Here you’ll find a number of commonly asked questions (and a video!) about working with a professional landscaping company and the design and build process for your own home.
Landscape Architect Steve Seefeld talks to Iowa Live about the Landscape Design and Build process.

1. How do I find a Landscaper I can trust?
The best way to find a reputable landscaper or landscaping company is by word of mouth. Ask your friends, neighbors, and colleagues if they’ve worked with a company they’d recommend. Another good source is reading online reviews, and checking out company websites to see what kind of projects they’ve worked on. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you can set up a consultation with each company. That way, you can learn more about their values and services, and choose the one that aligns with your project’s needs.

2. What’s the best time of year for landscape installation?
Generally, spring is the best time for prepping and planting flower beds, and beginning hardscaping projects. The summer construction season is when the majority of large landscaping and hardscaping projects are done. Fall is a great time for planting trees and bushes since temperatures are lower. Hardscaping also continues through the fall until the ground freezes or it begins to snow.

One example is of a past project that began in late summer. All the hardscaping work including the patio, sittings walls, and fireplace were built, and trees and shrubs were planted as well. The following spring is when we got the perennial and annual plants in the ground, as they thrive in the spring.

To ensure your project gets done in your desired time frame, start contacting landscaping companies during the winter months. This ensures that your project is on the schedule when the season starts.  Often by late summer crews may be booked through the end of the season.

3. What is landscaping vs. hardscaping?
Modern landscaping refers to the designing, planning, and construction of gardens and other features that create useable space for outdoor activities while enhancing the appearance around a home. Landscaping includes hardscaping and softscaping, although many people refer to softscaping and landscaping interchangeably. Hardscaping includes materials such as stone and wood, retaining walls, decks, firepits, and more. Softscaping would then refer to planting designs, creating burms, grading, and mulching. Capital Landscaping does both softscape and hardscape design in the greater Des Moines, IA area.

4. Do I need an irrigation system?
Irrigation systems are not necessary for maintaining the health of your lawn or plants, but can be helpful. Irrigation does much of the hard work that watering entails so that you don’t have to, and it hits the parts of your lawn you might miss. A hose and sprinkler can be a money-saving alternative, but require you to set timers and manually move the sprinkler around your yard. With either option though, it’s easy to waste water. Ultimately, you have to decide if an irrigation system is right for you.

5. When should I aerate my lawn?
Aeration should take place during high growth periods. This is typically during the cooler times of the year when there’s plenty of rain, mainly the spring and fall. Aeration puts stress on the turf, which could be detrimental when the turf is highly stressed already due to high heat and periods of drought. At Capital Landscaping, we recommend fall aeration with overseeding to loosen the soil and develop new growth at the same time. Aeration is great for any lawn but especially if it gets a lot of foot traffic, is part of new construction with compact soil, or is part of a thatch management/prevention program.

6. What’s the difference between annuals and perennials?
Annuals grow for one season and then die when the weather gets cold. Perennials emerge every spring after being dormant during the winter. Examples of popular annuals in Iowa are pansies, snapdragons, petunias, geraniums, salvia, California poppy, violas, and many more. Some perennial examples are phlox, peonies, purple coneflower, daylilies, black-eyed Susan, Virginia bluebells, coral bells, hostas, and more.

7. How do I keep disease away from my plants?
With a few DIY techniques

  • Keep your garden clean. Pick up plant debris, remove dying stems or branches, weed the area regularly, and toss the debris in the compost.
  • Fertilize just enough to keep your plants happy – too much fertilizer promotes weak growth which is susceptible to disease.
  • Wait to plant until the soil is warmed up. Planting too early will put extra stress on your plants and make them more susceptible to disease in the soil.
  • Use mulch to keep weeds at bay and retain moisture in the ground.
  • Inspect and remove infected stems and leaves. As soon as you notice signs of disease, carefully remove the leaf or stems. By removing disease early on, you can help your plants to continue to grow and limit disease spread.

8. How do I permanently get rid of weeds?
This is a tough one. The conditions that are good for plant growth are naturally good for weed growth. There are steps you can take to prevent weed growth early on, and remove weeds if they do appear. First of all, use a thick layer of mulch in your flower beds and garden to cover the soil where you don’t want weeds to grow. Then use a weed preventer such as Preen to further discourage weed growth. If weeds do appear, pull the entire weed including the root early on to prevent it from coming back. For cracks in concrete and pavers use a commercial herbicide to kill weeds that appear. For a more organic method try using vinegar in a spray bottle. Be warned, herbicides including vinegar will kill all plants they touch, not only weeds.

9. How do I water my new trees, shrubs and flowers?
The basics of watering are simple. Water immediately after planting, let the water soak into the soil, and then water again. During the first few weeks it’s best to continue frequent watering — a good soak every other day is ideal. Water plants deeply with a slow stream from the hose placed at the base of each plant.  Once the water has created a small pool then move the hose to the next plant.  This ensures that the roots grow down into the soil creating a stronger root system and plant.  By watering only lightly the roots will stay at the top of the soil and long term will require watering more often, along with leaving them susceptible to winter kill. Following the first week, you’ll only need to water two to three times per week depending on the weather conditions in your area.  All newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials should also be watered well just before the ground freezes in the late fall. 

10. Why is professional lawn maintenance so important?
Whether or not you hire a professional is up to you, but paying meticulous attention to your lawn will provide a multitude of benefits. It’ll give you a great space for your family to enjoy and increase the value of your home. It also provides oxygen to the environment and cools down the area around your home making your air conditioner’s job easier.

An established lawn will also have a deep root system that controls erosion, runoff, and the purity of water that is funneled into the groundwater supply. Healthy lawns can trap the dust and impurities that we want to keep out of the water table.

11. What is the benefit of adding mulch to flower beds?
There are many benefits, including:

  • Helping the soil retain moisture
  • Contributing to soil health as the breakdown of the mulch happens over time
  • Blocking the sunlight to pesky weeds, helping to keep them at bay
  • Repelling insects, depending on the type of mulch used
  • Controlling soil erosion

12. Should I rake up leaves or mulch them into my lawn with a mower?
We recommend mulching leaves as they will add nutrients to your soil and make for a healthier lawn. Raking up the leaves will not harm your lawn but you’ll also be missing out on the benefits leaves provide. One note of caution, do not ignore blankets of full leaves on your lawn, either raking or mulching is necessary. If you don’t, the leaves can actually do more harm than good since they’ll block sunlight and air from getting to the grass. This problem can be compounded when it rains, eventually leading to turf diseases or dead grass.

13. Should I install a drip irrigation system or a sprinkler system?
It depends on your situation. Drip irrigation is great for watering small areas, or individual plants alongside your home at a slower pace, but a sprinkler system can cover more ground quickly, making it ideal for watering entire lawns. It can also be programmed to water during specific time periods, so you can set it and forget it. More advantages of drip irrigation include less water lost due to evaporation or runoff and that it won’t wash away mulch. Consider which type of watering you’d be using it for, and weigh the pros and cons.

14. Does adding more plants to my landscape help the environment?
Absolutely! Every living plant does its job to filter carbon dioxide out of the environment — one tree alone can remove 26 pounds of CO2 annually equaling about 11,000 miles of vehicle emissions. Plants also help keep debris and pollution out of our water supply. On top of that, trees that cast shade on your home will keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter giving your air conditioner and heating units a break. If you’re thinking about planting additional trees, shrubs, or flowers, they will all benefit our environment in their own unique way, so go for it!

15. How often should I mow my lawn?
It might seem too simple, but mow it whenever it looks like it’s getting too long. The specific length of time will vary based on your grass type, your area’s weather patterns, and how high you cut it. That may be multiple times per week, once a week, or every other week. Keep an eye on it and use your best judgment.