Tips From Our Team

Our designers are happy to share the tips & tricks they have learned over the years.

To mulch or not to mulch?

Is one mulch better than the other? How much mulch should I use? When should I mulch?

Our landscape professionals get asked these questions, and there are as many opinions as there are types of mulch. From rock and colored wood chips to cedar and cypress, there’s a mulch for every preference. We asked Kelly O’Donahue, master gardener and Villa landscape designer, to share the scoop on mulch:

Natural mulch has many purposes. It:

  • Inhibits weed growth when applying a 4” layer or more
  • Cools the roots of the plant and holds moisture around plantings
  • Gives a finished look to landscaped areas
  • Can impact the look of your garden, so consider plant colors when choosing colored mulch.

More facts about mulch:

  • Cedar and cypress mulch take longer to break down in the garden than other wood mulch and will need replenishment less often.
  • Dyed mulch is available in browns, reds and gold.
  • Dyed mulch will not leech color into your gardens or poison your plants.
  • Cocoa chip mulch is poisonous to dogs.

Natural mulch can make your gardens look great. Consider these tips before applying mulch in the spring:

  • Add compost to your soil, which will improve any soil condition.
  • Before applying a pre-emergent weed control product, read the label carefully for application tips.
  • If you are working in soil that is too wet, it will form large clods that when broken down will turn to dust.

Watering your first-year plants

Do you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to watering your new plants? Lack of enough water in the first growing season is a major cause of plant loss. Watering is absolutely necessary as the limited root system on young plants makes them highly susceptible to dry weather damage.

We asked Lonny Sekeres, a Villa landscape designer, to share some pointers when it comes to watering new plants, such as trees and shrubs.

  • Water two or three times a week unless there is at least one inch of rainfall per week. In hot, windy weather, plants need even more water.
  • Water at the base. Wet the soil enough to soak the root system (12” - 18” for shrubs and 18” - 24” for trees). A slow trickle for 5-10 minutes for shrubs and 20-30 minutes for trees will provide the deep watering needed.
  • Water requirements will vary with soil types. Until plants are fully established (a few years!) continue to monitor dry spells and water as needed.
  • Irrigation systems meant for lawns may not be sufficient to meet the water needs of new plants.
  • Continue watering into the fall. Evergreens require sufficient moisture during winter, so it is important for them to be hydrated until the ground freezes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to watering plants, shrubs and trees. With each landscaping project, our landscape designers will provide you with a watering guide that cover these tips and more, including watering newly seeded or sodded lawns.

Tips for Watering Sod & Seed

Spring is sod and seed season, but you can lay sod or plant seed anytime during the growing season. Whether you are fixing small dog patches or finishing a large project, our Field Superintendent, Greg Smedstad, has got you covered with expert watering tips. For more information, download Villa Landscape’s Watering Guide.

1) Water within a half hour after sod is laid. Apply at least 1 inch so that 3-4 inches of soil beneath the turf will be moist. Carefully pull back a corner of the turf and push a screwdriver or other sharp tool into the soil. It should push in easily and have moisture along the first 3-4 inches; if not apply more water. After the first day, it is best to water in the early morning or evening.

2) For the next two weeks, keep the below-turf soil moist with daily (or more frequent) watering of about 1/4 inch each time. Water in early morning to take advantage of the grass’s normal growing cycle, lower wind speeds, and less water loss by evaporation. Hot, dry or windy conditions require increased watering. As the turf roots, it may be difficult (and damaging) to pull back a corner to check moisture, but you can still use a tool to check by pushing it through the turf and into the soil.

3) Move your sprinkler so that corners, edges and areas near structures that are easily missed get water. These areas are vulnerable to drying out faster.

4) Runoff may occur on some soils and sloped areas before the soil is adequately moist. To conserve water and ensure adequate absorption, turn off the water when runoff begins and wait 30 minutes to an hour before continuing. Repeat as needed.

Warning signs that sod needs immediate watering:

  • Sod length and width appear to shrink
  • Leaves/blades curl with a needle-like appearance
  • Dry spots discolor into a purple or gray color


1) Germination occurs within 7-30 days depending on temperature, moisture, seed variety and depth buried. If conditions change during the germination phase, seeds are vulnerable. The main objective is to maintain adequate moisture; seed will die if it dries out. Water at least twice per day, and possibly more depending on temperature and wind conditions. When watering a newly seeded lawn, aim for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times per day.

2) As grass becomes visible, the root structure is starting to establish and the seed is not as vulnerable. Continue to water lightly twice per day because not all the seed sprouts at the same time. Do not saturate as the seed is still vulnerable to overwatering as it is to drying out. Keep the top 1 inch moist at all times in the early stages; this may take 10-15 minutes depending on conditions. Repeat this step 2-3 times per day until grass turns deep green.

3) When the grass reaches a couple inches tall and turns a darker green, water once every few days.

4) Once grass reaches mowing height of 3-4 inches, root growth is established and you may begin to water deeper and longer to promote a deep root growth.

NOTE: Villa Landscapes recommends a blended seed topped with a shredded hay to maintain moisture.