Yardsmart: Artificial turf grows up

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              When watching a fantasy film, you suspend disbelief and become part of an impossible happening. High-tech special effects can fool the brain into accepting a whole different reality. When my practiced eye was fooled by the new artificial turf, I knew it had finally come of age. I am not an easy sell. When the first “plastic grass” came on the market decades ago, there was no way to suspend disbelief. It was obviously fake. The earlier products denied oxygen and moisture exchange to the soil underneath. It literally smothered to death, losing vital microbe populations. We also found that trees could not survive within the fake grass because the roots died. Water would pool on the surface if the ground underneath wasn’t perfectly graded. And then there was the wear and tear of kids and bikes and pets. Today’s artificial turf is a whole different animal. It’s made of space-age materials resistant to traffic and extreme UV exposure. The foundation fabric is permeable so water can move straight through and oxygen exchange is free. Colors are more accurate, too, with variations that match every region’s specific grass types, so it blends in with the living lawns nearby. In the West where the land is dry and the climate rainless for much of the year, thirsty grass lawns are rapidly being exchanged for these new products. In this hot, arid region and elsewhere, too, this material expands your landscaping opportunities. In the past, hot pavement has made it impossible to add turf-grass bands into paving to break it up with a cooler color. The problem has always been heating of the concrete during the day, which dries out the adjacent soil and burns grass leaves. At night the absorbed heat is radiated back into the soil so these strips of turf never find relief during summer and fall. The other problem is irrigation. To make grass or any other matlike plant grow in slots, you must ensure that enough water gets to the super-heated roots every day. With so little soil surface for water to flow through, it’s not easy. Getting deeper penetration is quite problematic. Enter the new artificial turf, and a swanky design trend has emerged. New homes and remodels are featuring patios, walkways and driveways with inset bands of turf in paving. Designers are creating gorgeous patterns of strips and grids and latticework. Now you can do this, too, for more-lush appearances in areas that are paved. This also helps rain penetrate a patio to reach subsoils without runoff. In areas where Environmental Protection Agency LEEDS regulations require that all drainage remain on site rather than flowing into the storm drain, artificial turf is a perfect solution. When these spaces are filled with fine gravel, it’s a maintenance problem keeping all the pebbles in place. If you use artificial turf, there is no maintenance and it looks greener overall. When turf is used to replace a larger lawn, you save
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Life and Death and Agave

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              For many people, their greatest achievements come at the end of life when they have gained great wisdom and experience.  This too is so with agaves, those extraordinarily tough succulents unique to our new world deserts.  Among them is locally native Agave deserti, with its twisted rosettes of blue leaves that contain a vital source of strong, yet soft fiber harvested a century ago by Cahuilla weavers. Newcomers to desert gardening discover their beautifully blooming plant cannot be coaxed to live after flowers fade.  This is because agaves bloom but once in their lifetime in a spectacular  effort to reproduce itself both by seed, and by cloning itself vegetatively just before death. The entire life span of an agave serves just one purpose: to store enough energy to produce an enormous flower spike.  Those grown for the manufacture of tequila are harvested just before the flowers form, when sugar content is highest to enhance the fermentation process. Some species produce branching spikes with tufts of bright yellow flower clusters at the tips.  Others are a single stalk sheathed in flowers.  It’s believed the highly held flowers allow their scent to lure pollinators over long distances across a barren desert.  Another reason for agave’s very tall spikes is bats, which relish the nectar.  Eco location makes it dangerous when agaves are in a habitat filled with many other spiny or thorny plants.  But with flowers high above the spines, bats easily find and feed upon the nectar, thus ensuring pollination. Each species of agave grows for a certain time span needed to accumulate these sugars.  The average is about 25 years, but some may live far longer.  Problems arise with short lived agaves because they may not last long enough to use in outdoor landscaping. One of our most commonly used species is dark green, vase-shaped Agave desmettiana.  It is the best example of many ways agaves reproduce to sustain the species in difficult climates.  After the bloom stalk sheds its flowers, small perfect plants called bulbils form where blooms detach.  They are the back-up plan for reproduction because conditions are so dry that it’s rare for some agave to grow from seed in the wild.  These bulbils are genetic clones of the mother plant, and when they get large enough they detach in the wind and fall, littering the ground around the mother.  Here they’ll root and grow to maturity unless gathered by an intrepid gardener. This bulbil production is only found in a few species, which coincidentally include our low desert tolerant Agave vilmorniana and Agave angustifolia.  When an agave is old enough to bloom it will do so in spring. My first bulbils were found in the parking lot where they littered the pavement beneath a blooming mother plant.  I rescued as many as I could, stuffing them into my purse to take home to plant in the sand and shade of my irrigated garden.  They were tucked into natural soil
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Get Ideas: Follow Maureen Gilmer’s Pinterest Boards

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Small Budget Gardening This board was created for those with little money to spend and lot of creativity. It contains over 400 individual ideas for affordable gardening and garden making for homeowners, renters and apartment dwellers.
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Fresh Budget Gardening Ideas for 2012

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I am a HUGE fan of new ideas for creating fabulous gardens on a shoestring. Since publishing The Small Budget Gardener, my excitement over recycled and reused items has exploded into hundreds of new ideas from around the world. They’re at my Small Budget Gardening board on Pinterest, a cool new site where all my fans can share these discoveries. Before you start gardening this spring, be sure to look these over for hundreds of ways to save money and get far more garden for each penny you spend.
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Sample Mo’s New Fiction at Amazon Kindle Store

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Sample Mo’s New Fiction at Amazon Kindle Store – If you don’t have a Kindle, download the Kindle software for PC to get started on good reads cheap or free.
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