Leo Scott, a 31-year Charlotte resident, is a lion in the garden. Scott moved from Asheville to Charlotte three decades ago. “Asheville wasn’t what it is now and didn’t have so much going on,” he recalls.
Today Scott lives in a brick home in East Charlotte with Eddie Stewart, his partner of four years. Enjoying his covered patio, he sits on a glider surrounded by the sounds of melodic chirping birds. Clad in flip flops and khaki, the 27-year Home Depot employee talked with qnotes about grass (the kind you walk on, mow and lay in), flowers (the kind you admire, water and pick) and a few gardening tips.
Scott has held many roles during his more than two decades of employment at the home and garden mega store.
“I do a little bit of everything,” he explains. “I’ve been the supervisor over gardening, plumbing, electrical, tool rental, the paint department, the front end and appliances.”
Despite his variety of experiences with the company, it’s not hard – both professionally and personally – to see where his heart is: gardening and the outdoors.
There’s no question that spring is truly the busiest season for Lawn & Garden enthusiasts.
“Spring going into summer,” Scott confirms. ”Because everybody has been cooped up in their houses all winter, and they want to get out into their yards. So, people come into Home Depot and buy tons and tons of plants, shrubbery, mulch and soil. There’s more construction going on in the spring also so you have a lot of contractors coming in to pick up supplies for things they couldn’t do in the wintertime.”
Among the hot ticket items he points out that leave the shelves quickly during this season, there’s still a number one seller. Wonder what it is?
“It’s gonna’ sound weird, but probably pine needles. We sell them like crazy. After that, probably mulch.”
But what about his home life? So often, whatever we do as our livelihoods isn’t something we want to take home; even when we enjoy the activity. Not so for Scott.
When it comes to landscaping, he’s eager to share his techniques. “Basically, landscaping for me is what I do at my house. I have mulch put down once or twice a year. I plant lots of shrubbery. But, before I plant anything, I access the area that I’m going to put it in. Then I dig the hole, twice as wide as the pot it came in (giving the roots a chance to grow and expand) and then I use good garden soil and a half and half mixture of the soil that’s there, and the soil I’ve bought – unless there’s a lot of clay. If there’s a lot of clay [hard red dirt], I remove as much as possible and replace it with good garden soil, because clay holds lots of water, doesn’t drain well and causes plants to rot or die because there aren’t any nourishing ingredients to feed the plant.”
Apparently, just as water is key for humans, so it is for plant life. But not the way you think. There’s more to having a lush lawn and health plants than just dousing them with H20 once or twice a day. According to Leo, one of the most common gardening mistakes people make is watering grass at night. “When you water at night it creates a fungus and mildew because it doesn’t have a chance to dry out at night. The result will be brown and yellow spots. If you want to avoid that, you water right before dawn or right before dusk, that’s the best time to water. If you water in the middle of the day, it’s probably hot and will dry out before it gets a chance to really soak into the yard – so you just end up wasting water and not taking care of your lawn like you should.”
And speaking of which, if you really want to make the HOA members on your street jealous, Scott suggests preparing your lawn in the fall. “If you really want a nice lawn – the best time to prepare your lawn is the end of September, maybe October. Preparing means aerating your lawn, putting down seed, fertilizer and your lime.”
But wait, seems like a step was skipped here. What about the straw? After all, most folks know – if you don’t cover those seeds with straw the area birds will have a feast and invite all their feathery friends and family to join in.
“A lot of people like to put down straw, but I don’t really like to do that because a lot of straw contains weed seed and other stuff. So, if there’s weed seed in your straw – you’re spreading it all over your lawn.”
In other words – in addition to the grass, you’ll likely end up with an unintentional blending of various mystery weeds.
“When you purchase your grass seed, read the ingredients on the bag,” Scott points out emphatically. “Your grass seed should have zero weed seed. Many grass seeds [like the straw we previously discussed] you can buy have three to five percent weed seed. So, whenever I see people trying to purchase those products I think, ‘Oh my God, you cannot put that in your yard,’ and then I have to run over and stop them. They don’t always want to listen, and if that happens, I just shake my head and think, well, I tried. But in actuality, a lot of people just don’t know and most are happy for the information.”
Another from Scott: “Don’t ever put down fertilizer in the summertime. The nitrogen in the fertilizer will only burn your yard grass.”
Landscaping is always about more than just grass. He derives lots of pleasure from gardening and has pretty azaleas and rose bushes flourishing at his house, though he wishes he could grow bougainvillea. “Unfortunately, they’re difficult to get to bloom in North Carolina. The weather isn’t warm enough and they do much better in tropical areas like Florida.” In the meantime, other favorites such as geraniums and old-fashioned zinnias do just fine. “They bloom all summer,” he says.
For Scott, like many, gardening is more than just yard maintenance or a hobby. It’s therapeutic. “It’s relaxing for me. And when I walk out there and see it once things start growing, it’s just so beautiful. I get to feel like, wow, look what I did, plus all the neighbors come by and talk about how pretty it is, and I like that too.”