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Tuning Up Your Landscape for Summer

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Getting plants in the ground and a hardscape installed is all well and good, but between harsh weather and Mother Nature doing what she does, there’s a lot you need to think about if you want your outdoor oasis to make it to the fall. House & Home spoke with industry pros for their best recommendations for a healthy summer landscape.

Softscape issues
Softscapes are the living elements of your landscape design—and the things most at risk during the harsh summer weather.

 “Landscapes are no different than human beings. Proper water, food and preventative supplements will ensure your landscape to thrive throughout the season,” says Michael Pasquarello, degreed landscape architect with Elite Landscaping.  He says that irrigation systems should be evaluated and adjusted annually to adapt to plant growth and any landscape additions. Also, fertilizer is very important. “Plants should be fed at least once a season to promote healthy growth. Insecticide and fungicide applications should be scheduled and performed at the times of the season when landscapes are stressed,” he says.  

On the surface, mulching and weed prevention are top priority.

 “Overall, landscapes need mulching in the spring for weed suppression, water in dry times and the occasional weeding,” says Scott Silberman, vice president of KM Gardens, adding to make sure weeds are removed before they go to seed.

 “Mulch should be tilled over, existing mulch re-distributed and mulched beds should get a top dressing,” says Diane Marrazzo of Marrazzo’s North River. “Weed seeds begin to sprout so a generous application of a weed preventative will keep maintenance at a low (if applications are consistently applied monthly). If you did not prune your specimens in the fall, as the new growth pushed forth, clean up now or you may need to wait again for many specimens.”  

To avoid plant stress, make sure you water when it’s hot, says Chris Bianciella, owner of K&C Land Design & Construction. “For a good installation, space the plants correctly to allow them to grow into their space properly. And remember mulch keeps plants moist so cultivate it so dense and compacted mulch doesn’t impact root growth.”  

Some homeowners may feel inclined to over-manicure their lawns, but a professional landscaping company can provide just what a yard needs, when it’s needed.

“For grass, cut it higher after July 4 until Labor Day,” begins Andrew Savinson of Creative Landscapes. “For plants, prune and feed them at least once a year. Beds should be edged and mulched about once every 18 months, and use a double-shredded hardwood bark mulch and not dyed woodchips.” “Have a professional touch your property at least once a month,” says Steve Compton, general manager, CKC Landscaping. “We’ve had unseasonable rainfall the last few years and professionals know the care your trees, shrubs and plant beds need. People want a ‘set it and forget it’ landscape but things don’t work that way. You need to pay attention. A professional knows the right mowing, fertilizing and care needed.”  

Hardscape care
Patios and walkways can’t be overlooked and should have their condition evaluated before summer, both for safety and aesthetics.

 “Mid-spring to summer, check for areas of settling or areas that need to drain or are heaving or cracked. Look for creaky boards, pointing issue, etc.,” says Compton. “If you don’t nip it in the bud, if you don’t repair or replace, a minor service call now could turn into a thousand-dollar repair next year. It’ll only get more damaged.”

“For your hardscape, general maintenance and upkeep makes all the difference,” says Bianciella. “Paver patios may just need a simple power washing. This prevents deterioration. A little attention after the install is all it needs.” However, as time goes on different hardscapes require different things. “Weed growth means movement of the hardscape, so after a strong washing, add new polymeric sand. Also, using paver cleaners and regrouting masonry patios lead to longer lifespans for your hardscape.”

Savinson warns homeowners against power washing these surfaces on their own.

 “Remember that for anything you want to have improvement for, the best thing is to have a professional take a look at it,” says Savinson. “Sometimes a power washing can be good but that depends on whether water has gotten into the hardscape and has done damage. Make sure you redo the mortar.”

Clean, re-sand, seal—these are the main ideas Pasquarello suggests. “A high-pressure scrubber with spinning jets will remove all surface discoloration and joint material (weeds, moss, soil, etc.),” he says. Chemical cleaners then open the pores of the concrete to allow better absorption of a sealer. In addition to adding polymeric sand to replenish joints, a water-based sealer applied to enhance the overall color of the paver also closes off pores to limit additional staining.

And to make your area even more special and functional, update your hardscapes by adding fire, water features and/or landscape lighting, says Silberman.

Final thoughts
For things to keep in the back of your mind, each expert has some suggestions.

“Don’t forget to water your trees through hot and dry weather, particularly ones like dogwoods that prefer to be in the shade,” says Savinson. “They appreciate a good soaking every three to four weeks.”

 “If you have deck issues, call a deck professional,” says Compton. “They’ll know if you need to just replace [it] or do something bigger. They’ll fix things but can also advise you on how to tighten things up, when you’ll need a sealer and how doing certain things today will help your deck last longer and look better. You need to maintain things to protect your investment.”

Bianciella says there are some great new hardscaping trends including use of porcelain tile. “The oversized tiles have a nice look and can handle winters. It’s nonporous and never weathers.”

Silberman cannot stress enough the importance of adding native plants to your garden. “Natives attract tons of wildlife including birds, bees (not all are bad), and butterflies. The removal of invasive plants helps contribute to a healthy ecosystem especially when replaced with natives. A good example is Burning Bush. People love this plant for its vibrant fall color yet it is a highly invasive species that reseeds everywhere and can completely take over, crowding out other more beneficial plants.” He says other options, such as Aronia (Chokeberry), will provide equally stunning fall color with the added benefit of having berries that birds love to feast on and will not take over the ecosystem.

Marrazzo takes all this to another level. “When you get into your garden, go with love in your heart and the plants will be receptive to what you are feeling and speaking,” she says. “Be gracious with your intentions when in the garden. Your garden reaps what you sow! Pleasant music while gardening is heard by your trees and plants ... and lawn too. Choosing happiness while gardening will benefit your chore!”

CKC Landscaping
West Chester, Pa.
(610) 436-1810

Creative Landscapes
Media, Pa.
(610) 565-9910

Elite Landscaping
Berlin, N.J.
(800) 582-6598

K&C Land Design & Construction
Union, N.J.
(908) 769-7283

KM Gardens, Inc.
Downingtown, Pa.
(610) 476-5892

Marrazzo’s North River 
Bucks County, Pa. 
(215) 598-1412

Images courtesy of KM Gardens Inc. and Elite Landscaping

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 19, Issue 11 (May 2019). 
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