Category: Landscape

Weeds Between Walls and Sidewalk

Our community manager recently learned that the association takes responsibility for weed control in the area between the walls along streets and the adjacent sidewalks. She was quite apologetic for having written a few weed notices for those areas recently… to owners on the adjacent lots.

Not to worry… those notices have been quashed, kaput, gone.

Want to know more about why the association takes care of them?

Hotly Debated at One Point

Historically, the board had always had the landscapers take care of this area (between the wall and sidewalk). I can’t remember the exact timing of when this happened, but at one point there was some notion to no longer do this (as a money-saving initiative, I think).  Homeowners caught wind of this potential change and (those that got involved – less than a dozen) spoke against it at a meeting. 

Governing Documents

Having studied the CC&Rs, I pointed out several items that — to me — made it very clear that these are the association’s responsibility.

The CC&Rs have two relevant definitions in Article 1:

1.12 “Common Area” means (a) Tract B, Tracts D through H, inclusive, Tracts J through N, inclusive, Tracts P-1 through P-9, inclusive, and Tracts Q-1 through Q-6, inclusive, Rio Crossing, according to the plat recorded in Book 676, Page 10, in the records of the County Recorder of Maricopa County, Arizona, together with all improvements situated thereon and (b) all land, together with all improvements situated thereon, which the Association at any time owns in fee or in which the Association has a leasehold interest for as long as the Association is the owner of the fee or leasehold interest, except that Common Area shall not include any Lot the Association acquires by the foreclosure of the Assessment Lien or any deed in lieu of foreclosure.

CC&Rs Section 1.12

1.2 “Areas of Association Responsibility” means (a) all Common Area; and (b) all land, and the Improvements situated thereon, located within the boundaries of a Lot or a public right-of-way which the Association is obligated to maintain, repair and replace pursuant to the terms of this Declaration, the Plat or other Recorded document executed by the Declarant or the Association.

CC&Rs Section 1.2

Farther down in the document in section 8, there’s this:

8.6 Maintenance of Walls other than Boundary Walls. Walls (other than boundary walls) located on a Lot shall be maintained, repaired and replaced by the Owner of the Lot. Any wall which is placed on the boundary line between a Lot and an Area of Association Responsibility shall be maintained, repaired and replaced by the Owner of the Lot, except that the Association shall be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the side of the wall which faces the Area of Association Responsibility. In the event any such wall encroaches upon the Common Area or a Lot, an easement for such encroachment shall exist in favor of the Association or the Owner of the Lot, as the case may be. Any wall which is placed on the boundary line between a Lot and public right-of-way shall be maintained, repaired and replaced by the Owner of the Lot, except that the Association shall be responsible for the repair and replacement of the surface of the wall which faces the public right-of-way.

CC&Rs Section 8.6

More of My Opinion/Interpretation

So the Tracts where the green belts are located are pretty clearly included in what the association must maintain.  We know the city maintains the streets and the sidewalks (except the sidewalks which are clearly on Common Areas – that means Rio Crossing maintains the walkway from Highland to the Roma Park area, and the sidewalks around and to/from the playgrounds and picnic Ramada). 

So in my personal opinion (not a lawyer, and not representing a board policy here), this boils down to the following:

  • Everything on a Lot is the responsibility of the owner.  Walls are situated on the property lines, making them “common walls”; the owner is responsible for “their side of the wall”, and the association is responsible for the side of any wall that faces onto Common Areas or Areas of Association Responsibility.
  • Everything on Common Areas is the responsibility of the association.
  • The city maintains our streets and gutters, street lights, and any sidewalks not on Common Area.  (A close examination of the properly lines shows that the sidewalks in front of homes is not on the Lot, but on “city property”.)
  • Everything else in Rio Crossing that is not a Lot and is not a Common Area and not maintained by the city is then an Area of Association Responsibility.

This means — in my opinion — that the following items are the responsibility of the association to maintain:

  • Gravel areas between walls and sidewalks – and any weeds or other living things that grow there!
  • All mailbox units.  (These are located on what is technically Avondale city property/easements. I believe the post office maintains individual boxes, but the unit itself, from the ground up – excluding the individual compartments – is the association’s responsibility.  I think of it like a condo.)
  • All doggie stations and garbage cans, and their supports and concrete pads, etc.

So, one more time: “I’m not a lawyer” and “these are just my opinions”, but it’s backed by facts I’ve checked out pretty thoroughly.  And I thought some of you might appreciate the information.

Update: Heatherbrae Entrance

If you’ve traveled through the Heatherbrae entrance this past week (since May 25), you’ve no doubt noticed a change.

Almost all plants are gone!

But if you’ve been paying attention to the association mailing list, you know that the current barren landscape isn’t going to last long.

Look again next weekend!

Watch this clip from the March video for more information. The goal is to revitalize the landscape for the entire community — and this is just the initial pilot project, which will soon look like this:

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me directly.

This site is one of the many official communication channels of the association. Those of you that know me, know that I’m a straight shooter and open communicator. You can go to other social media channels like NextDoor and get the opinions of your neighbors, but if you really want to know what’s going on, subscribe to the mailing list, look for these posts on the web site, visit our Facebook page, or subscribe to our (infrequent but important) Twitter feed.

There have been some comments made regarding the plants placed 4 years ago in the center median which have been removed — and will be replaced as a part of this project. The larger trees selected for the entrance were planted when very small, and now — just 4 years later — the amount of trimming required to keep them out of the roadway is actually detrimental to the plants’ health. The replacement plants are colorful but “appropriately sized” for the small median width in that location.

Going from Summer to Winter Turf

Dan has written a number of landscape-related articles for us. Here’s another one, focused on what happens to our grass as we move from summer to winter. Thanks for the info, Dan!
— Ray

A lot of changes are likely to occur in your turf grass, as our environment enters the cool season. Bermuda grass will stop growing at 60°F and will go to sleep and turn brown by 50°F. Overseeding is an optional process which will render a Winter lawn to enjoy and appreciate, but preparation and timing are important to a successful overseed.

If you didn’t know, there are generally two types of turf grass used in our climate: warm season & cool season. Each have months of growth in their preferred (and labeled) season with a period of dormancy or intolerance. For example:

  • Perennial Ryegrass grows well in the cool season and often dies off before the high heat of July. Do not bother with Annual Ryegrass, unless it is intended for a large area where maintenance is of little concern. Perennial Ryegrass produces a superior lawn to Annual Ryegrass, although Annual Ryegrass is less expensive in comparison.
  • Bermudagrass grows well in the warm season and enters dormancy as temperatures drop in the cool season.

To Overseed: 

  • If you are intending on overseeding, August and September are usually key months for planning, checking the irrigation system, selecting and ordering seed and process related materials, and to gradually start transitional practices aiming to drop seed around the last week of October.

Process Summary

  1. 30 days before overseeding
    1. Stop nitrogen fertilization of the bermudagrass lawn
  2. 14 days before overseeding
    1. Raise the mowing height 30 – 40%
    2. Decrease irrigation by 30%
  3. 1 – 3 days before overseeding
    1. Stop watering
    2. Mow at the “old” height that was before raising 30-40%
    3. Just before overseeding, lower the mowing height another 25 – 30% and leave the clippings as mulch for the overseeded seed
  4. Day of overseeding
    1. Use ryegrass seed at 12 to 15 lb/1000 ft2
    2. Apply one-half of the seed by walking in one direction and the other half of the seed by walking in a pattern perpendicular to the first pass
  5. 7-10 days after overseeding
    1. Irrigate 3-4 times per day to keep germinating seed moist
  6. 14 days after seedling emergence
    1. Fertilize with ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) at 5 lb of product per 1000 ft2
  7. First mowing
    1. When ryegrass height approaches 3 inches

Do Not:

  1. Scalp the Bermudagrass to ground level
  2. Allow germinating Ryegrass seed to dry out
  3. Aerate or deeply verticut or dethatch
  4. Use dull blades, always use sharpened mower blades
  5. Mow the grass when it is wet
  6. Over-apply fertilizers
  7. Apply pre-emergent herbicide products until after first mow

For details on the process from turf expert Dr David Kopec at the University of Arizona, visit https://extension.arizona.edu/pubs and search for the publication PDF file “az1683-2015” entitled “Overseeding Winter Grasses into Bermudagrass Turf“. 

Not Overseeding?

  • If you decide not to overseed, your Bermudagrass will thank you. The process is not heavily detrimental, but involves a lot of activity in the soil around the Bermudagrass roots while they are supposed to be sleeping. Give it a break every 3-4 years or so. 
  • Like dormant trees, dormant Bermudagrass still needs water every 15-30 days, at least 12” deep. 

Recommended sources for further reading can be found online at:

4-Week Landscaping Cycle

Keeping Rio Crossing green and clean takes a lot of effort. To help keep the cost down, Stillwater — Rio Crossing’s landscape vendor — uses an approach common in their industry: cycling through separate areas each week.

What Gets Done

This week past Tuesday Stillwater crews performed routine tree and shrub maintenance in Cycle 1 areas. This includes removing suckers (the tiny branches that pop up typically near the base of the tree trunk) and trimming low limbs from trees, as well as inspecting for fallen branches.

In addition, the crew will use a back pack system to spray for weeds in Cycle 1 areas. They’ll also typically “mow and blow” turf areas, using a line trimmer around the edges.

The irrigation system this time of year is set to water turf and flower areas 6 days a week, and the drip system for trees and shrubs is on 4 days a week.

Where It gets Done

So where exactly is the Cycle 1 area? And what about cycle areas for other weeks?

Here’s a map of the areas. Cycle 1 is primarily along El Mirage from the north down to the midpoint area, plus the Campbell entrance. Cycle 2 is the remainder of El Mirage plus the Heatherbrae entrance. Cycle 3 includes all of the smaller greenbelt areas south of Roma, including the Glenrosa park and the “jumping wall” at Roma and 124th. Cycle 4 is Roma Park, the walkway up to Highland, and all the smaller greenbelt areas north of Roma.

Then Every Week…

Then on Friday of every week, Stillwater crews typically police the area (a common term for “pick up trash and such”) for debris, broken limbs, runaway irrigation lines, and other small items — but this is done throughout the Rio Crossing common areas, not on a 4-week cycle.

Weeds!!

I asked resident and landscape-savvy Dan to give us some advice on getting rid of the pesky weeds that never seem to go away.

— Ray

Do you have weeds now? Everyone has weeds! Right!? But what are weeds? Weeds are simply undesirable plants, and they come from all over the world. Common weeds are known to steal nutrients & water from desired plants, spread & outcompete desired plants, become physically dangerous, and/or have poisonous or toxic materials. For instance, a Desert Broom can overtake a Texas Sage and the rest of the other desired plants in the yard, until only Desert Broom is present. Ask any adult who grew up riding bikes in the valley about why preventing Goatheads (dry Puncturevine fruits) is worthwhile.

Here’s a few methods to consider:

Quick & Dirty Method:

  • Buy & use a broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicide like RoundUp, generally available at local big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, & Ace Hardware.
  • Be very careful when using broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicides like RoundUp, as they can easily damage or kill desired plants after contact.

Generally, the best method is to apply or have applied a pre-emergent herbicide to your entire landscape, usually in the end of fall and beginning of spring. Then use or have used post-emergent for the weeds found between pre-emergent applications. This ideally minimizes the weeds while also minimizing the amount of money spent to control weeds.

Delegated Method:

  • Search online for and hire an appropriately-licensed contractor to determine and apply the ideal controls. Licensed contractors with the appropriate spray certifications from the Arizona Department of Agriculture for residential work. Great ways to find such contractors can be through sites like Yelp.com, Nextdoor.com, or Google. Useful search terms to try would include “weed control” &/or “Avondale, AZ”.

DIY Method:

  • Photograph the weed(s) as best as possible and show them to the representatives at a reputable pesticide store such as Arizona Spray Equipment. Ask what the plant is and what product and method should be used to control it. Like Sissoo trees, some weeds are particularly tough and may require reapplication over a series of cycles to effectively kill them.
  • Most importantly, no matter what product you are using, it is very important to read and follow the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This tells you how to use the product safely and how to mix if it is a concentrate. If the mix ratio is not followed, the product may not work as desired.

Useful points to consider when selecting an herbicide to control weeds:

  • Be sure you know what you are treating for. There are two types of weeds, grass/palm (monocots) & broadleaf (dicots). Photos of the weeds can be taken to a pesticide store to identify the type of weed.
  • Herbicide products are made to either target all plants (broad-spectrum) or to target monocots or dicots specifically. Monocot or dicot targeted sprays are helpful if broadleaf weeds are growing in the grass or palm trees are growing through shrubs.
  • They are either made to kill existing plants (post-emergent) or stop seeds from becoming plants (pre-emergent).
  • They may be effective when applied onto to the plant (contact herbicide) or after having been absorbed thru the roots of the plant (systemic herbicide).
  • Air and soil temperatures often improve or reduce the results. Some herbicides are specifically designed for summer or winter temperatures.
  • Herbicides should be applied carefully so as to not accidentally affect desired plants.

Recommended sources for further reading can be found online at:

Money-Saving Irrigation Shutdown

You may notice that nothing is being watered in the Rio Crossing common areas, and we thought you might want to know what’s going on.

The water to the grass has been off for several weeks, as the winter grass never came back up.  A decision was made not to over-seed the summer-Bermuda grass with winter-Rye grass, so watering the dormant Bermuda isn’t necessary.

We had been continuing to water shrubs and trees into the cold season, but there have been a large number of leaks in the irrigation system, and our water bills were extremely high for a few months, especially after the storm damage that occurred in July.  As of the end of October, our landscape vendor had removed all the dead trees and repaired irrigation system damage from the storm, but we know some additional irrigation problems remain.

At the January 2018 board meeting, a decision was made to shut off all of the irrigation system (except for the flowers at the entrance monuments) for a few weeks while we get proposals from irrigation/landscape vendors to do a “water audit” – helping us to determine what our water bills should be, given the number of trees and shrubs, and amount of grass area.  Since it’s still technically “winter season”, the shrubs and trees don’t require constant watering, and the amount of money saved on wasted water (the stuff that flows down the gutters or just makes puddles in the sand where there are no plants) will help pay for the water audit.

The plan was to turn the water on after a few weeks, but we got some rain earlier this week (about a third of an inch), so we’ll leave the water off for the moment.  The Board and Landscape Committee will continue to evaluate the irrigation needs and make adjustments as needed.  In the meantime, we’re saving around a thousand dollars a week in water costs.