Growing Green - Spring chores for the impatient gardener
The signs of spring have been seen several weeks earlier than normal this year. From the record ice out dates on our lakes to the activity of squirrels to the mosquito and tick sightings, spring just seems to be a train barreling down the track toward summer. With the onset of our early spring, come many consequences we should consider:
The mosquitoes and ticks have returned almost two months ahead of schedule. Most gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts don't worry about insect bites during the month of April. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, don't forget the insect repellent and protect yourself from the diseases spread by these bugs.
Allergy sufferers beware: plants have broken dormancy, and quick to follow will be the pollen season.
Birds are returning almost two weeks earlier than normal and hummingbirds have been spotted by astute master gardeners in the Twin Cities. If you feed the birds during this spring season, make sure to have supplies on hand and feeders stocked.
Weeds are in abundance. Now is the time to start battling those lawn and garden crowding weeds. Thistle, dandelions and creeping Charlie are thriving in this warm spring. Get out your broad leaf herbicides and start fighting the weeds now before they go to seed.
The small sap beetles that spread oak wilt have been active. Oak wilt is a fungal infection that is spread by insects, wind and through the root systems of diseased oaks. Red oaks are particularly susceptible and, once infected, can die in a week's time. Don't prune or wound your oak trees from now through July. If a tree is damaged, consider using a wound dressing to protect the tree from the spread of this disease.
Burning restrictions are in effect throughout the state. These restrictions are put in place each spring to reduce the occurrence of wildfires, which can damage homes and other personal property.
If you just can't wait to get into your garden, don't worry, you don't have to. Get a jump start on these spring chores, and spread out that busy spring workload:
Clear out your garden beds to make way for your new season plantings.
Cut back any remaining dead perennial foliage from last season (trimmings can go into the compost). Cut back ornamental grasses to about 10 inches from the ground.
Remove tree guards or burlap winter protection from any young trees or shrubs. Try not to leave tree guards in place over the summer. They don't allow enough air movement around the base of the trunk and that can promote rot of the bark.
Early season perennials are beginning to emerge. Check your early perennials and uncover them if you notice new growth. Be prepared to re-cover them if freezing weather threatens.
Enjoy these warm spring days; you never know when Old Man Winter will return!
Until next time, happy gardening!
"All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar."
- Helen Hayes