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20 June 2007

Compost Experiment 2007--Update

The compost we made and used in our Spring flower installations is working out very well.  The draught in Georgia, and particularly in the Atlanta area has probably skewed our results some.  We had to modify our soil mixture to address the lack of rainfall.  Irrigation never compensates completely for good old rain.  Additionally, Proudland’s land fill reduction goals are looking even more promising with the performance of our flowers in the compost.  Autumn flowers compost mixes are underway, and we are very excited.

 

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC, copyright © 2007

 

 

Abdurrahim Jalal

Operations

Proudland Landscape, LLC

arjalal@ProudlandLandscape.com

770. 736. 6578

 

19 June 2007

Zero landfill goal

At Proudland Landscape, our green (environmental) goal is to have a zero-landfill production.  Albeit, that is some time in the future.  However, we have started in a few ways:

  1. Recycling all roadside recyclables we collect.  Currently, we collect a lot of trash and other roadside debris during the course of our landscape maintenance operations.  Some of this is recyclable, some not so much.  The recyclable stuff is sorted and recycled.
  2. Planting containers from our planting operations and flower installations are being recycled.
  3. Pallets from our sod installation and hardscape construction are being recycled.
  4. Organic waste from our routine maintenance and enhancement operations are being composted, and otherwise reused.

There is much else we can do and plan on doing going forward.  The largest challenge will be dealing with waste from large landscape installation and grading projects.

 

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC, copyright © 2007.

 

 

23 May 2007

Emotional compost

Thich Nhat Hanh describes turning emotional garbage into compost, and using it as we tend to our spiritual gardens. In his book, Taming the Tiger Within we should not try to throw away or discard our anger, but rather sooth it, transform it into a positive emotion. Much as we take grass clippings, leaves, and banana peels and put them in the compost pile, instead of the land fill.

In the compost pile we take garbage, tend to it, transform it, and use it to feed a beautiful garden. In the land fill, we take garbage, put it out of sight out of mind, but it never goes away. It becomes a problem to be dealt with later on down the road. Organic matter which would become nutrients in a compost pile, when buried deep within a landfill, never decompose. They just take up space. Similarly, we can take our anger and darker emotions, and transform them into something beautiful. Or, we can ignore them and allow them to fester. We can feed and indulge them. Either way they never go away. They persist to become something worse. They persist to make us miserable.

We could take the analogy even further, with a karmic perspective. The planet will eventually recycle all the waste and toxins we release into the environment. Over the course of millions of years, plate tectonics, erosion, and cataclysmic events will recycle and reconstitute everything, bringing it all back full circle. Similarly, even the most mismanaged miserable lives, the most abusive and violent people, the most sinful and self-destructive souls will get the chance to come back and do this over and over an over again, even if for thousands of years, until they get it right.

With anger and hate we have the same choices we have with garbage and trash. On one hand, we can transform waste, recycle it, transform it into something beautiful. On the other, we can bury them, ignore them, or indulge them until they grow and accumulate to create more misery.

Eventually, maybe millions of years, both the polluted earth, and the polluted soul will be cleansed and purified. The question is, then: What do you want right now? Right now do you want a toxic, polluted planet? Right now, do you want violent and war-torn societies? Right now, do you want a life of suffering? Or, would you rather something different, NOW. You will get it eventually. But do you want it NOW?

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC © 2007

14 May 2007

Compost Experiment--Spring Flowers 2007

We’ve been amassing a compost pile over the past few seasonal flower change-outs. We install a fair amount of annual flowers each Spring and Fall--using a LOT of compost. As a result, our compost pile has neither seemed adequate for the job, nor quite ripe enough at the right time. However, this year the stars lined up just right, the worms moved with sufficient efficiency, and Mother Nature delivered on time, in sufficient quantity for the Spring flower change-out. We managed to install all our current commitments using our own composted material.

Time will reveal whether our blend of ingredients proves better, worse, or as middling as its commercially available brethren. It’s seemed, in my anecdotal experience, that the commercially available compost has been something less than super rich in recent years. Maybe, we’ve hit upon the solution.

We’re still using our other proprietary blend of ingredients--fertilizers, microbes, moisture enhancers, mulches, soils, and of course, flowers.

Updates on the benefits to begonias, et. al. will follow.

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC © 2007

09 May 2007

Centipede Grass Green Up--Spring 2007

Some of you in Georgia, particularly the Atlanta area, may have experienced, or still be experiencing problems with centipede grass lawns greening up this season

Clint Waltz with the University of Georgia has this to say:

"This is common for centipedegrass during the spring transition – from dormancy
to active growth. As the root system develops, centipedegrass color will
fluctuate with soil and air temperatures. With the recent cooler temperatures
this is not abnormal. Neither nitrogen fertilization, nor iron applications,
will appreciably encourage green-up or growth. Waiting on conducive
environmental conditions is the best practice. In most cases this problem will
solve itself by the end of May."

Centipede is a somewhat persnickety grass. Once it begins to decline, in my experience, it does not recover. In Mr. Waltz's words, "(centipede) Lawns that have been mismanaged for several years may experience turfgrass loss, typically evident by gray stolons with no green buds. If this is the case, re-establishment may be necessary."

Fertilization will not speed the green up process. Centipede wants between 1 and 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet over the growing season. This should be broken out into several applications over the growing season. Additionally, mowing heights should be between 1.5 and 2 inches. If lawns have been maintained higher than this, mowing heights should be gradually reduced to this desired heights.

Many gardeners, particularly many old-school types, prefer centipede grass because of its relatively low-maintenance requirements, versus its more aesthetic cousins. However, as with all gardens and landscapes, low-maintenance does not mean no-maintenance. The only no-maintenance garden is no garden.

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC © 2007

08 May 2007

Georgia Watering Restrictions, as of 18 April 2007

As of 18 April 2007, The Georgia EPD has enacted Drought Level 2 Watering Restrictions. Individual counties and cities may impose additional restrictions; as these become available, the information on our website will be updated




  • Outdoor watering is limited to an odd/even system.

  • Watering allowed between midnight and 10 a.m.

  • Odd-numbered addresses may water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

  • Even-numbered and unnumbered addresses may water only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

  • Additional restrictions may be imposed by local authorities.

  • Certain exemptions apply for professionally installed, newly planted landscapes.

Additional resources and information are available at:

www.conservewatergeorgia.net
www.gaepd.org/Documents/outdoorwater.html
www.maltalandscape.net
www.georgiadrought.org

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC

18 April 2007

Sticks and Stones . . .

We should all be a little kinder to one another. Sticks and stones hurt, but words and attitudes actually hurt more. It is words and attitudes which lay behind the choice to wield sticks and stones, or swords and guns. Not to mention that, words wreck their own special psychic damage. Let's be kinder, www.charactercounts.org


A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC

12 April 2007

A Frost Lesson

Last week we had a late season frost (late for Atlanta, Georgia). In speaking with people this week, I am reminded of a question I am often asked each year. As soon as April hits, people wonder why we haven't swapped their seasonal flowers, annuals or bedding plants. Inevitably there is a neighbor, or an apartment complex, or an industrial park somewhere that has new summer flowers early in April. People see this and then wonder why they don't have new flowers yet. Last week is the reason. There is a historical point of last frost. Plant before that and you may have to pay a hefty price.

Woody plants, woody ornamentals will typically be OK. However, tender annual flowers and bedding plants won't fair so well. In many years Mother Nature won't make her point. But every now and again, she will. Waiting a couple of more weeks is a small price to pay to prevent redoing (and repaying for) the work all over again.

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC © 2007

Out of the loop (Spring Break)

I was out of the loop last week--on Spring Break vacation. Well, a vacation of sorts, I worked one day. At any rate, I'm back and won't have another good break for many months.

18 March 2007

Lawn Watering Comments

Today it is raining in the Atlanta area, which brings to mind a few things to remember about watering your lawn (hose-end sprinklers and in-ground irrigation systems). There are three or four general rules of thumb, which will address 85% of lawn and turf watering issues and mistakes. I've addressed Atlanta area irrigation settings in the past.

  1. First, lawns need about an inch of water per week.
  2. This inch should be delivered in as few waterings as possible.
  3. You need to actually measure how long it takes to deliver the inch
  4. The water needs to actually be absorbed by the soil, so runoff needs to be minimized.

These rules of thumb result in a number of specific things that you should do:

1. An inch of water. The inch of water needs to be actually measured, especially if you are using hoses and hose end sprinklers. With an in-ground irrigation system, the best way is to measure the amount of water. But it is also possible to calculate the water delivery based on system design, head placement, head properties, water pressure, and water volume. These calculations would be done for each lawn irrigation zone.

Measuring an inch of water is very simple. Place a number of straight sided containers around the lawn (e.g., empty tuna fish cans). With a marker measure and mark an inch on the inside of each can. Start a timer (e.g., note the time on your watch). Run the system until the water level reaches the marks. Stop your timer. That is how long it takes to deliver an inch of water to your lawn.

It is important to place a number of cans around, and take the average between them, because the actual distribution of water will vary, regardless of whether your using a hose end lawn sprinkler, or an inground irrigation system. Even the best designed systems will have variances.

Note: Rain rarely yields an inch a week. If it rains, it does not mean your watering for the week is done. Rain is very deceptive. It may rain all night, but only yield a quarter inch. The only way to actually account for rain, is to use a rain gauge. Barring that, it may replace a single watering session.

2. No run-off. The next thing is to minimize run-off. Putting down an inch means nothing, if three quarters of it runs into the gutter. This is very simple. Start your timer again. Run the system. Observe until you see water running of the lawn and onto driveways, walkways, gutters, etc. Stop your timer. Note the time. This is the length of time you should run the system per session.

Various factors will affect run-off:
The slope of your lawn. Here, in the Atlanta area, many yards have steep slopes. Most yards will have at least one section (backyard, front lawn, side yard) which has a slope.
Soil types will also have an affect. Again, in Metro Atlanta, we have clay soils, which absorb water more slowly.
Soil compaction. Aeration will help to relieve soil compaction, among other things, helping to increase absorbtion rates.
3. Watering frequency. The final thing to do is to take the time to run-off, divide that into the amount of time it takes to deliver an inch, and that gives you the number of watering you need per week for each area of your lawn. For example, if it takes 45 minutes to put down an inch of water, and it takes 15 minutes before water begins to run off, then I need 3 watering sessions per week to give me an inch.

Space the sessions out over the week, and time them for early in the morning (best), or if necessary late at night (OK). Do not water early in the evening. This can lead to fungal problems. Avoid watering during the day--evaporation will waste water and mess up our calculations.

If your area has watering restrictions, as we do in many area of Georgia, and especially in Metro Atlanta, then this adds another layer. I've discussed Atlanta area watering restrictions in a past, and will address them again soon.

There are many other related issues, which I will address over time. Rain barrels, grey water, ponds, lakes and pumps, well water, bedding plant needs.

08 March 2007

The Essential Question--Why Garden?

The essential question then is, why do I do this thing called landscaping? Why be a landscaper of all things? Given my experience and education, I could, after all, do many more lucrative, less stressfull and straining, and certainly less messy things to earn my bread. Being a professional landscaper--a designer and a contractor--is stressfull, if only because of all the utterly uncontrollable things to which one is subject. Take the weather, for example. Rain is good. Rain is bad. So many things we do, cannot be done in the rain or, sometimes, for days after a rain.

Now, if it is raining on a somewhat normal cycle here in Georgia, then that sucks up a good portion of every week. But, you can't pray it doesn't rain. If there is no rain for any period of time, then that is bad for so much else we do (i.e., helping plants grow and live). In fact, the few years of drought we had in Georgia a few years ago have had dramatic, and permanent impacts on the way landscapers work, especially from a regulatory stand point. However, I digress. The point is that there are myriad things over which we have utterly no control, yet the results of which we are held responsible for. This is just one stressor, and why would one choose that life?

I love being a landscaper. I am a landscape designer. I am a gardener, and landscape contractor I own and operate a complete-service landscape services firm. We are involved in the full spectrum of landscaping operations. There is just some inexplicable joy I have (many times) envisioning, planning, overcoming the inexorable, and creating.

There is an article asking a similar question about why we garden. The answer is not easily answered. For me it is a primordial urge. An ancient compulsion. I am called from deep within to willingly choose to sweat, to freeze, to be mud stained, to back ache in this fashion. In Georgia, with our clay soils, several creator analogies come to mind.

In Japan, there was a class of priests, shitateso, who were landscape designers. Later, this became a lay class, but also became a "Way." It became a path toward enlightenment. In essence, it always was a path toward enlightment, toward mystical unity. Life on this planet was not designed to be "easy" in the modern convenience sense. However, it is designed to be easy from the stand point of walking through this life, addressing the things that present themselves, as they present themselves, not attaching emotional judgements to them. It rains and this creates things which make other things easy. It rains and this creates things which make other things difficult. The "hard" or "easy" enters when we put an emotional judgement on the rain and its effects.

This sounds very philosophical, and it is. And this is why I love landscaping, gardening, mud, sun, trees, rain, and all that comes with it. Because, it is about taking things as they are and as they come. Philosophy attempts to explain things in a conscious, intellectual framework. Gardening allows me to experience things on a primal, pre-intellectual plane. All the explaining in this rant is summed up when I prune my Okame cherry. (priests who move rocks). Washing the red clay mud stains from my hands says all of the above and more.

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC. © 2007

01 March 2007

A Few Things to Look for in March Landscapes

This month the focus will be on Spring green-up and Summer weed prevention. Our crews are currently scalping warm season lawns (Bermuda and Zoysia), Fescue lawns are being cut low, though not scalped. In February we applied an initial course of fertilizer and spot treated any Winter weeds. In March we will follow up with some additional fertilizer, pre-emergence weed killer, and spot treatments.

Additionally, this is a good time to replenish and freshen mulches (chips or pine straw.) Mulch will help conserve moisture, stabilize soil temperatures, and, of course help beautify your landscape. We have begun applying new pine straw to some landscapes, however, the frequent rains have caused some delay. If you would like your mulch replenished, be sure to let us know.

28 February 2007

I won the lottery (Matt Cutts and I both)

I just learned that I won the lottery in a letter today.
"You have therefore been approved for a lump Sum Pay of $815,950.00 (EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY UNITED STATES DOLLARS
ONLY)in cash Credited to File Ref number EG/0084/5170024. Blah, Blah, Blah."

This is amazing, all I need to do is give them all my banking account
information and numbers, and the good folks in Madrid, Spain will make
me a rich man. Seems like I'm in good company, MattCutts had the good fortune to win the English (British?) lottery not so long ago.

I find it utterly baffling and amazing how fortunate I am to have won a
lottery I never entered, let alone ever knew existed. Oh, well . . .

What's even odder is that I seem to win this particular lottery at least once a month. I supposed the scammers should work on their database filters a little.

A.J., Proudland

26 February 2007

Purple Plum's First Bloom

In our landscape, we also have a flowering Purple Plum tree. When I left for the field this morning, I noted that the buds were looking quite full. This afternoon, I saw we had two blossoms. The tree has been blooming in less than stellar fashion the past two years or so. I believe it has to do with the odd rain fall patterns we've had in the fall and early winter timeframes. We shall see. But the bud count looks quite high.
A.J., Proudland.

Finding and Hiring a Landscape Contractor

Here is a link to a quick check list of how to find, choose and hire a landscape contractor. This is not a complicated process, but one which needs to be taked seriouly, nonetheless. One of the most important, yet often overlooked points, is that you want the contractor, designer, whomever, to be able to make money on the job. If they can't make money, their incentive to do quality work is seriously hampered.
A.J., Proudland.

23 February 2007

Okame Cherry Tree is Blooming

These past winter months the weather's been so quirky. It's fluctuated between freezing and spring-time warm. Our Okame blooming cherry tree has been threatening to burst into bloom for a month. I would say that today is the first day it has actually bloomed out. Beautiful. It is the most perfectly formed tree. We salvaged it from our first award-winning landscape show garden at the Southeastern Flower Show. At any rate, this is shaping up to be a beautiful Spring season.

22 February 2007

Lawn Mowing Heights for Spring Geen Up

It’s time to start getting lawns ready for Spring green up. Here in Atlanta, warm season grasses (primarily bermudas, zoysias, and centipedes are already having root activity. Cool season grasses (fescue) will be putting on growth with the rain and warming temperatures. A key component in your lawn care regimen choice of lawn mowing heights. There is the book mowing height. But, here in the Metro Atlanta area, we have special considerations. We are a bit south for ideal fescue performance, and much further north makes growing bermudas an issue.



My recommendation is to begin mowing and lowering the mowing heights going into Spring. Maintain cool season mowing heights at between 1 and 2 inches until green up is complete. Maintain fescue mowing heights at 2 ½ to 3 inches. As the season warms up gradually raise the mowing heights for bermudas, zoysias, and centipedes. Hold at about 2 ½ through the summer. For fescue, you want to be mowing at 3 to 3 ½ inches by the end of May.



Exceptions and caveats: Well-irrigated and frequently mowed bermudas and zoysias can be maintained between 1 and 2 inches. Intensely managed fescues can be maintained at between 2 ½ and 3 inches. Do not attempt to keep centipedes at very short mowing heights. However, for the average residential and commercial turf-grass, stick to the previously mentioned heights.



One key component, often over looked is equipment maintenance. If your dull blades are shredding your turf-grass leaves, no amount of mowing or height adjustments will make your lawn look good.

21 February 2007

Pruning Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtle trees are popular landscape plants and specimens here in the Atlanta area. They are ubiqitous, common, and redundant, though beautiful and almost irresistible in the landscape. They are especially useful in the commercial landscape where careful control of plant size and shape is necessary, not only for aesthetic, but also liability reasons. It is not uncommon to see them being pruned as early as December. Our customers see this, and I am frequently asked when the crape myrtles will be pruned.

Pruning crape myrtles does nothing for their blooming. There is a beautiful, gigantic crape near the Fuqua building in the Atlanta Botanical Garden which is absolutely beautiful, and has had minimal pruning. Pruning crapes is done to control size and shape. Crape myrtles bloom on new wood, and handle pruning well.

As far as time frame is concerned, February is the time--post Valentines day. Maintenance companies, and commercial operations need to buffer around this time frame, due to the volume of work required, and the relatively short time between mid-February and Spring here in the Atlanta area. However, December is very early, and January is early.