Basics of landscape maintenance

Landscape maintenance, sometimes referred to as grounds keeping, is part of the package that comes with living in a house that has a yard, shrubs, trees, or flowers. Hiring a landscape management company to tend your yard is one option. However, most of us prefer to handle yard chores ourselves. That motivation may come as a way to avoid the expense of hiring help. Some of us prefer to maintain our landscaping because we find it relaxing, almost therapeutic, to tend to plants. Knowing the basics of landscape maintenance will help with the decision to hire someone or do the work yourself.

Water

Water is perhaps the most crucial task of success landscape maintenance. Water newly planted trees and shrubs once or twice a week during the first year of planting. Water flowers about once a week. Plan to water every seven to 10 days if there is no rainfall.

Tools: Garden hose and sprinkler (or irrigation system) for lawn. Water trees, shrubs, and flowers from a garden hose, watering can, or soaker hose.

Mulch

Spreading 2 to 4 inches of much, like wood chips or leaf mold, around flowers, shrubs, and trees helps to retain moisture. Mulch may block weed growth and reduce soil erosion. Mulch also looks good, adding curb appeal to your house. Apply the mulch in early spring. Plan to reapply the mulch about every three years.

Tools: Spread bagged mulch with your hands or a garden rake. If you purchase loose mulch delivered by truck, you will need a shovel and wheelbarrow to relocate the mulch from the drop-off point.

Weed control

Weed seeds can float on the breeze or rain water runoff to settle and grow near your plants. When that happens, the weeds and garden plants compete for water and nutrients in the soil. Remove weeds before they reach the blooming stage, which is then followed by seeds and more weeds. Pull the weeds by hand, or use a rake or hoe to remove the weeds. Consider using a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn and flowerbeds. Look for products especially designed for lawn or flowerbeds. Keep in mind that a pre-emergent herbicide does not kill existing weeds. A pre-emergent prevents the germination of weed seeds. Use a weed killer to eradicate large areas of weeds.

 
Tools: Gloves are helpful when pulling prickly weeds. Useful hand tools for weeding include a rake, hoe, or cultivator. Apply pre-emergence or weed killer from a handheld applicator or, for large areas, a wheeled spreader (dry use) or pump container (liquid use).

Plant care

Some shrub varieties require periodic pruning to maintain their shape. Pruning promotes new growth to help create a dense shrub. Trees require periodic pruning to remove dead or damaged limbs. See North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service's "Pruning Trees & Shrubs" guide for grounds managers by M.A. Powell for details on how to prune trees and shrubs.

Most flowers require little care during the growing season but can benefit from deadheading to encourage more blooms. Most perennial flowers benefit from root ball division every three to four years. Grass requires mowing about weekly during the spring to fall growing season.

Tools: At a minimum, you need loppers and hand pruners to care of trees and shrubs. Use garden clippers to deadhead long stemmed flowers. Tools needed for lawn care may include a mower and an edger to clip grass close to walkways, driveways, and patios.