Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Original Green Industry

All the talk these days is about being "green". Working in the green industry has taken on a new meaning in the new era of environmentally friendly products and practices. Prior to this new awakening the green industry involved those of us who care for your lawn and landscape.

The new green industry and the original green industry need to find ways to work together to find a healthy balance in responsible water use.

There is not a blanket solution to water conservation. What is appropriate for me in  Iowa is not necessarily going to be an appropriate solution for my brother in Nevada. What we both can do is water responsibly. I talked about responsible watering in my Smart Irrigation Month post, but is important we are all good stewards of the water we have available. You don't have to water 5 or 6 days a week to maintain a green yard.

Many water conservationists are calling for removing lawns and lanscape in favor of concrete and rock gardens. I believe this is a short-term, short-sighted solution that will have long-term consequences. The biggest use of our water is not for our landscapes, but for electricity. The healthy front lawns of just eight average houses houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning, while the average home-sized central air unit has only a 3-4 ton capacity. You can feel the difference in the heat outside depending on where you are -- it is a much hotter walk across a barren parking lot than it is across a lovely park.

At an irrigation conference last year one of the speakers talked about green roofing. This is something that never occurred to me. Miles and miles of roof tops in big cities radiating heat that could be providing coolness and clean air for the inhabitants. Architects abroad are way ahead of the USA in this area of greenscaping. Interesting to note - it is now mandatory in the City of Copenhagen that all new flat roofs under a 30 degree pitch, for both private and public buildings, have to be vegetated. Perhaps we will delve more deeply into green roofing in a future blog.

In terms of wasted water, it is important for you be aware of how effectively you sprinkler is watering. As I said last week, look for areas of over-spray and run-off. I saw a sprinkler running this morning at a commercial site that had 3 heads turned totally the wrong direction and watering the parking lot - a total waste of water. This kind of waste adds up in a big way so be alert and kindly tell your neighbors and business establishments if you see a broken head or water rushing down the street. (Yes, I did notify the store of the problem!)

One vital factor for effective irrigation is to hire a professional. We have serviced some sprinklers that should be an embarrassment to the industry. It is just sad that people pay their hard-earned money for an irrigation system that doesn't water their yard properly. According to one of the local lawn care experts, "a bad sprinkler is worse than no sprinkler" when it comes for keeping a healthy landscape. If you are in the market for a new sprinkler system check references on your prospective contractors, check with your neighbors, or stop and talk to people who have awesome yards. When you get estimates don't just take the cheapest one - a poorly designed and installed sprinkler system will cost way more in the long run. Cheaper is not always the best option - be a smart consumer!

I believe I may have digressed from a smidge from my original track here, but we are highly involved part of the original Green Industry. At Jensen Sprinkler, we are an industry leader in our community, we are committed to spreading awareness and educating consumers. We love this wonderful planet we live on and we want to help you be responsible consumers of it's resources. We can live green and be green, too.

Have a super week!
Keep it Green!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Smart Irrigation Month

 The weather here in the Midwest has been like a wild roller-coaster ride the last few weeks. We seem to have gotten out of the severe thunderstorm pattern and arrived at HOT and dry. We have certainly had some weather that made having a smart controller or a rain shut-off device a very wise investment.

July is just a couple days away and it is typically a high water use month. The Irrigation Association has deemed July "Smart Irrigation Month". We all want you to have a green grass and all the wonderful benefits that come along with having healthy turf-grass, but we want you to be smart water consumers.
This from the Irrigation Association:
Automatic sprinklers offer convenience and control in protecting your landscape investment. Irrigation systems help you to enjoy your yard, and to keep it healthy and beautiful. However, most homeowners tend to over water their lawn or waste water through inefficient habits. Adopting water-savvy habits is essential to maintaining and extending your community's water supply, especially during peak use.
The key to efficient outdoor irrigation is applying just enough water and only when necessary. Water-wise habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water. Plus, reducing your consumption will help reduce your water bill.
 How can you be a smart water consumer? Here are a few pointers.

Inspect your sprinkler on a regular basis. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads, and other problems, Clean drip-irrigation filters as needed. Don't assume that a sprinkler serviced in April will not need any repairs for the entire season - mowers, cars and kids can quickly misalign and damage heads. Be aware of any wet areas or run-off in and around your property.

Adjust sprinkler heads. Correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Plants and grasses grow very quickly and can block or clog heads. Keep water off pavement and structures (they don't grow!)

Consider a Smart controller or install a rain-sensor. If you missed learning about Smart Controllers back in April, here is a link to the blog entry ( and we talked about rain sensors in March ( Each of these devices will pay for themselves in water savings.

Water at the optimum time. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool - between the evening and early morning - to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30% of water to evaporation by watering mid-day. We recommend completing your water cycle before the sun rises.

Don't over water. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus. Water just enough to keep your grass green. The appearance of your lawn will tell you it is time to water if you are not watering enough. The leaves will begin to wilt/curl and develop a bluish cast. It will recover quickly once water is applied. Try not to wait until your grass is browning out to apply water. The point here is to find a happy medium.

Hopefully this will give you a starting point for being a smart water consumer.  If you are unsure if your sprinkler is running at peak efficiency, have it checked by a professional.

Have a super week!
Keep it green!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jensen Garden Update

The Jensen Garden June 16, 2010.
It is amazing how much a square of land can change in a few short weeks. This is taken from the same spot as the picture posted as a blog entry on May 24th. The potato plants were barely out of the ground and the onions were just thin little blades. We weren't battling a horrible weed problem then either!

The weeds have been amazingly abundant this year. I swear every drop of rain that has fallen in the last week has created 50 new weeds. Two in particular invade our garden - Pigweed and Purslane.

Purlslane is sold as an annual in many garden centers. We received a Purslane plant as a gift many years ago and overwintered it for 4 years before it died. It was a lovely cascading plant with orange flowers. The Purslane that is invading my garden rarely gets the opportunity flower, but I understand that wild Purslane has yellow flowers. If you look closely at the picture you will see mounds in the background -- that is almost all Purslane pulled from the garden! You can still see plenty of it still growing in the foreground (the back can only take so much weeding in a day!).

Interesting thing I discovered while trying to figure out how to rid myself of this pesky plant. Purslane is an edible plant! I found this on Wikipedia:
Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable, providing sources can be found which have not been poisoned deliberately. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, Asia and Mexico. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all good to eat. Purslane can be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach, and because of its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews. Australian Aborigines used to use the seeds to make seedcakes. Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant.
So, I am thinking, perhaps we aren't bad gardeners after all!  I don't know if I am brave enough to actually eat this plant I have been pulling out by the handful, but it is good to know that if we fail to grow anything else, we can eat the Purslane!

Another garden pest we have had trouble with is moles. The little critters are not only tearing up my yard, but have snatched a large number of seeds out of the garden. We have planted corn twice and have only about 8 stalks growing of the 5 rows we planted (twice!). Mr. Mole ate part of the first and all of the second batch of peas and beans as well as all of the peanuts. I believe we have several of the little buggers out here. Any suggestions on getting rid of them are welcome!

Garden pests aside, we did get a good crop of strawberries this year. The radishes grew nicely, but were HOT even though I selected a mild variety. We have already been using the onions and herbs - it is so nice to walk down and pick what you need to use right away to make supper! The raspberries are just now ripening enough to eat. Just a few at a time now, but soon enough it will be by the bowlful. The cherry tree is going to be chock full of cherries this year. Time is just flying by, it seems the tree was just in full blossom, but the cherries are starting to turn red.

An exciting time of year for a gardener, new discoveries every day. Even if it is weeds!

Have a super week!
Keep it green!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Lawn Care

Summer is just around the corner. We have had a few days where it feels like it's already here! If you want to maintain the beautiful lush lawn you had in early spring, you will need to make a few adjustments to your routine.

How much to water? 
As a rule of thumb your turfgrass requires approximately one inch of water per week. As we have blogged previously, watering too much is not a good thing. As a general rule of thumb, you want to water more in times of high heat, lots of sunlight, high winds, dry air, and drought. Alternately, you may want to water less in times of cooler temperatures, lots of clouds or shade, low winds, humidity, and high rainfall. Every yard is unique. Mr. Smith who has sandy soil and no shade is going to need more water applications than Mrs. Jones who has rich brown soil and many trees. Your lawn will tell you whether it needs more water or if it is doing fine. You want to apply just enough water to keep your grass green.

Using the water budget or seasonal adjust feature on your controller is the easiest way to add time to the system across all zones. If you have hot spots in your yard, increase the time or add a day for those specific areas rather than across the entire system to conserve water.

Raise the Mowing Height
I almost feel like I am beating a dead horse on this point, but I see it every day- lawns shaved within an inch of their life. Raise the height of your mower in the summer! This is easiest way to ensure the health of your lawn through the summer. When in doubt, just raise the mower all the way to its tallest setting. You never want to cut more than about one-third of your grass in any single session. Yes, this does mean you'll need to mow with a little more regularity, but don't fret: the growth of your lawn will slow considerably as the temperature average goes up. By maintaining a tall lawn, you deter weed growth and allow the grass to root deeper into the soil.

Mulch rather than Bag
I will admit right off that I am a mulcher. I know there are very opinionated camps on mulching vs. bagging. I hate to bag the grass, it doubles the time it takes me to mow. If you are mowing frequently and with a high blade, mulching does not leave grass clippings in ugly rows on your lawn. Done properly, grass clippings left on lawns conserve water because they protect the soil from the hot sun and thereby reduce evaporation. Also, they decompose into water absorbent humus. There are numerous municipalities in and around large cities that are encouraging residents to mulch by offering rebates and discounts for mulchers. All those grass clippings add up to huge amounts added to the landfill during the summer. If you are going to bag, I encourage you to start a compost bin to reduce the spent grass to rich nutrients you can utilize in your plant beds later.

Keep it green !
Have a super week!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drip and Micro Irrigation

Greetings! Another fickle weather week here in the Midwest. We had storms yesterday all around Sioux City, but we missed the bulk of it only receiving a quarter inch of rain. Better than no rain, I suppose, but the landscape around here is fairly parched. You can tell in a glimpse who has been watering and who hasn't.

This week we are going to look at drip and micro irrigation.

Drip irrigation is the slow application of water directly to the plants' root zone. With drip irrigation water is not wasted on non-growth areas and the plant root zone is maintained at its ideal moisture level. Drip irrigation is at the surface rather than below ground. It is utilized to water plant beds, vegetable gardens and trees. It is typically placed below the rocks or mulch in the plant bed and, as the name implies, simply drips the water to the base of the plants at a slow rate.Watering at the surface results in less loss from sun or wind thus making drip irrigation very efficient. Test plots show that 90% of the water presented to plants via drip irrigation is available to the plants.

Many plant varieties prefer to receive their water at the root rather than over the leaves. Rose bushes, for example,  are most happy when watered at the root. If you have the opportunity to see the lovely Rose Garden at Grandview Park you'll notice all those beautiful plants receive their water through drip irrigation.

Micro-spray irrigation is also used in plant beds and trees, but have applications in shrubbery, planters, hanging baskets and pots. The applications for these small sprayers are almost endless. Micro-sprays are likened to mini sprinkler heads. Here is one design from Hunter Industries -

Micro irrigation provides water with pin-point accuracy. The variety of micro-sprays and their various adjustments of patterns and flow rates can be custom designed to match the needs of the plants they are watering. Micro sprays are little but mighty.

One of the most overlooked facets of these types of irrigation is just how versatile they are. If you are one who is always changing things up in the plant beds, you can easily change out to another type of sprayer or shift around the emitters or drip you already have to water your new configuration.

Drip and micro-spray irrigation take the hassle out of watering plants.  Drip irrigation is a simple answer to efficiently and effectively applying water where and when you want it!

Have a super week! Keep it green!