Well it is that time of year again! The cold and the rains have subsided a bit and spring has officially sprung indeed! It’s the time when everywhere I go, everyone I know (and some I don’t) say “Hey Jimmie, I have this plant” or they frantically reach for their iPhone and say, “Can I show you a picture of this real quick? What would you do in this area? What the heck is this weed and how do I get rid of it?” Don’t get me wrong, I love you all and it is still very humbling that people care enough to want my opinion. So I thought I would write this column with some of the more frequent dilemmas that all these friends of mine may deal with. I hope it at least helps some of you kind Prosper folks!
Part of the joy of landscaping is the care and maintenance you give to your yard. Depending on the type of plantings and the size, some gardens can require constant full-time care. If you’re not a big fan of yard maintenance, it might be wise to design a yard that’s easy to care for. The first thing to remember with any “landscape” is that it’s a living, breathing entity. Even the simplest, easy-to-care yard will need watering, feeding, cleaning, and disease prevention.
Consider the following list of these spring projects around the yard:
Flower Beds and Planting Areas:
The amount of time spent here will depend on your plantings. Some plants require constant attention; others are relatively maintenance free. Most flowerbeds contain perennials, which are plants that come back year after year…but expect some to die off over the winter. Check the condition of plants during this spring and replace dead plants with new ones.
Cover ground with an organic mulch (I prefer real shredded Cedar). This will help the soil retain moisture and keeps weeds to a minimum. Many flowers do best when you dead-head them (pinch off spent blooms), which encourages more flower growth. After the first hard freeze, cut back all the branches of your plants. And cover plants with mulch to protect them during the cold winter months.
During the fall, many plants lose their leaves. This leaf material makes a great natural mulch to cover and protect your plants against the cold winter. Remove all leaves from the lawn areas. The layer of leaves can restrict the amount of light reaching the lawn and trap water near the roots. If you have too many leaves, many cities offer leaf-pick-ups with their trash pick-ups or you may use to begin a composting area.
Hedge and Tree Trimming:
Shrubs and trees need seasonal trimming. Get a pruning instrument and cut off any dead branches. You may also need to prune back live branches that are getting out of control. Many hedges need to be re-shaped several times a summer. Electrical hedge sheers reduce a lot of arm strain on larger hedges. Do not prune or trim during the fall. This will stimulate growth during a time when the plants should be starting their dormant phase.
Nature has a cycle of life, and insects are a part of that. Most healthy plants stay relatively insect-free. For the occasional infestation, consider using natural methods of removal. Sometimes a plant can be washed down with a strong stream of water. Or many garden centers sell other insects (like ladybugs) to get rid of bugs and worms. Chemicals are also a choice; however, you should use extreme caution when applying them. They will not only harm “bad” bugs, but “good” bugs too. They can also harm household animals, birds, children and adults when applied incorrectly. Consider using household “natural” chemicals to control insects. (For example, placing a shallow plate filled with beer in your slug-infested garden often will attract then kill the slimy critters who chew holes in leaves.)
This rite of spring signals the start of the growing season. Most gardens will need a good raking to clean out the leftover leaves and trash that have built up over the cold months. Consider applying a fresh layer of mulch to protect the fresh shoots from a late zapping of frost. This mulch will also keep the ground moist and cool during the summer months and keep weeds at a minimum. And over time, the mulch will work its way into the soil and revitalize it. For best results, choose a mulch made of small organic pieces–“bark fines” or another shredded material work well. Mulch made from larger wood pieces (like cedar strips or cypress) will take a bit longer to break down into the soil.
Ughhh! They just keep coming back! Removing the entire unwanted “weed” by its roots is the surest way to get rid of it. Herbicides do work but use extreme caution when applying. They will not only kill the “weed” but also other nearby plants. In planting beds, you can keep weeds to a minimum by covering the soil with an inch or two of mulch.
The frequency depends on how much you water and feed your lawn. Mowing once a week is typical. Don’t cut the blades of grass too short. Longer grass is healthier and retains water better. Many mowers come with “mulching” option that cuts the grass into tiny bits and returns them back to the lawn. This returns important nutrients back to the soil and reduces the amount of fertilizer you need. It also eliminates the need to bag the grass.
A well-designed, professionally-installed sprinkler system should need little maintenance over time. However, you will need to “winterize” it during the fall and start it up during the spring. Your system has several pipes that can freeze and burst during winter. Either drain or “blow out” the water from the pipes in mid fall when your yard has gone dormant. Also turn off the timer so it can’t accidentally start during the winter. In the spring, you’ll need to re-start the system by turning on the timer and possibly turning on a master valve. (Check your system guide for details.) You can go to the Town of Prosper website to check current water restrictions in place and set your system to accommodate.
Your yard needs food! Your lawn may need 2 to 5 feedings per growing season. And your growing beds could also use some food. Chemical fertilizers work, however, there are several natural organic options too. Generally a 3-1-2 ratio works well for our soils.
An inch-thick layer of mulch will keep your planting beds relatively weed-free. The best weed-prevention for lawns is a healthy lawn. Grass is a plant that grows thick and bushy when healthy. This usually will choke out any other “weeds” that could grow there. Exceptions are plants like crabgrass. These grow from seed every year. Some chemical fertilizers come with a “pre-emergent” which kills the seeds in the spring when the plants are dormant.
Aerate your lawn as needed (probably every 3-5 seasons). This reduces the soil compaction and allows air and water to cycle in and out of the soil. Your lawn will thank you by growing thick and healthy every year. This will also improve drainage.
This is a layer of dead grass that builds up over time just above the soil surface and needs to be removed. Regular aeration often removes a lot of thatch. You can also “de-thatch” your lawn in the early spring with a special machine. Do it while the lawn is still dormant, or else you can damage your lawn.
Perennial or Annual:
When planning your flowerbeds, remember that a perennial plant is one that, once planted, will come back year after year but just looks good when its blooming, while an annual is one that is planted for only one season but looks great most of the time.
I Promise to allow more time and space for your questions in my next column, I have been extremely busy at work helping our clients! I hope some of this answered a few of them, if not you know where to find me friends!! Until next time…Happy Gardening!!
Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth area.