Spring has a way of surprising us year to year. Already my daffodils are up, and lilacs are beginning to leaf out. Crocus are in full bloom, and the forsythia are poised to start their show any day. My lawn mower hibernates in my garage, and it seems I may have to wake it early this year. Following are some tips on getting the landscape and garden in shape.
Your turf may be a poor sight especially with our lack of protective snow cover this winter.
One of the most overlooked items on a spring checklist is getting your lawn mower serviced. Getting an annual service ensures your mower is running in tip-top shape and can help prolong your mowers life. Besides the oil change and new air filter, an annual service should also include sharpening your mower blades. You want to ensure the blades are sharp enough to leave a crisp, clean cut on the lawn.
Many homeowners use this time of year to overseed and fertilize our cool season lawns. While spring is the second best time for these practices, the optimal time for overseeding and fertilizing is late summer to early fall. Other practices such as core aerating and topdressing can be done in the spring or fall.
After a long winter, it's always refreshing to tend to your planting beds in the spring. Early in the season is a good time of year to freshen up landscape mulch. If you use shredded wood mulch, a three-pronged cultivator or hard tooth rake are excellent tools to break up the 'shell' that forms over time. Cultivate your existing mulch before putting down new mulch. If you use shredded leaves or compost as mulch, now is a good time of year to bring in another load from the leaf or compost pile. Remember mulch only needs to be 2-4 inches thick and keep it at least 1-inch away from tree trunks.
Pruning is an important practice that improves air flow and light penetration for the plant and surrounding space. The best time to prune spring flowering shrubs is after they are done flowering; as these plants set their flower buds the previous year. Some examples of spring flowering shrubs are lilac, forsythia, and viburnum. You can prune summer flowering shrubs or shade trees in late winter to early spring while the plants are still dormant.
If you start vegetable plants from seed, now is a good time to get those warm season plants going indoors. However, if you are new to vegetable gardening, I would suggest you skip the seed starting for the first few years and use store-bought transplants instead. In early March your vegetable garden can be planted with cool-season veggies such as spinach, lettuce, turnip, carrot, kale, and Swiss chard. Some cool season plants may require protection if winter decides to return. (Remember, Central Illinois has had blizzards in April!) As the temperatures heat up and we transition to summer, you can begin rotating in your summer vegetables such as pepper, tomato, yellow squash, and cucumber.Want more timely garden advice? Consider attending an Extension gardening event near you. Gardener's Palette is scheduled for March 11 in Quincy. Macomb will host Gardener's Day on April 1. Go online to our website or contact your local Extension office for more information.