Quality Landscapes


The reason for fertilization is to supply nutrients to deficient plants. A soil test should be done prior to planting to help you to determine the correct fertilizer you may need.

Contact your local county extension agency for information on soil testing. The soil test will show the soil type, nutrient status, current pH and desirable pH ranges for the plant in question. Fertilization rates will be based on these results, which for most shade trees will range from two to four pounds of Nitrogen (N) per thousand square feet. Additional soil tests every few years are recommended to monitor the fertilizer program and prevent mineral element deficiencies that could result in a decrease in plant growth.

Trees, shrubs and groundcovers should be fertilized once a year, after the first hard freeze in October and before the ground freezes in December or prior to growth in early spring, between February and early April. A slow release fertilizer, for example, Tree-tone or Plant-tone by Espoma, should be used according to the manufacturer’s directions. If fertilizer is not applied during these times, applications may be made up to July 1st. Do not fertilize after this midsummer date, as it would delay the plant’s acclimation to winter weather conditions.

Perennials should be fertilized in the spring with a slow release fertilizer, for example, Osmocote. If we have a very wet spring, fertilize perennials again in late spring/early summer.

Annuals should be fertilized more frequently as needed throughout the growing season. Osmocote may be applied to your annuals as a slow release fertilizer at planting time and you may also want to use a water-soluble fertilizer, for example, Miracle Gro. Follow directions on package for application rate.


should generally be fertilized three to five times a year during the growing season. Please contact Quality Landscapes for a fertilization schedule or follow our links posted on Plant Care info tab, and follow the recommended intervals and application rates for best results.

A complete fertilizer contains at least three major elements: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Fertilizer can be applied in the landscape by: 1) liquid application, 2) granular application, 3) foliar sprays, and 4) tree stakes. Each method serves a specific purpose depending on the site and plant health. Regardless of the method selected, the soil should be moist at the time of fertilizing to prevent fertilizer injury.

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Once your plants are installed, watering becomes the owner’s responsibility. Proper irrigation is critical for the plants, especially during the first year after planting. These plants are most susceptible to drought or over-watering injuries when they are becoming established in the yard.

Do not over-water or leave the soil saturated for a long period of time. One inch of water/rain per week for newly planted trees and shrubs, is the general rule, although frequency varies with different types of plants, different soil types, exposure to sun & wind, amount of rain, and whether or not the plant is mulched. To monitor how much water is received from a sprinkler, use a can placed in the watering zone. When the can is filled with an inch of water, you have watered sufficiently. If you are letting the hose run on a newly planted tree, let it run for at lease 15-30 minutes for a deep watering. It is important that the soil be watered thoroughly to encourage deep rooting. Less frequent, slow and deep watering is preferable to frequent shallow watering. To determine actual moisture content, dig into the soil with a trowel or small shovel to a depth of four to eight inches; if the soil is moist, there is no need to water at this time.

Established trees and shrubs generally receive sufficient moisture during a normal lawn-watering program or from natural rainfall. If natural rainfall has not been adequate, and watering is necessary, make sure that the sprinkler is positioned so that the entire area within the drip line of the branches receives water. Most trees and shrubs have roots that extend to the drip line and beyond. The drip line represents the area under the tree or shrub measured straight down from the tip-end of the branches. As with newly planted trees, less frequent but deep watering is preferable to frequent shallow watering. All trees and shrubs need to be watered during periods of drought. If you have questions regarding irrigation, please call or send an e-mail.

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Mulching Landscape Plants

A mulch, by definition, is a layer of bark, sphagnum peat moss, muck peat, compost, pine needles, gravel, plastic, or any similar material uniformly spread on the surface of the soil under plants. The objectives of applying mulch or mulching are to:

  • prevent weed growth.
  • conserve moisture in the soil. *
  • cool soil surface and stabilize soil temperature. *
  • reduce heaving (plant roots forced upward out of soil) of small plants as a result of alternate freezing and thawing of the soil in autumn, winter and spring. *
  • add organic matter to soil, if mulch materials are organic in nature.
  • reduce soil erosion on slopes.
  • keep fruits, vegetables and flowers cleaner.
  • improve aesthetics of a landscape and add to property values.
  • facilitate maintenance and reduce the damage from lawn mowers and string trimmers.

* Research by the Weyerhaeuser Co. (1969) indicated that two inches of bark: 1) reduced moisture loss in summer by 21 percent, 2) reduced soil temperature in summer, in the upper four inches of soil, by 10 degrees F and, 3) delayed soil temperature in winter from reaching the freezing temperature by two days compared to unmulched soil.

Effects of Organic Mulches in Soil

Organic mulches will decompose in time and enrich and improve the soil. This results in increased aeration of silt or clay loam soils and added water-holding capacity of sandy loam soils. Mulching improves and stabilizes soil structure (arrangement of soil particles) by reducing the impact of rain, weight (people walking on the soil) and cultivation of soils, especially when wet. In short, compaction of the soil is reduced.

Mulching Depth

The recommended mulching depth, depending on the material selected, is 2 to 3 inches. At this depth, most mulches will accommodate the primary objectives of weed control, soil moisture conservation and temperature modification.

Mulching depths less than two inches may not satisfy the principal objectives. However, mulch applied 4 to 6 inches or more can lead to serious problems for landscape plants. A mulch that is too thick may severely reduce or eliminate drying and lead to water-logged soil, particularly during wet seasons or in heavy clay loam soils.
Excess mulch, particularly if applied right against the stem or trunk of landscape plants, also leads to constantly wet bark and conditions favorable for disease development. Extra heavy mulch layers in autumn/winter are often a haven for rodents to nest and gnaw on the plants, especially when other wildlife food sources are covered with snow. This may lead to girdling (destruction of the food conducting vessel in the plant’s stem) which destroys the plant.

Rake and fluff your mulch periodically to prevent the mulch from becoming matted. A matted crust layer which may form on top of the mulch can prevent water and air penetration to the plant’s root zone.

When reapplying mulch over an existing base, rake and fluff the existing mulch, add additional mulch to bring the total mulch depth up to 2 to 2.5 inches. Avoid applying two inches of mulch with each application or soon a depth greater than three inches will accumulate. For example, when using cypress bark, which is slow to decompose, very little mulch will be needed in subsequent applications to maintain desired depths.

Some Recommended Organic Mulch Materials

Mulching products most frequently available in garden centers are reviewed briefly below:

Mulching products most frequently available in garden centers are reviewed briefly below:

Shredded, chip, or chunk bark. This material is by far the most popular landscape mulch due to its appearance, serviceability and cost. Included are shredded hardwood, cypress mulch, single and double ground pine, dyed mulches, rubber mulch, and certified playground mulch.
Pine needles. The needles of pine trees make excellent mulch particularly for evergreens and plants that thrive in acidic soils.

Straw. Straw and hay are used for winter protection of perennials, strawberries and small plants. If left as permanent mulch, additional nitrogen (one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet) is suggested, since this material decomposes readily. Please note: weed seed may be introduced from straw, hay and grain crop residues used as mulch.

Peat moss. High moisture-holding capacity, but easily crusts and needs to be fluffed on a regular basis. Peat moss is also a good soil amendment.

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Why Prune?

"Prune first for safety, second for health, and finally for aesthetics."
The three main reasons to prune trees:


Remove branches that could fall and cause injury or property damage, branches that interfere with lines sight on streets, sidewalks or driveways, and branches that grow into overhead utility lines. The easiest way to avoid these issues is to choose species of trees that will not outgrow their available space.


Remove any dead, diseased or insect-infested wood, and remove crossing and rubbing branches. Prune younger trees to encourage development of strong structure and to reduce the likelihood of damage during severe weather. Remove broken or damaged limbs to encourage wound closure.


Prune to maintain the tree's natural form, or to stimulate flower production, and pruning may even help add value to your property

When To Prune?

Evergreens are best pruned during their dormant season to minimize sap and resin flow from the cut branches. Pruning evergreen trees involves cutting or breaking off one half of the new candle growth. Minimize pruning of whole branches. Dead branches can be removed any time of year.
Deciduous trees without flowers should be pruned in their dormant season (late fall to early spring) to easily see the structure of the tree and to maximize wound closure in the growing season after pruning. Spring blooming trees should be pruned immediately after flowering; whereas, summer or fall blooming trees should be pruned during their dormant season (late fall-winter). Their flower buds will form on new twigs during the next growing season.

Pruning Techniques

Proper cuts are made at a node, the point at which one branch attaches to another. Here are the most common types of pruning:

Crown Thinning — Selectively remove branches to increase light penetration and air movement throughout the crown. Thinning helps develop the tree’s structure and form. No more than ¼ of the living crown should be removed at one time. Branches with strong U-shaped angles of attachment should be retained. Branches with narrow V-shaped angles of attachment should be removed.
(Note: Blue colored branches suggest thinning pattern.)

Crown Raising — Branches from the bottom of the crown are removed to provide accessibility underneath the canopy of the tree for vehicles, pedestrians, buildings, or line of site. After pruning, the trunk height should be one third the height of the crown. (Note: Blue colored lower branches represent raising the crown.)

Crown Reduction — This method is most often used for trees that have grown too large for their allotted space. This is a better method than topping, because it retains the tree’s natural appearance. It also allows for fewer pruning times and minimizes stress on the tree. This should be used as a last resort method; it often results in large wounds that could lead to decay.

Do not use this method on pyramidal-shaped trees, rather consider replacing this tree with one that will not outgrow its space. This technique should be done by a certified arborist. (Note: Blue colored branches represent crown reduction.)

How to Make the Cut

Pruning cuts should be made so that only branch tissue is removed and stem tissue is not damaged.

Pruning live branches — Look for the branch collar that grows from the stem tissue at the underside of the base of the branch. On the upper surface, there is usually a branch bark ridge that runs (more or less) parallel to the branch angle, along the stem of the tree. A proper pruning cut does not damage either the ridge or the collar.

Begin the cut just outside the branch bark ridge and angle down away from the stem of the tree. Avoid injuring the branch collar. Make the cut as close as possible to the stem in the branch axil, but outside the branch bark ridge, so that stem tissue is not injured and the wound can seal in the shortest time possible. If the cut is too far from the stem leaving a branch stub, branch tissue usually dies and woundwood forms from the stem tissue. This causes a delayed wound closure.

Always use sharp pruners so that you can make clean cuts without tearing the branch. On branches that are too large for hand pruners, use a saw and support the branch with one hand while the cuts are made. If a branch is too large to support with your hand, make a 3-step pruning cut:

  1. First cut is a shallow notch made on the underside of the branch,
    outside the branch collar.
  2. Make the second cut outside the first cut all the way through the branch, leaving a short stub.
  3. Finally, cut the stub just outside the branch bark ridge/collar.

Pruning dead branches — Similar to the live branch, although often easier because you can see where the dead branch connects to the live tree. Make the pruning cut outside the ring of woundwood tissue that has formed. Larger dead branches should be cut using the 3-step method.

Drop Crotch Cuts — This type of cut should be made by a certified arborist. Most crotch cuts involve branches that are too large to be supported with your hand. Professionals follow these three steps:

  1. Make a notch, well above the branch crotch, on the side of the stem away from the branch that will remain.
  2. Begin the second cut inside the branch crotch, above the branch bark ridge and cut through the stem above the notch.
  3. Cut the remaining stub just inside the branch bark ridge through the stem parallel to the branch bark ridge.

Harmful Pruning Practices

Topping — The practice of pruning branches and stems at right angles leaving long stubs. Often used for the ‘supposed’ purpose of reducing the height of a tree. Many times homeowners have trees topped because they believe the tree is getting too tall. This expensive practice actually stimulates rapid growth of multiple weak branches. And the branches quickly get as tall or even taller than the original height of the tree. A reputable tree service will not even suggest this method!

Tipping — The practice of cutting lateral branches between nodes to reduce crown width.

Bark Ripping — Occurs when the cut made is not a clean cut and branch rips away from main branch or trunk.

Flush Cuts — Cuts that originate inside the branch bark ridge or collar causing injury to stem tissue and eventually decay.

Stub Cuts — Cuts made too far outside the branch bark ridge or branch collar that leave branch tissue attached to the stem. These cuts can delay wound closure and allow entry for canker and decay.

Pruning Tools

Using the proper tool when pruning is essential for satisfactory pruning. Choosing the right tool depends largely on the size of branch and the amount of pruning needed. And always make sure the blades are sharp prior to making that first cut!

Here is a guideline for tools:

Hand pruners are best for small branches (less than 1"" diameter). Use lopping shears on branches up to 2-3/4"" diameter and a small pruning saw on branches up to 3.5"" diameter. Chain saws should only be used by someone who is qualified, because they are for cutting branches over 3.5" diameter, which are too large for one person to handle.
Pole pruners are good to use on those hard-to-reach branches that are less than 2"" diameter. If you are using a pole pruner, beware of overhead utility lines. It is best to have a qualified professional remove these branches.

Proper cleaning and sanitizing your tools regularly will help prevent the spread of disease to other parts of the tree and to other trees. Pruning during the trees’ dormant stage will greatly reduce the possibility of spreading disease. Sanitize the tool with liquid household bleach, diluted 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. 1-2 minutes should be enough soaking time. When finished using the tool, wash off with soap and water and wipe dry to prevent corrosion to blades.

Treating Wounds

Tree sap, gums, and resins are the natural means by which trees combat invasion by pathogens. Sap flow can be unsightly, but is not generally harmful. Applying wound dressing is not recommended as it will not stop decay or cure diseases. Oftentimes they may interfere with the protective benefits of tree gums and resins, preventing the wound surfaces from closing as quickly as they might if left alone to ‘Mother Nature’. The only exceptions are oak & elm trees. If these varieties must be pruned during their growing season, it is a good idea to apply wound dressing to help reduce the risk of disease.

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Tall Fescue

March through May
June through August
September through November
December through February
Integrated Pest Management
Calculating Fertilizer Application Rates

Home Lawn Calendar

Tall fescue is a moderate-to-coarse-bladed, heavy-duty grass that tolerates a wide range of soil and shade conditions and has good heat, drought, and wear tolerance. Tall fescue has few serious pest problems but is subject to brown patch disease under warm, wet conditions. Tall fescue grows rapidly and requires frequent mowing but does not tolerate a close cut. It is a bunchgrass that does not recover well from injury and thus must be reseeded if bare areas appear. New cultivars referred to as "turf-type" tall fescues have been developed. These cultivars are more shade tolerant and finer leaved than standard K-31 variety. Maintenance programs provided by professional lawn care companies may differ from recommendations given here but yet be equally effective.

March through May


Mow lawn to 3 inches in height. Mow at least once a week. Mow before grass gets above 5 inches tall. Then practice grasscycling Grasscycling is simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn's fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don't bag them! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.


DO NOT fertilize tall fescue after March 15.


Tall fescue needs 1 to 1 1/4 inches of water every week, ideally all at once. A dark bluish-gray color, footprinting, and wilted, folded, or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Water until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Use a screwdriver or similar implement to check. Sandy soils require more frequent watering (about 1/2 inch of water every third day). Because clay soils accept water slowly, irrigate just until runoff occurs, wait until the water has been absorbed, and begin watering again. Continue until the desired depth or amount is applied. Proper irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer. Watering between 2 and 8 a.m. decreases the incidence of certain diseases.

Weed Control

Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply by the time the dogwoods are in bloom.

Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in April and May.


Delay aeravation until Fall.


It is generally not necessary to remove thatch.

June through August


Raise mower height to 3 1/2 inches. Mow before the grass gets above 5 inches tall. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


DO NOT fertilize tall fescue at this time. Submit a soil sample for analysis to determine nutrient requirements. (Contact your county Extension Center for details.)


Either water as needed to prevent drought or allow the lawn to go dormant. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate for irrigated lawns. Sandy soils often require more frequent watering, or about 1/2 inch of water every third day. Do not discontinue irrigation in midsummer. Water dormant lawns every three weeks in the absence of rain.

Weed Control

Avoid the use of herbicides at this time.

Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in July and August.

Disease Control

Check for brown patch disease.


Delay Aeravating tall fescue lawns at this time.


Western Region Only! (See September-November for Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures; about August 15 to September 1. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type fertilizer at the time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.


It is not necessary to remove thatch.

September through November


Mow to 2 1/2 to 3 inches in height. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


The best way to determine your lawn's nutrient needs is by a soil test. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Agronomic Division, provides free soil testing. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (that is, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen (N) per thousand square feet in mid-September and again in November (about the time the grass is green but not actively growing).*
(* leads to fertilizer application rate sample calculation)


Water following guidelines for March through May.

Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides to control dandelions and other weeds if necessary. Caution: Some herbicides may affect newly seeded turf. Follow label directions.

Insect Control

Check for white grubs in September and October; fall is the ideal time to control white grubs.


Aeravate lawns subject to heavy traffic or on clay soils to minimize compaction and improve rooting.


Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions Only! (See June-August for western region.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures in September and early October. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer at time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.

Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.

December through February


Remove lawn debris (rocks, sticks, and leaves). Mow lawn at 3 inches and remove clipping debris at spring greenup. Mow before grass gets taller than 5 inches. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet in February.
* (Click here for sample calculations) In absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio.


Water, if needed, to prevent excessive drying. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate.

Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds.


Delay until fall.


an ecologically and financially sound program for your lawn.

Facts About Grass Clippings

North Carolina state law prohibits disposal of yard wastes, including grass clippings, in landfills. Using grass clippings as a nutrient source for your lawn can save time and money and protect the environment. Grass clippings don't cause thatch.

The Grasscycling Concept

Leave grass clippings on the lawn! Grass clippings are 75 to 85 percent water and a good source of nutrients. When left on the lawn after mowing they quickly decompose and release nutrients. Through grasscycling, you can supply up to 25 percent of the lawn's yearly fertilizer needs, which means saving money and time. (And it means you do not have to rake and bag for hours.) By following the management guidelines in this turf calendar and adding grasscycling to your routine, you will no longer need to bag clippings and your lawn will grow at an acceptable rate, retain a green color, ands develop a deeper root system.

* Calculating Fertilizer Application Rates

To determine the amount of product required to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number an the fertilizer bag.

Example 1:
A 16-4-8 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 16 = 6.25 (100/16 = 6.25) pounds of product applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Example 2:
A 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 10 = 10 (100/10 = 10) pounds of product to be applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

AERA-Vator Advantages

The ability to aerate dry soil reduces the time and expense of scheduling irrigation prior to use.THE HARDER AND DRYER THE SOIL, THE BETTER THE AERA-Vator WORKS. The soil disturbance caused by the vibrating tines stimulates thatch decomposition with the shattering of loosened soil. The unit softens the soil around and between the holes creating more of an opening for root growth and absorption of water, air, nutrients and chemicals. Versatility - aerate established turf; till bare ground for sodding and seeding, or till a plant bed without destroying the mulch (All with the same machine). Varying ground speed and PTO (Lift Units*) or engine RPM (AE-40E) easily varies the degree of soil loosening

Please call Quality Landscapes or use our website if you have any questions or concerns about your landscape! We're here to help with all your landscaping needs.

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