You put a lot of time and effort into your yard. Flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs and lawn all require effort to look good and provide the appearance and functionality you want for your property. Over time, you have selected and purchased plants that match your vision and you continue to look for plants that will add something special in the form of shape, color or other interest.
Sometimes, those great little plants that we thought would make all the difference for our yard end up not doing well. Sometimes, our veggie gardens struggle to perform and produce as desired. The heat of mid-summer can also take a toll on some plants and may result in some plants dying altogether.
If you are struggling to keep things looking their best, here are a few basic principles that may help make it easier to keep your landscape looking great.
Pay attention to the soil
Soils are such a critical part of all that goes on with landscape and garden plants. If a soil lacks nutrients, is too loose (very sandy) or too heavy (high clay content), or is kept too wet or too dry, it can lead to problems that later manifest in the plants.
One good general recommendation for any of the soils in Utah is to add organic matter. Any good composted organic matter will increase nutrients, increase water retention for loose soils and water drainage for heavy soils, and improves soil structure.
If your plants seem to be less than happy, adding compost to the soil may help. If you like to make your own compost, ensure things are fully composted to reduce the risk of burning your plants, or the compost-stealing nutrients from your plants to aid the decomposition process.
Examine thoroughly when buying new plants
When you go to the nursery to pick out your new plants, it is not usually difficult to pop the new plant out of its pot to inspect the roots. Ideally, you want to see roots throughout the potted soil, but if all you see is a mass of roots that are beginning to circle in the pot, the plant is becoming root bound.
Root bound plants, if not planted properly, will tend to stay root bound and not expand their root systems into the native soil easily, this then leads to problems of long-term plant health and longevity.
You also want to inspect the plant for insects like aphids, scale or other sap-sucking insects. These insects can cause serious damage and can sometimes lead to the death of young plants.
Inspect the plant for good structure, shape and look for signs that there may be some form of disease. This could be damaged bark, leaves with spots, or cankers, etc. For vegetable plants from the nursery, look for stalky, strong plants which are not root bound it their little pots.
Be careful with nursery plants, and respectful of the nursery you are shopping at. Our local nurseries work very hard to provide high-quality, healthy and disease-free plants, but there is the occasional issue. Nurseries generally have knowledgeable staff as well, so don’t be afraid to ask a few questions.
Look for disease resistant varieties
As you shop for plants, one thing to consider is to read the plant tags and look for varieties that specifically state disease resistance. This is more common for fruit trees, but there are many disease-resistant varieties of ornamental landscape trees as well.
Over the course of time, plant growers have been able to create hybrid varieties that are resistant to some common diseases the original species may be susceptible to. Choosing varieties that are more disease resistant will help in the long-term care of any plant as you will not have to fight its common diseases.
Choose the right plant for the right place
As you think about the desired outcome of your landscape, read the plant tags and put your plants in the right place. If the plant tags state that the plant prefers shade, don’t think that it will thrive in your hot, sunny spot. If a plant tag states that the plant will grow to 35 feet, do not plant it where you need something that stays to 10 or 12 feet. You will make your life easier and spend less time fighting plants if you choose plants which complement the space you already have.
The factors you need to consider include: soil types, water needs, light needs (full sun, part sun, full shade, etc.) and plant size. Before you go to the nursery, it can be useful to assess the area you are buying for. This will help you identify and select the proper plant for your landscape.
Water properly and group plants with similar water needs
Once you have decided on the different varieties needed and purchased all your plants, make sure to consider how you are going to water everything. Plan to meet the plants needs but not over-water as this can cause problems later on.
The best way to do this is to group plants with similar water needs together. If you have a high-water-need plant next to one that prefers things a bit drier, one of those plants will be unhappy with the water applied to the entire zone and will likely not survive.
Plant tags have information about the plants' individual water needs. As you are planning and shopping, consider purchasing varieties that have similar water needs to be planted and watered within the same irrigation zone.
The ongoing watering of your landscape will either be easy because of your planning or a real challenge based on how plants were grouped. Ideally, you would water with drip irrigation in planter beds to maximize water efficiency and eliminate water going to weeds and areas with no plant material. Drip irrigation is an effective way to deliver the right amount of water directly to the plants you want in your landscape as frequently as they need it.
For planter areas of trees and shrubs, you should be watering deep enough to fill the root zone, then skipping a few days to let it dry out a bit before refilling the root zone again. If you water too frequently, the soil may become saturated and there is limited ability for oxygen movement in the soil. Without oxygen movement through the soil your plants will slowly drown and die.
To learn more, sign up for our virtual drip irrigation class. It will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 12. Visit our website to register for this free class and get the link to participate online. If you cannot make this time, the class will be recorded to view later.
There is always a lot to learn when it comes to landscapes, soils, plants and irrigation. We invite you to visit the Demonstration Garden at 2837 E. Highway 193 in Layton where you can see plants in a landscape setting, get ideas, learn about drip irrigation, and then take those ideas home and incorporate them into your yard.
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District also offers classes throughout the year on different topics, which can be found at weberbasin.com under “Classes and Events.” You can have a beautiful, healthy yard and save water at the same time. It may take a little planning and organization but will help reduce maintenance in the long run.