Spring Tips for Lawn and Garden
February is really early spring in parts of Zone 7 and most of Zone 8. It’s time now to beginning to work on things that will make your garden bloom or produce much better than last year. And a lawn needs attention to inhibit new weed growth in the late spring and summer.
First I’ll talk about lawns. Every lawn is susceptible to weeds, and they’re a giant pain in the neck to get rid of too. A lawn that has a lot of weeds like crabgrass, dandelion and perennial rye has problems. Mine has all those in addition to chickweed, burdock, purslane and hensbit. I finally did something about it though, and last year many of these weeds were gone. This year I’m waging all out war on these nasties. Here you can check latest tools for weeding.
Every lawn needs feeding, and lots of lawn fertilizers and a lot of weeding, have a weed inhibitor and also some pre-emergents mixed in. Got to Home Depot and take some time to look around, read labels and talk to some of the sales helpers. It pays off. I got a Scotts product that both fed my lawn and had a pre-emergent in it for crabgrass. It says it will also inhibit other weeds, but crabgrass was the focus. I didn’t want to get a push seed spreader, so I just bought a cheap, hand-held version that you fill and crank as you walk off squares of the lawn. Most of these combinations are not supposed to be used but twice in the year, so read instructions and do just as they say. Lawn grass can be killed if too many chemicals are put down in a season. Fertilize only a couple of times a year as well, if you do it separately. It may take two or even three seasons to get a lawn back to the pristine state, but it’s worth it because once a lawn becomes thick and healthy, it’s less susceptible to any further weeds.
Now almost everyone has a garden or gardens. I love mine. But there are things that should be done early every spring to help the plants to thrive and create lots of bloom or vegetables. Clear out all the debris if it hasn’t been done earlier last fall. Remove sticks, old mulch, pine needles and anything that you consider trash. Then lightly rake in some good fertilizer with a ground rake. The first number should not be high because that’s the nitrogen rating and it is for producing mostly foliage. You want bloom, so make sure the second number-phosphate–is the higher one. It’s best to do this in February so that you won’t disturb the bulbs beginning to push up their new shoots. If it’s March and some bulbs have shoots coming up, that’s o.k., because you can work the fertilizer in with a hand tool around them. Don’t overdo it, though. After the fertilizer’s on the ground, water it in.
Next, mulch lightly all over the entire area. I use cedar chips, but pine and oak chips work equally well. Spread a layer not more than 1½ inches over everything, and you’re done. I wait until most of the lilies, peonies and other perennials are just barely showing to mulch, but first I plant any new bulbs I want to add to the collection. Spring-blooming bulbs should be put out in the fall, but summer bloomers, including tulips, can be put out now. This is also the time to separate some packed Lilies and Iris which have become too thick. Just cut down with a shovel into the middle of a clump and dig out a half, more or less. Set it aside and keep working across the clump till it’s thinned out. Give away what has been separated out. People usually appreciate a gift of some lovely plants. Don’t worry about plant damage. These types of perennials are very hardy and tough and in fact, they do much better if thinned regularly. Now is the time to lay down the mulch.
Late winter is also a good time to prune back some plants like hydrangeas. Clear out all of the deadwood and trash it. Plants can become infected with diseases and are more stressed if they’re surrounded by the rotting leaves and twigs left from the last winter. Make absolutely sure that whatever you’re pruning will not bloom on old wood, however. Some varieties of plants cannot be pruned in the spring because they bloom from old cane and not from new shoots. Regard each plant separately and prune accordingly. Any good gardening book will tell what plant can or should be pruned when. It may be necessary to wait till next fall to prune some plants.
If planting a new bush or tree, make sure to dig a large hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball and water in well. It’s not as important to plant deep. There are instructions with illustrations on all commercial trees and shrubs which show exactly the planting depth required. One last caveat, however. Make sure that if planting a tree, that it will not make a shade that eventually can shade out a nearby garden. Many people plant trees without realizing how large they can grow. Never plant a tree too close to another tree or to a house or garage. It’s not good for the tree and can damage pipes and foundations sometimes as well as being simply ugly. A location is everything in planting. Make sure that any trees, shrubs and garden bulbs and plants that are put in are going to have what they need during the growing season-sunlight, drainage, and room to breathe.