Unfortunately, the weather around Chicagoland has felt nothing like spring. It has barely been out of the forties at all. But, we still need to get the lawn and garden ready for the growing season. So, dress warmly and grab your rake!
It is raking that the lawn needs most. You will need strong arms and shoulders to do this; it’s a better upper body work out than any gym. Use strong, long strokes to loosen all that dead grass and thatch. If not removed, it will strangle all the new grass ready to spring forth as soon as we see some steady 60-degree days. After all the garbage is removed, it’s time to augment the soil. Around Chicago, we have soil with a high percentage of clay. We often add sand to the soil to break up the clay. We mix sand into the topsoil, one part sand to two parts soil. Spread evenly over the lawn and spread with the back of the rake. When you see the grass peeking out, it’s spread enough. It’s best to check your soil to see if it’s a clay soil. It will hold together just like clay when clumped in your fist. You can even see gray and brown streaks when you dig holes. More sandy soil is just like sand, loose and fine; it just needs good quality topsoil. Give the lawn a good water to settle it down. Watch the lawn during heavy rains. Where there are puddles, you need more soil. Add the soil and sand mixture as needed. Later, it will be time for fertilizer with crabgrass and grub preventer.
The garden will now benefit from a good clean up. Rake up any leftover plant debris from last season. It’s best not to use any of this for mulch as it may contain diseases. Till the soil lightly. Doing too much over turning will bring weed seeds up to germinate and we have enough weeds already. To augment the soil, I usually use a manure or mushroom compost. Follow label directions, but a normal spread is 25 pounds compost to 100 square yards soil. Till it in gently, the spring rains will bring it down into the soil. We save our Christmas tree every year and throw it in the garden. By spring the needles have all fallen off, they are great mulch and break down into the soil.
Now everything is ready for the warm weather to come!
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO