Spring is calling us! We have been cooped up in the house too long. As soon as the snow is gone we will all be itching to get outside and “play” in the garden. Here are some spring tips for the gardener in each of us.
Spring clean-up, get out the rakes and give the lawn a good once over and get all the leaves, debris, dog dirt etc off the lawn so it will grow well once the fine weather is here. Don’t start your raking until the frost is out of the ground, you could damage the crowns of the grass.
Early spring, before the plants come out of dormancy, is a good time to do some pruning that maybe you didn’t get done last fall. Most trees and shrubs, with the exception of early spring bloomers, can be pruned at this time of the year. Pruning in early spring has the benefits of quick healing and the branching structure is easy to see. Renewal pruning of your deciduous multi-stemmed shrubs is a great way to get the shape in control while leaving the natural form. Remove 2-3 of the oldest thickest stems as close to the ground as you can. New shoots with great health, vigor and increased disease resistance will be your reward.
Be careful not to do too much cultivating or rototilling too early in the spring. The soil will be quite wet for a while and these activities will cause a break down in soil structure. A loss of soil structure leads to soil compaction which reduces the air pockets in the soil and makes growing plants difficult. They need oxygen too!
Once your lawn is raked and cleaned up a pre-emergent weed control can be applied to your lawn to take care of crabgrass, and to your perennial beds to control weeds. Don’t apply it to areas where you want to plant seeds, as its function is to kill germinating seeds. Pre-emergent weed control can be added to your vegetable garden, but you have to wait until the veggies have started to grow. Please always read the label for proper application.
Diseases and insects are not a problem quite this early but you do want to check the lawn for snow mold, which looks like a grayish white patch in your lawn. The raking you have done will usually take care of this unsightly pest. The first insects we’ll be on the watch for are Eastern Tent Caterpillars. These pests will hatch their eggs near the same time as the Red Maples are in bloom. “What?” you say, “Red Maples bloom?” Yes, that is why they are called Red Maples. They have a lovely, small bright red blossom around April 12. If you’ve never noticed it before this is the year to see these early spring treasures. Treatment of tent caterpillars is to physically remove them from your trees and shrubs. They usually infect Crabs, Pears, Plums and Cherries. White Pine Weevil is the next pest we may see. The adults emerge when the pussy willows are in bloom and lay their eggs in the terminals of Pine trees which will kill the leader. If you see leader damage, call the nursery for a professional evaluation and possible spraying.
I have noticed in my travels this winter, a lot of wind and salt damage on some of our evergreens. Most noticeable are the White Pine and Dwarf Alberta Spruce. If the damage is not too severe, the plant will grow out of it.
My plant pick for the spring planting is Prunus triloba or, Double Flowering Plum. This beauty has double pink flowers that make their debut in mid April. The flowers appear before the leaves so they are easy to spot and really put on a show. They have to be planted early if you want to catch the color. The shrub grows 6-8’ and is useful as a specimen or a natural shrub border or mass. They are completely hardy in our area.