Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Clean-Up!

Few people, I'm certain, are as excited about spring clean-up in the garden as I am!

I can't wait to get out there and clean up my flower beds. After the snow melts, when I can actually see the garden beds again, I have to wait, patiently, until spring is truly here before get to work in them.

First on the list of to-do's is removal of fallen leaves and necrotic plant material. This is quick and easy to do if perennial plants have not started growing yet, or at least are very small.

For my garden beds that were pretty much cleared out last winter, I use a blower to blow off leaves that found their way back into the bed before the snow fell.

The trick to this technique is to wait until the leaves are somewhat dry, but the mulch underneath is still wet. That way, only leaves blow off, leaving the mulch behind. Raking removes both leaves and mulch, and that's just a waste to add my mulch to the compost pile.

After blowing off the leaves, it's easy to rake them up and cart them off to the compost heap. Wearing gloves, I can easily remove any dead plant material from the previous season's growth as I work through the garden beds. This, too, can be composted.

It's always a delight to blow off the beds in early spring and find things are coming back to life underneath. One reason I wait to clear the beds is that this leaf litter provides some insulation and protection from early spring frosts.

My biggest project this year is the lawn. Strong winds from the southwest blew unbelievable amounts of pine needles into a portion of my lawn. Normally these fall into the "wild" area, and I leave them be, even raking those few wayward ones into the ground cover. 

But not this year! Deep layers of pine needles from our Scotch pine 'forest' along with pine cones, bark and branches litter the yard. So, I have decided to rake the entire lawn. This is no small task, and indeed, the raking has also extended through the ground cover and throughout the untamed area under the pines.

Believe it or not, there's lawn under here!

Now I'm not talking about a gentle raking here. This is really hard work! After removing the top layer of needles and plant debris, then the vigorous raking begins. I rake hard, and deep, to the soil. The grass isn't growing yet, so I'm not tearing out tender shoots of new growth. This is my way of de-thatching my lawn.

Have you ever used a de-thatcher? Some lawn tractors have an attachment for this purpose. It brings copious amounts of dead grass out of the lawn. Mountains of it actually, that then need to be raked up and composted.

I prefer my method. Though it's hard work, I like to think of it as good exercise. I work until my arms feel like jello, then I take a break. I hope I'm getting stronger and developing stamina for the long summer of landscaping work ahead of me.

It's also very rewarding work. It's easy to see where I've completed the work, and cleared areas look great!

As I go through the ground cover, I am also pulling out all the tiny trees that have rooted there, along with the buckthorn that has sprouted in the mat of plant material.

This is most easily done after a recent rain, when the entire root can be yanked out along with the stem. Slow and steady pulling ensures you don't break off the stem and leave the root. If this happens, the plant will only grow back stronger, with a bigger root system that is more difficult to remove.

So that's my continuing project of clearing away my garden beds and my lawn. It's going to take a long time. I'm resigned to that. But little by little, I'm making progress, and I will be rewarded with a beautiful yard to enjoy all summer.

It's a sunny day so I am going out to do some yard work.

Happy Spring Clean-up, Everyone!

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