Monthly Archives

November 2020

3 West Coast lawn issues

By | gardening, landscape maintenance, Lawn Care | No Comments

Season over

Now that the regular lawn care season is over, it’s a good time to recap some of the issues that came up in 2020. Let’s examine three issues: one is comical, one is frustrating for me and the last one isn’t going away anytime soon.

Bend over!

This issue came up in a Facebook group. The lawn care operator was asking for a good machine or technique to remove the shaggy bit of grass in the corner. The light wood is clear evidence that they’ve tried removing it with line edgers but the geometry didn’t work out.

Sometimes you just have to do it the low-tech way: bend over and rip it out.

Tree or lawn?

This looks just like another neglected tree well; it’s full of grass and lacks a sharp, ninety degree edge. But, it’s actually a misunderstanding between the unit owner and maintenance staff.

Landscapers are trained to keep tree wells weed-free and well-defined with sharp deep edges. The plastic guard on the tree is extra insurance against tree abuse from lawn care machines.

Unable to keep the tree well clean, it finally came to light that the owner had been over-seeding the tree well in order to eliminate the tree circle. He wanted a nice uniform lawn with the tree in the middle. Thus the plastic guard.

There is just one problem with the homeowner’s approach. Young trees often get outcompeted by turf. They struggle and often die because turf is an efficient competitor and lawn care machines are bound to take some liberties with the bark.

If you want to keep the tree, keep the tree well.

Chafers aren’t going away

When animals dig up your lawn in late October looking for European chafer beetle grubs, it can be a shocking site. The strata president tracked me down looking for help but by late October there isn’t much I can do. The grubs in the soil are juicy and, I presume, delicious.

I raked up the damaged turf chunks and peeled back whatever was still attached. Then I added soil and over-seeded it with good renovation seed mix.

The treatment window for chafers is in late summer after the females deposit their eggs in lawns, but there are now new treatments coming in. So, check with your local garden center. They will be happy to take your money.

Search for my European chafer beetle blogs on this website.

Female European chafer beetles. Only one is really dead!

5 lessons from 8-hour leaf pick-up

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8 hours!

Eight straight hours of leaf pick-up is nothing unusual for West Coast landscape professionals in mid-November. Some strata sites have many mature trees and they drop a lot of stuff. So, you can expect to have some fun.

Here are five lessons to take away from good West Coast leaf clean-up.

Lesson 1: Tools

Always start with proper tools. When I’m asked to help out on a site, I expect to use proper tools. The rakes should be in good shape. Don’t even ask me to use rakes with many missing tines. Use great tools!

Most companies have budget for new tools. Take advantage of it. It’s borderline insulting asking a certified professional to use sub-standard tools.

Are you kidding?

Lesson 2: No pyramids

If you expect to rock leaf clean-up, forget pyramids. This goes for blowing and raking. When you blow, don’t overdo it. Blow the leaves into a decent pile and move on.

When raking, the same rule applies. Bring your tarp close and rake the leaves into it. There is no sense creating a perfect pyramid. We need the leaves in a tarp and taken away. Nobody is scoring points for making nice looking pyramids.

With huge piles, put your tarp right into them and rake or kick the leaves in. Easy. And always rake with purpose. I expect to see rosy cheeks!

Lesson 3: Tarp slavery

Lugging heavy tarps on your shoulders should only be done if you’re close to your truck because it’s the least efficient method. You can avoid tarp slavery by using a wheelbarrow or bringing your truck closer.

Note that some workers will happily walk down the block with one tarp over their shoulder just have a little break. To rock fall leaf clean-up, you must break this habit. Send them away with a full wheelbarrow if there is no truck access.

Lesson 4: Look up!

Since you’re not responsible for removing one hundred percent of the leaves on every visit, relax and do your best. Before you start stressing, look up! Is the tree above done dropping leaves or not? If not, don’t stress about every leaf on the ground. Wait until all of the leaves are down before doing a thorough clean-up.

Lesson 5: Enjoy fall!

Enjoy the fall.

This should be easy but it’s not. I often see people standing under trees blasting away at their crowns with leaf blowers. Why the rush? Enjoy the fall and its many colors.

If you struggle with this, think of the miracle that occurs inside the leaves you detest so much. Photosynthesis is a miracle that keeps all people alive and it happens inside leaves. The leaves are actually beautiful mini-factories; and they entertain us with their colors.

Tilia cordata
Persian ironwood