Softscape Landscaping Maintenance & Care Tips
Decorative Rock, Mulch & Chips
Decorative Rock, Mulch & Chips are part of your softscape landscaping, and require some ongoing maintenance if you want your tree and shrub beds to look clean and presentable for many years to come. When utilizing Decorative Rock OutdoorSpace installs a “Commercial Grade Polly Woven Weed Barrier”. This barrier will do a great job, but this alone will not prevent unwanted intruders (weeds & tree suckers) from showing their faces. It’s a combination of utilizing a quality weed barrier, a thick layer of ground cover and incorporating an regular “weeding” program during each growing season.
We recommend that you spend at least 10 to 15 minutes per week staying on top of any weeds or unwanted guests that show up. The time spent on this softscape landscaping element will be truly worth the investment!
Fact is; it’s a lot easier to pull weeds out as soon as they show up. If they are allowed to establish an extensive root base it will be almost impossible to stay on top of them. You will also find that as time goes by, the germination of new weeds will tend to subside, making it a much easier job to handle.
When Mulch or Wood Chips (bark) are utilized as ground cover OutdoorSpace does not install a weed barrier underneath. This practice is no longer recommended or promoted by horticulturists. The weeding process for this type of ground cover is the same as for decorative rock.
If you want to spruce up the look of your tree/shrub beds, all you have to do is turn or add some additional Mulch or Wood Bark on a semi-annual basis.
One of the best things you can do to keep to your tree and shrub beds looking the best, is to cut back (remove) any dead vegetation and clean up any leaves that may have fallen from nearby trees. The ideal time to do this is in the Fall and before Winter sets in. If left, the vegetation and leaves tend to become more packed down by the snow/ice pack during the course of the winter. As a result, they are much harder to pick up in the Spring and in many cases they disintegrate altogether. This (disintegration) process introduces fertilizer and organic matter that will promote the growth of weeds at the base of the ground cover. The leaves can be blown out quite easily in the Fall with the aid of an electric or gas powered Leaf Blower because they are still light and crisp.
Irrigation – The first 2-3 weeks are critical after the new sod has initially been planted. Newly planted sod requires more water than an established lawn as the root base is confined to the newly cut piece of sod. If the sod is allowed to dry out, there is a good chance that it will die and will have to be replaced altogether. Once the root system becomes more established the sod is able to pull moisture from deeper down into the topsoil. As a result, the sod will require less water.
An established lawn needs approximately One Inch (2.5 cm) of water per week (including rain) when it is actively growing in the summer. Avoid frequent “light” watering, which results in a shallow root base. The shallower the root base, the less “Drought Tolerant” the grass will become. On the flipside, overwatering and saturated soil prevents air from reaching the root zone where it is required. Water evenly and slowly enough so that the water penetrates the soil without running off.
For the first 2-3 weeks the topsoil beneath the new sod will be mushy. As a result, we recommend that you minimize (as much as reasonably possible) any foot traffic on the surface. This also includes pets. Minimizing foot traffic will help to maintain a level and even surface by minimizing any impressions (dents) that may be inflicted in the topsoil. Once the root base has established itself, the topsoil beneath the sod will start to harden up.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a whole bunch of “Mushrooms” popping up all over the place. This is a natural occurrence due to the excessive moisture content, combined with the length of the grass. This creates a perfect environment for mushrooms to grow and thrive. We recommend that you knock the mushrooms down by take your foot and gently sliding it back and forth in a “sideways” motion. A leaf rake will also work. This problem will disappear as soon as the root base starts to establish itself, you are watering less frequently and you commence your grass cutting program.
Grass Height – Proper mowing will help to keep your grass healthy and beautiful. Kentucky Bluegrass (the most commonly used grass for this particular geographic region) should be mowed to a height of between 2” to 3” (5 to 8 cm). It is advisable to refrain from removing more than 1/3 of the leaf height at any one time. With that said, be sure to not let the grass grow so tall that it falls over. The taller the grass, the less dense the lawn and the increased chance of weed and or mushroom infestation. Always maintain a “sharp” lawnmower blade. A “blunt” or “damaged” blade will tend to “rip” the grass and not “cut” the grass as it should. As a result, a blunt blade may also inflict “shock”, which in turn can lead to an unhealthy looking lawn.
Fertilize – How much fertilizer your lawn needs ultimately depends on soil fertility and how much growth you want. OutdoorSpace utilizes a “Starter Fertilizer” when we planted the sod. This helps to provide the sod with a great kick-start. After the grass has established itself, we recommend that you implement a regular fertilization program. This is necessary if you would like to maintain the health of your grass, as nutrients are depleted over time.
Always water-in the fertilizer to prevent potential burning of the grass blades and root system. This is not as much of an issue as it once was, as many of the fertilizers that are on the market today are coated and are child and pet friendly. Never apply fertilizer to wet grass leaves, especially during extreme heat.
Broadleaf Weed Control – In our experience we do not recommend purchasing products that are readily available at the “Big Box” Garden or Hardware Centres. We have found these (environmentally friendly) products have little effect, and do not work as advertised. What we recommend you do is solicit the services of a professional weed control/fertilizer company. They have access to products that you don’t, and products that “actually” work. A (weed control/fertilizer) program for an “average” size yard will cost you about $225 per growing season. A small price to pay to keep your grass healthy and weed free!
Maintain – Compacted soil prevents water, air and nutrients from reaching Turfgrass roots. Heavy soils that contain clay and wet soils are prone to compaction, especially in high traffic areas. Annual lawn aeration and topdressing will help to refresh and rejuvenate your lawn for the growing seasons ahead. A healthy, well maintained lawn should have minimal thatch (accumulation of old clippings, leaves, stem roots and other organic material that has failed to decay). Thatch can prevent water and fertilizer from reaching the root zone, as well as harbor plant diseases and unwanted pests.
Raking thoroughly is usually enough to remove the excess Thatch, however, if you want to provide your lawn with a great kick-start to the growing season, we recommend utilizing a “Power Rake”. Please see below for more specific information associated with this particular maintenance item.
Monitor – It is important to keep an eye on your grass throughout the summer. By monitoring your grass on a regular basis you will reduce the risk of undesirable conditions, such as pests or weeds taking over your lawn. You will also spot problems early, making them much easier to deal with.
Additional Considerations for Newly Planted Sod – We do not recommend “Power Raking” or “Core Aerating” newly planted sod until the root system has become well established.
One growing season is typically a good rule of thumb. If done too soon, Power Raking or Core Aerating the newly planted sod may result in the root system being damaged. This may also result in “irreparable” damage and lead to sod replacement.
Power Raking – This process will remove any excess Thatch (accumulation of old clippings, leaves, stem roots and other organic material that has failed to decay), which in turn will permit the sod to breath and flourish. The Thatch acts like a “blanket” and stifles germination of new grass shoots. We experience a fair amount of Thatch in this particular geographic region as a direct result of the harsh climate we live in. Prolonged exposure to extreme (sub-zero) temperatures, coupled with the compaction effect that is created by foot/pet traffic and prolonged build-up of snow and ice causes the grass to dry out and die. If the Thatch is not removed on an “annual” basis, it will cause your lawn to be thin and anemic looking.
Core Aeration – This process is also an essential component to maintaining a healthy and lush lawn. As a result of the particular geographic region we live, the layer of soil directly beneath the layer of topsoil is primarily made up of “Clay”.
This material is great if you want to make pots, but not so good if you want to promote a healthy lawn. As a result of the compounding effect of “Foot/Pet Traffic” and prolonged “Build-up of Snow and Ice” over the winter months, the soil beneath the grass becomes compacted and very hard. Even more so when it is coupled with “Drought Like Conditions”. As a result, water tends to run on the surface and does not penetrate down to the root system along with essential nutrients and oxygen.
Core Aeration essentially breaks down the hardness of the soil by punching small (3/4” wide x 3” to 4” deep) holes in the soil beneath the lawn.
This process is essential if you want to maintain a Healthy and Lush Green Lawn. If your lawn is to thrive in the heat of Alberta’s beautiful summer months, it is imperative that your lawn is as thick and lush as possible. A thick and healthy lawn will also help to reduce the evaporation of moisture that is beneath the surface. It will also minimize the germination and spreading of “Broadleaf Weeds”, as the thick grass will have a tendency to “Choke Out” any unwanted guests.
During the planting process OutdoorSpace applies “Bone Meal” and “Starter Fertilizer” to the planting hole. By doing so this will provide trees with a healthy start and help to minimize any shock that may occur during the transplanting process. Staking will help the trees while they are in the initial stages of establishing a healthy root system. If the trees are not staked, the root system is constantly being disturbed during high winds as a result of the above ground portion of the tree being whipped around. This process can have a potentially fatal effect on trees during their initial planting and first year of growth. In order to assist them during this critical stage, we tie them to the stakes utilizing “Aluminum Wire” and “Rubber Sleeves”. These sleeves help to prevent the wires from “cutting” the bark. An old Garden Hose works really good. Cut the hose up into smaller lengths and slide them over the wires. The length will vary depending on the caliper of the Tree trunk. The Tree stakes should be removed after one (1) to two (2) years of growth, as the root system would have established itself by this time.
Newly planted trees will need to be watered often, but please be careful not to “Over Water” them, as this can be equally as fatal as “Under Watering”. Should any branches become broken, they should be pruned back. By doing so this will help to encourage new growth and maintain an “esthetically pleasing” (nicely shaped) tree.
It is also extremely important to monitor your trees for any sign of “Disease” or “Infection”. If caught early, a tree can be saved from succumbing to the effects of these types of issues. Some (flowering type) “Deciduous” trees are subject to becoming infected by “Black Knot Disease”. This is an “Airborne Fungus” that is transmitted from tree to tree by birds, rodents such as squirrels, insects and wind and rain splash. We like to refer to this disease as “Turds on a Stick”, as this is exactly what the large (black) hanging clumps look like on the tree branches when the disease becomes more established and visible to the naked eye. This disease is very common in and around the Edmonton region and effects trees such as “Schubert Chokecherry, Mayday & Plum”. If left unattended, this disease will spread and essentially “Choke Off” the supply of “Sap” (essential nutrients) to the tree limb that is affected. As a result, each effected limb (branch) will eventually die. Please note: Black Knot Disease is considered as “Toxic”. As a result, it needs to be handled and disposed of in an appropriate manner.
If you need some help identifying the disease, or need some professional assistance removing the disease from an infected tree, we would be more than happy to assist you with that.
Regular Pruning of Your Trees is essential if you want to maintain “Healthy” and “Aesthetically Pleasing” Trees. The best time to prune your trees are in the “dormant” period. Early Spring, just before the leaf buds open up and in late Fall before the bulk of the leaves fall to the ground is a great time to perform this task. Pruning Trees during their “Dormant” state is vitally important, as they are not subject to as much shock, and the cuts will not “Bleed” (flow of sap) as they would during their active growing period. Pruning at this time also reduces the chance of infections making their way into the fresh cut. Another general rule of thumb is to remove no more than “1/3” of a trees limb at any one time. Any more than that can subject the tree to (excessive) “Shock” and can result in the death of the tree altogether.
It is also recommended that you “Fertilize” your trees on a regular basis. Trees are no different than any other living thing, they need nutrients and water to survive and be healthy. Just before winter sets in, it is highly recommended that you water them thoroughly. Contrary to popular belief, trees are alive and they feed and drink during the winter months, even though they are in the “Dormant” (non-growth) state.
Shrubs & Plants
During the planting process OutdoorSpace applies “Bone Meal” and “Starter Fertilizer” to the planting hole. This practice provides shrubs and plants with a healthy start to their new environment. In order to maintain healthy plants, we recommended that you fertilize your shrubs and plants on a frequent basis during each growing season. We also recommend watering your shrubs and plants before winter sets in.
Annual Pruning or cutting back (removing) the dead vegetation is also essential and will promote new growth. Certain types of plants require the old growth to be removed prior to the next growing season. This can be done in the Fall after the first heavy frost, or first thing in the Spring and just before the Plant starts to show signs of new growth. We would be more than happy to assist you with the care and ongoing maintenance of your Shrubs and Plants.
Importance & Benefits of Spring & Fall Clean-Up Programs
Think of your yard as a “Car” or “Truck”. Your yard is no different! It needs to be “Maintained” and “Tuned-Up” on a regular basis too!
A well maintained yard will also improve the curb appeal of your property. In addition to the enjoyment you will personally receive, it will also increase the re-sale value of your property when you decide it’s time to sell.
Here are some essential and ongoing maintenance items you may want to consider implementing for your own yard.
Spring Clean-Up (End of April or early May – After the Snow & Ice Melts)
- Blow out Leaves from all Tree/Shrub Beds
- Core Aerate the Grass
- Power Rake the Grass
- Bag all Leaves and Grass
- Cut & Trim Grass
- Power Edge the Grass where it Intersects with Sidewalks & Driveways
- Apply (spring) Fertilizer
Fall Clean-Up (Mid to end of October – Before the first Snowfall)
- Blow out Balance of Leaves from all Tree/Shrub Beds
- Bag & Clean-Up Leaves
- Cut & Trim the Grass
- Apply (low nitrogen) Fall Fertilizer
We realize and appreciate that not everyone has a “Green Thumb” or even enjoys doing yard work, so if you need some help looking after your yard, we would be more than happy to help you with that too!
Yard & Property Maintenance Services We Offer…
- Complete Spring Clean-Up
- Weekly Lawn Maintenance
- Weekly Weeding Programs
- Power Edging of Lawn (removes overgrown grass on sidewalks & driveways)
- Overseeding of Lawns
- Tree & Shrub Pruning
- Tree/Shrub Planting
- Columnar Cedar/Juniper Winterization (wrapping with burlap)
- Tree/Shrub Fertilization
- Irrigation (commissioning, blowout & repairs)
- Low Voltage Lighting Maintenance & Repairs
- Eavestrough & Downspout Cleaning & Flushing
- Pressure Washing (house, garage, decks & driveways)
Softscape Landscaping Wrap-up!
We trust you found the information contained in this article helpful? Should you have any additional questions regarding the care and maintenance of your own yard or property, we ask that you please do not hesitate to contact us!