From planting and seeding to watering and trimming, Dodds & Eder is here to provide you with the insight needed to help your landscape thrive in any season.
The best time to seed your lawn in the New York region is generally at the start of the autumn season. Cool weather grasses—such as Kentucky Bluegrass, a popular choice in this climate zone—experience the greatest growth spurts during these periods, before entering a state of dormancy in the summer months.
As rain typically aids in the germination process, it’s recommended to sow seeds just prior to a shower. A downpour, however, may wash them away completely. The most crucial component is the establishment of roots. If seeded properly, new sprouts should begin to pop about two weeks afterward; if not, it may be necessary to reseed.
During early fall when the soil is warm and daytime temperatures are moderate (around 60ºF), maintaining a level of moisture in the soil is less of an issue, nor is weed growth. In some instances, application of a starter fertilizer may also be recommended. This will likely need to be reapplied several weeks later, as it will dissipate due to watering, over time.
Spring bulbs should, ideally, be planted at least six weeks prior to the first wave of ground-freezing winter frost. Depending upon your Plant Hardiness Zone—the standard developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine the plants most likely to thrive at a location based on the average annual minimum winter temperature—this can range from late September through early December. On Long Island, categorized as Zone 7, this typically begins in November, when average nighttime temperatures fall between 40ºF to 50ºF.
The lifecycle of a spring bulb actually begins during the winter months, as it roots just below the surface of the soil. Planting too early can lead to fungus or disease; similarly, unplanted bulbs are unlikely to survive until the following season.
Once the cycle of flowers and leaves is complete, the bulb sheds its foliage and slips into a semi-dormant state during the early to mid-summer months. By the end of the season, the bulb slowly begins to reawaken and reestablish roots in preparation for autumn, when the cycle begins anew.
It’s recommended that most lawns be watered no more than twice a week, more frequently if the property has recently been seeded or sodded. As a general rule, one inch of water per week—via rain or irrigation—is ideal; this can be applied during a single watering session, or divided into two half-inch intervals.
Of course, additional factors such as soil type, sunlight, grass type, and regional climate may factor into this formula, necessitating certain modifications. Soils high in clay content, while highly absorptive, require repeated, shorter watering cycles to reduce puddling. Those with a higher composition of sand tend to fall short in water retention, and so require more frequent attention.
Zones of lawn falling in the path of direct sunlight are prone to dry spots. Special attention should also be paid to those patches of grass growing in the shade beneath trees, as these are forced to compete with tree roots for available moisture. Levels can be tested a number of ways: through observation—lawns that appear to be grayish or dull green lack water; by walking across the property—if the blades don’t spring back, they are in need of moisture; or by digging into the surface—it’s recommended to let water soak through the top 6 to 8 inches of soil.
Timing is just as integral as frequency, as the wrong watering schedule can spell disaster for your lawn. It’s best to water in the morning, when temperatures are typically cooler and winds calmer, or in the early evening hours, allowing several hours for the lawn to dry before nightfall. The later you water, the more susceptible the grass will become to disease.
Sod is pre-grown grass available in rolls, typically 2 feet by 5 feet in length. It is often harvested with up to 2 inches of soil intact, ensuring roots and blades remain connected. Sod can also be purchased by the pallet. Seed, by contrast, germinates over time, ideally during the early autumn months.
While sod provides instant gratification regardless of climate zone and topographical limitations, it typically costs more than seed. For those with more limited budgets, seed is a viable option, and can be easily customized to suit particular property requirements.
Both seed and sod should be laid on smooth, bare, mineral earth; neither will take hold should you try to establish atop compacted clay from an old lawn. The site should be completely weed-free, especially when seeding. With sod, take care to examine for signs of dryness, as the rolls are typically stored with the roots out.
Both demand frequent watering—sod should be kept moist immediately after install; seed must be watered consistently, leading up to and following germination. Sod can be trod on more immediately—albeit delicately—whereas seed should be allowed the necessary time to root completely.
The ideal time of year to plant annuals is typically during the spring season, once the threat of frost has safely passed, generally around Mother’s Day. While certain select annuals can withstand colder temperatures and continue to bloom, the great majority flourish during the warmer months. Planting too early can, at times, mean a death sentence for more delicate breeds that haven’t been hardened to the colder climate.
Cool-season annuals such as pansies, snapdragons and marigolds are generally the first to take root at the start of spring, with more tropical varieties like impatiens following suit several weeks later. Heat-intolerant breeds often struggle if planted during the summer, so it’s important to conduct proper research by consulting with a professional should you need clarification. Come autumn, annuals such as mums, kale, and cabbage will thrive.
Roots should be moist at the time of planting, and special care should be taken not to damage stems during the process. Be sure to fertilize upon installation, as well as following, as continuous nutrients will keep the annuals looking their best. Water thoroughly after planting, soaking through.
It’s important to know what types of plants flourish in direct sunlight when outlining your landscape design. These varieties are typically tolerant of drought and arid conditions, making them ideal for potted environments, as well. When planting, it’s best to stick with native plants when possible, or to lean toward those with similar soil type, light, and water requirements.
Annuals that thrive in full sun include petunias, sunflowers, marigolds, geraniums, and zinnias. Perennials that prefer the sun’s direct rays include coneflowers, butterfly weeds, lavender, daylilies, hibiscus, miniature roses, shasta daisies, evening primroses, fountain grasses, sedums, stargazer lilies, phlox, peonies, chrysanthemums, geraniums, poppies, and salvias.
Full-sun perennials require about six to eight hours of direct light, daily. Lack of sufficient sun will result in lackluster plants, as well as a considerable shortage of blooms.
For those properties graced by shady alcoves and inconsistent sunlight, there are numerous plants, groundcovers and shrubs that are likely to thrive, providing color and texture to every corner of your garden. While many garden stores and nurseries might carry a limited selection of shade-resilient foliage, don’t hesitate to ask your landscape design company what they recommend.
Popular annuals include begonias, which can produce clusters of flowers from early May right on through October; impatiens, which thrive in full shade, but can be trained to accommodate harsher light by gradually increasing their exposure; and fuschia, the virility of which may be dependent upon where you live and the surrounding climate.
Among the shade-loving perennials: astilbe, which will burn if exposed to full sun; periwinkle, a fast-growing groundcover; primrose, the dwarf varieties of which are ideal for rock gardens; as well as daylilies, bluebells, and forget-me-nots. Bulbs include hyacinths, crocus, and daffodils. Some ornamental trees and shrubs that thrive beyond the reach of direct sunlight are dogwoods, Japanese maples, hydrangeas, and azaleas.
For hostas, the general rule is the darker the leaf, the less sunlight required. And of course, many varieties of ferns, ivy and moss are known to flourish in moist, shady areas.
The general rule for new plants is to water daily for the first week, at a minimum, slowly weaning down to every other day, and eventually, two to three times per week. This process encourages root growth and avoids the shock factor often associated with transplanting. Of course, this standard can vary based upon a host of factors, including type of plant, soil composition, and surrounding weather conditions.
It’s advisable to observe the drainage pattern of the intended planting site to inform decisions of where, specifically, to plant what. Some species may be more drought tolerant—such as cacti, succulents, sedum, and even shrubs like lilac and dogwood, while others can tolerate moist soil far better—lily of the valley, iris, cattail, and most ferns are classic examples.
Typically, container plants are prone to dry out faster, and so will require a daily watering regimen throughout the season. Maintaining moisture levels through a slow, steady trickle—15 to 20 minutes—is recommended, with flow concentrated at the plant base to ensure thorough penetration to the root. Soaking the leaves can lead to disease, and even mold growth. Preferable times to water are early morning or late evening, minimizing the interference of direct sunlight.
Although the query itself may suggest winter as the prime time to shut down the sprinkler system on your residential or commercial property, it’s imperative this process begins prior to freezing temperatures taking hold, both on your soil and underground pipes.
Periods of extended cold, coupled with wind chill conditions, will wreak havoc on irrigation systems, and so necessitate adequate preparation and protection to avoid costly repairs come spring. Shut-off valves, both those above and below ground, should be properly insulated against the elements, and it’s advisable that timers also be turned off to avoid any untimely activations.
It’s also recommended that you drain the pipes of any excess water to prep for winter—either via manual and automatic drain valves, or compressed air blow-out methods; however, it’s best to contact a specialist to ensure this is done properly.
Though each tree, shrub, and flowering plant demands its own particular care, the most ideal time to prune is typically during the late winter/early spring season. This is due to the state of dormancy the majority of foliage enters, opening a prime window within which to make any needed adjustments to shape and size before new growth has a chance to begin.
When pruning, take care to trim dead and diseased branches first—those which tend to attract insects and invite diseases to develop—followed by unwanted lower branches and overgrown smaller extensions, only keeping those which maintain the structure of the tree or shrub.
This is much easier to evaluate once foliage has dropped, and waiting until midwinter or early spring works hand in hand to encourage regrowth. Though the temptation may be to “get a jump” on pruning during the fall cleanup process, this is ill-advised, as pruning will only stimulate new growth during the period when plants are attempting to enter a state of dormancy, ultimately weakening them.
If possible, try to prune on more mild, dry days, as trimming when damp can facilitate the spread of disease. The sun will dry out and kill mold and bacteria, making it less likely for these to infiltrate newly exposed branches. Older shrubs may require a more extensive program of renewal or renovation pruning, while light trimming of younger growth should suffice. Over time, this attention will return thicker foliage, more flowers, and healthier plants.
Winterizing roses is a delicate task, one that should begin in late autumn, just before the plant enters its seasonal state of dormancy. It’s advisable to cease fertilizing around the end of August, and to stop deadheading by Labor Day. This allows the plant to gradually shut down and set its hips—seeds—in preparation for the colder weather.
Specific protocol is highly dependent upon climatic conditions, the plant’s location, and the type of rose in question. Temperate zones are typically simpler to navigate, and roses enjoying partial shelter due to their proximity to the home are typically easier to maintain. As a general rule, it’s recommended to carefully remove the leaves, but not the hips, taking care not to injure new growth during the pruning process.
A sudden cold snap can cause serious damage to those roses yet to be winterized, making mounding soil around the base of the plant a recommended practice to insulate the crown. This can contain compost, shredded leaves, and bits of evergreen; burlap can also be wrapped to provide added protection.
Winter protection can be gradually removed beginning in late March and early April.
As with most maintenance tasks, best practices for mulching typically revolve around the type of plant material and surrounding weather conditions; however, mid- to late spring is generally recommended as the ideal time to begin this process, as the soil thaws and plants emerge from their winter dormancy.
Make sure not to pile on the mulch too early in the spring season, as plants should be allowed an appropriate interval of time to establish themselves. More can always be added at a later date; additional mulch will likely be needed in summer to help retain moisture, as well as in winter to insulate from the cold. Along these lines, take care not to pile mulch too close to trees, as this may cause rot, making the root system more vulnerable.
Mulch helps suppress weed growth, retain moisture, protect bare soil from erosion, moderate soil temperature, and funnel water flow directly to plant roots. By providing a warmer environment for the soil food web, mulch works to prevent undue stress on roots from the seasonal freeze/thaw cycle. It also functions as an ideal ground cover, providing texture to flat landscapes.
Hydrangeas, a favorite blossom of many, are actually quite easy to cultivate. They tolerate nearly any soil, and are held in high regard for their ability to regularly produce abundant blossoms. Colors range from blue and lavender to shades of pink, and even white—sometimes on the very same plant. Flowers can be planted as groups, forming a shrub border of sorts, or stand on their own in containers.
While they prefer full sun in the morning, followed by afternoon shade, select hydrangea varieties have been known to flourish in partial shade as well. Best planted in the spring or fall, hydrangeas should be spaced about 3-10 feet apart and nested in holes about 8-10 inches deep. Care should be taken to water new plantings thoroughly; rich, porous, moist soil is preferred, and can be supplemented by compost if needed.
Bloom colors can be controlled by modifying soil pH levels—more acidic, ranging from 0-7, typically produce deeper blue shades; whereas alkaline levels of 7-14 tend to result in brighter, pink shades. By making these adjustments manually, tones can be gradually transitioned over time.
When pruning hydrangeas, take care to determine if the plant in question blooms on new or old wood, as this will dictate the prime time to trim. For old wood, stems should be pruned immediately after flowers fade at the close of summer; with new wood, this is best done just prior to fresh growth. No matter the time frame, however, it’s important to note that only dead wood should be cut, as this encourages branching and fullness as the seasons progress.