Seasonal cleanups are essential to ensuring your landscape maintains its luster throughout the year, serving as a much-needed property refresh to allow your softscape to continue to flourish and grow uninterrupted.
While there are ideal windows of time to perform certain tasks, most are targeted to the spring and fall months on Long Island, as this serves as the period of preparation for the upcoming wave of weather typically enjoyed in the Northeast.
To Everything There Is a Season
This is the ideal time to repair any dead patches of grass that may have emerged from the winter months by dethatching and aerating. Any old mulch should be removed and replaced, and all groundcover at the base of trees and shrubs refreshed. Perennials should be assessed to determine if they need to be divided and replanted—typically, when those in the center begin to die out, or flowers become lackluster. Similarly, it’s recommended that any summer-flowering shrubs be pruned, to maximize space.
While summer months tend to bring a bit of a respite as regular mowing schedules are established, there will likely remain a need for routine weeding and replenishing mulch throughout the season. Hedges should be trimmed after the first new growth, and any spring-blooming shrubs and bulbs should be deadheaded and pruned, as required.
As autumn arrives, select spots may need to be seeded to rejuvenate dead patches as rotten crops and leaves are cleared away to avoid added decay. Reevaluate perennials once more for division and replanting, and cut back and cover roses with a thin protective layer, if possible. Peonies, irises, and lilies should be trimmed following the first frost, while others such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans can be allowed to ripen until they turn brown and split open—providing a measure of winter cover for pollinators. Harvest all remaining vegetables, and move any non-hardy spring bulbs into storage for the colder months.
Winter, while typically a season light on maintenance, may call for some light pruning of fruit trees; wrapping their tender foundations in burlap is also recommended. Be sure to generously water any newly planted evergreens to help them take root. Prep for warmer months by ordering seeds for spring, and discard any rotten bulbs from autumn.
Spring Cleaning, Post-Frost
Timing is everything when it comes to selecting the optimal window to beautify your property. Though many may have the inclination to rush the process—especially when it comes to sprucing up for spring—it’s important to allow for late-season snowfall and lingering freezing temperatures before digging in to these tasks, as not doing so may have hazardous results for certain aspects of your landscape. In the Long Island climate zone, mid-March is typically the best time frame to begin any spring cleanup.
A coating of snow actually helps plants insulate their root zones, making it best to wait until it has melted before attempting cleanup. Cutting off the sealed cover of a stem or plant prior to this can potentially expose it to water, which may in turn freeze, causing injury or death to the bloom. It’s also advisable to avoid working soil when wet, if possible.
Another factor, often overlooked by homeowners, is the tendency for butterflies, bees, birds and caterpillars to overwinter on the property, using remnants of foliage, sticks and stems, and even ornamental grasses as protection and nesting material.
Autumn Prep Key to Spring Setup
As winter approaches, it may seem too early to plan for spring, however, this is precisely the time to do so, as taking the time to weed—and, in some cases, covering dormant flower beds with a tarp of some sort to maintain a so-called “clean slate”—will put you well ahead of schedule once the warmer weather returns.
Cool-season crops—spinach, lettuce, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard, collards and Swiss chard—should be protected from light frost with a grow cloth or other covering. Root veggies—such as carrots and parsnips—can remain in the ground. At this time, any pest-infested plants, or those plagued by fungal disease, should be removed to avoid infecting surrounding crops. Fall bulbs lead to spring flowers, making late October to early November the ideal time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus.
Autumn is also the best time to make a compost pile. The combination of brown leaves and other organic matter creates a nutrient-rich plant food layer ideal for providing young plants with protection as they begin to take root and mature. Shredding mowers may also be beneficial, as they return the leaf litter to the soil. This mixture should be kept slightly moist, and turned occasionally to aerate and mix.
Dodds & Eder provides seasonal cleanups as part of its full suite of property management services. Contact our veteran staff of professional landscape maintenance and design professionals to plan your project today.