I made it through the Polar Vortex and I'm so happy that spring is here. I'm looking forward to longer days, warmer weather, spring flowers and enjoying time outdoors. I know it was a long winter when I'm also looking forward to yard work! My newly thawed optimism made me realize that the spring clean-up isn't that bad. It just requires breaking it into a series of tasks and having the right tools for the job. I broke the process into a series of simple steps that you can tackle over the weekend (or in my case several weekends) and before you know it your yard will look spectacular and you will truly earn your summer!
Remove Debris and Holiday Decorations
Winter storms usually leave a messy path of broken branches and sticks. Gather up the larger debris first. This will allow for much easier raking. Empty any potted plants that didn't make it through the winter or that you might have forgotten to pull out in the fall. If you haven't already, remove any holiday decorations that may still be lurking around. I'm totally guilty of the last two, I had a few garlands and dead potted plants lingering.
Break out the Rake
Rake out your garden beds and lawn. Either compost the debris or dispose of your leaves according to your town’s guidelines. Also, make sure you have a good rake that isn't missing any tines. Once your lawn is clear of leaves your grass will thank you. It will green up in no time and your buried perennials will begin to thrive.
Unless you live in a warm climate, your grass is looking tired and more tan than green. Fertilizer is a great idea. It gives your lawn the nutrients it needs for strong roots and a lush green appearance. Depending upon your location and the time of year, your fertilizer/schedule will change. Talk to your local True Value Hardwarian as to which fertilizer will fit your needs best, and to suggest a fertilizing schedule. For me, a 20-5-10 mixture is what I need right now. Choose a spreader that works for your yard size. I live on less than a quarter acre, so this is the spreader I use.
Prune and Trim
Last summer may have been very kind to your shrub and tree growth, so now is the time for a "haircut." Trim back any branches and shape shrubs. I recommend doing this before raking if you have a lot of trimming and are going to make a mess with clippings.
Edge the Beds
This is my favorite part of clean up. It is kind of like the "eyebrow wax" of the makeover... it's a little thing that visually makes a huge difference! Grass naturally grows into your flower beds leaving a messy unruly edge. This is the step that defines a crisp line between the two and helps keep your mulch contained.
Here are the tools I use to create neat edges:
- The Half Moon Edgeris really the star of the show. You will use this 95% of the time. I prefer its rounded edge because it allows you to rock side to side and loosen small stones that might get caught up on a straight edge.
- A Hula-Ho Weeder(love the name) and a 2 Prong Weeding Hoeare the backup support. I use them if a lot of grass has overtaken an area. Use their flat edges to peel the grass and weeds back from the soil. The 2 prongs are great for stubborn roots and stones.
Here are a few examples of what a difference it makes. My magnolia tree bed was almost nonexistent, but in a matter of minutes it was neat and clean.
I used my edger to expand a ho-hum bed in the back of my house into something a bit more substantial…
Mulching serves many purposes. It helps your plantings retain moisture, it creates a weed barrier and prevents soil erosion. It also gives your beds a finished look. When mulching a bed for the first time it is wise to lay a preventative layer, like a weed blocking fabric, or several layers of newspaper between the mulch and the soil. This prevents any growth of seedlings/weeds that might be lurking in or under the soil from coming to the surface.
You can use leaves, wood chips, compost or even stone for mulch. Spread your mulch 2-4" thick, but go sparingly around tree and shrub bases. Too much mulch in these areas can actually cause rot and prevent water from getting to the roots. It is best to remove old or excess mulch first in these areas before applying new.
Repairs/ New Projects and Planting
Last step! So you cleaned and surveyed your yard. If all went well, congratulations... you can put your feet up and enjoy your oasis! If you're like me, you might have created more work for yourself by coming up with new projects or ideas for your landscaping. I’m actually always adding new things to my list so I don’t think I will ever be finished.
In my case, I kept noticing pea stone that had traveled out of our patio and into our yard. We put the patio in a year ago and never gave it a retaining edge. We had high hopes that the grass would suffice, but obviously we were wrong. I have always loved the look of cobbles as edging, but the thought of digging a trench and setting them kept me from going forward. I decided it was time to suck it up and do it, and to my surprise it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I managed to complete the task in a weekend with just a few steps.
- Before shot
- Stake a straight line with twine as your guide and push stone away from the edge. I used a weed control fabric under my stone, so I pulled it back several inches and the stone moved with it.
- Using my edger, I followed the twine and created a straight line several inches deep, just as I would if I was edging a bed. I then removed the excess soil and grass so that it created a trench that was about 5" wide and 4" deep (the height of my cobbles and about an inch wider).
- I used the flat edge of a 2-prong weeding hoeto level the new trench, and the prongs helped remove any stones. I was ready for cobbles.
- I set my cobbles in place and adjusted for any differences in height by adding or removing soil. I used a rubber mallet to firmly set them in place.
- As I completed a section I pushed the stone back in place and used the mallet to tap the grass edge up against the cobbles. By keeping the cobbles level with the grass it will make mowing much easier and prevent tripping.
Weather permitting (we had a slow start to spring with lots of rain), this clean up took us a few weekends. Here are a few more before and after shots…
The hard part is done and we are now ready to make use of the yard and relax! And there is nothing more rewarding than doing it yourself, don't you think?
If you’re interested in seeing my yard’s transition in real-time, check out this video!
I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.