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We have finally made the turn. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The tide has turned. We can see the finish line. In other words, we have shaken off the snow, sleet and dreary grey landscape for greener times – spring is finally here. While many of us are still seeing and feeling the up and down temperatures we can feel what the future months will behold as oftentimes spring is as much an emotional state of mind as a date on the calendar. As we get older, I begin to compare it to a time when I was a child waiting for my birthday or Christmas, counting the days until the big day.
In fact, getting ready for the gardening season is not unlike preparing for a large holiday, it takes forethought, preparation, planning and execution to achieve success. Hopefully you have been following our posts for the past few months on how to prep, and what to prep prior to the planting season, but if you haven’t it’s not too late to have a garden and yard that is the envy of the neighborhood and something that you can be proud of.
The first tip for the month of April goes to what we typically first see pop up in the garden or lawn in the spring – weeds. I always wondered why weeds grow so fast and are so difficult to chase down so I did a bit of research to find out the answer. Weeds are known as a ruderal species – basically they are not meant for the long term – they invest all their energy in quick growth and reproduction. And we have all been there – I will start weeding tomorrow or the next day, and the next thing you know your entire bed or yard is overwhelmed with weeds. Here are two great ways to get a jump on weeds before the season is lost.
• Weeds pop up fast in lawns and gardens when the temperatures rise, so jump on them right away – not tomorrow or the next day. Use a pre-emergent weed control to get rid of weeds before they’ve had time to germinate, or a post-emergent if they’re already actively growing. And please be kind to the earth, and use only the chemicals that target your particular problem, and read and follow product directions carefully.
• If the soil is dry enough to move around in your garden, remove the old winter mulch, unless you have listened to our advice and have made the switch to 100% recycled rubber mulch. A rubber mulch like Rubberific Mulch will not only help decrease your weed population it will also reduce your watering needs throughout the season. If you aren’t ready to make the switch I won’t leave you in the dark so here is what to do: if it’s decomposing, and it’s free of weed seeds (this is important as if your old wood mulch is littered with weed seeds and you do not remove it, and just rake it out, you have just spread weeds throughout your planting beds) it’s fine to work into the soil. But just as with rubber mulch, it is vital to get new mulch on your beds, not just for beauty but protection against the elements and fluctuating spring temperatures.
Now that we have taken care of the weed concerns, here are a few more tips to get your season off on the right foot.
• Prune your fruit trees before they begin to bud out.
• Avoid working in your garden or beds unless the soil is dry. You don’t want to compact the soil by walking on it, or form hard clods by trying to dig or till too soon.
• Did you clean, sharpen, and oil your garden tools before you put them away last fall? If not, you can still give them some TLC.
• Start seeds of tomatoes, peppers and other heat-loving plants indoors. The seed packet will tell you how many weeks in advance to sow them, so they’ll be ready to transplant into the garden when the weather and the ground are reliably warm.
• Take some time to make sure that your lawnmower is working at its peak performance – change the oil and spark plugs, sharpen the blade with a metal file, or take it to a hardware store to have it done and check to see if your mower needs a new belt.
• After your spring bulbs finish, let the foliage die back naturally before removing it. Don’t cut it, braid or tie it. Your bulbs soak up sunshine in their leaves, which provides the energy for next year’s flowers.
• Identify and start any projects that you should get started and finished before the hot summer temperatures arrive. Put up a playground for the kids? Use some Rubberific Pavers to refresh an old deck or patio?
• And the biggest tip I can offer is to have fun and get excited!