Sprucing up your yard

2014-04-14T23:00:00Z Sprucing up your yardCHRIS HOTTENSEN, THE SOUTHERN The Billings Gazette
April 14, 2014 11:00 pm  • 

The winds of spring have begun to blow, making it time to start preparing lawns and gardens for the upcoming growing season.

Before getting your hands dirty, it's important to find out what's going on beneath the surface of your yard.

"They should start with a soil test if they haven't had one in the last couple years," Mike Miller, host of Garden Hotline on KMOX radio in St. Louis, said.

The soil test will tell a gardener what nutrients need to be added to the soil to make it ready for spring.

Application of a pre-emergent herbicide is the next step for the person with a green thumb, but Miller recommends purchasing a soil thermometer rather than marking a day on the calendar for application.

"When you see several days in a row when soil temperature is 55 and up, that's when you should get pre-emergents," Miller said.

Pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied before the weeds have been allowed to germinate.

"The crabgrass roots are so strong," Candice Healey, sales representative at Weed Man in Carbondale, said. "Once they've established roots, there's not a whole lot you can do after a certain amount of time."

Healey's company uses a granular, slow-release fertilizer with its herbicides to feed the yard over a longer period of time.

"With slow-release, it sits there until it gets liquid," Healey said. "It will last longer, so it works over a period of time instead of just working and then stopping."

Broad-leaf weeds, such as dandelions, onions and clovers, also need to be controlled early in the spring.

Miller said it's important to take a temperature of the soil before seeding a yard, as well.

"If you put it down too early, you're wasting your time and effort," Miller said. "When you can walk barefoot and not feel a chill, that's the time to start putting grass seed down."

Once planted, it's important to provide the seed plenty of moisture.

"It's got to have water," Healey said. "That's why spring is such a good time to do it because usually we get natural water from the rain."

Taking care of a yard in Southern Illinois is not an easy job.

"This is a very difficult region to do any gardening," Miller said. "Weather-wise, this is the toughest spot."

He cautioned gardeners to narrow their focus.

"Don't take on too many projects," Miller said. "Concentrate on the ones that are most important, whether it be vegetable garden, flower garden, new shrubs and trees, and work your way down from that."

He also said it's OK to let some things die.

"Don't be afraid to take out plants that are unhealthy," Miller said. "So many try to hold onto something, but stay with the really healthy stuff."

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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