How to clean your yard – Baltimore Sun


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Spring and fall are the busiest times for yard work, especially if you live in a region with extreme seasons. In the fall, clean up means raking leaves, with a little lawn reseeding and fertilizing thrown in. Spring cleaning is usually associated with indoor cleaning, but yards need spring cleaning, too: weed-pulling, planting flowers and mulching need to be done in the spring to help your property look great. The key is to be proactive — get out ahead of potential problems — and to pace yourself. You can start cleaning your yard simply enough: by walking around the yard and picking up debris. Tree branches get damaged and broken in the winter months, and some trees, like oaks, lose leaves well into the spring. Remove any branches and piles of leaves, which encourage mold and disease. Anything biodegradable — twigs, branches, leaves and fallen fruit — can be composted, while non-compostable waste, like plastic, should go in the garbage. Also, check your yard regularly for animal poop and dispose of it in a separate garbage bag as needed. Removing the debris will allow your lawn to breathe, or aerate, and recover. Early spring is the best time to prune most trees, hedges and shrubs. This process rids plants, trees and bushes of dead and diseased branches, and keeps them a manageable size and encourages new growth. According to Old Farmer’s Almanac, when to prune shrubs depends on when they bloom. Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as roses, in the late winter/early spring before new growth starts; prune spring-flowering shrubs (azalea, forsythia, lilacs and wisteria) after the flowers have died off. If the soil in your garden beds is compacted, you’ll need to loosen the soil to help oxygen reach the plants’ roots. You can use hand tools for smaller areas, but larger areas may require a tiller. A grass lawn can also get compacted underneath. Pale colored grass or mossy patches are signs that your lawn needs aeration. This is best done in the fall to boost root development, or very early spring. As it gets warmer, aerating your lawn makes it harder for weeds to take root. You can fast-track this process by using a power lawn aerator, a machine that has hollow spikes that cut holes in the lawn to allow air, water, compost and fertilizer in. To make life easier, do your weeding in early spring. Warmer temperatures help aggressive weeds take root, making them more difficult to remove. Long-handled weeders are easy to use and can pull dandelions and other weeds out from the roots. Keeping grass to a shorter length and recycling grass clippings is the best way to deter weeds from coming back. You can also apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn to get rid of existing weeds and prevent future invasion. Dr. Leonard Perry at the University of Vermont says the best time to apply a pre-emergent is when the temperature in the top inch of soil has been 55 degrees Fahrenheit for five consecutive days (usually March/April), when annual weed seeds germinate. It’s important to mow your grass regularly because it’s much more difficult to cut the grass if it’s tall, and short grass can’t fortify weed roots. According to, the perfect height for most grasses is two to three inches. Don’t forget to sharpen your mower blade every month or so for a clean cut. Sow grass seed on bare patches For a variety of reasons, grass can be patchy when it starts to regrow, so you may want to re-seed some areas. Use a rake to aerate the bald patches, then cover them in a thin layer of compost. Sprinkle a sun/shade mix of grass seed on top, water, then cover with straw or grass clippings. Timing is crucial if you are using a pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass, because the herbicide will hamper the new grass seeds, too. Experts recommend seeding grass in the fall and using herbicide in the spring. However, if the bald patches are really obvious, try spot-seeding bare patches in March and early April, allow seeds enough time to germinate (a little fertilizer can be added to stimulate growth), then apply the pre-emergent weed control. Sod is also a good option. A mulching lawn mower — which cuts, then returns grass clippings back to the soil — will save you time and energy while nourishing your lawn. The clippings dry out quickly and put nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil, saving you money on supplemental fertilizer. This grass-recycling has the added benefit of not contributing to landfills. If you need additional fertilizer, the best time for fertilizing is autumn so that plants can bolster their root systems to survive the winter. Reestablishing the border between your lawn and garden beds is a great way to improve the look of your yard. Use a trimmer (also useful on hedges), or if you need a more drastic change, mark a new boundary with a metal edger, then dig along the line, removing the grass as you go. Fill the bed with two to three inches of mulch afterwards to deter weeds. Mulch is a layer of organic material like leaves, wood chips, compost or grass clippings that you spread around the base of your plants in the spring and fall. The EPA recommends mulching because in addition to making your yard look good, it stabilizes soil temperature, prevents weeds, feeds the soil for healthier plants and helps to conserve water. For flower beds and vegetable gardens, use an inch or so of pesticide-free compost or grass clippings. For trees, shrubs and woody perennials, you can use wood chips, making sure to keep mulch an inch away from plant stems or trunks to prevent rot. For your lawn, just leave the grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. Repair damage to deck, patio and fencing Once you have completed the gardening side of yard clean-up, you can assess any damage done to your deck, patio or fencing. You can wash away dirt using a pressure washer and repair any rotten or loose decking, broken paving slabs and unsightly or hazardous rusted metal. Then get outside and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Bryony Gilbey is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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