Black Gold, Texas Tea
Those of you who are of a certain generation can sing the Beverly Hillbillies theme song word for word. Since I am older than dirt or soil, as my college professor would make me say, I fall into that category. I’d like to educate you about another type of black gold. Compost. You won’t be able to load it up on the truck and head to Beverly Hills, but it is the secret of gardening. Granny would have told you that was the secret to her greens. Every chance we get, we add it to our soils, or what we pretend to call soil. Usually in a landscape situation, especially around the foundation, we hit subsoil clay from the basement and it won’t support plant life as we know it. It has no organic material, no fertility, and won’t drain. Roots aren’t sexy, but without them there aren’t flowers or foliage.
What’s the solution, short of massive excavation? Compost. We try to add two or more inches of compost to our planting beds and rototill and incorporate it into the clay as much as possible. With this procedure, we at least give plants a fighting chance. And be honest, we all want healthy plants that flower and look good. So Jed was shootin’ at some food, hit some bubbling crude, and became a millionaire from Black Gold, Texas Tea. My Black Gold won’t make you a millionaire but could make your lawn look better. Thanks for
reading the ramblings of a man who, for 20 years, has sniffed too many chemicals. You can find this Black Gold at Don Roderich’s compost facility on Bearsdale Rd.
The World According to Scott
What I have learned in 28 years:
- 1. The hours are long, there isn’t any money in this line of work and you have a small butt from it getting chewed all day.
- 2. Roots aren’t very sexy but they are the key to everything. Soil preparation is important.
- 3. Nature uses weather to thin the herd. It takes out the weak, rewards the strong and punishes bad choices. We tend to try and do what we want rather than work with what our environment gives us. Instead of putting a groundcover under the shade tree, we want grass. It fails so we try again and again.
- 4. Putting the right plant in the right spot solves 90% of the problem. I consider drainage, mature size of the plant, ease of care, soil type, amount of sun and shade needed plus the attractiveness factor. The novice focuses on what it looks like.
- 5. Some plants have built-in liabilities. Bradford Pears will fall apart before they celebrate 20 years in your lawn. Arborvitae have a bagworm guarantee. Purple leaf plums get borers and Evergreen Euonymus have a race to see if scale will kill them before gall does. Avoiding problem plants makes gardening easier.
- 6. If your soil is poor, water becomes more important for success. A soil that has good organic material and is fertile will allow plants to survive stressful conditions without water. You do realize most of you are working with basement clay subsoil. This junk won’t support
I’d ask you how your investments are going but that could be a loaded question. Want a sure fire idea?
- 1. They appreciate in value as they grow.
- 2. Reduce cooling costs.
- 3. Often give aesthetic beauty to property.
- 4. Give a pretty good return on investment when resale of a
home is done.
Often a good tree can give you a $5 to $10 thousand extra on the price on your home. It’s a no brain-er… $200-$350 can turn into $5,000 in 20 years.
Fall is the best time to plant trees. We normally plant from September until the ground freezes… around Thanksgiving. We’d love to discuss this investment strategy with you. Wow. Yesterday I was a Landscaper… today I’m an Investment Counselor.
My sons watched this movie so much they had it memorized. Okay, it was Ghostbusters, but pretend it’s Grub Busters. Grubs tend to make people weak in the knees and break out in rashes. So all together, sing Grub Busters with me. “Grubs are in your lawn, living in your thatch, messing up your lawn, living in the biomass. Who you going to call, Scott Clarkson.”
This isn’t about selling grub control, but in the 27 years I’ve been doing lawn care, this one thing is constant.
I use less insecticide every year. I’m not an organic zealot by any means but believe the fewer chemicals, the better. And why spend money you don’t need to? Insecticides are expensive. Back in the Stone Age (the ‘80s) we used Diazanon until the little critters built up a resistance. Then Oftanol was the choice. It was effective until the microbes in the soil decided to eat it as soon as it touched the soil. Today we use Grub-Ex, Merit, or its chemical name, Imachlorphylid. Merit is fairly safe, lasts several months, and works pretty well. There are rumors of a new really safe chemical in the pipeline for next year. I have learned to think like a grub. Yes, I’m not all here. Mother grub comes out of the ground, finds a boyfriend in late spring and looks for a place to lay her eggs. Like any mother, she wants her offspring to have a safe neighborhood, good school system, and plenty to eat.
She is mesmerized by outside lights and usually lays close to one. If she lands on concrete she is smart enough to go to the closest grass. So if your lawn is the greenest lawn on the street in June, and you have a couple of 1000 watt lights outside, there could be a nursery working overtime. One other thing to remember is there will always be some grubs in your lawn no matter what insecticide you use. It takes a lot of them to do damage. We figure the panic threshold is about 7 to 20 per square foot. And if you are watering the lawn in the fall regularly, you may never see any damage.
It’s Easy Being Green- Part 2
This is part two of my award-winning series. I’m hoping to win a Klutzer. I have a friend and classmate who has won a Pulitzer Prize and I want him to know that he has competition. I’m not sure who he is, but I’m sure he has competition. Is this about Kermit the Frog singing how difficult it is to be green? No – it’s little things to help you have green lawns, lush landscapes and pretty flowers, and are environmentally friendly. At my house I rely on mulch and weeding to keep my landscaping weed free. I also rely on praying mantises, toads and barn swallows to help keep insects down. As an added feature, during the summer there is a mother hen with baby chicks running over the lawn. They are like a vacuum sweeper cleaning the lawn of anything that moves. Yes, I will rent the hen and chicks out. Here are some green tips for the landscape. (con’t)
- 7. It all starts with soil or dirt (forgive me, Roy – my soils teacher in college). Soil that
has organic material (dark color) and drains, with good fertility, grows healthy plants.
They fight off bugs and diseases and don’t need a lot of work. Unfortunately, these soils
don’t exist after construction.
- 8. Shade trees on the west and south sides of the house will cut cooling bills.
- 9. A wind break on the north or northwest side of your property can reduce heating
bills. My wind break that I planted 28 years ago has been a wonderful investment. I can’t
tell the wind is blowing out on the prairie when the wind is howling out of the north.
- 10. A plant in the right spot needs less fertilizer and pesticides
- 11. Weeds that never go to seed don’t sprout the next year.
- 12. Don’t plant real close to air conditioners. The AC’s need air movement to cool
- 13. Mulch your plantings with bark. We use hardwood bark at a decent
depth of several inches. Note – you can over-mulch if you continue to pile it
on year after year.
- 14. I plant annuals and perennials fairly close to crowd out weeds and
use a little common sense.
So close your eyes and imagine you are singing with Kermit and serenading
Miss Piggy. Here we go – “It’s easy being green.” Please
don’t crack a joke about Miss Piggy.
Black Gold, Texas Tea
Those of you who are of a certain generation can sing the Beverly Hillbillies theme song word for word. Since I am older than dirt or soil, as my college professor would make me say, I fall into that category. I’d like to educate you about another type of black gold. Compost. You won’t be able to load it up on the truck and head to Beverly Hills, but it is the secret of gardening.
Granny would have told you that was the secret to her greens. Every chance we get, we add it to our soils, or what we pretend to call soil. Usually in a landscape situation, especially around the foundation, we hit subsoil clay from the basement and it won’t support plant life as we know it. It has no organic material, no fertility, and won’t drain. Roots aren’t sexy, but without them there aren’t flowers or foliage.
What’s the solution, short of massive excavation? Compost. We try to add two or more inches of compost to our planting beds and rototill and incorporate it into the clay as much as possible. With this procedure, we at least give plants a fighting chance. And be honest, we all want healthy plants that flower and look good. So Jed was shootin’ at some food, hit some bubbling crude, and became a millionaire from Black Gold, Texas Tea. My Black Gold won’t make you a millionaire but could make your lawn look better. Thanks for reading the ramblings of a man who, for 20 years, has sniffed too many chemicals. You can find this Black Gold at Don Roderich’s compost facility on Bearsdale Rd.
Borers Multiple Choice
- A. The lady next to you on the airplane seat who
shows you 30 pictures of her cat wearing different
- B. Farmers who raise male hogs.
- C. Factory workers who use drill presses to make holes in metal.
- D. Larvae of a moth or fly that tunnels into the trunks or twigs,
usually resulting in the death of the plant.
The correct answer is D; however, I’ll give you a half credit if you answered A, B or C. Most trunk borers can be found by examining the lower part of the trunk and looking for an opening. Often you will see sap oozing from the wound. We could write about a dozen pages on all the species and bore you to death. Get it, “bore” you to death? But I won’t.
There are several dozen borers and they all attack different hosts. Generally speaking, their period of activity starts from April to September and symptoms are death of a plant, usually from the top down or individual stems. In most situations we use imachlorpid, but first you need to identify what it is before you treat. Call the professional or your extension service. As a general rule, keep the plant healthy by fertilizing it and keeping it well-watered, especially if it’s under attack
A Day in the Life of a Landscaper in the Spring
The sun rises and so do you. I get dressed and catch the weather and the news while I eat breakfast and I’m trying to get out the door. I decide to put some fertilizer on but would rather get the seeding job done since the weather forecast is calling for rain on Wednesday. The problem is that the yard is a little wet and the guy that does my grading is running behind his schedule. His excuse is that it has rained every other day for the last two weeks. I rush out the door but turn around to answer the phone. Someone wants to know if I have anything to do today. They are having a party tomorrow and need some things done.
I want to say, “Nope – I’ve got my feet propped up on the desk and I’m just waiting for you to call,” but I show restraint and politely tell them I have commitments. They tell me they have called several people and that they will keep calling.I wish them luck. I head outside to get the guys headed to where they need to go and try to load my truck. The cell phone rings and I’m distracted, which isn’t hard for me at this point. I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached. I finally get going after I water plants and head out of the driveway. I go through a mental list of what I need in the truck and as I get to the corner, I have to turn around. Are you shocked that I forgot something? My neighbor chuckles at me since I do this often. On the road again and finally working. Later, after lunch, the spreader pin comes out and I stick a nail in to make it work until I can get to the hardware store. An hour later the son calls and he needs me to pick up something so they can get some work done.
I look at two potential jobs and get home around dark. I have a couple of bids and designs to work on, and I fight the urge to watch “Hogan’s Heroes” on TV Land. I fail, watch a little TV, and go bed to enthusiastically wake up and start the next day. Yes, sarcasm is a part of my personality, can’t you tell?