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Behind every landscape installation, there are certain basics that are essential for its future success. By getting to know the particular needs of your individual plants, the proper care can be given to ensure their healthy growth allowing years of pleasure. A good gardening handbook can be helpful as questions arise. The internet is also an excellent source for answering specific questions and viewing images of plants.

WATERING. Regular watering of your newly installed plantings is key to their survival.

MULCHING. Organic mulch conserves water, eliminates weeds, adds nutrients to the soil, and protects the plants from temperature changes that can be harmful. When mulching, be sure not to bury the stems of tender plants but keep the mulch a few inches away from the base creating a well that will direct water to the roots. This gap will soon be covered by foliage as your plants grow. When mulching trees, be sure not to go more than 1-2 inches up the trunk. Mulching too deep can kill the tree.


The watering, fertilizing, and pruning needs of your trees and shrubs will vary widely based on their variety. It is important to note that over-watering is just as dangerous as underwatering. Roots need oxygen and will suffocate in over-saturated soil or in poor draining soil, and the tree or shrub will die. Allow some drying out in between thorough watering. Most all newly planted trees and shrubs need regular watering and fertilizing during the first few years after planting. Once they are established, most will only require infrequent watering and no further feeding. There are exceptions, especially with shrubs, so each individual tree and shrub must be researched, understood, and cared for uniquely. Chose a fertilizer specific to each plant and follow the directions on the label for the best results. When pruning, consider each variety, its growth, and bloom time for healthy results.


FERTILIZING. Generally perennials like to be fed annually in the spring. Organic mulch will add nutrients to the soil as it breaks down each year and should be reapplied as needed. There are perennials with distinct feeding needs that should be addressed for healthy leaves and blooms. Check a garden reference for each plant’s needs.

WATERING. Watering needs also vary. Get to know each plant and the conditions it requires. New plantings must be watered regularly and thoroughly allowing some dry time in between watering. Avoid shallow frequent watering that does not penetrate deeply through the mulch down into the soil around the plant roots. Water early in the day and avoid getting water on the foliage, if possible. This will prevent disease.

STAKING AND PRUNING. Get to know your plants. Read up on them and watch how they grow. Certain tall perennials need to be staked and loosely tied in order to prevent breakage (lilium, delphinium). Some perennials benefit from being cut back to keep a full-mounded shape which prevents the need for staking (monarda, chrysanthemum).


Annuals are generally grown for their colorful non-stop display of flowers. They are started from seed each season and bloom until the season ends and are discarded. Most will perform best when fed regularly with a fertilizer specific to annuals and used according to the directions. Healthy plants will not be as prone to attack from insects or disease. Plant them in good, well-drained soil according to their light needs. Keep them properly watered. Pick off yellowing leaves and blooms gone by. If problems occur, discard the infected plant and treat the neighboring plants to prevent spreading.


Annuals and perennials look best when their spent blooms are removed. This also encourages more blooming. Be careful not to cut off any future buds when deadheading. Cutting bouquets is a natural way to keep your plants tidy and bring your garden inside to enjoy.


MOWING. The shorter a lawn is mowed, the more work will be needed to keep it looking good. Never cut more than a third of the plant when mowing. If a lawn is to be kept to just 1 inch, the lawn will need to be mowed when it reaches 1.5 inches or every 2 to 5 days. This requires a lot of work. Mowing that close can weaken root systems (making the grass more prone to pests and drought), and also makes it easier for weeds to thrive. Mowing a lawn to a 3-inch height helps grass thrive and helps in reducing weeds.

KEEP YOUR MOWER SHARP. Dull blades tear grass instead of cutting it. Lawns mowed with dull blades use 30 percent more water, plus the wounds created by dull blades allow disease pathogens to enter the lawn. Blades should be sharpened regularly and damaged blades replaced.

LEAVE THE CLIPPINGS. Clippings do not create thatch. The clippings will not smother the grass when cutting a third of the plant at each mowing. Mulching blades work best to chop up clippings, so they can settle down through the grass and onto the soil surface. This is where earthworms incorporate clippings into the soil improving both its drainage after storms and its ability to hold water during drought.

FERTILIZING. It is best to fertilize in fall, from about August 15 until about 2 weeks after the last mowing. Plants will use this fertilizer to develop root reserves to help them survive through winter and get off to a healthy start next spring. A spring application can be applied between mid-May and June 1st. Spreading lime once a year will create the right PH for grass and discourage weeds. Always be sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag.

WATERING. Never water at night. Wet grass invites diseases. Water early in the day when the leaves will dry quickly in the morning sun. Be sure to water deeply to promote deep, healthy roots. Shallow watering promotes shallow roots and weak grass.


We have included this brief list of reference books that have proven to be very helpful. A few good books as well as the internet can serve as an excellent guide for all of your landscape needs. By clicking on the title of the book you will be redirected to for more details.

Better Homes and Gardens New Complete Guide to Gardening
The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook by Penelope O’Sullivan
Pruning Made Easy by Lewis Hill
The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey
Ortho’s Home Gardener’s Problem Solver

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