It’s not too early to plan your spring landscape cleanup for maximum results. It may be January, but March and April are just around the corner. Temperatures can warm up in March and flowers and leaf buds can show signs of life. March is the time of year to prune winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. You should cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn’t get around to it last fall.
March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see it’s time to thin out crowded beds and do some transplanting to fill bare spots. Make a spring yard cleanup checklist to tackle now to give your green patch a clean start.
Prune away dead and damaged branches. Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; use a handsaw for any larger than ½-inch in diameter. Shaping hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears, prevents a think outer layer of growth that prohibits sunlight and air from reaching the shrub’s center.
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 daylilies, 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.
Clean up around plants. Next on the spring yard cleanup checklist is to rake fallen leaves and dead foliage, pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, remove existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. March or early April is also a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil’s surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots.
Compost yard waste. Dump collected leaves, cuttings, spent foliage, and last season’s mulch into your compost pile, or make a simple corral by joining sections of wire fence bagged compost starter to the pile. Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate it with a pitchfork every two weeks. Just don’t add any early spring weeds that have gone to seed…they might not cook completely and could sprout instead.
Prep damaged lawn areas for spring seeding. In colder climates, grass starts growing in late March or April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil’s pH so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate.
Neaten up landscape surfaces. Rate escaped gravel back into aggregate walkways and patios, and order more gravel to spread in large depressions, which often form near the driveway’s apron. Refill joints between flagstone by sweeping in new sand or stone dust; water with a hose to set it, then repeat. If the freeze-thaw cycle has heaved pavers out of place, remove them and replenish the base material as needed before setting pavers back in.
Patch or replace and paint worn wood. Remove badly rotted or damaged pickets, boards, or lattice, then scrub wood structures clean with a mix of two gallons water, two quarts bleach, and one cup liquid soap, then let dry. Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy; install new wood as needed. Check wobbly fence posts to see if they need replacing. Scrap off old paint, then sand wood all over with a 60 grit to prep for a new finish coat. Once temperatures go above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, brush on a new coat of paint or stain.
Using a professional landscape cleanup company with a good reputation and solid references can assure you of getting the best results if you are not able to do a spring cleanup on your own. The highly experienced real estate professionals at RE/MAX Masters Millennium can provide you with the names and contact information for landscape companies that will get the job done in fine fashion.