Routine Management Practices for Outdoor Ornamental Plants.

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As a landscaper or ornamental grower its imperative to note that poor management of ornamental outdoor plants will lead to unhealthy plants and their ultimate death. As such, a grower has to practice routine management practices to ensure best performance  of ornamental outdoor plants. I have listed a number of routine management practices here –
Acclimatization
As defined by Wikipedia, it is the process in which an individual organism  adapts to a gradual change in its environment such as temperature,humidity, photoperiod and pH such that the plant is able to maintain its best performance. Most ornamental outdoor plants do not require acclimatization. This is because they are raised in outdoor nurseries and used in outdoor environments. On the contrary some outdoor plants are raised in indoor environment nurseries  and they should therefore be acclimatized.
Watering and fertilizer application
For best performance it is advisable to plant the ornamental outdoor plants at the onset of the long rain season. This will ensure that they survive with minimum irrigation requirements hence minimising on cost. Watering should be done before and after transplanting ornamental plants.
Ornamental outdoor plants may be top dressed  annually with Nitrogen fertilizer at the onset of the long rains to ensure rapid and uniform establishment. For ornamental outdoor trees ensure that the planting holes are large enough to accommodate the roots. Apply manure and DAP during establishment. Seedling containers with polythene paper should be removed before transplanting as polythene papers will inhibit root growth and expansion. When it comes to spacing, the correct spacing as per the plant requirements should be observed especially for hedge shrubs  as too close spacing shortens the lifespan of hedges. A grower should also take care of weeds. Weeds are known to compete for food, light, nutrients with the intended ornamental plants. The area around this plants should therefore be kept weed free to reduce competition for nutrients. This will also help to keep pest and diseases incidents low as weeds always act as alternate hosts for pests and diseases.
Training and pruning
Most ornamental outdoor plants require regular training and pruning especially when they are young and in their formative stage.
Ornamental plants that require training and pruning include –
-Trees
-Shrubs
-Ornamental ground covers.
-Vines
-Climbing plants and even
-succulents
Training
It is the art of giving the ornamental plant the direction in which to grow. This should be done as early as after establishment as possible. Most young established plants always require support from wooden,metal or other materials to ensure that they grow in the desired direction. As such, training should be done early when the plants are still young.
Pruning
Pruning  is the removal of excess or undesired or dead/dying plant parts from a growing plant. There are two types of pruning
a) Formative pruning
b) Maintenance pruning

With formative pruning only the desired number and shape of branches are left on a plant. It is mostly done when the plant is very young. On trees, formative pruning is done on branches that have narrow crotch angle since they tend to break easily.
Maintenance pruning involves  the removal of
– off-type branches
– Diseased plant parts.
– Very low placed branches that maybe touching the ground.
– Very succulent water-shoots
– Dead/ dying plant parts.
For trees that are expected to flower, proper pruning should be done to ensure light penetration into the tree canopy. At their mature height , trees should be pruned to leave the desired number of branches.
Many shrubs such as Bougainvillea and durantas require close training and pruning if at all they are planted as hedges. This will ensure there are no visible gaps through the hedge. This will also increase the privacy or security of a hedge.

Such shrubs maybe intertwined into each other or  through a chain link if they are grown next to one to ensure total coverage hence more privacy.
Effective regular pruning should be done at the beginning of every rainy season to ensure that there is new growth hence more privacy.

Ornamental plants should not be pruned during the dry weather as this will lead to high incidences of plant die back.  Lawn mowing of grasses should also be minimal during the dry weather.
Shrubs may be pruned into any desired shapes and appearances within a landscape. Topiary which is the art of pruning  a plant into a desired shape should be balanced within a landscape and it should be symmetrical where desired.
Another point of concern is that young growing ornamental plant tips should be handled with care to avoid snapping during training. Vines and climbing plants in outdoor environments should be provided with wooden or sisal twine support for climbing. Studies in the past have revealed that metal support used in outdoor environment usually get to hot in the afternoons and scorch the young growing tips  of such ornamental plants.
Ornamental ground covers usually have a tendency of stretching over intended areas. They should be weeded regularly  when still young since they take 11/2 – 2 years to cover the ground.

Pest and Disease Monitoring
Any grower or farmer knows that  the first step in control of pests and diseases begins with regular scouting. Thereafter, in the event that an attack has been confirmed, the necessary remedies should be applied. Flower beds and flower islands in a flowering landscape should be replaced as is necessary to avoid soil borne pests and diseases attack on the flowers.
Always replace any dead or dying ornamental plants in a landscape early enough before the rest of the plants become large. This is because survival rate of late replaced plants is slow due to shading / competition from the older more established plants.

Weeding
A weed is any unwanted or undesirable plant growing in an unintended place.
There is therefore need to control weeds in a landscaped area.
Turf needs to be regularly mowed using a lawn mower that has sharp blades. It should be done sparingly during the dry months to avoid patches of grass dying leaving uncovered areas. Ornamental flowering plants in flower beds should be regularly weeded and replaced once their flowers die off. A grower should be aware that ornamental flowering perennials last longer than flowering annuals in a landscape. Flowering perennial plants should be used on a larger scale in an outdoor landscape because they require less maintenance.

Landscapers should bear in mind that it takes between 2-4years for any landscape work to be fully established. During this period there is need for frequent landscape maintenance work to be done in the newly established landscape area.
Til next time.

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