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A spring garden filled with daffodils and other spring flowering plants is a welcome sign that spring has arrived. (PHOTO: Melinda Myers, LLC)

Enhance your garden and lift your spirits this spring

Spring has arrived, and that means lots of gardening and landscape projects. This year more than ever we can benefit from the physical and mental health benefits gardening provides. It elevates our mood, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety. This means with each garden bed prepared, plant placed in the ground or landscape feature built, you'll be strengthening your muscles, increasing flexibility, burning calories and improving your mental health.

Keep yourself safe when making landscape improvements. Contact Diggers Hotline at least three business days before putting the first shovel in the ground. Just call 811 or better yet file online at DiggersHotline.com. Diggers Hotline will contact all the appropriate companies who will mark the location of their underground utilities in the designated work area. This eliminates the danger and inconvenience of accidently knocking out power, cable or other utilities as you enhance your landscape.

Because this important step is often overlooked, April has been declared National Safe Digging month. In a survey conducted by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), they found that four out of ten homeowners are planning projects involving digging. Forty five percent of those people will not contact their local utility notification center. Two thirds of those surveyed believe they won't be the ones to hit an underground utility, despite the fact that every three minutes someone damages an underground utility somewhere in the United States.

Once the area is marked, adjust your plans to avoid conflicts with the underground utilities. Always look up, check for and avoid overhead utilities as well. Next, look for ways to improve the aesthetics while reducing maintenance with simple design strategies. Consider planting shrubs in clusters instead of individually throughout the yard. Surround these and individual trees with a garden or mulch bed.

Keeping grass away from young trees and shrubs eliminates the competition for water and nutrients, increasing their rate of growth. The mulch also helps suppress weeds, conserve moisture and improve the soil as it breaks down. You'll burn calories and strengthen muscles while improving the growing conditions for your trees and shrubs. Mulched beds eliminate the need for hand trimming, prevent weed whip damage to the plants and you'll spend less time mowing. It's easier and more efficient to mow around a few large beds rather than individual plants.

Apply a two to three-inch layer of wood chips or shredded bark mulch over the soil surface. Don't pile mulch over the tree trunk or stems of plants. Dress it up by planting a few perennial groundcovers in the bed. Many provide seasonal interest with flowers, fall color and evergreen foliage. Mulch these to help suppress the weeds, but once they fill-in, you'll have less weeding.

Stay safe, improve your health and boost your spirits this spring with gardening. Adding trees, shrubs and flowers to your landscape provides immediate and long-term benefits for you to enjoy now and for many seasons to come.

Melinda Myers is the author of numerous books, including "Small Space Gardening." She hosts The Great Courses "How to Grow Anything" DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda's Garden Moment TV and radio program. Myers web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.

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