Lawns. Allow turfgrass to come out of dormancy and begin growth, and soil temperatures to warm before starting most care practices. Especially for do-it-yourselfers, waiting is better for the lawn than starting too early.
Mowing is not needed prior to grass greening up and beginning growth. The first mowing should be done once green grass is tall enough to need mowing. Mow at a height of three to three and a half inches from the first mowing of the season to the last, leaving clippings on the lawn.
Fertilizing should only be done after growth begins. Once the spring growth surge slows is the time to begin fertilizing. With above average temperatures, the first fertilization along with a crabgrass preventer might be needed in mid to late April this year instead of late April to early May.
Power raking or core aeration are best avoided until growth begins. These practices, especially power raking or dethatching, can be hard on turf. Active growth is needed to help lawns recover. Both practices are best done in September, but April is okay if soils are not too wet.
Core aeration removes plugs from the turf to help reduce soil compaction and encourage root growth. It is a good practice for lawns and could be done annually in September. It should be done at least once every three years.
Power raking should only be done if the true thatch layer exceeds three-fourths of an inch. True thatch is a reddish brown mat of dead roots and rhizomes found between the soil and green grass blades. Some thatch is very beneficial in insulating plant crowns from extreme temperatures and foot traffic.
On to trees, early budding of fruit and shade trees is common with above average temperatures. Swelling of buds, or actual opening of buds increases the risk of low temperature injury. Most hardy temperate zone plants survive this well.
If the buds are flower buds, the only loss for shade trees and shrubs is reduction or loss of blooming for this year. If flower buds of fruit trees are damaged, the fruit crop will be lost or reduced.
If leaf buds are injured, this will result in delayed growth. However, otherwise healthy plants will develop secondary buds and do fine. This can be a stress for plants. Along with warm temperatures, if conditions remain dry, drought may be an added stress.
We cannot do anything about temperatures and swelling buds, but we can water plants in the absence of rain. Since most plants are not actively growing, and temperatures are still fairly cool, a lot of water is not needed. Water just enough to moisten dry soil six to eight inches deep.
In the continued absence of rain, providing some irrigation to evergreen trees and shrubs, as well as plants planted last fall, may be the best thing we can be doing at this time of year. As always, avoid overwatering. If soil is mulched and moist, watering may not be needed this early.
By: Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator