Checklist for Getting Your Yard Spring and Summer Ready

May 1, 2013

 Spring in Colorado can be a flirtatious time for those of us who like to hang out in our backyards. One day it’s a perfect, windless, sunny 70 degree day, and the next, it’s a blizzard. For some people, yard work is a dreaded chore, but if you want to have your friends and neighbors oohing and aahing at how great your backyard is at a summer barbeque, here are some tips:

  • Start small. Don’t try to do it all in one day or one weekend. Pick a garden or a section of your yard to focus on and finish. This way you can see real progress and admire your handiwork.
  • Clear all debris from lawn and flower beds. If you have room and the inclination, you might want to think about composting.
  • Aerate your lawn. You can get a tool to do it yourself if you have a small lawn. Otherwise, mark your sprinkler heads and call a professional.
  • Fertilize and put pre-emergent weed preventer on your lawn to keep the dandelions, crab grass, and rag weed from taking over (your neighbors will like this). Again, you can do it yourself or use a service.
  • Observe trimming, pruning, and planting dates for Colorado’s climate:
    • Cut ornamental grasses down after St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).
    • Prune roses after Tax Day (April 15).
    • Plant annuals after Mother’s Day (Second Sunday in May), or after the threat of the last frost.
  • Start seedlings indoors and move them outside when the weather permits. This is perfect for getting an early start on vegetable gardens.
  • Check the sales at the big-box home improvement stores for common annuals like petunias, pansies, and marigolds for your planters and flower beds. Remember that annuals in beds and pots need more water than established perennials in the ground.
  • Seek out local nurseries for more unusual annual and perennial choices, but make sure they are locally grown and are drought tolerant or resistant.
  • When starting your sprinkler system up, ensure that there are no leaks and that the sprinklers are watering the desired targets, not the street or sidewalks. Adjust the sprinkler timer to comply with local watering restrictions.
  • Know how much sun every section of your yard gets – that will help in finding the right plants that will thrive there and allow you to water accordingly.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. In our dry climate, mulching helps keep the soil moist and allows you to water less, plus it makes the gardens in the yard look manicured. Be on the watch for big-box home improvement store sales on bags of mulch, or if you prefer, you can buy in bulk and have a local nursery deliver it.
  • Try throwing some flower seeds in a garden bare spot or spare pot. Seed packets are inexpensive and it’s always fun to see what grows.
  • Consult a professional if you have questions. Take a class at a local nursery or sign up for a nursery e-mail newsletter.
  • Copy successful landscaping ideas from your neighbors.
  • Think about adding a drip irrigation system. They use water much more efficiently. Some can be connected to an outdoor faucet and/or hose and can be used when needed.
  • Be sure to have your underground utility lines marked before digging in your yard. In Colorado, call 811 or 1-800-922-1987 or check
  • Don’t be afraid to transplant something to a new location. If it’s not doing well in its current place, it may very well do better in a spot with different soil or sun exposure.
  • Consider adding a tree to your yard this year. You’ll enjoy the shade and everyone will have the benefit of cleaner air. Don’t know what kind of tree to get? Check out the Arbor Day Foundation Web site.
  • Think of ways to cut down on your yard’s water consumption. Is there a section of lawn that would be appropriate for pea gravel and ornamental grass or other drought tolerant plants?

Follow these tips and as Spring ends and Summer begins, with a little regular maintenance, you’ll be well on your way to creating an enjoyable outdoor environment for you, your family, and your friends.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share?