Category Archives: Landscape care

Weekend Landscape Planting Tips

Weekend Landscape Planting Tips.


Now is the time many get the itch to go buy some plants to plant in their landscape. Some tips from years of experience.

Plant in odd numbers. 3’s, 5’s etc…. This forces you to not plant in such a uniform, rigid (do it yourself look) fashion. Thats rule # 1

Rule 2. Plant in layers. Low growers up front, medium growers in back. and maybe a couple bigger sizes in back to give the appearance of an existing garden. Spend the few extra bucks on these plants because I will detail how to save money on some of the others.
Planting is eyewash ( a merchandisers term). Do not make the mistake of buying all 1 and 2 gallon plants. I drive by many weekend projects like this and it looks hokey.

You can however use theses smaller less expensive plants on you low first groupings. These are probably the plants you will buy more of than others sizes. Low growers like euonymus ( in many shades and colors) , some dwarf day lilies , certain barberries, or any dwarf habit plant. Then add the middle group. Buy some slightly larger plants like 3-5 gallon size and lay them out in groupings. You don’t need them all in the same area. These you may get your informal balance by placing toward the ends with one in the middle if your using 3’s as a guide. You will use less of these larger slightly more expensive plants.

Then the 3-4 ft size in back. You can buy even buy a couple single variety plants plant for these more expensive plants.
Consider shapes, color etc in all decisions.

Some of the first row plants, instead of placing through out the whole area can be grouped in 3s and 5s in a small area. Especially if it has same color foliage or flower. This will give a striking appearance of group color.

I like to plant in triangles sometimes my self. One smaller plant at the head and 2 plants closely behind. 5’s you can alternate 2-1-2 or 2 an 3’s.

In corners, plant a larger plant in the back corner (can be single larger specimen plant). I use a lot of upright habit plants in these areas instead of spreaders. Plants like arborvitae, full grown dwarf alberta spruce, etc. This gives a nice balanced look.

In perennial beds, you may use all 1-2 gallon size plants. These new growers every year, so all you need to choose is growth habits instead of immediate sizes when dealing with shrubs.

You may even use some perennials mixed in as your first row plants groupings for color similar to others in different areas, but different plants. This looks nice without the repetitive plants throughout.

Some times repetition can be good , others not so good.

An easy way to accomplish this whole scheme is this.

Drive around the neighborhood ( or walk), make note of others plantings. Make note of what looks good to you as far as color, species , layout etc.

Chose 2-3 main color combinations you want. I like various greens, reds and yellows, myself.

Once the colors you like are established, it is easy to go to the next step.

Research these color choices for plants with these colors. Consider the growth habit, and texture. Different leaf textures and sizes look great.

Find 1 or 2 of the big variety for the back layer. I like the evergreens for the back drop. Other lighter colors stand out and look great against this backdrop.

Decide on the 2-3 or 4 medium plants you want for the medium row. Other greens, reds , yellows , etc.

Then, depending on area size, find the 1-2 gallon front row guys.

Could be 3 -5 different plants. Some other great choices are blue junipers and even a blue fescue ornamental grass. Low, slow, grower. One trick I use is if I use a group of one color in one bed, i carry the color scheme into the next beds , but with different plants(the non repetition thing). Use one blue somewhere, use the other blue in adjacent, differently shaped beds,

Chose plants and consider Flowers. Try to stagger the blooming times for all plants to give an always blooming affect. Some plants are valued for the leaf color and texture and don’t bloom which is great. You can plants single variety bloomers in the same color in color groups together for a striking effect when in bloom. Usually the front row, low growers.

Middle row can have some distribution in the whole area . Lighter blooms (whites, light pinks, or even purples and bright reds) stand out against the larger back drops of the greens for a great look.

When planting, don’t use any fertilizers at the time of planting other than organic enhancements in the hole. Other fertilizers can actually burn newly transplanted roots.

Some even argue about over enhancing the soil (unless it is terrible) in the planting holes. The idea behind it is this:
If you make the soil to good in the hole and it is not so good just outside the hole, the roots wont spread out as well into these areas later. It’s like being in a warm, controlled climate house, then going out in the cold. If you could, you would stay in the comfortable area.

Go see some others landscapes, make notes, choose plants and get at it this weekend.

Lay out the entire thing first before you dig one hole!

Start with back row, then the middle, then the front.

Step back, view from different angles and the same ones others will view it from. Tweak, reposition if necessary.

Once it’s right, DIG.

WATER THEM SLOWLY. Immediately, continuously until established.
See my previous article about shrub bed weed control to keep weeds out of your new plants.

Good luck!



Keep Weeds out of your Shrub Beds


Shrub Bed weed management

Weed Control in your shrub beds can be tedious and difficult. You can either pick them out regularly or try to find a product that can help keep them under control. With so many different products, it’s often very hard to find the right ones that work.

I am here to help sort it out.

There are 2 different types of weed controls.

Pre-emergent weed controls
Post emergent weed controls

Pre-emergent weed controls like Gallery & Treflan (known as Preen on the retail market) are applied before most of the weeds and grasses are present. They settle in the top layer of the soil & don’t allow the weed seeds you have to break through and become a problem.

With most pre-emergent products, it is a good idea to apply them at least a couple times. I like to apply them early, and again 45-60 days later again in the summer. This continues to send the message “Stay out of my Beds” throughout the summer.

Products like Treflan are available in granular form. Products like Gallery are dry or liquid concentrates that are mixed with water and sprayed to prevent weeds. Although these pre-emergent products generally present No harm to your existing plants, always read the label and water them in after application.

Post emergent weed control products are applied after weeds have emerged and you must now get rid of them. You need an actual weed to kill.

Within the post emergent group, you have 2 other types.

Selective & Non- Selective

Non selective herbicides like Round-up affect all vegetation. They do not selectively kill one type of undesirable weed while not affecting other vegetation around it. Non Selective weed controls can be very useful in certain types of situations.

Selective weed controls kill target weeds without affecting other products around it that come in contact with them.
The best example to give is using lawn weed control products to kill weeds in the lawn, but don’t kill your grass.

Products like Ornamec do exist that will kill annoying grasses & weeds in your landscape beds, that do not harm any of your plants. They are often referred to as “over the top” products because you can spray around and over the top of your plants without harming them.

This is often a better strategy than simply picking weeds by hand because many times, hand weeding leaves roots and pieces of the grass intact and the keep coming back. Low growing junipers are the worst.

Non selectives like Round up can also be used in certain areas.
Shrub beds with plants that are spread out well, offer the opportunity to use non selective weed controls like Round up.

You must make sure it is not windy and avoid spray drift at all costs. Narrow the nozzle spray pattern on your garden sprayer too. The narrower pattern will help keep the product right where you need it, on the weed and not on your plants.

Some other tips to keep weeds down in your shrub beds.

Use quality weed fabric whenever possible to keep weeds from breaking through.

Use bark mulches to keep soils cooler. Weeds tend to like soil warmth. Mulches help to keep soils cool. Check here for more mulching advice.

Don’t allow weeds and grasses to from seed heads. Try to take care of the weeds before more seeds are produced and deposited for next year’s crop of weeds.

Do any cleaning in your beds before you apply pre-emergents.
Pre-emergents form a barrier on the top of soil that prevents certain weeds from popping through. Raking, digging and foot traffic disturb this barrier and may provide areas for weeds to pop through.

Read this post for some additional Weed Control Strategies

Click here for information on where to purchase some of these weed control products.

For other resources check also.

Stop Overmulching Your Plants! No More Mulch Volcanoes


Bark Mulch is good for trees & shrubs for a number of reasons.

It looks good in the landscape and can help tie the whole landscape together among different planting beds.

It keeps weeds down from underneath.

It helps to keep roots cool in summer months and holds moisture in the soil.

It can also keep soil from eroding on slopes.

It can also help to insulate roots from extreme winter cold.

When mulching I suggest that you use a weed fabric that is allowed to breathe under the mulch in an attempt to keeps weeds down. Just make sure you don’t use standard rolled plastic sheets. It does not allow rain or irrigation water to penetrate to the root zone, and it also may also restrict oxygen to the roots.

But mulch can cause problems if it is applied improperly. I often see mulch applied incorrectly daily in the summer months. The # 1 culprit is applying so deep that air cannot penetrate into the soil and roots will suffocate. It can also be so deep that water cannot penetrate and the roots may dry out. Sometimes the feeder roots grow upwards into the mulch. Neither of these conditions is healthy for the trees or shrubs.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the Bark Mulch Volcano. (see picture below)

mulch-volcano.JPGmulch volcano

The biggest problem with too much bark mulch can be seen in many places. A mulch volcano is just one.

Mulch volcanoes are the mounds or cones of bark mulch that are two or three feet deep, and piled up along the trunks of trees and shrubs.

I am not sure why this habit has developed, but these deep mulch piles can cause much damage to trees & shrubs. I suspect professional landscapers are the originators and sometimes the worst culprits. Not all of them, but many of them.

You see, professional Landscapers get paid to do work. When customers ask for fresh mulch every spring to freshen up the landscape, the landscaper can’t and doesn’t usually turn down the work. After all, this is how they make a living.

Tree & shrub trunks are covered with bark that is designed to protect the trunk. They need air and light. If you pile too mulch onto the bark, it will be exposed to dark and moisture. As the bark continues to be in the moisture, it will begin to rot. Rotted bark cannot protect the tree from diseases, and in fact, diseases grow better in the dark moisture of the mulch. The offending trunks are more likely to get diseases and allow harmful insects to damage trees.


Some trees have shallow roots, especially maples. If bark mulch volcanoes are piled around the trunk, the roots will start to grow into it. These roots tend to stay in the mulch volcano and will then grow around the trunk in the mulch. As the root grows in diameter, it pushes against the trunk, which is also trying to grow bigger. These roots will eventually strangle the trunk. This type of root is called a “girdling root”. The trunk will keep growing wider above and below the girdling root, and may actually encase the root.

It also doesn’t encourage the tree and shrub roots to expand out in a healthy fashion. Healthy root growth has many agronomic advantages, but it also aids in stability.

Bark mulch is best when pit down to a depth of about 3-4 inches if you are starting from scratch.

Try this if you need a handy bark mulch calculator. Punch in desired depth, bed measurements and PRESTO, the correct amount pops out.

Even though bark mulch does break down some, after 2-3 years of annual mulching on top of mulch, it often accumulates to unhealthy levels for you plants.

So what do you do instead of annually piling more mulch on top of mulch?

I’ve got a better way that is less expensive, healthier, and with much less work.

MULCH MAGIC (or similar product)

Mulch Magic

Mulch Magic® is an easy-to-apply, long lasting spray colorant which restores the bright, original-looking color to faded fibrous mulch products like cedar, cypress, redwood bark, pine straw and more. With one quick application, it helps keep landscapes looking freshly groomed for three months or longer.

Looks Great and easy to apply!

With Mulch Magic®, one person with a sprayer can quickly restore the color to keep existing mulch looking its best. As the existing mulch breaks down naturally and renews the soil, replace with new mulch to keep your landscaping investment looking sharp throughout the growing season. Mulch Magic® will also help blend the color of the older mulch with the newer mulch. Enjoy all the benefits of colored mulch because of the endless design possibilities using color, contrast, and texture in your landscape.


At only 3-4 oz per gallon of water, will also allow you to freshen up your mulch for a few years, saving money and labor.

BEFORE before

AFTER new-new-mulch.JPG

So instead of spreading unhealthy levels of bark mulch yearly, try a product like Mulch Magic or similar every other year or for 2 years in a row before adding new mulch.
Your trees & shrubs will love you for it!!

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