Caring for Your Landscape

Plants are living organisms that need routine care to thrive. Following correct maintenance procedures on a timely basis can minimize maintenance.


It is always best to base fertilizer applications on the results of a soil test. Appropriate applications of fertilizer as needed can improve the appearance and condition of plants. Excessive fertilizer can cause rapid growth that may be more susceptible to insect and disease attacks and will require more pruning. Other problems that can be caused by over use of fertilizer include fertilizer burn and water pollution.

Pest Control

Check plants for disease and insect outbreaks regularly. Problems are much easier to control if caught early while they are affecting only a small area. Before treating a possible pest problem, make sure that it has been correctly identified. Make sure that the insect is actually a pest, since many insects are beneficial. Also find out the correct methods of control and proper timing. You’ll find information on controlling pests appropriately in HGIC 2755, Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Yard Trimmings

Grass clippings can be allowed to remain on the grass to decompose. Your lawn will recycle the clippings naturally, saving you time, money and energy. Disposing of leaves, grass clippings and other garden refuse is often a problem for gardeners, particularly in an urban area. These garden and landscape byproducts can be turned into useful compost with little effort.


Lawn and gardens need enough water from rain or irrigation to wet the root zone, generally 1 inch per week on clay soils. Sandy soils that drain rapidly may need to be watered with one-half inch of water every three days. Plants will need more water during periods of rapid growth, while flowering and in high heat or windy conditions. They will use less water during cool, damp weather. Adjust weekly watering to your soil needs.

Irrigation systems can save much time and effort if correctly installed and designed for your planting needs. Overhead sprinklers or pop-up heads on an underground irrigation system are appropriate for lawns. In flower-beds, spray-type emitters must be placed higher for proper water distribution. For trees, shrubs and flower-beds, drip irrigation may be the most efficient system.


Walks, patios, steps, walls and fences will need periodic maintenance. The type and frequency will vary with the materials used. For example, a concrete patio would not need maintenance for 20 to 30 years, whereas a brick in sand patio needs to be re-set every three to five years. Brick set in mortar should last 20 to 30 years. Painted wooden structures and fences need repainting every three to four years. However, woods such as redwood, bleached or stained with a preservative, usually last for the 20-year expected life span of the structure.


Take care of pruning needs early. Cut out weak, narrow crotches on branches, crossing branches or competing branches while they are still small. Pruning jobs become more difficult with time. Avoid planting trees and shrubs where they will outgrow their allotted space without frequent pruning.


Power tools can make short work of many maintenance operations. However, make certain they are the right tools for the job. While string trimmers quickly mow down weeds and grass around buildings and fences, they should be used with extreme caution around trees. The force of the trimmer line can cause injury to the bark, leading to girdling and death.


Mow at the proper height to allow grass to develop deep roots that are more efficient in using soil moisture. Correct mowing height also reduces weeds.

Source: Clemson University Extension Service