)  than to wait and let the grass get too long.

When Mowing Wet Grass is Necessary                                                                               
Stacks of wet clippings
photo Extension.UMass.ed
CrabappleLandscapExperts' Pointers 
  • Acknowledge that wet lawns are slippery and technicians must take extra care
  • Sharpen lawn mower blades before mowing (like knives, a mower blade cuts best when sharp) 
  • Clean underneath the lawn mower deck 
  • Use silicon spray or oil to coat the cleaned underside of the lawnmower carriage so grass clippings won’t stick 
  • Set the mower height as high as possible 
  • Remove bagging and mulching attachments in favor of side-discharge 
  • Mow so the cut clippings are discharged onto the already-mown area
  • Before mowing, brush the lawn with a push broom, causing the water to roll off the blades and down into the soil  
  • Timing is everything; schedule mowing when the grass may have dried off a bit
  • After mowing, rake the wet clumps off of the mown lawn and then compost them 
  • Mow as often as possible to break up the clumps from earlier mowings 
  • Double-mow (mowing twice in the same day -- in the opposite direction) helps break up the clumps of clippings 
  • Pull the hand lawn mower instead of pushing it 
  • Remember that wet grass produces green grass stains from the chlorophyll in the leaves and wet grass is slippery

 Reasons to Delay if the Lawn is Wet
  •  Mowing while the grass is wet may tear the grass blades instead of cutting them.
  • The sticky, wet leaves of grass wrap around the mower blade, so the grass is shredded rather than cut crisply by the mower blade, weakening individual grass plants 
  • Torn grass blades facilitate the entry of pathogenic fungi and bacteria (lawn diseases) 
  • Wet conditions are also ideal for spreading bacterial and fungal spores   
  • Wet mowing can result in clumps and piles of grass clippings that don't sift down into the lawn properly. Although evenly-distributed grass clippings are healthy for the lawn (mulching mowers), piles of wet clippings can cause problems and need to be raked off
  • If the soil is really soggy, the mower wheels will sink unevenly into the wet soil, making the overall cut uneven 
  • Wet lawns are more slippery for the technician (or homeowner) to walk/work on

 Digging Deeper

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hummingbird Garden: Colorful Nectar Flowers that Attract Hummingbirds

In metro-Atlanta, Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS can add flowering plants to attract hummingbirds to the properties you manage. There are plenty of nectar-producing flowers to choose from in Georgia, and many of them are showy landscape favorites.

To attract any type of birds to the garden, their basic needs must be met, and this includes the Hummers:  
  • Food – Hummingbirds are Nectivorous AND Insectivorous, feeding on both nectar-bearing flowers and protein-rich insects
  • Water -– offer water via misters, drippers, or over flat rocks or in shallow basins (deep birdbaths are not useful) 
  • Nesting Sites and Shelter—woody ornamentals and trees provide twigs for them to knit their tiny nests, along with sheltered areas for protection during storms. (Leave cobwebs for use as building materials)

Desert Botanic Garden
While the color ‘red’ is famous for attracting hummers, flowers of all colors that are rich in nectar are great for a Hummingbird Garden.  These tiny birds don’t have much of a sense of smell, but are attracted by bright colors. Nectar plants include many different plant habits, from annuals and perennials, vines, shrubs, trees, to bedding plants and hanging plants.

When designing your Hummingbird Garden, Crabapple will include a variety of sizes, forms and life-cycles in order to increase your landscape design options. Plants with showy blooms, attractive foliage, ease of cultivation and long bloom season will all add their contributions to the show. Crabapple can choose among these different categories when selecting flowers for attracting hummingbirds

Flower Choices for Hummingbird Gardens

on Zinnia- by Chuchay Ming
Annuals include: Coreopsis, Four O' Clock, Impatiens, Lantana, Morning Glory Vine, Nasturtium, Petunia, Salvia and Zinnia.

Perennials include: Bee Balm, Bleeding Heart, Butterfly Weed, Catmint, Columbine, Coral Bells, Day Lily, Garlic Chives, Hibiscus, Hosta, Lantana, Lavender, Lobelia, Red Hot Poker, Summer Phlox, Salvia, and Sweet William.

Shrubs include: Abelia, Abutelon (Flowering Maple) Azalea (Native), Beauty Berry, Buckeye, Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), Mahonia, Quince (Flowering), Rose of Sharon, and Weigela.

Albino Hummer on Buddleia
Trees include: Chaste Tree, Chinaberry, Crabapple, Hawthorne¸ Horsechestnut
Locust, Mimosa (although can be invasive), Peach, and Redbud

Vines include: Cross Vine, Coral Honeysuckle, Cypress Vine, Jasmine, Jessamine, Morning Glory, Scarlet Runner Bean and Trumpet Vine

Digging Deeper
Hummingbird Garden Page: GA WildlifeResources Division, DNR