Monday, February 6, 2012

February the Perfect Time for "Spring Cleaning"

Pictured above is a Red Maple budding in my back yard, I can always tell when spring is approaching because it is the first tree to bud.

Some people think "Spring Cleaning" applies to household chores, washing windows and curtains, removing clutter from closets and and other dump sites accumulated over the last year, dusting cobwebs from room corners and moving furniture and giving the floor and baseboards a good vacuuming and/or mopping. But, for gardeners "Spring Cleaning" means getting down and dirty outside, as we consider these spaces our living area, too!

Fortunately, we live in the south and are blessed with early springs, milder winters (especially 2011-2012 temperatures above normal) giving southern gardeners longer growing seasons that makes February the perfect month for basic yard and garden "Spring Cleaning." The clean-up suggestions below are based on the foliage and debris in my yard. Depending on the size and needs of your outdoor space the following tips may not apply to your yard and garden. However, you may find some helpful and a reminder of chores to do in February, if these tasks are accomplished this month it will mean less work in the late spring, April and May, and less work in the summer, June, July and August.

Basic Spring Cleaning Tips

I start by picking up dead limbs, raking up debris, such as, sweet gum balls (I despise sweet gum balls), magnolia seed pods (I despise them almost as much as sweet gum balls) and picking up any trash blown into areas I usually mow with my lawnmower, as pictured below. I don't rake leaves but use the lawnmower on the highest cutting level and just cut the yard like it's summer. This mulches the lawn and adds good nutrients to the grass.

I trim trees, bushes and shrubs and remove unwanted underbrush and vines, before I mow in case any make it difficult or inhibits mulching the leaves in the yard when I use the mower.  I should mention, I have a lot of grass and a lot of trees and shrubs and use a a riding mower in my yard. Presently, I don't have a truck to load limbs or any debris, but lay a tarp or heavy sheet of plastic in the yard, load it up and slide it to my burn pile (piece of cake).

Cut out all dead limbs, leaves and flowers on deciduous (drop their leaves in winter) woody bushes, shrubs and trees because all new shoots bud from last year's woody limbs. Above is a snowball bush. Other examples are crape myrtles, weigelas, hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, muscadine vines and pussy willows just to name more than a few. Now is the time to trim and shape them to fit your landscape.

Cut back ornamental grasses, such as pampas, approximately, three inches from the ground depending on the size. As you can see above this pampas plant is too big for me to trim down that small. It's thirty years old.

Now that I have uncluttered, vacuumed, dusted some cobwebs in my yard, so to speak -- done the basics. I'm ready for the real work, aerating, mulching, fertilizing, planting and most of all, enjoying!

Posted by Wilma Smith
February 4, 2012

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