Follow these do’s and don’ts when tending to your early spring garden – Chicago Tribune News-thread


A warm weekend in March often brings winter-weary homeowners outside to start gardening. That can be a mistake.

“Don’t rush it,” said Julie Janoski, manager of the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. “March is a good time to get ready for spring gardening, but it’s still too early to do much outdoors.”

Here are some do’s and don’ts for early spring gardening.

Strength the branches. To create a spring feeling indoors, cut branches from flowering shrubs and small trees like forsythia, crabapple, and lilac. Make a clean cut at the base of each branch and place them in a vase of warm water. Change the water regularly until the buds flower in two to three weeks.

You can’t prune some trees. The sap already runs in birch, maple and walnut trees. If they are pruned now, they will likely “bleed” the sap from the pruning cuts. Wait until late spring or next winter.

Check trees and shrubs for damage. “It’s often easier to see dead branches, cracks in tree trunks, and cankers in winter, with no leaves in the way,” Janoski said.

Prepare your tools. Clean, sharpen, and sterilize cutting tools like pruners and pruning shears. They will be easier to use and healthier for your plants because they will make clean wounds that heal better. “Sharpening also makes it easier to dig with the shovels,” she said.

Don’t be fooled by warm sunny days. “It’s still too early to remove mulches, screens and other plant protection,” Janoski said. “Leave them in place until the weather warms up.”

Make plans. Evaluate last year’s garden and make plans for spring planting.

don’t dig Even if the ground has thawed, it will be too wet to dig in early spring. Wait until the soil is no longer soggy. “Digging up wet soil can compact it, crushing soil particles so water and air can’t get to plant roots,” Janoski said. Clay soil common to the Chicago area is especially easy to compact.

Don’t start mowing the grass. Walking on grass when the soil is wet can compact it and mowing will not be necessary until it has been growing for several weeks.

Start the seeds indoors. Tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-season plants will be ready to transplant outdoors after mid-May if you start them indoors under lights in March.

Check perennials to see if they are agitated. Winter freeze-thaw cycles can pull the roots of some perennials out of the soil. Gently push the plants back into place and place a little mulch over their roots to insulate the soil and prevent rooting.

Trim ornamental grasses. Cut last year’s dead stems to 1 to 2 inches above the ground before the new green shoots sprout.

Follow the weather, not the calendar. Spring weather is highly changeable, so you can’t use dates to plan garden chores. Instead, pay attention to recent weather forecasts and the conditions in your yard when deciding what to do. Don’t follow the example of the shops either. For example, crabgrass preventatives often go on sale in early spring, but if applied too early, they will have lost their effectiveness by the time the soil warms enough for crabgrass seeds to germinate. crab grass. “Just because the products are on sale doesn’t mean they’re needed or it’s time to use them,” Janoski said.

For advice on trees and plants, contact the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum (630-719-2424, Beth Botts is a staff writer for the Arboretum.


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