Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
Lots of people have their lawns and their trees, and aside from raking in the fall and maybe winterizing their lawns [link] there isn’t too much yardwork, even in the fall. But if you like to garden, plant, prune, harvest and weed, there’s a lot of work to be done in the fall before you oil your tools and put them away for the winter.
Let’s look at the most common gardener’s chores
Putting the Vegetable Garden to Bed
The last of summer’s bounty has been eaten or stored away. But what do you do with the desiccated stems and leaves that bore your crop of squashes, potatoes, and corn? Likely, you already have a compost pile. But don’t add them to it right away! If you have any compost that’s ready to go, you’ll want to take it out first so that you can top-dress your beds. Then you can add all the leftover plant matter from your garden. Don’t leave it there, or you can harbor disease in your soil.
Once you’ve cleared the plant material away, and added the compost, you may want to check the pH of your soil. If it’s too acidic, add lime. If too alkaline, add sulphur. You will want to do this in the fall because it will take several months to take effect. The spring will be too late!
Some people do not till in the autumn, since some experts say excessive tilling damages the structure of the soil, hastening erosion. However, you need to turn the compost (and lime or sulphur) under, and I would suggest that planting a winter cover crop like annual clover will build the soil and prevent erosion. The benefits of putting in a cover crop in the winter far outweigh the damage of the tilling.
Cleaning out Perennial Beds
Perennial beds are the ultimate in easy care. Simply clean out the dead plant matter, and lay down mulch. There is one argument against this; if you want to encourage the overwintering of certain insects, it’s best to leave the spent plants standing, as many types of insects hibernate in the hollow stems or amongst the leaf litter.
If this is the case, do not mulch, either. Simply leave the plant material as it is. It will form its own makeshift mulch and you can remove it in the spring and mulch it then.
Cleaning out Annual Beds
Annual beds are everblooming, ever cheerful. Luckily, Virginia’s winters are often mild enough that some annuals even survive the winter. Autumn chrysanthemums can last into January, and it doesn’t seem like anything can kill the hardy pansy!
However, annual beds do need some care. Since the constant rotation of blooms wears out the soil, be sure to compost generously, or even add a slow-release fertilizer if you like. Cleaning up any debris and adding a nice layer of mulch will help your little flowers shake off the cold and snow.
These autumn chores will keep you busy during the gorgeous fall weekends, but that’s just what a gardener loves, isn’t it? A good excuse to be out in the garden.
With all the talk about the environment, it can be daunting to think that you could have any effect on such a large problem. But as our grandparents used to say in the Depression-era, “Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” There are many simple steps you can take right in your own backyard to do your part for nature.
Think Hard About Your Lawn
Although a lush green lawn has been the pride of homeowners for many years, it evolved as a sign of conspicuous consumption (to own land that wasn’t grazed or cultivated) and remains so today. Of course, you don’t need to raise chickens on it! But your lawn likely costs you a lot: you probably water it, fertilize it, and mow it weekly with a gas-powered mower. You might even spray weed-killer or pesticides on it. That’s a lot of time, money, and energy put into one little plot of land.
Instead, consider alternative solutions. There is xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that involves putting down rocks and gravel and a few plants that require little water. You can turn your lawn into a garden or orchard to feed your family and share with your neighbors. Or, you can simply plant it with low-maintenance perennials, trees and shrubs so that you spend the minimal time on yard work. Lawns, attractive as they are, are one of the most high-maintenance yard installations.
Though we get a lot of rain in Virginia, most people see it as a nuisance. You likely water your plants fairly regularly, but in most cases, plants could be self-maintaining. The trick is to get the water to stick around.
Most homes make sure water slopes away from them, and for good reason. But with a rain garden, you can capture much of that precious rain before it pours into the storm drains. The rain garden will create a reservoir of water in your soil that your whole yard will benefit from.
You can also set up rain barrels to capture the runoff from your gutter. If you install drip irrigation hoses from them you can ensure that you water with the deep soaking that is best for plants.
“Green” landscaping is not difficult or expensive. In fact, many of these solutions are “install and forget it” fixes. Try it for yourself and see!
Most of us look with relief towards the falling of the leaves and the easing of the summer mowing schedule. However, if you want your lawn to look gorgeous next year, there are still some chores that need to be done.
It doesn’t take much to winterize your lawn. Take some time one weekend and get some exercise. You’ll be well rewarded when your lawn is the envy of the neighborhood next year.
Fall is really the best time to fertilize because you can use long-acting, more stable fertilizers that won’t encourage legginess or weaken the root systems of your grass.
The best way to fertilize is to rent a fertilizer spreader from a local hardware store. It will provide a more even and reliable method of delivery than a spray-on application.
When it comes to fertilizer, be careful. More is not better. More will kill your grass. Apply the fertilizer exactly as specified. No more, no less.
The second step to a healthy lawn is aeration. Grasses have thick root systems that have a tendency to bind. Additionally, the soil tend to compact when it is walked on. Finally, “thatch,” or dead plant matter, builds up on the surface of the soil, choking the grass. Aeration solves all these problems.
Aeration is the act of removing plugs of soil from the lawn. This can be done with either a motorized aeration machine or with a special hand tool. When these plugs are removed, they allow the soil to gain more oxygen, they give the grass roots more room to expand into, and they allow any new grass seed to gain a foothold.
Reseeding is the most optional step. If your lawn is already thick and lush, you may not need to reseed. But in case you do, just purchase some cool weather grass seed like fescue and spread the seed using the fertilizer spreader from the first step.
Then, lightly rake the lawn to rough up the soil and get a little overtop of the seed. Finally, water lightly, but deeply, like a soaking drizzle. You will need to keep the grass seed evenly moist until it sprouts, but this is much easier to do on cool fall days than in the spring when things are heating up!
It only takes a few hours to winterize your lawn and have it primped and ready to go when the daffodils start sprouting in the spring.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Although you would think we get enough rain in Northern Virginia to keep any sort of plant happy, in fact, sometimes you will have to supplement your plants’ water in order to keep them healthy.
There are several situations where rainwater might not be enough. New sod, for instance, needs to be kept consistently moist until it is well established -- it cannot wait three days for the next good downpour.
Trees sometimes do not fare well, especially in dry years or in urban settings. A mature oak can absorb 100 gallons of water per day, and if the groundwater is insufficient, it will wilt. This powerful thirst is not unique to oaks -- all trees need water. The big ones need more than the little ones, and the young ones will sometimes need supplementation because their roots are not yet deep enough to get at the ground water.
Runoff from poor soils can also be a factor. Two inches of rain does no good if it doesn’t soak into the ground. Sometimes the ground is too compacted for it to absorb, or the terrain is steep and the water washes away before it has a chance to soak in.
As you can see, there are many situations in which is necessary to water. Watering by hand is by far the best option, because this enables you to put exactly as much water is needed, right where it will do the most good. A watering wand is the best tool for the job here.
Since it’s not possible sometimes to water by hand, soaker hoses or sprinklers can be used instead.
The rule of thumb is “water deeply and infrequently.” Except for new sod, this works for nearly all plants. The only thing that changes is the definition of “deeply” and “infrequently.” The idea is that you want to thoroughly saturate the root ball until it resembles a dripping sponge, and then allow it to absorb that water over a period of time, and not water again until it is barely damp.
So for your roses this might be every three days, and for your weeping cherry this might be every week or ten days.
Watering like this will encourage the roots to grow down deeply, rather than shallowly, because you will have “taught” the plant that the water is more plentiful the deeper it goes rather than close to the surface.
And of course, don’t forget to add a thick layer of mulch around your plants. This will hold rainwater long enough for it to soak in, and reduce evaporation so you can water less often. Good gardening!
JK Enterprises is proud to be locally owned and rooted deep in Northern Virginia. And we love nothing more than giving back to the community. So allow us to suggest that any organization that relies on fundraising try our new program: selling mulch.
Our mulch is locally sourced, and aged to perfection, resulting in a rich, brown color that is highly sought after. The mulch is carefully produced from clean, high quality hardwoods that are rich in nutrients and slow to decompose. Additionally, the locally sourced materials means that there is less material going into local landfills. Be sure to tell your customers that they are being environmentally conscious!
People from nearly every walk of life can make use of mulch. It’s a great beautifier and practically a necessity for anyone who has a yard, or any business owner with any greenery around their buildings.
The wide appeal of our mulches will enable organizations to maximize their fundraising efforts in the fall season. Since most people already purchase mulch for their homes, why shouldn’t your organization be the one to supply it?
Here are a few of the most frequent questions we get about the program:
How Do We Get Started?
We recommend you pre-sell the mulch in order to generate positive cash flow before the delivery of your first tractor-trailer full of mulch. A full trailer equals about 1000-1600 bags of mulch, and we need at least a month’s notice to fill your order.
What Products Can We Sell?
We can supply you with any of our bagged products; however, we do require that you purchase at least one full pallet of any item. We recommend double-shredded mulch, cedar mulch, color-enhanced mulch, potting soil and/or topsoil/compost blend.
How Much Money Can We Raise?
Your group can often net $1.50 per bag, depending on your prices. You can also offer delivery in order to increase your sales. We’ve had organizations raise as much as $20,000 with our program. Don’t forget to canvas local businesses and building managers!
Where Will The Mulch Be Delivered?
You will need access to a parking lot big enough to unload a tractor trailer in, and to accommodate all the customers who will come to pick up their orders, or for your organization to load up mulch for their own deliveries. Some larger groups have rented a flatbed and a forklift to deliver by the pallet and minimize the number of reload trips.
If this sounds like a good fit for your organization, please contact us. We can offer advice and help, and regular communication will help ensure that your orders are filled quickly and your deliveries are timely. Call our offices at 703-352-1858 today!
Thursday, August 8, 2013
At JK Enterprises, we pride ourselves on our top-quality materials, and never more than with our playground mulch. Unlike landscaping mulches, playground mulches are meant to be played on and around, so it’s crucial that it is clean, free from debris and splinter resistant. Additionally, to be labelled “playground” mulch, it is required to be a “certified safety surface” which means, among other things, that it is firm underfoot (so as to be ADA accessible and not cause tumbles) and that it be cushiony enough for landing on if a fearless youngster should fall from the monkey bars. We’ve explained a bit more about playground mulches in another blog post.
But what about the other popular “certified safety surface” for playgrounds? That’s rubber mulch. Rubber mulch is popular for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s “recycling”. It’s made from the millions of tires that wear out every year and that tire companies would have to pay big bucks to dispose of. The very thing that makes it hard to dispose of is what schools and playgrounds like about it -- it doesn’t decompose. That means you never have to top it up as you have to periodically with wood mulches, which break down over time.
Now, we understand that not everyone wants to top up their wood mulch every year or two, but if that’s the case, try pea gravel. We don’t like rubber mulches and here’s why.
The Side Effects of Rubber Mulch
Let’s start with the least-scary reason; the environment. Rubber doesn’t really decompose. It’s kind of like plastic. It just sits there, getting weathered away like so many bottle caps. If the playground ever stops being a playground, the rubber “crumbs” will most likely get turned under the soil. That’s not recycling. That’s polluting. And they’re selling you the pollutants.
The other reason is much more scary. According to some, rubber mulch is not as inert as the marketing materials claim. Although the EPA okayed its use, the very limited study that they did (only two playgrounds) merely tested the risk of lead contamination. However, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station reported “under relatively mild conditions of temperature and leaching solvent, components of crumb rubber produced from tires (i) volatilize into the vapor phase and (ii) are leached into water in contact with the crumbs.” (source)
Environment and Human Health, a Connecticut-based non-profit research agency, released a report saying, in part, “It is clear that the recycled rubber crumbs are not inert, nor is a high-temperature or severe solvent extraction needed to release metals, volatile organic compounds, or semi-volatile organic compounds. The release of airborne chemicals and dust is well established by the current information...Health endpoints of concern are numerous, including acute irritation of the lungs, skin, and eyes, and chronic irritation of the lung, skin, and eyes. Knowledge is somewhat limited about the effects of semi-volatile chemicals on the kidney, endocrine system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, developmental effects and the potential to induce cancers,” and that rubber mulch “may not be appropriate for playgrounds with open layers of recycled tire crumbs.”
Though many of us long for a simpler, less chaotic life, closer to nature and its rhythms, the fact remains that most of us are not farmers. So while you might know the difference between clay and sand, it’s no shame that you don’t know the difference between topsoil and garden soil. That is, no doubt, why you’re reading this article.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Hardscaping is a tried and true way to add elegance, drama, and easy-maintenance, usable area to your yard. Our chosen suppliers are CST and Belgard, two large and reputable retaining wall and patio system manufacturers.
First, it has to be said, these supplies are not only higher quality, but more economical than the blocks you will get at a big box store. In addition to being made of higher-quality concrete, the quality of engineering is unmistakable. Retaining walls are self-draining, self locking, and require relatively little in the way of footings, reducing the cost of the project.
Planning Your Installation
If you are thinking of installing a patio system, retaining wall, raised planters, driveway entrance, accent wall, or any combination of these, take the time to think big. It is much easier to install and engineer everything at once than it is to add to it later, especially when you take into account the extra landscaping.
Check with your local building codes to see if there are any special requirements. Some larger projects require the supervision of an engineer, and others need to have the plans and work inspected.
If your design skills are not up to the task, there are various professionals to assist you, from landscape designers to architects. Come into our showroom at JK Enterprises and we can let you know what you need to get started, and get a feel for which types of stone, and which company’s products you will be using in your design.
Worth the Effort
A hardscape retaining wall or patio is a proven way to add value to your home, not to mention how much more enjoyable it becomes to live in, with the warm stone textures, the graceful curves, and the easy maintenance. Best of all, retaining wall stones and pavers can be integrated into any style and construction, from a sprawling ranch, an elegant antebellum or a quaint Cape Cod.
A patio can mean more al fresco dinners with family and friends, retaining walls can rescue portions of your property you were at a loss to maintain, and the look and feel of the rich warmth and texture will give your home an air of sophistication and old fashioned civility.
We’d be happen to show you around the showroom to give examples of what can be done. Let us know what you’re thinking; we love to make dreams a reality.