Early Spring Start-Up Tips

early spring off to a great start

Spring is just beginning for those in the northern states. Many gardeners are getting anxious to shake off the winter doldrums and start working on their lawns, landscape beds and gardens again.

After being teased by Mother Nature in mid to late February with warm temperatures, the last month or so has been cold, snowy, wet and just down right miserable. During those few couple of warm days the grass began turning green, Tulips and Daffodils pushed through the soil and buds on the trees and shrubs were getting ready to open.

One thing to keep in mind; it is only the middle of April and the chance for temperatures to drop below freezing is still a real possibility. In fact, for much of the northern US, the chance for frost can persist until at least Mother’s Day.

5 checklist items for early spring start-up:

day lily from damage

  1. Walk and survey – I know that I plan to walk around my lawn this weekend to see what did and didn’t survive through winter. I do know that my Day Lilies and Irises all have white tips due to the bitter cold temperatures. These plants will survive just fine and the white tips will eventually turn brown. They may look a little ragged for a few weeks, but they are hardy plants and have adapted to the cold weather. It is still a good idea to take a walk around your lawn on a warm sunny day to see how things fared during the winter months.
  2. Compost – If you are in the mood to do some work around your yard, rake up the leaves that have inevitably blown in during the winter. There have been some fairly significant wind storms in March and early April, so picking up dead branches will also be an early outdoor task. Put the leaves and branches in your compost bin, although you may have to cut up the branches into smaller pieces unless they are of significant size then they can always be used for firewood.
  3. Scan for disease – Check for possible disease activity, such as Snow Mold. Look for patches of matted grass that appear to be glued together. It is easy to “cure” your lawn from Snow Mold damage by using your fingers in a raking fashion to break up the matted grass. In some cases, large sections of a lawn can be affected, so using a flexible-tine rake is the best option. Lightly rake the spots to break up the matted grass to allow new grass to grow back and fill in the matted patches.
  4. Fertilize – Applying a spring fertilization is another important task. When cool-season grasses come out of winter dormancy, the end for food is important. Don’t worry if it rains or even snows after your lawn has been fertilized. Any type of fertilizer, whether applied as a liquid or granular, needs water to wash it into the spoil where it can be taken up by the roots.
  5. Time your planting – It is still early, although I have seen some garden centers already displaying “cool weather” plants like Pansies and Violas. In most cases, there are still another 3 to 4 weeks before annual plants can be planted. Some garden plants can be planted early, such as lettuce, or if you are using cold frames to start vegetable plants. The ground is still wet and it has to dry out before tilling the soil. In the meantime, draw up some plans of where you want to plant, search the Internet for different flowers and landscape ideas. There is plenty of time before you get out the shovels and rakes.

If you have questions about problem areas in your lawn this spring be sure to contact your local neighborhood lawn care team at Spring-Green.

How to Start Composting

composting at home

I try to do my part for the environment. Anything I can do to lessen my “footprint” is a priority to me. No one is perfect, but I strive to make the right choices and decisions. So when it comes to composting, I try to do the right thing. I’ve tried a compost pile, but I never seemed to find the time to go outside and turn it over as much as it required. Since that wasn’t the best solution, I asked for a compost tumbler for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’ve been using it ever since. I have to say, it works great!

compost tumbler

What do Compost Tumblers and Bins Look Like?

A compost tumbler has a ratcheted locking handle and geared handle, which allows for easy turning. A compost bin will sit on the ground and will require manual turning of the compost with a shovel.

How to Start Composting

To compost, moisten your pile occasionally through the summer, if you live in an area where rain is infrequent. The pile should feel slightly damp for decomposition to take place at a normal rate. Cover your pile with a tarp, if necessary, to help minimize moisture loss. Bury food scraps at least 10 inches below the surface of the pile and cover them with compost and brown materials such as dead leaves. This helps minimize odor as the food scraps decompose in the summer’s heat.

In the fall, bag up dead leaves to use in your compost the following summer. This makes it less likely you’ll have to pay for sawdust or straw during the summer.

Food waste composting is hit or miss during the winter time for me. Since discovering these difficulties my first winter, I looked into other composting ideas that could be brought into the house. I have yet to convince my wife that worm composting is a good idea, since we can store the container in the cabinet directly below the kitchen sink. For some reason, she finds that less than appealing!

compost

What Can Go in My Compost Bin?

What I put in my compost tumbler is…

Food waste from the kitchen: Mostly vegetable and fruit peels and waste along with coffee grounds, including the filter

Composting leaves: I usually stick to composting dried leaves. Although most of the leaves that come down in the fall are mulched back into the lawn, there are a fair number that are picked up with a leaf vacuum that grinds them up. I put some of these in the compost tumbler, but I also just spread a bunch of them across the garden.

Any other dried plant material: I try to use more dried plant material than green leaves. It seems that the green or fresher leaves and stems take longer to compost, so I try to stick with dried material.

Cardboard: Shoe boxes, brown cardboard or other such paper products are ripped into strips before putting them in the tumbler.

Soil: If I have some leftover soil from potting a plant or digging a hole, I just add it to the tumbler

Water: It’s important to keep the compost moist, but not soggy. If it begins to dry out, I add a gallon or so of water.

The rest of the plant materials are gathered up and placed in paper recycling bags and offered up for recycling. The city where I live has a yard waste composting service that collects these bags and takes them to a recycling facility. At least I know that it is not going to the local landfill and is instead serving a good purpose.

Where to Store Your Compost Bin?

I store my compost tumbler outside in the backyard near my vegetable garden. Throughout the entire year I add all sorts of food waste and compostable products, although it can get more difficult to use in the winter. So think long and hard about where you place your bin so it doesn’t cause inconvenience throughout your less than desirable weather months.

I hope this has taught you some valuable tips on how to start composting. When done right, your home compost can be rich source of nutrients for your lawn or garden. For even more lawn tips, head over to our lawn care guide. Your yard will thank you!

How To Deal With Patchy Grass & Soil Compaction

Below, Harold Enger, Spring-Green’s lawn care expert, responds to a question about patchy grass and soil compaction. He offers several different ways of dealing with these pesky and persistent problems.

Question:

“There is a spot in my back yard where the grass is patchy. I lime, fertilize, aerate. The dirt is compacted. I have no worms. Someone said to use compost. How? How do I get worms in the soil ? How do I de-compact?”

Ms. Larouse,
Thank you for sending in your question. The first thing I suggest you do is to take a soil sample to your local county extension service to determine the pH and nutrient levels of your soil and then add the correct materials to correct for deficiencies. There will be a fee involved, but you will receive a written report of the soil test results.

The best way to relieve soil compaction is through the process of core aeration. You can rent a core aerator at many hardware stores, home improvement centers or rental agencies. Be sure the soil is moist before aerating so that the tines will penetrate the ground easily and deeply.
After aerating, you can spread a good humus compost across the area of patchy grass. You can purchase these products via the Internet, but the shipping will be expensive. I went to the Home Depot website, searched for “compost” and found several products that could be used. Again, bagged products will be expensive. You can also look up compost suppliers in your town.

The rate is generally 500 pounds of compost per 1,000 sq. ft. You will want to spread it across the area with a spreader or with a shovel and rake. It is not an easy process. You would be okay with just aerating the lawn.

In regards to the worms, they will find their way back into your lawn, especially if you add the compost to the lawn. You can purchase earthworms via the Internet as well, but I would wait until you see what happens.

Looking for additional help with patchy grass or soil compaction? Feel free to contact Harold with any other questions or lawn care tips by visiting his Ask the Expert blog.

Learn more about…

Moss Control
Spring Cleanup
GROWING GRASS IN SHADY AREAS