• January 02, 2015
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How to monitor, operate and troubleshoot your sprinkler system

In my recent June newsletter I begin to explain how to monitor your water system using your sprinkler controller, problem is I ran out of room so here are some detailed descriptions and ideas for operating your sprinkler system.

The most important thing you can do is read the manual at least 3 or 4 times and practice running the controller through all of its functions.

There are 2 main controllers that we are installing Rainbird and Hunter, you may also have an old Richdel, Orbit or Nelson controller, if the later do yourself a favor and have us install a new one with a rain gauge sensor. Both the Hunter and Rainbird controllers are excellent, both have similar features I will do my best to explain.

Date and Time

Always make sure the date and time are correct, and more importantly that the am/pm indicator is correct otherwise your system will be off by 12 hours. There are a few main settings, Start Times, Run Times and Watering days or days to water. There are also 2 or 3 Programs within each controller, basically that means you have 2 or 3 controllers within a controller, sound confusing? Can be if you don’t understand this part of the process, just remember that each Program A, B or C on Hunter controllers or 1,2,3 for Rainbird are basically 3 clocks in one, so when you are on Program A or 1 you need to set the complete Program up before you set up the next Program.

Start times - here is where the Hunter controllers and others can get confusing. When you set up a Start Time it is the time that you want the first zone in the first Program to Start. As soon as that Program starts the first zone running the next zones will follow. It is not necessary to manually set another Start Time and in fact most landscape applications will be run from only one Start Time in one Program, keep it simple unless you need to separate shrubs from grass, ect, more on that below.

Run Times – this is easy, each zone (Valve in the ground that runs the heads) will need a Run Time attached to it, this determines the amount of time that the zone will water. More water for lawn, less for shrubs, more about his below.

Water Days or watering days - watering days are usually easy to set, with hunter it is the rain droplets, solid droplet is on, and circled or blank is off. Rainbird are usually on the dial so you have to set each day as on or off.

Water budget or % this little known feature comes in handy for quick adjustments. Turn the dial to this feature and it will show a percentage of 0 to 100% or on some 0 to 200% when you adjust this it will either add or subtract minutes from the watering time on all of the stations. I use this feature a lot on controllers that I am adjusting, it is fast and easy, when the temperature warms I add say 20% when it cools I take it back down to my original settings usually 100% is where I like to keep it as that is the medium setting. As the weather warms I will add as much as 50% this adds more run time to each zone. This feature is nice when you are in a hurry or just don’t want to deal with each individual run time on each zone.

Multiple programs/Run times

I left this for last as this is where most people get confused, running multiple Programs is easy. The main reason for running another Program is so that you can separate the shrubs from the grass especially if they have different types of sprinklers, and you can run them on different days. Also shrubs don’t need as much water as their roots are deeper in the ground than the lawns roots. Remember to start with the first Program for example Program A: set the Start Time and double check that it is in the proper Am/Pm position, next set the Zone Run Time. Then set up the Water Day or Days to Water. Remember to keep it simple and just run 1 Start Time per Program as there are up to 4 or more, I repeat only run one Start Time per Program you don’t need more than that! Next set the Run Time for each zone that you want to run on that day on that Program. Ok program A is finished, now set up Program B for either the shrubs or grass, I always run grass on A and shrubs on B and that’s it, anything else just makes it more complicated.

An example for running multiple Start Times would be if you were seeding a lawn in the summer and you needed to water the grass many times a day to keep it wet, then you would use as many start times as needed.

Some frequently asked Questions

What is a Zone?

When a sprinkler system is set up there is only so much water available to draw from, if you ran the entire property on one zone there wouldn’t be enough water available from the city metered water to cover everything so we break out the system in zones. Each zone is controlled by a solenoid valve, the water is pressurized at that valve not the heads, wires are run from the valve to the controller, when the controller turns on the valve the valves pressurize the heads and water your landscape.

Why are there multiple Start Times in a Program?

Main reason is that these are national companies that sell product all over the world and many different climates. Dry climates like Arizona, California and the desert areas need more control and require different applications based on temperature and soil (more sandy/silts). Our soils hold more water (Clay) really all we need is 1 Start Time per Program per day but other areas will run water in multiple applications to keep plants cool adding to more Start Times per Program.

Why multiple programs

I touched on this above; the best example is that grass and shrubs require different amounts of water. Remember the stations on a Program follow each other by separating grass from shrubs this allows you control over the runtimes and watering days as lawns need more water days during a week than shrubs. By setting lawn on A or Program 1 you can water say 4 times per week, shrubs don’t need this much water so put them on program B or 2 and water just 2 times per week.

What type of heads Rainbird or Hunter and for what application?

Either is fine, I prefer Hunter but they both are basically the same in quality. For lawn I like the Hunter PGP it is the best lawn head in my opinion, the Rainbird 5000 is also a good choice. For shrubs the Hunter Pro Spray and the Rainbird 5000 are almost identical with an edge to the Pro Spray on the seals and the Rainbird on the nozzles.

How much water do they apply?

Lawn spray heads (Hunter PGP, Rainbird 5000) are gear rotating heads, (Hunter Pro Spray and Rainbird 1800) are fixed spray heads. Rotating heads are typically used for lawn applications, fixed spray heads are used more in small lawn areas and shrub areas. Because the rotating heads move it takes longer to apply a similar amount of water in one location as fixed spray heads. This is why on my watering blog I always attach longer run times to rotating heads than fixed spray heads. Advantages of the rotating heads is that they come with nozzle packs that allow the amount of water (PGM gallons per minute) to be applied from .5 GPM to up to 8 GPM this gives flexibility to the area watered. The fixed spray heads have pre determined nozzles that applying about 1gpm. It’s important to understand the difference, most people will set both the lawn with the rotating heads and the shrubs with fixed heads at the same times, this creates an overwatering problem with the fixed spray heads at they don’t need as much time to apply an amount of water on a given area as the rotating heads.

Trouble Shooting

  • System didn’t water- check to make sure there is power and that the backup battery is in place.
  • System watered at the wrong time- check the Start Time especially the AM/PM icon on the Start Time.
  • Unfamiliar blinking in the controller window- if there is a wire problem most controllers will blink or say system failure, trace the wires back to the valve to make sure that gophers have not filled the box with dirt, if so dig out the box, clean the valves and check the wire connections.
  • Water is coming on at different times than I set up on controller. Check the Start Times, remember only 1 Start Time per Program is needed to run all the zones on that day.

Well hopefully this helps, or if your totally confused even more go back to the beginning and re-read the blog or better yet read your control manual 3 or 4 times. If your still stuck give me a call as I am always willing to help walk you through the process.

Thanks, Tim..

  • January 02, 2015
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Taking Flight Memorial Garden

The following blog is about an awesome project that we became involved in. I was approached by Sharon McKee owner of In House Graphics about helping out on a project that she helped to spearhead called the TAKING FLIGHT MEMORIAL GARDEN project in West Salem at West Salem High School. Please visit this incredible garden located behind the high school directly off of Titan Dr just south of Brush College St.

The project is a memorial dedicated to West Salem High School kids that have passed on through this life prematurely and specifically 5 students affected by Osteosarcoma a rare bone disease. One family in particular was very close to members of my family and I cannot for the life of me begin to understand the pain and suffering that they had to go through during their time of crisis. Death touches us all at some point in our lives and eventually we all have to deal with our own fate and where we all stand in this grand scheme of life.

When Sharon approached me I was on board from the start and to refresh myself I have been re-visiting articles from the Statesman Journal and the issue of the EPA investigation regarding this devastating type of cancer and its cause locally to us all in West Salem. Currently the EPA has concluded their field testing and will be issuing a report in December.

The memorial is a way for me to personally pay tribute to those unfortunate kids that will not have the chance to experience life as I have. Gail and Gordon Harder have been friends of ours for years and my youngest son Luke went to West Salem High with their daughter Lisa. Luke is now in the Army and is training with the Rangers and will most likely soon be serving our country overseas for causes greater than his single human force. The least I can do is donate my efforts and resources to honor those that have fallen locally here at home.

When we became involved there was a large area to be landscaped with multiple types of plant materials designed with many donated by Carolyn Kolb. The board of directors had some very ambitious plans to implement in a very short time frame. We basically put aside our schedule as needed to come in and supply the labor power to install and finish the project in time for the dedication ceremony and I have donated our landscape maintenance services to continually maintain and keep the memorial looking in tip top shape.

If you should so desire to contribute in any way to the WEST SALEM MEMORY GARDEN please contact myself (503) 585-9517 or Sharon McKee and we will get you more information on how you can help us make this awesome garden a reality. There is still much to do and the committee has more plans for future projects based on the memorial garden.

  • January 02, 2015
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Stressed Lawns

Fungus

Many of your lawns are looking stressed this year due to a fungus that is called {Snow Mold} and although we did have a heavy snow cover for a few days the disease has little or nothing to do with the snow that we received. Our flavor of fungus is Michrodochium Patch {Pink Snow Mold} and I have not seen it this bad in years. This fall and clear into December we had very little rain, in fact we had days and days of dry weather combined with a foggy/dewy type of mist. We also fertilize in late October, relying on average rainfall to move some of the nitrogen down into the root zone. That didn’t happen this year as rainfall was slight. What did happen was that the cool dry moisture combined with the nitrogen application created an excellent atmosphere for the pathogen {microdochium Nivale} to take hold thus creating the {Pink Snow Mold}.

Another reason that it is worse in some lawns than others is the type of grass that is in the lawn. Most lawns when established are Perennial Rye. After time other unwanted cool season grasses infiltrate and establish as the turf stresses. Bentgrass and Annual Blue Grass are the worst infiltrators and the most susceptible to the {Snow Mold}. Poor draining soils, shallow roots and compacted soils, culprits of a host of other problems also lead to molds, mildews and fungus. With all of this being said it’s usually not as bad as it looks mainly effecting the top growth of the grass plant not the crowns or the roots. Every year I see this especially in the Bentgrass that infiltrates the Rye. Thankfully it disappears much quicker than it develops as soon as we start to warm up in the spring and the grass produces new growth.

Fungus

Symptoms – develops dark looking, pinkish/reddish rings or stress areas depending upon what type of grass that is affected. Rye lawns will look more blotched with less rings, Bent and Poa (Annual Blue Grass) lawns will develop a more ringed type of pattern.
Remedy - Contact Fungicides can be sprayed on lawns to limit and help them recover and are effective. The problem with spraying is that there are very few chemicals available for homeowner application as the EPA has removed most available remedies from the consumer shelf. However most lawns will be just fine using a more environmental cultural practice. Basically keeping lawns free of leaves, keeping turf from getting matted or too long and the matted/thatched areas should be raked so that air circulates into the snow mold and breaks it up. If you have a real problem with this another good cultural practice is to thatch, aerate and overseed your lawn. Depending upon what type of grass that is predominantly established in your yard, you may only need aeration, or you may need both thatching and aeration and then overseed. Give us a call and we can give you a consultation on exactly what you should do and how we can help.

Fungus

Tim Barnes

  • January 02, 2015
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Spring A New Business!!

Not sure spring is my favorite time of year, and in fact in my business I know for sure that it is not! With that said I do like the spring time, mainly because I know that the long hours of labor ahead are getting me that much closer to my fall fishing and hunting and my winter vacations to warm destinations.

Landscape Shoppe- As my inaugural blog for our new venture, I have past wondered what the heck I am getting myself into. In my younger past I spent many a year mowing the grass on my father’s golf course only to realize that doing the manual labor for someone else was not in my long term plans. So I started up Westside Landscape in about 1985. Today a full service landscape installation and maintenance company that we operate from our farm in Independence, OR. We employ 25 people with varying skills and expertise in landscape installation of water features, decorative outdoor spaces, custom patios of stone, pavers or whatever else you can dream up. I also write a blog for Westside TimsBlog.org so again I am asking myself… And I’m doing this for what? A while back my wife kept predicting that I was up to something as I visited the various materials yards around Oregon. We discussed many times why I seemed to be searching the horizon like a sea captain looking for that bubbling school of Tuna ( hint, hint, fishing, ocean… where I spend most of my free time…Yes!!) So she knew something was coming.

Landscape Shoppe- We are open! Breaking ground in late February, we spent 6 weeks building our infrastructure in some very wet conditions. We currently have 30 bulk materials bins filled with bark, mulch, soil mixes, aggregates, and much more. We will also be adding another 10 bins as soon as we dry out enough to expand out into dry soil.

Plants- We have lots of plants, especially ornamental, shade, flowering, deciduous and evergreen trees. Lots of Japanese Maples, Jaqmonti Birch, European Horn Beam, Austrian Pine, Hanoki Cypress just to name a few or our 1000 or so trees on site and at the farm. We have some very nice Rhodes, Pieris, Euonyomous, Kinnikinnick, just to name a few in 1, 2, and 5 gallon sizes.

We also have a growing stock of supplies for installing your project, retaining wall block, slate and decorative stone, tree staking equipment, fertilizers, weed fabrics, concrete, lots and lots of installation support stuff. My idea here is to be able to provide you the folks with all of the support and materials needed to not only install your project but to maintain your investment long term as we work with you on the how to of your do it yourself landscaping projects.

What’s on the horizon? Well of course I have some very planned out thoughts, ideas and goals. Only time will tell however, right now it is raining, a good and bad scenario for me as for today I have time to write this blog. Rainy weather not so good for the Shoppe as we need partners in our venture. That’s you the folks, our partners, give us some feedback, if you don’t see what you like we can most likely get it for you with some notice. We will also continuously be bringing in new products from different types of stone to more and more project support materials so that you can start and finish that project with us!

Thanks again….Tim

  • January 02, 2015
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First Half of the Season

LandscapeShoppe

Wow! OK, just a short update on what is going on this busy first half of the season and Wow is how I’m describing it! I break our season into thirds, first half is our out the door phase were all you know what hits the fan. Second half is mid-summer where we are on schedule and hopefully running a smooth machine. Last half is the fall push, it can be anything from really busy to steady. The break out has been a blur for me personally and our company pace has been blistering. I have actually been talking to our people about slowing down in our production meetings. By this I mean we need to do a better job of working on our details so that we don’t skip over processes and procedures that our clients are paying for. With maintenance it’s the little things that we do week in and week out that make the difference. With installation it’s the unseen stuff we do underground that is so important to our warranty and to our reputation because at the end of the day it’s our character that matters when no one else is looking or can see what is going on underground.

Me personally, I am looking forward to some consistent scheduling and solid growth as we move forward into our mid-summer phase. Landscape Shoppe is keeping both Kelly and I busy and yes Landscape Shoppe has played a significant role in keeping me up to midnight on more than a few occasions wondering what the …. Is going on at times and is this really worth all the effort? Yes over the long run I believe it will be! 

Sprinkler system repairs- I cannot remember a season like this one to where the backlog of sprinkler repairs has completely overwhelmed us. We have had to add another truck just in the last couple of weeks as the backlog continues to pile up. We are charging $65 per hour with a minimum charge of $120 plus parts for a 2 man crew that is set up and capable of repairing just about any problem associated with your sprinkler system repair. One of the major problems we run into is that we didn’t do the installation. On all of our new sprinkler system installations we include a 10 year warranty on anything that we install and maintain. Unfortunately most systems that we work on are not properly installed and in fact many systems are complete nightmares that either an un- licensed contractor installed or the homeowner attempted to install. However with all of that said most repairs are fairly simple and I would say that the majority of systems are repaired for under $150.00

Bark dust installation- Now that we are using the Landscape Shoppe as our supplier we are installing bark mulch, compost, topsoil and other items at very competitive rates. We are charging $55 per yard on unit pricing to install the fine Dark Hemlock mulch and $45 per yard for the Red Fir installed

Plant Materials- We are also installing plant materials, for example if a client buys a larger tree or a few arborvitae it can be difficult to handle the plants. There is a lot of labor involved in properly installing plants and trees. For example a larger tree should have an excavated hole of 3x as wide and 2x as deep as the root ball. It must be properly fertilized and the onsite soil should be amended, but the most important step is to properly stake and tie the tree so that the root ball and crown of the tree will not move as the wind blows. I regularly consult on dead or dying plant materials and with trees almost every time the problem leads back to the initial installation. So by all means give us a shout and I can get you a quote to properly install your plant materials.

Lawn challenges- I continue to see problems associated with winter damage on just about every lawn that I look at. This past winter was one of the worst that I can recall. Not only did we lose many plants in the border zones but lawns were decimated when a certain type of bent grass was froze out. When a new lawn is planted it is predominantly 1 type of grass. Over time it is infiltrated with foreign grasses Bent Grass, Velvet Grass, Poa Annua. It was a certain strain of Bent grass most likely Astoria Bent that froze out. When this happened it left large voids were the grass had taken over the original Rye. The repair of this is to overseed and the problem with that is that matching the previous grass is next to impossible as well as a host of other problems. The best and most expensive remedy is to completely renovate and install new lawn. Next best remedy is to overseed the entire lawn heavily so that it somewhat masks the other grasses however this may or may not completely satisfy most folks as the other grasses are still there and are not going away.

  • January 02, 2015
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How to choose a professional contractor

Probably one of the most time consuming occupational hats that I wear as the person in charge of making sure that our crews are servicing our clients properly is driving around in a vehicle doing just that, observing. I observe many things from what our service area clients yards look like to checking to make sure that our crews are doing the little things like how they are parking, how they unload their equipment, are they properly cleaning up, the list goes on. I also have the opportunity to observe the competitors that are also working in our service district, what they are doing and how they are conducting their business.

Construction Landscape Professionals vs. Landscape Maintenance Companies- there is a huge difference between these two types of businesses. A professional CLP company is an organization that has passed certain State of Oregon Board license requirements, obtains State Licensing, acquires a State Bond requiring good credit, obtains Liability Insurance and State Accident Insurance should they be hiring employees.

Most landscape maintenance companies that I see do not have any of the above qualifications yet they will advertise illegally that they are a landscaper doing all kinds of landscape installation as well as maintenance. I recently contracted with a condominium landscape maintenance account that had a previous landscape maintenance company for a few years. They allowed them to do all sorts of landscape installation projects as well as landscape maintenance. As we walked the property I pointed out several possible challenged areas that were problems resulting in past installations of drainage, hardscape, etc. These problems were a direct result of hiring a company that claimed to be a professional but had no prior or the proper knowledge, education, experience or proper licensing to be doing this type of work. As a result the owner of this complex will be spending monies that would not have been necessary had they hired a professional to do their work. They also will have no recourse for work performed that was less than satisfactory.

What to ask when receiving bids

A good source for information is the Oregon Landscape Contractors Board. They have information for both the consumer and the professional. Below are some questions that you can write down and ask the companies that you are getting bids with based on what types of work you are wanting to have done.

Hiring for landscape Maintenance (mowing, edging, blowing, plant trimming, bark dusting) the requirements that I would be concerned with as a homeowner would be: Do they have Liability Insurance in their company name (see example), in order to do this they would have to be registered with the State of Oregon as either a sole proprietor or a corporation. Why is it important to be registered with the State? Simply if they are not they most likely are running an all cash business and not paying any taxes. You and I cannot get away with not paying taxes and neither should the person taking your cash mowing your lawn. This is how we pay for roads, schools, etc. Another important question is do they have Liability Insurance covering injury on your property? Also if you see an employee or someone other than the owner doing the work then the State of Oregon mandates that the employer cover the employee with workers compensation, better known as SAIF coverage. This could turn into a big claim should the owner or any of their employees get hurt on your property, you could be liable. Ask the bidder if they can present to you a certificate of insurance, this is a standard procedure and a bidding requirement in the State of Oregon. After you have asked some of these questions you will find out very fast if the person that you are looking to hire on your property is legally doing business as they should.

Hiring for Landscape Construction or Installation– On top of all the above mentioned qualifications according to the State of Oregon Landscape Contractors Board in order to do landscape installation you must pass a qualifications test proving that you at least have a general knowledge of what you are proposing by contract to perform on the consumers property. The State has designated the following license categories- All Phases, Irrigation installation, Standard(all phases without irrigation or backflow) Planting only, Backflow installation. As you can see if you combine an All Phases License with all of the requirements to run a business it takes a great deal of effort to obtain and maintain the proper licensing, insurance, bonding as well as hire employees and pay the proper fees and taxes to be a legitimate business.

Opposition to licensing – there are those that are on the other side of the fence that would like to do away with any kind of government oversight. In some ways I agree with them as it takes a lot of effort and CEH Credits (continuing education classes for licensed professionals) to keep and maintain a license. Their argument is based on let the consumer decide what they are getting into, problem with that is the consumer usually does not have the time or knowledge available to them to make an educated decision of who to hire. Would you hire a physician to diagnose your physical ailment if their license was not current because they failed their continuing education requirements (CEH Credits)? Would you hire an electrician to install wiring in your new house if they had not gone to school and not been employed by a fully licensed company?

Get a contract – the number one mistake that I see consumers make is that they don’t get a contract before the work is started. The LCB mandates certain terminology be written in the contract and it is posted on their web site. Most likely if the company you are working with tries to get out of writing a contract they probably don’t have a license or are not very good at what they are proposing to install on your property.

Consumer driving the market – I would say that the consumer is already driving the market and most of the underlying problems within this industry are due to the consumer not wanting to pay the going rate for a professional or they are just ignorant of what is required. The challenge with this is yes you may find a decent contractor without licensing and all of the insurance requirements but will you have any recourse to go after them should they not perform as promised. The answer is no, if you verbally enter into an agreement with an unlicensed contractor or use a mowing maintenance company without insurance you will have an almost zero percent chance of getting your investment back and will be liable should they be injured on your property. This is the way the law works and it rewards those who protect themselves and work within it. I may not like all of the rules and regulations that I have to abide by and believe me I make myself known when I don’t agree but for the most part our system works because we try hard to look out for the consumer, the little guy who may not have the knowledge or expertise to decide what is proper protocol within our industry.

Bottom line…..Hire a licensed and insured contractor, you won’t regret it!

  • February 07, 2015
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Fresh stuff for 2015

For starters you are viewing this blog from our new web site. A fresh look and feel is what everyone is clamoring for, or so they say…

It is definitely a different day and age requiring constant upkeep with the changes that seem to happen every couple of years. Recently discussing days gone past, a group of us reminiscing the days of the suitcase telephones and code computers. Reminiscing about meeting with the Geeky guy who only wanted $5000 down on a golden opportunity to invest in the opportunity of a life time… The future? Hello, like I would throw my money to that geeky guy Gates Golden Opportunity to become a millionaire??… OK I Blew that one.

Therefore I press on seeking my millions only to struggle to keep up in this techno age. The younger generation, my kids who when I have a computer problem I just give them a shout and they show up with a device in each hand that I have to con them out of for a minute to rescue me, only a temporary answer to my challenge. Yes it is a different day and age that’s for sure! My web guy tells me this new site is a must, it is phone optimized so that all the people using the phones can see our site, apparently 70% of all searching now is by small personal device. In another meeting a web developer asks are you on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook? Good grief I’m sweating, as the list goes on. Is this computer age really saving me time and effort? My hunch tells me that future change will come faster and faster and cost forever more to keep up with.

As for Westside Landscape and Landscape Shoppe, we are moving at what I would call a furious pace. Everyone tells me that you should feel blessed. You’re so lucky to have the work load that you have. I agree, and yes I am extremely blessed just not so sure my slow growth philosophy has prepared me very well for the backlog and growth heading our direction.

Some key changes that are coming for us…

We will be moving our construction/installation division of Westside Landscape to the Landscape Shoppe, maintenance will stay at the farm. This benefits us in a variety of ways. Mainly our crews don’t have to stop at the Landscape Shoppe to pick up materials instead, starting from one location with loaded trucks from the night crew cutting down our out the door production times by at least 50% in the first hour. This also benefits Landscape Shoppe as we help them handle daily yard production giving the Shoppe more resources for delivery and a larger work force for daily production.

Home Show - We will be in the spring show this year at the Fairgrounds. This is a first for us and I have wanted to do this for years so I’m looking forward to the challenge of presenting to our community Landscape Shoppe for the first time.

As for me personally, I am sleeping well! A big indicator for me of the confidence that I have in the ability of our people to move forward in meeting the goals that I dream of nightly. WE Will make this happen! There is no doubt about it and I personally am ready like I have never been before to aggressively move our enterprises to the next level!

  • March 17, 2015
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Proper Tree Planting

We plant a lot of trees every year and we sell and plant many trees at the Landscape Shoppe. A common mistake that I see happen is that many, when planting trees, just don’t put the effort into the process…. Yes, it can be a big effort! I regularly consult on trees that have died or are sick and unhealthy. 90% of the time it goes back to the original planting process. The clay soils in our area will grow plants and grass just fine but they need to be amended. I typically see a plant installed in the same size hole as the root ball or container size that it came out of. My rule for my folks is 2 by 3. Twice as deep and 3 times as wide is how we plant trees. You're probably thinking right now, "Wow that is a lot of effort especially for a larger caliper tree." You're correct! But a properly planted and staked tree will develop strong and healthy roots leading to many years of Happy Tree and Happy Owner.

Planting - Start with the onsite soil, if it is very hard or rocky this is fine. Use a pick or a very hardy shovel to dig out the hole 3 times as wide and twice as deep. Once you have the hole dug out scarify the bottom of the hole using a shovel to make grooves in the bottom and sides. Next use the onsite soil that you dug out of the ground and mix a soil amendment with the onsite soil breaking up the clay. If the soil is rocky not a problem. Roots like rocks it gives them space to move out into the soil that is rocky. In fact we will routinely put a layer of round rock in the bottom of the hole if the tree is in a very wet area with low drainage.

Soil amendments - In my opinion it really doesn’t matter what you use, the goal is to give the onsite soil some breathing room for lack of better word. I recommend aged bark, hemlock or fir. Compost and potting soil are great but a little more expensive. The best product would be peat moss mixed with a little aged bark. Be careful about blending a too concentrated soil amendment or too woody soil amendment or too Hot of an amendment like non broken down manure or grass clippings. Mix about 15% to 20% amendments into the onsite soil using a shovel by turning it over and over until thoroughly mixed. Next build up the soil in the middle as the hole will be twice as deep as the root ball. Compact this soil with your foot so that it is very firm, place the tree or shrub on top of the backfilled soil medium and check to make sure that the crown is not going to set too low. You can do this by using a stick or the shovel to measure that the edge of the hole is level with the tree crown, you will be better off planting the tree to high rather than too low so this is important. Next finish the back fill and very importantly compact the soil very well with your foot so that it secures the root ball for staking.

Staking – Very important, especially with trees. Always stake and tie a tree for as long as you can maintain the tree or until you feel that it is very well rooted. This takes at least 2 seasons and it also depends on the type of tree and its growth habits, soil down below, and a host of other reasons (whole other subject )….. Next blog.
We usually use 2x2 wood stakes as eventually they will decompose in the ground. Metal T Posts can be used but after a year or 2 they can be hard to get out of the ground.
There are many other factors that lead to the demise of plants and trees and there is a lot of info obviously on the web, but there are also a lot of myths out there and misinformation out there so I will continue to pass on my learned experience. Hopefully this helps.

Thanks, Tim…

  • January 01, 2016
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French Drain System

  • January 13, 2016
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Record Rains and Drainage - Spring 2016

Mahalo, and Merry Christmas from Hawaii.

Drainage Troubleshooting- If there was ever a time to write a blog on drainage I’m thinking now is the time. With record rains this December coming off of past dry years it is an issue that is effecting most of us. We are personally effected at our farm, the wind has created a new leak in the old 1911 farm house, the foundation is full of water that is usually dry and new leaks have surfaced in all of our out buildings. When troubleshooting a property I look at the slope and contour of the property. Slope is an issue that is seldom considered when a property is developed or a house is constructed. I see this problem often on all types of projects both residential and commercial. Engineers are hired to figure out the problems but many of them lack the in the field experience to remedy such challenges and the site usually ends up slightly different than on paper. What ultimately happens is the building, house or project is installed, water challenges surface and the only option is to mitigate the challenge the best way possible, dealing with the environmental and manmade challenges surrounding areas of the project.

Water and soil are always moving. Engineers will do tests to try to determine what is below ground but it is somewhat guesswork as to how the project site will react to a new build or an existing structure as time and seasons pass. Thus, the desire to fix the problem by draining water away from the affected areas. There are many types of drainage solutions and ways to move water. Its imposible to go over all scenarios, but below are a few ideas. It is best to set up an appointment with me so that we can troubleshoot the challenge on site if you need help.

First, I spend some time observing the area of flooding or high water, locate the water or problem, then check the surrounding area for observable physical blockage of the water. It could be as simple as a clogged drain or some buildup of debris that if removed may alleviate the problem. Other possibilities are, a clogged rain gutter downspout, overall property slope, poor soil percolation, lawn draining back into foundation or plant beds blocking drainage and so on.

Next, survey the entire property or area of conflict to determine the high water location and the low points that the water could be moved toward. This can be tricky especially when there are neighboring properties involved, the last thing you want to do is create a problem for the neighbor. If this is a problem, go to them and explain that you want to work on your drainage problem and it may affect their property. Offer to help them with their problem also, working toward a solution.

After doing your due diligence determine the best course of action. If you are the DIY type, that’s great, but it may take a professional to advise or design a system so that it works properly. I see this often, a client calls and says they installed drainage and it is not working properly or no longer is working. Usually, I gently explain that I would recommend another possible solution, present my ideas on the facts and go from there. Drainage must make mathematical sense when finished, it must work or risk having to be re-done at a later time to properly elevate the problem.

Types of drains- There are many, the french drain is used as a loose term for almost all applications. I googled french drain and absolutely every type of drain comes up so again it is a term over used and not really saying anything specific. Mainly a french drain is a trench dug from the high point to a low point with either pipe or both pipe and round rock placed into it so water will flow away from an area. This usually works fine as long as there is enough slope to create a directional flow. Curtain drain- when I googled this It basically got me back to french drain. I consider a curtain drain a larger type of drain to elevate water in a larger area. The curtain drain can be laid out in directions with lateral pipes sloping toward the main line pipe. Do this by creating a grid or herring bone type of pattern with the lateral pipes a few feet apart as to pull the water from the surface to the laterals and then to main line drain or drain field and away from effected area.

Who should install drainage- preferably someone that has experience in property development. This takes me to a touchy subject as I have seen so many poorly engendered projects and improperly installed drains. It is best to use a licensed contractor that has a history of doing quality drainage work, or if the project is large, hire a licensed, certified engineer to draw up plans and help with the city permitting process if permit needed. Also check references, read blogs and recommendations. Word of mouth is also a good bet, if you know someone that has a completed project and it is working successfully there is good chance that this professional can also help you alleviate your problem.

Expense- I recently consulted a client on a project from an excavation company on a large hillside drainage project that, in my opinion, was a little elaborate and more than was necessary to elevate the problem. Not only could we have done the project for less but our solution, in my opinion, would have worked out much better for their application over the long run. Always get 2 or 3 opinions on your project, not that you’re looking for the cheapest job but mainly to confirm the best long term solution. Drainage is tricky and someone with experience may be able to see the larger picture. Always remember water and soil are constantly moving, downward for the most part, and this must be taken into the overall long term plan of the project. Good Luck…. Tim