Insights / DIY: Caring for Your New Landscape Project
Posted 4 months ago
Congratulations on your new landscape! Now that the installation phase of your new garden is complete, the most important segment of creating a great landscape begins… growing and maintaining.
These tips will help you to get your new plantings established, and on the road to splendor. Should you have any questions about your new landscape, or if you would like the Greenscapes professionals to help you with gardening, please don’t hesitate to call us at 301.387.8090.
Perennials are plants that have recurring growth seasons. To help them last as long as possible, we recommend watering your perennials deeply, approximately every 3-5 days, depending on the season. Watering deeply means that the entire root ball of the plant has been wet, and the soil surrounding the root ball about one foot in diameter has been thoroughly wet. If you are ever in doubt, insert your finger into the soil and feel if watering is needed. If watering with a sprinkler, water early enough in the day that the plant foliage can dry before evening to avoid foliar disease.
Perennials need proper fertilization in order to provide maximum flower. A single application of a timed release, season-long product in the spring is the best. Over-fertilization can reduce your flower show and kill the plants, so careful attention to the product label is important. Do not fertilize your perennials any later than August, or winter hardiness may be compromised.
The spent foliage at the end of the season can be removed in either the fall or the spring, before growth resumes. However, it is believed that leaving the foliage on until spring (so that it can catch and hold insulating snow and leaves) is the best approach.
Most perennials should be divided about every three years, which involves digging the plant up, removing a portion of it, and replanting. Division rejuvenates the plant and keeps the floral show as intense as the day it was planted.
Regular mulching of perennial beds helps to control plant disease and weeds, improves soil structure and organic matter content, retains moisture, and regulates soil temperature—all of which are important to a healthy planting.
Shrubs should be watered in the same manner as your perennials, every three to five days, thoroughly wetting each time. Shrubs that were installed as potted plants will need more frequent watering than plants installed as balled and burlapped plants. Soilless growing mixes used in potted plant production will dry out very quickly, and the three-day watering rule will be needed for plants in full sunlight during summer months.
Most shrubs will benefit from regular fertilization, with a spring application of a controlled release season-long product being the best. Once again, we recommend that you do not fertilize shrubs any later than August, or significant winter injury can occur.
Many popular landscape shrubs are quite sensitive to soil pH, and require regular applications of garden sulfur to maintain acidic conditions. Rhododendron, Azalea, Jolly, Pieris, and Mountain Laurel are some of the more popular plants that commonly show pH-related problems. The application of fertilizer products designed specifically for acid-loving plants each spring can usually provide all that is needed. Most flowering shrubs are best pruned immediately after flowering, avoiding any removal of flower buds and hindering the show.
Trees should be thoroughly watered weekly, unless they are grown in a pot or a highly stressful site, for which a three-day cycle would be more appropriate. It is a Greenscapes policy to avoid planting any pot-grown trees for this reason, but some species are only available in pots.
Great care should be taken to keep mulch and soil from building up against the trunk of the tree. The root flare of the tree (the enlarging of the trunk at the soil line) should be visible at the soil line. It should not be buried, and never more than two inches of mulch should cover the root flare.
Tree stakes should be removed after one year, and any ties or guy wires should be removed. Fertilization of trees can make a tremendous difference in the rate of establishment, with a fall application (November) of a granular product over the root zone being the best.
Trees usually should not be pruned for the first two years after planting, in order to provide as many leaves for photosynthesis and establishment as possible. A one-time pruning of new trees by a competent arborist at about the five year mark can make a huge difference in the long-term health of the tree. Structural problems can be identified and corrected early and easily, and the final, strongest, and best structure of the tree can be set.
Trees typically perform best when the root system is covered by an organic mulch, so providing as large of a mulched or natural woodland type area over the root zone as possible will provide for the best long-term performance.
Newly seeded lawns must be kept wet nearly continuously for the seed to establish. Watering daily with a sprinkler, in late afternoon, is generally best. Daily watering should continue until the grass reaches one inch in height, at which point the watering can be reduced to every other day. Continue every other day until the first mowing, then weekly watering should suffice unless highly stressful conditions occur.
Once a lawn reaches approximately three months old, the need for any supplemental watering is past, and the turf can be allowed to go dormant if hot and dry conditions occur. Mow new turf when it reaches three inches in height, and never cut any lower than two inches. Lightly raking out straw mulch once the turf has been moved twice can also damage young tender plants. Greenscapes recommends that any stray mulch used be left in place to decay.
New sod must be kept constantly moist until a new root system has been produced. Typically, daily watering will be needed for the first two weeks, every other day during the third week, every three days during the fourth week, and finally weekly watering through the third month. Do not fertilize new sod for at least the first month of establishment.
Mow new seeding and sod regularly, as you would any lawn. Avoid any excess traffic on the new lawn until it has received its first mowing, and then keep it light until the turf reaches about three months old. Regular fertilization of turf is imperative for a dense and weed-free stand. Application of a quality lawn fertilizer around Memorial Day and Labor Day of each year is best. Liming and core aeration are also important considerations, both best done in the fall.