Pros offer tips on garden, lawn care

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Jim Ferrin, superintendent for Timber Creek Golf Course, oversees the management of more than 250 acres of landscaping at Sun City Roseville. The struggle to maintain a championship-quality golf course while sustaining a natural habitat for wildlife is his daily responsibility. To do this, Ferrin works with an elaborate team of landscapers to create a healthy ecosystem that can sustain native plants, local wildlife and, of course, a heavily-used golf course and country club. Ferrin and his team of landscapers offered a behind-the-scenes look at how the experts maintain such a large outdoor space and tips on how the average home owner or gardener can create their own sanctuary at home. Grass selection Timber Creek Golf Course uses mostly cool-season grasses such as rye, blue and fescues on the course as well as the common areas throughout Sun City Roseville. “Sacramento is in that spot where we are right in the middle of being able to grow cool-season grasses, which keeps longer in the cool weather,” said Dave Wilber, director of agronomy for Sierra Pacific Turf Services in Rocklin. Wilber works closely with Ferrin and agrees that since cool-season grasses stay greener year-round, most people enjoy that variety much better, even though it has a higher irrigation requirement during the summer months. Ferrin said warm season grasses such as Bermuda tend to go dormant during the cold season in the Sacramento region, giving the impression that the lawn is dead. “At the same time, people don’t know that warm-season grasses can have a high irrigation requirement as well,” Ferrin said. Selecting plants John Law, director of technical services for Valley Crest Landscape Maintenance, the company which maintains Timber Creek, says when choosing plants for your garden, it is important to think about invasive versus non-invasive species. “If you plant an invasive species, what happens is they escape,” Law said. “Birds carry the seeds around. Wind can blow seeds around and then they get into native areas along creeks, along waterways and up into the mountains.” Law said invasive plants create imbalance in an ecosystem. “There’s a whole lot of interacting life that’s evolved over a long period of time,” Law said. “An invasive species that takes over is not going to provide that food base for other species out there.” To solve this problem, Law recommends home gardeners choose plants from local nurseries rather than buying over the Internet. “Any responsible nursery that belongs to the professional organizations won’t be carrying invasive species,” Law said. “One of the problems with the Internet is you can buy whatever you want.” Fertilizer and soil testing Wilber recommends home gardeners get their soil tested before applying any fertilizer or planting. He said oftentimes gardeners will drop off soil samples for his company to analyze and offer suggestions on what kinds of fertilizers to use. “We’re looking for that small, three-numbered NPK analysis,” Wilber said. “Yeah, that means you have to apply a few more pounds to get some more nitrogen in there, but the benefit there is more mineral and carbon.” When it comes to fertilizers, both Wilber and Ferrin agree that organic is not necessarily always the way to go. “There is only so much you can do with something that comes out of the back end of an animal,” Ferrin said. Kelli Howland, account manager for Valley Crest Landscape Maintenance, says fertilizers are continually improving and becoming more efficient, requiring less application and less irrigation, thanks to technology. “The research has been done for a number of years,” Howland said. “People may have what they used 20 or 30 years ago that they love and has worked, but go look at the new products that are out there.” Choosing a landscaper Ferrin says to do some research before you select a landscaping company to maintain your yard, because sometimes your yard can become diseased based on that company’s practices. “I’ve had neighbors who have had disease come into their yards because their landscapers aren’t cleaning the blades,” Ferrin said. Joor Bol, branch manager for Valley Crest Landscape Maintenance, recommends going to the accounts that landscaper already does and looking at them. “If I’m a home owner, that’s the only way I’d go,” Bol said. “It’s easy to take somebody’s word for it. Go see what they do.” Howland agreed and added that a good landscape company will be able to tell you what is in your landscape and identify the plants that are there. “Just about anybody can get behind a machine and mow, blow and go,” she said. “You need to take a deeper look, you need to scout.” Resources Ferrin says to get advice on how to maintain your home garden, talk to the experts at local nurseries and garden centers. “You may just want to go to that specialty center and get some information and compare prices,” he said. Ferrin said a local specialty center might be more knowledgeable than some of the larger, big-box home improvement centers. He also said the City of Roseville’s website provides links and tips for home gardening. Howland recommends the UC Davis website, which has great information in terms of what kinds of grasses and plants thrive in the region, fertilization, knowing how much to water and more. “Get a basis to start from and then adapt to your individual circumstances,” she said. “Adapt to your yard.” Toby Lewis can be reached at