Do-it-Yourself Landscape Improvements Provide More Than a Beautiful Yard

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Horticulturist Melinda Myers shares gardening tips and advice to keep gardeners safe and healthy while enhancing gardens this spring.

Tulips and other spring flowering plants brighten any landscape and are a sure sign that spring has arrived.

“Gardening elevates our mood, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety.”

Spring has arrived and that means lots of gardening and landscape projects. This year, perhaps more than ever, we can all benefit from the physical and mental health benefits gardening can provide.

“Gardening elevates our mood, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety,” said Melinda Myers, gardening expert and host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. “With each garden bed prepared, plant placed in the ground or landscape feature built, you’ll strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility, burn calories and improve your mental health.”

Myers stressed the importance of putting safety first when planning landscape improvements. She shared these tips for safely improving yards and gardens this spring.

Before putting the first shovel in the ground, contact Diggers Hotline in Wisconsin at least three business days ahead. Simply call 811 or better yet file online at DiggersHotline.com. Gardeners living in a different state should click here and select their state to find out where to file online. They will contact all the appropriate companies who will mark the location of their underground utilities in the designated work area. This eliminates the danger and inconvenience of accidentally knocking out power, cable or other utilities.

Because this important step is often overlooked, April has been declared National Safe Digging month. In a survey conducted by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), they found that four out of ten homeowners are planning projects involving digging. Forty five percent of those people will not contact their local utility notification center. Two thirds of those surveyed believe they won’t be the ones to hit an underground utility; despite the fact that every three minutes someone damages an underground utility somewhere in the United States.

Once the area is marked, adjust plans as needed to avoid conflicts with the underground utilities. Always look up, check for and avoid overhead utilities as well. Next, look for ways to improve the aesthetics while reducing maintenance with simple design strategies. Consider planting shrubs in clusters instead of individually throughout the yard. Surround these and individual trees with a garden or mulch bed.

Keeping grass away from young trees and shrubs eliminates the competition for water and nutrients, increasing their rate of growth. The mulch also helps suppress weeds, conserves moisture and improves the soil as it breaks down. Gardeners burn calories and strengthen muscles while improving growing conditions for trees and shrubs. Mulched beds eliminate the need for hand trimming and prevent weed whip damage to plants. Plus, it makes mowing easier. It is much more efficient to mow around a few large beds than individual plants.

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of woodchips or shredded bark mulch over the soil surface. Don’t pile mulch over the tree trunk or stems of plants. Dress it up by planting a few perennial groundcovers in the bed. Many provide seasonal interest with flowers, fall color and evergreen foliage. Mulch these to help suppress the weeds. Once they fill in, you will have less weeding.

Stay safe and enjoy the many health benefits of gardening. Adding trees, shrubs and flowers to a landscape provides immediate and long-term benefits to enjoy now and for many seasons to come.

Melinda Myers is the author of numerous books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers web site is http://www.MelindaMyers.com.

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