5 Plant & Lawn Health Care Tips for Portland Landscaping

September 16, 2014

Portland Landscaping Plant HealthAchieving lush landscaping is no simple feat. Beyond the basics—weed control, species selection, and pruning—there are dozens of additional considerations when caring for a beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape. Today we’re taking a look at some of the lesser-known aspects of Portland landscaping maintenance: lawn renovations and fertility, and insect/disease control.

Landscape East & West’s Portland ongoing landscaping maintenance package includes these important aspects of plant health. We can also provide stand-alone consulting for health assessment services. Read on to discover how we handle lawn fertility, insect/disease control, and lawn renovation. At the end of the blog we offer additional tips for Pacific Northwest residents.

Portland Lawn Care and RenovationsLawn Renovations: Reviewing Fertility. Your lawn needs nutrients in order to stay green and healthy, but it is hard for the average homeowner to know exactly how much to feed plants.

In addition to scanning your lawn for weeds, we also review fertilization needs. On average, Pacific Northwest soils tend to be acidic, so lime is often added in order to raise the soil acidity to more neutral levels. Lime is not added just once, but over several years, generally raising the pH by 1 point per season if possible. Soil fertility and the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients are dependent on soil pH, so this is usually a good starting point to address. We prefer lime pellets, applied immediately after a lawn aeration.

In addition to soil neutrality, we can help you with fertilization. We are responsible fertilizers. Landscape East & West uses only organic fertilizers, so you don’t have to worry about fertilizers made from petroleum products. We use a custom-blend organic fertilizer, in which the nitrogen is derived from chicken manure. We also utilize a liquid fertilizer that can be directly injected into the soil around trees and shrubs that are in dire straits. Correct fertilization, weeding, and spacing practices can help prevent problems by making trees and plants more naturally resistant to infestations and disease.

Insect and pest control. Landscape East & West technicians also check for pest problems in your Portland landscape. We conduct a full inspection for pesky insects and other garden pests. When discovered, Landscape East & West will offer a treatment plan. Here are some of the most common garden pests in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Crane fly Larvae. This pest is found in lawns that tend to stay wet. When we suspect a crane fly infestation, we spot-test for their larvae. If crane fly larvae are found, we apply a species-specific biological insecticide that won’t harm beneficial insects.
  • Bronze Birch Borer. We keep an eye out for these pests, which can significantly weaken birch trees.
  • Lace bug infestations. These bugs make rhododendron and azalea leaves look powdery and dead. Without treatment, they can turn gorgeous specimens into ghosts.
  • Powdery mold and mildew. Prevalent in damp environments, these fungi spread with the rain. It’s quite common to see a white film of powder on plants in the Pacific Northwest, particularly at the beginning and end of the growing season. We can treat these with a horticultural mineral oil insecticidal soap.
  • Aphids. Can be a problem for roses.

We opt for the greenest approach when providing sustainable landscape maintenance to the Portland area. Through our Lawn Care options, you can sign up for organic pest control applications for the pests listed above, as well as moss removal and spot weed removal.

Portland Lawn Care and Plant HealthLawn renovations. Landscape East & West offers renovations to combat all lawn problems. The first universal problem with lawns: They do tend to revert to their natural state after three to five years. Even a lawn that was fresh sod a few years ago may have reverted to varietal grass, causing real havoc. Dethatching can help.

Dethatching removes thatch, the layer of organic material at the top of the soil that is common to spreading grasses. This layer can become thick, which makes it hard for water to get through to the lawn’s roots. Through dethatching, the thatch is removed, often via a dethatching machine that essentially gives your lawn a very hard raking. This removes the thatch and allows the soil to open up. Reseeding follows dethatching. We then cover up the seeds with a layer of compost, both to protect the seeds from the birds, and to provide additional soil content.

This sort of renovation is not as costly as replacing an entire lawn, and it can serve to stimulate soil and lawn health if carried out in conjunction with a comprehensive lawn care program. Dethatching also helps in soils that have a lot of hard clay content (as much of Portland does).

Portland Landscaping Basalt Border WallTips for your Pacific Northwest outdoor space. Our service representatives are available to consult and assess your garden and outdoor landscaping needs, but here’s some good information you can put to use today.

1. Control moss. Left unchecked, moss can overtake a yard. The first step is to check your pH and nutrient levels. You can do this yourself by obtaining a soil test kit from your county cooperative office for a nominal fee. The results of the test can help you determine if the soil is deficient in nutrients, and/or needs lime. Over time, this will lead to improvements as you create conditions that are ideal for your grass or sod.

2. Learn to fertilize your lawn. It can be confusing to figure out how much fertilizer your lawn or plants need. Generally, a high quality lawn needs to be fertilized 4 to 5 times per season.

Regarding pH, it’s important to know that different species of lawn grass have different pH requirements. Learn as much as you can about the kind of lawn grass you have, to customize your fertilization/pH program. A consultation from Landscape East & West can help with this.

3. Irrigation. You might be surprised to know that your lawn has specific needs when it comes to water. Many people just turn on their sprinklers and forget it. However, a healthy lawn requires consistent, precise watering. An inch and a half of water may be required during the summer weeks. Make sure your irrigation system is set up to give your lawn what it needs, and not much more. We also offer water management services, which can take the headaches and guesswork out of watering.

Want to learn more about water efficient irrigation systems? Read my previously published blog post that walks Portland homeowners through what they need to know to save time, money and water.

4. Protect your Rhododendrons and Azaleas! Lace bugs can be a problem, but even though the leaves look dead, we can often save the bushes. In other words, it’s not too late! Our service personnel and landscape gardeners can address this problem and help save your rhododendrons or azaleas. Protective organic sprays can help control early populations and reduce or eliminate ongoing infestations.

5. Fertilize shrubs in the fall. If your rhododendrons are not flowering as well as they should, consider a fall fertilization program. By fertilizing in the fall, you allow the plants to absorb and save nutrients over the winter. This leads to a healthier plant overall, and more blooms in the spring.

Call Landscape East & West today and we will set up a consultation visit to assess the health of your outdoor living space, and recommend a course of action based on your exact situation.

Got a problem area? Begin with a diagnostic visit. This is a service we offer to first-time customers. The visit takes 45 minutes to an hour, and is akin to plant detective work, as we figure out why a particular lawn or plant is not thriving. Landscape East & West technicians inspect and diagnose the problem. Oftentimes a treatment can be found on the spot. Contact Landscape East & West to find out more about this service, including pricing.


Kirk LobbKirk Lobb is the Service Department Manager at Landscape East & West, Portland landscaping professionals. Kirk specializes in the design and installation of irrigation systems and plant and lawn care health.