What is Core Aeration?
Aeration involves perforating and pulling plugs of the soil that makes small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. The main reason for aeration is to relieve soil compaction. Compacted soil prevents proper circulation of air, water and nutrients within the soil. Excess lawn thatch or heavy organic debris buried under the grass surface can also starve the roots from these key elements.
Should You Be Aerating Your Lawn?
Yes, all lawns will benefit from core aeration done at the proper time of year for your type of turf. Know your turf, lawn grasses fall into two different categories warm season and cool season grasses.
Warm season grasses begin their period of active growth in summer. If you aerate a warm-season lawn in late spring to early summer, the ensuing period of rapid growth will quickly fill in the holes you create.
Cool season turf emerges from summer dormancy in early fall and grows vigorously during the lower temperatures and reduced weed competition typical of fall. Strong growth helps the lawn quickly recover from the stress of aeration. The window of opportunity on fall aeration starts at the end of August and ends two or three weeks prior to first frost.
Why Does My Lawn Need Aeration
If your lawn gets heavy use, such as serving as the neighborhood playground, children and pets running around the yard contribute to soil compaction. Often the topsoil of newly constructed lawns is stripped or buried, and the grass established on subsoil has been compacted by construction traffic. If dries out easily and has a spongy feel, this might mean your lawn has an excessive thatch problem. Aerating breaks up the layering, allowing water, air and nutrients to flow through the soil easily and reach the roots system.
Core Aerator vs Spike Aerator
There are two types of aerating tools that exist: a spike aerator and a core aerator that pulls a plug. With a spike aerator, you simply use the tool to poke holes into the ground with a solid tine. This type of aerator may actually cause additional compaction. Core aerators remove a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn. For the best results, we use a core aerator that actually removes plugs of soil.
How Often Should I Aerate?
Most lawns benefit from annual aeration. Heavily used lawns, or those growing on heavy clay or subsoil's may need more than one aeration each year. Again, turf responds best when tine spacing is closer and penetration is deeper. Here in Georgia, clay soil is about all we have, so we would recommend on most lawns aeration twice a year.
What Should You Expect
After aeration, your lawn will be sprinkled with small plugs pulled from the soil. Within a week or two, they break apart and disappear into the lawn. About a week after you should see the holes filled with white, actively growing roots, a sign that the turf grass is receiving additional oxygen, moisture and nutrients from the soil. On compacted soils and on lawns with hills, you should see a big difference immediately in water puddling and runoff after irrigation or rainfall. After aeration, your lawn should be able to go longer between watering, without showing signs of wilt. With repeat aeration over time, your lawn will show enhanced heat and drought stress tolerance. Remember, most lawns benefit from aeration. And while you shouldn’t expect miracles, especially with poor soil, lawns that receive this care will be healthier, more vigorous, and have fewer pest problems.
By Gary Duncan
What's so great about landscape lighting? Everything! Regardless of the purpose of your outdoor lighting, the benefits are all positive. Today’s homeowners see their landscapes as a source of pride, a refuge for relaxation, and a place to enjoy good times with family and friends. Landscape lighting enhances your home's appearance. The lights make your home and landscaping visible after dark. When properly positioned and professionally installed, landscape lights accentuate architectural features which brings the building and the landscape together for a resort-like feel. Lighting on your patios, decks, walkways, driveway, plants and trees make the most of your landscaping at night. Landscape lighting adds a sense of drama to your landscaping. The lighting makes your house stand out by increasing the curb appeal at night. Your house will appear warm and inviting. In contrast to a dark and drab home, your illuminated home will draw people in and offer a warm and inviting environment for family and friends.
Extend your living areas by lighting your outdoor landscape. Landscape lighting increases the functionality of your outdoor spaces. With proper lighting, you can use your front and backyard long after dark. Landscape lights provide a large amount of general light to brighten patios, decks, walkways, driveways or any portion of the yard. Lights are a great addition and these areas can become entertainment venues or just relaxing places to unwind or for late night dinners or just gathering with family and friends.
Landscape lights at your home make the house less of a target for crimes like vandalism or burglary. It’s a proven fact that a well-lit landscape will deter potential intruders by eliminating dark areas and shadows that would conceal movement around the property. Lights positioned at entrance points, like doors and windows, will makes it difficult for a burglar to go unnoticed. When people view your well-lit yard, they often interpret your property as cared for and well-maintained. This can discourage trespassing and theft.
The safety of your family and guests when outdoors or entering at home is another benefit of landscape lighting. Home exteriors in the dark are full of potential hazards such as steps, low-hanging or thorny vegetation, abrupt changes in elevation, or debris in a walkway can all be avoided with properly placed landscape lighting. Guests can be safely guided away from hazards and navigate these areas safely. Lights on the driveway, walkways and house numbers makes it easier and safer for visitors to find your home. The more lights the safer your outdoor areas will be.
Landscape lighting not only brings a property to life, it also provides excellent return on investment by creating a stunning first impression when viewed by visitors.
By Gary Duncan
In our experience, we have never had any trouble attracting hummingbirds. All I do is put out the hummingbird feeders and they will come. We usually have so many that they fight over the feeders. We put out 3 or 4 feeders and sit on the porch and watch the hummingbird wars begin. It is fun sitting on the porch watching them zooming in and out of the porch at a 100 miles an hour making little squeaking noises. We space the feeders about 75 or a 100 feet apart, because the dominant hummingbirds at our house will sit on a tree branch in between two of the feeders and guard them, attacking any other hummingbirds that come near, but while he is attacking one, the others are feeding. It really keeps them busy and is fun to watch. So put out the feeders and let the fun begin. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species that nests and breeds in Georgia. They're easily identified by the male's bright, shiny red patch under their beaks. They are visible from March to October. You can observe up to 11 different species of hummingbirds a year as they migrate to or pass through Georgia.
What should you feed hummingbirds?
Hummingbird feeders, both bottle and saucer types, are designed with red parts to attract the hummingbirds. Never add red food color to sugar water, and never use mixes that have red dyes. Nectar in flowers is clear, and red food coloring may be harmful for hummingbirds. Never use honey to make hummingbird food - when honey is diluted with water, bacteria and fungus thrive in it. Sugar is perfect. The normal mixture, especially ideal during hot or dry weather, is ¼ cup of sugar per cup of water. During cold, rainy, or foggy conditions when fresh water is plentiful but birds need more energy, it’s fine to make the mixture 1/3 cup of sugar per cup of water. Concentrations of sugars in natural nectar's vary within about that range. If you mix up small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. But if you mix up larger batches and refrigerate part for later use, then it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water.
What kind of feeder is best?
There are things to consider in selecting a hummingbird feeder. How easy they are to take apart and clean, and how large they are. Bacteria and mold grow in sugar water, and sugar ferments, so hummingbird water should not be left out for more than two or three days, and changed daily in very hot weather is a good idea. The easier it is to clean a hummingbird feeder, the better. The fill hole should be large enough for you to be able to get a bottle brush inside, and every part should be easy to clean. Hummingbirds are usually very territorial around feeding sites, as I talked about above and so three or four feeders, set in different trees or at different windows, will attract and maintain more hummingbirds. Bottle or tube hummingbird feeders can be glass or plastic, often with red plastic flowers and bee guards, little plastic screens that keep insects away from the sugar water on the feeding holes. If the bee guards are yellow, they may, attract bees. Plastic saucer-type hummingbird feeders have feeding holes in the top, making them fairly bee-and wasp-proof. These feeders often have little moats in the center that should be filled with regular tap water that will keep ants from climbing down the support wire or rod and getting to the sugar water. If hummingbird feeders have large enough perches, other birds may try to us the feeder. In some places, bears can be a problem if feeders are accessible. Hummingbird bottle feeders tend to leak in the sun, because air trapped in the top of the bottle expands as it warms and pushes the nectar out. This doesn’t happen in tray feeders. Either way, you should avoid locating your hummingbird feeder in direct sun, which causes the sugar water to spoil rapidly. Just put out the feeders and they will come, sit back and enjoy the show.
By Gary Duncan
When is the Best Time for Landscaping in Georgia? Fayetteville, McDonough, Jonesboro, Atlanta... (GA)
Even though spring is the season most often associated with planting, you can plant year-round in Georgia. In general, Duncan's encourages landscaping, especially most deciduous tree installations to be done during the late fall/winter months in our area when the rate of water loss from planted trees and shrubs is much less than if installed in the spring and summer months. A fall/winter installation in our area gives the plants time to become established before the summer’s heat, humidity and water stresses begin. As you may have imagined, winter is when the demand for landscaping is at a yearly low, and therefore it’s much easier to get your upcoming project done much faster. In the spring and summer months, the demand becomes much higher and we get backed up with projects very rapidly. In the fall and winter there is a much better selection of plants at the growers. In the spring and summer selection may be scarce. Winter is a great time to get your yard or garden landscape project on the fast track to
completion. If you want to enjoy your yard in the spring, you’ll need to think ahead and begin planting in the fall. Step one is a landscape plan that will break down the steps needed to refurbish your yard, from deciding whether to prune, move or eliminate overgrown shrubs to selecting the right plants according to color, growth patterns and maintenance concerns. Beautiful plants can spend the winter dormant, ready to burst into color when the temperature is right. If you mulch in the fall, you’ll provide your plantings with good insulation for the winter and you’ll enjoy the aesthetics of a clean ground cover in the meantime.
Another feature which provides hours of family fun would be the addition of a fire pit and maybe a patio. It's great to huddle around a warm outdoor fire on a cold winter evening eating s'mores and telling ghost stories.
Fall is also a great time for new pond/water feature installations. Cooler temperatures mean less stress on fish, which makes it easier for them to acclimate and thrive in their new environment. Since stresses also responsible for a host of fish diseases, you’ll also have fewer health concerns. The water temperature is cooler as well, which means you’ll have fewer problems. It will give the pond a chance to stabilize before spring. Here in Georgia we run our water features year-round, so its not like you won't be able to enjoy it even in the winter, and when it becomes spring you'll be ready to enjoy a full season of pondering. So even though spring typically brings out the gardener in everyone, now you can see why fall might be an even better time to get a head start on your landscaping! If you’re thinking about a landscape rejuvenation or want to find out how we can create a beautifully landscaped space for you to enjoy year-round, let us know. We want to help turn your outdoor dreams into reality. Winters in Georgia are mild and short lived, and before you know it, the sunshine will be back. Planting a new garden and watching your landscape come to life in the spring is exciting!
By Gary Duncan
By Gary Duncan
I have added pictures of container gardens done by us. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I tend to agree. My brother, Johnny Duncan, has a real flair and love of container gardening. He is the Duncan's Landscaping container designer and just loves doing them. I hope this helps to inspires you. Spring is here, so let’s get busy! Start gathering all your supplies, but I wouldn't plant any annuals until after April 15th to make sure there is no chance of frost ruining all your hard work and having to buy plants over again. Container gardens offer opportunities for experimenting with flowers and vegetables in your existing landscape. Pots of petunias, geraniums, or impatiens located along garden paths can add great visual impact and offer a change of pace. It can really brighten up your existing landscape. Just make sure pots are large enough to allow plants and roots to grow and have a few holes so they drain properly when watered. Try mixing plants by using different sizes, shapes, textures and color’s all in the same container for variety. Try using groups of pots on patios, decks, and walkways while noting that different plants have different sun requirements. Build your planter garden according to the following: choose plants with similar sun needs when combining together in a container. Or, use a trick from Mother Nature by combining plants that help each other...a sun-loving larger plant shades a smaller plant which thrives on only partial sun. One of the big advantages to container gardening is the ability to move pots around to find the best growing conditions. If you find your planter isn't doing well, try moving it to a sunnier spot. Or, if the plant looks like it's leaves are browning, move it out of direct sun. Since your planter is portable you can experiment quite easily until you find the best place with just the right amount of sun. Containers should be kept out of direct midday sun unless you can water frequently. Because they are exposed on all sides, they will show some effects of harsh elements more quickly. Uneven sun exposure might cause your plants to lean one way in search of more sun. To correct for this, rotate the planters every couple of days so the plant will grow straight. So go out and get a few containers and have some fun. I think you will be pleasantly surprised as to how much they will add to your landscape.
Put in a pond creating your own piece of paradise that delights all the senses. A pond offers something for all the wildlife such as refreshing water, seed for birds, nectar for bees and butterflies, and hiding places for fish, frogs, dragonflies and other water loving wildlife. Installing a pond is the first step in a great wildlife habitat. Next, be sure to include well placed plantings: hardy water lilies, tropical water lilies, dwarf papyrus, cattails, pitcher plant, water iris, arrowhead and others in the pond. Around the waters edge and the rest of the backyard there are a number of plants that can be used. I'll just mention a few, ornamental grass, rudbeckia, hosta, japanese maple, hydrangea, creeping yew, creeping jenny, ferns, coral bells and many others that will give the impression that Mother Nature had a hand in its creation. A patio and a fire pit are just two more additions that can make your backyard a great place to spend time with family and friends. So, get started on your own private piece of paradise today. You know that spring is fast approaching and those warm spring, summer and fall nights will be here before you know it. With the lights in the pond and throughout the landscaping it will just be "magical at night" to quote one of our customer and I agree it is!
By Gary Duncan
Being landscape designers and contractors, sometimes when we are building a water garden for a client, the birds start coming before we can even get through with it. The sound of running water will attract birds from miles away. Then when we add the landscaping to the water feature it is like a magnet for all the birds, frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, etc. You just have to add the fish and everything else just comes on it's own. Like I said "If you build it they will come."
Birdscaping is setting up your landscape habitat to welcome birds into your garden, including rest places for migrating birds, safe spots for breeding birds to raise their babies, and food and shelter for winter birds. It is taking care of the basic needs of birds through your landscape choices. Birdscaping is more than putting up a bird feeder. Birds have adapted to eat the fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts of locally native plants, so make sure you use some of these in your garden.
To create habitats that birds will love, plant some native plants. The more natives you’ve got in your garden, the more birds you will see. It can be just that easy. A good place to start is to go to this link and look at all the native plants for Georgia 'Native Plants of Georgia'. There you will find so many plants that it will make your head spin. There is part one: trees and shrubs, part two: ferns, and part three: perennial flowers. Try to add plants that will provide fruits, nuts and berries throughout the year.
Of course birds have to have water. You can use a bird bath or almost anything that will hold water for them to drink out of. In our water gardens we always try to make some shallow and slow moving water areas in the stream with a log or limbs going down to that area of the stream and birds will use these places to drink and take a bath. If you use a bird bath you need to keep it clean and filled with clean water. If birds aren't drinking from your bird bath, it could mean that your
bird bath is too deep. If so, just add one or two stones that they can stand on where it will be very shallow and then you should have birds standing in line to use your bird bath.
Build a brush pile by stacking up fallen limbs, branches, sticks, and twigs that accumulate in your garden. Brush piles provide great hiding places and shelter for birds. If you have a place on your property where it would be safe to leave a dead tree then please do so, these will attract woodpeckers which make new holes every year and other birds use them years later. Birdhouses are not necessary but are fun to have, and I always get a thrill out of seeing a bird use a birdhouse I have provided.
Statistics say 70 percent of gardeners feed wild birds.
What’s the favorite food at your backyard feeder? Without a doubt it is black oil sunflower seeds, cardinals are attracted to sunflower seeds and finches to thistle seed. If you want to attract a variety of birds use a blend of seed containing milo, millet, sunflower seed and cracked corn. Birds will then come and pick out their favorite seed. Suet is also good for attracting birds, especially the nuthatches and woodpeckers and provides them with oil necessary for winter. Plant some sunflowers in your garden and when the seeds are ready you will see the birds feeding on the heads of the sunflowers. It is such fun watching the birds take turns flying to the sunflowers and picking the seeds one at a time. Watch carefully and you will see that different types of birds come to you feeders at different times of the day to feed. Just watch your feeders and pay attention to which birds are coming when and you will see what I mean.
When you start feeding birds you start watching birds. When we see a new bird at our feeders for the first time, we want to know what type it is and where it came from. It can be surprising to find out how far these birds have traveled to get to your backyard. Go to and use Audubon Bird Identification Bird watching is the the second most popular hobby in recent surveys, right after gardening and before sports. I know, that's hard to believe!
Placement of feeders is important for the bird's safety. Locate it somewhere that will offer an escape route if a predator appears, but please be aware of windows. Windows can be a birds worst enemy, so do what you can to prevent collisions.
How do you attracting birds to your garden?
By Gary Duncan
What is algae?
Algae is a plant that can be microscopic, or can get as large as what is known as seaweed. There are all different kinds of algae. It is usually either green, brown, or red. It is also very adaptable to it’s environment. What that means is it can exist in any kinds of water, even waste water. Algae is an autotroph and grows through photosynthesis, meaning that it turns sunlight and CO2 into mass.
Algae is a ponds best friend and it worst enemy.
Algae can be the ponds best friend because it helps to filter the pond. When it undergoes photosynthesis, it removes some nitrates and phosphates from the pond. In addition to removing these compounds, it also produces oxygen for the fish. Phytoplankton, which is a microalgae, is a food that fish will eat. This grows naturally in ponds and helps the fish to thrive. Algae can also be a pond worst enemy too, because we all know that when your pond is full of this green stuff, it can make it hard to see your fish and other plants. Algae that makes the water green or brown also blocks sunlight from reaching the pond’s living organisms. So what should happen with the algae? A little bit should be left in the pond. Why? A pond with algae is a healthy pond, it needs a little to complete the ecosystem and it makes the pond appear more natural.
How do I deal with the algae?
There’s a few things that we do at Duncan's Water features to deal with the algae. First, we like to install an IonGen G2 System. The benefit of putting this in is to filter the water. There are various settings that you can change the system to depending on the amount of algae in the pond. Another way to deal with the algae is to put String Algae Buster (SAB) in the pond. This will help to remove ammonia, nitrates and phosphates, which bacteria feeds on. In late winter or early you need to do a clean out of your pond to get out any leaves, trash, out that cause excessive algae and pressure wash all the stone work, but don't clean all the algae off, leave some for seed and a place for the beneficial bacteria to colonize. If you have questions about the methods that we use, or any other pond questions? Please contact us!
By Liz Canham
Without birds, butterflies and other wildlife, your yard would be much less interesting and in addition, birds will eat flies, mosquitoes and other insects and stop them bothering you. You might think that there's a problem attracting birds to your backyard but actually there are a few really easy things you can do to make your place attractive to birds so that they'll arrive, feed and stay to nest. Here's how to attract birds to your yard.
Make sure there's food available: Putting out bird food is a good way to attract birds to your yard. To attract a greater variety of birds put out different foods such as seed, nuts and fat. Use different feeders, some hanging and a table or platform as different species feed in different ways. Ground feeders will pick up whatever is dropped from either hanging or table feeders.
Birds like water: Birds will still come to your yard if you have a bird bath but they do prefer water that moves. If you have a pond or fountain already then that's great but starting from scratch can be very expensive so don't think you have to have a full blown water feature to attract birds. If you can attach a dripper or mister to your bird bath, it will give the illusion of moving water and wild birds will come to bathe.
Trees and plants: Different bird species are used to varying habitats so the more variety your yard has to offer, the better. A mixture of trees, shrubs, bushes, hedges and grass would be ideal and flowers which produce nectar are also attractive to birds. Shrubs or trees which produce fruit or berries will have the local bird population flocking but don't forget that fruit you are growing for yourself such as cherries will be absolutely ravaged! Birds like to nest in evergreen trees so they will help to attract birds to your yard.
Nesting arrangements: Although birds in the wild usually nest in trees or shrubs and some will even nest on the ground, in a domestic setting they will normally be more attracted to nesting boxes. You can buy these very cheaply or even make your own and attach them to trees or fences. In spring, you can provide nesting material; dead grass, twigs, bits of cotton, shredded paper and dead leaves will all be used and may encourage birds to use your nesting boxes.
Food, water, hiding places and nesting facilities will all attract birds to your yard, particularly the indigenous common varieties but if you want to attract specific species you'll need to look up their individual requirements, particularly in terms of food and nesting.
For ideas about food to attract birds to your yard check out this article, Feeding Stations for Birds, at Worldwide Bird Watching.
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