Landscaping & Lawn Care in Plano
27 Nov 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: How to Get Rid of Fall Weeds

I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me what can be done about all the crab grass and other weeds they’re seeing in their lawn this fall.

The good news is most are summer weeds that will go away soon. The bad news is these weeds have already left their seeds in the lawn which means they will be back again next year unless something is done over the next few months.

That’s why at Village Green, our annual fertilization and weed control program includes fall and winter visits. These are some of the most important visits we make all year, because we are applying preventatives that will keep those seeds from turning into weeds next year.

On these visits we apply a pre-emergent that prevents winter weeds from coming up along with a post-emergent for any broad-leaf weeds that have already sprouted. In late winter, around February and March, we apply a different type of pre-emergent to prevent spring weeds, such as henbit or poa-annua from growing.

All of this means when the lawn comes out of dormancy next April, it won’t have to compete with a bunch of weeds and will fill in much more quickly.

Does this prevent all of the weeds? Unfortunately not. There are three types of weeds: annuals (those that come back from seeds each year), biennial (those that have a two-year life cycle) and perennial (those that come back from their roots every year).

Pre-emergents only work on seeds so they are only effective annuals. The other two, biennials such as dandelions or perennials, such as dalisgrass can’t be prevented and must be controlled after they have sprouted from their roots.

Preventing the annuals from growing is a great start though and allows us to focus on just the other two types.

I’m often told that some of the gardeners on the radio say a pre-emergent can only be applied in September and ask if our preventative will work when we apply it later.

They are right, what is available at nurseries is only effective during certain times of the year but what Village Green applies is much different. It is more effective than what is available at stores and is applied later in the season.

Another big factor in the success of our winter weed control depends on watering. We apply our pre-emergent in big droplets which makes it fall to the ground instead of misting and blowing around. Once the drops hit the ground they stay on top of the soil. The pre-emergent only starts working when you water the lawn. The water spreads the droplets out evenly across the ground and pushes it down in the soil where the seeds are waiting to come out. Without watering, it sits on top of the soil for a couple of weeks and then eventually disappears which doesn’t do any good.

So what does all of this mean to you and your lawn? Having a great lawn next year starts with how you treat your lawn this fall and winter.

As always, if you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com. 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!

15 Nov 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: When is the best time to landscape my yard?

I’m frequently asked, “What’s the best time of year to plant?”

Technically the answer from best to worst seasons are:
•  fall
•  winter
•  spring (yes, the season everyone thinks about landscape is third best)
•  summer

The reason I rank the seasons in this way is logical if you stop and consider that plants and people have more in common than you may think. The closer we get to summer, the more uncomfortable we can become with our HOT North Texas weather.

That’s why installing in the fall or this winter is such a great time. In North Texas there will be plenty of warm fall and winter days for new plants to set their roots and become established in your landscape. Established plants are much easier to keep healthy during times of the year that are more stressful for young plants (like the heat of our summer.)

A lot of people bring up concerns about their new plants freezing in in the winter. The reality is if you go with Village Green for a new landscape, we’re going to carefully select your plants so they will be fine. Village Green rarely loses plants to the cold weather so if you are considering a landscape project for 2018, rest assured that the fall and winter are the best times of the year to complete this work.

As always, if you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com. 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!

16 Sep 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: Fall Watering Guide

I know it may not feel like it with these 90 degree days, but the first day of fall is this Friday. Now is the time to to update your sprinkler’s settings to make sure you are getting adequate water coverage for your lawn and landscape in North Texas. this fall.

How much should you water in the fall?

During the fall your soil loses about ½ the water it loses in the summer so you can turn off one day of watering. The simplest thing to do is to set the controller to only water once per week for 10 minutes. You can download our free watering guide here.

If you have question or need additional help with your sprinkler system give us a call at 972.495.6990 or ken@villagegreen-inc.com. We are always happy to answer your questions. If you need additional help remember we offer an affordable sprinkler tune-up and would be happy to give you a free, no obligation estimate. 

09 Sep 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: Do You Have Brown Patch?

How about this weather? It’s hard to complain about these cooler temperatures and rain, but it does bring Brown Patch, which we’ve been seeing a lot of in the past week.

We typically don’t see Brown Patch until later September in North Texas, but with these cooler temperatures at night we are seeing some brown rings and patches showing up in our customers with St. Augustine lawns.

Brown Patch is a fungus that attacks St. Augustine in the fall (and spring.) The reason we experience so much Brown Patch during these two seasons is because our warm days and cool evenings mean your lawn never fully dries and Brown Patch thrives on these damp conditions. 

To understand Brown Patch, you need to consider that St. Augustine is a tropical plant and our North Texas summers of blistering heat (although this year wasn’t as hot) coupled with cold winter days put far more stress on it than its more natural home in places like Houston or Florida.  

The stress of summer followed by our fall like conditions of warm days and cool nights create the perfect environment for Brown Patch.  

Brown Patch isn’t going to destroy your lawn. Its biggest crime is making your lawn look bad. It typically goes away after our first frost. The bigger risk is that if you let it get out of control it can weaken your grass which could then suffer freeze damage if we have a cold enough winter.

If you want to avoid or treat Brown Patch I recommend watering your lawn in the morning so it has the best chance to dry during the day. You can also cut back your watering in shady areas. Instead of 30 minutes per week, try 10 or 15 minutes in those areas. You can download our free fall watering guide here.

Another thing to note if you are doing your own fertilization is that Brown Patch feeds on nitrogen. You need to avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers in St. Augustine lawns during early spring and late summer through fall. At Village Green we use a 5-10-31 ratio fertilizer.

Finally, if you see signs of Brown Patch you should treat the areas with Propiconazole. This isn’t going to make the Brown Patch go away, but it will stop the spread into other areas of your lawn. 

As always, if you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com. 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!

06 Aug 2017

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 ken@villagegreen-inc.com.  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!

05 Jul 2017

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.

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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.

20 Jun 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: Oak Galls

Every year I get a dozen or so questions regarding weird little balls customers find in their lawns. Our recent Quick Tips on out of the ordinary subjects, like dog vomit fungus, have been so popular I figured it was time to tackle this as my next Quick Tip subject.

These little ‘balls’ are galls, which are plant tissue growths caused by exposure to minute amounts of hormone-like chemicals produced by the gall makers. The gall makers can be fungi, bacteria, nematodes, or mites, but usually it is insects that cause them. Galls can actually occur on roots, flowers, bark and buds, but people generally notice them when they are on leaves or twigs.

Most of the questions I get are regarding galls that appear on our customer’s oak trees. On live oak trees, which many of our customers have, it is usually mealy oak galls. These little tan balls are about the size of a jaw breaker. They will eventually drop, at which point they are woody and hard under bare feet. If you look closely at one you’ll note a single exit hole where the adult gall maker gnawed its way out of its home.

With mealy oak galls the gall maker is a wasp, but keep in mind that Entomologists call it a wasp (most people associate wasps as an insect that can sting.) In this case the wasp that has produced the gall isn’t the stinging type.

The way it works is that a mother wasp find a good live oak twig where she can attach her egg, and the chemicals on the egg induce the oak to grow a home for the soon-to-hatch grub. That is how these mealy oak galls form. The grub feeds on the interior until it is mature enough to chew its way through the outer shell into the world.
Mother wasp finds an appropriate live oak twig to which she attaches her egg, and the chemicals on the egg induce the oak to grow a home for the soon-to-hatch grub. That is how Mealy Oak Galls are formed. The grub dines on the interior tissue of the gall until it matures and chews its way through the outer shell. Once vacant the gall shell can persist on the twig for a long time until it eventually drops into your lawn.

For most galls on oak trees, the insect is a species of cynipid wasp. And, strangely enough, each species of wasp is associated with a specific species of oak tree.

While some galls can be harmful, it is important to note that oak goals are not. They don’t do much to harm you tree. And applying insecticides to manage any perceived problem is overkill in my professional opinion. If you are worried about how they look, take comfort that gall makers tend run in cycles. Some years will be heavy and others will be minimal

If you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com.

12 Jun 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: Summer Watering Guide

The first day of summer is one week from today, so it’s time to get ready to update your sprinkler’s settings to make sure you are getting adequate water coverage for your lawn and landscape in North Texas.

How much should you water in the summer?

During the summer, water two days per week and run your system with three start times, 2am, 4am and 6am on each day and 10 minutes each start time. That gives you a total of 60 minutes per week for each zone (Set rotary heads to 20 minutes for a total of 120 minutes.) We recommend watering in the morning because it is cooler so you’ll have less evaporation plus there is less wind which can blow your water onto your drive way, sidewalk, or street. Watering in the morning will mean more water ends up in your lawn which is both environmentally and financially smart.

Download our Summer Watering Guide

If you have question or need additional help with your sprinkler system give us a call at 972.495.6990 or ken@villagegreen-inc.com. We are always happy to answer your questions. If you need additional help remember we offer an affordable sprinkler tune-up and would be happy to give you a free, no obligation estimate.

07 Jun 2017

Ken’s Quick Tip: Killer Wasp

I’ve received a lot of feedback on my Quick Tips about dog vomit fungus and crane flies. I have also received more questions about other things our customers have wondered about in the past. Today I’m going to tackle what one customer described as looking like a ‘giant wasp from an old Japanese horror movie.’

They were referring to a cicada killer wasp which typically are active in our summer months in North Texas (you can see a picture of a cicada killer wasp on our blog.)

Every summer I get a few phone calls and emails from customers worrying about these huge wasps flying around their lawns. They may look creepy (especially when they are flying off with their prey,) but cicada killer wasp are nothing to worry about.

Cicada killer wasps propagate at the same time cicadas are rattling around looking for mates. These killers look similar to wasps, but are much larger, sometimes reaching 1.5 inches long.

The wasps are beneficial in controlling our cicada populations, which during mating season emit a cacophonous noise by vibrating membranes on the bottom of their abdomen (the female cicada are drawn to that sound.)

The wasps sting cicadas, paralyzing them and allowing the wasps to carry them to small burrows dug in the ground by female wasps. The wasps pull cicadas into the hole and deposit an egg. Once the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the cicada before eventually turning into a wasp (which I guess does kind of sounds like a horror movie set-up!)

For those not interested in being around cicada killers, there are a couple of options.

• Patience. They go away by August in our area.
• Insecticidal dust can be sprinkled around the hole and tamped down with your shoe. The wasp is killed by the dust as it attempts to clear the hole.

Either way cicada wasps rank fairly low in the list of dangerous insects. In my opinion if you want to invest time and money into fighting a pest this summer, focus on mosquitoes which can ruin your ability to enjoy your lawn and landscape during our summer months.

See, I really do love ALL questions, even ones about giant killer wasps! If you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com.

29 May 2017

Chinch Bug Alert

I’m a firm believer that my job is to reduce your stress, not contribute to it, which is why I rarely sent out an alert like I’m doing today.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen chinch bugs in a few of our customer’s lawns and today’s alert is to make sure everyone knows to be on the lookout in their own lawns.

I like to say anytime we have Biblical weather; record setting hot or cold weather, or this year’s four-day winter, we usually have Biblical type plagues. One year we had crazy amount of crickets, another year we had grasshoppers and yet another year we had a Take All Patch, a fungus that attacked St. Augustine.

It seems that the weird weather becomes a perfect storm for some insect and disease to go crazy and this year’s mild winter seems to be no exception because we are seeing chinch bug damaging St. Augustine in our area.

What makes this strange is that chinch bugs are typically only active in our hot, dry months of July and August. In fact, they like hot conditions so much that they frequently start near concrete sidewalks and driveways because that soil is hotter from the heat radiating from the concrete.

How can you tell if you have chinch bug damage? First, chinch bugs prefer St. Augustine grass and rarely damage Bermuda or zoysia grass. You can spot damage by a patch of brown, usually surrounded by a yellow band. The yellow area is where they are actively feeding and the brown area is the grass they have killed.

If you look closely at the yellow band, you might see the chinch bugs running around – they are slightly larger than a pinhead (note this may take a few minutes of staring at the ground and you probably will spot 10 other insects before you see the chinch bugs.)

What makes this tricky to identify, especially in the late summer, is the chinch bug damage can easily be mistaken for a dry area caused by poor sprinkler coverage.

Make no mistake, chinch bugs can cause significant damage to the lawn if left untreated for a few weeks so if you suspect chinch bug activity it is best to treat the area with products that will control chinch bugs such as Bifenthrin.

If you need help with your lawn or have any other questions give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com.

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