Spring is here and that means it is time for all things green, and some not so green, to start growing.
Do you have a plan of action and everything you need to plant, cut and grow? Like most everything, a job begun well is already half finished. Here are a few tips to get your yard ready for the season.
Where to Begin
Begin by reviewing a checklist of all your gardening needs. If you don’t have a checklist, then it is time to take inventory and create one. Include a shopping list for plants and seeds, tools and fertilizers, as well as a project plan for landscaping and plantings. Have the list laminated at a local mail or print shop so it can be left with your tools and reused as needed. You can also create a notebook of things you’ve planted, what you used and the results and conditions of that season. It can be a personal gardening journal to show the do’s and don’ts in your yard.
All gardening machinery must be inspected for problems. If you use electric tools, make sure that there are no cuts in the cords or disconnected wiring. For all gas-driven tools, change the oil, spark plugs and filters.
You should generally sharpen your lawnmower blades each year. To do this, simply turn the mower on its side, loosen the bolt and remove the blade with a crescent wrench or socket wrench. A bench grinder is typically used to sharpen mower blades, not a knife sharpener. If you don’t have one, take the blade to your local hardware store, and they will sharpen it for a few dollars. Do the same for your edger blade.
With weed eaters, make sure that you have enough twine and an extra spool handy. It is hard enough to get motivated to do yard work without the distraction of a failed spark plug, or not enough twine. And don’t forget the little tools that you might have lost or broken last year and forgot to replace.
The Grass Attack
Now that you have all of your tools and gadgets assembled, it is time to attack the yard. Lay down a pre-emergent solution to hinder future growth of weeds and crabgrass. Make sure you are using the right fertilizer for your lawn. Some grasses do not respond well with certain fertilizers or weed killers. Remember that most grass is natural and has been around for a long time. This means that the more you fertilize to get that greener-longer look, the longer you must continue the cycle. Grass can become addicted to fertilizer. Therefore, if you fertilize 10 times this year and have been doing so for a decade and suddenly change to four times per year, don’t be surprised if you get less results. Also, try to use natural fertilizers with as little chemical additives as possible. This will reduce your grass’ chemical dependency, and in the long run, make your lawn stronger.
When you mow the lawn, make sure you cut it so the blades are 3 to 4 inches high. The reason for this is two-fold. First, if you burn the grass by cutting too low, you will create an ugly brown spot that can possibly lead to weed infestation, fungus or eventual grass death. It may be possible to replace the dead spot, and hopefully the new grass will take with the current root system. Additionally, the longer a blade of grass, the more energy it can store. This helps strengthen its root system, allowing for more reproduction. That will in turn give less room for pesky weed roots. Crowd out the bad stuff with the good stuff.
Many worry about the effect of clippings left on the lawn. As long as your cuttings are not stifling the sunlight from the green grass, it should not be problem. Also, if you find that some areas of your lawn are not growing as well as others, make sure that it’s not a sunlight problem. Then check to see if there is an overwatering or underwatering problem with this area. If all of this checks out, then it is time for a test.
The scientific test in question is just a basic pH test. A pH test determines the acidity and alkalinity of a solution on a scale of 0 to14. Less than 7 constitutes more acidic soil, with 7 equaling neutral soil conditions and greater than 7 showing alkalinity. This test will show why certain plants thrive in our yards and why others falter. Some plants do well in both soil conditions, however appearance will change due to more or less acid.
For example, in acidic soil the French Hydrangea will have blue blooms, and in more alkaline soil the Hydrangea will have pink blooms. Another example is a pine tree. While these trees will grow in almost any soil condition, they thrive in acidic soil. Grass enjoys a neutral soil condition and grows best this way. Also remember that too much acid or too much alkaline will inhibit a plant’s ability to take up fertilizer. You can also remedy these problems with aluminum sulfate to make the soil more acidic, or use lime to make it more basic (alkaline). However, this process takes about a season to work. An easy way to find out how to get your soil tested is to call your county extension agent, found in the blue pages of your phone book. They should be able to get the information you need for finding a test lab. Auburn University’s horticultural department in Auburn, Alabama, is another great source for soil-sample testing, and you can always call your local botanical garden and ask them for information on testing.
A Step Ahead
Always remember that the sooner you get started on your yard, the better off you will be in the long run. A good yard and the right plants can pay off more than you pay out. Landscaping not only is aesthetically pleasing but it also adds value to your home. Grass gives off moisture and soaks up radiant heat that helps cool the surrounding temperature of your house. In return, this will possibly help to reduce the electric bills you pay during those hot summer months. And, let us not forget that a strategically placed shade tree will also help cool those summer days just know where your pipes are when planting it. It is a good investment for you and a selling point to a future home owner, not to mention great for the environment.