Landscape Maintenance 101
5 Ways To Cultivate Healthy, Beautiful Plants and Ornamentals
Landscaping adds to a home’s value, curb appeal and over all aesthetics but beyond installation, plants, ornamentals, trees, and shrubs must be properly maintained to keep up their beautiful appearance. Once you make the investment to install, these landscape additions can be long lasting enjoyments to a home if properly cared for. Many plants aren’t necessarily native to the landscape’s region, so maintenance practices must be done to manage soil quality, nutrient availability and water retention to endure environmental stresses to extend the longevity of life and health of the plant. Follow these 5 tips to manage and maintain your plants and landscapes for years to come:
- Assess Soil Conditions. Just like prior to treating a lawn with product, one must evaluate the soil around their landscape’s plants, trees, shrubs and ornamentals with a soil test. This will not only provide you with valuable information in regards to soil pH near the plants, but it will pinpoint any nutrient deficiencies in need of correction to maintain optimal soil fertility and lush plant growth. TIP: A soil test kit may be obtained from your local county Extension office.
NOTE: All plants, trees, shrubs and ornamentals require different levels soil pH and key nutrients to sustain healthy growth. Be sure to learn the type of nutrients and soil pH levels the plants in your landscape require to better understand what products will best maintain the health of your plants.
- Fertilize. Adopting a good fertility program will help maintain the health and growth of your plants. Plants, trees, shrubs and ornamentals with strong fertilizing programs are less susceptible to disease and insect infestations. It’s important to understand that each plant group within a landscape requires different levels of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, molybdenum, magnesium, iron, sulfur, manganese and boron) to sustain healthy growth. Be sure to understand and research your plants before applying fertilizer. Allow your plants one year to become established before beginning your fertilizing program.
Although there is no, all-encompassing plant fertility program to cover all landscapes since all landscapers differ, there are a few tips to consider when developing a fertilizer program for your landscape:
Gardens and Flower Beds: Evenly apply product depending on crop and soil analysis. Work into the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Once plants are established apply additional fertilizer based on County Extension Service recommendations. Apply fertilizer evenly and do not apply fertilizer directly to plant foliage or stems. Water in after application. Always read and follow all label instructions for rate of application.
Shrubs and Trees: For shrubs, apply product when plants are dormant in the late fall or in the early spring. The fertilizer should be kept 12 to 18 inches away from the base of shrubs. Water in after application to remove any fertilizer that may be in contact with the foliage and to move fertilizer into the soil. Always read and follow all label instructions for rate of application.
For trees, apply product when trees are dormant in the late fall or in the early spring. Apply 0.8 pounds of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter at chest height (4" diameter tree = 3.2 pounds of fertilizer) evenly under the canopy of the tree where there are no ground cover plants or turf growing. An alternate method is to auger holes 6 to 8 inches deep in a grid pattern as shown in the diagram (left). Keep holes at least 3 feet from the base of the tree. Place fertilizer in holes, evenly applying the appropriate amount of fertilizer under the canopy of the tree using 0.8 pounds per inch of trunk diameter at chest height (a 4" diameter tree would require a total of 3.2 pounds of fertilizer). Then finish filling the holes with dirt. Water fertilizer in after application. Always read and follow all label instructions for rate of application.
- Water! Watering your plants is crucial to the maintenance and sustainability of your landscape, especially right after installation and throughout its first full growing season. Since landscapes differ, there can be many different rules to watering. However, here are some general recommendations and tips to consider:
PLANT WATERING RECOMMENDATIONS
- Check plants weekly from Spring to Fall (March 1st – November 30th) for signs of lack of water.
NOTE: Physical signs your plant needs water include: leaves wilting and drooping, slowed growth, reduced plant production (fewer plant buds, sprouts or fruit), as well as plant damage (leaves will die and drop off plant).
- Don’t over water. NOTE: Signs of over watering include: wet soil but wilting plant, brown leaves, edema, yellow falling leaves, new growth falling from plants and root rot.
- Touch and feel the soil around plants. If the soil is dry to the touch it needs water, if its damp, your plant is okay.
- If rainfall is insufficient, supply supplement water.
TREES, SHRUBS AND ORNAMENTAL WATERING RECOMMENDATIONS
- Check new plants weekly for signs of over or under watering.
- After the plants 1st year, established plants should be watered every 3-4 weeks from June-September.
- Place hose at the base of plant trunks, allowing for a slow flow of water to saturate the entire root zone.
- If rainfall is insufficient, supply supplement water.
- Mulch. Mulching around your landscape installations prove to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Mulch around plants helps to:
- Aid in Weed Control
- Supply nutrients to the soil after it decomposes
- Conserve soil moisture
- Limit soil temperature fluctuation by insulating the root zone
- Allow more water to penetrate soil by preventing run-off
- Prune. Don’t worry, pruning is not destructive and won’t kill your plants; it’s a necessary part of landscape care that will preserve the health of your plants. When left to their own, overtime, plants will put out too much growth, resulting in dense foliage that doesn’t allow it to dry out, making it more prone to disease. The difficult part is knowing how each of your plants should be pruned...
Pruning Recommendations from Passiglia’s Nursery & Garden Center
- Flowering Deciduous Trees and Shrubs should be pruned immediately after flowering.
- Non-Flowering Deciduous Trees and Shrubs ideally should be done during the dormant season. However, pruning may be done anytime the wood is not frozen.
- Evergreens may be pruned just after new growth is completed, usually in late spring or early summer.
- Broadleaf Evergreens (Rhododendrons and Azaleas) need to have faded flowers pinched off (deadheading). Be careful not to pinch off next year’s buds along with faded flowers.
- Whenever a stem or branch is dead or damaged.
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