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Tips for Getting Your Yard Ready for Warm Weather
Pat Carroll is just finishing his first year working at Syracuse University. He was a golf course superintendent for 37 years and now is the grounds manager for the University’s Facilities Services. Carroll leads a crew of 57 staff members in tending to just under 700 acres of land that comprise the Syracuse University campus.
For the past few weeks, the grounds crew has been changing over several pieces of equipment used in the winter for plowing to prepare for the summer mowing season. All of the winter equipment needs to be cleaned, repaired and put into storage. While this is happening, the grounds crew is preparing the campus grounds for mowing, including clearing debris and sodding areas along sidewalks.
With his knowledge of all things green, Carroll seemed a natural choice to offer tips on springtime lawn care preparation. Below are his thoughts to help you get your yard ready for summer.
Q: Winter has passed (or so we would like to think). Are there particular steps I should take to transition my yard from cold weather months to warm weather months?
A: A good raking is a great start. Lightly fluff up any matted areas in your lawn to help it green up quicker. Also, make sure to pick up any debris that the snowplow left behind.
Q: When is the best time to begin mowing the lawn for the season? Any good mowing tips? To maintain a healthy lawn, is there an optimum amount of time I should leave between cuttings?
A: If the lawn is growing and it’s not wet, you can start mowing. It is a good idea to cut a little higher than normal for the first few mowings in case you missed some debris in your clean up. A good height for a lawn in Central New York is three inches. Mowing in different directions helps the grass to stand up so you can get a cleaner cut, plus you get the visual benefit of the striping.
You should be mowing your lawn as needed, remembering not to remove more than one-third of the height in one mowing. When the grass is growing fast you will need to mow more often. If you are using any pesticide or fertilizer, be sure to read the label for proper application rates and timing. Knowing the square footage of your lawn is important to be sure you are applying the correct amount of product.
Q: I have never gardened before but would like to add some flowers and plants to my yard. What do I need to do to prepare?
A: First, find the area you want to plant, remove the sod and turn the soil over. Mix in a composted manure product and rake so the area is level. Once you have planted, you can put down mulch or wood chips to help retain moisture.
Q: What flowers and plants do the best in our Central New York climate? Are there particular ones that work best in the sun? How about the shade?
A: The list of plants and flowers that do well in Central New York is a long one; too many to list here. Syracuse is a zone 4/5 region, so in selecting trees and perennial plants be sure they are marked for zone 4/5. Some annuals that thrive in Syracuse in sunny areas are geranium, salvia, zinnia, gerbera daisy, wave petunias, lantana, angelonia and sunflowers. Begonias, impatient, lobelia, alyssum, heliotrope and Fuchsia are popular for shady areas.
Q: Once I get the flowers in, I need a plan to maintain them. How often should I weed or tend to them? Even though it rains, should I water them on a consistent schedule?
A: Giving them a quick look every day, pulling small weeds and checking for moisture is the best way to keep the flowers looking great. When fertilizing, small and more frequent applications work best.
Q: Shrubs are beautiful but can quickly get out of control. What is the best way to maintain them?
A: Pruning regularly (twice a season) is a good rule of thumb. Then, every three years reduce by one-third so they don’t get too large.
Q: How can I pick the right fertilizer?
A: Different plants require different fertilizer, so it is best to follow the directions on the plant guide.
Q: Any other suggestions on how I can become a green thumb?
A: Ask a lot of questions at your local nursery when purchasing plant material. Cornell University has a lot of great information on their website, www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/.
Carroll welcomes questions and can be reached at 315.251.4992 or