Ecological Practices for Your Landscape Spring Clean Up | Westchester, NYMay 13, 2019
What's the best way to wake up your landscape after winter and gear it up for spring and summer? Not all Spring Clean Up programs are alike, but we put together some general guidelines for maximizing ecosystem services and getting your yard back to its vibrant, thriving self.
1. DITCH THE GAS-POWERED LEAF BLOWER
Gas-powered leaf blowers hit the trifecta of environmentally polluting, determinantal to human health (raising blood pressure, leading to respiratory problems and hearing damage) and a grand-ol’ annoyance to everyone in earshot. They are also extreme and ineffective in the landscape, blowing away precious top soil and disrupting soil microbiology. Instead, rake by hand or use an electric blower. Rake the lawn very lightly if at all in early spring, as lawn root systems are extremely fragile during this time of the year.
2. CUT DOWN PERENNIALS, GRASSES IN THE SPRING & SAVE HOLLOW STEMMED PERENNIALS
Traditional maintenance programs would have you cutting down perennials in the fall, as soon as blooms are spent. We now know that past-blooming perennials provide habitat for many important over-wintering insects, who create galls in stems or spend the winter in debris / leaf litter. Leave perennials up through fall and winter – you’d be surprised how architectural and beautiful perennials and grasses can look – and clean up your garden in the spring instead. Create a pile of hollow stemmed perennials and any you see with galls, and move it to an out-of-sight part of your property so the insects can finish their over-wintering cycle and populate your backyard ecosystem.
3. RESEED YOUR LAWN
Early spring, before trees leaf out, is a critical time for jumpstarting your organic lawn, as the sun is unobstructed. Take a soil chemistry test (we use Rutgers Soil Labs) if you haven’t done so already in the past two years, and amend your soil accordingly. Depending on the site and existing conditions, we amend with organic compost with biochar, worm casings, lime or sulfur (to raise or lower pH, respectively), and gypsum (for compaction alleviation). Core aeration and scarification before seeding will further improve soil structure and seed germination. Cover with hay and/or seed accelerant, and make sure to keep your seed moist until germination!
4. FEED YOUR TREES & SHRUBS, ORGANICALLY!
Jumpstart your tree and shrub growth and strengthen your plants immune system with a regular, scheduled, organic plant health care program. The type of fertilizer you use will depend on the soil conditions preferred by the plant and your existing conditions (bed rock material).
5. PREVENT ALGAL GROWTH IN YOUR POND
For our pond clients, spring service is essential. We clear debris from each pond and treat with organic products to prevent algal growth. Check your UV sterilizer bulb, filters and pump, and re-start the system once you are past the frost-free date.
6. EDGE BEDS AT 45 DEGREE ANGLE
Edge your beds at a 45-degree angle to create a fresh and pleasing border that functionally holds in mulch during storm water events. 90-degree edged beds will cause erosion.
7. WINTER AND/OR DEER BROWSE PRUNING
Invigorate new growth in your trees and shrubs with focused pruning on areas affected by winter burn and deer browsing. Pruning is best done in early spring, when plants have plenty of time and energy to recover. Avoid pruning anything while it is in flower as this will be more detrimental than beneficial.
8. MULCH BEDS
Triple ground, natural bark or root mulch is best for you beds. Mulch helps retain moisture in beds, and helps limit weeds and erosion. Avoid Sweet Peat and Sweat Peat imitators, as they are excessively high in manure content, which will make your beds too rich. Likewise avoid compost mulches. If enriching the soil with organic matter is desired, Coast of Maine enriching mulch is beneficial. Rain gardens, which feature scalloped depressions and regularly conduct storm water and flow paths, should not be mulched, as the mulch is likely to wash away and is unnecessary for ecosystem service function.
For more information on our ecological landscaping services, give us a call! (914)-560-6570
Landscape Ecologist, President
Green Jay Landscaping