I had worked at a Palisades landscaping company in New Jersey before I relocated to Alaska. I therefore had to learn about all the differences between landscaping on the East Coast vs. the 49th state. In my area, Southeast Alaska, we have some pretty nice conditions. For instance, it is relatively wet, with long, temperate summer days. This allows local flowers to remain in bloom for extended periods. On the down side, the soil is often poor and the winters are brutal. Given this mix, I can offer a few tips for getting the most out of landscaping Alaskan-style:
Low Maintenance Landscaping
We have a lot of weeds in Alaska, because of all the open and unplanted areas, not to mention frequent landslides. After a landslide or a fire, weeds are the first species to fill in the spaces left open by fallen or burnt trees. Our strategy up here is to plant shrubbery in spacings, patterns and sizes that form a continuous carpet within a couple of years. In effect, we are crowding out the weeds by allocating all the precious soil to the plants we select. Hardy perennials will require a minimum of care and will effectively fight against the establishment of weeds naturally.
Ground cover is very important in Alaska to preserve our soil, reduce the need for maintenance, suppress invasive species and weeds and provide a beautiful backdrop to our featured plants and shrubs. The ground cover also provides a colorful display that changes during the seasons. You can coordinate these colors with your feature plantings for heightened effects. You can arrange ground cover to direct traffic along preferred routes, fill in empty space, and discourage careless use of lawnmowers and weed-eaters.
We often transfer plants from metal cans to the soil. To be successful, we observe the following rules:
- Select locations carefully.
- Remove competing vegetation.
- Dig holes double the size of the original container.
- Add amendments such as fertilizer, lime, manure and compost.
- Transplant gently, rotating the plant to show its best face.
- Refill the hole half way with soil, water, pack down, and add remaining soil.
- Near the top of the hole, place a few packets of time-released fertilizer. The packets dissolve over time. Place them one inch under the soil.
- Craft a watering basin in the soil at the edge of the root ball.
- Keep the plant well-watered and free of insects and mold.