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Tips to Help Your Garden Grow

And save you time and money

As your spring bulbs bloom, mark their location on a sketch or plan of the garden, so you don't plant annuals or new perennials on top of them. While you're scouting, look for areas you can redesign for low maintenance. Consider planting shrubs, ground covers or ornamental grasses to cut down on lawns and flower borders.

"It's very easy to mix and match plants — perennials, small shrubs and fast-spreading annuals for a full effect that not only shades out many weeds, but also makes everything look cottagelike," says Felder Rushing, author of the forthcoming Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and Seasons.

Sharpen and prune

Some plants — ornamental grasses, roses, spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia and lilacs — need pruning in the spring. Cut out all dead, diseased and damaged limbs, says Cayleb Long, curator of the annual and perennial borders at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But don't overdo. "You don't have to prune everything into tight. meatballs or gumdrop shapes," says Rushing. "Allow some shrubs to grow out into their natural shape." 

Before you wield the clippers, sharpen your tools: You won't have to make multiple cuts on a branch, and you'll get fewer blisters and backaches, says Nardozzi. The most basic sharpening tool is an 8-inch-long flat file available at any hardware store for about $8 to $10. Look for one with a handle to make using the file easier, and consider wearing goggles and gloves to avoid flying bits of metal. And don't forget lawnmower maintenance. "The best thing you can do for your lawn is to get the blades of your lawnmower serviced," says Myers. "Mowing will be easier, the lawn will look nicer and you'll use less gas."

A planting we will go

Plant perennials now so they'll be established by summer, and need less watering. If you want to skip the step of starting your annual and vegetable seeds indoors — and the accompanying financial outlay for peat pots, trays and lights — you can sow them directly into the ground at about the same time you would transplant the seedlings that matured in your basement. Wait until after there's no danger of night frost that can wreak havoc on the seeds even if the days are warm, which can be any time between mid-February and mid-June, depending on where you live. Sow in staggered rows and space the seeds as the packet suggests, so the plants can grow into a denser cover, keeping weeds down. Before you plant, check weather forecasts for the coming week to avoid a surprise frost. Nor are windy days ideal for planting: The seeds may scatter. 

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