plant care tips

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To protect your new investment of plantings, some regular maintenance is required. We recommend a seasonal plan for total landscape care. A seasonal plan includes watering, fertilizing, weed control, pruning, edging and mulching of beds, winterizing, and dealing promptly with pest and disease problems. Sunshine Landscapes provides seasonal care, either with an annual contract or whenever you want to give us a call.

Some normal issues you might have with plants are transplant shock (leaves may fall off or turn color prematurely on newly planted trees or shrubs), needle shed or leaf drop (newly planted evergreens, particularly white pine, seem to lose excessive amounts of yellow-tinged needles), and winter burn (broadleaf evergreens may have brown spots on them in the early spring; these can be pruned off).

Whether you are caring for your plantings yourself, or calling on our services, following is a brief overview of good landscaping care.

Watering | Fertilization | Weed Control | Pruning | Staked Trees | Mulching/Edging | Pests/Disease | Winterizing

How much you have to water will depend on your soil conditions, and on the local weather and climate. Generally, for new plantings in our area, you should check the soil every three to four days for adequate moisture. It's easy to do this: simply clear away a small area of much and pick up a small amount of soil in your hand. If there is visible moisture in the soil that you can squeeze out, or if it is muddy, you don't need to water. Check again in a day or two. If the soil does not hold together, but rather crumbles, it is too dry and you need to water. You should always check several spots near the plant.

For trees that are planted alone (not in a bed with other plantings), we think trickle watering is the best method. To do this, adjust the water so that it trickles slowly from the hose rather than in a powerful stream.

To water planting beds, use a soaker hose. This way, water will soak in deeply around the base of each plant. You should also mist the foliage of newly planted treets and shrubs, but this does not take the place of deep watering.

Groundcover and perennials will need watering more frequently than other plants in your yard. And newly-installed sod and grass seed should be watered daily, but with a gentle amount of water pressure: if you use too forceful a stream, you can wash away the seeds or cause erosion.

Annuals are shallow-rooted, and can dry out quickly, but they are also prone to rot if over watered (especially begonias, vinca, and snapdragons). Water your annuals thoroughly whenever the surface of the soil is dry, particularly for marigolds, zinnias, impatiens, petunias, salvia splendens (scarlet sage), alyssum, whiteweed, and lobelia. With annuals, you should never wait for rain! Check your soil, and water as necessary! May, June, July and August are when your annuals will be most thirsty!

Remember: these are general guidelines for watering. You must always take into account the specific plant and the location. Plants in a sunny, dry area with sandy soil will always dry out more quickly than plants that are located in shaded areas and in clay soils. We generally find clay soils in this area, so overwatering is a real concern.

You should be watering regularly until the first freeze. Don't neglect watering your plantings in late fall!

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Fertilize twice a year: once in spring, and once in late fall. In the late fall you should also plan on doing deep root feeding for shade trees and evergreens. This will give you the lushest foliage next spring. Plants can be injured by fertilizer applications, so be sure to apply fertilizer first if you are also planning to topdress with mulch.

Weed Control
Weeds are in competition with your plants for light, nutrients and water, which is one of the most important reasons to remove them. Some of the worst weeds we see in this area are thistle, onion grass, quack grass, nut sedge, wild chrysanthemum, chickweed, mumweed, hawkweed, bishop weed, common vetch, and...the ubiquitous dandelions. You can take preventive measures against annual weeds by maintaining a good mulch cover in your beds, and also by applying pre-emergent herbicides such as Treflan, Eptam, Preen, or Ortho Garden Weed Preventer. For perennial weeds, which are more stubborn, you can keep them down by spraying a contact herbicide such as Kleen-up or Round-up. Always use herbicides with care, and follow all instructions on the pacakge. Many herbicides can also harm your desirable plantings, so apply very carefully!

We recommend pruning by hand on all of your plantings. This will help to retain a naturalistic appearance, and avoid that squared-off boxy look that is common to sheared hedges, trees and shrubs. The benefits of pruning include helping to develop a healthy, attractive form; rejuvenation; and the removal of injured, diseased or damaged parts.

Spring flowering shrubs should be pruned immediately after they have finished flowering. Late summer flowering shrubs should be pruned during the winter, when they are dormant, or in early spring. Broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs (such as azaleas and rhododendron) should be pruned soon after blooming, or as often as necessary to maintain a pleasant shape. Evergreens vary: most evergreens do not require annual pruning; yew and juniper can be pruned anytime, and as necessary to maintain their shape; hemlocks can be pruned just after new growth emerges, and again when they are dormant in the early winter.

Staked Trees
If you have stakes on shade trees or evergreens, they should remain on the trees for two spring growing seasons after installation. For example, if you planted a tree in April of this year, you may remove the stake from the tree in summer of next year. You should tighten the wires every few months by driving the stake in a bit farther.

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Mulching & Edging
The edges of your beds should be redone annually, removing any encroaching growth of grass and weeds in order to maintain the line and neat appearance of the bed.

We use mulch for its many benefits. Mulch should be replenished as needed to maintain a minimum of 2" coverage or topdressing. In general, a 2-year old planting will require half the amount of mulch used when it was originally planted to maintain its topdressing. If you have groundcover planted, once it fills in, those areas should not require additional mulching. Fresh ground wood chips are not recommended as mulch, because the chips will leach nitrogen from the soil as they decay. The benefis of mulch include:

  • helps prevent weed growth
  • conserves moisture
  • helps prevent run-off
  • protects soil and roots from the sun and wind
  • insulates against extreme temperatures
  • promotes consistent landscape appearance

Pests & Disease
Pests, insects and diseases are encountered in nearly every landscaping situation. You should check your plants periodically so that you can recognize the difference between a healthy plant, and one that has a problem. Some plants are more susceptible to pests or diseases than others; if you think your plant has a problem, call us and we can come take a look, and diagnose and treat your plant.

Preparing your plants for winter is a very important part of plant care; proper preparation can prevent a severe setback in your plant's life cycle. The first winter is the most difficult for any new planting. The following are the steps you should take to ensure a proper winterization of your plants:

  • Water plants well in the late fall, before the ground freezes.
  • Increase the amount of mulch at the base of plants to help protect the roots.
  • All broadleaf plants should be sprayed with an anti-dessicant such as Forever Green to keep the leaves from losing too much moisture.
  • Broadleafs that will be exposed to northwest winds and winter sun should be enclosed in burlap on the exposed side.
  • Apply fall fertilizer in November, just as the plants begin to go dormant.

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P.O. Box 434, Malvern, PA 19355,, 610-476-7086

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