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If you haven’t already taken advantage of the warmer weather, head outside and give your garden and grounds the love it deserves. Spring is in full swing and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors while giving your green thumb a workout. Gardening is not only a fun hobby but it rewards your work by adding an attractive aesthetic to your property, on top of potentially adding value to your investment. Here are a few of our tips on the basics of gardening.

Survey and Clean

The first step is to clear the canvas where you will be working. We recommend tackling this task from top to bottom so the first tip involves looking up! Look for trees with limbs that need to be trimmed or cabled. If you have large trees that need maintenance, hire an arborist.

At the mid-level, evaluate plants and shrubs, and prune them so they’re prepared to grow or bloom again. Pro tip: prune blooming plants right after they bloom to avoid cutting off future flowers. You can make use of accumulated, excess foliage by beginning or expanding an existing compost pile, which will yield nutrient- rich “black gold” peat to fertilize your garden and improve soil structure in years ahead.

Finally, target the ground-level. Remove the accumulation of debris such as dead leaves, pollen “tassels” (catkins) and twigs, oust the weeds that have made their home in your lawn and flower beds, and check your fences and hardscaping for any winter damage.

Take Care of your Tools

“A good craftsman never blames his tools.” A good craftsman also has no reason to blame their tools as they take good care of them so make sure you follow suit.

Think of your lawnmower as a mini-car when it comes to routine maintenance. Spring is a good time to replace its oil and gas and give it a much needed wipe down. Also, check your mower blade to see if it needs sharpening. Ragged cuts are not good for your grass. Pruners and clippers can also benefit from a good sharpening while wooden handles will need to be cleaned and rubbed with linseed oil.

Test and Revitalize Your Soil

Your soil is pretty dried out after making it through winter. If you’ve never tested it, experts typically recommend testing your garden soil every 3-5 years to see what nutrients it needs. You can pick up a soil testing kit at stores like Bering’s, Home Depot or Lowe’s so you can figure out exactly what you want to be feeding your soil. For an in-depth article on soil testing and its applications, take a peek at this DIY article.

Otherwise, revitalizing your soil begins with aerating or poking holes in the soil to add oxygen and relieve compaction. Add organic material such as manure or compost from the heap you’ve been gathering to help build a foundation of rich, living soil. The trick is to spread a layer of amendments over the soil and cultivate to a depth of about 10 inches. This way you ensure you’re mixing in the oxygen and the nutrients that will feed your plants to a depth their roots can fully thrive.

The Wonders of Mulch

In addition to fertilizers and organic materials, you may want to consider adding mulch to your flower beds. A fresh layer of mulch has a magical way of keeping moisture in the garden, maintaining temperature, and preventing weeds and diseases.

Layer your soil with newspaper before mulching to block sunlight and suppress weeds for much longer. Keep in mind your layer of mulch only needs to be a few inches thick in order to do its job; four inches or less around shallow-root plants. Spread the mulch you choose evenly and replenish it throughout the growing season as you need.

Soak Up the Sun

The most important benefit of lawn and garden care is simply being outside in fresh air and sunshine, and getting your hands dirty. Unlike laundry or vacuuming, maintaining the grounds of your property means taking advantage of blue skies and pre-summer breezy days. It’s good exercise for body and mind, and can improve the look and value of your home. Happy gardening!

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