The sun is shining, the lawn is turning green, and the birds are chirping. In fact, it’s a balmy spring day. Surely there must be something you can do to start your garden! As a matter of fact, there is, but it doesn’t involve a single seed.

If you’re like most gardeners, you’ve never had your soil tested. Every year you dutifully spread a layer of compost and/or manure over your garden, dig it in, and plant. After all, that’s what every book, article, and website tells you to do. You might even add some fertilizer, just to be on the safe side. But if you’ve never had a soil test, you’re flying blind.

The goal for most gardens is 5% organic matter (natives prefer leaner soil). But we gardeners tend to think that if 5% is good, 10% is better! And everybody knows that you add manure to create fertile garden soil—right?

Well, apparently not. We really do want 5% organic matter, and more is not better. Too much compost can cause major problems, and too much manure can be even worse.


Q: What can I be doing in my yard and garden in early spring?

A: Here are a few tips to get your yard ready for the growing season.

Rake up last fall’s leaves, pine needles, thatch and other debris. Make sure the grass is getting adequate moisture to avoid grass mite damage and other dry turf problems.


photo by Don Bunce, Colorado Master Gardener

Aeration plugs

Aeration is the best way to help your lawn thrive. It will reduce thatch and soil compaction, improve water and air absorption, encourage healthy root growth and control weeds. Remember to flag sprinkler heads before aeration. Plugs should be evenly spaced and two to three inches long, so watering well beforehand is a must. Aeration provides a great surface for fertilizing or over-seeding.


Fertilizer should be applied when grass is actively growing. Fertilize cool grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescues and ryegrass in the spring. Wait to fertilize warm weather grasses such as buffalo grass, blue grama, and bermudagrass in midsummer. Colorado lawns prefer a fertilizer that is primarily nitrogen and includes some iron. Mulching mowers leave the grass on the turf and essentially provide all the needed nitrogen. (more…)

Just a few eons ago, ocean waves lapped against the rocks of Garden of the Gods Park. Rivers flowed out of the mountains, carrying sediment to the shallow inland sea, building deltas. Finer shale and clays settled to the bottom of deeper waters.

Now, gardeners wonder what their soil is like in the Pikes Peak region. You guessed it: we have gravels, sands and clays. We do not have the rich, dark soils built from ancient, decaying forest floors. On the contrary, our soil grossly lacks humus content, and either percolates water too quickly (sand) or hardly at all (clay).

To help gardens in this area succeed, an aggressive soil-amending program may be necessary to make our soils more productive. Healthy soil has many different components to it: minerals, air, water, and microbes. (more…)