Proudly Serving London, Tillsonburg, Woodstock & Area Since 2001

Tips Of The Trade

Welcome to the Courtland Landscape & Grounds blog! Being in the landscaping business as long as we have, we have been asked every landscaping question in the book. Because of this we are going to take some time to give you some tips of the trade.

Tip#1 How to figure out how much mulch I need?

Figuring out the factors of how much mulch you will need can be a little tricky. A Cubic yards is the measurement generally used when buying bulk amounts of mulch. Follow these steps to help figure out how much you will need.

We will use example dimensions (length 20ft x width 10ft x depth 3 inches)

  1. Determine area: 20ftx10ft=200 sq/ft
  2. How many times does your depth fit into a foot? 12in(1 foot) divided by 3in depth= 4
  3. Area (step 1) divided by the answer in step 2: 200sq/ft divided by 4= 50 cu/ft
  4. Divide by a cubic yard (27 cubic feet): 50cu/ft divided by 27= 1.85cu/yd of mulch

Tip#2 Pruning Flowering Shrubs

Did you know that flowering deciduous shrubs fall into two pruning categories? Spring and Summer

Shrubs that bloom before the end of June form their flower buds the previous season on last year’s growth. Shrubs such as Forsythia, Lila, Deutiza and Purple Sand Cherry should only be pruned right after they flower in the spring, unless the client does not mind sacrificing the blooms for a year. Summer flowering shrubs such as Butterfly Bush, Hydrangea, Potentilla and Spirea can all be pruned in the spring. In this case the new growth put on after pruning contains the flower buds for this season’s flower show. If flowers are a desired feature of the landscape you’re working in then it’s important to know what you are pruning.

Tip#3 Planting Depth

A common question we receive is “How deep should I plant my new plant”? This is a very important question.

To ensure proper growth of your new plant you need to be very careful not to plant to deep. Many people think that a plants root system is deep in the soil and that planting it deep will help it establish quicker, this is not true. Ninety percent of plant roots can be found in the top six inches of soil. Think about all the trees that are up rooted in various storms. These are the feeder roots, which collect, water, minerals and oxygen. If a plant is planted too deep it can be starved of these important elements. The other ten percent of a plants root system does penetrate deep into the soil and these are primarily storage and anchor roots.            

The goal when planting is to plant at the same level as the soil is in the pot. Even if the plant is planted slightly higher then the soil level it is better then planting too deep. In this case make sure you mulch around the plant (not too close to the base), to prevent wicking. In short; “plant it high it will never die, plant it low it will never grow”.   

Tip#4 All mulch is the same… Right?

A customer came in with a very common problem. Last spring they planted a new garden and applied a healthy amount of fresh mulch. “Our new plants didn’t put out very much growth throughout the season, what could the problem be?”

As it turns out they had received mulch that had been chipped that day from living wood. Fresh mulch smells good and looks good but can cause sever damage to your new plants.

The bacteria that break down fresh compost uses nitrogen as its fuel. When you apply fresh mulch to a new planting the easiest source of nitrogen is the soil. Therefor the bacteria are robbing the immediate soil of all the nitrogen. That means your new plants will have very little nitrogen available to them for feeding. Even when you apply fertilizer most of it will be stolen very quickly from your plants. It could take years for your garden to straighten itself out if the mulch is left.

It is best to use a composted mulch product. Those bacterial thieves will still be present but with little enough numbers that they are not causing damage to your plants. If used properly mulch has many benefits, such as weed and water control.

Tip#5 Creating privacy in your yard

Your property should you bring happiness and comfort. For some people that comfort comes in the form of privacy. Courtland’s own landscape designer Nikki Syvret has some tips for how to create privacy in your yard.

Privacy screen structure: Provides instant privacy and available in a variety of materials such as wood, metal, bamboo or any combination of these.

Hedges: Quite common but may require patience to fully grow in for a full barrier as well as ongoing maintenance of routine trimming. The most common hedge is a cedar hedge for year-round evergreen privacy. However, deciduous hedges such as privet, beech and lilac can also be used for seasonal privacy.

Exterior shades: Sometimes where space is a concern between properties these can be effectively installed on outdoor structures available in a variety of styles, colours, materials and mechanisms.

Evergreen trees: If space allows without affecting the drainage patterns of the property. Evergreen trees in a staggered grouping to block neighbouring sightlines offers a more naturalistic approach and requires less maintenance than a pruned hedge.

Tip#6 Is it too late to plant?

With the onset of hot weather the most popular question is “Is it too late to plant”? The answer is quite simply No!

At Courtland Landscape and grounds we plant straight through summer into late November, with very little trouble. True, it is definitely easier to plant in the spring and fall with natural rain and melting snow providing water, but if you are dedicated and willing to put forth a little effort, summer weather should not be a problem.

The key is to start with good plant material that is healthy and growing well at the garden centre. The plants should be free of pests and diseases. This will help the plant adjust to new light levels and soil moisture as well as providing enough energy to push roots into the native soil.  

When you plant, dig an extra wide hole. This will make the soil more accepting to root growth and water penetration. A good layer of mulch should be added to hold in moisture and keep weeds down.

Watering plants that are planted in summer heat is extremely important. You should water well when planting and if it’s dry following planting, water well only once or twice a week, unless the plant shows signs of lack of water. This will encourage roots to grow and seek out water. If you follow these few steps, planting through the summer should not be a problem. 

Tip#7 Leaves of Three Let It Be!

Poison Ivy can take three different forms.  Most people think of it as a ground cover plant carpeting the ground, but it can also be shrub forming growing up to four feet tall, or a vine with stems larger than two inches thick with millions of hair like tendrils that help the plant cling to its support.

The leaves themselves are always just a little different, but the basic shape is the same.  Poison Ivy has a trifoliate leaf, that is, each leaf is made up of three leaflets.  One leaflet can be found at the very tip of the petiole.  The two opposite leaflets almost resemble mittens.  The leaflets are usually pointed and in most cases the leaf margin will have rounded lobes. 

Poison Ivy has a toxic reaction on the skin of people who are sensitive to it, causing severe itching or even blistering of affected parts.  The offending substance is an oil called urushiol and it is present throughout the whole plant.  This oil will stick to clothing and shoes and can easily be transferred to the hands and face by touch.  Pets can also be contaminated by running through an affected area.  They do not react to the poison, but can easily spread the poison by being petted.

People vary greatly in sensitivity to ivy poisoning and many have never suffered any ill effects, although it should not be taken for granted that the immunity will last for all time.

If contact has occurred, wash the contaminated parts of the body immediately with soap and water repeatedly.  The sooner the oil is removed from the skin the less likely a reaction will develop or the severity of contamination will be greatly reduced.


Courtland is a Landscape & Grounds and Trucking & Logistics firm with offices across Southern Ontario.

Terracopia, our bulk supply store, supplies professional-grade landscape products and aggregates delivered right to your site.

We offer reliable service and quality work with strong emphasis to detail. Our goal is to ensure the complete satisfaction of every client we work with.

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