Proper landscaping starts with a plan, which may involve a homeowner calling in professional help. That's according to Jeff Peters of East Hampton, who started his landscaping company, JCP Landscaping, in 1999. He works throughout East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, North Haven, and Water Mill. Many of his 16 employees have been with him for 20 years. Mr. Peters shared some landscaping advice with The Star.
East Hampton Star: What does a healthy plant look like?
Jeff Peters: There's no pests or disease, like scale on the leaves, and they aren't brown or black. . . . They've got to have nice, dark, shiny leaves. Flowers are always much brighter on a healthy plant. You know your shrubs are looking good, if you have new growth starting right away after you trim them. When it does grow, it's got a nice bushy feel to it. . . . When you walk on a lawn, it feels nice and mushy, and the grass will pop back up. It doesn't stay flat -- it retains the shape after being walked on. The color is also consistent, and there's no thatch -- that's the grass that doesn't go down, the roots don't go down, they just grow inside the grass and kill the lawn. The thickness is also a sign of a healthy lawn.
E.H.S.: What are some signs that your plants may be in trouble?
J.C.P.: If you have trees in trouble, when everything buds out you'll see dead branches. If the tree is leaning, you have a problem. Then there's fungi; it looks like moss — you don't want that. It shows the tree is in trouble. It feeds off the dead tissue of the tree and kills it. Another sign is if you see a lot of insects, like white mites, which look like powdery mildew. Those are eggs, which hatch and eat everything. Wilting leaves mean shrubs aren't getting enough water. Yellow leaves mean they're getting too much water. If you have brown tips, that means that you cut your shrubs early.
E.H.S.: How can you tell when it's time to call in professional help?
J.C.P: When the lawn and trees start to look diseased and there's lots of insects. Generally when moles come to your yard, that means it has grubs, which have to be taken care of. Grubs eat the roots of your plants. In the summertime when you get little cobwebs, that's fungus.
E.H.S.: What can you do to prepare your property for a landscaping crew when you do call upon one for help?
J.C.P.: Have a little bit of a plan in your head. Know what you want with your lawn and what your budget is. Make sure the sprinkler system is up and running — there are other companies that do that.
E.H.S.: What about deer?
J.C.P.: The first question I always ask is, "Do you have deer?" Deer will eat just about anything. Do you have hydrangeas? My favorite expression is: "It's like chocolate" for deer. There is some shrubbery they won't eat: boxwoods, green giant arborvitae, Hollywood junipers, black-eyed Susans, lavender, cedar trees, butterfly bushes — they're really nice and fun to plant because the kids like them. Skimmia stays green all year round. Andromeda, deer don't eat those. Sometimes they eat rhododendrons.
E.H.S.: What are the best things you can do for your landscape at home?
J.C.P.: You never want to water too much, because everything turns brown. Fertilize your plants twice a year with something organic — twice a year, spring and fall, is good enough. Don't overwater your lawn or your flowers, and keep weeding. Weeds will take all the water and nitrogen and it won't get to your plants. If you want, you can add organic matter to your beds, like Roots, an organic fertilizer. It's really good — I wish I could use it to make my hair grow. It's a little pricey, though. Have your lawn aerated each year, that way you get better root structure and drainage. There's a lot of compacted soil out here because of the clay.
Mr. Peters can be reached by phone at 631-236-6917 or via his website, jcplandscaping.com.