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.

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.

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.

6 Steps to Prepare Your Lawn for Winter

You’ve spent all summer mowing your lawn and enjoying how luscious and green it looks. It was the perfect setting for outdoor barbecues, birthday parties, camp-outs for the kids, and other gatherings. Now the weather is cold and you want to protect your lawn so it will be just as nice when warm weather comes knocking again.

Sure you could just leave it be, but Lawn Care Columbia SC have some tips that can help prepare your lawn for winter, so that it is ready to fill out strong and green when the cold and snow begin to clear.

Know When to Mow

This one is important. Even in summer months you want to be sure not to more your lawn too often or too short! We’ve seen so many lawns scorched from low mowing that we can’t count anymore.

In the fall, you should mow your grass every 10 to 14 days until all of the leaves have fallen. This will make sure leaves don’t smother the lawn and keep it at a healthy length to prepare for winter. Check the minimum recommended length for the type of grass you have, but a good general length to prepare the grass for winter is 1.5 inches for warm climates and 0.75 inches for cool climates.

Leaving the grass at a recommended length like this for the winter lets the grass protect itself and helps reduce fungus growth when it snows. It also helps delay cutting until warmer weather comes along.

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Don’t Forget the Fertilizer

You may want to add a natural fertilizer for Lawn Maintenance Lexington SC to help ensure it will be green and lush next season.

If you didn’t do this at the end of summer, go ahead and do it before winter comes. Be sure you are using a good organic fertilizer with 0% phosphates.

Reduce or Stop Irrigation

Now that the weather is cooler, you don’t need to water your grass as much, if at all. If you are in a warmer climate, you can simply reduce how often and how long your sprinklers run.

If you are in a cooler climate, go ahead and stop your sprinklers altogether. You don’t want the water to run and then freeze overnight, and it will help you save water. Win win.

Maintain Your Compost

Fall is a great time to build up your compost pile to have it ready for next spring. While you are cleaning up your yard before winter comes be sure to add some of the “brown” that your compost needs. For example, gather some leaves and add them to your compost pile. The leaves will prevent the pile from getting too wet and add a little insulation to the compost as well. Be sure to leave some to chop up with the mower as well.

Prevent Mosquitoes

This is one people often forget about when doing Lawn Care for winter.

Walk around your property and make sure you don’t have anything that collects stagnant water. Mosquitos breed when the temperature is around 50 degrees, so if you provide them places to breed in the cooler weather, you can expect to get bit when the warmer months come back.

Any sources of still water are a problem, since mosquitoes can use something as small as a bottle cap to lay eggs. Check your flowerbeds, garden pots and rainwater barrels and replace water in your birdbath daily to prevent breeding.

You will thank yourself for this extra step when you are enjoying warm nights out the following summer without all of the bites!

Be Careful in the Winter

If it snows, leave it on the grass. Some people plow around sidewalks and driveways in the grass, and this is a big mistake because snow actually protects your lawn – sort of like insulation from the crisp, bitter winter air. Plowing the snow on the grass will cause those patches of grass to not grow as well, making your lawn look patchy in the spring.

Taking care of your Landscaping is about more than making it pretty. These tips will help ensure a healthier lawn that can better care for itself with less work on your part. These tips can certainly help you get your lawn ready to survive the winter so you can enjoy it when summer comes around again.

Level out an Uneven Lawn With Topdressing

Areas of a lawn can become uneven over time, due to “settling” and other factors. In the least extreme cases, you will want to solve the problem by “topdressing,” which allows you to level out your lawn. Is this problem new to you? If you have never experienced it, you may need a brief introduction to it — and its solution — in order to understand what it is all about. The following exchange between a reader of my Landscaping website and a lawn care expert at CNS Lawncare & Property Maintenance provides a case study that will help bring you up to speed.

The Problem: Low Spots Develop in a Lawn, Making the Surface Uneven

Reader, Springtime writes, “I have a lawn that was put on over a ledge where the house was build in 2006. Now the lawn is very uneven with dips in the surface that can twist your ankle while walking. The grass is in bad shape too and looks dead in places. One side of the lawn is sloping. What should I do?”

The answer to this question follows:

The Solution: How Bad Are Those Low Spots?

Most of us enjoy our turf grass lawns as a great foundation for outdoor activity. Maintaining our lawns properly is very important, in part, to ensure safe and enjoyable outdoor activity. A lawn needs to be smooth to avoid injuries that might be caused from stepping on an uneven surface. Your grass is the “floor” of an outdoor living space, and floors need to provide stability.

A level and even lawn is also easier to maintain. Who wants to mow a lawn with low spots in it, right?

Not only is it uncomfortable (as when you drive your car over potholes), but it can also cause you to scalp the grass (because, as the mower drops down when the tires pass over low spots, the level of the mower blade also drops, plunging into the higher spots and cutting the grass there much too low).

So what is the solution to the problem of low spots? It really depends on the severity: are we talking about some minor depressions, extreme cratering, or something in between? The solution differs accordingly, which is why the response must be broken up into three parts, which we will term Methods 1, 2, and 3:

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Method 1 — Leveling Out a Mildly Uneven Lawn by Topdressing

Topdressing the low spots works well for leveling mildly uneven areas; it is the least invasive approach. Here is what to do:

  1. According to the Lexington Lawn Care, in a wheelbarrow or similar container, mix up a batch of topsoil, sand, and compost — basically, a soil medium that can support turfgrass growth.
  2. Apply 1/2 inch of this soil mixture on top of the low areas. Do not make it deeper than that, because this approach must be gradual, so that you do not smother the grass.
  3. Rake the topdressing to spread it out evenly.
  4. With a push-broom, work the soil mixture in between the blades of grass as thoroughly as possible.
  5. Monitor the progress in the area. Eventually, you should see just grass, no dirt (assuming there were no bare spots before you began the process of topdressing). If it is still uneven, keep repeating these steps until it is level. If the spot is level now, then you are done.

But if you had bare spots in the area before you started topdressing it, you will have to overseed the lawn in these areas.

Method 2 — Leveling Out a Moderately Uneven Lawn: “Sweeping the Dirt Under the Carpet”

The topdressing process described above takes time to work. What if you have a few really low spots in your lawn? Obviously, topdressing would not be very effective, because (since you have to proceed 1/2 inch at a time) you would be waiting forever. Yet, since, it is only a few low spots that we are talking about, there would be no need to take the kinds of drastic measures described in Method 3. Fortunately, there is an lawn care intermediate method. I call it “sweeping the dirt under the carpet,” because you are essentially picking up sod (the carpet) and putting dirt under it. This method works as follows:

  1. Remove the sod over the low spot (if the area is bigger than 1 foot square, cut out multiple chunks, since a piece of sod greater than 1 foot square is hard to move around without breaking) and set it aside.
  2. Shovel enough topsoil into the hole that, once you replace the sod, the area will be even.
  3. As you shovel the soil into the hole, add water. This will remove air pockets. The last thing you want is for the sod to settle after you have finished — which would defeat the whole purpose of the project.
  4. Replace the sod and water the grass.

Method 3 — How to Level Out a Lawn That Looks Like a Moonscape

Finally, we come to the most extreme end of the spectrum. Is your lawn so littered with craters that it looks like the surface of the moon? If the uneven areas are substantial enough and numerous enough that neither topdressing nor the sweep-the-dirt-under-the-carpet method will solve the problem, then you may need to do a more major renovation by regrading the area and establishing a new stand of turfgrass. To accomplish this, you need to take the same steps that you would take to establish a new lawn, except that you are applying these steps to a smaller area.