Spring is a busy time of year for your yard. Because our plants are well adapted to our summer heat, they rush to do a lot of growing between now and mid-summer when the weather gets particularly harsh. We end up with explosions of growth, beautiful flowers, piles of oak leaves, and dozens of other changes as our yards wake up and start to shine.
This season is a prime time to take advantage of nature’s vigor when improving your personal landscape.
To take full advantage of spring, there are several things you should be doing, several improvements you may want to consider, and several things to avoid.
What you should consider…
Aeration, Top Dressing and Fertilization
Now is the right time to give your lawn a boost to ensure vigorous new growth, and to get your lawn healthy and hearty to weather the summer heat. The spring rains make this time of year perfect for Aeration. Breaking up our compacted clay soil makes your lawn happy. Pair that with a nice layer of compost and rich soil from a Top Dressing and your grass will thank you with a greener, lusher lawn. Fertilization is important now as well, especially if it includes pre-emergents to help limit weed growth in the next few months.
Mulch is also important for keeping weeds out of your beds. If it has been more than a year since your last mulch application, you probably need additional mulch. In the spring, mulch does its best work on weed control, smothering and preventing the spread of pesky weeds that are just now starting to creep into yards. Come summer, that same mulch will help your soil retain moisture to combat 100 degree weather.
Oak leaves from our live oaks seem to be everywhere in the spring. It is important to clear away the old leaves, especially when they cover a lawn or pile up over plants in a bed. A few leaves mulched up by a mower, or allowed to decompose in a bed are never a problem. They only become a hassle when large piles accumulate. They can smother areas of lawn, and even mulching them into the lawn with a mower can be a problem. The undecomposed leaves tax your soils biological systems, draining away nitrogen and other nutrients that your lawn needs to stay healthy.
What to add…
This time of year is one of the best for adding green and growing plants to a yard. Whether replanting your annual beds, or changing some of your perennial shrubs, early spring is a great time of year to plant. Smaller shrubs and flowers particularly do well in the spring. They become established quickly, and add nearly instant color and interest to your yard.
To take advantage of the spring growth, many people focus on this time of year for their major yard projects. Adding a new planting bed, changing the existing plants, or replacing tired or exhausted plants can enliven your yard. Even a few minor planting changes, to add some variation in seasonal color, or to introduce a new bloom and focal point to a yard, can change theoverall feel. Spring is a great time of year to be outside, you might as well enjoy what you see along with the weather.
This is also a good time of year to consider replacing or repairing your sod. Every spring our trees get larger, canopies get thicker, and the sunlight reaching the lawn decreases. If you have a Bermuda lawn, which requires 6 hours of direct sunlight, consider switching to Zoysia. Zoysia varieties, like Palisades, require half the light as Bermuda. They also have similar water requirements and maintenance needs as Bermuda. This keeps the water bill down, but also allows you to successfully mix grass types without creating maintenance issues.
On top of that, Zoysia is simply a better grass. It is greener and softer on your feet. You don’t need calluses to walk through this grass barefoot! Though it is often used in the shade, it does best in full sun, where it quickly outstrips Bermuda and St. Augustine.
The one big thing to avoid in the spring is Trimming Oak Trees. Don’t do it. Oak wilt is a real danger – we have seen peoplelose every oak in their yard from this disease. It can only be spread over long distances by a beetle which is active in the spring. This beetle can smell a fresh cut or break in an oak limb from miles away, and will come to your yard to feed. Once one tree is infected, the disease spreads through root contact to every other tree in the vicinity. Entire neighborhoods worth of oaks can be wiped out. There are not many effective treatments that will save a tree after it is infected. Prevention is our best tool in keeping our trees strong and healthy. Wait until July, your trees will appreciate it, your neighbors will thank you, and the beautiful old oaks of Austin will stick around for our grandchildren to enjoy.