Water-Saving Landscaping Tips

Though the weather as of late has been hot and wet, droughts are not uncommon during the mid to late summer months. A few weeks without consistent rain can mean disaster for your landscape, especially as daytime temperatures climb into the 90s. That’s why many homeowners chose to install irrigation systems that automatically correct for inconsistent weather and keep grass and plants watered no matter what’s in the forecast. However, it’s no secret that irrigation system hike up water bills. Even manual lawn maintenance gets expensive this time of year. For some, steep water bills make a green summer landscape seem completely unattainable. However, some industriousness and creativity on the side of the homeowner can make all kinds of seemingly impossible feats possible. To help, we’ve created this guide of tips for price-conscious homeowners (or environmentally-conscious landscapers) on how to cut down water usage (and water bills) while still being able to maintain a manicured lawn. Try several of these tips at once for best results. They won’t eliminate your water bill completely, but a few small changes can go a long way in landscaping:

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Keeping Your Property Safe from Fireworks

Though Independence Day was one week ago, the reverberating celebrations can still be heard throughout the valley. In fact, the entire month of July could effectively be dubbed Firework Season, because the same phenomenon seems to happen every year: Folks go to Walmart or some other firework distributor in the weeks leading up to Independence Day and, in their patriotic excitement, buy enough colorful dynamite to take down a skyscraper. Thus, for the entirety of the month of July, a loud processional of firework detonations can be heard most every night, somewhere. After all, one can’t let hundreds of dollars of fireworks simply go to waste. It would be un-American.

For that reason, it’s imperative that fire-safety procedures continue to be put into practice long after The 4th of July has passed. Unfortunately, July in Southwest Virginia tends to be hot, dry, and very flammable. One ill-fated spark could easily set an entire landscape aflame. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent these kinds of disasters from occurring, and they can be utilized year-round:


Photo by Kevin Muncie.

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Tips from Mark Burton: Soil Conditioners

Here in Southwest Virginia, thick and compact clay soil dominates yards and gardens. Clay soil, while amendable to many native species of plants, can give gardeners and landscapers trouble when it comes to adding new plantings. Clay drains slowly, has trouble absorbing water and nutrients, and it becomes compacted more quickly than looser soil. That’s why soil conditioners like compost and fertilizer are so essential to healthy, green lawns and gardens. Without them, we probably wouldn’t be able to grow many of the plants and grasses we see on a daily basis.

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Early Summer Gardening Checklist

Summer Gardening Checklist

Photo by oatsy40 on Flickr.

Now that the summer solstice has officially passed, a full season of summer gardening is upon us! The days are hot, long, and wet, and there is much you can do to make the most of these fertile conditions. You’ve probably already done a lot of preparation for your summer garden, but, as all gardeners know, the labor of planning and planting and maintaining a healthy backyard ecosystem is never really done. Here are some “official start of summer” gardening tips to give you an idea of how to prep for the busy and beautiful months ahead:


Though we’ve been getting a healthy amount of rain as of late, southern summers are not devoid of the occasional dry spell. On particularly hot and humid days, water evaporates rapidly and your plants will need regular waterings to make up for lost moisture. Be sure to water the roots of your plants and avoid overwatering–you may want to wait and see if that afternoon thunderstorm comes to fruition before planning an extra watering session. Overwatered plants can become misshapen, mushy, and discolored.

Weed Often

Your plants are taking advantage of these long, hot days by trying to soak up as much sunlight and nutrients as possible. They shouldn’t have to compete with weeds and other invasive plant life. For your plants to thrive, regular weeding is a necessary summer labor. Pull weeds out by the roots to ensure they won’t come back.

Harvest Cool Season Crops

Some crops you planted during the spring are now ready to be harvested and enjoyed! Broccoli, peas, cauliflower, and lettuce can all be harvested. In a couple weeks, biennials like carrots and collard greens should also be ready to harvest. Keep checking up on growing plants, inspecting for signs of pests and disease. There are many critters about eager to get into summer gardens. Be sure to have some kind of defense against hungry animals, such as foul-tasting pellets or a wire fence.

Support Warm Season Crops

Your warm season crops should already be showing considerable progress. You should be checking them regularly for insect bites, discoloration, or other problems. You can apply a fresh layer of fertilizer on most warm season crops this time of year. If you’re growing tomatoes, stake them up.

Keep Plants Cool

Sweltering summer days can scorch plants and cause irreparable damage. To keep plants cool, apply a fresh layer of mulch over roots. Mulch can help regulate ground temperature and protect your plants from temperature extremes.

Fireflies: Harbingers of Summer

In Southwest Virginia, summer is ushered in by the arrival of fireflies. As the days lengthen and become warmer, twilight is set aglow by the firefly’s lulling lightshow. The bugs are a well-loved sight for most Virginians, for they call to mind a magical point in the year: the in-between of spring and summer, when balmy temps and the lush green mountains are still novel, exciting, and filled with the promise of a burgeoning season ahead. To commemorate the beginning of firefly season, we thought we’d share some facts about these small but delightful creatures.

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Creating the Perfect Backyard Party Spot

The official start of summer is hovering closer and closer. June’s days are increasingly long, hot, and filled with the promise of outdoor fun. It would be a shame to let this gorgeous weather go to waste by not utilizing hardscapes, patios, and decks to their fullest potential. You probably spent a healthy chunk of change turning your backyard into the perfect warm weather entertainment spot, and now is the perfect time to spruce it up for barbeques, cookouts, and corn hole. Here are a few easy (and cheap) tips on how to add a touch of summer flare to your yard, so you’ll be ready for whatever adventures this season brings:

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The Fauna of the Blue Ridge

The Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in North America. There are millions of insects, reptiles, and amphibians that call this region home. The Shenandoah region of Virginia, which encompasses the southwest part of the state and The Blue Ridge Mountains, contains thousands of species that are endemic to these particular mountain ranges and valleys. There are fauna within Appalachia that cannot be found anywhere else in Virginia or even in The United States broadly. The uniqueness of the fauna present in The Shenandoah Valley is a part of what makes this area so spectacular. Though this list does not come close to describing the complete variety of insects, amphibians, and reptiles within the Blue Ridge, it’s a small start. For more information, visit The Virginia Museum of Natural History.

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Give Your Kids the Gift of Gardening

Kids Gardening

Photo by winniepix on Flickr.

In a previous blog post, we discussed the numerous benefits gardening provides for senior citizens. Of course, senior citizens aren’t the only population of people who stand to benefit from spending time in the garden. Children, teenagers, and adults can all reap benefits from working with the land. Research suggests that children can especially benefit from the lessons instilled by growing plants; gardening, child psychologists and educators say, is beneficial to childhood development and a valuable educational resource. That might be why many elementary schools have gardening clubs, or why science classes are increasingly using gardening projects as discovery tools. No doubt, the lessons we all gleam from gardening start when we’re children and build throughout our entire lives. Cool, right?

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Five Smart Gardening Gadgets

Though many people garden to get away from emails, phone calls, and the constant machine buzzing of industrialized civilization, technology has no doubt aided many gardeners in their search for efficiency, time management, and heightened productivity. Garden gadgets have become a somewhat unavoidable part of modern gardening. Even the most luddite of gardeners likely have a couple smart tools they use to help them keep track of tedious chores. Simply, some technologies really do make our day to day lives that much easier. When you’re done reading about these gardening gadgets, you might find some of them far too useful to pass up.

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