Things are uncertain right now and your routine has likely been upended, but one thing that is consistent is the need to get outside and the importance of spring cleaning this time of year!

That need is never more important than in your yard. This is the time to get some fresh air while you clean up, remove leaf debris and rake out the clutter from your garden.

It’s important as you cut back your ornamental grasses and prune and cut back your roses and perennials, make sure to spread a nice layer of mulch. For plant health, the best practice is to lay a three-inch-thick layer of woody mulch. Anything that is bark-based will do.

This is also the time to fertilize as well, and I’ll have more advice on that next week.

Applying Preen is also beneficial right now. The pre-emergent will prevent weeds from coming up and reduce the amount of maintenance you need to do throughout the year. If you really want to enter the green thumb zone, add compost to your beds before you lay down mulch, which will add some nice organic matter into the soil. For those of you who are at home and would rather not come into the Garden Center right now, we deliver mulch in bulk, which you can pay for over the phone or online. We’ll drop it off in your driveway and you don’t even need to come outside. Please, though, do get outside and enjoy the changing season and freshen up your landscape!


The ground is starting to thaw, temperatures have started to rise just a bit, and that means it’s time to get outside and dust off your lawn and gardening tools.

It’s nice enough out now that we’re encouraging everyone to get outside and start your spring clean up. March might seem early, but I promise it isn’t. Getting a head start on clean up is a fantastic way to set yourself up for success in the season to come.

Here are my five top tips for planning ahead for the spring and summer season.

  1. Start with a clean slate. Get out in the yard and start cutting back plants, cutting out weeds and clearing all the sticks and debris left on the ground by the winter weather and recent wind. All the other prep work in the world will be less effective if you haven’t done the general spring cleaning your yard needs.
  2. Find out if you’re sweet or sour. One of the best things you can do for your lawn is have the pH tested right away. This can be done easily at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The sooner you find out if your soil is sweet or sour, the better, because it will determine your next steps to get a jump on your lawn’s health. Sweet soil has a basic pH while sour soil is acidic. You want to have sweet soil for a great lawn. A sour lawn will shut down and absorb no nutrients, so if you find your pH balance isn’t right, apply fast acting lime all over your lawn as soon as possible. Lime is an all-natural calcium and magnesium source so there are no concerns if you have kids or pets at home.
  3. Gain control. Moss can be a tricky intruder in your lawn, so if you want to tackle it, start now. This is the perfect time to apply a moss control product, like Moss Max, as moss is actively growing when it’s cold. Take this step now vs. trying to battle moss in the heat of the summer.
  4. Take on ticks. It was a warm winter, so ticks didn’t retreat into full dormancy, meaning you may already have active ticks in your yard. The sooner you work to combat them, the less problems you’ll have throughout the rest of the year. I recommend a hose-end liquid spray you can apply to the perimeter of your property where the manicured and un-manicured portions of your lawn meet. This treatment will reduce the number of ticks coming into your yard. If you’re looking for great control choices, synthetic or organic, we offer, Bonide Flea Beater Flea & Tick Control and Eco-Smart Mosquito & Tick Control.
  5. Freshen up. There is nothing like a pop of color to brighten your home after the long, winter months. Once you’ve put in the hard work to get ready for a beautiful spring, grab a pot of cold weather hardy pansies and put them on your front porch as a primer of things to come. Pansies are a great way to reward yourself with something pretty to look at that can handle the temperatures dropping down to as low as 28 degrees.

Trust me, the work will be worth it! Putting in a little time now will save a lot of headache later.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

The winter months may seem bleak, but contrary to popular belief, two types of little critters that love to wreck your lawn and garden, don’t go completely dormant in the winter. That means during a warm winter like the one we’ve had, moles and voles remained fairly active and are already causing trouble under the soil.

Voles will eat the roots of plants, so they are a critter that should definitely cause concern. In your perennial garden, under your rose bushes and even Japanese Maple Trees, if you were to pull up these plants you may find they now have no roots at all.

Moles eat insects, so they’ll leave your plants alone, but they can make a real mess of your lawn with their tunnels.

The sooner you put thought into controlling these creatures, the better off you’ll be.

I recommend putting down an all-natural repellent – such as I Must Garden All Natural Mole and Vole Repellent or Vole Scram – on your lawn to drive away moles and in your gardens to keep voles at bay. Because these are all-natural products, there is no reason to worry about it harming your plants, or pets, for that matter. These products basically coat the food sources for these critters with a smell and a taste that discourages them from making your yard their home.

The best way to use these products is to apply them once per month throughout the season as a preventative measure. If you already know you have an active problem, it’s best to start with a curative approach and make your first three applications weekly.

You’ll know you have an active mole problem if you see mounded tunnels in your yard or find yourself sinking into your lawn as you walk on it. When it comes to voles, holes near the roots of your plants are a good indicator. When it’s time to prune back your rose bushes and do yard clean up and you find some plants come up with no roots, that’s another sure sign.

Even if you’ve never seen an indication of moles or voles in your yard, it doesn’t hurt to take preventative measures to be sure they never move into your property.

For people who have a severe problem and are looking to take a more aggressive route and eliminate moles and voles rather than just drive them away, we do offer natural and synthetic bait options.

If you’re looking to protect a special plant or two that you often find loses its roots to hungry critters, one final alternative is to use a Gopher Shield, a stainless steel mesh bag that you place your plants roots in before it’s planted.

With varying sizes up to 15 gallons, it’s a great solution to a known problem.

With the right tools and perhaps a little creativity, you’ll be prepared to control those critters before they cramp your lawn and garden style.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help.