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Milwaukee/NARI Members Provide Spring Lawn and Garden Tips

March 15, 2014

As the cold of winter comes to an end and we transition to the warmer temperatures of spring, now is the perfect time to begin your annual spring lawn and garden maintenance according to members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 52 years. Members share advice for inspecting your property for wind and snow damage and provide tips for making necessary repairs and proper upkeep.

“The heavy snow cover and extremely high winds have caused a great deal of breakage of limbs on existing trees and they will need to be pruned out along with any other normal pruning that one might want to do in the late winter or early spring,” said Tom Auer of The Ground Crafter, LLC in Milwaukee. “Remember that many flowering shrubs and trees bloom on last year’s growth, so pruning will sharply reduce the number of buds. The flowering crabs, magnolia, and forsythia are a few species that will suffer a reduction in bloom.

“There will likely be a great deal of heaving of stone patios and some other garden structures this spring,” Auer said. “Homeowners should be patient, as the thaw of ground frost can take quite a long time, especially a northern exposure or other areas that might be shaded by trees or buildings. Wait until at least May 1 to make any adjustments to base layers, edging, and surface elements.”

“Once the snow begins to recede, you can begin to make an assessment of your lawn, trees, and bushes,” said Gary Urban of Hawks Landscaping Co. Inc., a Division of the Hawks Nursery Co., Inc. in Wauwatosa. “Check for mole and vole damage by looking for the signs of burrowing into the ground and eating at the roots of trees and bushes. You would also notice narrow dead tracks in the lawn.

“The landscaping cure for damage to your lawn is to rake out dead grass and later in the spring to add soil and seed,” said Urban. “The soil needs to warm up, because if the ground is too hard, the seeds can’t grow. We usually wait until early May to do seeding.

“Rabbits can cause damage to tree trunks and even lower branches due to high snow fall levels,” Urban said. “For burning bush, a type of shrub, rabbits eat at the bark searching for food during the winter. If more than three quarters of a branch is damaged, you need to prune out the remainder.”

“Inspect perennials to make sure the cycle of freezing and thawing has not caused these plants to heave,” said Auer. “If you discover a plant that appears to be pushing up out of the ground, gently step down around plant to keep it rooted until growing conditions improve.

“Evergreens, such as spruce and boxwood, will undoubtedly show signs of wind damage from the winter,” said Auer. “The dehydration resulting from the wind will cause needles and leaves to brown. A very light shearing can remove some of this damage and allow recovery and new growth.

“Patience will be key this spring, so give existing plantings time to recover before deciding to take them to the compost pile,” said Auer. “Many species will die down to the ground during such a harsh winter, but often the crown and roots have survived and will flourish if left undisturbed while Mother Nature works her magic.”

As winter comes to a close, we have a few more minutes of daylight each day and the temperatures become more bearable. Consider the following additional tips from Milwaukee NARI that you can add to your spring maintenance to do list:

• Make sure gutters, downspouts, or inlet basins for sub-surface drainage systems are clear of debris before the normal heavy rains in spring. Not only is this critical to protect your home, but standing water and flash flood-like conditions can also harm plants and cause ruts in your yard, washing away valuable topsoil in the process.

• As the snow melts and reveals all the elements of your landscape, don’t forget to get outside and inspect the “hardscaping” features on your property too, such as trellises and decks. Make repairs now while waiting for more ideal gardening weather.

• If you are reusing certain supplies from previous years (like pots to grow seeds in), make sure to disinfect them. Pruning tools should also be disinfected. The UW-Extension recommends using a 10% bleach solution to disinfect your tools and supplies.

• Clean, sharpen, and lubricate your garden tools such a digging shovels and pruning tools. Well-maintained equipment will last longer, make your work a lot easier, and is better for your plants and soils.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 740 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call 414- 771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at

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