Friday, January 29, 2010

Builders and landscapers have allied conservation goals

Energy efficiency and water conservation — the building trades and the Green Industry are starting to think alike. We're encouraged.

Atlanta-based Ashton Woods Homes recently announced that it completed a sustainable landscaping and irrigation implementation at The Enclave at Riverwalk in East Cobb near Atlanta. The company builds high-performance new homes in growth communities in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa.

The home builder touts its communities as being close to jobs, shopping and transportation corridors, effectively balancing healthy-house features with energy efficiency and saving homeowners as much as 45% per year on utility bills.

The Enclave, near Atlanta, was developed with the goal of providing residents with a sustainable landscape design and use of non-potable, harvested rainwater to provide for the complete irrigation needs of the entire community.

“We had a unique opportunity based on several site specific factors, and the catalyst of the Georgia EPD watering restrictions during the drought last year," said Chris Sears, a local registered landscape architect and LEED-accredited pro who was commissioned to design and oversee the entire installation process. "This allowed us to be proactive and initiate a strategy that just a few years ago would not have been a realistic cost-effective option."

The sustainable landscape and irrigation project included, installing several underground cisterns to hold approximately 7500 gallons of rainwater; which is collected from roofs of several buildings, and will be pumped into a highly efficient irrigation system. Minimizing the amount of lawn areas and utilizing more drought tolerant and native plantings are all factors in the planning for the success of this strategy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Grazing as a weed control option?

Several years ago while attending a business conference in San Jose, CA, we saw a herd of goats munching contentedly on the vegetation in what appeared to be a city park there. Since then we’ve learned that the city, through its Environmental Services Department, used several hundred goats and sheep to keep thistle and other unwanted weeds and invasive plants in check without the use of pesticides.

Grazing isn’t often considered for properties when battling the spread of invasive and, oftentimes, toxic weeds, but why not?

A San Francisco-based contractor, Living Systems Land Management, L.L.C., supplied the animals and apparently a shepherd, too. This is not a fly-by-night operation. It’s a well-thought-out, 7-year-old business that offers creative solutions to tough environmental problems.

We’re convinced that its this kind of thinking that will move the Green Industry to a more sustainable model. — Ron Hall

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Landscaper offers aid to Haiti on "Eagle Wings"

Scott Lewis, 52, and his wife Carol run 35-year-old Scott Lewis’ Garden & Trimming, Inc., in West Palm Beach, FL. His name was mentioned in a short article in a south Florida newspaper concerning volunteer aid to Haiti. Curious we investigated further and discovered a person with a remarkable desire to help his fellow man.

Lewis, a landscape architect and long-time volunteer fire fighter, is the founder of the Eagle Wings Foundation, a non-profit agency that provides disaster relief in hard hit areas of the Western Hemisphere. He founded the Foundation in 1999 after learning that donations were not reaching survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, which devastated The Bahamas.

Since then he and his all-volunteer task force have been in the forefront of disaster relief efforts in Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne (2004), Katrina (2005), and Hurricane Ike (2008), and these past weeks — Haiti.

These are not a bunch of do-gooders that hamper disaster relief, but a well-trained team of volunteers that mesh into and provide valuable on-the-ground services as part of larger disaster-recovery efforts.

But even before founding the Eagle Wings Foundation, Lewis was actively involved in rescue and disaster efforts, and holds just about every certification you can imagine to personnel involved in such work. In 1992 he served as a disaster team unit leader in the initial emergency efforts at the University of Miami Arboretum and the President’s residence in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew that flattened Homestead, FL. — Ron Hall

Friday, January 22, 2010

Feral hogs as landscape pests — big and bad

OVERTON, TX — Most of us have figured out how to get rid of white grubs, mole crickets, billbugs, fire ants and their likes . . . but feral hogs?

Yes, we’re talking wild hogs, and they’re apparently a big problem for property owners in many areas of the United States. Well, if they’re a problem for you and you’re in the vicinity of Overton, TX, Feb. 4, you won’t find many better ways to spend a day than to attend the East Texas Turfgrass Conference.

Billy Higginbotham, Ph.D., extension service expert, is going to tell you what you can do to keep "mud pigs" from destroying your landscapes at the event that's planned for the AgriLife Extension Research and Extension Center.

"Because of urban and suburban sprawl, feral hogs encroachment into these areas is on the rise," said Higginbotham.

Higginbotham will not only discuss the extent of feral hog encroachment but also the issues involved in controlling the species in urban and suburban environments.

"The best control remains trapping, as in rural areas," he said. "But once you've got them, the question is what do you do with them."

In rural environments, it's common to shoot the animals once they're trapped. But in urban areas, this is usually not a solution because of safety and legal concerns, Higginbotham said.

"So it's necessary to choose a trap that allows it to either be loaded on a trailer with hogs inside or one where the hogs can be transferred to another confinement," he said.

Higginbotham will also discuss fencing, but doesn't recommend it as a control strategy.

Other speakers and topics will include: “Disease Control Updates For Turfgrass,” Karl Steddom, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist; "Weed Identification," Dr. Jim McAfee, AgriLife Extension turfgrass specialist; “When You Can’t Grow Grass,” Keith Hansen, AgriLife Extension horticultural agent in Smith County; “Zoysia Management and Varieties For East Texas,” McAfee; “Turfgrass Insect Problems,” Dr. Scott Ludwig, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist; “Ants, Ants & More Ants,” Dr. Bart Drees, AgriLife Extension entomologist; “Facts & Fiction on Soil Fertility Products,” Dr. Leon Young, Stephen F. Austin University soils testing laboratory director.

The Overton center is located approximately 2 miles north of Overton on FM 3053 N. Maps and driving directions can be found online at .

For more information, contact agent Dennis Smith at 903-236-8428 or

If you’ve read to the end of this blog, good for you. Now you know what to do if feral hogs turn up in your neighborhood.

Click here for some excellent information from Texas Parks and Wildlife about feral hogs.

If you want to see some guys who really know how to deal with feral hogs, check out the Hogstoppers. These guys know how to deal with those nasty, dangerous critters, and promise low-cost removal for their Texas clients. — The LM Staff (on the lookout for huge, ugly landscape pests)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bringing the dead (ornamentals) back to life

Frosty lawns in south Florida

Us Yankees flee to Florida in January anticipating balmy temperatures and blue skies, a respite from snow and ice. Imagine our surprise when we flew into the Ft. Myers airport earlier this month and the temperature is just above freezing. What followed was a string of mornings featuring heavy frosts of the kind that we typically experience in northern Ohio in late October or November.

Needless to say the cold front, lasting for almost two weeks, badly damaged Florida's orange and strawberry industries and devastated the vegetable crops being grown in the community of Immokalee, which is in far southwest Florida.

The bitter cold also did a number on the colorful tropical ornamentals so popular with homeowners and resorts from central Florida all the way to the Keys. The sight of white sheets draped over ornamental beds became a common sight for early-morning risers during Florida's extended cold snap.

In terms of landscapes, all is not lost though, reports Tampa Bay Online. If you’re wondering what you can do to revive landscape plants that suffered during the cold snap, you might want to check out the article “Bringing back the garden from Armageddon." — Ron Hall

Monday, January 04, 2010

Video of Eric Hansen's neat propane-powered lawn service truck

(Jack Roush, Roush Performanc, hands the keys to a new propane-powered Ford F350 to lawn care business owner Eric Hansen.)

Erie Hansen’s been researching and testing the feasibility of changing his 28-year-old company from gasoline to propane power.

It looks like his Competitive Lawn Service, Inc., Downers Grove, IL, is on its way to becoming the first completely propane-powered lawn service company in the United States.

That will depend, at least in part, on the performance of the new under-bed, propane-powered Ford 350 that Hansen picked up from Roush Performance, Livonia, MI, in December. If it performs as well as he hopes (and expects), he will begin cycling out the remainder of his company’s diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles and replacing them with propane-powered trucks and vans.

Hansen’s company has been using propane lawn equipment for several years, and this past June installed a propane fueling station at his company’s headquarters.

Hansen says propane has provided his company substantial fuel and maintenance costs since he began making the switch.

Check out this video of Hansen at Roush Performance.

(Tell me if you don’t think Hansen looks younger than you would expect someone being in the dog-eat-dog lawn service business since 1982.) — Ron Hall