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Different Plants. Different Needs. 

Different Plants. Different Needs. 

What the Home Pros Know with Shaun Henry

They say that opposites attract. I have found that in many cases that appears to be true. My better half and I are similar in some ways, but opposites in many others. She’s my person — has been for 35 years and will be for 35 more, so I guess the premise holds for us. This isn’t always the case for plants though.  

Competition Between Similar Plants

Any time two plants are growing close to one another, there is competition. They compete above ground for space, sunlight, and air movement and below ground for nutrition, water, and space.  Two similar plants growing side by side will always be smaller than what they would be if grown alone. Both plants will be stunted due to this competition.

Competition Between Different Plants

Different plants have different needs, growth habits, and function. For example, grasses are typically full sun-loving plants, and ornamental trees and shrubs range from full sun to dense shade-loving.  When growing different plants together, they too compete for resources (space, moisture, air, and nutrition). Sometimes the competition is too much for one of the plants and sometimes both.

Grass vs Trees

Very different plants. Very different needs. When grown together, the tree typically suffers the most. Grasses can pull moisture and mineral nutrients from the soil more vigorously. Trees that we find in our landscapes typically evolved in the forest amongst similar plants with plenty of moisture and nutrients and grasses were found in the prairies where it was typically dry and in the full sun. Growing these two plants together can often be difficult.  

So What Do You Do?

Mulch can help. Not only will it add organic matter and moisture-holding capacity it will also create a physical barrier between the tree’s trunk and your mower deck and weed eater. Mulch also buffers the soil from extreme air temperature changes which can reduce root damage. Small shrubs, ground cover, and perennials can be planted around trees as well to create a separation between your turf and your trees.

Have a professional complete a site evaluation and make note of issues you are having with certain areas of your lawn and landscape or issues with specific plants. With this information, you can come up with potential solutions and figure out realistic expectations. Sometimes you just can’t grow your plant of choice where you would like to.

Although the relationship between turf and trees can be difficult, it does not mean that they’re completely incompatible. Proper planning, plant selection, site selection, and maintenance practices can help both thrive and live a long happy life together.  

When it comes down to it, the lawn and landscape around your home is part of your living space and you want to make the most of it. Making plans for the growing season, taking proper care of your plants, and managing your turf to keep it all in good order will help foster a healthy relationship between your turf and trees and between you and your property. No matter if it’s cleaning up your landscape beds, managing your lawn, planting new trees, controlling your household pests, or even disinfecting surfaces at your place of work during flu and cold season, Atkins is the right place to call.

Shaun Henry

A Columbia native, Shaun Henry found a home at Atkins in 2000 when he started his career as a turf technician. Shaun holds a commercial applicator’s license through the Missouri Department of Agriculture and is a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the Mid-America Green Industry Council, and the Missouri Green Industry Alliance. Shaun strongly believes in the importance of a great customer experience where the Atkins staff knows their clients and anticipates their needs accordingly. Shaun is an MU alumnus and has a degree in plant science.

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