Have you noticed the plants in your landscape re-emerging? 

Spring is an amazing time to watch Mother Nature rise from her slumber. Your landscape comes back to life with foliage emerging, flowers blooming, and warmer temperatures. Sunny days allow us to be outside and enjoy it all. 

With sustainability in mind, let’s cover a few topics that help with the transition from the dormant months of winter into a spectacular Spring. We hope this guide serves as a resource to help you enjoy and appreciate your outdoor space!

Great Time to Garden! 

Early March is the perfect time to plan your Spring garden. A garden is a wonderful asset that can immediately change the whole feel and appearance of your landscape while offering an interactive space for you to get your hands dirty! A garden can also be an amazing way to practice “Garden-To-Table” sustainability, mirroring the “Farm-to-Table” movement. The process can be fun for the whole family and a truly rewarding experience. 

Our first tip is to grow vegetables that you regularly eat. Watching them grow and mature from seedlings to mature plants will yield yummy produce with a renewed appreciation for healthy fruits and vegetables.

Companion planting is another great tip for gardeners. A simple google search can inform you of the perfect companion plants for your garden. “Three sisters” of corn, beans, and squash is one example of the synergy that can be achieved when growing the various fruits and vegetables in your garden. This technique passed on by Native American farmers utilizes the unique characteristics of each plant to ensure each companion plant not only survives but thrives!

Corn grows tall and serves as a lattice for the beans to climb high and away from the squash. Beans, in turn, help to stabilize the stalks while also fertilizing the soil with nitrogen from the air. The squash plant meanwhile grows along the ground floor, protecting the soil from the sun’s rays and helping to retain moisture. A fourth sister, sunflowers, can be incorporated as well, which reach above the corn and attract pollinators. 

Try it out, or explore other types of companion planting for your favorite edible fruits and veggies, and while you are at it, start your compost. 

Curious about Composting?

If you have the space, consider adding a compost area to your landscape. Composting is one of the most sustainable measures you can take to divert food waste and organic material from the landfill, and instead convert the raw materials into next year’s perfect planting amendment. At TLC, we maintain a huge compost pile of the season’s debris. But piling it up is not enough. To ensure that it decomposes as quickly as possible, we first shred into small pieces and regularly mix it up so as to encourage aerobic decomposition.

Plant those Plants! 

Early Spring is also a great time for other types of new ornamental plantings, whether they be trees, shrubs, flowers, or ground covers. But before you buy, be cautious of any remaining cold days on the forecast. 

Pro tip: much of the new plant stock at nurseries will be coming to you from a winter spent indoors, lapping up water and sunlight from the cozy confines of a greenhouse. A cold snap can quickly burn leaves and leave your new flowering tree or shrub wilted. While it’s generally only a matter of time before your plant recovers, it can mean missing out on that early spring bloom. 

Alternatively, many nursery plants that wintered outside may still be dormant and not look as attractive. Keep an eye out for opportunities to purchase these at a discount, and plant them as soon as possible. This allows time for roots to establish and can mean exceptional growth throughout the Spring and a resilient root system for the dog days of summer. 

If low maintenance is your priority, native plants are a wonderful choice for your garden and overall landscape. Native plants, such as the Dogwood or Redbud Tree, are accustomed to the local climate and evolved to thrive in the ecosystem of our climate zone. As such, native plants attract native birds and pollinators, which can be a beautiful display while meeting a critical need for food for the region’s native birds and insects. 

Greener Grass 

Now let’s shift our focus to grass, the most popular ground cover. Evaluate your lawn for winter damage and determine whether general maintenance of aeration and overseeding is in order. Or, if it is better to start over with a new turf area. 

Though before committing to sod, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive soil test to analyze the present state of your soil. Our Specialist Soil reports provide thorough information and yield recommendations. Often around newly constructed homes, the soil requires an influx of organic material or other supplemental action to resolve specific nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.  

With this information in hand, you can decide how best to nurture your lawn. 

Those who opt for sod, ought to keep in mind that preparation is key. Pre-existing turf must be removed with special equipment. With the right tools on hand, sod can give you a stunning landscape within hours or days. But functionally, expect it to take 4-6 weeks for those roots to become established. That means, no pets or running around.

A rototilled, and freshly seeded lawn, alternatively, can take upwards of 3 months to be well established, which can feel like a long time. But preparing now can mean your seeded lawn can be fabulous by May or June. 

If you are overseeding, ask for core aeration in conjunction with the overseeding to help ensure that roots develop deep. 

Ready for Rain!?

Another important thing to consider is how your property fares in the rain. We can bet that this year will bring storms with heavy rainfall and potential flooding. Protect your property from heavy rain with proper grading, berms, and, if necessary, a flood gate around your basement exterior door. You can also help prevent the severity of future flooding by improving the grading surrounding your property while also increasing your landscape’s ability to absorb water. 

Grading generally involves changing how your soil subbase is sloped to create a negative slope away from your house to protect your foundation from pooling water. Because this subbase soil is less permeable than top soil, its slope is very important in redirecting surface water from your foundation to a more desirable location. This can be a big job, and can require big equipment if more than a few inches of soil need to be moved. If you have grading issues, call TLC or another landscape contractor to resolve these issues before the rain comes. 

When increasing permeability, we also look to existing driveways, patios, and how your gutter downspouts direct water. We recommend replacing asphalt and concrete with permeable pavement. While downspouts should direct to an area where water can absorb before reaching the storm drain. This can include rain gardens, dry-wells, or bioswale.

For an upgrade of your driveway or patio, check out permeable pavers. They come in many styles and are specially designed to allow water to permeate down into the soil, while also reducing stormwater runoff and erosion. When projects are completed at a large enough scale, they can help stem negative impacts on water quality by trapping the contaminants washed away in the first few minutes of a storm. These contaminants unabated, otherwise cause ecological harm in rivers, runs, and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Mulch Mania! 

Our final tip is an oldie, but a goodie: use mulch. Mulch is traditionally shredded hardwood, but it can technically be any loose ground cover, including leaves, pine straw, or decorative stone. 

Adding mulch helps reduce weeds but also helps root development by providing thermal insulation and moisture retention.  

When installing mulch and identifying beds, edging is an important and labor-intensive step that helps keep turf contained in your lawn area. Whether your edge is an excavated 4” spade edge, or uses stone, pavers, or metal edging, be careful of damaging roots. Create a comfortable buffer zone around trees and shrubs, and remember that the vast majority of roots of a given tree or shrubs lay right below ground level in a natural setting. Each time a root is cut, the tree or shrub is forced to compartmentalize the damaged roots and normally shed a corresponding branch.

While there is plenty of good to keep in mind, these tips ought to help you get started to ensure this year you have a beautiful and functional landscape. We, at TLC, are ready to help if you need a helping hand! 

Patrick Moran is the founder of TLC Design Co., an Alexandra-based small business located in Old Town, Alexandria. TLC has a professional team of landscape and construction tradesmen dedicated to offering clients sustainable solutions year-round. Please reach out to us at 703-879-7091 or via email at info@tlcdesign.co.


Patrick Moran, PMP, LSC, HIC, LEED | CEO Tactical Land Care

Patrick utilizes his passion for the outdoors along with his professional skills as a licensed Landscape and Home Improvement contractor in Virginia and Maryland, as well as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED Green Associate. Patrick has a BA from Yale University, where he studied climate change and its impact on society.