One question that I’m frequently asked is how can I ensure that my landscape stays healthy? This may sound like an easy question to answer, but there are many variables that have an impact on plant health.
The first step is to start by purchasing healthy plants or sod to place in your gardens. Inspect the plant thoroughly before deciding on which to buy. Look for new buds and shoots, well branched and new growth, healthy roots, signs of proper irrigation, and disease and pest free. Nothing is worse that purchasing a new plant which introduces a disease or pest into your existing landscape.
Roots should be white and hold the soil in place when you remove them from the container. They should have an earthy smell, similar to freshly cultivated soil. Sod should be similar, with white roots and soil adhering to the root mass. Foliage should be intact without blemishes, spots, frass, yellowed, or mottled coloring. Always look on the underside of leaves for pests such as aphids, scale, or mites.
Select the right plant for the right place. Things to consider include sunlight, shade, soil texture, dry or damp areas and wind. Leyland cypress, and several cedar varieties have always been thought of as great screening plants – that was until hurricane Matthew came through and blew most of them down. Leylands and cedars should be planted in an area that is protected from strong winds. Another example is the anise shrub which prefers wet conditions. If a homeowner was to plant an anise shrub on a sandy, dry spot of soil, it would not perform well, and need much more maintenance than if planted in a wet location. With lawns, Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia grass are sun lovers. They do not perform well and have major health issues if planted in the shade.
Lastly, take soil samples and have them analyzed to learn the nutrient content of your soils. Healthy soils are the foundation of a successful landscape. Collecting soil samples only takes a few minutes, but the benefits can be the difference in a healthy, vigorous growing landscape, or a landscape that struggles to survive. Sample boxes are available at any Cooperative Extension center, and are free of charge between April 1 and November 30. From December 1 until March 31, samples are $4 each.
Brad Hardison is an agricultural extension agent specializing in horticulture. Contact him by calling the Sampson County Extension Center at 910-592-7161 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.