Landscapes are living entities that evolve over time. Because of their dynamic nature, there is no such thing as a “no-maintenance landscape.” The following guide discusses commonly experienced issues to help you support your new landscape as it evolves:
All plants require water (by rainfall and/or watering) A broad general recommendation is that most plants need 1” per week. Watering is particularly important for the establishment of new plants. Most plants want deep, infrequent watering as opposed to a shallow, frequent watering. Deep watering encourages root growth, and allows the foliage to dry out between watering.
For Irrigation systems: We recommend the homeowner plan to walk through their new landscape with a keen eye for the first 2 weeks, observing and taking notes about any plants that are wilting or if puddles persist in plantbeds. These are signs that the irrigation system needs to be adjusted.
No irrigation system: the homeowner needs to develop a routine to ensure the new plantings are getting adequate water for establishment.
For Trees: Apply 1 to 1.5 gallons per 1” of trunk caliper (width of trunk 6” off ground) each time you water (example: If trunk is 2” thick at 6” above ground, 3-4.5 gallons should be applied at each watering)
For Shrubs: Apply 1/4 to 1/3 the volume of the container the shrub was purchased in (example: #10 shrub is a 10-gallon container. 2.5-3 gallons should be applied at each watering)
for newly planted trees and shrubs:
Up to 3 weeks after planting: Water daily or every other day
3-12 weeks after planting: Water every 3 days
Rest of the season: Water weekly
Watering Frequency for Newly planted Perennials. Water 1-3 times per week that completely saturates the root zone
Where to Water
The roots of the plant are what take in water. The foliage does not need water. Excessive moisture on the foliage can even lead to fungus, or other plant pathogens. Set a hose to a slow trickle and place near crown of plant directly above the root ball.
New Lawn Establishment
Frequent and consistent watering is critical to new lawn establishment. The area being established must not get completely dried out for the first 2-4 weeks. That means watering every day that it doesn’t rain, and if we are experiencing high temps, it may require watering in the morning and evening. In addition to good watering practices, below are other things to consider when establishing new lawn:
Make sure to keep any erosion control methods (such as straw matting) in place while grass seed is germinating. It is essential that no pre-emergent herbicide is used on the seeded area, because in addition to weed control this would prevent the grass seed from germinating as well. Wait until grass height is 50% longer than your typical cut height before the first mow. (If you normally cut your lawn at 2.5”, wait until it is 1.5x this length or 3.75” before cutting).
New sod takes 2 weeks for root establishment. You can test this by gently pulling on a sod corner. If there is resistance, the sod has started to root. You should not mow new sod until it has started to root and grown to be 50% longer than your typical cut height. (If you normally cut your lawn at 2.5”, wait until it is 1.5x this length or 3.75” before cutting). For fall installations, be sure to keep fallen leaves off the new sod for best lawn health.
Another universal truth: your dog is going to damage your new lawn. His urine and feces will create spots. Soaking the spots with a lot of water can diffuse the build-up of urine, and there are many home remedies people purport to counteract dog damage, but the reality is if you own a dog, he will cause damage to your lawn. The only counter method is to physically limit his access to the lawn areas you want to keep manicured.
There is no such thing as a “no-maintenance landscape.” Even the simplest landscape of lawn needs regular watering, mowing and fertilizing.
Weeding & Mulch
Your new plantbeds have been covered with shredded hardwood mulch, which is an important tool for plant health, providing moisture retention at the base of plants, keeping plants cooler during the height of summer, and keeping weeds under control. Notice we do not say “eliminates weeds.” The majority of weed seeds are airborne. They will nestle into any crevice and are inspired to grow anywhere (even in the cracks of your driveway). Your new plantbeds have been designed to reduce opportunities for weeds to establish, but there is still a universal truth: by being a homeowner you will have weeds to pull. The mulch makes weeding easy as the new plantbeds are pliable and weeds will slip out by their roots. Once your new plantbeds have matured, the desired plants will have grown together providing a natural barrier against places for weeds to germinate. Until that time, you may also wish to touch up the plantbeds with additional mulch each spring as needed.
Note: a few weeks after installation, particularly after heavy rain, you may notice a patch here or there in your mulched plantbeds of what is commonly-referred to as ‘slime mold.’ This is a naturally-occurring fungus found in decomposing wood and it sometimes emerges in small patches in newly installed plantbeds. It is harmless and will dissipate over time. However if you find it unsightly you can lightly scratch the area to break up the mold, causing it to disappear more quickly as the particles dry out.
Trees and shrubs benefit from routine pruning for health and vigor. Pruning extends the longevity of plants by reducing opportunities for damage from storms or insects. Have a professional inspect and prune your trees and shrubs regularly if you are not comfortable completing this task yourself.
Flowering shrubs and perennials can be deadheaded (cutting off the spent blooms) if you prefer a more manicured landscape. In some species deadheading can actually prompt a second, less vigorous, set of blooms. Some plants’ flowers are visually appealing as they dry out and if you prefer they can be left for their visual interest and for attracting wildlife.
Your new plantbeds have been supplemented with a generous mix of composted organic soils, providing a healthy boost for plant establishment. In successive seasons, your trees, shrubs and perennials can all benefit from routine fertilizing as well. Consult a professional or your local garden center for recommendations as needed.
Irrigation systems are huge assets for proper landscape establishment and maintenance. New systems come standard with a rain sensor that will override water times to prevent overwatering, which is a great energy-efficient feature. Irrigation systems require a system start-up in the spring, when the heads and zones are checked to be in working order, and a fall shut-down when the system is blown-out to prevent winter damage. Typically these services are provided by your irrigation contractor. The presence of an irrigation system does not absolve the homeowner of any responsibility however. During periods of drought irrigation zones will require adjustment of watering times. As plants mature, less watering is required to maintain the plantbeds. The homeowner should have a working knowledge of how to make these adjustments, or notify his or her irrigation contractor to do so when needed.
New shrubs and trees appreciate some extra attention during their first few winters. Evergreens and boxwoods can be vulnerable to sun scald or winter burn, where the winter sun and winds can desiccate the needles or leaves, leaving browned foliage and worse killing the plant. Wrapping evergreens in burlap helps prevent this exposure. Evergreens also benefit from consistent watering up until the ground freezes. Plenty of water in the needles minimizes this desiccation. So even though the rest of your garden may look done for the season, keep watering your evergreens! Additionally, marginally-hardy species such as Japanese Maples benefit from being burlap-wrapped for the winter.
Wrapping the trunks of new deciduous trees with paper tree wrap is also recommended to prevent sun reflecting off snow from warming and cracking the tender bark of these young plants. This wrap should be removed each spring.
Some species of shrubs and trees are especially enticing to critter appetites. Placing tree guards (flexible tubing or other material) around the trunks of young trees will protect them from this critter damage. Animal damage varies from year to year depending on the severity of winter weather. Expect you will experience some interaction with animals as a homeowner; appreciate our interconnection with nature!
Perennials should be cut back to the ground at the end of fall or the start of spring before new growth emerges. Many people let perennials (such as ornamental grasses) dry in place over winter, as they attract wildlife and are aesthetically-compelling contrasted with our blankets of snow and ice.
After the snowmelt in spring you may notice matted lawn areas with a spiderweb-type growth. This is called ‘snow mold’. It is a common occurrence after winters with heavy snow and if you lightly rake out the area to loosen the mold, the grass will re-emerge and eventually recover.
The installation of stone or brick paving with sand-swept joints is meant to move with Minnesota’s freeze-thaw cycle. You may experience mild heaving and settling after the first full year after installation. This is not uncommon. The beauty of dry-laid paving is that it can easily be fixed to look good-as-new. You may notice after a number of years the paving may need additional sand swept into its joints. This is a simple process that you as a homeowner can complete, or you can choose to have it professionally completed.
The universal truth of concrete is that it WILL crack. All concrete cracks with our freeze-thaw cycle. The goal of expansion and control joints is to tell the concrete where to crack. Even with the best-laid plans, concrete can crack somewhere other than the intended joints. The best fix for an unsightly crack is removal of that panel and replacement with new concrete; unfortunately new concrete does not match existing concrete that has been weathered by the elements. As a homeowner it is best you accept concrete for both its assets and its limitations, an affordable yet imperfect material.
Fences & Gates
New cedar construction will weather to a silver-gray color if left unstained and unsealed. It is your choice as a homeowner whether to stain or seal your new carpentry, depending on your aesthetic requirements. Staining exterior carpentry commits you to future maintenance. Sealing natural wood extends the life of the wood with less maintenance than staining. And a universal truth about wood gates is they will eventually sag. Adjustments will be needed over the life of the gate to counteract this. Again future maintenance is a realistic expectation.
A water feature with a recirculating pump, such as a free-standing fountain, requires a little attention before winter sets in. The pump should be removed from the fountain and stored in a garage or basement to prevent damage from freeze-thaw cycle. The pump is usually easily-accessible and removal is something the homeowner can complete on his or her own. Securing a tarp over a free-standing fountain is also advisable to keep leaves
and debris out.
If catch boxes have been installed at the downspouts coming off your roof, we recommend re-attaching downspout elbows before winter to direct snow melt away from the underground draintile system. There is a short period in spring when snow melting during the day and then freezing again at night can cause damage to underground draintile. Having the elbows in place reduces the amount of water getting into the system during this period. Most years this problem is minimal; this is merely a precautionary recommendation.