Valentine’s Day isn’t just for sweethearts. It’s also the time to start loving up your garden. The calendar may say that spring begins March 21, but local experts say mid-February is the perfect time to get ready for growing season.
Like cleaning out your emotional closet, now is the time to “remove all negative material,” says Steve Hall of Hall’s Landscape. “You want to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive, like all of life.” Rake up fallen leaves, prune trees, remove dead plant debris and eradicate emerging weeds, he recommends. Spruce up the fading pansies and lightly reseed and fertilize the perennial rye to keep things looking good until the summer growth emerges.
Don’t forget to replenish the mulch. It helps retain moisture, cuts down on weeds and helps the soil stay friable. “Plants breathe through their roots,” Hall reminds us.
In business for more than 30 years and with degrees in botany and horticulture, Hall says his love affair with all things gardening taught him that “nature communicates to you.” Spring happens when the temperature is right to encourage maximum growth success. “Move into the growing season prepared,” he says, “80 percent of everything you can do in your garden, you can do in February.” While Dallas may experience freezing temperatures in March, the brunt of winter is behind us and the landscape is just beginning to wake up. Trees and shrubs planted now have a head start in establishing strong root systems before summer’s brutal heat overtakes us.
Jason and Carrie Lackey of Picture Perfect Landscaping advise their customers to use core aeration in the dense clay soil. The process removes small plugs of soil which gives roots a chance to decompress and allows for better penetration of water and fertilizer. Ideally, this should be done four times a year, but if you’re only going to have it done once, spring is the best time.
If you’re planning to add any hardscape, such as a deck, patio or stone path, do it before you install any new plantings in those areas. It will be less stressful for the plant roots and you’ll have a better feel for how you want the space to look.
Whether you’re creating your landscape from scratch or wanting to renovate an existing garden, the process can be a little intimidating. That’s where the help of a professional can come in handy. Landscape designer Stephanie Noland of Design Build advises clients to “take a close look at areas they want to affect,” whether it’s to add curb appeal, create a gathering spot for entertaining or design a homeowner’s private oasis. And, be realistic about your budget. You may need to start with smaller, less expensive plants and wait for them to grow in.
The Lackeys point out that they are helping clients extend their living space by adding “outdoor rooms,” spaces for recreation and relaxation. The proper landscape lighting is key, whether you want to show off a beautiful tree or light up the deck for evening barbecues.
Now that you’ve done the spring preparation, be patient until the first of April when the danger of frost has passed, says Hall. That’s the time to fertilize. Do it too early and you’re just wasting money. Give the grass another feeding in early September.
With another hot summer rapidly approaching and no end of the drought in sight, the experts agree that proper watering is critical. St. Augustine grass loves the triple digit heat we mere humans shy away from. If it’s not looking healthy, chances are it’s being over- or under-watered. Consistency in the frequency and amount of water is “what turns a good garden into a great one,” says Hall. If you’re using hoses to water, invest in a timer, he advises. You won’t have to worry about being there to turn off the faucet, and it’s just one more tool to help you maintain a regular watering schedule.
Proper installation of an irrigation system conserves water and helps maintain that consistency. Picture Perfect Landscaping offers water audits and sets the system to maintain the ideal requirements for the plants in each zone of the property.
The best time to water is very early in the morning, around 4 a.m., to allow deep soaking and prevent evaporation. To keep your yard looking good, all you need is a half-inch of water twice a week, says Jason Lackey. Not sure how much that is? “Use the old tuna can trick,” he says. Place empty tuna cans in several spots a few feet away from the sprinkler head. The average amount of time it takes to fill up the cans halfway is how long you’ll need to run the water to get that half-inch.
After you’ve wined and dined your sweetie on February 14, make plans to do the same for your yard and enjoy the benefits all year long.