Garden Design and Maintenance

A searchable database organized by category.
Find a complete listing of our Extension staff at our various offices.
Front yard gathering space photo from Sue Barton

Lawns

The benefits of a healthy, attractive lawn are many and diverse. Lawns prevent erosion, provide cooling, reduce dust and mud, remove pollutants from the environment, reduce glare, absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Lawns provide a safe, comfortable space for many athletic and social activities. Areas of lawn, whether large or small, help to humanize the urban environment. Lawns provide the carpet upon which other plants are located and act as a unifying feature in the landscape.

While lawn may be an important part of your landscape, consider reducing your lawn area to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and improve the permeability of your property. If your lawn is small enough, you may be able to use a reel mower and eliminate the need for fuel altogether. What can the land be other than lawn? Planted landscape beds will look great but are expensive to install. Depending on the size of your lawn, consider allowing some lawn to become a managed meadow and allow the rest to grow into the forest.

Plant selection and design

In today’s rapidly urbanizing environment, we have a unique opportunity, if not a duty, to create livable landscapes that are attractive, easily managed, and provide a rich compliment of plants to support diverse ecosystems.  Many traditional home landscapes feature vast areas of under-utilized space.  Use these resources to help you select plants carefully, design and create a landscape that is personalized, functional, and sustainable, that works for both you and our environment.  

Plants for a Livable Delaware Series – This series of brochures were developed to educate Delawareans about the problem of invasive plants in the landscape.  Plants on the Delaware Invasive Species List that are still bought and sold in the nursery and landscape industry are highlighted in “Plants for a Livable Delaware” and at least 10 alternative plants are suggested to replace the popular invasive plant found in many home landscapes.  Control recommendations for removing troublesome invasive plants are covered in “Controlling Backyard Invaders.”  In “Livable Plants for the Home Landscape,” plant combinations are suggested that fill specific landscape niches, such as forest edges, sunny slopes and small garden spaces.  Finally, “Livable Ecosystems: A Model for Suburbia” shows how to plant and manage rain gardens, meadows, forests and other landscape plantings that provide valuable ecosystem services.

Pruning

There are many reasons for pruning.  Plants are pruned to maintain health and vigor, modify form and size, maintain an attractive plant and to modify flowering or fruiting.

Plant health is improved with the removal of diseased, injured, dying or dead wood.  Dead wood can harbor or provide an entry point for insects and diseases.  Dead or diseased limbs can generally be pruned at anytime.

Plants are most easily maintained in their natural form.    Taking a few moments to locate a tree or shrub in the “right place”  where it can grow and be left in it’s natural form only takes a little planning prior to planting.

There is not a single “best time of the year” to prune.  Timing is determined by the type of plant, plant species, reason’s for pruning and the effect desired.   In general, most trees can be pruned at anytime except when they are leafing out in the spring or when they are losing their leaves in the fall.