How to Up-Level Your Yard This Spring

Spring: my favorite time of year! I love seeing the new buds, blooms and bustling wildlife activity. Here are a few tips for getting your yard in shape – and keeping it there throughout the summer and fall.

1. Pre-emergent

Winter annuals (weeds) rarely get out of hand. However, pesky spring and summer invaders are a completely different story. Crab grass, henbit, chickweed, dandelions, pusley, and broadleaf plantain all seem to run rampant if nothing is done. There are many pre-emergent products on the market, one of the more popular being Preen. Preen works well, and won’t harm any perennials or sensitive plants.

I strongly encourage clients and friends not to use a weed barrier or fabric, unless they are laying out stone or gravel. As the mulch breaks down on top of the fabric, it creates a perfect haven for the weeds to germinate in the mulch. Fabric can also keep the mulch from building healthy soil as it breaks down. Instead, apply a pre-emergent a few times a year to keep the weeds from even germinating.

2. Hard Pruning

Hard pruning is best done just before spring breaks through the winter. It’s a perfect time to shape your plants, and also remove gangly branches or obvious winter kill. Ornamental trees should follow the “no crossing, touching, or rubbing” rule. Late winter is also a great time to cut back overgrown shrubs. We will frequently take holly bushes down from 48″ to just 12″ and let them regrow.

3. Fertilize

Generally, I prefer to go light on fertilization. When I do suggest fertilizer, I prefer slow release products. I generally don’t focus too much on whether or not a fertilizer is organic, because usually it is most important to make sure you aren’t throwing too much down, no matter what the product. Another important step is to make sure the pH of the native soil is correct. Most of the soil in our region has low pH, so using lime to raise the pH is a great step to take before applying fertilizer.

4. Perennials

Empty spaces in flower beds always call to me at this time of year. I love to add perennials on bed edges, walkways, or unused corners. They attract bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects, and also add a pop of color and interest to areas too small for shrubs.

Salvia, Catmint, Russian Sage, Mexican Petunia, Coneflower, Rudbeckia, Karl Foerster Grass, and Miss Huff Lantana- these are my favorites for full sun. Hellebores, Ostrich Fern, Coral Bells, or Hostas are my favorites for shaded areas. I also always like to have a bit of parsley in the yard for the swallowtail butterflies.

5. Clean Up

I think this goes without saying- cleaning out the debris, getting weeds under control, and adding fresh mulch will go a long way for your beds. Trench edging the flower beds will give a crisp, defined look, while also making an easy path to follow with the mower and string trimmer. Dyed mulches will keep your beds looking fresh longer, and will not break down as quickly as ordinary mulch.

What are your go-to spring routines? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them!

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