For the lawn ...
We have three large live oaks on the property and they drop all their leaves twice a year. I've been raking for the past couple of months! All those leaves will completely destroy your lawn. They are too heavy and dense for the sun and rain to reach the grass, so you will need to get out there and rake those off your lawn. As soon as you rake, hit your grass with a Southern weed & feed. This will kill the weeds that have crept in during the holidays.
After raking and weed & feed, look for bare patches in your grass and fill them in with play sand. Yes, you read that right. Go get a few bags of play sand from Home Depot and pour it on the bare spots. Rake it smooth and within a few weeks, your grass will shoot runners all over the top of the sand filling it in nicely. It's so easy for our lawn to have its soil depleted down here with all the rain and the electric blowers. Those blowers are great for getting debris off your lawn, but they're also great at blowing away your soil. Our Florida grass grows best in sand, so don't be shy with it! This year, we are going to have to order a dump truck of sand to be delivered to our property - yes, the oaks have done that much damage!
Now that you've taken care of your lawn, walk your property and take a good look at your garden beds. Is the soil depleted? Is there any mulch left? What do your plants look like? My garden beds are in dire shape. The oak leaves have really wreaked havoc this past year, so my garden beds look dingy and tired and my lawn is in bad need of sanding. Just last week, I completely overhauled a corner garden bed of ours and would like to share with you the process I used & always use when fixing my beds.
Here is a step-by-step for a garden bed ...
Rake out all the leaves and pull any weeds or old/dead plants. Assess the size plot you have and map out how many plants you would like to put back in (you might want to make a drawing & bring it with you to the garden center). In my case, I bought three different colors/types of flowers - blue, red, and lavender. You also want to consider the color of greenery - there are dark greens, sage greens, and yellow-greens. Consider the colors with the color of your house and driveway/walkway.
Dig holes where you want the new plants to go - wider than the plant and as deep as the plant is. You may want to water the soil before digging to loosen it up a bit. Digging in South Florida can be difficult as you will encounter rock, shells, and roots of neighboring plants or trees. If you're having a lot of trouble, you may have to step back a minute, take a look at your garden, and rethink you map of plants. Keep in mind that if you are planting plants in a row, you can dig a trench and place the plants in. Either way, back fill after you plant them and push the soil down around the plant so that there are no air pockets. Once all the plants are in the ground and planted, shake some fertilizer pellets around the base of all the plants. I used Miracle-Gro for flowering plants. Water the plants to moisten the ground and the fertilizer.
Next, grab those heavy bags of mulch and begin adding the mulch an inch or two thick around all the plants. I like to use cypress mulch as it is natural to our area and has a pretty color and nice smell. I don't like the "colored" mulches as they lose their color and that color ends up in our soil, canals, and water. Try to find something natural. Another nice one is eucalyptus. Don't completely smother the base of the plant - you want it to breathe a bit. Once the mulching is done. Step back and admire your new garden! Finally, you can add in the fun touches like statues, garden flags, a potted plant, stepping stones, small garden gates, bird baths, etc.
If you're a Catholic family like me, you will have small children at home who will want to be in on the project. I suggest doing the bulk of the work on your own, but plan something they can do to help. My four year old daughter dug holes and put the flowers in. She had an absolute ball!!! Remember to add in small garden features that will be fun for children such as a walking path, a fairy house, a frog home, etc. This will promote a love of gardening with your children that will last a lifetime.
Here are my befores and afters:
|BEFORE #1: Looking from my house's walkway down onto the corner garden.|
It's looking tired, lacks color, and does absolutely nothing to enhance my home.
|BEFORE #2: Looking towards the house onto the garden. |
I had a lot of leaves to remove - as well as the old red flowers (their time had sadly come).
The red flowers were vinca - or periwinkle. They thrive anywhere - great for So.FL!
|The new side entrance to the garden. Mostly used by the kids :)|
The new red flowers are begonias and the blue ones are lobelia.
|Another view from above - a new garden flag adds color to any garden!|
The green grassy plant is liriope, which is VERY hardy. If you fertilize it, it will
bloom in July with little purple flowers.
|Up close shot of the stones in sand. The plants in pots are old - had them for years!|
They are society garlic and I still need to give them a bit of attention! They will also bloom light purple.
|A child's view of the garden entrance … a charming stepping stone to greet them, |
as well as flowers of varying colors and a bunny await their arrival!
|Along the front of the garden, you can see solar lights, the new walking path|
for the children, the new garden gate, and some touches of purple.
Don't let gardening intimidate you no matter where you live. Do your research on native plants to your area, assess your yard and garden, and make a game plan! Some things will fail, that's okay … but you will have fun in the process and you will learn. Go spend some time in the dirt and you will spend time with God. He is there in all His marvelous creation!