Guidelines for Property Maintenance
We live in an annual cycle. Each year our property needs appropriate seasonal attention. Whether you do the work yourself or have us help you with these projects, it can be helpful to know what needs to be done. We have some helpful hints about your property which you can view by clicking on the drop down list beneath the How To….. menu. Keep in mind that each landscape is unique and has its own rhythm and needs. We will gladly help you with your property maintenance.
Each tab on the box below offers you a plethora of recommendations and tricks of the trade. If you have questions beyond what we have shared here, please do not hesitate to reach out!
Spring Cleanup Tips
- Recommended tools include tarps, power blowers, rakes, shovels, pruners and fuel for the blowers. Have a plan for debris disposal.
- Remove leaves, sticks, and debris from all lawn areas and beds, pick up branches that may have blown down over the winter
- Be careful not to tear up lawns in early spring, especially when wet. Gently rake out any areas in the lawn that have snow mold.
- Use a power blower and gentle raking to clean leaves and debris out of ground cover areas (pachysandra, myrtle, etc) so as not to damage the ground cover. Be especially careful of any spring-flowering bulbs that are present in the garden.
- Clean up gravel or cinders in the lawn areas along the roadways that have been deposited by snowplowing operations. Repair any damage to turf from snowplows near driveways and road areas.
- Trim out any broken branches in shrubbery or ornamentals.
- Give the lawn the first mowing to aid in cleanup and give a good appearance, but be very careful of wet areas and soft areas where the mower might leave tracks or ruts. Note-When cleanups done very early in the spring this may not be possible.
- Blow off walkways, driveways, patios, and entryways to the house.
- We recommend cutting bed edges at a 4” depth with a spade or a half-moon edger.
- Softly flowing lines are aesthetically pleasing. Keep the edging line gentle and smooth. Corrective edging may be required to correct imperfections or irregularities. Guard against excessive turf removal unless you plan to make a major change in the shape of the bed.
- Straight edges should be set off permanent objects – either parallel or perpendicular. Set a string line for best results.
- Remove all edging scraps from bed surfaces – especially turf and weeds. Soil spoils may be left but should be broken up and raked smooth prior to mulching.
- Step back and look at the edging from a distance to be sure you have created a line that is pleasing to the eye.
- Check existing mulch levels around the house prior to starting the job. This will help determine the appropriate amount to apply.
- We recommend installing mulch at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Do not exceed 4”. Maintaining a 2 to 3-inch layer is optimal to help suppress weed growth and retain an even soil moisture and temperature level.
- Remove weeds and/or turf prior to mulching – including their root systems.
- Rake or “fluff” existing mulch before topdressing with a layer of new mulch
- Avoid inconsistent depths of mulch or a bumpy/clumpy appearance.
- Watch mulch levels around existing plants. Mulch should not cover annuals or perennials and should not cover the base or root flare of existing woody stems and/or trunks of trees.
- Water down new mulch to help set, remove dust and replenish moisture. This also makes the color of the much stand out.
- Blow off all rocks, plants, turf and paved surfaces.
- Be sure equipment is properly maintained and blades are sharp.
- Be safe – Use proper footwear, safety glasses, and hearing protection.
- Before mowing, pick up papers, sticks, and toys and look for objects in the lawn areas. Move lawn furniture.
- Mow a couple of times around the perimeter blowing clippings in towards the center of the lawn before beginning striping patterns.
- Mow in straight lines to give a pleasing appearance with striping.
- Try to vary the pattern of cut from week to week.
- Avoid leaving accumulations of clippings on the lawn by double cutting or collecting clippings when necessary. Do not mow when it is too wet and the lawn would be damaged.
- As much as possible avoid the discharge of clippings into beds, shrub borders, gardens, patios, walkways, roadways, etc.
- Take care when making turns, especially with zero turn mowers, to avoid taking divots or damaging the lawn by tearing up turf with the wheels.
- Do not refuel on lawn areas or driveways.
- Be careful when trimming or weed eating not to scalp the edges.
- Avoid hard weed eating against fence posts, mailbox posts or the stems of trees; be especially careful of young trees with tender bark.
- Often weed eat garden beds with the trimmer line used vertically.
- After mowing operations are complete, blow clippings out of beds and off patios, decks, walkways, and driveways.
- Make sure that any lawn furniture you have moved has been returned to its place. Return your equipment to its storage location. Make a final visual inspection that assures you that the property looks good.
Shrub Trimming Tips
- Recommended tools and equipment for the work include tarps, blowers, ladders, hand pruners, shears, and saws, electric or gasoline-powered shears and saws, rakes and fuel for the blowers and other gasoline-powered tools. Be sure trimmers are sharp and in working order. Have a plan for debris disposal.
- Some shrubs only need trimming once a season, others may need attention 2 or 3 times, especially formally sheared shrubs and hedges.
- Identify the plants you are trimming. Look at how the plant material has been trimmed in the past. Unless you desire to change to either formal shearing or informal hand pruning it is simplest to continue to maintain the shrubs in the same manner as they have been trimmed in the past.
- Determine your purpose in trimming – examples include basic maintenance, rejuvenation, structural, for better flowering, containment in size, etc.
- Spring flowering plants such as lilacs should be pruned after flowering.
- Wear ear protection when using gasoline-powered trimming shears, chains saws, and blowers. Do not refuel on lawn or driveways.
- Before beginning check plants for the presence of stinging insects such as hornets, wasps or bees. It’s much better to find them before they find you.
- While you are at it, pull any unsightly weeds in the shrub border or foundation plantings.
- When shearing, move slowly with the shears at full rpm. Do not be afraid to cut back plants fairly hard, but at the same time avoid cutting back into bare wood.
- Rounded shrubs and hedges are easier to accomplish than straight lines and are preferable unless your heart is set on a very formal look.
- Hedges should be trimmed and trained to be narrower at the top so that sunlight can reach the bottom of the plant as well.
- Take the time to occasionally step back to be sure you are producing a pleasing appearance with your trimming.
- It is critical to remove trimmings from the shrubs. Otherwise, the trimmings left on evergreens will turn brown within a week’s time and look very unsightly.
- Trimming by hand with pruners and a folding saw can be very pleasing for deciduous shrubs and evergreens when a natural and informal appearance is desired.
- Thinning cuts remove branches inside the shrub or ornamental. If all you do with hand shears is cut everything at the same place around the outside, you might as well use shears – it would be a lot quicker. Often a number of stems of a deciduous shrub can be removed completely right at ground level.
- Some deciduous shrubs can be rejuvenated by cutting some or all of the stems right back to the ground. This is best done early in the season.
- It is important to select healthy and well-formed plants. Careful inspection at the nursery or Garden Center is best. Look for good structure. Avoid plants that have injured or broken stems or stunted leaves. Look for good color and evidence of good vigor.
- The planting hole should be at least 2 times the width of the ball or the container. Inspect root ball surface in relation to root flare of trees, excavate if necessary to be able to see the root flare.
- Know the identity of the plants you are installing.
- Watch for underground wires or utilities. Contact Dig Safely NY before digging.
- Nursery stock should be placed on native ground to prevent settling. Do not dig the planting hole too deep. Too wide is no problem.
- Remove & discard all packing materials, wires, twine, baskets & containers. If the root ball is still dependent on a basket, leave only the lower 1/3rd when planted.
- Loosen root system or disrupt the circling pattern of roots with container-grown plants.
- Use only soil that has been loosened for backfill & tamp in layers to help minimize the need for staking or anchoring.
- Root flare should be at or above ground level. (plant high – never die, plant low – never grow).
- Water all plantings, creating a saucer at perimeter of root ball if necessary to hold water.
- Guy & stake when necessary.
- Install 2-4” layer of mulch leaving 1-2” of free space around plant base.
- Inspect final plantings to ensure all are straight. Remove any remaining tags, trim & remove any damaged or broken branches.
Garden Maintenance Tips
- Weeding your garden can be very relaxing and enjoyable. It all depends upon your attitude.
- In spring – cut back last year’s growth and old stems of your perennials.
- Fluff mulch, check the average depth and adjust. If you have bare soil, lightly cultivate
- Perform deadheading of flowers, removing all spent and unsightly flower heads.
- Transplant and divide perennials if the gardens become overgrown or to introduce plants to other areas of the garden. Share your garden with your friends and family.
- Some plants need added nutrients to flourish. This can be done simply with products such as Miracle Grow or Miracid and a watering can.
- Winterize plants by cutting back perennials and appropriate shrubbery (spirea, potentilla, butterflybush, etc.). Wrap and/or spray wilt proof to protect highly susceptible plants from winter damage (deer, cold-dry winds and crushing from snow loads). Mound mulch around plants if needed.
- Roses – uncover and prune as needed.
- Inspect your plants for insects and diseases.
- Inspect your shrubs and trees for animal damage.
- Remove any mulch piled against the trunks of your trees
- Install stakes near perennials that will need staking and peony cages when the peonies first start to grow.
- Cut back roses in the late fall.
- Clean rose beds and cover with mulch or rose cones in the late fall.
- Climbing roses – if possible place canes underground or wrap with burlap.
Watering Your New Lawn
We expect 80% – 90% seed germination after a new lawn installation. We do expect some thin spots. All new lawns need additional care during the first year of establishment. We will make one return visit to apply more seed and starter fertilizer 3-4 weeks after the initial seeding is completed. New lawns take some time and patience. Here are some of the things you can expect. The seed itself can take anywhere from 7 days to 2 or 3 weeks to germinate, depending on seed type and weather conditions. Having some weeds germinate along with the grass is to be expected; especially during a spring seeding or if new topsoil is brought in or if the existing soil is disturbed. Some of these germinated weeds will disappear with the first mowing. Others will remain along with the new grass. It is important not to apply any weed control products until the new lawn has been mowed 3 or 4 times and is mature enough to not be damaged by a weed control application. Weed problems are greatly reduced with late summer or early fall lawn installations. A new lawn needs a lot of water. Watering is the responsibility of the property owner. The seedbed should be kept moist to ensure good germination. At the outset, this probably means watering every day. After the seed has germinated you can back off to watering two or three times a week. We recommend the use of an oscillating sprinkler, as it is difficult to apply enough water by hand. You probably need to leave the sprinkler on for a half-hour to an hour per location. The watering should be gentle and stop before puddling occurs. We suggest a new lawn receive a minimum of 1 inch of water per sprinkler location per week. During hot and dry periods more may be necessary. We do not recommend watering after sundown; this can promote fungus growth on new seedlings.
Watering Your New Plants and Trees
Water is vital while the plant establishes a more extensive root system. As a general rule of thumb, you should water by hand with an open-ended hose on a medium flow (sprinkler systems are not designed for deep watering of trees and shrubs). Each plant that is a 2-gallon size container or larger should receive at least 3 gallons of water every few days, for the first 2 weeks. Periodic deep watering of your plant is necessary. Use up to 5 gallons of water per plant through the growing season. An important thing to consider is rain and not because you get the day off from watering (chances are there wasn’t as much as you thought).
Fall Cleanup Tips
- Recommended tools and equipment for the work include tarps, blowers, rakes, shovels, pruners, and fuel for the blowers and other power tools you might use. Have a plan for debris disposal.
- Clean leaves and debris from all lawn areas and beds.
- Use backpack blower and gentle raking to clean leaves and debris out of ground cover areas (pachysandra, myrtle, etc) so as not to damage the ground cover.
- Use the mowers to shred leaves as much as possible in lawn areas. This will greatly reduce the volume of material that needs to be removed from the property.
- Working in pairs with blowers and rakes can often accomplish cleanups efficiently.
- This is a good time to cut back perennials and remove annuals. Some of the flowering shrubs such as potentilla and bumalda type spireas can be cut back at this time as well.
- Give the lawn areas a final mowing. Ideally, the turf should be cut a bit shorter at the end of the season to lessen the incidence of snow mold.
- If many neighbors have leaves out at the curb, it is possible to do likewise. Call the town or municipality for pickup.
- Be sure at the end of the job to blow off walkways, driveways, patios and especially areas around entrances to the house.