Drought Busting!

Last time we discussed how to deal with drought by picking the correct plants and using best practices to keep your garden healthy.

Today we are going to look at ways to work with around a drought by using pre-existing water, so to speak.  The two main ways to go around using the hose is through the use of rain barrels and using gray water.

Rain Barrel

rain-barrel[1]A rain barrel is exactly what its name is, a barrel that collects rain water.  People had used them for years as a way to have viable water available before there was city water.   They were usually used to supplement well water.  Basically you stick a barrel in the yard and when it rains the barrel fills up.  As home design improved and gutters were added homeowners would place the barrel under a down spout so the water would be directed into the barrel increasing the amount of water caught.

And this is how it is done today.  You can purchase a premade barrel or a do-it-yourself kit from most home improvement or hardware stores.  The cost starts at about $50.00 and go up from them depending on the sophistication of the system.   The Virginia Extension Office also offers workshops to help you make your own.

Not only will this cut your water bill the water has not been chemically treated so it is better for your garden and for washing your car.  Another side benefit is the barrel cuts down on run off so our streams and bays stay cleaner!  It is definitely a win-win!

Grey Water

This is a more complicated way to save water and has been somewhat controversial.  Grey water is water that has been previously used in the home and is being reused.   It differs from Black water, which is sewage water.  Grey water can come from the shower, the washing machine or even the dish washer.   In a very simplistic form people put a bucket in the shower will the water is heating up and then use that to flush the toilet.  Even that saves some water.

More often, however, it is the washing machine that is the source of grey water.  The machine is hooked to a drip irrigation system and is used to water the landscape. Because the washing machine hose is not hooked directly into the homes plumbing it can be more easily re-routed.    It usually requires a permit and professional installation and a commitment to use environmentally friendly detergent but in a high drought area the use of grey water can be very beneficial for both the homeowner and the community.



Xeriscaping: How your landscape can survive drought

And other drought busting ideas!


The best way to describe xerscaping is if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  The idea of xerscpaing is using plant life that is indigenous to the area.  We at YLS, Inc. have always promoted this idea, but now it is becoming even more critical.  Plants will thrive in the conditions they were meant to be in.  When plants are in stress one way they cope is to take in more water.  Yes you can plant tropical plants in Hampton Roads but they will require large amounts of water.  And what happens when we have a wetter than normal year?  Well maybe that plant will be happy but what about the dessert plants that are at the front of the house?  It creates a very complex environment that is hard to maintain.

Although water seems relatively inexpensive it can add up when you are trying to save a garden in a drought year.  Take the word of the experts, plant local.  Our Master Gardener has the knowledge of plants to give you the look you want without the harm you are putting on the water supply and your finances.xerscape


Another great way to survive a drought year is through proper irrigation.  It does cost a bit up front but the benefits are outstanding.  Hand watering is very wasteful and fairly inaccurate.  The next best practice is a sprinkler but that can be wasteful also is not properly positioned.  Untold gallons of water are wasted every year as water rains down on sidewalks and driveways.  And again it is not just wasted water but also the money you pay for it.

The best way to water is either through drip irrigation or an installed sprinkler system with well positioned sprinkler heads.  With all systems you need to measure how long it takes for a certain amount of water to be delivered.  This will vary on where you live, your soil, and what plant life, lawn, etc you have.  But let say you want an inch of water to be delivered each time you water.  Then the first time you need to have a rain gauge and watch the clock until you get one inch of water.  This holds true no matter what method you use, even hand held.  You may realize that is takes 20 minutes to get a “good” watering and maybe you don’t want to stand there several times a week and that is another reason to have an automatic system.

For the truly dedicated:

Stay tuned as we will look at other drought busting ideas including Rain Barrels and Grey Water!


Fall is Finally Here!

Core Aeration and Fertilization

Fall is finally with us and soon we will start to feel the cool days and cooler nights. We all look forward to apple cider and hay rides and all the fun things to do in this colorful season. We pull out our warmer clothes and don socks for the first time in many months. Not only is this “sweater weather” this is also the perfect time to get your lawn ready for next spring! Core aeration and fertilization needs to take place now in order to have a beautiful lawn in the spring.

Fall LeafNot only is fall the right time to fertilize in terms of creating a healthy lawn it is also the right time in terms of  protecting the environment. Due to dropping temperatures  any run-off containing fertilizer will have less impact in Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding water ways.   If you wait until spring to fertilize any contaminated run off  can impact the Bay due to the warming temperatures.   So save the Bay and fertilize now!

Plant New Trees

Fall is also a good time to plant new trees. The cooler weather gives a young tree time to adjust to its surroundings. There is usually more rain in the fall months which is beneficial to all trees but especially for newly planted ones. Also if you wish to transplant any trees the same principles apply.   Then over the winter and spring the trees will establish themselves and be able to survive the heat of summer.

Enjoy the Cool Weather

Now that you have finished your yard work, put on your sweater,  pick some apples, take a hay ride,  build a scarecrow and enjoy!



Hurricane Season is Storming In

First Storm has already come and gone

Hurricane Season is Storming InIt is hard to believe we already have had our first Tropical Event of the season.   Although hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th it is not often that we see a large storm so early.   Thankfully the Hampton Roads area was spared from Arthur but our friends in the Outer Banks once again bore the brunt of it!

Once again we are reminded that storms can be tricky to predict and can change at a moments notice.   If you look back to last season’s blog we discussed Hurricane preparedness for your home and surroundings.  It would not hurt to review that information but I would also like to add what we need to do for ourselves to ride out a storm or if necessary evacuate.

Preparing your yard and your home

As always bring in anything that can become a missile.  That includes all outside decorations, pots and  lawn furniture, especially if it was a glass top.  Tempered glass will shatter if it is thrown on the ground or against a building.  Also look around to your neighbors’ homes; if someone is away or needs help jump in and help them.  It is not just the neighborly thing to do; it may also prevent their items from damaging your property.

As you see the storm coming you should be stocking up on water and canned goods—a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day is recommended, but I like to double that to cover use beyond the bare necessities. Although that might seem like a lot, you may not have air conditioning and will need a lot of water just to stay hydrated.  I would recommend picking up extra water when you find yourself in the grocery store even when a storm is not imminent.  Then you can build up your supply over time.  Occasionally there are water issues without a storm so it is good to have a supply available.

Another good idea is to go to the bank and get a supply of money, specifically smaller bills.  If you don’t have smaller bills and the stores run out of change you may have to buy things you don’t need just to use up your $20.00 bill from ATM.  Yes, this means you have to actually go in the bank but it may be worth it!

Hopefully we will have a very quiet tropical season, but planning ahead can help us breeze through it!


April Showers Bring May Flowers!

Now is the time to get out there and plant those annuals to get them established before the heat of the summer.  Not only will it make your house look better but it will also enhance the value.  Look at any true mansion and you will see they always have wonderful gardens.  These enhanced the homes in many different ways and we too can profit from the same idea.flower (640x480)

There are several levels of landscaping that add to the value of your home;  the sophistication of the design, the size of the plants and finally the diversity of the plant material.   Each one adds 20 to 30 percent to the value of the home.

So I feel like size of plants and diversity of materials is pretty self explanatory but sophistication of the design needs a little more explanation.

Think of Design Sophistication in levels.  The first level would be foundation planting.  These are the sort of standard bushes that are placed around a house originally.  Usually evergreens, like hollies, or sometimes flowering bushes such as forsythias or azaleas.  They normally hid the actual foundation of the house and add some interest.

The second level of Design Sophistication would be to add an island bed of plantings.  One large oblong bed with several different types of plantings.  Maybe some perennials to maintain a look throughout the year but also bulbs to have a change in the spring.   This would also be used to plant annuals to change the look as the seasons changed.  To also bring up the level the homeowner would want to plant one or two shade trees in the lawn or maybe a large evergreen.

Finally for the most impact the third level of Design Sophistication could be achieved.  This would be a fully developed landscape with the foundation planting adjoined by curved beds.  There would also be several island beds throughout the yard.   Finally several trees would dot the landscape.

We all know it when we see it!  The fully landscaped lawn with beautiful beds that catch are eye and seem to keep developing as we look at it.  It is easy to see why this would increase the value of your home and if done properly it should not be cost prohibitive.  The initial planting may incur some expense but if the right plants are chosen and they are maintained correctly your landscape should continue to give you value and joy for years to come.













Spring Has Sprung

pic 2014The Vernal Equinox has finally arrived and the days will be getting longer!  Lots of extra time to get out there and get that lawn and garden started.   After this harsh winter our outdoor spaces probably need some extra care.  Hopefully you have used the time of cold and snow to clean up your tools and get them in tip-top condition so you can hit the ground running!

Your Lawn

This is the time to feed your lawn.  Go easy though as too much of a good thing can damage your grass.  Remember grass is a plant!  Just like a houseplant that can be over or underfed, over or under watered or a myriad of other issues the same holds true for grass!  But once you find the proper balance of food and water your lawn will take off and be the envy of the neighborhood!

Your Garden

It is never too early to get that garden going!  Some hardy plants may have wintered over and you can take some time to clean them up around the edges.  Trim the brown leaves off and clean debris out from the beds.  Then head off to the garden center to get the new spring selections.  Or call your local landscaper and have a crew come out and create a beautiful outdoor scape for you!

Your Vegetable Garden

Now is also a good time to start readying your vegetable garden.  The ground is starting to warm up but these cold nights can be hard on new sprouts.  To combat this problem many gardeners create a lean-to or mini greenhouse to get a jump on the growing season.  Some lumber and heavy plastic can do the trick to get you through to the warm weather!

Your Plan

Whether you choose to work on your lawn, your garden, or vegetable garden or a combination of the three now is the time to get outside and watch your outdoor space Spring into life!

What the Groundhog Saw!

Oh no the Groundhog saw his shadow and so we will have 6 more weeks of winter.  Which this year is 6 weeks too many!  As we all are too aware  this has been a very hard winter.  So many storms,  the Polar Vortex and now it seems it won’t end until mid-March.  By the way, Winter technically ends on March 20th, the first day of Spring.

This winter we seem to be stuck in Wednesday storm mode, which is not all that unusual.  Once a weather pattern sets up in the Pacific it tends to reoccur over time.  So here we are stuck with rain, sleet, and snow on a regular basis.

All we can do is grin and bear it!  But at least this year we can sit  back and enjoy the  Winter Games from Sochi!  Also we can all continue working on our plans for our Spring and Summer Gardens.  Whether you enjoy surfing the Web or perusing catalogues these cold stormy days are  a great time to take stock of what you have and what you want!winter village

So enjoy the snow!  Enjoy the Games!  Only a little more winter left to go!





Beat the Winter Blues

beat the winter bluesHere comes the Artic Blast again.   Some of us are still recovering from the last bout of winter weather, the so called Polar Vortex, and here it comes again!  Hopefully you managed to get through with no broken pipes or other mishaps but here are some reminders as we face this late January freeze.

Helpful Tips

Keep the cabinet doors under your sinks open so the pipes will get the heat from the house.  You can also turn the faucet farthest from the main and have it drip so as to keep the pipes from freezing.

You may also want to run the heat a little higher than normal as our southern houses don’t have as much insulation as those in the north.

Keep kitty litter or environmentally friendly de-icer in your garage and your car.

Have an ice scraper in your car and thoroughly clean your front and back windows before driving.

Watch out for icy roads, especially after dark and in the early morning.  Some spots that were wet during the warmth of the day may freeze as the sun sets.

Hopefully these tips will help you through this next round of frigid weather.

Resolve to Spruce up your Yard

Since most of us will probably be staying in during the cold this may be a good time to work on those resolutions we made a few weeks ago or maybe start a new one.  I would suggest that this is the perfect time to resolve to spruce up your yard.

What better time than these Winter days and nights to start looking through catalogues and searching the web for ideas for the Spring.  Now is the time to order seeds, draw up pictures and call your landscape professional to make your dreams become a reality.

Spring may seem a long way off but here in the Tidewater the temperatures begin to climb in early March.  That is when the lawns will start to come back to life and mowing will start to become the order of the day.  So now is the time to act in order to be ready for your yard to come alive!

Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

Tree for HolidayIt is that time of year, Christmas Time, when we bring the outdoors indoors!

There are many different ways we do this, but mainly it is through Christmas Trees.  Yes people have small trees, like ficus, year round in their homes but only at Christmas do we drag a big huge tree into our home and decorate it!  Although some people buy live trees with the roots, the majority of trees are cut and although cutting eventually causes the tree to die they still need to be taken care of so they will last throughout the season.

Your tree should get fresh cut before going into an adequate sized stand.  Use a stand that can hold the tree without removing any bark or whittling the tree down.  The bark actually helps to soak up the water so removing it will be harmful to the tree.

Also the tree and all evergreens, including wreaths, should be kept in a cool area away from direct sunlight.  Wreaths and evergreens should be misted daily in order to keep them from drying out.

If you follow these easy suggestions your holiday decorations should last well into the New Year!

Landscape in the Fall

November and December are interesting months for landscaping here on the Peninsula.  Some days are warm and sunny, others are cold and windy and then there are the days with precipitation.  I say precipitation because it could be rain, snow or ice!  This is why it is good to plan your fall projects with room to adjust with the weather.


When we are fortunate enough to have sunny  days go out and rake those leaves!  As I discussed last month it is very important to get the leaves off your lawn. And if you use a professional to do the work it is not a bad idea to walk around your property to look for any damaged trees and shrubs.  That way you can prune back any branches that need it or alert your landscape crew to do so.

On those days that are not as conducive to being outside, now is a good time to take inventory of your gardening equipment.   If you are a very orderly person this should only take a few minutes.  But if you are like me it may take an afternoon to sort through the various items and clean them up for winter storage. Also it gives you an opportunity to see what needs to be replaced.   And if you are not as orderly as some, this might be a good time to consider getting some peg board to hang your tools or some other system so when spring comes next year you will be ready to go!

So even though it seems like landscaping time is on hold over the winter it really is not!  Late Fall and Winter are the perfect times to plan, prepare and possibly purchase!