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Mulch

Fall landscape projects part 3: switching plants

By | Landscaping, Mulch, Plant Species Information | No Comments

Sometimes owners get tired of the plants around their strata units and demand changes. With strata approval, of course. This blog post covers one such case. The owner was upset with Rosa rugosa spreading into his lawn. OK, no problem. We can do some editing. I love plant editing in the landscape. And as luck would have it, the morning storm passed and the sun came out just as I got to this project.

Rosa rugosa

I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. It sports decent enough rose flowers. It’s a rose so it’s prickly and it does spread. Since the planted area was situated under a red maple (Acer rubrum) the digging was awful.  I had to cut away some of the maple roots just so I could extricate the rose.

 

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Rosa rugose, unwanted and despised for spreading.

 

Cornus stolonifera

Since there was a patch of yellow twig dogwood already, it made sense to plant more of it. So we brought in six new specimens of Cornus stolonifera. I normally prefer the red twig dogwoods but here we had no choice. Yellow twig it was.

The plants don’t require any pruning but the potted plants had to be cleaned-up a bit. I removed some of the dead and anything low at the base.

 

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The dogwood on the right has been cleaned-up.

 

Once the plants were laid out, the planting was fairly easy. Just remember to rough up the roots before you stick the plant in the ground. Since the roots are circling in the pots, I make north to south cuts with my Felco2 snips. Don’t worry, the roots can handle it.

 

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The two smallest specimens were planted closest to the maple where the digging was the worst.

 

Plant details

Cornus stolonifera is a densely branched shrub with creamy white flowers; and creamy white fruit. It’s best mass planted. In this case we already had the same yellow twig dogwood on the right.

The yellow twig dogwood grows 6-8′ tall and likes full sun or partial shade. It will get plenty of sun in this location. No pruning is necessary but since this is a busy strata unit corner, I know it will get sheared, eventually.

All done

 

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All done!

 

It’s always a good idea to top dress new installs with soil. Here we installed half a yard of mulch for an instant sharp look. And lastly, a courtesy blow finishes the install. Always leave your work area clean.

Fall landscape projects, part 2

By | Lawn Care, Mulch | No Comments

In an earlier post about fall landscape projects we looked at river rock and aged mulch installs. In this post we continue with more examples of landscape projects that are perfect for the fall. The weather is still decent so take advantage of it by improving your landscapes.

Blowing bark mulch

If you have a larger property or strata site, it can make more sense to have bark mulch blown in. There are several local companies that do this. They can transform the look of your site almost instantly. Paying for lots of labour hours by moving lots of yards of mulch by hand with wheelbarrows might not make sense.

Sure, if you have 4 yards to move, that’s fine. But how about 80 yards?

One key is to be present when bark mulch is being blown in. Walk the crew and show them precisely what should get covered. There may be some exceptions or no-go zones so explain it to them.

 

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Bark blowing saves you a lot of time.

 

Lawn repairs

Weak lawns can be top-dressed and over-seeded right now because we still have decent temperatures for grass seed germination. I observed three lawn repair projects recently. One was for a weak lawn where shade is an issue. The home owner did everything himself without involving his strata council. The other two projects involved lawn repair after dog damage. And as we know, unless you keep the dogs away, the lawn will get damaged again. Very few people take the time to hose off their lawns after their dogs finish their business.

In step 1 you install new turf blend soil and then you rake it so it’s even.

In step 2 we over-seed the lawn with good quality seed.

In step 3 we roll the lawn nicely with a roller. Just fill it up with water and run it over your lawn. This flattens the soil and ensures seed-soil contact.

In step 4 lightly sprinkle water over your new lawn. Fast germinating seed can germinate in seven days. Some seed mixes take longer. Temperatures can vary from place to place so don’t panic.

 

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We have germination but the dog inside is waiting.

 

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This photo is from the day of completion. It will take 7-14 days to get germination.

 

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Germination!

 

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What can you do to improve your landscape this fall?

 

 

Free garden and landscape seminar May 11, 2016

By | Education, gardening, Landscaping, Lawn Care, Mulch, Seasonal, Tips | No Comments

Free seminar

A free gardening seminar in Port Moody within walking distance from my place will take place on Wednesday May 11, 2016. It sounds great already! Remember, this is in line with our goal of continuous improvement. Free education is awesome.

Master Gardener Dr. Linda Gilkeson will talk about “Naturally resilient gardens and landscapes.” Come learn how to make your lawns and gardens more resilient to variable weather patterns; and about year-round natural gardening, native plant selection and natural pest management. Also discussed will be gardening methods for drier and warmer summers, water shortages, and other types of extreme weather. This is very topical. I am in. Notebook in hand. Are you?

When: Wednesday May 11, 2016

Where: Inlet Theatre, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody

Admission: Free!

A Sedum solution

The theme of this seminar reminds me of a recent strata complex case in Langley. The complex boulevard beds are exposed to the sun and the original planting didn’t survive. Planted between Acer campestre trees were Skimmias and Heathers. Many of them didn’t survive the hot summer. The proposed solution is to plant succulents like Sedums between the trees. It will be interesting to see what happens; and if we get another hot summer.

 

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Acer campestre and some surviving Heathers and Skimmias; Sedums will replace the Skimmias and Heathers.

 

 

Soil Compaction: Don’t Forget this Silent Killer

By | Arborist Insights, Landscaping, Lawn Care, Mulch | 2 Comments

Study the dead tree pictured below. What’s wrong here?

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A heavy ride-on Deere mower has gone over the area very efficiently, riding right over the root zone. That means less line trimming. Perfect for the municipal workers maintaining this park. The operator does this every ten days or so. But wait. What about the tree itself? The tire tracks point to a deadly condition: soil compaction! (The pictured tree is dead. Was it soil compaction that killed it? Or bored ball players from nearby baseball diamonds? Campers building illegal fires with poached tree branches? Line trimmer damage?)

The 4th edition of Arboriculture defines compaction as the breakdown of soil aggregates. Compaction decreases total pore space in the soil. When large pore spaces are compressed, the resistance to root penetration increases.

The results of compaction?

  • Slow water infiltration
  • Poor aeration
  • Reduced drainage
  • Impaired root growth and activity
  • Increased erosion
  • Mycorrhizal activity declines

Basically, with compaction the tree struggles to obtain water and oxygen, roots can not grow as easily and since water can’t penetrate it runs off, causing erosion on the surface.

The top 4 inches of soil are usually the most affected; the greatest compaction occurs about 0.75 inches below surface.

At the September 2015 Can-West Horticulture Show in Abbotsford, Dr. Kim Coder relayed to us a story about a group of green activists who campaigned to save an ancient tree. They assembled at the base and did what they had to do, never noticing the serious compaction they were responsible for over the root zone. If I recall the story correctly, the tree declined and eventually died.

Think about soil compaction and avoid it! It’s hard work rehabilitating compacted soils. For best results create a nice tree well and mulch it with arbor chips. Many tree companies are happy to donate their wood chips. Problem solved.

 

Proper Deep-Edging 101

By | Edging, Landscaping, Mulch | No Comments

Deep-edging beds and tree wells is a great winter task. It defines our bed edges nicely. While it is not a very difficult task, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. Always put in sharp ninety degree edges and if your bed has freshly installed soil or mulch do not mess it up with soil chunks. First, rake your mulch or soil away from the edge! See example below.

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1) Only 90 degrees will do. Position your spade so you get a nice ninety degree edge.

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2) Put your foot behind the spade to prevent bed edge rounding

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3) Continue with sharp edging, then beat up any clumps and rake up

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4) All done! Do not make volcanoes, instead remove any excess soil

Important! To deep-edge beds with fresh mulch or soil DO NOT kick up fresh soil chunks over the new soil or mulch.

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1) Rake away fresh soil from the edge

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2) Deep edge and cleanup

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3) Pull back the soil to your new edge; use the same Proper procedure for mulched beds

Newspaper as Mulch? Really?

By | Arborist Insights, Education, Landscaping, Mulch | No Comments

Earlier this summer my buddy, who runs a small landscaping company, called me up and asked me to help him install new soil at a strata site. Sure. It sounded easy. Then he surprised me on site by having me put down newspapers first; both main pages and inserts. I consider the newspaper inserts a minor distraction for all male workers because, inevitably, I would get distracted by ladies underwear sales and bra pictures. Now back to science.

I understood the main idea- weed suppression- but I wondered what my hero, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott (see July 24, 2015 blog) had to say about it. According to Linda (1), newspaper mulching has been used successfully in agriculture but what about strata complexes on the Westwood Plateau? There isn’t much research but we know that:

  1. newspapers can look ugly when exposed
  2. they can become pest havens
  3. they can become hydrophobic when they become dry and water simply runs off instead of percolating through
  4. wood chips are more effective at preventing weed growth
  5. winds can dislodge the newspapers, especially on the Westwood Plateau
  6. if used on wet, poorly drained soils, they can create anaerobic conditions where an impermeable barrier is formed to water and gas exchanges
  7. additional labor is required compared to straight wood chip application

Summary: Newspaper mulches can be effective in gardens where the soil is continuously worked and irrigation is applied. On less maintained sites you might want to use free or cheap wood chips.

(1) The Myth of Paper-based Sheet Mulch, Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Washington State University Extension, www.puyallup.wsu.du

More information: www.theinformedgardener.com

1

Good quality, weed-free soil is a must, same for good Contractor wheelbarrows

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Before picture with newspaper showing

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After picture