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A spring time flower bed

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – After a dormant winter, mother nature is finally starting to teem with new life. For homeowners and gardeners, there are several tasks they need to add to their lists in order to get their yards and flower beds ready for spring and the upcoming year.

Have the Right Tools

Before getting started, people must have the right tools and equipment to properly manage their yards and gardens. Tim Crow, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said a good set of hand pruners and a small hand saw are great to have on hand.

“Spring is a good time to do some early season pruning and those tools are a must,” Crow said. “For hand pruners, make sure to use a file or grinder to put a clean, sharp edge on them.”

People also need to ensure that their mower and other lawn care equipment have been fully serviced are ready for the mowing season. Crow said there are several items to check on this type of equipment.

“Grass is already starting to grow, so it’s time for people to make sure their lawn mower is tuned up,” he said. “Items such as changing the oil, sharpening the blades and even checking tire pressure are all crucial to the equipment completing the job.”

Crow offers the following tips for getting lawn equipment ready for the season:

  • Change the oil in the machine. If it has an oil filter, change it as well.
  • Make sure the air filters are free from any of last year’s debris.
  • If it has been a while, check and potentially change out the spark plugs.
  • Sharpen the blades on the mower. Consider sharpening the blades approximately every four to five cuts.
  • Check the tire pressure on the mower. Believe it or not, tire pressure helps ensure a clean cut.
  • Make sure blowers and line trimmers are ready to go. Crank both tools and run them for five to 10 minutes to cycle out any old fuel that might have built up in the carburetors.

First Things First

Now that the equipment is ready to go, what should be done first? One thing people can do to get their lawn ready is scalp their yard.

“This practice is simply mowing the turf as low as the mower will go and bag the clippings. This helps get sunlight to the soil and also helps with air flow,” he said. “It is best to start warm season grasses off short in the spring and then allow them to grow slightly taller as the season warms and rainfall becomes less frequent.”

Lawns are not the only things that need attention in the spring. Flower beds also might need a little spring cleaning. Crow recommends removing any leaves and debris that might have accumulated in the beds and check mulch levels.

“Apply new mulch if needed. About 2 inches is a good depth to keep mulch layers,” he said. “This helps with water retention as well as weed suppression.”

This time of year, people start to see the transition from cool to warm season weeds. This makes it a perfect time to add a granular preemergent weed control product. Also, as the season goes on, keep an eye out for weed sprouts and pull them by hand before they go to seed.

Crow said that spring is also a good time to fertilize plants.

“A lot of plants are working as hard in the spring as they will all year long,” he said. “People should perform a soil test frequently and apply fertilizers as recommended.”

When looking for fertilizers, complete slow-release fertilizers, like a 10-10-10 or 13-13-13, are good economical options. One thing to note is that some plants, such as camellias and azaleas, prefer acidic fertilizers.

Don’t Even Think About It

Every year, without fail, some people get a little pruning happy in the springtime. Pruning can be beneficial, but it is important to know what to prune and when to prune it. According to Crow, improper pruning can be detrimental to a landscape.

“Crepe myrtles seem to be the most abused. They are trees and are meant to grow,” he said. “Don’t severely prune them back each year, as this creates ugly knuckles at the cutting points.”

He also reminds people of the “May rule” for pruning shrubbery. Generally speaking, if a shrub blooms before May, people should prune shortly after it blooms in the spring. If the plant blooms after May, wintertime is the best time to prune. This will help ensure ample blooms on plants.

More Information

For more resources on yard and garden maintenance, visit the Lawn & Garden section of the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.

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