Spring landscaping tips for a healthy yard

Posted by Samantha Haas on Monday, March 5th, 2018 at 7:19am.

Don’t wait for the snow to melt and ground to thaw before planning your next landscaping project. Take it from Joe Hanauer, owner of Landscape Architecture LLC in Madison, who has over 20 years of experience in landscape design and horticulture. Whether you’re a green thumb or would rather hire a pro, his spring landscaping tips will help your plants thrive and yard shine. 

Clean the yard

In March or early April, rake up leaves and remove perennial foliage and ornamental grasses left from fall and winter. It's important to get rid of rot and mold to keep your garden free from pathogens. "It will reduce the apple scab in crab apples and some of the black spot on roses, so it's good to get that stuff out of there," Hanauer said. As long as a chance of a hard frost is gone, it's also a good time to uncover roses and divide any perennials.

Prune shrubs

Renewal pruning (removing up to one-third of shrub stems as close to the ground as possible to aid in regeneration) needs to be done before shrubs leaf out, like for spirea, honeysuckle, viburnum and dogwood. "Anything that is brown or dead, you're not going to hurt it," he said. "The thing to remember about plants is they're like humans. They're living things and are going to do everything they can to survive, so they're not as finicky as some people think." But wait to use your shears on hydrangeas, azalea, and rhododendron until after they bloom or leaf out, usually toward the end of April or early May. Prune lilacs immediately after they flower and roses after they start leafing out.

Maintain the lawn

In general, don't dethatch. Mulching mowers create thatch on purpose, because when the organic nutrients break down they help the lawn. While aeration can be done in spring or fall to return structure and oxygen to the soil, spring is best because the ground is soft and it's also a convenient time to overseed. "If you really have a lawn that needs rejuvenation, I recommend aerating it, spreading a thin layer (about one-quarter inch) of compost across the yard as a good organic fertilizer for building structure in soil, and then overseeding on top of that," he said. May 15-June 15 is a good time for seeding, but skip the crabgrass preventer in your fertilizer regimen because it stops all germination.

Start planting

While most shrubs can be planted anytime, beware of frost burn and generally wait until after Mother's Day for annuals and perennials. If you're dividing and transplanting, avoid doing so when it's too hot or when plants are blooming. "Sometimes the centers of perennials start to look like they're dying out or they're just crowding other plants in the garden, so spring is a really good time to divide those. It's really easy to do, you just dig it up, take a spade, and cut it in fourths," he said.

After the ground thaws, freshen up plant beds by spreading 2-3 inches of hardwood mulch or compost to keep weeds at bay. "Many landscapers start April 1, but the ground isn't usually completely thawed, so if you mulch it that early you're actually insulating it and keeping the ground a little cooler," he said, which could cause your plants to grow slower than your neighbors. About 90 percent of weed seeds will not germinate if you apply a pre-emergent herbicide (like Preen or Miracle-Gro weed preventer) before soil temperatures are above 42 degrees.

Schedule projects

It's never too early to start scheduling your next landscaping project, especially if you want to enhance your home's curb appeal before selling. From a new patio and plantings to drainage correction and lighting, Landscape Architecture LLC has you covered. "Now's the time to plan, so if you want to have a project in the ground by summer, don't delay," he said.

To contact Joe Hanauer, call (608) 798-1840 or email joe@landscapearc.com.

Ask Joe

Q: When is the best time to seed lawn?
A: Even though you can seed all spring and summer, according to the textbooks it's generally from May 15-June 15 and Aug. 15-Sept. 15. In fall, I believe it's the month of September, because we have warm daytime temperatures, cool nights, and the grass is wet from dew when you wake up.

Q: What works best in gardens: mulch or stone?
A: A lot of people say stone is lower maintenance, but the cost is probably two-and- a half times higher than mulch and you need to put down weed barrier. Bark is better for plants, and weeds can be controlled by spraying pre-emergent herbicide, pulling, and maintaining 2 to 3 inches of bark.

Q: How do I prevent weeds and ants from taking over my patio?
A: Both of those to me go to the quality of construction. We use an open air, permeable base, and polymeric sand to sweep in the joints on 100 percent of our projects, so it does not have a good environment for weeds and ants any longer. There's also no settling, so we don't get any dips or low spots anymore.

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