Curb Appeal

Prepare Garden Beds for Spring Planting

It’s “winter” in Florida, and the cool temps mean it’s the perfect time to get to all those projects that are too-hot-to-handle the rest of the year. Garage organizing, house washing or painting, cleaning the gutters, AND putting some muscle power into the garden is all so much easier when the weather is cooler.

Let’s get started!

We’re not going to trim much. Azaleas and Hydrangea, along with many other flowering bushes, flower on OLD wood – so trimming before the spring would be a big mistake if you want to see them bursting with flowers in a few weeks. This month we are going to focus on the ground and plants that are past their prime.

Tools and Supplies: Plastic Leaf Rake, Metal Garden Rake, Garden Hand Tools (the claw and the scoop), Gloves, Newspaper, Paper Yard Bags, Mulch. 

The right tools make ALL the difference when it comes to spending as little time as possible preparing and maintaining a garden. You’ll thank yourself later for investing in a few items for yard maintenance, even if you have to budget for them over time. 

Paper Yard Bags: Most cities cannot take yard waste in plastic bags. It’s better to have it loose in a dedicated trash can, or in paper yard bags like <<< these found at The Home Depot, and many other home improvement stores.

 

Rake: Clear beds first by raking leaves with plastic rake. Use a metal garden rake to loosen the topsoil/mix any remaining old mulch into the dirt. Evenly distribute.

Weed: If you can muster the strength, hand weeding things like clover and fern will allow you to dig down to the root and seed pockets – which makes it way harder for those garden invaders to come back so quickly. Dig up and discard dead plants, or ones you plan to replace this year.

Newspaper: This is the Earth-friendly secret to fewer weeds in your garden beds! Newspaper allows water to get through and blocks weeds at the same time. Once you have raked, loosened, and evened out the topsoil, cover the beds with old newspapers. You want it to be about three pages thick. The thicker the newspaper layer, the less weeds can grow. In areas you plan to have potted plants or nothing at all, make your layers a couple of pages thicker. Use only matte newsprint pages, discard any of the glossy coated ones. Once you have blanketed your bed in newsprint, lightly shower the papers with water to get them to stay in place, then cover the whole area with a layer of mulch or pine bark nuggets.

In just a few hours time, you’ll have beautiful garden beds ready for all of your spring planting, OR if you never get around to flowers, you have perfectly manicured and mulched landscaping!

A quick guide for common Central Florida yard waste and debris:

“Yard waste” is natural, organic matter only. Meaning; grass clippings, leaves, branches, weeds, dirt, etc. Plastic mulch bags, old plant containers, nails, screws, and other random things you happen to find outside should go into the regular garbage.

  • Palm fronds, can be stacked together or tied with jute or natural twine.
  • Ties should be an organic material like jute or natural cotton. (Not the white or yellow plastic cord stuff.) 
  • Fill PAPER yard bags about 3/4 of the way to avoid ripping.
  • Avoid those black plastic yard bags, even though the box says they are for yard waste. They don’t break down, so workers have to remove them.
  • It’s fine to fill a can with loose clippings and leaves, you only need to bag or bundle items that are not in a can.
  • Disperse heavier items among several cans (small tree trunks, branches, limbs, etc.) to offset the weight.
  • Large twigs, trunks, branches, bamboo, etc. should be cut into 3’ segements and bundled.
  • Our waste management company says you can typically put out as many cans and bundles as would fit in a large pick up truck bed.

Keep in mind, most yard waste is still tended to by hand by a small team of workers. Make sure your bins, bags, and bundles can be physically picked up to be dumped or hauled away. Over-filling bags and heavy trunk-filled garbage cans makes it really hard on workers, especially in the summer months.

Curb Appeal

Plants That Keep Pests Away

Mosquitoes and other bugs can become a bother when you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors. Did you know you can make your favorite outdoor spaces less desirable to pests with a few simple plants?

Herb Appeal

We’ve learned a lot of the plants that bugs dislike are simple herbs. Which means you can grow a beautiful herb garden for cooking and keep the pests at bay at the same time. Seems like a win-win!

Pops of Color

Lavender is a colorful plant with a popular scent to us humans, but bugs and other pests don’t like it. Marigolds are also great for pops of color but they don’t smell nice to most humans, AND mosquitos, bugs, and snakes. Luckily, we can’t smell them as easy as they can!

Tears of Joy

A lot of the onion and garlic family of plants repel mosquitos, snakes, beetles, snails, mites, and other bugs.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemongrass, lemon bee balm, the grass version of Citronella… basically most lemon scented plants in the garden seem to be listed as a bug deterrent. Mint is another scented plant that apparently mosquitos, flies, spiders, ants, and even some snakes dislike.

WITH ANY PLANTS: Always research the plants for care tips, planting needs, and safety precautions. If you are planting in an area used by pets or curious children, be sure to check labels and with a plant specialist for information on what plants may be harmful.

Deter insects from invading the inside of your home:

TRIM
Trim plants away from the house. You don’t want any limbs or leaves touching the house or roof. A good rule of thumb is to keep 1 foot of space between your house and plants. This way, you don’t give the bugs any highways into your home.

EMPTY WATER
Mosquitos love standing water. Drain any planters or lids that may have collected water.

REMOVE OLD LEAVES
Ants love old leaves and brush. Pack it up in paper bags and get it to the curb before they build a tiny ant town in your backyard.

KEEP AN EYE OUT
Use caution when you’re poking around in old leaves and brush or moving pots and lids. That’s often where critters like to hide.

Discarding Yard Waste:

I know it seems like buying those black plastic “yard and lawn” bags, seems like the right thing to buy for yard waste – but they’re not. Yard Waste facilities can’t take/process them. Make life easier for your yard waste collection team (and the environment) by placing it in open garbage cans (plant material only, no trash), paper bags from the grocery store, or purchase large paper yard bags from home improvement stores. We love the ones from Ace Home Improvement, but have also gotten them from Home Depot and Lowes. We even found them on Amazon:

Here’s to enjoying our outdoor spaces!