Mosquito Proof Your Property

mosquito If you’re like most, you probably don’t give much thought to mosquitos – until you get a red, itchy welt on your skin, which is a sure sign of a mosquito bite.

Ouch!

Contrary to popular belief, mosquitos don’t wait for hottest days of summer, but start biting when temperatures reach a consistent 50 degrees. In Arizona – and much of the Southwest – this translates to early March.

Use these tips to mosquito proof your property.

Why Should You Be Concerned?

Some species of mosquitoes can transmit diseases to both animals and people. Examples of potentially life-threatening mosquito-borne diseases include West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika Virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria. Mosquitoes can also expose our four-legged friends to heartworm. For more information on mosquito-borne diseases, visit the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Mosquito Proof Your Property

Eliminate Breeding Sites – Rid your yard of anything that could hold standing water. Mosquitoes require only a small amount of water for depositing their eggs, so don’t overlook any potential water collection vessel. Pet dishes, wading pools, potted plant saucers, rock depressions, water cans, buckets, and wheelbarrows are just a few examples of places where water can stand.

Clean Clogged Gutters – Commonly overlooked, gutters clogged with leaves and other debris can cause water to build-up, potentially causing more problems than just mosquitoes and other pests. Keeping your gutters clean should be at the top of your to-do list each fall and spring. Using a good extendable ladder and plastic shovel, scoop out the gunk, followed by flushing the gutters with a garden hose.

Trim Vegetation – It is believed that mosquitoes stay within proximity of their breeding ground, usually not straying more than 200 feet from where they were hatched. This, along with the fact that mosquitoes feast on plant nectar, make tall grasses and overgrown shrubs a perfect habitat. If you’ve left your trees and other plants do their own thing, trimming them will help alleviate pest problems, as well as add curb appeal.

Keep Your Swimming Pool Clean – Mosquitoes generally steer clear from well-maintained backyard swimming pools. However, if you fail to keep it clean or don’t use its pump for an extended period, they’ll likely be drawn to the dirty/stagnant water. If you use a pool cover during the winter, it can collect water that as mentioned above, will draw them in.

Setup Mosquito Magnets –  Mosquito traps or magnets disrupt their breeding cycle, helping you win the ongoing battle with these swarming, bloodthirsty pests. Magnets rely on the power of attraction to lure and kill mosquitoes allowing you to see a dramatic reduction in the mosquito population on your property. You can find mosquito magnets online or at most home improvement stores.

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.

Landscaping Tips to Maximize Curb Appeal

landscaping tips

You know that old adage about not judging a book by its cover? Well, in real estate, the cover is everything! In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, how your home looks from the outside can have significant influence on a potential buyers’ perception of its value. Even if you’re not thinking of selling anytime soon, taking the time to spruce up your curb appeal, starting with your front yard landscaping can go a long way in maximizing curb appeal.

Follow these landscaping tips to maximize curb appeal.

Add Hardscaping

It’s important to combine various hardscapes and softscape elements, materials, and techniques to create a cohesive design that is both beautiful and functional. Some examples of hardscapes are swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, decks, gazebos, water features, paver patios, and retaining walls. Brick, stone, concrete, wood, and metal are just some of the materials that you may wish to include.

Use Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a low-maintenance alternative and complement to grass. The fundamental element of a xeriscape design is water conservation. It gives a neat appearance with very little maintenance. It also allows you to integrate drought-tolerant plants, ground covers, mulch and turf areas to produce a beautiful, functional, and resource-conserving landscape design.

Create Privacy

The most visually appealing way to add some privacy to your yard is with a living privacy hedge. Evergreen shrubs, such as Italian Cypress or American Arborvitae, make the best plants for year-round screening from street traffic and neighbors. Other benefits include creating a sound barrier to reduce noise and acting a windbreak to protect against harsh winds.

Consider Lighting

Outdoor lighting adds both aesthetic and functional benefits to your home, such as making your beautifully planned and constructed landscape design visible, even after dark. One of the most practical options for exterior lighting is LED. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs can be six to seven times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, and last up to 50,000 hours depending on the application.

Heed the Weeds

If you notice weeds popping up in your yard, remove them. You can pull them by hand, buy a spray product to kill them (or make your own), or invest in a professional weed control service. With the weeds gone, your plants and other living horticultural elements won’t have to compete with them to receive the water and nutrients they need. Removing weeds will also extend the life of brick, stone, and cement pavers.

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.

Fall Landscaping Checklist

fall landscaping checklist

Fall means a kaleidoscope of colors, cooler temperatures, apple cider, and pumpkin spice everything. Fall also means that it is time to get your landscaping in shape for the cooler months ahead. We at Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair have prepared the following fall landscaping checklist to help get you started.

Aerate the Soil: If you have noticed that water has difficulty penetrating through the soil surface, when you may want to aerate your lawn so that oxygen, water and fertilizer can easily reach the grass’s roots. You can rent a mechanical core aerator for about $30 to $75 for a few hours. You can find these at most garden centers. If you don’t feel like aerating yourself, hire a professional landscaping contractor.

Fertilize for Future Growth: Fall is also a great time of year to fertilize your lawn. Even if you only do this once a year, do it in the fall. The reason? Fertilizer delivers essential nutrients, which allows the grass to grow deep roots now, and keep nutrients on reserve for a healthy start to spring. You should apply a quality, dry fertilizer to all grassy areas, mid-to-late fall.

Reseed the Lawn: The best time to reseed your existing lawn is in the fall. The ideal time to reseed in most parts of Arizona is in late August or September. It will germinate while temperatures are relatively warm, then grow and mature as temperatures begin to cool, thus ensuring lush green grass in spring. Just make sure not to overseed.

Spread Mulch: Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees once in the fall and again in the spring. Mulch helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during cold winter days. It also suppresses weeds and, overtime, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil’s structure and fertility. Shredded hardwood, cocoa mulch, compost, and fresh wood chips all make good choices.

Plant Trees and Shrubs: Fall is actually the best time to plant new trees and shrubs. The combination of warm soil and cool air in the fall enables the establishment of strong root systems. September through late October are ideal for planting. When planting in the fall, select balled-and-burlapped or container-grown plants rather than bare-rooted plants, which should only be planted in early spring.

Do Some Pruning: A little work now results in healthy plants, shrubs, and perennials come spring. Prune to remove dead or broken branches as well as those with heavy disease or insect infestations. Mid-to-late fall is also a great time to complete some corrective pruning. Corrective pruning means removing parts of a plant that are not growing as they should.

Spread Mulch: Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees once in the fall and again in the spring. Mulch helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during cold winter days. It also suppresses weeds and, overtime, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil’s structure and fertility. Shredded hardwood, cocoa mulch, compost, and fresh wood chips all make good choice.

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

Backyard Landscaping Trends

backyard landscaping trends

For most homeowners, a backyard is one of their favorite escapes. In a new Houzz landscaping survey, 88 percent of the 958 survey participants involved in an outdoor project, said that the scope of work being conducted is substantial. The outdoor space of their dreams is what they are after.

Understanding the importance of an enjoyable outdoor experience, landscape professionals and outdoor product manufacturers have come up with new, and clever ways to afford homeowners a space in which they can relax, entertain, spend time with family, dine, and play.

Popular Backyard Landscaping Trends

Outdoor Living: Many homeowners spend their weekends relaxing in the outdoors. This makes functional, personalized, and stylish backyard landscaping a necessity. Outdoor furnishing must be comfortable – no one wants to come home, go outside, and sit on furnishings that are not comfortable. Outdoor lighting must not be too harsh. They are looking for a space that is inviting.

Landscape Lighting: More than half of people renovating their outdoor spaces will make updates to lighting, with LED the preferred choice, according to the survey. Top reasons for updating lighting are to illuminate plants and architectural elements, enhance the mood and feel of your backyard, and allow for safer movement in the dark. Solar lighting is also a good choice for homes that receive a lot of light.

More Greenery: According to the survey, more people are planting greenery in their yards, compared to the previous year’s survey results. All kinds of greenery are being added to backyard landscapes nationwide including: perennials, annuals, trees, and shrubs. People are prioritizing low-maintenance, flowering, native, and drought-resistant plants as well as those that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Firepots Are In, In a Big Way: If you have a level surface, consider making a fire pit or pot the focal point of your yard, along with pavers. Top reasons for choosing to install a fire pit includes creating ambiance and improving home value. Benches, grills, and built-in kitchens are also popular features. Personally, I like creating built-in seating around a fire pit for lazy Saturday evenings with the family.

Don’t Forget Fido: More than two-fifths of homeowners will make pet-related upgrades to their outdoor spaces, according to the survey. Play space, toxin-free plants, paths and fenced-off areas top the requests. An animal that you nurture and treat as one of the family is bound to be almost never ending source of joy and happiness. Your pet will certainly thank you for considering their health.