Category Archives: Irrigation

How to Sample Soil

Why We Take Soil Samples (And You Should Too)

When it comes to landscape installation or building gardens, we always take a soil sample. Plants have varying needs and will respond differently to particular types of soil. Soil sampling is important to determine soil texture, pH level, and the soil nutrients in order to grow the proper trees, shrubs, and turf.

A soil test can provide information on the proper amount of lime and fertilizer to apply to your lawn, garden and other areas of your landscape. When gardeners apply the amount of fertilizer that is necessary (and at the appropriate time) nutrient runoff into surface and ground water is minimal, therefore money is saved while plant health is optimized. It’s a win-win!

If you want the most successful plant growth in your garden or landscape, we suggest you take a soil sample, or have a licensed landscaper take it for you. Always take the sample at approximately the same time of the year, but collect samples 3-6 months before planting.

The reliability of the soil test is no better than the sample you submit. For results you can
depend on, it is vitally important that you take samples correctly.

Here are the steps to properly take a soil sample:

1. Source the Equipment: It is important to have the proper tools for soil sampling. Wear gloves to protect your hands, then grab a soil knife or soil probe, and a clean bucket to gather up the soil.

2. Decide on Location: Determine where in your lawn would give the best general understanding of your soil profile. For example, don’t take soil samples under rain spouts or gutters. You may have a property that requires several soil samples, as soil may vary in depth, texture, and quality, even from one location to another. For example, a soil brought to a building site for grading and backfilling around a structure will differ from the native soil. Decide carefully if you may have varying soil types, and be prepared to test multiple areas.

3. Determine Depth of Soil Sample: For trees and shrubs, you’ll want to sample 4 to 6″ deep. In turf areas, sample 4″ deep. The depth of sampling should be from 6 to 8″ in all soil except sandy soil, where cores should be 10-12″ deep. Take a 1-2 pint composite sample from the cores. Next you will mix and package…

4. Mix Soil: Stop here! If you are using a home test kit, read their specific instructions first before mixing or packaging soil. If you are shipping off to a lab, you would mix all of your soil samples into a bucket so that you can get a general understanding of the soil profile. Remove any organic matter, such as  leaves and sticks from the sample.

5. Send Soil to The Lab or Test At Home: Here’s a list of 10 Best Soil Test Kits. Companies like SS Delta will test soil for you, if you prefer to ship soil into a lab. Visit their website to learn more.

Once you receive the results, you’ll be able to determine lime requirements for addressing pH issues, as well as fertilizer and irrigation needs, which will help you successfully grow trees, shrubs, and other plants on your lawn. Good luck and get sampling!

Four Signs of Overwatering Plants

4 Signs of Overwatering Plants

Ever wonder if you are overwatering your plants? Chances are, the plants are probably getting more water than they need. There are a few obvious overwatering signs. If you can identify these four warning signs, your plant can still thrive!

1. Got brown and wilty leaves? Many mistake this for a dry plant, quite the contrary. This also occurs when plants have too much water. The difference between the overwatering and underwatering is that too little water will result in your plant’s leaves feeling crispy and dry, while too much water results in limp, wilty, and soft leaves and foliage.

2. Stunted slow growth accompanied by yellowing leaves is a symptom of overwatering a plant. You may even see leaves falling off. If the plant has yellowing leaves and old leaves simultaneously, as well as new leaves that are falling at the same accelerated rate – too much water!

3. Roots are the primary source for your plants food, water and oxygen intake. Roots need to take in water, but they also need air to breathe. Healthy soil allows for oxygen to exist in the spaces between soil particles. If the soil is constantly wet, there is not enough air pockets. This means there is a limited oxygen supply and the plant can’t breathe….basically drowning the plant.

4. Blisters and lesions are another sign of overwatering. Water pressure begins to build in the When the roots absorb more water than they can use, the water pressure builds and cells will eventually die and burst, resulting in areas that look like they have lesions or blisters. Once these blisters erupt, brown or white wart-like growths begin to form in their place.

If you sense any of these warning signs may present on your plants, go ahead and gently push your finger an inch or two down in to the soil. If the soil feels moist and wet, it is a strong indication that overwatering has occurred. If you’d like a more sophisticated way to measure soil, your local nursery or home improvement store sells accurate moisture meters. Insert these in the root ball and it will tell you how much water is in the soil.

Santa Clara Rebates for Lawn and Water

How To Renovate Your Yard (And Get Paid To Do It)

Did you know:  You can get paid $1-$2 per square foot to convert your yard to a more sustainable landscape. Yep, it’s true.

Because of the extensive drought affecting California for the past several years, an old program that pays property owners to make their landscape more sustainable has been reinstated. By removing non-native, water-intensive plants and replacing them with approved plants that grow naturally without extra water you can qualify for a cash rebate from the water district.

What’s the catch? Well, first, you have to live in Santa Clara County in California. The program is run by the Santa Clara Valley Water District with the San Jose Municipal Water System, City of Morgan Hill, and the City of Cupertino joining as partners.

Depending on the type and size of your property and the city you’re in, you could receive up to $2,000-$3,000 for a single family dwelling or up to $20,000-$30,000 for a commercial property.

To qualify, commercial or residential property owners must call and request a pre-inspection to receive approval for inclusion in the program. Once approved, property owners must replace high water usage plants (like irrigated turf grass) with at least 50% plant coverage using plants from the water district’s approved plant list.

Check out the Santa Clara Water District website for all the rebate details and numbers to call for pre-inspections.

Even without the Santa Clara Water District rebate, converting your landscaping makes a lot of sense. The benefits of a sustainable landscape are many:

  • Spend less money on water and fertilizer – Lawns are especially thirsty, and often require a fair amount of fertilizer and weed mitigation to thrive in soil they aren’t adapted for. By contrast, native plants are accustomed to the local environment. That allows them to thrive with little to no help from your pocketbook.
  • Reduce time spent doing maintenance – You can probably think of a few things you would rather be doing than mowing the lawn (again). Pretty much all landscaping is going to require some maintenance, but grass in particular is pretty time-intensive compared to succulents or shrubs.
  • Increase energy efficiency – As the previous points suggest, plants that can survive on their own are require significantly less energy. Water, fertilizer, maintenance, all of these things require energy to transport, create, and apply.
  • Restore habitats – Native vegetation is the cornerstone of a vibrant, healthy local ecology. That helps to promote and protect local food supplies by, for example, increasing the number of pollinators needed for crops. A more natural environment also contributes to our own mental well being.
  • Enjoy the unique beauty of local flora – Why should your outdoor space look the same as someone who lives in the Midwest or East Coast? Bay Area cities like San Jose and Santa Clara are home to all sorts of unique plants. For some idea of the incredible variety of California’s native plant life check out Cal Flora.

The value of sustainable landscaping has never been higher, and the timing has never been better to make the switch. Bayscape has helped numerous clients update their residential landscape, improving aesthetics, efficiency, and the value of the property.

If you’d like to discuss options for your property don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Reduce Embers and the Home Ignition Zone

Preventing Wildfire Destruction: Removing Embers from ‘Home Ignition Zones’

Research by the National Fire Protection Agency around home destruction vs. survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the most common and frequent way that the majority of homes ignite in wildfires.

What is an Ember?

Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind. Embers can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects. 

Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation. This is called the Home Ignition Zone (source: Firewise USA).

Homeowners can prepare their homes to withstand ember ignitions and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or any other structures on the property.

What are Home Ignition Zones?

The Home Ignition Zone, or HIZ, was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990s, following breakthrough research into how homes ignite from effects of radiant heat. The HIZ is divided into three zones, Immediate, Intermediate, and Extended Zone.

 

What actions should Homeowners take to Reduce Ember Ignition in the Immediate Home Ignition Zone?

 

The home and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the home; defined as a non-combustible area, is the Immediate Zone. This is the most important zone to take immediate action on, as it’s the most vulnerable to embers. The following steps will help prevent embers from igniting your home:

  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters and eaves.
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under decks and porches, within 10′ of the home.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent combustable debris from accumulating.
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood, propane tanks, gas cans) within 30′ of the home’s foundation and outbuildings – including garages and sheds.
  • Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10′ from the ground (wildfire can spread to tree tops).
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down! Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for fire!
  • Think about switching to some Xeriscape, or more sustainable landscape options, to cut back on the amount of lawn exposed.
  • Dispose of lawn debris and cuttings quickly. Don’t let those sit on your property!
  • Replace or repair roof tiles that are loose or missing, to prevent ember penetration.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent embers from entering.

 

What actions should Homeowners take in the Intermediate Home Ignition Zone?

 

5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the home, is considered the Intermediate Zone.

  • Consider careful Landscaping and hardscaping installation, for example create breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior
  • Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
  • Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
  • Remove vegetation under trees, sometimes called “ladder fuels” so a surface fire cannot reach the tree crowns.
  • Prune trees up to 6 to 10′ from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
  • Space trees to have a minimum of 18′ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
  • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity.

 

What actions should Homeowners take in the Extended Home Ignition zone?

 

30-100′ out to 200′ is the Extended Home Ignition zone.

  • In regards to landscaping, the goal here is to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.
  • Trees 30 to 60′ from the home should have at least 12′ between canopy tops.
  • Trees 60 to 100′ from the home should have at least 6′ between the canopy tops.
  • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
  • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
  • Remove deadwood (Visit Arbortek Trees’ helpful blog on how to remove deadwood safely).

    Firewise Defensible Space

    Photo from Firewise USA

Thank you to Firewise USA for this valuable research and insight! If you have a large property and would like assistance with clean up of your defensible space and tree canopies, we are a phone call away. Now is the time to get proactive before wildfire danger arrives!

How to Budget and Plan a New Residential Landscape

How To Plan and Budget a Residential Landscape Installation

New year, new beginnings! January is a perfect time to start planning your residential landscape for the year. As we list our New Year’s goals, start visualizing your dream landscape design.

We have listed some frequent residential landscape questions and answers to help you start planning your dream landscape for 2018, as well as a checklist to help you get your ideas formulated.

General questions to as yourself, before beginning a residential landscape project:

  • Where am I landscaping? The backyard, the front yard or both?
  • What piece of the landscaping project gets top priority?
  • What, if any, outdoor activities do I want to enjoy in my yard?
  • Do I have a deadline for this landscape project? Does it need to be installed within the next 3-6 months? The next 6-12 months?
  • Can my landscape project be completed in phases (Possible constraints such as availability of finances and/or weather conditions need to be considered in the timeline.

 

How much should I budget for residential landscaping installations?

When it comes to a landscape project, think of it as you would any other home remodel. The most expensive part of the installation is typically the hardscape. If your new landscape design requires a new driveway, walkways, patios, stone walkways, water fountains, or permanent planters – this will require approximately 60 to 70% of your budget.

The remaining 30 to 40% of your landscape budget will go to plants (consider all shrubs, flowers, and trees), irrigation (hopefully you are installing smart irrigation), mulch, grading, and drainage.

…Psst…look for local rebates for smart irrigation! Check out our article How To Renovate Your Yard (and Get Paid to Do It!)

You will want to check with your local nursery during the landscape budget planning stage as well. Find out when plants are in bloom – you will want to see them in bloom before you purchase a large amount. Then determine best availability for your choices, then the cost. If buying in bulk, you may be able to work a discount!

Is there an ideal time to begin a residential landscape installation?

Weather is typically mild for us in the California Bay area, so any time of year is a great time to start and complete a residential landscape project. If you don’t live here in the Bayscape Landscape service area, check out Farmers Almanac or hop on over to Yelp for local landscape designers or landscape maintenance companies.

No matter where you live, there are factors to be considered for determining the perfect timetable for your residential landscape project. First, when finances will be available. Second, if there are any major events happening at your home this year that required that landscape to be finished.

Ok, you are ready to get started!

If you have a completed design or are considering working with professional landscape designer, we would be happy to provide you with an estimate and guide you through the process! Head over to our contact page and drop us a line! We are happy to assist in your new residential landscape installation.

Irrigation Systems Bayscape Landscape

Get Smart About Irrigation

July is our favorite month at Bayscape, as we celebrate Irrigation Month! We take this time to educate our customers about the vital role “smart” irrigation technology is to our Santa Clara County landscapes, as well as share resources and knowledge to help you get your residential or commercial property continually practicing smart irrigation.

The Irrigation Association started this initiative in 2005, aimed to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf and agricultural irrigation.

Whether your business property is big or small, multiple campuses, HOA, turf and landscape or golf applications, there are many ways you can get “smart” about irrigation. If you are a homeowner looking for ways to conserve water, have a more sustainable landscape, and cut your water bill, Irrigation Month is a month you should take stock of your current irrigation practices and systems.

Here’s your Irrigation Month Checklist for Ultimate Water Savings:

1. Always get your irrigation system checked in early spring. We’ve discussed this topic quite a bit over the last few years! This is the time of year repairs and leaks can be repaired. Not checking your system yearly, costs not only thousands in dollars, but wastes gallons upon gallons of our precious resource, water. If you missed this spring, do it now!

2. Install a wi-fi or web based irrigation controller! Companies such as Hydrawise, Bluespray, and Postscapes offer complete wi-fi irrigation control systems (we do not officially endorse these brands). 24/7 support, unlimited start times, history usage reports and more, will decrease water usage. Some allow for remote monitoring and control zones from your Android or iOS phone using wi-fi or ethernet connectivity. Each product has something a little different to offer, so please check them out online.

3. Remember your “Water Use It Wisely” techniques you can practice at home or in the office. Although this is not specifically irrigation related, it still counts towards water conservation! This website even offers educational games you can practice with children, to teach them young about water conservation.

4. During the month of July, our Bayscape Account Managers are on stand by to answer your questions about irrigation technologies. We will work as your advocate and partner to obtain all of the rebates available to you in your municipality for irrigation system upgrades, installs, or repairs.

Give us a call! Irrigation Month lasts until July 31st!

Bayscape Landscapes Top 5 Blogs

Best of Bayscape: 5 Blogs to Prepare Your Landscape for 2016

In the midst of the holiday hustle, it can be easy to forget that landscaping needs and projects will be on you before you know it! Wise homeowners know that setting aside just a little bit of time to map out the year ahead can help them plan (and budget) accordingly.

Check out this brief recap of the best blogs from Bayscape and Arbortek in 2015, and think about what landscaping projects are on your 2016 docket.

Why Smart and Savvy Landscapers Plant in Fall

Smart landscapers know that this is actually the ideal time to start planning your next fall garden – especially with oxygen-producing, shade-giving, earth-loving trees! They also know that California-native and California-friendly trees can offer a surprising bounty of fall color. Read this blog if you would like to plant trees or shrubs in fall of 2016.

When Planting Bare Roots Sends You Running for Cover

Planting dormant bare-root plants and trees can help homeowners save money and establish them in new soil more easily. Check out this quick, easy primer for readying roots, priming soil, and introducing bare root plants early in the year!

Five Ways to Save 20 Gallons

The Santa Clara Valley Water District’s rebate funds may be depleting for the year, but it’s more important than ever to keep water usage in check. This blog contains several helpful ideas for saving water, from lawn removal to selection of California-native plants and installing drip irrigation systems.

Annual, Biennial, Perennial – Do I Even Care About the Difference?

There are lots of common landscaping and gardening terms floating around that some homeowners may not even know how to distinguish. Learn the difference about annual, biennial, and perennial flowers and plants with this easy reference.

Preparing Your Trees for El Nino

As El Nino is predicted to last well into 2016, homeowners should be preparing their trees and maintaining their health all year long! Large trees (especially those near roofs) should be pruned, and newer trees should be fortified. Check out this blog to make sure the trees on your property are weather-ready.

Bay friendly landscaping by Bayscape Landscape

What Your Mom Didn’t Tell You About Your Bay-Friendly Landscape (& Global Warming)

Fewer things invoke Americana like a bit of Mom’s advice. You know, that you should eat carrots to improve your vision, make your bed as soon as you wake up, clean behind your ears, and whatever you do – don’t make that face, because it will most certainly freeze that way.

 

But there’s some wisdom that hasn’t yet joined the coffers of traditional motherly advice: part of being a good citizen is taking care of the planet, and you can start that in your own Bay Area backyard.

 

When the United States government recently released its report on global warming, the overall findings confirmed that the effects on our climate and environment were not a far-off boogeyman, but a real issue facing us today.

 

The good news is that there are few places that you can personally make such a direct impact – helping fight the affects of global warming, and creating a healthier planet overall – than in your own backyard and landscaping projects.
The other piece of good news? What’s good for Bay-friendly landscaping is usually also pretty good for the planet!

Here are just some of the many changes you can make to create a “bay-friendly” landscape in your backyard:
 

  • Encourage composting, selecting California native (and drought-resistant plants), and using water and irrigation wisely – these measures can all help lower the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Use natural fertilizers and build soil’s organic matter content to help the soil store carbon better (read more about Bay Area Sustainable Landscaping).
  • Fight for trees: plant them, and then nurture (prune!) and protect them (mulch!) so they can thrive.
  • Think about the ways that your business can reduce gas emissions by using hand tools and alternative fuels.

 

So even though “build a Bay- and earth-friendly landscape” isn’t yet considered traditional parental advice, hopefully before too long, it will be! Need help with your outdoor landscaping ideas? Contact us, your Bay Area friendly landscape professionals!