Perennials and Plant Tips
New perennial beds are mulched right after planting with about 2 inches of mulch. Additional mulch is applied annually as needed so that the overall depth doesn't exceed 2 inches. Apply additional mulch in the spring as soils start to warm. Most perennials will not need additional mulch in the winter if soils have been properly prepared and the drainage is good. The exception would be for perennials that have been transplanted or planted late in autumn. Here, a 3-4 inch layer of loose mulch like straw, or evergreen boughs applied after the soil is frozen, helps to avoid frost heaving.
Watering: Water is a vital part in getting newly planted perennial gardens established. Soak the plants initially after planting and then check regularly to prevent drying out. Mulching helps to cut down on watering frequency. The general rule of thumb of one inch of water per week for established plantings holds true. Less frequent but deep watering encourage perennials to root more deeply and thus become better able to handle drought conditions.
The most common and time efficient way to water perennial gardens is to use soaker hoses. Many perennial gardeners will snake a soaker hose through the garden and leave it there all summer. When water is needed they will connect it to a faucet and turn it on. To make the hose invisible, bury it just under the mulch.
Fertilization: Most perennials do not require large amounts of fertilizer if the soils have been prepared properly. Many overfertilized perennials will produce excessive, soft growth and produce very few flowers. Many times perennials will tend to "lodge" or open up when overfertilized.
As a general rule, unless a soil test indicates otherwise, perennials can benefit from one pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. Granular fertilizers with a formulation of 12-12-12 , 10-10-10 , 5-10-5 or similar are sufficient.
Weed Control: Weeds that do appear in perennial gardens are often best controlled by shallow cultivation. If the weeds are perennial in nature, quick action is needed so that the infestation does not get out of hand. Cultivation again is the key, or you can make an very selective and directed application of glyophosphate ( "round up") to the weed. Use a foam paint brush to make such applications without the fear of damaging surrounding perennials. Our landscape crews may use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from sprouting. Again follow label directions on all weed controls that you use. To kill actively growing plants we recommend Mansanto's "Round-Up". They kill any plants they are sprayed on, provided the dosage is correct and it doesn't rain immediately after spraying. Be careful, do not spray on a breezy day, it may drift to your ornamental plants. Wash if it gets on your skin. Read the directions carefully.
Pruning: Some plants benefit from alight shearing, every year, around July 4th, such as Japanese Yews, Boxwood, Spireas, and Potentillas. Thinning out is cutting out one third of all the stems to the ground, choosing the thickest stems. August and September are not good months to prune. Spring flowering shrubs, should be pruned immediately after flowering if needed. The summer flowering shrubs should be pruned either in autumn or winter.
Lawn Care Tips
Cool season lawn grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and the fine fescues, vary in the amount of water needed for good growth. Factors such as the soil, weather, and management practices all have a role in water needs of lawns. In general, about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week is needed to maintain green color and active growth. Cool season grasses naturally slow down in growth and may go dormant in hot weather.
An important decision to make before summer is to either water lawns consistently as needed throughout the season, or let lawns go dormant as conditions turn warm and dry. Do not rotate back and forth. In other words, don't let the grass turn totally brown, apply enough water to green it up, and then let the grass go dormant again. Breaking dormancy actually drains large amounts of food reserves from the plant.
When is it time to water? The first few warm days of summer does not automatically mean to water lawns. In fact, allowing lawns to start to go under mild drought stress actually increases rooting. Watch for foot printing, or footprints remaining on the lawn after walking across it (instead of leaf blades bouncing back up). Grasses also tend to turn darker in color as they go under drought stress. Sampling the root zone soil could be another option.
In general, water as infrequently as possible. Water thoroughly so moisture gets down to the depth of the roots. Exceptions to this general rule would be for newly seeded lawns where the surface needs to stay moist, newly sodded lawns that have not yet rooted into the soil of the site, or when summer patch disease is a problem. Otherwise, avoid frequent waterings, which promote shallower root systems and weeds (i.e. crabgrass). Given a choice, water early in the day when lawns are normally wet from dew. Avoid midday due to evaporation, and at night due to potential increased chances of some diseases.
Spread the water uniformly across the lawn. Sprinklers vary in distribution patterns, and require spray overlap for uniform coverage. Placing coffee cans or similar straight-sided containers on the lawn can help measure water application rates. Avoid flooding areas, or missing other spots. On heavy clay soils and slopes, watch for excessive runoff; it may be necessary to apply the water in 2 applications to assure it soaks in.
Finally, there are some measures to conserve water use by lawns. Mow higher, avoid excess nitrogen as warm weather approaches, limit traffic over the lawn, improve turf rooting, control thatch and soil compaction, and avoid pesticide use on drought stressed lawns. For More information clink on the link to University of Illinois Extension web site.
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