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Howdy partner...

Let's see... you bought your home in Garden Ridge because you needed some space. Maybe you lived on one of those 'postage-stamp' size lots and you thought you needed a little breathin' room. But now that you've mown that giant yard for a few seasons, you feel like you're the proud owner of a Texas ranch (pronounced ra-eeen-ch if you've been here long enough).

Well, here's some tips from a fellow Garden Ridge rancher on how to tame your little piece of the American west.

First, buy some tools that fit the job. Yep, the first time you drag out your electric powered Weed Eater and string 200' of cord, you realize your equipment will no longer do the job. You see, with a commercial sized yard, you need some commercial sized equipment. And there is no room for electric equipment of any kind, unless you just love handling extension cords. Gas powered is the way to go. 

Here's a list of my personal favorites. Of course, the centerpiece of your equipment portfolio will be a good riding mower. I ride a super-charged, 212 horsepower, jet fueled, mower with eighteen blades. It helps me get my yard cut in under five minutes. :)... joke. Buy something that has a wide cut, good engine, and sports plenty of safety features. I've had great luck with a Murray rider (12 years old and still running strong!) that is equipped with a great Briggs & Stratton engine and 42 inch cut. The typical "lawn mower" engine has come a long way in recent years. Obviously many folks consider Honda or John Deere mowers to be the best, but I don't think they're worth the premium you pay. I can replace my Murray three times for what a typical high end mower costs. 

Now for your accessory equipment. This is where I would invest some of the savings you realized from your mower purchase. Gas powered equipment is wonderful... if it will start. I've been told that the better equipment is outfitted with carburetors that are more trouble-free. In other words, they start. Very important, when you need to get the yard finished in time for the Spurs game. I bought a Stihl brand chain saw in 1978. I've used and abused it. Even dropped it in a lake. It has NEVER failed to start.

I've had great luck with Echo equipment. I have an upgrade Echo line trimmer (the proper name for what people call a Weed Eater). This manufacturer offers a great selection of attachments and accessories that make the tool very versatile. While your wheelin' and dealin' for your trimmer, ask your salesman about high quality trimmer line. I use a heavier trimmer line and find that I'm stopping less frequently to change the line in the trimmer head. Also, I found that the part of the trimmer that dispenses the line wears out rather quickly. I bought an extra to have on hand. There's nothing worse than being unable to finish your yard late some evening because you need a new part. An extra spark plug might also be a wise investment. Finally remember to ask about the use of 'pre-mix' oil in the gas. (Although some new line trimmers now come with 4-stroke engines) Your salesman can advise you on what you'll need. I buy the higher quality premix oil in the small 'ready-to-pour' bottles so I don't have to measure the oil when I mix it with gas.

I also bought a Shindaiwa brand hedge trimmer. Let me warn you that a gas powered hedge trimmer must be handled with utmost care. It will saw your leg off faster than you can say "911". Seriously, don't let your kids use this tool. It is dangerous, but when handled with care, it can make fast work of trimming the shrubs. I finished off the collection with a Stihl brand (gas-powered) blower. This is a hand-held unit. I didn't think I needed the backpack style. This blower has performed reasonably well, but I'm told Stihl is not as good as it used to be. I think I would go with a Echo blower if I were to do it again.

Now, some tips on keeping this equipment running. I was advised to use Stabil brand fuel stabilizer. Apparently, the gas goes bad after being stored for a few weeks and this product helps to 'stabilize' your fuel. I've certainly had no problem. 

Also, I recently bought a 'battery-minder' at Wal-Mart. This is a small battery charger that is made for keeping a battery 'alive' through the winter. I take the battery out of my mower at the end of the season and store it off the concrete, attached to the battery minder. It's added a couple of years of life to my batteries.

When it comes to killing weeds, I'm a herbicidal maniac! I bought a four gallon backpack sprayer along with a 2 1/2 gallon quantity of 'Round-Up Pro' from Home Depot. You'll be shocked at the price tag of this super-concentrated product. But if you'll do the math, you will find this is the cheapest way to go. Roundup will kill almost anything you spray it on, including those lovely bushes growing right next to the weeds. So use caution with this product and read the directions and label carefully.

One of the most pleasant surprises you'll find when you move into the area is our close proximity to Garden Ville. I buy compost, mulch, and soils in bulk there every spring. They usually deliver and I find it's worth the cost to have it dropped by. We have about ten cubic yards of the cedar mulch delivered every spring for use in our bed areas. Also, the compost products they sell have really perked up our shrubs. On the topic of organic, I also use the Medina brand products. We've had great results with their Hasta-grow fertilizer. Finally, I shouldn't forget about common manure. I buy this product bagged at Wal-Mart. It's cheap and the plants love it. But don't forget... wash your hands!

Now, about grass. We have a living exhibit of four different types of grass in our yard, including 'grassy weeds'. We have Bermuda, St. Augustine, Tiff 419, and El Toro Zoysia. By far, we are most pleased with El Toro Zoysia. I used Emerald Zoysia at a different home and was only moderately happy with the grass. El Toro is so thick, we rarely find a weed able to compete with it. In addition, they grass grower claimed it was drought and freeze tolerant. In six years, we haven't had a problem. Maybe the one thing we like best about El Toro is that it so lush! We love to run, play, and lay on it.

On the topic of grass, I've noticed a trend recently of installing sod during the winter months.  Why?  If you've just finished building your custom home, you obviously need something to "hold your topsoil".  There's nothing like watching a big rain wash $2,000 worth of topsoil down the street.  But on the other hand, the winter months are a great time to plant winter rye grass, if you start early enough in the fall season.  We tried this and enjoyed having a lush winter lawn.  Then in the spring, when sod grass is fresh and vigorous, we planted our permanent lawn.  This approach isn't for everyone, but is a worth consideration.

Now, what's the buzz on bugs? I bought Malcolm Beck's book on bugs, "Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". Malcolm has some interesting thoughts on bug management. I've found many that work, and many that don't. But I'm most pleased with his approach that is generally environmental friendly.

And last, but not least, is safety equipment. Please refer to your manual regarding safe operation of all your equipment. (You would be shocked in knowing how many people are killed annually from a riding mower roll-over... no joke.) And inquire about same from your equipment salesman as well. You'll certainly need safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, boots and more. I wear steel toe boots when I work in the yard - which were very inexpensive at Wal-Mart. A friend of mine growing up lost a toe while mowing the yard and I've never forgotten. But spend some time learning about your equipment and the safe use thereof. Yard work isn't for everyone. But if you'll use some common sense and don't mind the summer heat, at least you might be able to keep your little ranchero under control.

 

Suggestions for this site?  Please email us with your comments!

Links of Interest:

Bracken Cave
Bracken Methodist Church

Boy Scouts
City of Garden Ridge
Covenant Baptist Church 

CYO Youth Sports

Garden Ridge
Bracken Lions Club

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Northeast Bible Church

OLPH Catholic Church

Triumphant Lutheran Church

Texas

(c) 2002 Caton Family

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