Spring is just around the corner and if you are like most people you like to have a healthy, vibrant yard. Follow the ten tips outlined here, and you will be putting the welcome mat out for spring to make itself at home in your garden.
- Take stock of the yard
Make a note of tree limbs that should be removed or cabled, especially those that overhang structures. Look for areas of the grass that will require seeding. Cut down last year’s perennial foliage, and save it for the composter. Rake clean your bulb beds early before foliage appears, and refresh mulch in other planting areas after the soil warms. Repair fences, raised bed walls, path stones, and any breakage on climbing plants due to weather or animal damage.
- Organize your tools and order your plants
Gather your tools and make sure everything is ready when things start growing. Make a note of what is missing and order any new instruments you may need for the new growing season. Choose new plants for the garden. Order perennials, trees, and shrubs from your favorite nursery to make sure you are ready for spring planting.
- Get ready to mow
Rake the lawn of winter debris and old leaves from the fall to expose grass areas to light and air, and send the mower and leaf blower for servicing and blade sharpening.
- Prune trees and shrubs (but not too early)
Look for and remove dead, damaged, and diseased branches from woody plants, like hydrangeas. Thin out your summer-blooming shrubs—butterfly bushes and rose bushes—but leave your old-fashioned once bloomers. Prune cold-damaged wood so plants can resume their spring growth. Prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees after flowering.
- Test the soil
Purchase a home soil pH-testing kit and take samples from each of the different planting areas. Enrich soil is a low pH as necessary—anything below 6.2 will benefit from fine grind Dolomite lime, while a high pH reading calls for elemental sulfur.
- Prepare the planting beds
Clear out your planting areas by removing early spring weeds and sod and once they are dry “dress” the beds in a 4-inch layer of well-seasoned compost and manure. Use a spading fork to cultivate the top 10-12 inches of the bed.
- Plant in 3 stages
- Start with bare-root trees, shrubs, and perennials such as hostas and daylilies
- Transplant container-grown plants later in the spring season.
- Sow seeds of cool-season flowers like sweet peas, poppies, and calendula, and vegetables such as lettuce, parsley, and spinach. Choose cool, cloudy days for your planting and water thoroughly after each session for the best results.
- Apply a balanced fertilizer
Spread fertilizer (6-6-6 or 8-8-8), fish emulsion, worm castings, or other soil amendments around the trees and shrubs that need an extra boost to engage their new growth. You will know which ones to use based on your soil-test results. Your azaleas and camellias will want an acidic mulch of the pine-needle kind.
- Start a compost bin
Use the plant material you collected when cleaning up the yard to get your compost bin started for the season. Some pieces will need to be chopped up to expedite the process. Add “brown” (rich in carbon) materials at the bottom and top with anything green (rich in nitrogen), like grass clippings and anything you prune. The brown stuff will become usable compost first, and you want it to be closer to the exits at the bottom of your compost bin. Top with even layers of water and add a compost activator. By next spring, you should have compost for next spring.
- Scrub down the fountains, birdbaths (and garden gnomes)
Disinfect all of your decorative garden elements by washing with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach: 2 gallons warm water. Rinse a few times thoroughly to make sure all traces of bleach are cleaned off of birdbaths before you refill them with water. Changing the water weekly from now on will keep it from turning into a mosquito habitat.