Category Archives: Landscape Care

Landscape care, maintenance

Protect Your Plants from the Artic Blast



I was so focused on staying warm during this really cold, windy day in Asheville that I almost forgot about my plants. Protect your marginally hardy plants by covering with a sheet, pillowcase, frost blanket or other material. These tender plants include camellias, Japanese maples, daphnes, gardenias, and aucubas. My dapne is in bud and was close to blooming. If you have other specimen plants that you don’t want to risk being damaged by the below zero temperatures that are expected, protect them too. Remove the protection when the temperatures warm up in the 30s so as not to overheat and burn the plants.

Stay warm!


Terri Long Landscape Design, Inc.


The Value of Soil Testing

A personal design is the first step to having a landscape and garden that enriches your life. After a high quality landscape installation, taking care of your plants is the key to a beautiful, long-lasting landscape. Soil testing is an important part of knowing how to feed your plants.

Why should I have my soil tested?

The soil test report gives you specific recommendations on the amount of fertilizer and lime (if needed) based on the type of plants. If the soil pH isn’t within the range of what your plants need, they won’t be able to absorb the nutrients in the soil and prosper. If they are under- or over-fertilized, the soil pH and fertility will also affect your plants’ health and their ability to resist pests and diseases. You can also save time and money by just using the amount of fertilizer and lime needed and also protect your plants and the environment.

In western North Carolina, our soils are naturally acid, which is a pH level below 7.0. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel, camellias, azaleas and blueberries thrive in the range of 4.8 to 5.5. Our cool season lawn grasses prefer alkaline soil around 6.0. That’s why lime is recommended to sweeten the soil. Other plants, such as many vegetables and some perennials, may also prefer alkaline soil. If you use plants that prefer alkaline soil, you probably will have to add lime to adjust the pH. Usually the optimum pH is between 5.5 and 7.5, since plant nutrients are reasonably available in that range.  Many vegetables, shrubs, annuals and perennials prefer a pH of 6 to 6.5. If you don’t know what pH your plants need, we can help.

Can’t I just apply lime and fertilizer without testing?

The risk of guessing how much lime and fertilizer is that you’ll apply too much of one thing and not enough of another. If you apply too much lime, you can raise the pH too high. It’s difficult, time consuming and results in more expense to lower the pH. Your plants may suffer as a result. The recommendation given in your soil test report should maintain the desired pH for 3 to 4 years for clay soil. Why not just do it right with a soil test?

How often should I have my soil tested?

Get a baseline test, preferably before planting. If you test before planting a new landscape, test it again the following year to see the effects of the amendments used in planting. Unless you have big nutrient deficiencies, require a big shift in your pH or have changed the soil in some way, have it tested every 2 to 4 years.

When should I take soil samples?

You can take samples anytime except for when the soil is very wet or has been limed or fertilized 6 to 8 weeks prior to desired testing. It’s also harder to take soil samples when the soil is really dry and hard.

If you send the samples to the state lab for testing, you may experience longer times for results from late fall through early spring, since this is the time that farmers send in their samples. Don’t let that deter you. If you need fast turn around, there are private labs.

Allow 2 to 3 months for lime to be incorporated into your soil and raise the pH.

If a plant foliage is discolored, you can also take soil samples for a problem diagnosis.

Can I do this myself?

Yes. Pick up the soil test boxes, instructions and forms from your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension office. The Asheville office is located at 94 Coxe Avenue. The materials and test results are currently free to North Carolina residents. You pay for mailing the samples.

If you prefer, we can provide this service for you for a nominal fee.

How should I use the soil test report?

The most useful parts of the soil test report are the recommended rates for lime and fertilizer. The report contains bar charts of the actual and optimum ranges for the pH, phosphorous and potassium. Refer to the last page for the rate of fertilizer. These recommendations are based on the needs of the plant group’s requirements.

There’s no need to be concerned with the “Additional Test Results” box.

Should I fertilize my trees?

In order to prevent damage to your trees from incorrect fertilization, it’s best to hire a certified arborist to determine the correct needs for your trees.


Top Three Mulching Mistakes

Mulch is an important ingredient in your landscape. It prevents erosion, helps control weeds, minimizes evaporation and helps moderate soil temperature which protects your plants’ roots. Although mulch helps control weeds, it doesn’t kill existing ones. These are some common problems with mulching that can cause damage to your plants.

  1. Mulching against tree trunks and shrub stems. This can cause the bark to rot and create openings for diseases and insects to enter.
  2. Letting mulch accumulate too thickly. In Asheville and western North Carolina, it’s best to maintain a mulch layer of 2″ thick for groundcovers and perennials and 3″ thick for  trees and shrubs. Rather than installing another layer of mulch just to make it look fresh, try fluffing it up with a rake or removing some of the old mulch and installing a light layer of mulch over the existing. Check for areas on slopes where the mulch has accumulated into thick piles and rake it to other areas.
  3. Using poor quality mulch. Yes, there is a difference in the qualities of mulch. One of my clients found out the hard way when they remulched their property with a cheap mulch bought from a trunk beside the road. Unbeknownst to them and probably the supplier, it had a projectile fungus in it that shot small dark spots on their house, walkways, windows and vehicles. Not only was it unsightly but it was very hard to remove. We recommend a double or triple ground pine bark or hardwood mulch, depending on the site. Although it breaks down more quickly and can be slippery, you can also use pine straw as mulch.

Watering Your Plants in Hot Weather

It looks like we’ve returned to a period of hot weather with the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms here in Asheville and western North Carolina. Just as you and I need more water when it’s hot, so do your plants. This is especially true for plants that have been installed for less than one year and for those in areas with lots of competition with tree roots. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that your plants have received the water that they need from natural rainfall.

If you have newly installed plants and have been watering them every three days, you may need to increase it to every two days. It’s important to water them slowly and deeply rather than frequently and lightly. The water needs to go deep into the soil to encourage deep, strong roots. The best way to know if you’re watering deeply enough is to dig into the soil several inches to check the moisture. Do this around your established plants too. Some of them may also need supplemental watering.

The best times to water are early in the morning and in the evening.

If you need help with your landscape and gardens, please contact us.

Terri Long Landscape Design, Inc.

PO Box 19004

Asheville, NC 28815


Enriching Your Life with Natural Beauty


Deer Repellent

As I was leaving The Ramble at Biltmore Forest on Saturday after speaking to the garden club, I saw  a deer at the front gate enjoying the tasty plants while in the open and in full view. It wasn’t at all concerned that I was there and didn’t even run away when I got out of my car.

Is your landscape a buffet for the deer with lots of tasty treats? If you have plants that the deer love, such as hostas, rhododendrons, azaleas, and roses, you’ve issued an invitation to attract these beautiful creatures to your landscape buffet.

Although I do my best not to include plants that deer prefer in areas with deer populations, they also will eat plants that aren’t as tasty when they’re hungry enough. Just as I’ll pass over some foods that I don’t really enjoy when there’s a really good selection of others, I will eat food that I don’t like, such as over-cooked vegetables, if that’s all there is.

A product that we have found helpful is “I Must Garden” deer repellent. It’s available locally at Jesse Israel & Sons Garden Center in Asheville and also online at The great thing about this repellent is that it lasts a long time and doesn’t have a bad odor like some others. I was told that it had cloves in it. Just follow the directions, and let me know how it works for you.

If you need help with your landscape and gardens, please contact us.

Terri Long Landscape Design, Inc.

PO Box 19004

Asheville, NC 28815



Shrub Pruning Season Almost Over

Don’t be confused about when to prune your shrubs. Although my father had good intentions, he tested many shrubs ability to withstand severe pruning at the wrong time of the year. Don’t prune just because it’s convenient for you or you don’t know when to prune.

My approach to designing landscapes and gardens includes selecting plants for their anticipated mature size. Some plants really prosper and grow bigger than expected. In these cases, they may need some pruning to control their size. There are a few shrubs that need to be pruned severely every year or two in order to produce a more beautiful, lush plant, such as Redtwig Dogwood and Bluebeard. Most low-maintenance shrubs will only require light pruning to improve their shape or remove damaged or diseased stems. Yes, even the best plants can have problems at times.

Spring Blooming Shrubs

Simply stated, spring flowering shrubs should be pruned shortly after they finish flowering. The reason is that they set their buds for next years flowers after they bloom. If you prune them now, you’ll cut off next spring’s flower buds. If they need pruning, wait until next spring after they bloom.

Summer Pruning

Light pruning of other shrubs in your Asheville landscape should be pruned by the middle or end of July. Pruning will prompt new growth. This new growth needs time to harden off before cold weather comes. If they’re pruned after July, the new growth is in danger of being killed or damaged by autumn frosts. Then, you’ll have even more pruning to do and a damaged shrub.

Fertilizing Shrubs

This guideline also applies to fertilizing your shrubs. It’s not advisable to fertilize during periods of hot, dry weather like we’ve experienced this summer. It will prompt new growth and take energy out of your shrubs while they may be struggling just to survive the dry weather.

Ideal Pruning Times

Minimal pruning can be done during cold weather when the plant is dormant. I always enjoy cutting evergreens to use as holiday decorations. Removal of dead or damaged stems should be done as soon as the problems are noticed. The best time to prune summer flowering shrubs is in late winter through early spring. Evergreens should generally be pruned in early spring after danger of frost has passed.

Here’s the caveat.

Although we’ve had rain this week, it’s been dry and hot this summer. Unless you absolutely have to prune or fertilize your shrubs, it would be best to wait until next year, and hopefully, the weather conditions aren’t putting so much stress on them.

If you need help with your landscape and gardens, please contact us.

Terri Long Landscape Design, Inc.

PO Box 19004

Asheville, NC 28815



Asheville Receives Artic Blast

People and plants alike were fooled into thinking that the early spring warm weather was here to stay. It feels like winter today and forecasts of a low of 31 tonight. Take a little time and effort to cover your sensitive plants to minimize frost damage. Since most plants have leafed out now, choose those that are the most expensive, such as Japanese maples, most prized and hard to find.

For more details on how to protect your plants, click here.

Top 7 Ways to Improve Your Early Spring Landscape

Spring has arrived about a month early in Asheville and the western North Carolina mountains. It’s fun to be outside enjoying the early spring. Now is a great time to take care of some gardening projects to protect your investment and keep your gardens looking beautiful through the year.

  1. Water your plants when we don’t get an inch of rain. The days have been warm, so the soil may dry out faster than expected and put your plants under more stress if not watered. If you have an irrigation system, it may not be turned on until danger of late spring freezes has passed. Check the moisture depth of the soil, and water your plants if the soil is dry below a couple of inches. Supplemental watering is usually not needed for established plants (installed over a year ago). It may two to three years for plants located under trees to establish their root systems, so supplemental watering may be needed.
  2. Apply compost or slow release fertilizer around your plants.
  3. Remove weeds. Cut back dead foliage on perennials. Prune deadwood from small trees and shrubs.
  4. Resist the urge to cut back foliage on your declining bulbs. They need their foliage to store energy for next year’s flowers. Plant perennials, ferns or groundcovers around bulbs to help hide unsightly foliage in key areas. It’s best to wait to plant new herbaceous plants until May.
  5. Edge your planting beds. This really gives a finished look to your landscape.
  6. After fertilizing, weeding and edging, install mulch to maintain a 2-3″ layer in shrub beds and 2″ in perennials beds. Be careful not to cover the crowns of your perennials.
  7. Check your gutters and downspouts to make sure that they’re clear and working properly. Clogged gutters can be a source of moisture problems in your house.

Although it’s tempting to rush out and buy flowers to plant now. We still have a potential for killing frosts and cold temperatures until early to mid-May.

If you need help caring for your landscape, please contact Terri Long Landscape Design at 828.299.2399.

Happy Spring!

Protect Your Plants from Cold Temps

Spring has come early to western North Carolina this year, and it’s been wonderful! Mother Nature is reminding us that it isn’t spring yet.  The low temperatures for the next couple of nights are predicted to be in the 20s.

If you have important plants that already have buds on them, cover them with a sheet tonight and uncover them in the morning. I’m going to put a pillow case over a small Japanese maple in front of my house and over a Daphne in back. For the other plants, it won’t be a great loss if their blossoms are damaged.

For more information, click here.

Watering Your Asheville Landscape

The weather has been so hot and dry in Asheville and the entire southeast this summer. Even established and drought-tolerant plants are showing signs of stress from the high temperatures and lack of rain. Many homeowners don’t realize how long it takes for new plants to get established and how often they need to water them.

Watering Your New Landscape

We all have busy schedules and watering may not be a priority when the plants appear to be doing okay with just water from rain. Some plants, such as hydrangeas, show us early when they’re stressed while others don’t let us know until it’s too late to save them or large portions of the plant die off. These include trees and evergreen shrubs.

It’s also easy to put off watering plants when it’s so hot that we’re uncomfortable and battling mosquitoes.

Water Deeply

  • Water your plants deeply every 2 to 3 days rather than small amounts daily. Watering deeply means using a hose with a gentle stream of water and individually watering each plants for several minutes. If the water starts running off quickly, move on to the next plant and then return to the previous one.
  • You don’t have to water all of your plants at once. You can divide your landscape into areas and water an area at a time.
  • If a plant starts to wilt, check the soil moisture. Water it immediately if it’s not moist. If the soil is moist, the wilting can be the stress of the heat, sun or another problem.

Rainwater and Soil Moisture

  • New plants need about 1 to 2 inches of water every week- possibly more in really hot conditions. A rain gauge is useful in monitoring the amount of rainfall each week. Keep in mind that heavy downpours don’t soak into the ground as much as a gentle rain. Even though it rained 2″ in one hour, much of that rain didn’t reach the plant roots.
  • Check the depth of the soil moisture periodically by sticking your finger several inches into the ground near the plant’s roots. If it’s dry, the plant needs water (even it if rained the day before.)
  • Plants under trees don’t get as much rainwater as other plants and may need to be watered while others don’t.

Time Needed for Plant Establishment

  • New plants need at least a complete year to establish their roots. Large trees will need even more time. This means watering regularly as the temperatures start to warm early in the spring, through the summer, and until the days get shorter and cooler late in the fall.
  • If your plants were installed this year, you’ll also need to water them next spring or longer for a complete growing cycle.

Best Times to Water

  • Best times to water are early in the morning and in the evening.
  • If you water during the hot, sunny part of the day, some of the water will evaporate before it can be absorbed by the plant’s roots. If that’s the only have time that you have one day, it’s better than not watering at all.

Drought-tolerant Plants

  • If you’re like me, I first thought that drought-tolerant plants wouldn’t need to be watered except by Mother Nature.  All plants, even drought-tolerant ones, need time to establish their roots.
  • During long stretches of hot, dry weather, even drought-tolerant plants may need some additional water after they’re established.

Hand-watering is time consuming the first year. By using drought-tolerant plants in much of your landscape, you may not need to water much in successive years.

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For more information about Terri Long Landscape Design please visit our About Terri page or simply Contact Us for more details.