All posts by Amanda Shiffler

Improving Water Use in Your Yard

Water is becoming a hotly debated commodity in many areas, with increasing restrictions or regulations being placed on homeowners to conserve this limited resource as much as possible. With a significant portion of the water used by homeowners for landscaping and gardens, improving water use efficiency in your yard is a great place to help with conservation. By implementing the following recommendations, you can reduce your water use by up to 75%!

  • Design a landscape plan before putting in your turfgrass and other plants. Group plants together that have similar watering requirements. Also, use the natural terrain or landscape features to your advantage. If you have low areas that tend to collect water, plant species with high water needs there; choose drought-tolerant plants for high spots that drain water quickly. 
  • Improve the soil, so it retains more water. One of the best things you can do to optimize plant growth and water conservation is giving your plants a great soil to grow in. Add finished compost or another type of organic matter to all of your flower and garden beds before planting, tilling it into the soil. This increased organic matter will help hold onto the water and improve the soil structure so the roots can grow freely through the soil, accessing water that is found naturally, below the surface. 
  • Cover bare soil. Homeowners often overlook this simple tip to improving water efficiency, but covering exposed soil surfaces helps to significantly decrease the amount of water lost from the soil to evaporation. Add 2 to 5” of mulch to your flower and garden beds, keeping it away from the stems of your plants, to improve the soil water retention by upwards of 70%.
  • Optimize your sprinkler system. Installing a sprinkler system, especially an automated one, is a great way to optimize your water use when done correctly. It’s essential though, to install the correct system for your landscape and the plants. Utilize features such as dripper heads, and soaker lines where you can instead of only using spray heads that aren’t as efficient. Make sure the system is well maintained, and there aren’t any leaks or busted components that are wasting water.
  • Water wisely by using an irrigation timer. Having an automatic sprinkler system is a great feature, especially if you are prone to traveling during the summer, or are merely forgetful; it handles all of the watering events after the initial set up. But it isn’t without its flaws! Consider adding a smart irrigation controller that adjusts the watering schedule automatically by monitoring the local weather and accounting for cooler temperatures and rainfall events.
  • Create a deeper, more extensive root system on your plants. A longer root system on your plants and grass helps make them more drought-resistant. Instead of watering a little bit of water frequently, such as daily, arrange it so you apply a greater amount of water, less often. This naturally encourages the root system to lengthen and grow deeper into the soil. 
  • Time watering to reduce evaporation. A significant portion of the water applied to your landscape has the potential to be lost to evaporation. To help minimize water loss, water during the cooler times of day – early morning and later in the evening are best –  when evaporation is minimized. Avoid watering during the hottest part of the afternoon whenever possible. Wise Orchard does this automatically for you with its smart watering mode!
  • Make sure you are fertilizing correctly. When it comes to fertilizing, this isn’t a situation where more is better. Too much fertilizer triggers vegetative growth in your plants; more growth means more water used. On the flip side, though, if you under fertilize your plants, they become stressed from nutrient deficiencies and won’t use water efficiently. So you must fertilize your lawn and plants at recommended rates.
  • Mow your grass to the recommended height. All grass types have a recommended height range for mowing. During the hottest part of summer, stay to the upper limit of recommended heights to minimize evaporation and encourage the root system to move deeper into the soil. 
  • Aerate or dethatch your turfgrass as needed. Over time your turf creates a layer of dead or decomposing grass shoots, stems, and roots forms between the grass blades and soil surface. This layer of “thatch” creates a barrier that keeps water from moving down into the soil. Aerating or dethatching (two different procedures) helps by putting holes through the thatch, or reducing it overall, to improve water movement to the roots.

You don’t have Wise Orchard yet? Get it now! It’s easy to install like a hose timer, it connects directly to your Wi-Fi and you can control it from your smartphone.

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Gardening for Improved Mental Health

Many people enjoy gardening for the beauty it brings to their landscape, and the edibles it puts on their kitchen table, the benefits run much deeper. Gardening offers both physical and mental benefits (supported by research studies)  — to the point physicians, and physical therapists recommend it to patients young and old.

During the current time of uncertainty, more and more people are turning to gardening, whether indoors or out, as a way to stay busy and improve their mental health. Tending to plants helps relieve stress and lift depression. It’s also a way to open communication with friends, family, and neighbors who enjoy gardening.

Have you thought about trying your hand at growing something during the lockdown? Unsure of where to start? Then let me help! I’ll admit that even though my house and yard are FULL of plants, I’ve added a handful of new beauties to my collection in the last month.

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Reviving a Lackluster Lawn

Over time, life can take a toll of your lawn, causing it too look tired or worn out. Kids, pets, environmental conditions and even the natural progression of grass in its life cycle sometimes means you need to give your lawn some attention and revive it. In the worst cases it may be necessary to try to overseed or reseed the grass to strengthen it.

Signs Your Lawn Needs some TLC

The following symptoms are a good indication your lawn needs attention.

  • Brown patches spreading across the lawn.
  • Lawn looks like it’s thinning or damaged.
  • Worn patches from high traffic.
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Landscape Irrigation Guide

In areas of lower rainfall, many homes have irrigation systems installed to supplement insufficient precipitation levels. The benefits of having an irrigation system for your landscape go much further than simply providing water to your lawn and plants.

Professional Installation versus DIY

Installing your own irrigation system can be a big project to tackle, but some homeowners do opt to do it themselves. If you’re not the DIY type keep a few things in mind when hiring a sprinkler/irrigation company to complete the work.

When looking for a professional contractor look for one that:

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Saving Plants from Overwatering or Underwatering

Plants need three basic things to grow: sunlight, water, and nutrients. When any of those components is out of balance growth will negatively be affected, and the plant will suffer. A common problem many homeowners face is making sure their plants are watered correctly. Water is an important component in many processes that occur within the plant, but both overwatering and underwatering can cause big problems.

Problems with Overwatering or Underwatering

Plants need water for many of the biological processes that occur within their cells. Much of this water is taken in through the roots from the soil.  

Overwatering is a problem because it starves the roots of much-needed oxygen.

Open space between soil particles is occupied by both water and air. When there is too much water applied to the soil it pushes air out of this free space, completely filling it with water instead. In essence, the plant’s roots can’t “breathe” and drown.

Underwatering slows down, or may even completely stop, photosynthesis, a process where water and carbon dioxide product glucose within the leaves of the plant.

How to Tell if Plants are Overwatered or Underwatered

The big challenge is that symptoms of incorrectly watering your plants are similar whether you’re giving them too much water, or not providing enough. You have to look closely at the plant and the soil to determine which condition is the cause of the symptoms being exhibited.

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Fertilizers for your garden

Life would be much simpler if you could just plant some vegetables in the garden in a sunny spot, and then all you had to do was make sure they are watered regularly. FertilizingAfter all that’s all it should take to grow plants and reap a successful bounty, right? In theory it would be really nice for all of us if growing a garden was that simple but unfortunately it’s not. In order to make the food they need for cellular growth plants are constantly feeding on nutrients available in the soil. Over time, they can deplete these reserves making it necessary to add plant “food” to grow strong, healthy plants. Thankfully it’s easy to purchase commercial fertilizers that we can apply to restock the nutrient reserves and keep plants healthy.

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Vegetable Gardening Tips

There are many things that prompt people to think about starting their own vegetable gardens. Maybe they’ve purchased their first home and have a backyard for the first time. Maybe they’ve made some lifestyle choices towards eating healthier and want to try to grow their own fresh produce. Maybe they want to start a new hobby and gardening is interesting to them. No matter the case, vegetable gardening can be a great endeavor to embark upon for people young and old.

At first the whole concept of growing vegetables can seem rather daunting when someone is first starting out. Keeping some basic concepts in mind can help make growing vegetables much easier and hopefully more successful.

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Raised Bed Gardening

Over the last couple of decades, raised bed gardening has gained immense popularity amongst homeowners but it’s actually a gardening concept that has been around for centuries. In essence, raised bed gardening is when a large planting box is used to grow plants instead of sewing them directly into the ground.  Not only do the raised beds, or “garden boxes” add an aesthetic element to the yard and garden, they provide many advantages to the homeowner over traditional gardening.

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Growing the perfect lawn

Owning a home in most cases also means tending to the landscaping and lawnLawn on their property, and is a source of great pride for many. Landscaping accentuates the design of the home, it adds the final aesthetic touch to the residence, and the backyard is quite often used for entertaining during the summertime. Keeping a lawn vibrantly green, weed-free, and looking its best becomes an important priority to many homeowners.

It isn’t always an easy task to foster a lush lawn; most times it requires a multifaceted management approach. To keep grass looking pristine homeowners need to invest both time and money on the following aspects:  watching the frequency and amount of water applied, keeping the grass adequately fed, mowing correctly, and performing routine maintenance. These factors encourage optimal growth and a desired shade of beautiful green.

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