Harvesting Rainwater to Combat Drought-Your Garden Thanks You!

Each year that goes by seems to bring more drought problems. Reservoirs are dwindling, rivers are drying up, forest fires are popping up in places that they haven’t been in years. There just might be something to this “global warming” business.

In the meantime government regulations are putting the damper on watering your lawn and garden with city water, some areas even restrict watering your lawn and garden with well water. So how do we keep our beloved plants alive? There might be an answer in harvesting rainwater.

 

rainwater harvesting barrell

Rainwater Harvesting Barrell

Lots of people are already catching rainwater to use in varying amounts now. Some simply catch a 35 gallon drum full to water their potted patio plants. When that runs out, they go back to using their city water, but even then, that’s 30 gallons of water that were saved. If all of us saved just that much each month, we would collectively save millions of gallons of water a year.

Where to start? First, you need something for rain water to run off of to catch it, usually your roof. Then, you simply catch that rainwater at the downspouts and send it to a collection barrel, tank or cistern. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, you can do this without even having any electricity involved just letting gravity work to use the collected water.

In the simplest of systems, a barrel is placed under a downspout to catch the water, and a rain diverter is attached to the downspout, then  a  hose spicket is attached to the bottom of the drum to access the stored water for watering your plants. Keeping the drum up off the ground a couple of feet allows gravity to work for you.

rainwater collection system

rainwater collection system

 

In more elaborate systems, in-ground storage tanks are used to store the water and electric pumps are then needed to lift the water out to pump it through hoses to use it. These systems can run into the thousands of dollars to build. What your needs will be will most likely fall somewhere between these. The diagram below shows a simple system with a couple of plastic barrels placed under a downspout. The two drums are connected by a piece of pipe that allows both drums to fill up with only one being under the downspout. You could feasibly connect as many barrels together as you want to increase your storage.

Rainwater can even be collected, filtered and run through an ultra-violet sterolizer that will make the water potable. These systems can get into several thousands of dollars, but if you live out in the middle of nowhere, and “off grid”, then it is a viable source for water.

The University of Arizona has a good article on building rainwater collection systems.

No matter how elaborate you want to get, collecting rainwater just makes good sense! Reducing your water bill is just the beginning, helping to conserve water and being able to grow plants when you couldn’t before because of lack of water are just bonus reasons.

Some municipalities, States and Fed. governments will allow credits for installing certain systems that meet minimum criteria. Here is some more information from the National Conference of State Legislatures .

Here are a few products that will get you up and running to collect some rainwater and keep your plants happy.

 

 

The 5 Top Ways to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

We all want our property to be worth more, and as the years go by and you do remodeling jobs or home improvements, some of these projects add to the value, and others don’t.

The National Association of Realtors recently surveyed their members to ask what items added the most to the perceived curb appeal of the home the buyer was looking at. These are the top 5.

  1. A Lawn Care Program – Seventy five percent of those surveyed said that having a lawn care program to keep the grass green and weed free helped to close the sale. They also stated that with the average cost for a 6 application lawn care program being $330.00 that the return on investment was 303%. Or worth approximately $1,000.00 at the time of the sale

    Lawn Spraying

    Lawn Sspray Technician Making a Lawn Application

  2. An Overall Landscape Upgrade – A front lawn / landscape renovation consisting of an average of adding stonework and a flagstone or paver walkway, at least five flowering shrubs, one large deciduous tree and some stone planters added more than monetary value to the home, but also added Homeowner Bliss. The homeowners surveyed stated that they had the desire to be home more. This type of project is more costly than a simple lawn service, but it was described as “guaranteed to have a full return on investment”. The average renovation costing $4,750.00 and had an average return on investment at sale time of $5,000.00 or 105%
  3. A New Patio – New flagstone or paver patios are not as often recommended as
    paver patio and fire pit

    paver patio with sitting wall and fire pit

    much as landscape renovations, due mainly to the fact that not all homes need a new patio. Those that did install new paver, flagstone or concrete patios say that it increased their enjoyment while being at home. The average cost for adding a patio was $6,400.00 with a return on investment of 102%, or $6,525.00

  4. A New Wood Deck – Only 4% of the realtors surveyed reported that a new wooden deck helped to close the sale, but 77% of homeowners said that it made them
    Treated Deck

    Treated Deck

    happier while at home and made them want to be at home more. This was the most costly of the projects listed, at $9,450.00 but realtors reported it packed the most value punch. The average return on investment was $10,000.00 or 106% of investment recovered.

  5. Landscape Plantings Upgrade – 25% of the realtors reported that adding landscaping greenery (plants, shrubs, and trees) would elevate a simple yard’s curb appeal. On average, their description of adding an upgrade to landscaping plants consisted of adding 25 shrubs, 60 perennials, some natural edging (stone) and adding a boulder accent.
    New landscaping

    New Landscaping

    While each renovation will vary based on the size of property, location, and the current value of the property, there is no doubt that upgrading your home’s landscape plantings will go a long way to improve the curb appeal.

There are lots of ways to improve the curb appeal of your landscape, these are just the top five that the National Association of Realtors survey found the most helpful. Other things can help that are not so costly. Simply pruning the shrubs back to their proper size, mulching and edging the beds, pressure washing the home, driveway and walks, and keeping the lawn mowed will instantly improve the curb appeal.

If you need some help giving your home a curb appeal boost, give us a call for free estimates 731.642.2876


Fall is Bulb Planting Time – For Some Varieties

Flowers from bulbs can make a very beautiful bed, or can be a royal pain in the A**! Things have to be just right or the mountain of bulbs that you chose from a pile of catalogs, and finally ordered in the middle of Summer, will wind up being a waste of time and money.

Daffodils Blooming

Daffodils blooming in a mass planting landscape bed.

Often, 100’s of bulbs are planted in a bed, then you wait patiently for next Spring to see your bounty, and…..nothing, or very little bulb activity and lots of disappointment.

Bulbs are a little different than planting fresh live Spring Bedding plants. They are planted in Fall, for Spring bloomers, or in the Summer for Fall Bloomers, or planted in Spring for Summer bloomers. Live bedding plants are bought as a growing baby flower and planted to grow through the Spring, Summer and into Fall until the first frost.

Bulbs also like a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. So that means in soil that doesn’t stay saturated with water and isn’t mostly clay. In our area of West TN, that means we have to amend the soil with organic material, mulch, potting soil, compost, or some other organic material that has completely decomposed.

Using a “green” material, (organic material that hasn’t completely decomposed) will cause more problems for your bed than good, so don’t use piles of fresh sawdust, wood chips, or fresh mulch that isn’t already very decomposed. As these materials go through the process of decomposing, they actually use nitrogen from the soil for their own use, and will create heat in the process. This is where the term “it’s too hot” comes from, when referring to mulching materials.

compost

Fresh compost from a home composter

Use only bagged goods that have already reached decomposition, or compost that has reached complete decomposition. Till the soil in these beds that bulbs will be planted in, using shovels or power equipment, if you have enough room. Till the soil first, then pour the amendments on the soil, till again to mix into the soil. Then plant.

Some common questions, and the answers to them are the following, from three bulb wholesale operations. If you need to know how to grow something, go to the source, someone who has been doing it for years. These three account for a major portion of the annual bulb sales in the US each year.

How can I keep daffodils blooming as perennials for a lot of years?

Plant them in full sun in well drained soil.

Before planting, add compost to the soil and top dress with more compost each fall. The addition of organic matter keeps the soil healthy and enables the bulbs to absorb the nutrients they need in addition to the nutrients acquired through photosynthesis.

Wait to cut the leaves when they begin to turn yellow when the photosynthesis is finished, which usually happens about 8 to 12 weeks after they finish blooming.

Keep artificial irrigation away from the area during the bulb’s summer dormancy. Hot weather makes the soil warm; adding water to warm soil around dormant bulbs can cause some to rot.

I have a garden that I want to continue blooming during the growing season, from spring through fall. How can I accomplish this?

Plant in layers:

  • Tulips, lilies, large alliums, camassia – 10 inches deep
  • Daffodils, Hyacinthus, Hyacinthoides, Leucojum, Muscari – 6 inches deep
  • Crocus, Anemones, Ipheion, Chionodoxa, Scilla – 3 inches deep

Plant companions on top of the bulbs; don’t worry, the bulbs will work their way around them.

  • Hemerocallis, Echinacea, Monarda, Phlox, Achillea, Asclepias, ornamental grasses – full sun
  • Lobelia, Thermopsis, groundcovers like Vinca minor, Ajuga, Lamium – part shade
  • Add long blooming annuals “under the arms” of the perennials in early summer.
  • Portulaca, marigolds, petunias – full sun
  • Geranium, Osteospermum – part shade
  • Begonia, caladium, coleus – shade
Fall bulb planting schedule

Fall Bulb Planting Schedule

Layering the bulbs, planting perennial companions in the same bed and adding long-blooming annuals for the summer will ensure a colorful garden for most of the growing season.

What are some flower bulbs for my spring garden. I haven’t worked with flower bulbs before and I don’t know where to start. What should I do?

We’d suggest that you map out the garden beds, and determine the color palette and general ambiance you would like for the garden: Is it more formal or informal? We usually recommend planting 80 percent of the garden with perennial flower bulbs and 20 percent with tulips and hyacinths, which will need to be planted each fall. Tulips and hyacinths have the broadest rainbow of colors available, and by replanting them every fall, you can keep the garden’s look fresh and exciting by changing their colors.

The primary perennial flower bulbs to include are narcissi, allium, fritillaria, lilies and herbaceous peonies, all of which may be planted either in clusters for a more orderly look or in drifts for a more natural look. Finally, finesse the garden with plantings of smaller bulbs like Muscari, Scilla, Chionodoxa and Anemone blanda. Tip: To help keep clients really happy, plant a cutting garden with varieties for the future and bring them spring preview bouquets before placing their fall bulb orders.

I want flower bulbs in our woods, and want them to look like they’ve always been there. I’ve only ever planted tulips before and we have major deer issues. Are there any other bulbs that I can use?

There is a whole range of deer and rodent-resistant naturalizing flower bulbs that can be planted in drifts to sparkle in woodlands from early to late spring. In early spring, Eranthis hyemalis, the winter aconite, adorns forest floors with 4-inch-tall, bright yellow flowers, while Galanthus, the snowdrop, charms us with 6-inch-tall milky-white flowers. One of the most prolifically planted woodland dwellers is the Narcissus, usually planted in loose groups with no apparent design. Hyacinthoides non-scripta, the English bluebell, yields breathtaking seas of 18-inchtall, shimmering violet-blue flowers. Scilla, Erythronium pagoda, Geranium tuberosum and Ornithogalum nutans Silver Bells are also lovely planted in seemingly haphazard drifts. Camassia, a northwest U.S. native, is perfect in irregular drifts in the dappled sunlight of the edge of woods. In just a few years, any of these flower bulbs will appear as if they are age-old woodland inhabitants.

bulb planting depth

How deep should bulbs be planted?

Also, be sure to plant your bulbs at the proper depth. Some are deep planted, while others are to be barely covered with soil, the difference can be having a bare bed or having one that is covered with beauty.

We have a house still under construction. There is only fill where the gardens are going to be. We don’t have the go-ahead on foundation plantings, but want something in bloom next spring. What can we do?

This first phase should focus on laying out only the bare minimum, mandatory beds around the foundation of the front of the house. The soil must be amended so that these beds have good neutral pH garden soil, close to a sandy loam, with reliable drainage. Determine the square footage and the color palette pleasing to the homeowners. Select earlier blooming tulip bulbs and hyacinth bulbs that will create a prominent, yet economical, display, but that can be treated as annuals. You’ll need about five bulbs per square foot for a somewhat dense planting. When the flowers start to die back in the spring, they can be removed, bulb and all, so that work may proceed with any hardscape, foundation plantings and other beds.

We have serious animal issues — both deer and rodents. What are my options?

Flower bulb eating squirrel

A bulb eating squirrel

Deer and rodents can wreak havoc on bulbs, as they can on any other type of ornamental plant. The strategies for dealing with these uninvited guests:

Plant bulbs that animals can’t or prefer not to eat. This is the easiest and most affordable option. It also means telling your client that she can’t have tulips or crocuses. So what can she have? Daffodils, first and foremost. All daffodils are toxic to mammals and will not be eaten. The same applies to other members of the amaryllis family: snowdrops (Galanthus) and snowflakes (Leucojum). Beyond that, there is a small group of bulbs that deer and rodents may sample but generally avoid: crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis), glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) and winter aconite (Eranthis), among them. Deer and rodents don’t necessarily have the same taste in bulbs. Deer, for example, steer clear of the ornamental onions (Allium), but rodents have been known to eat the bulbs.

Bulb beds can be rewarding, or as we said, dissappointing. Do your homework, choose the right variety, get soil amendments in the bed, plant, and be patient.

Too big of a job for you? Give us a call LawnMasters can take care of hauling the soil, amendments, bed prep, planting and let you do the waiting.