MANYARA J CHIURA
TITLE: WAYS OF MAINTAINING A BEAUTIFUL YARD
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No matter the weather condition, this is peak time for a summer yard cleanup! Lawn and yard care is all about being proactive. We put a lot into our homes and properties, so it’s time to refresh our minds on what’s next. Here are some of the tips you can use to keep that yard beautiful…….
- PRUNE IN WINTER AND EARLY Summer
If you haven’t already done so, cut off any broken or badly disfigured branches caused by winter.
Unwanted lower branches on all evergreen shrubs and trees should also be removed in late winter.
Most shrubs and trees are pruned in late winter or early summer but not all. Got flowering shrubs? When to prune a shrub depends mostly on when it blooms and whether it flowers on growth produced in the same or previous years.
- CLEAN UP LEAVES—GO EASY
Even if you cleaned up some leaves in the fall, there are many trees (such as oaks) that shed leaves (and broken or fallen branches) over the winter.
Remove any debris or heavy piles of leaves or any layers of leaves. This invites mold and disease and decay. However, don’t rake into wet ground. It’s best to wait until temperatures are reaching the late 30s or 40s. If you have a compost pile (or want to start one!), add those leaves to the pile. Otherwise, just mow any thin layers of leaves in with the season’s first cut, and they’ll also break down and add organic matter and nutrition to the soil.
- ADDRESS AGGRESSIVE WEEDS—EARLY!
Deal with weeds in early summer. Invasive or aggressive weeds will only get worse as daylight hours increase during summer. As they grow, their roots will strengthen and they will be very difficult to pull out.
The best way to minimize weeds in your lawn is through good cultural practices:
- Do not mow too short
- Allow mow clippings to return to the lawn
- Do not over- or underwater
- Devote some of your lawn to wildflowers
- SEEDING BARE PATCHES—CAREFULLY
Winter can reveal some damage to your yard from pets and traffic. You may wish to re-seed some spots.
However, if you just can’t stand those bare spots, try spot-seeding bare patches as early as possible (October/November) before you apply any pre-emergent for crabgrass control. Give seeds enough time to germinate and somewhat establish. If this is not possible, don’t skip the pre-emergent weed control. It is better to take care of the bulk of your yard than wait until fall to perform any turf repairs.
Before seeding, use a steel rake to scuff up the area. Loosen the soil. Scrape some compost into the area. Sprinkle grass seed on the spot. Keep the soil moist. Cover the seeds with straw matting or another material. Even grass clippings will do. You just want to cover the spot with some sort of material to hold seeds in place.
- RAKE AWAY THATCH—NOT ‘TIL DRY
It’s too early to talk about thatch but we need to do it now because many folks do it way too early. When we say “thatch,” we’re talking about the matted areas which have died out. You don’t want more than ½-inch of thatch on the ground. A good raking will promote air flow throughout the grass, prevent disease, and help germination. It’s essential the ground and grass is dry enough or you will do more harm than good, raking up grass seeds. Rule of thumb: If footprints remain after walking, then it’s still too moist. That said, rake as soon as it’s dry and the grass is still brown; raking too late will harm healthy roots.
- DO NOT FERTILIZE WITH HIGH NITROGEN
Fertilizing your lawn in the summer isn’t always necessary. However, many folks like to apply fertilizer in the summer , too. No matter what you decide, early summer is NEVER the time to apply fertilizer with high nitrogen (first number). When you fertilize grass, apply lightly. Heavy fertilization is not good for the grass and can also lead to disease problems.
Later in the mid summer, when the grass is green and growing, you can apply a fertilizer that contain slow-release nitrogen sources.
If you’re interested in a more organic way to fertilize, use a mulching mower—which returns grass clippings back to the soil. This saves you time and energy, while also improving the condition of your lawn. Since grass clippings contain up to 90 percent water, the clippings dry up very quickly. It’s almost as if the grass clippings disappear. Plus, this returns 25 percent of the nutrients to the soil—a fantastic fertilizer.
- LOOSEN THE SOIL—IF IT’S COMPACTED
Do you have flower beds? After the winter, the soil in your garden beds may be completely compacted. Remove thick layers leaves are that are covering evergreen ground cover beds. Thin layers of leaves in your beds can be left alone and simply mulched over top of later. They’ll break down and add organic matter to your soil. Then, loosen the soil to help oxygen reach the plants’ roots. You can use hand tools for small areas, but larger areas may benefit from tilling.
- REDRAW BEDS—WITH A GARDEN HOSE
You may wish to redraw the boundary between your garden beds and grass in springtime. Wider beds mean less lawn care, too. Here’s a simple way to do it yourself: Use a garden hose to mark out a nice line for your garden beds. Then, along this bed line, take a sharp metal edger and drive it into the ground as deep as it will go. Dig all along the hose line and then remove the grass that’s there, creating a nice bed. Once done, fill up the bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch (pine bark is a good choice)—or you’ll just get a bed of weeds! Then you’re ready to transplant or plant perennial flowers.
9. MOW GRASS—BUT NOT TOO SOON
Mow the lawn when the grass level reaches 2 to 3 inches tall. The lawn needs time to recover after winter. However, if the grass grows too long, it shades the roots, which allows fewer weed seeds to sprout.
It’s important to sharpen the mower blade every month or two for a clean cut. When you just rip grass and leave it with open cuts, you leave your yard susceptible to fungi and disease.
If you’re interested in alternative mowers, consider a reel mower or an electric mower as a more environmentally-friendly option. These mowers work best if your property is one-third of an acre or less. It’s important to mow your grass regularly, as it’s much more difficult to cut the grass if it gets way too tall (as many of us have experienced firsthand!).
As with leaf removal, don’t mulch too early. Be patient. There are also many beneficial insects and pollinators (e.g., solider beetles, native bees, hummingbird clearwing moth) who overwinter in your garden, and smothering your ground with mulch is not helpful. Just hold off on mulching chores until the soil dries out a little and the weather warms.
We mulch once we have edged our beds and trimmed back dead branches on our shrubs. Then add your mulch (or, replace your old mulch). We prefer a heavy mulch, such as hardwood bark mulches over dyed brown wood chips. They are higher-quality, last longer, and look better.
Not everything on this list is necessary for every yard, but I think that I have covered most of what you need to know for summer!!!