Mow and Blow, Oh No

Not unlike certain periodic check-ups at the doctor’s office, maintenance is an often unpleasant but necessary task for maintaining the health and performance of a BMP (Best Management Practice) facility. By this time of year, maintenance contracts should be squared away and the first maintenance visits should be in the works. For many of these facilities, the care of the plantings is required as well.

Although most plants have yet to show any signs of life, it is not far off. Now is the best time to clean out planting beds because it is easier to do so before plant growth starts. The dead foliage from last season’s herbaceous plants should be clipped and excessive leaf litter should be raked from the beds.

Plants are integral to the performance of a BMP. Plants take up nutrients as they grow, the root systems stabilize the soil and the stems slow down the velocity of runoff passing through the BMP. It is critical to have a maintenance provider that can distinguish between which plants should be growing in the BMP facility and which should be considered weeds.

Most landscape maintenance companies (a.k.a. Mow and Blow) do not possess the plant knowledge and experience necessary to adequately maintain native plantings and BMPs. The average maintenance crew that descends upon a BMP like locusts wielding weed eaters and leaf blowers risks damaging desirable plants and leaving invasive plants in place. Just as competent physicians are necessary to provide sufficient health services, so too are competent service providers necessary for maintaining the health of a stormwater BMP investment.

A step pool infested with perennial Johnson Grass. The extent of the infestation indicates that it has been growing here for more than one season. Many of the desirable plants were smothered and have died out.
A volunteer Magnolia virginia seedling that has re-sprouted after being hacked in a previous season. The diameter of the stems indicates that it was probably 2-3 feet in height at the time it was cut.
A shoot of Itea virginica, a woody shrub which spreads by sending out suckers, next to a dried stem of herbaceous Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum – native, but not desirable). The similar reddish color makes them almost indistinguishable without closer inspection.