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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hurricane Florence - Before and After

This image is of Hurricane Hugo in September of 1989, when I stayed - I honestly wanted to do so - volunteered to help out my Navy shore command and had no wife or child.

It was all fun and exciting, but not for all as realized after I initiated a relief effort with the most popular D.J. in the area and set out to discover what had truly happened to so many.

We dodged a few hurricanes at sea while in the Navy and I have been through six hurricanes, three direct hits - in the eye - blasts of wrath and reality.

The satellite shot above does not appear so much different from Florence and whether it makes landfall in South Carolina, or not, we are going to be inundated with constant heavy rains for quite some time. And, we all know this area can go through many droughts and then some time in the year the bottom drops out for quite, some almost eternal time. Remember 2015?

Before I act like I have more knowledge or experience than Rick Santorum (he's good) of The Weather Channel, I'll hush.

Here are a few before and after actions you may want to consider in regard to Florence, some of which may be so obvious (not doing that) - stock up on water, batteries and bread. And, a good book to read by daylight or candle light for those of you fearful of helping and hanging out with neighbors you never knew.

Oh, before I go any further, if you have an issue with broken or downed branches, a totally or partially downed tree, debris from same, etc., after Florence, please give us a call. We make no claim to provide the same capabilities as the huge tree services in the area (We know of or know most of them.), but we will probably be able to assist you in most cases or provide recommendations. We use sound and safe pruning techniques and if unable to do so at the time, we will alleviate the safety or health issue and refer you to someone to care for such at a later date. The big tree guys are going to tackle the most damaging and largest issues first and you can't blame them - that's what they do. We will handle what we can for you at an affordable cost.

See Plant Life...Understanding, Technology and Art


  • Clean out your gutters. Try to clear all existing debris by running water from the highest to lowest point (the downspout). If not able to do so, at least clean out debris by hand around the top of the downspout and check to see you have good flow through the downspout and its extension drain pipe if it has one.
  • When you believe it is timely, rake or blow off the leaves and straw on your lawn. Yes, you will probably receive more, but this is much easier to do when such debris is dry.
  • If the forecast calls for us having high winds, see what lawn furniture you can put indoors, secure loose gutter connections, take down bird nests and feeders, secure those fixed things around your home, if loose, by nail, or better, by screw - look around. (I got on my roof before Hugo and nailed any loose shingles and the chimney flashing, but this did nothing to prevent the other small holes I had in the roof. Damn it. The back second story deck was taken out by a tree, a tree branch came through a bedroom window and there were eight damaged trees in the yard.)
  • If you have a sump pump in your crawl space, pour a substantial amount (you decide) of water into the collection area to ensure the pumps kicks on. If not, check the associated breaker or reset button, if it exists.
  • You may want to close below-ground-level crawl space vents and open up those you believe will not be affected by flooding. This is a judgement call as many vents don't hold back accumulated water, but less water under your home and more airflow are only going to help.
  • Most healthy small branches encroaching or touching your home are probably not going to cause a problem and even some of those larger, mostly dead (light) branches, unless they are substantially larger and become waterlogged and break, will not. Dead branches usually fall completely while other healthier ones may partially tear and pendulum downward. Either could be a personal or home safety issue.
  • If you store critical things (in this case), such as generators, gas or electric power tools, outside or in a shed or garage, you may want to move them a few feet higher. All my power tools, gases and batteries are 4 to 6 feet above ground level. What you do with your live-in in-law is between you and their offspring, the one you married.
  • Once you believe it is safe to go outside again (Wasn't part of a movie title?), which will probably be under a gorgeous sky and cooler temps, please go check on all those things you did, were suspect of or concerned with (If, you actually read the Before section.) before, but first...
  • Look up. Okay, you will obviously notice any damage from above which crashed your new SUV, crushed your ornate blown glass water fountain or mangled your recently built pergola. But, take the time to look up (Unless, you live on a prairie.) at all the mature, even smaller trees on your property for broken or nearly broken branches, those above your roof or any other man-made structure and particularly those which could cause harm to you or your family.
  • Most of my experiences with hurricanes is that the few hours after the last bands of the hurricane have left are as gorgeous as the quiet before the storm. Take this time to clear your lawn of whatever natural or otherwise debris was left behind. Most of our grasses are still growing or at least nowhere dormant and they still want to enjoy the sunlight and get some air. 
  • For the most part, other than what I suggested above, most of this after-the-fact is paying attention to (following up on) what you would have addressed before an event such as what hurricane Florence may unwelcomingly bring us. My personal experience and with those of customers, leads me to re-iterated, regardless of how much rain, moisture, flooding, etc. you believe you receive during such an event - get under your home, if able, with a flashlight, a pair of readers if you need them, a moisture meter, if needed, and see if your home's under-belly, already drenched by our humidous (I made that up.) climate, was further saturated. Other than flood waters which may have ruined your carpet, hardwoods or oriental rugs, this form of moisture, unattended, will possibly cause you more monetary and health worries. 

Note: Many customers either discovered drainage issues they had after the 2015 flood or rediscovered ones they had ignored before. Actually, the four day rain event we had in the summer of 2016 caused more property owners to contact us. We have a good friend and associate we work with who has been solving such problems for over 25 years.

Plant Life...Understanding, Technology and Art

I fell into the world of plants and  landscaping a little over five years ago. I am a novice compared to most others, yet not ashamed.

Growing up in a fairly artistic family and myself, later being involved in technology (the art or work of applying knowledge and techniques), I had always thrown myself at or into most anything I took to interest. 

Although I am a guy who loves being outdoors, I am not the outdoors-man so-to-speak, such as a hunter or fisherman (A good tennis match or round of golf is more to my liking, although I did spend ten years of my life planning how to kill the Soviets, usually out-of-doors - never mind that.). I simply love being outside, amongst nature.

Well, plants and landscapes, I have always enjoyed, but I am the person who can walk past something a million times before I take interest, and then, with some attention and thought, the intrigue begins and the epiphany occurs.

Plants, trees, shrubs and flowers are amazing in how they have evolved and what they are capable of.

For most plants, whether it be an evergreen conifer, a flowering annual or a perennial, they have only one thing in mind (literally, more so biologically and chemically) - to reproduce, which predicates almost every event which we observe and makes them such a unique and beautiful part of our landscape and our lives.

There's more. They aren't here for us, but we have incorporated plants into most every aspect of our our lives and even more so for our personal or property environs - in doing so, an entire industry exists for us to do so. That being said, we must care for those plants if we expect for them to be healthy and beautiful in our lawns or around the perimeter of out homes.

They are all works of art, based on science (thanks to Mother Nature), which honestly, makes many of them so "damn amazing".

Beyond much of the beauty of plants is a history, an evolution of adaptation, survival and wanting to make it to the next season and produce the next generation.

This may be why many who know plants see beyond simply their beauty or utility. Does the owner of a productive apple tree have the same love for the tree as the woman who saw the first bloom of her azalea or the wonderful foliage and color of a japanese maple? Who knows?

I believe most people who cherish plants adore them for a variety of reason, at different levels. Proper care is the only remaining factor if you truly, emotionally, love or want that plant to spend the rest of your life or its life with you - inside your home, in your yard or in your favorite plant bed.

Regardless, whether knowing a plant, a shrub or tree (annuals and some perennials, particularly herbaceous ones) by name or not, is not as important as to learning what it can and wants to do in the environment it was given. This is all so important to proper pruning, fertilization (organic or otherwise) and attention to overall health and recognizing and/or preventing disease, blight or improper placement (location).

Someone once said:

Never leave alone, a plant you brought on to your property, for she may not survive the journey to being a healthy part of your landscape without your thoughtful assistance.

I said that. No big whoop.

Doug Ingbretsen

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Those Fewer, But Dazzling Dogwoods - Update

Thank you to Marie Davidson of Forest Acres for spurring me on to take this a little further after responding on Nextdoor.com, to my article: https://shootsandmatters.blogspot.com/2018/08/those-fewer-but-dazzling-dogwoods.html.

Kousa DogwoodThe kousa dogwood pictured (Ain't she gorgeous?) is less susceptible to other dogwood pests and diseases, particularly dogwood anthracnose, but there are other hybrid cultivars of dogwoods which fair just as well. I am providing a list of some of these varieties below.

And, if you love dogwoods, but have something against Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, for whatever reason, you should now be thankful. Dr. Orton and Rutgers bred these new, more resistant hybrid dogwoods.

This cross-breeding between Cornus kousa and Cornus florida didn't happen overnight or even over several years - how about a quarter-century.

I contacted several nurseries in the area and it was an educational experience for both. Depending on demand, and I hope this increases in our area, some have kousa dogwoods on hand and a few of the hybrids, but all seemed willing to source the others if they are able. I am not shorting the others, but Glenn Cooper of Cooper's Nursery, after describing what I was looking for in these species/cultivars, did some checking with suppliers and got back with me quite quickly. Of course, I always enjoy discussing plants with Tonya at Crabtree - she's part flower, part earth and part hardwood.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Winter Weed Control - Fall Pre-emergent Application

Stinging Nettle

It's almost that time again - to put down a pre-emergent for winter weeds which will germinate over the next few months and then come busting up through your lawn during winter and next spring.

When to do so has typically been passed down as early September, but it is more effective if one pays attention to soil temperatures and we are nowhere near that point yet.

We will be monitoring this over the next several weeks to schedule the proper time-frame.

We are going to apply pre-emergent (including potash - potassium) in the coming weeks at the following rates:

Lawn (not property) Square Footage

Up to 8,000...$50.00, refer a nearby friend or neighbor*...$40.00
8 to 12,000....$60.00, refer a nearby friend or neighbor*...$50.00

* Refer a friend or neighbor who lives within four miles of you who commits to having their lawn treated and both of you receive $10.00 off.

The great thing about referring a neighbor, specifically an adjacent neighbor, is that if their lawn is less likely to have weeds, then so is yours, and vice versa.

Treatment will only be applied to lawns and over-broadcasting on to man-made surfaces will be blown or swept back on to lawn.

Property owner should water their entire lawn for at least thirty minutes or the equivalent of 1/2 inch of rainfall as soon after application as possible. This will help activate the product and also allow it to settle, not to be carried off your lawn, where it doesn't belong. So, please don't over-water so that you have a flow of water beyond the borders of your lawn.

And, please be advised, weeds are usually not the cause of an unhealthy lawn, but rather, unhealthy lawns (such as lack of or improper watering, mowing too short, unfertile, over-fertilized or unbalanced pH soil, wrong turfgrass selection) allow such un-wanteds to occur.

If you believe your property may be over 8,000 square feet, please measure it by walking off the area, subtracting plant beds, man-made surfaces and obviously, not including your home. The average adult stride is 3 feet. If you understood the first day of Geometry class, you can do this.

Contact us however you wish or use the Contact Us feature to the right.

Please share this with some friends and neighbors by using one of the features below. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Overly-aggressive Edging

We usually only provide mow, edge and blow services for those customers for whom we are continuously working on the other plant life on their properties.

I am thankful for these relationships, but more so as they trust me to maintain and prune the other more substantial shrubs and trees, which truly pop even more aside a well maintained lawn. 

I have noticed customers' and friends' properties which have these areas along man-made borders which seem to be trimmed cut too deep (too short).

One blamed this on a row of small shrubs which may have been shading the grass. In fact the early morning sun came in at such a low angle that this area of grass was receiving as much light as the rest of the lawn. Some other adjacent and nearby borders were doing fine, some with less sun exposure, but they didn't have a man-made border and they were vertically edge instead of horizontally trimmed.

It appears (Well, actually I've seen it being done.) some of us humans get a little OC on this and feel we need get down and dirty and into that corner and clean it all out, including the grass. Or, someone is trimming before mowing, not realizing the mowing height.

There is nothing that stands out more than a lawn which completely and evenly meets up with its borders, particularly those of plant beds. That separation and definition makes the different elements of one's property pop.

So, stop it!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Ploetry - The Footmen

Here we stand, proudly, ready for another competition.

It's been about a week since the last battle.

Many of us worn, beaten, perhaps unearthed. Many of us previously cultivated, hybridized and synthesized.

Yet, here we are, prepared, excitedly anticipating the next two or so hours of...

Stances, pivots, cuts and the occasional pile-on.

Some say we are pampered, but I can only imagine what wonderful treatment our brethren receive on the links, particularly those closer to the pin. What a life that must be.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Those Fewer, But Dazzling Dogwoods

Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are beautiful trees and have something to offer almost all year long, from spring blooms to fall color change, to fruit possibly through winter and usually an attractive branch structure.

Yet, the native flowering dogwoods are being dogged by dogwood anthracnose from the fungus Discula destructiva (Nice, huh?) and many have or are dying a slow death.

The kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a gorgeous dogwood and although it appears to flower, the beauty is actually the white bracts huddling beneath and around the insignificant flowers. This species is much less susceptible to pest and disease. Other alternatives, less prone to anthracnose, are hybrid combinations of kousa and flowering dogwoods.

So, if you long for the look of dogwoods, get on down to your local nursery, but make certain you are getting a non-native dogwood or a hybrid less prone to disease.

Also, please consider placement in regard to getting too much or too little sun (may not bloom) and be prepared to give your new friend some additional water (not from your lawn sprinklers) during the extremely hot days of summer.

This group of dogwoods is on a customer's property and there are probably another nine or so scattered about.

The proud owner is Mike the Mater Master and I'll tell you more as soon as he gets off his secret to growing about 400 tomatoes on 10 plants, and sends me a photo or two.

We were here to clean out some of the bed and prune back some azaleas. I did some lower pruning on the dogwoods and now they are simply dazzling and a little happier. And, they aren't even in bloom.

You go, dogwoods!