Landscaping & Lawn Care in Plano
24 Jul 2014

How To Get Rid of Bare Patches in a Shady Lawn

Landscaping in PlanoJust the other day I got this email from a customer:  “I am unable to grow grass on the heavily-shaded west side of my house. I have tried seeding and St. Augustine sod. Nothing has worked and now I have mostly dirt. Any suggestions?”

I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve been asked this question. In fact, It is one of the most frequently asked questions I get regarding lawn care.

Over the years, I have heard countless people tell me they have spent thousands of dollars replacing the grass in the shady areas of their lawns. Then time after time, they end up watching it disappear a year later.

If the conditions are right to grow grass, it will fill into an area by itself. But if not, installing sod or seeding is only going to cause you to waste money and become frustrated.*

I believe in education first and foremost, so let me share the rules of thumb for turf sun requirements.

  • Bermuda needs about 8 hours of sunlight to survive.
  • St. Augustine needs about 6 to establish, once established you can plant a tree and as the tree casts more shade the St. Augustine will gradually acclimate to less light (which explains why your neighbor may have thick St. Augustine under his trees and you don’t).
  • Zoysia is starting to become popular and has similar light requirements as St. Augustine.
  • Fescue doesn’t mind the shade, but it’s a cheap short-term solution because you have to replant it each year.

Right about now you are probably thinking, what if I prune my tree limbs. If I cut them back, I’ll get more sun and it will fix my problem.

It’s a logical thought, but please do not prune you trees in order to grow grass in your bare spots. It is a bad idea. Thinning trees is like removing an arm or two of an umbrella. At the end of the day you are still going to have an umbrella, albeit, an ugly one! Studies have shown there is virtually no difference in the light hitting the ground under a thinned tree versus one that has been thinned. Pruning a tree can be great for a tree, but don’t do it with the hope it will help the grass underneath it.

So what’s the solution? Surely something can be done to make those dirt patch area look better.

The best solution is acceptance. If you have a shady area you need to accept it, and adapt to it by installing plants that like the shade. There are plenty of ground covers and shrubs that do well in little to no light. Most of the landscapes we install are in very heavy shade. If you can accept the shade, and find plants that thrive in the shade, you can easily change an eyesore to a pleasant spot where you can escape the brutal Texas summer heat.

If you need help finding solutions for your lawn, give us a call at 972-495-6990, email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.org or fill out our contact form. I’d be happy to answer any questions. For those that don’t’ want to invest the time and energy into transforming their yards, Village Green offers affordable landscaping design and installation which can transform your lawn in no time! Many of our projects include transforming shady lawns filled with dirt patches into an oasis for our customers. You can see some of our work in our landscape portfolio here.

*More Resources and Information

  1. Secrets to a Health Lawn:  Water
  2. Secrets to a Healthy Lawn:  Sun
  3. Secrets to a Healthy Lawn:  Food

 

01 Jul 2014

Important Information About Chinch Bug Damage in North Texas Lawns

Chinch Bug DamageYour North Texas lawn needs three things to thrive:  sun, water, and food.  If you are doing everything right, yet your lawn looks like it has drought damage, fungal disease or iron deficiency, you may have chinch bugs.  These guys are bad news.  In fact, I’ve seen chinch bugs cause more lawn damage than any other insect.  What makes matters even worse is when the first signs pop up in the form of small yellowing spots, people assume they have drought damage, fungal disease or iron deficiency, and waste time and money trying to fix the wrong problem.

In North Texas chinch bugs only attack St. Augustine lawns.  They love hot, dry soil and will almost always start eating the grass near concrete.  They like to start by a sidewalk or driveway and work their way out into your lawn.

How can you tell if you have chinch bugs?  To be honest, it can be tough.  The lawn gurus will tell you to search for them at the outside edge of the damage.   They say you can spot them there, but I’ve personally spent a long time staring at a spot and only rarely have I actually seen the chinch bugs.  If you can’t get a visual on them, an easier way is to check your soil by jamming a big screw diver into the ground, and stick you finger into the hole.  If your soil feels damp and you don’t see any obvious sprinkler issues you probably have chinch bugs and should treat for them. Another way is to shove a coffee can into the soil and fill it with water.  If you see flea-like insects floating to the top, you’ve got chinch bugs.

Unlike grubworms, there is no preventative for chinch bugs.  The only way to control them is to treat them while they are actively feeding.  At Village Green we apply Bifenthrin which has proven to be very effective in killing them.

Even though there is no preventative for chinch bugs, the Village Green surface insect program can significantly reduce the risk of wide scale chinch bug damage.  Our surface insect program uses Bifenthrin, which controls  fleas, ticks, and ants in addition to reducing your chance of large areas chinch bug damage.  We apply it every month or so during the peak insect season and it usually kills off any active chinch bugs too.  The surface insect program is an added cost to our 8 visit lawn care program. If you’d like more information on it or questions regarding your lawn call at 972-495-6990 or email our Founder and President, Ken Hyatt at ken@villagegreen-inc.com.  We’d be happy to answer your questions if you want to do it yourself.  Or if you want to save time and have us do it, we’d be happy to give you an estimate on what it would cost for our .

10 Jun 2014

Summer Watering Guide

Sprinkler Repair in Richardson TX As the temperature gets closer and closer to the century mark, I get more and more questions about how to keep your lawn and landscape looking good in this Texas heat.  Not to mention during Stage 3 water restrictions. First, you need to water for about sixty minutes per week in the summer. That can vary based on a few variables (has it rained? Do you have a lot of shade?) But sixty minutes is a good basic guideline for our area. The challenge though is the infamous clay soil in North Texas can only absorb so much watering at one time.  Often, anything beyond 10 minutes (the number is actually 7 or 8 minutes, but it’s simpler to explain and program 10 minutes to our customers,) is going to run off which is bad for your water bill and our environment. This is further complicated by the fact that about 2/3rds of our customers can only water every two weeks. Below are a few scenarios based on various water restrictions in our area.

  1. The ideal watering plan is twice per week, with 3 ten-minute bursts each morning.
  2. The second best is once per week, with 3 ten-minute bursts in the morning and 3 at night.
  3. The third best (and what 2/3rds of our customers are having to do under current restrictions) is every two weeks, with 3 twenty-minute bursts in the morning and 3 at night.

You may have to pull out a calculator to make sure the sprinklers will stop before the cut-off times and those with larger properties may not have enough minutes in the day to do what we recommend (especially those with every two weeks.) The programming has become so complicated for many of our customers that we’re installing a lot of new controllers that support the every two-week scheduling.  Two models that do this are the Rainbird ESP Controller and Weathermatic Smartline Controller.  They start at about $350 and go up from there based on the number of zones you have. One final point, if your sprinkler system has rotary heads (that turn out slowly and send out long streams of water) you will need to water those zones twice as long.  The reason being they are covering twice the area with the same number of gallons and need to run twice as long to put out an inch of water. If you need more help programming your sprinkler, or making sure your system is in top condition give us a call at 972-495-6990, email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com or fill out our contact form. We offer affordable sprinkler system inspections and tune-ups that will guarantee appropriate and adequate water coverage for your lawn. Our certified irrigation technicians can also install water-conserving nozzles and applicators so that water usage is as efficient as possible.

Village Green Downloadable Resource Guides

Water Resources

Water Schedules

15 May 2014

Spring Watering Guide & Grass Update

LawnFreezeDamage-Dallas2The past few weeks I’ve spent most of my time visiting lawn after lawn and talking with customers about what’s wrong with their grass. In North Texas, we had one of the coldest winters on record, and it did a LOT of damage to St. Augustine. What a lot of people don’t realize is that St. Augustine is a tropical plant, and is usually very aggressive.  My normal recommendation is for our customs to be patient, and the grass will fill back into freeze damaged areas soon.

This year is different.  We had a HARD winter (record setting hard.)  So hard in fact, that I’ve seen a few lawns nearly wiped out from freeze damage.  Thankfully this isn’t the norm.  Most of the lawns I’m visiting will fill back in once we have some warm weather and rain, which you’d figure we’d have by May 20th!  Amazingly a lot of lawns are still partly dormant at this time of year which is highly unusual.  Lawns come out of dormancy when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees to a depth of 4 inches.  To get there we need night-time temperatures that are consistently above 60 degrees, which hasn’t been happening in North Texas.  Just last week we were getting down to the low 50s at night.  Yes we’ve had 90 degree days but not enough of them in a row to cause the grass to grow strongly and all lawns to come out of dormancy. I’ve even seen some neighborhoods where one side of the street was about ¾ dormant and the other side was about ¾ out of dormancy.  My best guess is the other side got a little more sunlight and did better. Strange days indeed (to quote John Lennon). My bet is we’ll actually see some warm weather soon (it is Dallas after all.)  In fact, this past week or so I’ve noticed that a lot more lawns are finally coming out of dormancy and growing like they normally would have in April.  This means that a lot of that winter damage we’ve been seeing should start going away over the next few weeks.

While you’re waiting on Mother Nature to warm up, you can make sure you are watering your lawn properly for the spring (download our FREE watering guide.)

In the spring your lawn requires around a half an inch of water per week on average. That equals roughly 30 minutes for most sprinkler systems. The problem we have in our area is our infamous clay soil can only absorb about 10 minutes worth of water. After that it will run off which is not good for your water bill or our local water supply.

Our advice? Don’t water all 30 minutes at once. Instead program your sprinkler’s controller to water one day per week with a start time of 2am, 4am, and 6am, having each zone run for 10 minutes.

If you have rotors (the type of sprinkler that turns slowly while spraying a long thin stream) you need to water twice as long (at least 20 minutes per zone at 2am, 4am, and 6am.) Depending on the rotor speed and stream, you may need to water even longer to give your lawn what it needs.

Do you need help optimizing your sprinkler? The Village Green sprinkler gurus can tune up your system and have you ready for summer in no time. If you have questions give us a call at 972-495-6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com. I’m always happy to chat about ways to improve your lawn and landscape.

 

20 Apr 2014

Secrets to a Healthy Lawn: Food

LawnDifference

What better day, than Earth Day, to publish our final installment on our three part series on the secrets to a healthy lawn? As we’ve said, a North Texas lawn needs three things to thrive: sun, water, and food. If you want to read our first two installments follow these links.

Secrets to a Healthy Lawn: Sun
Secrets to a Healthy Lawn: Water

Today I want to talk about food for your lawn. Typically in North Texas we start fertilizing our lawns as the weather warms up in late February or early March. The exception is when we’re having a particularly cold winter (like this year!) When we have a cold winter we’ll postpone our treatment for a few weeks.  When we fertilize is the same for all lawns, but the what is dependent on your individual lawn…your type of grass.

Bermuda grass likes a kick start to help it green up quickly so we apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer. If you’re a DYI person, be sure and find a ratio of 28-3-10 (all fertilizer bags will have three numbers separated by a dash (-) usually located across the top. The three fertilizer numbers represent the percentage of Nitrogen (N)- Phosphorus (P)- Potassium (K), in that order. These numbers will always be listed on the bag in bold writing.)

St. Augustine and zoysia are different than bermuda. During our warm, wet spring weather they are prone to a fungus called brown patch. Just like the name suggests, this causes patches of brown to creep into the grass. These brown patches feed off of nitrogen which is why we use a different ration, 5-10-31 (The last number (31) promotes better root growth, a good thing right after winter since both St. Augustine and zoysia are cold sensitive.) Once we’re past brown patch season we’ll switch over to the higher nitrogen fertilizer (usually in late May.)

So what does all of this mean for us today? We’re coming off the the 6th coldest winter on record in North Texas with 40 days below 20 degrees. Many are looking at their brown lawn and wondering if they will ever have a nice looking lawn again (I’ve even had a few customers mention they are considering replacing their lawns because they look so bad.) My advice. Patience. If you have the three keys to a healthy lawn (sun, water, and food,) your lawn will recover.

Still not convinced? As always, if you have questions give us a call at 972-495-6990 or email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com. I’m always happy to chat about ways to improve your lawn and landscape.

25 Feb 2014

Secrets to a Healthy Lawn: Water

One of my constants is a lawn needs three things: water, food, and sun.  If it has all three it will grow on concrete (not forever, but if it didn’t we wouldn’t need edgers).  If you’re missing one of those three things the lawn won’t get any better no matter what you do.  Today I want to discuss water, or more importantly how you can tell if your lawn problem is water related.

If your lawn developed brown spots last summer, I’d venture to guess that your problem is water related.  Most of the lawn issues we see in July and August aren’t insect related which often get the blame for brown spots.  They are almost always water related.  These brown spots are generally caused by one of three things:  not enough water, poor coverage or, less frequently, a rock a few inches below the surface of the soil.

If most of your lawn looked good until June, got worse as summer progressed, and then started looking better into fall, you’re probably not watering long enough (I’ll include a link to our free watering guide at the end of this post.)

If your brown spots are limited to a few smaller spots that appear every year in the same area, you more than likely have sprinkler system coverage issues.  Keep in mind that just because the brown spot is getting wet when the sprinkler is running doesn’t necessarily mean it is getting adequate coverage.  All sprinkler systems have weak spots in them, with reasons ranging from the heads being spaced a little too far apart, to a head that isn’t working 100% right.  The thing is that Mother Nature will cover most of these issues until June, and then it’s up to your sprinkler system.  If it’s not performing right, that’s when you are going to see the proof in a less than perfect lawn with unsightly brown spots that won’t perk up until fall (for North Texas it usually happens around State Fair time.)

The reason I’m talking about watering problems, which is a summertime issue, in early spring is simple.  Like Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  If you take the steps to make sure your sprinkler is working properly now, you’ll never have the problem when summer rolls around.  If you wait until you see the symptoms, you will be able to fix it, but you’ll have to be patient and more than likely wait until fall to see the results because of our summer heat and ongoing water restrictions.

If you’d like to make sure your sprinkler is performing at optimum levels take advantage of our Village Green Spring Sprinkler Tune-Up Special for $59.  This offer is valid for up to 10 zones and includes setting your controller, checking for line leaks, dry areas, and broken sprinkler heads; cleaning and adjusting clogged nozzles and is valid thru March 31st.   Call 972-495-6990, email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com or fill out our contact form for more information.

Resources (click the links below.)
Village Green Watering Guide
Village Green Resource Center (has helpful links to water resource and schedules for the cities Village Green serve)

19 Feb 2014

Secrets to a Healthy Lawn: Sun

The secret to a healthy lawn in North Texas is comprised of three things:  water, food, and sun.  Today I want to focus on the last one, sun which, depending on how much your lawn gets in a typical day, can be a blessing or a curse.

Trees.  Nearly everyone loves and wants them on their lot.  A big, beautiful, well established tree can not only add beauty to your property, they can also provide shade which in turn keeps your home cooler and will save you on your energy bill.  What is good for your wallet however, isn’t good for your lawn and landscape, and too much shade is often the culprit for an unsightly dirt patch in a lawn.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me they think all they need to do is install a pallet of sod and their lawn will be fine.  What actually happens is the sod looks great for a few months, but over time begins to fade and, six months later, their unsightly dirt patch is back.  

The bottom line is that bermuda needs eight hours of sunlight on average and St. Augustine and zosia need about six.  

If your lawn isn’t getting that much sun then you need a solid plan b which is why roughly two-thirds of the landscape projects Village Green installs are for customers with heavy shade in their yard.  

The funny thing is that once these customers accept that these areas will never be able to support a lush green lawn, they soon realize that these areas can be the prettiest and most welcoming places of their lawn.  

A shady area can be a great place for a bench on a flagstone patio, maybe with a water fountain nearby to enjoy during a beautiful day.   And for large areas, ground cover, such as lirope or asian jasmine can be added and then be broken up with shrubs of different sizes and textures such as variegated pittosporum or plum yew.  If water restrictions are a concern, you can use river rock and mulch areas to break up large areas while reducing the watering requirements.

If you’re searching for ideas on how to fix an unsightly brown patch in your lawn, or just looking for some landscaping ideas, I invite you to visit our landscape portfolio.  The page contains a tour of landscapes from our recent projects designed by our on-staff landscape architect, David Daigle.  You can also watch a couple of my landscape eTours which showcase some customers with a lot of shade on their property and our landscape solutions for those yards.  Click here to watch the Dallas 2012 Landscape eTour.  Click here to watch the Dallas 2013 Landscape eTour.  

If you have any questions regarding your lawn and landscape please don’t hesitate to contact us at 972-495-6990, email me at ken@villagegreen-inc.com or fill out our contact form.  We’d be happy to answer any of your questions.   

21 Jan 2014

Lawn Aeration 101

USA Today Water Cost Map
Does your lawn really need to be aerated?  

That’s a question we are asked a lot at Village Green, and to be honest, our answer has changed over the past few years for reasons that may surprise many people.

Believe it or not we, a company that does aeration professionally, actually told our customers that while aeration was helpful, it would not radically improve their lawn.  It was a service we performed for those customers who wanted to do everything in their power to make sure they had the most beautiful and healthy lawn on the block.

Today though, with rising water costs and restrictions by many of the cities in North Texas, we tell our customers they should seriously consider aeration for their lawn.  Take a look at the USA Today map and you’ll quickly see where the cost of water has doubled in the past twelve years (or read the entire story yourself here.)  Aeration will help your lawn because it allows your soil to hold more water.  Holding more water means you have to water less.  This is not only environmentally smart, it is fiscally smart as it will save you money on your water bill.

In North Texas, our clay soil is composed of very tiny particles.  These particles, as time passes, compact, and make it hard for water, fertilizer, and oxygen to get into your soil.  There simply isn’t room as the clay (made up of those tiny particles) gets tighter and tighter.  When we aerate your lawn, we poke a hole (actually a LOT of holes) in the ground and pull out a plug which creates space.  Each of these holes act like a tiny cup of water in your lawn, allowing easy entry for water, fertilizer, and oxygen.  This in turn, reduces the amount of water your lawn will need, saving you a lot of money in the long run, not to mention improving the overall health of your soil. 

If you have you more questions regarding aeration, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 972-495-6990, email me at 
ken@villagegreen-inc.com or fill out our contact form.  We’d be happy to answer any of your questions.

23 Nov 2013

What Do You Do With Leaves?!?

20131121_082451Fall is here and so are the leaves!  One of the questions we get during this time of year is what should our customers do with all their leaves?  If they are in your beds we recommend you leave them alone.  They eventually break down into the soil, providing great organic material for the roots of your plants.  Your lawn however, is a different matter.  Having a thick blanket of leaves can cause a few problems.  One is that a thick layer of leaves can promote fungus.  Another is that the leaves form an insulation barrier for your grass, which is great, until the inevitable gust of wind blows, leaving your lawn exposed to sudden cold.  The inability to acclimate when this occurs is especially hard on St. Augustine and zoysiagrass.  So, the original questions, what should you do with all those leaves?  If at all possible mulch them.  Most mulching mowers can mulch them finely enough after a couple of passes to dispatch the leaves back into your lawn.  If, after after a couple of passes, you’re still left with a ton of leaves, or you don’t have a mulching mower, your best option is to go old school and grab the rake and trash bags.

30 Aug 2013

Green Talks Video Blog: Drought Stress

 

Ken Hyatt, President and Founder of Village Green shows how you can tell if your lawn is showing the classic signs of drought stress.  During late summer many yards in our area experience drought stress, which is usually sprinkler related.  For more information on tuning up your sprinkler system visit:  https://www.villagegreen-inc.com/sprinkler-repair-dallas-plano-allen-frisco/  For information on watering, including the Village Green Watering Guide:  https://www.villagegreen-inc.com/resource-center/

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