This post is sponsored by Husqvarna. It’s spring. You walk outside to be greeted with warm rays of sunshine, chirping birds, that fresh spring-y scent in the air, a mild feeling of euphoria, AND the sudden realization that your yard looks like winter dropped a bomb on it. Maybe your yard was blanketed in snow, or your plants don’t like ice, or the yard just wasn’t a priority when yardwork and cozying up to the fireplace were the two alternatives. Whatever the reason, spring is an ideal time to lay the groundwork for a rockin’ lawn and garden you can enjoy all summer. Join us in this first of two articles where we’ll be tackling sprucing up our lawn and spring garden and checking out several of our sponsor Husqvarna’s Battery series cordless outdoor power equipment tools in the process.
Kickstarting your spring garden prep is more than just turning on the irrigation for your soon-to-be emerald oasis of lawn. We’ll dive more into spring lawn care towards the end of this article, and even more fully in part two of this article. Before we get to that, we have some work to do!
Spring Garden Prep – Step Back and Evaluate What You Have
Before all the new growth of spring starts budding is an excellent time to step back and take in the big picture of what has been working and what hasn’t been working in your yard. We started our project by surveying the remains of our garden to selectively remove and selectively plant – all before your plants, shrubs and trees starting growing like crazy.
How Long Have Your Plants Been Feeling This Way? Talking to a Horticulturalist
If you’re like most homeowners, what you plant in your spring garden goes something like this:
Step 1: The realization. “Hey, our garden looks terrible. We should plant some cool stuff in it!”
Step 2: (Drive to local nursery)
Step 3: The impulse buy. “That looks pretty! Let’s buy it!”
Step 4: Plant pretty plant in garden.
Step 5: Watch plant die.
Step 6: Wonder where things went wrong.
This sad garden story takes place in thousands of yards across America because the plants in question are not getting proper sun, shade, water, or other environmental conditions. There’s a whole science to this and it’s horticulture. Horticulturalists know what conditions specific plants need to thrive, and these friendly folks can also be invaluable for determining what plants are likely to do well (and look good) in various parts of your garden.
We’re lucky in that one of our neighbors is a horticulturalist who is generous with his time. What should you do if you don’t have a horticulturalist neighbor? Many areas around the country have groups of Master Gardeners available to help you with your garden plans and problems. In San Diego, we have a Master Gardeners organization that’s free, and even has a hotline for your urgent horticultural questions. The American Horticultural Society also has numerous nationwide resources (many of them free), for societies, clubs and organizations that can support you in your efforts to plant things that thrive rather than planting things that look good for a couple weeks and then die. Your local water municipality might also have water-wise planting resources as well.
We consulted with our neighbor and another landscape professional to not only find plants that look good, will grow well and are well suited to our yard’s environmental conditions, but also plants that serve a purpose (like a privacy hedge to create a natural barrier). So, before you blindly start working on what’s already in your spring garden, we recommend assessing what should stay and what should go, ideally with input from a pro. Start cutting down and digging out what didn’t make the cut, and start planting what is hopefully going to do great!
Prune and Trim – Manicure Those Hedges Without Breaking (as Much) of a Sweat
Now that you hopefully have a game plan in place for your spring garden, let’s optimize what you have. A great place to start is with pruning. Although pruning can be done at various times of the year, late winter and early spring are popular times since the plants tend to be dormant through winter.
One of our pruning jobs involved a Hibiscus that has been completely mismanaged over the years. By mismanaged, I mean we didn’t touch it and it grew out of control. Our friendly neighbor horticulturist dutifully informed me the Hibiscus is a shrub, NOT a tree. With his guidance I mercilessly lopped off about six feet of growth. I also used a chainsaw to trim off some of the more unruly larger limbs on the lower part of the shrub. Although it looks brutally chopped and barren here, hopefully we’ll have a slightly-filled-in “after” photo to share in article two. In the meantime, here it is post-pruning.
Husqvarna Cordless Hedge Trimmer – A Topiarists Delight
Chainsaws, pole trimmers and loppers are great for heavier branches, but when it’s time to really manicure your hedges you’ll want a hedge trimmer like the Husqvarna Battery 536LiHD60X or 536LiHe3 (the second model being the pole-hedger version). The blade length on the hedge trimmer we used was 600mm. In case you’re not in Sweden or just about every other country that uses the metric system (the exceptions being ‘Merica, Liberia and Myanmar), that very loosely equates to 24-ish inches and 28-ish inches.
Since Husqvarna sent us about 2000 foam hearing protection plugs (along with the various Husqvarna tools featured in this duo of articles), it’s probably worth mentioning it’s a very good idea to use personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with outdoor power equipment. That PPE should include hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, and, if you’re using a chainsaw a helmet/face shield and some nice safety chaps and to save you a trip to the hospital, or worse.
Several of the Husqvarna cordless outdoor tools we were using, including the hedge trimmer, feature a unique slide-in battery design which leaves the battery visible on both sides of the tool. These are 40 volt, Lithium Ion batteries capable of delivering enough power to tackle some pretty hefty garden and landscape maintenance.
When pruning or trimming a hedge on a level surface, especially if it’s near your home, it’s useful to try to keep your cut level. Some people use a string and line level as a blade guide, or you can wing it (the less precise option). I used the Husqvarna trimmer on two different hedges. The first was a row of horsetail plants that look out of control when untrimmed, and downright orderly when trimmed.
Since a somewhat level window sill backs these horsetails, I used that as a visual reference to cut a relatively straight and level line with the trimmer. The results speak for themselves, and since the horsetail didn’t even put a dent in the battery, it was time to step things up to a real hedge.
Next up, we manicured the boxwood hedge that lined the short walkway leading to the front of the home. It had been months since the last trim, so these hedges definitely needed the help. In this case, the hedges are on a slope, so the trimmer was used more to create clean lines at a consistent height and depth that follow the contour of the slope. The Husqvarna had no problem trimming both hedges.
When complete, the battery had only dropped from 4 to 3 bars, and, more importantly, my wife said the hedges looked better than they have ever looked. Yes! I scored more unredeemable bonus points with my wife – thanks Husqvarna! Despite the beauty of the trim job, it was later determined that the boxwoods were coming out, so don’t look for them in the after photos in article 2!
Aside from making clean cuts and scoring spousal points with my wife, there were two standout features I really liked on the Husqvarna 536LiHD60X battery hedge trimmer. First, the safety mechanism on the front handle. In the interests of not trimming your fingers along with the hedges, the Husqvarna cordless hedge trimmer will not operate unless you have one hand on the trigger and one hand on the ample front handle. While many tool safety mechanisms can be cumbersome, this one just works. Regardless of where you grip the front handle, the safety mechanism kicks in and you can then operate the tool with the rear trigger.
The second aspect we liked was the pivoting rear handle. Hedges unfortunately don’t have the good sense to grow in a way that requires a single grip when trimming them. Husqvarna thoughtfully included a spring loaded latch that enables you to quickly rotate the entire rear handle 90 degrees to the left or right. Alright, pruning, check. Hedges trimmed, check. Next up? Battling one of a gardener’s worst enemies: weeds.
Whacking Those Weeds With the Husqvarna Cordless String Trimmer
Another thing you might find lurking in your spring garden are weeds. I suppose you could pull those weeds and grasses by hand, but what fun would that be?! We were spared the humiliation of crawling around on our hands and knees thanks to the Husqvarna Battery String Trimmer.
When you unbox the Husqvarna 40v battery-powered string trimmer, there is some very mild assembly required. The shield that installs by the head of the tool has a metal tab to insert and a single allen bolt to tighten with an included wrench. The upper handle is assembled via a couple pieces affixed in place with a bolt that you hand tighten. The bolt length is quite short, so we found we had to force the receiving nut firmly into its recess in order to thread the bolt into it successfully. But all in all, you’ll be ready to whack those weeds in no time!
String trimmers are used several ways. Most commonly, they are tasked with chopping weeds and tall grass down to size. We’ve even seen them used in lieu of a lawnmower in a pinch. They also are frequently used to define a nice clean edge around a lawn. We found the Husqvarna to be quite a capable tool for all of the above. The tool had so much power that we might have accidentally cleared the grass to soil level a couple times (a little shorter than planned) as the string powered through weeds, grass and straight into the soil.
Tidying Up – Blowing Away Yard Debris with the Husqvarna Cordless Blower
After pruning, hedge trimming and weed whacking, chances are you may have some debris laying around. The Husqvarna 436LiB Battery Blower makes cleanup fast and efficient, however you will need to try and resist the urge to blow the debris into your neighbor’s yard.
Cruise control for your blower? If you have a vast expanse of yard and don’t need the formidable blowing power a full trigger pull commands, the Husqvarna cordless blower has a cruise control. Simply pull the trigger for the amount of power you need and then press the lower left button on the control panel. The LED will light up, at which you can fully depress the trigger and still retain that same steady level of power. To turn it off, just hit the cruise control button again.
At around eight pounds with a battery installed, the blower was a comfortable weight and feels nicely balanced. One thing to be aware of is that all that power requires a lot of air, and the blower has large intakes on both sides of the tool. It’s very easy to find your pants sucked up to the side of them (which Husqvarna does not recommend for tool longevity), so try to keep a little distance between your clothes and the intakes.
Spring Lawn Care – Carpe Herba!!!
In our case, carpe diem (seize the day) is turning into carpe herba (seize the grass)! As we evaluated our meandering “lawn” (and I use that term very loosely as you’ll see below), we made the determination to permanently remove some of it. Although xeriscaping is all the rage in our area, we didn’t want to loose our lawn entirely. Part of our lot is on a Southern exposure slope, and not only was this sloped lawn not user-friendly, it also sucked up huge quantities of precious Southern California water.
As part of our big picture evaluation of what is working and what isn’t working, the southern exposure “lawn” didn’t make the cut. It was mostly dirt and digitaria (aka crabgrass) thanks to a combination of inadequate water, poor maintenance, and being beaten down with a recent concrete block wall project. It turns out leaving pallets of concrete blocks on the lawn is NOT helpful, nor is substituting spilled mortar for fertilizer.
Join us in our upcoming article two of two in this spring garden series, where we’ll detail some of the re-landscaping changes we made along with a mini review of the Husqvarna Battery Mower, a walk-behind self-propelled model. In article two, we’ll also dive more into spring lawn care and show how we went from the barren wasteland shown here into what will hopefully be a much more lush and aesthetically-pleasing lawn.
Last but not least, once you are sufficiently wowed by the transformation of our our garden and lawn, we’ll give you the opportunity to vote (hopefully for HomeFixated!) in the Yard Wars competition on The Family Handyman! Best of all, you can enter for a chance to win a Husqvarna Automower 450X in the process (see official rules for details)! Get ready to kiss those sweaty afternoons of lawn mowing goodbye!
Husqvarna LE221R Walk-Behind, 40v Battery Powered Lawnmower:
Husqvarna Automower (Not Featured):
Husqvarna 436LiB 40v Battery Powered Leafblower:
Husqvarna 536LiLX 40v Battery Powered Line trimmer:
Husqvarna 536LiHD60X 40v Battery Powered Hedge trimmer:
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Husqvarna. The opinions and text are all mine.