Master Gardener tips for the Panhandle – Week of April 6, 2020

Here is the weekly crop of Master Gardener tips from Nebraska Extension in the Panhandle. These tips are relevant to local lawn and garden issues in the High Plains, and follow research-based recommendations. This week’s tips come from Anita Gall, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

MOOD-BOOSTER: As we face this uncertain time many people are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and possibly cabin fever! I challenge you to take a walk outside in your yard, landscape, park or neighborhood. (But always observe social distancing guidelines and other COVID-19 precautions.) Maybe get out and plant a tree, shrub, perennial or even a garden. Getting your hands dirty can increase your serotonin levels that will improve your mood. It is considered a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system.

HEALTHY SOIL: Have you heard it said “Healthy soil, healthy plants”?  It’s true the preparation of the soil is the most important step in any kind of planting or landscape installation. Fix low spots by adding top soil and then spreading compost over the top of the area to be planted, compost is organic matter that has decayed. Till the area making sure you don’t add to the compaction of the soil by working it when wet. 

REJUVENATION PRUNING: As you are out in your yard this spring look at your shrubs. Are the dogwoods losing their red color or have the lilacs gotten so big they only have leaves and bloom on the tips? If your shrub is healthy consider rejuvenation pruning. Using a sharp lopper or saw cut all of the canes almost to the ground leaving 6-12 inches. Do not prune lilacs until after they have bloomed. In the following years take out one-third of the canes each spring to keep them looking good.

SAD EVERGREENS: Are your evergreens looking yellow or brown? Extreme temperature changes over a short period of time such as we had last October can leave evergreens looking a little sad. When plants go through rapid temperature change they don’t have time for the physiological changes that prepare them for winter. Cell walls can rupture when they freeze, and the dry winter air can damage them more easily. Don’t prune off dead areas; wait to see if the buds on the tips will produce a candle for new growth to emerge.

PRUNING ROSES: Hard pruning of roses may be needed after the hail storms from last summer and the sudden temperature change last October. Remember the 3 D’s: Remove dead, damaged or diseased branches. We typically don’t prune roses until they are starting to leaf out in our area, but with the severe dieback and damage from last year we might want to rejuvenate the rose bush. Prune back to good healthy cane or remove entirely leaving 4-6 inches of cane at the bottom. Wait to prune old fashion roses until after they have bloomed.