Get growing outdoors with smart strategies that will give you a jump start on the season in Defiance
The days are lighter, brighter and a morning dew blankets the lawns in Defiance. Birds chatter, buds pop. The garden store tempts you with a candy store of color, while your beds remind you there’s work to do at home. It’s time to stop hibernating! Your great outdoor space is near sounding the alarm with a to-do list of preparations. Of course, this call to get growing outside is a welcome song after waiting for the weather to break. But where to start?
Lawn & Leisure has you covered with this cheat sheet of spring yard starters so you can begin your outdoor year.
1. Color beds happy. The instant gratification of annuals is appealing. Pick a plant, pop it in the soil and the bed is dressed for the season. Just be sure to consider location before choosing annuals: Remember, those impatiens love shade. And have a little fun with color. Chartreuse (Coleus, Creeping Jenny) made a splash in the landscape last year, and pairs well with purple, pink and red, says Nanci McClendon, the annual and perennial buyer at The Family Tree Garden Center, Snellville, Ga. This year, look toward the burgundy family with purple and red undertones. White is always a bed brightener that accents red, pink, salmon or most any color. “Impatiens are my favorite shade annuals, and I like to plant white with one other color for a classy look,” McClendon says.
2. Plant perennials. They’re one-time wonders - nestle those perennial bulbs or plants into the landscape in the spring, and they’ll return and bring color to your beds each year. But remember to stagger varieties, and look for options with longer bloom times. McClendon suggests a backdrop of Stella D’Oro Daylily that grows knee-high, is disease-resistant and blooms most of the summer. Then, invite other perennials and annuals to the party, because a bed of just one perennial variety will eventually result in an empty space.
3. Study tree buds. Not sure what type of tree is growing in your yard? The flower cone or fruit it produces can help you identify its name. A drupe is the sign of a cherry or hackberry tree, and acorns belong to oaks. Your local university extension is a valuable resource for identifying trees in your area.
4. Attract winged beauties. Invite butterflies to your garden by including plants and flowers with attractive fragrances. First, pick the right plants. Butterflies love to congregate near Aster, Marigold, Peony, Verbena, Lilac, Goldenrod and Daylily. (Talk to your local garden center about other choices.) To encourage butterflies to visit, create a puddle of sorts with a planter saucer (you can also fill it with a water-diluted sweet drink or stale beer). Or, include a feeder with flower nectar.
5. Encourage green-up. Nitrogen is the key ingredient to stoking that emerald color in your yard. It's the "N" in the N-P-K of fertilizer that your technicians apply in the spring and throughout the season. (The P is for phosphorus and K is potassium.) Nitrogen helps turf plants metabolize and produce leaf growth. Fertilizer comes with either quick- or slow-release nitrogen, which refers to fast-acting or long- term nitrogen activity. You want fertilizer that contains both types of nitrogen applied to your turf to get the most benefit.
If you opt for organics, get a head start on your application to allow those beneficial micro- organisms to break down in the soil. “Organics have a comparatively low amount of ammonium nitrate so that flash of green does not happen,” says David Bates, president, Bates Nursery, Nashville, Tenn. “Many of your true organics have little or no ammonium nitrate, so do not wait until the first day of warm weather before putting down an application.”
6. Protect with pre-emergent. The most overlooked aspect of spring lawn care is weed prevention: the key to a lawn free of crabgrass and other stubborn un-wanteds that crop up in the yard when the heat is really on in July. “Grassy weeds are most easily dealt with when they are completely dormant,” Bates says. In most parts of the country, this means treating the lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide in February or March. Ask your Weed Man technician for more information.
7. Clean up the leftovers. If winter set in before you completely cleared your beds of leaf and yard debris, now is the time to get a clean start. And hurry before grass really gets growing. Leaves that sit on the lawn prevent sunlight from reaching the grass. Take the first, dry opportunity to blow leaves off the lawn, and try a handy tool for picking up leaves from beds: a hand-held leaf vac that inhales and compacts leaves into a bag. “It’s ready to go into the compost heap from there,” Bates says.
8. Prune back shrubs. First, prevent the need to prune often by choosing plants that are appropriate for your space, McClendon says. “A mistake people often make is choosing fast-growing shrubs and planting them close together,” she says. Plants may look small when they are young and spaced apart. But check the tag for their mature size and mind the instructions.
The best time to prune evergreen shrubs is when they are totally dormant with no chance of regrowth. (This window of time will depend on where you live in the country.) “You don’t want to touch the tender regrowth,” McClendon emphasizes. As for deciduous shrubs, if the plant blooms early (before Mother’s Day in the south) and on old wood, wait for the bloom. If it blooms later and on new wood, prune it in late- winter or early spring before blooming.
9. Repair salt-struck patches. The rigors of snow and ice control can take a toll on your lawn. Inevitably, there are patches of grass that get burned by salt applied to sidewalks and streets. You can repair the bare spots a couple different ways. You can “borrow” sod from another area of your lawn (a back corner of the yard, for example). Or, you can plant new seed. But remember to protect this spot from spring weed control and fertilizer applications.
10. Tune up equipment. Spring is rush hour at equipment dealerships, as mechanics work to complete tune-ups. At home, perform a once-over on equipment by checking blades for sharpness, clearing the mower’s cutting deck of grass clippings, ensuring that pull cords aren’t frayed and reviewing the starting procedures in your operator’s manual. On riding mowers, be sure tires are inflated and check spark plugs and the electrical system for any loose or dirty connections. If the machine just won’t start, be sure fuel is fresh (less than 30 days old) the spark plug wire is attached, and the battery is fully charged.
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