How To Install a Pressure-Vacuum Breaker on Your Irrigation System

A pressure-vacuum breaker is an important part of any irrigation system and is required by most cities, because it prevents contamination of the potable water supply through the irrigation system. It works by breaking back-suction on the lines should water pressure fall, thereby preventing contamination from being drawn back into water supply. You can call the local building code office to find out if it is required, but even if it is not required in your area, it is a good idea to install one.

Installing a vacuum breaker yourself can save you money on the cost of installation.

Pressure-vacuum breaker installation can be is easy, especially if you have a PVC main water line. Usually you want the pressure-vacuum breaker fitting to be located close to the sprinkler valves and right after a stop-and-waste valve, especially if you live in a colder climate. This vacuum-breaker installation configuration will help drain the line down when you shut down the irrigation system for the winter.

How to Install a Vacuum-Pressure Breaker:

  1. Dig up the area between the valves and the main sprinkler shut-off. If you do not have a shut-off valve here, it might be a good idea to install one. To install a pressure-vacuum breaker, you should not need more than 12″ to 18″ of space.
  2. Make sure the pressure-vacuum breaker valve is the same size as the pipe. Downsizing the pipe with a smaller valve can cause some water volume problems throughout the sprinkler system, as the water flow becomes restricted by the smaller pipe size.
  3. Get a parts list together. If you are doing the installation with PVC, the parts list should consist of something like this: three 90° elbows, two male adapters, pipe, glue, primer, plumber’s tape and maybe unions, if you want to be able to replace the vacuum breaker easily in the future or to remove it for harsh winters
  4. Apply plumber’s tape to the adapters and screw them into the pressure-vacuum valve so you that can see exactly how much room you will need between the inlet and the outlet with a PVC 90° elbow pointing down from the outlet. If you have plenty of room to work with, the installation should be easy. If you have limited space, this step will help you figure out what you are dealing with. Have a plan before cutting the existing pipe for the installation.
  5. Mark the PVC main water line and cut it to fit your pressure-vacuum breaker valve. The valve needs to be at least 12″ higher than highest outlet, as measured from the center of the middle ball valve.
  6. Measure and cut the lengths of pipe necessary to install the vacuum breaker at the correct height. When cutting the PVC risers, leave them a little longer than necessary, since you can always cut them shorter later.
  7. Prime and glue the PVC 90° elbows onto the pipe in the ground first, with the pipe isers. Use a level to help ensure that the risers are positioned exactly plumb.
  8.  

    Measure and install the unions. Measure the length of the small piece of pipe that will go between the pressure-vacuum breaker and the outlet 90° elbow. Cut and glue the pipe and 90° elbow to the PVB adapter.

  9. The final step is to glue the vertical pieces straight down into the fittings. Dry-fit the pieces first if it helps you line up and level the valve, but do not forget to glue the joints. This is why it is always a good idea to use the colorful glue, so you can tell which joints have glue and which do not.
  10. Allow the joints dry for the amount of time noted on the glue that you used. Leave both valves off on the pressure vacuum breaker. Turn the main sprinkler valve on slowly, then turn on the PVB one valve at a time, unless instructed otherwise by the manufacturer. Check for leaks at the joints before backfilling.
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Do You Need to Lime the Lawn?

Like most things in nature, the soil supporting your lawn (technically called turfgrass) must be in balance. In this case, the balance is a measure of pH or acidity. If your soil is too low on the pH scale, adding lime can help restore the balance and promote a healthier lawn. A quick understanding of the basics of pH, how to test your soil and when and how to apply lime are all you need to get started.

Why Use Lime?

Adding lime is the most common method of changing pH of the soil. Soil pH is a measure of a soil alkalinity or acidity. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Anything below 7.0 is acidic, and anything above is alkaline. Most turf grasses grow best with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. If a soil tests lower than 5.5, it likely will benefit from added lime.

Soils can be naturally acidic but can also be acidified over time by natural leaching, the use of some nitrogen fertilizers, excessive rainfall or irrigation, and acidic water sources. Low pH affects microbial activity in soil, making nutrients less available to grass and other plants. As a result, turf declines. Common symptoms of low pH include loss of color, reduced vigor and diminished ability to recover from heat and drought stress.

Types of Lime

The lime you apply to a lawn is limestone or chalk. The main component is calcium carbonate. There are several types of lime, and a good soil test should tell you which type of lime you need.

Lime with a high calcium content is referred to as calcitic lime and has the benefit of adding calcium to the soil. Some limestone contains a significant amount of magnesium and is referred to as dolomitic lime. Dolomitic lime adds magnesium to the soil and could be used if soil tests indicate a magnesium deficiency.

Most types of lime can be applied with a standard lawn spreader.

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How to Test Your Soil

You can buy DIY soil test kits at garden centers and hardware stores. A good kit costs about $15 to $20 and tests for pH as well as nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The accuracy of the results is difficult to predict, and the information may not tell you how much lime your lawn needs. For the same amount of money (and a little more time, perhaps 2 to 3 weeks), you can have your soil tested at a local extension service. Most university extensions test soil for about $10 to $20 and usually offer a much more detailed analysis of your soil’s composition and pH level.

Follow the extension’s instructions for gathering the soil sample. It’s usually best to gather multiple samples from each large lawn area and mix the samples for each area together before bagging it for testing. Be sure to let the tester know that you want to learn about liming your lawn Care. They will likely perform an SMP buffer test on your sample(s) to indicate how much lime to add.

When to Apply Lime

Lime can be applied to a lawn any time of year that soil isn’t frozen, but it is typically done during spring or fall. It’s best to apply lime after aerating the Lawn Care Columbia.

This aids absorption and allows some of the lime to reach deeper into the soil.

8 Tips to Protecting Your Lawn in the Fall and Winter

Fall and winter are the make-it or break-it seasons for grass. Gardeners and homeowners should be thinking about next spring as they prep their lawns for the upcoming cold months. Yard work is no walk in the park; it’s actually quite a chore. Here are a few winter lawn care tips that can help your grass make it through the colder months so that it is lush in the springtime.

1. Aerate at Least Once Per Year

It is important to make sure your lawn gets a breather in autumn and winter. Aeration tools are used to break up compacted turf, and pull up plugs of soil and grass. A hand-aerating tool is shaped like a pitchfork with hollow tines. It is labor-intensive, but by unplugging small portions, this allows oxygen, nutrients and water to reach the roots. There are also gas-powered machines available. They are roughly the size of a mower and are great for large yards.

This process can provide room for the seeds to sprout, and new grass to grow and spread, without competing with pesky weeds. If you have kids that like to play in your yard or have an otherwise high-traffic lawn, it is recommended to aerate twice per year: once in the autumn and once in the spring. If your yard is just for presentation, it is best to aerate once per year for the best results.

2. Seed Your Lawn

Autumn is typically when the soil temperature reaches around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Since turf roots grow extensively in the fall and winter, this is the prime time for seeding. While it may be tempting to go for the inexpensive seed, it can hurt you in the long run.

heap seed often contains weed seed, annual rye grass seed and hollow husks, which will typically drop dead after the first frost. If you want a lush law, it is best to splurge on the more expensive seed, which are much better at resisting insects, disease and drought. After you plant the seed, water it every day until it germinates.

3. Fertilize Before the First Frost

Fertilizing in the late fall before the first frost occurs can provide your grass with nutrients that it can absorb and store. This can help it survive the harsh winter months and encourage it to grow lush and green in the spring. This should also be your last fertilizing of the year.

Lawns that are fertilized late-season are typically the first to grow in the spring. Choose a fertilizer product that is high in phosphorous (10 to 15 percent is best). This is critical for root growth. If you live in an area where phosphorous-rich fertilizer has been banned, seek nitrogen-rich fertilizers as a replacement. These can promote root and shoot growth.

4. Grind Leaves Into Mulch

Throughout the winter, any leaves, organic debris and dead grass plants can freeze and thaw, causing them to release soluble forms of nitrates and phosphate. When the ground thaws in the spring, these chemicals can then run off and end up in surface water. Make sure you rake up all the leaves before the first frost.

Raking can also reduce brown patches and keep parts of your yard from becoming sun-deprived. Instead of raking them up to burn or throw away, run over them with the mower a few times until they are grinded into mulch. These shredded leaves can protect your lawn from desiccation and wind.

A mulching blade can also be purchased to add to your mower. This tool can grind the leaves even finer. As an added bonus, when shredded leaves decompose, they create an organic matter to feed roots.

5. Don’t Stop Mowing

One of many helpful winter lawn care tips is to continue mowing, even when it does get colder. Continue to mow your yard until you see the growth slow. It is essential to keep your grass at 2 to 2 1/2 inches tall throughout the autumn months.

If it gets longer than 3 inches, it can mat. This can lead to lawn disease problems, such as snow mold. If it is shorter than 2 inches, its ability to store food for growth will be limited.

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6. Sustain Growth by Watering

Although the temperatures are cooler, it is important to continue watering. Since grasses continue to grow in the autumn months, it is important to sustain its growth by watering consistently. Water as needed until the ground begins to freeze. If you have an automatic irrigation system, avoid damage by blowing it out with compressed air before the water is able to freeze in the sprinkler heads and pipes.

7. Weed Control

Autumn is a good time of year to control perennial broadleaf weeds, including clover, plantain, dandelions and creeping charlie. Some weeds can be removed by hand, but many are scattered and few or confined to tiny areas. One of the most efficient ways to remove these weeds is by spot-treating them with herbicide.

This is easier with ready-to-use spray containers. It is best to complete this treatment when the temperature is above 50 degrees, as the herbicide will need sufficient time to kill the weeds before the winter cold sets in. This is also a good time to remove any sticks and other debris from the flowerbeds, under bushes or in the yard.

8. Prepare Plants and Spigots for the Frost

If you live in a region with cold winters, be sure to put away watering systems and hoses. It is also important to turn off water to the outdoor spigots, and protect the spigots with insulated foam covers.

Be sure to bring any outdoor plants or flowers into your home before the cold sets in to protect them from freezing. If you live in a milder weather region, be sure to find an insulated cover to place over the plants to protect them from any frost. This is also a good time to remove any plants from your flowerbeds that are no longer in season.

Prepare for Cold Seasons for Better Springtime Growth

With temperatures dropping and leaves changing colors, it’s typical to forget about the lawn and think more about football and the holidays. This go-to guide can provide helpful winter lawn care tips to prepare for the colder seasons so that your yard can grow lush and green in the spring.

How to Get Rid of Moss in Lawns

Many homeowners trying to get rid of moss in the lawn fail to realize that moss plants are an indicator that you currently have less than ideal conditions for growing grass. So this weed is not the cause of your problems, but an effect.

The potential causes behind the problem are:

  • Low soil pH
  • Lack of necessary nutrients in the soil
  • Poor drainage
  • Excessive shade

Consequently, you have to understand that the job of getting rid of moss (permanently) has only just begun when you remove the particular patch of moss growing in your lawn at the present time.

You must follow up that initial removal with some investigative work, to determine why moss would grow in the area to begin with, in spite of your attempts to grow grass there. If you fail to discover which of the potential causes behind the problem applies to your own garden, a new patch of moss will simply take the place of the old one.

Firing the Initial Salvo

How do you get rid of the moss currently growing in the lawn? Well, since moss is shallow-rooted, you may be able simply to rake it out. But if you do need to apply an herbicide, take note that there are both chemical and organic options. Among the latter, baking soda is sometimes used, as well as soap (both Safer soap and the type of soap you use to wash dishes).

For example, some people recommend filling a garden sprayer with 2 gallons of lukewarm water and mixing in a box of baking soda. Others mix dish soap (Dawn Ultra seems to be the preferred product) and water in a garden sprayer (2 to 4 ounces per gallon of water).

But, again, such efforts are only a first step. For long-lasting success, it is critical that you conduct an investigation into the root cause or causes of the problem.

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How to Get Rid of Moss Permanently: Is the Root Cause in Your Soil?

A great way to begin your investigation is to send in a sample of your soil to your local Lawn Care Service Provider so that they can test it for you.

Tell them that you are trying to get rid of moss in a lawn and indicate that you need to find out what your soil pH is and whether or not your soil contains the necessary nutrients for growing a healthy lawn. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone: The root cause of your problem could be either (or both) of these soil-related issues.

As C.L. Fornari points out in Coffee for Roses, it is not that the presence of moss, in and of itself, is necessarily an indicator that your soil’s pH is overly acidic. The issue here is not that a more alkaline soil will kill the moss, but rather that your grass may need a more alkaline soil to compete effectively against moss. If this is the case, you will need to apply garden lime to “sweeten” the ground. If the ground lacks the nutrients required for lawns to be healthy, you will have to amend the soil and then fertilize the lawn on a regular basis (with compost if you wish to stay organic).

If the soil under your lawn does not drain very well and retains excessive moisture, this condition, too could invite moss. What is a good indicator that you have a drainage problem? Well, a type of soil with high clay content should send up a red flag.

Water tends to percolate slowly through overly clayey soils, and that can lead to puddling. Happily, there is a very simple test you can conduct to determine what type of soil you have. Of course, if you remember seeing standing water somewhere on your lawn after a spring rain, that is all the evidence that you need to conclude that you have drainage issues in that area. If clay is the source of your problem, amend the soil (for example, with humus) to make it more friable.

Poor drainage could be due to any of a number of factors (clay content in the soil is only one possible factor). If the lawn receives a lot of foot traffic (as when children play on the lawn frequently), your problem could be soil compaction, for which the recommended solution is Lawn Aeration. When you should aerate depends, in part, on the type of lawn grass you grow.

Aerate cool-season grasses in early fall and warm-season grasses in mid-spring to early summer.

Some homeowners intent on getting rid of moss really need to be focusing on getting rid of thatch. A thick layer of thatch can prevent water from penetrating properly through the soil. The process of removing thatch is called “dethatching.”

In some cases, poor drainage will have to be addressed by re-routing excess water. French drains are often installed for this purpose.

Or Is the Real Reason You Have Moss Excessive Shade?

Finally, getting rid of moss in a lawn can simply be a matter of addressing the issue of excessive shade. At least this problem, unlike the others discussed above, is intuitive: Even total landscaping novices understand the concept of “shade.” There are two angles from which to tackle the problem:

  • Open up the area to more sunlight through tree removal (or at least have some of the larger branches pruned off).
  • Grow a shade-tolerant grass.

Moss is opportunistic and will sometimes fill in lawn areas left bare because the grass variety that you have chosen is ill-suited to shady conditions. The solution to your problem of getting rid of moss may be as simple as switching grasses. Tall fescue grass is a relatively shade-tolerant grass.

Indeed, as with battling other types of weeds in the lawn, often the best defense is a good offense. Healthy grass will crowd out weeds. Instead of asking, “How do I get rid of moss?” the better question may be, “How can I make my lawn greener?”

5 Good Reasons Why Fall Lawn Care Might Include Compost

Remember when you last ordered a soil test for the lawn? If it showed that organic matter was low or medium (less than four to five percent), your lawn’s future may be less than optimal. Healthy lawn soil has between five to eight percent organic matter.

Compost applications can improve the level of organic matter in soil. The usual recommendation is to apply one-half inch. (Want to know how many yards of compost you need?

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Compost can be applied spring or fall, but fall is usually the best time. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Fall and winter weather work the compost into soil passively, especially in rainy or snowy climates. It’s less work for you and less soil disturbance. If you recently aerated the lawn (another good fall practice), compost is absorbed faster. Many turf pros aerate after applying compost.
  2. Fall compost applications help decompose thatch, the dead grass roots that accumulate on the soil surface during the growing season.
  3. Compost provides food for beneficial soil microbes that may remain active well past the apparent end of the growing season. Fall-applied compost also nourishes soil microbes in early spring as they become active.
  4. Fall-applied compost can help overcome soil compaction, one of the top deterrents to a successful lawn. How do you know if soil is compacted? If you can’t sink a shovel deeper than three inches, the soil is likely to be too dense for healthy lawn growth. If water puddles in a section, the soil is probably compact.
  5. Spring-applied compost has some drawbacks. One is that it can be an invitation for grubs. Because the freshly placed compost is likely to hold moisture, it can attract female beetles during the egg-laying period. Female beetles, particularly Japanese beetles, prefer to lay eggs on moist areas.

How to Buy Compost

If you are making a bulk purchase from a local lawn services provider, you might look for one who uses the US Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance (STA).

Learn more about the how to buy good compost at USCC’s Buy Compost. Find a list of STA participants by state.

Use finished compost that has been properly heated and turned for a sufficient period of time. Avoid compost that uses old building materials.

If any of the compost inputs are animal-derived, such as manure, blood meal, bone meal or feathers, the compost should be sufficiently aged. In organic farming, the recommendation is usually six months or more.

Municipal sewage compost, while widely available, is not considered compatible with organic lawn care and food production standards.

Test Compost for Finish

If you are making your own compost, here are two D-I-Y tests for finish:

  • Put three cups of compost in a sealed plastic bag. Let it stand overnight at room temperature. If the bag has expanded when you check in the morning, the compost is unfinished. Turn the pile and test again in a few weeks.
  • Here’s another test for finish: Fill a planting pot with the compost and try to germinate watercress seeds. If there is no germination or the seedlings are very weak, the compost needs further work.

Test Compost for Herbicides

Compost from grass clippings or cow manure can have persistent herbicides.

Most professional gardeners test for this, but here’s a D-I-Y test for persistent herbicides in compost:

  • Fill a pot with the compost. Add seeds of red clover (Trifolium pratense) or use regular garden beans. Failure to grow is a good indicator of persistent herbicides.

See this fact sheet from NC State University Cooperative Extension for more information about herbicide persistence in compost.

The fall season is a great time to improve lawn soil by applying compost.

Annual Ryegrass Plant Information

The grass shown in the picture above is annual ryegrass. There’s more than one kind of rye; in fact, three different types of grasses contain “rye” in their names. It’s easy to be fooled, and part of the purpose of this article is to distinguish between the three types. Along the way I’ll discuss the various purposes to which these plants are put.

Understanding the Differences Between the Three Kinds of Rye

When the use of common names engenders confusion, it’s helpful to turn to the scientific names of the plants for some clarity.

Here are the botanical monikers for the three grasses in question (along with their most commonly-used common names):

  1. Lolium multiflorum (annual ryegrass)
  2. Lolium perenne (perennial ryegrass)
  3. Secale cereale (winter rye)

Note, however, that, when speaking informally, people sometimes refer to the first two, as well, as ” winter rye.” That’s all the more reason to insist on the use of the botanical name when a positive ID is called for.

In addition to Lolium multiflorum, also in the annual camp is Secale cereale. So that’s one important difference to observe between the three: namely, that two have an annual life cycle, while one is a perennial.

Another noteworthy difference is that winter rye (Secale cereale), unlike the other two, is a grain. Thus another common name for it: “cereal rye.” So think of this one in the way that you would think of wheat or a similar grain, not a lawn grass. Another difference — which should now come as no surprise to you — is that winter rye is a more robust plant than either annual ryegrass or perennial ryegrass.

Despite these differences, they all share one thing (besides having similar names): they are cool-season grasses.

Now that we’ve explored some of the major differences between these three grasses, let’s examine some of their uses.

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Uses for Annual Ryegrass

The best-known use for annual ryegrass is in overseeding lawns, specifically, in overseeding lawns that are composed of warm-season grasses in the South.

When the warm-season grass goes dormant in these lawns during the months of cooler temperatures, overseeding with a cool-season counterpart (annual ryegrass) provides a way to enjoy a green expanse for a longer duration. By the time this annual grass dies out, the weather will have become suitable again for the warm-season grass to take over.

Annual ryegrass is also used in emergencies to cover bare ground. An example would be to fight erosion in a pinch. The seed is cheap, so people sometimes turn to this grass when they can’t afford a better option. As CNS Lawncare & Property Maintenance‘s points out, “Annual Ryegrass is often used as a nurse crop or as a temporary turf to quickly fill in bare areas due to its rapid germination.”

I can testify to that rapid germination. As an experiment, I sowed seeds of creeping red fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and annual ryegrass in small containers on August 21. By August 25, the annual ryegrass had already germinated. The next one (the fescue) did not germinate until August 28; the Kentucky bluegrass germinated shortly thereafter. Even after germination, the three patches were markedly different, with the annual ryegrass being by far the thickest and tallest of the three.

This vigor is a double-edged sword, unhappily.

Its tolerance of a variety of conditions and its ability to reseed quickly mean that annual ryegrass is potentially an invasive plant. If you decide to use it as a temporary measure to solve a landscaping problem and don’t want it to spread, try to keep it from going to seed by mowing faithfully until it runs through its natural life cycle and dies out.

Uses for Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is used extensively in lawns. It is commonly found as one of the constituents of a grass seed mix. Such mixes are composed on the principle that a weak point of one type of grass (lack of shade tolerance, for example) in the mix can be offset by a strong point of another. In the case of perennial ryegrass, a strong point is that it holds up well to foot traffic.

Like annual ryegrass, another strength of perennial ryegrass is that its seed germinates rapidly.

As Kelly Burke observes, “Perennial ryegrass is considered a nurse grass because it is often included in grass seed blends mainly for its ability to germinate quickly and provide shade and protection to the other grass species like Kentucky bluegrass which can take up to three weeks to get started.” As a weak point, Kelly cites its clumping growth habit, a result of which is that “it can sometimes appear patchy”. Perennial ryegrass is different in this respect from many lawn grasses, which possess the ability to spread via stolons or rhizomes, allowing them to fill in better.

Uses for Winter Rye

Winter rye is perhaps the best known of these three grasses to the general public. That’s because it is enjoyed as an edible not only by livestock, but also by people. Its grain is used for the flour that gives us rye bread (deli, anyone?). Others will be more familiar with the use of the grain in producing whiskey.

Here I’ll concern myself with the use of winter rye as a “cover crop.” If you’re not familiar with that term, please read my introduction to the benefits of cover crops.

One of those benefits is weed control, which winter rye excels at due to that horticultural super power known as “allelopathy,” i.e., the ability to inhibit the germination of the seeds of competing plants. The potential drawback, as mentioned by the Lawn Care Columbia, is that “allelopathic compounds may suppress germination of small-seeded vegetable crops as well if they are planted shortly after the incorporation of cereal rye residue.”

Nonetheless, winter rye, managed properly, is very effective as a cover crop, boasting good cold-hardiness, a deep root system (to prevent erosion and loosen the soil), and good drought tolerance compared to other cereals.

Lawn Care Columbia SC used to sow winter rye seed in fall. The exact time for sowing will depend on your region (ask your local extension), but the idea is to get your cover crop established before winter settles in. All you have to do thereafter for a while is wait for winter to end and let the cover crop do its job of “covering for you” until spring returns.

In spring, I would mow the winter rye, then use a garden tiller to turn it under. Some gardeners, rather than rototilling every last bit of this biomass underground, save some to use on top of the ground as a mulch, in which case you’re essentially growing your own mulch. How cool is that?

Either way, the real question becomes, When do I mow my winter rye? If you don’t want your cover crop to outstay its welcome, the timing for mowing is critical, because you face the challenge of something termed “grow-back.”

Why does winter rye sometimes grow back if it’s an annual? Well, it’s important to review just what the annual life cycle consists of. Essentially, a cold-hardy annual such as winter rye will keep growing until it achieves its goal in life, which is to bear flowers so that it can produce seeds. So if you mow too soon, it may make a comeback and put on more growth in an attempt once again to bloom — which you don’t want. On the other hand, if you wait too long to mow, the plants will, indeed, go to seed and live on through a second generation. You don’t want that, either.

A Goldilocks solution is called for (mowing not too early, not too late). While you can often get away with mowing at a height of 12-18 inches (this is what the University of Vermont recommends) without experiencing grow-back, a surer way is to keep an eye out for flowering and mow at that time.

How to Start Up an Irrigation System

Watering is one of the main elements of maintaining a lawn. For lawns maintained at a moderate to high level, or lawns where water is at a premium, an automatic sprinkler system is the best way to deliver precise amounts of water to specific areas.

Recharging an irrigation system can begin as soon as the frost is no longer in the ground or when you can get a shovel easily down a full 12 inches.

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  • Every irrigation system is different but they are all installed with the same basic principles. Here are some simple tips for starting up the system for the first time in the spring.
  • Visually inspect all valve boxes for rodent nests and debris
  • Re-attach any fittings removed in the fall, secure with new plumber’s tape if necessary
  • Ensure all valves and/or drains are open and water source is connected
  • Crack the water source valve and slowly begin filling up the system.
  • When water starts coming out of the drain, close the drain valve.
  • Close any other valves to the outside (including sprinklers) and begin pressurizing the system.
  • Once the system is pressurized, run through the stations one by one, letting each station operate for two minutes. Inspect for proper coverage, leaks, clogged nozzles, and any other irregularities.
  • Make adjustments and repairs as necessary.
  • Review the sprinkler times on the controller. Supplement rainwater to provide the lawn with just enough water to survive.

Most people tend to over water in the spring out of excitement, spring fever or ignorance. An irrigation system should only act as a supplement to rain, there might not be a need to use sprinklers until June, depending on the rain fall.

Grass is healthiest and most resilient when it is thirsty, constantly seeking water and establishing a deep root system. Frequent watering stops the roots from seeking out moisture and causes shallow rooting which is ill prepared for summer stress.

If recharging the irrigation system sounds intimidating or confusing, please do not hesitate to call in a Lawn Care Professional.

Irrigation systems are somewhat complex and lawn sprinkler installers are becoming licensed irrigation technicians in many states. Most irrigation companies would be happy to start up your system and winterize it too.

How to Winterize Your Yard in Fall

Do you need some motivation to perform fall garden care? Well, just think of all the joy your planting beds provided you during the spring and summer. Don’t you want more of the same next year? Assuming you do, there are tasks you can undertake in autumn to help your landscape get off to a good start once the warm weather returns.

But there’s more than the garden to think about. There are a number of serious lawn care chores and related tasks for the landscaper to complete to winterize the yard in fall and ready the landscape for the next growing season.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the chores you should be performing in autumn, from fall garden care and lawn work to winterizing trees and shrubs and taking care of your equipment.

Essential Autumn Lawn Care

During autumn, don’t stop trying to improve the health of your grass for next year — or at least trying to maintain the status quo. For one thing, you’ll want to try to remove broadleaf weeds and thereby remove some competition for available nutrients and water. Along the same lines, have a soil test done to check, for example, on the soil pH of your lawn. If the test should show excessive acidity, apply lime immediately (its effects don’t kick in right away). If, on the contrary, your soil is too alkaline, apply sulphur or contact with your local Lawn Care Lexington SC.

Everybody knows that we should rake leaves in fall as part of the winterizing process for lawns, but many don’t know exactly why we rake leaves. But anyone who has ever raked them knows that it’s tedious work.

Some people choose to use leaf blowers, instead. Here’s another option: before putting your lawn mower to bed for another winter, fire it up (making sure the grass catcher is attached) and run over the leaves with it. Sort of like “vacuuming” the leaves off your lawn. When you’re done, be sure to provide the proper lawn mower care to winterize it.

Many people who have lawn problems do not realize how detrimental thatch build-up is to their grass. An advantage to raking leaves (as opposed to resorting to gadgetry) is that you can dethatch your lawn at the same time: a vigorous raking will extricate some of the thatch that may be plaguing your lawn. But for cases of severe soil compaction, you’ll probably have to use the technique known as core aeration.

Overseeing Lawns in the Fall

Then there’s the matter of overseeing. Consult the general guidelines offered in the following resources:

  • Overseeing Lawns With Cool-Season Grasses
  • Overseeing Lawns With Warm-Season Grasses

Note: You should already have applied fertilizer lightly to cool season grasses in late summer / early fall (the “bridge feeding”). Since these grasses are most active during periods of moderate weather (not too hot, not too cold), it is precisely at this time that they can best use the nutrients provided by a fertilizer. Fertilization promotes root growth and helps the lawn recover from the summer heat, while preparing it for the next growing season.

Such fertilizers are designed to help you winterize lawns.

Fall Garden Care: Winterizing Garden Beds and Vegetable Beds

After harvesting your fruits and flowers, fall Lawn Care Columbia SC should ascend to the top of your agenda. Remove old plant matter from the garden, placing it in your compost bin. Leaving it behind in the garden would invite plant diseases next growing season.

Some people choose to rototill their garden soil at this time, although some experts say that excessive rototilling may do more harm than good. But some people rely on small garden tillers to keep down weeds in vegetable gardens. Rototilling in fall may seem premature; but it will make your spring gardening work go much easier. Drain the old gas out of the rototiller afterwards.

If you are going to rototill the garden, this is the time to apply lime (if soil tests have indicated that your pH is too low).

The effects of liming don’t manifest themselves for several months, so liming in the spring is too late for next year’s crop.

You’ll also need to protect your topsoil from the rigors of winter. You have two options here: You can plant a cover crop for large beds or you can apply a mulch. Mulching is more efficient for smaller beds. And landscapers have a ready source of mulch in the leaves that they rake.

Perennial garden beds ideally should be cleaned up and mulched as part of your work in fall gardens. Remove old stalks and leaves — you’ll have to do so in the spring anyways, so you might as well be a step ahead. But if, for whatever reason, you are not able to mulch your perennial beds in the fall, then do not clean away the old stalks and leaves either — they will serve as a makeshift mulch, affording some small degree of protection to the roots of your perennials. In other words, the cleaning and the mulching go together: either do both or neither one. But it is best to do both, in order to keep your garden disease-free and well insulated.

Some garden experts like Lexington Lawn Care recommend spreading compost on the soil as well at this time. I personally disagree with this strategy, feeling that it is a waste of compost. I recommend keeping your compost protected in a compost bin during the winter, waiting until planting season to spread it in the garden.

Winterizing Trees and Shrubs

Winterize small deciduous shrubs that have fragile branches with a lean-to or some other sort of structure to keep heavy snows off their limbs. Deciduous shrubs provide no interest in winter anyways, so you are not losing anything visually by covering them. Evergreens, by contrast, are the cornerstone of winter landscaping aesthetics.

To a great degree winterizing trees and larger shrubs can be achieved simply by watering them properly in the fall, since the winter damage that they sustain often stems from their inability to draw water from the frozen earth. “Avoid watering trees in late summer or early fall before the leaves fall so they can ‘harden off’ for winter,” states Sherry Lajeunesse, in a Montana State University Extension article.

“Then in late fall, after deciduous trees drop their leaves but before the ground freezes, give both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs a final deep watering to last them through the winter.” The same source also reminds us to “water under the entire canopy area and beyond,” to cover the entire root area.

Prepare Your Tools for Winter

While caring for the living areas of your yard will take up most of your time and energy, your tools deserve some attention too. Proper storage and maintenance of your gear will help get your spring gardening get off to a great start.

Bring in the garden hose and go down into the basement to turn off its water source in the fall. You don’t want those pipes bursting when the temperatures fall into the teens, do you?

With winter approaching, your “pampered beasts” are no longer going to be the lawn mower and rototiller. The snowblower is again ready to assume that honor. Snow is as much a reality of the northern landscape in winter as grass is in summer. Pamper your snowblower accordingly! Make sure you change the oil, install a new spark plug, inspect belts for wear and replace if necessary, lube the drive and chasis and fill with fresh, clean gasoline

And what maintenance should you perform on your lawn mower before storing it away? Drain out the gas in late fall. You’ll be glad that you did, next spring, when you go to start up the lawn mower again. Letting the old gas sit around in the lawn mower all winter and get gummy is not conducive to having easy lawn mower maintenance next spring, when you begin mowing again — the lawn mower won’t start up easily.

How to Winterize Your Compost Bin

Winterizing your compost bin. You have worked hard all spring, summer and fall building up your compost pile and mixing it to achieve optimal decomposition. Don’t let any of your work go to waste! You don’t want precious nutrients eroding away or being swept off by wintery gusts and feel free to contact with your local lawn professionals and if you are in Lexington so Lawn Maintenance Lexington SC will be your best choice. If your compost bin has no cover, then cover it with a tarp in the fall. To insulate it from winter freezing so as to hasten its usability in spring, apply a layer of raked leaves on top and all around the perimeter (bagging the leaves if necessary to hold them in place).

While we’ve covered such tasks as winterizing lawns, trees and shrubs and other miscellaneous tasks, you may have specific features on your landscape that will require additional attention in the autumn. For instance, owners of in-ground swimming pools or elaborate water gardens will have to engage in winterizing tasks specific to these features. Always follow manufacturers’ recommendations.

Start Sprinkler System after Winterizing

To start a sprinkler system after winterizing you must first know where the sprinkler system shut offs are. If you had an irrigation service company shut down, blow out, and drain the system sometimes it is easier just to call them back to turn it on. Many lawn service companies will even shut your sprinkler down for the winter and start it back up when the time comes. If you can find the main sprinkler shut off valve and have a key to turn it back on then you can turn it on yourself.

Most of the time the shut off valve for the sprinkler line is in a long irrigation tube near the sprinkler control boxes.

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The most important thing when turning on a sprinkler system is to turn the water on slowly. You can cause a huge water hammer by turning the water on too quickly and this can burst fittings or pop off sprinkler heads. No matter which valve you are turning on make sure you open it slowly and give it time to pressurize before opening it all the way. The following steps of Lawn Care will guide you through the process to start a sprinkler system after winterizing.

  1. To turn a sprinkler system on located the sprinkler shut off valves. In my area, there are stop and waste valves in the ground and then pressure vacuum breakers above ground. Both of which are usually off and can shut off the sprinkler system.
  2. Turn on the valves. The stop and waste valve in the ground requires a long meter key to reach it. Most stop and waste valves turn 90 degrees in a counter-clockwise direction to turn them on. This type of valve will sometimes leak a little when first turned on but it should be only for a short time. Keep an eye on it and make sure the valve is not continually running.
  3. Pressure vacuum breakers are usually turned on with two ball valves that are located on either side of the vacuum breaker valve. The ball valve in the parallel position means it is on while the perpendicular positions mean it is off. A quarter turn is all that is needed to turn on a ball valve. Make sure it is turned on as slowly as possible.Time to check the individual sprinkler valves.
  4. It is a good idea to remove the sprinkler head at the end of each line before turning on the sprinkler valves. This way if anything is in the line it will get flushed out and it will also protect against any water hammer in case you turn the valve on too fast. By this time you will have water to the pressure side of the valve and you can turn the sprinklers valves on one by one to see if there are any leaks in the sprinkler lines themselves. Sprinklers can be turned on at the timer or by using the manual screw that most sprinkler valves have on the side. But you can turn the system on slower if you do it manually at the individual sprinkler valves.
  5. Take your time and go through each of the sprinkler stations because if a line is broken underground it may take some time to bubble up. Dig up and repair any leaks and replace sprinkler heads that are broken. Make any necessary adjustments to the spray pattern of the sprinkler heads. Let it run a bit and check the coverage. Some spray heads may have to be cleaned out or adjusted before working properly again.
  6. Set the timer. It’s a good idea to set the watering times when you can keep an eye on the watering especially in the beginning of the season to make sure everything is working properly.

Over-Wintering Plants

Gardeners in cold climates never know what to expect during the winter. We may have snow, we may have unusually warm conditions, too much precipitation or not enough. Chances are good we’ll have a mixed bag of weather and while we huddle indoors by the fire, our plants have to take it on the chin. Even if you strictly adhere to buying only plants that are hardy in your zone, there’s no guarantee nature will stick to the agreement. So it helps to have some tricks in your bag to protect your special plants and those that are marginally hardy.

Some garden plants are perfectly happy to be brought indoors and grown as houseplants. They can handle the drier winter conditions and most even enjoy the cooler temperatures. You may have to test out the best spot for sun exposure since winter sunlight isn’t very intense. But bringing in a coleus or fuchsia is a nice reminder of the garden that was and the one that will be.

 

One of the biggest winter headaches is what to do with potted containers. Plants that are at least 2 zones hardier than your growing zone should be able to survive the winter outdoors in containers. You may need to provide some extra insulation and be certain your container is made from a frost tolerant material. Read on for some suggestions for good insulation.

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Roses always seem to come through winter with a little damage. Sometimes they refuse to go dormant and are hard hit by frost. Or maybe black spot or chafers stick around for the winter, to get an early start in the spring. Many roses are grafted onto root stock and need a little extra protection to prevent the graft from winter injury. These 8 tips will help your roses batten down for winter and survive intact until spring.

 

Summer blooming bulbs require so little care during the growing season, they are hard to resist. Who doesn’t love a little touch of the tropics in their garden? Unfortunately, when you don’t actually live in the tropics, you can’t just leave the bulbs in the ground over winter. Well, you could, but they wouldn’t survive. If you want to grow your cannas, dahlias and elephant ears again next season, they will need to be dug and stored.

I don’t know what it is about geraniums, but Lawn Care Lexington SC love to store them over-winter. They are very easy to bring indoors. If you have enough sunlight, you can even let them grow as houseplants, on a windowsill. However, it is easy enough to store them dormant, until they are ready to go back outdoors in the spring. Here are several methods to try.

They label them “hardy” mums, but more of them are tossed in the compost than make it through the winter. The mums that spring up in garden centers in the fall have been treated and forced, to look picture perfect in your fall displays. They can survive the winter, but they’ll need a little TLC. There are also many other types of mums you can grow in your garden, that are truly hardy and indifferent to winter. You might want to try both.

What’s a water garden without water lilies? There are water lilies that are hardy down to USDA Zone 3. They can be left in the water, provided there is enough depth for them not to freeze. Tropical water lilies and hardy plants in shallow water will need to be brought inside. It can be a little messy, but you’ll be ahead of the game if you want to divide them in the spring.

If space is an issue, but you still want to save some plants for next year, consider taking some cuttings of your existing plants. They will start out small and grow slowly, at first. But if you have a favorite begonia, plectranthus or coleus and you want to make sure you have it again next year, cuttings are an easy, inexpensive way to create more plants.

It may sound like wasted effort to mulch in the winter, but this is a different type of mulching. Rather than suppressing weeds and conserving water. Winter mulching isn’t used to keep the ground warm, it’s meant to keep the ground frozen. Frozen ground won’t kill hardy plants, but repeated freezing and thawing will. The expanding and contracting of the soil can push plants right out of the ground.

A layer of snow is excellent winter mulch for plants. But if there is no snow, here are some other ideas for insulating your plants through Lawn Care Columbia SC.