"The best friend on earth of man is the tree."

— Frank Lloyd Wright

Pansy attack

According to the calendar, spring officially arrived on March 20. However, years of experience has demonstrated that this does not mean that spring weather has dependably arrived. So, usually by that time of year, I am longing to see pansies somewhere to assure me that spring is, in fact, here.

However, this year I did not suffer a pansy attack because, wonderfully, I was already surrounded with young pansy plants here in my house. Because these cool-loving plants are also grown for fall planting, I found two flats of well-developed perky young plants from a plant trade show this winter. The challenge has been keeping them happy, semi- dormant in the unheated garage over the remaining winter months. I had to bring the plants indoors into the basement when serious frost threatened. They all survived, swelling out of their small pots with their blooms poking through generous, rich green foliage. They are in the ground now and are happily announcing spring weather and enjoying an outdoor home.

Yard electricity

We take indoor electrical safety for granted because wiring, circuit breakers and grounded plugs are typically professionally, permanently installed and checked to meet code requirements.

However, outdoor electrical arrangements are often more temporary and improvised. We casually run cords here and there to the sump pump, the trimmer, mower, electric blower or chainsaw. Then we unplug till next time.

Take some time this spring to assure safety in outdoor situations.

• Use appropriate cords for the job — small ones with lighter insulation for 7 amps; larger ones with thick insulation for 10 amps. Check for worn spots on cord insulation.

• Do not use extension cords any longer than is necessary. Use one of sufficient length to avoid linking several together,

• Unplug cords when equipment is not in use.

• Do not remove the third prong from a plug because you do not have an adapter handy.

• Avoid mowing or driving vehicles over electric cords.

• Keep cords away from damp grass, puddles and sharp rocks or edging.

• Have an electrician install outdoor electrical conduits to outdoor outlets and ground fault interrupters for your safety.

Lawn decision

Now that snow has finally melted, your lawn is visible. So, how does it look?

If your experience is typical, it looks pretty bad. The frequent rains last year likely compacted the soil, damaging grass roots and foiling fall repair efforts. Also, chances are your grass plants have grown old and need replacement.

Time for a plan.

Start with whether you really need so much lawn. Consider downsizing.

Then decide how you want to proceed. Seeding is best done after aerating in the fall. While it is most economical, faster and you have more choices of seed, the new turfgrass is vulnerable to weed competition, is hard to establish on slopes and will need a repeat seeding.

If you want to have a nice lawn for this summer, use sod. While it costs more and installing it is harder to do (you may need professional help), you can have an instant new lawn this spring that smothers weed seeds, works well on slopes and looks terrific.

Remember, any type of new lawn needs faithful watering until the turfgrass plants are established.

Did you know?

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

• The U.S. lost 175,000 acres of urban and community tree cover between 2009 and 2014.

• During those years, approximately 167,000 acres of impermeable groundcover and pavement increased.

• About one-third of the United States of America is covered by forests.

• According to the last forest inventory, there are almost 247 billion trees over 1 inch in diameter in the U.S.

For more than 20 years, local garden writer and lecturer Liz Ball has offered helpful information and advice to homeowners on enjoying and caring for their yards and the plants that grow there in her Yardening column. Direct your Yardening questions to her at lizball@aol.com.

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