Thatching your lawn and raising beds

As the temperature warms and the sight of spring approaches, it is time to think about turning your moss carpet into a nice and natural turf again. I like to begin thatching lawns starting in mid-March through the beginning of May. Hold off putting chemicals down -- that only works right if the moss is loosened up or agitated.

For a natural lawn use a safe and organic product. Read the label and understand all safety involved in handling the product.

Next, evaluate the areas you wish to thatch. It may be time to create flower beds or garden structures you always wanted. Did you install an irrigation system? Do that first, as well. I like to mark all irrigation heads with flags. You can turn on yourirrigation system to mark and clean all the heads in the lawn. But keep the system off until May or June.

If we lack rain then use the system. After you've marked all heads and important things in the lawn it is time to start up the machine. Do a lap around the whole lawn as if you were going to start mowing. Then, do a straight line back and forth on the whole lawn.

Rake up all the debris and get it off the lawn. I like to put it in my compost pile and let it rot. Next, run the machine on the lawn back and forth in the other direction. That way you get a double whammy.

After raking, either spread a nice thin layer of compost on the lawn. (I do this if the lawn is real thin and needs nutrients.) Or, if the lawn is pretty healthy, over seed with a cool season grass like fine fescues and turf type tall fescues.

When choosing seed make sure it is weed-free. And, only use seed that is made for the Northwest.

Is your yard sunny or does it have shade? Evaluate before you buy. I like to aerate after May and not when thatching.

The machines compact the soil so wait until things dry up a bit. I wait to fertilize the lawn until May and use an organic fertilizer which in turn feed the soil biology.

Things to prune now are plants that just got done blooming. Remember to not top things and use sharp pruners. A rule of thumb is to not take out more than a third at a time.

Add some raised beds

As we approach spring time and get the urge to work in the yard, it would be a good idea to add raised beds. With the amount of rain the Northwest gets, a lot of our soils get depleted of nutrients. And in some cases the soils are so hard that planting can be hard. We can fix that problem by adding the raised beds or what I like to call berms.

To get started you may want to do some research about your yard. Grab some paper and jot down some information. How much sun do you get? Are there some areas you can create a bed? How about taking away some lawn?

I like to use springtime to fix the landscape. Maybe you have overgrown plants. Or you may want to add some structures. In any case, when making a berm you may have to rototill the area underneath the berm. Go about a foot high and as big as you want to create. I like to fan down at the outer perimeters. When it’s installed, a few design tips will help you create a beautiful outdoor oasis.

I like to plant in odd numbers. Plant in groups of one, three five, etc. Have one specimen tree and then an odd number of shrubs, perennials and ground covers. Remember to give your plants room to grow. This will reduce the amount of work in the future.

Join me every month at the Port Orchard Library on the fourth Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for my garden talks on what we should be doing for that month. there's no cost to attend.

Reader question:

Q. What can I do to be a "green gardener" when insects are a problem?

A. I like to companion plant things in areas where insects are a problem. For example I planted some herbs next to my fruit trees. The good bugs feed on the bad. Or, you can encourage birds to come in. Plant a concoction of things that all creatures will be happy with.

Happy Gardening,Gardener Joe


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