Ecology + Design

Sustainable Landscape Maintenance; Spring Cleanup, Mowing and Mulching – Westchester County

What do you want from your landscape? If your like me you want your landscape to be beautiful, attractive, healthy, vibrant, healthy and hopefully, Green! How can you get the most out of your existing landscape?…Go Green, Go Organic!

Start with a ‘proper’ spring clean-up. That means two things. Pickup sticks and debris but do not vigorously rake your lawn or disturb your garden beds. In early spring the frost heaves and temperature variations cause the ground and soil surface to de unstable. Do not disturb the ground! The plants may not be securely rooted and are suseptible to damage by raking and blowing. It’s unnecessary to use powerful ground blowers for the most part. From a resource management point of view it is an unnecessary use of labor, gas and oil. From a practical point of view, remove any debris which would be unsightly, inhibit growth or pose a problem with mowing. The larger more powerful blowers can disturb tender root systems and simply move debris around which eventually needs to be picked up and removed by hand and carted by tarp or wheelbarrow to a place it can be composted, optimally.

Much time and effort ($) is often expended by these methods to no good purpose. This is especially true when mulching mowers/blades can be used for the first cut. Small twigs and leaves will be turned into valuable organic matter, increasing the physical makeup of the soil, thereby encouraging beneficial organisms to thrive. In preparing your landscape for spring, less is more.

Most commercial landscape crews are trained to vigorously rake and blow the lawn and beds. Even worse is when dethatching machines or attachments are used, which causes further disruption in an attempt to remove dead grass layers consisting of valuable organic matter. This is contrary to sustainable, green landscape maintenance practices. Instead a simple light raking where needed of lawn areas ( especially where there is evidence of snow mold) followed by picking up sticks and debris which would interfere with mowing/mulching followed by applying a granular organic, natural source, fertilizer. Do not assume a fertilizer is truly organic, derived from natural sources. Organic literally means carbon based. I shop at Whole Foods but I am aware and particular about what I buy. To be sure, look for the OMRI label (Organic Materials Review Institute) to be sure what you’re buying is all natural.

Soil amendments should be applied as needed, to be determined by soil testing. Compost may be applied to increase organic matter content if the percentage of organic matter is less than 5%. The best time to apply compost is when the soil temperature is above 50%. This is when soil biology becomes active. Core aeration in spring can be beneficial to relieve compaction and create air space. Remember all plant roots (i.e.,grass) do not grow in the soil but in the spaces between soil. When remediating property that has soil depleted from years of bad practices, including pesticide use, we often employ these methods and practices in addition to ’The Magic Wand’ (see our blog). This has the added benefit of improving the surface drainage and infiltration rates without resorting to expensive, invasive traditional engineering, (piping, catch basins , etc. . There is a wealth of good info available on the net.

Here are some we like – Sustainable Baby Steps, Organic Lawn Care

Call today for a free lawn and landscape evaluation and estimate!

Jay Archer, President


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