Courtney Brown, Conservation Garden Park
Landscapes in Utah are gradually transitioning from all lawn to modern-looking Localscapes® with a variety of plants, gathering areas, activity zones, and pathways. The shift in landscape style also means a shift in the timing and techniques for maintenance. Most Utahns are familiar with how to care for lawn – we fertilize a couple times a year, aerate in the fall, apply water when it looks dry, mow when it looks long, and spray weeds as they come up. But it’s those areas of the landscape that are outside the lawn that take us out of our comfort zones. Rather than fearing and limiting planting beds, see them as an opportunity to make your yard stand out.
It’s best to do something for the yard at least weekly throughout spring, summer, and fall, but there’s more work to be done in spring than any other season. Plan on spending more time working in the yard during the spring months, much less time in the summer, and slightly more time in the fall. Isn’t this when you would rather be outside anyway? Here are the essentials:
Tree Pruning – As needed, remove any dead, crossing, or diseased branches. You can also thin or shape trees by selectively pruning away branches of various sizes throughout the tree, but don’t remove more than 1/3 of the total branches in one year. And always wait two years after planting new trees before doing any pruning.
Large (Woody) Shrub Pruning – Every other year, remove any dead, crossing, or diseased branches while maintaining the natural form of the plant. The size and shape of shrubs can be managed by selective pruning.
Ornamental Grasses – Cut back to 8 inches above the ground. This can also be done in the fall or winter if the grass becomes unsightly.
Perennials – Cut back to 2 inches above the ground. Evergreen perennials are an exception to this.
Lawn – Aerate and fertilize. Spring is a great time to aerate the lawn because the soil is moist, and the tines can penetrate deeper. For compacted or high-traffic lawn areas, aeration can also be repeated in fall, or even more frequently.
Apply pre-emergent herbicide to mulch areas to reduce weeds. After pre-emergent has been watered into the soil, then left undisturbed, it creates an invisible barrier that prevents seeds from germinating. Use it in planter beds and gravel areas to reduce your weeding time.
Refresh mulch every other year or as needed to maintain a 3- to 4-inch thickness. A thick layer of mulch, whether it’s wood chips, gravel, decorative stone, or compost, helps retain moisture in the soil, reduce weeds, improve soil structure, and gives the planter bed a nice, finished look.
Another important thing to remember – there is no place for autopilot when it comes to good landscape maintenance. A nice-looking landscape requires careful thought, preparation, and hard work. A wise father once said, “Accept the fact that anything worth doing is going to take longer than you think.”