Experts agree that March or early April is the right time to get started. Nicole Pinson of the Hillsborough County Extension Office says that when it comes to cutting plants back, it’s important to wait until the coldest weather has passed through. “Sometimes, if you start cutting back too early, we can have another freeze and it can hit your plants even harder.”
With winter on the way out, your backyard may be in need of a spring cleaning. Dead plants, overgrown trees and general debris tend to pile up over the winter months. A professional gardening service could do it for you, but with a little bit of planning, a few inexpensive tools, and some elbow grease, you can take on the job yourself. This way, you will end up saving money and getting some exercise at the same time. If you don’t have a full set of garden tools, start with this list of suggested tools that can be picked up for about $100. Now that we have one less excuse to put off the work, let’s get started.
If your hands aren’t calloused, it only makes sense to pick out a pair of working gloves before you start landscaping. Nothing can kill the enthusiasm for yard work more quickly than blistered hands. Rosebushes and other thorny plants can also leave you looking like someone who grabbed a cat by its tail. Work gloves are readily available almost anywhere in any kind of hardware or gardening supplies store and can usually be found for less than $10.
For those of us who might not know where to start when it comes to picking out gardening tools, the Hillsborough County Extension Office has helpful and friendly agents like Henson ready to help. “A pair of good pruning shears is probably the first thing that you’ll need,” Henson says. “That’s going to help with tree trimming, smaller branches, flowers, and bushes.” Generally, an adequate set of pruning shears will cost about $10.
Next on Hanson’s recommended shopping list is loppers. These look like pruners on steroids and are just the thing for getting rid of dead or overhanging tree limbs that are too thick for hand pruners. Since loppers are quite a bit larger than pruning shears, you can expect to pay a little more for them. They usually run in the neighborhood of $25.
Getting rid of weeds, dead plants, and edging patios is a job for a shovel. (Don’t forget to don your work gloves for heavy shovel work.) Shovel prices start at about $15. Shovels come with either a tapered blade or square blade, so ask the staff which is best for your specific gardening needs. Shopping at a locally owned lawn and garden shop may give you a better chance of finding a real expert than in some of the mega-stores. Giving good advice to beginners is one of the best ways for a store to earn repeat business, so ask away.
Moving the debris
Whether you plan to start a compost heap with your clippings and cuttings, or put them out for garbage pickup, you’re going to find out that carrying the stuff by the armload is clumsy and frustrating. A wheelbarrow or any other wheeled contraption (a wheeled garbage can, maybe) will help make the post-cleanup process a lot easier. You can find a basic wheelbarrow for less than $40 in some places. Naturally, there are more expensive models available, but when it comes to gardening tools, and tools in general, it’s wise to think about how your tools will be used. Professionals rely on their tools every day and need ones specifically built to take that kind of hard use. The rest of us may only use ours once in a blue moon. It’s possible that for most of us, a more lightly built, cheaper version will serve just as well.
Any of the stores below should be able to help you select the right tools for your job, but if you want more advice on how to make your newly cleaned-up backyard look even better, Hanson and the rest of the staff at the Hillsborough County Extension Office are ready to help.
The local stores below may be helpful in getting started:
Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.