Dr. Curtis E. Swift

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August 9, 2012
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SWIFT: Shoddy landscape jobs keep garden consultants busy

There comes a time when one knows it is time to move on to another life and I've decided my day is Friday, August 31st. That will be the day I go off into the sunset and ....

I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing but I do know that I'll still be around and assisting those in need with their gardening problems. The only difference is it won't be for free as I'll be charging a consulting fee. I've always felt people appreciate advice more when they have to pay for it than when they get it for free. I'm about to put that concept to the test.

Sometimes people need someone in their corner when they go up against an unscrupulous person or company. I'll be available to do that as long as it is with my expertise. Take for example a recent home visit I made where the soil was not properly prepared, the irrigation system was not installed properly, and the trees and shrubs were dying due to being planted too deep. I'm not sure how much money was devoted to this landscaping project, but it was pretty much a loss as far as the property owner was concerned.

A soil test through a private laboratory showed the organic content was well below what should have been expected if three cubic yards of organic matter had been applied and worked in to the top eight inches of every one-thousand square foot of lawn area. The soil was hard compact clay devoid of root growth due to the poor soil preparation.

The application of three cubic yards of compost should have increased the organic content by 4 percent. Our native soil has an organic content of less than one percent so the addition of organic matter is critical to successful plant growth. The soil sample reported less than what is considered industry standard.

The sprinkler system was another problem. Some of the zones had pop-up spray nozzles (these apply an average of 1.6 inches of water per hour) and impact nozzles that apply less than one-half inch of water per hour. The result is areas that receive gobs of water and some areas that remain dry due to the lack of water.

The sprinkler heads were even placed at different spacing, some as close as 5 feet and others over 40 feet apart. Who in the world would design or install such a spacing knowing full well the problems this would create? All the impact heads had the same blue nozzles regardless of whether they were covering 360 degrees or 45 degrees. Those impact heads come with blue nozzles but they need to be changed out based on the area being covered.

The trees and shrubs were being watered with only two drip nozzles. Three is a minimum for trees and five nozzles is even better. The drip zones should have been split based on the watering needs of the plants. Spruce and pine have different watering needs. All the plants in this landscape were on the same watering schedule. Some people add more emitters for the high water users and less emitters for the low water users. This is wrong as the high water users need a more frequent irrigation than the low water users.

How can you have different watering times if the drip system is on one zone?

Many of the trees and shrubs were planted way too deep resulting in root death and decline and death of the trees and shrubs.

Some shrubs and trees were responding to improper planting by putting up suckers to keep their roots alive.

In this case the property owner is going to mediation (or court if mediation doesn't work).

Based on what I have seen over the last 40 years, more owners should do the same. Maybe this is an area where I can be of help once I'm no longer working for CSU.

I'm not sure if Tracy at the GJ Free Press is going to want me to continue to write a column, or find someone else to take on gardening questions and problems.

But I have at least two more columns before my departure, but then I'm not going anywhere, I'm just changing jobs.

If you are going to be in downtown Grand Junction between 4 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, stop by Dolce Vita restaurant and say goodbye. There will be goodies and a cash bar. Let Kellie know you are coming. You can reach her at 970-241-3346.

Until Aug. 31, Dr. Curtis E. Swift is the area horticulture agent with the CSU Extension. Reach him at Curt.Swift@mesacounty.us, visit WesternSlopeGardening.org, or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com.

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The Post Independent Updated Aug 9, 2012 05:41PM Published Aug 9, 2012 05:40PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.