By Terri Aufmuth, Contributing Writer
Wait for it…wait for it…..spring is on its way!
After a long, cold and windy winter, the crocus and daffodils are coming up and showing their happy faces. This means warmer temperatures, blooms and weeds–yes, weeds–will be emerging soon.
So what should be done to landscaping in the early part of March? Spring Cleaning!
This is the time of year to really get into the garden and clean. Following are some steps to aid in preventing another round of cleaning in months to come.
First, remove all weeds, debris, branches and leaves from your garden. Many perennials can be cut back to the ground. Others will turn mushy (daylily and hosta) and some may turn sticky and brown (ornamental grasses, coreopsis). It is best to dispose of this mushy and sticky growth, as it can contain diseases and pests. By removing it from your yard–and not to the compost pile–you can remove potential future problems.
Spring is a great time to divide perennials and ornamental grasses. As they begin to emerge, plants such as pennisetum, miscanthus, hosta and daylily can be split with a sharp spade or dug up and hand-divided without damage to the young plant leaves. By dividing perennials, they will produce more blooms, and by having more room to grow are less likely to become spindly.
Once weeds that have already shown their greens have been removed, consider your options for weed control. There are many commercial pre-emergents available, such as Preen or WeedBlock. An alternative to applying chemical pre-emergents can be as easy as recycling. Newspaper (minus the shiny or colored pages) makes a fantastic weed suppressant. Layer 5-10 pages in an overlapping fashion around the plants to control weeds, and wet the pages to hold in place. Then add mulch to cover. It is important not to install the papers on bone-dry soil, so consider lightly watering first. Soaker hoses should be installed under newspapers.
After the weeds have been addressed, a nice layer of leaf mulch or shredded mulch or even compost can be applied to beds. Be careful not to allow the mulch to touch the stems or trunks of the plants. This can trap moisture against the plants and create a cozy place for insects and disease to develop. The purpose of mulch is weed suppression, retention of moisture and of course to provide a backdrop for plantings. It is best not to over-mulch; a two-inch depth is plenty.
Spring pruning can be done in early March. Remove any damaged or winter-killed branches. Plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azaleas and viburnum should not be pruned until they have bloomed. These plants bloom during the growing season, so by pruning in the spring the blooms will be removed.
Forsythia blooms signal it is time to give the lawn some attention too. These blooms indicate that soil temperatures have warmed enough for weed control to be effective. Pre-emergent herbicide and crabgrass preventer should be applied at this time. Many products contain fertilizer as well. Be sure to apply according to the manufacturer’s directions; more is not better with fertilizers and pre-emergents and can harm our waterways if improperly used.
Spring brings renewal and your landscape will need attention. See you in the garden.
Terri Aufmuth is the owner of Cornerstone Landscaping, Inc. Her web site is www.cornerstonelandscape.com