Get lawn and garden ready for spring! (LandSteward Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 02/27/05 - 03/05/05 (657 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
Get lawn and garden ready for spring!
It happens every year. I tear the last "February" page from my desk calendar and suddenly feel a touch of spring fever when I realize the first day of March is finally here!
As winter begins to slip away, it's time once again to get outside and start spring-cleaning our landscape. Yes, these are chores, but they hardly feel chore-like to me because I am anticipating the wonderful colors and fragrances that will soon appear where now there are just bare limbs and dry grass.
Here are a few reminders to get you started on your outdoor "to do" list...
Lawn Rake away all the thatch that has accumulated since the fall. Thatch is that tangle of dried up dead grass and weeds that intertwines with the live grass. If left alone, thatch can prevent nutrients and water reaching the roots of your lawn, so you need to remove it now as the grass begins to sprout again. If you plan on seeding your lawn, it is essential to remove all the thatch, otherwise the grass seed will simply sit on the thatch and not put down roots in the soil.
If your lawn already needs a mowing, set the mower blades at their highest setting, just to trim off the top. This is a good time to spread fertilizer on your lawn if you think it needs a feeding. If you're having moss problems, you can buy a combination fertilizer and moss killer at your local garden center.
Wherever possible, I prefer to find organic solutions to lawn and soil problems, and turn to chemicals only as a last resort. There are some excellent organic products available that can aerate and condition your soil, which in turn can lead to healthier plants and even fewer weeds. If you want some product information, send me an e-mail at snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org
Trees and shrubs Take a walk around your landscape and examine trees and shrubs for any limbs or branches that have been broken or damaged over the winter. Trim branches without collars very close to the trunk. Trim branches with collars or other natural projections at the collar edge.
Compost and manure Once the soil is dry enough, you can dig in some compost or manure. You can speed up the decomposition process in your compost pile by turning it with a fork every couple of weeks. Add lawn clippings and eggshells to your compost heap. However, do not add lawn clippings if you have treated your lawn with chemicals to get rid of weeds or pests.
Weeding Okay... this one IS pretty much a chore, even for real enthusiasts! However, this is a good time to get down on your knees and remove as many weeds as possible before they have the opportunity to flower and then seed. Get rid of a small number of weeds now to prevent a much larger number of weeds later! Need an incentive? Then consider this: some weeds can produce as many as 10,000 seeds each. Remember, too, that weeding is much easier if you do it when the soil is wet.
Aphids As the new spring growth begins to appear, check carefully for aphids. Lift the leaves and examine the underside where aphids will congregate. If you find you have an aphid problem and want information on various means of controlling them, you can find some excellent information at http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/gh-aphid.html a web site put up by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. You can click on a direct link when you go to my web site www.landsteward.org and find this column under The Plant Man heading.
Get started on your landscape spring cleaning now!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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