Landscape Literacy

The key to a beautiful yard is at the door to the growing season

Nothing is more important to a well maintained yard than the treatment it receives at the beginning of the growing season. Still, few things are more baffling (and poorly executed) than a spring clean-up. These are the 10 simple steps that I use to instruct our craftsman in the artful process that is known as the spring clean-up. Contrary to popular nomenclature, a spring clean-up is not nearly as simple as “putting down mulch.” These steps are meant to be taken in order; they are tried and true.

Step 1. Prune all of the shrubs and ornamental plant material. Pruning shall be done to maintain the plants at an appropriate size, to remove unhealthy growth (suckers, crossed branches, and diseased or infected branches), to improve/maintain the health and vigor of the plant, and to create an aesthetically pleasing shape. Power shearers are only to be used to reduce size and shape. Pruning is done by hand.

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Step 2. Thoroughly weed, clean debris from beds, remove vines from the base of plants, and strip any mulch that has become more than 2″ thick.

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Step 3.  Carve a defining edge around all of the beds by hand. This should create a sharp definition between lawn and bed space and help you maintain that definition throughout the year. Edges should be 3″- 5″ deep. Deeper is best.

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Step 4. 
Power edge around all walks, patios, curbs, and driveways. Pick up, remove, and sweep clean all debris.

Step 5. Fertilize all plant material with a balanced fertilizer. Fertilizer should be placed near the dripline of the plants. Use one cup of fertilizer per 12″ diameter of plant width. Use one pound (3 cups) per 1″ of tree trunk diameter.

Step 6. Apply pre-emergent herbicide (weed control) to all bed areas. Pre-emergent herbicide is intended to curtail weed growth throughout the season.

Step 7. Rake lawn areas to remove debris. Use either a plastic rake or a bamboo rake. Raking can be done in conjunction with a blower.

Step 8. Apply 1.5″-2″ of fresh double shredded hardwood mulch. Mulch should be spread smooth by hand to create a consistent and pleasing appearance. DO NOT fill the edges of the bed with mulch. Mulch should be very thin at the base (stems) of the plants.

Step 9. Blow off all decks, patios, walks, and driveways.

Step 10. Hose off walks, patios, and driveways if necessary.

Following these 10 steps (in order) is sure to get your yard up and running for the year. If you are a “do it yourselfer” or you hire it done, make sure that these steps are part of your yearly clean up routine!

Custom Landscape in NW Washington DC