Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Preparing your Garden for New Plants

With the onset of spring season, many Bay Area landscape owners have given their patch of greens a new look. Are you still on a look out on how to prepare your garden for new plants? If yes, this post is for you. Though most informed gardeners have already done their planting before the summer heat arrived, you still have a chance to make up for the lost time with a few tips:
  • Test your soil: You need to test your soil to know its type – it could be heavy clay soil, light and sandy soil, or moderate and productive soil. You can use a soil-testing kit for the purpose which comes equipped with a soil-collection bag and instructions. Follow the instructions keenly to get accurate results. Another way is to get professionals involved. You can also hire a landscape company to do your garden soil testing.
  • Have a plan: You should have a layout plan about what and where to plant. Whether you want to grow a vegetable garden or opt for ornamental plants/shrubs, make a well thought out plan. While planning the layout, ensure to keep adequate room for working on the plants and allowing them good growth.
  • Clear the rubbish, weeds and old plants: If you already have plants that you want to get rid of, pull those out and throw them away. You should also dig out weeds, vines, grasses as well as old, invasive shrubs. This especially applies to perennial and biennial weeds such as Bull Thistle, Fennel, Artichoke Thistle, Poison Hemlock and Perennial Pepperweed. Removing rubbish is yet another important task for preparing your garden for new plants.
  • Dig the soil: Dig the soil deep (as most plants need 6-8 inches of good ground to have room for their roots to grow in and get access to nutrients and moisture). While digging or tilling, you remove any large/loose rocks or stones, along with any debris or roots that you may encounter. In case your garden has an extremely compacted soil, you may need to use multiple attempts to break up the chunks and remove them.
  • Prepare the soil: Depending on the type of your soil, you should add soil amendments like compost, peat moss, decomposed leaves, dehydrated cow manure etc to improve its structure. Once these are applied, add a suitable fertilizer to make the soil ready for plantation. If you are not sure about the right soil fix or fertilizer, ask landscape experts to suggest some.
  • Choose your plants: Though it’s the best to plant seeds and see them grow, right before your eyes, not everyone may have the confidence or time to handle the task. Also, when you are starting a bit late and most of your neighbors’ landscapes are already sporting colorful gardens, it’s hard to toil. In such cases, you can opt for flower and vegetables starting kits that are easily available at your nearby retailers or local garden centers. You can also hire experts of a commercial landscape company who will help you choose the right plants for your garden. Experts say that it’s always a good idea to select plants with a variety (with respect to height and color) as this will keep your garden interesting and beautiful to look at and not make it monotonous.  
Now that you know about the fundamental steps of preparing your garden for new plants, work wisely to showcase your own patch of green dotted with beautiful colors.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tips to Aerate your Lawn

Aerating your lawn, at least twice a year (during the fall and the spring), or whenever you find compacted soil is an important task. Lawn aeration will decrease soil compaction, and open the soil surface permitting water, air and nutrients to enter the root-zone. Here are some tips that will help you to aerate your lawn:
  • Assess the Need: If you find that your lawn has excess water runoff (a sign of compacted soil where water has difficulty penetrating through the soil surface) or your turf grass doesn’t look at its best, perhaps it’s time to aerate your lawn. You may even cut out a piece of lawn and examine the roots. A lawn with underdeveloped and shallow roots is likely to benefit from aeration. Lawns with heavy use (vehicle and foot traffic) often become compacted over time. In such instances, heavy trampling squeezes the air out of the soil and roots can no longer grow efficiently. Aerating such lawns can help restore the passageways for air, water and fertilizers to get closer to the roots. However, landscape experts often advise against aerating lawns that have been sodded or seeded within one year of planting.
  • Preparing the Lawn: Once the need for aeration is ascertained, your next step is to prepare your lawn. Landscape experts suggest watering the lawn thoroughly 1-2 days before you aerate your lawn. This will help the aerator penetrate the soil and pull out plugs of soil easily. If you have flag irrigation heads and other hidden objects in the lawn, ensure that you steer clear of them while operating the aerator. Those with an in-built sprinkler system should also mark the sprinkler lines so that they aren’t punctured accidentally when aerating the lawn. If you don’t have an irrigation system, you can use a garden hose and sprinkler for watering your lawn.
  • The Process of Aeration: Run the aerator over your lawn in a way that the device covers the area only once. Though some people use aerators with spikes, they may not work as well as their mechanical core counterparts. Some experts suggest removing aeration plugs, some others say that a better alternative would be to leave them on the turf and break them up with the mower the next time you cut the grass. This can promote the growth of microorganisms, which in turn can decrease thatch build up.
  • Post-aeration Tips: You can leave the soil chunks (pulled out by the aerator) on the ground to let them decompose. Alternately, you may collect them into piles and throw away in the compost bin. Your next step is to sprinkle compost over the lawn to plug the holes. Instead of compost, you can also use peat moss or sand. After aeration, you should apply fertilizer and grass seed to your lawn as aeration will help the nutrients move immediately into the root-zone of your lawn. This will significantly improve the density and color of your lawn grass.
Prevention is always better than cure—with timely aeration, you can ensure healthy stands of grass, which are the best defense against weeds. You can always hire professional landscape services for the job.