February 16, 2017
The Canada geese have been checking out the nesting boxes on the pond at my place which is a good indication that, if not here, spring is just around the corner. Warmer days predicted this week and next week will give you the opportunity to get outside and do some things in the yard. You need to wait on several of those such as power raking, fertilizing my lawn, or applying crabgrass preventer... I’ll talk more about those in the weeks ahead. But there are several things that you can get started on now.
First, rake up any leaves that you didn’t get raked last fall or might have blown in over the winter around the house, on the lawn, under shrubs, and in flower beds. We haven’t had a lot of snow to hold leaves in place so they have been moving around. Besides being a potential fire hazard around the house, a thick, matted down layer of leaves in a flower bed or on the lawn can smother ornamentals and turf if they are not removed.
It’s also time to give a lot of our perennials a "haircut." March into early April, once temperatures begin to warm, is a good time to remove the old tops of ornamental grasses, herbaceous perennials (those that die back to the ground each year) and asparagus. If the tops of these plants were left in place over winter, last years' growth should be removed before new growth begins this spring.
Ornamental grasses, herbaceous perennials like peonies, and asparagus begin new growth from the plant base or roots, and last years' growth which is now dead, will not green up again. The old growth needs tobe removed to make room for the new growth. Last years' top growth is also removed to reduce overwintering insects and diseases.
With perennials, use a pruning shears and rake to clean out the dead leaves. For ornamental grasses, and depending on the size of the grass, use a pruning shears or hedge trimmer to cut off last years' growth to about four to six inches above ground.
Another project will be to replenish the mulch in flower beds and around trees and bushes. When you use organic mulch, like wood chips, in the landscape, the mulch will decompose and planting beds may become a little low on mulch. If it’s been a couple years since you added new mulch, this is the year to add it around trees and flowerbeds before plants start to emerge and you get busy with other spring chores.
If tempted to add a deeper layer of mulch to reduce how often it needs to be replenished; or if you are tempted to use an inorganic mulch like gravel, instead of an organic one, keep in mind that too deep of a mulch layer is not healthy for plants, and organic mulches are better for plants and the soil than inorganic ones like lava or white rock.
Mulch is beneficial and its use is highly recommended. However, too much of a good thing causes problems. After mulch has settled, it should be two to four inches deep. If mulch is too deep, plant roots grow in mulch rather than soil, less oxygen may enter soil and soils may remain too wet for too long. So use an organic mulch, but do use it correctly.
Finally, if you didn’t do this last fall, now is a good time to sharpen lawn mower blades, change the oil, and perform any other routine maintenance and repairs on mowers, tillers and edgers. This can save time and frustration later this spring when you need to mow the lawn or till the garden. So plan ahead and take care of these things now. It’s going to be a great week to be outside, so get out and enjoy it while taking care of some of these lawn and garden chores.
For more information on spring lawn and garden projects, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.