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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Spring Yard Work

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Lawns have really greened up and jumped up and many have already mowed more than once already in this accelerated spring weather. If gardeners have yet to mow, a surprise awaits. Grass is much taller than expected. The better way to handle this situation is to set the mower to the highest cutting height and move across the yard more slowly than normal to allow the lawn mower to deal with all that extra grass. After a day or two, mow again setting the cutting height down to a more normal height for your yard. If you are able, leave the cutting height nearer to three inches. This will allow the grass to shade the soil, conserving water and preventing those weed seeds that need sunlight to germinate from every getting started. It also means deeper roots which will allow the grass to remain greener longer into the summer, even if we have hot dry weather. Try to mow based on when the lawn needs it rather that the calendar. Mowing more frequently in the spring and fall when the grass is normally more active will allow the grass to be much more competitive against weeds and resist and recover sooner from lawn disease.

All of the perennials and trees and shrubs are also ahead of schedule, so this spring you can throw out the regular gardening calendar on when we normally do our typical gardening activities. If you are making spray applications to your home orchard, following the fruit trees development will tell you when you need to be spraying. We are already at the cover spray stage that will continue on into the summer. For those who have those larger vegetable gardens and routinely use a weed preventer, the soil is several degrees warmer and that means weed seeds will be germinating sooner too. For the typical weed preventer to work well, the soil needs to be weed free before any product is applied. If the weed seed has already sprouted, disturbing the soil lightly will dislodge the weed seedling.

If the early spring cleanup of winter debris is not quite finished, raking out the beds needs to be done with care as many ground cover perennials are well on their way and gardeners will not want to damage any younger tender foliage. One of the benefits of having such a mild winter is that there was not much heaving of plants from alternating freezing and thawing this year. The down side of that is we count on that to help condition our garden soils and repair compaction damage we can cause by working the soil or by driving the car tire off the edge of the driveway.

Another activity while you are enjoying our early spring is to monitor for those insects that can and will show up on our valued ornamental plantings. Insects are developing ahead of schedule right along with our plants. Be on the lookout for Spring Cankerworm, Pine Sawfly and slugs feeding on Hostas for a start. Take the time to get out into the yard everyday so you do not miss out on all the things going on during our compressed spring.

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