Sunday, June 18, 2017

MULCH: STONE AND BARK GROUND COVERS:

            Does the homestead look abandoned because of the weeds in the landscaping? Do you try to keep them clean out, but in a couple weeks see them poking their mischievous little heads out of the soil?

   A ground cover of either stone or bark will help eliminate this problem.

BARK:

            Wood bark may be used on all sides of the house. It contrasts well with light colored houses, and holds moisture in the soil longer; shallow rooted plants like Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and Japonicas do well with this as their Planting mix.

            There are a number of different kinds of bark products: shredded hardwood bark, fines or processed bark, redwood bark, cedar bark, red pine bark, cypress bark, wood chips, shredded wood and so on. All have a different look, they also have to be applied at least 3-4 inches thick if you are starting from scratch.

            Before you start, be sure to dig a 4" deep by 6" wide trench right next to your edging, on the landscape side. If you do not have edging, now, would be a good time to install it; it not only keeps the grass out, but also keeps the ground cover in.

            The trench will allow you to put a thick layer of bark right up to the edging. If you go ground level to ground level on both sides of the edging you will have to pile up the bark near the edging to keep the weeds down, and not see the dirt. You will find that the bark will constantly be falling out into the yard without this trench.

            Putting the bark down at 3-4 inches thick will smother out any weeds or seed wanting to grow from underneath, and make it impossible for them to get a foot hold on top because the first two inches dry out so fast.

            Do not put any plastic or weed cloth down. Bark breaks down and turns into dirt; and in two years you will have a rootable soil layer for weeds. A 2-inch layer of new bark every 2 years will not only freshen up the landscape but also keep the weeds under control.



           Above is the right way to mulch around trees

           There is a painted wood mulch on the market that seems to have a lasting capability of well over 3 years, I've seen some go as long as 4 if you don't mind a little fading. It's just less than double the price of shredded bark but can last Three to four time longer or more. It comes in three colors; brown, tan, and a redwood color.

            Stone products come in a wide variety of looks as well. Most Garden centers with handle 1"-2" stone, 2"-3" stone, limestone, and red or black lava rock. Places like Grand Rapids Gravel stocking items like pea gravel 1" stone, and cracked stone.  Some Garden Centers handle several kinds of colored stone, but after looking them all over you haven't seen one that catches your eye, give The Stone Zone a try on Remembrance west of Wilson in Walker they have the largest selection I know of.

            The procedure is about the same as the bark in regards to trenching, but there are some things that are different.

            Stone should not go on the south side of a house. The intense summer heat bakes the stone to a point that the night hours are not long enough to cool it back down, thus the roots never get a break from the heat.

            A big advantage to having stone is, it never breaks down, so plastic or fabric can be used to eliminate the weed problem. If you are using plastic be sure to cut big enough hole around the plants for watering; usually a foot out from the center of the plant will be sufficient in the case of new plantings. An application of stone 3 inches thick would be enough to hide the plastic or weed cloth; any more stone would be a waste.

            To figure out how much stone or bark you will need multiply the width of your area by the length and divide by 80 if you are going to spread bark; and 100 if you are going to spread stone.

            A little time and sweat spent now will save a lot of time, sweat, and frustration later.


If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at NiemeyerLandscaping@Gmail.com or post a comment on this Blog. And like us on Facebook at Niemeyer Landscaping. For more Landscape and garden info and pictures on the subject check us out at www.NiemeyerLandscaping.com

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dried Flower Garden

Aug 5, 08 – June 11, 17

DRY FLOWER GARDENING          by Doug Niemeyer

Most people think “indoor arrangements” when Dried Flowers are mentioned; and I will talk about this in some detail. But Dry also pertains to plants in the outdoor landscaping as well.
When laying out Landscaping Designs at this time of year we tend to only think about the flowers and leaves visible during these warm weather months. If we can even bring our minds back to winter life, our minds have a tendency to conjure up being squirreled away indoors huddled around the heating vents. And, if our mind’s eye can see its way outdoors for a quick peek it will tend to focus only on the snow drifts and swirling blizzard conditions it remembers. But, and this is a big important landscaping “but”, it is this very snow on these dried plants that makes them look pretty cool out there in the landscaping.
For instance, plants like the Stonecrop and Brilliant Sedum have flower heads and leaf stems that become very ridged and strong after they have dried up in the late fall; ridged enough for quite a load of snow. The same goes for Ornamental Grasses; their seed tufts wear a jacket of snow quite nicely if it’s not blowing like a big dog out there.
The same is true of Cockscomb, Black-eyed-Susan’s, Coneflowers and others that I will list below. But (again with the buts), I do have to warn you that it is upon the seed pods that this snow is resting; and the key word here is “seed”. Seeds sprout, seeds the birds miss. Your fresh applications of spring bark should smother a lot of them out, but some will pop to the surface for your viewing or plucking pleasure.
Bare stems also add to the winter landscaping. Shrubs like Red Twig Dogwood and Yellow Twig Dogwood display a different stem and twig color not usually seen in the plant world. Coral Bark Japanese Maples do the same to the eye.
Bark oddities are better displayed in the winter months. Paper Birch and River Birch shed their bark in sheet type strips like botanical lizards. Burning Bushes get their name for how bark looks after the fire. Witch Hazel, also known as the Corkscrew bush, produces twigs and branches like its name as well; take your pick, Twigs like a witch’s hair or twigs and branches like a bush full of corkscrews.

Now let’s talk about taking some of that outdoor stuff we’ve enjoyed this summer and drying it for indoor use. There are three different methods used to accomplish this if you have the right plant specimens.
The first drying method, and the easiest, is Air Drying.
With air drying you don’t need any special equipment or materials, just a warm, dry, dark room; the only limitation - not all flowers dry well.
Air drying is best done in bunches, hanging upside down. Take six-ten stems, strip off the leaves (unless you would like to see how they dry), and wrap a rubber band around the cut end of these stems tightly, for the stems will shrink as they dry. You will know when they are dry when you can snap a stem crisply in two, and that will be in roughly two to three weeks. 
If you don’t have a space to hang them, or dust is a problem, place them loosely in shoe boxes or any covered box lined with tissue paper.
Some perennials like Globe Thistle and Baby’s Breath dry better standing upright.
Desiccant Drying requires the purchase of a reusable clear plastic sand called Silica gel; a plastic box with an airtight lid will need to be secured as well. Anytime “stuff” needs to be purchased the required skill level goes up a bit. But the end product, in this case, will be noticeably better. 
To start, make sure your flowers don’t have any extra moisture droplets on them, it just over taxes the Silica gel sand. Put down a ½ to 1 inch layer of silica sand in the bottom of the box. Lay your flowers and leaves on top of this layer of sand, making sure no plant parts are touching each other.
Fill in and around the flowers and leaves with more silica until all plant material is covered, then add an additional ½ to 1 inch layer of silica. Arrange the next layer of plants on top of this layer, cover them with silica; add an additional ½ to 1 inch to ensure good coverage and repeat this layering until you either run out of silica gel sand, plants, or your box is full.
Desiccant drying is faster than air drying by about one to two weeks. Tilt the box to get the silica to run off a leaf or flower; if it’s crispy or papery they are done.
Desiccant-dried leaves and flowers can absorb home humidity. Hair spray or a petal sealant can help them remain dry; but you can put them back into the silica gel sand too.
You can revitalize your water saturated silica sand by putting it into the oven for the prescribed time the instructions state.

Microwave drying is the fastest, and is done in combination with silica gel sand; but only one layer at a time.
You will need a Microwave friendly pan and the same “laying out of the flower and leaves” procedure as mentioned in Desiccant drying. The only difference is you will not be able to put multiple layers in the Microwave friendly pan. 
Drying time is around two minutes, depending on the amperage or strength of the microwave. You will need to keep a close eye on the first couple of drying attempts, over micro waving will burn the plants. By writing down your successes, and occasional failures, you will catch on pretty fast as to what each plant’s needs are. You will also need to place a cup of water, in a dish, in the microwave, next to the drying plants; this will protect the microwave’s magnetron tube. 
Below is a list of plants suitable for drying.

PLANTS HIEGHTBLOOM TIMECOLOR      

Baby’s breath     3 ft   July-Sept          Lt. Pink  
Delphiniums     3-5 ft    June-July                Blue, White, Purple
Globe Thistle    4-5 ft     July Sept               Blue
Lavender     18 in.     July Aug         Violet-blue
Lilium lilies 2-4 ft     June- Aug.                   Many Colors
Purple Cone Flower    3 ft     July-Aug          Rosy Pink
Pearly Everlasting     2 ft     July-AugWhite
Sea Holly     2 ft     July AugBlue
Statice     18 in     July-Sept    Lavender-blue
Wormwood   3-5 ft   Foliage only       Soft gray-green, feathery
Yarrow   2-3 ft     June-Aug       White, Yellow, Red

Flower and Leaf Drying is a way of putting before you a reminding glimpse of what lies ahead, my means of what lived in the past; while enjoying it in the present.



If you have any questions, or would like to see the You Tube enhanced version of this article, visit my WEB site at www.NiemeyerLandscaping.com. A daily gardening Blog is also available with timely information for your perusal. 



Sunday, June 4, 2017

THINGS TO DO IN JUNE:


               

VEGETABLES:

    After cool-weather crops are spent, till soil in preparation for fall vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Stake or cage tomatoes before they become too large. Plant okra and a second crop of lima beans, green and yellow beans, zucchini, and corn. When melons begin to "vine", feed with garden fertilizer, manure or compost; also feed asparagus.

   Feed peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini when they blossom. After the soil has warmed thoroughly, mulch tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, okra, melons, and squash with grass clippings. Keep your eyes open for insects. Eliminate the first Mexican Bean Beetles and Squash bugs you see to prevent bigger problems later. Cutworms are responsible for the broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower plants lying on their sides with a bite out of their stems. Remove the chewed plant; dig around with your hand and find the little bugger a destroy it. Placing a paper collar around the transplant will provide safety. The collar must be pushed a half-inch into the soil.  

   Tomatoes will produce blossom end rot if you water heavy before a soaking rain, so water only if you have to. If you are growing tomatoes in a container on your deck, do not fertilize them with the same stuff you water your flower baskets with, the heavy nitrogen will cause black spots; use tomato food.

   Watch the onions. When 3/4 of the tops fall over, knock the remainder over, expose the tops of the bulbs and allow to dry for 2 weeks in the garden.

   Start controlling earwigs and slugs now.

 FLOWERS & SHRUBS:

    As soon as spring-flowering shrubs have finished blooming, prune as needed. Cut dying flowers from lilacs before seedpods form. Take root cuttings of mums, phlox and lavender. Divide bearded irises after flowering.

   Early in the month, plant tuberous begonias, cannas, gladiolus, and dahlias. Set out annual bedding plants. As shrubs finish flowering, feed with compost or fertilizer (14-7-7) and apply mulch. Feed for the last time, acid-loving plants such as Azaleas, Camellias, Japonica, Mt. Laurel, and Rhododendrons with fertilizer made just for them, then mulch with oak leaves, pine needles, wood chips, or bark.

   Feed roses with good high middle numbered rose fertilizer: spray them with a multi-purpose fungicide every two weeks.

   Pinch back early planted annuals like petunias, snapdragons, blue salvia, verbena, and mums for bushy growth later.

   Let tulips and other spring bulbs leaves die back naturally, but clip out the seedpod formed by the flower. Dig up the bulbs that flowered poorly this year and thin them out.

   If this is the forth layer of bark you are putting down, apply a thin layer of lime before you but this top dress of bark down. This will sweeten up the soil that is becoming quite acid due to the continual bark application over the years. Do not apply lime when Rhodos, Azaleas, Yews, Holly, and other acid loving plants are present.

FRUIT TREES:

   Keep strawberries picked and watered. Pull any that show signs of powdery mildew or rust. Soak newly planted stock once a week if the spring has been dry.

   After the June drop, thin remaining apples and peaches to 6 to 8 inches apart and plums to 4 to 6 inches apart. Thinning grape clusters may prevent black rot later in the season.

   Feed trees with fertilizer or compost. Check all trees, vines and bushes for insect pests. Start control measures now to keep populations low and to increase chances of harvesting unblemished fruit. How often should you spray? Every time you think about it.

   Water and mulch blueberries.

LAWN:

   June can be a good month to sow grass seed. Keep seeded area moist but not puddled. A seed starter fertilizer will give the grass seed a jump on the weed seed that may blow in later.

   A weed-n-feed fertilizer can be applied the first of the month, when broadleaf weeds have leafed out.

   White grubs can be controlled now with products containing Dylox and Offtenol. These products will not kill your earthworms.

   If you have questions NiemeyerLandscaping@gmail.com A You Tube enhanced version of this article is on our WEB site at www.NiemeyerLandscaping.com. along with a daily gardening Blog with timely information. Also, like us on Facebook at Niemeyer Landscaping.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

IRRIGATION: Parts 1 & 2 by Doug Niemeyer


            “Without water nothing lives”. Not to profound a statement; in fact, kind of a no brainer.

            “Too much water and nothing lives”  Well, yea…. OK….. I can see that too, only lily pads live in a pond.

Yet these two swinging ends of the Hydro-pendulum account for most of the deaths to our botanical acquaintances.

We have Hostas rotting away because the Begonias in front of them need more waterings than once a month. Yews are getting pale and yellow because watering the grass patch to their right is putting them directly in the line of fire. But then, giving your yucca the environment it needs causes its neighboring Siberian Iris to wither away in the hot sun.

Automatic sprinkling is wonderful convenience, but, if it is done cheaply or with no thought to what is planted within its circles of influence, you will end up with plants that only like the settings your irrigation system is set for.

Sprinkling is not just about spraying water all over the place. Yes, coverage is important, but the “how’s, what’s, and when’s” of this coverage are the important parts of a good irrigation system.

To begin this odyssey into man-made rain making, certain preliminary things need to be found out and established before one piece of pipe or one hose clamp is purchased. As I researched for this article I received a wealth of information from Rick the plumbing and sprinkling guru at Gemmen’s; you too would be wise to pick this man’s brain before you start this project.


For those who have city water you will need to know the size of the water meter; newer construction is quite often 3/4”; older homes are typically 5/8”.

The size of the main line that runs throughout your house is number two; which is typically ¾” or 1”.

And lastly, the water pressure you have. This can vary depending on how close you are to the water tower, and your elevation. Gemmen’s, and I’m sure, other good hardware stores, rent water pressure measuring devises, and are simple to use. Knowing this will give you a gallons-per-minute total.

Armed with these three bits of information, let’s say the water meter is ¾”; the main line running throughout the house is 1” and your water pressure is 50 psi. Rick’s handy little Gallons per Minute Flow chart says you are generating 15 gallons per minute. By knowing this you can determine how many and what kind of heads you can put on a zone.

Zone? What is a zone? If your whole yard could be sprinkled by one sprinkler you wouldn’t need underground irrigation, but since it takes multiple sprinkling heads to adequately water your lawn and landscaping you will need to divide this number of heads into zones so as to not run out of water volume and water pressure. A typical system is around 5 to 8 zones.


People with wells will get their “PSI” number by watching their line mounted psi gauge. This gauge will show them their maximum (pump stops) and minimum (pump starts up again) water pressure.

Your minimum and maximum numbers are not the numbers you will be using; you want to know what pressure your well pump will hold at, the needle going neither up or down when a certain number of faucets are running.

This psi “holding pressure” number is found out by first turning on all outdoor faucets, then, one by one, turning on some of the indoor faucets. Let’s say with just the outside faucets are on, your well pump still shuts off because it comes up to maximum pressure. It still comes up to max pressure and shuts off with the two bathtubs running. But when you turn on the kitchen sink your gauge stays right at, let’s say, 40 psi; it doesn’t go up or down. But when you turn on one more sink faucet the 40 psi gradually drops, the pump can’t keep up. 40 psi, in this scenario, is your constant pressure number.

I must add here that both city and well folk’s psi gets chewed into a bit because of the irrigation piping you will be using. The water friction, or restriction, within any size water supply pipe is a 9th grade physics class fact. But as you will see, as the pipe gets larger, the friction gets less; which in turn means a smaller bite into the gallons per minute equation you will be figuring out below.

These supply pipe friction loss findings are on a sheet that Rick supplies at Gemmen’s, but to show you an example of this, here is a typical scenario off that sheet for a 14 gpm system.

For every 100 feet of ¾” pipe used, you lose 15.46 psi, so you don’t want to pipe your whole system with this; you do use this pipe when you split off to your heads a short distance away from your bigger main line. For every 100 of 1” pipe you lose 5.08 psi; quite a drop from ¾”. If you use 1 ¼” it drops to a 1.34 psi loss, now we getting into main trunk type piping.   At 1 ½” you will loose .63 psi for every 100 feet; and at 2”, .19 psi. So keep in mind the length your pipes and their diameter sizes; this must be subtracted from your total psi house water number before you plug that number into Rick’s Gallons per Minute Flow chart.


In order for well people to get their “Gallons per Minute” they must continue to keep the above mentioned faucets running and go to each one with a gallon container and time how long it takes to fill it up. Let’s say the south side outdoor faucet took 20 seconds to fill. That means 3 gallons per minute (60 seconds divided by 20 = 3 gpm). The north side faucet took 28 seconds (little farther away from the well’s pressure tank); this one measures 2.14 gpm. The downstairs tub took 15 seconds, that make 4 gpm. The upstairs took 21 seconds, that’s 2.85. And the kitchen faucet took 35 seconds, which translates into 1.7 gpm. Add all these up and you get your wells gpm capacity, 13.7 gpm at 40 psi. But after you figure up all the pipe you are using throughout your yard, 20 feet of ¾”, 150 of 1 ¼”, and 50’ of 1 ½” you must subtract 3.09 psi for the ¾” (100 / 20 = 5 / 15.46 = 3.09), 2.01 psi for the 150’ of 1 ¼ , and .315 for the 50’ of 1 ½”. That totals up to 5.415 psi that needs to be subtracted. That leaves you with around 13.7 gpm at 35 psi. for the well people and 13 gpm at 45 psi for the above mentioned city folk.


Underground sprinkling must be divided up into two separate areas; your grass and your shrubs; these two areas are as different as night and day. Grass can, for the most part, handle water on a daily basis, shrubs, trees, and perennials cannot.

If you are dealing with new construction you will want to know exactly where the grass, landscape and flower beds will be; an established homestead has all this clearly grandfathered in.

A side note here about new construction, the best order of outside events is to work out  from the house; this way nobody is walking on the other guys finished product. First is the spreading of the top soil, second is the establishing of the Landscape Beds and Trees; third is the irrigation, with hydro-seed or sod finishing the project.

A map to scale of your property will save you gobs of time. Use a 1 inch equal 10’ or 1/10th scale as you draw your property lines. Then, to the same scale, draw in your house as it sets on your property. Add the landscaping, sidewalks, and driveway all to scale. As well as decks, swing sets, plantings and gardens that set away from the house.


Gathering all this information should keep you busy this week. Next week we will get into the nuts and bolts (or pipe, wire, and clamps) of installing your irrigation system.

 
I trust everybody did their homework and found out what their Water pressure and gallons per minute are, if not, you must go back, and read last week’s article. It is so important to get these two bits of info, without them your watering system will not work right.
Let’s start with lawn watering. Coverage here is important, you don’t want dry areas; but then big wet overlapping areas don’t make any sense either. With the many different sizes and styles of sprinkler head available you will be able to dial this in with a great deal of precision.
The “big gun heads” will cover big areas and should be used in your big areas, but not as the sole source of your watering. You are dealing with circles, radiuses, diameters. These geometric shapes are not the best for even coverage. Either you will have large dry areas with a smaller water bill, or large wet areas with a large water bill, which then, because of the cash draining away from your wallet, turns into a smaller water bill again, but with a big huge dry area.
Heads are expensive, and yes the more heads you have, the more it will cost you now; but, a well laid out sprinkling plan, one that makes every drop count, will pay for those extra heads quickly; especially for you folks hooked up to city water.
Heads come in all kinds of sizes and types, their performance changes under different pressures though. Let’s say you are installing Nelson 6000 series heads. The #4 nozzle at 50 psi will shoot a 34 foot radius at a rate of 1.7 gallons per minute. This same head at 35 psi will shoot 31 feet at 1.4 gallons per minute, at 20 psi, 30 feet at 1 gallon per minute..
The 1.7 gallons per minute this #4 head will throw lets you know that you can easily put 8 of these heads (1.55 x 8 =12.4 gpm total) on a zone without compromising the 45 psi water pressure, or the 13 gpm it is generating. See how important knowing your water pressure is. It lets you know how far to place the heads
But, if you went with the #11 nozzle, your radius will be an impressive 47 feet at 45 psi, but your water consumption will rise to a hoggish to 7.25 gallons per minute, making it impossible to put two of these overachievers (7.25 x 2 =14.5gpm total) on a zone. Better then to drop down to the #10 nozzle which still gives you a 46 foot radius but only spits out 6.1 gpm; totaling your GPM, for two heads, to 12.2 gpm; well under the 13 gpm you have to spare. You will not only find all this information on the heads themselves, but where you purchase them generally has a sheet with all the heads, and their capabilities, printed out for you.
Now, armed with your “heads of choice” information sheet, you can start cutting out sprinkling radius circles to scale, to fit the areas that need watering on your property drawing. Overlapping is necessary to achieve good coverage, but excessive overlapping is a waste of water. Keep in mind that many heads come with a modifiable ability, be it streams distance, or the ability to travel a complete 360 degrees or down to 5 degrees only.
Take the time this “fitting of sprinkling radiuses” needs; you will again save yourself gobs of time.
Landscape irrigation will be our next area focus.
I am not a big fan of heads in the shrubs and perennials. They would do the job if they were on three to six foot extenders, but this has not been my experience. They are generally installed as if the landscape plants were not going to grow any taller than the lawn grass. The heads are typically rendered ineffective behind shrubs or taller than expected perennials; which in turn kills the plant by either drowning it or blowing the leaves off it.
The best irrigation method is by way of a Dripper or Emitter line system. A determined length of  ¾” black pipe is place centrally throughout the landscaping, with little hoses secured into the left or right sides of this ¾” pipe. On the ends of each little hose is either a valve that can be adjusted or shut off, or a set of prongs that allow different amounts of water flow, as well as being able to stop the flow of water all together. Like I said in the beginning different plants have different water needs; this method gives you the best control in this area.
Another way is the use of weeper hoses and how they are placed.
A weeper hose is a hose that allows water to “weep” through the hose walls. This method is a little more water wasting but can be installed quickly and with less cost.
Adjusting the water amounts to each plant kind of goes as follows. For instance plants that like a lot of water, Red Twig Dogwood, Siberian Iris ect., loop the weeper hose around them twice. Plants like Yews and most evergreens  like the hose to run next to them but no looping. Water storing plants such as Sedums, Yuccas, Daylilies and bulb type plants like to left out completely, our average rain fall takes care of them nicely. Most everything else likes a loop or half a loop of hose.
Either method can be hooked up to a zone of its own.
I know I have spent a lot of time talking about things that haven’t put drop one of water on your grass, but the things mentioned so far are the most important part of your sprinkling system, trust me.
Now let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of installing your irrigation system.
First on your list is to call Miss Dig at 1-800-482-7171 especially if you will be using a pipe puller; Miss Dig requires three day notice. If you don’t call and you rupture a gas line or cut a phone cable or electric line you will pay for its repair. If you run the puller over a flagged area and damage one of these lines you will pay for its repair. If you damage a line in an area that is not flagged due to a mistake by Miss Dig you will not be held liable. If you did some damage hand digging you will not be liable for you took the necessary precautions when burying your pipe in a flagged area; but be careful, just because it’s flagged it doesn’t mean you can shovel around like a mad man.
Next, buy all the things your scaled drawing has specified, pipe, heads, clamps, wire, valves, reduced-pressure backflow preventer, ball valve, and controller.
With parts purchased and laid out in your yard, start placing the heads according to your drawing out in your yard. Now your 1 ½”  main lines can follow a path through them, allowing you to use as little pipe as possible. “Hand trench” or “pipe pull” with a machine, this 1 ½” pipe into the ground about 12 inches; leaving enough pipe to attach to the Pressure Vacuum Breaker which will be mounted typically on the house twelve inches above the highest head in your system.
This Pressure Vacuum Breaker keeps the potential of contaminated water from siphoning back into your drinking water. It is important to tap this into your house’s main cold water line. It is even more important to make sure this Preventer is mounted 12 inches above your entire system.
A Reduced Pressure Backflow Preventer may be used in areas where a Pressure Vacuum Breaker becomes unsightly due to the 12” height requirement. It must be installed in an area not subject to flooding, and accessible for inspection or repair. It must also be protected from freezing, which will result in internal damage.
With the main in place, trench in, or machine pull, the 1 ¼” lines that go to the zone valve boxes throughout the yard. Color coded wires follow along this pipe but will most likely start from the garage area or some other location different from the Reduced-Pressure Backflow Preventer.
These different colored wires are hooked up to a control box that turns on the different zones you have established. Every wire color is a different zone with a single white wire being the “common” neutral wire that completes the circuit from zone to zone; you don’t have to run separate white wires to each valve zone. Most likely you will have to trench from this controller box location, making a beeline to the first zone valve location; from there you will follow the main zone pipes to the different zone valves boxes, leaving a continually connected white wire and a different colored power wire at each valve box along the way.
From there trench or pull more 1 ¼” water lines from each zone valve location to that zones series of heads. From this zone main hand dig out to each individual head’s location using ¾” pipe.
Cut the pipes to the right lengths and hose clamp them to all heads and valves, and attach wires to the valves. Fill in the trenches, pressing the soil into place, especially around the heads. Lastly hook up the wires to your controller box.
There are some tips that that can take some of the potential frustration out of the mix. One is to clean out the lines before you install the heads. This can be messy but it does add years to the heads. Let the water run for a few minutes, this will flush any dirt out. The other tip is to install your system (if possible) so it all drains to one lowest point. This makes it easier to  winterize the system. You may need a transit for this, and it will take some extra time if your yard has very little elevation drop, but it is worth it, for most systems need to be blown out with compressed air professionally.
            I have also found a very helpful web sight on this subject, you can’t have enough input in matters like these.  www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/gardening/3044261.html
            Maybe after reading this it just sounds too overwhelming, there are many reputable irrigation companies out there that will do a fine job. At least in reading this you have become just a little wiser when it comes to irrigation.

   If you have questions NiemeyerLandscaping@gmail.com A You Tube enhanced version of this article is on our WEB site at www.NiemeyerLandscaping.com. along with a daily gardening Blog with timely information. Also, like us on Facebook at Niemeyer Landscaping.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

GROWING TOMATOES:                                        by Doug Niemeyer

            The tomato is probably the plant most widely grown by home gardeners. A fine source of vitamins A and C, the common tomato is easily grown in almost any back yard garden. But to grow them, automatically puts you into the silent world of Neighbor against Neighbor, Gardener against Gardener.
             Attitudes of being jovial are just mere fronts; the real reason for your sudden interest in your neighbor's "fat-lady-bending-over-in-the-garden" decor is to check out how his "matoes" are doing.  You would sneak over under cover of darkness but the risk of being caught would bring irreversible shame on your abilities as a grower, so you resort to the darker side of gardening, the slimy underworld of "daylight espionage".
            Deep in our hearts we ask why is it so important that I have the first ripe tomato?
            We ask, why is my ability as a gardener hanging on the performance of this plant?                         Why is it that we treat this "race for the red" like it's written in stone somewhere, that failure to be victorious would bring about swift and grievous punishment?
            Why we ask? Tell us why? Why?
            I don't know? It’s been going on for generations. I remember our neighbor enjoying a brief moment of conquest until my mother, with a keen eye and a great disdain for losing, noticed the object of his boasting was really and red rubber ball.
            How childish, now petty, now insecure. Well keep on reading and I'll show you how you too can "stick it" to the gardener next door.

            To start with it would be good to note that the tomato originated in Mexico and South America. This information is important. Any time you try to grow a plant that is not native to our climate zone it would be worth your while to look at its natural habitat growing conditions. In these countries you have good spring rains with hot, dry summers; keep this in mind.

            To get the jump on old Gus the Gardener next door start your own seedlings indoors about the first of March, if you have a window at least 2 feet wide facing south. Or buy the biggest plants you can find at the Garden Center and keep them by the South facing windows until planting time.

            If you save this article for next year seed selections should center on these early varieties; Summerset, Oregon Spring, Santiam, Early Cascade and Early Girl. There are probably others so you may want to check your seed catalogs.
            Once you've received your seeds, find and fill an old, clean, flower flat with potting soil, not topsoil. Sow one seed per cell and cover it with a very light layer of vermiculite, you can obtain this at any good garden center. Water the flat by misting it with a very clean spray bottle until the flat feels heavy. With this done, stretch some saran-wrap over the top of the flat and place it in the oven, and turn on the oven light only. The light will keep the temperature between 75 and 85 degrees, perfect for germination, which should be in about 6 to 8 days.
            Watch them carefully; don't let them stay in the oven to long. As soon as they germinate take the flat out and remove the saran-wrap a place it under a simple, double bulb fluorescent shop light. These bulbs must be placed no more than 3 inches from the plants, and should be put on a timer set to stay on for 12 hour and be off for 12.
            As the plants grow move the light so they stay three inches from the foliage. When the plants reach about four inches high transplant the strongest ones into as many four inch pots as you would like or have room for in front of the window that faces south. I don't need to mention the “potting soil” again, do I?     
            When transplanting, give notice to the little hairs growing outward on the stem, each one of these are a potential root, more roots, stronger the plant. 
You can start introducing them to sunlight out on the sill; starting out at a half-hour a day and increasing it each sunny day by a half-hour.
            When they double their height, double their pot size area. For example four inch pot to six inch pot, then to eight inch, finishing them in ten inch pots; each time planting them deep to encourage the stem hair roots to grow. Of course your window sill will not be able to hold all the pots as they increase in size; just fine other sunny locations in the mean time.
            Fertilizing is very important and should not be overlooked or over done.
            Purchase water soluble, strong middle number types like Miracle Grow 15-30-15 Shultz 20-30-20 or Peters 10-50-10. Phosphorus, the middle number, is a root and bloom builder, stay away from fertilizers that have large first numbers (nitrogen) they will cause the young plants to bypass the fruiting stage and produce only leaves and weak stems.
            Fertilizing should go as follows; from cell flat to six inch pots water with half the manufactures recommended mix for container grow plants. From eight inch on up just follow the directions on the fertilizer container.

            When it comes time to put them out into the garden do this about as gradually as when you put them out on the sill. First day out in the sun for an hour, second day 2 hours, and so on with planting on a cloudy day if possible. Store bought plants can go directly into the garden, but keep plant covers handy if they call for a frosty night.
            Watering should be often in the spring to maintain at least an inch per week. During the summer months the natural occurring rains should be plenty but don't let a drought last more than 2 1/2 weeks.
            From here on the care is simple. Remove any suckers that would grow up in the fork of the stems. These vegitational leaches only sap energy from the stems that are producing the tomatoes. Fertilize with a granular type tomato food by following the directions on the bag.
            Tomato cages or tying up the vines on stout sticks not only makes for a neat and tidy garden, but supplies good air flow throughout the plants, and this will cut down on diseases.
           
            Tomatoes have a built-in insecticide called solanine that will repel many insect pests. One serious pest that seems to be immune is the tomato hornworm. This big green worm with white stripes and a vicious looking, but harmless horn sticking up on its back end, is easy to hand pick and destroy. Japanese beetles, cutworms, and Colorado potato beetles can also be a problem, but rarely; sprays and dusts are available if they become a real problem.
            Cut Worms take a bite out of young seedlings thus ending the plants life. A reader wrote in saying he uses plastic drinking straws, (bigger the better). He cuts them a 1 ½” long and slits them up the side and fits them on the stems. Because they are slit they will not constrict the plant as it grows.
            Nematodes or eelworms have neither brains or eyes and move around in the soil in what appears to be an aimless pattern. The pattern however, does have a direction, for they will head straight toward any root that is near them. Once they arrive, they pierce the root and feed on it, or lay their eggs in it, causing knots to form. The plant will then lose nourishment and become stunted, or die.
            *Nematodes can be discouraged by planting marigolds or even planting tomatoes in soil where marigolds grew the year before.
            *Blossom drop may occur wherever tomatoes are grown, but the trouble seems to be especially prevalent where soil moisture is low and the plants are subjected to hot, drying winds.  Such conditions prevent blossoms from setting fruit, as do sudden periods of cool weather or beating rains. Keep up the watering, tomatoes like an inch of water a week through June and a half inch every two weeks from July on.  
            *Blossom-end rot is a dark water-soaked spot that first appears near the blossom end of the tomato when the fruit is about 1/3 of the way to maturity. A deficiency of calcium is the basic cause of the trouble, but that condition is aggravated by excessive nitrogen. If you grow tomatoes in a pot don't use fertilizer high in nitrogen like Peter's 20-20-20, choose one with a bigger middle number.
            *Fusarium wilt has no known chemical control, for the fungus draws up into the plant and kills it from within; this means that no topical fungicides will touch it. It is characterized by an overall wilting of the plant, beginning with yellowing and death of the leaves from the base upward. The only thing you can do is purchase plants that have the letter F somewhere on the tray tag. This means this variety is a little more resistant. Rotation will help also; plant tomatoes in a different place next year.
            *Growth cracks just make the tomato look bad. They can happen when there is a lot of rain right after a hot spell, or a dry period followed by a heavy rain during the ripening season.
            *Leaf roll is due to very wet soil. If you have clay soil you may want to till some sand and peat moss into the clay. This will also combat soil rot.
            *Tobacco mosaic virus also called tomato virus comes in two strains. The green strain causes light and dark green mottling of the foliage with curling and slight malformation of the leaflets. The yellow strains cause yellow mottling of the leaves and sometimes of the stems and fruit, as well as curling, distortion, and dwarfing of the foliage.
            The virus is present to some extent in practically all cigar, cigarette, and pipe tobaccos, so smokers are very likely to carry the virus on their hands and should wash them with soap and water or milk before doing anything with tomatoes.
            *One last thing to mention is that tomatoes will not grow near a black walnut tree, because of the acid this tree gives off through their root system.
            When growing tomatoes keep these three things in mind; keep them up, either in cages or on a stick, keep them watered in the spring, keep them rotated.

            There you have it, go out and conquer! But remember “Play Fair” this isn’t a “blood sport ya know!


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