Water and Your Landscaping

Landscape Maintenance

In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss how to deal with the water conditions of your property: having not enough and having too much.

Dealing with Drought

If it hasn’t rained for a while, look for signs that your landscaping is experiencing water stress—plants with stunted growth or brown or yellow leaves, trees dropping leaves and have some dead branches, plants in the garden may not have flowers or start to seed early, and your lawn may start to show footprints or can’t “bounce back” after you walk on it or may even begin to show brown spots in some areas.

If a drought is coming, there are steps you can take immediately to minimize the damage:

  • Add mulch to garden areas and bare spots. Mulch keeps areas cool and traps moisture.
  • Don’t add any new plants; instead, focus your watering efforts to your existing landscape.
  • Don’t fertilize your plants or lawn. If you must fertilize, cut the amount of fertilization by half. Your lawn and plants are trying to survive, not grow. Fertilization is not needed at this time.
  • Pruning is not necessary, but remove dead branches and leaves, stalks, etc.
  • If plants look like they are going to die, remove them. Try not to waste water on something that will not make it through the drought.
  • Pull weeds. Eliminating weeds will cut down on unnecessary water usage, and your landscaping will look better.

When mowing your lawn, don’t mow too short. Keeping the blades long will shade the soil, reduce evaporation, and minimize any heat damage that may happen during the drought. Consider leaving the clippings on the lawn to help protect it and return nutrients to the soil.

If the drought is really bad and it looks like it will continue, consider letting your lawn go dormant; most grass is drought resistant and will recover when a steady supply of rain returns.

If you have ornamental plants around your yard, consider how long is left in the season. If it’s an annual, is it worth keeping them alive? If the season is almost over, it might be easier to let them die. If you’ve planted shrubs and trees in the past one or two years, they are more susceptible to being lost. Focus your watering efforts on new plantings, those plantings that are expensive to replace, or anything that you’ve planted that has sentimental value.

How to Water During a Drought

Once a drought is firmly established, soil will begin to harden and get impacted. Add water slowly so it gets absorbed instead of running off. A good way to make sure water gets absorbed well is to use soaker hoses. After running for an hour check that water has penetrated down about an inch; if not, run the water longer.

It’s best to water on a schedule, and to water in the early morning. This will stop the water from evaporating and allow time to soak in the soil. Do not water at night; wet grass overnight can cause fungus to grow.

If you have an irrigation system, it’s best to use a timer. Some irrigation systems can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi to monitor weather conditions. These systems control when and how you water your property and respond to water, weather, and soil conditions to deliver the right amount of water at the right time.

Water, Water Everywhere

What if we’re having a rainy summer and we’re experiencing the opposite problem? If you have noted areas of your lawn or garden where water pools, there are things you can do to avoid erosion and have your plants or lawn die from too much water.

One thing you can do is aerate your lawn to assure water is penetrating the dirt’s surface. By doing so, you’ll direct water to the roots of your grass, which will make it stronger and more lush when the rain stops. And it’ll make the soil less compact, allowing it to drain easier.

Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean, so the runoff doesn’t create erosion around the foundation of your home, garage, or other outdoor structures and buildings.

When planning your landscaping, be sure to properly grade your lawn, garden, and flower beds. And choose plants that love water—ask us if you’re unsure.

For existing landscapes, add soil and grade the surface away from your home. Consider adding terraces to your landscape to help water run down slopes. Prune your landscaping to allow sunlight to dry areas.

For areas that always seem wet or are susceptible to pooling, you might have to install a drain, or consider changing the layout to a hardscape. You can add a permanent water feature and incorporate that area, like a pond, water garden or even a meandering stream with a bridge to your yard.

At Stephens Landscaping, we have a lot of experience helping homeowners come up with a plan for drought and overwatering. Let us help you and your landscape; call us at 603.707.0630 or contact us today.

It’s Time for Spring Clean-Up in Moultonborough!

Garden Center · Landscape Maintenance

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your closets and cupboards! Doing a thorough clean-up of your landscape every spring is important—after all, patio season is about to begin! Plus, it’s an opportunity to go through your yard and identify any problem areas that need attention. 

Add These Outdoor Tasks to Your Spring Clean-Up Chore List 

Grab your waterproof boots, garden gloves, and Bluetooth speaker, pick a good musical motivation playlist, and let’s tackle this spring landscape chore list!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -raking thatchDethatch and Aerate the Lawn

After a snowy winter, grass can get pretty matted, and the soil may be compacted. To dethatch your lawn, run a rake through the grass to tear up the tangles. Now it will be able to grow lush and thick. While you have the rake, this is a good opportunity to clear any sticks or debris lying around. 

To aerate the lawn, use a spike aerator or plug aerator to make holes in the soil, introducing oxygen and loosening the ground. These holes will allow moisture to drain properly so that the roots of your lawn and garden plants won’t sit in stagnant water and develop mold. Good drainage is essential for healthy spring growth! 

Prune Winter Damage

If any of your shrubs or trees sustained damage over the winter, trim them off with sterilized shears. Be mindful about pruning healthy growth on your landscape plants to reshape them—some late-blooming plants like to be pruned in spring, but if you prune your spring-blooming plants, you’ll lose all those nice flower buds. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -wheelbarrow of mulchReplace Old Mulch 

Mulch naturally breaks down over time, which is great for your soil, but it can start to look a bit funky in the spring after the snow melts. Gently clean it out with a rake—be careful not to damage your garden plants in the process—and spread a fresh layer. We have plenty of mulch here at Stephen’s Landscaping Garden Center; if you need help finding a good color match, you’re welcome to show us a picture of what you’re looking for, and we can get you the perfect product. 

Freshen Up Your River Rock

River rock is a more long-term alternative to mulch, but it can still break down over time. If the rocks in your landscape still have some life, you can wash them with the hose on a spray setting. If it’s looking a bit worse for wear this spring, you can replace it with a fresh batch! 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -pressure washing deckPower Wash the Hardscapes

Power washing the patio, pavers, and driveway is an excellent opportunity to survey the whole area and see if there is any damage you’ll need to fix, spots that need touch-ups, or materials that need replacing. If there are any repair jobs you aren’t confident you can pull off by yourself, bring in a picture of the project to our garden center, and we’ll help you figure out a game plan. 

Keep an Eye Out for Pests or Fungus

Dealing with pest and fungus problems in the spring will be much easier than tackling them in the summer once they’ve gotten considerably worse! Keep an eye out for these signs in your lawn or garden plants:

  • Discoloration
  • Cottony coating
  • Visible bite marks in foliage
  • Dead patches or rings in the grass

Depending on the issue, you may be able to use an all-natural, organic solution, but sometimes severe issues may require chemical fungicides or insecticides. Ask our experts for advice if you’re unsure of how to proceed. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -cutting perennialsCut Back Your Perennials

We recommend cutting back old plant material from your garden perennials to a few inches above the ground; this will help allow for a new, healthy flush of spring growth, uninhibited by the leftovers from last year. If there are no signs of disease or fungus in the trimmings, you can toss them in the compost bin.  

If you want to go beyond just a simple spring clean-up in 2022 and would like to do a significant landscape redesign and rejuvenation, you know who to call; we can help you choose the perfect plants for your garden designs and projects! Visit Stephen’s Landscaping Garden Center to explore your options for sprucing up your outdoor space. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.

Making the Most of Mulch

Landscape Maintenance

Mulching has been favored by gardeners and landscapers alike for many years, as mulching adds a nice finishing touch to well-landscaped grounds and protects plants, trees, and shrubbery. Since mulch can affect the soil beneath the mulch, it must be applied properly to not damage the root system of your plants. We’ll discuss what to consider when adding mulch to your property so you can make sure your gardens, yard and landscaping look their best year-round.

What is mulch?

Mulch is the name used for a substance that’s put on top of soil to provide protection or add visual interest to an area. When you are deciding which mulch to use in your landscaping, remember, the best mulch is an organic material, that is, it’s a substance that already comes from nature. Common mulches are made of bark/wood chips, and moss. Mulch comes in a variety of colors, so you can choose one that best complements your property features and landscape design.

Why use mulch?

Mulch has been used to add an aesthetic, decorative touch to landscapes for decades. Mulching around plantings, shrubs and trees adds a dimension of shading under foliage as well as contrast under brightly colored flowers. But mulch serves much more than a decorative purpose.

Mulch can help deter weed growth among your plantings by not allowing sunlight to pass down to them. It will help the soil around your plantings retain moisture, which is always beneficial to their growth, especially in dry periods. Mulch traps water and slows evaporation from the surface of the soil, so plants stay hydrated longer, reducing the need for frequent watering. It can protect your plants during periods of heavy rain, as it will absorb water and protect the roots; mulch will also help minimize soil erosion around your plantings.

Mulch can also help protect your plant’s roots during periods of extreme heat, as it acts as an insulator. The use of mulch can reduce the occurrence of heat damage to both the base of your plants and the surrounding soil. It will also help your plants resist pest and plant disease; in fact, organic mulches provide earthworms and micro-organisms with food, which is great for your plants and your plant health.

During decomposition, organic mulches add beneficial nutrients back into the soil, enriching your soil for next year.

Apply mulch correctly

Once you’ve decided on the “what” (type and color) of the mulch you want to use on your property, you’ll want to focus on the “how” of spreading the mulch. Improperly spread mulch can not only be disruptive to the overall design of your yard, it can also be damaging to a garden or landscape. Mulch that’s applied too thickly can be damaging to a plant’s root system and may stop water from making its way down to the root of the plant, or not allow the area surrounding a plant to drain correctly after watering or a rainstorm.

Start your mulch application by cleaning out the areas where you want to apply mulch. Take out the weeds, sticks, leaves, etc. that have accumulated over the winter months, and water if necessary. Then start spreading the mulch; it’s best to lay down mulch in a depth of approximately 2 inches.

If you’re putting mulch down around plants, shrubbery, and trees, etc., make sure to keep the mulch around three inches away from the plant itself, to help with air circulation around the root of the plant. However, if you’re mulching a vegetable garden, you do want to mulch right up to the stalk of the plant, to help with water retention. Water the whole area after mulching.

At Stephens Landscaping, we have a lot of experience with using many kinds of mulch, and we’d love to discuss which kinds and colors of mulch are right for your landscape and garden. Call us at 603.707.0630 or reach out by email.

Spring is Almost Here!

Landscape Maintenance

Spring is the time of renewal, and that means for your landscapes and gardens, too! While the official start of spring begins in March, the actual start of spring feels like it begins a little later here in New England. We still have bits of snow and ice hanging around in spots, but signs of spring are certainly beginning to pop up everywhere. This transitional period is the perfect time to start preparing your green spaces and gardens for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Here are a few tips to get started.

Walk Around and Take it In

Before you do anything else, walk around your property and see what needs to be done. Winter can be rough on a landscape, and a lot of damage can be hidden under piles of snow. You may discover holes in lawns from burrowing animals, damage from ice on walkways, broken tree branches and flattened shrubbery, and dead spots of lawn.

Start with a Clean Slate

Once you’ve seen what needs to be done to get your green spaces and gardens ready, the best place to start is with a good cleaning. Now’s the time to remove broken branches, leftover leaves, and the stuff that the wind picks up stuff from driveways, roads, and nearby properties.

Raking your lawn is the best way to clean up any dead leaves that fell during the winter or remain from the last fall clean up. Raking will also remove the bits of grass that did not survive the winter as well as the myriad of twigs and small branches that fell during the snow and ice storms we had this season.

Clean around your plant beds and in your garden area. It’s important to get these areas ready for planting, so once the threat of frost has passed, these areas will be ready to go.

Tidy up the Trees

Early spring is the best time to lightly prune your trees and shrubbery. Heavy winter snows and ice storms are damaging to trees and shrubs, so a light pruning helps to keep them in good shape.

By pruning early, you’re also giving your trees and shrubs a healthy start on new growth. It’s best to prune before any new growth starts, because in later spring and summer, the plant’s energy will be focused on flowering and growth. Shaping the plant will also be easier when there are no leaves to get in the way of your view.

Lawn Care

Your lawn may look a little sparse and brownish this time of year. If you have bare spots on your lawn, once the weather gets a bit warmer and your lawn gets a bit greener, it’s a good idea to have your lawn spot-seeded and fertilized. You can pull out any weeds you see, before they’ve really had a chance to start growing and before you’ve fertilized your lawn.

Don’t mow the lawn just yet, though, even though you may see a bit of winter growth. The lawn has been through a lot over the winter months, and you don’t want to cut it too short while it’s growing in the early spring or you may damage its root system. Wait until it’s well-established and warmer outside before eayou begin mowing.

If you didn’t aerate your lawn in the fall, you can do it in the spring before the real growing season starts. You should also fill in the holes in your lawn at this time, if you’ve found any.

Get the Whole Area Ready

Don’t forget about your hardscapes. Sweep up the patios and verandas, uncover or bring out the furniture, and clean out the planters.

Inspect your irrigation system. If it’s warm enough, turn it on to make sure that it works properly and that there are no leaks. If you find problems, call your irrigation company before they get busy for the season.

Plan Ahead

During the long winter, and especially while tending to your property during this late winter/early spring prep, you’ve most likely thought of some ideas on what you’d like to do with your property this year. Now’s the time collect all those ideas into a plan. Decide to plant a vegetable garden or find a new spot for your existing one to see if it’ll do better. Select new annuals or perennials to bring more color to your outdoor spaces.

Visit our Garden Center in Moultonborough to see what you may want to plant, or if there’s anything new to try out. Of course, you’ll want to wait until the chance of the last frost has passed before planting anything, but now’s the time to plan what you want to plant, and where. We’ve got an experienced and creative team on hand, so be sure to ask for help or see what they are doing for new ideas.

 

Deer-Resistant Plants for the Lakes Region

Landscape Maintenance

There aren’t any completely deer-proof plants. Deer eat almost anything when food is scarce, or their population is high. Like humans, deer have food preferences, even when they have many options to choose from. Depending on deer pressure, here is a selection of plants that we have found to be more and less susceptible to deer browse.

HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE

Deer love to graze on many types of groundcovers, especially the tender new growth in the spring. If you have deer on your property, we recommend avoiding the following plants as they are more prone to deer browsing and can be severely damaged:

  • Hosta
  • Arborvitae
  • Petunias
  • Euonymus
  • Some Rhododendrons
  • Evergreen Azaleas

Deer seem to prefer plants which have been fertilized over those which have not.

LESS SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEER BROWSE

Deer tend to avoid fragrant plants with strong scents or highly aromatic flowers, and plants which have leathery, fuzzy, hairy, or prickly foliage. In our experience, the following plants are rarely damaged by deer:

  • Spiraea
  • Potentilla
  • Nepeta (Catmint)
  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Salvia
  • Pachysandra
  • Perennial Grasses & Ferns
  • Daffodils
  • Leucothoe
  • Pieris (Andromeda)
  • Iris
  • Lambs Ear
  • Dusty Miller
  • Lavender
  • Allium (Ornamental Onion)
  • River Birch

GARDENING WITH DEER-RESISTANT PLANTS

While gardening can be challenging in areas with high deer pressure, there are a wide variety of plants with beautiful flowers and fragrant foliage that are less susceptible to deer browse also attract bees and butterflies.

Deer are especially hungry in the spring, so consider filling your spring garden with deer-resistant plants or aromatic perennial herbs. Even resistant plants are more vulnerable in the first few weeks after planting; to eliminate temptation consider a strong-smelling deer repellant or plan for additional fencing or barriers for protection.

If you’re experiencing problems with unwanted deer on your property or are looking to plan ahead before it becomes a problem, we recommend talking with our experienced staff. We’ll help you select the right plants for your landscape, plan for additional protection such as the use of fencing or recommend deer repellant products which are available at our Garden Center.