December: There is still much to do in our yards and gardens.

Monthly Reminders by on Thursday, December 4, 2014

botanica-design-leafWinter is finally upon us and although most of us want to hunker down and hibernate like the bears, there is still much to do in our yards and gardens. Although most plants, trees and grasses are dormant, they still need some care and maintenance. Please see below for our December list of reminders.


Now is a good time to clean out those dead annuals and remove debris. If you feel the need for some color in the garden during winter, you still have time to plant pansies, snapdragons and calendula and juniper. From now until the end of January you can also plant trees and shrubs if the ground is workable. This will allow them to get a good start before warmer weather comes back in April and May.

Don’t forget that perennials like to be divided at this time of the year. After several seasons of growing, many plants tire out and begin to wilt. Therefore, to keep plants healthy and blooming, pull out the plants from the ground and disentangle the roots system. This process is known as ‘division.’


So here’s the dirt on composting: anyone can do it, it’s free and what better way turn your yard and kitchen scraps into “gardener’s gold” than by composting? If you’ve never composted ask Oscar for advice and details on getting started.


Bad bugs such as stinkbugs, mealy bugs and various beetles thrive on hiding in piles of debris like dead leaves. This is how many of them survive the winter. Making sure that your yard is neat and clean is more than just an aesthetic consideration, it’s an investment in pest control. Ants, mosquitoes, termites and silverfish love wet, warm winters much like the one we’re currently experiencing. Ask us to come by and clear out your gardens and flowerbeds.


There is still time to top dress your lawn.

Don’t forget to prepare the root systems of your plants for the dormant stage. Winterizing your lawn will ensure that your plants survive and come back lush and plentiful.


Make sure you take a peek at your sprinkler systems to make sure the system is still working and fully operational as you still need to water your plants in winter.

Thank you and we wish you all a fruitful and merry holiday season!
Oscar Moraesand the crew

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November: Winterize your lawn and plants to protect from disease.

Monthly Reminders by on Friday, November 7, 2014

fall leaves

Here are a few things to keep in mind for this month.


Although your lawn’s root system will continue to develop during winter, most grasses become dormant and appear brown or at least less green. As the temperature becomes cooler and cooler it is important to continue to provide the root system with additional food to boost its development. Fertilizing with a good winterizer will give you the best chances of developing next year’s beautiful lawn. Ask us for recommendations on the best winterizer brands for your particular needs. Top dressing, for us is the best way to winterize your lawn and flower beds is the best way to protect your plants/grass from disease.


Special considerations for those times when the mercury takes a nose dive. Now is the time to cut back on your watering schedule though you still need to water during the winter. Your irrigation system can be reduced to 1 to 2 times per week, depending on how established your landscape is. Some irrigation systems have a ‘seasonal adjust’ feature on their irrigation controllers which will cut the watering time down on each zone. However, be sure to keep an eye out for water run off. Not only is water runoff wasteful, lower tempertures mean that the rate of evaporation is greatly reduced and this can lead to fungal problems.


Gardening in Central Texas can be challenging and a labor of love. Because of the hot sun, drought-prone summers and soils that tend to be comprised of heavy clay which are low in nutrients and don’t drain well, a lot of care and creativity are required. Most often, soil amendments need to be made using manure and/or nitrogen. Another solution is to lighten the soil by tilling in some sand. The best thing is to have us come out and take a sample of the soil in order to analyze what your specific needs are.

Another solution is to consider using containers. When you use containers, you don’t have worry about modifying your topsoil. Cucumbers, eggplants, herbs, tomatoes and peppers all do very well in containers. We can gladly come by for a free consultation if you’re interested in getting your own vegetable gardens started. The sooner you start after the last frost, the better the chances are that your plants will be ready before the sun starts beating down in mid-July.


Watch the roots of removed annuals for nematodes. Nematodes are a very diverse species. About 20,000 exist. Some are beneficial and helpful in controlling grubs, fleas, fungus, gnats and over 200 other pests that develop in soil. Other nematodes are on the complete opposite end of spectrum and are harmful to plants and attack the roots, stem or foliage tissues. Depending on the plant, the effects of these harmful nematodes warrant concern. The damage done can range from merely stunted plants to all out plant death. Control and management is required asap, so keep an eye out for knots on the roots of removed annuals. Call us for assistance. Fungi problems will appear very clear at this time of the year. If you see any spots in your lawn please let us know so we can assess for you.


With the plethora of fall foliage on the ground, the best way to reduce, reuse and recycle is to consider using your own leaves for a customized mulch. It fairly easy to do and all you would require from us to ground up your leaves and add some fertilizer to it.

If you have any other needs, information or questions, please don’t hesitate to give Oscar a call. He’s always happy to be of service and drop by for a chat and a quick assessment.

Again, thank you for sticking with us! We appreciate you!

Oscar Moraesand the crew

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October: Autumnal winds are starting to blow bringing in cooler temps and shorter days.

Monthly Reminders by on Thursday, October 9, 2014

autumn plants Autumnal winds are starting to blow bringing in cooler temps and shorter days. Because the seasons are changing, now is the best time of year to pamper your plants and re-energize your soil. See below for our current October To-Do List:







If you want to expand the variety of birds around your house, you might want to consider getting some bird feeders. Since Halloween is just around the corner, don’t forget to save those seeds and replant them. Nothing better than harvesting your own pumpkins for the season. Happy Autumn! Oscar Moraesand the crew

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September: There is Plenty of Time to Prepare for Fall.

Monthly Reminders by on Sunday, September 7, 2014

plant photo

Only a few more days of summer! It was over way too quickly but there is still plenty of time to prepare for Fall. See below for Oscar’s September’s To Do.

Also, now that the grass is not growing as much, it is wise to think about flower bed maintenance or some tree trimming.

Flowers and Other Ornamental Plants:



Soil Treatment:

Trees & Shrubs:


As always, to reiterate, we do all kinds of custom hardscape and design projects. Keep us in mind if you’re tossing around an idea for an outdoor fire pit, porch or patio. Thanks again for allowing us to serve you.

Have a great September!

Oscar Moraesand the crew

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August: Dog Days of Summer are here!

Monthly Reminders by on Thursday, August 7, 2014

flowerThe dog days of summer are here! This is the least productive season for both plants and people in Central Texas! It is a good time to let the landscape, and you, rest and make the best of the heat while preparing for the fall gardening season.

Water deeply and conserve water. Any time you water, use only sprinklers that spray the least amount of water into the air, where it is lost to evaporation. Water early in the morning or late in the evening for the same reason. In addition, the more water on the leaves, the greater the chances of fungal problems on the leaves. Water on the leaves while the sun is out can cause burning of the foliage. Concentrate on newly planted as well as established trees. Established trees need water anytime we have not had at least an inch of rain for four to six weeks. Trees less than two years in the ground need water every one to two weeks, depending on the soil, weather, and species of tree. Your finger is your best moisture meter: dig down as deeply as you can to feel the soil around the roots before watering. And don’t forget the shrubs; they need water and attention too. Be aware of your community’s watering schedule and modify accordingly. Austin Water’s September 2012 implemented Stage 2 Regulations remain in effect. This is in response to combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan reaching the 900,000 acre-foot trigger in the Drought Contingency Plan.

*Your assigned watering day is determined by property type, type of irrigation used, and whether the street address ends in an even or odd number.

Violations will first result in an official warning. Additional violations are subject to an administrative fine, which increases with repeated offenses and more severe drought conditions. During Stage 2, residential fines start at $75 per violation and commercial fines begin at $200 per violation. Report violations by calling 3-1-1.

Wasting water is prohibited year-round. Be mindful of leaking faucets, pipes, and irrigation systems operating with misdirected or broken sprinkler heads. Find out more about available Rebates and Programs to help save water and get information about detecting water-wasting leaks at

Oscar Moraesand the crew

The Natural Gardener Website – August Tips

City of Austin Website – Austin Water Utility Watering Restrictions


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July: Drip Irrigation, Mulch and Prune.

Monthly Reminders by on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July Tips for your Yard As the summer heat grows more intense and relentless, the two most important things that you can establish for the health and success of your yard is use drip irrigation and apply mulch to your planting beds.

One of the best techniques for applying water to home landscapes is drip irrigation. This is controlled, slow application of water to the soil via low-pressure water flow through plastic pipe or hose laid along each row of plants. The water drops out into the soil from tiny holes which are either formed in the hose wall or in fittings called emitters that are plugged in to the hose wall at proper pacing. Drip irrigation can be used for vegetables, ornamental and fruit trees, shrubs, vines, and container grown plants outdoors. It is not recommended for lawn watering.

Mulch is a layer of material covering the soil surface around plants. The benefits of mulching include moderating soil temperatures, thus promoting greater root development, conserving moisture by reducing evaporation of water vapor from the soil surface, preventing compaction by reducing soil crusting during natural rainfall o irrigation, reducing disease problems, keeping fruit clean while reducing rot disease by preventing soil-fruit contact, and reducing weed problems by 90 % or more. Research suggests that mulching does more to help newly planting trees and shrubs become established than any other factor except regular watering.

• Fertilize annuals, roses, and young fruit trees. Water well before and after application.

• Water planted areas deeply and infrequently. Water outdoor potted plants daily. Consider landscaping with drought tolerant native plants.

• Mow every 5 – 7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn and raising the mower setting to reduce turf stress in summer heat. Raising the mower in shady areas will also help promote denser turf. Avoid weed killers now that temperatures are above 85 degrees.

• Mulch all bare soil.

• Prune dead and damaged wood from trees and shrubs as needed.

• Watch for any diseases or pests in your yard. Practice Integrated Pest Management skills. Remove any diseased leaves from plants or beds and dispose of them; do NOT add them to the compost pile.

• Start planning and preparing fall garden beds.

Oscar Moraesand the crew Tips

Source: Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity – Travis County Master Gardeners Association.

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June: Pest Management, Fertilize and Planning.

Monthly Reminders by on Tuesday, June 10, 2014

photo of Texas native, Turk's CapLess than 3% of all insects are considered pests; the rest are either considered beneficial or harmless. Insects are an important part of our complex and interrelated environment, pollinating fruits and vegetables, providing food for birds, fish, and other wildlife, producing useful products like honey, silk, shellac and wax, helping decompose yard materials into soil-enriching humus, and feeding on other insects considered pests to man. A spray applied to destroy a “pest” may well be killing off beneficial insects. The best pest control is you! Set your hose to its strongest spray and use water to dislodge unwelcome visitors or hand pick off unwelcome visitors. Encourage beneficial inspects and birds in your yard by providing appropriate habitat. Protect bees – use pesticides as a last resort.

Integrates Pest Management (IPM) – uses four key approaches to control pests damage while fostering environmental awareness:

  1. Proper plant selection (choose plants with genetic resistance to pests and disease).
  2. Biological control (use one organism to control another).
  3. Environmental and cultural controls (encourage conditions that are favorable for the plant and unfavorable for the pest).
  4. Chemical control (the last resort).

Water planted areas deeply and infrequently. Water outdoor potted plants daily.

Mow every 5 – 7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn and raising the mower setting to reduce turf stress in summer heat. Water during the cool, early morning. Avoid weed killers now that temperatures are above 85 degrees.

Remove spent flower. Remove fruiting canes from blackberries after harvest and prune tips of new canes at 4′ to promote branching. Prune dead and damaged wood from trees and shrubs as needed. Do NOT prune oak trees at this time because the beetled that carries oak wilt is active and may be attracted to cuts that you make.

Fertilize with organic options such as rich compost, manure tea, or fish emulsion. Treat plants with yellowing leaves near the tips with an iron supplement. Feed roses and young fruit trees with a nitrogen fertilizer. Feed established annuals and perennials with a high nitrogen/lo phosphorus fertilizer such as 8-2-4.

Start planning and preparing fall garden beds.

Oscar Moraesand the crew Tips

Source: Garden Guide for Austin and Vicinity – Travis County Master Gardeners Association.

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May Tips: Transplant and Fertilize.

Monthly Reminders by on Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Tips Fertilize and TransplantContainer grown plants can be transplanted in the ground now.

Fertilize all spring-blooming shrubs after they have bloomed.

Mow every 5 – 7 days and leave the grass clippings on the lawn so that they will break down and add valuable nutrients to your soil. Apply 1/2″ to 1″ of water every 5 days to deeply wet the soil and develop a stronger, healthier turf. Daily lawn sprinkling encourages shallow roots and can promote disease, so evaluate your turf watering habits. Watering turf less often for longer periods of time is better! Consider better suited turf varieties such as Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Habiturf, Bermuda grass, Buffalo grass, or Zoysia. Topdress your lawn and landscape with compost. Just half-inch over the lawn and a half-inch to one inch in flower beds and around shrubs and trees gives plants the nutrients, organic matter, and microorganisms they need and helps the soil to retain water better. Prune your spring-flowering plants, such as climbing roses, shrubs, and trees, after they’ve flowered. Prune any frost-damaged trees and shrubs as well. Remove sucker shoots from tomato plants to get the earliest and largest fruit possible. Mulch all bare soil areas. Using two to three inches of mulch will help with weed suppression, moisture retention, and cooler soil. In weedy areas, get control by pulling weeds first or use a natural weed killer. Check your plants for signs of pest* problems. If a pest is causing damage to your plant: 1. Identify the problem/pest correctly. 2. Choose the least toxic strategy. Watch for symptoms of disease*, especially during warm, wet weather. High humidity and damp soil can lead to diseases. Fungal and bacterial spores can be spread by splashing water. *If you are unable to identify pests or diseases on your own, collect a sample in a closed container and take it to your local nursery or the county extension office for proper identification. CONSIDER THIS (Source: Natural Gardener Website)

“The average daily temperature in Austin in May is 85°F, and we typically get about 4.5” of rain. Sound great, doesn’t it? If only we could have an “average year” every year! Collect rain water! Even in a dry year, we typically get at least a little rain in May, so why not save it for later in the summer? An average home uses over 50% of its water to maintain its landscape. A rain barrel can very quickly pay for itself – and plants love rainwater”

Oscar Moraesand the crew Tips Sources: Travis County Master Gardeners Association Garden Guide, 4th Edition Natural Gardener Website

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April: Spring Fertilizing.

Monthly Reminders by on Monday, April 7, 2014

fertilizeThis time of year is the best for fertilizing for spring. Fertilize established trees, shrubs, turf, and other plants.

Compost is an excellent top dress for lawn, flower beds, and gardens. It replaces any organic matter lost to the plants or watering.

Don’t let weeds go to seed. Treat or pull them. Pulling weeds is still the most effective method for getting rid of them.

When mowing, leave the clippings on the lawn so that they break down and add organic matter to the soil.

The Hill Country can get freezes as late as Easter, and we know how many “inclement weather” days we’ve had in Austin this winter. Be prepared to cover delicate or recently planted plants in case we have a late cold snap.

Consider planting summer cover crops in uncultivated areas in your yard. Cover crops are sometimes referred to “green manures” and will greatly improve your soil.

When planting turf grasses or grass seed, consider a native grass mix for a full sun spot in your yard.

Fall and winter are usually the best times to plant trees and shrubs, but they can be planted with care in the spring. When planting a new tree or shrub, be careful not to use more than 20% compost, if any, in the hole that you dig. Too much compost may cause settling as it breaks down. For natives and well-adapted species, the backfill should ideally be the native soil that you dug from the hole and maybe some amendments depending on the quality of your existing soil and what you are planting. Some natives do not need any amendments.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs, trees, climbing roses, and other “once bloomers” after they bloom.

Divide and transplant late summer- and fall-flowering bulbs.

Mulch trees, shrubs, vegetable gardens, and flower beds with 2-4 inches of mulch.

Conserve landscape water with these rules:

(Travis County Master Gardeners’ Association – 4th Edition Garden Guide)

Oscar Moraesand the crew

Tip Sources: Natural Gardener April Tips & Travis County Master Gardeners’ Association – 4th Edition Garden Guide

Other key things to do: treat for ants, chinch bugs, de-thatch lawns and fertilize.

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March: Conquering a weedy lawn.

Monthly Reminders by on Thursday, March 6, 2014

March-PhotoFlowers and grass aren’t the only things about to bud in the coming weeks. Weeds, fungi and molds are set to take over if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Because conquering a weedy lawn is a challenge, the best thing to do is to ensure that your soil is in peak condition before your grass is established. If not, you lawn will need a lot of time and TLC to recover. Weedy lawns are not only an eye sore but can be extremely costly to cure. A weedy lawn is sign that your grass is not happy. And the only way to make your grass happy is to ensure that your soil quality is up to par.

Lawns that have aged or sustained heavy use from pets, play, sports activities and the like are susceptible to soil compaction. Soil compaction significantly reduces the porousness of the soil and prohibits oxygen intake. The result can be lawn deterioration and poor growth. I suggest a combination of aeration and top-dressing/fertilization to make your lawn strong and healthy.

To give a little more information, topdressing is basically the application of compost or a blended soil mixture over the surface of turf grass. Adding a layer of compost may not be a cure all, but it will help to increase your soil’s ability to hold moisture, increase soil depth and add the necessary nutrients and beneficial microorganisms to your turf. Topdressing will also help to fill in depressions and low areas as well as improve drainage, eliminate thatch (i.e. the collection of dead grass clippings which chokes and prevents grass growth) as well as increase the natural resistance to disease and pests. In order to be most effective, topdressing should be done annually. Call us for an estimate.

As always, please see below for our seasonal maintenance suggestions:

TREES: Spring is an ideal time to start feeding and treating your trees. Let’s get them in good shape to face the brutal summer to come.

IRRIGATION: Have you checked your sprinkler system lately? Your system should be checked at least twice per year in order make sure it’s in the best working order. Let us help you make sure that there are no mechanical problems or a build-up of lime, dirt or mud on nozzles so that the water can get to where it needs to go – your plants!

TRIMMING: Trimming is vital to the overall health and growth of your plants. Although we haven’t had too many cold snaps this year, the temperature fluctuations and high winds of late, could compromise some of your branches and consequently the overall health of your trees. Many could possibly benefit from extra trimming and TLC. Let us have our arborist come out and address any issues or concerns.

MULCH: It’s a good time time to replenish if you only have about an inch of mulch or less, especially if you’re already planning on adding some topdressing. Remember, mulch is a great way to prevent weeds from invading flower beds and tree rings and helps maintain moisture in the root system.

ANTS: April marks the beginning of fire ant season. More than just a nuisance during picnics, they sting and can cause serious allergic reactions and overwhelm a yard. Talk to us about ant control solutions.

GARDENING: There’s still time plant and grow your own organic produce! It’s a great time for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, blackberries, pomegranates, figs and much, much more!

SPECIAL PROJECTS: Please let us know if you have any type of project for your outdoors. We are happy to assist or give you some ideas.

Happy spring and looking forward to being of service!

Oscar Moraesand the crew

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” ~ Sitting Bull

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