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Beautiful Landscapes Are in Our Genes

Fall plantings for color

Fall is a great time to plant kale. The leaves are sweeter when they mature in cooler weather. Kale can also be used to make smoothies, stir-fry and soup.

Cabbage is considered a hardy cool-weather vegetable and can be planted fall. Available in numerous varieties and shades. You can enjoy this vegetable with a boiled dinner or in a soup.

If your decorating for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white mums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. With  bold colors, a large grouping of mums can excite even the most drab of fall landscapes.

Montauk Daisy are an exceptional perennial addition to the flower bed. Its large daisy flower that bloom very late in fall and last until a very hard freeze. Montauk Daisy offers foliage interest year round. Use it as an anchor in a bed of annuals or around a birdbath or garden feature.

Spring Care of Hydrangeas

Nearly everywhere you look on Cape Cod, you see hydrangeas. In a normal year, summer brings showy bushes that are thick with leaves and full buds that may be open.

But a harsh winter, such as the one of 2013/2014, causes plants to emerge wounded from the cold—or not to emerge at all. If your hydrangeas have died back to the ground, remove all canes that show no sign of growth. The plants will still grow just as tall as they were the previous year.

Endless Summer and other hydrangeas that flower on both new and old wood should produce some flowers on the new growth later in the summer, but you won’t have the normal display. Hydrangeas that always bloom on new growth, including Annabelle and Limelight, will bloom normally. A cold winter won’t alter their flowering.

For mop-head hydrangeas that have died back, apply composted cow manure around the base of the plant and give it a light feeding with a fertilizer such as Holly-tone.

Seeding a Lawn

On Cape Cod the best time for seeding a lawn or renovate the one you have is the period that begins September 15 and ends October 15. The light, temperature, and conditions are perfect for seed germination. There is also no weed competition at this time of year.

If you haven’t begun to plan, now’s the time!

There are a few things you need to plan before seeding a lawn or renovation begins. Whether it’s an irrigation system or an outdoor spigot, you need to have a proper watering plan in place. And plan to implement a lawn maintenance (link “lawn maintenance” to appropriate page) program, which includes mowing, and a lawn treatment program.

Here’s our 6-step plan for renovating a lawn, which includes seeding a lawn.

  1. Treat for crabgrass and weeds two weeks prior to the renovation date.
  2. Deeply dethatch the lawn and remove debris. This will remove the dead weeds and crabgrass, too.
  3. Aerate the area to loosen the soil and allow for oxygen and good drainage.
  4. Top-dress any depressions and areas with poor soil. Lawns prefer a sandy loam, which also allows for drainage.
  5. Spread a premium seed over the top-dressed areas and lightly rake it in.
  6. Slice-seed the entire lawn and finish off by watering.

Did you know that Horticultural DNA provides all-in-one services for all your landscaping needs? 

We maintain, service, and install irrigation systems.

We provide a complete lawn care program, which includes fertilizing, mowing, dethatching, and aeration.

How to Plant a Tree

The right way to plant a tree.

While spring and fall are the ideal times to plant a tree, it’ll do just fine in the summer, too, if you water, water, water. Plan your watering schedule even before you plant a tree.

Dig a whole about three times the size of the root ball, but no deeper than the root ball. Most of the roots of a new tree develop in the top 12 inches of the soil. Digging a wider hole and loosening the surrounding soil allows the growing roots to push through more easily, spreading around the tree to anchor it better in the soil.

Don’t plant the root ball too deeply. The “flare,” where the roots spread at the base of the trunk, should be just above the soil level. It’s better to plant a little high to allow for settling.

Always lift the tree by the root ball, not by the trunk. If the tree is balled and burlapped, put it in the planting hole and straighten it before you cut and remove any string, wire, and burlap. Look at the tree from all sides to check that it is straight. Only then should you remove from one-third to one-half of the string, wire, and/or burlap. The rest of the supporting material will break down in the soil. Caution: If any of the material is plastic (some of it is made to look like burlap), remove it all.

If a tree has been grown in plastic, remove the plastic pot as close to the hole as possible to minimize disturbing the roots. If your tree is in a fiber container, place the tree in the planting hole, and tear off the upper rim of the container. Then use a utility knife to make slashes at the sides to remove the pot.

Inspect the root. If they are circling around, gently tease them apart so they don’t continue to grow in a circular pattern. If it’s difficult to loosen them by hand, make four cuts into the root mass up the sides from the bottom with a utility knife. This will promote root growth into the surrounding soil.

If the trunk has been wrapped in burlap to protect the tree during transportation, take it off. Burlap on the trunk impedes growth and attracts moisture and rot.

Fill the hole about one-third full, and gently but firmly pack soil around the root ball to eliminate air pockets. Don’t stomp on delicate roots. Water to moisten the soil, and then fill the hole completely.

Water the tree well after planting. (Don’t apply fertilizer until the second growing season.) If you don’t get regular rainfall, continue to water newly planted trees thoroughly (one inch of water once a week) throughout the first season.

Lawn Maintenance

Protect your lawn from summer stress

In the spring, as part of your overall lawn maintenance program, you need decide whether you’ll water your lawn all summer long as needed to keep it green or just let it go dormant. If you allow it to turn brown and then water it back to a green condition, you’ll be stressing the grass and depleting its energy reserves.

If you lawn maintenance plan is to keep your lawn green all summer long then water deeply and infrequently, about one to one and a half inches per watering, depending upon site conditions. (Feel free to ask H~DNA to evaluate your lawn for watering requirements.)

Water two to three times per week, early in the day if possible so the water will soak down into the soil.

You still need to water even if you wish to allow your lawn to go dormant. Give a dormant lawn a half-inch to an inch of water every two weeks to keep the root and crown tissue alive.

The most stressful time of year for a lawn on Cape Cod is from mid-June to mid-August so save for later activities such as seeding, dethatching, and applying nitrogen fertilizers. For now, good lawn maintenance includes proper mowing and watering practices. Mid-August through October is the ideal time period for the other lawn-care activities.

Lawn Care

The first step in proper lawn care is having a lush, beautiful, and weed-free lawn is choosing the right grass for your site. Whenever possible, plant low-maintenance, pest-resistant grasses that will require less watering and fertilizing.

Have your soil tested at least once every five years so you can add the proper nutrients and balance the pH.

Plant grasses only where they will do well. Heavily shaded areas call for other plantings.

Apply fertilizer in the late summer and early fall.

Water your lawn only when it needs it, generally once a week.

Avoid mowing your lawn too short, and take off only about one-third of the height of the grass each time. Using a mulching mower and leaving the grass clippings in the lawn will reduce the amount of fertilizer you need since it recycles nutrients back into the soil.

In a nutshell that is what you need to do for proper lawn care. If you feel you may skip parts because of time constraints, family obligations, etc. H~DNA is ready, willing, and able to help you enjoy your best lawn yet!

What happened to the Impatiens?

The summer of ’13 was a blooming nightmare for Impatiens lovers on Cape Cod.

Where this colorful plant once decorated lawns and landscapes, there were instead dying flowers and patches of empty soil, the result of a killer fungus called downy mildew.

A white, fuzzy mold, downy mildew could be seen on the backs of affected Impatiens plants. Once it attacks, it’s impossible to remove this type of mildew, but it can be prevented with fungicides, bacteria, and watering management.

Here are ways to prevent the spread of downy mildew:

  • Begin to treat your plants as soon as you notice a gray or tan furry growth on the undersides of leaves and stems, or leaves that appear “water-soaked.”
  • Apply preventive fungicides to healthy flowers to head off the mildew. Two organic brands are Serenade and Actinovate.
  • Introduce healthy bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis and Streptomyces lydicus, to help healthy plants fight an influx of downy mildew.
  • Alter your watering days so that the ground has a chance to dry out between waterings. Mildews and molds love dampness.


I recommend using Bonide Fung-Onil Multi-Purpose Fungicide Concentrate on plants and in the soil. This fungicide concentrate, containing Echo Lite Chlorothalonil, provides a broad-spectrum control of diseases such as leaf spot, rust, blight, fruit rot, mildew, scab, and mold on vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, shrubs, shade trees, and lawns. For effective disease control, mix as directed and apply with a garden sprayer for thorough and uniform coverage.

Dethatching—why your lawn needs it

Dethatching is an important aspect of providing proper lawn care (link “lawn care” to appropriate page) for your property. Thatch is the layer of living and dead stems, roots, rhizomes, and runners between the green blades of grass and the soil surface. A thin layer of thatch (less than a half-inch thick) can be beneficial to your lawn because it helps to limit weed germination, reduce water evaporation, and protect from frost damage.

Thick layers of thatch can prevent water, air, and nutrients from penetrating the soil, which causes reduced root growth and increases the potential for drought stress. A thick thatch layer also can harbor insect pests and encourage fungal growth.

Some grass species, such as tall fescue and perennial rye grass, do not product much thatch. Others, including Bermuda grass, bentgrass, and Kentucky bluegrass, have creeping growth habits and rapidly build thick thatch layers.

I recommend dethatching in the spring, prior to the first application of lawn products. Call H~DNA to dethatch your lawn with the right equipment and expertise.

© Alison Caron Design