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home>>family>>gardening 2>>time to start yard work

Now's the Time to Start Yard Work


(ARA) - Although many homeowners have been sprucing up their yards for years, their techniques can sometimes stand improvement. Kevin Dube, president of Dube Property Maintenance, Inc. in Methuen, Mass., and Mike Price, manager of Valley Landscaping in Christiansburg, Va., offer these tips.

Start by putting the tasks in order. "The exact sequence depends on the property," says Dube. "But our normal routine is to start with pruning and the removal of any winter kill. Then we get any obvious stuff off the lawn. Branches, acorns, leftover leaves; that sort of thing."

He says that in areas where the roads are treated in the winter, sand and salt get thrown up into the yard by snowplows. It's important to remove these contaminants, as the sand is an abrasive that's hard on yard equipment and the salt can skew the soil pH. A push broom works, but a better choice would be a power sweeper, such as the ProPaddle or ProSweep heads that fit the Echo Pro Attachment Series (PAS) power heads.

Next, excess thatch is removed. This can be done with a garden rake, but it's faster and more thorough if a power de-thatcher is used, such as the Echo ProThatch attachment that also fits the PAS power head.

Once everything is cleaned up, it's time to work on mulch beds, edging them and applying a top dressing of one to two inches of mulch.

Clean up and mulching can be done at almost any time, says Price. "Around here, we start getting out around the middle of March." But, he says, timing is important with other tasks. "You don't want to do anything to the lawn itself while there's frost on the ground or you risk frost burn. But you can't wait too long because you don't want the grass getting a big jump on you."

You don't want weeds to get the jump on you either, so Price suggests applying a pre-emergent herbicide in spring. Timing for this varies from one year to the next, and in different parts of the country. Price suggests taking your cue from other plants. "Around here a good rule of thumb is to watch the forsythia bushes. When they bloom, the crabgrass is starting to germinate."

Pre-emergents are often combined with fertilizer. Price has two suggestions here. First, make sure the mix has enough phosphorous and potassium to promote good root growth. "You really don't need to put down a lot of nitrogen early in the year," he says. Second, use a spreader of the same brand as the chemicals, and use the recommended setting and pattern to ensure proper distribution.

Although watering is usually not necessary in spring, Dube suggests homeowners turn on their irrigation systems to check for leaks, breaks, and malfunctioning heads.

Add some flowers and your spring yard work is done. Dube says cold-tolerant varieties, such as pansies, can go in as soon as spring bulbs appear. Wait a few weeks to plant impatiens, geraniums and other sensitive species.

The final step -- stand back and admire your handiwork.

For more information on the full line of Echo handheld outdoor power equipment, visit www.echo-usa.com. To find the closest Echo dealer visit the Web site or call (800) 432-ECHO.

Is Your Yard a DIY Project?

Whether or not your yard is a do-it-yourself project depends on several factors. First is the scope of work, says Kevin Dube, president of Dube Property Maintenance, Inc. in Methuen, Mass. "If you have to de-thatch four acres of turf or cut 500 feet of edging, it's time to call in the professionals." Bringing a yard back to life after winter dormancy can be a major undertaking so be honest in your assessment. And consider how you'll dispose of thatch, branches and other yard debris.

Another consideration is your expertise. Plants can be easily damaged when they first wake up. Mike Price, manager of Valley Landscaping in Christiansburg, Va., says that even the simple task of fertilizing a lawn can be a challenge. "The grass needs root growth now to prevent stress damage in summer, and the product should feed the lawn for four to six weeks."

The third factor -- tools. Do you have the right ones and are they in good condition? "Our 67-page, 2005 catalog has hundreds of pieces of handheld outdoor power equipment, plus parts and accessories to make yard maintenance easier, and to help homeowners get professional results," says Andy Kuczmar, director of national service and technical training at Echo Incorporated. "Our nationwide network of over 6,000 dealers provides service to keep equipment running at peak performance, and training to ensure safe operation." Visit www.echo-usa.com.

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