Get your yard and landscape ready for spring

Spring has sprung in Michigan, so it’s time to start working on your outdoor cleanup chores in time to enjoy the warm weather.

This time of year, everyone is eager to get outdoors and start sprucing up their yard and landscape before spring and summer. It’s been a long winter, and it has taken its toll on your lawn, trees, shrubs and walkways.

 So go ahead and remove burlap from your trees and shrubs as the weather warms . . . spring has sprung! It’s also time to do other cleanup chores that will put your yard in better shape for seeding and planting.

 Your outdoor to-do list might seem overwhelming, but it’s easier if you break the work into manageable tasks. Here are a few jobs to get you started, from This Old House.

Task #1 Prune away dead and damaged branches

 Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow and wind, prune back to live stems using a handsaw for any branches larger than a half-inch diameter. Shape hedges with hand pruners rather than electric shears to prevent a thick outer layer of growth that blocks sunlight and air from reaching the shrub’s center.

 Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, before buds swell. Wait to prune spring bloomers, like forsythia, until after they flower.

Task #2 Cut back and divide perennials as needed

 Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4-5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2-3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up. Where soil has thawed, dig up perennials such as day lilies and hostas to thin crowded beds. Divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas.

 Cut back winter-damaged rose canes to one-inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones; neaten them up by bending the canes horizontally and tipping the buds downward. Use jute twine or gentle Velcro fasteners to hold the canes in place.

Task #3 Clean up around plants

 Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease). Pull up spent annuals and toss in a wheelbarrow with other yard waste. Once you’re sure that the threat of frost is behind, you may want to remove existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once you’ve planted your spring flowers. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tapping them down around the base with your foot. You can also use a shovel to replant them.

 Now is a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a 5-1-05 fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower, to maximize bloom time and feed next season’s growth. Give beds a clean edge with a square shovel.

Task #4 Compost yard waste

 Dump collected leaves, cuttings, spent foliage and last season’s mulch into a compost pile. Shred leaves and chip branches larger than a half-inch diameter to accelerate decomposition or add a bagged compost starter to the pile.

 Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge and aerate it every couple weeks. Don’t add any early spring weeds that have gone to seed. They might not cook completely and could sprout instead.

Task #5 Get damaged lawn areas ready for spring seeding

 Early spring is a good time to test the soil’s pH so you can get the right treatments for your lawn. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows or disease, to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a half-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate. Remove dead grass with a square metal rake, then flip it over to spread compost.

Task #6 Neaten up hardscape surfaces

 Rake escaped gravel back to aggregate walkways and patios and order more gravel to spread where needed. Refill joints between flagstones by sweeping in new sand or stone dust; water with a hose to set it, then repeat. If the freeze-thaw cycle has moved pavers out of place, take them out and replenish base material before setting pavers back in. Use a pressure washer with a low pressure tip to remove slippery algae spots or leaf stains from patios and walkways.

Local tree/yard professional shares spring tips

Dave Petts of Branching Out Nursery & Landscaping of Fenton Township offers these yard tips for spring

1 – Clean up your existing landscaping, including spent foliage of day lilies, ornamental grasses, etc., which will start to decompose and look messy in your garden beds. “They can also harbor diseases carried over from the year before,” said Petts.

2 – Trim off branches from big blue and pink hydrangeas and rosebushes. “They will die back into the snow line,” said Petts. “Anything below that is usually alive. Cut them off at that line so new growth can fill that in.”

3 – Apply fertilizer or weed control. “Put them down before there’s a lot of new growth in your landscape beds,” said Petts.

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