Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Paper First, Backhoe Second

When I leave the office to meet a potential client for the first time it has become a happy moment for me. I arrive eager to hear their needs and how I can potentially help them with some possible solutions. Sadly, I often find that the person/persons have already started a project but did not have a clear idea of what they were doing. Often when I arrive, I find partially installed patios, walkways, drainage systems or numerous plants sitting in pots/partially planted.

Sometimes I find the couple has not been able to agree on what they are doing because they had not taken the time to dialog, discuss and draw out a clear vision of what they would like to experience regarding their real estate. Numerous times I have been called in because one person in the household has maimed, or at the extreme, cut down a tree which should have been left alone or at a minimum, pruned correctly.

I have been called when a drainage system was being installed which caused more water damage because it pointed the water to their crawl space. When Blackberries, Bamboo or other invasive pests have become a problem I have been called in. Often the client cannot imagine their world without the plant and they struggle over agreeing how they should go about the task of removal.

I have been asked to help when several plants were purchased, some planted, but the partner did not like the species or where they had been placed. I have been called when a baby was born which changed the wife’s idea of what would be important in the landscape. However, the husband did not want the maintenance level that the wife expected. There was a lot of tension.

It is important when someone owns even a little bit of real estate that there is a vision of how they would like to have the space fit into their lives over time. Some examples include setting up their estate to:

  • make them feel happy when they drive up to the garage.
  • create a space for them to share a meal with family or friends, have it big enough, and have the ambiance level that they want to see, smell and hear.
  • create spaces—that are not in plain view—for storing garbage/recycle bins, kayaks, outdoor furniture, garden tools.
  • create a space outside which could be viewed regularly from inside the house, which would change by itself over the seasons.
  • create a space outside for retreating to:
    • read, swing in a swing seat with grandkids, grill hot dogs over a fire bowl or meditate by a waterfall.

The slower season of the year from November through February is the very best time of the year to ponder, process and dialog through your dreams of what you want your real estate to eventually do for you.

We say:

Paper First: get your plans prepared and set in the order and way that you BOTH want to have things done.

Backhoe Second: you will both then be ready to bring in the tools to make the changes that you want to have happen, as you have the time and the money to do them!

Phil’s Garden Tips & Tricks for November

The nights have become longer. The rains have returned. The clouds are lower. The humidity is up. It is time to get the garden ready for its hibernation period!

  • Cover any bare ground with bark mulch (such as medium dark hemlock). Weed the space first, of course—this will insulate your plants from the potential cold to come. It also prevents erosion. As the mulch breaks down it helps the plants by feeding the soil creatures, which in turn give the plants important nutrients. Some plants, such as fuchsias and cannas, always need a blanket of mulch around their base to stave off the cold. The mulch in the summer protects the ground from drying out as quickly and from overheating.
  • Provide winter protection to built-in sprinkler systems by 1. turning off the automatic controller and then 2. turning off the water to the system at the street or at the backflow prevention device and then remember to drain it, if your system has a drain.
  • Prune your roses back about 1/3 height to prevent winter wind damage.
  • If moss is appearing in your lawn it may mean too much shade, poor drainage, low fertility or soil compaction. Use a lawn moss killer if you want to keep the grass looking thick and lush. Of course, you may decide to ultimately shrink your lawn. The rainy season is a great time to ponder and process what that might look like while you are not busy mowing it!
  • Prepare the lawnmower and other garden equipment for winter storage. Clean and oil tools and equipment before storing them away. Store hoses carefully to avoid damage from freezing. Do not leave them attached to the hose bib. In really cold weather, if they have not been both drained properly they might burst!
  • Now is the best time to lime the lawn: 50-80 lb. per thousand square feet.
  • Fertilize the lawn with a fall/winter fertilizer if you did not do it last month.
  • Great time to purchase Paperwhite Narcissus for the holidays by indoor forcing. They will bloom five weeks from the time that you start them.
  • Great time to plant new landscape trees and shrubs or just transplant.
  • Good time to prune the plants which bloomed in late summer.
  • There is still time to plant your spring-flowering bulbs, but don’t delay.
  • Watch for wet soil and drainage problems in your yard during heavy rains; drains/French drains and ditches are possible solutions.
  • You may lightly fertilize rhododendrons and azaleas now, for better green-up in the spring. Never lime these plants as they like acidic soil. Make sure the soil is moist when you fertilize and do not overdo!
  • Always rake leaves off the lawn as soon as you can. Leaves left on lawns can quickly damage a lawn! If the leaves are raked into the beds they will act like a good mulch and will NOT hurt the plants at all.

Advanced Gardening tips:

  • Reduce fertilizer applications to houseplants. Change to Oxygen Plus.
  • Consider supplying food and shelter for attracting wild birds to the garden.
  • Bait garden and flower beds for slugs during rainy periods.
  • Store your potato crop at about 40 degrees in a dark area with moderate humidity.
  • You still have time to plant garlic for a harvest next summer.
  • Fruit tree sanitation: to prevent possible spread of leaf diseases, rake and destroy leaves from around base of trees.
  • Tie raspberry canes to wires; prune to one foot above the top wire (around four feet tall). This is a good time to cut and root Rhododendrons and Camellias; root Begonias from leaf cuttings.
  • Place a layer of composted manure or compost over dormant vegetable garden area.
  • Cover rhubarb and asparagus beds with composted manure and or compost.
  • Rake and compost leaves. A three to four-inch layer of leaves spread over the garden plot prevents soil compaction during the rainy season.
  • Consider tying up limbs of Arborvitaes to prevent breakage by snow or ice.
  • You might want to plant a window garden of lettuce and/or chives.

Phil‘s Garden Tips and Tricks for October

It is now the waning days of Summer. The kids are back in school and your commutes have changed as a result. Take a moment as you drive and enjoy the slow change of the seasons. The rainy season will be with us by the end of October! September and October are my two favorite months of the year, for dry but cooler weather and generally sunny skies.

September Gardening Tasks:

  • Slack off on watering in the beds, but water some if your soil is dry. Less water now hardens plants off for winter.
  • Weed. Yes, still.
  • This month and next month are the best months to plant or renovate lawns, particularly as the air gets cooler and before it gets completely cloudy and cold.
  • Bait for slugs.
  • You can begin trimming off the tops of those perennials that have finished blooming and have turned brown to clear up the clutter.
  • Now is a good time to take rhododendron cuttings to start new ones if you are so inclined.
  • September through March are the best months of the year to transplant or plant. The very best month is November.
  • Prepare compost piles for recycling vegetation from garden and deciduous trees this fall. For a more detailed look at what makes good compost, read this blog post on composting.
  • Pick and store winter squash, if ready. This is usually late in September.
  • Use a copper spray for peach and cherry trees during dry periods.
  • Spray for bacterial canker of blueberries, leaf cane spot and juniper twig blight (after pruning away dead and infected twigs) during dry periods.
  • Bring houseplants indoors after cleaning and re-potting if nights get too cool. If possible, keep them out through October.
  • Pick tomatoes and potatoes.
  • September was the last month to plant your winter vegetable garden west of the Cascades. Examples are winter hardy kale, Brussels sprouts, different Italian greens, broccoli, raab, turnips, cabbage, kohlrabi and more.
  • September was also the final month for regular lawn fertilizer application (use a special Fall/Winter mix later in November).

How to Over Seed Your Lawn

The best time for over seeding (filling in bare spots) or just seeding in general is September/October/November or March/April/ May.

  1. Scratch/rough up the bare areas in the lawn with a leaf rake or a hard rake if necessary.
  2. Sprinkle some seed over the bare areas. Cover it about ¼” deep with a grass seed mulch.
  3. Wait about a month to see what happens. If green tiny shoots, like dog hair, begin appearing, you are doing well.
  4. If no green appears—or not enough to create happiness—repeat the performance every three weeks until you have grass.
  5. Keep the bag of grass seed in a cool place (like a garage) over the winter. In the summer put it in a refrigerator. (Watch out for rodents, they love the stuff!)