Making changes for the future
The garden is something we take for granted, it’s there, the landscape company comes whenever, mows, hacks, rakes and are gone until the next visit, and life goes on! But what have they done to what and why have they done it, questions often without good answers, and yet it goes on and on and on ... Maintenance consists of seasonal tasks, with several tasks being ongoing throughout the year, so develop a list of these tasks for the landscape company to adhere to. Such tasks include but not limited to weeding, pest and disease control, pruning, fertilizing, planting, dead heading, lawn care in general with specific tasks such as verticutting being carried out in spring.
Annuals for example are planted several times throughout the year especially in protected areas. Pruning should in my opinion be done no more than three times per year and then on specific types only such as oleander, hibiscus and Acalypha (Match-me-if-you-can), and other fast growing plants. Large trees should be examined by a tree surgeon at least every other year not only to keep their shape but to check for major problems such as cracks or fungal activity in the crotches of limbs. Weeding is ongoing, but when beds are ‘hoed’ weekly little if any weed growth should germinate or develop. Pest and disease control can be found in various degrees throughout the year and should be tackled immediately to control spreading of same. Fertilizing is vastly under-used in Bermuda, many soils being relatively poor in nutrients therefore requiring ‘regular’ applications to encourage healthy growth. Planting is a beast of another nature, I prefer to plant during the growing season when temperatures are above sixty five degrees but not if possible during the heat of summer especially during drought conditions when plants are under stress. Plentiful amounts of water are required when planting so ensure same is available to keep plantings healthy with an uninterrupted growing cycle. Dead heading is carried out on annuals, bulbs, roses etc to keep plants looking clean and to encourage new growth whilst in some cases not allowing the plant to seed which can take away from flowering.
Lawn care is of course an exercise in itself; mow only when needed not because the landscape crew comes on a Tuesday; mowing should consist of never removing more than one third of the leaf blade at any one cut. Never mow when grass is under stress especially when temperatures are over eight five degrees; always fix cutting height to accommodate the type of grass being cut and if possible use a reel mower on zoysia and hybrid Bermuda grasses. Reel mowers should only be used when the lawns are maintained in such a way that a low cut enhances the appearance of the lawn. Weed control should be kept under control by good mowing techniques, regular top-dressing in spring, hand pulling weeds when young or liquid application of a specific chemical to control the specific weed(s).
Layout and design often dictate maintenance needs, so consider some changes if this is the case and layout is labour intensive. Such things as plantings in the lawn are very labour intensive as each plant requires individual attention for edging and mowing, whereas, island beds make more of a statement with much less labour input. Small flower beds if necessitated by location should ‘house’ small plants that will not outgrow their location; be logical in that a small bed aside the house intended to hold plantings to hide a bare wall is simply not going to happen! Likewise small areas of grass may appear attractive but are not usually functional as the area may be too small for a mower to do a ‘good job’. Small areas of grass when backed by plantings can also be a problem if plants are not ‘small’ enough for the bed and the act of cutting the grass is detrimental to the plantings.
When planting hedges, ask your-self the reason for a hedge or would a wall or fence be best in the long term. If a hedge is the way to go then plant it at least three feet in from the boundary to allow for unhindered growth from your neighbours maintenance programme. Planting on the boundary line only gives you protection from your side unless your neighbour is happy to allow growth on his side, and then to what extent and how will it be maintained? For privacy ensure you plant an evergreen hedge, otherwise with a deciduous hedge the exercise becomes redundant.
Screening gives privacy or can ‘hide’ an undesirable area, and can be created in several ways such as a wall, fence, hedge or simply create a bed of mixed plants to run the extent of the area to be screened. Using a mix of plants creates a more aesthetic appearance to an area especially when viewed from the house or patio. Contingent on the size of the screen select a mix of material that will offer texture, flower, fruit and general interest throughout the year and of course based on location.
Taking control of what happens in your garden will not only benefit its appearance but will enable the garden to flourish on a seasonal basis by being given the correct maintenance for the specific time of year. If grass is not growing do not mow, if growth is dormant why hack away for something to do and ‘kill time’ and when the blower is used have the piles of ‘debris/foliage’ lifted immediately and removed before a gust of wind once again distributes them around the property until the next time! A thing of beauty is a joy forever, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
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