Q. What should I be doing now to get a jump start on the gardening season?

A.  Spring is here. Ready or not soon the grass will be growing and the flowers will start to bloom. It will be wonderful to see green again soon. There are a few things that can be done now to save time and frustration later.    The lack of snow has made the lawns turn even browner than normal.  On the bright side, our yards are not as wet as normal.  Enjoy it now, we live in Michigan and the weather is sure to change overnight.

The following is my early spring to-do list for the lawn and garden:

  1. Prepare your hand and power tools for the season. Hand tools need to be inspected to seed if they need sharpening, oiling or even replacement.  A quality hand tool allows the owner to disassemble it for sharpening.  Check your pruners, loppers and hedge shears for sharpness.  A dull cutting tool will rip the plant instead of cutting.  This can lead to brown edges and the opportunity for disease infection.  If you don’t feel comfortable sharpening them yourself, take them to your local hardware store for sharpening.

Lawnmowers need attention this spring also.  Check the blade for sharpening, change the oil and spark plug, and clean or replace the air filter.  Mower blades should be sharpened at least once a year.  A dull blade will tear the grass blade.  Don’t wait too long to do this task, lawnmower repair shops will get busy very soon.

  1. Lawn care starts before the grass turns green. Remove all the twigs, leaves and junk that has accumulated over the winter.  Leaves from last year are one of the carriers of plant diseases.  By removing all last years’ infected leaves you will help control the disease spread this year.  Cut the grass one setting lower than normal for your first cut of the year.  You will not believe how fast your lawn will turn green once you cut it.  Cutting it lower for the first time will remove a lot of the winter brown grass too.  Remember to raise the blade height back up after that.

Fertilize the lawn to promote strong growth.  Spring and fall are the two most important times to fertilize because the grass is actively growing and thickening.  A thick healthy lawn can withstand the stress of the summer heat much better.  A quality fertilizer like Greenview can promote green growth as well as strong root growth.  Crabgrass preventer can be applied as a combination product at this time.  Last year we had a very dry summer.  Which promoted crabgrass to flourish.  So this spring there will be plenty of crabgrass seeds around waiting for the warm weather to start sprouting.  If you have a thin lawn, I recommend applying crabgrass preventer now to save headaches trying to get rid of it later.  Preen has a new product this year called Preen for Lawns.  It will fertilize and prevent crabgrass like other products, plus it can prevent broadleaf weeds from germinating later.  Until now we had to wait until those weeds came up to control them.

Less maintenance is needed if you over seed the bare spots in your lawn now before the hot weather.  Mother Nature will take care of the watering for us with the spring rains.  In shady spots, the seeds can get a foothold before the leaves on the trees get thick. If you have too much shade, try pruning off a few lower branches to increase the amount of sunlight getting through.  If you are going to seed do not apply the standard crabgrass preventer because it will prevent your grass seed from germinating too.  Use a product called Trebel when seeding to prevent crabgrass.  It will allow the new grass seed to come up.  The other option is to chance it and only apply a seed starter fertilizer without any crabgrass control.

  1. Prepare the shrub and flower beds before the weeds pop up. Apply Preen now in your shrub and flowerbeds to prevent weeds later.  Preen comes in granular form and it stops seeds from germinating when you lightly sprinkle it in your planting beds.  Do not apply it to your garden if you are planning to sow seeds, however, you can still plant flowers and shrubs because it is only controls seeds.  If the weeds have started to come up, cultivate the soil a little to knock down the existing growth. Mulch will also help control weeds too.  Plus mulch helps hold the moisture in the soil for the plants and cools the soil during those hot summer days.

It is time to fertilize the shrubs and trees.  Whether you prefer organic fertilizer or processed fertilizer, granular is the way to go.  Granular fertilizer will slowly release for weeks, allowing you more free time to enjoy the garden.

Get outside and enjoy Michigan’s weather!

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