Warming temperatures and longer daylight hours may be calling you to spruce up your yard and flower beds. These days, time in the garden can be therapeutic and a much-needed diversion. Even without a trip to the garden center, there are mindful tasks you can be doing now that will benefit you—and the environment. Not only is working outdoors a great stress reliever, it can also help you get a dose of natural Vitamin D. Cleaning up outdoor areas and finsihing projects can also ease your restlessness and provide a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Your garden will thank you, too!
1. Clean up – Rake up last year’s fallen leaves, limbs and branches, and pull weeds before they take over your landscape. Deposit your yard debris in a hidden corner of your yard as a safe, cozy haven for birds and wildlife to enjoy.
2. Mow and mulch – As you cut the grass, be sure to mulch mow, which is to say: leave the clippings where they fall. Packed with nutrients, especially nitrogen, the clippings will naturally give your lawn what it needs to stay healthy.
3. Take stock of your tools – Assess all of your gardening tools—shovels, spades, hoes, trowels and shears. If you didn’t clean them before putting them away, scrape off any dirt and wipe them down.
4. Don’t guess, soil test – When it comes to fertilizing, a professional soil test takes the guesswork out of how much (if any) amendments to add to your lawn and garden areas. When you over fertilize, the extra granules wash away from the yard and into nearby storm drains, impacting the health of local waterways, aquatic life and wildlife. Since you can’t head to your garden center or local Virginia Cooperative Extension office to pick up a soil test kit, take a DIY approach listed in the Old Farmer’s Almanac, using items you may have around the house.
5. Swap plants with your neighbors – I’ll trade you my Lenten rose plantings for a packet of sunflower seeds. When you can’t get to the nursery, let the nursey come to you by way of your neighbors. Plant swaps are growing in popularity, and a great way to adopt new plants without spending a dime. You’ll want to do this again in the fall, when dividing hardy spring flowers, such as iris, daisies and daffodils.
6. Start a compost pile – This is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus to your lawn and garden. Find a bin for holding your compost, and place it over bare soil so organisms can find their way in. Then fill it by layering brown materials (leaves, hay, straw, paper), green materials (grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, green plant cuttings) and good garden soil. When your bin is full, turn it every two weeks until it’s rich and ready. Not only are you adding organic matter to your soil, you’re diverting all this waste from the landfill.
7. Pick up after your pet – Whenever, wherever your pet “goes,” it’s your responsibility to pick it up and dispose of it properly. Dog waste is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and teeming with bacteria and parasites. It can have the opposite effect of fertilizer and burn your grass if you don’t pick up.
For more local lawn and garden tips, visit www.askHRgreen.org.