The Green Tips Blog!
"What's in a blog? Would information any other way inform as well?"




To Thatch or Not to Thatch...

that isn’t even a question!

Last year was a terrible year for lawns.  So now is the time to get outside  and make 2018 a great year for your lawn!

My post today is about something most have been ignoring for some time - that nasty layer of thatch buildup in your lawn.  Thatch is a layer of living and dead material accumulating in your turf which prevents water and lawn treatments from getting to the “root” zone.

Composed of stems, dead crowns, fibers, surface roots and most importantly-LIGNIN.  Lignin is an organic polymer contained in the cell walls of most plants  which allows them to stand upright instead of laying flat to the ground.    It’s highly resistant to normal decay channels (via microorganisms) and can build up rapidly due to poor lawn care habits like frequent light irrigation or too much quick release nitrogen fertilizer.

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Some Tips to Get Going this Spring

1.   If you haven’t already pruned back your deciduous trees and shrubs get out there NOW.  Time is important especially for barberries, spireas and small ornamentals.  Trees can wait a little longer but not too much.

2.  The same goes for your woody evergreen ornamentals-now is the time to dig in deep and cut them down to size.  You will be amazed at the rejuvenating effect aggressive pruning in late Winter/early Spring has on older plants that you though had outlived their usefulness.  Spread some compost around the base to get new growth moving fast and enjoy the results.  Keep those tools sharp!

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Spring is fast approaching so let’s all get ready!

 Just a few reasons…

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And The Rain Keeps Falling!

Unlike the past two Summers, every 5 to 10 days it seems as if the skies open up and soak our landscapes just as they are beginning to dry out.

 While this is a welcome change from the extended dry periods we endured in 2015 and 2016 there is something that bothers me-how much water is wasted when homeowners (and some commercial properties) irrigate during or immediately following very heavy rainfall amounts.

I see numerous irrigation systems running in the morning and for several days after these events when a simple Rain Sensor shutoff device would save this water for future use. Though these devices are 1980s tech they still do serve as an important component in the water conservation efforts we should all strive to implement.

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“Rain Sensor”- a misnomer for sure!


If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it thousands of times-

“Those rain sensors don’t work-I’ve seen sprinklers running while it’s raining!”

Well let me put that notion to bed once and for all-THE FACT THAT IT IS RAINING HAS NO BEARING ON WHETHER A RAIN SENSOR WORKS (or not).

The device does not actually “sense” rain-it measures it. After a preset amount (be it 1/8, ¼, ½ of an inch or more) it will react and shut down a system or prevent it from activating until the sensor dries out. The device saves an amazing amount of water if set properly-just let it do its job without judgement.

That being said remember that Rain Sensors are 1980s technology-they will not adjust your irrigation program.

For that you will need a Climate Control system with either an onsite weather station or an internet based controller. I recommend both but prefer the onsite model for accuracy. For more info check out my “Water Saving Smart Irrigation” page and click on the Climate Logic video-your path to saving water is a phone call away!

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August 10, 2017 Classes & Meeting

This Thursday, August 10th I will be teaching two 4 credit continuing education courses for the Irrigation Association of NJ at Storr Tractor on Rt. 22 in Branchburg NJ. The course titles are “Scheduling for Water Conservation - Past, Present and into the Future” from 8 AM to 12 PM and “Dripline Installation Design -Considerations and Methods for Various Situations” from 1 PM to 5 PM.

At the same location, the NJ Landscape Contractors Association will be holding their monthly meeting from 6 PM to 9 PM sponsored by the Affinity Federal Credit Union. This meeting is approved for (2) National Association of Landscape Professionals Certified CEUs.

Contact Candi Calderone at the IANJ to attend either of my courses at 973-850-3366.

Contact Gail Woolcott or Maria Albuquerque at 201-703-3600 to attend the evening NJLCA meeting.

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CAN YOU DIG IT?

This blog is for all my friends in the Landscaping trades.

If you're not Attending Trade Shows, Taking Classes or Watching Webinars YOU ARE FALLING BEHIND!


“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence”.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) First Lady of the United States.


“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer.


The quotes above are as true today as they were in times past. It applies to our industry today with a renewed emphasis due to the changing demographics of the client, new products and the instituting of never ending regulations. Now more than ever we all better arm ourselves with the one substance that will keep us ahead of the pack-KNOWLEDGE!

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SOIL AMENDMENTS CAN MAKE (OR BREAK) YOUR PLANTING AND TURF INSTALLATIONS

To amend or not to amend - that's not even a question. If the soil is tired and depleted of essential organic matter, the pH is incorrect for your plant material, compacted, leans towards all sand or all clay then the answer is always yes!

Soil amendments can be organic or inorganic and are utilized for improving water holding (or drainage), salt leaching, deeper root systems and nutrient enhancement.


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40th Annual NJLCA Trade Show.

On March 8, 2017, the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association will be presenting its 40th Annual Trade Show and Conference at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ.

I will be hosting two events that day.  The first between 7:00 am and 8:00 am is a group round table discussion on the subject of protecting yourself with your contract.  The contract, clauses and insurance discussion is topically different from my second presentation between 10:10 am and 10:55 am. 

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Teaching at the NJTA Green Expo and Trade Show

 I will be teaching two Water Conservation courses at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City December 7, 2016 for the New Jersey Irrigation Association at the NJ Turf Associations Annual Green Expo.


The first one is “Plant, Soil and Turf Types and the Implications for Irrigation Contracting”. This multi-level course covers the basics of soil science, plant selection and the associated influence on irrigation programming.

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Do You Suffer From O. M.?

Hopefully you don’t due to the fact that O.M. is extremely detrimental to your shrubs, flowers and perennial plants. So what is it? It’s OVER MULCHING!

Since mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden one would assume that more is better-WRONG! Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil.

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What To Do When Your Lawn Gets

A Chemical Burn

Sometimes those nasty yellow dead patches on your lawn are not due to disease or fungal infection but rather it is caused by the application of a chemical or fertilizer in sufficient amounts to kill the crown part of the turf.
The source of these chemicals can be road salt, animal urine, herbicides or simple fertilizers.

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When Sending Charitable Donations Verify, Verify, Verify! (And make the right decision).

Recently I received a donation request from a charity called the “Wounded Warrior Project”. They enclosed a “Forever” stamp to facilitate the mailing of my donation.

As I have been a many year contributor to DAV (Disabled American Veterans) I was intrigued as to the level of services they would provide for my donation as a percentage of each dollar donated.

Since I already knew that DAV used 96.5% of every dollar donated to help our surviving vets I was curious as to what percentage Wounded Warrior Project would use. So I went to charitynavigator.org to compare the two and discovered that WWP only used 59.9% of each dollar towards its stated purpose.

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Small Town Giving

Throughout the year the town I live in (Fair Lawn, NJ) shows its generosity via an in town food bank at which my wife volunteers.

Every year for Christmas one of our detectives dons a Santa suit and carries on a tradition known locally as “Secret Santa” with the assistance of our health department employees and food bank volunteers.

A local resident in need is surprised with food, gifts and other assistance. Watch this YouTube video and celebrate the holiday with us:

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Those Pesky WEEDS!

The past two months may have been the perfect combination of weather for our lawns to thrive but there is a major consequence-WEEDS!

Thankfully the thick spring turf grasses have for the most part choked out turf weeds but our planting beds, sidewalk cracks and driveway edges have not been as fortunate.         


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What A Spring For Turf Grass!

The warm weather the North East received this past March and early April with periodic rains were followed by a cooler period with more damp conditions.  This climate pattern produced something that will benefit our lawns going into the summer heat-Deep Roots!


The resulting root growth stands in stark contrast to the past two Springs when our turf grasses remained frozen until late March.  The thaw was followed by too much rain at the wrong time and warmer than average temperatures that inhibited root development.

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Watering Instructions For New Plantings

I recently received a phone call from a client regarding his watering of the new landscaping in front of his home.  The client explained that even though he was watering everyday (as instructed by his landscaper) his shrubs were looking stressed.  The more he watered the worse the shrubs appeared. He wanted me to direct him on how to water even more...

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To Yelp or not to Yelp

There is an online review forum out there called Yelp. It is currently under the gun both legally and morally as the site that readily posts negative reviews and arbitrarily suppresses positive reviews.

They claim they suppress positive reviews if their server’s “algorithm” deems them to be “not recommended”. There are lawsuits ongoing that claim Yelp uses these underhanded business practices to get the businesses to pay them for advertising services.

It is also alleged that they have paid ghost reviewers to post negative reviews that are pure fiction in an effort to get those businesses to advertise. One court has ruled in their favor but the lawsuits continue.Investors have taken note and punished their stock price.

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Pay Attention to your Surroundings-it may save your life!

On Dec. 26, 2015 a man walked right off a cliff in California while looking at his cell phone. He screamed for God to save him as he plunged sixty feet to his death. It is not known what he was looking at that was so important.

Every day there is another instance involving a person, a smart phone and an accident or other avoidable occurrence that makes the news (or YouTube).

With the advent of smartphones, and for no explicable reason, people from all backgrounds are mesmerized into a coma regarding their surroundings. There are people who stroll right out into traffic, walk off piers and fall off subway platforms. All because something on a 5, 6, 7 inch or larger display screen demands all their attention. And what idiot thought putting a display screen in vehicle dashboards would make driving safer?

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Teaching at the NJ Green Expo & Landscape Conference

I will once again be teaching “Plant, Soil and Turf Types” and the Implications for Irrigation Contracting at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City December 9, 2015. This multi-level course covers the basics of soil science, plant selection and the associated influence on irrigation programming.

Upon completion attendees will gain the ability to diagnose turf and plant issues and share the resulting information with their clients. We all know that a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to building the trust between a contractor and their customer as well as closing the initial sale.

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Another Extended Dry Period Puts Stress On Your Landscape

I have no doubt that everyone has noticed the continuing dry weather we have been experiencing in Northern New Jersey. We are in our seventh week with little to no rain and above average temperatures after six weeks of heavy rainfall. And yet we see all manner of turf conditions and appearances-from lush green lawns that laugh at the dry climate to dead hay that makes your mouth feel dry just looking at it-and everything in between.

It is the “everything in between” that I would like to address today. I see lawns with patchworks of green and brown everywhere due to many factors such as grubs (scroll to read my June 27, 2015 blog), fungal diseases (scroll to read my June 26, 2015 blog), tree roots (click to read my September 5, 2014 blog), poor watering habits and/or inadequate irrigation systems and finally mixed soil textures that lose moisture at different rates.

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