Even though spring is upon us, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep your garden and yard primed for the growing season and into the summer. Your house isn’t the only place that needs a good spring cleaning; the exterior of your home could use it as well. Grab a notepad and take a walk through the vicinity, making notes here and there. Not only is this a great way to organize your “attack” on the ground, but it’s an opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get a little exercise, and anticipate the summer days ahead.
Here are some things you can tackle right now:
Shrubs and Trees
Prune off broken or cracked branches damaged in winter. You can tackle damaged twigs with pruners, but those branches that are 2 inches in diameter or larger need to be removed in sections so that the weight doesn’t tear the bark as they fall.
Dig up and divide perennials that were getting too large last year. Signs that these had “outgrown” their livings space include reduced flowering, pale, off-color leaves, or smaller, puny stems. Break apart root-clumps using a knife or shovel blade and then replant smaller, healthy sections. If these are spring bloomers (tulips, iris, etc.), wait until they’ve finished flowering. Late summer bloomers can be divided and replanted by April.
Snip the stalks and dried seed heads from plants left from last autumn. Remove these and dead leaves so that overwintering insects and disease aren’t a problem. Clip the stalks about two inches above the sleeping foliage.
Rose bushes are a class unto themselves, and they aren’t “one size fits all.” All need pruning, but know your rose-types. Keep in mind that the timing is crucial, because trimming will stimulate new growth, leaving the plants vulnerable to subsequent frosts. If your rose flowers just once a year, then it’s best to wait until the blooming is done to do your pruning. Clip the branches at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and do so a quarter of an inch above a live bud.
Use caution when cutting these down. Wear eye protection, long sleeves and gloves. Most ornamental grass leaves are finely toothed and readily able to cut unprotected hands and fingers. A good technique for trimming is to wrap a bungee cords tightly around the grass so that it lifts the leaves up high, resembling a sheaf of wheat. Then prune by lopping the grasses about six inches from the ground. Hand pruners or a small saw will work well for this.
Corn gluten can be an effective pre-emergent weed killer and also serves as a nitrogen fertilizer for your grass. Apply this two to four weeks ahead of the typical weed-emergent dates in your area. Use a core aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes in the lawn to fill in bare spots in the grass and reduce thatch, then use a drop spreader to spread grass seed immeidately after the aerating. Sprinkle your lawn with water every day for several weeks until the seeds sprout.
These are a few handy tips for “pre-preparing” your yard and garden for the spading, tilling and planting that will follow, and will make those steps of the process easier for having paved the way with some organized spring cleaning first. And of course, if yardwork and gardening isn’t exactly your thing, keep in mind your local Handyman Matters location. We’re happy to help out.