May News From Foothills Landscaping
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NEWS FROM FOOTHILLS LANDSCAPING

Growing Legacies with Passion since 1964

May 2013

Hello, Everyone -

     So the sun finally decided to show us what it's made of and give us the kind of temperatures we've been looking for.  We've managed to get through our spring clean-ups between snow storms, and we dug through snow to fertilize shrubs and trees, and now it's time to get some warm temperatures and see some leaves on trees.  Maybe now that we've sprung over 20 degrees, we can get down to some serious growing.

     We're well under way in both construction and maintenance, with show home parades starting in CityScape, Heron Pointe, and Dressage in Silverado.  Sod and trees should be available any time now, and that means full steam ahead!

     Enjoy May, and cross your fingers that this past weekend's weather holds up for a while!

     Sincerely,

George Heuver,

President

Foothills Landscaping (2000) Ltd.
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Can the City Please Step Up?

This city is pretty spread out.  No one will deny that, but there are a host of differing opinions on whether that spread is acceptable, laudable, or reviled.  Mayor Nenshi, since his election, has championed the streamlining of the process by which new developments are processed in order to alleviate concerns that the existing process was clunky and unmanageable.  Fair enough - who wouldn't want to have a more efficient process?

As far as progress, the City has in fact established a working group, including members of a number of development industry, home builder, urban planner, and other stakeholding parties, in order to most effectively piece together the format that a new planning process will assume.  Fair enough - without stakeholders being involved in the process, backlash would be prompt and severe.

To date, however, relations between certain members of the working group and certain members of City Council have been - um, colourful?  The rift stems from the perceived attitude of City Hall to abruptly and drastically slow expansion of Calgary's suburbs.  The City claims that ever-expanding infrastructure places an unsustainable burden on future City budgets because Calgary simply doesn't have the cash to both operate all the existing sewers, roads, etc. that blossom into every new community and to maintain and replace the slowly crumbling infrastructure beneath neighbourhoods established in the 60s and 70s.  I can't fault their logic there, especially considering the exponential rise in construction prices since those 40 year-old communities were built.  Will those prices be exponentially higher again 40 years from now?  I can't see any reason they wouldn't be, barring a total economic meltdown.

The City may or may not be anti-suburb - and they may justify their stance however they please and leave it to industry to take it or leave it.  I sense that those stakeholders in the development industry want nothing more than a clear indication of City Hall's stance on the issue of continued expansion.  Without that expressed stance, developers are left to wait - perhaps those projects into which developers have invested innumerable resources will go ahead; perhaps they will not, and someone will lose a great deal of money.  Perhaps developers, upon learning the City's official position, learn that they must alter their business model if they are going to continue to operate in Calgary.

Maybe they cut their losses and run, setting up shop in locations friendlier to their businesses.  Neighbouring communities like Airdrie, Chestermere, and Cochrane might be happy to have new families moving in, contributing to the tax base in bedroom communities while they use the infrastructure in Calgary.



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This is not a native soil.  Read on to find out how to grow a healthy soil in your neck of the woods.

 

Soil: How Watering Works

Last newsletter, I described Prairie soils in their natural habitat.  This month I'll show you how soil structure in the built environment is different, and how that should influence your watering habits.

Natural soil has a large proportion of pore space which serves to allow water to infiltrate the soil profile and drain to let air follow.  This is essential because plant roots need oxygen as much as they need water - the water stays in the micropore spaces while the air occupies the macro pores.  Soil that has been placed in a park, yard, garden, etc. - especially by heavy machinery - doesn't have the same volume of pore space until the plant roots, worms, and bugs have had a chance to dig in and loosen things up.  That seriously affects water infiltration rates, and how you should effectively water.

Until recently, I lived in High River, with a well established yard with more than its share of worms.  As a result, I could leave my sprinkler on for far longer than I needed to and the water would just keep soaking in.  New landscapes - regardless of the efforts to scarify the subsoil and minimize equipment traffic - can't match that infiltration capacity.  The soil is relatively shallow and compacted, meaning that irrigation water will quickly fill what pore spaces are available and start running off onto the sidewalk.

With new developments, irrigation should be more frequent and of shorter duration.  This allows a little bit of water to infiltrate at a time with less waste.  A good way to gage your watering is to set up a sprinkler up-slope from your sidewalk, turn it on enough to water the grass or beds without reaching the sidewalk down-slope.  Leave it on until you see water trickling onto the sidewalk, then turn it off and wait a day or three (depending on the weather) before watering again.  Something to keep in mind, however, is just how long you're watering.  If you leave the sprinkler on for more than half an hour and the water doesn't start running off, congratulations - your soil is probably spongey enough.  If you can water for half an hour with no run off, that's probably enough.

Over time, the soil will develop that necessary pore space, but it depends on allowing the roots and critters to tunnel into the soil.  Leaving grass clipping on your lawn to build up a thatch layer will also help, as the clippings are a great source of nitrogen as they break down.  Aeration once a year - preferably in the Spring - will also help, but make sure you break up the castings with the lawnmower and sweep them back into the holes. 

Indoor Growing: How to Make the Transfer from In to Out

The enthusiastic gardeners will already have started seeds indoors.  If you're new to the process of starting seeds, it can be a little intimidating trying to understand the timing necessary to transfer those seeds from indoor growing to outdoor.  This transfer is an important part of growing healthy plants all season - indoor growing is controlled, consistent, and (barring the cats) trouble free.  Outdoor growing is stormy, frosty, and genuinely unpredictable.  Plants can't simply be thrown outside to fend for themselves all of a sudden - they must be hardened off.

This is the process of taking spoiled, pampered indoor seedlings and gradually introducing them to the outdoor environment so they don't recoil in horror and immediately die.  The time required to climatize each species of plant vaires, but aim to give them two to three weeks before the recommended planting out date for that species.  For example, Tomatoes don't want to be planted out until there is no chance of frost (which really means they shouldn't be planted in Alberta at all, but if we followed THAT rule, we'd never plant anything), which really means early June.  Count back three weeks from the weekend you think you might plant, and mark that date on your calendar.  When that date (mid-May for tomatoes) comes around, it's time to put your little seedlings outside for a while.  At first - the first week, usually - only place them outside during the warmest part of the day as too big a temperature shock can kill them all.  Avoid placing them in full sun for very long as the intensity of the unfiltered sunlight is not the same as the sun through UV absorbing, double (or triple) glazed windows.  Every two to three days, leave them out for an extra hour until, by the end of the second or third week, they're outside more than they're inside.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEATHER FORECAST!

This is a cardinal rule for any gardener, but it's particularly important when you have tender, sensitive seedlings out on the stoop when there's a frost warning.  It doesn't take long to descimate your seedlings once the temperature drops below five degrees.

KEEP AN EYE ON ANIMALS!

Your seedlings are yummy treats for any number of critters that have been eating dry, brown twigs and crusty leaves all winter.  If you can keep your seedlings covered so the birds, skunks, deer, rabbits, squirrels, neighbour's kids out of them, your chances of success multiply by 10.

WATER LESS, BUT DON'T FORGET TO WATER!

As you're climatizing your plants to outdoor conditions, you need also to climatize them to the less-regular watering that comes with being outside.  It's easy enough to water less frequently, but make sure you're checking to see they're not drying out completely.  Less frequent watering encourages seedlings to grow deeper root systems, which is essential to having mature plants that can stand a bit of drought.

A good rule of thumb is this: if it's nice enough to sit outside with a cool beverage, it's nice enough to bring out your plants.  Just remember to bring them in when it gets chilly.

Foothills Landscaping Training Day

Every year, we mark the first day of spring (or thereabouts) by dragging in all the Foremen, Lead Hands, and Supervisors for a couple of days of refresher training for returning employees, and a "This is How Foothills Does It" day for new hires.  This time around the first day of Spring treated us to a beautifully mild day - before turning on us overnight and making everyone go out to clear snow.  With stations for truck and trailer safety, tree and shrub planting, Occupational Health and Safety, Paperwork (everyone's favourite), and skid steer and tractor operation, there was a little bit of everything to keep everyone busy.

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Long-time Foreman Tim MacKenzie talks trailer safety.

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Tree and shrub planting with John Patterson, who is entering his 375 year with Foothills (not a typo, but maybe a slight exaggeration).

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Fleet Manager Derek Schonken works through small engine basics.

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Yes, there will be a test.  Missy is smiling because she's already aced it, having just averaged 97% or so in her first year's apprenticeship training.  We're awfully proud.



 

© 2013  Foothills Landscaping (2000) Ltd. |  Phone  (403) 273-0113 | Address 2626 - 48th St. SE, Calgary, AB T2B 1M4 

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