LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE TIPS

Mowing

Mowing two strips around the perimeter of turf and then mowing in straight lines perpendicular to this, alternating the pattern every other mow if possible, is usually the most effective method. Mow weekly during the growing season to assure you are not removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.Commercial Turf Maintenance

Sharpen mower blades at least once per season. Checking oil each mow and changing oil each season will add life to your mower. A good mower will mow wet turf and pick up clippings better. Consider a mulching mower, it allows much of the water and nutrients in the clippings to return to the soil, thus reducing the need for watering and fertilizers.

Edging

A good edge to the turf keeps the lawn looking great and creates separation between bed areas and turf. A gas powered edger works well, but a weedeater held vertically will also do the job. Edging every other mow helps keep grass from growing into the beds.

Weed Control in Turf

Weeds will be at a minimum if the turf is healthy. Following the tips on appropriate mowing height, frequency of mowing, sharp blades, watering and fertilization and soil amendment will help keep your lawn healthy.  When weeds do crop up, they are best treated with a contact, selective herbicide or by hand removal. Do not use a non selective herbicide, (Round Up), as it will kill the grass and the weed. Fertilizers with weed controls deposit the herbicide throughout the whole lawn area, thus putting more herbicide into the environment than is needed to treat weeds.

You may find if you spend a minute each mowing pulling up the weeds manually, it may take less time than actually buying and applying a herbicide, not to mention the environmental benefit. This is most effective if you spend a bit of time every mow, as opposed to waiting until the lawn is so weed infested that herbicide application is the only alternative.

Crabgrass, velvet grass and other undesirable grass varieties that make your lawn look “patchy” are best dealt with by cutting out these patches and overseeding with a Rye/Fescue grass seed mix.

Moss Control In Turf

Moss tends to form in shady areas and in areas where the soil is not conducive to healthy lawn. Pruning can help add more sunlight, and following the tips to create a healthier lawn will reduce moss growth. You may want to consider removing the lawn and replacing it with shade tolerant plants if the shade is so severe that maintaining a lawn would require much additional effort.

When you do get moss, apply liquid Iron per label instructions. It will kill the moss within hours, sometimes right before your eyes. Be careful not to get it on any hard surfaces – it stains. After the moss has died, rake it out manually, or with a power rake. Overseed bare areas and cover with a sandy soil with some organic content, or with peat moss. Do this in early Spring. Iron can damage lawn in warmer temperatures, and you want the seed to grow in quickly.

Turf Watering Guidelines

Over watering can be as harmful as not watering because turf roots need oxygen to survive. If turf is in standing water or the ground is “soppy” you should cut back the watering or look into installing drainage or topdressing. Turf aeration can also help with this as well.

As a general rule, turf may need 3-5 waterings per week in the dry season. Pop up heads (those that do not rotate) typically need to be on for 7-12 minutes and rotor heads (those that rotate) need to be on 12-20 minutes. Your soil composition and the slope of the lawn will affect these times and frequencies. Water only enough to keep your lawn green – you can see when it starts to brown a bit and then bump up the times. Watering should not be necessary during the wet winter months unless there is a long dry spell.

Turf Fertilization

Turf typically needs fertilization 3-5 times per year. Follow directions on the bag for application rates, and be careful not to over fertilize as that can burn the lawn. Fertilize only when below 80 degrees. Fertilization can be reduced if the quality of the soil is amended through topdressing and aeration. Organic fertilizers are also available.

Aeration

Aeration is the process of removing plugs from the turf with an aerator. Renting a heavy, gas powered aerator works better than hand aerators as they pull a better plug. The benefits of aeration include allowing more oxygen into the root zone and reducing compaction which allows microorganisms to naturally reduce thatch. It also aids with drainage and is an excellent precursor to topdressing. Aeration is best performed in the Spring or Fall. 

Lime

Applying Lime in spring or fall helps reduce high PH which is often found in the Northwest as a result of needle drop from coniferous trees. It’s inexpensive and often results in the elimination of one fertilization application. 

Thatching

Thatching is the process of mechanically removing thatch (a dead grass layer between the roots and foliage of grass) from turf. It is typically not needed as much as is often thought. If your turf has a spongy feel, thatching is probably indicated. Use of a thatcher will remove thatch and also healthy grass, leaving the turf fairly bare. Overseeding and topdressing will help fill the turf back in.

Overseeding

Overseeding helps fill in bare spots and helps crowd out undesirable grass varieties. Use a mix of Ryegrass and fine fescue and apply in the Spring or Fall. Be sure the seed does not dry out until after it germinates – typically about 3 weeks.

Topdressing

Topdressing is the process of adding soil amendments to the surface of the turf. If your turf suffers from poor drainage, and mixture of sand on organic content is best. 80/20 soil, which is 80% sand and 20% compost is a good mix for this. If your turf requires several fertilization applications to keep green, a highly organic product, like Groco is best.

These products are best applied at a ¼” depth. Aerating and overseeding just prior to topdressing will improve the benefit of the topdressing, and allow the lawn to fill in more quickly. 

Moles

Moles are best controlled with traps, but there are other methods for control that have various rates of success. Applying used kitty litter in and around mole hills can force moles out as they sense the presence of a predator.

PLANTING BED MAINTENANCE

Watering Guidelines

Different varieties of plants have widely differing water needs. Knowing which plants are more drought tolerant in your garden helps you know how much to water them. Keep in mind that all young plants require more frequent watering than mature plants. Plants typically require about half as much water as turf. A twice per week watering the soaks the root zone of plants well is typical.

PruningCommercial Planting Bed Maintenance

A good rule of thumb for pruning is “don’t prune just for the sake of it – only prune when you need to.” The best time of year to prune deciduous trees is late winter to early spring. Flowering shrubs should be pruned after the plant blooms, so you can enjoy the full beauty of the plant, remove any spent blossoms and do not cut off new buds that will be forming.  Never remove more than 1/3 of the foliage at any time.

Always prune dead branches off trees and shrubs. For deciduous trees, you can thin out the interior branches and remove crossing branches. Do not top trees (remove the main leader) as the tree will grow back more rapidly and in an unattractive manner. Do not remove the central leader of an evergreen tree. Pruning on evergreens should only be to remove lower branches for clearance or visibility.

Try to prune the tree or shrub into the shape of its natural growth pattern. Consider replacing plants as opposed to regular pruning. Too much pruning is labor intensive and often harms the overall health of the plant.

The exception to this would be perennials, which should be cut down to the ground in the fall and have the branches removed to prevent rot and fungus. Dead heading (the removal of spent blossoms) enhances the beauty of your garden as well as promotes further blooming by stopping the plant from going to seed.

Poor Drainage and Inorganic Soil

Poor drainage and inorganic soil (The typical soil found when native topsoil is bulldozed off in the process of building a home) is a leading cause of poor plant health in the Northwest. Whenever possible, renovate beds by removing plants, tilling in a good quality soil and replanting. Where this is not possible, and you are adding plants, dig the hole twice as big as the root ball, add quality soil and install the plant a bit above the grade of the adjacent bed. This will allow the roots to grow into good soil and keep them from drowning.

Fertilizing

Plants growing in good soil need little if any fertilizer, but as soils in many gardens are less than optimum, adding nutrients is necessary for plant health. A 15-15-15 or similar fertilizer, applied in the Spring and/or Fall will do the trick. Plants can be damaged if they are over fertilized, so always read the directions carefully.

An organic mulch, like compost or sawdust mixed with organic matter applied every other year will also add nutrients to plants without need of additional fertilizers.

Insects and Disease

While there are various insects and diseases that can affect plants, control is often difficult or environmentally undesirable with insecticides and fungicides. Often, the best treatment is simply keeping the plants in good shape with the above tips as healthy plants are less susceptible to damage than unhealthy plants. Some tree and shrub varieties are more susceptible to damage – consider replacing them with more resistant varieties as opposed to spending time and money on chemical control.

While there are environmentally sensitive products available, utilizing resistant varieties and keeping them healthy is often a better approach. There is a natural balance between plant damaging insects and their predators, and some amount of damage is to be expected and is not indicative of the plant being harmed.

Weed Control in Beds

Installing groups of plants that fill in, but do not quickly outgrow their spaces is a good way to minimize weed growth. Mulches also keep weed growth down. Some have sought to minimize time spent on weed control through the use of Groundcovers. While Groundcovers have their use when suitable varieties are used in appropriate places, they often contribute to a greater problem than they seek to solve due to the persistence of weeds that grow through the Groundcover and the difficulty of hand weeding them when this occurs.

Weed barriers are ineffective as weeds grow in the soil or decaying mulch on top of the barrier, and the barrier inevitably works its way to the surface creating an unattractive look and difficulty in cutting through the barrier when installing new shrubs.

With this being said, there will still be weed growth. Hand pulling can be effective, but only if done regularly. Hand pulling a year’s worth of growth over a weekend is nobody’s idea of fun, as well as the fact that the yard looks poor for the better part of the year.

Pre-emergent herbicides are granular herbicides that do not kill existing weeds; but can help keep them from germinating.

Liquid herbicides like Round Up are effective, especially when applied to weeds that are small – this reduces the amount of product used, cuts down the time spent applying it and kills the weeds more quickly. When small weeds die, they disintegrate quickly which eliminates the need to hand remove the dead weed.

Moss Control in Beds

Moss control in beds is best achieved by replenishing mulch in beds regularly as moss does not form on fresh mulch. Hand removal of moss with the use of a scuffle how is also effective. Some people like the look of moss in beds, and as the moss is not damaging, this personal preference is viable.

Mulching

Mulching is the practice of applying organic materials to the surface of landscape beds. The benefits are significant. Mulch helps keep moisture around plants which conserves water and helps protect against drought. Mulching also insulates roots from extreme or rapid changes of temperature as well as adding valuable nutrients to planting beds. Installing fresh mulch creates a sharp backdrop for shrubs to really stand out, makes a landscape look fresh and neat and helps reduce maintenance time by discouraging weed germination.

Bark mulch is typically the least expensive and most commonly used form of mulch. Bark provides the most effective control of weed germination in beds. Organic mulches (compost or mixes of sawdust and organic content) add valuable nutrients to the soil, but due to their high organic content typically do not control weed growth as well as bark.

What Are You Missing In Your Landscape This Spring?

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 BedsCommercial seasonal planting bed

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.

Turf Management

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.

Irrigation

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.

COMMERCIAL LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE

Quality landscape maintenance practices can prolong the life and beauty of your property and in turn, its asset value.

Signature’s landscape management philosophy approaches the care of the landscape from a comprehensive, long-term perspective. We understand the needs of the landscape including soil, plant material and the specific ecosystem. Through our landscape assessment plan we also include your budgetary and site management requirements into our program.

Our thorough property review process covers all aspects of the landscape including irrigation efficiency, plant health, turf care, design issues and renovation needs.This review can be incorporated into long-term budgets to assist in future planning and cost controls.