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Tips to Tackle Winter’s Damage & Prep Your Landscape for Warmer Weather

It might be hard to believe by looking at the thermostat, but spring is already around the corner. That means now is the time to plan for your property’s spring landscaping needs, beginning with assessing and repairing the damage left behind by Old Man Winter. Severe weather may have caused extensive damage to trees and irrigation systems, and even a relatively mild winter can wreak havoc on non-native plants and grasses.

Here are the must-do tasks to clean up your property after a long winter:

1. Remediate any damage caused by ice, snow and salt. Depending on the extent of the damage, consider working with a landscape professional who can assess your property for signs of damage and make recommendations to help get your landscape back in good shape. This includes determining which trees and shrubs need to be pruned to remove damage, and providing guidance on recovery times for damaged plants and grass. In some instances, a professional may recommend the removal and replacement of severely damaged plants. Most importantly, a professional can identify ways to prevent future damage to plants and grass come next winter. This may include soil replacement and sodding to help negate salt damage.

2. Budget for the removal and replacement of plants with chronic disease or maintenance problems. Late winter or early spring is the best time to evaluate the health of your landscaping and plan for improvements. Plants or turf that might need to be replaced include those that receive too much shade, are too close to walkways or buildings, attract pests, block signage, or have outgrown the space.

3. Prune overgrown hedges and trees. This is an ideal time of year for pruning, before spring growth starts. Hedges can be pruned for shape, while inward-growing branches on trees should be removed. Avoid pruning any spring-flowering plants until after they bloom.

4. Apply weed control and mulch. Weeding and mulching is a simple and impactful way to clean up your property after the winter. Winter weeds should be treated or removed from beds, and a pre-emergent weed control can be applied to open bed areas. In addition, two to three inches of fresh mulch should be applied. Remember to keep mulch away from the base of plants to prevent stem rot, and take the opportunity to reestablish bed lines and hardscape edges.

5. Rejuvenate turfgrass areas. Now is the time to treat grass to ensure a lush, healthy lawn all spring and summer. This includes applying weed control and fertilizer. A lawn care professional can provide specific recommendations on when to apply such products, based on your climate and grass type. For example, weed control should generally be applied to cool season grasses when temperatures start reaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or before warm season grasses begin to green up. Aeration and dethatching should be delayed until the grass is actively growing.

6. Inspect irrigation systems for signs of damage caused by freezing temperatures. The system should be checked for proper pressure and distribution, ensuring that all values are operating properly and rain sensors are fully functioning. Screens should be cleaned before use. Check to be certain that water distribution is not blocked by new plant growth, and set the spring irrigation schedule.

7. Plan seasonal color changes. Prepare your property’s beds for spring planting as winter bulbs and flowers begin to fade out. The soil should be changed if weeds are excessive or if disease is a problem. Now is also the time to modify beds to improve drainage and provide the best display of color.

By taking these steps, your property’s landscaping will be ready to thrive when spring officially arrives – and your tenants and visitors will reap the benefits of a beautiful, healthy outdoor space well into the summer months.

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Barry Troutman, Ph.D., is technical advisor for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. You can learn more at www.LoveYourLandscape.org/commercial.

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