Lawn care and daffodils

March 2007
Gardening Forever

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn. – Lewis Grizzard

The Big Cover UP

There is no such thing as a maintenance-free lawn or garden. However, a lower maintenance lawn and garden are easily achieved. Nothing upgrades a lawns appearance faster than attractive organic mulch spread on the bare soil under all trees and shrubs. Spread two to three inches of shredded bark or bark nuggets over all bare soil in garden beds, along fence lines, or under trees.

The most popular mulches are bark chips or chunks, wood chips, shredded cedar or cypress, cocoa bean shells, straw and pine needles. Buying the right amount of mulch will save time, money and multiple trips to the garden center. Use these guidelines to estimate the right number of bags needed for a project.

Prepackaged mulch comes in two and three cubic feet bags. Select a bag size; generally, larger bags are more economical, smaller bags are easier to handle. One large 3 cu ft bag will cover 18 square feet with two inched of mulch. A smaller 2 cu ft bag of will cover 12 square feet with two inches of mulch.

Estimate the number of bags needed using the following formula.
Bag Size 2-inch depth 3-inch depth
2 cu ft 12 sq ft 8 sq ft
3 cu ft 18 sq ft 12 sq ft
For example, a garden area 10’ long x 40’ wide would be 400 sq ft. 400 divided by 8 (for a 3-inch depth) would, buy fifty 2-cu-ft bags.
Or, a 400 sq ft garden area divided by 12 (for a 3-inch depth) would result in thirty-four 3-cu-ft bags. (OK, math wizards, its 33⅓, not 34).

Keep mulch 2-3 inches away from the base of trees and shrubs and avoid the ‘Mulch Volcano’ some landscapers favor — it’s the wrong way to use the product or treat a plant. Piling mulch at the base of trees and shrubs is a common error. It can cause too much moisture retention promoting disease and insect infestation in the plants.

Occasionally freshen the look of mulch by moving it around. Raking the mulch moves composted material down into the soil and helps prevent airborne mold and fungus attacks.

After this years brutal winter, many trees will need to be removed or replaced. Tree trimmings from storm damaged trees are a good source of free mulch. For large areas that need mulch, remember that arborists usually pay to dispose of tree trimmings and will gladly give wood chips to you, if you want it all. Of course, truck size and content varies, but you may receive 10 cubic yards of wood chips free. Supplement with additional nitrogen.

Feed Daffodils Before They Bloom

The best time to apply fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs is when foliage emerges in the spring, not when they are flowering. Roots are most active when the foliage emerges from the soil. Bulb roots actually begin to die at flowering, so fertilizing during bloom is a waste of fertilizer. An all-purpose fertilizer application when the plant begins to poke through the ground will provide nutrients for the bulbs to produce flowers next year. If your soil has plenty of phosphorus and potassium, and it probably does, fertilize with blood meal. This natural fertilizer promotes green leafy growth and is a fast acting source of nitrogen.

The best way to find out what the soil needs are is with a soil test. Chances are the lawn and the garden have different nutrient requirements. Do not use weed and feed combinations developed for the lawn, in your garden.

Deadhead the daffodils if you want, but leave the foliage until it dies back naturally. Energy from the foliage is transferred to the bulb, creating next year’s blooms. Leaving the foliage is the best investment you can make for next spring’s blooms.

When I went to pick up my friend for a round of golf, I found her in the garden poking golf t’s in the soil. Marge said “If I find bare spots or bulbs don’t come up this spring, I just mark the space with a T. In the fall, I’ll remember where to plant the new bulbs without disturbing the old ones.”

Plant brightly colored wooden golf t’s in your bulb beds to remind you where to fill in additional bulbs next fall. Don’t pull up the dying foliage and you’ll have time to squeeze in a round of golf between spring gardening chores.

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