One of the many wonderful features of
naturescaping is that an established naturescape requires
much less work than a conventional landscape (and typically
that work does not require loud gas or electric powered
machinery). The primary maintenance considerations for
a naturescape include watering your new plants, i.e.
"protecting your investment," and weed removal.
The latter, weed removal, can perhaps not be emphasized
enough. It is often the single most important barrier
in establishing a naturescape. Weed removal is greatly
advanced by removing weeds early and using "filler"
plants to occupy space between desired plants and thereby
keep weeds from moving into that space.
With respect to watering, if plants are
planted in their dormant season and have a chance to
acclimate to their new location before breaking bud,
they are likely to require less watering, though they
may still require or at least benefit from some watering.
If plants are planted in the drier, hotter summer months,
they will certainly require watering. The number one
rule to follow in watering is use common sense. Since
plants and location differ markedly, there is no general
rule. It is best to read any instructions that come
with a plant or to ask at the nursery where you obtained
If you have a small area and a keen eye,
manual watering by hose or pail may be sufficient. If
you have a larger area or you do not have the time for
regular watering, you may wish to utilize a temporary
irrigation system. Watering assistance is typically
required for the first year or two after planting.
For more information on irrigation systems
and or suppliers, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With respect to weed removal, while plants
appear placid and docile, they are actually engaged
in a very competitive life and death struggle for survival.
From the time you plant your naturescape until the plants
"grow in," there is a period during which
the exposed ground between your desired plants is a
battleground for other plants, mostly weeds, that are
trying to establish themselves. The need to weed is
- Your native plants grow in and reduce the ground
available to weeds; and
- You remove weeds, hence removing the seed source
of future weeds.
Planting the desired natives and then
covering the site with yard debris compost or the like
is a preferred way of reducing weeds from the outset.
While a compost cover can reduce seed germination in
the soil, seeds may germinate directly in the compost.
These weeds should be pulled out immediately and pulling
weeds from compost is far easier than from soil. Occasional
weeding will also be required as your plants establish
themselves. Weeding or weed suppression is typically
a concern during the first 2-3 years of a naturescape
and then tapers to minimal activity, for example, quarterly
inspections and limited weed removal, if any. Note that
the weeds may not only include random plants blown in
from elsewhere (dandelions, etc.), but also plants that
inhabited your space prior to installation of the naturescape
such as non-native grasses and English ivy.
Weed suppression may be done through manual,
obstruction-based or chemical removal. Most of us are
familiar, perhaps to our dismay, with manual weeding.
Nonetheless, it is an effective step in the critical
battle of early removal of weeds. General considerations
in manual weeding include removing as much of the plant
as possible and removing plants before they have the
opportunity to set seed.
[steve enter note about weeds and
mineral soil, for example note that most weeds,
dandelions, etc. like to grow in mineral soil.
If you can keep the soil well-covered with leaf
mulch and/or actual leaves you will reduce weed
growth considerably. That is not to say that there
are not weeds that grow in leaf mulch, they are
only fewer and you can pull them out more easily.]
Obstruction-based weed suppression is emerging
as a non-toxic manner of weeding a larger area
or removing stubborn weeds. As the name implies,
obstruction based weed removal utilizes a physical
object to prevent plant growth in a particular
area. Suitable objects include newspaper and cardboard,
etc. These may be placed over an unwanted plant
until the plant dies from lack of light and/or
moisture. It is often desirable to cut a plant
as close to the ground as possible (particularly
for difficult to remove plants such as blackberry
and ivy) before the physical object is placed
over the plant. Once the unwanted plant is dead,
the ground can be covered with a desired plant
or with compost material to suppress further weed
growth. In the adjacent photos a layer of newspaper
is put down first and then covered with leaves.
The initial leaf load and newspapers can be hosed
down to keep them from blowing away. The process
of laying down newspaper and leaves (or other
yard compost) is continued until the desired area
Chemical weed suppression may at times be a
necessary evil in suppressing weeds. Chemical
weed suppression should only be used where other
techniques have failed. Chemical weed suppression
has serious negative environmental impacts including
causing cancer in humans and causing considerable
fish kills when carried off by rain.
Thus, if chemical weed suppression is utilized
the following guidelines are recommended:
- Use a mild, targeted herbicide such as Round-up
or a similar glyphosate-based herbicide. These
herbicides are "post-emergent" herbicides
which means that they only kill when sprayed
"on" a part of a plant that is still
growing, i.e., leaf, etc. Note that "pre-emergent"
herbicides such as Casaron should NOT be used.
These latter herbicides are so powerful that
they can be effective for over a year and tend
to wash off into a municipal drinking supply
long before they have become inactive;
- Apply only when rain is not likely for a week
or more; and
- Apply only when it is not windy. PN
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