If you haven't already done it, get out and check the equipment that was put away last winter. Check for tools and equipment that are worn and need replacing. Also consider purchasing new equipment if your needs have changed. Hand tools and powered equipment are being improved every year, so there are always new things to look at. If you are looking for new equipment, be sure and come by Robstown Hardware and our friendly salespeople will be glad to answer your questions and help you decide on what you need. Also, please remember that, although our sales personnel can demonstrate proper usage of any equipment that we sell, after purchasing any new equipment the first thing you should do is read the operator's manual. It is the one place that contains the information you need for proper running, care and maintenance of your equipment and can answer many of the questions that may arise after purchase.
Does your lawn need some landscaping changes? Now is a great time to research plants for a perennial border or to plan for that vegetable garden. This can be a family activity. When planning, let the kids pick out a few new varieties of vegetables or flowers. They'll enjoy watching their plants grow this spring.
If you retained the old oil from last winter, be sure you change it before the first use. This is a good time to sharpen the cutting blades and edges, too. For mowers and other small engines, use regular unleaded gasoline of 87 octane. High octane gas can cause problems in small engines.
The crankcase oil on a 4-cycle engine should be changed after the first five hours of use. This will help to flush out little bits of metal that occur naturally when the piston rings are seated. After that, the oil can usually be changed every 25 hours of use, or every spring, whichever comes first. When changing oil, be sure and follow the instructions in the operator's manual.
If equipment is hard to start it could be due to a damaged spark plug or a clogged carburetor. Clean the spark plug with a wire brush and check the gap. Replace it if it is damaged. If problems do arise, call us or bring in your lawn mower or tractor to Robstown Hardware and we'll get you back outside and going.
Mowing in early spring, when grasses are getting started, helps to remove weeds which are already at seeding stage. This can lessen the need for herbicides. Mowing removes old growth and stimulates a lawn to spread out and thicken. Mowing often enough to cut the top one-third of the plants will help promote a healthy root system. For grasses that have been affected by fungi during the cool season, mowing can aide in air circulation and lessen fungal attack. Making certain that the mower blade is sharp will help to ensure a nice, smooth look when finished. If its been a while since the blade on your mower was sharpened, bring it to Robstown Hardware and have one of our service technicians inspect it.
Mulching mowers will shred grass into tiny clippings and blow them down into the turf where they eventually return nitrogen to the soil and aid in preventing fungal diseases.
Always Think Safety! If you are going to mow then dress for the occasion. Wear leather shoes to help protect your feet from objects that could be thrown by the blade, tuck in loose clothing that could become caught anywhere on the mower. Before mowing, check the lawn for things such as hoses, tools, toys and other impediments to safe mowing. This will help to ensure that the mower blade will not kick out anything unexpected or become entangled. When mowing on a hill using a lawn tractor mow up and down for greatest stability. If you are using a walk-behind product then mow side to side. That way, if you fall, the mower is less likely to tumble on top of you. If mowing on a hill is a problem then consider planting ground cover and dispensing with mowing altogether. If trees and shrubs have grown into obstacles that force you to back up with your mower, consider pruning them or taking them out, so you can always mow in a forward direction for safety. Mower blades can spin at up to 200 miles per hour so if your mower becomes clogged, shut off the mower and use a stick to remove any blockage. Don't put your hands in the blade area!
If you have a lawn area that makes mowing difficult or risky, you can eliminate the planting by planting a ground cover in the problem area. This includes hills that are difficult to mow. If trees and shrubs have grown into obstacles that force you to back up with your mower, consider pruning them or taking them out so you can always mow in a forward direction for safety.
Pick a spot that gets six to eight hours of sunlight, one that you can reach with your garden hose but has good drainage to avoid standing water. Also, plant away from trees and shrubs that could steal the water. To obtain perfectly straight rows, lay them out using stakes and string. If planting seeds, use the handle of a rake or hoe to create the row, then make the hole four times the diameter of the seed, so that bigger seeds are planted a little deeper. Planting taller plants on the north side of rows running north to south will help ensure maximum sunlight for all plants. Cover the seeds and tamp the dirt over them to create good contact with the earth which helps enable growth. This will also help prevent seeds from washing away in a heavy rain.
Water tomatoes (or any transplants) thoroughly approximately an hour before planting. If possible, plant them on a cloudy day, or early evening, to prevent quick drying. Sit the plants a little lower in the garden bed than they were in the container. Add fertilizer to the soil and then water often.
To prevent disease organisms from building up in your garden soil, rotate your crops every year. That simply means not planting the same type of plant in the same location every year. To help stifle pests such as cutworms, put a cardboard collar around the plant stem and push it into the soil. Rabbits can be fenced out of a garden by the use of chicken wire if you make sure that it's buried in the soil to prevent them from burrowing under it. A plate of aluminum foil can be placed under melons to prevent animals from burrowing up underneath the fruit and taking a bite out of it.
You can fight weeds by using sheets of plastic, e.g. trash bags, to cover the soil. Anchor the plastic with soil, rocks, bricks, etc. Cut a hole in the plastic for your transplants. This will prevent weeds from getting the sunlight and water needed for growth . Another technique is to spread a thick layer of dried grass clippings on your garden. Any weeds that do sprout can be easily pulled.
The ideal time for planting most trees in Texas is November through March. Trees to plant in the summertime are palm trees. At planting time, deep water the root zone beneath the branches, not right at the trunk, This is the time to fertilize.