Along with typical New Year’s resolutions come the necessary visits to a variety of health-care practitioners who help us stay healthy and fit. Each of us have our own physical “issues” we deal with and our healthcare professionals help us to better understand how we are doing and what we need to do to maintain and/or improve our well-being.
I assume everyone realizes that as we grow older our need for attention and care increases so the importance of regular check-ups becomes even more important. What I expect many people don’t realize is that landscapes also have finite lifespans and the maintenance required to maintain a healthy landscape will be determined by a wide variety of factors. These variables are not commonly recognizable by the typical homeowner and (unfortunately) often beyond the grasp of many landscape professionals. I guess, in an ideal world, you could Google “What does my yard need to get/stay healthy” and you would receive a report of all your property’s requirements however, that isn’t a practical solution. Most information readily available is far too general to apply to conditions that are so specific to your (or anyone’s) property. In order to get a proper assessment of landscape health you need to identify the many factors that determine the relative fitness of your many landscape elements. Learning to identify and quantify these many landscape health related factors requires information across many differing horticultural disciplines so finding a single individual to access your entire property may not be practical.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific landscape elements that may benefit from a professional evaluation.
Your trees are an asset that can provide life-long value that continues to grow with time. There are many things to consider when evaluating landscape trees. Different species have varying lifespans ranging from 25-200 years. Knowing the species and relative maturity of your specific trees is vital in establishing the correct maintenance needs. With native and cultivated trees alike there are the good, the bad and the ugly and it will serve you well to know where your trees fall. The value of specific trees will depend on many factors including species, location, general health and age. A fast growing, very large tree very close to your house presents a different challenge than the same tree growing out in the yard. Whenever I visit a client’s yard one of the first things I do is to observe the tree canopy looking for dead, broken and/or hanging branches that may be a safety concern. In native tree stands we look to for proper tree density (room for individual trees to mature), dead trees and/or trees that may be negatively affected by insects or disease. Some trees are “weedy” and offer less value than other more beneficial specimens. There are many factors, specific to your trees and situation, that may lead to a proactive approach to your tree care.
Your turf also ages, and in some cases, that can be done gracefully and other times not so much. Soil type, light levels, tree competition and grass type/s all greatly affect your lawn’s health. What I look for in a lawn is density, thatch, vigor, weeds, disease and insect damage. Poor drainage can also be a factor in lawn health. Many simple methods are available to help maintain healthy turf once you have an idea of what specific challenges your lawn presents.
Landscape shrubs, like trees, have various lifespans depending on species. One thing setting shrubs apart are the effect that proper (or improper) pruning can have on the viability of your landscape investment. Proper pruning greatly enhances landscape plant life expectancy and performance however good pruning can’t make up for poor design. A 10’ plant in front of a 4’ window isn’t something that is practically corrected with pruning. Ideal plant selection not only has to do with mature size of plants but also with insect/disease resistance, location, environment, seasons of interest and maintenance needs. All these factors need to be accounted for when making an assessment of landscape plant health.
While reviewing all the living portions of the landscape we also want to assess hardscape features that also may degrade with time. Walkways, patios, stairs and retaining walls can buckle, warp or crack causing safety concerns and/or become unsightly. Timely maintenance can help eliminate the need for costly replacement.
Lighting systems need to be checked regularly to be sure they are fully operational. New LED systems offer so much more efficiency and flexibility than older, outdated systems that it may time to consider a lighting upgrade. Don’t have a landscape light system? Why limit your beautiful landscape to only being attractive during daylight hours? Arrange for a night-time “test drive” to show you what your home can look like with the effects of a professional landscape lighting system.
Irrigation systems are turned on and shut down with the seasons but I find far too many being utilized incorrectly. Too often planting beds are watered far too often and/or there is too much water being delivered. An assessment of watering needs by a horticulturist often differs from that of an irrigation technician. Furthermore, if your landscape design does not account for having plants of similar irrigation needs grouped together proper irrigation becomes much more difficult.
When you are growing produce, success is determined by many factors outside your control. Wet springs, dry summers, too hot, too cold… these things we just have to accept. Growing conditions within our control must be optimized to help us to maximize our chances of success. Soil quality is the most important factor we look at when visiting garden plots along with site selection, drainage and wildlife control. More and more of my clients are looking to make garden plots an attractive element in the landscape or integrating edibles into existing landscape beds.
General home maintenance
There are a number of other non-landscape related issues that I often observe during visits to client’s homes. Masonry damage to brick steps/fireplace, bee damage to wood siding/trim, gutters/downspouts clogged or undersized and driveway repairs are the most common items I stumble across when performing landscape assessments. In order to properly prioritize our to-do lists it is essential to have a complete picture of our needs so assessing everything outdoors is very important.
Most of us know the things within our control that will provide a positive impact on our health but fewer of us understand the relative health and maturation of our landscape elements. There are qualified professionals available to help you better understand the well-being of your yard and garden so I encourage to schedule your annual check-up and have 2016 be the year you get your lawn and garden into the best shape it can be.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!