How to Reduce your Watering by 25%

At Yard Guard, our mission is clear: to accelerate the transition to a sustainable landscape, starting here in our own backyards. While water retention and soil conditioning products have been available for some time, we’ve waited for a solution that truly aligns with our mission. And now, we’re excited to introduce a product and service that does just that.

In 2024, as we witness a limited snowpack and an increasing need for water retention, it’s more crucial than ever to understand how lawns hold water and how we can optimize watering practices.

How lawns hold water & how much to water
Watering your lawn properly requires you to understand your property’s unique characteristics. Things like soil health and structure, sun exposure and grass height will all influence how much water your lawn holds and requires to be healthy. In order to learn these characteristics, we recommend adopting the practice of deep watering. Deep watering encourages the roots to grow deeper, resulting in a healthier plan. This means you water your three days a week with a ½” of water each time. Analyze your lawn and adjust the watering time (increase or decrease) depending on what your lawn needs. 

As a side note: It’s essential to adjust your sprinklers in spring and again as summer approaches to account for changing conditions.

For more detailed information on how to water your lawn properly, check out our blog post dedicated to this topic here.

How Moisture Retention Products Work
Moisture retention products help the soil hold more water, reduce surface tension to evenly distribute the water, and to pull water from the atmosphere. The product we are choosing to use is a surfactant that’s bonded to compost, mimicking the natural water-retention properties of organic soil. 

Every sprinkler system has some sort of inefficiency. That may be due to needing an adjustment or maybe your lawn isn’t level all the way through, either way you will probably have some areas that receive more water than necessary and some areas less. This product breaks the surface tension of water which brings us closer to equilibrium on water distribution throughout. 

You’re probably familiar with the moisture absorbing packets that are placed in shipped goods. The product works similarly to those where it pulls moisture from the humidity in the air and holds it in the soil. 

The application needs to be applied and watered in before drought conditions, and the product we use lasts for roughly 90 days. Therefore, we will put it down in June so we can get through the hot summer months.

Photo credit

Setting Realistic Expectations

Companies claim that you can reduce your watering up to 50%, we think that is a little bit of a stretch. It depends on what kind of soil you have, how much organic material is present, how hot/dry the weather is, and the quality of your irrigation system. We live in a dry climate and we all struggle to give our lawns enough water in the hot summer months. This application is only going to help keep more available moisture for the plant and reduce drought stress. 

If you are satisfied with your watering practices, we would recommend cutting water around 20% as a starting point once you receive your Water Saver application. 

What Moisture Retention Products Don’t Replace
This isn’t a magic solution – if you have poor soil, no or poor irrigation, or poor mowing practices this will not save your lawn, but you can definitely expect reduction of problem areas and the overall ability to hold over 20% more moisture. 

Who Could Benefit:
Everyone who lives somewhere dry and windy, aka Livingston! But really anyone. This service is primarily for lawns, but similar products could be used for planter boxes or perennial plants. Even properties that have great sprinkler systems and good soil. We live in a dry climate and moisture retention products are a great way to give your plants a little bit of an edge to hold more moisture.

How Much do Moisture Retention Products Cost?
One time applications start at $129 for a “normal” in-town property (less than 5,000 square feet of turf). This is for a one-time spring application that lasts through the summer.

 

So are you ready to start reducing your watering by 25%? Text “Water Saver” to 406-222-1152 and one of our customer service representatives will get you a custom quote for your home! 

While we are excited to offer this service, we would be even more excited to see long-lasting results. If you haven’t been adding organic material back to your lawn, mowing at the tallest height or watering properly, we would love to see you add those into your regime so we don’t see temporary fixes. If you’re unsure on where to start, give us a call and we are happy to walk you through that!

 

How to Keep Weeds Out of Your Rock Beds?

rock area weed control

Have you ever walked outside and looked at the landscape beds where all your beautiful perennial plants live or where you park the camper and noticed that the weeds have made it their home instead, even though you put a weed mat down? Let’s talk about what it looks like to keep your landscape beds weed-free with our Landscape Bed Care Program. 

In a lawn, healthy grass can out-compete incoming weeds, but in your rock/mulch areas or your gravel driveway, there is nothing to compete with them. Rather than continuing to pull or spray weeds all summer long, we offer a service where we can prevent over 80% of weeds from growing in these areas without having any negative effect on perennial trees & shrubs.

How it works:

  • Step 1 –  is a pre-emergent (weed-preventer) that works as a root pruner to block over 80% of weeds from germinating. Once those new seeds push out their first feeder roots, the roots simply dry out and the plant can’t grow. Because this only impacts the first ½ inch of soil, there is no impact on existing plants with a deeper root system. 
  • Steps 2-4 – We spot-spray the 20% or less that make it through.

How much it costs and what you get:
For the average in-town home with rock/mulch beds around the house or maybe along a fence (about 2,000 sq. feet worth of area), it’s $245 for the season. This includes the spring application of pre-emergent (weed preventer) and three spot treatments to hit any weeds that pop up. All estimates are based on the total square footage of the area being treated.

Where to use it and where not to:
Customers love this service on their rock/mulch landscape beds around their homes, gravel parking areas, and anywhere else you have weeds and don’t want them. However, this doesn’t work well if you are trying to plant anything from seed, because the pre-emergents job is to prevent seeds from growing, or if you plan to disturb the soil (pre-emergent only impacts the first 1/2 inch of soil, so once moved around, it’s no longer effective).

How long does it last?:
Roughly six months, which in Montana gets us through our growing season. In more southern parts of the country, they require a second prevention application.

The results:
You no longer need to spend hours being miserable pulling weeds. Every year gets better, once the existing weeds are cleaned up we can continue to prevent new growth. I recommend spending your time doing this instead: 

colin mountain biking

What if we discontinue the service?
After six months, it’s like we were never there. Slowly new weeds will continue to germinate with no competition for growth.

A few things we want you to keep in mind:
We come close to being magic, but depending on how long these areas have been neglected there may be some cleanup. We can only treat existing weeds within 12 inches of existing plants and all treated weeds once brown will need to be pulled or weed whacked. All of this would have to be done regardless.

We believe our services should give you back your time to do things you love. Give us a call today if you have rock/mulch beds that need some Yard Guard care!

How To Properly Water Your Trees

Your trees represent one of the most significant investments for your property, yet they are sometimes quickly forgotten once they are considered “established.” While there are various ways to care for these beautiful trees, let’s highlight the most crucial step that you can take without relying on the assistance of a lawn and tree care company – let’s discuss the proper method of watering your trees.

There’s an overlooked aspect worth noting: we’ve planted trees, which typically flourish in forests, into a residential lawn area and then anticipate the same successful growth despite the significantly different conditions from their natural habitat, which clearly isn’t going to happen. In a forest setting, trees benefit from shaded soil which helps retain moisture, receiving rich nutrients from decomposed material in the soil, and importantly, they don’t compete with lawn turf for nutrients and water.

As a general rule, trees typically require a minimum of 10 gallons of water per week per inch of Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). However, there’s often an assumption that trees will receive adequate water during a regular weekly lawn irrigation schedule. Unfortunately, the lawn tends to absorb most of this moisture before the tree roots can access any significant amount. Unless you have a drip irrigation system specifically directed toward your trees and shrubs, it’s almost certain that your trees are not receiving sufficient water. The diagram below shows how to measure DBH.

How to measure DBH - diameter at breast height

This blog is broken out to show how to water your trees per season in Southwest Montana. 

Spring Watering:

In spring, it’s crucial to water your trees before they begin to bud and produce leaves. Around mid-March (depending on the weather), start watering your trees weekly. Typically, this means pulling a hose to your trees, turning the water on to a steady trickle, and leaving it to run at the base of the tree for about 30 minutes. In the weeks following, check the soil. If the top 3-4 inches around the tree are dry, it’s time to water them again.

Encouraging slow, deep watering helps your trees’ roots grow deeper, enabling them to draw more nutrients from the soil and become more resistant to drought and disease.

Summer Watering:

Continue the same watering schedule from spring. If you notice the leaves appearing limp, it’s a sign that they may need more water. Once again, check the top three to four inches of soil, and if they’re dry, give the trees a thorough drink by turning on the hose.

Fall and Winter Watering:

During fall and winter, focus primarily on watering your evergreen trees. Deciduous trees typically enter dormancy by late fall and will likely have shed their leaves and require much less attention at this time. Because evergreens retain their needles throughout winter, they need more water to prevent drying out from the severe winds and cold temperatures experienced in Montana. If they become dehydrated, they may suffer from “winter burn,” where the wind and cold weather strip them of moisture, kind of like windburn. This issue is especially prevalent in the Livingston, Montana area.

Starting in October and continuing through November, water your evergreen trees twice a month, dedicating approximately 30 minutes per tree. Use a gentle flow from the hose to facilitate deep watering. This serves two crucial purposes. Firstly, as the trees prepare for dormancy, the water assists in transporting nutrients to their roots, crucial during the winter. Secondly, it provides a reservoir of water for the trees to access, rather than relying on moisture from their needles as a last resort.

Watering your trees properly is going to prevent them from being susceptible to disease and drought now and for years to come. Make sure to give your trees a good drink to bring them to life in the spring and then continue that throughout the summer and early fall. Once you start getting into late fall and winter, specifically October and November, make sure to water your trees at least twice for each of those months! 

If you are watering your evergreens properly and you’re still seeing winter burn, we do offer a service that helps hold in moisture that we do twice a year, once in the fall and once in the winter as weather permits. Please call our office to find out more or to get on the schedule for our Winter Burn Prevention service. 406-222-1152

Happy watering!

How Do I Prepare My Yard for Fall & Winter?

Let’s be honest, our 2023 summer season felt short. We had very inconsistent weather patterns that made taking care of the lawn this year a bit challenging and confusing, but we all managed!

Moving into September, you might be asking yourself, “how can I prepare my lawn for fall and winter?” 

The way I think of this is to look ahead and start working backward. Think back to this spring and what some of the challenges were: 

  1. Vole damage
  2. Lawn fungus
  3. Drought stress
  4. Quick germination of weeds
  5. Irrigation system turn-on

We would prefer to manage the damage of these items for next year, so let’s talk about what we can do now to prevent this. 

Finish Your Lawn Applications Strong

Trust us, we have a five-application program for good reasons. Weeds germinate at different times during the year. Your fourth application of weed and feed is focused on getting rid of the weeds during the last germination period so that they aren’t able to establish a root system that will come back in the next year. The fifth application, and the one our customers cancel most often, is truly the best application you can receive all year. I have personally talked to customers who haven’t been on all five steps and as soon as they add the fifth step, they see a huge improvement of their lawn in the following spring and throughout the year. It just puts you that much further ahead and allows you to tackle the challenge of weeds quickly germinating in the spring.

Stick with the program – you may not be using your lawn anymore, but the best thing you can do for it is provide the right nutrients so it can start off on the right root (😜) next year.  

Overseeding

This is the best action to take care of sparse or bare patches in your lawn or to introduce new varieties of turf that are disease-resistant. 

You’re welcome to overseed your lawn in the spring or fall. Our favorite time is in the fall and what we will encourage you to do as well. This is considered “dormant seeding” which means we don’t expect to see any new growth this year, but while the soil is warming in the spring, the seeds are starting to germinate. This gives you more weeks of a growing period before the weeds start to compete with the new grass growth and there’s no need for soil preparation while the ground is cold and soggy. 

We recommend seeding around mid-October, right around the time that we put down our fifth application of granular fertilizer. You can buy seed anywhere, but two places we recommend to purchase seed locally are Cashman’s and AG Depot in Bozeman. Ideally, you would use a bluegrass mix, they even make some that are more drought-tolerant – just ask a helpful representative. 

Vole Damage Control

In the spring of 2023, the vole damage was horrible for both the lawns and trees. Unfortunately, there’s not many great ways to manage voles, but there is some prep that you can do on your lawn to attempt to mitigate the population. 

Once we get close to Halloween give your lawn one last short mowing. This is the ONLY time we recommend mowing short (very important otherwise you’ll damage your lawn), set your mower to one of the lowest settings and do one last trim, be sure to bag and discard the clippings. Voles seek out properties that will provide a lot of cover: aka thick and luscious lawns. By doing a short mow, this removes their protection and will hopefully ward off a vole population. Check out our blog How Do I Get Rid of Voles, for additional preventative practices.  

Sprinkler Winterizations

Prepare your irrigation system for next spring. Sprinkler blowouts clear the water in your irrigation lines to be sure that the pipes don’t freeze and break over the winter. We provide this service to in-town city water systems in Bozeman and Belgrade and our no-contact method makes this one of our customers’ favorite services. All we ask you to do is turn off your water in the crawlspace and have everything ready for us for your scheduled date. You don’t have to be home and interrupt your work day and we don’t have to track our muddy boots into your house. Our team will come and clear the lines and follow up with a text letting you know that the service has been completed. 

Call or text our team today if you need to get scheduled for a sprinkler blowout this winter! Contact Us

While you’re putting the lawn furniture away this fall, take some time to consider doing these extra favors for your property, next year it will thank you!

P.S. – The holidays will be here before you know it! Speaking of, have you heard? Yard Guard has a Holiday Lighting service! If you’re tired of hanging your Christmas lights in the cold, give us a call and we’ll give you a custom quote for your home! 

 

Tips for a Healthy Lawn

At Yard Guard, our goal is the overall health of your lawn. While synthetic options may provide the illusion of a vibrant and thriving lawn, we believe in taking the necessary steps to ensure your lawn is receiving the foundational care that encourages sustainable health. In this blog, we’ll provide you with three essential tips that will give your lawn the fighting chance it deserves.

We hear it all the time, “we’ve been getting so much rain, I don’t need to turn my water on!” As much as we would love to agree, unfortunately, the rains that we were getting don’t always add up to the amount necessary for your lawn to thrive. Did you know that Southwest Montana gets an average of 11 inches of rain between April and October, according to the Western Regional Climate Center? In a week, your lawn needs at least an inch and a half of water (.5 inches three days a week) and this is considering that you have a healthy soil profile. That means that your lawn gets a quarter of what it needs in a week, in a full month, meaning that it’s constantly fighting drought.

So what can you take away from this? TURN YOUR WATER ON ASAP! Please be sure to adhere to the watering guidelines within your area, but please give those lawns a drink, they’re thirsty! The sooner you’ll be able to do so, the sooner your lawn will recover from drought and be well on its way to becoming healthier turf. 

Deep watering is great for your lawn. For MOST lawns, we recommend watering every other day, 30 minutes per zone and adjusting as necessary. This isn’t always the answer for every lawn so if you’re unsure on what you should do, text our team at 406.222.1152 and ask!

We don’t mean like that… but do your thing, we don’t judge!

Please take a moment while your reading this to walk out to your mower and put it on the highest setting that it can go to. We’ll wait….

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Okay welcome back, thanks for doing that!

Why is this important? The root depth mimics the blade length above the soil (think of this like an iceberg). The deeper the roots, the healthier and stronger your lawn will be and it will start to outcompete weeds on it’s own! Also a longer turf length means that it’s shading the soil. Most grasses in our area are a Kentucky Blue Grass, Fescue Blend which are cool season grasses. Plus, if you want your lawn to be a dark green color – there is more green on a longer leaf blade!

If you’re not sure what this means, wait for the months of July and August to roll around and take a look at lawns that are mowed very short – they will probably appear more yellow than green.

Soil is the literal foundation for your turf and feeding the soil properly is essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems and plant growth. Just like when we feed our bodies the proper nutrients, your lawn is using those nutrients to outcompete disease and prevent unwanted invaders from creating chaos. 

By replenishing these nutrients, we ensure that your turf is able to access the essentials needed for optimal growth and health. Also, nutrient rich soil encourages biodiversity for an array of microorganisms and other beneficial organisms that contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem. By feeding the soil, we are looking at long-term sustainable solution and resilient lawns that may start to outcompete weeds on their own and not require weed control substances to be used.

This is the whole premise behind our blended organic program and compost tea application that we recommend to all of our customers. While we know the traditional programs gets you noticeable results quickly and can be cheaper, the blended organic program will give you long-term sustainable and beneficial results that also leads to a better looking lawn! 

While you’re driving around looking at short lawns take a look for our organic signs, you will also see they have less weeds and a better looking lawns. 

Cheers to happy and healthy lawns!

What is Compost Tea?

You can show your lawn a HEAP of love by giving it a healthy drink of compost tea! 

What is compost tea? Compost Tea is the liquid version of compost, one takes compost and “extracts” all the good parts into a liquid solution to then be applied to desired plants and/ or soil. 

Think about how you would start a vegetable garden. Your first move is to probably build a healthy base with great quality soil consisting of composted material. However, when we want to have a healthy lawn, our first thought is to establish the seed or sod and then grab a jug of chemicals. There has to be a better way!

Over the last couple years, while building and testing our Blended Organic program, we have been working with a Montana farm and rancher testing inputs based on organics and biology rather than chemicals. When we started working together, he was in the process of converting 200 acres to a sod farm. So far he has only added compost tea and local compost to the soil and the results are awesome!

We’ve partnered with a local company, Yes Compost, that takes local organic waste to create high-quality compost and worm castings. We are then able to take their compost and worm castings which we then run through our extractor to make fresh tea daily into a tea to apply to your lawns and gardens. This tea is packed with organic material, amino acids, humic acid and micronutrients that give your lawn the best liquid concentrate possible.

Compost tea is a natural solution that uses biology to improve soil health. It has been used by avid master gardeners for years! When applied to your lawn, it acts as a nourishing tonic, providing the essential nutrients and microbial life necessary for a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface. The diverse range of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in our compost tea work together to break down organic matter, enhance nutrient availability, and promote root development.

By receiving this application, you’re working to feed the lawn, aerate the soil, inoculate the biology and restore organic material, thus giving your soil the fighting chance to outcompete weeds on its own. Plus it works as a liquid aeration! The carbon present in the tea helps to create “carbon stacking” air pockets within the soil, improving its structure and allowing for better water and nutrient absorption. This not only benefits your lawn but also reduces the need for excessive watering.

Paired with our Blended Organic lawn care program, you are on a quick path to repairing your soil organically instead of relying on synthetic treatments every few weeks to keep your grass green and weed-free. 

Fill out the contact form below to get a quote for Compost Tea for your home!

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