Reducing landfill waste

Celestial Seasonings tea is packaged without a string, tag, staple or individual wrapper for its teabags. A few years ago they realized that eliminating these elements from their product would save more than 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills each year.

Scott Tube-Free Tissue

This year, the Scott paper company introduced its no-tube toilet paper product. The full-page ads that launched this product announce that each year 17 billion TP tubes are thrown away. Scott’s innovation may change how things roll in the bathroom – and to the landfill.

Many industries are on board with reducing the waste they generate and that includes the landscape industry.  One of the landscape industry’s major commitments is to reduce the high volume waste produced by mowing lawns and pruning trees and shrubs

 

Grass clippings
During the last 20 years, most lawn maintenance companies have converted to mulching mowers which finely cut grass clippings and deposit them back on top of the lawn. This practice alone has removed tons of green waste that would have headed to the landfill each year.

In addition, this process of grasscycled mulch reduces the amount of fertilizer needed on the lawn because as clippings decompose, they create nutrients for the lawn. These clippings also help hold moisture in the soil which reduces water needs.

Pruning debris
Every year, tree service companies and landscape maintenance companies cut down dead trees and prune live trees to remove dead branches and keep trees properly shaped and healthy. This activity produces tons and tons of debris that is recycled for compost or chipped and ground to create wood mulch. Many recycling and composting centers throughout the state accept pruning debris from landscape companies and homeowners.

Mulch derived from pruning debris can be put right back into the landscape as a healthy amendment. Because this mulch is derived from organic material, it settles onto the soil and does not blow away like mulch that has been recycled from treated or dried wood products such as pallets. It must first be watered in so that it settles. Over time, the mulch breaks down and completes the cycle of returning back to the earth from which it came.

Mulching tip: when using wood mulch, do not use landscape fabric under the mulch as its slick surface will cause mulch to blow away in the wind.

Need help adding mulch or dealing with spring landscape chores?  We have dozens of pros in your area to help you get your garden, your landscape and your well-being situated for the season.

Call Julie at (775) 827-5296 to learn more.

How gardening helps grow kids

Did you know that 98 percent of kids who grow their own vegetables will actually eat them? That means kids will want to eat peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and maybe even spinach! This is the official word from the American Gardening Association which offers programs to encourage kids to head outdoors and into the garden.

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and community. Click this link to listen to a truly inspirational gardener! » Watch TED Talk

toddler gardeningGardening is catching on in schools all across the country and that includes a big emphasis in Nevada. Every year, more schools are building gardens on their campuses and using them as an educational opportunity. And some of the produce ends up in the school cafeteria.

If you have children, consider getting them involved in gardening at home as well. Already, kid-sized tools and boots are showing up in garden centers. Helping kids pick out their own properly sized implements will make the process more fun.

Then head over the seed aisle and let them select veggies, herbs and flowers they would like to grow. This kind of involvement is more engaging than handing them your packet of seeds early some Saturday morning when it’s time to plant.

Here are four ways to keep the engagement going:

  • Help kids to learn by doing. Even a 3-year-old can tuck some seeds into the soil and will love holding the water wand to sprinkle water over newly-planted seeds. What child doesn’t like to play in the dirt or spray water? Older children can do more – and as the growing season takes off, you can make pulling weeds a game rather than a chore.
  • Keep it simple. Kids are most motivated when they grow plants that are easy to grow and that show fast results. Sunflowers and pumpkins, for example, grow quickly and are dramatic in their size and shape. They can be started indoors before it’s time to plant outside. Kids can stand by the window sill and check out the changes as seedlings emerge and become little plants.
  • Make it “mine.” Remember those seeds that the little ones selected? Create an area for those plants and allow children have their own group of plants to care for. Having them water and weed their own plants – and pick the harvest later on – imparts pride of ownership.
  • Teach value. At harvest time, weigh some of your harvest and write down how many pounds of zucchini, tomatoes or other veggies your young gardener has grown. Then go to the grocery store, find the current price of these items and help them do the math. There’s a good lesson in knowing that you’ve just grown $5 worth green beans!

Pre-season garden work that pays off

‘Dirt’ ~ ‘Soil’ ~ ‘Mother Earth’ ~ Whatever you call it, some of us like to dig in with our own hands and others would rather have someone else do the digging. Either way, if you want a great garden this year, it’s best to get the soil in order before someone starts digging.

February is an ideal time to apply compost, regardless of the weather. That means you can even toss it on top of the snow!

  • Need help getting compost into your garden? Signature Landscapes’ lawn and garden pros can can help you identify the right mix of compost and soil to help your garden grow.

Why compost?
Compost on its own is low in nutrient value. It’s not valuable for what it is, so much as what it does – and the doing takes time. Even if you are not able to till compost into the soil when you apply it, an early application gives the compost adequate time to do its work.

Why winter composting is good
Compost needs time to mellow or break down and that’s why a winter-time application is beneficial, even if it is not tilled into the soil. Compost creates a homogeneous soil mixture ripe with microbial activity. This process does not add many nutrients to the soil, but improves the soil’s capacity to hold onto both nutrients and water. It improves the root zone. That is why compost is so good for the garden and of course, the plants grown there.

How to shop for compost
Shop for compost that is well-aged and low in salt. Also, look for varieties that have little or no fillers. Compost by nature is all organic, so composts that are labeled “mixes” that contain sand or other inorganic fillers are generally less than optimal.

How much should I buy?
Applying 1 cubic yard of compost per 100 square feet of garden is the rule of thumb. However, if your soil has been well amended in the past, you can use less. The best value is in bulk purchases, so if you have 100 square feet of garden or more, a pick-up load might be the most cost effective. Most pick-ups hold 1 ½ to 2 cubic yards. If you order bulk delivery from a supplier, the minimum order is usually 5 or more cubic yards.

Reminder: Compost is about more than growing good veggies. It’s a key ingredient when establishing a healthy, low-water lawn and for all the other plants in your landscape.

 

April showers, May flowers and June tomato towers

With water resources looking to be tight throughout much of northern Nevada, many of us are wondering what we should plant in our gardens this year – or should we plant at all.

If there are no April showers, should we scratch the May flowers?  Should we grow tomatoes or corn or petunias?  Mr. Vegetable, where are you?

Nasturtium

Nasturtium – colorful and edible.

First things first… get the garden off to a good and healthy start.  

  • Clean out the debris like leaves and dead plants that has collected over the winter.
  • Till the garden by double digging or even consider the new trend which is triple digging.  You have to dig down to the third shovel depth to till. This is done in Africa with amazing results in production.
  • Add compost.  Tilling plus adding compost will improve soil quality and help it hold more water.
  • Use mulch this season because it keeps more water in the soil and lowers evaporation.  Wood mulch, straw and even newspapers and grass clippings all do the job.

Be sustainable in your plant choices and practices.

Growing food is not a waste of water – it puts the most locally-grown food possible on your table.  Just do it wisely.

Here are some tips:

  • Grow more edibles than ornamentals.  Tomatoes have many uses on the menu and are easily consumed.  Pumpkins, on the other hand, are generally more ornamental and tend to overrun your garden if you’re not careful.  Scale back on the pumpkin patch and devote more resources to food crops.
  • Dress up your edible garden with companion flowers.  Nasturtium aren’t just pretty, they taste good in a salad.  Marigolds help deter pests.  Using dual purpose flowers like these in your garden gives more bang for your water buck.
  • Plant in blocks, rather than in rows.  Putting plants closer together creates shade that holds in moisture.
  • Control weeds.  They will suck up moisture your veggies need.
  • Use containers to grow some herbs, veggies and summer annual flowers.  Potted plants generally need less water than those planted in the soil.  Containers can also be watered efficiently with drip irrigation.
  • Recycle water from the kitchen.  After swishing a head of lettuce in a big bowl of water to clean it, pour the water on the pot of herbs outside.  It’s a few more steps, but the effort reminds us how precious our water is and that we need to use it wisely and even “twicely” whenever we can.

Productive landscapes add value to our lives and are a responsible use of resources.  This year, plan ahead and water wisely.

Garden clean-up in fall pays off in the spring

If you’re tired of outdoor chores, it’s tempting to walk away from the garden with a plan to clean it up next spring. But if you want a great veggie garden next year, you’ll be wise to take advantage of this warm weekend by doing some fall clean-up.

Why can’t you just wait until spring? Leaving leaves and debris in the garden gives diseases, fungus and pests a nice place overwinter and come back with a vengeance next spring. A garden that goes to sleep all cleaned up for the winter will wake up healthier in the springtime. There will also be less need to treat for pests and disease.

Need help with fall landscape chores? Contacting a landscape clean up pros at Signature Landscapes is as easy as clicking on our service request form, or calling (775) 857-4333.

Take these steps before you begin the clean-up:

  • Harvest root crops like carrots or potatoes that are still in the ground.
  • Make a sketch of this year’s garden, before removing any plant debris, that shows what was planted where. Having a sketch of this year’s garden will help you rotate placement of next season’s crops – like tomatoes – that do best when not grown in the same place each year.
  • Plant herbs, that will not overwinter outdoors, in containers to bring inside.

Tips for the clean-up

  • Remove all old veggies, vines, leaves and other debris from the garden. If leaves from trees blow in, keep them cleaned up as well. All of this decaying plant material makes a nice winter home for insects and disease.
  • Remove the weeds, too.
  • Most greens, leaves and small plants are fine to pitch in the compost pile. But leave out the weeds whose seeds will get back in the garden when you spread the compost. Also leave out tomato plants as they often carry disease, and large-stemmed vines such as pumpkin as they take too long to decompose.

When the garden is clean, do one last chore that will pay off next spring: work compost into the soil. You can also add straw mulch or grass clippings as mulch on top. Now your garden is nicely tucked in for its long winter’s nap.