National Lawn and Garden Month is celebrated each year in April. It’s the perfect time to start on your lawn and garden projects.
PLANET, the national trade association for landscape professionals, offers homeowners eco-friendly tips for getting a great start on caring for yards this spring. Click here!
Quick (Green) Tips for Lawn Care:
Fertilization: Spring is a crucial time to fertilize because it replenishes the food reserves your yard draws from while dormant in the winter and fuels grass’ rapid growth phase. Hopefully, you’ve been composting your kitchen waste all year long, and you have the means to make compost tea to fertilize your lawn and garden. This will produce a thick, healthy lawn that also helps prevent weeds. (And don’t worry: if you haven’t been composting, there are lots of packaged organic fertilizers on the market, but just like when shopping for organic foods, be careful and read the label).
Weed control: Apply a pre-emergent weed killer on lawns to prevent grassy weeds from germinating. Spring broadleaf weeds like dandelions, clovers and plantains, are best prevented by maintaining a proper mowing height and fertilization. After a mild winter, annual weeds that germinate in the fall, like henbit and chickweed, will be more visible and require higher levels of broadleaf weed control through herbicides. Never use chemical weed killers! Check out natural and effective options like Burn Out, (made from clove oil, vinegar and lemon juice) instead.
Pest control/Disease repair: Severe winters may increase the incidence of winter diseases such as snow mold and Bermuda dead spot. Proper cultural care is important in helping your lawn recover from stress related winter diseases. Properly timed fertilizer application and mowing at the recommended height for your grass type are two items that will aid in the recovery of your lawn.
Mowing: Contrary to popular belief, setting your mower at a very low height can actually increase weeds by exposing the soil surface to sunlight and removing stored nutrients in leaf blades. Cool weather grasses, such as bluegrass, ryegrass and fescues, should maintain a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Warm season grasses, like bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine and centipede, should be kept at 1.5 to 2.5 inches tall. Also, think about skipping the loud, carbon-intensive, gas-powered mower for an electric or human-powered alternative. Leave the clippings, too. Modern mulching lawn mowers make “grasscycling” even easier. Homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.
1. Start with a plan. A well-thought-out plan saves you time spent trying to decide where you want each plant to go during the few hours you have to work outside.
2. Make quick beds. Create a new perennial garden simply by slicing under turf with a spade, flipping it upside down, and then covering the area with 3 to 4 inches of wood chips. Wait a few weeks and then cut into it and plant your perennials. Choose the right plant for the right place. Select plants that grow well in your area of the country and fit the amount of sun, type of soil and water available in your yard.
3. Stash your tools. Minimize trips to the shed by keeping tools close.
4. Cut off weeds. When low-growing weeds like chickweed or lamium grow into a mat, don’t bother trying to get rid of them one at a time. Instead, use the “shovel method” Debbie recommends. “With a sharp spade, slice beneath weeds, and then turn them over to completely bury the leaves,” she explains. Bonus: “As the leaves rot, the weeds nourish the soil like a green manure.”
5. Pile on mulch. Use a bow or flat-head rake to spread mulch efficiently, Lisa suggests. “With the rake’s tined edge, you pull and spread the mulch, and with the flat side of the rake, you even out the mulch on the bed,” she explains, adding, “Use a light push-pull action.”
6. Water wisely. Water deeply, but infrequently. Most plants do best if the soil is allowed to partially dry out between waterings.
7. Wind up hoses. Don’t waste time dragging and storing unwieldy hoses—for neat, easy storage, Lisa depends on both stationary and portable hose reels to put hoses away faster.
8. Build soil in place. No need to tote wheel-barrows full of compost to your garden. “I make compost right in the walkways of my beds,” Lisa says. “I layer newspaper with straw on top to prevent muddy shoes, and toward the end of the growing season, the straw and newspaper become a dark, crumbly compost. I add it right to the beds on each side of the walkway.”
9. Wash the harvest. Collect your produce in an old laundry basket. The basket acts as a strainer, allowing you to quickly rinse off dirt and debris from veggies and fruits.
10. Keep your shoes on. Stash plastic grocery bags by the door to cover your muddy shoes in case you have to go inside before you are through gardening for the day.
11. Take baby steps. Every minute is valuable when you’re pressed for time. Take a few moments when you have them so chores don’t pile up for the weekend. For instance, pluck a few weeds while waiting for the dog to finish his business outside or deadhead flowers while you’re waiting for the school bus to drop off the kids.
*Rodale’s Organic Life has some great tips too!
*Here are some great pre-spring tips for your garden, which still may help out now!
Have a Happy Spring!