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Master Gardeners of Douglas County

Master Gardeners of Douglas County

Spring Surprises

In the Garden with Extension Educator Larry Zilliox

March 31, 2008

It is interesting how many people have commented on how tired they are of winter. I would think the intense political coverage would be tiring but, I believe it has been invigorating to our political process this year. People are openly talking about the options before them and changes they would like to see. This has invigorated community leaders to discuss the future directions they would like their communities to take. This awakening to discuss our future direction relates well to our anticipation of the first walk through our dormant gardens.

I can't wait for all the snow to melt and the yard to dry up so I can inspect the flower beds to see what has survived and to survey what damage the mice and rabbits have created over the winter. Remember the surprises last year? I remember digging up a few plants that the mice had completely girdled. This year we have had good snow cover so I expect the rabbits may have eaten higher up on the branches and with some pruning we will be able to save the plants. It is another question of what the field mice have been doing under the snow.

What can we expect in our lawns will be the other concern. Many of the lawns went into winter in a very dry condition. I would expect some of the crowns may have been hurt as a result. Those plants will be slow to green up if they survived. We could see some thin areas, which may need some over seeding. I know I have an area to reseed that had been killed by last summer's drought. I didn't reseed it because we had not received timely rain and when it came it was too late in the season to put the seed down. So I know I have some lawn work ahead of me.

One word of caution is don't hurry to get out on your lawn early in the spring. Each year I remind people that we need to have the lawn firm up and dry out before we do a lot of walking or driving equipment over it. If the ground feels spongy stay off till it feels firm. The reason being is any weight on spongy soils will cause the soil structure to compact creating root problems later in the season. Roots need air to survive and a good soil will contain about 25 percent air spaces. Compacting a wet soil reduce air spaces hindering future root growth.

The only exception to walking on the lawn early is an area where you may have piled snow. The prolonged melting can set up a situation where snow mold may develop. The heavy snow and wet soils can cause pink snow mold to grow and kill out some of the grass. If you have a deep pile of snow start spreading it out so the area dries out fairly quickly. If you can't get out there right away wait till the snow has melted in the area and once the area starts to dry out lightly rake the area to loosen the matted grass. Some times that is enough to save the grass and it recovers so that you don't have to reseed.