Tips That Will Make Your Yard Thrive This Year

Simply fertilizing the lawn and prepping the power equipment is insufficient to ensure that garden areas will thrive during the spring and hot summer months. Success in the garden is the result of know-how that includes proper soil cultivation and improvement, pest control, pruning and irrigation well before new plant growth emerges.

Plant and soil requirements vary in different regions of the country. I always suggest that homeowners contact their local county co-operative extension agency or neighborhood hardware dealer for recommendations on the appropriate grasses, fertilizers, pest and disease controls and plants. But here are a few more professional insights as to ways you can achieve better growing conditions in your yard:

  • Test the soil: This easy, but usually overlooked step will reveal the needs your soil has for improvement. For example, the pH level indicates the acidity or alkalinity of the soil; that will dictate the types of plants that will grow best in a particular location. Without knowing the soil make-up, you could inadvertently apply the wrong combinations of nutrients or amenders or plant the wrong varieties. Submit soil samples for analysis to the county extension agency. You also may obtain test kits at your local Ace Hardware store.
  • Amend and Cultivate Soil: Heavily compacted soil hinders the health of plants. They prefer well-drained, loamy soil. Add compost to flower, shrub and vegetable beds and turn over or till the soil to break it up. Do not cultivate soil when it is wet. That will compact it even more and disturb beneficial microorganisms. Aerate lawns using power equipment designed for that purpose.
  • Fertilize Properly: Improper fertilizing can do more harm than good to plants. Never use a single type of fertilizer universally. Lawns, shrubs, trees, flowers and vegetables each have specific requirements. Soil conditions (based on testing) also dictate specific needs. Also, fertilizing at the wrong time, too little or too frequently will have a negative result. Consult local experts and product labels for specific recommendations.
  • Control Pests and Diseases: Indiscriminant spraying and dusting of pesticides can be harmful to plants, pets and humans. Controls are formulated for specific purposes and should be used only as recommended on the product's label. As a first step, determine what pests or diseases your plants have by providing samples to your extension service or the garden center manager at your local Ace store.
  • Irrigate: Plants are like people when it comes to water. Too little and they dehydrate; too much and they drown. As a general rule, most plants prefer water at their 'feet,' not on their 'heads.' So, water at soil level, not by overhead spraying an entire bed. It is important to know when to water. An inexpensive moisture meter, available at a hardware store, can be used to indicate the need. Simply push the prong into the soil to various depths around a plant and read the meter.
  • Mulch: Covering a soil bed with the proper mulch will retain moisture that will benefit plants and maintain better soil conditioning. Three to 6 inches of straw has proved effective as a mulch. Bark gives up moisture quickly except in humid climates where, in turn, it can mildew. Rock is risky because it absorbs, retains and radiates heat, which can damage plants.
  • Prune Selectively: Some plants prefer pruning in early spring, while others can be trimmed during summer or fall. Generally, anything that flowers in the spring should be pruned after flowers die off. There are exceptions, however, so consult your local extension service or the garden center manager at your local Ace store to learn what those are when in doubt.
  • Check Soil Temperatures Before Planting: Interestingly, horticulturists have found that how well plants adapt to transplanting or seeding depends upon the temperature of the soil at the time of planting. In some cases, plantings before the last frost do well; in other cases the soil must be at a consistent temperature (say 55ºF) for a period of time to achieve maximum results.

By following each of these procedures faithfully each year you will be rewarded with an even better lawn and yard than you imagined.

Credit:  Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware


Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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