Getting Fit in The Garden

The start of spring and the return of warm weather has many people kick-starting their exercise routines. The elliptical machines at the gym—heavily neglected during the winter months—are now in heavy use; greenways and bike lanes are crowded with people eager to get back in shape before the dreaded “swimsuit season”; and, after a couple months of hibernation, our yards and gardens are getting some much needed TLC. Luckily, for those whose spring goals involve getting fit and having a beautiful lawn and landscape, gardening and exercise often go hand in hand. In fact, hard-working gardeners may find themselves accomplishing a surprising number of fitness goals while they care for their plants. Here’s how:

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Enhancing Natural Soil

Fertile Soil

Photo by Raul Hernandez Gonzales.

Now that spring has officially sprung, many gardeners are thinking about how they can have a productive and green growing season. As all planters know, the health of plants largely depends upon the health of soil. Fertile, rich soil gives plants the shelter and nutrients they need to thrive during a temperamental and often unpredictable time of the year. If you have yet to give your soil some TLC, now is the time. Maintaining soil health is a commitment, and techniques to enhance natural soil should be used congruently for the best results. Start with these simple techniques and, from there, you can customize your routine based on how well it works in your garden. The best fit is always a custom one!

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Quick Facts on Clover

Although clover is technically a weed, it also has various agricultural, health, and lawn and garden benefits. In honor of Roanoke’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebration this weekend, we’d like to talk a bit about how you can use clover in your daily life (yes, even the three-leafed ones).

Clovers

Photo by Falon Yates.

Clovers are a type of forage legume found in temperate climates throughout the world, and especially in the northern hemisphere. Common varieties of clover include red clover, white clover, crimson clover, and arrowhead clover. Throughout history, all kinds of clovers have been utilized for their agricultural benefits. Clovers, particularly the shamrock clover, are traditionally associated with Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day festivities across the world. Four-leaf clovers, which are much rarer than the common three-leaf clover, are considered good luck when found.

Clover as a Cover Crop

Clovers, particularly crimson clovers, are often used as a cover crop in lawns and gardens. Often, clover is grown in combination with ryegrass or other winter legumes to provide coverage for delicate soil. Clover makes a superb cover crop because it has a high nitrogen content and deep roots, which help with erosion control and soil’s moisture holding capacity. Clover also suppresses more aggressive weeds and attracts beneficial predator insects that kill off pests. For these reasons, many gardeners have chosen to incorporate clover into their gardening plan.

Clover and Ecosystems

In the wild, clovers provide food for a variety of different birds, insects, and animals like deer and rabbits. Additionally, clover furnishes pollen and nectar for honeybees. Crimson clover, white clover, and red clover are known for their nitrogen fixation capabilities. Clovers obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it onto nodules in their roots, through which they then slowly release the nitrogen into the soil, acting as a kind of fertilizer. Thus, clovers are thought to promote stronger soil.

Clover and Health

Clovers are also thought to possess a number of health benefits when ingested. Throughout history, clovers have been used as blood purifiers, anti-asthmatics, immunity boosters, diuretics, treatments for eczema and psoriasis, and hormone balancers. Teas, herbal medicines, and lotions are often made with clover as a palliative ingredient.

Four Leaf Clovers

Four leaf clovers are a rare variation of the common three leaf clover. Traditionally, four leaf clovers are supposed to bring good luck to whoever manages to find one. Each leaf is thought to symbolize something different: the first leaf represents faith, the second represents hope, the third represents love, and the fourth represents luck. Anyone that can find a clover with all four leaves is therefore blessed with faith, hope, love, and luck!

Raising Backyard Chickens

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Photo by Lindsay Holmwood

At my house, we have a pet problem. Every few months, my roommates and I experience the unshakable temptation to add another critter to our wild urban homestead. It started quite innocently—with just a couple dogs and a couple cats (amateur level stuff)—and grew radically from there. Now we have two ducks, two tanks of fish, and—most recently—four baby chickens.

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Early Spring Landscaping Tips

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Photo by Stevesworldofphotos via Flickr

The beginning of spring is one of the busiest times of year for landscapers and gardeners. In Southwest Virginia (and much of The United States in general), the weather has been unseasonably warm, causing plants to bloom much earlier than expected. At Roanoke Landscapes, we’ve been rushing to prepare yards for the start of spring: readying irrigation system to be turned on, mowing and pruning, and fertilizing thawed ground. Here are our tips on what *you* can do to get your yard in tip-top shape before the season change. The sooner you start, the better prepared you’ll be!

Thoroughly Prune Evergreens

Does your landscape include evergreen shrubs and trees? You’ll want to start pruning those now before the weather shifts. Cut slowly but steadily, shaping and controlling size.

Plant Early Spring Crops

Mustard greens, turnips, green beans, corn, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and other early spring crops can be planted now. You can also set out transplants of tomatoes and peppers, but be prepared to cover in case of a late frost.

Prepare to Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Some of your spring-flowering shrubs and trees may already be blooming. In that case, you can go ahead and prune them. For late bloomers, wait to prune into the plant has flowered completely. If any of your plants are winter damaged, go ahead and remove any dead or diseased growth.

Fill Bird Feeders

Thousands of bird species are migrating back from their winter habitats! Setting up bird houses and bird feeders will give them a place to R&R while they make the long flight back.

Mulch and Fertilizer

Help your plants wake up from their winter hibernation by cleaning out beds, fertilizing soil, and spreading a fresh layer of mulch.

Plan for Planting

Early March is the perfect time to plan for this year’s new plantings. Visit nurseries and shop for summer or fall-flowering perennials. Try something new this year—cut through the drab of your gardening routine by incorporating more bright colors and interesting textures.

Clean and Mow Your Lawn

Over the winter, your lawn might have accumulated various kinds of debris like dead branches or leaves. Now is a good time to thoroughly clean your yard, removing any clutter that may be harboring diseases and pests. Once your lawn is clean, you can start your mowing routine. In early spring, cut at 3” or higher to prevent brown spots from forming.

If you need help with any of your spring gardening or landscaping chores, be sure to call a landscaping professional as soon as possible. We get booked quickly this time of year!