Category Archives: Elite Landscaping & Sprinkler Repair

How to Pick the Best Holiday Tree

best holiday tree

The holiday season comes but once a year, and although picking out a real or living tree to last through all the tidings of comfort and joy may require a little more time and effort, you will find that the scent alone to be well worth it.

Here are some tips to help you select the best holiday tree.

Measure Your Space

Before you visit a local tree lot, take to the forest or purchase a living tree, be sure to measure the room in which you plan to put your tree. Measure the height of your ceiling, adding an extra 12 to 18 inches for the tree stand at the bottom, as well as a tree topper. Another good idea is to measure the room’s width.

Choose a Species

If your tried and true holiday tree species still works, great. If you want to try a different species there are a variety of trees available; 16 to be exact. Popular varieties include (but are not limited to) Balsam Firs, Douglas Firs, Noble Firs, Fraser Firs, Colorado Blue Spruce, Arizona Cypress, and White Pine. You can find information on each variety here. Remember: Not all species may be available in your area.

Check for Freshness

If you were lucky to get a tree permit – the forest service makes a total of 600 permits available annually – you know how fresh the tree is. Many pre-cut trees, on the other hand, may have been cut weeks earlier. Always check a tree for freshness by running a branch through your enclosed hand. The needles shouldn’t come off easily. You can also bend a branch backwards to see if it snaps back. If it doesn’t, the tree may be too dry and you may want to consider a different tree, or come back when the vendor’s next shipment comes in.

Don’t Neglect the Trunk

Once you’ve found the one, be sure to ask the vendor to make a fresh, second cut as well as trim the bottom branches. At home, immediately put it in water. If you don’t plan on putting it up right away, store your tree in a cool place (i.e., the garage), ensuring it is in water. When setting up the tree, make sure to place it away from any heat sources, such as vents and fireplaces.

The Stand Matters

It is highly recommended that you use a reservoir-type tree stand to keep trees fresh. Stands should hold a gallon of water. Amazon’s best selling tree stands include the center pin stand; the two-piece stand; the four-bold stand; and the “clamp” stand.

Caring for a Real Tree

Replenish water daily. Plain water is fine, and contrary to popular belief, temperature doesn’t matter and will not affect water intake. It’s perfectly normal for water absorption to vary from one day to the next. Ensure your tree stays fresh all season long by topping off the stand’s reservoir daily.

Responsibly Dispose Of

After the holidays, don’t throw your real tree away in the trash or set it on the curb. These trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily recycled for mulch and other purposes. The city of Phoenix will collect trees at no cost to you and turn them into mulch. Residents can also drop off their trees to be recycled at the “I Recycle Phoenix” festival from 8am to 1pm Saturday, January 6, 2018.

If you have a live tree with the root ball still attached – often covered by a piece of burlap – it can be replanted outside after the holidays. Keep in mind that a live tree can only be used indoors for 1 to 2 weeks max. When planting in your Phoenix landscape, move the tree back outside for a week or two so that it can re-enter dormancy. Once this time has elapsed, remove the burlap and any other coverings on the root ball, place the tree in the pre-dug hole and backfill. Cover with mulch and water.

Fall Bucket List

fall bucket list

Who doesn’t LOVE fall?

There are leaves for jumping in, apples for picking, pumpkins for carving, and freshly baked goods to eat. Did we mention pumpkin spice everything? We’ve collected more than 30 ideas to help you make the most out of the season, including tips for preparing your landscaping for the cooler months ahead, and compiled them into this fall bucket list.

  • Go apple picking
  • Go for a hayride
  • Rake your yard; front and back
  • Drink warm apple cider
  • Try new pumpkin recipes
  • Get lost in a corn maze
  • Jump in a pile of leaves
  • Take a scenic fall foliage drive
  • Trim rouge tree branches
  • Enjoy hot chocolate under the stars
  • Host or attend a bonfire
  • Decorate your front porch or patio with fall decor
  • Lace up your hiking boots, and set out for these trails
  • Bundle up in your favorite sweater, scarf, and boots
  • Clean your gutters
  • Do a fall photoshoot
  • Watch Halloween movies with kettle corn
  • Carve a jack-o-lantern
  • Curl up under a comfy throw with a good book
  • Make your home smell like fall by filling a stockpot of 4 to 6 cinnamon sticks, orange rind, 2 tablespoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 to 5 bay leaves. Add water and allow to simmer.
  • Add a good layer of mulch to your landscaping beds
  • Tell ghost stories
  • Visit a haunted house
  • Plant fall perennials
  • Sip on a pumpkin spice latte (a delicious combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, mace, nutmeg, and cloves served hot or cold)
  • Bike to neighboring farmer’s markets
  • Host a chili or soup night
  • Volunteer
  • Start holiday shopping
  • Go antiquing or thrifting
  • Make apple butter from scratch
  • Make homemade candied apples
  • Overseed your lawn using Arizona’s cooler season grass: Perennial Rye. The best time to overseed your lawn is during the first two weeks of October when temperatures are consistently below 65˚F.

Join the conservation: What are you most excited for this fall?

Summer Lawn Watering Tips

watering tips

Ensuring a healthy, lush, green lawn doesn’t have to waste one of our natural resources if you maintain proper watering techniques. Proper watering, along with fertilizing, and mowing practices can help prevent a host of problems including bald patches, insect infestations, and disease.

Consider the following watering tips when caring for your summer lawn:

Water Once Every 3 Days

The key to watering is to water no more than once every three days. Yes, even during the hottest days of summer. Remember to water for longer periods – the time it takes to move water to a depth of 10 to 12 inches into the soil. You can check the depth by pushing a probe or long screwdriver into the ground. If it goes in easily, no more water is needed. By watering your lawn wisely, you help prevent common problems caused by overwatering, conserve a natural resource and save money on your water bill.

Water at the Right Time

The best time to water your lawn is during the morning hours. Typically, between the hours of 4 and 8 A.M., when the air is still cool. This helps minimize evaporation and prevent the growth of fungus. Avoid watering your lawn in windy weather; it’s a far less efficient use of water as it will evaporate before reaching the roots. Don’t water after it’s rained. The University of Arizona provides a FAQs page with more information on when to water your summer lawn.

Install an In-ground Sprinkler System

For added effectiveness, install an in-ground sprinkler system. Investing in the right sprinkler system has two main benefits – it helps to conserve water and, through automation, can prevent overwatering and/or underwatering. The right system also allows you to customize your watering strategy.

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair fine-tunes the system to deliver water at specific times of day based on your needs and climate. We also offer affordable sprinkler maintenance and repair services. Contact us today at (602) 390-4645. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.!

Spring Yard Cleanup

spring yard cleanup

Spring means flowers blooming, bees buzzing, sun filled days, and family gatherings. It also means giving the house a good cleaning. Spring cleaning though is not just for the inside of the house. There is also the yard to consider. By scheduling time for spring yard cleanup, you will be assured a landscape that looks great, and adds curb appeal. Use these tips to get started.

Clean Up – It almost goes without saying, but it’s important to clean up the leaves, sticks and other debris that may have accumulated over the fall and/or winter seasons. If there is a lot of foliage scattered on your yard, sidewalks and driveways, use a leaf blower. In addition to giving your yard a neat and tidy appearance, removing debris makes it safer to use your lawn mower, and gives you a bird’s eye view of any damage caused by old man winter.

Pull Weeds – Grass and weeds are in constant battle for precious real estate in your yard. Probably the easiest way to kill weeds is to keep them from gaining a foothold. Use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from germinating in planting beds and lawns. Once they’ve sprouted, pulling them by hand improves your odds of removing the entire root. It pays to remember that time is critical.

Prune – With the proper technique, pruning promotes good plant health, resulting in a vigorous burst of new growth. A good starting point is to remove dead, diseased or damaged stems as you see them; ideally before they push out new growth. You should additionally prune any weak growth. When pruning, always start at the top and work your way down, enhancing the health and beauty of your landscaping plants.

Add Color – Early spring is a rewarding time to plant trees, shrubs, and annuals. For an instant pop of color, consider planting flowering bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips. Seedlings can be planted in garden beds or popped into large pots. Remove plants that have died or are unhealthy. When deciding where to place a new plant, it’s important to consider the amount of sun it requires, as well as the space that’s needed.

Clean Outdoor Furniture – Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors – eating, relaxing, and entertaining. Make a point of cleaning your outdoor furniture regularly to prevent it from becoming weathered and faded by the elements. Nuts and bolts should be checked and tightened. Replace any furnishings that are unstable, torn or rotted. Clean paved surfaces and hardscapes.

A Weed-Free Lawn

weed-free lawn

Think a weed-free lawn is the stuff of dreams? Think again! Although these pesky “plants” are aggressive enough to grow uninvited, and in all the wrong places, there are ways including growing a beautifully thick lawn to combat them. The following information is designed to help you have a weed-free lawn.

The right tools for the job

Invest in a sharp trowel or garden knife to help you slice into the soil to remove the toughest weeds. For deeply rooted and established weeds, use a spade or mattock to remove them once and for all. You will also want to invest in either a hoe or cultivator, and high-nutrient, organic mulch. Don’t forget a pair of heavy duty gloves for protecting your hands from irritants, spines, thrones, and other harmful things.

Weed when wet

The old saying “pull when wet; hoe when dry” is sound advice. Moist soil provides far better weeding conditions – especially when the goal is to pull the entire root system out. With the weekend forecasting rain showers, equip yourself with a pair of household gloves and a trash can or bag, and get to work on ridding your lawn of weeds. We recommend weeding a little every day or two so nothing gets missed.

Prevent weeds from returning

A single weed can produce hundreds to thousands of seeds, spreading them all over your yard! For this reason, it’s important to dislodge new seedlings with a hoe or cultivator, and pull weeds out by hand before they get a foothold in the soil. If possible, mulch immediately after weeding to prevent new seeds from reaching the soil, and to keep buried seeds from getting sunlight and sprouting.

Herbicides

When nothing else works, or your lawn is completely overrun by weeds, you can consider using herbicides. Follow directions to the letter. Used incorrectly, herbicides can kill grass, landscaping plants and other wanted greenery. If you’re planning to use an herbicide, choose one that is safe for your specific lawn, and effective against the most common types of weeds (e.g. crabgrass, dandelions, white clover, ground ivy, etc.).

Preventing Frost Damage

Preventing Frost Damage

As temperatures begin to drop in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, and the nights become longer, it pays to be attentive to the forecast. You invested in your landscape plants, shrubs, and trees; now invest in ensuring they remain free from frost damage. Severe frost damage can easily be mitigated by covering plants on freezing nights.

According to the University of Arizona, “the average first frost date varies from November 21st in Buckeye to December 12th in Central Phoenix, and the average last frost date ranges from February 7th in central Phoenix to April 3rd in Mesa.” This variation is said to be because of the differences in elevation and area population.

How Cold Weather Affects Your Plants

During the day, your plants as well as your soil absorbs and stores heat from the sun, but as the day turns into night…they quickly begin to lose all of their stored heat. The colder the temperature, the quicker the loss. If there are clouds, your plants may be insulated from the cold as clouds absorb the heat, reflecting it back to the earth.

Calm, clear nights pose the greatest danger of frost, due to the fact that there is no wind to mix the ascending warm air with the descending cold air. There are also no clouds present to radiate heat back to the soil, leaving your plants, shrubs and trees vulnerable – if not properly protected.

Preventing Frost Damage

On a night when a freeze is predicted, cover your plants – especially those more sensitive to cold weather like Peruvian Apple Cactus, Red Fairy Duster, some Aloe species, and Yellow Bells – with professional grade frost cloth, before sundown. The advantage of professional grade frost cloth is that it can be left on for longer periods of time.

This alleviates your need to drape the plants nightly. However, if professional grade frost cloth is not available, you can use other materials such as; sheets, blankets, burlap, etc. Simply match the weight of the material to the size and sturdiness of the plant, or build a frame around the plants, draping the material over it.

Never use plastic. Plastic can freeze to the plants on the coldest of nights. When draping, the material should cover the plant from top to bottom. Avoid tying the material at the bottom as this can suffocate your plants. If at all possible, bring potted plants inside your house or garage, since they are much more susceptible to damage.

If not using professional grade frost cloth (the longer you wait, the more likely it is to sell out), remove all coverings once the sun is up and temperature is above freezing, replacing it nightly. For more information on preventing frost damage, including what to look for, please contact Elite Landscaping & Sprinkler Repair at (602) 390-4645.

Overseeding in Arizona

 

overseeding

Would you like to ensure a beautifully green, lush lawn, no matter the season? Overseeding – part of a proactive maintenance plan – keeps lawns from going dormant during the colder months of winter. If you want your lawn to be green year round, now is the time to overseed. It is important that either you or your landscaper uses Arizona’s cooler season grass – Perennial Ryegrass, during this process.

When to Overseed?

The optimum time to overseed is during October. This is ideal because good seed germination requires sun, adequate water, and contact with the soil while it’s still warm. If you wait until November, the cooler temperatures may slow the process of germination, providing you with uneven results. You may notice that many of Arizona’s golf courses are temporarily closed, as they too, overseed for the winter.

Process of Overseeding

To ensure success, without wasting natural resources when overseeding your lawn, follow the next eight tips – and as always, if you have any questions, please contact Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair: (602) 390-4645.

#1. Stop fertilizing 4 to 6 weeks prior to overseeding your Bermuda grass.

#2. Lightly de-thatch your lawn to allow the seed to contact the soil. This is accomplished by setting the dethatcher blades to cut approximately ¼” into the soil – any deeper and you risk damaging the root structure of your Bermuda. Rake the removed thatch into piles and dispose of it properly.

#3. The next step is scalping. This lowers the height of the Bermuda, making it easier for the Perennial Ryegrass seed to receive the sunlight it needs, in order to germinate. It is recommended that you drop your mowing height to ¼” – ½”. Clippings can be used as a top-dressing after seed is spread.

#4. Apply 10 to 15 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Include a quality starter fertilizer with seed. Broadcast seed in two directions to achieve even coverage.

#5. Cover the seed with ¼-inch of organic, salt-free mulch, or scalping clippings to help retain moisture. Keep seeds damp by watering 3 to 4 times per day to keep the top ½-inch of soil wet. Seed should germinate in about 7 days.

#6. When grass is 1-inch tall, reduce watering to once per day.

#7. When grass is 2-inches tall, at about the 2-week mark, mow for the first time. After the second or third mowing, 3 or 4 weeks in, water once every 2 to 3 days to a depth of 4”-6”.

#8. Once your lawn is established, water once every week.

Preparing Your Yard for Monsoon Season

monsoon season

During this time of the year, Monsoon season is known to take over the Phoenix area.  With the big storms rolling in, it is important to begin preparing your yard for the before, during, and aftermath of the storm when it comes to your landscaping. Below we have provided you with tips to ensure your landscaping is able to stay in the best condition possible when Monsoon season hits.

Trees:

  • When trimming your trees, it is best to keep your trees thinned out towards the top as well as the middle. Thinning the tree allows for winds that occur during monsoon season to easily pass through the tree. When kept heavy at the top, winds will forcefully push against the tree, rather than going through it. This can cause fallen or broken trees.
  • Make sure to cut down on the watering of your trees by 30% not only when a Monsoon is about to hit, but after as well. The moisture in the air will also provide your trees with the right amount of water. Not only will this save you some money on the water bill, but it will also ensure your tree is not getting over watered.
  • NEVER apply stakes to keep a tree held up during a Monsoon. Your tree will actually get stronger with each Monsoon that it encounters. If you allow it, your tree will become reliable on being held up, causing it to weaken.
  • Consult with Elite Landscaping if you have a broken or fallen tree during Monsoon season in order to get it removed and another replanted.

Grass:

  • With grass, you should also cut back on watering with a Monsoon about to hit, as well as after. Just like trees, grass will utilize the moisture in the air in order to get what it needs to stay green. Over watering during Monsoon season can cause flooding as well as dead grass.
  • Do not attempt to cover your grass during a Monsoon. Elite Landscaping recommends letting nature take its course as your grass will adjust accordingly to the rain and humidity.
  • These tips will help to prevent fungus, weeds, and mushrooms from growing in your yard.
  • Try the screw driver test. If you stick a screw driver 6-8 inches into your grass with ease, but have soil residue on the tool, your lawn may be over-watered.

Flowers:

  • In Arizona, it is common to water our plants like there is no tomorrow. This is a big mistake when a Monsoon is about to hit. Over-watering will lead to similar things that grow in grass with over-watering. Mushrooms and fungus will create a home in your flower bed if they get the right amount of water.  Elite Landscaping recommends cutting back by 30% in order to avoid this from happening.
  • Like grass, do not cover your plants. With cutting back on water and utilizing the rain, you are taking the necessary measures to keep your flowers from rotting.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping

Short growing seasons and triple-digit temperatures can make landscaping in Arizona somewhat challenging. But practical, water wise, landscaping methods such as xeriscaping can turn a challenging experience into a rewarding one. Here we discuss the principles, benefits, and plantings of xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping Defined

The term “xeriscaping” is used to describe landscaping methods that reduce irrigation needs and maximize the use of natural precipitation. It is composed of slow-growing, drought-resistant plants, and little to no grass. Xeriscaping can be applied to virtually any landscape design no matter how formal or informal. This type of landscaping allows you to express your creativity while being mindful of the need for water conservation.

Xeriscaping Benefits

  • Saves water
  • Less maintenance
  • No fertilizers or pesticides
  • Improves property values
  • Pollution free
  • Provides wildlife habitat

Drought-Resistant Plants

The best plants for a xeriscape are the ones that are native to Arizona. With this in mind, the Arizona Department of Water Resources has compiled an extensive Low Water Use/Drought Tolerant Plant List, which you can download and share with your landscape designer. This list can be found here. Euphorbia Rigida, Chihuahuan Sage, Red Yucca, Parry Agave, Desert Spoon, and Aloe are all good choices.

Also of importance is getting rid of, or downsizing, your lawn. Maintaining a lawn uses an exorbitant amount of water. If you want to have a green area, consider using a drought-resistant grass species, such as Bermuda grass. Making Bermuda grass a popular option among Arizona homeowners is the fact that this grass thrives in well-drained areas that receive plenty of sunlight.

Getting Started

Whether you’re developing a new landscape, renovating an existing one or just looking for ways to enhance your landscaping’s water efficiency, contact Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair at (602) 390-4645 for more information on xeriscaping. We are committed to walking you through the principles of xeriscaping one step at a time. These principles are:

  1. Good landscape planning & design
  2. Low water use plants
  3. Appropriate turf areas
  4. Efficient irrigation
  5. Soil improvements
  6. Mulch usage
  7. Appropriate Maintenance