Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the foliage on some of my boxwoods turn bronze or orange in the winter?

Site conditions can be one factor; if the shrubs are in full sun and are subjected to numerous frosts and wind, often the foliage will turn colors.  If the shrubs were pruned late in the season this is more likely to happen.  Winter bronzing can also be caused if the soil conditions are not sufficient in fertility and pH, so having a soil test performed may be helpful.  Fortunately, bronzing will not kill the boxwood and once the temperatures warm up in the spring, the normal green coloration should return.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

Should I remove old flowers from my Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’?

Endless Summer Hydrangea is a re-blooming variety and will benefit from having the spent blossoms removed.  Doing so encourages the shrub to bloom even more prolifically! You may remove as much of the stalk as you desire, just make sure to cut above a pair of buds.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

How often do annuals in containers need to be fertilized?

Every 10 days to two weeks during the warmest part of the growing season will give the best results. To encourage more flowers, try a blossom-boosting fertilizer (one that is higher in phosphorus).

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

When do I cut back my perennials?

I like to leave some foliage or seed heads for winter interest in the garden, as well as to provide protection for birds and beneficial insects.  Exceptions to this would be leaving the foliage of any plants which suffered a disease or pest infestation that season; this foliage needs to be removed, raked up and discarded in a trash bag – not added to the compost pile! In addition to providing interest, the seed heads of my Coneflowers and Black Eyed Susans provide forage for goldfinches in the late fall and early winter.  (These perennials do self-seed enthusiastically, so if you are not looking to increase the quantity of plants, cut the seed heads off once the birds have had their fill!)  Any plants which look bedraggled or unsightly at the end of the season may be safely cut back after the first frost (peony comes to mind; this is one perennial I always remove the spent foliage and lightly mulch the crown of the plants for protection).  Perennials such as Dwarf Fountain Grass, Liriope and Mondo Grass can either be cut back after the first frost or in February/March prior to the emergence of new growth.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

How often should I water?

The composition of soil dictates how often plants need to be watered. Soil with a large percentage of sand drains more quickly than does soil made primarily of clay. One way to ensure your soil holds adequate moisture is to add organic material. Compost helps sandy soil retain water while it helps clay soil become more porous. In other words, you can’t go wrong adding compost!  A good rule of thumb is to water plants infrequently and deeply. This will encourage plant roots to grow deeper and will help them survive droughts better. Newly installed material (under 1 year old) will require more water than an established planting. Most shrubs, trees, and perennials require being watered twice a week during warm weather or drought. During cool weather, watering only 1 time per week should suffice. 1″ of water per week is usually adequate for most plants.
Water it Right Article

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

Should I “dead head” my annuals and perennials?

The process of dead-heading or removing old flowers is not required for a healthy plant; however it does encourage the plant to rebloom!  The plant reproduces by creating seeds; when the seeds are removed, it must produce more flowers in order to grow more seeds! Thus, the process of removing spent flowers actually produces more flowers.

Many new cultivars of annuals and perennials are “self-cleaning,” or have been bred for longer bloom time – making dead-heading unnecessary. I have no “hard and fast rule” by which I dead-head, but the hotter the weather, the less time I spend in the garden!  Keeping container gardens neat and blooming is a priority, so I do give all my decorative containers extra attention when watering each day.  Keep in mind that some seeds, such as Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflower are eaten by wildlife and are important food sources during the winter.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

How do I get rid of moles?

Moles are carnivores, and unlike Voles, do not eat plants.  They dine on grubs, insects and worms which live in the soil.  While most gardeners detest the tunnels created by these rodents as they search out their prey; they actually aerate and improve the soil structure as they dig.  There are several options in regard to controlling or eradicating Moles.  Removal of their food source (grubs only) can be accomplished by applying Milky Spore Powder, a natural bacterium which destroys the grub from the inside but is harmless to beneficial insects.  Poisons are also available but should be a last ditch effort due to their effect on beneficial organisms and the chance that pets could also ingest the poison. Traps are available and can be quite effective; however care must be taken if small children or pets are present.  Lastly, repellants come in sprays and graduals and are effective for both moles and voles.  Castor oil is a safe, non-toxic alternative and many recipes are available on line.  No one single method is 100% guaranteed to control moles; most often it is a combination approach which provides the best results.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

How Do I Get Rid of Voles?

Voles are related to mice but are larger with a very short tail. Voles are vegetarians that eat plants roots and often follow mole tunnels to reach tender plants roots and bulbs.
The most permanent way to exclude voles from their food source is to surround the root ball with sharp stones such as Permatill™ (aka Vole Bloc™). Voles have tender paws and will not dig through the stones. Permatill involves more labor and materials cost but is a permanent solution.
Trapping is labor intensive but will decrease the populations for a while. Use apples, raisins and/or peanut butter as bait. Cats can also help.
Castor oil spray or granular repellents are effective for several months to repel voles from individual plants or entire areas.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

What do you use to keep deer from eating the plants?

You can exclude the deer by covering or surrounding plants with bird netting or plastic deer fencing, metal wire fencing, or repel the deer with sprays. There are many commercially available deer repellent sprays, but Custom Gardens recommends making your own using the following recipe:
1 egg
1 quart of water
1 tablespoon of hot Szechuan Oil or Mongolian Fire Oil
Mix all the ingredients in a blender, fill a spray bottle, and spray on the plants. Reapply after rain.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

If you design my landscape, how will I maintain and care for it?

Any designed or installed work Custom Gardens provides can be maintained or serviced by Custom Gardens. This includes full landscape planting, sod or seed, lawn irrigation or installed lighting systems.

Answer provided by David Chewey LLA

 What can I expect to spend landscaping my entire property? 

Assuming your asking for all key components, hardscape, fencing, drainage, irrigation, lighting, plant material, etc., a realistic range is 10%-15% of your home’s value. This can be higher or lower based on site conditions, access, plant selection, etc.

Answer provided by David Chewey LLA

 We are considering a pond with our new landscape design project. How much maintenance do they require?

There is some maintenance required with a pond. In the spring your pond will require opening, cleaning and periodic filter maintenance. In the fall it is recommended that you cover the pond with netting to keep leaves out. These services can all be done by Custom Gardens. Please contact us for more information.

Answer provided by David Chewey LLA

At what height should I be mowing my lawn?

The ideal cutting height for this area is 3-4 inches for a fescue lawn during the summer. Mowing high discourages weeds and helps to keep the soil temperature cooler. Fescue is a cool season lawn that can be stressed by summer heat. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow. Mowing fescue too short creates a shallow root system that makes the turf more susceptible to drought. Bermuda grass, a warm season grass, is mowed much shorter at 1-2 inches.

Answer provided by Barbara Schuler

When should I seed my lawn?

The prime time to overseed fescue lawns is between September 1st and October 15th. Overseeding can also be done between February 25th and March 31st, but only if necessary. When overseeding, it is suggested to apply 4-6 lbs. of tall fescue per 1,000 square feet. Please note that many lawns do not need to be overseeded annually.
Answer provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension Service

When should I fertilize my fescue lawn?

September 1st – 15th Apply a minimum of 1 lb. actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This is equivalent to 3 lbs. of ammonium nitrate, 6 lbs. of nitrate of soda, or similar. Consider low phosphorus grades if water pollution is a concern.

October 15th through November 1st Apply enough complete fertilizer to provide 1 ½ lbs. each of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. This is equivalent to 15 lbs. of 10-10-10 or 20 lbs. of 8-8-8 per 1,000 square feet.

December 1st – 15th Apply a maximum of 1 lb. of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet (same as September recommendation).

March 1st through May 1st NO FERTILIZER – This is an important period for root growth, as strong roots will help grasses survive the summer. The addition of fertilizer would stimulate top growth and weaken the roots.

May 1st – 15th Use no more than ½ lb. of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This is equivalent to 3 lbs. of nitrate of soda, 1 ½ lbs. of ammonium nitrate, or 5 lbs. 10-10-10. If you fertilized 2 or more times in the fall and the grass is a good green color, then you do NOT need to fertilize now.

June – August NO FERTILIZER – Dormant period for cool season grasses.
For more information: Lawn Care Articles
Answer provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension Service

When should I apply a crabgrass control?

It is best to apply pre-emergence crabgrass controls, such as benefin, besulide, DCPA, oxadiazon, or siduron, between February 20th and April 10th. The optimum time to apply the control is when forsythia is in full bloom. For more information
For more information: Lawn Care Articles
Answer provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension Service