Spring at last... almost! The official first day of spring is March 21,
but in many parts of the country, it is beginning to feel like spring
is already in the air.
For some reason, outdoor jobs that must be done in the spring become
enjoyable activities while they're simply chores at other times of the
year. Perhaps it is the anticipation of a new season about to begin
and visions of colorful, fragrant blooms that are soon to appear.
So let's get outside and see what we can do.
Look at that lawn!
It might be a bit of a sorry sight after the winter, but with a bit of
TLC, you can coax it back to verdant life. If you can see a fair
amount of thatch (the dead, straw-like stuff that is often tangled
near the grass roots) you will need to rake it out before you attempt
any other lawn care projects. The reason? Anything you add, such as
new seed or fertilizer will simply sit on the thatch, rather than
getting down into the soil, unless it is removed.
Once you have de-thatched your lawn, you can add a fertilizer. Most
garden centers carry a variety of lawn fertilizers. If you're
uncertain, describe your lawn conditions to the manager at the garden
center and ask him or her to recommend a particular type of
fertilizer. If that doesn't help, you can always drop an e-mail to
email@example.com and I'll try to help. Above all, when using
fertilizer, be sure to read the instructions thoroughly!
If you need to re-seed (sometimes called overseeding), that's the
final step after any de-thatching or fertilizing that your lawn
Plant and transplant
March is a good time to plant those new roses, berries, fruit trees
and most deciduous plants. If you're still not sure what to plant,
there's still time to go online and do some research but don't leave
it too long.
As for transplanting existing plants from one spot to another, time is
running out, so do it as soon as you can because many plants are
already starting their annual spring growth.
If you need to prune ornamental trees and shrubs, the best time to do
so is before growth starts. The exceptions to that rule are spring-
flowering shrubs. For those, you need to wait until after they finish
flowering. This would be a good time to prune roses if they look like
they need a trim. Again, I'm happy to advise on any specific pruning
questions you might have.
Probably everyone's least-favorite garden activity, perhaps because it
feels destructive rather than constructive, and it can be backbreaking
work. As I've said before, do a little at a time, interspersed with
more enjoyable garden activities, and it will seem less of a pain in
the, uh, knees.
If you're using a cultivator as part of your spring gardening project,
don't be tempted to use it in bulb beds. Remove the weeds by hand or
you'll risk injuring the delicate root systems.
Pick your perennials
Even if it is still too early to plant perennials in your area, take a
look around your landscape and decide if you can brighten the place up
with a few new "faces." Gardening books and magazines and online Web
sites should give you plenty of ideas, once you determine the amount
of sunlight and the soil conditions affecting that part of your
Buying perennials that have already experienced at least one full
growing season is worth the additional cost as they will probably be
sturdier and more likely to thrive than smaller, cheaper options.
I like to think of perennial plants as the backbone of the flower
garden because they're the plants with staying power. Their leaves die
back as winter approaches, but with luck, the following spring, they
come back. Some plants are short-lived, but old favorites like
daylilies, and hostas can thrive for decades.
Get outside, breathe in that fresh (almost) spring air and learn why
you love your landscape all over again!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org