Posts Tagged With: yard work

Summer Garden Update #1 – Build a Retaining Wall

How to Build a Retaining WallIf you want to correct a sloping lawn or add some interest to your landscape, then a retaining wall may be just the ticket. By using concrete blocks with interlocking flanges, this DIY project is something you can tackle in a weekend and enjoy for years to come.

Designing Your Wall for Your Lifestyle

Determine where you want the wall to go and mark the area with stakes and twine. For a free form, less structured shape, use landscaping paint to define the outline of the wall. Here’s a chance to show your creative side – after checking your local building codes of course. Any wall higher than four feet may require a structural engineer to help with it. Also, be sure to check with homeowner’s associations or other neighborhood governing organizations for restrictions before starting construction.

What You Will Need

In addition to concrete blocks, you will need a list of materials. Many are heavy, so you may want to arrange a delivery. No use wearing yourself out before you lay the first brick!

  • Paver base material – usually a mixture of gravel and crushed limestone
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Level – preferably 2 feet or longer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Construction adhesive
  • Perforated drain pipe
  • Hand or gas powered tamper
  • Landscape rake
  • Shovel

A Good Foundation Makes all the Difference

A firm foundation sets up how secure the wall will be as you build it up. Checking to see that the blocks are level and that you have adequate drainage during the building process is vital. These two steps will help stabilize the wall and keep it from cracking or bowing outward.

Time to Get Dirty

Now that you have all of your materials, let’s roll up those sleeves and get to work.

  • ExcavateDig a trench twice the width of the blocks and deep enough to bury the first level of blocks halfway.
  • Ensure a level base – Add paver base to the trench and spread it evenly.
  • Compact the base – With a tamper compact the base material.
  • Level the base – Use a board to help level the base material. Check with the torpedo level.
  • Lay the base blocks – Remove the interlocking flange from the blocks on the bottom row. Check to see if blocks are level and use mallet to help adjust blocks.
  • Fill in around base – Add soil around the front of the blocks and tamp down to provide support.
  • Provide proper drainage – Place a perforated drain pipe at the bottom of the wall, cover with landscaping fabric, and fill around with gravel.
  • Continue stacking blocks – Stagger the joints on each row by starting alternate rows with a half block.
  • Backfill as you go – Fill behind each level of blocks with gravel and tamp down.
  • Add capstones if desired – Even though it is not structurally necessary, it will give the wall a finished look. Use construction adhesive when placing capstones.

Talk About Curb Appeal

Now that your wall is completed you can add creative touches that will help reflect your personal style. Add a splash of color by staining the blocks or add plants to the top of the wall that will soon cascade over the edge. The sky is the limit. Building a retaining wall is hard work but it provides rewards for many years down the road. You’ve just added a lot of sweat equity to your landscape and upped your home’s curb appeal, all in one weekend. Now where’s that lawn chair?!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From masonry saws and tampers to trenchers and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Keeping Critters at Bay Part 2: Solutions for Moles & Raccoons

Rid Yard of Moles & RaccoonsWhile admiring your recently groomed landscape, you notice a raised dirt trail snaking its way through the yard. No mole is going to destroy your lush sea of green grass or ruin your veggies. But before you go into combat mode and start acting like Bill Murray in Caddyshack, take a breath. There might be a simpler (more natural) way to battle moles and other pests without having to resort to land mines.

Know Thine Enemy

Bill Murray’s plan for troublesome rodents works fine – especially for laughs. Why not learn a little bit about the pesky mole, first? They are insectivores and from the same family as bats. Their main diet consists of insects, grubs and larvae like earthworms. They are around 4-8 inches in length with paddle-like front feet and have little to no vision. What moles are best at is digging. They can tunnel up to 100 ft per day. Only one other mole skill may rival this – they eat day and night.

Traps Aren’t the Only Way

How do you battle this underground critter? Experts say that traps work the best at eliminating moles, raccoons and other pests, but we’d prefer to go a more humane route first. Home remedies have had spotty success, but they are worth a try. Many of these measures need to be taken before you plant your gardens. However, if your yard consistently has moles and other pests then you may find them helpful.

  • Trench around your garden – Dig a trench around your garden to force moles and other burrowing pests to tunnel in a new direction. Keep in mind though, this isn’t practical for a large garden or lawn and the labor is intense.
  • Line your garden bed with wire – Dig down deep enough to place a layer of wire mesh in the bottom and along the sides of your garden area. This will force the pests to seek easier food sources.
  • Eliminate grubs – Getting rid of one of the mole’s favorite foods will cause them to seek elsewhere. The only problem is that earthworms are still available in your garden and you need them to keep your soil healthy.
  • Sprinkle kitty litter – By spreading kitty litter into the mole holes the smell will deter the moles from returning to the tunnel. Unfortunately they will dig alternate ones.

Plants that Chase Pests Away

A natural way to eliminate a wide variety of pests including moles, raccoons and even the heinous mosquito is to practice companion gardening. For years farmers have been planting “companion” plants in their vegetable gardens to create a vegetative barrier that deters insects and pests. Companion plants are ones that pests have a natural aversion to like marigolds, daffodils and Crown Imperial (Fritillarias). Adding these plants around your lawn or garden may help deter moles, raccoons and squirrels from eating away at your veggies or flowers.

Here is a short list of plants and the pest/s they repel:

  • Calendula (pot marigold) – raccoons and dogs (not a true marigold, so moles will not be repelled)
  • Castor beans – moles (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Crown Imperial – rabbits, mice, moles, voles and ground squirrels
  • Daffodils – moles and deer
  • Garlic – aphids, Japanese beetles and rabbits
  • Lavender – moths, fleas and mosquitoes
  • Mexican Marigolds – insects, rabbits and moles
  • Mole Plant – moles and ground squirrels (poisonous, so keep away from small children and pets)
  • Oregano – pests in general

Put Down the Dynamite

Keeping critters at bay doesn’t have to be a war of wills. There are natural solutions you can try before you turn to setting traps or using chemicals. Surrounding your garden or lawn with plants that naturally repel pests looks great and won’t poison your soil. It’s a win-win. Besides, if you do go all “Caddyshack” and dynamite the mole holes, you will eventually have to fill them back in. So leave the explosives alone.

If you are determined to go with a chemical deterrent, then check out our blog post Protecting Plants from Pests, for the lowdown on safely using pesticides to ward off unwanted visitors to your lawn or garden.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From trenchers to wheel barrows and shovels, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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3 Options for How to Replant Grass in Your Yard

If looking out over your yard at the brown patches left by winter’s brutal temperatures isn’t enough to make you throw in the towel on growing a lush lawn in Indiana, then we may have some tips that can help.

At this time of year, DIY-gardeners have three options for replanting an existing lawn and giving it some love.

  • Over-seed
  • Plug it
  • Start over in the fall – the best time to replant grass in your yard

Although there’s no guarantee your lawn will improve if you engage one of the spring options instead of waiting until the fall, each one is worth a try. 

Climate Zones Determine Grass Growing

Climate Zone Map

In Indiana, climate zones 7 and 8 help determine what types of grass you should grow.

  • Cool weather grasses – the top third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas that have cooler summers and winters. Some grass types in this category are Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye and both Tall and Fine Fescue. You primarily plant these type lawns in the early spring or the late summer/ early fall since they take time to germinate.
  • Warm weather grasses – the bottom third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas with warmer summers and winters. Some of these are Bermuda grass and Zoysia. These grasses can be planted in the late spring as long as they have enough time to establish before the summer heat comes on.

1. Over-Seeding

If you want to over seed an existing lawn, be prepared to put in the time it will take to maintain it until the seed establishes. On an existing yard of Kentucky Bluegrass try seeding with a mixture of Bluegrass and Fine Fescue. The Fescue will establish faster and give the Bluegrass seed time to germinate. Here are a few basic steps to over-seed any type of lawn:

  1. Set your lawn mower at the lowest setting to remove most of the vegetation from the lawn. It will make it easier for the seeds to reach the ground.
  2. Rake the grass and top ¼-inch of soil underneath it and dispose of debris.
  3. Add fertilizer – apply per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Broadcast seed over lawn in parallel lines – first in north/ south direction and then in an east/ west direction to avoid missing any areas.
  5. Use backside of rake to spread about ¼ inch of dirt over seed.
  6. Cover the ground with a thin layer of mulch made from wheat straw. You can rake straw away once grass starts to appear.
  7. Water lightly each day until grass is 2 inches tall.
  8. Best to wait to mow until grass has reached about 3 inches in height.

2. Lawn Plugging

If seeds are too slow for you then lawn plugging is the way to go. A “plug” is a 2 x 2 inch piece of sod that you can use to fill in bare spots on your lawn. You will need to till up the area you wish to plant, amend the soil with compost, and then create holes using a hand held grass plugger or an aerator/plugger. Place the plugs in a checkerboard pattern and fill the holes with lawn starter fertilizer. Insert the grass plugs and pack down the ground around them to eliminate air pockets. Give the entire area a thorough watering. Check out our blog, How to Plug Your Lawn in 3 Easy Steps, for additional details.

3. Great Grasses for Indiana

Whether you over-seed, plug or wait until the fall, here is some information on the different grasses that work well in our area. We have listed which are cool season grasses and which are warm season grasses. Depending on how you plan to proceed with improving your lawn one of these grass types may offer you a solution.

Kentucky Bluegrass – This is a cool season grass

  • Performs best in full sun
  • Slow to germinate
  • Winter hardy
  • New varieties are more disease resistant
  • Will need more fertilizer and water than other types

Fescue – This is a cool season grass

  • Drought, heat and shade tolerant
  • Requires less fertilizer
  • Grows deeper roots
  • Different varieties – Tall (broad leaf, clumping) and Fine (thin leaf,non-clumping)

Bermuda grass – This is a warm season grass

  • Best in full sun
  • Medium to fine texture
  • Drought resistant
  • Turns brown in winter when temperatures drop to point of frost
  • Can be aggressive and will take over flowerbeds
  • Need to keep in check with trimming or use of organic herbicides like vinegar

Zoysia – This is a warm season grass

  • Spreads and forms dense sod
  • Slow upward growth so needs less mowing
  • Low water consumption
  • Good for high traffic areas
  • Somewhat shade tolerant
  • Needs no pesticides or weed killers since it chokes out pests and weeds
  • Thrives in heat, goes dormant in cold weather

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From seeders and tillers to aerator pluggers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. To learn more about your lawn, check out our helpful how-to guide, How Well Do You Know Your Lawn?

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How to Properly Maintain Your Garden by Weeding, Mulching & Watering

Maintain Your Garden This Summer in 3 Simple Steps

Summer is the perfect time to maintain and enjoy your garden. That said, there are three key components to summertime garden maintenance: weeding, mulching and watering. Pruning and increasing shade when necessary can also improve the lives of your flowers and plants. Disturbed soil loses its moisture rapidly and makes it hard for gardens to recover, so keeping up with your outdoor oasis is crucial.

Step One. Eliminate Pesky Weeds

The idea is to smother weeds before they germinate, and to do so by keeping the soil moist, thus making it easier to pull weeds up. Another preventative measure is to remove weeds before they go to seed and spread through your garden. The key indication being that they are still small at this point, not too big, only 2-3 weeks old. Using a trowel or hoe to scrape below the surface will cut and uproot these tiny weeds. This is an example of cultivation as a weed elimination method.

Another type of weeding is just that, weeding in the literal sense…pulling weeds out by hand. Having really moist soil allows for this because they pop right up if they’re small enough and not deeply rooted.

Step Two. Mulch Every Square Inch

Mulching is also a method for preventing weed growth — depriving them of light and air, essentially smothering them. Mulching conserves moisture and allows your plants to maintain a constant temperature range. Not surprisingly, mulch reduces evaporation from the soil up to 70%.

In addition to this, mulch improves soil structure, increases water retention, soil nutrients and worm activity. Mulch is essential if you want to maintain your garden through periods of low rainfall. And even better, mulching eventually destroys most if not all weeds.

There are a variety of materials you can use for mulch, including:

  • straw
  • compost
  • shredded bark
  • grass clippings
  • other organic material

*Quick Tip: compost, straw or bark mulch are ideal for garden beds. Whereas stones or wood chips are better for paths and non-growing areas because they reduce soil splash, dust, etc.

Step Three. Water With Purpose

First things first, before watering, push aside the mulch and put your finger into the soil. If it’s moist, then there is no need to water. If it is dry, then you know it’s about that time. There are two types of watering systems you can implement: fixed or portable.

1. Fixed: built into your garden. i.e. drip irrigation. This includes soaker hoses, which literally leak throughout the area. Fixed systems are at soil level, so water goes directly to the roots. For a soaker hose specifically, lay it through your garden where plants are small (for easy access) and then cover with loose mulch.

2. Portable: a cheaper alternative that can be moved exactly where needed i.e. watering and sprinkling cans, hand-held hoses and sprinkler systems. When choosing a water hose, consider a few qualities:

  • 4 ply construction for superior resistance
  • Large diameter (5/8″)  for faster delivery
  • Brass couplings, which reduce leaks

A few things to keep in mind when watering…

1. With existing plants, water less frequently and then not at all.

2. Observe for signs of stress i.e. wilting and leaf fall to determine if your watering schedule is effective or not.

3. Less frequent deep watering equips deep-rooted plants to withstand hot, dry days (i.e. drought resistance).

4. Set your sprinkler in one part of garden while hand watering in another to save time.

5. Water where crop plants are and drip plant in beds and out of paths.

Additional Resources

Good luck getting your garden in shape this summer. The sooner you finish weeding, mulching and perfecting your water schedule, the more you can enjoy it. Check out this Guide to Good Garden Watering for more insight. If you’re thinking of creating a new garden, or you don’t have one, take this quiz to find your perfect garden plan. Oh, and if this proves a pretty harsh summer where you are, read this article about how to protect your garden. Please reach out if you have any questions. Happy gardening!

Categories: Gardening and Lawn Care, How-To's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dethatch Your Lawn This Spring for Beautiful, Healthy Grass

Could your lawn use a good dethatching?

Who wouldn’t enjoy a barefoot walk through a lush, green lawn? Grass is arguably the most popular groundcover for homeowners who appreciate its excellent ground protection and desirable curb appeal. For those DIY-ers who also enjoy caring for their lawns, dethatching should definitely be on the to-do list.

Grass is a beautiful three-tiered terrarium, if you will. A root system on the bottom supports the thousands of long, green blades that grow above a tightly woven layer of leaves, stems, roots and decomposing material known as thatch. As long as the thatch layer gets no thicker than 3/4″, it contributes to lawn health by:

  • Mulching naturally to slow water loss
  • Allowing sunlight and fertilizer to feed the grass
  • Protecting the soil and grass from insects and disease
  • Decreasing compaction and improving foot tolerance
  • Insulating grass crowns from temperature swings
  • Letting grass root into the soil rather than growing into nutrient-lacking, too-thick thatch

Does Your Lawn Need Dethatching?

Dethatching rids your lawn of too much thatch and can be done with a dethatching rake or a dethatcher, a mechanical gardening tool that rolls over the grass and thins out thatch with rotary blades, tines or prongs. If a lawn has a springy feel underfoot, then often that means it has a too-thick thatch layer.

Other ways to determine if your lawn needs dethatching:

  • Measure thatch for that ¾-inch cut-off by removing a small, three-inch layer of grass and soil or just pry up a small section of turf.
  • Look at your lawn. Is soil visible between turf crowns? Can you touch the soil through the visible thatch layer? If not, it’s probably too tough and needs to be thinned.

Get to Know Your Grass

Certain grasses tend to form thicker thatch layers and do so quickly, such as St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, Bent grass and aggressive Kentucky bluegrass varieties. Also, dethatching is best done at the height of the grass’s growing season. Since warm and cool season grasses grow most vigorously at different times during the year, know what kind of grass your lawn is before dethatching.

When to Dethatch Your Lawn

Choose a cooler day to dethatch when grass is actively growing and the soil is moist, not dry.

After dethatching, the grass usually needs 45 days to grow back fully. If your area is experiencing a drought, watering restrictions or intense heat waves, postpone dethatching until it passes.

  • Late spring to early summer – warm-season turf like Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, Buffalo grass, Centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, Zoysiagrass
  • Early spring or early fall – cool-season turf such as creeping bentgrass, Fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, Rough bluegrass and Ryegrass

How To Dethatch Your Lawn

Step 1. Mow the grass to about half the usual height

Step 2. Mark irrigation heads and other objects in the lawn so that they are visible during dethatching

Step 3. Adjust the blade settings of the dethatcher so thatch is removed without disturbing the soil beneath, about ¼-inch above the ground

Step 4. Roll the dethatcher over the entire lawn to loosen the thatch from the ground

Step 5. Remove all the loosened thatch with a rake

Step 6. After dethatching, water the lawn and add fertilizers to the soil

About the Author

Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.

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