The Puget Sound region is a wonderfully supportive growing environment with relatively mild temperatures and high moisture availability. Spring is an important time of year to capitalize on these conditions. Understanding how to recognize opportunities in several key areas can make you a successful landscape manager. Let’s examine the basics individually.
Planting beds are an important part of the landscape, adding visual interest as well as softening the look of the built environment, especially parking lots, walkways and walls. Spring maintenance of these areas is critical to achieving a clean, well-manicured appearance.
Late-winter through early-spring is a great time to prune plant material. Although some plant material should not be pruned until early summer after bloom, such as Rhododendron and Quince, most commercial landscape plants are best pruned in the spring as wounds heal quickly and re-growth is not typically subjected to damaging freezes.
Spring is an excellent time to mulch landscape beds. Mulch helps keep moisture around plants which conserves water in the summer and helps protect against drought. Installing fresh mulch creates a sharp backdrop for shrubs and makes a property look fresh and neat, keeping maintenance costs in check by discouraging weed germination. Bark mulch is typically the least expensive and most commonly used form of mulch and provides the most effective control of weed germination. Organic mulches such as compost and ferti-mulch are not as effective at weed suppression but do double duty by supplying an organic food source to soil biota which can improve soil health faster than bark mulches.
Weed control programs are often based on the socio-economic needs of the site. Organically managed sites will select against herbicides such as Roundup and Casaron, favoring organic mulches, hand labor and a higher weed tolerance. Low weed tolerance and cost sensitive-management styles will often prefer these types of approaches. Sustainable or Bridge management programs provide a third option taking elements from each of these approaches to find a middle ground between environmental and economic impacts.
High-quality turfgrass is one of the most critical components of an attractive landscape. A professional landscape management company will strive to improve the look of the properties in their care and find cost-saving measures within a horticulturally and environmentally sensitive framework. An effective turf management program should help to increase the vigor and beauty of your turf and reduce its reliance on supplemental fertilizer, water and pesticides.
Cost effective fertility is best managed with a synthetic, calendar-based, slow-release application program that maintains beautiful color and vitality without burns and spiked growth. While more expensive, organic fertilizers or synthetic blends focus more on feeding and supporting the soil biota which is a more sustainable approach than synthetics which only focus on the plant. We also recommend mulch mowing which can return as much nitrogen annually to your turf as one fertilizer application. Soil ph should be checked annually on turf that does not carry color well during the year as one of the most critical factors determining nutrient availability. Dolomite or sulfur may be applied as necessary to adjust soil ph and maintain neutrality.
Turf care equipment should be well maintained so as to provide the best quality, most consistent cut. Cutting heights vary depending on grass species but most common northwest turf should be cut at approximately 2”. Cutting should be frequent enough so as to never remove more than 35% of the leaf blade and sharp blades are critical to prevent tearing of the leaf blade which produces a white, hazy appearance to turf stands and increases the likelihood of disease.
A good irrigation system is a combination of sound mechanical devices and a properly designed and maintained system that addresses the broad range of needs a single landscape plan can present. Quality care providers are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of your irrigation operating system conserving water and saving you money. This has never been more important with new high-efficiency products and rebate programs that make it possible for you to achieve a 2.5 year ROI and reducing your long-term costs. Consult with your service provider and ask about their relationship with the Saving Water Partnership and the Cascade Water Alliance as well as whether their irrigators are Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditors.
Effective spring care of your landscape will best be achieved with an understanding of these critical elements and the help of a high-quality landscape contractor.