March 20th may have heralded the official start of spring, but the weather as of late doesn’t exactly inspire us to get out in the yard and whip it in to shape (hello rain and snow!). Alas, we all know the saying – “April showers bring May flowers,” and there’s no better time than now to complete the necessary tasks to ensure your lawn and garden is the best it can be.
Your spring clean up might not be as complicated if you did some preliminary cleanup before winter hit. If you were unable to tackle it last fall, it’s “go time.” Cleaning up leaves and debris is important to keep your garden and flower beds free of pathogens, mold, and rot. While these things will make great additions to your compost pile, you don’t want them in your garden beds. Rake out leaves and dead foliage and pull out last year’s annuals. Cut down dead foliage and stalks on perennials and ornamental grasses. Determine if you need to top dress your garden beds with fresh mulch. You should have a 2” to 3” layer. If your beds are mulched year after year, you may have to remove some of the soil and mulch, so it does not build up around the crown of the plants. Spring is an ideal time to spread a slow release fertilizer around your existing plants (all that spring rain will carry nutrients to the roots). Get a soil test first to determine whether you need to fertilize or not (click here to get the dirt on soil testing from Michigan State University Extension).
Aerate, Dethatch and Roll the Lawn
Aeration uses power equipment to pull 3” to 6” long soil cores out of the lawn and deposits them on the grass surface. Aeration improves compacted soil, increases the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch and increases water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil which improves rooting and overall health of your lawn. The best time to aerate is in the fall unless your lawn has been neglected or it has heavily compacted soil. Aerate moist, but not saturated turfgrass. Resist the urge to rake up the cores! Your mower will break them down quickly, and they provide valuable nutrients. Thatch is the buildup of dead and living stems and roots between the soil layer and green grass. By removing it, the grass will grow fuller, quicker and will be less prone to diseases. A good indicator dethatching is needed? There is a thick layer of ½” or more. Use a power rake to remove the thatch. A better way to get rid of a thick thatch layer is to double aerate the lawn in two directions and top dress with compost. This procedure will break down the thatch. As the ground thaws, you may have some frost heave causing lawn bumps and ridges or mole runs. A roller uses pressure to smooth out these bumps. It’s best to roll when the ground has thawed and is not sopping wet. While a roller will help push mole runs down, a good spring rain after the soil has completely thawed is as effective as rolling your lawn. While all three of these jobs can be do-it-yourself, they require special equipment, so you may want to save the hassle and give us a call.
Prune Shrubs and Ornamental Trees
Spring is the right time to prune many varieties of shrubs and trees. Your goal here is to create an orderly and attractive landscape. Trimming is necessary to promote good health and avoid overgrowth. Take a good look at your shrubs and trees to determine any damage from the winter months. Any dead, broken or crossed branches should be pruned regardless of type. Use sharp, well-cleaned pruning shears. A clean cut ensures the plant heals well. Roses, Hydrangea and Spirea, are some examples of varieties to prune in the spring. What to avoid? Azaleas, Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel, may fool you, appearing dead from the winter months. You don’t want to clip spring flower buds so prune spring flowering plants after flowering.
Divide and Conquer those Perennials
Do a walk-thru of your landscape to determine what plants need attention. Cut back and divide perennials and grasses now. Flowering perennials should be cut back to a height of 4 to 5 inches and ornamental grasses 2 to 3 inches to allow for new growth. What to divide? Any plants that are invading each other’s space or have a bald spot in the center. If they appear crowded now, the problem will only worsen as summer heats up and things start to grow rapidly. Hostas, daylilies, irises and grasses are common varieties that need dividing.
Do Some Spring Weeding
Not a popular task to be sure, but necessary. The first spring weeding tends to be the most intensive and time-consuming. Try to pull all weeds out by the root if you can, and avoid disturbing any new plant growth. Toss the weeds in your compost bin. The extreme heat created in your compost bin will kill most weed seeds. Some weeds that spread by rhizomes may be more difficult to kill if your compost bin does not get hot enough.
Mulch Garden Beds and Trees
Walk through your garden to determine if you need mulch. If you see bare soil or if the mulch is less than 2” you should apply new mulch. You may only need to top dress the beds. A 3” layer of mulch spread around your trees, perennials, and shrubs will help retain moisture, reduce the number of weeds, improve the health of your soil and add visual appeal. Old mulch will decompose adding nutrients and feeding your plants. If you have mulch or soil build up, you may have to remove some of the existing soil and mulch and add new. It’s best not to pile up mulch around the crown of perennials and shrubs or tree bases. Remember – no mulch volcanoes!
Fertilize Grass and Flowerbeds
Fertilizing your lawn will ensure a healthy, dense turf which will block out weeds and maintain its lush green appearance. Consider the type of fertilization that will perform best for you. These days, many homeowners are thinking eco-friendly and spreading a thin layer of compost over their grass and flowerbeds. Compost will deliver essential nutrients to the soil. If you decide that fertilizer is the best option, look for a slow release product. Follow product label instructions for best results.
Plant Spring Annuals
Annuals add interest and a nice pop of color to your landscape all season long. Potted plants, hanging baskets and flower beds are all great ways to beautify your outdoor space. Since frost will damage most annuals, it’s best to plant in mid-May. Eager to get a jump-start on the growing season? Go ahead and pot some annuals and place them in a sunny spot in your home, moving them outdoors when the weather allows.
Plan for This Year’s Projects
Do you have a large-scale project planned this summer? Thinking about a new patio, replacing a fence, adding a hot tub or a storage shed? It’s best to plan these projects early. If you’re using a contractor to get the work done, you’ll want to get on their schedule, as spots can fill up quickly, pushing back your installation. Whether you are hiring a project out or tackling it yourself, you’ll need to figure out the scope of the project, determine your budget and create a timeline for completion.
If a garden is one of your must-haves, now is the time to plan. Decide what types of plants you desire, giving thought to what items your family will eat. Once the ground has thawed, you can prep garden beds, or assemble raised beds, saving you time when planting season begins. You can buy plants for your garden, or start from seed indoors. Starting plants from seed can have many advantages. They are less expensive, and you will find greater variety than what you will see at your garden center. Starting from seed can also bring early harvest and greater yield. Consult the seed packet for instructions on how to get started. Whatever method you choose, plants can be safely planted in the garden in late May.
This list can seem extensive and can indeed be time-consuming. It helps to consider the payoff- the more effort you put in to your spring lawn and garden prep, the better your landscape will perform in the summer and fall. Make your list now, deciding which items you want to tackle yourself and what you wish to leave to a professional like us.
Naylor Landscape offers full-service outdoor maintenance (aka—all of the tasks we’ve listed above). Whether you’re looking for feeding, weeding, weekly lawn care or a brand-new patio, you can count on our team to handle it. Click here to contact us for details.