Saturday, February 9, 2013

GARDENWURKS - winter landscape maintenance tips

With the leaves down and cold(er) temps in the winter there are a number of things ideally suited to be done on residential properties during the cold winter months here in the United States. I live and work in Atlanta, GA and while my tips below primarily apply to the southeast many of them are applicable for residential properties in other parts of the U.S. as well. Some "to do" items for homeowners this winter:

-prune back roses and fertlize them: I like the Bayer 3-In-1 liquid fertilizer-insecticide blend which is commonly available at Lowes, Home Depot and most retail nurseries. Magnesium sulphate or other granular rose food products also work well. This action will ehance bloom production on roses during the spring and summer months

-prune back crape myrtles. These trees should be completely defoliated by now and for those that are mature and well established they should be pruned back and fertilized. How much pruning? I always prune no more than one third(1/3rd) of the tree's total height. Example: a ten(10) foot crape myrtle would be pruned back no more than 3-3.5 feet off the top. A good fertilizer for use here is any 10-10-10 starter fertilizer(granular) which should be spread evenly around the main trunk of the tree. These actions will enhance bloom production and ensure overall health of the tree(s). Other small(er) and medium sized trees that benefit from a winter fertilizer application: dogwood(Florida), cherry(Akame and Yoshino), magnolia(Little Gem), hemlocks, cryptomeria, willow, arborvitae, birch and maple

-many shrubs benefit from a granular application of fertilizer in the winter months including: boxwoods, cleyera, various hollies(especially Mary Nelle, sky pencil, compacta and helleri), pieris, fatsia, euonymous, camellia, hawthorne, pitosporum, gardenia, azalea, ewe(cephalotaxus), acuba,  hydrangea(oak leaf and other varieties) and osmathus(tea olive) -make sure to apply fertilizer around the main trunks of these shrubs as much as possible

-ground covers benefit from a fertilizer(10-10-10) application including ivy, Boston ivy, pachysandra, ferns, vinca(both major and minor), ajuga, liriope aka "monkey grass"(both Big Blue and variegated), mondo grass(including dwarf mondo grass) and creeping fig

-common winter "color" like pansies and violas should be fertilized with any common granular flower or pansy "food" product and pansies should be "dead-headed"(carefully plucking off the declined flower attached to the stem) - performing a handweeding and then refreshing these flower beds with new mulch top dressings is something I do quite a bit this time of year on a customers' property, not just in these flower beds but also in containers as well

-any larg(er) scale pruning to decrease the size of a large shrub should also be done during the cold(er) winter months

-the winter months are a great time to apply pre-emergent herbicides in large(r) natural areas where weeds tend to propagate heavily in the warmer months of spring, summer and early fall. A pre-emergent herbicide, as it's title suggests, kills a weed seed in the soil BEFORE it can germinate and appear above the ground. Pre-emergent herbicides can be pricey but in my experience can also make a huge difference in the amount of weeds that appear in natural areas and other areas where weeds tend to appear in greater quantity. Pre-emergents are typically sold at Lowes/Home Depot in bags and are a fine, granular product which can applied manually or using a standard sized or hand spreader("drop" or "broadcast type" for standard spreaders depending on the size of the natural area)

-many landscape companies will cut back "Big Blue" liriope(the kind that is solid green in color) because it can become blighted and grungy looking in appearance during the winter and this is definitely a good idea. Cutting back the liriope can be done either manually(for smaller beds) or with a string trimmer(weedeater) for larger amounts of liriope. Fertilize the liriope after cutting it back and cleaning out the clippings. You can expect the liriope to flush back out with new growth quickly as the temps warm up in the spring

-the early winter months are also an ideal time to install pine straw in beds and natural areas. Pine straw is an outstanding top dressing, affordable, readily available at retailers and pine straw contractor businesses and when installed properly can really make a residential property stand out. Pine straw also helps to suppress weed propagation.

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