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Spring Yard and Garden Chores

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 15, 2017        
Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton, & Morrison Counties

Spring Yard and Garden Chores
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (3/15/2017) — Thus far 2017 has brought us on a roller coaster ride of weather. From unusually warm temperatures in January and February to tornadoes in early March, followed by colder than normal temperatures.  Regardless of when spring really decides to show its face, it is important to take care of spring yard and garden clean-up at the right time; keeping in mind starting too early may cause some issues.

One rule to keep in mind is to stay off the lawn until it feels firm under your foot.  If you see footprints when walking on the grass, it is too soon to be out and working on it.  Even walking across your lawn multiple times with a wagon or wheelbarrow to do your garden clean-up can cause compaction to the soils.  Compacted soils can lead to a variety of future problems such as poor grass root growth and poor water drainage.  It is critical to avoid using your lawn tractor or other equipment until the ground is ready.

Another rule to follow is wait to rake lawns with a lightweight rake until the lawn is ready.  Using a lighter rake removes dead grass and weeds as well as allows air to reach the crowns of the turf grass plants without harming the roots.  This also removes rocks and other debris that could pose a problem when you mow.  If you have areas of the lawn that are too damaged from snow removal or are areas with very thin lawn that will need reseeding, use a heavy garden rake to rough up and prep for seeding.  This provides conditions where there will be good seed to soil contact in order for germination.

Rules regarding spring clean-up in your flower beds include removing heavy winter cover mulch as the temperatures begin to rise; too early may leave your plants vulnerable to damage.  If any mulch is over 4-inches, it should be removed to reduce chances of mold.  Temporary mulches like leaves, straw, or other plant debris that may have been left behind should be cleaned-up.  Be sure to separate healthy plant material which can go on your compost pile, from diseased material.  When in doubt or if it appears to have mold, dispose of in another fashion, including burning.

Cut-back your perennials to within 2-inches of the ground.  The reason for this is that new buds may be present slightly above ground.  Remove the stems and again compost or dispose of.  Another necessary task may be to cut back your perennials after growth has started. It is important to do this cutting back early to reduce the amount of stress to the plant.

Fresh mulch can be added once the new growth begins; you do not want to smother the new growth too early because this will lead to weak plants.  Typically a layer of 3 to 4-inches of mulch is adequate to suppress weeds.  Personally I never put down landscape fabrics underneath my wood mulches.  Basically landscape fabrics are creating a barrier that the wood mulch is decomposing on top of and is not able to break down into the soil, which is an added benefit of using these products. Also it makes quite the mess when you discover your mulch layer is too thick or you want to move plants and now have to deal with a layer of fabric.

Happy spring, and enjoy getting outdoors again preparing your gardens for a new growing season.