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Friday, November 19, 2010

It's time to light up the holidays

The long weekend after Thanksgiving is when most of us start hauling out the holiday lights.

What's broken? What's out of date? What can we put up for more WOW-factor this year? Can I cut the energy cost and still have high impact?
Here are some ideas for a fresh and cost effective look for your holiday lights in 2010.

Multicolor is out
Multi-color displays have been on the downturn for awhile. For 2010, the lighting designers are featuring simple color schemes with white and one other color, or no more than white and two colors.

To gain maximum effect with these uncomplicated color schemes use strands of bulbs in varying sizes. Read on for examples.

Don't pitch the icicle lights
Even though icicles have been around for awhile, they're not passé. They are, however, being used in new combinations that up the impact. String icicle lights as they are traditionally hung to cascade off the gutter line of the roof. This year, add a string of larger white lights with bulbs about 1 ½ inches long (C-7s is the technical term) along the gutter line. The size variation in the lights creates two kinds of light and the appearance of twinkling lights. Small variation, big impact.

New style for trees
Trees also take on a better look when combining mini-lights with the larger bulbs. The larger bulbs give bigger, brighter light. The smaller bulbs add softness to the overall display. Create a new look in your yard by wrapping the trunk of the tree with white mini-lights and making a canopy of one bright color, such as red, in larger bulbs on the limbs.

How to string lights on trees:
  • Wrap lights around evergreen trees. If there is more than one evergreen in your yard, wrap lights in the same direction and keep spacing between rows consistent from tree to tree. This technique makes for a uniform appearance.
  • For deciduous trees, avoid wrapping light strands in a circular pattern in the branches. Instead, play off the tree's natural structure for a more dramatic look by running the lights along the length of the limbs.
Be creative
Lights don't have to be limited to trees and roof lines. Use other structural elements like pillars, fences and gazebos that can easily be illuminated to add to your display. Also think of lighting whimsical items like old skis, a wheel barrow or the little red wagon for a welcoming focal point close to the front door.

Go sustainable
This year, replace worn out lights with LEDs. They are just as user-friendly as they are environmentally friendly. Have you heard that you can connect 120 strands of LEDs end to end and plug the whole line into one extension cord that goes into a single power outlet? That's the ultimate no-jolt job.

LEDs also use about 80% less power than conventional holiday lights and they last four to five times longer. You will pay more up-front, but that cost is soon recovered in energy cost savings and fewer replacements. Using less total material over a longer lifetime is a major sustainable advantage.

Tip of the Week reprinted courtesy of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) of which Foothills Landscape Maintenance, LLC is a member. ALCC is the only only professional organization for Colorado's landscape contracting industry statewide. Tip of the Week is copyrighted by Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and may be forwarded or copied by its members provided proper credit is given to ALCC

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall and Winter Watering Tips

Fall and Winter Watering

by J.E. Klett and C. Wilson1 (7/08)

Quick Facts...

Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage that affects the health of the entire plant.

Water only when air and soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover.

Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.

Dry air, low precipitation, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of fall and winter in many areas of Colorado. There often can be little or no snow cover to provide soil moisture, particularly from October through March. Trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.

The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.

Plants Sensitive to Drought Injury
Woody plants with shallow root systems require supplemental watering during extended dry fall and winter periods. These include European white and paper birches; Norway, silver, red, Rocky Mountain, and hybrid maples; lindens, alder, hornbeams, dogwood, willows, and mountain ash. Evergreen plants that benefit include spruce, fir, arborvitae, yew, Oregon grape-holly, boxwood, and Manhattan euonymus. Woody plants benefit from mulch to conserve soil moisture.

Herbaceous perennials and ground covers in exposed sites are more subject to winter freezing and thawing. This opens cracks in soil that expose roots to cold and drying. Winter watering combined with mulching can prevent damage (See fact sheet 7.214, Mulches for Home Grounds.)

Lawns also are prone to winter damage. Newly established lawns, whether seed or sod, are especially susceptible to damage. Susceptibility increases for lawns with south or west exposures.

Watering Guidelines
Water only when air temperatures are above 40 degrees F. Apply water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before possible freezing at night. A solid layer (persisting for more than a month) of ice on lawns can cause suffocation or result in matting of the grass.

Plants receiving reflected heat from buildings, walls and fences are more subject to damage. The low angle of winter sun makes this more likely in south or west exposures. Windy sites result in faster drying of sod and plants and require additional water. Lawns in warm exposures are prone to late winter mite damage. Water is the best treatment to prevent turf injury (see fact sheet 5.505, Clover and Other Mites of Turfgrass).

Monitor weather conditions and water during extended dry periods without snow cover—one to two times per month.

Newly Planted vs. Established Plants
Newly planted trees are most susceptible to winter drought injury. Woody trees generally take one year to establish for each inch of trunk diameter. For example, a two inch diameter (caliper) tree takes a minimum of two years to establish under normal conditions.

Trees obtain water best when it is allowed to soak into the soil slowly to a depth of 12 inches. Methods of watering trees include: sprinklers, deep-root fork or needle, soaker hose or soft spray wand. Apply water to many locations under the dripline and beyond if possible. If you use a deep-root fork or needle, insert no deeper than 8 inches into the soil. As a general survival rule, apply 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree. For example, a two-inch diameter tree needs 20 gallons per watering. Use a ruler to measure your tree’s diameter.

Newly planted shrubs require more water than established shrubs that have been planted for at least one year. The following recommendations assume shrubs are mulched to retain moisture. In dry winters, all shrubs benefit from winter watering from October through March. Apply 5 gallons two times per month for a newly planted shrub. Small established shrubs (less than 3 feet tall) should receive 5 gallons monthly. Large established shrubs (more than 6 feet) require 18 gallons on a monthly basis. Decrease amounts to account for precipitation. Water within the dripline of the shrub and around the base.

Herbaceous perennial establishment periods vary. Bare root plants require longer to establish than container plants. Perennials transplanted late in the fall will not establish as quickly as plants planted in spring. Winter watering is advisable with late planted perennials, bare root plants, and perennials located in windy or southwest exposures.

For more information, see the following Planttalk ColoradoTM script.
1751, Fall and Winter Watering: during drought

1J.E. Klett, Colorado State University Extension horticulture specialist and professor, horticulture and landscape architecture; and C. Wilson, Extension horticulture agent, Denver County. 1/04. Revised 7/08.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

Be Careful What You Throw In The Compost Pile!

Oak Leaves are not
 good for compost

The last pumpkin has been picked and the tomatoes are gone, so the final chore in the garden is fall clean-up.  Much of the veggie garden and other landscape debris is great fodder for the compost pile. But before you pitch everything in, consider some dos and don'ts for fall clean-up and composting.

Why remove garden debris in the fall?  Leaves and dead plants left on top of the soil can harbor insects over the winter and perpetuate diseases into the next growing season.  For the sake of the soil and the success of next year's garden, it's best not to procrastinate on the clean-up.  As with many landscape chores, clean-up done at the end of one season builds into the success of the next one.

Tomato plants.  If your plants had problems this year with insects or disease, you'll be better off not putting dead tomato plants into the compost pile.  Not every home compost pile reaches and maintains the high temps needed to kill insects or disease.  In the long run, it's best to play it safe and pitch those plants into the trash.

Squash and pumpkin vines.  The debris from squash and pumpkins will take up to three years to decompose sufficiently to be used as compost.  Again, it's better to discard this debris in the trash. But go ahead and put other plant material like pepper plants into the pile.

Leaves from trees
  • Leaves to avoid.  Certain leaves are high in tannins which you want to avoid putting into the compost.  In Colorado, the most common leaves to leave out are oak and cottonwood.  

  • Shaken not stirred equals raked not shredded in the compost cocktail.  For leaves that you will pitch into the compost, avoid shredding them before composting.  While it's convenient to mulch the leaves with the lawn mower and collect them in the bag so you can just shake them into the pile, don't be tempted. If you want to use leaves for composting, rake them instead.  Raking keeps leaves fluffy and this helps to aerate the compost.  

Evergreen needles.  Needles from pine, spruce and other evergreens are high in acid and contain sap.  Since these ingredients aren't good for the compost mix, don't pitch needles into the pile.

If you're still going strong after the fall clean-up:  do your garden a favor and till in some compost.  Adding compost in the fall and tilling it well into the soil will give it the time it needs over the winter to break down.  Next spring at planting time, your soil will already be in prime shape to grow early season veggies.  

Tip of the Week reprinted courtesy of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) of which Foothills Landscape Maintenance, LLC is a member. ALCC is the only professional organization for Colorado's landscape contracting industry statewide. Tip of the Week is copyrighted by Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and may be forwarded or copied by its members provided proper credit is given to ALCC