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Down the Garden Path

Spring Really Will Happen

With the exception of the last couple of days, the weather really has been moderating up and nighttime temperatures are getting gradually higher, all good things for gardening. We can soon expect to have the kind of weather that allows us to get some early spring yard work out of the way. While we still can expect wet weather, drier days allow for raking the leaves that have blown in from the neighbors, and picking up twigs and small branches that have fallen out of the trees from the strong winds. Sometimes early mowing is an option to help collect debris from the lawn. Even if clippings are normally left, this is a good time to use the bag attachment and use the collected organic matter for the compost pile.

With the exception of southern exposures, most of our perennials are just now beginning to wake up and this is a great time to clean up the perennial beds without damaging tender plants emerging from the soil. Rake back the mulch to expose open soil and spread compost from your compost bins. This is one of those activities that you will glad you did when there is an empty compost bin for debris from your spring clean-up.

Now is the time to clip away any dead top growth on the perennials. Waiting until you see new growth can make removal more difficult, especially if that new growth is fine and tender.

If you vegetable garden soil is dry enough, consider planting cool and cold loving plants. Spinach, leaf lettuce, cabbage, mustard greens, turnips, peas, onion sets or seeds are good examples.

Dormant oil sprays can be used for controlling pine needle scale, oystershell scale, euonymus scale, aphids, spider mites and small pine sawfly larvae. Dormant oil should be applied in late March or April before leaves or flowers show signs of breaking dormancy; that is, before bud break. As long as the temperatures remain above freezing for 24 to 48 hours and bud break has not begun, you are good to go.

On the lawn and yard equipment front, finding the lawn mower and performing a spring tune up is an activity that can be done on those rainy days before the lawn actually needs to be mowed. Clean or replace the spark plug. A hard to start lawn mower can often be remedied just by replacing the spark plug. The air filter is often an overlooked service item. The air/fuel mixture can cause poor engine performance just because the air filter is dirty or worse full. This is also a good time to check to be sure the mower deck is clean and level, to be sure you are starting the season with a sharp mower blade. Two cycle engines as the one on the string trimmer should be serviced too. Drain and refill with a fresh gas/oil mix before you try to start the engine. While not a piece of yard equipment, before you put away the snow blower for good, drain or let the engine run dry to prevent the carburetor jets from being clogged up over the summer.