On this page, Back to the Roots Landscaping will provide seasonal information that is relevant to the Lane County area. We will include tips that can help keep your yard looking its best, in addition to information that will assist in getting ready for the summer and winter months. Please check back, as we will update this section as needed. We welcome your questions about general maintenance or possibly something unique to your yard. If you have come across it, and live in Lane County, you can bet you are not alone!
Spring is an incredible season in almost everyone’s garden. Bulbs bloom, dormant plants re-emerge and even the most neglected lawns thrive and grow.
Spring is also the time for a lot of work in most people’s gardens and the number and size of some of these tasks can be overwhelming. One task that many people notice in the spring is pruning.
Pruning can be daunting to many home gardeners. The boldest pruners ply their confidence with the reasoning that “it’ll always grow back.” While this is usually true (not always!) it does not justify or forgive the worst mistakes a poor pruner can make. A Rhododendron that is thoughtlessly sheared back will not only lose its chance to flower, but will soon take the form of a laurel rather than a rhody. A topped tree will usually never regain the appearance of a tree at all. And some perennials that beg for aggressive pruning in late fall will be ruined or killed by the same pruning done in early August.
What guidelines then can be offered to the less experienced? We’ll offer just one: know your plant. If you want to prune something, the first step is identification. Being able to name the plant you want to prune allows you to look up its traits and habits in a reference book or an internet resource.
You want to know how tall and wide the plant can get. Can your plant realistically continue to grow in the space allotted to it? Sometimes removing a plant is the only solution. Replacing an overgrown plant with one of the correct size can be both easier and more satisfying than trying to fit a ten foot plant into a four foot space.
When does your plant bloom? In general, most people do not want to prune during or just before bloom time because they want to enjoy each year’s flower show. More importantly, it’s key to know if your plant blooms on new growth or old growth. If your plant blooms on old growth and your pruning program is to shear it each year to control size then you are most likely removing the very buds from which your plant could be blooming. Conversely, knowing that your plant blooms on new growth can also influence your pruning habits. In the case of most cane-type roses (hybrid teas, grandifloras, etc.), the fact that flowering happens primarily on new growth is one of the reasons these plants are pruned so aggressively every winter – we want to see them flower!
What is your plant’s natural habit? “Habit” in gardening refers to a plant’s way of growing. For example, upright, rounded, as a thicket, as a spreading ground cover, etc. This is key to pruning because most of the time you want to work with your plant’s natural habit rather than fighting nature. There are exceptions such as formally sculpting plants, cropped fruit trees and others. But mostly, it’s helpful to know that Abelias grow from canes and look best when they’re cane-pruned or that daylily foliage grows like grass and usually looks terrible if it’s cut back anything less than all the way.
Knowing your plants before you prune will be good advice to some. Others will decide that they’d rather just leave it to us. We’re happy to help! We love pruning and we do it well. At Back to the Roots we will prune your plants at the right time and with the right technique that leaves them attractive, healthy and contributing to the beauty of your garden.
Summer is western Oregon’s best kept secret. While most of the continental United States is overrun with humidity and California is overrun with almost 40 million people, Oregon enjoys a summer climate almost as dry as California’s, but cooler and more comfortable. Almost perfect. Lucky us.
Much as we love it, there is a downside to all this delightful, dry weather. Namely: watering our gardens. It may seem absurd to think twice about water resources in a place as rainy as Oregon, but one simple fact makes sense of this: our water demand is highest during the season that supply is lowest; summer. The majority of summer water demand is for outdoor usage. That’s right; it’s for watering our landscapes. In fact, about half of all the water most families use in a year is used in the summer for watering the landscape.
Most households irrigate their landscapes pretty poorly. Many sprinklers apply water much faster than the ground can absorb it resulting in runoff. Drip irrigation is a great idea, but it’s rarely installed or maintained well. Automatic irrigation controllers relieve homeowners of the chore of switching water on and off, but they’re often programmed with very little insight and not adjusted for changes in the weather at all.
Some people respond to the challenge of water conservation by trying not to irrigate at all. While this kind of sacrifice is admirable, it is not really necessary. For four years, Back to the Roots Landscaping worked closely with EWEB to run a WaterWise program for landscape contractors. One thing we learned during that time is that our local water providers would be completely satisfied to see homeowners continue watering their yards, but learn to water much more efficiently.
The three basics of smart irrigation are design, install, maintain. Designing means a foreknowledge of plant, soil and irrigation basics. Installation means the skillful and careful construction of an irrigation system including proper layout, durable, high-quality materials and methods that are responsible and sustainable for the long term. Maintenance is the most neglected step and means simply checking, repairing and adjusting the hundreds of little parts from which an irrigation system is made.
Because most irrigation systems are designed, installed and especially maintained so poorly, most irrigation audits have shown home irrigation systems to be less than 50% efficient. This means owners have to apply twice the water that they should have to to keep plants and lawns green in our dry summer climate.
Advances in irrigation materials have made efficient systems affordable. Drip irrigation that’s well-installed and maintained can save tremendous amounts of water around perennials, shrubs and trees. Irrigated lawns and ground covers now have the advantage of sprinklers that water more slowly and at regulated pressure to prevent misting loss. “Smart controllers” get data from weather stations every day to command more or less water for your garden depending on the weather. Implementing these improvements now can result in saving thousands of gallons of water each summer. It IS possible to continue watering your landscape successfully and beautifully, but responsibly. Ask us how.