Beyond the lawn: Caring for trees and shrubs


A beautiful yard involves more than just a lush, green lawn. Trees and shrubs add beauty and value, and they need special attention, as well.

According to Ben Hamza, director of technical operations at TruGreen lawn care, there tends to be a public misperception that trees and shrubs take care of themselves. “Trees and shrubs add tremendous appeal to our home environments, but to thrive, particularly out of their natural world, they require regular care with added nutrients and protection against invasive pests,” Hamza said.PrunePruned trees and shrubs not only look more attractive, they are actually healthier and grow more vigorously.— Conduct corrective pruning of trees and shrubs to enhance plant appearance and vigor. Remove suckers, water sprouts, weak limbs and branches.— Thin rather than top-shear overgrown shrubs and trees to preserve their overall shape.— Make sure not to prune trees and shrubs that bloom in early spring, with the exception of removing dead branches.— Use the right-sized tool to make pruning cuts. Loppers are used to cut branches up to one inch in diameter, and pruning saws are used for larger branches.PlacementMaking sure your plants are in the right place isn’t just about aesthetics. Good placement helps ensure a healthy plant.— If you have existing shrubs or smaller trees that don’t seem to be doing well, do a little research and find out about the plants’ light and soil needs. Before planting a new tree or shrub, make sure you know exactly where it ought to go.— Insects and diseases are harder to control when a plant is out of place. For example, growing shade-loving plants in the open sun invites pest and disease trouble.— Certain species of plants are prone to disease or pests. Before investing in new trees and shrubs, find out what problems are common in your area and avoid selecting plants susceptible to them. Pest ControlInsects and mites hurt the appearance and health of ornamental plants. In many cases, management of pests is necessary to rid the plant of pests and to reduce damage. The keys to this control are correctly identifying the pest, applying the proper material and correctly timing the application.Proper FeedingMost homeowners know about watering and fertilizing the lawn. But many neglect giving the same treatment to trees and shrubs. Or, they make one of these common mistakes:Not enough fertilizer — An inadequate fertilizer application will not improve color or growth, nor will it bring out the full potential of the plant.Too much fertilizer — Fertilizer applied at excessive rates is detrimental to plants and can damage or kill the roots. Above the ground, excess fertilizer shows up as leaf scorch and even branch die back.Unevenly applied fertilizer — Fertilizer should be applied to cover as much of the root-growing zone under the plant canopy as possible. If it is misapplied to only a portion of the root zone, the fertilized area could respond differently from the unfertilized areas of the tree or shrub bed.What type of fertilizer should you use? Liquid fertilizers can be injected into the root zone or applied to the soil surface above the root zone. Non-turf areas, such as landscape plant beds, ground covers and natural wooded areas, are better suited for using a dry, granular fertilizer. Use a walk-behind push or hand-held crank rotary spreader. Avoid spreading fertilizer by hand because it is difficult to distribute it evenly and consistently.Keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn. Use a trained professional company that offers customized solutions to lawn and plant problems. Expert lawn adviceTruGreen’s Hamza offers these additional lawn and landscape tips to help your yard thrive:Clean area — Thoroughly clear dead leaves and debris that may impede new growth from flower beds and lawn. Mulch — When your lawn is actively growing, return grass clippings back to the soil for added lawn nutrients, and consider using composted materials to nourish plants. Apply three inches of organic mulch to base of shrubs and trees to help conserve soil moisture and to reduce weed pressure, but be mindful not to cover the flare of the tree base. Right plant, right place — Plant the right type of grass for your lawn to ensure a healthy turf. Where grass has difficulty growing, plant shade-adapted ground covers for landscape appeal.Check irrigation — Follow the owner’s operating manual to take an automated sprinkler system out of hibernation. Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week, but adjust depending upon rainfall, grass and soil type in your area. Also ensure the irrigation system covers your landscape efficiently. Place a one-inch deep food can in the middle of the lawn area to measure the depth of water collected after each watering cycle to ensure uniformity. Protect against elements — With an expected cold snap, cover flowering plants before the sun goes down to maximize heat trapped by the plants. Create a tent of warmth with plastic tarps, cardboard, bed sheets or special plant frost protection blankets available at your local nursery or home improvement retailer.