By Erik J. Martin
As we emerge from winter, here’s a warm and welcoming thought: It won’t be long before the flowers begin budding, trees start blooming, and the grass goes into a green-up mode.
While that can be a comforting notion, it should also be cause for consideration: Will your yard be ready for the forthcoming growing season? The experts agree that it’s best to ramp up plans for needed gardening and landscaping maintenance soon to ensure a healthy and attractive yard.
Fall and winter come with a lot of problems that have to be cleaned up so that you can properly prepare your outdoor spaces for springtime. It’s important to plan this spring maintenance well in advance, while the weather is still cool and dry. That way, you can finish up well before the spring rains come through, as wet weather makes cleanup and outdoor maintenance difficult.
Early spring is a very unpredictable time of year where weather swings make conditions look ideal one day and ruinous the next. But preparing early for these conditions will set your lawn and grounds up for success throughout the growing season.
To give your yard the best chance for springtime triumph, follow these tips once the ground thaws and temperatures start consistently rising:
Take a walk around your property. Identify trees and shrubs impacted by winter, and prune as needed to prevent further damage. Also, pick up any branches, leaves, and debris that may have fallen during the winter, and clean up the area you are preparing to work with. Remove items from your lawn, like furniture or toys, to reveal or prevent bald spots.
Inspect hardscapes. Look for misalignment, cracks, and landscape lighting that needs to be adjusted, and determine what repairs are required.
Assess the health of your lawn. Excessive winter weather and snow piles can kill grass. So check for bare spots, brown grass, and compacted areas that need repair.
Prep your lawn. Rake, aerate, dethatch, and level your lawn as needed using a specialized rake, aerator machine, and shovel.
Reseed or sod as needed. Choose a grass that suits your conditions, and allow it to sprout before you begin mowing. Additionally, avoid applying any pre-emergent with your early spring lawn treatment if you plan on planting new grass seed or installing sod. Instead, simply apply a balanced organic-based fertilizer in these areas. But if you plan on waiting until the autumn to do your annual grass planting or sod installation, it’s best to apply a crabgrass barrier pre-emergent plus fertilizer to your lawn at this time.
Prep the soil before planting. For all garden vegetables and plants, be sure the soil is in proper condition for planting. Test the soil to make sure it has all the proper nutrients, and add organic matter or compost to the soil at the time of planting to improve soil structure and promote deeper roots. This will mean less stress from insects, disease, and heat.
Improve flower and garden beds. Start by raking garden beds and create a permanent edging to define the space, which you can do by pushing a flat-bladed shovel straight down at the edge of the bed and kicking the shovel forward. Next, apply a two- to four-inch layer of fresh mulch over all your beds to reduce weeds throughout the season and retain moisture.
Ready your mower. Sharpen or replace your mower blades, making sure to remove the spark plug before doing so. Dull blades can tear your grass and put your lawn at risk for fungus, causing it to turn a tan or brown color. Remember to set a correct mower height, too. For warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda or St. Augustine, the height should be three-quarters of an inch to one inch after being cut. For cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass or fescues, the height should be two-and-a-half inches to four inches high after being cut.
Remember, proper landscaping maintenance in spring will ensure a healthy yard all season long.