Protecting Your Landscape from the Elements
Here in West Michigan, we get four glorious, distinct seasons—even if spring likes to come and go a bit with winter, and fall is never long enough. It’s one of the big reasons we love living here! Wonderful summers. Crisp falls that are perfect for bonfires. Snowy, white Christmases.
Of course, the wide variety of weather conditions means your outdoor spaces need to be adequately protected from the elements. Deep freezes can kill plants and bust up patio tiles. Heavy winds can fell sick trees. A thunderstorm deluge can quickly flood areas with poor drainage or wash away woodchips.
Fortunately, both proper planning and diligent maintenance can help you protect both natural and manmade elements of your landscape from severe weather, allowing many years of enjoyment.
Protecting Your Plants
Plants need seasonal care for optimal defense against the elements. For example:
Fall cleanup. You want to keep your lawn clear of leaves, sticks, and other debris. For starters, they block out sunlight, and if you let the snow build on top of it, it becomes even harder for plants like trees and shrubs to get adequate oxygen, water, and nutrients. Furthermore, untended yard waste can provide safe harbor for micro-organisms, insects, rodents, and other pests.
Spring cleanup. Once spring has arrived and the snow cover is gone, it’s time to power-sweep the leftover debris, seed, fertilize, etc.
Mulching and rebarking. Adding a couple inches of mulch before freezing temperatures arrive means better insulation and warmer soil for plant roots.
We also recommend laying down new woodchips in early spring to replace those that have decomposed or washed away.
Pruning. Carefully trimming dead or dying branches helps preserve the long-term health of trees, shrubs, and other applicable plants. It also, of course, prevents those branches from falling and potentially damaging your home and properly after being weighed down by snow and ice, or blown over in a strong wind.
In Michigan, the dormant season is usually the best time to do this for trees, particularly late winter—before the leaves return but after the worst of the cold weather has passed.
Safe snow and ice removal. Unburying your driveway and walkways after a fresh load of snow is a fact of life in West Michigan. But do it carefully. The blade of a snow shovel can damage grass and flowers along the edge of the lawn, where life meets cement.
More importantly, though, de-icing salt can soak moisture from the soil and damage root systems. Try to use salt sparingly and keep it off the grass. Avoid placing salt-sensitive plants near driveways or roads where salt is likely to be kicked up and into your yard.
Protecting Man-Made Materials
It’s not just plants you have to worry about. Patios, decks, furniture, grills, stone pathways—harsh weather can affect these items, too. Without proactive care, the elements can cause them to rust, tarnish, crack, or rot much sooner.
As the outdoor season comes to an end in fall, you’ll want to store or protect hard surfaces that may be more susceptible to harsh weather. That starts with giving all your patio or deck furniture a thorough cleaning. Identify and address any stains or rust spots.
You should also thoroughly sweep and clean the surface of your deck or patio. Some can be power washed or hand washed, but other surfaces may require more specialized care—especially if they’re porous. Finally, identify and repair any obvious cracks or places of rot. The winter freeze will only make these problems worse, and may even compromise structural safety.
If you have space, it’s usually best to store what pieces you can indoors—especially indoor-outdoor cushions and pieces made from wicker and wood. Pieces that remain outdoors should be covered securely. Certain pieces may also need to be sealed or treated, depending on the materials they’re made from—check with the manufacturer and see what they recommend.
In springtime, you’ll have to give everything a thorough cleaning again. You’ll also want to carefully inspect your deck, under deck, and/or patio for mildew, loose railings, cracks, or any other signs of damage or compromise. Wooden decks typically need to be re-sealed annually, and may be re-stained later in the spring if the finish is looked a little aged.
Planning for Severe Weather
Probably the best way to protect your landscape from the elements over the long term is to carefully consider the ecological factors during the original design.
By carefully optimizing the type and position of your plants and hardscaping during the planning phase, you can prevent the most common weather-related problems from occurring in the first place. This is part of a broader process that we call this site analysis.
During the site analysis process, we’ll look at the fine, nitty-gritty details of your outdoor space, and the “micro-habitats” it contains. We ask (and answer) questions like:
- What is the soil type of your yard?
- Where are the high and low points, and the maximum and minimum slope?
- What are the drainage patterns?
- Which direction do your walls face?
- How much shade and how much sun will each section of your lawn receive?
- What are the most typical wind speeds and directions at different parts of the year?
- If you have a tree, is it healthy and strong or about ready to topple over?
The answers to these questions give us essential information on how to create a landscape that is as protected from the elements as possible.
For example, if you want to plant gardens along the side of your house, your sun-loving plants should go on the south side (sunny all day) while shade-loving plants should go along the north wall (the best shade and protection from the elements).
Or if you want to build a walkway or patio, we’ll make sure that everything drains properly, so you won’t get water sloshing back toward your house, or pooling and freezing where they can crack the stone.
At Bosch’s, we specialize in this stuff, and delight in creating landscapes that not only look beautiful, but get the most out of the local surface and weather conditions.
To talk with one of our landscaping professionals and request a free estimate, give us a call today at (616) 399-6861.