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Landscape Installation Aftercare Guide

Thank you for allowing Custom Creations to help with your landscape project!  To help preserve and protect your investment, here are some important guidelines to follow. 

Landscape Beds

Watering

This is probably the most important part of maintenance after your plants are installed. We have carefully planted your trees, shrubs or flowers at the proper depth, location and placement for optimal growth and aesthetics. The plants’ roots will take a few weeks to expand out into the parent soil from the root ball. The following guidelines will help you and your plants for the next few months and beyond. They may be altered as needed based on natural rainfall, but only if that rain is substantial (substantial means rainfall is equal to or greater than 1”).  

  1. Water new plants daily for the first 7-10 days
  2. Water every other day for the next 10 days
  3. Water as needed following the initial 17-20 days
  4. Hand watering is highly recommended at the base of the plant to cover the entire root zone. For trees or bigger plants, we recommend using water drip bags. These bags hold 20 gallons of water and zip around the trunk to provide 6-8 hours of localized drip action. For smaller plants use the following guidelines:
  • Hold the water hose approximately 60 seconds per plant at a normal flow rate
  • Keep water off the leaves of the plants, as it can lead to leaf scorch, fungus, etc.
  • Excessive watering may lead to root rot
  • Test moisture with a finger 2-3” deep around the base of the plants
  • Allow soil to dry between watering’s
  1. Water frequently during drought, high temperatures, and windy periods

Mulch

Mulch is right behind watering in order of importance. The root system is the ‘heart’ of your plant and needs protection. Here are some of the benefits of mulch:

  • Retain moisture. Mulch aids in retaining moisture for the sensitive roots. Proper uptake of water is essential, and water-loss can happen quickly due to high temperatures, quick drainage, lack of watering/improper watering or neglect.
  • Insulation. Mulch acts as an insulator from extreme temperatures. Excessive cold can damage or even kill a plant quickly. The same goes for high heat – especially if the plant is in full sun. 
  • Nutrients. Mulch is usually comprised of organic material such as ground wood, leaves, straw, hay, pine needles, etc. As time goes on, this material will decompose and add important nutrients to the soil for your plants. 
  • Erosion control. Most landscapes are void of ground coverings. Mulch will help prevent erosion scenarios and keep the soil close to your plant’s roots. Some landscape designs call for vining ground covering, but even with these plants it will take some time for them to grow and spread out over the landscape bed. Also, this ground cover does not aid in water retention – in fact, it is a competitor for the same elements (water/nutrients). Use mulch for new installations at least until the live ground cover has established itself.
  • Weed control. Placing a 2–3” layer of mulch will help stave off weed seeds from germinating and provide an easier environment for pulling or spraying weeds that fly in and grow. Mulch also makes it easy to apply pre-emergent products on the surface to help prevent any weed seeds from germinating. 
  • Aesthetics. Mulch comes in a variety of materials, sizes, and colors. Mulch is the ‘palette’ of the landscape and can help accentuate and compliment the plants, rocks, features, etc. 
  • Barrier. Mulch also acts as a physical barrier to protect against mowers and weed eaters. Many times, plants are girdled (bark removed from around entire trunk), killing them in the first year. A good rule of thumb when planting ANY plant is to place a mulch area around that plant, whether it is located inside a bed or as a stand-alone in the lawn. 

Weed barrier

We install a commercial-grade weed barrier (polypropylene needle-punched fabric with reinforced fiber for extra durability) on most of our landscape projects. This 20-year weed barrier helps ensure longevity within the landscape bed(s), allowing water to percolate through while keeping weeds from growing up through the mulch. This also helps tremendously with extending the life of organic mulch by reducing the decomposition process. The barrier will keep rock, pebbles, sand, or gravel from sinking and disappearing into the parent soil below due to settling, weather and washing. This barrier is kept in place with steel pins to prevent upheaval from freezing and thawing. 

Some customers choose not to use a cloth-type barrier. There are many other items that may be used, such as cardboard, newspaper, paper, leaves etc. However, these materials will break down very quickly and can leach undesirable chemical that are found in paper products. DO NOT USE PLASTIC. This is a big no-no, as plastic does not breathe and will move water away from your plants’ root system. Plus, plastic is not biodegradable and will ALWAYS remain in the ground. It will eventually break down into smaller pieces but never decompose. 

Weed control

If you are using mulch or rock (gravel/pebbles), weed seeds will eventually fly into the landscape and take root. Weeds are amazing little plants that can establish almost anywhere – cracks in driveways, gutters, rock, etc. An easy and effective way to prevent weeds is to apply a pre-emergent herbicide. We use a granular product so that we can apply it close to and even over the top of desired plants for good coverage. A pre-emergent should be applied three times a year: early spring, early summer, and fall. This will prevent grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds from germinating, which in turn reduces having to spraying broad-spectrum herbicides (Roundup) that can cause major damage to desired plants. It also saves time from hand-pulling and digging, which will disrupt the landscape and your landscape plants. 

Tree stakes

As needed, heavy duty steel posts are used for newly installed trees/shrubs. Stakes are used for different reasons. One, to help anchor the plant and protect it against high winds and torrential rains. This prevents the plants from shifting or completely coming out of the ground. The stakes should remain for at least the first 12 months; this is the time when the plant has established its root system. Second, stakes will help keep the plants growing in an upright position and prevent leaning or a crooked growth habit. Maintaining a good structure for the plant will save time and money. A tree or shrub will self-correct if growing crooked but will leave a bend in the trunk, causing a weak point. Third, these stakes can provide a physical barrier at ground-level to help stave off mower damage.

There are many materials that can be used for stakes/staking. Steel is the best since it will not rot, weaken, or deteriorate over time. Be sure to use pieces of rubber hose to buffer the zone where the tension wire meets the bark. This will help prevent the wire from cutting into the plant’s bark and allow for growth (movement) of the plant. It also reduces dangerous rubbing which can open a wound, creating a pathway for insect, disease, and water/ice damage. 

It is particularly important to completely remove the stakes, wires, and rubber pieces around 12 months after planting. This will help prevent the plant from growing around the wires and rubber pieces. Plus, the wires may inhibit the natural growth pattern of branches. 

Fertilizing

Just like with our bodies, plants need supplemental nutrients. Below are some benefits of feeding plants:

  • Promote vigorous growth
  • Help the plant survive or recover in times of stress
  • Promote stronger branches, flowers and roots
  • Fight against insects and pathogens (fungus)
  • Promote a healthy, full and lustrous canopy

We provide a quality fertilization program that consists of granular applications, soil drenches and probiotics. It is recommended to fertilize ALL your plants at least twice a year, typically spring and fall.

For newly planted trees and shrubs, we recommend a probiotic. This product will increase microbial action, allowing increased uptake of nutrients already in the soil. This will give the plant the best opportunity to establish itself without pushing growth too fast or burning. For established plants (older than one year), the probiotic should be applied twice a year; in fact, this treatment will reduce the amount of fertilizer needed in a given calendar year.       

Fungicide/insecticide

Almost every landscape plant that is used in southwest Missouri has the potential for damage from fungus, insects, or both at the same time. We live in a remarkably diverse area of the country known as the Transition Zone. This zone receives a wide array of extreme weather. We encounter extremely high temperatures, deep freeze temperatures, humidity, drought, etc. Because of these conditions, fungus and insects thrive. To combat these pests, we use fungicides and insecticides as needed. Fungicides are best used as a preventative but will work as a knock-down upon contact. If you notice spots, bleaching, curling, or wilting symptoms, it may be fungus. Many times, these signs will appear quickly, even overnight, and should be dealt with as soon as possible. If not treated in a timely fashion, a plant (whether a tree, shrub, or flower) can quickly decline and may not recover. It is recommended to take a picture or bring a leaf sample to our attention so that we may help you identify the problem. 

Insects are a common problem as well. Most insects you can visibly see, either the insect itself, cocoons, bags, nests, or droppings. Others you may only see because of the damage they leave, such as chewed leaves, curling, leaf drop or a struggling plant in general. If you see any signs of struggle, having a consultation can prove priceless. We provide free consultations. You may also utilize the University of Missouri Extension office. Identification can be difficult because of the vast species in our area, but most problems are quite common and can quickly be identified. 

Other helpful tips

  • With newly planted trees, shrubs, and flowers, be sure to remove all foreign objects. This will include plant i.d. tags, rope, plastic ties, and tree wrappings. If these items are left on the plant, they may strangle the branches as it grows, killing the branches or the entire plant itself. 
  • Some trees/shrubs may come with a stake for added support, such as bamboo, wood stake, or a plastic or metal rod. Be sure to remove this, as well as and the ties; this stake will not aid in support and in fact may cause problems down the road. 
  • If you are installing ball n burlap plants, be sure to cut away and remove the upper part of the burlap once placed in its hole. You do not need to remove all the burlap, just the upper portion since the burlap will shed water away from the root ball, causing desiccation and killing the plant. The remaining portion of the burlap will decompose over the coming year. Again, remove all rope and ties so they do not hinder growth.
  • If the plant is in a cage system, do NOT attempt to remove the cage as this can severely damage the root system. Once the tree/shrub begins to grow and send out its roots, the roots will make their way through the cage without struggle. Within a year or two the cage will rust away, causing no damage. However, there may be ‘rabbit ears’ at the top of the cage. These loops are used to help hook the cage when moving the plant in nurseries and deliveries. Be sure to use plyers and bend them over facing down into the soil. This will prevent tripping hazards, weed-eater string from catching, mower damage and other future problems. 

When we install plants, we do all the above to ensure the health and safety of the plant(s) and the customers’ well-being

  • New plants may require a little strategic pruning. Some branches may be growing astray, broken, damaged or touching the ground. This is the time to shape and clean up the plants before they begin growing. For the general health of the plant do not allow limbs/branches to touch the ground as this can cause a host of problems such as insect damage, rot, fungus, or breakage. 

Sod

Sod is mature grass that has been sliced away from the earth in a solid mat with about ½ inch of soil and roots attached. Sod must be installed the same or the next day after it is cut from the sod farm. With little soil surrounding the roots, water is its life blood until new roots are flushed out. The following instructions are vital for its survival and establishment. 

Watering Sod

This is the most important step for care after installation. 

  1. First 2 weeks:  Water entire area twice daily for 20-30 minutes
  2. Third week:  Water once daily for 20-30 minutes
  3. Fourth week: Wean watering frequency back to 2-3 times per week 
  4. Mow the sod after the second week on a tall setting (4”).  Do not mow if muddy, allow the sod to dry enough to run mower over the grass. Water lawn after mowing
  5. Stay off the grass for at least 2 weeks to allow the roots to anchor

Fertilizing sod is important after it has established. Depending on what time of year the sod was installed, fertilizing would follow 2-3 months later. The time of year will dictate which fertilizer is used. The sod has been cultivated and well cared for at the sod farm, so its general health will be strong. However, to continue successful growth and development, fertilizing is highly recommended. 

Weeds and sod

Sod itself will not come with weed seed since its well cared for at the sod farm, but sod is usually laid over bare soil or a mix of bare soil and existing grass. Weed seeds that were pre-existing on the parent soil may still germinate and push through the sod. Broadleaf weeds can be sprayed accordingly once there has been at least 2-3 mowing’s. Some grassy weeds (i.e., crabgrass/foxtail) will die back in the cold weather starting in fall. They can reseed themselves but can be prevented with a preemergent/fertilizer treatment the following spring. Other grassy weeds (perennial in nature such as Johnsons grass, Bermuda grass, nimblewill, etc.) will have to be sprayed with a post-emergent herbicide rated specifically for grassy weeds, or hand pulled. 

Other Sod notes

To prevent sod from falling apart in handling, it is grown into a netting. Be sure to have all ends and corners well anchored or covered so that a mower or weed eater will not catch it. This also helps prevent tripping hazards. The sod will be pinned into place on heavy slopes. If self-installing, be sure to take this step seriously as the sod can slide and bunch up in heavy rains. Most sod installations do not require pins, but heavy slopes may require it. 

Seed

Seeding is the least expensive and most common process in creating a lawn. Just like with sod, seeding requires quality watering. To establish the grass quickly and efficiently, follow these steps:

Watering Seed

  1. Keep the area damp 3” down for the first month
  2. Water slowly with a fine spray to avoid erosion (fan/oscillating sprinkler works best)
  3. Do not allow water to form puddles, this will drown out the seedlings
  4. Watering in the morning is best, avoid late afternoon or evening to help prevent fungus
  5. Mow new grass to a height of 2.5”-3” to promote growth and thickening (allow the grassy area to dry enough to allow for a mower; if it is too muddy the mower will damage the ground/grass)
  6. Gradually raise mower height each time to achieve a final cutting height of 3-4”
  7. Continue long intermittent watering’s weekly, achieving a total of 1 inch per week for optimal results

Fertilizing seed

At the time that the seed is worked into the soil, a starter fertilizer is applied. This will provide vital nutrients for the seedlings as they take root, promoting quicker growth and a strong root system. Just like sod, it is highly recommended to utilize a fertilizer program to yield the best results for a strong and healthy lawn. A fertilizer application should be applied about 3 weeks after the initial installation. 

Weeds and seeding

Due to the seeding process, weeds (possibly quite a few) will emerge. This is because weed seed that already existed either in or on the surface has now received the elements to germinate: water, light, and soil contact. This is a normal event and is expected. Broadleaf weeds can be sprayed after 3 mowing’s. Annual grassy weeds will die back in the colder months leading into winter. Preemergent/fertilizer applications the following spring will prevent annual grassy weeds from returning. 

Other Notes about Seed

Did you know it takes 6 months for grass to fully mature? In fact, a single seedling spike will grow to the size of your fist. This is the reason that seeding ideally takes place (primarily) in the fall. It allows the grass to germinate and begin establishing during cooler temperatures before going into the stressful summer months. 

Sometimes seeding must take place at different times of the year due to restrictive circumstances. In these cases, the guidelines for care are the same but may need to be altered a bit and the results may take longer. The focus for seeding is good watering practices. If temperatures are cool, then it will take longer for germination and development.        


Preservation Plan

We highly recommend a yearly landscape/lawn preservation plan to protect your investment.  Landscape plants will greatly benefit from pruning to promote good health, aesthetics, and proper growth. 

You can learn more about the Landscape Preservation Plan here.

Lawns need supplemental nutrients to continue good health/growth. We offer fertilizing, plant probiotics, disease/insect/pest control, and mulching.  

Please feel free to reach out to us for any questions concerning your property.  We will be happy to provide you the information needed to tackle the project yourself, or we can give you a quote on preserving your investment and your outdoor environment.  Thank you again!