While building maintenance seems obvious even though we let it get away from us at times, landscaping seems to be that much easier for owners and landlords to overlook. Sometimes potential problems with landscaping are not easily seen even by the people occupying the property, so I hope you will find these notes about landscaping useful, or are able to pass on to people who may benefit from this information.
Trees provide wonderful interest for the landscape. Their shade can reduce heating bills (and deciduous trees let more light in during colder months), and they provide pretty leaf color and blossoms. However, we often shove them into restrictive positions (think of cracked sidewalks, trees severly pruned for power lines, and broken limbs causing roof damage). Even if you don’t think your trees need to be pruned, you should have a certified arborist visit the property to asses your trees’ health. They are trained to see problems and future risks that the regular eye would scan over. Even smaller tree limbs rubbing against each other could become a danger to humans, and cause health problems for trees.
Make sure your landscaper or arborist is accredited. If you need someone to climb a ladder to trim your trees or plants – they should be certified. Certified arborsts also generally have insurance coverage. (You might assume your neighbor who said they’d trim your trees since they’re doing theirs anyway, would too, but…) One way to find a certified arborist is through the International Society of Arboriculture.
If you are planting a tree, consider its mature size (both tall and wide) when planting. If it is near power lines, driveways, other trees – later on, it could require expensive pruning or cause damage to structures if too close to them. This is not just beneficial for you, but also future landowners.
Did you know that dead trees are often more expensive to cut down than live ones? This is in part because arborists must be even more careful with the trees, as they may be hollow or break more easily. If a tree looks sick, it is a very good time to have an arborist (think “tree doctor”) pay a visit.
Let’s call debris anything that is not meant to stay there. That includes unused pots, tools, piles of leaves, random garbage that floated into your yard, and large branches. Wind can powerfully move items to places you don’t want them to go, clogging gutters, or causing someone to slip or otherwise hurt themselves. By keeping debris out of the landscaping area, you are helping to ensure a safe environment for people and animals.
The one caveat to that is using natural materials that can be helpful in designated garden spaces – like chunks of wood or logs for frogs and toads in a designated rain garden, or leaves raked into perennial garden beds as mulch. (Note, these are areas most people would not walk into besides the gardener.)
GARDEN DISEASES, PESTS AND WEEDS
If you can identify a disease or pest, the best way to get rid of the problem is, well, just that. Remove the infected or infested plant and any fallen plant matter, into the nearest yard waste bin (not your compost pile).
If you notice a disease, pest, or weed on the property you live in, but are not the landowner, let them know you are concerned and get your neighbors involved. Diseases like powdery mildew travel by wind and can deteriorate and even kill both vegetables and ornamental plants. It’s best to remove severely diseased foliage (and sometimes entire plants, as crushing as that can be) and discard of it a.s.a.p. so that the disease doesn’t spread to other plants. Prevention is best, controlling early is next, and it’s usually not worth trying to control (especially not to spray chemicals on) diseased plants if they look on the verge of death or have dropped most of their foliage at a time in the season when they aren’t supposed to.
If smaller garden pests are causing your plants to die (like japanese beetles or squash bugs), trying to eliminate them in your garden space is useless if your neighbors are also harboring the bugs. If there does not seem to be a good solution for the area, it may be time to plant something less inviting to the “bad” guys, or trying to introduce more helpful and harmonious insects to your garden – because they will move around, too!
Have you ever noticed that you cut back a weed only to find it come back (often with a vengeance) from the same cut? Many weeds are nuisances for that very reason: because they are difficult to get rid of. Just a few particularly difficult weeds that if left in the ground include tree “weeds” or seedlings, pokeberry, and the invasive amur honeysuckle. (Missouri Botanical Garden is hosting a blitz of volunteer events this week, to work on reducing this weed in our region. Click here to volunteer or learn more about identifying and eliminating amur honeysuckle.) Hand-weeding is the most organic method of course, although some people have luck with a white vinegar spray on smaller weeds. Many sources will suggest a healthy “paint” of RoundUp or similar chemical application to particularly aggressive stumps, if you are unable to get the plant out of the ground including the root.
While these are probably obvious tips if you are a home gardener, I hope it might be helpful for friends who don’t garden as much as may have landscaping elements in their yard. If people look at their landscaping like they look at a water-stained ceiling, they would likely save money in the long run with consistent maintenance of plants, rather than waiting until something has been dead for so long that it may have caused damage to other plants in the area (and perhaps in more yards than one). Thanks as always for reading!