Fight the Bite this Summer

Fight the Bite

There’s a lot to love about an Arizonan summer (June through September) – despite scorching hot weather – including trips to the lake, tubing down the Salt River, and exploring the cooler parts of the state. Oh, and let’s not forget, swimming. However, bothersome biting insects, like mosquitoes are certainly not one of them.

Unfortunately, valley residents can expect an increase in relentless, flying bugs due in large part to Arizona’s surprisingly wet winter and spring. Pesky mosquitoes can quickly ruin a nice summer’s day if you don’t take the necessary precautions to fight the bite. Here are some effective ways to fight the bite this summer.

Eliminate All Sources of Standing Water

Adult, female mosquitoes use sources of standing water as their breeding grounds and can lay up to 100 eggs at a time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A half-inch of water, roughly the size of a bottle cap, is an attractive environment for mosquitoes. Devoid of water, these pesky bugs cannot breed or survive, so one of the most effective ways to fight the bite this summer is to ensure your landscaping (front and back) is free of any items that may catch water.

The CDC recommends emptying, scrubbing, and turning over all items that collect water at least once a week. You’ll also need to be diligent about putting away larger outdoor gear after each use as well. If you have a swimming pool or backyard pond, it’s imperative to stay on top of maintenance, skimming the surface and checking chemistry levels daily to keep mosquitoes at bay. Another good idea is to trim back any vegetation that may be growing out of control.

Use Bug-Repellent Candles & Torches

Candles and tiki torches containing citronella, a naturally occurring oil that is distilled from two grass varieties, works by masking scents that are attractive to insects. While they are a great way to add ambiance and keep mosquitoes at bay, they’re only designed to repel bugs in the immediate vicinity. Always read product labels to determine area coverage. Switching to bug-resistant light bulbs can also help reduce the amount of flying insects in your yard.

Add Mosquito Repellent Plants

Not only do they look pretty but some plants and herbs release natural fragrances, though they may need to be roughed up a bit, that repel mosquitoes and other pesky insects. Among the most effective plants are: catnip, citronella, lavender, lemon balm, basil, and marigolds. Place plants and herbs in pots or garden beds near mosquito entry points, such as doors and windows, as well as on your patio.

Install Outdoor Fans

Outdoor ceiling fans are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Fans are effective at repelling mosquitoes by making it more difficult for insects to fly against the draft. Independent testing conducted by Consumer Reports found that outdoor fans reduced mosquito landings by 45 to 65 percent. Fans also disperse scents that bugs use to target you. Another advantage to using fans is that they are an excellent option for keeping you and, if entertaining, your guests comfortable on hot summer days.

Apply Repellents

Applying lotion or spray mosquito repellent is an excellent way to fight the bite this summer. Consumer Reports compiled a list of the best insect repellents for you and your family. They found that products made with the active ingredient deet, in concentrations of 25 to 30 percent, consistently provided powerful protection against biting bugs. Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII was one of their top contenders.

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has been servicing residential and commercial clients throughout the greater Phoenix metro area since 1982. Our mission is simple: To provide a high level of professional landscaping service to ensure complete customer satisfaction. As a full-service landscaping company, we provide landscape and sprinkler design, installation and repair. To learn more about these and other services, contact us today at (602) 390-4645.

smart irrigation

Get Smart with Your Irrigation

Spring is a wonderful time of year. Not only do more Phoenicians venture outdoors than at any other time of year (100+˚F days are not far behind!) but Mother Nature is undoubtedly hard at work. The grass turns green, trees start to bud, and flowers bloom. Though these lush landscapes need water, they don’t need nearly as much as you think they do, especially during Arizona’s prevailing drought.

Living in a desert, many households’ outdoor water use can be as much as 60 percent, and about 50 percent of this water is wasted due to over-watering caused by inefficiencies in traditional irrigation methods and systems. That is according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s usually not necessary to water grass every day. Instead, test your lawn by stepping on a patch of grass; if it springs back, it doesn’t need water. Further your water savings by using regionally appropriate plants to create a water-smart landscape that is both beautiful and efficient to achieve the curb appeal you desire. Once established, native plants require little water beyond normal rainfall” (EPA).

What is Smart Irrigation?

Get smart with your irrigation by replacing a standard sprinkler timer with a smart irrigation controller. Smart irrigation acts like a thermostat for your sprinkler system telling it when to turn on and off, using the minimum amount of water needed to keep your turf green, your trees budding and your flowers blooming. This technology plugs into existing systems to take your irrigation from simple to powerful.

With proper installation, programming and maintenance, you can manage and monitor sprinklers from anywhere using a web browser or smartphone app. Because there is a variety of systems available, from different manufacturers, consulting with your professional landscaper is advisable. A pro can provide you with recommendations on the best smart irrigation controller for your landscape.

Smart Ways to Save Water

  • Replace broken sprinkler heads
  • Add organic mulch to plant beds
  • Harness rainwater for future use
  • Choose drought-tolerant or native plants
  • Install an automatic rain shutoff device
  • Test the sprinkler system, one zone at a time
  • Adjust sprinkler heads to prevent water damage
  • Consider Xeriscaping (landscaping that emphasizes use of rocks, ground cover, and low water-use plants)

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has been servicing residential and commercial clients throughout the greater Phoenix metro area since 1982. Our mission is simple: To provide a high level of professional landscaping service to ensure complete customer satisfaction. As a full-service landscaping company, we provide landscape and sprinkler design, installation and repair. Give us a call at (602) 390-4645 today.

Popular Holiday Tree Types

holiday tree types

Nothing says the holidays quite like the fragrance of a freshly cut holiday tree. With more than sixteen varieties available across five categories (i.e., fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar), narrowing down your options may prove challenging, but you are rewarded with vibrant colors and pleasing aromas. Real trees are also better for the environment.

Here is some information on four of the most popular holiday tree types to help make your buying decision a little easier.

How It All Began

The holiday tree has been the focal point of holiday décor and family traditions since the 16th century. Legend has it that, after walking towards home one winter evening, Martin Luther was so awed by the brilliance of stars shining through the evergreens that he replicated the look by decorating a holiday tree with lighted candles. Clearly, not the wisest, nor safest way to decorate a real tree.

Today, holiday trees are adorned with ornaments, twinkling light sets and garland for a safe, yet stunning look. People can, and do, use a multitude of colors or themes when trimming their trees. Have a favorite sports team? Enjoy a more rustic look? The only limit is your imagination. It is important, though, to be “fire smart.” This is true whether you’re erecting a real or artificial tree.

Top 4 Holiday Tree Types

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

The Balsam fir is considered one of the oldest holiday trees, dating back 250 years ago that is well-known for its conical shape and dense, dark green color. A medium-sized tree, which only reaches 1 to 1 ½ feet in diameter, the Balsam fir is ideal for small living spaces. Its name is derived from the many resinous blisters found on the bark.

Lower branches feature a double row of needles, whereas, older branches (those near its crown) tend to have shorter needles that turn upward. This lends to the branches’ strength and longevity. Branches are strong enough to hold heavy ornaments. The Balsam firm not only looks good, but is extremely aromatic, too.

Noble Fir (Abies procera Rehd)

Grown along the mountainous and coastal regions of California, Oregon and Washington, the Noble fir is rapidly gaining popularity with residents in the Pacific Northwest. It accounts for 25 to 30 percent of sales there. This species is known for its beautiful symmetry and strong fragrance.

The Noble fir has inch-long silvery blue green needles which turn upward, exposing strong, lower branches. Stiff branches throughout make it an ideal tree if you have a lot of heavier ornaments. The Noble fir also provides excellent greenery for wreaths and garland. The best part is that it doesn’t dry out as fast as other species.

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The most used holiday tree, according to the NCTA, is the Douglas fir. A popular species, the Douglas fir is shipped across the U.S., as well as to Guam and some Asian markets. The tree has soft dark green or blue green needles that radiate in all directions from the branch which, when crushed, emit a sweet fragrance.

Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

The Colorado Blue Spruce, or simply Blue Spruce, is you guessed it … the Colorado State tree. Characteristics include sharp needles, which are often used for stuffing pine-pillows, a blueish-gray color and good symmetry. It also has good needle retention. Tip: Don’t crush the needles – they unfortunately emit a bad odor.

Something to keep in mind for next year is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service sells a total of 600 permits beginning in October (they are sold out for 2018). Permits allow Arizona families to trudge into the wilderness to pick the perfect holiday tree. Available types through this program include mixed fir and ponderosa pine trees. If you looking to start a new yearly tradition with your family, more information can be obtained on the government site at, fs.usda.gov.

For additional varieties, lots in your area and tips on how to care for your trees, visit the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).

How to Dispose of Your Holiday Tree

Once the holidays are over, find a drop-off area in your city for any real greenery, including the holiday tree and wreaths. The City of Phoenix also hosts an annual event – “I Recycle Phoenix” – where residents can drop off their trees to be recycled. Recycled trees are then used as mulch in community parks and other open areas.

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair would like to wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a joyous New Year! We have been servicing residential and commercial clients throughout the greater metro area since 1982. Our mission is to provide professional and attentive landscaping design, installation, maintenance, and repair. Also, if you purchased a living holiday tree, we can plant it for you.

common landscaping mistakes

Six Common Landscaping Mistakes

Here are six common landscaping mistakes to avoid.

Mistake One: Watering Too Often

While record-breaking rainfall in early October helped, it still wasn’t enough to break Arizona’s prolonged drought, although improvements are evident. Water conservation practices are crucial. Watering less frequently helps to protect against rot, fungus, and other diseases that can harm your landscaping plants. A professionally installed drip irrigation system combined with drought-tolerant plants is recommended.

Mistake Two: Pairing Incompatible Plants

Just because two plants look complementary, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re compatible. It is common for different species to have very different sun and water requirements. One plant may require full sun while the other requires partial shade. In the wrong conditions, plants will wither and if not transplanted to another area, die. This can ruin your aesthetics. Always read the plant tags and know your yard’s particulars.

Mistake Three: Planting Too Close to Hardscapes

Planting too close to a fence, house or other hardscape can cause a host of problems, including structural damage. Roots can also cause issues with underground utility lines. The recommended strategy is to plant all trees, shrubs, and flowers a few feet away from any hardscaping. Strategically placed landscaping plants will ensure you don’t spend time and money fixing this mistake in the future.

Mistake Four: Not Planning Your Garden Layout

Before making a trip to the nursery, sketch a map of your future landscape. Proper planning will help prevent mistakes two and three above as well as decide how many plants will work in each garden bed. Figure out where you want to place your plants, trees, shrubs in relation to the house. Incorporate outdoor living spaces into the design if desired. There are several resources available online or you can hire a local landscape designer to assist you with this process.

Mistake Five: Not Recycling Compostable Products

What do food scraps, paper towels/napkins, yard trimmings, and cardboard have in common? They are all compostable products. Instead of throwing these products into the trash, where they will take precious landfill space, dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. Add biodegradable materials to a compost pile and in no time, you’ll have rich fertilizer that didn’t cost you anything extra.

Mistake Six: Not Hiring a Professional Landscaper

A good landscape design can make a huge impact. It can increase curb appeal and thus property values. It can also allow you to spend more time in the great outdoors. To achieve these and more benefits, hiring a professor landscaper to design, install and maintain your yard is ideal. Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has been serving valley residents, commercial clients, and municipalities throughout the greater Phoenix metro area since 1982. Our mission is simple: to provide professional service and attention to your landscaping needs, no matter how small or large.

Fall Landscaping Projects

Fall Landscaping Projects

There’s so much to love about fall – cooler weather, leaves changing colors, and pumpkin spiced drinks and pastries. Early fall is a good time to complete fall landscaping projects like mulching, planting annuals, adding outdoor lighting, and cleaning gutters and downspouts as well.

Here are four fall landscaping projects to complete before winter:

Mulch

Spread two to three inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees. Buy organic mulch products, such as shredded hardwood or wood chips, in your choice of color at local landscaping supply stores. There are many advantages to organic mulches, including their ability to decompose over time, add nutrients to create rich soil, retain oxygen in the soil, and protect from compaction caused by heavy rains or harsh sun.

Plant Fall Flowers

Fall is an ideal time to plant fall flowers and vegetables. Cool-season flowers include alyssum, begonia, calendula, chrysanthemum paludism, dianthus, dusty miller, geranium, and primroses. Fall vegetables include asparagus, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, kale, broccoli, cucumber, and spinach. When planting flowers or vegetables, take care to follow individual seeding requirements.

Add Outdoor Lighting

As the days get shorter, it becomes increasingly important to illuminate walkways, brighten up entrance areas and highlight dark areas. Install motion-activated spotlights, lanterns, and task lights for safety and security. You can incorporate low-voltage and solar powered fixtures into the design. Regularly check all bulbs, where applicable, replacing them as needed.

Clean Gutters and Downspouts

After monsoon season has left the valley, clean gutters and downspouts, ensuring water flows freely. This system helps protect against potential structural issues by diverting water away from the home’s foundation. Make sure to use a sturdy ladder and enlist the help of a buddy when removing leaves and debris from the gutters. Telescoping gutter cleaning tools can be found online.

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has been servicing residential and commercial clients throughout the greater metro area since 1982. Our mission is to provide professional service and attention to your fall landscaping projects. We are a full-service company providing complete landscape design, installation, and repair.

Desert Loving Plants

Choosing desert loving plants, such as banana yucca, firecracker penstemon, and others will ensure their survival throughout an Arizona summer as temperatures hover in the triple-digits. The following are just four of many desert loving plants. Because they are drought tolerant, these plants make ideal choices for xeriscaping as well.

Banana Yucca

Succulent

Native to the Southwest United States, the banana yucca (Yucca baccata) grows as a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 10. This desert loving plant has needle-sharp thorns that extend to three feet, with brilliant, large white flowers and edible fruit that attracts Arizona’s varied wildlife. These bloom in late spring to early summer. Landscape use: container gardening, hardscaping, and xeriscaping. Requires full sun.

Firecracker Penstemon

Perennial

Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) flourishes as a perennial in Zones 4 through 9. Tall stalks adorned with tubular flowers that are scarlet red bloom in late winter and continue through early summer. Plant in a xeriscape or rock garden – just ensure it gets partial to full sun. Little to no litter makes it ideal for landscaping around a pool. Attracts hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators.

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Shrub

Large clusters of yellow flowers with long red stamens adorn this upright shrub. The yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) thrives in Zones 8 through 10. Blooms in the spring and summer. It reaches a height of six to ten feet and a spread of four to six feet at maturity. Yellow bird of paradise makes an excellent plant for tropical or desert landscaping projects. It requires full sun.

Tufted Evening Primrose

Groundcover

Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) is a groundcover with gray-green fuzzy leaves and brilliant three- to four-inch white flowers that open in the evening and close the next day. The flowers fade to pink as they close. Tufted evening primrose grows in Zones 4 through 10, and requires little water, which makes it ideal for xeriscaping. It also attracts a wide range of wildlife. Requires partial to full sun.

Resources:

All About Saguaros

Large, columnar-like cacti that reach 40 feet into the air, are just one of 4,000 plant species in Arizona. Dotting a desert landscape for as far as the eye can see, locals often refer to them as desert giants, sentinels of the desert or jolly green giants.

They have been prominently featured in art, cinema, and advertising for years. They are also easily recognizable on several Arizona license plates. This, along with their shape and size, makes them one of the state’s most enduring symbols.

What are they?

They are saguaro cacti, Carnegiea gigantean, pronounced suh-WAR-oh.

While slow-growing – it can take 10 years for a saguaro to reach 1” in height – at full maturity they stand between 40 and 60 feet. Although, according to the National Park Service (NPS), the tallest saguaro ever measured was over 78 feet in height.

These desert giants have lots of character. They can grow up to 25 “arms,” and in the spring and summer produce pure white flowers, which emit a sweet nectar. Multiple species of desert animals feast on its offerings of flowers and fruit.

Additionally, their skin is covered by a waxy coating, hard spines, and flexible bristles. These characteristics help prevent water loss. Under the right conditions, saguaros can live for 200 years.

The most important factors for longevity are moisture and temperature. They cannot survive in areas subject to prolonged freezing, meaning you won’t see them above 4,000 feet above sea level; most of Northern Arizona included.

Some of the best saguaro viewing spots include New River, Mazatzal, and Superstition mountains in the Tonto National Forest. Near Tucson, they can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains, part of the Coronado National Forest.

Did you know?

  • The Arizona State flower is the saguaro cactus blossom
  • Saguaros are exclusive to the Sonoran Desert
  • Adult saguaros can weigh 3200-4800 pounds

Resources:

Desert Landscape Design Essentials

Desert Landscape Design

Known for its desert climate, with very hot summers and mild winters, Phoenix provides several landscape challenges. Among these challenges are unique soil compositions and extreme temperature fluctuations. Drought-like conditions also provide challenges as residents are required to conserve water.

Luckily, there are many plant species that are either native or well-adapted to the area that – when combined with other materials like river rock, pavers, and earth-colored stucco – can make your dream of an environmentally friendly, eye-catching landscape a reality. For inspiration, visit the Desert Botanical Garden, then contact a professional landscaper in Phoenix who specializes in creating desert landscape designs.

Here are some essentials for designing a desert landscape.

Native Plants

In recent years, native plants have become increasingly popular; valued for their ability to thrive with little water. Native perennials like penstemon, sage, and marigold are known to add pops of color. Succulents such as blue yucca, desert spoon, and agave add regional flare. Native plants are also known to provide food and shelter for the area’s diverse wildlife. Use the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) website for information on these and other low-water-use plants.

Hardscaping

As you consider essentials for your desert landscape design, keep in mind that you can add tremendous appeal to your front or backyard with hardscaping such as a paved patio, fire pit or sitting area. Other ideas include sculpture gardens, resurfaced driveways, and outdoor kitchens. There is a wide range of materials that can be used for these and other hardscaping projects. It’s a good idea to contact a professional landscaper when considering adding hardscaping to your landscape.

Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems are designed to deliver a consistent amount of water over an extended period. They typically put out water at a leisurely rate of 1/4 to 4 gallons per hour to sufficiently hydrate your plants, trees, and shrubs. Drip irrigation not only helps to ensure the plants survival during dry, hot summers, but its productivity as well. Thanks to today’s technology, some irrigation systems can even be automated, saving time to smell the flowers as they bloom in the spring and early summer.

Gravel

Gravel serves many purposes, from solving drainage issues to lending textural appeal, making it one of the most popular landscape materials with today’s homeowners. It can also be compacted, making it an ideal choice for pathways. The most common types of landscaping gravel are crushed stones, pea gravel, and decomposed granite. River rock is also included in this category. Gravel is available in a variety colors and sizes to complement most any architecture.

Mulch

Mulch provides several benefits, including acting as a soil insulator to keep the roots of plants cool during the summer and warm during the winter, and preventing excess water evaporation. These benefit makes mulch – either organic or inorganic – essential in desert landscape design. Mulch also has weed suppressing properties. It is available in wide range of naturalistic colors. When applying to garden beds, layer three inches deep to ensure sufficient covering.

Roundup: Easter Egg Decorating Ideas to Try

Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

Want to take your Easter egg decorating to the next level? Hop to it with these awesome ideas that we collected from around the web. Just keep in mind that using paint and some other craft supplies to decorate your eggs will render them unsafe for consumption. They may also be too pretty to hide in your yard.

Chick Easter Eggs

Source: It All Started with Paint

These eggs couldn’t be any cuter! Yellow paint (or dye), a tuft of feathers, and a face made of craft paper or washi tape is all it takes to transform your plain white eggs into adorable baby chicks. To make a chicken coop display, simply use the original egg carton, tucking in some faux green grass.

A New Take on Dyed Easter Eggs

Source: It All Started with Paint

These dyed eggs are so easy! All you’ll need is some Tupperware bowls, long grain rice, and food coloring. Fill a bowl with ¼ cup rice, and 5-6 generous drops of food coloring, then put the lid on; shake vigorously to mix. Hard-boil your eggs, and once cooled, place in the bowl. Cover and shake to coat the egg with the food coloring – remove and let dry. You can use as many colors as you’d like.

Confetti-Dipped Easter Eggs

Source: Studio DIY

These glitzy eggs make the perfect table centerpiece. First, hard-boil or hollow out your eggs, and dye them using traditional techniques (you can also paint them). Once dried, apply a thin coat of mod podge to one side of the egg, then sprinkle confetti over the mod podge until its covered. Let dry completely before displaying.

Natural-Dyed Robin Blue Eggs

Source: Honestly Yum

This is an all-natural alternative to decorating eggs. You’ll need a head of red cabbage, 4 teaspoons white vinegar, edible metallic gold paint, and a thick bristle paintbrush. You will be using the red cabbage, boiled, to dye your eggs different shades of robin’s egg blue. Splatter them with edible gold paint for gorgeous results. Makes one dozen eggs.

Early Spring Landscaping Checklist

spring landscaping checklist

Sunlight, warmer weather, and flowers blooming everywhere can mean only one thing – that spring is quickly approaching. Is your landscaping (front and/or back) ready? If not, get it ready with this easy-to-follow spring landscaping checklist.

Care for the Lawn

Once your lawn begins to wake from its winter dormancy, usually after the danger of frost has passed, address any bare spots by reseeding. You’ll also want to get a head start on weed prevention by manually removing them before they can multiply. For cool-season grasses, fertilize in the early spring; for warm-season grasses, fertilization can wait until late spring or early winter.

Add Color with Mulch

Mulch is one of the easiest ways to add both color and texture to the entire yard. Its primary purposes are to enhance aesthetics, control weed germination, insulate the soil, prevent soil compaction, and reduce lawn mower damage. Add 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the base of your tree, shrubs, or flowers. Be careful not to let it touch the tree’s trunk or the flower’s stems. Mulch is available in a range of colors.

Plant Summer-Blooming Flowers

Spring is the ideal time to plant summer-blooming (also called heat-tolerant) flowers. The best summer-blooming flowers for desert gardeners include Datura, blue salvia, penstemons, and primrose. These flowers can be planted from February – once the threat of frost has passed – through May. Before planting your flowers, prepare the bed by mixing in lots of organic matter, such as compost or peat moss.

Update Outdoor Light Fixtures

The addition of outdoor lighting can really enhance a home at night. Lead guests up to the front door with path light set along the walkway; add drama to your front yard by highlighting your garden beds; enjoy your patio after dark with classic string lights; and combine safety with beauty by installing motion-detecting spotlights. There are many different types of outdoor lighting to consider, including high-voltage, LEDs and solar.

Prune Trees and Shrubs

Pruning promotes good plant health. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, just before new growth starts. This leaves fresh wounds exposed for only a short length of time. Pruning now can prevent certain diseases and physiological problems. Other trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year’s growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Cleaning improves the appearance and durability of your outdoor furniture. Use a garden hose to rinse powdered-coated aluminum furniture off. Follow this by wiping it down with a mild dish detergent and water. Rinse completely and let dry.  Wood, wicker, rattan, and iron furniture require special care. All hardware should be inspected and tightened as needed. Pavers, concrete, and hardscapes should also be cleaned.