By John Wilson
Even though it’s still covered with ice, the Canada geese have been checking out the nesting boxes on my pond. This is usually a good indication that, if not here, spring is just around the corner. Warmer days this weekend will gave you an opportunity to get outside and do some things in the yard.
You need to wait on several of those such as core aerating, power raking or fertilizing your lawn, or applying crabgrass preventer. I’ll talk more about those in the weeks ahead. But there are several things that you can start to do now.
First, it’s time to give a lot of your perennials a “haircut.” Mid-march into early April, once temperatures begin to warm, is a good time to remove the old tops of ornamental grasses, herbaceous perennials and asparagus. If the tops of these plants were left in place this past winter, last years’ growth needs to 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 and will not green up again. The old growth needs to be removed to make room for the new growth. Removing last years’ top growth also reduces potential problems from overwintering insects and diseases.
To remove old top growth, use pruning shears and the rake to clean up plant debris and leaves that might have blown in over winter. For ornamental grasses, cut off last years’ growth to about four to six inches above ground.
Another good spring project is to replenish the mulch in flower beds and around trees and bushes. Mulch is beneficial and its use is highly recommended. I talked about this last week so I won’t go into all of those benefits again. When selecting a mulch, organic mulches like wood chips are better for the soil and for plants.
When you use organic mulch, like wood chips, in the landscape, the mulch will decompose and planting beds may become low on mulch. It’s been several years since I’ve added new mulch so this is the year I’ll add it around trees and in my flowerbeds before plants start to emerge and I get busy with other spring chores.
If you are tempted to add a deeper layer of mulch to reduce how often you need to replenish it, keep in mind that a mulch layer too deep is not healthy for plants. After mulch has settled, it should be two to four inches deep. If mulch is too deep, plant roots will grow in the mulch rather than the soil, increasing the likelihood of heat stress and drought injury later in the summer. Too much mulch also reduces oxygen entering the soil and soils may remain too wet too long.
Inorganic mulches like gravel, lava or white rock are not good for the soil or plants. They do not release nutrients to the soil as they break down and they reflect more heat up on the plant in the summer as well as retain more heat and can injure where they come in contact with the plants. 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 we 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 weekend 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.
Mid-Plains BEEF Educational Series
The Nebraska Extension’s Mid-Plains BEEF Educational Series will conduct an April session on preparing for the upcoming cattle breeding season at the UNL Agricultural Research and Development Center (1071 County Road G, Ithaca) near Mead.
The session will draw on the expertise of Dr. Richard Randle, DVM and UNL Extension Beef Veterinarian, discussing breeding soundness exams and Trich testing for bulls; Dr. Kate Brooks, UNL Extension Livestock Economist, discussing economic decisions to keep vs cull – late calf heifers, no calf, or last calf cows; and Allan Vyhnalek, UNL Extension Educator – Platte County, discussing pasture leasing provisions.
The session will be Thursday, April 2, with registration at 11:30 a.m. and ending at approximately 3:30 p.m. The cost is $10 by March 27, or $15 at the door (make checks available to University of Nebraska-Lincoln). Lunch and hand-outs provided.
To register or obtain more information, contact: Lindsay Chichester, Saunders County, 402.624.8030; Steve Tonn, Washington County, 402.426.9455; or Monte Stauffer, Douglas/Sarpy Counties, 402.444.7804.