Spring Landscaping in Lincoln, NE – 2018
Now that spring has arrived and we’re delighting in the nice weather that comes along with it, there’s no better time to get on top of lawn care, landscaping, and various projects that need to be done on a residential or commercial property. To get yours looking its very best, and to get the most use and enjoyment out of it this year, there’s likely a multitude of things that are, or should be, on your agenda at this point.
Cleaning up debris, performing the necessary lawn treatments, servicing the irrigation system, planting and mulching, installation of new landscape features, power washing and painting, various property repairs, putting in a new deck or patio, making improvements to your outdoor living and entertaining space(s)…there’s a lot going on right about now, and plans being made for the duration of the spring, summer, and even fall already.
Busy season has arrived, indeed. When the first string of a few nice days with no snow cover hit, you can bet that your lawn care professional or landscaper of choice is being inundated with phone calls from that time forward. The same holds true for anything related to grounds maintenance or exterior construction/renovation. If you’re not one to plan ahead or have this in place well before that time, all is not lost, but you’re going to need to get on it relatively soon to ensure you can secure a spot on the schedule this year.
“So far this year, we’ve received requests for just about anything you can imagine with involving the care and improvement of the lawn and landscape,” admits Ken Svoboda with Ray’s Lawn & Landscape. “People are always looking for ways to enhance the curb appeal of their home this time of year; some are preparing to list their homes for sale and others just want to give new life to their lawns and landscapes. In most cases the answer is as simple as clearing the area of all leaves and debris, trimming the shrubbery and pruning the trees, adding a fresh layer of mulch and maybe a little over-seeding of the lawn. Depending on the condition of the property, it may require clearing the landscape of old and overgrown shrubbery and replacing them with new plants with more curb appeal.
Whether enlisting the help of a professional or doing it yourself, the most important task any homeowner or property manager can do in preparing the lawn and landscape for spring is clearing the leaves and debris. A lawn coming out of dormancy needs a chance to dry and allow the frost to leave the ground. The crown of the grass plant needs sunlight to warm the roots and begin the process of photosynthesis, where nutrients are captured by the roots and moved through the plant, allowing it to grow and take on the rich green color. Landscapes should also be cleared of leaves and debris for the same reason.
Following that it’s time for the first application of fertilizer and a pre-emergent, which prevents crabgrass. If your lawn hasn’t been aerated recently now would be a great time for that service as well. Aeration opens a small hole in the ground allowing the roots to breathe and spread more evenly through heavy clay and compacted soil. It also allows moisture and lawn treatments to better reach the roots.
The landscape should be examined and if ornamental grasses and perennials haven’t been cut back, they should be before they begin to grow. Mulch can be applied to give that fresh new look to the landscape. Now’s also a great time to take a good look at your landscape to see if this is the year to remove some of the old, tired-looking and struggling plants and replace them with new, better growing and flowering shrubbery.
Maybe you’re even considering adding a water feature or a firepit to enjoy on those cool summer nights. Outdoor living spaces continue to be among our most frequently requested landscape projects. This also includes new paver patios, pergolas that produce shade for those hot afternoons, and water features that touch all the senses and feelings of an island oasis. Outdoor kitchens are always popular for those true outdoor enthusiasts and of course there’s the always popular fire pits in a large variety of sizes, shapes and fuel sources.
The new products that are being introduced to the landscape industry are changing constantly. Patio pavers were huge when they arrived on the market a dozen years ago or so. Ever since then it’s near impossible to keep up with the new materials being offered. The latest trend is following the types of products that are the hottest on the interior flooring market. More elaborately designed concrete pavers that give the appearance of Italian slate, wood planks and porcelain. The trend for the last couple seasons has been the use of larger pavers some measuring as much as 24’ x 36”. This large patio paver look is a direct response to the same trending look in interior design.
As opposed to what’s trending in outdoor living spaces, with regards to our lawns, there aren’t many new trends emerging, which isn’t at all unusual. Each year there are advances in the products and techniques used in our industry, and we do stay educated on those. At Ray’s we’re always on the lookout for better lawn products that will accomplish our goals of healthy, lush green and weed-free lawns while using even safer insecticides and herbicides. We’re fully invested in applying the most advanced technology to protect our technicians, our customers, their families and their pets.”
In summary, he notes, “I’m always asked for my top three pieces of advice in the springtime, and here they are:
Number one, your lawn wants to slowly come out of dormancy. Very few of us jump out of bed in the morning ready to leap into a busy day. Your lawn and landscape, like us, want to ease into spring. Don’t rush it! Clear the leaves and debris from both, mow the lawn to a 2” height, trim back ornamental grasses and perennials in the landscape. Apply a fertilizer with pre-emergent to the lawn. Again, don’t rush it! The pre-emergent has an approximate residual in the soil of only six weeks. Applying too early will only result in a waste of the material. Generally you have through the month of April to make this first application.
Number two, if you’re anticipating the use of a service to take care of your lawn and landscape needs, contact them now and be patient. For the next few months, everyone wants to know the answer to the question ‘How soon can I get this work done?’ Generally, it’s ‘that depends on the weather.’ A prolonged winter is going to stretch out our schedule and wreak havoc on our ability to get the job even started let alone completed. My suggestion is don’t wait. Contact your local lawn and landscape service provider and get the ball rolling and reserve yourself a place in their schedule.
Number three, enjoy spring. This is nature’s finest hour, when plants are coming out of their winter hibernation and will soon be showing off their beautiful colors and textures, and providing necessary oxygen while filtering the air of all kinds of irritants. Get outdoors when you can and take it all in.”
Going back to outdoor living and entertaining spaces, there’s SO much potential for that aspect of a property today.
As an extension of your home or place of business, it’s definitely the place to be this time of year, whether you’re entertaining, relaxing, or even getting some work done – there’s nothing worse than being stuck inside behind a desk when the weather is so beautiful all you want to do is be outside!
Perhaps you want to create a completely new space with the addition of a deck or patio. Or there could be things you want to do to your existing space to improve it, whether that’s better shading, outdoor lighting, new furniture, adding built-in features such as a grill or the latest in technology, incorporating a firepit – anything that would make it more cozy, inviting, and functional. Depending on intended use and other factors, there are an abundance of ways to transform a space on any budget.
If you’re looking for inspiration outside of Instagram or Pinterest, stop out at Outdoor Solutions and peruse their expansive selection of items!
Another topic that was mentioned previously, lawn treatments, is something that’s well worth revisiting further too.
“Applying a timely spring pre-emergent herbicide is the number one key to a beautiful lawn all summer long,” emphasizes Jordan Nun with Fox Liquid Fertilizer Service. “This ensures you don’t have unsightly crabgrass and foxtail weeds, and it is always easier to prevent these weeds than to get rid of them after they’re up.
So when exactly should a pre-emergent be applied and how many fertilizer treatments are needed? It should be applied and watered into the soil prior to 55º soil temperatures. In Lincoln, that’s about mid-April. As far as fertilizing frequency goes, it really depends on the type of fertilizer you’re using. Be careful not to over-fertilize your lawn, especially in the spring; it can actually weaken the root system. At Fox Liquid Fertilizer Service, we use a specially-formulated nitrogen with a stabilizer, which keeps the fertilizer available in the soil for an extended period of time. Because of that, for those who utilize our services, we usually only recommend three fertilizer applications a year! Helping our customers achieve the greenest lawns possible with the fewest applications possible is our main objective. This is great for business owners and families alike because it saves on fewer applications and is less disruptive to everything else that’s going on around the house or with daily operations. Generally, while their specific needs will vary, business clients and homeowners want the same thing–green grass and no weeds!
As we progress through the spring and into summer, with the new growth that’s happening, pay close attention to anything that looks out of the norm. One example might be noticing the signs of fungus or grub damage, which will typically look like large areas of brown patches, possibly loose patches of grass, or small brown spots all over the lawn. If you think your lawn has a fungus or grub damage, which is typically seen between the end of June to early September, stop watering and call a professional immediately! There are countless types of lawn diseases and they are often reversible but require different treatments. Get a free consultation and find out what’s going on!”
In agreement with the other professionals, Lee Schumacher with TDK Lawn Care reiterates the key points to remember moving forward, offering insight on a few other lawn-related items as well. “Now is the time to make sure you clean up all of the debris that has gathered on your property over the winter, particularly any leaves that have collected so they don’t choke out the new growth. You’ll also want to cut back your annual bushes and tall grasses to promote new growth. By getting that out of the way early on, it will be much easier to get started with lawn treatments, planting, and other projects that might need to happen in a timely manner. Aeration is especially important now because it helps loosen compacted soil and allows oxygen and nutrients to get to your lawn’s root system, promoting a healthy lawn.
With the weather conditions we’ve experienced this year, plant growth has been delayed a bit, but there’s no signs of snow mold, which bodes well for healthy lawns this year. However, with below-average moisture overall, and a pretty dry December, it will be important to keep an eye on conditions this spring. If there’s a dry spell and high heat, it might call for watering sooner than you’d normally start. For those with underground sprinkler systems, you’ll want to get your spring startup appointment scheduled as soon as possible if you haven’t already just to be on the safe side. Going back to lawn treatments, aside from aeration, now is a good time to schedule your first round of fertilizer application of preemergent for crabgrass control. There is one exception; if you have any bare spots in your lawn, it’s a good time to put down grass seed, in which case you’ll want to use a starter fertilizer instead of a preemergent. When the new grass comes up, be sure to mow twice before you put down any other treatments besides the starter fertilizer.
The best way to combat weed growth is to keep your lawn full and healthy. A healthy lawn will actually keep the weeds out naturally, while a sparse lawn allows plenty of room for them to grow and over time, take over. Along with a regular schedule of treatments, mowing, and watering, keeping the bare spots at bay and overseeding will help tremendously. When doing that, perhaps consider introducing a newer variety of grass seed. The weather conditions are different each year, which in turn puts stress on certain types of grasses that struggle to adapt. The newer grass seed is specifically designed to best handle the current conditions, so they’ll have a better chance of withstanding them and thriving. Just like technology and devices like our phones have gotten smarter, so has the engineering of grass seed and other ag-based products!
Additionally, particularly with respect to the newer grass seed that’s been introduced in recent years, it’s not how much you water but rather how often you water. For example fescue grass can go with one inch of rain per week whereas bluegrass needs a quarter-inch every other day. Haphazardly watering or watering excessively as a precautionary measure won’t do any good. Instead, get on a schedule that’s mindful of your lawn’s needs. Your lawn care or landscaping professional can help you determine the specifics and get everything set up so all you have to do is follow through. Using a rain gauge or dispenser gauge is especially helpful, and you’ll want to be sure to identify areas that get a lot of shade versus those that get full sun so you can target them appropriately.
Many people have a trusted professional that they work with while others are in the market for one. Be sure to start off on the right foot this season by covering all of the bases on how you want your lawn taken care of ahead of time. Talk with your service provider up front about your preferences and concerns so that you are on the same page moving forward and nothing is assumed.”
Specifically regarding preparing your irrigation system for action in the spring, Jeremy Hunt with Hunt Irrigation offers the following advice: “If your irrigation system was winterized correctly, as it is brought out of hibernation all things will go as planned.In the spring you will want to evaluate your backflow device (that brass thing on the side, front or rear of your house and sometimes in the basement). Once the system is pressurized the real work begins; first you will want to run through each individual zone/station and check to make sure that all the spray patterns are precise and operating correctly. This means walking to each head and if it’s a spray (non-oscillating) then make sure that the nozzles are spraying the correct pattern and that they are also pointed in the correct direction. You then want to check the arc and radius settings on your rotor, or in older systems, the impact heads (oscillating). The rotors or impact heads cover large areas and so it is crucial that you let the head make its full rotation to ensure that you are not over spraying or crossing over any paved areas. Adjust your arc and radius as needed. Some of the rotors take a special tool while some use a simple screwdriver to adjust. If you have a drip zone you will want to find the control box that houses the filter, remove it and clean it for another year of operation, then activate your drip zone and check for leaks.
Once the components in the yard have been adjusted and the system has been checked for leaks, it is time to move into the garage and program the controller. The soil in Lincoln and surrounding communities is mostly clay. This means the water absorbs slowly and evaporates quickly. Therefore when programming your controller, it is best in this area to program shorter run times and multiple start times. Most controllers are capable of handling three start times. A good start time schedule would be 1 a.m., 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. Scheduling a two-hour break or rest between operations will allow the water enough time to absorb into the ground and reduce run-off. How old is your irrigation controller? Just as it is common to upgrade your phones for the latest technology, you should update your controller every five years or so. Today’s controllers have many water-saving features that controllers even three years ago did not have. The Hydrawise system gives you the ability to operate your controller from anywhere in the world, and not only does things like predictive watering, but it will also notify you if you have a leak in your system, a broken head or even an electrical issue.
This spring do your lawn and landscape a favor and consider hiring a professional irrigation contractor to perform spring maintenance on your sprinkler system. Just as you have your air conditioner serviced in the spring or your furnace serviced in the fall it is always good to have your irrigation contractor perform a spring service of your sprinkler system. While he/she is completing your spring service ask them about potential water savings upgrades that could be added to your system. Give The Water Smart Company a call today to schedule your spring start-up. You can reach us at (402) 438-8151 or use our web-scheduler at www.huntirrigation.com.”
As you embark on this year’s spring landscaping projects, keep in mind that it’s not too late to bring on a professional to help if needed. Whether you hope to completely transform your property or encounter a problem and aren’t sure of the best solution, a little expertise goes a long way. That being the case, since many of our local professionals have an extensive amount of knowledge and experience to offer, just imagine the possibilities!