March 30, 1995

Work Now Can Restore Beauty And Save Labor

Tom Maccubbin Orlando Sentinel
 

With spring weather upon us, it’s time to plant, prune, mulch and fertilize the landscape. To some residents these are dreaded chores, but others take great delight in grooming their plantings.

No matter how you feel about gardening, early-season plant care is a necessity. A little work now can put the beauty back in landscapes devastated by winter frosts and freezes.

This spring when you head out with hoe, hose and a bag of fertilizer in hand, make the work a little easier. A few tips from landscape maintenance professionals can make a difference in the time it takes to install and care for home plantings.

If you are adding trees and shrubs, there are some new techniques to learn. Perhaps you remember digging the planting holes deeper and wider than the root ball. Be prepared to change your ways as researchers say wider is still a good practice, but don’t dig the hole deeper.

Certainly the shallow digging makes planting a little easier. But also making the hole only as deep as the root ball ensures trees or shrubs do not settle into the ground to develop trunk or root rot problems.

While preparing the planting site, you also can skip adding amendments to the soil used as fill around the roots of trees. Researchers suggest that amending soil with peat moss, compost and manures may benefit shrubs but probably won’t help trees become established. Tree roots appear to grow so rapidly they sprout through the improved soil in a matter of weeks, and the plants receive very little benefit from the amendments.

During the planting process, remove plastic wraps from around root balls.

These do not disintegrate like the fiber burlap and can prevent root growth into surrounding soil. Also trim away ties that encircle trunks to prevent girdling, or damage to the bark.

As plantings are completed, most gardeners add a water ring around the bases of trees and shrubs. But few planters have been told where to form the 4- to 6-inch-high circle of soil used to trap irrigation water.

The location is especially important in sandy soils that can wick water away from root balls.

Build the water ring so it borders on the edge of the root ball. This way when the plant is watered, moisture has to move through the root ball and out into the surrounding soil.

While you are adding plants, check for areas where the turf just doesn’t grow.

Also look for spots that are hard to mow or are an odd shape. These are excellent areas to fill with ornamental ground covers.

Using ground covers helps to reduce the time spent in the landscape replanting and mowing.

MEMO: This sidebar ran with story: EARLY SEASON TIPS Here are a few more tips to help make spring landscape maintenance quicker and easier. Plant trees and shrubs 15 to 20 feet from walks and homes. This may not save a lot of work now, but in the future you won’t be trimming as many limbs hanging over walkways or touching the roof. Also roots are less likely to buckle walks or foundations if given the extra room to grow. Use small trees or shrubs under utility lines. Prevent the need for excessive pruning by using the lower growing plants. Group plants according to water needs. Some plants prefer wet soils while others tolerate dry locations. Keep those with similar needs together and design irrigation systems that put the water where it’s needed. Proper watering prevents loss during drought and plant decline due to root rot problems. Start with healthy plants. Make sure the trees and shrubs are ready to grow in the landscape. Avoid plants with abnormally yellow leaves, broken branches and pest problems. Also pass over plants with heavily matted root systems. Apply mulches to exposed soil surfaces. The organic matter helps eliminate weeds and holds in soil moisture. Maintain a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer over the roots of trees and shrubs; a 2- to 3-inch layer in perennial beds. Chunky mulches and those composed of thick fibers are ideal. Apply fertilizer under the spread of limbs and out past the drip line. Use a garden or lawn care fertilizer. Rates used for the lawn can be used for trees and shrubs. Allow trees and shrubs to develop naturally. Avoid shearing plants. Use hand pruners to remove individual branches as needed.

This sidebar ran with story: EARLY SEASON TIPS Here are a few more tips to help make spring landscape maintenance quicker and easier. Plant trees and shrubs 15 to 20 feet from walks and homes. This may not save a lot of work now, but in the future you won’t be trimming as many limbs hanging over walkways or touching the roof. Also roots are less likely to buckle walks or foundations if given the extra room to grow. Use small trees or shrubs under utility lines. Prevent the need for excessive pruning by using the lower growing plants. Group plants according to water needs. Some plants prefer wet soils while others tolerate dry locations. Keep those with similar needs together and design irrigation systems that put the water where it’s needed. Proper watering prevents loss during drought and plant decline due to root rot problems. Start with healthy plants. Make sure the trees and shrubs are ready to grow in the landscape. Avoid plants with abnormally yellow leaves, broken branches and pest problems. Also pass over plants with heavily matted root systems. Apply mulches to exposed soil surfaces. The organic matter helps eliminate weeds and holds in soil moisture. Maintain a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer over the roots of trees and shrubs; a 2- to 3-inch layer in perennial beds. Chunky mulches and those composed of thick fibers are ideal. Apply fertilizer under the spread of limbs and out past the drip line. Use a garden or lawn care fertilizer. Rates used for the lawn can be used for trees and shrubs. Allow trees and shrubs to develop naturally. Avoid shearing plants. Use hand pruners to remove individual branches as needed.


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