Wednesday, May 16, 2018


ASPARAGUS   by Doug Niemeyer

            The stuff just tastes like it’s good for you, and it is!!
            People back in the olden days saw asparagus as a Spring Tonic. After a long winter, pickins in the root cellar got kind of slim; and, things aren’t quite as fresh and abundant as they were in the fall, or early winter for that matter. Even the nutritional valve starts dropping away the longer it calls the subterranean vault its home; but even an elderly potato is better for you than a newborn Twinkie.
            Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable, even though the kids might not agree. Not only is it good for you, it is a perennial; that means it comes up every year whether you plant seeds or not. It is the first vegetable you harvest in the spring, and will last as a harvestable vegetable until other crops take over your dinner table.
            Its care basically involves planting it right, which we will talk about next. Weeding involves some in the spring, but is reduced as the summer progresses for the thick mature fronds choke out a lot of sunlight to what’s under them on into the  fall.

            Spring time and planting are the most important parts of growing asparagus. You can start them from seed but buying roots, or crowns as they are called, to plant is the best planting plan. One year old crowns can be purchased on line, by mail, and from local garden centers.
Asparagus needs sandier soils in areas exposed to the full sun; clay soils are out of the question; clay doesn’t drain well. You can create a sandier environment in clay however, but it takes a lot of work. Dig the trench 16 inches wide by 20 inches deep with a perforated drainage tile in the bottom of the trench; do not use any of the clay as backfill. For those blessed with good drainable soil the trench or trenches you dig are 12 inches deep by 12 inches wide.

Once dug, put a three inch layer of composted manure in the bottom, and mix it well into the soil. Take the Asparagus crowns and place them in the trench 18 inches apart; multiple trenches should be spaced three feet apart. Cover them with two inches of sifted compost humus soil and water in well. Throughout the summer the trench should be filled in gradually with an original topsoil / compost mix. If these directions are followed you will have a viable asparagus bed for years and years and years.
The big temptation, this year and the following spring, will be picking the new spears. Don’t give in to this temptation, the roots need these first year spears to grow up and develop into fronds that catch the sunlight and strengthen the root for next years production. No fronds, no sunlight catchers; no sunlight caught, no energy for the root; no energy for the root, no root eventually. So don’t pick any this year or the next!
Picking in the second year can happen until they get “pencil thin”. Once the spears start getting pencil thin, stop! Let these grow up and become energy suppliers for the root. As the years click by the picking season will get longer and longer, leveling off in about five to six years. But the “pencil thin” rule still applies; I can’t stress enough that you need some summer growth to rejuvenate the crowns for next year.

As for harvesting, some cut, some snap; we snap them. We find if you snap the spears off you harvest only the tender part of the Asparagus, leaving the woodier part in the garden.
Bugs in your asparagus bed revolve around the Asparagus Beetle; but they only become a problem if the fronds and the beetle eggs they host, are allowed to over winter. This is why good fall cleanup practices are a must. Cutting and burning the dried up fronds in the late fall is your best defense. If you can burn them, I guess the land fill is your second best option; just get them away from your garden and into something that traps the little buggers forever.

Lastly, adding compost directly over the crowns in the early spring will add nutrients to the soil; always a plus when growing these heavy feeders.
After saying all this, I don’t want you to get the impression that growing asparagus is tough, it’s not. I am just explaining to you its best growing environment. I have seen healthy robust asparagus growing on old, “long been torn down” homesteads properties and abandon city gardens. Something this hard to get rid of must be meant for our consumption.
Whether you pickle them, fry them, freeze them, steam them, cook them, or just plain eat them raw, you will never find a more healthy vegetable anywhere than this funny looking thing call asparagus.
Tune in this fall when I will talk to you about another childhood favorite, the vegetable that gets you ready for winter, the last harvestable veggie of the season, the Brussels Sprout. Yea Baby!!

If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at or post a comment on this Blog

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

      "Think Spring"
      We start hearing that in April, sometimes in March when the thermometer pokes it's nose over the fifty mark. But then it snows and we get all bummed thinking it's
 a fluke of nature... No, this is what happens in Spring, it snows and gets cold. Yes, sometimes it gets warm and sunny, but don't get your hopes up. Yes, sometimes the Crocus come up early on the south side of the house. But that doesn't mean you start harassing the Garden Center people on why they might only have pansies out (pansies are the only annual you can plant now, but they will croak in the summer heat) but none of the rest of their annuals yet.
     I believe the Crocus is perfectly named as a reminder for when we get a little antsy and want to rush the spring planting schedule. It's name speaks to us a warning and gives a voice to the tender annuals that people will plant too soon if they had their way. It says, "You will 'Croak Us' for sure if you think now is a good time to plants us tropicals outdoors!"
      Only the Crocus, Snow Drops, Bachelor Breeches, Grape Hyacinth and so on can take the wide temperature mood swings Spring can dish out. You throw a tropical annual like the Petunia, who calls South America home, out in this weather and you will be making another trip back to the store in May. These guys, and other family members of the rain forest, should stay in their climate controlled poly-houses until middle of May at least!
      If you are just itching to get out into the garden then do some of the Spring clean up chores like tilling under the leaves, or removing the mulch from around roses, or even spreading mulch in the landscaping. I know these are the back breaking non-glorious jobs, but they need to be done.
     You can start growing annuals in seed flats if you feel adventuresome. All you need are some very clean, flat, flower trays,with potting  soil, your seeds of choice of course, and a big sunny window on the south side of the house. Get a jump start on the vegetable garden, and finally be that Gardener that has the first red tomato of 2018!
     There are many things to do before it's actually annual flower planting time. Don't rush it, you'll only lose and spend unnecessary cash. Gardening is an exercise in patience, not a trip to the fast food joint.
     I know you want to get out there and do something colorful, something cheery, something that replaces the drab colors of what's left after the melting snow. And try as you might repeating that dumb little saying ;  "Think Spring Think Spring Think Spring!" Just know, "It Is"!
    If you want to chant something chant what you really want! Think Summer! Think Summer!

Monday, December 18, 2017


           The feeder or feeders are up and your feathered patrons are gracing your establishment in droves. There seems to be the right balance of "types" and "kinds", and not too many Blue Jays. Life is good and all's right with your world…. and then he wanders into your yard.

           He's cute at first, foraging innocently under the feeder, eating what the Blue Jay has incorrigibly tossed about. He's providing a service you say to yourself, by keeping the area clean of spring sprouting seed. You're pleased, he's pleased; pleased until the seeds are gone; and this is where your friendship with Mr. Squirrel starts heading south.

            You've noticed him looking at the feeder before, but you didn't pay it any mind. You assumed it was the movement of the birds. But now he seems to have a studious look in his eye, like he knows something; something you wish he’d forget. Then it happens; he makes his first move, he tries to shiny up the pole.

            At first you laugh as he entertains you with each failing. But you can't truly relax in the comedy, because, reluctantly, you've noticed he's gaining an inch or so with each climb.

            Then, as in the days of the Lusitanian or Pearl Harbor, it happens, he crosses the line, he tastes some of the forbidden fruit .........He has entered your feeder and you can't let him get away with this!!!!!  He's scaring away all the birds!!! THIS MEANS WAR!!!!

            So you think, mustering every brain cell into action and low and behold you come up with an idea; you Vaseline the pole. You laugh, you howl, you rejoice because of your over-sized brain; but your victory dance is cut short; the squirrel has found another way to torment your soul; he leaps from the deck.  No problem, you say, I'll just move the feeder.

            You move the feeder, he leaps from the fence,
you move the feeder he leaps from the roof,
you move the feeder, he leaps from the swing set,
you move the feeder, he leaps from the tree,
you move the feeder, he leaps from atop the kissing Dutch boy, using the Dutch girl to gain speed, enabling him to catching the corner of the feeder.
So you move it over a foot, but the claws of the squirrel have scratched up the heads of the two Dutch make out artists enough to give the squirrel more traction, thus gaining him more distance with each try and ultimately victory. So you move it another foot, but then he leaps from the fence again.

            The only place you have left is out back of the garage. This move will successfully keep the squirrel from enjoying your feeder but then you won't be able to enjoy it either. You're back to where you started. “Thinking Caps on”.

            OK, there's no spot in your yard that puts your feeder out of the squirrel's reach so let's put it back to where you can enjoy it from the warmth and comfort of your favorite window. If there's going to be a battle you may as well have the visual advantage.

            Reluctant to spend money on defense, you resort to materials on hand. Based on your observation you've notice that the squirrel lands on the same spot every time he leaps from your deck, sooooo let's make it difficult to land there, maybe even painful. Immediately your mind congers up impalement, (we could only hope).  Armed with that thought you head to the workbench.  With 3" nails (rustier the better) and a 5" x 5" block of 3/4" thick wood you construct your little "Bed-O-Nails" and screw it to the feeder.

            For the first time since this ugly squirrel incident started you hope he comes back. You sit by the window waiting. You eat your lunch there. You let the answering machine take your calls, you will sleep there if you have to, nothing or nobody is going to deny you this moment of revenge!!!

            And then it happens, you see him, slinking around the side yard, cautiously looking but oblivious to his impending doom.
He jumps to the deck, to the rail, and, without thought, onto the birdfeeder. You leap from your chair cheering as the squirrel falls to the ground.
You clap your hands with sadistic glee as you watch him limp off shaking his wounded paw. You confidently rejoice because of your very big brain. You have won, and to the victor belongs the spoils of quiet - uninterrupted bird feeding, free of Rocket J. Squirrel and his friends.

            Your night was sweet slumber; you woke with a song in your voice and a lilt in your step. Breakfast this morning is going be too glorious.  The smell of your coffee swirled around your senses as you sit to view the peace and serenity you worked so hard to achieve.

            Shock replaced peace, and horror consumed serenity as you looked up to see your old nemesis the squirrel, perched in your feeder eating away as if yesterday’s events never took place,
and to make matters worse he brought a friend. How did they get there? You shoo them away in order to watch their return. And then you see it; they just jumped to a different part of the feeder. Down to the workbench you go, to emerge with another nail deterrent, which you promptly screw into place.

            This works for about a day, but the squirrels, being a little wiser, find another place to land. After a week of plugging the landing holes you end up with a feeder brisling with nails (has a real warm, inviting look) which, ends up being a kind of "jungle gym" for the squirrels. They actually figured out a way to use them to their own advantage.

            You're desperate, you look over your options, shooting them is out of the question; you can't discharge a firearm in the city limits. A pellet gun would incur the wrath of your two charter members P.E.T.A. Neighbors (but later on you're ready to risk it).
Trapping has crossed your mind, but, during "sharing time" at your weekly neighborhood "Squirrel's Anonymous" meetings (you know the meeting, people in a circle, Hi my name is so-and-so, I've got a squirrels) you've discovered your neighborhood is riddled with them, all eager to take the places of those trapped.
A side note here: if you do decide to trap them you must put 10 miles and a busy expressway between your home and the drop-off, no lie, trust me.

            Well, it's time to finance this war, time to do some research, time to bring in the big guns.

            Research has shown you that for some, greasing the pole is effective. It will last until the persistent squirrel wears it off or turns it pebbly by his continued attempts. Temperatures in the teens renders it ineffective also. Teflon will last longer, thus giving more time to come up with a better idea.

            The "Squirrel Baffle" is the most common anti-squirrel device, but most are too small to be effective.  The squirrel will rough up the edges by clawing and biting at them thus gaining him a foothold.

If you wish to go the baffle route, you will need to get the biggest two you can find, mounting one above the feeder (deflecting leapers) and mounting one beneath (discouraging climbers).

            I could go on and on telling you about all the different devices and concoctions I've read about while doing the research for this article. You've got everything from chemical warfare to dart guns; how to use pop bottles, slip tubes, old record albums, pulleys and robots. You've got people who swear by hand puppets, sonic rodent repellers, and putting super glue on peanuts. What they all have in common is that you get to measure the IQ of the squirrels in your neighborhood. The smart ones can figure out any of these devices in less than a day, while the ones of lesser intelligence may take up to three.

            There is one devise that has caught my eye, and has proven to be the most formidable foe in all squirreldum; it is the Electric Bird Feeder & Squirrel Zapper; pricey, but very effective.              Talking with the guys at Bird Watchers Marketplace on 3150 Plainfield convinced me that this one would work. The feeder comes in two sizes, a 20 lb. capacity, ranging in price from $119.99 to $135.00 depending on make and model; and a 5 lb. capacity for around $99.99.  A 9-volt battery supplies about a year’s worth of hefty wallops. The only negative feedback I have heard is the price, all other comments are praise. Don't worry about the birds, the beaks they have will not conduct electricity.

            Feeding the birds is very enjoyable; doing battle with a squirrel can be maddening. Go ahead; try to conquer this formidable foe with your cheap tricks and potions. Throw your pennies, maybe nickels or even a couple quarters at him, he'll just laugh at you.... In the end, if you're serious, you'll bring out the heavy equipment. Trust me, THIS IS WAR!!!

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


Sunday, June 18, 2017


            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.


            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 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

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.


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 A daily gardening Blog is also available with timely information for your perusal. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017




    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.


    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.


   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.


   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 A You Tube enhanced version of this article is on our WEB site at 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.
            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 A You Tube enhanced version of this article is on our WEB site at along with a daily gardening Blog with timely information. Also, like us on Facebook at Niemeyer Landscaping.