Are your yard, garden and foot paths looking a little sad and tired after the trials and extremes of winter? Well don't despair! Getting things back into showcase condition is pretty simple. All you need is a bit time and the right tools for the job.
Love your Lawn
Lawns can really cop a pounding over winter. Come spring it’s not unusual for them to look thin, tired and in need of some serious TLC. Investing time in your lawn now will reap returns over the warmer months as it will need less care and be better able to tolerate hot, dry conditions. There are a few simple projects that will have your lawn looking fantastic in next to no time.
Get it Tidy
The simplest trick to freshening up your lawn is seriously old school – rake it vigorously with a metal, spring-tine lawn rake. This will quickly remove dead grass and thatch from the turf. Just mow your lawn to its normal height and then rake from end to end and then side to side. You’ll be surprised how much waste material comes away and how much better your lawn looks.
Some lawns become spongy over time as thatch, a layer of dead grass, runners and waste, builds up excessively above the soil. That’s when it’s time to use a motorised lawn dethatcher. This machine works like a power rake, cutting deep into the turf and pulling out dead material. Mechanical dethatching is generally only recommended on warm season grasses that grow from runners (rhizomes) such as couch and buffalo varieties.
Over time the soil under a lawn becomes more compacted meaning it’s harder for water, nutrients and air to get down to the grass roots. Aerating and then feeding the lawn are two really simple steps to fix this problem.
For smaller lawns use a garden fork to aerate. At around 10cm spacing drive the fork into the soil and rock it back and forth a little working over the area until done. For larger lawns use a spiked lawn roller. Partially or completely fill it with water and pull across the lawn covering all areas.
For a major renovation or heavy compaction, use a motorised walk-behind lawn corer. This easy-to-use device pulls plugs or cores from your lawn at regular intervals, creating nice clear channels down to the grass roots.
Once you’ve aerated the area, you need to make sure those holes you’ve gone to the trouble of making can do their job. Rake a free-draining material such as clean, washed coarse sand or a specialised landscape suppliers ‘80:20’ lawn mix (a blend of 80% washed fine sand and 20% fine soil or organic matter) over the area to fill the holes. For larger lawns order 80:20 mix in bulk from your local landscape supplier and use a lawn soil spreader to evenly distribute. Remember though the aim is just to fill the holes, not top-dress your lawn, so don’t overdo it!
Did you know that fertilising your lawn with a quality slow-release lawn food is the best way to keep weeds out of the lawn, make it more resistant to dry conditions, and help it to quickly self-repair? The average lawn will take under half an hour to feed and only needs to be done as little as twice a year – spring and late summer or early autumn.
Hand-broadcasting lawn fertiliser will never give even results. To get it right use a simple mechanical fertiliser spreader. Set the hopper aperture to the right size for your fertiliser, fill the hopper and you’re off. A hand-held spreader will do the job for smaller lawns but for larger lawns over 150sq/m, use a walk-behind wheeled spreader.
Trimming and Pruning
How does your garden grow? Chances are much of it will perform a lot better with just a little bit of pruning. Pruning does a few things, but the most important benefit for many plants is that it makes them throw out new shoots and go bushier, improving their appearance all-round. It’s also the easiest way to remove dead flowers from spring flowering plants, which in-turn lets them start developing new buds for next year’s spring flowering season. When you prune it’s also the ideal time to fertilise with a quality controlled release fertiliser.
Keeping your hedges well-trimmed is what keeps them doing what you planted them for – forming a continuous screen or garden divider. Most hedges only really need a light tip prune. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with a motorised hedge trimmer as these will give you that precise professional finish. For taller hedges or shrubs look at using a long-handled pole hedge trimmer. It’s a much safer option than balancing on a ladder.
Many shrubs and perennials will benefit from being pruned too. A powered hedge trimmer is ideal for most light pruning tasks, even trimming down clumps of perennials once they have finished flowering. Learn a bit about the plants you are pruning as some, such as lavender, often won't reshoot if you cut back below the last leaves.
Sometimes the only thing that’s going to cut it, literally, is the more serious cutting power of a chainsaw. Chainsaws are ideal for pruning larger branches and cutting up fallen branches or trees to a manageable size or firewood for the fire-pit of course. Chainsaws are very powerful tools and as such should only be used when you fully understand how to use them safely. Always wear all of the recommended safety gear when using a chainsaw.
If you need to reach above shoulder height with a chainsaw resist the temptation to go climbing a ladder, or even worse, up the tree. Grab hold of a motorised pole pruner instead. They are a long-reach pruning tool fitted with a small chainsaw head, and they’re engineered for pruning without the risk. Just remember not to stand under the branches you’re trimming off!
Paths and Paving
Paths, concrete drives and pavers can be magnets for algae and moss over winter. This growth traps dirt and grime, resulting in dangerous, slippery and unsightly paved surfaces. Thankfully the solution for these problem areas is simple and will have your paved surfaces looking spic and span for months to come.
First step for any surface is to clear away any loose or bulky material like moss. A blower is the ideal way to shift accumulated leaves and twigs, but for clumps of stubborn moss you may need a stiff broom too.
Once the area is cleared of loose debris have a close look at the surface. If it’s slimy or slippery and moss or algae is evident then treat first with a suitable outdoor surface cleaner. This will kill the algae and moss and prevent regrowth. Next, it’s time for a pressure wash. For larger areas, such as driveways, use a jet-gun attachment. As there can be a lot of over-splatter of dirt and muck with the jet-gun, when working on smaller pathways or close to the house or other buildings switch to a rotary cleaner attachment.