Municipal Landscape Management Plan Template

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prepared April 2021 by
Paul McKenzie, Horticulture Extension Agent
N.C. Cooperative Extension

This document provides generic recommendations for maintaining landscapes at facilities owned and maintained by a municipal government entity. It is generally applicable to Piedmont North Carolina. It is not intended to be adopted in its entirety, but rather to be revised and adapted to specific circumstances, resources and conditions. While safety recommendations are included at the end of the document, safety practices must ALWAYS come first.

Hire A Contractor For High Visibility Turf Areas – Establishing and maintaining high-quality turf is labor-intensive and expensive. It requires specialized knowledge, inputs, and equipment. If resources are limited, consider identifying a limited number of high visibility areas with frequent customer traffic where high-quality turf will make a big visual impact. For those selected areas, consider contracting with a professional turf management company to establish the stand, as well as provide ongoing fertility and weed management. When mowing those selected high-quality turf areas, proper mowing height will be absolutely critical (for tall fescue, set the mower at the highest level).


  • Avoid Unnecessary Pruning – Where shrubbery has room to grow, there is no need to do annual pruning. Let it grow into a natural shape. Light grooming can be done as needed, preferably in mid-summer.
  • Remove or cut back severely overgrown shrubs – Where shrubs require frequent pruning simply for size control, it may be more efficient to remove them and consider replacement with a more appropriately sized species or cultivar. Alternatively, cut it back severely in late winter and then work to maintain at a more appropriate size.
  • Prune Into Mound Shapes – Avoid pruning into cubes, rectangles, or spheres. Instead, shape shrubbery into mounds that are wider at the base.
  • Allow Shrubs To Grow Together – Where shrubs are growing close together, consider allowing the branches to intertwine and create a solid hedge.
  • Prune in late Jan to early Mar – Attempt to get major pruning tasks completed in late January through early March. Light shaping can then be done in mid-June through early-July. As much as possible, avoid pruning at other times of the year.
  • Remove Declining Shrubs – Shrubs that are declining, have major dieback, are in a bad location, or that simply don’t look good can be removed.
  • Select New Shrubbery Carefully – For replacement shrubbery or new plantings, a key criteria is size at maturity. The local Extension Agent may be able to make species and cultivar recommendations.
  • Plant New Shrubbery Properly – Proper planting technique is essential for trees and shrubs to thrive. Details can be found in this web page, or contact the Horticulture Extension agent for technical assistance.


  • Hire A Contractor For Shade Tree Work – Most work on large shade trees is best left to a professional. Where assistance with pruning or hazard tree assessment is needed, a Certified Arborist is recommended (more information at Trees are Good). The local office of the NC Forest Service may also be able to provide technical advice.
  • Do Not Top Trees – Topping is a detrimental practice leading to weaker trees that are more likely to drop limbs. It is not recommended for any trees, including large shade trees and small ornamental trees such as crepe myrtles. In very limited situations where there is an overhead obstruction, for example, it may be necessary to top crepe myrtles. A better approach is to replace the tree with something smaller.


  • Never Exceed 4 Inch Mulch Depth – Whether refreshing existing beds or applying to new beds, the total mulch depth should not exceed 4 inches, measured from the soil surface. When refreshing beds, measure the depth of the existing mulch first to determine how much additional is needed.
  • Keep Mulch Away From Trunks – There should be no mulch in contact with the bark of trees or shrubs.


  • Contact Cooperative Extension for Pest ID – The Cooperative Extension office can assist with identifying insects, weeds, and other pest problems, and can also recommend specific management practices that are safe and effective.
  • Read And Follow Instructions – Whenever a pesticide is used to control weeds, insects, etc., the user or a supervisor should carefully review the product instructions. The instructions will contain important information regarding required Personal Protective Equipment, effective application procedures, bystander safety, protecting the environment, and more. The local Extension Agent can provide technical advice on specific applications as needed.
  • Obtain A Pesticide License – Consider designating one staff person to supervise all pest management activities. This person would benefit greatly from obtaining a pesticide license, and in many cases that is a legal requirement. Details are available from the local Extension Agent.
  • Hire A Professional For Indoor Applications – Use of any pest management product indoors presents increased risk for the user as well as other staff and the general public. In almost all cases, those applications are best left to a professional who has the proper training and equipment.

Support Specialized Training For Staff – Certain tasks are best handled by someone who has undergone specialized training. These include, for example, pruning shade trees, tree felling, using a chainsaw, and applying pest control products (e.g. weed killer, insect killer, etc.). N.C. Cooperative Extension can assist in identifying training opportunities as needed. For tasks where no one on staff has received the appropriate training, the task should be contracted out.


  • Inspect Equipment – Develop a routine for inspecting all equipment to be certain it is in good operating condition (daily? weekly? monthly?). Confirm that all warning labels are intact, protective guards are in place, and safety features are functioning properly.
  • Never Override Safety Features – Employees should NEVER attempt to override any safety features including guards, kill switches, etc.
  • Use the Correct Tool – Some landscape management tasks require the use of specialized equipment. Improvising with equipment that is not designed for the task can lead to dangerous situations.
  • Keep Feet On The Ground – If a task cannot be completed from ground level, consider purchasing specialized equipment (e.g. a pole saw to prune high limbs) or hiring someone with appropriate equipment such as a bucket truck.
  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment – Use PPE that is appropriate for the task EVERY SINGLE TIME. It may take some experimentation to find PPE that meets the needs and preferences of individual employees. Anyone who wears a respirator must undergo fit testing and medical clearance on an annual basis. The following are examples of PPC that may be required or recommended for certain landscape maintenance tasks:
    • Hearing protection – Mowing, blowing, trimming, pruning, chainsaw
    • Eye protection – Mowing, blowing trimming, pruning, chainsaw
    • Chemical resistant gloves – Applying certain pest control products
    • Respirators – Applying certain pest control products
    • Face shield – Chainsaw
    • Chaps – Chainsaw
    • Hard hat – Chainsaw, tree trimming
  • Develop Incentives – Reward employees for following safety protocols. Consider offering recognition, awards, or prizes for using good safety practices.