Ecological Landscaping Spring Clean Up

We’ve rounded up our best, environmentally-responsible methods for cleaning up your landscape in spring. With decades of experience in organic and natural landscaping, we’ve worked through all the questions and concerns you may have about transitioning to ecological landscaping and maintenance.

Ecological landscaping strives to first, do no harm, and second, preserve our precious, essential natural resources:

SOIL – Protect from erosion, build organic matter & soil microbial communities. Reject the use of landscape chemicals.

HABITAT – Limit weed & invasive growth so pollinator & wildlife habitats can thrive.

WATER – Preserve water quality by using only organic, natural source soil amendments, fertilizers & weed control. #OMRI approved products.

AIR – No gas blowers to reduce air & noise pollution & greenhouse gas emissions

Learn more about our Organic Lawn, Tree & Shrub program and ecological landscape maintenance.

Full Transcript of Ecological Spring Landscape Clean Up Tips

Welcome to Green Jay Landscaping and Landscapes for Better Living, and today we are giving you a crash course in ecological spring clean up.  When you’re doing ecological landscaping and maintenance clean up from spring to fall, it’s an entirely different animal from traditional practices.

What that means is we cut down the perennials that we left up for winter interest and habitat to be hosts and nesting sites for bees and wasps and flies and all these wonderful insects.  We do not want to disturb the ground a lot because what’s going to happen is were going to disturb the ground and make it more productive for weed species.

Perennial species that we planted here, that we chose, are going to be fine by themselves.  And the organic matter that we leave here (by not removing) is going to add nutrition, bacteria, fungi that these plants need.

In the spring, you can see what’s growing and what’s not, and we cut [the dead matter] down. So before we do anything, we’re in mid April now, and were going to cut back last year’s growth.  Here’s a nice native ‘Moonbeam’ Coreopsis; we’re going to shear this, and encourage new growth, right next to the tulips.

Here we have some onion grass, which I pulled out, just another great herb in the garden.  It will come up and grow taller than everybody else but its not hurting anything, if you can tolerate it, leave it. It’s enriching the soil with minerals.  If you really don’t like it you can grab a shovel and pop it out.

Ecological landscape management is different. So for instance, right in here lurks one of the enemies.  This is Mugwort or Chrysanthemum Weed, and this is not what we want in the landscape.  This can be pretty invasive.

So we do a minimum of raking and clean up, no blowing, no blowing to push away the soil and disturb that very fragile balance in the bio-tone of the surface of the soil in the bed. This is ready; we’re going to edge the bed.

We’re going to fertilize very slightly with a completely organic, natural-source, OMRI-approved fertilizer to give things a little energy to perk up. The woodies we’re going to feed acid-loving organic fertilizer to plants like the Hollies and the Azaleas.  Plants that are a neutral pH like the Boxwood and the Yew, we’re going to feed another formulation of organic, natural source, granular fertilizer to stimulate them.

We’re going to mow the grass, we’re going to edge [the bed], we’re going to feed before we mulch, and that’s it. We’re not going to do a lot of rough raking in the lawn.

The lawn in spring has very fragile roots. Grass has a three-inch to four-inch root system at best, so what we want to do is just pick up the big sticks.  Even little sticks, radial wood, are really good to break down fungi and contribute organic matter.

Leaves, not a problem, we’re going to mulch mow. So, once we’re done with this we’re going to put down a corn-gluten fertilizer, which is the magic of organics if you want to prevent crab grass germination.  It’s very important that this be done precisely at the right time.  That’s when the 24-hour-day temperature, night and day, is at 50 degrees soil temperature.  Then we put down the corn gluten.  Corn gluten acts as a barrier from hairy-stem grasses.

Nothing prohibits crab grass and weeds like a good, healthy turf.  So we intensely seed this in the sun in the fall, and then in the spring we just lightly clean it up, we mulch mow, we fertilize it with the corn gluten, and we proceed with our regular maintenance schedule until we get into the fall.

Ecological landscaping is relatively simple.  So follow the simple methods of top-down [maintenance].  So if we’re going to prune, its already too late to prune the Winter King Hawthorne, it’s budding, we don’t want to touch it.  It’s been shaped previously. Its in really good, healthy shape.

In this case, leaving the grass at 3 ½ inches is really critical not only to suppress weeds and grow a healthy stand of lawn and turf, its also going to conserve water.  Water is mostly in the leaves, so if we cut at 3 ½ inches, which is the optimum, with a sharp blade, we’re going to maintain most of the water in the grass plant.  If you cut at 2 ½ inches, you’re going to remove half of that water.  So it’s a big difference if you’re paying for water like we are here in White Plains, New York.

This is going to be all covered with plants soon, so we won’t have to put so much mulch down.  Little bit of fertilizer, little bit of mulch, mow the lawn properly, mulch in the little sticks, twigs and leaves – everybody’s’ going to be happy.  It’s already green and it’ll be nice and put together for Easter Sunday weekend.

If you like what you’ve seen, check out our website: www.greenjaylandscaping.com

Perennial pollinator garden in White Plains, New York.

Jay Archer

Landscape Ecologist, Designer, President

Green Jay Landscaping

914-560-6570