Can you make your dog and lawn coexist? Well, it’s a question many pet owners have, particularly those who really care about their landscaping and their furry family members. There are nearly 43.35 million households with dogs, averaging 1.6 canines per home, or about 36.5 percent of all homes in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
We love our pets and there’s plenty reason why. Dogs provide unconditional love, a whole lot of cuddly companionship, and even household and personal protection. But what about the dreaded brown spots left on your lawn? You try so hard to keep the grass well maintained, green and nicely cut, but still, you’re battling your dog’s call to nature, especially when it comes to urine. The good news is, yes, you dog and lawn can coexist.
About those Lawn Brown Spots
There are plenty of unexpected landscape, outdoor living costs, but this isn’t one many homeowners really think about. When you adopt or rescue a puppy or dog, you don’t really consider how it’s natural bodily function will interact with your lawn. That is, until you begin to see brown spots dotting your grass, here and there. These are usually attributed to “acid” in a dog’s urine, but that’s not actually the case. It’s the nitrogen which is produced due to protein breakdown of a canine’s diet.
Dog owners usually love having big yards where their pups can enjoy romping through the grass. Unfortunately, you may have noticed that it’s not always easy to keep your lawn green after Lassie does her business. Getting doused in dog urine can be a death sentence for your lawn, but there are actually several ways to prevent your pup from killing the grass. —Dog Food Insider
A dog’s diet is high in protein because it’s what helps to keep healthy. And, a lot of protein means a whole lot of nitrogen — quite similar to those nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizers so commonly found at seed and feed stores and home improvement retailers. While your lawn does need nitrogen to keep the grass healthy, it only needs a certain amount. Too much nitrogen will damage and eventually kill your grass.
How to Make Your Dog and Lawn Coexist
If you want to have your dog and lawn coexist, you need to do a few things. First and foremost, you should know which poisonous plants to avoid putting in your yard. This will help in preventing emergency trips to the veterinarian’s office and it’s also a way to help keep children and even adults safe. Dogs naturally love grass. Your yard is the perfect play and relaxation space. It’s full of interesting smells and a place to bask in the sunshine. Your dog loves the lawn, but not in the same way you do. When nature calls, your dog doesn’t rush inside to the nearest bathroom, after all, his or her waste space is right under his or her paws. Here’s how to deal with the situation:
- Dilute urine immediately. Although it’s cumbersome, you should immediately dilute the urine by watering the grass to lessen the impact of the nitrogen. Just a ten second application of water will do a lot to prevent the nitrogen from harming the grass. It’s not exactly convenient, but it will do much to alleviate the problem of brown patches.
- Create a pee-proof space. If you don’t want to incur the trouble of watering every time Fido does his business, build a pee-proof space, like a gravel, mulch, or artificial turf area. Though this will have an initial cost and take some time to train your dog to use this area exclusively, it’s one of the best ways to keep your lawn free of brown spots.
- Plant a different type of grass. Here in Sarasota, Bermuda grass is quite common for residential yards. But Bermuda, like Kentucky bluegrass, is sensitive to nitrogen. Although both Bermuda and Kentucky bluegrass need some nitrogen, more of it will cause browning.
- Don’t fertilize as much. Another thing you can do to reduce or eliminate brown spots is to fertilize less. The combination of nitrogen in fertilizer and urine is just too much for most grasses. However, if your lawn needs fertilizer, try applying it only to areas without urine.
- Give your dog supplements. This isn’t exactly a great solution, but it will probably help quite a bit. You can speak with your vet about giving your dog supplements which reduce nitrogen levels. Your vet will be able to tell you what’s safe and what to expect.
If it’s time to update your landscape or add replace your lawn, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.
While it’s cool outside and the grass is dormant, now is the time to check your sprinkler system for any problems. You might already know about specific issues or have a strong suspicion there’s something awry. Whatever the case, while the mild winter provides you with plenty of outdoor comfort, it’s time to take advantage of the weather and look at your lawn irrigation system.
How to Know when it’s Time to Replace a Lawn Irrigation System
Much like troubleshooting a swimming pool pump, an irrigation system is relatively straightforward. Though it does have several components, its operation is based on very simple principles. This means most problems are easily identifiable and not difficult to fix. With just a few common tools and a little patience, most repairs are do-it-yourself scenarios. But sometimes, it’s best to replace the whole irrigation system.
An automatic lawn irrigation system is the best way to keep your lawn looking fresh and green. Correctly designed and programmed, it’ll deliver the right amount of water to your yard— no more moving the sprinkler! But like any other system, it occasionally breaks down or requires maintenance. The good news is you can handle 90 percent of the repairs yourself, even without in-depth knowledge of the system. We’ll show you how to identify and fix the most common problems. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of working on a system that involves both plumbing and electricity. The pipes are plastic and much simpler to repair than the plumbing in your house. —The Family Handyman
Generally, a residential lawn irrigation sprinkler system will last, on average, about 10 to 15 to 20+ years. But this depends on how much use it gets, climate, and a number of other factors. Here in west-central Florida in sunny Sarasota, sprinkler systems get a lot of use. So, if your irrigation system is in this age range, it’s at least worth considering replacing it. One strong indicator replacement is smart is when repairs become more and more expensive. If the system is in need of constant repair, it’s generally time for a replacement.
6 Common Sprinkler System Problems
Sprinkler system problems typically occur in three locations: the heads, lines, and valves. Other common problems occur with the programmable control unit. These are generally due to mis-programming (user error) and can easily be fixed by resetting the system and starting over. Your irrigation system should water in the right places, distribute water evenly, and follow a proper schedule. But, these goals won’t be accomplished if there are issues with the system. Here are the six most common sprinkler system problems:
- Broken sprinkler heads. Sprinkler heads break for a two different reasons: wear and tear and mechanical damage. Over time, sprinkler heads wear out and this causes improper watering, leaking, and other issues. Also, lawn equipment and other mechanical damage may occur. Fortunately, replacing sprinkler heads isn’t difficult. But, be sure to replace with the same type, when necessary.
- Low water pressure. One sign there’s low water pressure is the sprinkler heads don’t pop up when the system is activated. This results in poor distribution and is generally caused by a leak in the head itself or the lateral line. But, it could also be due to poor design layout, resulting in less efficient water delivery to the head(s).
- Check valves. Irrigation systems are equipped with check valves, which are located in the lateral lines. These prevent water from leaking out, which in-turn allows for a faster startup time and stops run off when the system runs through its timed watering schedule. Replacing the head usually fixes this particular problem.
- Blocked heads. Brush overgrowth, fences, exterior walls, and other objects can block sprinkler heads. Repositioning the heads generally solves this problem. But it might be necessary to make other changes to the system’s layout and target areas.
- Clogged nozzle. Sprinkler heads can become clogged with dirt and debris. When this occurs, it results in poor coverage. Cleaning the heads generally solves this problem. Another solution is simply to replace the nozzle with the same model.
- Leaks. This is perhaps one of the most difficult problems to detect. An irrigation system might seem to function normally for some time before a leak is detected. In other instances, it’s very obvious there’s a leak in the lateral or other lines. Low water pressure is an indicator when there’s no water spewing from the ground.
If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, like a new deck, just go ahead and contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.
There are several common landscaping mistakes homeowners should avoid but kids’ lawn mower safety isn’t one of them. It’s something we don’t really think about because it’s just another household chore. Here in sunny Sarasota, the lawn mowing season is very long and active because when the grass isn’t dormant, it grows rapidly. During the spring, a lawn mow is only necessary about every two to three weeks. But during the summer, it’s a weekly task. That’s why it’s important for families to know some kids’ lawn mower safety tips.
Basic Lawn Mower Maintenance
While keeping children safe is a top priority, you’ve got to maintain your lawn equipment for it to deliver its best performance. So, try to keep its workload down to a minimum. You can partially accomplish this by avoiding the five most messy trees. Raking up organic debris, such as branches and leaves will help to lighten the load and these make for part of a wonderful composting recipe. Use those leaves, branches, twigs, and more to combine with some household throwaways, like coffee grounds and food scraps.
Sure, you may know how to mow your yard so it looks like a professional baseball outfield, but do you know how to mow it safely? Even if you’ve been mowing injury-free for decades, we have some safety tips that you may have never thought of, tips to help you continue mowing injury-free for decades to come. —Family Handyman
Also, you need to maintain your lawn mower with just a bit of basic maintenance. So, be sure to replace the air filter, spark plug, and gas filter, especially if it’s been stored away for the past several months. It’s a good idea to totally drain the gas at least once per year. Check the oil, clean out the undercarriage thoroughly, and sharpen the blades. All of these easy to do basic lawn mower maintenance will help keep that machine humming along and extend its usable lifespan. If you aren’t proficient with this type of work, you can always go to a local small lawn machine service shop and have it tuned up for you. While this might cost $50 to $75, it’s worthwhile if it prevents you from having to buy a new machine.
Kids’ Lawn Mower Safety Tips
Every spring, we drag our lawn mowers out, fire them up, and cut the grass. It’s something routine and we don’t stop to think about how truly dangerous these machines are to us, other adults, pets, and children. You might have experienced a rock hitting your leg, inflicting immediate, stinging pain, after it was thrown by the mower blades. Or, have faced the disappointment of finding a ding in your car door from pebble fired from the blades.
Those are small instances but it can be much worse. About 17,000 children are injured in lawn mower incidents every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Injuries include cuts, lacerations, burns, broken bones, amputations, and most unfortunately, death. This is why it is so important to know the following kids’ lawn mower safety tips:
- Keep young children inside. One of the simplest and most convenient ways to keep children safe from lawn mowers is to keep them inside your home. There’s just no good reason to allow children younger than 7 to 8 years of age outside while you’re mowing. This will help avoid injuries from flying debris or accidentally run over.
- Pick up all the lawn debris. Speaking of flying debris, it’s not fun and makes the lawn care all the more tedious and arduous, but picking up all lawn debris is necessary. The less loose debris, the less chance of an accident. The average lawn mower can catapult a small rock or piece of mulch at speeds of up to or over 200 miles per hour.
- Always safely store the mower. When the machine is running, it’s at its most dangerous, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. After you mow the lawn, the engine and exhaust remain painfully hot. In fact, most will be about 240 degrees for 1o to 15 minutes after use. That’s hot enough to inflict 2nd and 3rd degree burns.
- Don’t allow kids to lap ride. There’s a reason riding mowers only have one seat and not two seats — they are made to be operated and rode by just one person — not two people. Never allow lap riding because it’s too big a risk for serious injury to occur.
- Avoid delegating chores too soon. Some children, especially boys, will be eager to take on the chore of mowing the lawn. While this initiative is laudable, it’s a recipe for disaster, particularly for children age 12 years or younger.
If it’s time to update your landscaping, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.
Want to know how to kill crabgrass in your yard for good? It’s all about being proactive because this particular warm-season annual weed is a tough species. Digitaria or crabgrass, is a difficult thing to combat in your lawn. That’s probably not much of a surprise but it’s worth noting just how problematic it is to deal with, year after year.
There are three effective methods for killing crabgrass: using a pre-emergent herbicide, using a post-emergent herbicide, and organic control. The first two are more powerful but all three aren’t exactly predictable. It’s really a matter of experimentation to get the results sought. While this isn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement, it goes to show just how difficult killing crabgrass is to do.
About Digitaria or Crabgrass
Many people wonder why it is so hard to kill crabgrass. Well, digitaria, or crabgrass, is very adept at eluding control. This is because it is a warm-season weed that starts growing as the weather warms. Here in sunny Sarasota, winters are ultra-mild, but grass does still go dormant. Crabgrass is killed off in cold-weather climates during the fall and especially during the winter when frost, snow, and ice conditions appear. And, even though crabgrass isn’t truly drought tolerant, it’s very difficult to get rid of completely.
Crabgrass is a tough opponent, but with a lawn spreader, a pump sprayer and a few turf products you can get rid of crabgrass in the spring and control it throughout the summer. The best weapon you have against this annual weed is crabgrass preemergence herbicide (also called crabgrass preventer). You apply this product in the spring before the crabgrass seed sprouts. This granular herbicide works by creating a chemical barrier at the surface of the soil. As the seeds begin germination, they take in the herbicide and die. —Family Handyman
In a typical cold-climate cycle, crabgrass dies during the fall and winter, but that’s just the plant itself — not the seeds. During mid-summer through fall, digitaria produces its seeds. Then, when the spring soil temperatures reach between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (at a depth of 2 to 3 inches), those seeds germinate. Viola! Crabgrass now begins to grow freely, wreaking havoc on your beautiful lawn and rudely interrupting your landscaping.
How to Kill Crabgrass in Your Yard for Good
Although crabgrass is tough, it isn’t invulnerable. Because there’s very few times freezing conditions befall us here in west-central Florida, you’ll probably see digitaria just about the entire year. And even though it does go dormant in the fall through the winter, only the plant itself might die off. This however, doesn’t account for its seeds. And that’s where the battle must be fought in order to win. Here are some methods for how to kill crabgrass in your yard for good:
- Use a pre-emergent herbicide. There are several pre-emergent herbicide products available and you should ask your local nursery which are the most effective in killing crabgrass before it has a chance to germinate. Keep in mind that pre-emergent is just that — prior to the seeds germinating, so this a proactive measure. Irrigate after apply the pre-emergent herbicide and reapply the herbicide periodically. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t dethatch or aerate after application. Also, don’t use pre-emergent herbicide on new sod.
- Use a post-emergent herbicide. If you already have crabgrass growing in your yard, it’s still possible to kill off. However, this is a more difficult method because you’ll only kill the plant and not the seeds. So, you’ll see digitaria reappear and have to reapply more post-emergent herbicide. The challenge is to spot crabgrass in its infancy. Once crabgrass begins to germinate, you can no longer rely on pre-emergent herbicide and you’ll have to be careful with applying post-emergent herbicide so you don’t harm healthy grass.
- Use organic control. You can also control crabgrass by keeping your yard hardy. Healthy grass is a great partner to weaponize against the weed. You don’t have to use any chemicals but bare in mind, it’s very difficult to kill off otherwise. So, using a combination of pre-emergent herbicide and beefing up your grass is a winning combination to control crabgrass. Simply use a good fertilizer, don’t allow bare spots to linger, water deeply but do so less frequently, and mow high during the summer, leaving grass about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high.
The temperatures in Sarasota and Manatee have already dropped to some unusual lows and swung back to their averages. The weather phenomenon isn’t unexpected to those who have lived along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the Sunshine State, but what might be out of the ordinary is trouble with one of the most used landscaping machines, the leaf blower.
These come in electric and fuel models, when electric powered machines fail, that’s typically a sign it’s time to buy a new one because the cost of repair will likely be near or more than a new purchase. However, that’s not the case for fuel powered blowers, which, like all internal combustion engines, may not start or stay running from time to time. Because we live in a subtropical climate, a leaf blower is one lawn care tool that gets a lot of use, not just for leaf control, but to blow grass clippings away from the patio, driveway, and sidewalk.
Nothing can be more frustrating than to put in hours worth of work, only to reach for the last thing you need and discover it won’t start or won’t keep running. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a garden machine expert or a mechanic to get it to work again. The fixes are usually simple and straightforward, meaning you’ll be able to get back to your cleanup, which you might be doing wrong.
Raking Leaves for Better Lawn Health
It might surprise you to learn that what you think to be such a simple task tends to take so long to complete, raking leaves. Okay, so a combination of blowing leaves into a pile, then raking them into a bag or shoveling them into a bin. But just why, aside from aesthetics, do we rake leaves off our lawns? The answer is straightforward, a layer of decaying leaves might provide nutrients to the soil, which grass thrives upon, but leaves covering said sod will deprive it of sunlight, something very crucial to lawn health.
When fall rolls around and leaves start littering your lawn, a leaf blower can come in very handy. It can be pretty frustrating, though, when you try to use your blower and it doesn’t operate properly. While some issues may requires professional assistance, you should familiarize yourself with some of the more common leaf blower problems so you can troubleshoot the matter as quickly as possible and get back to blowing those pesky leaves off your lawn. —San Francisco Chronicle
Now, what about your health? Put another way, why does it take so much work to blow, rake, sack, a discard leaves in the first place? It takes a lot of time because you’re probably doing something that’s counterproductive. The most efficient way to use a rake or leaf blower is to place a tarp in the center of your lawn. Weigh or pin down all four corners, then, start in the left corner nearest your home’s exterior, and blow the leaves toward and onto the tarp. Next, do the same starting from the right exterior.
Once the tarp is covered in leaves, cinch it up and dump the contents into a compost bin or put the leaves into lawn bags and set the bags out to be picked-up. Another trick pros use is not to fret over every single leaf that doesn’t find its way to the pile. This is why it takes so long, trying to achieve unison perfection.
Tips for Leaf Blower Troubleshooting Tips
Now, if your leaf blower isn’t working, start with the most obvious problem, shortage of fuel. If that fuel has sat for some time and contains ethanol, it might be “stale.” Which means it needs to be disposed of properly, don’t just dump it down a storm drain. To get your fuel and oil mixture to last more than sixty days, add stabilizer to the combination and if possible, use at least 87 octane, ethanol-free gas. Here are some other tips for troubleshooting a leaf blower:
- Check the fuel filter. Fuel filters can become obstructed over time and must be cleared or replaced. This is simple to do and doesn’t take much time.
- Check the spark plug. If the spark plug is fouled and/or corroded, then it’s time to replace it.
- Check the air filter. An obstructed or dirty air filter will cause the engine to stall or not start.
- Check the impeller. The impeller is the “drive” of a leaf blower, performing the same functions as a fan. It if is cracked or obstructed, it won’t work and needs to be replaced.
If the problem is with insufficient air volume delivery, or, it doesn’t blow with force, the tube might be obstructed. With the engine off and cool, remove the tube and clear it out.
With a change of season right around the corner, many people will wonder how to reduce spring yard allergens in landscapes. Even here in sunny, southwest central Florida, throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties, most plants remain dormant during the winter months. But as spring draws near, plenty of pollen and other allergens will become quite common in your outdoor living space. So, it’s good to know some ways to reduce spring yard allergens in landscaping.
Common Spring Yard Allergens
The most common spring yard allergens are found in trees, weeds, and grasses. Killing off crabgrass is always a good idea, but it won’t do very much for allergy suffers as digitaria produces only mild allergens. However, there are plenty of others which fall into the severe allergen category. Among them are the following trees: Bluejack Oak (Quercus incana), Carolina Willow (Salix caroliniana), Eastern Poison-Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia), Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), Myrtle Oak (Quercus myrtifolia), Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Water Hickory (Carya aquatica), and Water Oak (Quercus nigra).
Prepping your yard can give you a head start on spring landscaping, but it can also mean suffering from seasonal allergies. Ragweed pollen and lingering mold can create double the symptoms for some allergy sufferers. “The daunting task of yard work can be favorable for allergy sufferers if they know how to reduce allergens in the areas surrounding the home,” said allergist Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Many people think you can only control the environment inside the home, but there are also precautions you can take to help eliminate allergens outside as well.” —American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Weeds producing severe allergens are: Annual Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), Chinese Mustard (Brassica juncea), Florida Pellitory (Parietaria floridana), Saltwater False Willow (Baccharis angustifolia), and Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus). While grasses which produce severe allergens are Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon) and Perennial Rye Grass (Lolium perenne).
How to Reduce Spring Yard Allergens in Your Landscaping
All the above trees, weeds, and grasses can really be difficult for allergy sufferers to cope with but it doesn’t end there. Pet dander, outdoor animal dander, pollinating plants, and dust are also notorious allergens. With so much potential exposure, it can be difficult to keep a landscape looking its best. But, there are measures you can take to lessen your exposure to allergens, both inside and outside your home. Here’s how to reduce spring yard allergens in your landscaping:
- Leave flowering plants outside. If you love springtime flowering plants, do yourself a huge favor and leave these outside. While it’s certainly tempting to bring them inside your home, you’re only adding to the number of allergens already present inside your house. By keeping flowering springtime plants outside, you’ll have less to worry about.
- Keep your home and pets clean. Often times, allergens hitch a ride into your home on clothing and pets. Both collect allergens and you unwittingly let them waltz right inside without even thinking about it. Keep all your outdoor clothing clean, including your shoes. Additionally, bathe your pets regularly. This will help to reduce pollen and it has the added bonus of reducing mold spores as well.
- Time your landscape work wisely. During the midday hours and on into the afternoon, the pollen count is typically at its highest. It’s best to garden and landscape during the early morning or even during the evening. Morning is the best time because the pollen count is usually low, due to early morning dew helping to tamp it down. Or, just after a rainstorm is another good time.
- Be sure to cover up your skin. Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants might not be your first choice, but it’s a good way to combat allergies with little effort. Wearing gloves is another good measure in your fight against allergens. When you’re done, be sure to wash what you’ve worn outside so it doesn’t linger in the house.
- Keep your grass mowed. This is perhaps the most simple and easy ways to combat spring yard allergens. Just the routine act of keeping the grass mowed will do quite a lot to lessen allergen exposure. By keeping the grass trimmed to about a 2 inch height, you’ll do much because it’s at the very top where grasses release pollen.
If a backyard oasis is on your wish list, you don’t necessarily need to be a landscape architect or a landscape designer to make that dream a reality. What you do need is a plan, which you can form by looking a various backyard oasis pictures online, in magazines and books.
Armed with some ideas and newly found inspiration, you should come up with a few kinds of backyard oasis designs, then either settle on the one you like best or mix and match the best elements. Even if you have limited space and are concerned about being able to cram all the elements and features you can’t do without, don’t worry, you’ll be able to get all or nearly all of what you want in a small backyard oasis. So, let’s take a look at what’s possible, and what will work best within your budget and skill set. These are important considerations because you don’t want the cost to get out of control and don’t want to labor far longer than you plan.
Things to Consider in Planning and Building a Backyard Oasis
The first consideration, obviously, is money. Come up with a budget you can afford, set that number, then subtract between 10 percent and 15 percent. That will give you a workable figure, plus includes a contingency, so, if there’s a problem or extra costs, you’ll have them covered. Another consideration is diversity of elements and features, because there’s future maintenance involved. You don’t want to create a backyard garden oasis that’s nearly impossible to keep-up and/or is a drain on your wallet to keep it looking great and on your utility bills.
Patios are usually surfaced with brick or stone. If you opt for concrete, consider adding texture and color to imitate stone for a more natural look. Design the patio to be an extension of your home’s architecture, and use planting beds, container gardens, and weatherproof furniture to decorate the outdoor space. —Better Homes and Gardens
Now, let’s talk about color, texture, and scope. All will have an impact on the final product. For instance, are you thinking minimalist or extravagant? Do you want it to resemble a beach, a desert, or a mountain valley? Is there going to be hardscaping? Will you have one or several backyard oasis pools? Lastly, think about your home’s decor and style. As the above quote suggests, you ought to extend your interior into the exterior for consistency. If the two clash, and you decide to sell in the future, you might have a challenge convincing potential buyers.
Backyard Oasis Ideas
Now that you’ve thought a bit more about the project, and you’re wondering how to create a backyard oasis, then here’s some great ideas you can use:
- Start from the inside of your home and work your way out. This little tip is a great way to practically guarantee you’ll keep consistent with the design. It’s also a great way to reign in disparate ideas that don’t really blend well together.
- Plant lush layers to create an illusion of depth. Think small to large and plan to plant in an order that makes sense for your space and to keep the work to a minimum. Plant small sized plants no more than a foot to 18 inches in height, than medium sized plants which are taller, and then large sized plants and trees.
- Include a water feature in your design. Whether its a small pond, a bird bath, a waterfall, or something else, water is a great feature because of its very nature to sooth. Running water is best for relaxation.
- Put down natural stone accents. These are a great way to “break up” various elements and separate features. They also provide functionality for foot traffic.
- Make it private, using a combination of greenery and vines. Bamboo is also a good way to make your backyard oasis a bit more private.
- Don’t forget about the wildlife. Birds and butterflies can be a welcome addition, as well as pests. Choose what you plant carefully or you might attract pests.
If you want to design and build a backyard oasis but are having troubling with the planning and/or execution, then contact us. We are the leading landscape design and build firm in the Sarasota area and will be happy to assist you with creating a great outdoor space you can enjoy for years to come.
Punk trees, also called paperbark tea trees, are scientifically known as Melaleuca quinquenervia, and, are not native to Florida, but can be found throughout the southernmost part of the peninsula, up into the central portion of the Sunshine State. Here in Sarasota, these nuisance trees can also be found, in no small part, because of their ability to rapidly reproduce. Their remarkable fortitude allows them to grow in upland, that is, relatively dry environments, as well as in aquatic systems.
These trees generally grow to about 40 feet in height, though have been documented to reach 100 feet tall, and are native to the continent of Australia. Though these species hail from quite far away, they were first introduced to the state over fifty years ago. Since that initial introduction, punk trees have spread their presence through most of the south and up to and across central portions. This is so because of how the species is able to withstand the elements, as well as its aggressive method of spreading its seeds.
While this species is valuable to its native environment because it naturally attracts bees, birds, and bats, here, is an altogether different story. It thrives in bright wetland areas, moist soil, which is quite abundant in Sarasota, and even grows heartily in standing water. It’s distinct bark, which appears paper-like, peels off the trunk and its leaves, when crushed, produce a camphor-like smell. Because it is an evergreen, it doesn’t truly go dormant in the strictness sense, it does slow or stop its growth during the winter, which makes it the ideal time to cut them down.
Dealing with Invasive Species in Florida
Invasive species in the state of Florida has long been a problem. This is because native trees must compete with other species that are more adept at reproducing and for essential growth and health elements. Like Brazilian pepper, paperbark tea trees are a very stubborn species, being able to regenerate from severe mechanical damage and storm damage. These trees produce a lot of seeds, so much, the species is able to overtake native growth areas.
The city of Sarasota requires a permit to remove any tree (other than citrus) with a diameter greater than 4.5 inches. Tree removal permits start at $30 plus $5 for each tree. Permits are required but no fee is charged for the removal of “nuisance” trees such as punk trees. The fine for removing a protected tree without a permit can be $225 for each inch of the tree’s diameter. —Sarasota Herald Tribune
When exotic tree species are introduced to the area, like all living things, must compete for vital soil nutrients, for sustaining sunlight, and, room to grow root systems. Because bees, birds, and bats are attracted to white punk trees, these insects and animals help to spread the trees’ seeds, giving less attention to other native species.
The paperbark tea tree is so aggressive in its pervasiveness, that it’s considered an ecological threat to the Everglades and is on the official Florida “Do Not Plant a Pest” list. It can produces hundreds of seeds, and is capable of producing a million seeds per year, while being able to store up to 20 million seeds, according to the United States’ own National Park Service’s Plant Conservation Alliance.
Cutting Down a Punk Tree
Punk trees are part of the Myrtaceae family or myrtle family, and are not easy to cut-up and kill. Like other invasive species, which are very adaptable and highly resilient to mechanical damage and weather elements, just cutting a punk tree down is not sufficient to kill it off. Therefore, it takes a bit more effort to cut down paperbark tea trees.
The first thing you’ll need to do, if you’re within the city limits of Sarasota, is to obtain a permit. Though there’s not a need to get a separate permit for invasive or nuisance species, the city does require a removal permit. Once you have the permit, follow these steps to cut down a punk tree:
- Gather the necessary tools and supplies. You’ll need jeans, long sleeve shirt, leather gloves, dust mask, eye and ear protection. You’ll also need a chainsaw and systemic herbicide.
- Cut the punk tree down. Clear the area where the tree will fall to prevent property damage and then cut through the trunk near the base of the tree, allowing it to fall in a safe direction.
- Apply systemic herbicide to the stump. Apply a healthy dose of systemic herbicide to the stump and allow it to work its way through the wood as long as the manufacturer suggests.
- Dig up the dead stump and roots. Once the stump has died, you can then dig it up, along with the roots and backfill the hole.
Take caution when cutting down a paperbark tea tree because this species is known to cause highly caustic allergic reactions. If you suffer from allergies, you could be exposed to respiratory irritation, nausea, and headache if you make contact with a punk tree.
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There it is, rising from out of the ground, interrupting the continuity of your beautifully landscaped lawn, that ugly, slowly rotting stump. The felled tree once attached to it sits neatly stacked in a firewood pile or has long left your property. Yet, that stump remains; and, though you’ve considered repurposing it to make it into a base for a bird bath or another feature, it’s deteriorating steadily.
That’s a problem in itself, because as it does so, it becomes a haven for pests that will wreak havoc on your lawn, garden, and their very presence will attract others who are looking for prey. Now, you’re praying there’s an easy way to get rid of it, without having to go through the time and effort of renting a machine grinder or a stump removal service.
The good news is, depending on how much patience you can muster, there are several options for DIY stump removal. Some take longer than others and though there are products available which claim to magically dissolve the entire thing, that’s more marketing than magic.
Renting a Machine or Hiring a Service
If you believe you can handle a machine, then it’s worth a shot to rent one and try it out. Be aware that these machines are not for the faint of heart, meaning, they require quite a bit of muscle. Handling a grinder isn’t an easy task and there’s a lot which can go wrong. Grinders present safety hazards and must be used with care. What’s more, not only do they require muscle, they are typically unwieldy machines, vibrating in a manner that will have you trembling for quite some time after using one.
You can remove a stump by renting a power stump grinder, but another way is to buy a can of stump remover (available at most garden or home centers). Most brands are made of powdered potassium nitrate, which speeds up the rotting process. You simply pour the granules into drilled holes and fill the holes with water. The stump will become pretty spongy after four to six weeks. Keep kids and pets away. Then you can break out the rotten wood with an ax. —The Family Handyman
Hiring a service is another option, but one that’s going to be more expensive than renting a machine. If you choose to go this route, be sure to check them out, especially their license and insurance. Of course, if you find a service that quotes a bargain basement price, that’s generally a red flag. You need to ask questions to ensure you’re not hiring someone that’s going to leave your property off worse. It bears repeating, but these machines are dangerous and if you hire someone that’s inexperienced, you might be looking at an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit.
DIY Stump Removal without a Grinder
Should you decide against hiring a service and don’t want to try and manhandle a grinder, there are other options to remove a stump. Here are some steps to follow for you to get the job done:
- Cut it down to size. It starts with a chainsaw and cutting it as close to the ground as possible. Suit yourself up with eye protection, a pair of work gloves, and a well-oiled chainsaw. Then fire it up and cut it, you can saw the wood into smaller pieces to burn later on.
- Soften the remaining stump. Now, it’s on to potassium nitrate or saltpeter. Drill several holes into the top using a one inch bit, about eight to ten inches deep each, spaced at least three to four inches apart. Boil some water, then pour the potassium nitrate into those holes and pour the boiling water into the holes. This will cause the potassium nitrate to break down and absorb into the stump to do its stuff.
- Leave it work for awhile. It will take about a month to six weeks, perhaps as much as eight weeks, for it to work through the stump and penetrate deep toward the root ball.
- Apply an accelerant to the stump. Pour one to two gallons of kerosene or lamp oil onto the stump, but do not substitute those for gasoline. This will take about two to three weeks to absorb deep into the stump and will have to be repeated at least once thereafter to get the job done.
- Burn it out. Once the kerosene or lamp oil has been applied at least twice over four to six weeks, then it’s time to set it ablaze. Check with your local fire department to learn about any open fires. Clear the immediate area around it if there’s leaves or fallen branches to ensure it won’t accidentally spread. Put that stuff on top of the stump into the holes, and strike a match.
It will take anywhere from a couple of days to nearly a week for it to be reduced to ashes. Once it is, simply rake it up and backfill the hole with a soil of your choosing.