Ken's Tips *

March:  Water Meter Vaults and Plantings Nearby


Several helpful folks at the AA County Public Works Department did some extra research on water meter vault locations and provided guidance and regulations concerning where they are placed and what can or cannot be placed near them. If you have any issues with your water or water meter, their number is 1-410-222-8450.


Two sections of the County Code apply to planting near water meter vaults.

  • Section 13-1-105 deals in general terms with easements and rights-of-way and preventing obstruction of the access needed for maintenance work by Public Works personnel within the utility easements.
  • Section 13-5-107 deals with fire hydrants and hydrant lines.  Public Works considers water piping and meters to fall under the same category as fire hydrants and the corresponding water lines feeding them.  That regulation stipulates a 3-foot clearance for items with root systems planted around the public works utility installations, be they fire hydrants, water meter vaults, or other public water source piping. Should you decide to plant a tree and have room to keep it and its root systems outside of the 3-foot "buffer" zone around the water meter, please keep in mind what that tree will look like when fully grown and whether or not that look is what you were hoping to accomplish. 

Some colorful foliage trees, such as Red Bud, Red Maple, Crepe Myrtle, Japanese Cherry, and Flowering Dogwood, have shallower and less traveling root systems whereas Sugar Maple or Silver Maple, for example, are quite the opposite.  They have root systems that love to grow outward beyond the footprint of the tree itself. These root systems can break up concrete sidewalks, driveways, and even foundations. So “think before you plant” isn’t quite enough. Research before you plant!


April:  Spring is here, finally?or is it?


Don't rush to the local flower shop yet for those spring annuals, unless you have a greenhouse in your basement. Pansies are fine now that the chance of frost is nil, but watch the thermometer before bringing home other annuals. Nighttime temperatures above 40 degrees F are the "rule of thumb" for successful planting. In general, mid-May is the best for begonias and impatiens, but, as they say on TV, results may vary. Where did the term "Rule of Thumb" come from, anyway! Also, now IS the time to get weed- and crabgrass preventer on the lawn. A corn gluten meal product labeled as a pre-emergent is the best for the lawn and for the environment.


May: Which mulch works best for you?


It's mulch season, so which mulch is best for you -- wood, rubber, or compost? 


If the objective is to look good, provide some protection against pesky weeds, keep the neighborhood cat from using your flower garden as a litter box, and you don't mind occasional stains on adjacent structures and nearby cars from the "nuisance fungi" associated with the wood types (especially colored or painted), the occasional bark rot from tented hardwood mulched trees, the possible flammable qualities of shredded rubber, don't necessarily want to feed the soil underneath and don't mind if a few plants that get too close don't exhibit "show off" qualities, then the hardwood, Cyprus, cedar, pine bark, colored (read: 'painted or dyed) or rubber will meet your desires. 


If you want the most weed protection, want to feed the soil with nutrients from the ingredients that make up the mulch, and don't mind if it's not black, red, tan, or doesn't have a shiny chocolate consistency, the recommendation is compost or leaf mulch. Recognized for its protection from weeds while letting water get to the soil and plant roots, picking up additional nutrients to nourish the plants through the mulch bed itself, compost or leaf mulch can be "home grown", or purchased at any reputable garden center. Happy mulching!


September:  Fall is the time to plant for Springtime Splendor!
As we see summer fade into fall and as you endeavor to keep your lawn and landscape areas thriving, there are some well known reminders that fall is the best time to spruce up or rejuvenate bare or thin areas of the lawn or start a new plot of grass as new root systems can become stable and strong through the cooler months. The same can be said for shrubbery and new trees. Attention now will aid in building a good root system through the cooler weather, ring in the spring with a smooth carpet and new shoots and more easily survive the hot spring and summer soil that generally inhibits growth instead of supporting it. Remember to use good compost soil (yard waste compost recommended) as you cover the new seed, and plenty of water to start.
If you noticed Japanese beetles on your flowering roses and other leafy fauna, experts recommend spreading a good coating of milky spore on the nearby areas in the fall to ward off the hungry grubs in the root systems of the ground that feed now and morph into those pesky beetles in the spring.


October:  Bulbs, Mulch, and Pansy Tea!


Itching to get those heavily advertised great deals on Spring bulbs in the ground? Patience, please. If warmer weather has not gone into hibernation yet, we don't want the precious bulbs to think Spring has already sprung! Tradition says 'wait until after Halloween, please.'  

Those pesky weeds in your wood mulch got you steaming? Don't blame the weeds. Compost mulch is generally much better at weed control AND is better for the soil around your flowers, shrubs, and bedding plants.

Plant pansies! They love cooler weather, survive snow and ice AND the flowers are edible and nutritious!  Tea, anyone?


November:  MUM's the word!


Cliché or not, those hearty yellow, red, orange and white garden and door stoop decorative flowers can return next year if a few careful steps are taken now. First, if you want to retain what's in the pot on the front doorstep and have a place to plant them, do so, but now's the time. For these and the ones you may already have planted, when the flowers are done and the stems are on the wilt, trim them off about 1"-2" above ground and smother them with mulch until spring. They will return. Tune in again in the spring, when I'll tell you how to keep them from blooming too early!


If you haven't noticed, frost is indeed on the pumpkin and the overnight temps are starting to dip below freezing. It's time to think about winterizing your front and rear external hose connections. They're an excellent source of frozen pipe woes if not drained before the freeze hits. For pictures and a description of the PROPER way to drain the hose connections in River Oaks, please CLICK HERE to go to the PHOTO GALLERY and find the album for "Winterize Outdoor Faucets."


*This page was developed by our Architectural Control & Landscaping Committee Chairman from about 2007 to 2014. Ken was knowledgeable about grass, tree and shrub cultivation and care, ensured that landscaping changes did not interfere with underground utilities and oversaw our landscaping, mowing and snow removal contracts.