The sometimes unnecessary cost of landscape maintenance
The exercise of landscape maintenance is a must in more ways than one in that in simple terms it keeps the garden ‘in bounds’.
The questions that arise from this concept are to what extent, at what cost and what the aesthetic value of the finished product might be.
The design of the landscape dictates the ongoing maintenance be it labour-intensive or labour-saving. And though it should be obvious, a knowledge of horticulture is – to say the least – extremely useful and important if one is to obtain the best results.
What follows is a list of things that often incur excess labour when it should not necessarily be the case:
Especially hedges and often when in flower. If the hedge is planted far enough in from the boundary and far enough on centre, it will not ‘trespass’ into the neighbour’s property or onto the road or footpath and will therefore require less maintenance. Constant pruning is an unnecessary exercise brought on by poor design.
Planting on centres between plants based on their ‘accepted’ growth rates will allow plants to grow and flower, with pruning reduced to an ‘after pruning’ cycle. When pruning, ensure all fallen debris is removed from the bed to avoid pest and disease problems and therefore reduce the need for control measures with spraying.
When planting a new lawn by installing plugs – usually St. Augustine var. Floratam or Zoysia – if you plant them four to six inches apart, infill will happen far quicker. This is especially true of Floratam, when installed from April onwards it should take between four and six weeks.
When planted at greater distances infill will take much longer which will mean hand removal of weed growth and which, in effect, will create an uneven surface due to constant foot traffic when weeding. It is better to use more plugs with quicker in-fill and thus offset the cost of labour for necessary weed control. Only mow when necessary. Mowing for the sake of it does nothing for the lawn, except during periods of drought; otherwise it increases stress.
To reduce the need for weed control in flower beds, use ground cover plantings as they not only arrest potential weed growth but also keep the soil cooler. There is an old saying that if you weed when no weeds are present, you will never see any weeds – this is a simple exercise of breaking the surface of the soil with a Dutch hoe, which eliminates the germination of new seedlings.
When carrying out any weed removal – in flower beds or around property in general – always ensure that roots are totally removed otherwise regrowth could well occur with the result you have gained nothing and wasted time.
When watering during periods of drought it is best to soak the soil two or three times per week, which encourages roots to chase water as it permeates through the soil. Shallow waterings encourage surface growth with root systems being active in the top couple of inches of soil, which becomes a problem during periods of drought.
Pest and disease are all around us and the best form of control is observation. Identifying a problem in the early stages means a quicker control and eradication of the problem. A regular walk about the property will enhance your powers of observation and therefore enable better control of present and future problems when noted early enough.
Healthy plants will ‘fight off’ pest and disease problems whereas weak, sickly plants will be prone to attack which often extends to the demise of the plant, once badly infected. Applications of both granular and liquid fertiliser will encourage, in tandem with pest and disease control, healthy vibrant growth. Plants which become infected with pest and disease problems can then become hosts, with ongoing consequences to neighbouring plants.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society