This page will cover general lawn care, flower, beds, tree pruning, some gardening, and planting. It is being posted in mid-March, just as we begin another Spring season. It's an early Spring this year, we had no winter to speak of. There was only one snow storm that was barely enough to bother getting the tractor out to plow. This may have been compensation for the multiple snowstorms of Winter 2009-10. The trees have already started to bloom, and the grass is turning green.
My gardening experience is based on Central Virginia climate. Central Virginia is in Zone 6 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. We can usually put summer plants out by the end of March, but do occasionally get a late freeze in early April. If we wait till late April or May we are far enough into spring to avoid frost and snow.
I do own a few antique tractors (if you got here through my tractor site, you already know that). However, I am not a Farmer, at least not in the traditional sense of the term. My philosophy is to grow what is already doing well in the area. Researching what to grow is as simple as driving around and looking at what seems to be doing best. It might be possible to grow palm trees in Central Virginia, but tomatoes are much easier.
Planting a tree or bush isn't difficult. Perhaps the most important consideration is to plan well. DO NOT plant an oak tree 10-feet from your front porch! All you will be doing is creating a future problem that someone will have to remove. Whatever you plant has to be hardy for the climate. Do a little research, and make sure what you want to plant can survive in your climate. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is one of the best tools to determine what types of plants should do well where you live.
The descriptions will usually include information regarding eventual size and shape of the plant. You may want to plant something tall and dense around the edge to isolate your property from the public way. Gardens usually look best with shorter plants around the front and taller items to the back-middle. Do your homework and plan well, or you will just be wasting time and money.
DO follow the directions on the label, especially where they may differ from my instructions. I always dig the hole at least twice the diameter and half-again as deep as the pot the plant was purchased in. Placing the dirt in a wheelbarrow or garden trailer will make it easier to sort, mix, and make less mess in the yard.
Separate grass, weeds, and roots from the dirt you removed from the hole. Mix potting soil with the remaining dirt at about 1:1 ratio. Don't worry about having too much. That rarely happens. I don't know where it goes, but it always takes more dirt to fill a hole than what came out of the hole.
Scrape score marks in the sides of your hole to break up the polished surface your shovel made. This helps invite the new roots to grow out into the surrounding yard.
Place some of the mixed soil in the hole and tamp down. Test fit the plant to see that it will sit about one inch above the surrounding area. Higher is definitely better than too low. Remove plant, and add more dirt if it's too low.
Remove the plant from the container. The new plant will often slide right out. I usually support it with one hand, turn it over, and pull the container off. The thin plastic containers can be cut down each side to make this easier. Some containers are meant to be left on and buried with the plant. Read the instructions!
Set the plant in the middle of the hole, verify the height again, then start filling around it. Fill in layers and tamp to ensure no air pockets. Grade at the top so the soil slopes away from the plant. Water to settle the soil and add additional material if necessary so the finished grade slopes away from the plant.
Adding a couple inches of mulch is great for weed control, and may be essential to help the plants get through the hot dry summer months. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture. Water to settle the soil. You may need to water a few times until the roots are established, especially if rainfall is less than normal the first Season or two. Do not water too much. That will cause your plants to rot.
This is my tractor, set up with a 5-foot cutter and my tree-pusher bumper.
I had a 4-foot cutter on one of my tractors most of the winter. That was a good size for working wooded property. Now I have switched to the 5-foot cutter. The work this winter has finally opened-up most of our 12-acre property. We still have stands of downed-trees that date back to hurricane Gastone. Some of that is still too dangerous to try and cut, but I've been able to nibble around the edges and clean up. I will not be farming this property, but I do intend to make it as productive as possible by putting in a few fruit trees, nut trees, and anything else that should do well. There are already enough wild strawberries and grape vines that I know those should do well here.
I highly recommend doing most of the heavy bush hog work in the winter months. Trees seem more brittle in the cold. There is certainly less sap in them, and there are NO BUGS to deal with.
This is one area that will be a garden this year. It's about 1/2 acre, and as you can see, crops that require lots direct sun will not do well. There are too many trees.
I could have used a 2-bottom plow, but that would have brought up a lot of tree roots and the last thing I want is more dead and dying trees to deal with. A small disc will turn over the topsoil and get ready for planting in a few passes. Obviously, crops like carrots would require deeper tilling.
We have very little open yard around the house, and most of that is on the septic drain field. That is not an area where you want to get too aggressive with a plow. I have had sone success with tomatos, grape vines, and blackberries do well. Just as the grape vines got established, Japanese Beetles suddenly decided grape leaves taste good. After 3 years I gave up just feeding beetles and cut the grapes down.
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