H20 management

H20 management

Features - Cover Story

When mother nature strikes, landscape contractors are turning to products that encourage plant growth amidst her severe stressors-- from droughts to tropical storms.

July 26, 2013
Lyndsey Frey

Water management products can help irrigation contractors reduce the amount of water used on a property without installing new hardware. Courtesy of Syngenta.

Let’s face it. Water is a limited resource, especially when it comes to those drought-prone areas, where rainfall averages hover around 15 inches or less across many cities in the southwest corner of this country.

But wrangling hoses or installing expensive irrigation systems aren’t the only solutions landscape contractors are employing to reduce plant stress and maintain green, healthy turf in these less-than-ideal environments.

There’s an abundance of products on the market today that encourage plant growth in the midst of plant stressors – whether it’s high heat and limited rainfall, disease and other pests, or just heavy traffic – that offer significant cost and labor savings to boot.

“To me, it’s almost irresponsible to keep wasting water and not try it,” says Brandon Haley, groundskeeping manager for a Birmingham, Ala.-based manufacturing company, Red Diamond, about Moisture Manager, a proprietary blend of Hydretain that can reduce watering needs. “I wish more people around here would use it. A lot of people would save water and a lot of people’s lawns would actually make it through the summer.”

Haley first came across Moisture Manager prior to Red Diamond while working for a nearby golf course. When its irrigation system’s mainline was accidentally cut during a construction project in June, he was desperate for other water management alternatives. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. The area was suffering through the brutal, record-setting 2007 drought.

Haley sprayed nine ounces of Moisture Manager per 1,000 square feet for the initial application across nearly 15 acres, and then maintained it monthly using three ounces per 1,000 square feet throughout the summer.

After a full two months with no irrigation and less than an inch of rainfall, that 15 acres of grass looked no different than the irrigated turf on the other holes that were not affected.

“To me, (what) would make your mouth drop open would be the fact that I was able to grow grass, without irrigation, for two months in a drought without any rainfall and it lived and looked green,” says Haley, who now uses the product on Red Diamond’s grass-paved fire lanes. “That’s what sold me on that product forever.”

Dean Mosdell, Syngenta’s technical manager, points to Primo Maxx as another beneficial material that promotes healthy turf that can stand up to Mother Nature’s stressors. It’s a plant growth regulator that suppresses the production of gibberellic acid, which reduces elongation of plant cells.

“It’s a unique product because it doesn’t target a pest, such as a fungus or a weed or insect,” Mosdell says. “It targets the plant, and we’re trying to affect the way the plant grows to try to promote some of the benefits of reduced clippings or reduced leaf production, making the plant use its resources wisely rather than just using it for top growth.”

Though Primo Maxx is utilized in many drought-prone areas, the material is also useful for the opposite extreme: areas where there’s too much rain due to hurricanes and other tropical storms.

Take for example when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last fall. Many landscape contractors, Mosdell says, applied the material to control growth in anticipation of excess water. In flooded areas, they wouldn’t be able to get machinery out there to mow the turf for awhile.

Depending on turf type or location, Primo Maxx offers nearly a 50 percent top-growth reduction over a four-week period and reduces water requirements by about 15 percent. The amount of liquid applied, anywhere from .10 to .75 ounces per 1,000 square feet, depends on frequency of application and, again, turf type, whether it’s a golf course, athletic field or simply a manicured lawn, Mosdell says.

“Most people think about using fertilizer to maintain color and quality of turf,” Mosdell says. “(Primo is) a new way of maintaining turf … that allows turf managers to maintain turf at its highest quality and not have to deal with clippings and excess growth. It’s a practice that full-service landscapers probably could easily justify based on the savings there with fuel and labor costs.” L&L

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

Succulent selections

Add unexpected texture and color to landscapes with these options.
Compiled by Sarah Martinez

Striking form and unusual colors make succulents stand out in landscapes and container plantings. But it’s the utilitarian aspects of these plants that make them winning selections for landscape contractors. The water-retaining characteristics of succulents mean they thrive in arid climates or soil conditions. For many selections, overwatering is about the only way to kill these hardy specimens. Take a look at these new and noteworthy succulents on the market today.

1. Aloe ‘Delta Lights’
is a new hybrid from Rancho Tissue Technologies. This variety appeals to a broad audience with its unique zigzag foliage pattern. Plants, which will fill in an 8-in. pot, are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. It is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11.

2. Spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla)
, from Monrovia, is a fascinating specimen in a container, on dry slopes or in cactus and succulent gardens. Leaves form a unique clockwise or counterclockwise geometric spiral pattern as the plant ages. It rarely flowers, and good drainage is a must.

3. Aloe variegata Gator
, available through Proven Winners, sports a unique, reptile-like color pattern. Its habit is also very unusual, with a tight triangular plant that keeps growing upward, stacking triads of leaves, one over the next. Once established, Gator sends out numerous pups around the perimeter filling the container it’s in. This is a must-have plant for rock gardens and patio containers.

4. Dyckia hybrid ‘Burgundy Ice’
from Proven Winners has rich burgundy leaves with silver spines that cry out for attention. Beautiful from a distance, but don’t try to touch it. It can be planted in the ground where it produces a dense, mounded rosette. It’s also striking in containers where the leaves can freely arch over the edge.

5. Echeveria ‘Black Prince’
from Monrovia has dark, chocolate to black rosettes, reaching close to 9-in. across. Stunning salmon-red flowers appear in autumn and winter. It’s native to Mexico. This hardy hybrid-perfect for containers or mass plantings.

6. Kalanchoe synsepala Gremlin,
available from Proven Winners, has bright, lime-green leaves with a scalloped burgundy margin. Numerous little “gizmos” protrude from the center of the plant on long wiry stems. It’s ideal for containers and hanging baskets, where the pups bounce in the wind.

7. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Fantastic’
from Hawaiian Sunshine Nursery is a new variegated version of the popular flapjack/paddle plant. It has a rich yellow variegation, which accents a red blush on the leaves. ‘Fantastic’ received the Favorite New Foliage Plant Award and Retailer’s Choice Award at the 2010 Tropical Plant Industry Exposition.

8. Portulaca molokiniensis Maraca

Maraca is a recent succulent introduction available from Proven Winners. It produces vertical stems with tightly packed whorls of frosty green foliage. It can be used as specimen in large containers or as a landscape plant. In late summer Maraca produces bright yellow, waxy flowers at the tip of each stem.

9. Hab Gray stonecrop (Sedum telephium ssp. ruprechtii ‘Hab Gray’)
is available through Monrovia. This herbaceous offering features blue-gray leaves on upright, clumping stems that hold showy pink flowers. This specimen adds color and substance to both mixed perennial borders as well as rock gardens.

10. Sedum Gold Digger
is a striking groundcover selection available through Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. It forms a large mound with bronze-colored foliage. It’s often used in rock gardens.

11. Sedum ‘Thundercloud’
from Intrinsic Perennial Gardens can reach 12-in. tall and wide with a strongly mounding habit, making it an ideal landscape plant. The foliage is an unusual gray-green with points.