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The Critical Keys to Yard Maintenance

Jan 1, 2021 | Gardens, Lawns

Yard maintenance is the most critical aspect of your entire landscape. Beautiful flower beds will quickly lose that beauty without adequate yard maintenance. Lush, green grass will undoubtedly die or become overgrown with weeds without the proper yard maintenance.

Every aspect of your softscape will lose its unique characteristics without proper yard maintenance.

Lawn maintenance is the preservation and enhancement of your lawn and its features. Take action to maintain your property by calling Johnson’s Landscaping Service.

As mentioned, maintaining and preserving your yard and its softscape features is lawn maintenance. Ensuring your plants and flowers survive the heat or drought is necessary this time of year.  

Keeping Your Plants Healthy in Heat and Drought

To keep your plants healthy during heat and drought, we offer the following advice:

Newly planted trees and shrubs should be kept moist throughout the first year. A thorough soaking of each plant should be done three times a week for the first three weeks, twice a week for the next three weeks, and once a week for the balance of the year, even if it rains. This watering schedule is the minimum these plants will need when in a drought. It is very unusual to “over water” a plant, so water when in doubt. Wilting is often a sign of lack of water. Be mindful of current weather conditions and vary the watering accordingly.

Watering is best done with an open-ended hose at a slow trickle or using a soaker hose. Water should soak down around

the deep roots of the plant. This takes a varying amount of time depending on the condition, slope, etc., of the soil around each plant. Ten to twenty minutes of a slow trickle may be necessary to attain deep watering. Check the soil down deep to ensure water is not just running off in another direction. Watering in the early morning and/or late afternoon (after 4:00 p.m.) is generally best.

Another faster and better way to water is to poke a hole in the soil next to the plant’s root ball. Rootballs vary in size depending on the maturity of the plant. Average root balls are 12” to 18” in diameter. It would help to make the hole large enough and deep enough to insert a garden hose into the hole so there is no appreciable runoff. Continue to use a slow trickle, but this will allow you to water most plants in 5 minutes or less. Depending on the size, you may have to use two or more holes for watering.

As plants begin to dry out, the roots always seek moisture. If the plants are watered on the top 2 or 3 inches, the roots get moisture at the surface. Then when the surface ground dries out, the roots become damaged and weak. If the plant is watered deeply at the bottom of the root ball and below, the roots go downward, seeking moisture and the plant root system becomes more robust. Note: Do not use any fertilizer at this time.

Yard maintenance encompasses many aspects of your landscape, none more important or less impactful than your new lawn. Proper care after installation is critical. 

New Sod Care – After Installation


The sod must be watered deeply so that the roots of the fresh grass seek moisture down deep in the ground. This is the most crucial factor in ensuring the success of new sod. Follow this schedule:

FIRST TWO WEEKS AFTER INSTALLATION: Water each new sod area every day for 1 to 2 hours early in the morning, as early as 5:00 a.m., if desired. The water should thoroughly saturate the sod and the soil below. Because the earth will be soggy, avoid walking on the sod at this time. This is the most critical period. You need to keep the ground moist during this time. 

THIRD WEEK AFTER INSTALLATION: Water every other day for 2 to 3 hours for one week

FOURTH WEEK AFTER INSTALLATION: Water every 3rd day for 2 to 3 hours.

FIFTH & SIXTH WEEK AFTER INSTALLATION: You should water each new sod area for 3 to 4 hours once a week to get the desired deep watering, which forces the roots to seek the moisture deep in the ground when the top surface dries out during the non-watering periods. This deep watering/deep root system growth strengthens the lawn against the possibility of the mild drought that occurs so often in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

*In the Spring and Fall only (NOT Summer), you can count a rainfall, if it’s a quarter-inch or more, as a watering. Note: It is imperative not to overwater. There should be no standing water. If the ground does not hold the water, you don’t want to puddle into newly sodded areas.

MOWING: When the grass reaches 3.5” in height, allow the ground to dry and mow to 2.5” to 3.0”. Use a sharp blade. Mow approximately every seven days. Cut to 3.0” height in hot, dry weather.

FOOT TRAFFIC: Keep all pedestrians off of any slopes or banks that have been sodded for at least one month.

BROWNING: New sod regularly turns brown during the first few days after installation. If the sod receives adequate moisture, this is not a cause for concern; sod will “green up” as the grass plants grow new leaves.

WEED CONTROL: Weed killers, if needed, may be applied only after the first three months but not during the summer months.

INSECTS & DISEASES: Fungus growth may be a problem on new sod, as it is on any lawn, during hot, humid weather. To help alleviate the possibility of fungus growth, do not water after 4:00 p.m.! Check your yard for brown spots or patches, and contact a professional for advice.

FERTILIZER: Do not apply fertilizer for six months after installation. (Late fertilization is the most important.) then use two applications at one-half the standard rate of fertilizer in the spring, one complete application in early fall, and one application at two times the regular rate in late autumn.

Plant care is also an essential part of yard maintenance. New plants need the most care possible to ensure their transition to your soil and surroundings. 

After Installation – Plant Care Instructions

Once you have done everything necessary for your plants to promote vigorous, healthy growth habits, it’s time to take care of them. These instructions assume the plants have been planted in a prepared planting area containing fertilizer and soil amenities.

WATERING: Newly planted trees and shrubs should be kept moist throughout the first year. A thorough soaking of each plant should be done three times a week for the first three weeks, twice a week for the next three weeks, and once a week

for the balance of the year. Be mindful of current weather conditions and vary watering accordingly. Watering on warm (plus 35 degree) winter days is highly recommended. Wilting is often a sign of lack of water. If wilting still occurs 24 hours after

a thorough soaking of the plant, please consult a professional horticulturist. Watering is best done with an open-ended hose at a slow trickle or using a soaker hose. Watering the leaves will not benefit the plant and can even be harmful. Watering in the early morning and/or late afternoon (4:00 p.m.) is generally best. Do not water mid-day nor in the late evening.

FERTILIZATION: Do not fertilize shrubs or trees for at least one full year following installation. After one year, you may fertilize annually in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer. Take care of the environment; use natural fertilizers whenever possible. 

PRUNING: The removal of excess growth and any diseased or dead wood is essential to the health of all plants, young or old. Making clean cuts greatly reduces the chance of disease and insect infestation. The use of sharp shears will prevent damage to plants. Pruning can generally be done anytime depending on the type of plant:

  • Deciduous trees should be pruned in late fall. •Non-flowering shrubs can be pruned anytime (deciduous and evergreen).
  • Flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned after blooming.
  • Major pruning back of any plant should be done in late fall/early spring. INSECTS AND DISEASES Inspect new plantings periodically for signs of pest and/or disease damage (splotchy leaves, split bark, egg clusters, etc.). Consult with a professional horticulturist at first sign of duress.

Yard maintenance is a brush that paints an extensive array of proper care and enhancement of your landscape.

If the time and attention of your flower, plants, grass, and more become too unmanageable, please get in touch with Johnson’s Landscaping Service to diagnose your yard and perform the critical functions and tasks it needs to survive and thrive.

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About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

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