Some Spring Tips...and don't forget about Mom!
Spring Yard Clean Up
Tackle a little early spring maintenance now to get your yard ready for the growth spirt.
April is notoriously unpredictable. Shrubs can be crusty with snow on the first of the month, and then, a couple of weeks later, temperatures can warm up enough for flower and leaf buds to show signs of life.
Still, some early spring cleanup tasks are sure things this time of year. So go ahead and remove burlap from trees and shrubs as the weather warms. Prune away winter-killed branches to make room for new growth. Cut back spent perennials and pull up old annuals if you didn't get around to it last fall. Then look around. "March is a good time to take stock of your yard and see if it's time to thin out crowded beds and do some transplanting to fill in bare spots," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook.
Here, a spring yard clean up checklist to tackle now to give your green patch a clean start.
1. Trees & Shrubs - Prune away dead and damaged branches.
Where tree or shrub branches have been damaged by cold, snow, and wind, prune back to live stems; use a handsaw for any larger than ½ inch in diameter. Shaping hedges with hand pruners, rather than electric shears, prevents a thick outer layer of growth that prohibits sunlight and air from reaching the shrub's center. At right, Roger neatens up a yew by pruning wayward shoots back to an intersecting branch. Prune summer-flowering shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, before buds swell, but wait to prune spring bloomers, like forsythia, until after they flower. Trim overgrown evergreens back to a branch whose direction you want to encourage.
2. Perennials & Grasses - Cut back and divide perennials as needed.
Prune flowering perennials to a height of 4–5 inches and ornamental grasses to 2–3 inches to allow new growth to shoot up. Where soil has thawed, dig up perennials, such as daylilies and hostas, to thin crowded beds; divide them, leaving at least three stems per clump, and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. Cut back winter-damaged rose canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. On climbers, keep younger green canes and remove older woody ones; neaten them up by bending the canes horizontally and tipping the buds downward. Use jute twine or gentle Velcro fasteners to hold the canes in place.
3. Beds & Borders - Clean Up Around Plants.
Next on the spring yard clean up checklist, rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, Roger also removes existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. Now is a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil's surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a 5-10-10 fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season's growth. Use pins to fasten drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.
4. Composting - Compost Yard Waste.
Dump collected leaves, cuttings, spent foliage, and last season's mulch into your compost pile, or make a simple corral by joining sections of wire fence (available at home centers) into a 3-by-3-by-3-foot cube like the one above. Shred leaves and chip branches larger than ½ inch in diameter to accelerate decomposition, or add a bagged compost starter to the pile. Keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and aerate it with a pitchfork every two weeks. Just don't add any early spring weeds that have gone to seed—they might not cook completely and could sprout instead.
5. Lawn Care - Prep Damaged Lawn Areas for Spring Seeding.
In colder climates grass starts growing in April, but early spring is a good time to test the soil's pH so that you can assemble the right amendments. Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease to prepare for the seeding that should follow in a few weeks. Work in a ½-inch layer of compost to keep the new seed moist, increasing the germination rate. Begin seeding once forsythia starts blooming in your area. In warmer climates, March is a good time to add the first dose of fertilizer and crabgrass treatment. Remove dead turf with a square metal rake, then flip it over to spread compost.
6. Paths & Patios - Neaten Up Hardscape Surfaces.
Rake escaped gravel back into aggregate walkways and patios, and order more gravel to spread in large depressions, which often form near the driveway's apron. Refill joints between flagstones by sweeping in new sand or stone dust; water with a hose to set it, then repeat. If the freeze-thaw cycle has heaved pavers out of place, remove them and replenish the base material as needed before setting pavers back in. Use a pressure washer with a low pressure tip to remove slippery algae spots or leaf stains from patios and walkways.
7. Fences & Trellises - Patch or replace and paint worn wood.
Remove badly rotted or damaged pickets, boards, or lattice, then scrub wood structures clean with a mix of 2 gallons water, 2 quarts bleach, and 1 cup liquid soap; let dry. Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy; install new wood as needed. Check wobbly fence posts to see if they need replacing.
Celebrating Mother's with These Fun Activities
Sure, Mother's Day gifts are always a nice surprise, but this holiday isn't about spending a ton of money—it's about spending quality time with one of the most important people in your life. Instead of (or in addition to) a flower delivery or a sweet message, treat Mom to a day that's all about her. Whether she likes to get out and explore or stay in and relax, our fun activities and ideas for things to do together will make this Mother's Day one she'll remember forever.
- Sign Up for a Cooking Class - Considering Mom probably taught you everything you know in the culinary department, taking your cooking skills to the next level together couldn't be more fitting.
- Visit a Museum - The art or history buff will loving having a Mother's Day museum buddy.
- Sweat It Out - Kick off Mother's Day on a healthy note by trying a new workout class together. Not only is this an incredible bonding activity, but you'll both feel energized and ready to tackle more activities.
- Treat Her to a Meal Out - Everyone should get a break from cooking on Mom's special day. Whether it be breakfast or brunch, lunch or dinner, take Mom out for a meal at her favorite restaurant.
- Host a Happy Hour at Home - Show off your bartending skills by making delicious drinks at home. If your mixing skills are minimal, just pop open a bottle of bubbly and get the celebration started!
- Go Antiquing - There's nothing more exciting for collectors than discovering a beautiful future heirloom. Take Mom to different antique stores around town and help her find some treasures.
- Serve Breakfast in Bed - Start off Mom's special day with a tray full of her favorite breakfast goodies delivered right to her bed. As she's enjoying her meal, clean up the kitchen to really impress her. She'll feel like a queen!
- Explore the Great Outdoors - Get outside and enjoy the fresh air with your mom leading the way. Whether you go for a long hike or a short walk, it will feel great to get up and get moving—especially before you enjoy plenty of Mother's Day desserts.
- Craft Away the Day - Set up Mom's craft room with new supplies to surprise her and spend the day creating memories and art to last a lifetime.
- Make Dinner Together - If Mom loves to cook, join her in the kitchen by making a delicious dinner together, like these chipotle chicken fajitas. If you really want to treat her, keep her out of the kitchen and treat her to a homemade meal—complete with a Mother's Day cake, of course!
- Go on a Road Trip - Nothing is as therapeutic as the open road, and road trips are a great way to get away from the distractions of every day life. It's a time to have some heart-to-heart conversations or blast your favorite tunes.
- Plan a Picnic - Skip the noisy, pricey restaurant and instead lay out a picnic in a quiet corner of the park. The beautiful outdoors, a loving family, and delicious food make for lasting memories.
- Visit a Farmers' Market - If your mom enjoys fresh produce and local goodies, she'll love walking around a bustling farmers' market on a nice spring day. As she's enjoying the market, you can treat her to some last-minute Mother's Day flowers.
- Host a Brunch - Who wouldn't love waking up to the smell of a delicious brunch made just for you?! Recruit the rest of the family to help make a fabulous brunch spread that will be sure to impress your mom.
- Spend Time in Her Garden - Visit the local nursery and have mom pick out some new flowers or vegetables for her garden, then help her plant them with you get home. Pitch in with weeding or watering while you're at it—she'll appreciate the gesture.
- Schedule a Massage - Treat your hardworking mom to some well-deserved time with a massage therapist. She'll leave feeling completely rejuvenated.
- Throw a Tea Party - Mother's Day falls during that magical time of year when the weather is pleasantly warm (but not hot) and the trees and flowers are blooming once more, so why not move the party outside? A garden tea party is a special and elegant way to honor mom, and it's an excuse to make fancy finger sandwiches.
- Bake Something Together - If your love of baking comes from your mom, enjoy one of your favorite activities together by baking a gorgeous cake for the whole family to enjoy. We love this strawberry limeade cake with cream cheese frosting—and if you go berry picking too, you can even use those strawberries you collected.
- Take Her to a Movie - It sounds simple, but how often do you go out to watch a new movie with your mom? Share a bag of popcorn and enjoy talking about the film afterward.
- Treat Her to a Manicure - Freshly trimmed nails and a flawless new color will make her feel like a million bucks.
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Today’s Bank of Canada rate hold announcement marks almost four straight years that the key benchmark rate has remained unchanged, since September 8, 2010. Great news if you have a variable-rate mortgage or home equity line of credit; the prime rate stays at 3%.
The announcement noted that “the risks to the outlook for inflation remain roughly balanced, while the risks associated with household imbalances have not diminished.” With these considerations, the Bank is maintaining its monetary policy stimulus, and remains neutral with respect to the timing and direction of the next change.
The next rate-setting day is October 22nd.