Commercial Landscape Firm, Lawn Maintenance Company, Frequently Asked QuestionsPugh’s Earthworks

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Installation

Q: What should a good landscape design include?

A: The winter months are a good time to work on a landscape design, whether you are dealing with new property void of any plantings, or renovating an older landscape. Many people think about design as simply “plants” or “plant placement,” which is not a good approach. Rather, think about design as creating outdoor “rooms” that are functional, aesthetic, livable, and maintainable. Rooms are the space created among various landscape objects, whether plants, fences, ponds, patios, etc. Various furnishings fill these outdoor rooms and activities take place in these rooms, just as rooms function in your home. Many landscapes are organized such that there is no reason to go outside and enjoy outdoor spaces; developing functional rooms will enable you to do so.

Q: After I have decided upon the landscape rooms of my design, what are my next steps in the design process?

A: Now that you have thought about your property in terms of rooms and established some priorities, it’s time to walk around your property and inventory and evaluate it. Doing so will help you objectively consider its positive aspects and limitations. There may be some things that are not possible once the property (site) is inventoried, while new possibilities may emerge. In any case, your design priorities must fit the site, or you will have problems. For example, planting a rose garden (a priority) in a shaded site (site inventory) will quickly lead to decline in rose quality. A decision needs to be made; modify the planting and install shade-loving plants in that area, or modify the site by removing trees and/or thinning out tree branches to improve sunlight for the roses.

Begin by making a scaled drawing of your property; this is the “base plan.” Include property lines, house, garage, other structures, driveway, and sidewalks on this plan.

Q: What could be causing my evergreens to turn brown?

A: Homeowners are often perplexed in the spring when evergreen trees and shrubs turn reddish-brown or brown, and when deciduous plants don’t break bud to leaf out. It is important to consider what happens in the winter. This may give you some clues as to what might have happened. There are several things to be aware of including winter desiccation of evergreens, which is a fairly common form of winter injury, and rodent injury to plant bark and stems.

Q: How can I control English ivy? It is taking over a large space that I usually use for annual flowers. Help!

A: You can attempt to control English ivy by a couple of methods. One is to simply pull it out; take hold of an end of a vine, and literally rip it up. The other is to attempt to use an herbicide labeled for woody brush control, such as triclopyr. Several manufacturers make such a product. You may need to use a spreader-sticker product along with the herbicide so that the herbicide doesn’t roll off the leaf – it needs to stick on the leaf to be effective. More than one application will likely be needed. Though this will kill the plant, you will probably still need to go in and clear out the woody vines if you intend to replant the area with other plants, and particularly if you wish to amend the soil in the area.

Q: What may be causing my pachysandra and vinca to turn brown and wilt?

A: In rainy weather when things haven’t had much chance to dry out, groundcover beds can take a hit from fungal diseases. Some pachysandra beds have been infected by a disease called Volutella, which causes brown leaf blotches and stem cankers. Vinca beds have been infected by Phomopsis, causing the shoot tips to wilt, turn brown, and die back to the soil surface. Affected stems may turn black. In both cases, plants may die out in patches, leaving gaping holes in the groundcover planting.


Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Irrigation Installation

Q: How will I benefit from an inground sprinkler system?

A: Since handwatering is done on a random basis, and at irregular intervals, an automatic sprinkler system will actually, in most cases, use less water. It will also disperse the water at an even rate, and for a predetermined amount of time. This allows you to water sunny and shady areas for different periods of time, and to water when it is most efficient. One obvious benefit is the ability to continue a watering program while you are away on vacation, etc.

Q: How long does a system take to put in?

A: It would depend on the area that is trying to be covered. An average size lawn (@15,000 sq. ft.) can usually be done in one full day, depending on the situation. A large country lawn can take anywhere from two to four days. On average, we spend one to two days on a job.

Q: What is a backflow device, and why do I need one on my sprinkler system?

A: A backflow device is generally a brass assembly that will prevent any water from the sprinkler system from getting into the drinking water supply, and are required by all municipalities. There are many different types of these, and each individual municipality has differing requirements for the installation.

Q: What type of maintenance does the system require?

A: All systems need to be winterized at the end of the season. This is done by attaching an air hose to a fitting on the water line, and blowing all of the water out of the system. Most people that we install systems for simply turn it back on in the springtime themselves. We do offer the service of opening systems for the season. The quality of the products used initially, and of the overall installation, play an important part in the long term service of the system. The better the products and installation, the less trouble you should expect in the future.

Q: How long and how often should I run my sprinkler system?

A: While there are no set parameters for this, here are a few rules of thumb. The precipitation rates on geardrive/sprayhead zones is about a 4 to 1 ratio. This means that gear drive zones should be run about four times longer than sprayzones. Gear drive zones should be run for a minimum of 30 minutes, except in very shady areas. In the hot parts of the summer, these should be changed to 45 minutes, even an hour. Sprayhead zones should be run for 8 to 10 minutes, and bumped up to 15 to 20 minutes in dramatically hot weather. In the spring and fall, you should be able to get by with every second or third day. When the weather gets very hot, once a day is a good idea, as this will keep the lawn from getting stressed. Time and experience will tell you what will work best on your own property.



When should I water my lawn and how often should I do it?

The typical lawn requires about one inch of water per week. The best time to water is early morning. Watering at night puts your lawn at risk for developing mildew and fungi.

What benefits do grass clippings provide if returned to the lawn?

Grass clippings returned to the lawn provide up to 25% of your lawn’s total fertilizer needs. Clippings contain about 4% nitrogen, 2% potassium and 1% phosphorus. While decomposing, they also serve indirectly as a food source for the bacteria in the soil, which are doing many beneficial things (such as decomposing thatch) for a healthy turf environment.

Why recommend taller mowing heights?

When you set your mower at a higher cutting height, the grass plant produces a deep and efficient root system that can reduce the need for watering. Taller mowing also helps to “shade out” many weeds. Simply remember to set your mower at a tall setting so clippings fall easily into the lawn.

How does lawn fertilizing affect clipping production?

This questions will be answered in two parts, beginning with the cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass) and then the warm-season grasses (zoysiagrass and bermudagrass).

Cool-season grasses should be fertilized primarily in late Summer and Fall (September and October). Nutrients applied at this time encourage root growth and turf thickening. Fall applications also result in early spring green-up without causing excessive leafy top growth. Given proper fall fertilization, spring applications may not be required. High rates of nitrogen (more than 1 pound per 1,000 square feet) in the spring will stimulate unnecessary flushes of leaf growth and may predispose the lawn to greater summer damage. No more than one spring fertilization should occur. This can be in late Match or early April with a weed-and-feed treatment for crabgrass or in May with a slow-release nitrogen source.

Warm-season grasses should be fertilized when the grass begins its active growth in late spring and early summer (May-June). Again, for slow and even growth, use a fertilizer containing a slow-release nitrogen source. Warm-season grasses should not be fertilized in September and October.

What does mulch do?

Mulches such as wood chips, leaves and compost suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture and modify soil temperatures. Mulch also protects sloping ground from soil erosion and can stop soil compaction caused by driving rain. In addition, mulch provides a good environment for earthworms and other soil organisms that are necessary for healthy soil. Mulches can reduce maintenance as well as provide a feature of you landscapes.

How deep should a mulch be applied around my trees and shrubs?

Most mulches should be only 2 – 4 inches deep. Air and water exchange are dramatically reduced and the soil becomes an inhospitable environment for roots if the mulch is applied to deeply. Do no apply mulch right up to the trunk or stem of a tree or shrub as this encourages the development of decay fungi.