Plant Care Do’s & Don’ts

All of us at Breath of Spring have put our studies, observations and experiences together to generate a workable list of do’s and don’ts that will support healthy, happy gardens in our changing times.

1. Choose intelligently.
Pick hardy and indigenous plants when possible. Solidly zone hardy and native plants, trees and grasses will be able to adapt best to our changing climatic conditions.

2. Plant trees.
Trees are good windbreaks. Their shade helps to lower the ground temperature. Moreover they are habitats. Remember they absorb pollutants; they respirate CO2 and aspirate the oxygen we breath. You gotta love trees!

3. Use only organics.
Organics are certainly not new. Fortunately, modern science has increased the organic toolbox. Compost Teas, Quantum, Sea Kelp etc. when added to the organic basics, grow wonderful plants. They build root growth and greatly increase hydration in traumatic conditions. Simple and less expensive in the long run!

4. Do not mass plant.
If one plant gets ill they all do. It is better to mix species, including adding in indigenous plants. Mass indigenous planting is risky as many pests are alien and the indigenous plants have no natural enemy here, thus making many indigenous plants vulnerable.

5. Do not use any fungicides, herbicides or pesticides.
Not a one, except landscape oil. All organic soil discourages pests naturally and in myriad ways. Healthy living soil prevents mosquitoes and” no-see-ums” from using the lawn and garden as a breeding ground. So don’t kill the soil, build the soil. Organics actually reduce pest problems, because organic soil produces sugars, which pests can’t digest.

6. Do not use full strength synthetic fertilizers.
An overdose of nitrogen forces the plant to grow too fast, too soon. These fertilizers also cause over growing. Additionally there is a salt residue left. Simply put, synthetics contribute greatly to plant stress.

7. Reduce the amount of lawn.
Grass absorbs heat and requires a good deal of water. Groundcover, trees and plants are better, hardier and give more shade. They are healthier, hardier habitats and create cooler landscapes.

8. Use hardy grasses.
Many fescues are really durable even as playing surfaces. On visual areas, try a secondary low grass such as Buffalo Grass. It has that monoculture look, but it uses less water, and takes less maintenance.

9. Alter your mowing pattern.
If you don’t think of mowing in the winter, then don’t think of mowing in the height of the hot summer. When the average temperature is less than 40 degrees the thought of mowing is silly. You should think the same way when the temperature is over 90 degrees. In consistently hot conditions, Northeast grasses go dormant. So mowing grass when it’s dormant damages and traumatizes the plant. It has trouble recovering because it’s dormant. In addition sunlight then hits the root system burning it. And of course, within days weeds and crabgrass appear because you have created the ideal growing conditions for exactly what you don’t want! Have your lawn mowing crew weed when it’s too hot. Lets go back 100 years to really good full coverage landscape care. Such a nice idea!

10. Change your mowing length.
Have a 3-inch long lawn. It’s hardier and healthier.

11. DON’T over water.
This means you have to know how to control the sprinkler clock. If your footsteps show in the lawn, you are over watering. Have your sprinkler person take you through the instructions and post them on the sprinkler box or your refrigerator. Personally, I set the sprinkler to about 8 minutes every other day starting in May. Then I turn the system off. I run it manually 8 minutes, when I think it is truly necessary. In May I ran it once per week, June was about the same. July was hot; there was one scorching week when I ran it 8 minutes a day for the garden only. Then I fell back to two times per week. Hopefully you see my point. You have to look at the plants and pay attention to the weather. Feel it – go outside! If it’s hot for you, it’s hot for the plants. Let’s get grounded and reconnected!

12. Attract wildlife.
Feed the birds faithfully. If the squirrels and chipmunks get some, so be it. Use birdbaths to provide clean water. Please note feeders and birdbaths need to be cleaned once a month. Add Bat Houses. If birds and bats rebound they will control mosquitoes and pest populations. Remember if you use organics, wild life populations are able to rebound. Natural balance is a beautiful thing.

13. DO NOT over plant.
Correct spacing and mixed species that actually like each other use less water, promote health and have fewer pests. Ultimately, the garden is lovelier because plants can fully mature. But don’t forget, most perennials will need dividing at some point, so share with a friend. If you need space to grow, so do plants.