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  • Start by using a herbicide like Round Up to kill all grass and weeds to the root. This will take 1 to 2 weeks. Make sure to apply this on a sunny day with little wind so it won’t drift.
  • Prepare your soil by adding peat moss, hummus or manure. Spread it about 1-2” thick over the top of the existing soil. Then till it into the soil. This is heavy bed preparation, you can get away with much less, but you run the risk of your plants not thriving. * I would not recommend the generic “soil conditioner”, this is just bark that has been chipped into very small pieces and decomposes very slowly. It doesn’t do much for your plants.
  • Always have underground lines located before digging. Call 1-800-DIGTESS.
  • Outline the beds using a hose or paint and using a shovel make a small trench at the edge of the bed. This can count as your edge without using any edging material if you like. Try to measure the beds to make certain they are the same size as on the plan. If you want to keep weeds from coming up in your new beds this is the time to put weed cloth down. Cut slits for each plant and pin the cloth down to the soil. Get the cloth that has looks like felt on one side, this one works best.
  • Plant your larger plants (1 gallon and up). You might want to throw some time release fertilizer into the hole when your planting.
  • Put down your mulch. Make it 1-2” thick in the beds. This thickness is good at keeping weeds down and moisture in the soil. Use a shredded mulch (like shredded cypress mulch) not chips (they float).
  • Now plant your smaller plants (Quart, 4” and smaller). It is easier to put the mulch down first because otherwise you bury the plants and have to dig them out.
  • Water everything in well. Do this by hand. You can make sure to get all new plantings watered this way.
  • Enjoy!

WATER – This is the most important element in keeping your new plants alive. Think of a new plant that is in the ground as if it was still in its container. If it were in its container you would most likely water it every day. Well the same holds true for plants in the ground. The plants may be dry even though the soil surrounding them is wet. It is important to water the plant directly. Watering surrounding soil does little good. Because there are so many environmental conditions that effect the moisture of the plant, there is no patent answer to watering. If it is sunny, warm, and dry, it is suggested to water every day for 1 to 2 weeks.

If it rains directly on the plant then that can count as a watering. Misty, overcast days don’t count; the plant can still dry out. The best solution is to watch your new landscape. After the 1st to 2nd weeks, start to decrease the frequency in which you water; third week water every 3rd or 4th day and so on. Believe it or not shrubs and trees usually take about 1 year or more to get truly established. Your best bet is to watch your plants and see what they need.

FERTILIZING –There are many different types of fertilizers. A quick lesson, there are 3 numbers usually on the outside of a fertilizer container and they stand respectively for Nitrogen (leaf and stem growth), Phosphorus (roots, flowers and fruit), and Potassium (summer and winter hardiness). The standard principals are to use a high nitrogen fertilizer on grass and shade trees and use a high phosphorus fertilizer on plants you want to promote flowering. A good rule of thumb is don’t sweat it, use a general lawn fertilizer for all of the yard plantings. Now with our alkaline soils, you might find that your plants are yellowing. The best way to prevent that for the long term is to add organic matter to the beds, this comes in the form of humus, manure, peat and compost. If you have already planted and your having yellowing problems then use products such as Soil Sul which is liquid sulfur (and smelly) or Sequestrene which is chelated iron (that’s a fancy term for broken down iron). These products will green plants up quickly, but for the long term adding organic matter to the soil is the only way to fix it for good. Other than that problem, most of the time you will find that plants flourish in our warm semi-arid climate.

PRUNING – This is really an essential part to keeping your plants healthy and growing. Shrubs such as Pittosporum, Ligustrum, and Oleanders need to be pruned just before spring and fall growing seasons. This will keep them full. Similarly, perennials need to be cut back. For example, Lantana can take on a tumbleweed appearance if not trimmed. Most perennials are going to look scraggly in the winter, but their color in the spring, summer, and fall is well worth it. Pruning of trees is a job that you may want a professional to tackle. Oaks can get very thick and shade the grass to death.

WEEDING – Boy is this one a problem. This is probably the most time consuming of all chores in the yard, but so essential. There are many different ways to handle weeds. Some people put down a weed cloth barrier. This is especially useful in rock beds. The problem is many times it does not keep all the weeds out and it can be unsightly if it shows. Pre-emergents are good too. This word pre-emergent means that it kills the seed before it sprouts or germinates. Treating the bedding areas with a pre-emergent will help with this problem, but unfortunately nothing is as good as a little elbow grease and pulling them out.


This is just a helpful note. The information does not in anyway apply to all plants in all environments. Plants are like people in that they are all individual. The key is to watch your investment and then you can stop something before it gets out of control. Good luck. A beautiful yard can be a most enjoyable addition to anyone’s life.