Ken’s Quick Tip: Two Important Tools Every Homeowner Needs

It’s a home owner’s nightmare.  You look outside and realize your sprinklers are running, and judging by the water running down the street, they’ve been running all day long.  You run to your sprinkler controller and turn it off, but nothing happens!  Your sprinklers are still going full blast.  You have no idea what is going on, and more importantly all you want to do is to get it to stop! 

Most customers are surprised to learn that when valves wear out and fail, most are designed to fail in the open position (great design, right?).  The thing to remember is that turning them off can be pretty easy if you have the right couple of tools on hand and know where your cut-off is located.  

All sprinkler systems are required to have a backflow prevention device.  This device keeps the water from your sprinkler system from getting sucked backwards into your drinking water.  If your sprinkler system was installed in the past 30 years or so, your home probably has what is called a double-check and is usually near your water meter.  You can find it by looking for a big, rectangular lid made out of green plastic.  Inside that box you will find a long gadget with two handles at either end of it.  Sometimes the handles will look like faucets but most of them are T-shaped.  The T-handle will be in line with the device.  To turn the water off to the sprinkler system, simply turn either of the handles (it doesn’t matter which one) perpendicular (cross-wise) to the device and that will turn the water off to the sprinkler system and still leave the water going to your home.

Getting the handles to turn can be tough at times because they get old and rusty.  If you’re lucky, you can use your hand but most of the time you’ll need to use a pair of channel lock pliers or a T-handled meter shutoff tool made especially for the job.  This gadget works nicely turning the handles with the added plus of not reaching your hands down into the muddy hole.  If you can’t get the handles to turn or can’t find the cutoff, you’ll need to turn the water off at the meter.  That’s where the second tool comes in handy – a meter key.  This is a must have for all homeowners.  The meter key allows you to open your meter and turn the water off to your home.  A sprinkler leak is bad enough, but at least it’s outside.  If you have a pipe break inside your house, you don’t want to wait for the city or a plumber to come save you.  Use this key to open the meter.  Near the face of the meter you will find a short stub that turns. Use your T-shaped meter shutoff to turn that valve until it stops.  Yes, you’ll be without water but at least you won’t have water running down the street or, if it’s a plumbing leak, inside your home.  Where can you find these tools?  Any hardware store will have them.  In fact, some stores sell a tool that has the meter key and the meter shutoff combined into one.

If you’ve ever had Village Green do any sprinkler work on your home, you probably noticed that our technicians always inspect the doublecheck making sure to turn the handles.  The reason we do this is to make sure if you need to turn them in the future, they will be easier to turn because we’ve recently turned them.  They can be very hard to budge because of the before mentioned rust and age.  It’s a small part of our overall service call, but we feel it is important. As I hope you know by now, customer service is what Village Green is all about and why we’ve been around since 1980.

As always, if you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at  I love to answer your questions and often turn them into Quick Tips to help teach our customers on all things lawn and landscape related!


Landscape Project Spotlight: HOA Help for a McKinney Lawn

It started with fall aeration. Which is not that unusual for Village Green. Most of our landscape projects start with us doing smaller jobs for a customer, earning their trust, which leads to future work. That’s how we’ve grown our business since day one, and how we ended up working with Mr. and Mrs. B in McKinney, Texas.

When Mr. B reached out to us regarding scheduling their aeration he mentioned he had problems spots in shady areas of his lawn. His HOA was unhappy about these problem areas and he was curious if Village Green had any suggestions to resolve the problem. When I visited the home, I gave them a few recommendations, but the more we walked around their property the more problems they brought up about their landscape. In addition to their bare spots, their Indian hawthorns were dying and Mrs. B wanted something pretty in her backyard with lots of color to look at while she watched her grandkids playing. She also wanted to have landscaping around their pool, mentioning a tropical look. Mr. B was more concerned with the lawn, wanting to replace his struggling bermuda grass with St. Augustine before his trees got too large to establish grass underneath them. As we walked and talked it became clear that the best way to handle all of their ideas was with a plan that could be done in phases over time so we scheduled our landscape architect David, to come out and design a long-term plan for their home.

One of the techniques David uses on front landscapes is to put larger plants further away from the entrance and smaller plants closer to the front door. The thought behind this strategy is that the plants on the outside edges of a yard tend to be seen as people drive by the home. This means you need fewer but larger plant to catch people’s attention. The plants at the entrance of a home are viewed as people walk up to the front door which means you want more plants, with different colors and textures because people will have more time to enjoy them.


As you can see in the before photos above they had dwarf burfurd holly hedges lining their entrance. Those are great plants in the right location but they want to be 15 feet tall which means you have to put in a lot of work to keep them in check. Not to mention that they are so large it can feel like you are squeezing past them to get to the front door which isn’t a very welcoming feeling. We ended up replacing them with a ground cover called liriope, creme demint pittosporum – a small creme colored shrub, along with nandina – a feathery plant that turns red in the winter. We also left room for annuals which means lots of colors from the shrubs and annuals.

Further away from the entrance, where the trees have caused so much bare dirt, we used larger, variegated pittosporums, taller nandinas and oak leaf hydrangea – a large, drought tolerant hydrangea. In the sunnier areas, we added the St Augustine grass Mr. B requested.

Eventually their plan is for us to work on their backyard too, but in the meantime Mr. and Mrs. B are excited to see what their landscape will look like as it fills in and I’m sure the HOA is excited that all of that bare dirt has been replaced with beautiful plants.

Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. B for trusting Village Green to get the job done. I’m extremely proud of this project and happy for the opportunity to feature it in this profile.  Village Green has been around since 1980 and understands what it takes to design and install beautiful landscapes for our customers. If you are interested in learning more give us a call or shoot us an email today.


Landscape Project Spotlight: Graduating to the Next Phase

Talk about pressure!  Mr. and Mrs. B’s landscape project in Plano had a hard deadline (their daughter was graduating high school) coupled with the fact that the family was celebrating the big event with a special party at their home and invited many family and friends.  Needless to say, everything had to be done just right, and on time, or we ran the risk of causing the family a lot of added stress!

For Village Green this type of project is NO problem.  We are a family owned and operated business and love playing a small role in our customer’s life, and contributing to something as joyous as this graduation was all the motivation we needed.

In addition to our hard deadline, this landscape design had a few other factors to consider.  Actually, five other factors in the form of the family dogs (one of which is a Great Dane who is well over 100 pounds!)  We had to keep grass in their backyard.  There was also an existing brick-fire pit and hammock that meant a lot to the family so we had to factor that into our final plan.  One last consideration was that while privacy wasn’t a huge deal, screening the view of their neighbor’s home was, so we had to solve that challenge in our final design.


As you can see from the before and after photos, our landscape architect, David, designed a backyard that will cater to their dog’s needs.  We made sure we kept as much grass behind the pool as possible, while also adding grass in their side yard.  Under the hammock and around the fire-pit, we added decomposed granite to create a nice seating area.  From there we added shade loving plants and ground cover, such as hydrangea and Mondo grass along their back fence where there was too much shade to grow much else.  Between the houses we added a majestic beauty Indian hawthorn tree. Many people are familiar with the small variety that gets a few feet tall, but this one will grow to over 15′ tall and will screen the neighbor’s home from view, as well as provide beautiful blooms in the early spring.

I’m happy to report that Mrs. B says the party went off without a hitch and that she LOVES her new landscape.

Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. B for trusting Village Green to get the job done. I’m extremely proud of this project and happy for the opportunity to feature it in this profile.  One of the things I love about this project is that Mr. and Mrs. B had Village Green design both their front and back yards, but only completed the work on their back yard.  That is one of our strengths at Village Green, we’ve been around since 1980 and understand what it takes to create a design that is a road map to follow for our customers.  If all the work can’t be done at once, no problem! Village Green can and will work with you in phases.  Since we’re working off a solid plan you can rest assured that the work we do will always be cohesive and complement each phase regardless of how much time passes between phases.

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