Finally, there are signs of Spring.
January is over and we are starting to notice little changes in the environment that are early indicators of Spring. For those of us in the Landscape and Lawn Maintenance industry, it is a welcome arrival. I am sure that many of you are ready for warmer weather, longer days, and sunnier skies too.
The arrival of warmer weather and longer days signals the start of the spring planting season. Before you can make plans for new plantings or other changes to your landscape, you need to take the time to thoroughly clean up your landscape or lawn. We call this a Spring Cleanup. We have all heard the terms Spring Cleaning before, though maybe you never associated it with your outdoor spaces.
Spring cleanups are, in my opinion, the most important cultural practice that we do all year for our landscapes and lawns. It helps us to establish a healthy, clean growing environment, where our plants and turf can thrive in the coming season. Spring cleanups do not have to be arduous tasks that take a long time to complete, however there are a few specific things that you will want to check off the list.
Perennials and Ornamentals
Spring is a good time to cut back certain species to encourage a bigger and better regeneration later in the season. Ornamental grasses can be cut back to about 1/5th of their max height.
It is also a good time to divide up fall blooming perennials and grasses. By doing this in the spring, you are giving the divided plants a season grow and will have new plants in the fall.
Beds are probably the most intimidating aspect of the Spring Cleanup. Over the winter they get cluttered with fallen leaves, twigs, sticks, and other debris. This all needs to be removed. By removing the debris, the surface of the bed becomes open to better water absorption and gas exchange, improving the growing medium for the bedded plants.
Folks tend to want to spread fresh mulch in the spring, to help dress everything up, after all, fresh mulch is one way to spruce things up quickly and affordably, but I would hold off. One of the primary functions of mulch is moisture retention, which can aid in the reduction of irrigation water to beds. In the spring though, there is plenty of natural moisture, we don’t necessarily need to retain any at this point. And we all know, or at least we should, that too much moisture for plant roots can create a host of disease issues. So, hold off on the new mulch for now.
If you just cannot wait on the mulch, then tread lightly. Go thinner on the application and monitor the moisture level in your beds closely.
The last thing that I recommend for bed maintenance in the spring, is to cut a fresh new edge on the perimeter of the bed and make a pre-emergent herbicide application to the interior of the bed. Pre-emergent is most often utilized by professional turf managers to control undesirable weeds in sports fields, golf courses, and home lawns, but it will also work wonders in a bed. Nobody likes spending hours on their hands and knees weeding beds all summer long. A well timed pre-emergent application in the spring can prevent this and keep your beds looking clean and weed free all season.
We approach lawns in a similar manner to beds. Rake up or blow the debris from the winter away, exposing the underlying grass. Give the lawn a mow to clean it up. Spring is also a great time to aerify cool season grasses like Fescue.
In this area, Fescue can and often does struggle during the summer months if not properly maintained. A spring aerification can pay dividends later in the season when the temps go up and things get stressful.
Keeping a healthy lawn means keeping the weeds out. Make your pre-emergent herbicide applications before mid-March, although I prefer to use indicator plants, like the Forsythia. If you can make the application before the Forsythia bloom in your area, then you should be fine. It is also a good time to start feeding your lawn. A balanced fertilizer program is essential for healthy turf.
Spring clean ups can work wonders for a lawn or landscape, and they don’t have to be intimidating for the homeowner. Make the effort this spring to clean up your outdoor spaces before the growing season really starts and you’ll reap the rewards the rest of the year.