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Plant and Lawn Care - Hints and tips to create better gardens.



Watering Trees and Shrubs

New Installations
It is critical that new plant materials be watered immediately! Plants are in shock from transit and relocation. It is essential that water is available to their root systems, and to seat soil around the root ball, removing air pockets and reducing stress!
We recommend that plants be watered with a garden hose 20-30 seconds in one direction, and 20-30 seconds again as you work back from plant to plant. Obviously larger plants may require more and smaller plants somewhat less. Lawn sprinklers can work in a pinch, the time being adjusted accordingly. Irrigation system settings should be discussed with your landscaper and the installer.
Larger trees benefit from a steady drip from the hose for as much as an hour.
New landscape plantings need to be watered 2-3 times a week for the first month. Do not water everyday, except under extreme conditions.
After they have been established for a month, watering can be scaled back to once or twice a week thoroughly, as described. The first month is the most critical time to acclimate plants to their new home.
Continued Care
Generally, we would recommend continued watering once or twice a week until Thanksgiving of the first year. However, there are no absolutes, and common sense suggests that if it has rained everyday, you might be off the hook. Conversely plants burn or desiccate in the winter because of insufficient water available to plants, more so than cold temperatures. A final watering of new materials before putting the garden hose away for the year is not a bad idea.
Long Term Watering Needs
Hopefully, your plants are selected according to hardiness and geography. With proper planting bed construction, your plants should be able to establish themselves for years of growth and enjoyment. Mulching the planting beds helps to conserve water and cool the root systems of plant material. Occasional watering through dry periods (regardless of season) can reduce stress to your plants and provide for a vigorous and healthy plant.

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Trees and shrubs benefit greatly from fertilizer. Most have been fed routinely in the nursery and without added fertilizer in their new locations tend to look tired and their growth stunted. Most plants tend to fall into two categories; those that prefer an acid (pH) based fertilizer and those that do not. Most evergreens and those flowering shrubs that retain their foliage into winter (rhododendrons, azaleas, etc.) tend to prefer an acid based fertilizer. I usually recommend HOLLYTONE  granular fertilizer, or MIRACID water-soluble plant food. Plants that don't require special fertilizer seem to do well with generic garden fertilizer, either 10-10-10 or 5-10-5.
Shrubbery and trees should be fertilized twice in the early spring, March-April or early April and early May. Do not fertilize trees and shrubbery in hot weather, and do not give newly planted shrubbery more than a half rate application.
Trees should also have a deep root feeding late in the fall after they have gone into dormancy. Jobe's tree food spikes or a specially formulated tree fertilizer work well.
Liquid MIRACLE GRO is fine for flowers and ground covers and usually can be applied throughout the summer as long as plants are well watered.

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Pruning and Trimming

Shrubbery and most evergreen trees can be trimmed or sheared in the second week of June, locally. New leafy growth has flushed out and evergreen 'candles' have hardened off. Trimming helps to maintain the form of the plant and helps check growth. Try to determine the natural form or habit of a plant and work toward that end. Topiary is the art of trimming a plant to determine a shape other than that which nature had intended. While trimming the yews in front of the house to resemble Donald Duck may be topiary, it is also a shock to ones sensibility. Try to exercise some restraint when the urge to sculpt the shrubbery takes over.
I generally do most of my trimming with a pair of hand shears. It lessens the mistakes and develops a Zen rhythm I enjoy. The gasoline powered Enduro 9000's are fine for trimming the neighbor's hedge.
Pruning can be a different matter. When we prune, we selectively remove branches or parts of branches to create a desired character. We can thin a tree of crossed branches or remove the old woody growth of lilacs to try and invigorate them. We can prune a Japanese Maple to give it a lighter and more delicate feeling. Most pruning is done in the late fall or early spring to shape a plant or to remove damaged or diseased wood.

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Lawn Care

Newly Seeded
Newly seeded lawns must be watered at least once a day. It is important to keep the seed moist until germination. A sprinkler moved around the seeded area at timed intervals is the most effective means. Be careful not to over water, flooding the ground and floating the seed away. Usually 15 minutes in any one position is enough.
Once the grass has germinated and it is a fairly uniform stand of green, we can cut back on watering. Once a day in hot weather and every other day in cool weather. Seeded lawns are easiest to establish in spring, before the middle of May, and in the fall, not later than mid-October.
Newly seeded lawns are generally mulched with either straw or mushroom manure. When the grass is about 2-3 inches tall the straw can be lifted and the grass cut. After the grass has been cut, water the lawn once a week, with one inch of water!
Sodded Lawns
Sodded lawns should be watered once a day until rooted. Sod usually initiates roots within a few days, and after two weeks has established a root system that can support the sod with less frequent watering. Sod can then be watered about 2 or 3 times a week. Sod requires a little more water for the first season.
Continued Care- Lawn Treatments
Discuss the treatment of your new lawn with your landscaper through the first year. New lawns usually demand a little more starter fertilizer and are susceptible to injury from treatment with weed and crabgrass control.
Maintaining a beautiful lawn is probably the most confusing and conflicting area of home landscape care. This is a billion-dollar industry that feeds on ignorance and a strange desire to have a perfect green carpet outside the door, no matter what the cost. While lawn treatment programs should be tailored to your specific needs there are some basic guidelines to follow.
While not every lawn may require each treatment, there are some key applications that hold true for the majority of lawns, whether seeded or sodded.
Time for pre-emergent crabgrass control. When the forsythia turn yellow, noxious grasses must be treated before they germinate. Most are annual and go to seed in the fall. Follow the manufacturer recommendations for applications of crabgrass control.
A high nitrogen fertilizer should also be applied early in spring. Fertilizers list available percentages of nitrogen- phosphorous- potassium in the numeric listing on the bag. The first number, nitrogen should be the highest number shown.
Spring is in the air; flowers are in bloom.... A young mans heart turns to... dandelions taking over the lawn! Dandelions and other broad-leafed weeds are out in full force. Most can be controlled with a granular application of Weed and Feed. Weed and Feed is sold under a variety of trade names. Most are effective when applied early in the morning with dew on the foliage to help the chemicals adhere to the plant.
Spraying with 2-4D weed control is an effective way to treat more aggressive and persistent weeds. Applications can be reapplied at manufacturer recommendations. Some weeds like ground ivy and geranium require an on going program to control.
Fertilizer to build up root growth should also be applied. A 'starter' fertilizer or turf builder will help your lawn into the summer. A higher middle number (phosphorous) on your fertilizer bag indicates increased root development.
Drought, insects, disease... the joy of summer! Insects tend to be most active at this time. Chinch bugs, chiggers, grubs, beetles, all are actively feeding on your lawn and its roots. I normally recommend insecticide as a response to an infestation as opposed to a preventative measure. Insecticides are powerful, residual and can be dangerous to people! Insect populations will always be present in your lawn! Controlling their numbers through insecticide or integrated pest management is a subject that needs responsible consideration.
How do golf courses manage to look so green through the summer when your lawn has taken on the appearance of toast? Proper watering practices, watering with at least an inch of water per week and the application of non-burning fertilizers like Milorganite will help maintain the appearance and vigor of your lawn.
After the heat of summer has passed, another application of a starter fertilizer or turf builder can help a lawn recover from stress. Usually September is a good time for this application. Later in October or November, liming is essential to maintain a proper pH. A rate of up to 50# of dolomitic limestone per thousand square feet of lawn may be applied.
Sod a heavy feeder; will green up more quickly in the spring with a November fertilizing. A good starter fertilizer will help to wake up the turf in the spring.
Fall can also be a good time to treat for crabgrass control. Pre-emergents can also be effective at this time.

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Seasonal Considerations

Protecting our investment from the elements is common sense. Plants that have been established for years require little preparation. Plants that have been in the ground for a short time deserve a little extra care. Making sure they are well watered late in the year is the single best step we can take to help insure their survival. Covering sensitive or exposed plants with burlap (never plastic) can reduce wind burn. Mulching graft unions on roses and protecting root balls from extreme cold helps to reduce casualties. Having bought hardy plants raised from reputable growers can save time and money in the long run.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that nature can be demanding teacher. Awareness of the weather and an intelligent response to conditions is the best advice I can give. There are no absolutes. All of these guidelines are generalities that should help to make one aware that plants like people respond a whole lot better to a little care and understanding.

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George Girty Landscape Design
3881 Brownsville Road, South Park , PA 15129
Phone: (412) 835-3245
Fax (412) 835-1390