Lawns & Shrubs

Planning

how-toBeautiful lawns and landscapes are partly the result of design but also selection of the right plant species and proper planting and care. For virtually maintenance-free landscaping without chemical herbicides, select a high-quality landscape fabric to block any weeds from emerging among your shrubs.

Preparing

To prepare your lawn for planting, remove any weed tops or rocks over 2” in diameter from the surface. Till the top 1” of soil and rake the surface smooth. Deep tilling is unnecessary unless the soil is highly compacted. Adding soil should be unnecessary unless you’re facing solid rock.

To prepare landscape beds for shrubs, excavate the beds as deep as necessary to remove weeds and grass, including all underground stems. For appropriate drainage, add topsoil if necessary to raise the beds above the surrounding area. To help your shrubs get the best start, apply 4”–6” of compost, high-quality shrub fertilizer granules and a range of soil amendments. Till the bed to a depth of 6”-8” and rake the area smooth. The top of the beds should be flat and higher than the surrounding area with sloped edges.

Planting

To plant your shrubs, thoroughly moisten the landscape beds with water. Remove the shrubs from their containers, and cut or tear pot-bound roots from the outside edges of the root balls. Dig a dish-shaped hole for each shrub. To save yourself the hassle of weeding, use a high-quality landscape fabric. Unroll enough fabric to cover the bed, overlapping individual fabric sections by 2”-3” secure the fabric with landscape fabric pegs or garden staples. Using a utility knife or scissor, cut an appropriately sized X above each hole, so that your plant can pass through the fabric into the hole.

Now, to plant! Pass the root ball through the landscape fabric and set it on the bottom of the hole, so that the top of the root ball is slightly higher than the existing soil. Fill the rest of the hole with the dirt that came from it. Do not tamp the soil. Settle the soil by watering slowly with a garden hose just above the root ball and soaking the area. This will remove any air pockets. Cover the fabric with 3”-4” of mulch but don’t pile mulch against the shrub’s trunk.

Tending

Like all living things, the grass in your lawn needs food, and it’s up to you to replenish that food every now and then. To grow a thick, green lawn, be sure to apply a high-quality lawn food as directed on the package. When mowing, set your mower height to cut approximately the top 1/3 of the grass blades. Cutting more will compromise the health of the root system. Consider leaving the clippings on the lawn. They’ll break down in a matter of days and return nutrients back into the soil. When it comes to watering, new studies show better results with one thorough, weekly watering than more frequent, short bursts. Roughly 45 minutes to an hour is best in most cases.

When fertilizing, don’t neglect your shrubs. Use a trusted granular fertilizer or, for a convenient and effective, time-release solution, look into organic fertilizer spikes or traditional fertilizer spikes for trees and shrubs. Bear in mind that azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons perform best with specially formulated fertilizers. Finally, depending on the light conditions and species, your shrubs most likely thrive on the same watering schedule as your lawn.