After the winter season and all its benefits of snow, or maybe like this year, just rain, it’s time to clean up debris, remove any winter damage and prepare your garden and lawn for rejuvenating growth. April is the perfect time to begin!
Start by taking a walk through your property and look for any broken branches , leaf piles the wind blew in, and late-blooming perennial deadheads, like mums, that weren’t removed in the fall. Also look for weedy areas large or small, then gather all the tools needed to address these issues.
Begin with weeding! Spring weeding is deemed the most important as the ground is loose and pliable and perennials are just starting to emerge. This allows for easy removal of unwanted competition for water and nutrients. Be sure to check for weeds growing in between and at the base of perennials and shrubs. Make sure to get the roots! Now is also the time to divide any rampant or overgrown perennials, as they too are considered weeds if they’re taking over their neighbors. Be sure to replant any heaved plants as the freezing and thawing of the ground in winter time can cause some plants to rise up out of the ground.
It is always safe to prune damaged areas. Reshape all trees and shrubs with exception of spring-flowering plants where pruning would be done shortly after flowering was completed. Don’t prune your Rhododendrons and Lilacs until shortly after they are done flowering! Remove all debris, which includes leaf piles and any winter protection such as burlap or structural shields from evergreens or trunk wraps on younger or newly planted trees. Now the ground should be clean, but recheck for weeds to make sure there weren’t any hidden under those leaf piles.
Work Up & Edge
Next the soil needs to be loosened and leveled so as to be receptive to fertilizer and weed control products, especially pre-emergent types. Now edge around the beds, which should maintained at a depth of two to four inches. This cleans out any grass and other shallow-rooted unwanted plants that may be encroaching. It also allows for garden definition, neatness and curb appeal. Edging with an edger is the best alternative to some kind of structural component such as rocks or bricks.
Applying Fertilizer & Pre-emergent
Fertilizing, applying N-P-K, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium is essential. Nitrogen is necessary for good plant growth as it stimulates lush green plants, but it quickly disappears from the soil. Phosphorous assists with plant redevelopment and flower and fruit production, but becomes fixed or unavailable in the soil. It needs to be applied where it’s available to the plant’s roots. Potassium is essential for plant vigor – disease resistance, and balances other nutrients. Do your homework, as different fertilizers are needed on different plants, fruit trees and for lawns. Rule of thumb for landscape plants is to use a 14-14-14 or 10-10-10 type of fertilizer. Holly-tone makes a great product for your Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Apply the pre-emergent weed control product as directed on the label. Preen is the most commonly known product.
Mulch is the paint that completes the picture of all your hard work. Mulch can be used to help limit weed growth if applied at least three inches thick. However, it is not always feasible to put that much mulch on your beds every year. If weeding is under control and pre-emergent weed control is used, mulching at one to two inches deep will give you that great look while helping to retain moisture. All mulches are not created equal though! Look for bark mulch that has been allowed to decompose and reach its rich brown color naturally. The black and red mulches are made from all sorts of wood products and dyed. These products will actually steal nitrogen from your plants as they try to decompose. Another wonder product to use is peat moss as it can be worked in each year and continues to build your soil.
Clean the Lawn
Next rake and remove any debris from your lawn. To rejuvenate a lawn, consider dethatching, aerating, reseeding and fertilizing. You may also want to top-dress or fill in any bare patches or low wet spots.
Now take that walk again then turnaround and go back the opposite way. Is everything good or did that tree in the corner get missed, was a garden tool left where it was last used, was mulching under a plant or entire section forgot? If any area was not addressed, correct it! When all is done, reap the rewards both visually and wisely knowing your plants will grace you with healthy rich textures all season long.
Now it’s your turn! Pour a cold glass of lemonade aide, sit back and enjoy as your gardens flourish before you!