Archive for

Early Spring Garden and Landscape Maintenance

Early spring is actually the ideal time to get started on garden and landscape maintenance. Whether your goal is to work on your own landscape or you’re planning to offer early spring maintenance services to your clients, here are some of the things you can do now to set you, or your clients, up on the path to a fruitful bloom when the warmer weather hits.

When the ground is still frozen:

Tend to garden structure: Maintenance tasks regarding garden structure are best addressed now, rather than in the busier spring and summer months. The first thing you can do when the bitterly cold temperatures disappear and the snow begins to recede is tend to your garden arbors or other ornamental pieces. Repair and repaint any trellises, lattices or arbors that hold plant vines or plant materials. Be sure to repair any holes, loose pockets or gaps, as well as any loose nails.

Repair stacked stone walls: natural dry-stacked stones often shift with the cold temperatures, heavy snow and ice. Not only does it result in a less-than aesthetically pleasing look, but it can create hazards, especially for young children playing in the yard. Now is the perfect time to reposition the stones and stabilize the border for a safer, more beautiful look.

Remove dead wood and debris from trees and shrubs: go through and clean up any remaining mess left over from the fall.

Prune trees and shrubs: look at trees and shrubs from different angles, try tying twine to branches you plan on pruning to see how it will look when finished.

Inspect and touch up mulch: inspect the mulch left over from the fall. With the melting snow and winds, chances are your mulch has washed off and greatly reduced in depth. You want to make sure your mulch is at least two-inches thick. Cover the soil surrounding your plants with more organic compost matter and mulch (this might include leaves, wood chips, pine needles, bark, etc.). The mulch will prevent the spring and summer sun’s harsh rays from sucking the water out of the soil, leaving your plants constantly thirsty.

Remove pests and fix problems caused by pets: inspect birdhouses for pests, clean out debris, scrub the outside exterior and make sure they’re firmly mounted in the ground. Check gardens for tunnels or mounds of dirt made by burrowing animals, such as gophers and moles. Depending on how hard the soil is, break up the mounds of dirt and level it out by raking the soil. If the tunnels and mounds are on your lawn, they too should be leveled with a rake to prevent any safety hazards. Once leveled, the exposed soil can be re-seeded if needed.

Inspect spring flowering bulbs: while it is normal for early spring blooming bulbs to turn brown, due to the extreme changes in temperature, it is a good time to take note of where the bulbs are so you know where to plant your perennials and annuals.

Clean tools: sharpen and clean tools and scrape off any excess mud and dirt; consider soaking the tools in warm water if the dirt is caked on hard. Use steel wool to remove any rust. Sand any rough edges on wooden handles and spray metal parts with conditioning oil. Store tools in a dry, safe spot.

When the ground thaws up:

Remove protective winter covers: remove covers from evergreens and durable shrubs and plants. Leave winter covers on flower beds until the temperatures are consistently warmer.

Dig and aerate soil: assess the soil and act accordingly. If the soil is wet, wait until it dries out a bit before you disturb it.

Fertilize trees and shrubs: with all the rain in the spring, the nutrients will be easily carried down to the roots of the plants

Plant new trees and shrubs: wait until the weather is consistently warmer before you get started.

Harden off seedlings that were grown in greenhouses: before the weather warms up, it’s a good idea to pre-germinate your seeds, which will help them grow better, saving you time and money. You can do this by putting your seeds in a jar of water to soak. Pre-germinated seeds will need to be watered well once they are planted. Now is also a good time to harden off the seedlings that were grown in greenhouses over the winter months.

Cut back ornamental grasses: Trim new shoots and get rid of dead material in the garden.

…and if you’re still itching to garden, vegetables like carrots, peas, spinach and lettuce do well with the cool weather. Also, bachelor’s buttons and poppies are annuals that actually prefer to cooler weather.

Diatoomaceous Earth Uses for Garden and Landscape Maintenance

According to the EPA, pesticide use poisons over fifty thousand American children every year. Exposure to herbicide-treated landscapes and gardens increases the risk of poisonings to our pets as well. Farmers who use pesticides on their crops are more likely to have cancer than the general population. Pesticide residues in vegetables can’t just be washed off. We want to keep our gardens and landscapes looking good, but at the same time we want our children and pets safe. To do this, replacing pesticides with food grade diatomaceous earth in landscape and garden maintenance can help.

Diatomaceous earth (often called DE) is the remains of tiny sea plants called diatoms. These skeletons are primarily made up of silica a natural substance. It is a common substance found in many deposits around the world. Study after study of this substance from fresh water sources (food grade) has shown that in general it is safe to ingest or contact on the skin. However, constant breathing of this dust can cause severe respiratory problems. If not breathed, it is safe for humans and pets. To safely use it in landscape and garden, always use a food grade brand.

DE is easy to use, just fill a mason jar with it. Now poke holes in the lid so that you have a shaker to shake the dust on your plants.

To control crawling insects in your yard including fleas, ants, ticks and chiggers in your yard, liberally sprinkle it on the grass.

My experience is that diatomaceous earth is especially effective against ticks. Ticks cause as many as fourteen different diseases in the United States including Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. If ticks or chiggers are a problem in your yard or garden, the CDC suggests hiring a professional exterminator to get rid of the pests. However, it can be just as effective and is safe to use around children and pets. Simply sprinkle dust over the area of infestation. Remember to avoid breathing the dust. Do this at least two times per week during the seasons when ticks are most prevalent.

If flying gnats or flea beetles attack the garden, shake directly on plants. Be careful however to avoid getting the dust on blooms or flower buds because it will kill ladybugs, butterflies and bees.

Shake a dust barrier around the perimeter of the garden to keep pests from entering. Snails and slugs will dry up before they get a chance to attack.

Put a ring of it around newly planted plants to prevent cutworm damage.

A ring of the dust around the outside perimeter of your home to keep these same pests from entering your home.

Reapply twice weekly after watering or after it rains. If it gets wet, it loses its effectiveness against garden pests.

This natural occurring substance is easy to use around the garden and in the landscape around your home. It is safe and effective to use against crawling and flying insect pests, and is nontoxic to children, pets, birds, earthworms and wildlife. However, it does harm insects so never apply it to blooms or bloom buds as this could harm bees, ladybugs and butterflies.