The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Grab your pruners and your trowel; time for spring gardening

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

The seasons wax and wane as we rake and strain. Our need to flutter about our gardens rises with the spring temperatures.

Rolling temperatures bring questions about when to do what. So get out your red pen and start checking.


  • Average last frost date is approximately April 21. For tender plants such as impatiens, coleus, canna, basil, and tomatoes, wait until after May 10 before planting. (You'll probably plant them the first nice day in April, but hey I tried to warn you).


  • Finish pruning apple trees and grape vines. Sterilize tools in between each cut with kitchen or bathroom disinfecting spray when pruning diseased plants.
  • Peaches should be sprayed now with lime sulfur if peach leaf curl has been a problem.
  • Plant hardy vegetable seeds such as kale, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnips.
  • Plant certified seed potatoes which may be small whole potatoes or potatoes that are cut into pieces about the size of a medium egg with at least one "eye".


  • Prune trees and summer flowering shrubs. Many shrubs can be reduced in size by using renewal method (removal of the oldest stems leaving the younger stems to develop) or heading back method (lightly trimming long stems). Summer flowering shrubs bloom after mid-June on new wood.
  • Wait to prune early flowering viburnum, forsythia and lilac until after flowering.
  • Rejuvenate shrubs such as redtwig dogwood and privet by cutting stems down to 4 to 6 inches.
  • Transplant or plant trees and shrubs. Plants preferring spring transplant over fall include most oak, birch, baldcypress, dogwood, and magnolia.
  • Scout for bagworm bags on evergreens especially spruce, juniper, and arborvitae. Bagworms often start in the tops of trees so remember to look up. Remove and destroy bags now. Each bag could produce hundreds of caterpillars. Sprays are ineffective until late June into July.
  • Apply dormant oil spray to euonymus to control euonymus scale. Dormant oil sprays also give partial control of pine needle scale. Temperatures should be above freezing for 24 hours after spraying.
  • Some scale species such as oystershell scale are not controlled by dormant oil sprays. Get accurate identification of insect to determine control program.


  • Clean up any plant debris that wasn't removed last fall. Gradually pull back mulch from plant crowns.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses to 4-6 inches before growth starts.
  • Late March – early April gradually pull back mulch from roses.
  • Be on the look out for rabbit damage on newly emerging perennials and spring bulbs. Fencing or inverted wire mesh baskets provide the only complete protection. Repellants may give some control.


  • Wait until broadleaf weeds are actively growing before treating with postemergence herbicides.
  • Get lawn mower ready. Sharpen blades, change oil and clean air filter.
  • Wait until late April to early May for first fertilizer application.
  • Rake up any twigs and debris.
  • Wait until April to apply crabgrass control otherwise a second application may be necessary to control late season crabgrass seed germination.
  • Establish lawns by sod throughout season as long as adequate water is available.
  • Establish or renovate turf by seed. Prepare soil properly and get good seed to soil contact. Select turf mixes and blends appropriate to the site and to maintenance practices. Southern Illinois – March; Central Illinois – March15-April 15; Northern Illinois – April.
Check out our great UI Extension You Tube videos for how-to's on pruning hydrangea, clematis, evergreens and much more.

Tomato Grafting workshop - Love heirloom tomatoes but are sometimes disappointed with small harvests or diseases? Learn how to graft your own tomatoes.Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 6PM at Piatt County Extension Office 210 S. Market St, Monticello, IL. $5 fee To register visit For more information, contact Karyn Traum or 217.762.2191.

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