Drought-Tolerant Gardening from Chaparral Pavers & Landscaping of Santa Maria

Non-Toxic Snail & Slug Control

sluggoSnails and slugs feed on fruit, bulbs, stems and tender plant tissue. They can be very destructive, ripping through young plantings and leaving shredded remnants in their wake.

Organic baits like Sluggo® and Escar-Go® attract snails and slugs. They contain natural iron phosphate, which starves them by eliminating their appetites. The bait powerfully lures the pests who eat it instead of nearby plants.

These baits can be applied in the evening, when snails and slugs are most likely to feed. If the ground is dry, slightly dampen before application. Scatter granules evenly over the surface of the soil. {Always follow instructions included by the manufacturer.}

Completely non-toxic, either brand is safe to use around food gardens, dogs, cats, birds, fish and people.

Fertilizing Fescue

fertilizing_fescue_mainvisProper fertilization keeps your lawn green and the turf dense, which helps keep weeds out. It also improves your lawn’s rooting, saving water and lowering irrigation costs. Fertilization also helps turf recuperate from overuse in high-traffic areas.
Cool-season grasses should be fertilized heavily in the fall, and lightly in early spring. But their growth from fall through spring tends to slow during the warm summer months. This makes March a perfect time to lightly fertilize turf grasses like fescue

Measure your lawn and buy enough fertilizer to cover it.

Making sure the spreader and fertilizer are dry, set the Rate-of-Flow lever to the setting the fertilizer bag recommends.

Close the vent on the hopper and fill it slowly. Avoid contact with a mask and gloves.

Distribute slowly for even coverage. Note how wide the fertilizer is being spread so as not to overlap or create gaps.

Mastering Irrigation

irrigation_mainvisCaring for your landscaping investment by irrigating properly and making seasonal adjustments to your controller is one key way to keep your lawn, plants and trees healthy as they mature while increasing the value of your property over time. It will also help prevent a whole host of issues that can arise with plant material.

Bugs and fungus will attack plants that are stressed from overwatering or under watering and they can thrive if undesirable watering conditions persist.

Fix the irrigation first then address any spraying of pesticides or fungicides as necessary. Irrigating properly is essential to having the proverbial ‘green thumb.’

Walk the zones with a stopwatch and notepad. Set the run times for enough water to completely cover each area without run-off {especially watch sloped areas}. You can use multiple start times if necessary.

Count the number of days it takes each area to dry out and program the days to replenish the water accordingly {watch shaded areas vs. full sun areas & lawn areas vs. shrubs and trees}. Use multiple programs if necessary. It can save you money and the plant material will be healthier.

Advantages of Irrigating Properly

irrigation2_mainvisProgramming the Automatic Timer:

The most common question I get about irrigating properly is how to set the timer. Some fear to mess up some previous setting. The bottom line is you really can’t mess things up too bad with a little time spent and info learned. There is a way to reset the timer to factory default as a back-up, so start pushing buttons and let’s see if this thing will actually explode (just kidding). Whatever you set can be programmed back if necessary. In this email newsletter I want to focus on the Start Time.

What time do I want the sprinklers coming on?

Morning is best (let’s say between 3:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) so water doesn’t sit overnight in low lying areas. Also foliage, walls, outdoor furniture etc. dry off faster, and low wind conditions exist.

Do I want multiple start times?

In most cases, yes; For example, if you want to water a zone for 20 minutes it is better to use two start times, an hour or so apart from each other, and water each cycle for 10 minutes. It soaks in better and there is less run-off.

How is my water pressure affected?

The time the controller should come on is, before or after showers, dishwashers, laundry, etc. so as not to affect the pressure of either.

In most cases saving money in water cost and having a healthy landscape goes hand in hand. Happy Programming!

Mastering Fertilization

fertilization_mainvisAnother key way to care for your landscaping investment is to fertilize properly. When fertilizing is not done, newly planted landscapes and established landscapes will slowly deteriorate over time. Don’t fret, it is never too late to start feeding now.

How often should I fertilize?

Minimum fertilizing requirements would be at least 3 times a year. There are techniques that would allow you to feed monthly except in winter. Different types of fertilizer last in the soil different lengths of time, so how often you feed depends on the type of fertilizer you use.

What type of fertilizer should I use?

Granular: look for homogenized pellets and use on lawns and shrubs, can last six weeks or longer.

Tabs and Spikes: use on large trees and palms, can last up to a year.

Powder and liquid: use on annuals and perennials, can be gone within a week.

Organic: use on vegetables and fruit trees, usually a slower release 2 – 3 months.

When should I fertilize?

Fertilizing can be done throughout the growing season. Try to respond to what the plants are doing. If it is early spring and they are growing new leaves, feed a nitrogen rich fertilizer. If plants are setting flower buds and are getting ready to bloom, feed a high phosphorous fertilizer. If you are not sure just use an all-purpose fertilizer.

How do I apply the fertilizer?

Drop spreader: granular type and for lawns only.
Broadcast spreader: granular type and use for lawns and planter beds.

Hose end sprayers: powder and liquid type and use on annuals, perennials and lawns. If you don’t have any of the above equipment you can carefully spread the fertilizer out by hand or use a watering can. Take care to spread evenly.
In conclusion, be sure to read the labels in their entirety and follow instructions carefully. If any doubt persists err on the side of not enough rather than too much as you can always apply a second application. Also, it is a good idea to know the height of your trees, size of your shrubs and square footage of your lawn areas.

Mastering Pruning

pruning_mainvisCaring for your landscaping investment by pruning correctly will keep your home looking nice, keep your plants healthy and flowering longer and keep your trees from damaging themselves or other objects.

When to Prune:

Due to our temperate climate, here on the central coast, most trees and shrubs growing in this area can be lightly pruned and shaped almost year round.

Limit the size of plants and keep them from growing into each other by pruning monthly throughout the growing season.

Try not to prune when a plant is about to flower or is in full bloom. Do not prune before a potential frost. Do not prune frost sensitive plants after frost damage occurs until there is no more chance of frost for that season (approximately March 15th).

Hard pruning and cutting back should be done in late winter or early spring.

Pruning Techniques:

Regular deadheading of most flowering shrubs and perennials as soon as they finish flowering will encourage another bloom cycle.

Growth Control. 
When pruning to control growth cut back the plant farther than the size you want it, so it may grow to the desired size and bloom before it needs to be pruned again.
Selective Pruning
Use selective pruning to shape and thin out dense plant material, leave some shoots longer than others for a natural look.

Hedging. Hedging with shears should be left strictly for hedgerows.

Tree Trimming: 
Assess tree growth and locate heavy branches away from the trunk and prune to remove weight. Clean out any dead or weak branches. Remove cross branches that rub each other in the wind and lastly, trim the overall outside shape.

In conclusion, pruning should be performed a minimum of three times a year, in some fashion, as to limit growth or weight, increase air flow, produce more blooms and keep plants and trees in a natural but controlled shape.

Mastering Lighting

lighting_mainvisThere are many benefits to increasing the value, safety and beauty of your home by installing a new landscape lighting system or maintaining an existing one. If you’ve experienced frustrations with inferior fixtures or a system not installed correctly then I think you will find this tip helpful.

How to install yourself:

1. Design the system
Design the desired effects throughout the garden by selecting the type and wattage of bulbs first, and then select a proper fixture to house the bulbs. Avoid the temptation of impulse buying the fixtures. After designing, purchase fixtures that come with a ten year or more warranty. Do it right the first time and sit back and enjoy for years.

2. Select a transformer
Purchase a quality transformer with a ten year or greater warranty for same reason listed above. How do you know what size transformer you need? It is just a matter of simple math, add up all the wattage of the bulbs you designed and leave yourself a little room for upsizing bulbs or adding a couple more fixtures in the future. For example 10 bulbs @ 20 watts each = 200 watts, so if you purchase a 300 watt transformer you have room for 5 more bulbs or the room to upsize 6 of the bulbs to 35 watts.

3. Select the wire
Look for direct burial 12 volt copper stranded wire. How do you know what size wire you need? Admittedly there is a lot more math to do in this category. Let me simplify by saying that a 2-12 gauge wire will support 100 watts if the run is no longer than 100 feet. Larger size wire will support more watts or longer runs and conversely smaller wire will support less watts or shorter runs. Do not exceed wire ratings. When in doubt use larger wire.

How to maintain your lighting system:

1. Change Bulbs
If you change the bulbs one by one as they go out you will be constantly changing bulbs. There is a better way, change them all at the same time. If it has been two to three years since you have changed the bulbs and 25% to 50% of your bulbs are out then you are a good candidate for this approach. There are different ratings in terms of how long a bulb should last. So when you replace them you may consider spending a little more for a longer lasting bulb. Try a 10,000 hour bulb.The average landscape lighting system is on approx. 2000 hours per year.

2. Adjust Fixtures
Look at plant material that has grown and adjust the angle or move the fixture farther back. See if a higher wattage bulb may now be necessary. At the transformer, check that the photo cell is not obstructed and/or reset timer if necessary.

3. Add Additional Fixtures
As the landscape changes over time and perhaps your impression of how your home looks in the evening changes, add fixtures that accomplish the effects and mood you are going for. Perhaps lowering the wattage on some and adding more lights would be more appropriate than increasing the amount of light coming from existing fixtures.

In closing, walk around your property in the evening and remember to consider safety as well as beauty when designing or maintaining your landscape lighting system.