Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Vision for 2015

Healthy Trees

We have a vision for not only healthy and beautiful grass in our customer's lawns but also for beautiful and healthy trees growing in beautiful and healthy lawns. 

What do the two pictures below have in common?

The picture on the left is a common sight in lawns- a mound of mulch piled high around a tree. The picture on the right is obviously a volcano. The shape of the volcano and the shape of the mulch mound are similar. Trees in suburban landscapes look like they are spewing out of mulch mounds. Hence the phrase "Volcano Mulching" is used to describe this technique amongst tree care specialists.


Classic Volcano Mulch Mound - over 1 foot high
The colossal mounds of mulch retain moisture around the tree trunk, encouraging the development of adventitious root growth and these roots can grow up and out of the mulch volcano (you will see tree leaves with little stems protruding through the mulch) as the tree draws moisture out of the mulch (from now on when you see these leaves and stems sticking up and out of the volcano mound you can think of them as red flags alerting you to remove the volcano). These roots are the first to die during a drought and can put your tree into serious stress, if not kill it over time.

The excessive retention of moisture (held in by the mulch) around the bark of the tree buried in the volcano mound weakens the tree (bark is not the part of the tree that is supposed to be constantly moist - it is the protective layer of the tree) and when it rots or weakens, the door is wide open for pests and diseases to enter the tree. 


"Removing volcano mulch and soil piled against the trunk is critical to promoting tree health and decreasing the opportunity for insects, rodents, disease, and fungus to negatively impact the tree. The general recommendation is to put a 2-4 inch layer of mulch over as much of the root zone as possible/practical, but 1 inch of compost and 2 inches of mulch is a good practice as well. Amending the root zone soil is one of the most beneficial tree care practices."

Wes Kocher
ISA Certified Arborist
Tree Risk Assessment Qualified


A More Natural Look!

We removed a Mulch Volcano around this tree. The tree ring now looks more like a healthy forest floor than an erupting volcano. There are two layers - compost blend at ground level and native mulch on top

This is what the soil looked like that was inside the volcano (no it's not volcanic rock but it may look like it) - hard clods of clay.

Hard clay replaced with a layer of our compost soil blend for healthy roots (the brown spots in the lawn are from a deep root feeding of the tree - this is an optional service).

A 2 inch layer of native shredded mulch is installed on top of the compost. In time the mulch will break down and feed the tree.


If you are a "do it yourself kind of person"...

Don't head for your mulch volcanoes with shovel in hand and start digging away the mulch...

There are likely to be roots inside the volcano, above the surface of the ground that can be damaged with a shovel.

Above ground roots at the base of where the volcano was.


We will use specialized tools to carefully and safely remove volcano mulch mounds. We will add our compost-based soil with amendments topped with a layer of native mulch. Tree root zone soil amendment as well as foliar applications of healthy food for the tree are other services we can provide to promote healthy growth of your tree(s). 


...and still have a beautiful and even healthier lawn!

It may seem strange to hear that watering your lawn less could actually make it healthier, but it can. Each year we travel many miles across our customer's lawns, spending many hours in each one and we believe every lawn could get by with less water and be healthier. 


  • Over watering can drown roots. Roots need oxygen. When soils are filled with excessive water for too long, oxygen is diminished or depleted and grass becomes unhealthy. Without oxygen, the roots of the grass will suffocate and die, leaving the plant with a very shallow root system, a root system that is more susceptible to stress (e.g. from  hot, dry weather conditions). 
  • Over watered lawns have more weeds. To compound the problem, the weeds that over watered lawns often have are the kinds that are more difficult to control and thus require more aggressive herbicide treatments. 
  • Over watered lawns need more fertilizer. We use organic products and methods in our Turf Care Program. An organic lawn should not have to be fertilized as much as a lawn that has synthetic fertilizer applied. However, in an organic or synthetic lawn, over watering causes nutrients to wash away faster (sadly, often times these nutrients are carried down the street and into the drains with water that runs off the lawn that is being over watered). Our goal is to help customers apply the right amount of water to their lawns so less fertilizer is needed, less water can be used, and less electricity will be needed to operate the sprinkler system since it will not be in operation as much. 


Identify any problems with the underground irrigation system (aka sprinkler system). Problems with irrigation systems can not only cause a lawn to seem like it needs more water, but can be costly to the customer.

Common Problems in a sprinkler system...that is operating, that is it is putting out water, but putting it out inefficiently, leading the customer to think more water may be needed when it really is not needed. 

Sprinkler heads too low (over the years this happens as grass matures and mowers repeatedly move over the lawn pushing the head(s) below ground level)- water is being deflected by grass blades and coverage is not good which can cause brown spots in lawn as can be seen below.

Dry spot in lawn

Broken or damaged sprinkler head. Many customers don't know if there is a broken sprinkler head because many customers are asleep when their sprinkler system is operating. 


We can evaluate irrigation systems for any mechanical or operational problems (e.g. sunken heads, broken heads, clogged heads, or any other problems that are present). 

Each zone is turned on while the customer is present (appointments are made when the customer can be present for the evaluation - approximate time to complete the evaluation is 30 minutes) so he/she can see the problem(s) (if there are any) and get an explanation by the licensed irrigator performing the evaluation. After the evaluation is completed, if there are any problems, a bid for repairs/adjustments will be provided to the customer. The evaluation service and the repair service are separate and the customer is not required to have any repairs or adjustments made once the evaluation has been completed. 

A frequent question we get from our customers is, "How much should I be watering my lawn?" 

We find out most customers are either:

Watering a little (3-5 minutes) each day
Watering the same amount of time in each zone (e.g. 10 minutes per zone)
Watering at the same frequency throughout the entire year



Our licensed Irrigation Auditor can take measurements of water distribution in your lawn in each zone and create a yearly irrigation schedule to be entered in your controller (the electronic brain for your irrigation system usually mounted on the wall in your garage). The irrigation schedule is based on factors such as slope of the lawn, type of soil, and type of sprinkler head (e.g. spray versus rotor). The results are much better than using the longtime recommendation of "fifteen minutes, three times per week" which typically ends up wasting water and can be unhealthy for the your grass, your trees and your shrubs, plants and flowers. 

TCEQ License #21302


Please take a stroll through the lawn below (look at numbers and read descriptions below the picture) to see areas we can address with regard to building a healthy lawn that can better handle stress from either drought or heat.

1) Top-dressing with Compost
  • Compost is often called "Black Gold" by experienced gardeners as it does so many good things for the soil. Good compost is loaded with microorganisms that prevent disease, cycle nutrients, and create soil structure. It is also full of carbon which is needed by earthworms and other soil life forms. Humus in compost helps increase the water holding capacity of all soils, hence reducing plant stress. The microorganisms in compost help release the nutrients in the organic fertilizer and trace minerals and make them available to plants without polluting the environment. Earthworms and microbes eat the compost and create good soil structure in the process allowing proper aeration which helps prevent diseases.

  • We will top-dress your lawn once or twice in the year at a 1/4  inch level. It is recommended that your lawn be aerated (see number 4 below) prior to topdressing for better results. 
2) Weed Management
  • You've seen it before. When fertilizer is applied, the grass greens up and grows up and so do the weeds. Weeds love nitrogen. Their roots are usually deeper than the roots of your turf and so they have plenty of water - they don't even need your sprinkler system (but if your over water your lawn it is double trouble). Mix some nitrogen with a good water supply and kaboom, an explosion of weeds. Weeds thrive in poor, compacted soils, like we have here in the Houston area. We are working to minimize weeds in our customer's lawns as we apply products that build good soil structure and as we help customer's water more effectively, in a way the prevents weed flare-ups.
  • We are licensed by the state to treat weeds with EPA approved chemicals. 
  • We will inspect and treat your lawn for weeds throughout the year. 
3) Lawn Fertilizer/Humates/Minerals
  • We will apply organic lawn fertilizer products throughout the year that in addition to nitrogen will provide over 70 minerals, vitamins, natural plant sugars, amino acids, carbon and protein plus billions of beneficial microorganisms. 
  • A new service this year - shrub/plant/flower feedings using mineral rich organic products. During the growing season we will feed the plants in your flowerbeds to promote health. Healthy plants resist all the prey (e.g. fungus, pests) that usually attack our flowerbeds in the hot summer months, leaving them looking attacked for the rest of the year. 
4) Core Aeration
  • Technically speaking, aeration is the naturally occurring process of air exchange between the soil and its surrounding atmosphere. Practically speaking, aeration is the process of mechanically removing small plugs of thatch from the lawn to improve soil aeration. 

    • Benefits from Core Aeration 
      • Better air exchange between the soil and its surrounding environment 
      • Improved nutrient absorption 
      • More efficient water usage 
      • Thicker turf 
      • Enhanced thatch breakdown 
      • Helps loosen compacted soil 
      • Allows nutrients, water and air to more easily get to the root zone 
      • Aeration promotes deeper root growth for a lawn that is lush, healthy and drought resistant 
    • Customer's Part 
      • Prior to Aeration, customer must flag (you could use plastic spoons or flags) each sprinkler head in the lawn to prevent damage. Golden Rule Lawn Service can flag the lawn for an additional fee.

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