March 2012

Relax. Don’t do it. When you want to go to it.

Judd viburnum. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

This is the time of year when indulging one’s temptations may spell disaster in the landscape. Here’s why:

  • Pruning spring and early summer blooming shrubs now will remove their flowers. These include Forsythia, lilac (Syringa), Viburnum, big-leaf hydrangea (H. macrophylla), Spiraea, Ninebark (Physocarpus), mock orange (Philadelphus) and Weigela. Prune these plants within a month after they are done blooming.
  • Digging in wet soil damages its structure, compacting it, reducing drainage and impeding root development. Test the moisture content of the soil before digging. Make a ball with a handful of soil and squeeze. If the soil stays as a ball, it is too wet to dig. If the ball crumbles, dig away.
  • Applying a pre-emergent weed killer too early will reduce its effectiveness. Corn gluten is a natural pre-emergent that keeps weed seeds from germinating. Annual and perennial weed seeds germinate when the soil reaches a certain temperature. That’s why mid-April to early May is the recommended time to apply a pre-emergent. Always read and follow the label directions.
  • Fertilizing the lawn in spring may not be needed. The grass is going to grow anyway, so adding a lot of fertilizer in spring increases mowing duties. If you fertilized the lawn in fall, you can almost always skip the spring dose. If you have a lawn service, request it skip the spring application of fertilizer. Exceptions would be new or over seeded lawns or lawns that are thin or weak. With fertilizers, though, more is not better.
  • Starting seeds indoors too early results in seedlings that get too big or are weak. Seed packets suggest when to sow seeds indoors. For warm-season vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, that’s usually six to seven weeks before the last frost, which is usually mid-May in Indiana. Be sure to surround seedlings with bright light and make sure they don’t dry out.

Thanks to Frankie Goes to Hollywood for the headline.