Time for a Late Winter Yard Clean Up

Alright! Enough lazing around the house getting cabin fever and hunting for those last holiday goodies you know you hid in the freezer. It’s time to get outside and take time to clean up your yard and do all the things that need to be done before the first buds come out.

No, you’re not alone. Pretty much everyone lets their yard go during the winter, whether there is snow on the ground or not. Well, I’m looking at a 78 degree February afternoon and somehow winter seems to have bypassed me. So much for Punxsutawney Phil!

Like everything else, it’s a process. Here’s how you start your annual clean up.

1. Walk around and take a survey. What needs to be done? What tools will you need to get it accomplished? How much time should it take to get it finished? Once you have a grasp of the job, then you can get moving. Some of you may be able to get all this done in a day. Others, like me, are either so out of shape or have such a large yard (yeah, I’ll go with the last one) that it takes two to three days.

2. The key to spending the least amount of time in your yard while getting the most done is to cut back on repetition clean up work as much as possible. Trim the liriope first and other edging and ground covers, then trim the hedges and trees. That way you get to haul away the big branches and the larger bits and pieces. The left over dead leaves and twigs are still scattered on the ground over trimmings to be mulched when you pull your lawn mower out.

3. If you have Crepe Myrtle, it’s meant to be a small multi-trunk tree,

Bad Crepe Myrtle Pruning
Crepe Murder

not a shrub. Sawing each trunk or the large limbs that sprout from them off at eye level is called “Crepe Murder”, not pruning. Ideally, you trim off all the limbs that are within reach of an eight foot ladder, and let the higher ones continue to grow. The second trick is to try to clean out and

Natural growth of Crepe Myrtles

prune last years new branches that grow towards the center of the foliage. They eventually will crowd each other out and make for an unhealthy tree.

To see a good video of how to property maintain your Crepe Myrtles, Southern Living has produced this cute one with their columnist, the Grumpy Gardener. To see it, click here.



4. If you have hedges, either holly or privet, cut the sides at a slant so

Trimming hedges
Trim hedges at angle to increase light to bottom leaves.

the lower leaves aren’t shaded by the upper leaves. This way, you get a thicker looking hedge. I try to cut my hedges back far enough that the next time I have to get around to it is next mid-winter clean up.



5. Do your foundation plantings next to your house touch your siding? Congratulations! You’ve just created a highway for every ant in the neighborhood to access your home. If you can replant so the shrub is far enough away that the full sized plant barely reaches your wall, that’s best. But if you have mature foundation plantings, like I do, you’ll just have to remember to get out and clean up the new growth several times each growing season.

6. Here’s a warning. Some plantings like forsythia, gardenia, and azaleas bloom early in the spring. Don’t trim them now. Wait until after they finish blooming.

7. Do you have any tree stumps you’d like to get rid of? You can use the

Burning stump
Burning stump

branches you just trimmed and any fallen limbs to build a fire on top of the old tree trunk. Depending on it’s condition, and how dry the wood is, you may have to burn it several times to get it out of the way, When you’re through, fill in over the ash with some top soil from elsewhere in your natural beds. Add a good amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer to the new soil. The continuing decay of what’s left of the trunk is going to suck that soil dry, so you have to keep adding some nutrients for the plants you will eventually use to fill in the blank space.

8. You know those “volunteer” plants you made note of earlier? (No, I’m not talking about the plants from the University of Tennessee yard sale.) Now is a good time to transplant them to where they fit in better with your overall landscape plan. Birds love to eat seeds and poop them out into places you’d rather not have them (Well, maybe they are like Tennessee fans after all!), and I’ve moved irises and daffodils and nandinas, amongst others that have no business where I found them to a location that seems like a better home for them each time I do this task.

9. So, you’ve now put up your tools and you’re ready to pull out your lawnmower. Personally, I prefer a mulching mower to bagging clippings and having to deal with the bag disposal. That’s up to you. But by mulching, I get rid of all the edging trimmings, leaves, and other assorted twigs and add fresh organic material to my yard.

Hope I’ve given you some fresh ideas on this annual chore. If you have any ideas or questions, please leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to research any information to answer any of your concerns.

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