It might seem a little early to start preparations for the 2017 growing season, but cool season weeds are already popping up and your tools and garden equipment need to be ready when spring arrives. If you wait, you might find yourself in long lines for tune-ups and repairs to lawn equipment.

Lawnmower blades should be checked and sharpened or replaced as needed. Dull blades shred rather than cut the blades of turf grass. Many landscape areas in the Lakelands suffered from drought and severe heat and so did much of our motorized equipment. New air and oil filters will improve operation of mowers and weed whackers so that your equipment is ready to go when weather turns warm.

When does spring occur? It does not always wait until the calendar date, but varies each year. When it occurs early, long lines await you at repair shops and parts supply areas. Repair shops and parts supply businesses are less busy in January and February, so early bird repair, or servicing allows one to pleasantly anticipate spring, rather than watching the grass and weeds grow in May while you wait for repairs on equipment that you did not anticipate.

Recent temperatures in the teens have helped to finish off nearly all the leaf fall, making it a good time to finish cleaning up late falling leaves and add them to the compost pile. If you have a vegetable garden then add them to the garden area. In the vegetable garden, make sure all the old vegetable plant debris and weeds are removed to reduce vegetable disease problems or more weed problems next spring.

Many landscape beds and shrub borders suffered from last summer’s heat and drought too. While you are out and about take along a small shovel or trowel and a clean bucket. There is still time to get ahead of the rush on soil sampling at the Clemson soils lab. Whether samples for turf, ornamentals or vegetable garden a simple $6 test can help with everyday management plans. It won’t be long before many of you will notice that unknown weed in your lawn that seems to have taken over. If you bring a weed sample, bring a soil sample too.

Removing the weeds will not solve turf problems alone. If weeds are finding places to pop-up in your lawn, then you don’t have enough grass to suppress them. You can contact our office with questions about taking a soil test or ask questions at 864-223-3264 or stop by to drop off soil samples or ask further questions about lawn improvement.

Many perennial beds, shrub borders and woody landscape plants suffered from 2016 heat and drought too. Stressed plants are often more susceptible to insect and disease attacks that further reduce their vigor and landscape quality. Check for problems and lightly mulch as needed. It is not wise to pile mulch or leaves heavily around tree stems and shrubs. Those furry little critters called voles hide there and chew on your shrubs during the year and wet mulch placed on tree stems can cause rot diseases of the stem or at the crown line. Mulch should look like a doughnut not like a volcano.

Program on insects, disease

Clemson will host a program on selection and management of landscape plants that minimize insect, disease and other problems from 2-4:15 p.m. Feb. 2.

The program provides information on an integrated management approach to improve landscape plant health and minimize problems. It is aimed at minimizing pesticide use for trees and shrubs. Space is limited. Both private and commercial pesticide license credits are available. Cost is $25.

James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.