Five quick tips to enhance your May landscape (Land Steward Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 05/08/05 - 05/14/05 (701 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
Five quick tips to enhance your May landscape
If you are like me, you've noticed that there are plenty of activities to keep you busy around your landscape right now!
My electronic mailbag has been filling up with a lot of questions and comments from readers, all of which have received personal responses, and in this column I'll include one of those Q and A's. But first, a quick checklist of five of those "landscape activities" to jog your memory!
1. If you haven't already done so, be sure to rake out your flower beds to remove leftover winter mulch, old twigs and garden litter. But mind your step! Be careful not to tread on new growth or rake it too vigorously.
2. Check your compost bin, particularly if you haven't looked at it since last fall. Don't have one? This is the ideal time to start one. Find online composting ideas or drop me an e-mail with some background info about your land and I'll give you some ideas.
3. Give your soil a healthful "tonic." Healthy soil is the key to healthy plants. There are some excellent organic soil conditioning products now available, and Cheryl and I are very pleased with the results we're seeing here at the nursery. Again, search online or contact me at snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and I'll send you some information.
4. By now, you've already fired up that lawnmower, and least once and probably several times! Regular readers know that I advise you not to cut the grass too short at this time of year. Start at about two inches, then raise the blades about a half inch as summer gets closer. Try to mow frequently so that you're cutting off no more than the top third of the grass each time.
5. Still on the subject of lawns, if you seeded this spring you'll need to keep the new growth areas fairly moist (but not waterlogged) until germination. A gentle watering twice a day, morning and evening, for about 10 minutes or so should be enough. Once you start seeing those green sprouts, a deeper watering twice a week will help to establish strong, deep roots.
QUESTION: "I'm looking for information on some yard design. We have a very large front yard which gets sun pretty much all day. The land used to be farm land. We do have grass, and one tree which has managed to survive out there. However, it is very plain and I'm interested in putting some sort of "something" out there. I'm trying to figure what are the best types of trees and shrubs to put together so that it will look nice, but I also need it to be able to withstand the heat of the summer's full sun. If you could help me out at all with this, it would be great. I'd also like to put a decorative section with shrubs and flowers. Any ideas about what would look best together, and what will do well here?" - Erin Champagne
ANSWER: The best way to look at a clean pallet is to decide which colors you like and what will accentuate your home and then go from there. A good rule of thumb is to use the taller plants as a backdrop with the smaller ones closer to your point of view. This applies both to trees and smaller plants such as shrubs, perennials, etc. You can find several good design books at your local bookstores which is where my wife Cheryl and I have found many ideas. One of the best ideas, if you can afford it, is to hire a professional landscape design person. He or she will charge anywhere from $100 to $200 (or possibly more) but is well worth the money. Once you have the design you are not obliged to buy the plants or have a landscaper do the work but you have good ideas and at least a start on where to go!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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