Diggin’ In: Root of this dad-firefighter’s talent? Gardening with mom

November 2, 2015

During Jay Veitz’s school-age years, he worked with his mother in the yard, learning all about the organic ways she gardened. One of her favorite natural gardening practices was IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, which allows good bugs to naturally control bad bugs.

Years later Veitz still favors no chemical controls whenever possible.

"I have always helped my mother in the yard," says Veitz, 35, who lives in Yorktown, Va., with his wife and three children — daughters, ages 9 and 11, and son, 6.

"I have been fortunate enough to be able to continue this tradition with my children. My children have grown very fond of planting, growing and picking vegetables as well as developing their own opinion of where plants should go. They are fortunate to enjoy gardening with both sets of grandparents as well."

Veitz, also a firefighter, has used that hands-on learning with his mother in his landscape design and maintenance business, Nature’s Own Landscaping LLC —

Whether you hire a professional landscaper or decide to do it yourself, don’t get overwhelmed with a new home and landscape, Veitz advises.

"Realize that it is a work in progress and does not all need to be completed at once," he says.

"Stage your landscape. Use your knowledge and trial and error until you obtain desired results."

Favorite plants

Trees: Willows for their calming appearance. Bald cypress for fall coloration. River birch for year-round interest. Lace leaf Japanese maple for brilliant fall coloring. Crape myrtle for durability, prolific blooms and year-round interest.

Shrubs: Gold mops for year-round yellow foliage. Camellias for evergreen interest and winter flowers. Loropetalum for deep maroon foliage. Abelia for multi-season coloring. Vitex for fragrance and attractive spikes of lavender flowers.

If Veitz could be a plant, he says it would be a mahonia, an evergreen with winter flowers followed by berries.

"Mahonia is tough-skinned, sharp around the edges, yet full of interest," Veitz says.

Least favorite plants

Firepower nandinas are overused by contractors as filler plants — consider yaupon holly instead.

Indian hawthorns are susceptible to leaf spot and deer — consider abelias instead.

Bradford pears are prone to wind damage and smell bad — consider Japanese zelkova instead.

Gardening advice

— Start with the roots and give your plants good soil for good root development.

— Monitor moisture content of the soil. Watch for signs of plant stress such as leaves yellowing or drooping. Use your hands to expose the surface layer of soil to judge moisture content, Veitz suggests.

— Properly place your plants so they have room to grow instead of crowding each other.

— Know each plant’s needs: soil, light and moisture. For example, planting a moisture- and shade-loving hosta in a dry, sunny bed is not a wise decision. And, most evergreens prefer well-draining soil, not soggy always-wet ground.

— Coordinate your landscape style and design with your home’s architecture and overall look and colors.

— Choose plant material for its long-term attractiveness. Research your plants, and ask professionals for help with your needs.



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