A benefit of our Northern Virginia climate is the long spring and fall growing seasons. This gives a wide variety of plants time to establish and develop into spectacular gardens.
See your garden come roaring back to life
Surrounds garden care managers Kohler Brafford, Peter Boucher and Tom Kniezewski say that spring is THE time to perform routine maintenance in the garden. A skeptic might ask: Why? Couldn’t you just wait for summer to arrive and let nature run its course? Well, our garden management people would say no precisely because… it’s a garden. And a garden is nature planned, nature tended, nature composed.
We asked the garden managers to talk about spring garden care and seasonal maintenance—to explain what they do and why it matters.
Is spring garden care and maintenance really necessary?
Kohler Brafford: Absolutely. For three months the wind and snow and temperatures have had their effect on the landscape. Some plants may not have survived. Some may be damaged and need attention.
Pete Boucher: You could skip it. It’s just that your garden will be behind where you expect it to be. It won’t come back as quickly or fill out as well as it should. The most important thing is timing your spring cut backs. You wait until the buds are swollen. That’s when you trim roses to encourage new growth. The same goes for dormant plants and tree pruning—Japanese Maples, Crape Myrtles, things like that. You cut right above bud. That makes the plant branch out from there and produce more buds. That’s how you get a full showy display.
What’s the difference between Fall and Spring Maintenance?
Tom Kniezewski: In Fall plants start to go dormant. The growing season is done. So the fall garden care and maintenance tasks focus getting everything cleaned up, tucked in and ready for winter. Spring maintenance is the opposite—because you are focused on supporting and stimulating plant growth.
Why is pruning important?
Tom: The point of pruning and shaping plants in the spring is to anticipate the growth pattern and to direct the plant to fill out in a particular way. You are thinking about what it is going to look like two or three months later.
Also, spring is the time when most flowering plants need cut backs because they bloom on new growth. There are a few that should be cut back only in the Fall. If you prune them in the wrong season they won’t bloom. Hydrangea is one of those. There are four different types. Three of them bloom on new wood (so need spring cut backs) and one blooms on old wood (cut in Fall). So you really have to know the difference.
What is “dead heading”?
Pete: “Dead-heading” is pinching or cutting off dead flowers on a plant. In nature they just stay on until the wind knocks them off, of course. We do it to speed up the blooming process. That cutting spurs the plant into action, to reproduce. There’s also the visual appeal of seeing a nicely shaped plant structure.
What is the point of mulching?
Tom: One of the benefits of mulch is that, as it breaks down, it adds organic matter to the soil—which feeds the tree or plant naturally. It also helps with drainage and prevents soil compaction.
Kohler: Mulching helps plants to retain moisture and creates a barrier that keeps weeds out. The pre-emergent herbicide treatment we put down before mulching prevents weeds from sprouting and popping up from underneath the mulch layer.
Tom: More is NOT BETTER. You never want to mound up mulch around the trunk of a tree. It should be no more than three inches deep at the base of the tree.
Do you fertilize or use a herbicide treatment?
Tom: These go together with mulching. Fertilization feeds established plants. Pre-emergent treatment prevents seeds from germinating. You suppress growth of invasive seeds and encourage growth of established turf, plants and trees. Timing is important.
You need to do the pre-emergent treatment before soil temperatures hit 50 degrees—because that’s when the first weed seeds will start to germinate. This is especially important for turf because grass doesn’t start growing until soil temps are into the 60’s.
Also, the pre-emergent material breaks down over an 8 to 10 week period. If you put it down too early, it will be less potent for controlling weeds at the start of the summer.
Which task is most personally satisfying to complete?
Pete: It’s just enjoyable to be outside after a long winter. It feels good to get a yard set up, cleaned up and defined so it’s ready to fill in and make a nice composition.
Tom: I love the artistic pruning. Pruning can be used to gently direct growth in a certain direction. Every time you cut, it’s going to branch out. So, if you want to encourage growth on a certain side, you cut on that side. To get a plant to cascade over a wall or to show off interesting branch structure of a tree–it’s fun to see that happen.
A small garden doesn’t need this level of care, or does it?
Tom: Every garden needs this level of care—not just high end estates. It’s just a matter of scale determined by the size and complexity of the landscaping.
Pete: We’re picky. We don’t want the neighbors yard to look better than the yard we’re doing. It’s all about the details.
Spring Garden Care Makes the Summer Garden Thrive
A garden needs care and tending. That’s the point of it. And these guys are picky. They do everything possible to make gardens thrive and look their very best.
Are these the kind of guys you want working on your garden? If so, contact the garden management team at Surrounds and we’ll talk.