As the weather improves, your green thumb may start getting itchy. The weather may not be good enough to do any planting or bed preparation yet but there are some things you can do that will get you out of the house and into the yard.
On a nice day with no snow, may I suggest that you walk your yard looking for weeds, and pull them. Weeds are dormant now but many come back to life and begin growing before your lawn does. This means that the weeds have a head start on the grass and can begin crowding it out.
While the weeds you see have a head start, there are more weed seeds lurking just under the soil surface waiting for the soil to warm up. Unless you applied pre-emergent weed killer last fall, these will germinate as soon as the thermometer reaches the right temperature.
Pulling dormant weeds in your lawn and planting beds now will keep you ahead in the annual war on weeds. Instead of being overwhelmed with both the dormant weeds and freshly germinated seeds, you’ll only have to worry about the newly germinated seeds once the busy growing season starts.
While checking for weeds, it would be wise to also check the mulch in your planting beds. If it has settled to less than 3 inches, you might want to fluff it up. If it’s doesn’t return to at least 3 inches, getting more mulch and spreading it on a snow-free weekend will protect your plant roots and discourage weed germination. If it fluffs up to 4 inches or more, remember to remove the excess in the spring so you only have 2 or 3 inches.
During your walk of the property, take a garbage bag and pick up any trash that has blown into your yard over the winter. You may be shocked to see how much you collect. It’s surprising to see how much stuff is under the snow. Collecting this trash during your winter walk(s) speeds clean up when it’s spring cleaning time.
Doing these little tasks as you limber your green thumb during the winter means that you can get right to the good stuff – caring for your lawn and landscape – when spring actually arrives.
I often remind people to rake and remove fallen leaves before adding mulch, but there are many plants that I just put a bit of mulch over the fallen leaves. I got into the habit of removing fallen leaves from roses, because of all the fungal and bacterial pathogens that overwinter in the fallen leaves. I typically discarded rose foliage. Others compost such debris because the pathogenic spores do not survive the process. For azaleas, I do not remove anything. I would not try to get underneath them anyway. It is difficult to remember which plants to remove fallen leaves from, and which ones do not care.
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