Get in charge of your yard

From pruning and cleaning to fertilizing and watering, spruce up your outdoor space
By: Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Real Estate Editor
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With the mercury rising and the sun hanging out longer than the rain clouds, it’s time to migrate outside. That is unless you have a yard that cries outback more than outside oasis. Not to fear, there are ways to get that outdoor living space feeling tranquil and looking beautiful. And most tasks are easy enough to do yourself. As we come closer to the doorstep of May, the first thing you must do, if you haven’t already, is some old-fashioned cleaning. “It really all starts off with the spring cleaning, going through and pruning out all of the spent flowers from last season, all the grasses that have died off from the last season,” said Jeff Ambrosia, owner of Yamasaki Landscape Architecture in Auburn. “Typically it’s done in the fall, but if you haven’t done it, now is the time.” But while you are cleaning out, be mindful of not cutting everything down, as there are still shrubs, plants and trees that might not be ready to bloom yet. “A lot of stuff, you have to remember, it hasn’t come out of dormancy yet,” said Earlene Eisley-Freeman, of Eisley Nursery in Auburn. “Though it may look dead, it might not be.” Eisley also said that it might even take longer for some vegetation to bloom due to the fact that the foothills region has stayed cool and wet well into April this year. Now is a time to fertilize as well — do your plants, shrubs, trees and lawn. Eisley-Freeman recommends Master Nursery’s Formula 49 fertilizer. Have weeds in the lawn and it’s looking a little haggard? Then using a form of weed and feed can help get rid of those pesky wildflowers while at the same time help the lawn come back. “I like to take the easy way and go up to Home Depot and get Scotts fertilizer,” Ambrosia admitted. “On the back of the bag it tells you what type of fertilizer for the type of year. Fertilizing the lawn is critical at this time of year. And it would be an important time to over seed if you have bare areas.” Once you’ve brought your lawn back to life, maintaining is key. Ambrosia says mowing once a week is a regular occurrence at his home, and cutting the lawn at about 2 inches is recommended. When it comes to watering, mornings are best and a sprinkler system will give you the optimal application. When it comes to shrubbery and plants, you may find that some of them in your yard are dead. If you want to plant something new, make sure to find out the growth habits of whatever it is you wish to purchase so it doesn’t crowd your yard or walkways. And remember that most greenery doesn’t need a lot of pruning. “Pruning is simply a maintenance item if you have a dead branch or something that is growing into the sidewalk,” Ambrosia said. “And of course the key is to determine ahead of time how large a plant is going to get, and take that into consideration when planting.” The same can be said for trees. Watch out for over crowding and don’t prune too much, or unevenly. “Every tree has a unique growth habit, and depending on what you’re looking for, you can most likely fit a tree for the habitat,” Ambrosia said. “In the event you do need to prune, it’s really just a minimal amount of pruning for maintenance purposes. You want to avoid crossing branches … and keep limbs away from the house or edge the roof.” If you do over plant, you will have to change up the vegetation and move things around — as John and LeeAnne Myers of Auburn found out. “In the spring we pull out where things are overgrown, and we have to do that every single year,” LeeAnne Myers said. “We actually divided up some of the plants and we’ve planted new ones in the yard.” The Myers, who had their yard designed by Ambrosia’s company, and do all their own yard maintenance, admit their yard constantly changes. “There was some trial and error,” John Myers said between moments of weeding his front yard. “It’s an ongoing process of planting and replanting.” Ultimately, when it comes to getting your yard in shape, it’s about knowing what you want and understanding the look you’re going for. “It all comes down to proper planning,” Ambrosia said. “That way you can bite off pieces as they are appropriate and what you can afford. But again the critical component is having a plan and following that plan.” Andrew DiLuccia can be reached at __________ Quick tips for the yard -- Clean out and prune back -- Plan out what you want to do in your yard -- Fertilize plants, trees and lawn -- Weed and feed lawn -- Water -- Add small yard sculptures to add interest to a yard -- Don’t crowd yard with trees or plants Source: Jeff Ambrosia, Yamasaki Landscape Architecture