Fertilizing

Applying fertilizer early in the year will help your lawn, shrubs, and ground cover look healthy during the summer. Fertilization may also be necessary at other times of the year depending on your lawnʼs needs. In addition to helping your lawn, fertilization boosts plantsʼ vigor, so consider helping any struggling plants as early as possible with extra fertilization. Itʼs best to identify the need for fertilization early rather than wait too long.

Itʼs also important to know when not to fertilize. As winter approaches, it is important for hardy landscape plants to slow their growth and prepare for the coming cold. Late applications of fertilizer, especially with nitrogen, may keep plants active into the winter. This can actually increase the possibility of cold damage -- even to plants that would normally be hardy. Since fall temperatures in North Carolina are generally warm to mild and do not give plants a strong signal to go dormant, late fertilization is especially discouraged.

Grass Cutting

Proper mowing is one of the most important practices to keep your lawn healthy.

Grasses are like most plants — if you clip off the growing points (for grass, it's in the crown, where the new leaves develop), the plants branch out and become more dense. In the case of your lawn, this turns thousands of individual grass plants into a tightly woven turf or lawn. If you didn't mow at all, your yard would look more like a prairie than a lawn. But the mere act of mowing isn't what makes a lawn look good. Mowing height and mowing frequency determine how healthy and attractive your lawn looks. After all, cutting a lawn is stressful for the grass. The leaves actually generate food for the roots — so cutting at the proper interval and proper height is essential. This type of attention to detail is what helps us establish healthy lawns.

Mulch

Mulches are materials placed over a soil surface to help maintain proper soil moisture and improve soil conditions. Mulching is one of the most beneficial services a home owner should consider for the health of any tree or plant. Mulch reduces water loss from the soil, minimizes weed competition, and improves soil structure. Properly applied, mulch can give landscapes a handsome, well-groomed appearance. Mulch must be applied properly though. If it is too deep or if the wrong material is used it can actually cause significant harm to trees and other landscape plants. Also consider that natural mulch deteriorates over time, which means that mulch conditions should be monitored. New mulch should be applied at the right time, for example before a plant shows any sign of suffering from poor moisture or soil conditions.

Benefits of Proper Mulching

Helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized. Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds. Mulch serves as natureʼs insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Many types of mulch can improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time. Some mulches can improve soil fertility. A layer of mulch can inhibit certain plant diseases. Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.” Mulch can give planting beds a uniform, well-cared-for look.

Planting

A properly planted tree or shrub will be more tolerant of adverse conditions and will require much less management than one planted incorrectly. Proper planting technique minimizes water, fertilizer and pesticide use. At minimum, the following should be considered when making decisions about specific planting techniques: the plantʼs growing environment in the nursery, the plant's drainage requirements, the siteʼs soil type and drainage characteristics, and the availability of irrigation water. The plant should be specifically appropriate to the site, or the site should be amended to specifically fit the plant. Such considerations are critical for establishing healthy, long- living plants in your landscape.

Pruning

Have you ever wondered why pruning a plant is necessary? After all, no one prunes plants in a forest for example. But there are some key differences between plants found in nature and those found in controlled landscapes. For example in an urban landscape plants are often more exposed than in a natural setting like a forest. For landscaped settings, some extra support from humans goes a long way in helping a plant thrive. Pruning involves the removal of a part of a plant, shrub, or tree to improve its structure, strength and resiliency. Pruning improves the appearance and health of the plant. However, it is absolutely vital that pruning is done at the right time of the year and uses proper technique. Different plant species often have very different pruning periods and pruning requirements, so it is critical to know exactly how and when to prune individual plants. Improper pruning can actually seriously harm a plant. Proper pruning requires knowing the growth habits of the plant as well as assessing the plantʼs current structure.

Weed Control

Weed control is the single most important factor affecting the growth and survival of your plantings. It is also entirely in your control. Weeds growing close to a plant will compete for moisture, light, and nutrients from the soil. Some weeds (e.g. some grasses) will also release a chemical from their roots that restricts the growth of woody plants. This makes it critical to remove all weeds that are close to a plant for the first couple of years after itʼs been planted. Weed control may at first seem like a purely aesthetic consideration, but itʼs not something you should skip when creating a landscape with healthy plantings.