Getting ready for spring

Before your lawn mower repair man gets busy, take your mower in for a tune-up. Most of our yards have bare spots that send sand and grit up in the air and there is nothing worse for a motor than having that junk in its moving parts (if they move at all after spending the winter in the shed). If you have your own lawn mower repair person in the family, promise to make his/her special dinner or give up your interest in the remoter for several days if the job gets done. One of the most important steps besides cleaning filter, and changing oil is putting on new lawn mower blades.

You wouldn't want your hair cut with a pair of scissors that had seen service in a kindergarten class and your grass feels the same way about dull, raggedly mower blades. A cut is a wound, and just like the ob/gyn tells those young mothers who don't want an episiotomy, "It is a lot easier to sew up a straight cut than a jagged one," a clean cut heals more quickly and your grass is less likely to develop diseases when your mower doesn't tear and yank at the individual blades as it passes over them.

If you get your new blades on now, you can freshen up your border grass before it sends up new shoots this spring. Although basically evergreen, ophiopogon and liriope get pretty ratty after a long, hard winter. If you adjust your lawn mower setting to a high setting, you can remove those old leaves now BEFORE the new shoots emerge. You'll have a buzz cut to look for a few weeks, but, oh, my goodness, how much lovelier your border grass will appear when that fresh greenery grows through. If you have large swaths of these grasses planted as a ground cover, the lawn mowing will also cut down any pines or other seedlings that have sprouted.

Aspidistra is another candidate for this treatment. Although in my garden half the big green leaves on these fabulous shade plant are still good looking, I don't have time to selectively go through a hundred leaves and cut only those in need of a trip to the compost heap. So with a sharp knife, I am going to grab a hank of hair so to speak and cut it off, repeating the process until the whole clump has been shorn. Again, it is critical that you don't wait until the new shoots have emerged or you might cut their little tops off and they'll have a brown edge that won't disappear. If you have never spent time in the spring on your hands and knees pulling the mulch and leaves away from your aspidistra, you've missed the glorious moment of seeing their remarkable basal flowers. There are several theories of how they're pollinated, perhaps by slugs or other earth crawling invertebrates.

While you're in a tool preparation mode, put a good edge on your bypass pruners. Many local hardware stores or small engine repair outlets will not only get your lawnmower ready for its spring workout but will also put a good edge on your loppers and bypass pruners. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, here's a Web site that has good instructions for people like me who need clear pictures -