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Down the Garden Path

The Snow is Going, Going Gone

Gardeners have been waiting to see their flower beds, the lawn, the landscape beds and dirt of the vegetable garden for some time now and it has happened or nearly so. After the excitement has faded and another look out in the yard can reveal lots of early spring cleanup.

Lawns can look pretty tough, especially those areas that because of wind patterns did not remain covered in snow. Maybe it was the path to the garden shed to retrieve the snow blower or the path to the compost bin where the snow had been packed down and icy most of the winter. It is pretty typical for shrub and flower beds to have collected leaves and other kinds of debris since they were cleaned up last fall. Leaves are not so bad, it is the plastic bags, bits and pieces of paper and cardboard and snack food wrappers that make the beds look bad. Our winter storms came with some high winds and any tree that had dead twigs and branches contributed to what will have to be picked up from the lawn and beds. As the snow receded, telltale tracks of voles can show up in the lawn having left the protection of their winter homes to forage for food under the cover of snow.

All these things can be remedied, some immediately on dry day where you can walk in the yard. Reaching in from the edge of the beds to retrieve the branches and twigs and then using a good long stick of a branch to spear those snack wrappers and the like will improve the look of those beds in short order. Litter in the lawn can be picked up or raked up as needed using either a leaf rack or with a garden rake if you are careful. If what is collected are leaves, spent plant part remains, then all that can go into the compost bin.

Getting the lawn to recover will take a few weeks once growth resumes. Vole damage is mostly limited to the trails left and the lawn will fill those in quickly during the new flush of growth. If there are many close together, a bit of topdressing can be in order to hasten recovery. Lawns that show winter desiccation will have to green up on their own, letting the older damaged leaf blades fall away naturally. Don't get in hurry to rake up the dead grass, let the grass plant crowns get going with new roots into the soil first. Wait till the lawn has been mowed the first time or two before actively raking.

Gardeners should not get ahead of the soil conditions in the vegetable garden either. It is easy to destroy soil structure if he soil is worked too wet. If the very hardy seeds or transplants are going in the soil is still too wet, carefully hand dig the small holes for the transplants standing on some scrap wood to prevent compaction. Consider disturbing the soil just enough to sow those small seeds and cover with peat moss or sand.