Archive for the ‘Landscape Solutions’ Category

Our Lawns: “To Treat” or “Not to Treat”, and what about Organic Options?

The goal of a turf care professional is to provide a healthy lawn with a low weed population.  Healthy green fescue lawns improve the appearance and enhance the value of a property. Healthy lawns also provide significant environmental benefits.

The lawn treatment (lawn care) industry is huge in the United States and for good reason.  Lawn care programs, for example like my lawn care lawn mowing Brisbane suggests, are generally inexpensive and work very well. Lawns left untreated will quickly be overrun with weeds and turf will eventually disappear.  Evidence of this can be seen on roadsides and unmaintained areas at public schools.

Procedures for Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

Step 1: Establish a threshold:  Property owners and managers need to decide on the ultimate goal.  Is it a no tolerance policy on weeds, something in-between for maintenance, or simply no concern for a weed population? This will dictate the level of services ordered and the approach of the provider. By way of example, homeowners and fancy commercial sites generally have a “no tolerance” weed policy and may have irrigation systems.  Homeowners associations and budget conscious owners take a medium approach.  Schools, roadsides, and certain retail centers may have no concern for weed populations or turf health.

Step 2: Establish a cultural practice: Make sure your mowing provider cuts fescue no lower than 3.5”. The mower blade must be sharp.  Consider an irrigation system for the maintained area.

Step 3: Decide on fertilizer: Too often, the quality and amount of annual fertilization is overlooked and not watched. This could be the most important element of your program. Poor fertility means poor grass, more weeds, and more chemicals. It is also an area where contractors cut corners.  There are 100% organic fertilizers but Blade Runners does not recommend them. The nitrogen is not stable and tends to release all at one time. Much of this drains from the property into the Chesapeake watershed. It is important to have a large slow-release component in the fertilizer. This can be a blend of organic and traditional nitrogen product.  The slow release will feed the turf slowly, remain in the soil profile, and not leach into the sewer.

Step 4: Decide on seeding: Make sure that full core aeration of the property and seeding is part of the program.

Step 5: Ensure your PH is correct and apply lime annually

Step 6: Determine the weed control approach: Notice how far down the list we are.  EPA regulated herbicides do a great job and are cost effective. Organic is a buzzword of interest for all of us, especially when it involves agriculture.  There are organic approaches to weeds to consider. As is the case with all products and services, we need to be sure they deliver on the organic commitment, and provide the stated results.

Organic Weed Control Products

Corn Gluten: Corn Gluten is a by-product of the wet milling process utilized to make cornstarch. Research has shown that application in the spring and fall can serve as a preventive to crabgrass. Unfortunately, it is expensive and requires 4 times as much granular product applied. The cost for corn gluten alone will be twice your total overall program including the fertilizer.

Chelated Iron Weed Controls: These can be effective on weeds but it does not kill them. It burns the surface part of the plant and does not kill the root. For this reason, the weeds re-emerge and require more treatments. The product is more expensive and corrosive to metals and equipment. Many of these products are not regulated by the EPA, and traditional weed controls are.

Mixed Products: There are numerous home remedies to be found on the internet. Many of them involve the use of vinegar and other household products.  We cannot speak to how effective they are.  Blade Runners is prohibited by regulation from the Virginia Department of Agriculture from making our own concoctions.

Step 7: Watch out for the sling shot:  If you decide on a no-chemical weed control approach, make sure you plan to adhere to it. Understand what the results will be at the outset.  In many cases, clients can take an about face when the weeds overrun the property. The result is a net increase in chemical use and cost, to bring things back in line. We see this happen in most cases where clients elect to suspend applications.

At this time, Blade Runners’ recommendation is not to use organic weed and crabgrass control products.  We feel they do not produce results and are too costly.  We would prefer you suspend all weed control applications and simply apply lime and fertilizer. The results will be the same and the cost much lower. With that said the industry is always changing. There may come a day when things will be different.  Our ears are open to anything you bring to our attention. We are willing to examine any proposed organic alternative and let you know our thoughts.

Blade Runners Long Range Planning Program Can Revitalize Your Community

Once your property was fresh, young, and new.  All you needed was grass cutting and routine maintenance.  Now there are overgrown trees in need of tree pruning services, over-sized landscaping, erosion issues, dilapidated walls, and drainage concerns.
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This can be a real challenge to an association’s budget!
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Blade Runners helps you make an extraordinary first impression. We’ve helped homeowners, condo and homeowners associations create a positive, refreshed, and inviting look to their communities.  How do we make this possible?

1)  We assess the entire property and consider what is needed.  We separate what can be salvaged from what needs full replacement.

2)  A budget is submitted for the entire project on a building by building basis.  Priorities are established and a budget is created to stretch from a 3-5 year period.

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 3)  Detailed proposals are presented for projects as they are ready for completion.

With a good plan from Blade Runners, your property can be completely transformed in 3 to 5 years. 

Blade Runners Transforms Foundation Plantings of a Mature Condominium Property

Plants have a life cycle like everything else.

It is wonderful when all is new…new properties, kitchens, even floor plans!  Yes, everyone likes fresh surroundings.  As properties mature, so do their plantings. They become overgrown and encroach over windows that once provided sunshine and brightness.  All too often, dense bushes block walkways, creating dark and sometimes dangerous paths to doorways. As time passes, condominium properties suffer from age like everything else.A1 Right corner before2Over grown there was a window at some timeHow do you deal with an outdated landscape that needs to compete with newer properties?  Do you remove everything? Do you plant or remove something here or there? Where will the needed money come from?

Blade Runners was called to revitalize the Bentana Park Condominium complex in Reston, VA.  Residents voted for a foundation facelift to update the property and help protect their real estate investment.  The Bentana Park Condo board president said, “We’re so glad we hired Blade Runners to restore and renew our community.  We once again have bright walkways, sun shining through windows, and a welcome environment for our residents!”

  Scroll down below to see the before and after pictures and the positive first impressions created by Blade Runners.              

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Blade Runners Creates Landscape Islands to Enhance Your Property’s Common Areas

Messy Island 1Those dirty rings…you try scrubbing them out, rinsing them out, and you STILL have “Ring Around the Collar!” Those bare dirt-ridden islands. Seeding and watering just create a muddy mess. Where can you place your trash cans for pick-up? Blade Runners has created countless island transformations that eliminate the mud, lower maintenance bills, and provide safety zones for your children and attractive landing areas for trash receptacles.Island Solution d2

Here’s a safe spot for children awaiting their school bus.

island solution B2 An excellent location for trash receptacles        Island solution A.jpg2

 Blade Runners will create appealing curbsides and enhance the beauty of your community.


 
 

Blade-Runners Helps Reston Community with Water Erosion

Water and Soil Erosion in your Neighborhood

As a child running, jumping and sliding down through puddles and mud left in the backyard after a downpour was as much fun as the slip-n-slide in the heat of summer.  As an adult, the mud-induced slip-n-slide is not so fun and difficult to negotiate while taking out the trash or walking the dog.

Didn’t there used to be grass there?

As an adult, we’ve seen the mud in our community start to resemble a Slip-N-Slide.  While taking out the trash and walking the dog, this can be hard to traverse.  As the neighborhood become

mud slide 1more muddy after each thunder storm, more tree roots are exposed and the turf is slipping away.  Water erosion has started.  This erosion is usually most noticeable during short-duration, high-intensity storms.

Is there anything we can do?

Early blooming imageAs the river develops after each thunder storm we see top-soil wash away and the need for good rain boots increase due to the mud after each rain.  Tree roots are slowly being exposed and receding or lost turf areas are getting.  Isn’t there anything we can do?  Isn’t this nature’s way?  Water erosion is a natural occurrence that reshapes the earth over time and changes the landscape.  The soil moves and runs off into local waterways, carrying with it pollutants such as oil from cars and waste from animals.  Although this process is “natural” it is not beneficial to our living environments.  Overtime water erosion can damage structures, pollute drinking water and cause accidents.  To prevent this contact us now by e-mail and we will have a sales-rep visit you soon.

Solving the Problem

Developing the use of subterranean and surface drainage systems coordinated with select tree removal and canopy thinning, as well as establishing woodchip buffer areas with native plants, Blade-Runners increases the valuegreenary 1 of your property by creating a park-like atmosphere at a one time forgotten or unused or neglected part of the property and resolves your water erosion issues the right way.  Blade-Runners has solved water and soil erosion problems in communities such as Hunters Green Cluster, Bentana Park Condominiums, Oak Spring Cluster in Reston and others in Fairfax and surrounding Counties.  Blade-Runners carefully considers all requirements and recommendations of the community and area before designing recommendations and practices.  By doing this Blade-Runners can ensure their approach to erosion and drainage issues really work.  Contact us today so we can help your community.

Hunters Green Cluster Reston Virginia Blade Runners Case Study

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Erosion Control

~Case Study~

Hunters Green Cluster

“The combination of Rocks, Plants, and Design turned an eyesore into an attractive area!”

 20june09 002Problem  Betsy Hill, Hunters Green Cluster board member, spearheaded the initial project,”…we were looking to do an erosion project behind [the community].  It’s a shady area with no topsoil left, exposed roots, utilities; it’s complicated and the planting would be a big part of making the long term erosion control work.”  Hunters Green Cluster’s rear common area suffered from erosion causing back yard properties to flood, walkways constantly washing out and existing culverts unable to function effectively due to the collection of silt and runoff debris.  The cause is common;  overgrown tree canopy, either by neglect or a desire to keep shaded areas.  Without proper canopy pruning, there is an eventual loss of turf area and exposed top soil erodes and causes various erosion problems, such as flooding.   HG Lower Swale BeforeProposal  Account Manager, Terry Turner, provided a thorough assessment of the areas affected by the erosion and found many areas of concern.  He proposed a drainage swale design utilizing River Jack stone for the swale, replace and repair existing clean-outs and create a river jack stone buffer around the existing drainage culverts.  The proposal included the necessary turf renovation and ground cover installation. The proposal was then given to the Reston Association for review.20june09 014

HG Swale After 1Solution Create drainage swales throughout rear common area. Reparations of the existing drainage culverts and clean-outs, turf restoration where turf grass is feasible, and the establishment of ground cover beds under the existing shade trees would be essential to eradicate these erosion issues.  The design included the use of woodchips and perennial ground cover to be installed as a landscape buffer to further protect the topsoil from washing into the new drainage swale.

HG Swale AfterAccolades  “The board at Hunters Green Cluster hired your company to correct an erosion problem behind my home. The landscaping crew finished the project last week and I am writing to tell you how pleased I am with the results. The combination of Rocks, Plants, and design turned an eyesore into an attractive area.” resident, Virginia Banks.  Board member, Betsy Hill, expressed her comments about the drainage swales, “Terry, this project is great!!!!”   “The work is exemplary …. the swale is beautiful…amazing!!!!”, stated long-time supporter and board member, Katherine Hunter.

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Drainage & Soil Erosion Newsletter

DRAINAGE & SOIL EROSION Q&A’s

WHAT IS SOIL EROSION?
Soil erosion occurs when soil particles are carried off by water or wind. In addition to the soil, runoff can wash fertilizer and other pollutants along with it. Most phosphates and pesticides entering Virginia’s waters are attached to these soil particles. Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers carried by runoff have been associated with many environmental problems. Streams, ponds, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay suffer from algae growth, depletion of the water’s oxygen supply, and suffocation of aquatic organisms.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF SOIL EROSION?
Everyone recognizes a gully as evidence of soil erosion. Muddy water in your gutter or driveway also indicates that erosion has been occurring. It may only be visible for a time following a rain, but the damage will continue unless something is done.
The following are other indications of erosion.

  • Bare spots on your lawn or property
  • Exposed tree roots
  • Small rills or gullies on slopes
  • Soil splashes on your windows and outside walls
  • Sediment that collects in low areas or on pavement

DRAINAGE, WHY DOES DRAINAGE MATTER?
Water always takes the easiest path. Because of this, it is important to understand how and what drainage is in order to find an alternative path for the water on your land.

DRAINAGE ON YOUR PROPERTY HAS A GREATER AFFECT
What drains from your property will affect much more than your land alone. Runoff from your yard is the water that runs across your yard and all the material the water picks up and carries with it. Pollutants in water are frequently referred to as point and nonpoint source pollution. Point source pollutants come from an identified point such as an outfall pipe at an industrial operation. Nonpoint source pollutants come from many sources such as pet waste, leaking or improperly disposed auto fluids, car wash detergent or startchoosing the best soap, or fertilizers from your lawn. Pollutants are carried down into the groundwater table with percolating water draining through soil. Pollutants are also washed into lakes and streams via surface runoff. Storm drains, along streets and in backyards, lead to local streams. Home lawns and landscapes contribute to pollution when improper water management and chemical application allow fertilizer or pesticide-laden runoff to drain into our water supplies. In some areas, soils are very slow-draining and are referred to as having a high groundwater table. Groundwater tables tend to be at their highest in February and March in Virginia as a result of snowmelt and rains.

WHAT ARE SOME CLUES AND CORRECTIVE MEASURES?

  • Wet Lawns: To help prevent surface water from standing in your property, don’t create or maintain a perfectly flat space. Maintain a slight slope that drains toward a swale, rain garden or storm sewer inlet. Even very well-drained soils may become saturated in a Virginia summer thunderstorm, so try to maintain a slope of 5 percent away from the house and 2 percent everywhere else.
  • Standing water: If your yard, or some portion of it, remains wet and soggy for extended periods (two or three days following a rain), the natural drainage ways may be blocked or have settled and do not have enough grade to drain. Soggy ground and wet lawns are often the result of trapped surface water with no place to go. Most yards are originally graded so that water flows from the front to the street and from the back to a swale, ditch, or storm sewer. The existing grade of your land may have changed with an added patio, walk, or mounded planting beds (ask your deck contractors for more details), or trees may have grown significantly and their roots raised the ground surface.
  • Bare Spots: Excess water is the most frequent cause of bare spots and erosion. If the excess water is moving across your property, it will need to be redirected to a more appropriate area. The redirected water can be diverted to an appropriately planted grassy area, or a drainage swale, (A drainage swale is a shaped and sloped depression in the soil surface used to convey water run-off to a desired location). Regrading may be necessary to the surrounding ground to encourage the water to move where you want it to go.

THINGS TO CONSIDER…

1. Where is the water coming from? Standing rain water? Or is the water flowing onto the property from elsewhere?
2. Where should the water go? Water always flows downhill. Is something preventing the water from draining away? Is a storm drain clogged with debris? Is a drainage ditch overgrown with weeds or full of mulch? Is some man-made barrier blocking the waters natural path?
3. How much water to be handled? Is a wide drainage channel needed or will a shallow channel suffice?
4. How steep is the slope? A gentle slope will have a slow current, while a steep slope will need breaks to slow the water and prevent erosion.

HOW CAN YOU STOP SOIL FROM ERODING?
To solve the erosion problem, you must identify the cause and then correct it with an alternative site design solution using BMPs (best management practices). BMPs involve measures which accomplish two basic objectives:

  • Reduce the amount of impervious surface area, thereby reducing runoff and
  • Utilize the landscape to naturally filter and infiltrate runoff before it leaves the development site.

Recommended Site Design Alternatives…

  • Natural Drainage Swales: A drainage swale is a shaped and sloped depression in the soil surface used to convey water run-off to a desired location. A drainage swale is designed with a lining of vegetation, riprap, asphalt, concrete, or other material and is used to intercept and divert flow to a suitable outlet. It is constructed by excavating a channel and applying the appropriate stabilization. They can be used to convey runoff from the bottom or top of slope. For swales draining a disturbed area, the outlet can be to a sediment trapping device prior to its release.
  • Mulch: Mulching is a temporary erosion control practice in which materials such as grass, hay wood chips, wood fibers, straw, or gravel are placed on exposed or recently planted soil surfaces
  • Natural Landscaping: Natural landscaping approaches utilize native plants as an alternative to conventional turf grass. The principal advantage of preserving natural vegetations and utilizing natural landscape designs is the protections of desirable trees, vines, bushes, and grasses from damage caused by erosion. Vegetation provides erosion control, storm water detention, biofiltration, and aesthetic values.
  • Permeable Pavers: Permeable pavers are an environmentally friendly alternative to regular interlocking pavers. They allow for water to filter through the surface where it stays in a gravel basin while it slowly filters into the soil. By absorbing runoff, permeable surfaces help to prevent erosion and drainage issues.
  • Riprap: Riprap is a permanent, erosion-resistant layer made of stones. It is intended to protect soil from erosion in areas of concentrated runoff.

Additional Links & Resources

http://www.epa.gov/nps/education/runoff.html 

http://www.epa.gov/nps/facts/point7.htm

http://http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/youyourland/soil.htm

http://http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/KYW/Brochures/GroundSurface.html

http://http://strawberrycreek.berkeley.edu/pdfs/Start@Source/sats5drainagesystems.pdf

http://http://www.usarak.army.mil/Conservation/ITAM/ITAM_BMPs.pdf

Blade Runners Case Study of Bentana Park in Reston

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Erosion Control

~Case Study~

Bentana Park

“Many thanks to Blade Runners for beautifying our community!”

Problem  “Turf , drainage and erosion problems have been areas of contention for 10 years at Bentana Park.  Many different solutions had been tried and proved unsuccessful”  stated Property Manager, Diana Fritz.  “When I requested a bid from Blade Runners last year to replace ‘XYZ’ contractor, I knew that I was getting a company that would stand behind their work and would give us the best service available.  I have worked with Terry Turner, Blade Runners Branch Manager, on several other communities and he has always been exceptional to work with.  He has given me wonderful service at other properties and I knew he would do the same at Bentana Park.”

Bentana Before Park

Proposal  Terry Turner provided a thorough assessment of the areas of erosion and found many homes were affected and there was flooding involved.  This was of major concern.  He proposed a drainage swale consisting of River Jack stone, replacing and repairing clean-outs and installing a river jack buffer around the existing drainage culverts.  Woodchips and perennial ground cover will be installed as a landscape buffer to further protect the topsoil from washing into the drainage swale. The proposal was then given to the Reston Association for review.  According to Diana Fritz, Property Manager, “Another contractor also installed drain swales that were extremely costly, but unfortunately, Reston Association came back and told them they were not to code and needed to be ripped out.  When Reston Association finally approved Blade Runners approach and the work was complete everyone, including Reston Association was delighted with the final product.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Solution  Creat Dry River Swale through rear common area.  A Dry Swale serves as a permanent, erosion-resistant layer, made of stones.  It is intended to protect soil from erosion in areas of concentrated runoff.  Groundcover beds to be established around and under existing shade trees.  Wood chips and ground cover perennials installed as a landscape buffer. Ground cover vegetation provides   erosion control, storm water detention, biofiltration, and aesthetic values.

Solutions 1

 Accolades  Longtime resident and board member, Kathy Ray , “I have lived in Bentana Park for 20+ years and during this time, there has been numerous attempts to handle the erosion issues behind some of the units with our community.  Within the first few months of working with Blade Runners, these areas were turned into livable, beautiful areas.  Blade Runners provided the expertise to design and a dedicated team to perform quality workmanship.  They have proven to be dependable, dedicated and provided excellent customer service.  Not only has the erosion issues been controlled, it has given the homeowners a place to finally be able to sit and enjoy the scenery.  Many thanks to Blade Runners for beautifying our community!”

Solutions 4

Solutions 3

 

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Resistograph used by Blade Runners save clients money

Are you worried about a leaning tree on your property? Is there a tree that is looking old and rotten? Blade Runners uses a progressive tool called a resistograph! By using this tool you can make the right plan of action and also protect yourself from a liability standpoint. This can also be sued to assess timber walls , fences and other wood structures.

The resistograph is an instrument that detects decay and cavities in trees and timber. Through resistograph technology, an arborist is able to detect wood decay, stages of rot, hollow areas, cracks and ring structure. The resistograph is an ideal device for estimating tree stability and longevity. The resistograph is based on a drilling resistance measuring method developed by Frank Rinn in Heidelberg, Germany.

As the micro drill enters the tree, the resistance of the wood changes the rotation speed of the drill. These variations are translated into a graph, which looks a lot like an EKG print out. The tiny drilling hole closes itself up without any damage to the tree.