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Today I’m excited to welcome guest poster Aaron from Mr. Tree Service. Enjoy his no nonsense tips on how to set up and maintain a healthy garden.
As a homeowner, nothing is more satisfying than having landscaping that welcomes you home every time you drive up. It’s inviting. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful.
But to keep it that way, landscaping takes a lot of work. You have to find the right plants. You have to plant them in the right locations. You have to provide them with the proper nutrients to ensure they have a long and healthy life.
And just when you think everything is in its place, strong and growing as it should, you start to notice that something is wrong. A bug that shouldn’t be there. A curling leaf. Brown spots.
How did it happen?
And more importantly, now what?
To keep your garden healthy, there are many things you can do every time you venture outside to do a little work.
Disease only happens when a plant weakens, a pathogen is introduced into your garden, and it latches on and promotes the disease throughout. Stopping it before it starts is the best course of action. But how do you do that? Where do you start?
Examine all plants before you bring them into your yard
The easiest way to keep disease out of your garden is to avoid introducing it in the first place. That means paying attention to every plant you buy at the store and choose to bring home and plant in the garden.
Learn what a healthy plant looks like. In most cases, it doesn’t take much to see the difference between a healthy plant and a weak one. Healthy plants are lush and full. Their leaves are green, without dead spots, rotted stems, or insects hovering near the base. They are well watered, well taken care of.
Look beyond the top of the plant and head to the roots as well. Gently shake the plant loose from the pot at the garden center to look at the root system. Roots should be firm, with healthy white roots spaced evenly throughout the root ball. Dry, dark or mushy roots indicate a problem.
Keep an eye on bugs
In your garden, viruses and bacteria can only enter a plant if it’s in a weakened state. Different bugs initiate different types of problems into your garden. Some feed on your plants, creating holes and other openings for problems to enter. Some carry disease from plant to plant as they fly and move around.
Because there are a variety of ways to transport disease, the best way to combat the problem is to take charge before it starts. Upkeep is important. That means working with your landscaping regularly, from ground cover all the way up to your tallest trees. Regular maintenance is key to keeping everything looking its best.
Clean up in the fall
As fall blows in each year, it’s easy to let your garden go into dormancy and put off upkeep until the spring. Resist that urge and clean out the garden instead.
As leaves drop from plants and trees, they begin to sink down into the landscaping. If disease is already present, it can lie and wait for new life to begin in spring. With other plants, day-lilies or roses, for instance, disease can wait and spring into action once new life begins to form. By clearing away the dead and cutting back problems, you remove potential problems from festering into the new growing season. It’s also important to speak with professionals early on when you notice a problem. Catching it early can sometimes eliminate potential problems altogether.
Apply the correct fertilizer
Did you know if you add too much fertilizer you can burn the root system? Or that different fertilizers can impact plants in different ways? If you burn a root system, it may not be able to absorb water as it’s meant to do, weakening the plant even further.
Each year, trees and plants have to face every condition known in nature. Some years they may face drought. Some years they may be cool and rainy. Heat and cold can break records. If a plant is starved for nutrients, it will put undue stress on everything from the roots to the leaves.
Rather than introducing a generic fertilizer into your landscaping, designed for multipurpose use, talk with a professional about the best source of nutrients for individual areas around your home. Trees need different care than grass. And different plants can benefit in different ways. Knowing the right way to handle each plant ensures each stays healthy all year through.
Prune damaged limbs at the right time
Tree trimming should take place in fall and late winter rather than in the spring. Wounded limbs can become infected as the cold, rainy season sets in, allowing disease to become more established as the tree is dormant. Late pruning prevents the disease from spreading to new growth as it begins to come to life in the spring.
No matter what time of year damage occurs, remove it as it occurs. Always use sharp tools to make clean cuts that will heal rapidly. Make sure to cut back all damaged branches to healthy, living tissue to give it the best opportunity for regrowth.
Choose and plant appropriately
To have a successful garden, the best place to start is by introducing plants zoned properly and introduced into the right place in your garden. Placing a shade loving plant into the bright sunshine will leave it vulnerable to being overwhelmed by its environment, letting disease and bacteria creep in.
Also, remember that plants grow and change over time. While planting a small tree today will allow sunshine to spread across a portion of your landscaping, that will quickly change as it grows. Working with professionals can help you choose the appropriate plants for your current situation, with the knowledge of how to change things as the years pass.
Water sustains all life in your garden, but different plants or areas need different levels of care. Many pathogens in the soil need water to spring to life and grow. If too much water is introduced, the problem can quickly exacerbate. To avoid introducing and spreading disease, choose watering methods appropriate for the conditions. Sprinkler systems can use appropriate watering methods throughout your landscaping, with heavier watering methods over grass, while soaker systems are integrated between plants. No matter how you choose to water, avoid strong sprays on delicate leaves. And avoid pooling water on leaves that can sit and impact foliage over long periods of time.
Also, remember that more isn’t always better. Waterlogged soil promotes root rotting that suffocates roots. Allowing soil to dry naturally gives the entire plant the chance to adjust to conditions and absorb all the nutrients from the water source.
Don’t crowd plants
Space plants according to how much room they’ll need to grow and expand in the coming months and years. What starts out as a tiny tree can quickly envelop your entire landscaping and change the environment for all other life around it. When crowding occurs, cut back limbs and remove damaged or old stalks that are prone to mildew. Crowded plants will fight and compete for nutrients, weakening plants further.
Aaron Sanders has worked in landscaping for 15 years and continues to be an asset to Mr. Tree Services. He firmly believes that your attitude determines your altitude in life.