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Spring Cleaning: Yard Edition

(Courtesy Seek Visibility) In just a few short weeks, the sunshine will be bright, the air will be warm, and the birds will be singing so sweetly that you won’t be able to stop spending time outside. Yet, if you don’t prepare your yard for spring, you won’t enjoy what you see. Your shrubs need pruning, your beds need planting, and most important of all, your lawn needs quite a bit of TLC. Before you bother scourging the inside of your home, you need to spend time spring cleaning your exterior spaces. Here are the most important activities to get your yard looking gorgeous in spring: Prune Dead and Damaged Branches It’s uncommon for all your trees and shrubs to make it through winter without damage from ice, snow, wind, or biting cold. More likely, some of your plants will have branches that are split, broken, or otherwise unable to grow. To ensure healthy growth of the rest of the plant, it is imperative that you prune these dead branches off – but you must do so with the proper technique. There are a few of the myriad pruning tips to keep your trees and shrubs healthy: • Shape hedges with hand pruners to provide enough light reaches inner branches. • Use a handsaw for branches thicker than 1/2-inch to ensure a clean cut. • Trim evergreens back to...

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Knock the dust off your garden

After being cooped up all winter, we all have visions of the weed-free, bountiful garden we’ll have this year. However, when we can finally venture out in weather warm enough to spare wearing a knit hat and flannel pajama bottoms, further investigation might show that while we are ready to garden, our garden is not ready for us. Groundwork This winter seemed like non-stop wind storms, so if your garden is anything like mine, you’ll want to set aside a stick cleanup before you get into anything else. Save some of the longer, straighter pieces for staking up plants...

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Pansies, primroses offer color as temperatures creep up

Two early bloomers many gardeners turn to for their first bursts of garden color are pansies and primrose. While both come out early, they each present a different look; the pansey putting out flat or ruffled flowers and the primrose offering a tightly wound rosette. Even if you have preference of one over the other, they can also provide a unique contrast in the flower bed. Pansies are widely sold as spring annuals and the color choice spans the rainbow from white, yellow, pink and red, wine and purple, blue and black. Petals can grow to the traditional two inches or out to five inches. The pansies grown today are hybrids derived from several species of Viola from Europe and Asia. Botanically they are known as Viola x wittrockiana and the common name “pansy” comes from the French word “pensée” meaning a thought or reflection. This refers to the flower “face” that is created by bold blotching and veining whiskers on the petals. Plant pansies as soon as the ground can be worked with a trowel, says Leslie Barlow of Barlow Flower Farm Sea Girt, N.J. “Pansies and violas like rich, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter (peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure). They thrive in full sun or partial shade. Shade is especially beneficial when the weather becomes warmer as the hot sun will prevent flower production.” Barlow adds that pansies need...

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Start your garden off ‘Brew-tifully’

Tea lovers swear by a well steeped cup (or two) in the morning to smoothly jump-start their days, especially during the long winter months. While caffeine supplies the kick, healthy nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, ions and flavonoids are added advantages. As spring approaches it’s nice to know that those same teabags providing cold-weather comfort contain yet another perky benefit, especially for gardeners. Having been boiled, they provide a compact seed-starting medium which is pest free from the get-go. They’re naturally embedded with nutrients the seed can feed on. There’s no need to uproot the tender young plant from its incubating nursery, so into the ground it safely goes, bag and all. That’s one small step for your newly sprouting garden, and one less addition to the landfill. “Teabag gardening” has been touted by, no surprise, the Bigelow Tea Company, but also the Kiwi Conservation Club of New Zealand and Dr. Ken Thompson, a British plant biologist and gardening writer. The process requires just a few basic household items, including 1) tea bags — either freshly brewed or dried and remoistened — 2) unbleached paper towels, 3) plate or tray, 4) watering device, and 5) seeds. Begin by lining the tray with folded paper towels, then place moist tea bags atop in rows (KCC recommends “packing them together like pillows” in three rows while the Bigelow blog writer instructs...

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