Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Garden Maintenance: General Tree & Shrub Care Information

Most evergreens can be pruned at any time of year except during severe heat and drought or within a month before the first frost.   Ideally the best time to prune evergreens is believed to be in March (late winter or early spring) before new growth starts. This also eliminates any winter burn that can occur during especially cold weather and gives the evergreen a good start for Spring.  Your flowering evergreens are an exception to this rule and should not be pruned until after blooming (late spring).  Evergreens such as pine, spruce and fir produce their new yearly growth in shoots called "candles".  In order to encourage more compact growth cut the tips of the candles back half way before the needles unfold.   No plant is completely maintenance free so keep your evergreens trimmed to their desired size. This will also keep them full and healthy and prevent thinning out. NOTE: Evergreens will shed their needles or foliage in the Fall/Spring to allow for new growth. If any branches appear brown or dead after planting or after winter, trim them off and allow the plant to rejuvenate.

Cherry Laurel
WINTER CARE: BROAD LEAVED EVERGREENS:   Some Broad-Leaved Evergreens such as Cherry, Skip or Mountain Laurel, Japanese Aucuba, Leucothoe, Skimmia, Boxwood, Holly and Rhododendron can be subject to winter burn from dehydration due to water loss in the case of a cold and dry winter. Care should be taken in the usage of an anti-desiccant such as ‘Wilt-Pruf” Spray which should be applied two to three times during the winter months throughout periods of cold and thaw.  There is also a new product on the market which lasts for three months with only one application.  Ask your landscape professional for more information.

PRUNING FLOWERING TREES & SHRUBS:   As a general rule prune flowering trees, shrubs and evergreens after the bloom.  Shrubs including Azalea, Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, Cherry Laurel, Forsythia, Mockorange, Magnolia and Flowering Crabapple can be pruned in late Spring after bloom.  Flowering shrubs such as hydrangea bloom on the last years growth and will not bloom if cut back in Spring. There are some newer varieties of hydrangea such as the 'Endless Summer' Hydrangea which blooms on new and old wood and 'All Summer Beauty' which blooms on the new season's wood that can be pruned at any time and are a welcome addition to the garden.  Shrubs such as Spirea (except Bridal Wreath) and Barberry 'Royal Burgundy' or 'Rosy Glow' improve bloom and fullness when cut back in late winter-early spring (March) before they get their leaves in Spring. Renovate Lilac in winter and prune for shape after flowering in Spring. Prune roses in Spring to remove winter damage before new growth starts.    Buddlea (Butterfly Bush) should be pruned back in late winter-early spring while dormant for best bloom.

MOVING TREES: Trim (or move) deciduous trees in Fall after leaves have fallen and tree is dormant. Evergreens can be moved in either Spring or Fall and must be keep well watered.

PERENNIALS: Deadhead perennials such as salvia though out summer for continuous repeat blooms. In Fall perennials should be allowed to die back then remove any unwanted foliage. Pruning back perennials can be done in either late Fall or early Spring (March) before new growth appears but it is recommended in the Fall in order to prevent disease. Note: There are some perennials such as liriope (lillyturf) and coral bells (Heuchera) that can provide nice winter interest and benefit from pruning in Spring.

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES: Grasses should be cut back in late March before new growth appears. Leaving the grass during the winter provides nice interest to the garden and protects the root system as well.

FERTILIZING: Feed plants in Spring and Late Summer. Do not apply a full dose if feeding in the Fall apply a half dose for root feeding only. For new plantings allow the plantings to become established then apply a slow release organic fertilizer or apply a “starter” formula when planting. For established plants there are several products on the market but be careful not to buy a concentrated product that will burn the roots. A slow release or organic fertilizer such as Holly Tone is recommended.

WATERING:  As a general rule it is best to water less frequently and deep rather than everyday and shallow.  Water needs to get down to the roots of plants so it is recommended that trees, shrubs and perennials are watered every two to three days for approximately 40 minutes per area during Spring and Fall.  In cases of severe heat in summer months watering may be required more frequently.   Lawn areas in shade may require less watering and annuals may require daily watering at less time.  Monitor your plants frequently to adjust their watering accordingly.  It is also important that prior to winter that there is significant moisture around your plants before the ground freezes in order to ensure their health.  A well watered tree will over winter far better than a thirsty one and will not be as susceptible to winter frost damage.

LAWN CARE: Sod lawns can be planted anytime of year, preferably spring or fall. Avoid planting in extreme conditions of heat or cold and ensure proper irrigation to get your lawn established.  Seed lawns are best planted in the Fall (ideally between August 15 and October 15 here in zone 7) when temperatures are in the 60's and 70's.  Core Aeration and over-seeding are best done in the Fall to help rejuvenate a lawn and give it a healthy start for the following season. Your lawn should also have a regular maintenance program to keep it at its best. Ask your professional. 

INSECT CONTROL: Periodically check your plants for insect or fungal damage and treat if needed. It is advised to use a regular insect control maintenance program to keep your plantings healthy.

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved


  1. What insect control spray do you recommend? I try to stay organic and I found this spray online:
    Any recommendations?

  2. Safer brand insecticidal spray is the best non-commercial one avaiable to consumers but may not knock out the worst of insects. I would recommend applying a horticultural oil in early Spring then again in Fall as a preventive measure. Horticultural oils smother the insects before they can get a chance to breed and do damage. Trees such as Arborvitae are very prone to leaf miner and scale and should be sprayed regularly-late Spring, early Summer, late Summer and Fall. You can try using the store bought brand but if the insects don't get completely knocked out you would need to use a more concentrated spray. I believe that there are some commercial grade "organic" based insecticides which are available to arborists but sometimes a stronger remedy is needed.

  3. Thanks for the information and links you shared this is so should be a useful and quite informative!
    Lawn Care Hiram

    1. Thank you for visiting. I wrote this post to address questions that are frequently asked by my clients so that the information could be found all together.


Thank you for visiting. I love reading your comments and knowing you have been here, and will try to reciprocate on your blog. If you have any questions I will try my very best to answer them. As always...HAPPY GARDENING!


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