Spring is well on its way and so it’s time to get the yard and gardens ready for new, green growth. The lawn will need mowing, the leaves will need raking and flower beds will need tending, so its time to get to work. Use our guide on how to manage spring cleaning outdoors to help assure that your yard and flower gardens will be primped and ready for the coming season.
First up is your lawn. Make sure to rake up any leaves off the lawn, as they could leave blotchy bare spots on your lawn if left to be, and raking will also help prevent thatch buildup. Store leaves in large trash bags or containers for later use. Examining the condition of your lawn will allow you to determine its condition and what kinds of nutrients and amendments it may need. If your lawn is showing mossy patches your soil is likely too acidic, so make sure to give it more alkaline material in the form of agricultural lime or wood ash. Fertilizer, such as compost, may also be necessary in bare spots, and can be administered with a mulching mower. Mowing the lawn is the next step once the weather is dry enough. If your grass has grown very tall, set your mower to a higher setting, mow the lawn, and then a few days later mow the lawn again at a lower setting to lower your grass levels gradually. This helps prevent your live green outdoor carpet from sunburn, and is easier to on your mower. The nitrogen rich grass clippings can also be used a nutritious mulch layer.
Preparing Flower Beds
The first thing to do when preparing existing flowerbeds for new growth is to clear away dead matter. So cut away all dead flower stalks and limbs, which are clearly discernible from their dull grey or brown color. Dead brush that has fallen to the ground should also be cleared in order for new growth to push itself up through the ground. This will allow you to see the new greenery popping out from the ground, as well as discern weeds from the plants you want in your garden. If you don’t recognize common weeds, investing in a weed or gardening guide is a good idea to help you keep the most invasive weeds out of your flower beds. Make sure to eliminate any creeping clover, crabgrass, buttercup, sheep sorrel and army weed, as these are prolific overtakers. Seeding a groundcover that thrives in your climate can help keep more invasive weeds from taking over.
Crabgrass and Bermuda Grasses
The bane of any gardener, crabgrass and Berrmuda grasses are incredibly invasive pasture grasses that are nearly impossible to get rid of. These strains are of African origin, and originally planted in pastures as a definite source of nutrition for cattle, as they can survive nearly any conditions. However, there are methods for reducing crabgrass and Bermuda grass growth in your flower beds and garden. The most effective method is of course hand weeding with a hand fork and even a large garden fork that will allow you to dig deep into the ground. The roots of these plants are white and wiry and can grow over a foot deep into the ground, hence making them very difficult to eradicate from a garden. Augmenting your garden soil with sand will make it easier to pull weeds, while seeding a groundcover and mulching weeded, bare spots to help keep crabgrass and other weed growth down.
Dividing perennials like daylilies (which are edible) and phlox in your flower garden is an important and effective way to promote the health and longevity of those perennials, as well as keeping them out of areas where they aren’t wanted. Dividing is also a great way to propagate different flower types to bare spots in your flower beds, or pot them up to share with friends and neighbors or to sell. Make sure to use a sharp, flat shovel for dividing in order to make clean cuts. Spring is the best time of year to divide perennials, as they will only just be waking up, and so their roots will be less shocked from being moved to a new spot or pot.
Planting, Transplanting and Mulching
Spring is a good time to transplant flowers, shrubs and trees in your yard, as the soil is re-awakening and plant roots are coming to life again. Perennials will do well with transplanting, as mentioned above, and small to medium shrubs and trees can be moved as they are still semi-dormant. Biennials that are prolific spreaders such as columbines and oriental poppies also make great transplants, as it is much easier to move an established plant than start one from seed. Plant hardy annuals like minarda, hollyhock, snapdragons, marigolds and calendulas in bare spots once risk of hard frost has passed, in order to keep weeds and grass from taking over. Make sure to water seeded areas well. Annuals can also be started indoors to allow roots to establish before transplanting them in tougher and colder soil outside.
Make sure to mulch your freshly weeded garden beds to help make sure that weeds or other unwanted plants do not make their way to the bare open areas, as mulching helps prevent unwanted seeds from germinating. Wood chips, wood bark, grass clippings and all those leaves you’ve raked all work well in flower gardens, especially ones with alkaline soil. Spread a layer of mulch approximately one-inch thick, making sure not to smother any of the plants you want in the garden bed.
Make your outdoor space more enjoyable by giving your deck a scrub with wood oil soap, or pressure washing it to blast the dirt and fungi off. An old butter knife or flathead screwdriver works well to loosen up moss and weeds between patio stones, immediately making your outdoor space look tidier. Clean off and and oil wooden outdoor furniture so that you can kick back and admire your handiwork on a beautiful, sunny summer day!
Images: David Christian