Check Lawn Soil Nutrients and pH
When was the last time you tested the lawn soil for akalinity or acidity, or for general nutrient levels? A soil pH between 6.2 (slightly acidic) and 7.0 (neutral) is ideal for turf grass. Many good garden centers will test the pH of a customer's soil sample for little or no charge. For a nominal charge, state universities will test soil for pH as well as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and other elements. Dig trowel-size soil samples from 10 to 12 spots. Mix the soil, then dry it. A cup of soil will do. Take it to the garden center. Or call your nearest Extension Service office to purchase a kit for mailing a soil sample.
Get Out Your Pruners
Prune early-blooming shrubs such as forsythia and azaleas just after they flower. These flowers bloom on old wood -- branches that grew last year or in prior years. Pruning after flowering will spur the shrubs to grow more new branches, which will mean more flowers next year. Now is also a good time to fertilize and check for scale and other insects.
Be Gentle on the Body
Though we're eager to get those pansies and new shrubs in the ground, take it easy. It's been a long winter and your body may not be as ready as your spirit. Gently S-T-R-E-T-C-H those arm, shoulder, leg, and back muscles before going full tilt with the shovel. Pace yourself. And wrap up the day's work with a hot shower or bath with a splash of lavender or sea salts or Epsom salts.
Retooling Your Tool Technique
Do you know that shovels are for digging and throwing, while spades are for slicing and turning? Do you bend at the knees and slide your hand down the handle when shoveling? Are your rake and hoe handles taller than you? They should be. Bob Denman explains how to use tools correctly in this archived Fine Gardening article from Nov.-Dec., 2001. Read it at:
Extend the Harvest With Plants Plus Seeds
Rule of thumb is to plant annuals and sow most annual and vegetable seeds after Mother's Day because there's no longer threat of frost. Select strong, healthy-looking, insect-free plants. I like to plant a six-pack of cut-and-come-again lettuce and coriander, then sow lettuce and coriander seeds nearby. That extends the harvest. Lettuce and coriander plants will have leaves ready to snip and eat in a few weeks; new seedlings will follow.