I was reading with great interest a British study recently that implied the gender roles in the home are being rewritten including three quarters of women happy to tackle the job of mowing the lawn previously considered a task of the man of the household. Meanwhile six in ten men would be willing to make dinner every night and clean up afterwards as well. This survey of 2,000 Brits indicates gender roles have evolved in the home and an understanding that a chore shared is a chore halved. I believe it only makes sense that when it comes to yard work, cooking, cleaning and other household chores that teamwork always beats the culturally assigned gender roles that Mom and Dad demonstrated years ago. In the turf classes I have taught with a show of hands, hands down women believe they could do a much better job of the lawn and landscape then the man in the household. Conversely this study showed one in 5 men felt they could do a better job of cleaning and tasks their fathers would have declined to do. Whether it is weeding, mowing, cooking or vacuuming today’s home and garden inhabitants understand that a partnership beats previously culturally defined roles.

Mow and Behold!
Mow and Behold!

Out in the yard the green green grass of home (Tom Jones 1967 oh this dates me) can become a tiresome chore for household partners when the calendar turns to August. My first word of advice is to raise the deck on the mower. Cutting the grass short in the heat of summer is not a good idea and adds stress to the lawn. Longer grass blades shade the crown of the plant, increase surface area for photosynthesis and reduce weed growth and development comparatively to a scalped or short cut lawn. Irrigate in the morning when watering is most efficient (sun and wind evaporation is less) and avoid irrigating at sundown (to reduce disease stress). August is a great month to plan for rejuvenating your lawn with the coming month of September one of the best months to seed a lawn, feed a lawn and control weeds. Fall is the perfect time for lawn establishment and rejuvenation.
Some are abandoning the typical urban front lawn for alternatives and I say more “flower” to you. Even though our lawns are great for trapping dust particles, cooling the earth and generating oxygen, alternatives are available. Groundcovers and ornamental grasses are easy to grow hardy substitutes for a well groomed lawn.

Calamagrostis Karl Foerster lines a drive
Calamagrostis Karl Foerster lines a drive

Ornamental grasses are spotlighted in the landscape from August to October as they “dance” for our attention as drought tolerant landscape show stoppers. Perennial, deer resistant, drought resistant and hardy easy to grow plants, Ornamental grasses are available in a wide array of cultivars to enjoy. My neighbors looked questioningly as I replaced a large swath of lawn with ornamental Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ grasses at my lakeshore landscape, but now are true believers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Consider ornamental grasses and move to the head of the “grass” for the “grass” of 2016. Congratulations and enjoy.

A “Root” awakening

If April showers bring May flowers then you my friend are in for a “root” awakening. Every April is different which adds to the adventure. I’ve seen 80-degree temperatures and I’ve seen frosts that would freeze the hardiest of plants. I’ve see sunshine and I’ve seen snow. Sounds like a James Taylor song doesn’t it?

Frozen tulips from last April
Frozen tulips from last April

Last year we had an early March warm up waking the entire landscape only to freeze in the great Arbor day frost of 2012. So what should we expect from our landscape dreams during the month of April? You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

April first of all is a big month for lawn care in Michigan. The lawn greens and begins to grow and we welcome the sound of lawnmowers awakening in our neighborhoods.

Remember the drought damage from last year?
Remember the drought damage from last year?

A great month to get a deal on a 4 step lawn plan applying the first step now and storing the remaining 3 steps in the garage or shed for applications later in the year. The first feeding generally includes a crabgrass control which is important after the hot year we had in 2012. Crabgrass seed from last year over winters in the soil of your lawn and will wake and germinate when soil (not air) temperatures get to be around 60 degrees or warmer.

Soil thermometer
Soil thermometer

If you don’t have a soil thermometer, which most people don’t, you can listen to me on my radio show or you can use the old fashioned less scientific way of gauging spring’s wake up call.

That would be to act when the forsythias are in bloom or apply sometime around tax day. Certainly much easier for you than having to understand the methods of “growing degree days” that us horticultural people like to track at this time of year. Applying a crabgrass control in spring, especially in the hottest areas of the lawn like driveway or sidewalk edges or non-shaded areas will create a barrier to germination so you don’t have an infestation of unsightly crabgrass come the heat of summer.

Cold and frost tolerant Pansies

April includes Arbor Day which here in Michigan falls on the last Friday of the month. April is a great time to plant a tree or landscape shrub. We see many trees show off in April with Crabapples, Redbuds, Juneberry, Magnolia and Cherry trees to name a few. This month is perfect for planting evergreens and woody landscape plants, saving the more tender plants for May when frost is less of a threat. Remember that when it comes to “tender” plants a great frost tolerant plant for some early April flowers in the landscape would Pansies. In regards to tender foliage, keep some deer repellant handy and make sure to apply to susceptible plants during the month. Hungry deer after winter are anxious for a buffet of tender green growth including delicious Tulips and Hosta. Not tonight “deer.”

Understanding the weather can be a variable and tricky issue in April, it is a good month to work on soil preparation, planting bed preparation and some mulching. You don’t have to protect dirt and mulch from overnight frosts. Raised planting beds soil warm quicker in spring. If you’re itching to plant some herbs, pot up some containers and move them in and out contingent on weather conditions.

Thank you very "mulch"
Thank you very “mulch”

In regards to mulch, many will apply because it looks nice. True, but there is a functional use for mulch too. I saw a study that described the impact an appropriate layer of 2 inches of mulch can have for your landscape when the heat of summer does arrive. In this study on a San Antonio Texas day where the air temperature was 105 degrees and in the sun felt like 130 degrees, the bare soil was 102 degrees, the soil under the grass was 92 degrees and soil under 3 inches of mulch was 76 degrees. That gives you an idea of the soil temperature regulating benefit of mulch as well as its ability to hold moisture in the soil.

Let’s get out there and get “growing” now that winter is finally over. You my friend are in for a “root” awakening.

Picture worth a thousand words

Hi everyone. It’s June a busy busy gardening month. So much happens in the landscape in June……the good, the unexpected, and of course the bad and ugly. For today’s entry I thought I would share a few pictures from my yard with the understanding that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Bluebirds nesting in the Press Box
Dutch Bulb Iris….plant in Fall and enjoy in late May and early June
Dutch Bulb Iris also known as Garden Orchids!
The combination of clover and black medic in your lawn is an indication your lawn is trying to tell you….Feed Me!
The “Alliums” have landed in my yard!
….and of course the ugly…..Slime Mold on the bark mulch. Stir and aerate the mulch……fascinating to watch!