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After the Thaw

"A light exists in Spring" is a poem written by Emily Dickinson that calls on the need for working outdoors after a long winter period.

"A light exists in Spring,

Not present on the year,

At any other period,

When March is scarcely here."

Spring is here, and with it comes preparation for the coming summer. Lawn aeration, feeding trees, and watching for shoots from bulbs after winter dormancy are a small part of a list to consider in your springtime yard prep.

Raking debris, branches, leaves, or litter is the first activity to uncover the landscape. Leaves, twigs, and even some paper can be placed in a compost pile and break down for future organic matter and nutrients. A lawnmower with a bagger may be used as a substitute for the rake.

Adding lawn edging around flower beds, trees and shrubs, and vegetable gardens provide benefits by defining various landscaping management areas. Whether using a shovel and manual labor or using an electric or gas edger, the resulting product is a mini-ditch for drainage, separation of areas, and a limited barrier of managed or mismanaged applications such as herbicide spraying.

Aeration is the next step in yard care. Turf aeration uses a dethatching blade attachment on a mower to rough up the yard's surface or a core aerator to punch holes in your yard. Remember when using the core aerator to leave the plugs left behind; these add nutrients back to the soil and grass and break down over time.

After dethatching or core aeration, your yard may need a pick-me-up to help it get going for the spring/summer seasons. A good option for this is to use compost. Compost is a natural fertilizer and weed control device. If compost is not available in the area, another option is to use a fertilizer with a mild herbicide in it. If you use a fertilizer with herbicide, be sure to stay away from trees, flower beds, and vegetable gardens.

Once your yard is prepped, you can think about mowing. The first mowing should be 2" or shorter to remove shading leaves; this allows sunshine to warm up the grass buds and roots at or below the soil. As temperatures warm up and growth is active, then change cutting height to 3-4" to leave more leaf area to shade the growing points and prevent brown spots.

When mowing, grass clippings can either be mulched directly onto your lawn or caught in a bagger. If mulched onto your lawn, grass clippings will provide moisture retention and nutrients for your yard. If bagged, grass clippings should go in a compost bin to break down.

For moisture retention around trees, shrubs, and flower beds, try using woodchips. Mulch acts as insulation over the roots to keep the soil cool and protects the soil surface from drying out, and soil moisture evaporation is valuable to the plant.

Once you have followed these steps, your yard should be Spring ready.

"It waits upon the lawn

It shows the farthest tree

Upon the furthest slope, we know

It almost speaks to me."

Emily Dickinson's "A light exists in Spring."


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